Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Sleeping Beauty

This morning on Classic FM radio, the wonderful Colin Fox played the first 9 minutes of a CD of Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Sleeping Beauty’, narrated by David Wenham.  This CD is to played in full this afternoon, but the little bit I heard mentioned King Florestan and his Queen who were blessed with a beautiful baby girl that they named ‘Aurora’.  When Princess Aurora was to be christened, the King ordered the presence of six fairies to bless their daughter with the qualities of grace, charm, beauty, elegance, courage, tolerance, sweetness, etc.  And so it goes, with the princess becoming The Sleeping Beauty when she is just 16 years of age.

Pamela Joy was born of Arnold and Mary Austin and gained, with even more intensity, the same qualities as Aurora thanks to her family and the good people of Mt. Moriac (instead of fairies) when Pammy was a little girl. 

Those qualities never left her and two of them; in particular, elegance and tolerance impressed everyone who got to know her.  My Pammy never whinged or complained.  In spite of the terrible disease that afflicted her, she stayed happy and smiled through all of it.  She said that it was easy to do because she was so loved.  And so indeed, she was.
Here's a picture of my lovely Pammy with our two little girls, Sharon and Jeni, back in the early 80's certainly before Pam's diagnosis...


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Delight and Wonderment

It had only been two days after the death of my beautiful, beloved Pammy when I found her diary in the bottom drawer in the chest beside her lounge chair.  Pam had shown me bits of it before (like 20 years before), but I was surprised to find it unlocked and it was almost begging me to read it.

I'd guess that Pam had been given this diary for Christmas 1967, because her first entries commenced January 1st 1968.  She wrote about day to day family life in Highton and detailed a few trips away and even a holiday away, but she must have got tired of it quickly, because February 2nd was her last entry - that is, until I turned up in her life on May 25th 1968 and my darling Pammy became interested in it once again.

It was a five-year diary with each page having five row sections labelled:
Against the top 19, Pam had written 68 and against the 2nd, 69 - but there was so much written in 1969, that there was hardly any room left for any 1970 entries.
It was a wonderful history, slightly more than a year-and-a-half in time, (a little less than Anne Frank spent writing her diary) anyway it's a story of her life and her growing love for me, and mine for her.  I went to the trouble of typing it all up on my PC, so I could send it to our two girls to read.  I took 57 pages of typing.
For some reason, Pam had unlocked the diary, but if she had intended me to read it, I so dearly wish I could have done so whilst she was still alive - so that I could show my appreciation for such a delightful record of our early days of knowing each other.
I was still typing the diary when Pam's funeral was upon us.  Now that funeral went perfectly, and I was so pleased that later in that day, I was wishing that I had asked Ashley to video-record the funeral service, but he hadn't offered and I hadn't thought to ask.  But when I went back to the funeral parlour to pick up the book of attendees signatures, the plastic bag containing it also contained a complimentary DVD of the complete service - recorded, because that's what they do!  I love them!
The DVD is made with footage from a multitude of cameras at their Chapel. Upon watching that and continuing typing Pam's diary made for a wonderment of post-Pammy pleasure.

I might add that I'm also very pleased with how Pam's ashes have been buried at Murray Pines Cemetery here in Mildura.  At tree No. 5 in 'Belar Avenue' is...

Cleverly designed and created by Davis Monumentals, the space under "ERIC GEORGE" is for my dates of birth and death.  The space after "MOTHER" is for "& FATHER", and the space after "AND ADORED GRANNY" is for "& GRAMPS", which will happen under our daughter Sharon's care, when my time is eventually up.  Pammy's ashes are under and towards the left of the headstone (tree position "E") and mine will be towards the right (tree position "F").

My life with Pammy exceeded 48 years, nearly 3/4 of my life and we were married for nearly 46 of them.

Here it is now 29/09/2015, and my Darling Pammy would have been 66yo today, if she had survived - it is also 3 months, to the day, since she died.  I must say, her gravesite has changed a bit, compared to how it was...

I wished my Pammy a Happy Birthday and told her that I'd always love her, and I reckon I heard her say "Ditto", but it was probably wishful thinking on my behalf. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Death Comes - But Life Goes On

I was very quiet in regards of this blog, until today, when I decided enough had happened since my recent loss to make it a worthwhile read - at least I hope so, folks.

Pam died on Monday, 29th June 2015 and I knew a funeral had to be organised - and I seemed to the logical source/choice.  I contacted North West Funerals (because I was a personal friend of Manager Ashley) and suggested that Friday 3rd July might be suitable, if it suited them - which it did.  Ashley went on to point out the advantages of a Friday funeral, but as that date very soon had to be changed, I have actually forgotten what those advantages were.  Yes, I ran the proposed date past a number of family and friends and my daughter Sharon strongly suggested more time would be needed for some mourners to get time off work, find accommodation and/or get here in time; so I rang Ashley once more and suggested a midweek funeral on Wednesday 8th July.  And so it was arranged.

As Pam was to be cremated, I couldn't see the sense in purchasing an expensive coffin - and Ashley agreed.  Actually, Ashley was one of the best supporters of me, during this difficult time.

A viewing time was set for Tuesday 7th at 4pm.  Pam looked lovely - as only North West Funerals could do (I'm sure).  I actually took a photo, but, sadly, I don't think it's appropriate to publish it on this blog.  Prior to this, me and my two girls had sent Celebrant Annie Predeaux the text of our eulogies and I had selected the photos for display.  I also selected tunes to play as folk arrived, during the picture presentation, and afterwards.  My daughter Jeni and our friend Bernadette Robson suggested one each for the latter.

These tunes were:
  1. For Emily* Whenever I May Find Her - Simon and Garfunkel
  2. O Magnum* Mysterium - played by Foden's Brass Band
  3. Songbird - Eva Cassidy
  4. Goodbye's (The Saddest Word) - CĂ©line Dion  (from Jeni)
  5. The Cliffs of Moyer - Tina Mulrooney  (from Bernadette)
* In my eulogy, I subtly changed these names, as you will see...

Annie did a wonderful introduction and organised a beautiful program:

and inside...

She went on to provide a wonderful service.

My Eulogy for Pam was:

Pam’s Eulogy

‘Eulogy’ – from the Greek meaning “Good Words” and for my wife and best friend Pam; I can think of none other than good words to tell you about her for no other words, in truth, apply to her.
When Pam expressed her love, she meant it - she really meant it; it shone from her.

