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 in Other Notable Issues

While on dialysis, I wondered whether we would see this day.  But now, after kidney and pancreas transplants, my years have been significantly extended!

Friday, May 23, 2014 Steve and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. We had a fabulous time with friends, members of our wedding party and of course family. We entered the routunda after guests viewed the video below, as the dj played Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”!  Please enjoy our video:

 

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Dancing to the music at the Haley Funeral Director’s tent at the Hope UMC Carnival July 13, 2013.

 

 

Local seniors enjoyed a day at the carnival when Haley Funeral Directors hosted them in the HFD tent at the Hope United Methodist Church’s 3rd annual Southfield Festival of Hope. HFD invited local senior apartment communities out for a day at the festival. Although the seniors weren’t too keen on taking a spin on the carnival rides, they did enjoy Soul Food Alley, the many vendors, local entertainment and of course the sunshine.

 

The response back from The Fountains at Franklin Activities Director, Robin Whitley was that “…they enjoyed the carnival fun and look forward to next year”.

 

Not to forget the youth, Haley Funeral Directors also sponsored 8 young women from the Judson Center, a human service agency located in Southeastern Michigan to help children, adults and families improve their lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Stephen Kemp II engages HFD guests in a round of Bid Whist!

 

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It amazes me to listen to people argue that the Affordable Health Care act should be repealed and that they believed it was unconstitutional.  I don’t understand how people don’t get that in order to ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, in today’s terms, that means we must have affordable health care.

I get that in order to pay for a comprehensive health care plan, we (America) have got to be able to afford to do it. Again, while I get, providing for the common defense, I don’t get becoming the world’s police. Without being a member of the Congressional Budget Office, I intuitively believe that we can afford a comprehensive health plan if we back up on policing the world and better focus our efforts on domestic issues.

I think it is a good idea to make available a pool of money by requiring people to carry health insurance instead of them being treated for common or chronic illnesses in the emergency room. Insurance can then be affordable and more effective if the costs are lower because of the relative costs of doctor’s offices versus emergency rooms.  Many of the people who continue to oppose this matter, don’t have chronic illness and believe that they will end up having to pay for insurance and will never use it.  But like any insurance (homeowners, car, possibly even life), we find value in paying for “just in case”. Why wouldn’t we want to pay for “just in case there is an accident or illness”?  For those who find requiring Americans to carry health insurance an infringement on their freedom, perhaps we should go ahead, let them opt out. However make the penalty of opting out, an ability for emergency rooms and other medical professionals to “opt out” by refusing care–excuse physicians of their Hippocratic Oath, for this circumstance only.

These arguments against the Affordable Health Care Act are ones typically held by people with health insurance and who are healthy. I consider myself in that category—with health insurance and reasonably healthy. And although I am able to afford health insurance in today’s market, I wouldn’t want to deny anyone who was unable to afford health insurance as if it were a luxury and not what should be a civil right. I am keenly aware of the type of intense medical care diabetes, kidney disease, asthma and heart disease require. Trying to manage these conditions without health insurance would even shorten, if not end immediately, the life of a financially wealthy person.

So why would people oppose something that will be good for all of us, including the “least of these”?

The first answer is an easy one—selfish ignorance. Selfish: “I’ve got it and you should find a way to get it”. And ignorant because they don’t understand how they really live (as my father used to say) with one foot on the ground and the other foot firmly planted on a banana peel. It doesn’t take much for today’s insurance caps to be met and the onus for payment for medical care to be placed on the patient. A serious illness or accident could bankrupt a person.

The second answer is a sad reality responsible for more than opposition to Affordable Health Care, and that is deep seeded generational racism. Affordable Health Care is a policy created, promoted and passed by a black President of the United States along with people who recognize their own vulnerability as it relates to health care, and also care for people less fortunate than them. Even though Affordable Health Care benefits us all and there are ways to make choices so that the policy doesn’t bankrupt the country as some would suggest, they still oppose not just the idea, but the President. Rather than support the President, they would allow their young adult children looking for their first job out of college to suffer a gap in health insurance. They would rather their loved ones with chronic illness be denied health care coverage, rather than admit that what this black president has lead our country to do, protects their life and liberty.

I don’t suspect that people who question the President’s birth certificate, his policies and his patriotism would call themselves racist. They wouldn’t call themselves racist because the people they call racist were their grandparents and parents. They openly disagreed with a black person because of the color of his skin. What is happening now, I liken to Pavlov’s Dogs. The Russian psychologist, Pavlov is responsible for the study of classical conditioning whereby a conditioned stimulus would elicit an unconditioned response. Pavlov was able to evoke salivation from dogs simply by ringing a bell, after conditioning them to expect food after hearing the bell ring.

People who oppose the Affordable Health Care Act react much like the dogs. Unlike generations before them, they have been conditioned and don’t even make the connection that the reason they oppose the act is because the President is black, but instead give an unconditioned response (like the dogs) and oppose the policies because they have been conditioned that if the policy was lead by a black man, it cannot be right.

It appears that sounder minds have prevailed thus far, however I would encourage anyone who opposes affordable health care insurance for most (not even all) Americans, would search their souls and find that this argument is not “Zero Sum”. In other words, giving someone else a benefit does not take from your pot of benefits.

 

 

 

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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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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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Holiday Remembrance

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Haley Funeral Directors' Tree of Remembrance

What better way to thank the families who have entrusted their loved ones with the

Haley Funeral Directors service than to adorn the funeral home Tree of

Remembrance with photos of their loved ones.

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From the time I was a child, my brother and I always grew up with a dog. At one point, we had several dogs: one purchased and we took in several strays. And so, when you grow up with a dog as a part of your family, you tend to continue to have a dog as a part of your family.

