Happy Valentine’s Day -- What a perfect time to thank all of you for all the love and heartfelt acts of kindness you showed me during my brain surgery in September. In this modern world where civility is so rare, I am here to tell you that the affection and wonderful tales of friendships completely overpowered all things negative. David and I were totally blown away by the flowers, the cards, the e-mails, the phone calls. It was heartwarming; when we checked out of our hotel (where we stayed for several weeks after the surgery) the front desk clerk said: “You got more mail, more flowers and more phone calls than any guest we’ve ever had. You must have a lot of friends and be a really good person!”
I must say I was so pleased with my family who came through with flying colors.
Lisa, my stepdaughter, and her husband, Jim were absolutely wonderful. They were there with me for almost 2 weeks before, during, and after the surgeries. Lisa, an extremely busy and highly respected wildlife biologist and Jim, a recently retired extremely popular 5th grade teacher are exactly the couple you want by your side when you are having scary brain surgery. They have that rare gift of being incredibly calm while being very efficient. They are also quite amusing. We actually managed to have some fun --good restaurants, walks in Golden Gate Park. When they left to return to Austin, Jim, in his affable style said,“I know this wasn’t a pleasure trip but I had a great time.”
My stepson Dave and his wife, Debra, had the challenging job of getting themselves and Sarah, our lovely grand daughter and Isabel, the world’s most adorable great grand daughter to San Francisco from Sacramento. They did a fabulous job, under adverse conditions. There was some urgency involved in this journey because Isabel needed to give me a stash of Barbie bandages for my "boo-boos.” Dave and Debra’s yeoman’s duty was especially heroic because the Bay Bridge was frequently out of commission, turning a two-hour trip turned into a bumper-to-bumper nightmare.
Sarah was a real comfort and joy. She joined us at our hotel after the two surgeries and shopped, cleaned, plumped pillows and was her sweet, helpful self. She was there every time we came to town and she and I taught the world how to shop. She inherited my love of the “sport” and I must be a good teacher because we are a terrific team --efficient, organized and purposeful. If shopping were an olympic sport, we would be medalists.
Isabel was the official “cheer-up-a tist”. With her exuberant baby bellows, “I want to see Peggy”, her wonderful infectious laugh, her insatiable curiosity, her baby kisses and her sweet personality, she also served as “heart stealer.” It’s impossible to be with Isabel and be in a bad mood. She is like a burst of sunlight and has a delightful upbeat personality.
Then, kudos to my friend, Deborah Lee who flew in from Las Vegas to help out after my second surgery. It was the changing of the guard --Lisa back to Austin, Deb by my side, she is a longtime good friend (Her husband, Ping, was David’s best office-mate at Los Alamos) . Who knew that Deb was a natural caretaker --fixing the bed, cleaning the hotel room, and being ready in my post-surgery exuberance to accompany me to hat shops, movies and tiny cafes? We had fun!
My brother Bob, who at the time of my surgery was just getting out of his own surgery- a very painful broken knee cap. The timing could not have been worse because he had planned to fly out to the city by the bay to join the in-house support team, Because he couldn’t walk, he transmogrified into the official Book Provider sending David and me scores of interesting, diverting books to keep our mind off the surgery.
Then there was the loyal, steadfast love of my life, dear David, always by my side, (as he has been for the last 40 years!) tending, tucking, tenderly caring for me. He was my rock. He also got into the science part of the surgery and had a meeting with Alastair Martin, the physicist who programmed the MRI machine. It was the first time any patient or family member called upon this team --they were thrilled and so was David.
As for the DBS operation which took place Sept. 3, I have only good things to say about the novel MRI option that the surgeon, Dr, Phillip Starr invented. The compelling reason I chose this surgery over the conventional DBS surgery was simple: The idea of having to be awake during the standard surgery terrified me; it conjured up images from a B-1950’s Vincent Price movie. I was in the pit and life with all its cruelty was were coming after me with the pendulum. On the other hand, with the MRI operation, I could be blissfully asleep. Let’s hear it for living in the 21st century where we no longer have to bite on bullets.