I love her too – the song you may have heard earlier by Simon and Garfunkel might well have been called “For Pamela, Whenever I May Find Her” (instead of someone called Emily).
Pamela Joy Austin was born into a farm life at Mt Moriac, west of Geelong, and shortly afterward was given a sister, Val, with whom to play and grow up.  She went to Moriac Primary School and later to Gnarwarre Primary School when it reopened (as it was closer to the Austin farm).   Eventually the family moved to South Valley Rd Highton and Pam went to Matthew Flinders Secondary College.

When I discovered her, she was a typist for 10 Medium Regiment CMF, for whom she was a “gun” typist and could type in excess of 100 words per minute on a manual Olivetti typewriter (!).  Even though she was a civilian, she was given the fun title (by the CMF staff) as ‘Gunner Austin’.
We met each other in 1968.  I had turned 19 and I told my mother that I not only intended to get a girlfriend, but I would go to Geelong’s Palais Royal dance hall in an attempt to find one, but only on three consecutive Saturday nights shall I try, said I, or otherwise I shall forever remain a bachelor.  I’m not sure whether I really meant that but, making a long story short, on the THIRD Saturday night, 25th of May 1968, I asked Pam (who had just arrived with her girlfriend) for a dance.  For me, that was the luckiest encounter I could have ever wished for.

It was a wonderful meeting back then – not only did Pam agree to dance with me, but the next dance was a progressive barn dance – and we had to constantly change partners.  When I let go of Pam, I asked her if we could meet again after the barn dance and she smiled and said ‘yes’.  However, at the end of the barn dance, convention had it that we had to dance with our last partner.  I wanted to be again with Pam, and here I was dancing with some uninteresting female in a dance that seemed to never stop.  But it did stop and I set about looking for Pam in a fairly crowded dance hall.  I looked and looked – and began to wonder if she was still there, when from behind and to my left of me I heard her say “I’ve been looking for you”.  Her LOOKING for me!?  I’m still trying to get my head around that.
When I first met Pam, I hadn’t given much thought as to how a couple should regard each other, but I declare that after I met Pam, all that mystery and ignorance quickly left me.  Pam had back then, and still had to the very end, a quality that made me really, not only to have a high regard for her, but to truly love her.
We were married at St. John’s Anglican Church Highton on 5th September 1970 and after our honeymoon, lived in Flat 10, 50 Eastern Beach Geelong.  In 1972, we had a house built at 12 Glengarwyn Rd. Leopold, but at the end of 1973 we decided to move to Mildura for a year or two.  I had been working as a Mechanical Engineer at Alcoa Pt Henry, but I had been in receipt of a teaching studentship throughout my study years at the Gordon Institute of Technology.  The Education Department required me to become a Maths/Science teacher to fulfil my obligation to them, so I left Alcoa at the end of 1972 and went to Teacher’s College for 12 months - and at the end of that, with Pam’s permission, accepted a first posting at Irymple Technical School as it was then known.  That was 1974.  Pam and I moved from Leopold to ‘Fishers Flats’, Flat 4 5th St. Nichols Point.  That was paradise for us both and in 1974; Pam became pregnant with Sharon, who was born in Feb 75.  Cal Fisher made it clear that our one-bedroom flat was not suitable for a baby, so we’d have to move into one of his two-bedroom flats.  Instead I asked some teachers at Irymple Tech and in 1976 we purchased a house at 24 Brian Crescent Mildura.  In this house, Jeni arrived in that year.  We moved to 36 Birralee Ave in 1984, and Pam was diagnosed with MS two years later.  We moved to our current address of Unit 3, 6 Amelia Crt. in 1995, and Pam made each place SPECIAL.  I accepted a redundancy package from TAFE in 1996 and used some of it to pay off the mortgage on that unit.  That’s when I became Pam’s proud Carer.

She had an ability to see a cause of difficulty and yet let it take its course unless it got too difficult, only then would she use the most disarming sweet words and matching attitude to quickly calm the situation.  Pam did this in a most natural, yet persuasive way – every time, for the few years that the need required (as our girls got over their difficult years).
She had an attitude that allowed her to quickly accept her medical diagnosis of Progressive Multiple Sclerosis in 1986.  As devastated as we all were – the girls were not yet in their teens – Pam had an attitude that calmed us all; in spite of the terrible diagnosis.

Everyone who has dealt with Pam’s recent decade or more of caring needs are universally floored by her saying “Thank you” for each and every step of whatever one was currently doing to help her. 
For example, while transferring Pam from her lifter to her lounge chair, I might simply need to move her left hand out of harm’s way prior to the lift – and every time I did this, she said “Thank you”.  Mildura Base Hospital staff has often commented about Pam’s lovely attitude, siting this frequent courteous remark among many other comments of gratitude of which she constantly gave and surely meant.

In hindsight, my lovely skeptical wife declared that she probably had MS symptoms prior to our first meeting; she just didn’t know what those little symptoms meant.  I’ll declare that that knowledge would have made not a slightest scrap of difference to my resolve about loving her.
Pam wrote a book called “Rambling Reminiscences of My Early Years” containing wonderfully informative memories of the first 30 or so years of her life.  It’s got many pages and many pictures and gives a wonderful account of whom and what she was.  We had four beautifully bound copies made, one for each of our children, one for us and a forth to lend out to interested friends.  In a sense, Pam will be alive and available to us as long as those books survive.

I’ve maintained a blog about Pam’s MS progression over many years, and if you want to know more about her and what’s happened to her, simply type ‘Pammy MS blog’ at the Google level and take the first hit “My MS-Battling Pammy” – then use the archive and expand it to look around.  I strongly recommend that if you do look at it, read it from the beginning, which is at the bottom of the expanded archive.
Pam and I have many people to whom and organisations to which we want to offer sincere thanks for what they have done for us both.  Firstly the DHS for funding significant home modifications, appliances and respite relief.  Peta Weber from Bendigo Health has managed those funds for many years with TRIO Support Services and they have, for many years, provided talented respite-carers so that I could still get out and about in an attempt to keep me sane.  I could try to name all the ladies who came, but that would be folly, lest I omitted some.

