Tag Archive: Health

The Up Side of Falling Down

Fall down stairs

In the past week I have fallen twice.  I’m not sure what my problem is with gravity, but both occasions were not pretty.  The first time, I crawled out of bed in the morning to weigh myself.  I don’t weigh myself every day, but I try to check in on my progress about every three days.  Stumbling through my “I just woke up” fog, I stepped on the scale wearing a super soft t-shirt that I sleep in and underwear.  I was incredibly happy with the number on the display ~ I had lost 23 pounds!  In my joyful state I practically danced down the stairs to the kitchen to make my morning ShakeOlogy (my favorite part of the day!).  As I be-bopped down the steps, I managed to miss one and landed on my derriere.  I proceeded to “bounce” down three more steps on my rear end until I hit the bottom of the steps.  In the process, the underwear I was wearing managed to become a thong and I now have carpet burn on my bum.  OUCH!!!!  Truth be told, I said a few choice words and thanked God I wasn’t injured enough to call 911 since I was home alone.  Believe me when I tell you no one wants to see that!  Since there was no one home to give me any sympathy, and I wasn’t bleeding anywhere, I slowly managed to stand up.   I did somehow injure my lower back, so workouts were out for the day, but I was back in the game the next day.  

The second time gravity slammed me to the floor was last night as I was leaving for work.   I was running late and had my backpack, purse, keys and a glass of ice water in my hands as I went into the garage to get in my car.  Minnesota winters are often a cold mess of frigid air and copious amounts of snow.  This year has been a doozy.   As I was walking to my driver’s side door, I managed to hit some black ice on the cement floor of my garage and I went flying ~ forward ~ and landed hard on both knees.  I dropped everything except my glass of water.  Pain radiated upward from my knees.  It hurt.  BAD.  The worst part was now my pants were soaked from the muck on my garage floor and I had to take even more time to change.  Even more painful than my knees as I hobbled upstairs (sniffling and muttering under my breath) to change was the dreaded knowledge that I was unlikely to find ANYTHING else that fit me.  I have been down to one pair of pants for a long time.  Since I started on this weight loss journey, I have not tried to squeeze myself into my smaller clothes.  I was concerned that if I was not able to fit in a smaller size it would put me in a tailspin toward a major depression which has always included eating copious amounts of unhealthy food.  The only other pair of pants I could find was TWO sizes smaller than the pants I had on.  I closed my eyes, said a silent prayer and put them on.  I expected them not to move past my thighs, much less my hips.  GUESS WHAT?????  They fit!!!!!!  I could even button and zip them without laying on the bed!  Woo hoo!!!!!

I have lost a total of 25 pounds so far.  I have 50 more to go.  I am 1/3 of the way to my goal weight in only 6 weeks.  I am beyond thrilled!!!

In an earlier post, I listed several things I was doing to accomplish this goal.  I have been soda/pop free for 6 weeks.  I have had fast food one time in those 6 weeks and it was GROSS.  I had a Taco Bell Chicken Salad that did not sit well in my stomach.  I have been doing ShakeOlogy for 4 weeks and I LOVE IT!!!  Seriously, it’s my favorite time of the day.  My favorite is a vanilla banana smoothie with unsweetened vanilla almond milk.  YUMMY! 

I started the FocusT25 program about a month ago.  Believe me when I tell you this program will kick your a**.  The first time I pushed play I was sweating within two minutes.  It is extremely fast paced and high intensity, but it is a great workout.  Tania is the modifier on the program and I love her.  I am still modifying more than I would like to, but each time I do the workouts it gets easier.  At times, I can keep up with Shaun T, but not completely at this point.  Regardless, I’m seeing results.  I’m losing pounds and inches and my muscles are toning up.  I adore my coach and my accountability group.  It is a very supportive environment and it really helps to hear how others are progressing.  I love the encouragement and the fact that I’m not the only one who struggles with exercising and eating right. 

I did give up the Couch to 5K treadmill workout for now.  I just can’t do both.  My legs are like jello after the FocusT25 workouts.  I may pick that back up in the spring.  I am also still taking the Phentermine and it has helped quite a bit with appetite control.

All in all, I’m making progress and that makes me happy!  I feel better physically and mentally.  I recently discovered my ribcage.  I really wasn’t certain I still had one.  I’m still searching for my hip bones, they have yet to make an appearance, but I remain hopeful. 

This past week I have been educated by the random assaults of gravity, but I have also learned that regardless of how many times I may fall, whether it be physically (with carpet burns and bruises covering my body) or mentally (listening to the negative voices in my head and falling off the weight loss wagon), I always have the ability to get back up.  A friend of mine posted the following on FaceBook:

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” — James Allen

One of the best things in life is our ability to choose one thought over another.  I am choosing to ignore the voices in my head that tell me I can’t do this ~ that I will never lose the weight ~ that I’m too old to change.  I am choosing to put my health as a top priority instead of at the bottom of my list.  I will succeed ~ regardless of how often I get knocked down (gravity be damned!! ~ smile).

