sharing my life experiences, reflections and insights as a mother, a writer, an Occupational Therapist, an unschooler, and and a spiritual being having a human experience

Posts tagged ‘life’

Words Not Spoken: 6 months after his heart attack

Powerful writing from November of 2011, 6 months after my husband’s heart attack.

His heart attack was May 4, 2011 and I wrote this 6 months later the week after he was finally discharged from outpatient cardiac rehab.

It was the beginning of recurrent bronchitis that lasted for over 6 months and then I suffered a car accident and the wheezing was present as the medics checked me out on the scene of the accident May 26, 20112.

I left this post as it was to show my mental state as I typed…

The original title was:

What I need to tell the head of Case Management (at Presbyterian Hospital)

You gave me a case manager who listened to my story. She sat and listened and heard me out when I was looking for help early on in the process.  Yet this same person who sat and listened, told me she would follow up on several things and get back to me and she never did.

She also told me things that are not true. She told me we would have been better off with no insurance because then someone from social services would have come and helped me fill out a Medicaid Application. Well part of that is true, someone might have come and done that had that been the case. But what she failed to tell me was how important it was to file for Medicaid right away and she failed to tell me the simple rule for NC Medicaid that you can’t have more than $3000 in money at the end of each month (after paying bills)…that is the best I can describe the “law” not having seen this any where in writing but only after finding out months later that because we had IRS tax refund money in our checking account, it disqualified us from Medicaid until the money was effectively gone.  We lived on that money for several months to pay our basic expenses while my husband nor I was working.

I am just warming up. That is just the tip of the iceberg at their lack of discharge planning and family education and effective “case management”.

Or maybe that just means that they have brief cases that they carry around and take care of.  Do I sound bitter and resentful?

Hell yes!

I have every right to be because I

I AM A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL

My job as  healthcare professional is in part to assist people with being ready to return home or to whatever setting they are returning to and to ensure they will have the assistance needed when they return home.

Ok

first things first

Our lovely Case Manager

who so comforted me in my time of need- but then failed to follow through-

(I am trying to see the positive here)

She then comes to us very late in the day, after the doctor discharged him around 10 or 11, after we inquired and then the nurse got to us, right after lunch I believe.

Mind you, the only help I had at home, was my mother who had been at my house all week, returning after being with us the initial 3 days until my sister-in-law arrived.  My mother was tired, she had been taking care of three intense children and my episodes of panic or crazy blood sugar due to insufficient nutrition- or whatever it all was- stress

So, we have spoken to the doctor and the nurse for discharge and the nurse keeps informing us that we are waiting for the social worker.

I must add that a few days prior, I had called for the social worker, after the first one failed to follow through and come back to talk to me.  It was Monday or Tuesday when I spoke to her and their was no sign of her Friday. So it might have been Saturday when I called and this other social worker came and spoke to us.  I remember wishing she would be the one who came for discharge.  But no, it was not.  So sometime after 4pm, the social worker shows up and begins the conversation

mind you my husband suffered a severe heart attack, was in CCU for 4 days and then the step down cardiac unit for 8 and was on monitors the entire time we were there. When he was finally able to get up and move around well, it was the weekend and I had to throw a fit to get Physical Therapy come see him on Saturday, knowing it was very possible he would be going home Monday and his doctor was off for the first time since we’ld been there and wouldn’t be back til Monday.  His replacement was a Jackass who spoke inappropriately to the nurses (my husband’s description) well, he didn’t call him a jack ass, I did because he walked in, I wasn’t there, and looked at my husband and said, well, it doesn’t look like you’re going any where anytime soon.  This was Saturday morning after his doctor had led him to beleive the day before that he might very well go home Monday.

The next day, he had apparently talked to my husband’s doctor and was much more on the ball with what was going on with my husband and more appropriate, at least with my husband.

Nurses, apparently learn how to ignore the jackass doctors because, well, doctors are not known for their personalities.

Remember, I have worked with doctors, so I know first hand.

So now that we are all agreed that the guy was a jack ass

Oh yeah, my husband wasn’t allowed off the unit, not beyond the square around the nurses station in the small step down unit at the end of the hospital surrounded by vacant hallways due to a remodeling project because it was the weekend, and they would have to clear it with the doctor, have an order (everything needs an order)- I wonder if they need orders to speak kindly- you know, jack ass is the default mode-

anyway, so my fit to have him come off the unit and be wheeled to a new floor to get out of the room he had been for 8 days, unlike my fit to get PT to see him- guess I knew how to play my cards better with that department or maybe cause therapists generally aren’t jackass.. cause once someone called them, they came that day and the next,

so

Now,I am beside myself because it looks like I might be bringing my husband home on Monday and it is Saturday afternoon but I won’t know until I show up at 8:30 Monday morning and sit around and wait for the doctor to come in- cause that is the only way to be sure to be there when he comes to see my husband, is to show up at the earliest possible time that he might come for rounds.  It was 6:30 when he was on CCU.  And then the nurses tell me really I should be there earlier like 7 just to be sure.

So he has been on continuous cardiac monitoring the entire time he is here, all 12 days with frequent checks of blood pressure and pulse and oxygen saturation.  And we can’t leave his unit but in two days, they might just send us home-

with home health care because I insisted on it-

And that is another story, because the lovely social worker, never notified the Home Health Company that he was discharged and so they did not know to come out to the house and the they are supposed to be there within 48 hours of discharge.