For the ‘Family Slide-Show Of Memories’ part of this service, Pam and I have chosen an appropriate tune to accompany it (played by a brass band, as you’d probably expect) which had a strange and profound effect on both of us when we first heard it; and before either of us even knew what it actually was.  I call it ‘O Pamela Mysterium’, and it seemed to be telling a story of our family; about me and our two (then) teenage girls, as there were occasional loud bits.  But what follows in this tune, is that after every loud bit, I can hear a cornet soloist playing/saying on Pam’s behalf “Oh it’s OK, I understand, please let it go” or something to that effect.  To add to this theory, the next musical phrase seems to be saying “Oh yes we will behave”.  Pam ALWAYS mysteriously knew how to kindly and sweetly calm us all down.
It’s a tune that has really captured our interest and if the playing of it gets a bit loud in places, let it be so – it’ll soon calm down again; my darling Pammy asked it to…

I managed to say all this without breaking down, except for the last phrase - that's when I let go a bit.

Sharon and Jeni were up next with their Eulogy, they took it turns, reading paragraphs...


Jeni and I would like to share some of our fondest memories of our mum, Pam Fiesley.
Mum, named at birth as Pamela Joy Austin, was born at some time in the night of 28-29 September, 1949.  We’re told that the matron on duty had allegedly removed the call bells, had a tipple, and gone to bed herself.  Gran was therefore left to give birth to her firstborn completely unassisted and, as Mum was discovered in the morning of the 29th, that was declared her birthday.  Mum grew up on a farm “Wheatlands” on the outskirts of Geelong, with her parents Arnold (dec) and Mary (dec), and younger sister, Val.

Mum had a career as a typist in the army, but after moving to Mildura and the subsequent arrival of her daughters, her career was that as a stay-at-home mum.   She was dedicated to her family.  She was the rock that kept the home organised – she ensured Dad could get his work done, including all the after-hours work that teachers must do, and pursue his interests with the Brass Band.  She kept us kids on track with school, homework, and our early pursuits – Brownies, band, and Jazz ballet. She took us to the Carnegie Library regularly for story time, activities, and of course to borrow books.  She encouraged us to have pen-pals, and take up hobbies.  She took us to the Merbein Easter Arts and Crafts fair regularly.  We would browse the paintings, pottery, and needleworks, and would often come home with a little knick-knack that caught our eye.  One year it was a cluster of brightly painted pebbles glued onto a larger rock, with “Rock Concert” written beneath!  Another time it was a small scene of “gumnut people”. But our favourite would have to be colouring in a bookmark or similar with Hobbytex!
We loved coming home from school to discover Mum had been baking!  She baked all sorts of goodies, but cakes were a favourite.  She’d bake a double batch – one for now¸ and one for the freezer for another day.  Of course, we got to lick the beaters!  She loved pavlova, and made an awesome roast dinner.  Her Chow Mein, and Golden Syrup dumplings were always a hit!  Birthdays were always a fun and special occasion.  She would often make us a birthday cake of our choice, from the Woman’s Weekly Birthday Cake book, and her efforts were amazing!
But Mum also had her own interests.  She loved to sew and knit.  She made tapestries and cross-stitches, for which she won awards at the Mildura Show.  She occasionally sketched and painted – I fondly recall a painting of a violet that she did, “just mucking around”, which at the time I thought was amazing, and my recollection of it now still impresses me.  She loved to read, and write letters. We fondly remember Mum sitting in her favourite chair, reading a thick novel, or writing one of her famous long letters, with a steaming cup of tea nearby – white, with one, if I remember correctly. She played the piano beautifully, and enjoyed playing netball at Mansell Reserve.

Mum loved to potter in her garden.  She would often take us to nurseries (which, as young girls, we found quite boring!).  I remember wondering, at one trip, why she would bother buying sticks in a bag, but she assured me that they would grow into rose bushes, and indeed they did!  As we got older, trips to the nursery became an enjoyable event - Jeni would often take Mum out to the nurseries on a Saturday, and enjoy lunch together.  Over the years Mum was less able to be directly involved in her garden, but she still enjoyed dictating what plant should be purchased, and where Dad/someone should “bury” it!  Her eyes would light up, too, when flowers were picked and brought in for her to admire.

Mum had a very generous, community-minded spirit.  While we were young, Mum took on Home Child Care for a few years.  She loved kids, and we loved having playmates over at our house!  Later, Mum spoke publicly at schools, on radio, and to newspapers, about living with MS.  She wanted to raise awareness and offer hope and support.  She always was more concerned for other people than for herself. She vary rarely complained, stating that someone, somewhere, was worse off than her. She always remembered special events, birthdays, anniversaries, dates that pets were brought home, dates that her daughters moved into their homes….she was a great listener, and had a sharp memory.  She often farewelled us with the same parting words: “Have you got your puffer and emergency phone money?”, even well after we’d moved out of home!  Also, she’d always ask us to ring her when we got home, so that she’d know we’re safe.  She was always worrying about us and wanting to make sure that we were ok.  As teenagers, Mum sat us down and emotionally asked that we treat her just like any other Mum.  She didn’t want her illness to rob her of being a mother.  She loved us so much and there’s nothing that would stop Mum once she put her mind to it.  She was very strong-willed. Perhaps right up to the moment she passed away.  In her final words to Jeni, she expressed how lucky she was to have such wonderful people taking good care of her and told her she loves us and is proud of us.  She said she couldn’t have done it without us, along with Dad.  She told her she’ll never be far away.

