Blessed Assurance: Success Despite the Odds

by Jacquie Lewis-Kemp, Author & Health Coach for Living life with diabetes and organ transplants, rather than limiting life because of them.

Browsing Posts published by Jacquie Lewis-Kemp

I hope children and wives will treat the dads in their lives like kings this Father’s Day. Growing up, ties and after shave cologne were common gifts, but dad seemed to like the ones my brother and I made the best. Even if it was a card, he would save the note.

As I grew older, my college part time job enabled me to buy even better presents–at least I thought so. One year when I bought my father a Calvin Klein monogrammed shirt, he opened it and said, “Uh oh, we better go find Calvin. He’s walking around in a Jim Lewis shirt”!

After getting married, I found out that my father-in-law shared the same birthday as my father. So that meant that I bought the same thing, just different colors for my dad and father-in-law for both Father’s Day and their birthday. It was like dressing twins alike. Once again, I liked it–not sure how they really felt.

My father died when he was just 52 years old. I console myself with the reminder that while 52 is indeed young, and there was so much more I wanted to share with my dad, I HAD AN INCREDIBLE FATHER! And those 31 years of my life were outstanding because of him. There are many people, particularly women who didn’t grow up with the nurturing hand of a father. They didn’t grow up with a man to show them what to expect out of marriage, how to be treated and how to be taken care of by a man.

Not only was he there to show me what I should expect from a man, he taught me much of my business acumen. As he put it, “school teaches you fundamentals in a perfect world. You graduate with a box of phenomenal analytical tools. Now it is up to me [as your first employer] to teach you how and when to employ them. It’s up to me to teach you how to feel it in your gut and to be motivated by those well calculated gut feelings.” I don’t think I could have gotten better training from anyone else other than my dad.

When my mother died and joined her husband in heaven, my brother and I divided her possessions and sold her house.  As the mass of video tapes were concerned, Jeff took all the Star Wars video tapes, and I took some unmarked videos with the intention of going through them and labeling them if not disposing of them. Well, you know how that goes. I tucked them away, and out of sight, out of mind. Recently I decided to make it a point to go through them while walking on the treadmill. I knew one of them was the video tape that my father took during my wedding shower. And so I carefully marked that one and now my intention is to copy it to DVD.

There were several 1980s Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda exercise videos–hilarious. I found a DVD of my mother in a public speaking course at Ford Motor Company, precious. And then there it was. A video tape of my graduate school graduation. My father was operating the camera and I got a chance to eavesdrop on his conversations with whomever he was talking to while videotaping. The Michigan Spring Commencement is held in the Big House and my dad came down on the field to get a close up shot of me and a classmate. Then he went back to his seat. On the video tape, I could hear my mother directing him, “There she is, waving”. As he combed the sea of graduates, he asked, “where? Is she still waving?”

The next scene was at my open house. Tired from his videotaping at the graduation, Dad decided to put the camera  on the tripod and just let it run.  Now I was able to eavesdrop on lots of conversations.

One that I play over and over again is my cousin asking my father, “So now that she’s graduated, what’s she going to do”? My dad quickly answered with excitement, “She’s going to come and work for me. I’ve got a whole list of things for her to get started on.” I wasn’t at all surprised that my father was proud of me–after all he told me so as a child, as an adult and as an employee. What was so special was listening to him tell others.

The end of the video tape was my father recording the contents of their home for insurance purposes. What would have otherwise been a boring video became exciting when my father walked in front of the glass door and I was able to see his reflection.

Remember Dads, it’s not the big things, but the lasting love, pride and

direction that you give that makes a difference.

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This was really an event for sociologists to study. Last week my husband and I attended a UM Transplant Center fundraiser at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor. As usual, Chef Alex whipped up an amazing meal that helped to fund Camp Michitanki, a summer camp for kids living with an organ transplant. The dinner was great, the live auction was fun, but to observe such concentration and skill given to delivering plated food and beverage was something to see.

Only my husband, and his propensity to return to his roots as a researcher, would notice how these surgeons brought their surgical skills to the restaurant. As we sipped our wine before the meal, Steve pointed out how one surgeon wanted to clear empty appetizer dishes from the table from everyone at the same time rather than make several trips. Steve said “Look at him” as he impatiently waited for the man to finish his last bite. “They’ve got to be efficient with their work”, Steve said about the surgeons.

I had to catch myself as one of the surgeon/waiters asked me if I’d like more wine. I almost replied, “Well do you think I should”? “Sure” I told him.