How do I know this? Because I have worked in home health care.And so the home health nurse came 2 days after he was home, because I called the agency and I let them know he was discharged

BECAUSE  I DID HER JOB

Put me on payroll please

So back to the hospital when the social worker finally comes into the room after we had been waiting all day

NOW I do understand that case managers or social workers or whatever you call them, are way overworked because I KNOW DAMN WELL THE EFFECTS OF THE CUT BACKS ON HEALTHCARE.

This issue is not so much how long it took her to come but the information she brought to us when she finally did come.

She started her conversation off with us something like this

and it has been 6 months and a blur and I now understand what she was doing but at the time, I had no clue.

She came to us and said,

“OK you can get this medication at these places and this medication at these places”

And she had these long lists, not that she was giving us any list, I don’t recall that she did.  Maybe she did.  And she went on and on and I was like, what the #%!?

I knew I needed a prescription for 5 days until we could get Med Assist (local agency for assistance with medications when you don’t have medicaid) but little did i know that I really needed to go and apply for that while he was still in the hospital.  Like I had time for that between advocating for my husband, caring for him, being there for him and then being with my children in what little hours were left of the day/night.

So I had no idea, it took 5 days from approval and that they would look at our income and base an entire year of income on 1 month of my prn pay checks where I was working more than twice the hours I normally do. The increased hours were temporary while another OT was on maternity leave.  No idea that would be the policy. Because, did you know the entire support system like Medicaid is set up based on people who work for an employer full time or at least regular part time hours.  There is no consideration for prn pay (which is higher than normal pay because you have no benefits and NO guarnteed hours- I have lost a week of work because of being prn- thinking I would work 40 hours one week when they didn’t need me for that and ….I digress

I like being prn- but if you need help form the system, you are screwed.

Just to be clear, I have been sick with some kind of upper respiratory thing, and today I have heard what I believe is whezing and I feel like I am going to cough up my lung.  Well, grief is processed in the lung.

And for some crazy reason, when I try to sleep, I have been relieving 6 months ago and my husband’s blue face and the whole freaking experience.

Maybe I am finally REALLY FEELING IT ALL AND FINALLY REALLY GRIEIVING.

My husband was discharged from Outpatient Cardiac Rehab this week.

Hmm….

Coincidence?

I don’t think so.  Just now realizing that one….

…and it is still sinking in….

ahh, other stories to tell.

Back to.?

Ah yes, the lovely discharge with the Case Manager on May 16, 2011.

So she is talking about all these places to get medication to get the $3 rate and how I can go to more than one pharmacy to get them all and I was like

?WTF?

I GUESS I THOUGHT THEY WOULD SEND US HOME WITH MEDICATION

It was getting late, my mom had my kids and was going to bring them to the hospital and was going to be heading home from there and  I would be driving home my husband, now off all monitors, with our three children, ages 2, 9 and 13 to be alone at home and manage everything.

While he was in the hospital, my family and friends had pretty much taken care of all meals and grocery shopping and all the laundry.

So I am worried about my husband having another heart attack or something medical when he returns home and worried about helping him recover while taking care of our intense and 2 out of 3 very high need childden.  And she is taking to me about saving money for 5 days worth of medication.

so I think I cut her short once we figured out we could just get 5 days worth of medication from the hospital pharmacy and then be on our way, but the pharmacy closes at 5 and we had to hurry.

I don’t really remember what happened next, with the case manager

I just remember the long wait at the pharmacy and the not so friendly pharmacist and the other person who worked there-

shame on both of them, they work in a hsospital, they need to be nice to people!  Everyone else, mostly was very nice including housekeeping staff and kitchen staff- but oh, not the pharmacy.

So we get the expensive medication that I had to pay for then.  You would think it could be on our bill….but no, WE WERE DISCHARGED AND ON OUR OWN!

It wasn’t until Wednesday that I could get to the Med Assist office, when a friend was able to come stay with my husband, and turn in the paperwork and then it was at least 5 days before I found out, maybe longer that we didn’t qualify, just over by like $1800 per year- due to the above mentioned prn pay checks for one month that they multiplied for the entire year even though that was grossly inaccurage and even though they had our 2010 tax return showing our income was less than half of what they calculated.

So This is why I contacted the Head of Case Management. I got the name and number while I was in the hospital before the discharge fiasco and before they failed to notify the home health agency.  And I called them from home and they called me back.  Mind you I was now home with a husband who got dizzy if he stood too quickly, had only just begun walking around on his own a few days prior and was out of breath with the slighest amount of activity and three children and despite us all holding it together while he was in the hospital and doing “well”, thing were challenging coming home.

NO BODY TALKS ABOUT THAT

The COMING HOME after the Heart Attack

They assume, he lives, he does well, he goes home, yeah!

NO one realizes how much harder it really is, going home.

I tried to tell the nurses at the hospital….

The Case Manager, I don’t know that I got the chance, I did share some of this with the second one, who came to us just that once.

BECAUSE I HAD SO MANY OTHER THINGS ON MY PLATE

I never did get to speak to the Department Head at the Hospital.  I left a detailed message and she called back and maybe spoke briefly to my husband because I was not home.

I think I need to send her a letter.

So I don’t leave anything out.

I could send this one, but I might need to remove a few jackasses and the like.

I am adding a note:

I don’t think I coughed once the entire time I wrote this.

It didn’t even occur to me til after i finished writing it and I realized my breathing seamed silent and my chest felt better- from not coughing so much.

The lung processes grief.

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Depression and Illness 

I got sick for the first time since coming out of my depression. Really sick. All of a sudden- flu sick.

I never used to be so ancy to get better, or maybe I just don’t remember what it felt like to really not want to be sick
One of the most difficult things being sick has been the fear that I wouldn’t want to do things again that I would find myself happy to be sitting around, in the recliner or in bed and watching movies and streaming an entire season of a tv show in one day. You know how when you get really sick, it’s hard to imagine getting better? Like, you feel so sick like you are dying, but you know you aren’t dying, your body just feels like it is.