Mum was a remarkable lady who kept her poise throughout her illness and personal challenges.  She became famous for her health miracles – overcoming what no-one thought possible on numerous occasions, and always with a smile!  Some of her miracles included:
  • Surviving pneumonia and stroke in 2009 – she was so seriously ill that she was flown to Melbourne, and we were all called in to say our goodbyes;
  • Regaining her voice following her stroke (phone calls that could barely last 1 minute eventually could last 30 minutes or more!);
  • Surviving MULTIPLE bouts of aspirate pneumonia since then;
  • Surviving various surgeries;
  • Surviving bowel cancer!
  • Surviving lengthy hospital/respite admissions that left her deconditioned and with pressure sores.
  • She survived ICU so that she could go home with palliative care (she had previously expressed her wish to die at home, if given the choice, but we didn’t think she would make it there);
She survived long enough for one last visit with her sister.
She has lived with MS far longer than anyone anticipated, living long enough to watch her children become adults, and to meet all four of her grandchildren, whom she adored and loved to spoil.  Kira, Erika, Ellie and Teo loved their Granny just as much, and were always excited to visit.
Mum was noted for her strength of character, but this was equally matched by Dad’s.  He always said that it was easy to care for Mum because she was so easy to love.  And it was obvious to everyone just how much he loved her, and how she loved him.  We would like to share a few words written to Dad, by his long-time friend Ross Dawson: 
“Pam’s death leaves us feeling sad beyond words.  A truly beautiful person – by nature and by action – no longer decorates and brightens her circle of family and friends, no longer mystifying all with her stoic acceptance of her lot.  A luminous woman.  Pam’s towering love for you was plain for all to see.  Her face softened, her eyes relaxed, her creases eased and the wreath of smiles appeared whenever you entered her view.  Achingly beautiful to see as we were privileged to do.  Everyone could see the strength of [your] loving bond.  She was besotted [with you] from the beginning – and the feeling was mutual.  The loss of the love of your life was looming for a long time.  You could not possibly prepare for the loss of your soulmate – merely steel yourself.  You will now no doubt be feeling an awful emptiness; the abyss of loss looms large before you today.  A melancholy time, but know we feel the better for having known your lovely Pam.
Pam was our inspiration, our hero, our best friend.  She was Dad’s number 1 fan, and our beautiful, graceful mum.  She really was someone very special.  Not just because she was our mum, but because of the person she was.  Our happiness was her happiness.  She loved us all so much.  Both Jeni and I have told her, at various times over the years, that we’d be very happy to be half the woman she was.  It makes us so happy and proud to realise that we ARE half her, and how lucky we are to have had this wonderful woman as our mum.
You may be gone now, Mum, but you’ll never be forgotten.  So many wonderful memories of the amazing woman you were will remain with us forever.
We will always love you.

Aditionally, Pam's sister Val also wrote a Eulogy, but unfortunately did not get to Annie with sufficient notice and wasn't read out.  It's a beautiful insight into Pam from an early age...

Val's Eulogy for Pam (...intended)
Pam came into the world with just Mum and no help until morning.  I believe the strength Pam showed then to survive as the same strength that she has got through all the battles she has had to overcome, since.
My first memories of my big sister was from the farm when we would go gathering mushrooms together, picking fresh peas but eating more than what went into the bucket, collecting the eggs or watching the baby chicks hatch.  Taking a basket full of food over to the shearing shed for the shearer’s lunch and feeding our pet lamb at the back gate with Teddy Bear biscuits.  Riding our bikes to school even though I was too young to go to school, but of course I had to do everything Pam was doing.  Typical little sister, I guess.
Our move to Highton was a bit of a challenge at first.  Coming from a very small country school to a school that had about 300 students was a bit of a shock.  I think Pam found more difficult than me, but she soon had made some really good friends.
Our Dad had become a bus driver and during the holidays, we were off on a “Drive” as Dad would put it.  We would be off to Sydney, My Gambier, Canberra, Adelaide, Broken Hill, Surfer’s Paradise and even a bus trip to Tassie.  Pam and I would share the back seat on these long trips in the car and no air-conditioning in those days.  I can’t remember Pam and I ever having an argument either.
Pam was the talented one being quite a piano player; mind you that was after hours and hours of practicing scales and set pieces of music.  It was lovely to hear Pam play her favourite pieces though.  This wasn’t her only musical talent; I wonder how many people here knew Pam was a member of the choir at St John, Highton.
Pam went on to Matthew Flinders Girls Secondary School in Geelong where she obtained her Intermediate Certificate, which these days is a Year 10 level.  Pam then completed a Secretarial course at the Gordon Institute of Technology.  The course wasn’t just a lot of tying but also office management, deportment, etc.  Pam excelled in all these areas.
This led Pam to her job as Secretary at the Army Drill Hall in Geelong, where she was the only female.  Pam was very good at her job and occasionally she would travel to Melbourne for typing exams, which she always passed and took her to the next level.
One of Pam’s hobbies as a young teenager was to draw house plans (just like her Great Niece, Ella) and then get paint and fabric swatches to show haw each room was to be decorated.  Unfortunately our parents never encouraged her to pursue this hobby into anything more.
Pam and her good friend Lyn liked to go to the local dances on a Friday or Saturday night, with either Dad taking them and of course I would be pestering to go too.  Often I was allowed to go, but not when they went to the Palais in Geelong that was quite the place to be, back then.  One night at the Palais, Pam met Eric and Lyn also met her husband to be.
I don’t remember Pam getting into too much trouble at home but I do remember one occasion when Pam wanted to do something and Mum wouldn’t let her.  So, Pam being much taller than Mum, just picked her up and carried her around the house with Mum screaming “PUT ME DOWN” and Pam saying “NOT UNTIL YOU SAY YES”.  I think I’ve conveniently forgotten what happened next.
Even back then Pam had one bad year, health wise.  She managed to get Whooping Cough, Glandular Fever and have her Tonsils out, all within twelve months.
When Pam and Eric were married, I was honoured when Pam asked me to be her Brides Maid.
When Pam and Eric moved up here to Mildura, we still felt very much in touch with what was happening, even though we were so far away.  Mum and Dad and Eric’s Mum would receive their weekly “BOOK” a letter of anywhere up to 30 pages long, sometimes even more, full of interesting information about what they were doing and when the girls came along, all their news as well.  Pam had a knack of making everyday things sound interesting.   Myself, other relations and friends all received slightly shortened versions of these letters.  Even when Pam found holding a pen difficult, she turned to the computer to print her letters.  Pam will also be remembered for her ability to find and send the appropriate card for every conceivable occasion.  Although I know Pam had help with this over the last few years.  When letters became too much for Pam we took to the phone.  Pam would have weekly chats with Mum on Saturday mornings and we would talk on Wednesday nights.  I will miss or talks.
On behalf of our family, I would like to thank ALL Pam’s Carers and Helpers who have helped to keep Pam at home. I’d just like to give a special thank-you to the few that I met and got to know a little, and that’s Bernadette, Jan and Therese.

I would also like to thank Eric for everything you have done for Pam for so long.  It’s been really appreciated by us all.
Well Pammy, say “Hi” to Mum and Dad for me.  I’m proud to have had you as my sister.  Love always.