Alas, the meal was over and dessert had been served. Again Steve pointed out surgeon/waiters with empty trays walking aimlessly around the room looking for something to do. “They need to do something. They need to cut something–they don’t know what to do”. We laughed as it really was cute.

Watching these very intense, extremely bright and hard working lifesavers hold back their arrogance (and Steve says there is no one more arrogant than a surgeon) and humble themselves to serve food to others was quite a sight.

We joke about the arrogance of a surgeon, but which one of you would undergo anesthesia with an unsure surgeon placing a scalpel on your abdomen? Give me the most arrogant, the Leaders and Best!

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Managing a chronic illness like diabetes is more an issue of behavioral change than it is a medical treatment. Sure for insulin dependent diabetics, management requires not only learning to administer the injection, but how to manipulate the doses. But the majority of diabetes management involves understanding how various foods and exercise affects blood sugar levels, and learning to orchestrate a routine that keeps a relative flat line of glucose levels within the normal range

The same is true of living on dialysis or transplant living. Other than being compliant with the doctor’s orders, most of the activity while on dialysis or maintaining a healthy transplant, involves a behavioral change.

Many times, dietary restrictions like low sodium, low fat, low glycemic, means that people need to learn to eat and cook differently. Often times this means a change not only for the person afflicted with the chronic condition, but the entire family. For instance, my husband has a condition unrelated to diabetes or transplant that requires him to eat a low sodium diet. Since I prepare about 99.99% of the meals in our house, that means that after a life of no sugar and low carbohydrate diets, I now add to our meals, low sodium! But it doesn’t work if I prepare his meals separately. In a world of processed foods with lots of added salt, eating low sodium is healthy for everyone.

Since a lot of chronic conditions are aided and best managed by lifestyle changes and establishing a routine, I’ve started a health coaching practice which works is concert with your doctor’s care plan. Once your doctor has prescribed the necessary activities, I work with the patient to develop a regimen that makes those changes fall in concert with your current life.

Perhaps the busiest and most difficult to manage time in my life was when I was a dialysis patient. I was CEO of a manufacturing company, married with a son in elementary school. My job was an hour away from my son’s school. He played soccer and went Kumon twice a week after school. Peritoneal dialysis required that I did one midday exchange and connected to a Cycler at night to perform the dialysis as I slept. My diabetes required glucose monitoring four times a day and insulin injections twice a day. Because dialysis can cause the blood pressure to fluctuate to dangerous levels, I also needed to monitor my weight daily and blood pressure several times a day.  At that time I was sodium restricted as well as on a diabetic diet, and so the best way to control sodium and sugar was to prepare meals myself. As a busy wife, mother and CEO, that was more than a notion, but necessary and therefore not impossible.

All of those requirements—medical, occupational and familial could be summarized like this:

  • Eating out had to be a rare treat

  • I needed diabetic and dialysis medication and testing supplies handy at home and at work

  • In order to cook healthy meals and eat at reasonable times, I had to have them prepped to the point of spending an hour to finalize them for dinner.

  • In order to attend my son’s sporting events and participate in the snack schedule or take him to Kumon even when I would normally work late, meant I had to have business resources at home (computer, fax, printer, binding equipment, presentation folders, etc.).

When I finally got my Ultimate Multitasking Routine in swing, this is how it ran…typically.

  • My workday began at 5:30 am in order to disconnect from my cycler, do all of my testing (weight, glucose, blood pressure), take my insulin plan and prep dinner, prepare lunches for everyone to take to school or work, prepare a light breakfast, and if necessary complete any last minute items for work.

  • Our routine was that my husband usually took my son to school and I usually picked him up from school. As they left, I dressed and left for work. My commute was about 45 minutes which allowed me time to clear voicemail and not walk into any surprises.

  • I kept a three drawer plastic storage cabinet under my desk to store a glucometer, testing supplies, dialysis fluid, blood pressure cuff and supplies, an extra pair of pantyhose and nail polish remover—for other emergencies. The key to being compliant with doctor’s orders is to make the process easy to do and have all of the necessary items available. So at midday, I was ready to test and do my midday dialysis exchange. I kept my stock of dialysis fluid replenished by loading up the car on Sunday night and bringing it into the office each Monday morning.

  • If my son had an after school activity, I would also load up the car the night before with the team snack or whatever was necessary so that I could leave work, pick him up from school and be ready with whatever supplies.

  • Because dinner had been prepped that morning, it was usually within an hour of being done, if not crock pot ready. While completing dinner, I supervised my son while doing homework and was available for questions.