Now I want to share a pre-surgery poem with you, a poem that my surgeon, Dr. Starr, was kind enough to add to my hospital chart, a gesture that was sweet, touching and reassuring. I was no longer the Body in Bed 15 or the Parkinson’s brain on the operating table. I was a real person, Peggy who had written a poem!! While in the pre-surgery unit of UCSF hospital , I was visited by reassuring medical students, interns, residents and fellows who comforted me with:
“Thanks for the kind words about docs.”
“Way to go.”
It was a special moment. In a cold, sterile pre-surgery haze, we connected not as doctors and patient, but as human beings. This kindness extended well into the middle of the night in my frenetic, crowded hospital room when my private nurse placing my bendy-straw ginger-ale at the side of my bed, flashed one of her comforting smiles and said; “I liked your poem; it was sweet.”
So with gratitude to this amazingly talented and kindly crew, I present this poem, a type of valentine to my surgical medical team and to the outstanding health care professionals from Far and Wide who have graced my life and helped me be the best I could be. THANK YOU!!! NAMASTE!
AND THANKS TO YOU FOR ALL YOUR HELP AND SUPPORT.
GETTING TO YES
Peggy van Hulsteyn
MOVING BEYOND THE TERROR AND FEAR,
THE CONFUSION AND MAYHEM
IS A GLIMMER OF LIGHT
I AM GOING TO GET MY LIFE BACK,
I CAN SEE IT ALL NOW.
THE PEGGY I USED TO BE
BEFORE THE PARKINSON'S BODY SNATCHERS TOOK
OVER MY BODY,
BEFORE MY MEDICATIONS RULED MY LIFE
WHEN I WAS INDEPENDENT AND I DECIDED
WHAT I WANTED TO DO, NOT THE MISERABLE
PARKINSON'S GREMLIN WHO WAS THE MAN WHO
CAME TO DINNER AND REFUSED TO LEAVE.
I AM GETTING MY LIFE BACK
WHERE I CAN ALWAYS REACH DOWN
AND PICK UP MY DARLING BOSQUE CAT
WHERE I CAN GO OUT TO A COFFEE SHOP
WHERE I DON'T HAVE TO DEPEND ON THE KINDNESS
I PICTURE MYSELF WHOLE AGAIN
I CAN GO TO YOGA
I CAN GO TO TAI CHI
I CAN GO TO FRANCE.
I CAN HAVE A DINNER PARTY WITHOUT WORRYING
IF I'LL BE ABLE TO WALK WHEN THE GUESTS ARRIVE.
I CAN HAND DAVID HIS FREEDOM BACK AS WELL
AND SEE HIM AS A SOUL-MATE, NOT A NURSE MAID.
WHO KNOWS WHAT THIS NEW CHAPTER IN MY
LIFE WILL BRING?
PERHAPS I'LL BECOME A MUSICAL COMEDY STAR
AND TAP DANCE MY WAY TO FAME.
VERY " CHORUS LINE" AND "I CAN DO THAT"
PERHAPS I'LL GO HIKING AND CROSS COUNTRY
OR ENJOY THE EXHILARATION OF HAVING
MY BODY BACK
AND LUXURIATE IN THE PLEASURE OF GETTING UP IN THE
MORNING WITHOUT FEELING LIKE A PRETZEL
OR APPRECIATE LITERALLY THAT I CAN GET UP IN THE
(GETTING OUT OF BED OFTEN FEELS LIKE CLIMBING MT. EVEREST.)
HOORAY FOR LIVING IN THE 21ST CENTURY WHERE
WE HAVE BRILLIANT SURGEONS AND "NOVEL
SURGERIES" AND ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY
AND STATE-OF-THE-ART TECHNIQUES THAT WILL
GIVE ME MY LIFE BACK.
AND HOORAY FOR ME FOR BEING BRAVE ENOUGH
TO TAKE THE JOURNEY!!