Thank you Val, from me, Eric.  (If only I had known prior to the service.)
Unfortunately, the resolution of the blog image of the Program (above the Eulogies) makes it quite difficult to read the print, but the section entitled "Visual Family Tribute" was a slideshow of 93 x 4 seconds per image of Pammy (with friends and family) taken over 47 or more years and displayed randomly.  The Brass Band music being played during the slide presentation, was absolutely magnificent and Ashley had it being playing at just the right volume level - refer to the last bit of my Eulogy reading to see what I was looking for.
To me, those six minutes, twelve seconds of beautiful pictures and music were simply magic, and a wonderful send-off component for my darling.

At the end of the service, Pam's coffin was lowered and anyone who wanted to, put a flower on it prior to the cremation.

Nothing will ever make me stop loving Pammy...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Bacterial Infection

I returned from band practise at 10:15pm Tuesday 9th June and Pam was still awake.  She greeted me warmly and I noticed that her voice was different.  She asked me to dry her runny nose with a tissue, which I did and eventually got into bed myself.

Not too much time had elapsed before Pam started coughing, or at least attempting to.  (She cannot cough effectively and this is what caused her pneumonia back in 2009, which very nearly killed her.)  With this in mind, it didn't take much longer before I, in spite of Pam's chagrin, got out of bed and phoned for an ambulance. Whilst they were coming, I dressed and readied myself to welcome them.  The two ambulance ladies very soon decided that Pam was to go to hospital in spite of her objections.  I followed by car.

Pam was kept on a trolley (a comfortable trolley) from 2:15am until a ward bed became available at about 3pm on Wednesday.  She was diagnosed with pneumonia of the left lung and fluid around the right lung.  Not good news at all.

As I write this, it's Thursday 11th June approx. 4:15pm.  Pam is on antibiotics, anti-nausea meds and laxative treatment for constipation allegedly brought on by the codeine in the many Panadine Fortes she's recently been having to combat muscular headaches over the past few days. After a full day's worth of antibiotics, this is how my darling appears...

She has several more days in hospital and she wants to come home once more - I want her back too, but we both know where she's better-off for the time being!
Now that I have had time to think more clearly, I think it reasonable to give you an understanding of what's involved in having Pam hospitalised...
  1. Because Pam is fed overnight with a feed-pump, I had to bring to the ward her Kangaroo-Joey (K-J) pump, its stand and power cord; plug it in and set it up.  The K-J bags/feed tubes and PEJ food that goes into the bags also had to be brought in.  (It used to be called PEG food, but I have just learnt that in Pam's case, with the feed entering her jejunum instead of her stomach, it's now called a PEJ feed.)
  2. Bring in Pam's jellybean switch as she cannot operate the hospital's alarm bed-switch.  Fortunately, Pam has been here before and they remember her - and so they put her in a bed where the TV controller/alarm device had previously been fitted with a socket for Pam's jellybean switch connection plug. This jellybean button can be seen in the above picture for Pam to actuate with her chin.
  3. The hospital pillow was too firm for Pam, so she is seen in the above picture to be resting on her home bed pillow.
  4. The hospital staff need congratulating for remembering Pam and also being aware as to her current needs.  They quickly found for her an alternating pressure mattress almost identical to that which we have at home.
We were given the option of having Pam admitted as either a Public or Private patient.  We chose the former.  So far the only expense has been the rental TV.  I booked it for a week at the pensioner rate of $47.  If you knew Pam, you'd be as happy as me at paying double if it was asked.
Well here it is, Friday 12th June, 4pm.  I've been going to the hospital for each of Pam's 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm and 8pm hydration flushes, 4 of which are medicated as well as charging the feed packs with PEJ food and priming the pump each time in readiness for the 8:30pm feed start (which the hospital staff do, 'cos I've gone home by then).  Hospital policy is not to use Webster packs at all - and all of Pam's regular meds are in a Webster pack.  The deal is, I can use the Webster pack and the staff appreciate that because it's a job they won't have to do - and if I didn't do it, the staff would have to requisition the meds from the pharmacy.  It was by mutual agreement that I was to do it, but in order for the staff not mandatorily locking the Webster pack away in between medicated flushes - I was to instead take it home each time.
Pam looks like staying in hospital for the weekend but, depending on how she goes, she may be allowed home early next week.  Time will tell...
OK, so here it is 1pm Tuesday, June 16th and indeed time DID tell.  All was looking reasonably good until Sunday night, when I was told that Pam's left lung had collapsed (because of pneumonia) and her right lung was surrounded by fluid.  Pam was feeling hot even though her body temperature was normal.  Nevertheless, she was happy.
On Monday, however, she was complaining extensively about feeling hot (and sweaty) and she was gasping for breath.  The hospital staff were alarmed by her low blood oxygen saturation, and in addition, she had produced a urine specimen upon admission on the 10th which indicated a bladder e-coli infection which required her to be moved to a private room - because of its resistance to antibiotics.  The private room was an unexpected plus, but I have a feeling we haven't heard the last of the e-coli.
By Monday evening Pam was so unwell in trying to breathe that the doctor asked me how much life-preservation did I want the hospital to provide.  That was a death warning as I took it.  Pam and I both said that ICU would only be considered appropriate as long as whatever process it invoked would HELP her to recover - otherwise NO.  The ward had access to a BiPAP machine, which is essentially a pressure pump and that was applied to Pammy.  In addition, she was medicated to affect the fluid on her lung, and while I was there, soon after produced 150ml of clear water-like urine as a consequence. 