  • In the evening, I completed bedtime testing, took medications, and finished any job related work and prepared for the next day.

 

While of course, things didn’t always work out this smoothly, it was my home base, and when things like illness or other family functions got in the way of this routine, I knew where to return.

I would like to help others with chronic conditions to develop the routine that works best for them to be compliant to their doctors orders and live healthy lives without making overwhelming changes to their current lifestyle.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HEALTH COACHING, click on the Health Coaching Tab above.

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This week I celebrate two anniversaries. The first was May 27, 2012. My husband and I celebrated 23 years of marriage. Wow, that’s a long time, especially for a 25 year old, huh? 😉 On May 30 I celebrate 10 years of living with a pancreas transplant.

I would never have imagined that I would one day not have to take an insulin shot! When I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 7, my grandfather told me while I was in the hospital that we would “pray it [diabetes] away”. My parents worried that I might not learn to take care of myself and instead hope for a miracle.

I had the most wonderful parents who continually made sure that I understood that I could do anything that I wanted to and be anything that I wanted to be as long as I worked hard at it. So instead of sitting by waiting for a miracle cure from God, I worked hard in school and hard at work.

Despite my hard work, my kidneys failed. My brother volunteered to save my life and donate his left kidney. My transplant team had an even more complete plan to treat my kidney disease. Their full plan of action was to perform the kidney transplant to end dialysis, and a pancreas transplant to end the cause of the kidney failure in the first place.

And so, on May 29, 2002, I took my last insulin injection. And on May 30, 2002 my new pancreas provided enough insulin to move glucose from my bloodstream to my cells, and has done so for the last 10 years.

So back to what Granddaddy said. Did he pray my diabetes away? Sure he did, not through a miraculous prong on the head, but through technology and medical science. And despite the fact that Granddaddy has been gone for 28 years, that doesn’t mean that 2002 wasn’t in God’s time.

Actually, I still consider myself diabetic. My body lived through 32 years of diabetes and I still manage some of the long term complications. I received a bronze medal for living with diabetes for 25 years from an insulin manufacturer. Do you think that they will give me the 50 year medal without having bought their product?

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Americans with Disabilities Act

Published January 23, 2012
Written by Linda Hepler, RN | Reviewed by George Krucik, MD
Reprinted from Healthline.com
Many health experts consider diabetes to be the biggest public health problem of the 21st century. Consider these sobering statistics from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse:
  • 18.8 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes.
  • It’s estimated that an additional 7 million people have the disease, but don’t know it.
Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in this country.
  • Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease and stroke and a leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower limb amputations, and new cases of blindness.
  • At any given age, a person with diabetes’ overall risk of death is twice that of those people of the same age without diabetes.
  • Why the grim statistics for a disease that can be controlled or even prevented? According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), an umbrella organization of over 200 national diabetes associations around the world, a major problem is lack of public attention to the early diagnosis and management of this disease—and to people’s fundamental human rights to life and health. As hard as it is to believe in a country as wealthy as the U.S., there are millions of Americans with diabetes that go undiagnosed until complications arise, lack access to affordable health care, medicines, and needed equipment, and are denied opportunities to manage their diabetes properly in schools and workplaces.
    The IDF strongly believes that those with diabetes can play an essential part in confronting this silent killer by knowing their rights, so they developed an International Charter of Rights and Responsibilities of People With Diabetes (see the document at http://www.idf.org/advocacy/charter-of-rights).
    Do you know your rights and responsibilities as a person with diabetes? In a nutshell:
    Your Diabetes Rights
    1. You have the right to care.
    Good healthcare is essential for diabetics. You deserve access to affordable and quality healthcare at all stages of your life. When receiving diabetic services, you should expect to be treated with respect and dignity and allowed to make complaints about any aspect of your healthcare without it affecting your treatment.
    2. You have the right to information and education.
    Knowledge is power! You should expect your healthcare providers to give you sufficient education about managing your disease, and information about where to access additional resources for learning. You should be allowed to be involved in planning your own healthcare and setting your health goals. You should be given the names, dosages, actions, and possible side effects of any medications your healthcare provider wants you to take. You should have access to your own medical records, as well as the right to share that information with others only as you deem necessary.
    3. You have the right to social justice.
    You have the right to be treated fairly in the workplace, at school, and in other public settings. You must be allowed time and privacy as well as a clean and safe place for blood sugar monitoring and medication administration, as well as sufficient time off for medical appointments. You should also have access to affordable medications and monitoring technologies.
    Are all of these rights legally enforceable? Many of them are. While you may have to champion your own cause when it comes to insisting upon adequate diabetic education at your doctor’s office, you can get legal help to end discrimination at school, work, and other settings where you are being treated unfairly because of your diabetes. One place to start is by talking to a legal advocate through the American Diabetes Association. By calling 1-800-DIABETES, you’ll be put in touch with someone who can help you to understand your legal rights and help you to take action.
    Responsibilities
    Along with rights come responsibilities. The IDF lays out some major responsibilities for those with diabetes. These include:
    • Being honest with your healthcare providers about all aspects of your life that may influence your diabetic care, such as your lifestyle behavior, the medications you take, and your allergies.
    • Carrying through with the agreed-upon treatment plan for your diabetes, such as blood sugar monitoring, medications, and healthy lifestyle behaviors.
    • Sharing any problems you’re having with your diabetes management with your healthcare providers so the plan can be revised.
    • Telling others in your life about your diabetes if this knowledge can help them to support you, such as those at home, in the workplace, and at school.
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    Lizzie Kemp

