Feb 8, 2018

Early Doctor Memories

In the 1950s, the doctor told my Grandma if she didn't start taking medicine she would have to go to the hospital. He thought she would be afraid to go to the hospital since she had never been to one. Doctors in those days made house calls and babies were born at home, so she had never needed to go. However, when he came back the next week, Grandma had her bags packed. She went to the hospital and they told her they had to have the room for somebody else. 

Grandma had high blood pressure and the doctor told her she should eat less salt. I remember her sitting on the porch rubbing the salt off of the Fritos with a Kleenex and eating them. I thought how silly that was when I saw it.

They didn't have antibiotics until the 1950s, so at that time when someone was sick, they were quarantined so they didn't spread it around. That's why Daddy had the chicken pox when Bobby Joe and I did in the '50s. Aunt Oakie had it when she was 60. When she was sick when she was in high school in the '20s, she was the same age as one of the doctor's sisters. It was the doctor who made house calls and when he got there, he let on like she would have been at the school graduation parties if she hadn't been sick. As it was, she didn't go to the parties. 

Feb 6, 2018

Living with MSA

We finally made it to the doctor at Baylor Neurology in Houston in about March 2016 to make a final diagnosis. It led to another line of tests with a specialist in autonomic dysfunction. I had my air capacity tested, sweat function, and a tilt table test for orthostatic hypotension. Based on the autonomic dysfunction and my other symptoms, Baylor doctors said I had probable multiple system atrophy. 

By fall 2015 I had been experiencing additional symptoms like choking on liquids and feeling lightheaded when sitting up or standing up. Incontinence was a big problem. I started Zoloft to help control a symptom called PBA that involved uncontrolled laughing and crying out of context. I had a physical therapist who came to the house and showed me how not to fall with the rollator. Also, the occupational therapist brought button hooks so I could learn to use those when getting dressed. Speech therapists were consulted for the swallowing, as well as worsening speech. Staying active by riding my tricycle and walking as long as possible helped me stay involved longer than I would have. I continued attending church, going to our Saturday "trunk sales," and working on scoring for Pearson on standardized tests all into 2015. Things only changed with a bad fall in February 2016. I was never independently mobile again after that.

It's fortunate that MSA doesn't cause a lot of pain. My legs have hurt pretty bad at times, and where I lean it causes a knot in my shoulders, which they call clothes hanger pain. Sometimes my nose tingles and I have a constant drip if I sit up.

One difference between MSA and other forms of old age dementia would be the fact that with MSA you keep your mental capacity until the end. Even though you are unable to write or read or do things you used to do, such as crocheting or sewing, or even walking, talking, or feeding yourself, you are not affected with memory loss or confusion.

MSA is considered a very rare movement disorder. Research on MSA can help with treatments and understanding other neurological diseases such as Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's, and MS, as well as ALS. At this time, none of these diseases has a cure or even an effective treatment to slow the progression. Some symptoms like excess saliva, swallowing issues, and even bladder control can be temporarily relieved with Botox injections, but there is a risk of getting too large a dose and having negative effects for several months. Levodopa is effective in preventing tremors and reducing muscle constriction in your neck and hands. However, it can have harsh side effects, so the dose has to be set to balance those with the benefits. Ultimately, it is not a longterm fix and we need treatments that slow or stop the disease itself.

Feb 2, 2018

Living with Ataxia

This summary that I wrote in 2014 describes life with a diagnosis of sporadic cerebellar ataxia, prior to things progressing to a probable diagnosis of multiple system atrophy in 2016.

Living with Ataxia (2014)
Hello, my name is Hazel Freeman. I am a 71-year-old grandmother. I have lived in Silsbee, Texas, since 2003. My husband, Paul grew up there, and as he says, "graduated from Silsbee High School in the dark ages." His parents were T.C. and Minta Freeman.

I expected to be one that climbed on the roof at age 102, I was so healthy for my age. Now, thanks to ataxia, I can't even walk across the room without help.