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is a common occurrence in this profession.  Combine long hours (8-14) with forced or voluntary overtime due to sick calls and vacation days and working several days (sometimes up to 7) in a row, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.  We have all come into work bleary eyed with dark circles under our eyes, gulping down various sorts of caffeine in an effort to force our eyelids open.  According to WebMD, (http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/10-results-sleep-loss) the following are 10 side effects of sleep deprivation

  • Sleepiness causes accidents
  • Sleep loss dumbs you down
  • Sleep deprivation can lead to serious health problems
  • Lack of sleep kills sex drive
  • Sleepiness is depressing
  • Lack of sleep ages your skin
  • Sleepiness makes you forgetful
  • Losing sleep can make you gain weight
  • Lack of sleep may increase risk of death
  • Sleep loss impairs judgment, especially about sleep

 I have had my own issues with sleep deprivation and can relate to several side effects listed above.  The following is what happened at my worst ~ my most exhausted moment during my dispatching career.

 I was married with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old when I first started my job at Bloomington Police Department.  My husband worked daytime hours and I was stuck on dogwatch due to lack of seniority.  One major change in the cost of living from Indiana to Minnesota was the cost of child care.  I think I paid $100 per week for two kids in Indiana and it was $300-$400 per week in Minnesota.  Needless to say, we really couldn’t afford child care.  So…  I came up with the brilliant idea of staying up during the day with both kids and sleeping for a few hours when my husband came home.  I did that for years.  Once both of my kids were school age, it was much easier because I could sleep during the day.  When Taylor, my daughter was in kindergarten (half day during the morning), I was separated from my husband.  I would arrive home from dogwatch at 0730hrs and sleep until she got home around noon.  Austin, my son, was in 2nd grade by then and at school the entire day.  My husband and I lived in separate apartments in the same complex during part of our separation.  My goal was to wake up before the bus came to drop Taylor off and I would meet her at the bus stop and bring her home.  Keep in mind that my doorbell at my apartment did not work.  I thought this was a great thing at the time.  Trying to sleep during the day and waking up to solicitors ringing the doorbell is not fun.

 After three years (at this point) of working dogwatch and trying to save money on child care by staying up during the day, I managed to get about 3-4 hours of sleep.  Sometimes only two hours.  I was exhausted.  I was living in a fog.  My coworkers told me time and time again I needed to get more sleep.  I pushed their concerns aside, put on my Superwoman cape and plodded down the path I was on.  I thought at the time I was just fine.  I considered my lack of sleep as a sacrifice I was making for my family.  Sure I was tired, but weren’t we all tired with the long hours and the hectic schedule???  I would survive through this!  This isn’t a big deal.  Other people are in worse situations than I am.  I’ve got this!  No problem!  Oh, how wrong I was…

 My coworkers love this story because I made an absolute fool out of myself.  I think they were only disappointed that they weren’t there to see it. 

Taylor Kindergarten 2

If my memory serves me right, it was the first day of kindergarten or at least the first week.  Taylor was adorable as a 5-year-old.  She was bright and spunky and ready to go to school like her big brother!  We got her on the bus with her backpack, name tag, and emergency notification card (in case she got lost).  I was excited for her to start her school career, and even more excited to get a few hours of sleep while she was gone!  I went to bed, set my alarm for noon and fell into an exhausted sleep for a few short hours.  I woke up to a message being left on my answering machine.  In my sleep deprived stupor, I heard a message from an “Officer Sanchez” with Washington County Sheriff’s Department telling me that my daughter had been taken to St Joseph’s Home for Children.  I looked at the time and it was 1:00pm.  AN HOUR PAST THE TIME TAYLOR WAS SUPPOSED TO BE HOME FROM SCHOOL.  I completely FREAKED out.  I had visions of my baby girl finding her way home alone, knocking on the door and ringing the doorbell that didn’t work trying to wake me up to let her in.  I pictured her alone, tears streaming down her sweet face, not knowing what to do.  I tried to play the message again to hear a phone number I could call as I was frantically searching the phone book for the Washington County non-emergency number.  I was in such a panic that I quickly gave up and called 911.  I wish I had a recording of that phone call because I was babbling like an idiot.  The dispatcher who answered was extremely kind and patient with me.  I explained, words flying out of my mouth at a speed that I’m sure was incomprehensible, that I had overslept and was not there to get my child from the bus stop and my doorbell didn’t work and I had received a phone message from Officer Sanchez that she had taken Taylor to St Joe’s because no one could find me.  She told me that their department did not have an Officer Sanchez and asked if I was sure that was the correct name.  She didn’t see any calls within the past few hours involving a 5-year-old child that was left abandoned at the bus stop.  In the midst of my meltdown, the dispatcher told me to take a deep breath and told me to play the message again.  With the dispatcher on the phone, I played the message so both she and I could hear it.  I was MORTIFIED.  It was not a call from an Officer Sanchez.  It was a call from the secretary of another school telling me that Taylor was just fine and was in their office eating lunch; she had not gotten off the bus at the right stop and the bus driver had brought her to this school because he had to pick up kids there to take home.  Oh.  My.  God.