I turned a big corner today after 4 1/2 days off illness with high temperature. I actually got to the point where I could tell I felt better and after watching some tv, I told myself, I would stop watching and get some things done. Because I finally felt up to it and finally could see a light at the end of the tunnel of illness. Yet, I watched one more episode and then another.  I have vivid memories of doing this in the past, when I wasn’t feeling well

Depression is an illness. It does leave you feeling sick and tired. No energy, no motivation, thst isn’t Laziness, it’s depression.  You don’t look sick to anyone. People don’t know why you don’t get the project done on time or follow up like you said you would or make that phone call to set up an appointment for yourself or even for your child. Little things take a lot of effort to complete. There are no “little things” everything feels like a big thing, everything feels like a lot of work to complete or it takes all of your energy to do it.

When you are sick with the flu, you are tired,  Have no energy, no motivation to do Anything, no desire to,

When I am sick with the flu, I became content watching movies. I figured, why not make the best of my time and do something I enjoy. I also wanted to keep my mind on positive thoughts. I picked feel good movies and comedy shows. It’s ok to be “lazy” when you are sick. It’s like universal permission to be lazy.

The fear of becoming depressed again can be crippling.

I wrote the above post more than 2 1/2 years ago when I was in a very good place as far as my mental health. I have bipolar depression, the kind where my upswing is hypomania, or just high functioning and feeling good. I have been though a few cycles of ups and downs since I first write this post. I have realized some more things as I reread this post

I get sick more often and am much slower to shake any illness when I am depressed as compared to when I am not. I look back on things I did just days after being very sick in spring of 2016 and in a more depressed state, wonder, how the heck did I do that?

I have gotten sick during my more recent down cycle, one that lasted from June or July until Oct-November. It was ten times more awful being sick as it felt like forever and even when I began to feel better, I still didn’t have much energy to do anything, which just lead to not feeling well again. A vicious cycle of physical illness and depression.

Is it possible that some people with chronic illness are caught in this loop of physical illness and depression?

I see it in my own life. And I consider myself generally healthy.

The only medications I have been taken are for my depression.

What I ask of my readers today is this:

The next time you have a friend or family member not follow through on something or fail to do what they said they would, stop and contemplate the idea, Anne they are dealing with some form of anxiety or depression.

Sometimes I look like a lazy person and yet, I have accomplished much in my 49 years. I have had periods where I completed WonderWoman like feats, as well as many long stretches of barely getting by.

If this post helps even one person dealing with a mental illness or a loved one who has mental illness, than I am forever grateful for the opportunity to write and share my experiences.

Pulling the rug out from under me…And becoming who I am!

A large weight was lifting from my shoulders tonight.

I have been trudging through “the hard life”, waiting for the sh#t to hit the fan…

I have been living in fear of the rug being pulled out from underneath me, again!

Life has brought many challenges over the past 10 years leaving me feeling like I was living under a heavy weight of doom and gloom.

I stopped myself at work today.

I found myself thinking, “This is hard. I have to go back and see that patient and I have to walk through this large building and I am still figuring out how to get where I am going.”

I stopped myself and said, “Wait a minute!”

“This is NOT hard. I can do this. They are paying me good money to be here and to help them. I can sit in the comfortable building and walk these pretty halls, in this “palace” with a lap top that makes it easy to do my paperwork. I know how to be an Occupational Therapist and how to work with a variety of people and a variety of conditions and living situations. I know how to read through weeks of notes and write a progress report with one visit with the person. I CAN do this! I can ENJOY this!”

THIS IS THE GOOD LIFE

I AM living the good life!

I can decide how many hours I am working for these companies each week.

I can decide how much time I am spending writing.

I can decide how much time Don and I are spending growing our business and creating videos and pod casts and expanding our program.

I can decide how I spend my time.

It can be easy!

It really can.

I have removed myself from the drama of the hard job

I work PRN- as needed and on my terms.

I get to say, Yes I can work, and NO, I can not work!

I decide.

Don and I can present our introductory workshop to multiple places and people and gain more and more clients.

Life can be that easy.

I can enjoy what I do.

Fully enjoy helping people, without all the drama

Free of the drama of the healthcare- …sick-care system.

I am choosing a new path.

I can work in health care and stay out of the drama.

I can.

I can go in and do my work. And leave work at work.

I can then go home and get on with my life and my other endeavors and other pursuits.

I can work for my employers and do the work and come home and have plenty of time for the rest of my life!

Time to grow a thriving business with Don, helping families.

Empowering families to support their children and be better versions of themselves and improve their communications skills and their relationships, and their lives.

I can bring to other families what Don and I have brought to our family.

I can.

I am.

I am Gina

Here me roar.

I am a writer,

I am a mother.

I am an Occupational Therapist.

I am a facilitator and a coach.

I am a partner, a wife and a friend.

I am Gina.

I am creating my life.

I am.

Story of my life

Have you ever seen the video for the song, Story of My LIfe, by One direction?

I have always liked the song and having just watched the video, I like it even more.

And I am very picky about my videos. My favorite song currently is Ed Sheeran’s Castle on the Hill, but oh my! I really dislike the video. It just does not do the song justice. I find the video cheesy. But I will focus back on the video I like…

Story of My Life by One Direction

Today is my half birthday.

Crazy? That a 48 year old woman is celebrating her half birthday?…

Maybe…

There is no cake or anything. I just always think about it when it arrives, 6 months prior to my next birthday.