    Last week we celebrated the life of my most loyal friend, my canine friend, my dog, Lizzie. We believe that even after being treated for Addison’s disease, she developed congestive heart failure. She began to retain water for which I prescribed her Lasix (the vet later agreed it would provide her with some relief) and she moved slowly around the house.

    One day when she wouldn’t come in from out of the rain when I called her, I knew it was time. She didn’t understand me, or she couldn’t hear me, or she couldn’t see well–I really couldn’t tell which was the case. I ended up having to pull her in the house out of the rain. She hadn’t eaten all day either and she was extremely weak. I called my husband at work and he agreed that we should take her to the vet to be euthanized.

    The next morning was hectic with things to get done. We both had a funeral to attend for a church member’s husband. My husband is a funeral director and he was handling the service. My husband loaded Lizzy into the Suburban. He had to pick her up and even though she was heavy with fluid, she managed to stand up in the back and look out of the window.

    I followed in another car. My husband said that as they approached the vet’s office, Lizzie hopped over the seat into the middle section and laid her head on the front console. My husband rubbed her ears as he drove. The he said as he began turning into the vet’s parking lot, she began to cough and slumped down onto the floor.

    I parked and got out of my car to try to help them into the vet’s office. When I got to the back door, Steve said that he thought that she was dead and we got the vet. He listened to her heart and confirmed that Lizzie had no heartbeat.

    The way I see it, Lizzie went on her own terms. I would imagine that she found it kind of strange that Daddy lifted her into his car so early in the morning and said the word “vet”. Daddy has never taken her to the vet. Daddy has never even met the vet. Does Daddy know the way to the vet? Might Daddy be taking me on my last ride in the car?

    There would be no shot, not euthanasia for Lizzie. Perhaps the anticipation was too much for her heart. And so now, when my son chooses an urn for Lizzie’s ashes, she will join Max our Shepard / Husky mix who lived to be 13 and Bandit, my mom’s Lhasa Apso, on the mantle of pets who’ve gone on. My family thanks all of them for filling our lives with such joy.

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    From the Huffington Post:

    Facebook Organ Donor Initiative

    Prompts 100,000 Users To Select New

    Option

     

    By MIKE STOBBE 05/ 2/12 05:57 PM ET AP

    ATLANTA — Thousands of Facebook users have signed up to be organ donors this week, thanks to a new feature on the social networking site that makes it easier to register.

    The new option was announced Tuesday by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as a way to boost the number of potential organ donors. By the end of the day, 6,000 people had enrolled through 22 state registries, according to Donate Life America, which promotes donations and is working with Facebook. On a normal day, those states together see less than 400 sign up.

    The response “dwarfs any past organ donation initiative,” said David Fleming, chief executive of Donate Life America, in a statement.

    The Facebook feature allows users to share their decision to be an organ donor on the website. More than 100,000 did that by Tuesday night, according to Facebook, which is working with Fleming’s group to encourage Facebook users to also officially register as donors with their state.

    A link on the site connects to online donor registries. At least 22,000 people had followed that link as of Wednesday afternoon. Information from 22 states indicates that a third or more of them filled out the form to register, said Donate Life America spokeswoman Aisha Michel.

    California – where Facebook is headquartered – reported startling results. About 70 people register online as organ donors each day. But in the 24 hours after Zuckerberg’s announcement, about 3,900 signed up.

    “We’re just thankful we have this opportunity to bring more people into the process,” said Bryan Stewart, a spokesman for OneLegacy, which coordinates transplants in the Los Angeles area.