 I breathed in huge gulps of air (I was nearly hyperventilating), wiped the tears streaming down my face and felt an enormous wave of relief.  I was so relieved that no one had taken my child to St Joe’s and that she was safe and sound at a school just down the road from where I lived.  The dispatcher gently told me that everything was just fine, Taylor was safe and sound and she was glad everything turned out okay.  She kindly suggested that I take a few minutes to pull myself together prior to retrieving my daughter.  Remember that list of the side effects of sleep deprivation ~ yes, the one about sleep loss dumbing you down???  Yep, that was me.  Somehow, in my sleep deprived mind, I heard that message say what I feared the most.  As a dispatcher, when we need to find a safe place for children and there isn’t a relative to release them to, we take them to St Joe’s.  St Joe’s is a wonderful place full of compassionate staff members and they do wonderful things there for children going through a rough time.  As wonderful as this place is, it is no place for any child of mine. 

 When I walked into the school office, my daughter was sitting happily in a chair coloring.  The office girls had taken wonderful care of her.  They had made sure she was given lunch, that she was content and reassured that I was coming to get her.  As I hugged her close to me, breathing her in, I thanked God that she was safe and sound.  It was this incident that finally convinced me I could not go on with such little sleep.  I was out of my mind in a state of delirium because I was so exhausted.  Taylor survived the ordeal and really didn’t seem to bat an eye at what happened.  She told me she didn’t get off the bus when she was supposed to and the bus driver took her to the school down the road because he was picking up some other kids there.  Taylor has always been resilient, even at 5 years old.  I was proud of her for being so brave and not being a messy puddle of tears (like her mother) when I picked her up

My coworkers literally howled with laughter when I told them my story the next day.  I received several “I told you so” comments in regard to my constant exhaustion.  I am glad that this was the worst thing that happened to me in my sleep deprived state.  I’m grateful I didn’t fall asleep driving on the way home and crash into another vehicle.  Sleepy drivers can be terrifying on the road.  If you find that you are pushing yourself way beyond your limits and you are at the extreme limits of sleep deprivation, I am begging you to take a moment to reevaluate your situation.  Are you depriving yourself of sleep out of necessity?  Is it worth falling asleep on the drive home and crashing into another vehicle ~ possibly killing the occupants ~ possibly killing yourself?  As dispatchers, we advocate safety to everyone.  We ask our officers, firefighters, and paramedics to stay safe.  We ask our family, friends and loved ones to stay safe.  We give life-saving instructions to our 911 callers to keep them safe.  We need to take our own advice and keep ourselves safe.  Getting enough sleep is a part of that!


The Battle of the Bulge

 Many a dispatcher has fallen victim to the battle of the bulge.  In the past five years, I have allowed myself to gain 75 pounds.  Ugh…  The reason?  Yep…  A broken heart.  After my divorce, I lost 30 pounds, looked great and felt even better.  I started dating a man who I really thought was a perfect match for me.  After moving in together (after 2 ½ years of dating) and getting engaged, I discovered some information about him that he had failed to tell me.  I won’t go into details, but let’s just say it was a doozy.  My heart was absolutely shattered and I completely lost all faith in love.  I just flat-out didn’t care anymore.  And I proceeded to wallow in self-pity (and ice cream) for five years. 

  I have never been this heavy in my life.  Add wallowing in self-pity to a job that has me sitting on my butt for 10 hours a shift, and you end up with what I have become.  I absolutely cannot stand it anymore.  So I’m making a change…

             This is what I’ve done in the past two and a half weeks:

  1.  I have given up pop and sugar
  2. I have not eaten fast food
  3. I have been making better food choices and counting calories
  4. I went to “the fat doctor” and got on a prescription for Phentermine (http://www.abetterwayhealthcenter.com/)
  5. I have started the “Couch to 5k” treadmill workout (http://www.c25k.com/)
  6. I have signed up for an accountability group at www.teambeachbody.com with a high school friend as my coach
  7. I have started drinking Shakeology once a day (http://www.teambeachbody.com/nutrition-shake/shakeology)
  8. I will be starting FocusT25 on Monday (http://www.beachbody.com/product/fitness_programs/focus-t25-workout.do)            

  If I don’t lose this weight now and keep it off, I’m going to wind up being 300 pounds of misery.  Who wants that?  I am not relying on just myself to accomplish this goal.  I am doing some extra things like the Phentermine and Shakeology to help me get there.  Is that cheating?  Maybe.  Do I care?  Not one bit. 