I first noticed the effects of ataxia 3 years ago in 2011. In January 2012, it had gotten worse and I took some bad falls. I then went to the doctor. I was diagnosed that summer after MRIs, blood tests, and seeing an ENT to rule out ear problems. I went from walking using a cane to using a rollator (walker) in November 2012. Now, it looks like a wheelchair is in my future.

Paul says I am drunk all the time--even though I do not drink alcohol. Ataxia affects the cerebellum, which is the part of the brain also affected by alcohol when someone drinks. It causes staggering gait, slurred speech, bladder incontinence, and peripheral neuropathy, among other things.

One concern about ataxia is that one can choke on water or one's own spit. I understand that sometimes a thickener is added to water and other liquids to keep people with ataxia from choking. So far, this hasn't been a problem for me. Also, until recently, my speech wasn't slurred too bad except when I was tired. It is getting harder and harder to talk, and especially, to be understood. Probably the thing that frustrates me most is not being able to write or print. Apparently, this is common to ataxia. I like to take notes and make lists--now I can't do either.

Depression is usual among people who have ataxia. As my small motor skills have been affected and the disorder progresses, I have been somewhat depressed over not being able to do things I have always done. For instance, I love to cook, and recently we decided that Paul needed to do most of the cooking for us. It's fortunate that he can. It is also fortunate for me that he is such a patient caregiver and cares so much.

There is no cure or treatment for ataxia. It is something to be endured, and therapy and life adjustments can help you cope. Someone on the Living with Ataxia site recently described it as walking on a boat that is going over waves. It makes you tired just to do ordinary things because it requires extra effort to keep from falling. Ataxia, while it is a rare disease, affecting 150,000 or fewer Americans, is often a hereditary disease, affecting young people and children. It can be caused by a stroke or head injury, or be a gluten reaction, or, as in my case, the cause may be unknown.
Be aware of ataxia, and remember some people are dealing with it day by day and minute by minute. Do what you can to help researchers find a cure or treatment for this condition!Pin It

Jan 30, 2018

A Life Update from 1996

When sorting my things after I moved to the nursing home, my daughters found this letter I had handwritten in 1996 to Bob's friend, Barry Waldron, in Placersville, California. Since I still had it, I don't know if I emailed Barry or just decided not to send the letter. It summarizes the life I had in the years after Bob passed away in 1991.

Dear Barry,
It was really exciting to hear back from you so quickly. EMail & the net is amazing. Beth & I are amazed at the street maps.
Actually, I expect the people who bought our place at Leggett have a PO Box and aren't using the Route Box. In '88 we sold our "big" house and moved across the road into what had been the shop. We kept the same box # then & the people who bought had another #. In Dec/Jan '92 I bought a house "in town" Livingston and probably over a year later sold the remaining property at Leggett.

p. 2 The house in Livingston is rented out now and we are renting here. Paul & I were married in May 1993. We are very happy. My kids were not ready for me to marry at the time but I think they see the good of it now. It's a totally different life anyway. Paul has 3 girls. The oldest is almost 22 and lives in New Orleans. The middle one graduated from high school this year and still lives w/her mom while going to Jr. College. The little one is 13 & in 8th grade. She lived with us for 1-1/2 school years but now is back at her Mom's. She is here about every other week end. It's about 3 hours from here to Bryan where she lives.

p. 3 So even tho we meet half way we get to spend 6 hours every other weekend driving back & forth & Mom does likewise.
Oh, I had to laugh about your calling "Ruby." Camp Ruby is a rural community, a remnant of a town from time past out in "the thicket." I suppose some military connection (maybe Civil War?). Anyway the co-op telephone exchange is there & so called the "Ruby exchange." Even though we didn't live near Ruby we were on the north edge of the telephone exchange. Our kids went to Leggett school & we had a Livingston address & lived at Red Horse Ridge.