Santa brought my son a Rottweiler / German Sheppard or Collie (or maybe both) mix rescue from the Humane Society for Christmas. I’ve always preferred rescues to pure bread dogs because they somehow seem to have that character of appreciation and unconditional love for sparing their lives.  So Lizzie is the dog my son has grown up with and she now is the center of attention since our son is away in college.

WhenLizzie began to shed this summer, I thought it odd, but was more concerned with all the hair on our carpet and getting it up than the reason why she was shedding. When she began to get slower and have some difficulty getting up, I thought it was joint or arthritis issues, even though she was only 8 years old (56 in dog years) . The herbal fix of glucosamine and chondroitin didn’t seem to work, so I took her to the vet. He gave her a trial sample of a prescription arthritis drug to see if she perked up. Indeed she seemed to perk up and so I bought the full prescription.

Then she began to have black tar-like looking stools, which indicated she was bleeding internally. The veterinarian said that it was likely the arthritis medicine causing an ulcer and that I should discontinue it. I did of course, and her weakness worsened. Not only that but she really became lethargic and didn’t have much energy at all.

Well, I can remember being anemic during kidney failure (because my kidneys were chewing up my red blood cells) and how tired I was. So I attributed her tiredness to being anemic.  But her symptoms continued to worsen and she stopped eating and shortly stopped drinking. The vet drew blood work and instructed me to get some water into her body by using a turkey baster to squeeze into her mouth, and he should have answers from the blood work in the morning.

When I called the vet, I couldn’t believe my ears–Lizzie is in kidney failure. Kidney failure? What? My first thought was, well, we’ll have to start dialysis until we can find a donor dog who is a tissue matches, right? Wrong said the vet, while there is a doggy dialysis machine at Michigan State, it is used for puppies who are poisened from drinking windshield washer solvent or something, or ate a bottle of Tylenol. They don’t make appointments for regular sessions.

Ok, so the possibilities came immediately to mind and not the probabilities. Even if she could have made appointments for dialysis, could I have really driven an hour each way and waited while she dialyzed? And the cost! I could have just heard my husband talking screaming about the $45 donation to the Humane
Society for the dog with the balloon payment in eight years.

The vet explained to me that the best starting treatment for dogs in kidney failure is hydration therapy. She would receive ongoing hydration packs regularly which has worked for some dogs for up to 2 years. So Lizzie spent two days in the hospital receiving IV fluids while I contemplated becoming a part time nurse to
my dog–my dog who has loved me unconditionally for eight years–I can do this.

When I called to check on her (it’s not a good idea to visit because they become confused why you came and didn’t take them home.) the vet said that each day brought a little more interest in food. When the vet rechecked her blood work, her BUN, potassium and sodium were within the normal canine range–her kidney function was restored!  Ecstatic with the news, I next asked, so what is wrong with her? What caused her kidneys to shut down? More extensive blood work diagnosed that Lizzie has Addison’s disease. As they say, hind sight is 20/20–the hair loss, the weight loss (10 lbs in a month), weakness and loss of appetite were classic symptoms.

Addison’s disease, a condition former president John F. Kennedy had, is controlled by Prednisone and a shot of Cortisol every 25 days. I can handle giving her a daily 5 mg pill of Prednisone hidden in a finger full of peanut butter. The near monthly shot costing about a hundred bucks a pop may turn into a shot from
one of my old insulin syringes–if I can purchase a vial of the cortisol.

After one shot of Cortisol and a little more than a week of Prednisone, I’m happy to report that Lizzie is better than new.

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My father died 18 years ago, but I have decided not to let the his absence from earth get me down. Instead I celebrate the indelible lessons he taught me, and I hope to pass them on to my son. These particular lessons from my dad, are at the top of my list.

You can do anything you want to do as long as you are willing to work hard at it.

My dad never wanted me to feel as if I was somehow handicapped by my diabetes and couldn’t excel at what was important to me and so he always told me, “You can do anything you want to do as long as you are willing to work hard at it”. So when I asked him what he wanted me to be when I grew up, he answered, “whatever you are willing to work hard at”. When I asked him if I should continue with ballet lessons, he answered “is it what you want to work hard at”? When I asked him if I should choose the University of Michigan for college, he answered (after a discussion about the cost of private college) “will you work hard there”?

If I can do it, you can do it.

At the combative age of 13, I was sick of being diabetic and taking shots twice a day. And so my father sat down next to me in short pants and drew up water into an insulin syringe. I saw what he was about to do and I said, “Dad, you don’t have to”. My dad answered, “If I can do it, you can do it”. And he proceeded to give himself a shot of water.

Hey, there is some guy running around in a Jim Lewis sweater!

Living on my own in college taught me a sense of style. And in the 80s, designer wear was all the rave. For Christmas, I bought my father a Calvin Klein pullover. Eager for him to open it and to be impressed, I stood over him as he tore open the wrapping. He lifted the neatly folded sweater and saw that there was nothing else underneath and said, “Oh no, there is some guy named Calvin running around in a Jim Lewis monogrammed sweater”!

Do you think you are the first person to make a mistake?  

I was not a perfect child growing up—but pretty close to itJ. One misstep in particular, I was petrified to tell my father about. And so I told my mother. She knew I could not stand to disappoint my father and so her punishment for me was for me to tell my father. I cried and begged for forgiveness before even telling him what I had done. When I finally told him, he looked me in the eyes and asked me, “Do you think that you are the first person to make a mistake?

This lesson in particular is one I must make sure my son understands—that we all make mistakes, and thankfully we serve a God who forgives us of our sins.

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