The BiPAP machine was to inflate her collapsed lung - an hour later, it was removed to see if Pam could keep up her oxygen.  This she managed for an hour and so went home.
This morning, I went to that private room, to find it vacant and all Pam's belongings gone.  A nurse noticed my angst and asked if I had been telephoned last night to explain that Pam had been moved to ICU.  Well, no-one had and I found that annoying, but I went to the ICU at 8:15 this morning and found Pam once again on a BiPAP machine.  ICU can better manage Pam's 'obs' and evidently that's the only reason she was sent there.  Apparently her blood oxygen had relapsed after I had gone home and Pam had been transferred to ICU at 10pm last night.  They let me stay with Pam for just a few minutes because visiting hours in ICU start at 11am.
I went back at 10:55am and was allowed in.  Apparently, the BiPAP machine was doing its job in reinflating Pam's left lung and Pam was looking happy, if not 100% healthy yet.
I received SMSs from Sharon and Jeni (our two daughters) telling me that they were coming to see their Mum.  Sharon from Adelaide, Jeni (and her two children, little Ellie and baby Teo) from Melbourne.  They arrived mid afternoon with Jeni arriving first - and very pleased was she, to see her Mum.  Sharon arrived an hour later and eventually we decided that when we left, I'd bring some fish and chips around to their motel and we'd get into it.  I later remembered that as it was Tuesday night, I was due to go to band pracky at 7:30.  I rang the musical director and told him that I might be late.  I actually arrived just 5 minutes late.  The ICU has strange visiting hours - even though they'll probably let you in anytime, they prefer 11am to 1:30pm then 3:30pm until 8pm.  Apparently these hours are not too different to the rest of the hospital, but theirs start at 9am and are definitely not enforced.
It's now Wednesday 17th and after visiting Pam, I had lunch with the girls and the kids (Jeni's) at the Working Man's Club and we agreed to meet again later with Pam and get a family photo.  The girls had also seen Pam after I had this morning and reported how unwell she looked.  I'll be in the waiting room before 3:30pm to find out how she is.  I am ever the optimist, but news like this doesn't wash well until I've verified it.  Anyway, here's the photo of all those mentioned, including me (Jeni's closest to the camera)...
At 9am tomorrow, I have an appointment with one of the ICU doctors who will explain exactly what the ICU is doing with Pam and what is hoped as to be the outcome.  Pam and I have both agreed that life-preserving with no inherent improvement of health is, for us, not an option.  So I'll get back to you when the outcome is known.
Thursday 18th.  Sharon and I turned up (independently) to the ICU waiting room at 8:25am.  We had to wait 15 minutes to get in and when we got to Pam, we were simply amazed.  Yesterday was a bad day for her, she was off the BiPAP machine for just 15 minutes in the 24hrs.  But this morning, when we got there she had been off it already for nearly an hour and her stats were good, and this is how we were received...
Pam totally surprised me, and that's not the first time since 2009 BTW.  The Dr said she's not completely 'out of the woods' by any means, but the signs look very good.
I really LOVE my missus!
Here it is now Sunday 21st June.  I got up as normal, and soon after 9am went to see Pam (who had been happy and well thanks to the treatment in ICU), but when I got through the door from the waiting room into ICU a nurse mentioned I should go back to the waiting room as there were a lot of doctors currently with Pam.  I asked if was OK to wait outside her room door, but she said it'd be better if I went back to the waiting room - so I did.
Soon after I had settled there, having turned on the TV to enjoy while I waited, all five or six doctors who had been with Pam came into the waiting room to talk to me.  I switched off the TV and the head doctor, Dr Mani, explained 99% of what needed to be explained, and I thank him for the kindness he showed me.  Pam had had a terrible previous night struggling to breathe even though she was on the BiPAP machine all night.  Dr Mani explained that in spite of the medications to rid Pam of the fluid in and around her lower lungs, it was nevertheless still there.  Pam's Oxygen saturation was in the mid 80's percent (way too low), her heart was racing at 130 beats per min (way too fast) and she was attempting to breathe at a rate of 30 breaths per minute (way too fast) and getting precious little air for her effort.  He went on to say that, with Pam's MS and the failure of the pneumonia treatment for her, they could only now do their best to keep Pam comfortable.  No more BiPAP or mask and hence no more need to keep her in ICU.  She will be (and was) given morphine to help her relax and not notice the discomfort of struggling to breathe - perhaps not even needing to struggle if indeed she was relaxed.  They are trying to find a single bed room for Pam in Ward 4 (a rehabilitation and palliative ward) and would likely be placing her on an intravenous morphine treatment there - until she died.  (I don't like the term 'passing away' because that implies an active step one allegedly does, when physical activity is not possible.)
I went to see Pam and found her on an air/oxygen nasal ventilation and yet her Oxygen figure was 97%.  Apparently she had been off the BiPAP for ages too.  Jeni, George and their children had left the previous night expecting none of what was to happen.  Sharon, Neal and their two girls had arrived since the previous post and were still in town.  It wasn't long before Sharon and youngest daughter Erika arrived, Neal and Kira arrived a little later but they were soon leaving to go back to Adelaide  Pam was very tired, not having slept at all the previous night, due to her struggling to breathe, but was now strangely at piece and able to sleep.  I left and returned about 90 minutes later.  This is how Pam looked this afternoon (having had some morphine)...
Because the BiPAP machine had been taken away, a nurse had taken the mask tape off her nose.  (There's a wound on the bridge of her nose which happened because of the mask prior to the tape being applied.)  I made it clear to all and sundry that, if at all possible, Pam would like to be home during this end-stage game.  Given the equipment we have here at home, perhaps Mildura Palliative Care might be able to acquire the additional equipment - the air/oxygen pump and the morphine infusion pump.
I'd like to think Pam has been like this before; and she'll come good yet again.  However with the known fluid in and around her lungs, and the fact that pneumonia still had her left lung collapsed - I'm afraid I don't like my chances.  It's now 4:20pm, I'll update this blog and go and see my darling.
Well, it's now Monday 22nd 9:05pm and I've just returned from seeing Pam.  This morning the Community Palliative Care nurse told me that they could provide oxygen equipment and a morphine infuser for Pam, when she comes home (tomorrow) and I purchased an ice-crusher in order to orally give Pam the crushed ice, which she'd become fond of since yesterday. Of course, I also made some ice-blocks. 
I had visited her four or five times today, but this time, as I was heading off to go at 6:30pm, I got a phone call on my mobile from Greg, one of the male nurses in ICU.  He explained that Pam was comfortable and currently asleep and it looked to them that she might not last the night.  He muttered something else, but as I was already heading there, I told him I'd see him when I got there in about 5 minutes.  This I did and he explained that if I wished to stay the night they could find me something comfortable to sleep on and then I would be handy if Pam died.  I replied that if Pam died, it wouldn't matter when I turned up or not, but that I would like to know that she had - and when.  Then I went in to see my poor Pammy.
The room lights were on and the TV was going and Pam was laying there with her eyes closed and mouth wide open - but she was definitely breathing.  She soon realised that I was there and opened her eyes and I sat beside her and held her hand.

