Value of Knowledge

In 1994 I suffered an injury to one of my cervical discs (C5/C6). I sought various treatments including pain meds, chiropractic, and physical therapy. None gave me any permanent relief.  I consulted with a neurologist who was willing to do surgery but recommended I avoid it for as long as possible. While many feel surgeons are knife wielding maniacs, this gent was not. He felt strongly that surgery was the wrong approach for me due to my age. He encouraged me to wait as long as possible.

I suffered another episode in 2000 and once again had an MRI which confirmed the discs were progressing in their disease.  Again, more pain meds, therapy and such.  I get through it.

A few weeks ago, a few days after working out with my trainer at the gym, I find myself in a pain like I have never felt. The pain was so severe at times I would silent cry. What I mean by this is that I was completely unaware that I was even crying. The tears would just fall from my eyes as I lay immobile on my couch with ice packs on my neck and back. I was prescribed various medications, several of which I had allergic reactions to, and eventually managed to find some minor relief.

It was during this time frame that a secondary problem, more serious, was discovered.  It is the type of problem that has the potential to be life threatening, certainly life span shortening. I would be lying if I said it did not freak me out.  It did. It still kind of is. It is a health condition that has been seen in my family in the past generations. The first two days I was deeply effected by thoughts of dying young, leaving my sons, never getting a chance again to meet my daughter. It was a dark few days.

Whilst in my gloomy freaking out pain ridden state, it occurs to me that I am better off than many of my adoption friends. I have my health history. I know what is in my family.  When I go to the doctors and fill out the myriad forms, I can check all the boxes, answer all the questions. I can call my mother up on the phone and ask her to remind me what Choo Choo Gramma died of or what disease Papa had.  I can take that information back to my medical team and they can use it to formulate plans for my care and make a better diagnosis and prognosis.

This is not true of many of my friends.  They go through medical crisis after medical crisis with no health history, no records, no idea what sort of diseases may be laying dormant in their veins waiting to spring forth.  Their children suffer serious illnesses and they and their doctors are limited in their ability to find cures.

Proponents of adoption and specifically closed records often state “there is no value to medical history”. To this I say “Oh, really?”. I would offer that even if there is no perceived medical value (and I question that), there is definitely, for me and possibly for others, some psychological value.  While some argue ignorance is bliss, I would not agree. I find comfort in knowing what I am dealing with and what I might deal with. Being forewarned is forearmed. If I know, for example, that heart disease runs rampant in my family, I can make a conscious choice to do my best to minimize the disease, to eat better, to exercise or not.  It may not help in the long-term, but it might, it may also decrease the likelihood of stress. The less time spent worrying and wondering can, for some, equal less time stressing and therefore, less time becoming ill.

Researchers from UCLA found that stress reactions can increase inflammation in the body. For those who experience chronic stress problems, this can lead to serious complications like heart disease, depression and asthma. Would a non adopted person with a medical history stress over a mysterious disease? I can personally say “yes” .  We do. What if you are an individual who has no medical history? What about the adult adoptee mother with no medical history and a very sick child?  When attempting to help your child, the doctors ask about medical history and you cannot provide it. Would that stress you out? Just a teeny bit?

To these situations and more I say yes, stress can cause disease. Lack of medical history can cause stress and untreated disease.  Lack of medical history can cause premature death.

Lead researcher in the UCLA testing George Slavic states “We have known for a long time that social stress can ‘get under the skin’ to increase risk for disease, but it’s been unclear exactly how these effects occur.”  I offer Mr. Slavic one factor for consideration: lack of medical history.

Why would anyone doubt the value of providing adoption separated individuals with their medical history?  I never have but let me tell you that going through what I am now I am even more sure that all adopted individuals have a right to their medical history. I will further state that not providing that is a form of child abuse, a form that can kill not only the adoptee but their own future children.

Image/Artwork Credit: Lina Eve

Descanse en paz, mi amigos.

Thinking of my Dad.

Monday, December 5

“Did you see KK’s Facebook update?” my mother asks me.

“No. She blocked me some time ago. We aren’t friends. I guess it was not cool to have your aunt on your friends list.” I joke.

“Oh, well, I am on her list and I am her gramma! Anyway, she posted a status about missing dad and it was the first year he wont be here for her birthday. She talked about how much she missed him and how he used to call her Pearl since she was born on Pearl Harbor day.” Mom shares.

I can hear the sentiment in my mother’s voice. Her tone, coupled with an image of my niece’s reported status, causes me to choke up. Dad has been gone almost six months. Its been tough at times, mostly for my mom.  Mom shares that as she was decorating the house over the weekend, she broke down when she pulled my father’s age old New York Yankee Christmas stocking out of the box.   I gulp down yet another throatful of emotion.

“Sorry to cut you short, Mom. I have a meeting in a few minutes. I need to go. I will call you later in the week and let you know if Rich and I will make it down for KK’s birthday dinner at your house on Sunday.” I say before removing my headset from my head.

I make a quick run to the restroom before I dial into the conference call.

Paul decided to conduct our meeting from the comfort of his home. He had been ill for a few days and was still running a fever. He expressed his apology for being unavailable to me the previous week and asked I understand the need to conduct an audio conference versus face to face.  Audio conference is not uncommon for our global company nor was telecommuting.  I assured him it was fine and began pushing through my agenda.

