Friday, February 22, 2008

A remarkable recovery.

February 2008

Major surgery is major surgery at any age. Recuperation takes its time. To be back at a normal routine within a month of a complicated major surgery is remarkable for my age. There is no doubt that Danny’s devoted care-taking is a major factor, as was my urge to regain autonomy and independence for myself, which helped to speed up my recovery.

Thursday the 10th if January 2008 was the operation. The first couple of days were very frustrating. Lying in bed and not being able to move, I was totally depending on Danny’s help. I could not even turn from side to side.
Once the doctor told me on the third day to sit up it was easier said than done. Danny came to my help. He supported and encouraged me. The same when I was told to walk around. The first few steps felt like hell. I was so weak that I could hardly make it back to the bed. Danny got me up again and again. By Tuesday I started to drink with Danny's help, Wednesday I got liquid food and on the fifths day I asked Danny to bring along my walker. I wanted to try and get about by myself. Which was just as well. The doctor was pleased with my recovery.
Thursday, a mere week after the operation the doctor told us that I could go home. I hardly believed my ears. Danny got all the paperwork done and everything ready, came with the 4X4 jeep and brought me home to my own bed. Debby had prepared some soup and applesauce for me.
By evening I was on my own. Pretty scared, but brave enough to want to weather it some way or another. Early next morning Danny was there to take me to the shower, I washed my hair and he helped to get dressed. It being Friday he told me to dress warm and took me for the usual Friday night dinner to his house.
For the next few days he came morning, noon and night, encouraged me, joked with me and took me out for a walk, often for a second one in the afternoon or evening, each time increasing the distance a bit more.

Love and care, family and friends are all important ingredients to get well and for successful aging. But without meaning to ones life, a purpose in life, a goal, a target or an aim, call it what you want, it is difficult to master daily life and especially so in old age. Having grown up on my own, a motherless daughter from age 15, setting an aim for myself was always paramount. For one thing I always wanted to please my mother, and in spite of my age this is still the driving force in my life.

While in hospital I read Two Lives by Vikram Seith. One of the two lives is about a Jewish refugee woman whose old mother was send to Theresienstadt. It so happened that while I lay there in my clean hospital bed, getting all the latest and best treatment available, I read in this book a description about the hospital in Theresienstadt.
I thought to myself, who am I to complain, while living in such luxury, with excellent surgeons and the most modern equipment available and my son taking such good care of all my needs.
It spurned me on to make the best of it. My thoughts went back and forth.
When my father was in hospital in Theresienstadt, my mother took the best care possible of him, but there was lack of everything, hygiene, medical equipment, there were no medicaments available, my father just died. My mother could not even bury him, for that was not allowed. She was left all alone for many months until she was send to Auschwitz to her death. I was not there to take care of her. My mother had send all three of us children away so that we should live and be spared the hardships that she seemed to know that lay ahead.

I felt that out of respect to my mother I had to get better quick and get back to my old routine. I had so much to live for. I have my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There is still a lot I can contribute to my surrounding.

Within the first week of being home the volunteer from ASF (Aktion Suehne Zeichen) came to visit me and the television channel 2 wanted to make a report on his work with Shoa survivors. Although still weak, I agreed. They filmed for over an hour, but in the end showed a very short version of a few minutes only. A number of friends phoned to say that they saw me on television.
A couple of days later I gave a talk at my home to a group of older volunteers from ASF who are here for 3-6 month to work in various institutions for the old or handicapped.
The two eleven grade pupils that I had been meeting on a weekly basis turned up as usual and we carried on our work about the first decades of Statehood towards their presentation in school on the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel.
The phone kept ringing and Yad Vashem asked if could give a talk to a group of youngsters. There were other phone calls and a number of visitors.
My children and all my grandchildren turned up, as did some of my great-grandchildren. All that cheered me up. I felt that I had to live up to their expectation of being myself again. It was not always easy, but soon I got the hang of it all. Day by day I got more independent, do my housekeeping, shop and cook for myself.

A month after the operation and I am back to my regular routine of daily life and being able to participate in all the activities that I had been involved in before.

These include active participation in several groups of Inter-faith encounters, being a member of the steering committee of the once weekly old age club of the Irgun Oleh Mercas Europa, giving talks to various groups on different subjects, preparing papers for presentation at conferences, writing articles that are being published in journals, taking part in meetings of groups that I belong too and of course my extended worldwide e.mail correspondence.
A subject that most interest me these days is the research into successfull aging. Sometimes, after I tell the story of a Jewish family, my Family Chronicle and people asked about what I do these days and I mention this. Today I recieved a parcel. A kind person from Germany searched for and send me a couple of books on this subject.
One of them is The Art of Aging by Riemann & Kleespies 2007. I already read half of the book. I find the insight shown by the authors facinating. More about that next time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A month later.

My belly was so swollen that it looked as if I was in the tenth month of pregnancy, which at my age of 84 was not very likely.
A visit to the doctor brought with it a lot more visits, tests and examinations of all sorts. They found out that I had cancerous growths in my abdomen. I urgently needed major surgery.
On the 10th of January 2008 I lay on the table in the operation theater and a team of doctors labored for five and a half hours to remove eight and a half kilogram, great lumps of growth as well as jelly like liquate.
Whereas before the operation I weight 70 kg, I now weigh a mere 54 kg.
Danny, my son, looked after me before and after the operation, he helped me sit up when told by the doctor to do so and walked me up and down the corridor as ordered.
A week after the operation we were told that he could take me home. Weak as I was, he kept me on my toes, walked with me, brought me food and in short, he was the best caretaker I could have hoped for.
In my absence my apartment was broken in. Not that the burglar found much aside from my ring, a golden necklace a couple of hundred Shekel, but he empty out all my shelves and drawers. I could not find a thing. Day by day I labored to put things right again. It gave me something to do.
My children, all my grandchildren and some of my great-grandchildren visited me, as well as a number of well - wishers and friends.
Within a month of the operation I am back to my old routine, do my shopping and cooking, started to give talks again to youth groups at home and at Yad Vashem.
Doctors are amazed at my quick recovery.
It is obviously a combination of good care on Danny’s side as well as my ardent wish to regain my autonomy and independency.
If there is a purpose to life I have to give it a chance. I have to have an aim to live up to. As long as I can, I feel that I want to give rather than take. I am glad that I can still contribute in different ways. My social engagement means a lot to me.