She was having great difficulty talking, but I managed to tell if she wanted crushed ice or the washer on her head re-wetted etc.  She was watching TV but was unable to tell me what she had just seen.  Jeni rang from Melbourne and expressed her love for her poor, dear Mum.  I kept holding her hand and telling her about the early days of our relationship - and Pam smiled.
Eventually, one of the nurses came in and asked if she could take some photos of the two of us - how thoughtful she was.  Here is one of the many...
I stayed until Reno Rumble had finished because I had a feeling that Big Bang Theory might be on next - and both Pam and I HATE that with a passion.  It turned out that Married At First Sight was on and Pam wanted to watch that, so I kissed her goodnight, told her that I planned to see her in the morning with the ambulance eventually taking her back home and then went home myself.  The staff of ICU will ring me if necessary, but what I'll do if I'm told that Pam has died is anybody's guess.  I might get back to sleep, but probably won't.
So here it is now, 9am Wednesday 24th of June.  Yesterday was one of the busiest days for decades (if not my whole life).  I was up at 6am, shat, showered, shaved and breakfasted by 7am and after washing the clothes and hanging them out, I was out to the hospital before 8am.  I didn't know what to expect Pam-wise, but after the night before, and moderated by the realisation that no-one had rung, I was optimistic.  Pam didn't let me down - she was bright as a button and excited about the prospect of going home.
The ambulance was scheduled for 10am, but Pam now wore a morphine-delivering, battery-operated syringe pump as well having oxygen being delivered into her nose.  These two things needed to be considered as certainly the oxygen had to be kept in action, during and after the transport.  The Palliative Care Nurse (PCN) was supposed to come before the ambulance arrived to change the morphine pump, but as it turned out, she unfortunately could not; so Pam was given an injection of morphine into the subcutaneous bung already placed in her left leg.  The ambulance men had an oxygen supply, so at 10am, or thereabouts, Pam was driven home.  I drove home before the ambulance arrived and soon after a lady arrived from a company called 'Air Liquide' and put in place a large oxygen pump in readiness for Pam's impending arrival.  I called TRIO Support to a: send someone to note what's going on and b: restore my Pam-care cover.  Pam then arrived, so did two staff members from Trio.  The PCN was still there.  I had the ambulance men just take Pam into the lounge room where I used her sling and lifter to take her to the bedroom.  The PCN came with a morphine pump, identical to the hospital's pump and it was quite a while before it could be put in place.  The hospital had given me a prescription for the medicines to be pumped, but they had to be ordered from the pharmacy,  (So far, I've only mentioned Morphine, but there is also Midazolam and Ondansetron in the mix.)  So the PCN disappeared to Flannigan and Poole's Pharmacy in Lime Avenue and I took my Pam-care cover to do some shopping.  When I got back, the PCN had returned and was waiting for the delivery of the pharmaceuticals - but that didn't happen until 3:45pm.  While she was waiting, she prepared and labelled syringes, two with water, to be used as water flushes after additional medication of Morphine and/or Midazolam to be given if Pam is distressed for any reason.
Pam-care cover was reinstituted and so at 7:30pm, I went to band practise and enjoyed it immensely.
My darling wife was still peaceful when I got home at 10pm and I was tired and wanted to retire to bed - and so I gave the TRIO Support lady leave to go half an hour early.  What a day it was.
This morning I took a picture of Pam in her bed.  You might think (and be correct) that I've done this many times before, but given what's going on with Pam, I'm grateful she can be so peaceful...
This afternoon, Pam's sister Val rang up to say she and her husband Tony, would be coming up (from Melbourne) to visit Pam this coming Saturday.  Pam is delighted and I can think of nothing better to give her the enthusiasm to keep hanging onto life.
To think, only two days have elapsed since the last posting because here it is now 9:10am Friday 26th June and to me, the last post seemed to have been done a decade ago.  Poor Pam is fading fast - her throat is gurgly, her voice is weak and she now has difficulty with anymore than one-syllable words.  She might say "Ice" and I'll get up (even if it's 1am and cold (and I'm in only my undies)) and get a few ice-blocks out of the freezer, crush them (in the new crusher I bought last Tuesday morning) and take them to her in a drinking glass together with a teaspoon to slip the ice in between her lovely lips.  Once, she even said "Ta".  Well I remember how she used to say "Thankyou" more frequently than nearly anyone on the planet, but this slow impending dying thing robs one of many, unexpected things. It does indeed!
As I type this, it's 4:55am Saturday 27th June.  Last night, Pam had a horribly gurgly throat and/or chest and I could not encourage her to breathe in through her nose.  There is an oxygen input fitted to her nose, but in her dealing with the difficulty in breathing by attempting to breathe in and out through her open mouth, I think she was receiving no benefit from that oxygen.  I'm not a medico, but I reckoned that in Pammy breathing like that, the oxygen input was being occluded by her soft palate.  Anyway, I got off to sleep, but was soon awakened by poor Pammy desperately trying to breathe by rapidly gurgly breathing in and immediately out with relatively long pauses between such breaths.  I had earlier encouraged Pam to not only breathe in nasally with a closed mouth, but to also see if she could shift the 'pause' to immediately after she'd breathed in, not after she breathed out.  But I might as well have been talking to myself.
I wondered how long Pam could keep this up, but soon became empathetic about her stress.  It was a cold morning, so at 4:15, I went to the kitchen and dressed without the benefit of the three bathroom S's firstly and increased the oxygen output of the Oxygen Concentrator (now kept in the kitchen because of its 40 decibel noisiness) from 2 litres per hour to 4.  I then went to Pam and placed the ventilating nose piece in such a way that it was pointing into her mouth, not her nose.  I also gave her a Midazolam injection to mitigate her agitation/anxiety distress.  Having written these two paragraphs, I have just now checked on Pam and all appears well.  While her chest/throat is still a little gurgly, she is breathing more normally and seems to be happily asleep. 