    “We’re looking forward to seeing how long this activity lasts, and at what level,” he added.

    Facebook, a social network site founded in 2004, has 526 million daily users around the world. It was Facebook’s idea to add the option, after Zuckerberg took a personal interest in the issue, Michel said. The feature is available in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

    As with some personal information on Facebook, organ donor status can be kept private or shared publicly or only with friends.

    More than 114,000 Americans are currently on waiting lists for transplants of kidneys, livers, hearts and other organs, according to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the organization that runs the nation’s transplant system. More than 6,600 died last year waiting for an organ.

    According to UNOS, 43 percent of adults in the U.S. are registered as donors. Organs can only be used though under certain circumstances, such as when someone dies from a major head injury and a ventilator can keep the organs viable. Less than 1 percent of U.S. deaths annually are under such circumstances. And sometimes the opportunity is lost because family members didn’t know about the person’s wishes on organ donation.

    The Facebook feature “is a unique opportunity for people to make their decision known,” UNOS Executive Director Walter Graham, said on a statement.

    Most people register as organ donors when they get a driver’s licenses, but about 2 percent sign up through online registries. Both represent legal consent for adults. For children who want to be donors, parental consent is still required.

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    Unexpected Blessings

    In my chapter of Victorious Living for Women, I talk about how we can never predict exactly where our blessings will come from. In fact I detail how my difficult period of kidney failure and dialysis was, at that time, the worst thing that had ever happened to me. My kidney transplant after seven months of dialysis then became the reason I was eligible for a pancreas transplant. And what a pancreas transplant meant was that I no longer had to follow a diabetes regimen.

    As I reflected back to the time of my diabetes diagnosis at the age of seven, I recall that my grandfather and pastor told me that we would just pray that [diabetes] away.  You can imagine how my parents felt about my grandfather instilling hope into their daughter that they were talking to physicians about how to prepare me for a lifetime of diabetes management. While both my parents were Christian, they didn’t want me to be confused and spend my life waiting for a miraculous cure one day.

    I didn’t spend my life waiting for that cure, and instead pushed forward to live a normal life. It wasn’t until after my pancreas transplant that I reminded my grandmother of my grandfather [now deceased]’s prayer. Could it be that he did pray it away? Why do we think that when we pray, God is somehow on the clock? That He has a timeframe in which to answer our prayer. Not only does he have a timeframe, but a manner in which He should do it. “To pray my diabetes away”, somehow seemed to me and my parents for God to perform some miracle and I would somehow be cured. A simple prong on the head and diabetes would be gone!

    Who would imagine that He would use physicians and technology and achieve essentially a cure?

    It is with that realization that I am careful not to predict and plan where my acts of kindness go, because I never know where my blessings will come from. In other words, I don’t decide to do nice things for people that I expect a return of good fortune. The idea of paying it forward is not finding a trading partner or deciding who is worthy to receive your gift. It is passing on a gift to someone in need or deserving, without expecting anything in return.

    I recently had such an opportunity. At a Writer’s Expo, a young woman, before performing a song told the story of her intent to relocate to Georgia in order to donate a kidney to a long time friend of hers. What’s the chance that I was in that room of authors–both fiction and nonfiction–to hear this story. I was in a place to tell my story and experiences of being a two-time organ transplant recipient to someone who really needed to understand the process. I was stunned, even paralyzed to listen to her. I knew immediately that God had placed me in that place to hear her story and provide information and guidance for this transplant procedure. I wasn’t even sure why I attended this Expo; it wasn’t necessarily an event that I thought I would sell many books. But I received a blessing beyond what selling several books could provide: The blessing of knowing that my story mattered.

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    Upcoming Events

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    Blessed Assurance: Success Despite the Odds

    CALENDAR OF EVENTS
    04/14/12 Writer’s Expo, The Upper Room, Detroit, MI
    04/21/12 Signing Books, God’s World 2-4 PM                 Seven Mile and Schafer in Detroit, MI
    04/28/12 Walking with Jackie’s Crew to cure MS              at Covington School, Bloomfield Hills, MI
    05/01/12 Advocating diabetes and kidney education programs at the American Diabetes Association and National Kidney Foundation’s        Diabetes & Kidney Day in Lansing, MI
    05/12/12 Signing books at Antioch Baptist Church  in Pontiac, MI
    8/4-8/12 Signing books at the Bass Mollett booth at the   National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association convention in Las Vegas, NV
    09/29/12 University of Michigan Transplant Center’s    Vita Redita Gala & Charity Auction  at THE BIG HOUSE! in Ann Arbor, MI
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