This Month, my Mother Passed Away.
(What follows is an edited version of her obituary, written by my sister. )
Joan Alice, or “Joanie” (as everyone called her), 88, died on December 11, 2020.
Joanie was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Frank and Lillian Olejnicki Fijolek, and was a true city girl until moving with her husband, Ted, to Lindenhurst, Illinois, in 1956. Ted and Joanie were among the pioneers of the village, and their early years were chronicled in her book Love, Joanie: Letters from the Suburban Frontier.
Joanie was a career homemaker. A devoted wife and mother, she was an excellent cook and slapdash housekeeper who preferred digging ditches, hauling dirt, gardening, listening to opera and reading to such drab chores as washing dishes and/or ironing. She enjoyed camping, and made even the most primitive campsite into a true home.
She was also a talented artist in woodcarving, clay sculpture and painting. Her earliest works were displayed at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago. In later years, she made small toys for her children, and contributed her artistic gifts to her CCD class at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Lake Villa, Illinois.
In 1989, Joanie moved to North Carolina with her younger daughter, where she continued to be a full-time mama, grandma and great-grandma. An avid reader, she was an active patron of the local libraries until her disability and vision loss. She joined the NC Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in 1998, and had enjoyed over 5,000 audio books prior to her death.
Joanie is survived by her two daughters, five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, four nieces and one nephew. She was preceded in death by her husband, Ted, in 1978; her beloved brothers, Raymond “Raymie” Fijolek in 1938 and Norbert Fijolek in 2005, and her sister, Irene in 2017.
In accordance with her wishes, there were no services. In memoriam donations may be made to Friends of the North Carolina Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (FNCLBPH), 1841 Capital Blvd., Raleigh NC 27635 (so that others may read), or to an animal rescue of your choice (so that others, like her cherished Tuffy and Kiki, may live).
“Though her life was long and productive, she looked back on it with less than satisfaction, dismissing her many accomplishments as mere accidents in an otherwise unremarkable existence… when I asked her what she would like as her epitaph, she thought for a moment, and said wistfully, ‘She meant well.’” (Love, Joanie, p. 274.)
My Kitty died last Thursday, November 19, at 11:18 am.
When I adopted him from the animal shelter fifteen years ago, they estimated his age to be about three, so he was approximately eighteen years old. His health had been steadily deteriorating since the first of this year, so my son and I knew what to expect, but it’s never easy when the inevitable finally happens.
Oliver was “Mr. Personality,” liked all humans, and enjoyed talking to people. He took his responsibility as a companion seriously, and was loyal to his last breath, having chosen to be with me when he collapsed, and died within five minutes.
Because my son was out of town, my daughter came to help. She laid him to rest in the cozy kind of cardboard box in which he loved to play, with his crinkle sack for a cushion, and one of my son’s old T-shirts for a coverlet. His favorite crocheted toys, a bootlace, a handful of kibbles, and a kitty treat accompanied him as “grave goods.”
He rests now in my back garden, not far from my window.
Oliver “Kittypoo” set the bar at its highest, having lived as the perfect example of unconditional love. May we meet again, my most faithful friend!
As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.
Source: Great Barrington Declaration
This is not about expected, natural, normal, typical “age-related” decline. This is about innocent people being made to suffer solitary confinement, regardless of its cost to their well-being.
No part of the body is safe from autoimmune attack. Vision loss due to autoimmunity can occur relatively quickly. Rapid-onset blindness may be especially prone to provoke a condition called Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS): when the brain tries to compensate for loss of visual stimulation by its construction of vivid hallucinations. Learn about CBS here:
I had last owned and used a TENS unit back in the late 1990s. I’d picked it up at a second-hand shop for $20.00, for use to relieve chronic pain from a broken sacroiliac joint and its related referred leg pain (sequelae of a motor vehicle accident in 1992). Eventually the machine got worn out, but it was more than 20 years before I got around to replacing it. (In the interval, how did I cope with the continued pain? Poorly, to put it succinctly.)
Last year, I remembered the old TENS unit, and began shopping for a new machine. I was surprised to see that the price wasn’t very much more than what I’d paid for the used one so long ago. The only difficulty was finding one that was as easy to use as the old one had been: they can come with a lot of what I consider to be superfluous bells-and-whistles. After some study of what was on offer at A Major Online Retailer, I found a fairly simple machine, with just a few more settings than the old one had (it had essentially just turned on and off, and had a simple intensity adjustment): in addition to intensity, I could now adjust the pulse frequency and set a timer.
I used it a few times, and then had to put it away in order to deal with other aspects of my multitude of health problems. For one thing, my skin had become so fragile from my being on a high steroid dose, I was afraid to use the machine. Eventually the state of my medical care progressed: a rheumatologist began to wean me off of the steroid, the wounds healed, and my skin began to return to a more normal state of durability.
Although I had continued to have the old chronic sacroiliac pain problem that had plagued me for all those years, my recent return to using the TENS unit was prompted by another complication of the steroid therapy: compression fractures of two vertebrae. The acute phase of that injury involved excruciatingly painful muscle spasms, and it took some trial-and-error for my primary care doctor to find an effective muscle relaxant drug. Unfortunately, to be strong enough to relieve the pain, the drug was too strong in other ways, causing intense dizziness (no fun, on top of an exacerbation of vertigo from autoimmune inner ear disease, which had started up again when the steroid dose was weaned low enough to not suppress the symptoms any more), and overwhelming brain fog. So I could take it only twice a day instead of three times, meaning that there was an unavoidable period of no pain relief between doses.