And today, I am using the date to focus on me and my life for my blog.

What better song to use and after watching the video, I knew it was perfect.

Do three links to the video impress upon how much I want you to watch this video?

I will superimpose my blog within the lyrics of the song today….

“Story Of My Life”

Written in these walls are the stories that I can’t explain

I leave my heart open but it stays right here empty for days

April 15, 2018

I am 48.5 years old today. My 49th birthday is 6 months away. It is also “tax day” but being Sunday, I guess that will really be tomorrow.

I am very happy with my life right now. I would not have said that last year. Two years ago, I might have, but several years prior to that, most likely not. I have had more than my share of challenges over the past 11 years. Somewhere in all of it, I lost myself but have been working to uncover myself again. In doing so, I have discovered that the truest part of me has been lost for far more than 11 years.

The last time I remember being this confident and happy with myself was when I was 10, 11, and 12 years old and living in Bethel Park, Pa. I lived there for 3 years of my life: September 1979 through the summer of 1982. I made some wonderful friends in those 3 years and have some of my best childhood memories from that time period. I was a Girl Scout, a safety guard for the bus stop, part of the writing crew for a child run and produced news show that ran on the local channel and was facilitated by my 5th grade teacher at Washington Elementary School. I learned to play the clarinet and was in the band which continued even after moving across the state and when entering high school. I played softball for a church league and was a catcher and learned to hit the ball and even got a home run! I played softball the year before we moved to Pennsylvania, when we lived in Ohio, but we later found out that I really needed glasses and this explained my not hitting the ball for an entire season of softball. It is much more fun to play softball when you can see.

She told me in the morning she don’t feel the same about us in her bones

Seems to me that when I die these words will be written on my stone

I received my first journal, “dairy” when I was 10 years old. My sister gave it to me for my 10th birthday, October 15, 1979.

I still have that diary and every one after it that I have been writing in for the past 38 1/2 years. I have been a writer for as long as I an remember. My 6th grade language arts teacher was the best. I can remember creating a book of poetry in her class and I vividly remember her sitting down to review it with me. She encouraged me and praised m writing.

We moved a year later and somehow, my vision of myself as a writer changed. Somehow, when I was in high school and thinking about college, I never thought of pursuing a career in writing. Looking back at my life now, I see how everything I did was perfect to bring me to where I am today. I would not change going to E-town College and majoring in Occupational Therapy. Nor would I change all the places I have worked as an Occupational Therapist. Even the job I held for only one month. It all brought me to where I am now.

I used to say “I am a writer that got detoured by a career in Occupational Therapy”.

I don’t know that I would say that anymore.

I am a writer AND…

I am an Occupational Therapist.

Both are a large part of who I am.

And I’ll be gone, gone tonight

The ground beneath my feet is open wide

The way that I been holding on too tight

With nothing in between

The story of my life

I take her home

I drive all night

To keep her warm

And time is frozen (the story of, the story of)

The story of my life

I give her hope

I spend her love

Until she’s broke

Inside

The story of my life (the story of, the story of)

Any love song I listen to now, I often think about loving my inner child.

Nourishing the part of me that got lost, my true self.

I have been actively working to nurture my inner child for over 14 years ever since I began practicing EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique with Jan Luther.

I did personal work and went on to study EFT further and earned a level 1 and level 2 EFT training certificates. I also received level 1 and level 2 Reiki training. I am a student of Conversations with God. That goes back even further, I believe to before my oldest child was born over 20 years ago. I remember hearing Neale Donald Walsh speak at Unity of Charlotte when I was pregnant with my oldest child. I have read many self help books as well and engaged in classes on spiritual health and growth. I went to counseling with my husband when we fist met and before we even had a first fight. I attended further therapy on my own and joined a women’s group and continued to be in touch with those women for several years.

Written on these walls are the colors that I can’t change

Leave my heart open but it stays right here in its cage

I know that in the morning now I see us in the light upon a hill

Although I am broken, my heart is untamed, still

Depression has been a part of my life since my teenage years. I did not struggle significantly until my senior year of college at the age of 22. Although, high school was difficult for me and I lacked self-confidence and could not wait to move out of highschool. I excelled academically but socially was a very different story.

Moving out on my own after graduating college was a shock to my system. Somehow I envisioned that experience to be an extension of college, but it was not. I had challenges but found my way.

I met my husband in March of 1993, just four months after moving 600 miles south to North Carolina.

I can still see the add in my OT magazine for the job, it read,

Shouldn’t you be in Charlotte?

It spoke to me.

I am glad I listened. That is one “should” that benefited me!

Married in May of 1994

First big job change in August of 1995 with significant pay increase and less stress

First child born November of 1997

Changed to part time work (from full time) in January of 2000

Moved to new larger house in April of 2001

Child number two born February of 2002

Home full time in Summer of 2007, something I had desired since February of 1998 when I returned to full time work leaving my 12 week old son home with his dad

Spring of 2008, expecting my third child and when three months pregnant,

…Back to work because my husband was reduced from full time employee with salary to contractor paid commission only

January 8, 2009 my third child is born and I choose to stay home for a full year because that is why we had waited to have a third child…

So that I could be home full time

Our financial struggles began in summer of 2008 when my husband lost. his job, but never collected unemployment because he still had a job, as a contractor, paid commission, and he even had to collect the money from customers.

I sought work but it took a few months to get hired and worked many weekends ad other days as needed until December when I felt I was too pregnant to continue. I had worked up to the day before for my first two children, but this time I was 39 years old and very tired with this pregnancy.

I returned to work at that same job in spring of 2010 when my youngest was just over a year old, working “PRN” on a part time, as needed basis. I continued at that job until recently.