During our one hour meeting we laughed and joked about old times, where he and I were the only content management professionals dedicated to our company web sites. We discussed the CMS software vendor and laughed out loud at the memory of Art, a strange little fellow on a personal mission to sabotage our CMS implementation. Many portions of Art’s job would be replaced by the software we were deploying. In response to his possible job elimination, Art set about proving the software was unreliable and posed a security risk to our infrastructure, a system heavily monitored by our legal and compliance teams due to HIPAA and other SEC regulations.  As Art’s luck would have it, the execution of a Unix grep, a command-line text search, would reveal an Easter Egg hidden in the code.  The egg would reveal a hidden message “Kevin Diehl has dog breath” in the program.

I would spend three months working to repair the damage done by Art and his grep.  Letters of apology from the vendors most senior executives, test after test to prove the code base was secure, weekends of being questioned by my company’s information protection team finally resulted in getting the approval to proceed.  During the entire ordeal, my friend and staff member, Paul would joke daily.  “How is that dog breath today?  Did you brush?”

It was wonderful to reminisce with Paul and be working with him again, this time on a mobile application our company was developing for our member base. In the ten years that had passed since Artie and the egg, Paul had grown to the senior CMS infrastructure guru with a speciality in automating workflow and content publishing.  He and I would work together to streamline the process of updating a native web app and synching the changes with the app store.

I expressed concern during the conversation over his recent health issues.  He expressed his own concern citing he had been sick for weeks, in fact, since Winter Storm Alfred had come ripping across our state. He had seen doctors, been on and off meds, but could not shake the wet cough and lingering fever.  We wrapped up our call with me telling him I would say a prayer he was better by Christmas.  He responded with a sarcastic “Yeah, right, Suz, you and I both know you are not the praying type. Dont you need to believe in God to pray?” I laughed, told him he made a valid point but assured him I would be thinking about him and hoping he felt better soon.  As I placed my headset back on its cradle, I mused a final time over Paul and his quirky ways, his volunteering as an EMT, his bagpipes, his ability to ramble on for hours, usually about his children. He was a good egg, a good friend. While he could sometimes chew my ear off with talk of his offspring, at his core, he was a really good, kind man.

Thursday, December 8

I learn that adoption blogger and friend, Judy passes away. I am deeply saddened.

Friday, December 9

Continuing to document the workflow Paul and I spoke about earlier in the week, I find myself distracted. Fridays are generally quieter days in the office. I enjoy them.  I catch up on administrative tasks and scan content strategy blogs.  My blog reading reminds me of my own neglected blog and of Judy. Thinking of Judy causes me sadness.  I click away from the content blog and begin to type the address to Judy’s blog.

Jane, a coworker, appears suddenly at the entrance to my office. She appears shaken and confused.

In a barely audible voice, she says to me “Did you hear? Did you hear about Paul?”

“Paul? Paul L? No, what?” I ask.

“He is dead..:” she barely gets out as tears pour down her face.

I shriek. Loudly. I get the attention of others around us.  A small crowd gathers around Jane and me and she proceeds to tell us that Paul was taken to the hospital by his brother due to difficulty breathing.  By the time they got to the hospital. Paul passed away from sudden cardiac arrest.  He was 48 years old.

Now sharing Jane’s uneasy tone, unsteady footing and tears, I leave the group and run downstairs to Paul’s boss, another good friend of mine. The door to his office is closed. I am not deterred. I knock once and the open the door. D is at his desk, head down, face flushed, talking into the speaker phone. Seating in front of his deck is a staff member of D’s and a coworker to Paul. D looks up, makes eye contact with me and waves me in.

Completely inappropriate (by today’s workplace and legal standards) I walk past the end of D’s desk and I reach out to hug him. The staff member, an older man, looks oddly at me.  D, a deeply sentimental man originally from the Basque region of Spain, cries openly over the sudden unexpected death of our friend and coworker.

It is too much for me. My niece mourning over my father, Judy passing, now Paul. I want to help D and his team. I offer to contact the EAP, to contact his HR business partner. D is confused, disoriented, in shock over the news and the way he received it. I do what I can and an hour or so later I leave for the day.

My weekend becomes a blur of activities that I only partially remember. Dinner and dancing friday night. Crying myself to sleep on my husbands chest. Holiday shopping. Attempting to write. Sitting by the fire. Visiting Judy’s blog. Debating with my husband about ones online footprint post-mortem.

I am still weepy over the death of both friends. I cannot believe they are gone.  Shit, I am still struggling with my father being gone.

Time to dust off my Kubler-Ross.


Roger Ebert Made Me Cry

Do you read Robert Ebert’s blog?  I do.  It is on my feed reader and I regularly view his postings. Today he posted the work of a Brazilian writer named Pablo Villaça. The title of the work is Written After Reading an Obituary. I read it at work, while munching on a burger salad.  It made me weep.

My heart still hurts.

Read it and come back.

Can you see what made me weep?  First, naturally, it is beautifully written.  More personally, it could be written by any mother that surrendered a child to adoption. How many of us are engaged in odd online relationships that involve getting updates on your child by cyber stalking them?  How many of us did not see our children take their first steps but rather we chase their online footprints with wild fury? How many of us found out about our childs love life, sexual orientation, likes and dislikes by their online presence?  How many mothers, like me, watched their child graduate college via the college video stream?

Imagine opening up a paper and finding the obituary of a child you gave birth to but were never allowed to know again once you found them?

Ugh. This pains me.  It could be so many mothers I know.

It could be me.  Someday, in my daily visiting of my daughters sites, I could be faced with an obituary.

I am not sure I could bear it but it is true.

It could be me.