Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day, 2012: “It’s not about the barbecue”

There are a lot of reasons to like Memorial Day, mostly because it heralds the start of summer. It’s also, to some extent, a stress-free holiday (unless you’re caught in traffic to and from The Cape): no presents to wrap, no special apparel to don, no turkey to baste, no big, high-pressured build-up.

Personally, this year, Memorial Day isn’t exactly a holiday or stress-free.

Last Thursday, after a 10 day stay for an operation for esophageal cancer, my husband was discharged from Mass General Hospital. Although Jim is tired, and nowhere close to 100%, he is doing remarkably well – “miraculously well”, in the words of his surgeon, for someone his age. Jim came home from MGH with an IV pole, a pump, and enough cases of Jevity to get him through 16 hours a day worth of feeding for the next three weeks.

The tube-feeding apparatus is pretty straightforward and easy to use, and the visiting nurse who swung by a few hours after we got home to show me the ropes was very clear in her instructions.  Still, I can imagine that there are many patients’ families for which the entire process is overwhelming. However intuitive the pump’s interface, it may not be for someone older or less used to technology. However clear the written instructions, someone may be confused by the warning to “maintain the patency of the feeding tube.” (Patency? If I wasn’t familiar with the word, I’m guessing that 99% of the general, non-medical population wouldn’t be.) However simple it is to crush the pills, mix them with water, and syringe into the medicine port, it’s a bit daunting to play nurse if you’ve never been one.

It is, of course, worse for Jim, who’s stuck tethered to the pump and feedbag those 16 hours a day, while coping with post-surgery aches and pains. (Not to mention the general ghastliness of being treated for his second cancer…)

But we are fortunate: cancer caught (relatively) early, surgery that went well, walking distance from one of the best hospitals in the world, a medical team we admire and trust…

But it’s Memorial Day.

So, while I wanted to do a bit about where we are, medical-wise, it’s not about us.flags on common

It’s about remembering those who serve/have served in the military.

For the last few years, a group called the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund has put out flags on Boston Common to commemorate the 33,000 citizens of our state who have been killed in action since the Civil War.

In an article in The Boston Globe on the flag-planting, Mark McGuire, whose young song Daniel was killed in Fallujah in 2008, had this to say:

“They just need a big banner on the bridge [to The Cape], saying, ‘It’s not about the barbecue.’ Swing by the national cemetery in Bourne. ... You don’t need to know anyone there. Just ride through.”

I didn’t walk through Bourne, but I took a break from maintaining the patency of Jim’s J-tube and walked through The Common, where I snapped a picture of the flag display, which is quite beautiful and moving. I was not alone in clicking my smartphone to capture a shot of the hill of flags. There were plenty of others with me – it’s so much easier to take a picture, slap the yellow ribbon decal on the SUV, call everyone in the service a hero – than it is to a) think about the war; and b) think about who’s fighting the war; let alone c) actually joining up and fighting.

There are so many things that are bad for a country’s soul, and I’ve got to believe that having an all-volunteer military has got to be one of them – too much opportunity for sunshine patriots and chicken hawks to call the shots knowing they have no skin/no kin in the game.

Everyone isn’t cut out to be a soldier, but why would it be such a bad idea to require everyone to put in a couple of years doing something to serve our country? If I can figure out how to maintain the patency of a J-tube…

Just saying…

Happy Memorial Day to our servicemen and –women, and our veterans.


Here’s a link to last year’s Memorial Day post.


valerie said...

It's not even unambiguous (yes, I had to look it up):


1.) The condition of being open, expanded, or unobstructed.
2.) The condition of showing detectable parasite infection.

Prayer continues. v

Maureen Rogers said...

Hmmmm. Since I was able to figure patency out from its context, I didn't look it up. Thus, I didn't know that I should also be on the lookout for detectable parasite infection.

I will definitely be letting the MGH folks know that they should reword their instructions.