I could continue to list life events from this point on and yet, that would take hours.

I already have many blogs written about the challenges overt the past 10 years.

The important part…

Is that I am on the other side now

I have walked through the mud

Swam the swamp and come up for air

Hurdled the obstacles with bruises and scars

Badges of honor abound

And courage…

I am stronger because of it

I am also who I am because of all of my experiences

I am NOT what has happened to me…

I AM who I now as, as a result of my choices I have made about what has happened.

And I,’ll be gone, gone tonight

The fire beneath my feet is burning bright

The way that I been holding on so tight

With nothing in between

The story of my life

I take her home

I drive all night

To keep her warm

And time is frozen (the story of, the story of)

The story of my life

I give her hope

I spend her love

Until she’s broke

Inside

The story of my life (the story of, the story of)

And I been waiting for this time to come around

But baby running after you is like chasing the clouds

The story of my life

I take her home

I drive all night

To keep her warm

And time is frozen

The story of my life

I give her hope (give her hope)

I spend her love

Until she’s broke (until she’s broke inside)

Inside

The story of my life (the story of, the story of)

The story of my life

The story of my life (the story of, the story of)

The story of my life

Bipolar Depression: When Life Just Sucks and the bills need to be paid

I have been on prozac, 20mg, 9 months now. I have birthed myself a new life.

Unlike the last anti-depressant I tried 2 years ago, I feel that the Prozac is helping me and not causing side effects and mania.

It makes me wonder, why didn’t I try this medication years ago?

Here I am now. And somehow it is all perfect and in perfect order.

It can be challenging to really believe that.

The idea that life unfolds, or we create it, just the way it needs to be.

And it is what we do with what happens that matters more than what happens.

We create our life….

Yet, there are those times when it really feels like life is happening to me

Sh#t happens

I work PRN as an Occupational Therapy in geriatric rehab.

PRN means no required hours and no guaranteed hours.

I sign up to work but they can “call me off”if they don’t need me something that can happen the night before or the day of…

I am employed with 2 companies, one for almost 8 years and the other for 4 years.

PRN also means you get paid a “higher rate of pay” because you have no benefits.

Healthcare changed in 2000 and greatly for me in the field of Occupational Therapy.

I had a pay cut and salary caps happened and jobs were hard to find for a while.

My work is very different than it was when I graduated college with my Bachelor of Science Degree in OCcupational Therapy in 1992.

All those Medicare cuts and changes that happened at the beginning of this century, mean I now make less money than I did 20 years ago. I worked PRN 21 years ago in addition to a full time job. At that time, my PRN rate of pay was double my rate as a full time employee. IT was $50 an hour. The current average rate of pay in the area where I live for a PRN OCcupational Therapist is now $45 an hour.

I now have 25 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist and yet 21 years later, I am making less money.

PRN means no increase in pay.

This is healthcare.

Or better named, sickcare.

I vent about this all the time to my husband and close friends and family.

It is time I write about it.

I began asking for a pay increase 4 years ago at my job I had been with for 4 years when I found out the current rate of pay for new PRN employees, therapists, was $5 more than I was making. I got told I would get the pay increase and then called back the next day and told, “I didn’t know there was a hold on raises. But you will be the first to get a raise when it changes.”

I asked again almost 2 years later, I was told I had to wait until the fall (it was early spring) when they do reviews.

As a prn employee, I had never had a review done.

First of September, my boss schedules a review for me. Wow!

I get told I will get the “pay increase”, in other words, they will now pay me what they are paying everyone else who was hired after me.

It will be in my December pay check.

December comes, no pay increase.

I was told that the regional manager forgot to allocate the money for my raise.

Apparently, they can only do raises one time per year.

I inquired about my options. I won’t even share that here because you would never believe it.

And I know my boss went to bat for me for the raise and then after the raise didn’t happen. I appreciate her efforts.

Much to my surprise, a year later, I get the pay increase!

After nearly 8 years working nearly ever week and most weekends for this company being available for most weekends and also being called off work when the caseload was too low, I now am getting paid what they should have been paying me at least 4 years ago.

$50 per hour

The rate of pay I made 21 years ago, when my hourly rate as a full time employee was $25 per hour.

GRATEFUL?

Sure I am grateful.

I feel like i finally made it happen!

Because PRN employees don’t get raises, pay increases, nothing.

I have been told that by my other employer, where I have now worked 4 years.

Why am I prn?

Because in order to be part time you have to average 20 hours per week.

They don’t have that many hours to give me at either place. I often work 20 hours between both jobs.

Many companies only have full time and prn employees and not part time employees.

So this is all good right?

Now the company is choosing to use prn employees as little as possible.

A secret policy that I have only learned about through the grape vine.

I have been called off work as a prn employee and I get that is part of being prn and the status of healthcare.

But now, I am called off work more and more.

It doesn’t matter how many years I have been with the company, nor my experience, nor the fact that when they do my quarterly relives now, I get glowing remarks on what I great employee I am.

What is the point of the glowing reviews?

It feels like a slap in the face!

I began getting the glowing reviews after I was told my raise wasn’t happening, because the regional manager forgot to allocate the money for my raise.

Now, just 3 months after my raise went into effect….

I am finding out not from my boss but from my co-workers, that the company is now choosing to use prn employees as little as possible.

Why am I writing about this and not going to my boss?

I have gone to her multiple times.

I have had many sit down talks with her about my concerns and issues.

I have reached out to her to find out about these rumors I am hearing.

She chooses not to fill me in and not respond to my phone call or repeated questions about the changes.

