Monday, April 29, 2013

Synchronicity, Serendipity, Similarities

Call it what you will, circumstances are sometimes synchronous. During the week in Seattle when my blood pressure was plateauing upward between 150 and 160/ 86 and 92, I spent a morning with my 96 year old dad going through family papers that he had carefully cataloged shortly after his retirement.  We have four generations of letters, cards, invoices and papers of interest, all of which I love to pour over and which I hope Mary B will someday give even more order by filing in archival boxes.
Some papers and cards escaped Dad's cataloging and fell into Mom's domain. Mom tended toward stacked piles and in her later years, hid noteworthy and precious papers in with junk mail. As my father spent a morning perusing letters he'd filed over two decades again, I sifted through a candy box of great assortment, stuff tucked away, secured, saved, whatever by Mom.
Found an envelope with my Grandfather Jim Bain's handwriting and a postmark of November 28, 1951.  Inside the envelope were two letters, one from my Grandfather Jim and the second from my Grandmother Della, both handwritten on thin onion skin airmail stationary. My grandfather speaks of feeling unwell, unable to eat his supper. Della gave him a dose of Castor Oil and then some boneset tea. He didn't sleep well. He was lonesome for his daughter, who in September had moved so far away to Aruba in the West Indies. He was so lonesome he called his son Wilfred and wife Mary in Indiana, just to hear their voices.
Also in this envelope were two folded pieces of orange paper, each dated December 2, 1951, four days after the two letters. They are cables, which when received in Aruba in the 1950s always meant life altering news, like death and birth. These cables were sent by my Thompson grandparents and the news was not good.
Grandfather Bain dead by stroke. Funeral arrangements awaited my Mother's response and flight plans back to the States and Canada. The dates on the cables and those two handwritten letters make it clear that Mom never received that last missive from her father until after she'd returned from his funeral. Airmail letters took almost a week for delivery.
As I digested the contents of this envelope, I was reminded that high blood pressure runs through the Bain side of my family. Uncles died of strokes. My mom had thrombosis in a leg when I was in high school. No one wanted that clot to move to her heart or brain, so she stayed in a hospital bed for six weeks, almost motionless until the clot dissolved.
Then, just days ago, Kellye, a friend of mine who is my daughter Caroline's age, read my recent blog post about feeling over medicated for high blood pressure. She called for an update and we ended up talking about the relationships between and among high blood pressure, strokes, preclampsia, pre-term births and thryoid issues. All are conditions that run in my family and hers.
I developed preeclampsia preceding Caroline's birth. Caroline gave birth to Charlie almost a month early because of preeclampsia.  Just days ago, my niece Laura was diagnosed with preeclampsia as she gave birth to Audrey Catherine, the newest member of our family.
Could we prevent or better manage these 'conditions' in our families, if we and our doctors shared ever more detailed intergenerational histories?
Back to elevated blood pressure readings. The nephrologist I visited late last week (on advice from my cardiologist) declared my kidneys in good shape, declared I am over-medicated and that 'folks my age' with average blood pressure readings between 130-140 are the new normal. If those numbers are my new normal, that is good news. I just need to move the meter down about ten points.
Now, I will turn my attention to stroke deterrence. Am I simply taking this blood thinner through the afib procedure healing process? Or forever? That is the newest question. I am ever wondering about Caroline's thyroid symptoms which remain untreated because...because she is in the 'normal range'?
It is curious how an envelope filled with a bit of family history has the potential to open a new family dialogue and perhaps better treat these 'conditions' that aren't really diseases, but can sure mess up one's life. Here's to families and synchronicity.

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