She is looking forward to the impending arrival of her sister and brother-in-law, Val and Tony, from Melbourne - who are possibly driving up here as I type.  I'll be ringing up Palliative Care Services at 8:30am to see if they've got something better than that which I'm currently using to ventilate Pam's mouth.
9:30am.  The Palliative Nurse has arrived but it turns out that the gurgling, which I thought was a consequence of her lungs filling with fluid, is in fact a usual event associated with impending death and is called a 'Death Rattle'. She gave Pam hyoseiene into her sub-cut bung to help alleviate the gurgling.
Val and Tony arrived in the early afternoon - and Pam was so happy...
8:45am Monday 29th.  Val and Tony again visited and left for home soon after.  Therese Rhodes from TRIO Support came around at 10:30am to give me some welcome Respite Leave, which I took and returned sometime after 1pm.  A PCN came at 1:25pm and Therese then left.  My darling Pammy refuses to die.  She is still breathing - with the shortest, shallowest of breaths, every 5 to 7 seconds.  Fortunately, the gurgling has stopped and has been so for 36 hours.  I don't think the hyoseiene helped at all, Pam only had one dose and it's supposed to be given 4 times a day, every day - but it wasn't needed, as it turned out.
Pammy's extreme and unfair life battle ended peacefully at 1:30pm today, Monday 29th June.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A funeral trip to Melbourne

We were saddened to learn that Pam's mother had passed away on 16th March and naturally, Pam needed to attend the forthcoming funeral upon hearing the news.  Her mother, Mary Austin, was 91 years of age and had reached a stage where her poor body was shutting down and had indeed stopped.  When we heard of her death, we began organising for the trip to Melbourne.

We found that Benlynne Park Nursing Home in West Sunshine could put Pam up, provided that we would spend at least one week there - so we agreed to go down on Friday the 20th and return on Friday 27th (my 66th birthday).

Our case manager, Peta Webber got us to see our GP, Dr Bob Meyer to arrange for air ambulance transfer.  I arranged with my daughter Jeni to stay with her and her family at Taylors Lakes, on the outskirts of Melbourne, not far from the Calder Park race track.

On the morning of the 20th, I left at 7am with all of Pam's (and my) stuff - her electric wheelchair, her feed pump and stand, food case, widget bags, clothes case...  a list that ran to two pages of "Outs & Ins" (a tick in a box to indicate it was being taken 'Out' and a blank 'In' box for when I returned).  Pam was picked up by ambulance and taken to the airport for the air-ambulance at 8:30am, but it wasn't a problem if I arrived after Pam did because Benlynne Park staff would care for her until I arrived.  As it turned out, there was another patient with Pam who needed to be dropped off at Birchip and so it wasn't until noon that she eventually arrived.  I arrived at 12:30pm, just 5½ hours since I left – and I DIDN’T speed (I just didn’t stop).

Benlynne Park staff made some errors in looking after Pam’s needs, but I’ve got to hand it to them, they never repeated any of them.  They were wonderful!  I travelled from Jeni’s to Benlynne Park several times per day on most days and Pam had may visitors (seeing we were there for a funeral on Wednesday).

Here's a picture of Pam at Benlynne Park with our Grand-Daughter Ellie Shinas...

The Wednesday funeral was at Highton, Geelong at Tucker’s relatively new funeral parlour – a place with among the best views imaginable.  Pam’s sister Val gave one of the best eulogies I could imagine – and, all in all, it was a real good send-off for my mother-in-law, who had, only days earlier, had rejoiced in hearing the beautiful music that the morphine had provided.

On return from the funeral, we followed my sister-in-law Dorothy to see her new house in Lara and then drove to Val and Tony's house in East Keilor.  It was lovely to see all the people, many of whom we hadn't seen for decades.

At 4:15am on Friday 27th, I left Jeni & George's place and headed to Benlynne Park for the last time (for this trip, at least).  It only took 15 minutes to get there at that time, compared to 50 minutes or so during peak hour.  It took me an hour to load Pam's gear and I was on the road at 5:30am.  The traffic was minimal.

I got home at 11:45am, but Pam didn't arrive till 4:30pm - at least she didn't get there before me, which would've indeed been a no-no.

So that was last Friday and here it is Sunday 30th - I hope you enjoyed the read...

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Mathematics of Pam-Care

It's been quite a while since my previous post (and Pam's pressure-sores are still being treated BTW) and now it apparently is time for a newer design PEG-feed pump to be used.

The Dietician wanted Pam to have 700ml for PEG food per day, but it was found that, according to the Compat-pump, it reckoned there was only 650ml in the bag (which was loaded with 3 x 237ml boxes of 'Resource 2.0' food) and time proved that even 625ml in an overnight PEG-feed - at 54ml/hr would regularly cause Pam to become nauseous as the feed was completing.  The nausea is extremely dangerous for Pam, because regurgitation leads to lung aspiration and subsequent aspiration-pneumonia.  So I decided to reduce the feed to just 600ml at a rate of 52ml/hr and, since then, nausea has not been an issue.  I did this without advising the dietician and have worried about that detail ever since - but it's turned out to be not as significant as it appears...

The new pump is a Kangaroo-Joey Pump - and it reckons there are 711mls in the 3-box bag (which is indeed the case).  So I figure that to get the same volume into Pam as she is used to, with this new pump, the 600ml becomes 650ml and the 52ml/hr becomes somewhere between 56 and 57ml/hr for the SAME delivery amount and feed rate as for the Compat Pump consequenting in a similar feeding duration - I'll leave it to other mathematicians to argue here.  This regime goes into effect tomorrow night.  If all goes well, Pam still won't be nauseous and the Dietician won't be as dismayed as she might have been when she eventually learns of this new feeding regime.

The retiring Compat Pump (A lovely pump that tells ultra-fibs)

The Kangaroo-Joey Pump (much smaller than the Compat) - an almost truthful pump
A happy Pammy - who is blissfully unaware of the weird mathematics involved.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pressure Sores - Argh!!!

Here it is 12/01/2015, quite some months since Pam's visit to Westhaven, and yet the District Nurses are still coming around twice a week to change the dressings on her many pressure sores collected there.  At least more than half of them are showing definite signs of improvement, but still all dressings and foam-rubber coverings are in place - as if nothing had changed.

In the early days of Pam getting these, someone said "Oh, pressure sores - they take a LONG time to heal".  Well, she was right - that's all I can say.

It amazes me how Pam stays genuinely happy, in spite of these horrors that she's never had before.  She really is a special person - and I'm still her Carer (and oh boy, I care!)