Each month, I am asked to give my availability for working weekends for the coming month.

I typically let them know I am available most Sundays for a full work day and most Saturdays for at least a half work day. On average, I tell them I am available for 6 our of 8 weekend days, every month, for nearly 8 years.

I find out about how much I am needed for on the Friday afternoon or night before the weekend.

I find out if they are calling me off work on the Friday before and sometimes not until 10pm the night before.

This is the nature of prn work in Occupational Therapy. (PT and OT work in adult and geriatric rehab)

I have been told, that despite my years of experience and time with the company, that if there are no evaluations, I will be called off first rather than the COTAS (OT assistants with a 2 year degree).

OK

It is a financial thing, they tell me.

Something I have never been happy with.

When I am needed for evaluations, they need me. But I am the first to go when the caseload is low.

That in itself sucks.

But what sucks even more

Is the company deciding to use prn employees as little as possible and not sharing this information with the prn employees.

Not openly sharing it.

We all know because we talk to the full time employees

Who are now required to rotate working weekends.

Not because they want to but because they have to.

Sometimes life just sucks.

I have seen that I am being called off more often and despite really liking my fellow co-workers and the facility as a whole at my weekend job, and have been looking for more work hours elsewhere.

My other prn job I work one or two days during the week as well as Saturdays when needed also has a low caseload right now.

And that is a crazy story with its own issues but I will save that for another time.

That being said,

I now have two prn jobs with very little hours for me to work.

And I have been looking for more hours and have let them all know that I am looking for more work hours.

Instead of more hours, I am getting far less hours.

In January, I earned enough to meet and exceed our expenses, to help pay down our debt.

My February pay checks totaled $1000 less, not quite meeting our basic expenses.

So far in March, I have worked a total of 5.25 hours.

It is only March 4, but I have only worked that many hours from Sunday Feb 25 through today, Sunday March 4.
I signed up to work full day last Sunday and today and for 5 hours yesterday and got 0 hours.

The 5.25 hours came from my other prn job.

But I may have 0 hours this week at my other prn job.

The caseload is low and instead of referring patients to our in facility outpatient therapy program, the facility is referring patients to a home health company who is trying to establish a monopoly in the facility, despite our company having a contract with a different home health company.

So I shared a little of that drama…

This is the nature of health care…

Sick care

I usually work at least 15 hours per week, 20 hours per week meets my expenses.

Sometimes I work 25 or more hours per week and other times 10-15, and it balances out.

But working only 5 hours in 2 weeks won’t pay the bills.

I have been asking about other prn work and have a number of companies to call and…

I updated my resume

Today, I am applying for other jobs. I have had that on my to do list for several weeks.

Now it feels urgent

When I began looking around for other work and asking my fellow prn employees and co-workers who work prn, I was looking to give myself more options and to seek work at a higher rate of pay.

I was looking for a third prn job to have the upper hand.

To be able to tell my weekend employer,

“NO, I have other work and work where I won’t get called off the day of or the night before at 10pm.”

I enjoy the jobI work weekends, I enjoy what I do as an Occupational Therapist, the patients I work with, and my co-workers, and the facility.

But I also value my sanity.

And, heck, the bills need to get paid!

Part of the reason, I have hesitated to find other prn work, more prn jobs…

Is because I am also a writer and actively working

To grow my writing, and turn Child-led learning into a paying gig

My husband, Don, and I are making plans to speak together on conscious parenting.

I run a local homeschool website, Charlottehomeschooling.com

I run Child-led Learning blog and facebook page and my goal is to grow that into a community and to also work as a child-led learning consultant.

I am ready to take my experience and skills and more to new work.

I am ready to use my skills as an Occupational therapist to begin a business in well- care, instead of sick-care.

Sundays are now writing time and planning time and goal setting time.

I can embrace my new Sundays.

I am also ready to see the $350 I typically earn (or used to earn) each Sunday, showing up in my life in new ways…

..so the bills can be paid.

I am ready universe.

I am open to new possibilities.

I am a writer.

I am Gina.

I am creating a new realization, a new experience, for my life

…and for my family.

Living outside of the box in a boxed up world: not for wimps!

How does one navigate in a closed-minded world full of rules and regulations that take on a life of their own when one has chosen to live outside the box?

Outside the Birth Box

Since I became a parent, my life has been a journey of exploration and discovery into unknown territory.  I gave birth to my first child in 1997, desiring a natural birth.  Yet, I had grown up in a culture where birth was portrayed as an evil experience requiring strong pain medication.  Just watch any sitcom or movie  from the 1980s and 1990s where there is a scene involving a woman in labor.   I also knew nothing about breastfeeding.  My mother had been discouraged from breastfeeding by her doctor in 1966 when she was pregnant with my sister, her first child.  She was also given sodium pentothal during labor in 1966 and again in 1969 when I was born.   Because I have always been a reader and researcher, I had discovered that having a natural birth and breastfeeding my baby was the best thing that I could do for my child.

And then my child was born, after being induced and then the inevitable epidural after a full day of increasing levels of pitocin.  We survived the hospital experience and the early difficult days of breastfeeding.  When my baby boy was 3 weeks old, I made a decision that would forever have an impact on his life and mine.  I attended my first La Leche League meeting.  La Leche League is an organization that provides mother to mother breastfeeding support, encouragement, information.  I was introduced to the world of attachment parenting and got to observe nursing mothers with babies and children of varied ages.   It was a new world for me.