p. 4 The town of Daisetta here is probably 4-500 people and Hull which is unincorporated appears to be a similar size. Hull is about 3 miles north. The Elementary school is there. The high school is here in Daisetta and the Jr High at Raywood about 6 miles south. Raywood is on Hiway 90. It is a rice elevator, 3 convenience stores & a cluster of houses & the school is an FM Hiway 160 where there is a catholic church & another convenience store/gas station. There are scattered houses all over the area. Daisetta has a grocery store & Hull has a bank w/ a branch in Liberty, 

p. 5 a video store, 2 baptist churches, a pentecostal church, assembly of God, methodist church & one other charismatic type church, the school & admist. office & football field. No gas station.
This is an old oilfield. Mobil & Sun oil still have facilities here. It is a coastal plain. Flat. Elephant Ears grow in the bar ditches. They had a big flood here in '94. Many houses & buildings had water in them. People are still recovering.
The school is class AA and a small 2A at that. I had 60 kids in my 6th grade classes last year.

p. 6 Paul usually has 35-40 kids on the field for band on Friday nights. That includes 8th grade thru 12 and a handful of the better 7th graders (4, I think). He has a big 6th grade class coming up & a big freshman class for next year & losing only 3 or 4 seniors so next year only a few 8th graders will march. Liberty is probably 8,000 and Dayton down the road is comparable. It is a Rice Farming center. The Chamber of Commerce says there are 40,000 people in the trade area but it's not like a...

p. 9 ...so feel like I have to follow through. I have my sewing machine at the store but there is just enough traffic & phone calls & other stuff to do to not get any sewing done. Only an ADD person could function like this -- or disfunction like this.
Good luck w/ your business venture. It's scary to take a risk like that. I know.
I've got to get a move on. I didn't get my house work done this am but I don't usually.
Paul has late band practice tonight so I'll catch up then. Oh, we are offering guitar lessons & later will offer private lessons on band instruments. Our drum major is a serious music student & will do some of that. She has also learned to do instrument repairs. Another Senior student is doing the guitar lessons. He's not in band. This drum major is an over achiever. Reminds me of my girls when they were in school. Kids in a small school have to do everything. Sports, band, debate, academic comps, cheer leader, student council, ag. etc etc.
Got to run. I can't do this often but wanted to fill you in on life here.

Dec 22, 2017

Ouch, That Hurts!

Sometimes over the course of time, we have physical hurts, or psychological or hurt feelings. Here are a few things I have thought of as far as hurts through the years. One time, Daddy came in. He had been standing there talking to Ole John, who he rode home with most days. He said Joe just got his leg cut off. We went out back to see what had happened. Bobby Joe had been cutting brush with a hatchet. His tennis shoes, which everybody wore for school, were high tops and were black and white and made of cloth. These shoes had kept him from having a catastrophe when the hatchet bounced off of them. 

One Saturday afternoon Mama said who wanted to go to the grocery store with her? We were both barefooted, as kids usually were during summer months. Bobby Joe and I both went to the store with Mama and we just went to pick up one item. Bobby Joe cut his toe real bad on a broken bottle. Needless to say, we started putting on our shoes to go to the store. This was in the pre-lawsuit days so all we had was a cut toe out of the deal.

One thing that happened to me was slamming my finger in the car door. Mama said it was a good thing I slammed it myself. I was taking typing then and it kept me from being a good typist.

Perhaps the worst thing happened when Paul was about 4 years old; he got kicked in the head by a yearling colt. He could have been killed and we probably weren't smart enough to know it. The permanent effect was a scar in the shape of a horseshoe. The best thing that happened out of the deal was that Paul went with me and Bob to the Twin Cities when we bought a car because he needed the individual attention at that time. We stopped in Mora and heard a music arrangement.

On several occasions Bob and the kids hit yellowjacket nests in the ground while mowing at our place in Leggett. The yellowjackets followed them all the way to the house when they ran in. We put a baking soda paste on the stings. 

When I took the two-story ladder and hoped to clean the green East Texas mildew off the white siding of the house, I was stung by wasps. I was on the ladder and near the electrical outlet. I took the ladder down and decided that the green could stay on the wall.

A near miss occurred when Bob and I were digging a well at the house in Leggett. It was close to the pond, back of the house. It was deeper than I was tall when it caved in during the night. I had just been in the hole the day before. Some of our tools were lost, but we were safe.