In time, the spasms finally stopped, but the change that had happened to the supporting skeletal structure of my back then led to another problem: a new sacroiliac joint strain on the opposite side of my pelvis. This was another screaming-intensity pain, but the muscle relaxant had no effect on it. I don’t take narcotics (they make me violently ill), and NSAIDs are contraindicated while I’m still on the steroid (not that NSAIDs had ever helped with the pre-existing sacroiliac pain; only “prolotherapy” injections had even a temporary effect for about three months at a time).
I became desperate enough to take an over-the-counter drug I’d avoided for many years, because it depresses my breathing: acetaminophen, aka paracetamol. I already have obstructive sleep apnea, and although it’s controlled with CPAP, I certainly don’t need more breathing problems. But the pain was so bad, it was completely depriving me of sleep, and because acetaminophen also knocks me out, I took it for several nights. Of course, my CPAP Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) numbers shot up unacceptably high.
That’s when I had the proverbial face-palm moment, and remembered the TENS unit. I dug it out, and put on the electrodes. For the first few hours, the relief was inadequate; then I figured out that the intensity needed to be set at just below the point where the pulses were themselves painful. But it took all day, until bedtime, to exhaust the pain neurotransmitters, and achieve an absence of pain. I took off the electrodes, put on my CPAP, went to bed without taking any acetaminophen, slept with only one mercifully pain-free wakeful period – and my AHI went back to normal. I’ve continued to use the TENS throughout waking hours, and by itself it’s kept the pain at bay.
I’ve laid in a supply of 9-volt batteries for the machine, and have ordered a large set of replacement electrodes: if there happens to be tension on the lead wire, an electrode pad will pull apart from its lead connector; it can be fixed by pushing the end of the wire back in and securing it with medical adhesive tape, but eventually the electrode pad also loses its stickiness, and the whole thing needs to be replaced.
If you think you’d like to try TENS for chronic musculoskeletal pain, don’t do so until you’ve read this article (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/transcutaneous-electrical-nerve-stimulation-tens/), and have talked to your doctor about it. You may be required to have a prescription.
Below are some articles which summarize the state of research into the efficacy of TENS treatments:
Why did the TENS help with the terrible pain I was having? Perhaps the electrical pulses somehow healed the strained tissues around the sacroiliac joint. The following article discusses how TENS may produce healing:
Hydroxychloroquine & Dexamethasone Musings.
It occurred to me that the controversy surrounding the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for treatment of last autumn’s common cold virus could stem from its having beneficial effects in some people which were unrelated to the presence of the virus in their bodies.
In addition to its being an antimalarial, HCQ is given to people who have various autoimmune diseases (my rheumatologist has suggested adding it to my treatment for polymyalgia rheumatica, if methotrexate alone doesn’t provide sufficient relief). There are more than 100 known autoimmune diseases, and more are being discovered all the time. Many autoimmune diseases have significant systemic effects that make their sufferers very sick. Unfortunately, even the known autoimmune diseases are under-diagnosed, primarily because of their misdiagnosis as another illness. (Shamefully for the medical profession, many of those who suffer with autoimmune disease are misdiagnosed as having purely psychiatric problems.)
So if some people who tested positive for this year’s Chinese common cold also had one or more undiagnosed autoimmune diseases that were making them feel extremely sick, and the administration of HCQ began to make them feel better, that could be why a study might report HCQ’s apparent effectiveness for the virus; whereas those who might have been given HCQ because they were positive for the virus, but who didn’t have an unknown, underlying autoimmune disease wouldn’t experience any benefit.
And if people who tested positive for the virus didn’t “clear” it from their systems in a shorter length of time, despite their having been given HCQ, that stands to reason, because it’s already known that there is no drug currently available which has any curative or even a shortening effect on infections caused by common cold viruses. Therefore, there would be no reason to hand out HCQ for the new virus that’s been circulating since last fall’s cold-and-flu season.
Similarly, there has been some recent excitement about a possible role for the steroid dexamethasone in the treatment of people with severe viral pneumonia that’s attributed to SARS CoV-2. According to the summary of a not-yet-peer-reviewed study by the UK National Health Service (NHS) and the University of Oxford (summary available at https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/932403?src=mkm_covid_update_200616_mscpedit_&uac=105960AN&impID=2422069&faf=1):
The results suggest one death would be prevented by treatment with dexamethasone in every eight ventilated COVID-19 patients . . . and one death would be prevented in every 25 COVID-19 patients that received the drug and were on oxygen.
Among patients with COVID-19 who did not require respiratory support, there was no benefit from treatment with dexamethasone.
This new report of another drug “breakthough” makes me nervous, for two reasons. First, despite the finding of no benefit for people with COVID disease who didn’t need a ventilator or oxygen administration, there’s a high risk of a hysterical demand arising for dexamethasone as a prophylaxis (preventive), which could result in shortages of that drug, which is important for many cancer patients who are getting chemotherapy (it helps prevent bad reactions during I.V. administration of the chemo drug – I’ve BTDT). Such shortages have already been reported for HCQ, access to which is important to those of us who have autoimmune diseases (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7138336/pdf/aim-olf-M201334.pdf). Second, steroids are notorious for their ability to suppress the immune system, which is not something you want to do if you’re worried about catching a highly contagious disease. In fact, another study (https://ard.bmj.com/content/79/7/859) has shown that “glucocorticoid exposure of ≥10 mg/day is associated with a higher odds of hospitalisation,” which means that you’ve got a greater chance of getting sicker than usual with COVID disease if you’re taking a steroid.
There is no magic bug spray for this virus. Whether you’re in a subgroup of the population that’s always been vulnerable to bad outcomes from chest colds (the aged and the infirm, the latter being those with a few cardiovascular or metabolic co-morbidities, or impaired immune systems), or you’re a member of the rest of the population which has an almost zero chance of having any adverse outcome from catching the virus, by far the safest and most effective thing to do for yourself and others is to wear a mask when you go out, and to practice frequent and scrupulous hand-washing.