Flash forward, 4 years later, I attended Bradley Childbirth classes before the birth of my second child who was born by nurse midwives in the most baby friendly hospital in my area and my daughter never left my side during our short 24 hour hospital stay.  I signed several waivers at the hospital to prevent standard procedures that my baby did not need.   And seven years later, my third came into the world in my quiet, dimly lit kitchen assisted by a Professional Midwife and her assistant.  And because he was born at home, we had to provide proof that I was pregnant and drive downtown to file papers to get his birth certificate and file for his social security number.  And if we had not done that, would he then not be really here? Born in my kitchen in North Carolina, but not a US Citizen.

Life Outside the Typical American Diet

Our diet has also evolved over the years. Granted, I grew up eating two veggies, one green, for dinner, fresh fruit and limited sweets.  My mother is 100% Italian and she cooked in way that looks very much like what is now called “The Mediterranean Diet”.  My husband and I decided to stop eating red meat about the time that our first child was born.  He wanted to lower his cholesterol and felt it was a healthier way to eat.  Over time, we eventually eliminated all meat but fish from our diet.  Later, I learned I was eating too much soy and way too much processed soy.  I added poultry back into my diet but we continued to eat many vegetarian meals.  I learned more about the importance of whole foods and over time greatly reduced the number of processed foods in our diet.  My diet changed once again when I learned my cholesterol was low and possibly too low to become pregnant and so I began to purchase grass-fed beef from a known source, yet my husband continued to avoid red meat most of the time.  When my oldest was about 8, he decided to become a vegetarian, not surprising because he grew up eating very little meat.

Life in a smaller, simpler box

When I became a parent, I was the sole breadwinner for our family.  After two years, we took a leap of faith and I reduced my hours to part-time and switched jobs to one with more flexible hours that allowed me to do my paperwork from home.  Our income was nearly cut in half that year for the second time in our married life. The first being when my husband quit his full  time job,  encouraged to do so by me, to pursue growing his business that he had begun a year earlier. We could write a book  on living on less and building savings before you have children.  Yet, most people have no clue about our simplified life and can not fathom how we live on the income we have had over the past 11 years.  I want to ask those people who live in large houses with perfectly manicured lawns, why do you live in such a large house and maintain a beautiful yard when you are never there to enjoy where you live?

The un-boxed life

As I give these descriptions of aspects of my life that are outside the norm or average way of living in America, I realize that it only shows a glimpse of how very different from society my life has become.  We live in a world but we are not of the world.  We drive cars that we purchased used and are now fully paid for; our house is over 40 years old; we have a gravel driveway; we have basic cable television- about 25 channels;  I make my own water keifer and nettles infusion and make smoothies adding green vegetables, fruit and coconut milk.  My first two children nursed until natural weaning- it was well past the toddler years- and I can give you a long list of health benefits for nursing past two years of age.  At my first La Leche League Meeting, I swore I would never nurse my child past the age of one.  We homeschool our children or more accurately, unschool, but I prefer to say we learn through living.  My husband and I have shared child care responsibilities over the years and often have worked alternating hours so the other  could be with our children.  Why would you give birth to children and then send them to someone else to raise them?  Why would you give someone else the joy of watching your children grow and explore the world?

When life puts you in a box

And then, my husband, Don, had a heart attack, May 4, 2011,  Cuatro De Mayo.   We had to survive in the system.   I was grateful to the hospital and all the people we came in contact with from the medics who arrived at our home and continue to be grateful.  Yet, after my husband was in the hospital over a week and we were looking to his coming home, I found myself feeling alone and lost.   Don was on continuous cardiac monitors for the entire 12 days he was in the hospital and only the last few days was he up walking around, his unit only.  He could not leave his unit.  Yet, they sent him home, unmonitored and with only a home health nurse who came 3 days per week and  because I insisted on that.  I even had to call the home health  company once we got home because somehow the hospital failed to inform the home health company that he had been discharged from the hospital.   Luckily, I had worked in home health care and knew what to do.

I was ashamed  to cry while I was in the hospital room with him.  I quickly wiped tears from my face when a nurse  came into his room.   Why is that?   Reality did not look anything like Gray’s Anatomy.  I saw him briefly in the emergency room before they wheeled him up to the “Cath Lab”.  And then I was led to an empty waiting area where we sat, me, my children and my good friend, for over 2 hours wondering what was happening and wondering whether Don would live.    A nurse finally came by to inform us that things were going well and if they continued to go well, he would be moved to the CCU and someone would come get us.  She had thought it would be about 30 minutes,and then an hour past and my fear intensified that something was wrong.  Thank goodness for my friend who was not in shock and knew to call the front desk and asked if he had been moved to CCU ~which he had.   There were no doctors holding your hand and standing by as you grieved and felt the emotions of the trauma you were going through- especially for me, the family, the wife of the man who had the heart attack. They treated my husband and took good care of him.  Yet, his heart attack happened to more than him, it affected his entire family, his wife and three children- aged 13, 9 and 2.

It was a traumatic experience for all of us and in some ways more so for us than Don because he has little to no memory of the initial events.  No memory at all from the time he went unconscious on our living room couch until he was awake in the CCU.  At home, when he was having increasing pain in his mid back and his neck, it never occurred to him that he might be having a heart attack. I knew and my 13-year-old son did too.    And those early days in the CCU are very blurred and foggy in my husband’s memory.  Somehow we survived and even became closer as a family those 12 days Don was in the hospital.  And then the bigger challenge, his coming home and continuing to recover in a home with three young  children.  And now, 4 months later, here we are.  Our life greatly altered on some levels and in other ways it looks as it did before.  Life will never be the same, experience changes you, changes your perspective.  My children never again will have the full childhood innocence of feeling like your parents will live forever.  Watching your father have a massive heart attack and cardiac arrest is not a typical experience for a child of 2, 9 or even 13.  The hospital staff kept saying that many 50-year-old men have heart attacks but what they failed to see was not many 50-year-old men have a 2-year-old child.   I personally did not grow up seeing family members have a heart attack in their 50s or any age really, other than my uncle who just two years prior to my husband’s heart attack, suffered a dissecting aorta at the age of 47.