We never know what is next in life, and sometimes that's a good thing.

Mar 14, 2017

Minnesota Stories

Pin ItWhile in Minnesota, we were on the lookout for bears all the time. In fact, Bob thought he had seen where one had been, but as he went down the road it turned out to be big dog tracks. We finally saw a bear between the house and barn as he ran across the frozen sag pond.

At the house there, the back porch was screened in and the refrigerator sat out there. We left the grocery boxes stacked there, as well. Several nights, we heard noises on the back porch and finally opened the door to discover a skunk knocking the empty grocery boxes around. We were not too happy to have a skunk. 

In later years, when traveling from Texas to Oklahoma we encountered another skunk. We had pulled up to a stop sign and weren't sure which way to go. Bob was using old maps and I was navigating and said to go left even though I had no idea which way we should go due to the roads being changed. After going some ways, we saw signs indicating we were going the wrong way and Bob made a U-turn, hitting the skunk as he did. It was almost like we drove to Oklahoma just to hit that skunk.

Another case of a varmint in the house was a ground squirrel that got into our bedroom during the night. I stepped on him and he slid down the bannister--and we just let him go! He wasn't there the next morning, and we never knew how he got in to start with.

We picked choke cherries and rhubarb, and made pies with the rhubarb and jelly with the choke cherries. The choke cherries were about as big as the end of your little finger, and they were like making jelly out of apple cores and peelings. They didn't grow anywhere we had lived before. The rhubarb made good pies. It was in a bed in the backyard where someone had planted it years before.

Moccasin flowers grew in the ponds, and so did cattails. Paul asked me why the cattails didn't have any cats to them. One day when Paul was less than 2 years old he wanted to know who he saw in the mirror when he was all gritty and dirty.

The second summer we were in Minnesota, Bob spread some herbicide to kill the broadleaf plants and thought he was killing the thistles. He ended up killing a bunch of garden plants at the same time, including the okra and tomatoes.

Naming the Pets and other Animal Stories

Pin ItThe kids were little bitty when we got a collie puppy. We picked her up her in San Antonio while visiting after the holidays and took her to Minnesota where we had bought a ranch in the east central part of the state. We went up there every summer for several years. We had bought the land for investment and the former owner leased it back to keep his cows on. A retired ranch hand parked his trailer there for the summer each year and moved it somewhere else for the winter. We returned to Texas for the winters and rented a place to stay in various places.

In Minnesota, we had an electric fence that kept the cows out of the garden. Buckets hung from the wire in several places. They had concrete and nails in them. I was going to teach the kids to stay away from the electric fence when it was on, and told them not to touch the buckets because they would "bite" them. They all reached out and touched a bucket. One of them told me later that they didn't know what I meant when I said it would bite them.

Bob and I would have named the puppy anything but "Lassie," but with four little kids, guess what the dog's name was? Later, the kids were always surprised that everyone seemed to know her name. Either Paul or Sharon asked how people knew what Lassie's name was because they would say, "Here, Lassie!" 

After we had moved to Leggett, one of our neighbors had a dog named Riley, who was part Dachshund. He had big ears and a long tail and he was slung low to the ground. One day Riley came down to see us and it started to rain. We wrapped Riley up in plastic bread sacks with rubber bands to hold his "rain boots" on so he could go home. The neighbors laughed about that for a long time after.

I think it was the same neighbors who gave us two Siamese kittens. One we named Tinkerbell, though he turned out to be a boy, and the other was ultimately called Charlie. He had a different name originally, but we can't even remember anything before "Charlie." When Sharon was about four years old, we saw a movie on The Wonderful World of Disney about a pet cougar named Charlie. Sharon went into the kitchen and started following the cat around and calling him Charlie.

Charlie followed the kids down the road one afternoon to where they were putting in an oil well. He disappeared along the way. Laura said that he would find his way home or come home for supper, but we never did find him. Sometime after that someone else gave us a Siamese cat, and we named him Charlie, too.