Re-negotiating life and moving out of the box

We continue to navigate in the healthcare system and now the financial assistance system in our county and state.  I have come to realize that part of my angst comes from living a life outside the box yet needing  these systems that exist in our culture.  Systems we were never a part of before or not to the extent that we are now.  They want to put us back in the box but there is not a box that fits us.

Navigating in this world, in the American culture of  this millennium, while pursing life from a spiritual perspective is not a task for wimps.  I have learned that I do well under pressure and that I am a survivor in a crisis.  Adrenaline is addictive but one  can not continue to live with high levels of adrenaline running through your system.  Sometimes, the more difficult part of life is not the early trauma, but the getting back to regular life part, when the flood of support and assistance tapers off and when you are faced with the complexities of life and the new challenge of helping a loved one with a new medical condition to recover and live again.

Over time, aspects become easier but other factors emerge as stressful and challenging.  It is a process, a continual process of recovery.  I do not know how long the process lasts nor how long the intensity remains, yet here I am 4 months later, still feeling strong feelings as I recount and relive the experience.   It has been a roller coaster of ups and downs occurring within a life already full of uneven terrain.  I have moved closer to and further away from my spiritual side throughout the process.   I  have grown stronger, and more in tune with my spiritual self through my writing.   When I do not write, I often fall away from my true self and have found  myself sitting in the bottom of a lonely box.    Sometimes , I get up out of the box and other times, I need to just sit alone in the bottom of the box.  I see now that  I am a strong woman, even when I am sitting in the bottom of the box.

It takes strength to live in this world and each challenge makes you stronger unless you choose to stop and not move forward.  Unless you become permanently and completely dysfunctional and unable to care for yourself in any manner, you do become stronger.  The decisions you make and the life that follows are a matter of your perspective but know that you do become stronger,  you become more of who you choose to be.

Vacation?

Today is Friday, July 22, 2011.  I had to look to know that.  Its been a whirlwind summer.  My oldest went to scout camp for a week on July 10. On the 14, my husband and daughter came down with the nasty stomach virus.  Yuck.  My son came home July 15 and my brother arrived with his two kids on the 16th.  He took his son and my oldest backpacking on Sunday the 17th and Monday morning at the top of the mountain in a tent, my 13-year-old got the stomach virus. Or should I say, he expressed it.

WE met at my parents house on the lake, like we do each summer, that Monday.  My son spent the day in bed and much of the next two.  Somewhere early on, my niece got the virus. 

I enjoyed swimming in the lake Monday night, went for a message Tuesday morning and then I got the virus.

The next few days are a blur.

Wednesday, my brother got the virus. Early this morning, my sister got the virus as well as my nephew and my dad seems to have it too. 

My mom is the only one left standing.  Well, those of us on the upside are much better.  Good thing about a stomach virus, it doesn’t last long but it did linger some and today I am feeling the most like myself but not 100% and it has been 4 days for me.  Technically, my 2-year-old has not gotten it or not to the degree the rest of us have.  Extended nursing is a wonderful thing. 

And so here I am at a house on a beautiful lake in SC for just another day and a half and I feel like I haven’t done much while I was here.  The other kicker is that it has been over 100 degrees and humid.  We have enjoyed swimming in the lake but you can only go on the boat first thing in the morning or late evening and even then it is too hot. 

Yet, I know that, this too is God.  Somehow that is true.

I was really ticked at first because after the year I have had, I was so looking forward to this trip and relaxing.  Relaxing.  I have really needed that. And a break from caring for people.  Ha.  ha ha ha….

We won’t forget this summer trip to the lake.  And it is giving me something to write about.  Not that I have said much yet.  I am looking for meaning in all of this, or as Neale Donald Walsch would say, I am deciding the meaning I give to this experience.

Trying to make lemonade out of lemons.

I do have reflection time right now and for the first time in months, I was able to sit for over an hour and work on my homeschool website.  I have shared fun with my toddler including a boat ride with him, my dad and my sister.  My husband was here while I was sick to help care for me and my kids.  He is home now and hopefully enjoying some much-needed rest in a quiet house….something he has needed since he came home from the hospital over 2 months ago.

We still have the second leg of this trip to look forward to?

From here we head to GA for a family reunion.  I think.  My mom hasn’t gotten sick but I don’t know how she will avoid it and we surely don’t want to share this with all our relatives we see in GA.  We will be staying at a cabin at a state park which sounds peaceful and nice.  Yet, I am staying in the cabin with my parents.  I love my parents but I have had enough of this virus and am not looking forward to sharing a small cabin with someone gets the stomach virus while we are there.  I hope that doesn’t sound callous.  I am such a caregiver, that is hard for me to remove myself and not tend to the sick person in need. 

It’s time for a get away by myself.  Or at least a trip to the coffee-house for a couple of hours with my lap top. Oh yea, it broke.  There is the other one that you have to hook a mouse up to but then that is the only port and you need the port to get wifi….in other words, it barely works. 

Maybe it is time to pull out my spiral notebooks and pens again.  At least I can always write on paper.  Yes, that might be fun.  I trip to the coffee-house with spiral notebooks and pens.  That is how I used to go.  I only got the lap top about 3 years ago.  I will keep that vision for when I return home.

Now, its time to squeeze in some vacation in these final days.

Wish me luck.