  I blame no one but myself for gaining this weight.  No one forced me to eat unhealthy meals.  No one chained me down and refused to let me exercise.  Broken heart or not, I led myself down this path and it’s time to turn things around before it gets too far out of control.  There is nothing worse than shopping in the “women’s” section of a store.  I miss cute clothes.  Seriously.  I find myself staring ~ longingly~ across the aisle at the “misses” section with huge amounts of envy.  It has been so long since I have been able to look in a mirror and smile.  Not only do I miss looking good in my clothes, I miss having energy.  I have been carrying around the weight of a 10-year-old child for so long that I’m exhausted.  I have worn jeans for the past three summers in 90 degree heat because I can’t stand the thought of wearing shorts when I am this heavy.

 So…  I’m saying enough is enough.  I set out two and a half weeks ago to lose 75 pounds and I’ve lost 15 so far.    I have 60 to go!  I am hopeful that by next year, at this time, I will have reached my goal. 

The call I am going to write about is a difficult one for me.  This is, honestly, the one call in my history of dispatching that I have questioned myself as to whether I did the right thing or not.  It is not easy to write about, and I wonder frequently how my decisions affected the child who reached out for help on the most tragic night of her life by calling 911.  I carry her in my heart to this day and hope that she is doing well and somehow managed to make it through this tragedy.  I know she is an adult now.  I hope she has found happiness in her life in spite of the difficult times of her childhood.  The following is what I remember, to the best of my recollection,  from this call that haunts me even today. 

I was not the original call taker when this call came in.   I was working part-time as a dispatcher at Huntington Memorial Hospital for their EMS units as well as Samaritan Air Ambulance, a medical helicopter out of Fort Wayne, Indiana that covered the tri-state area.  To be honest, due to the circumstances of this call, it probably never should have been transferred to me to begin with for EMD (emergency medical dispatch) prearrival instructions.  The dispatcher on duty at HCSD (Huntington County Sheriff’s Department) was very new to the job and I’m sure transferred it to me for prearrival instructions in the hope that a life could be saved.  I am not, in any way, faulting that dispatcher for transferring the call to me.  In this job, we make split second decisions and I’m sure he had his reasons.  I never spoke to him about the call, therefore I can only guess at what he was thinking.  I am confident that he did the best he could at the time.

The call came in to me on a transfer with the dispatcher at the sheriff’s department stating that a woman had possibly been shot and the daughter was on the line.  Calls requiring prearrival medical instruction were transferred to the EMS dispatcher at the hospital.   The daughter was approximately 12 years old (I can’t recall her age exactly).  I don’t remember the conversation word for word, but I remember that she was hiding in a closet in her bedroom.  Her older brother had told her to stay upstairs and not come downstairs regardless of what she heard going on.  She told me she heard a lot of yelling and an argument between her brother and her mother…   And then she heard a gunshot.  She feared her mother was injured or dead.  She also heard what she thought was her brother leaving in his vehicle and believed he was gone from the residence.  

She was terrified.  She was crying, but able to communicate well enough.  I asked her if her mother was still breathing and she said she didn’t know.  She was still hiding in the closet, afraid to venture downstairs.  In my mind, because I had taken two other calls on gunshots to the head where the subjects survived within the past month, I thought her mother may have a chance of surviving if she had been shot.  At my console at the hospital, I could hear the deputies that were en route to the call on the sheriff’s department radio channel.  I knew they weren’t close by and I knew my ambulance wasn’t either.  I made a decision (after this child verified the vehicle was gone) to ask her to check to see if her mother was breathing.  To this day, I don’t know if it was the right decision.  Children are so brave when it comes to these kinds of things.  As terrified as she was of what she might find downstairs, she wanted to help her mother if there was any way possible.   Had I known what that child would see when she entered the living room, I never would have sent her there.  She sobbed as she told me her mother wasn’t breathing.  When I asked if she was sure, she confirmed it for me by telling me that her mother’s head was no longer attached to her body.  I found out later that the weapon used was a shotgun and it had done a lot of damage.  It was a gruesome scene.  Swallowing back a few tears of my own as I imagined what she saw,  I got her outside on the deck and focused on the description of the vehicle her brother was in and what possible direction he went or destination he had in mind.  There was nothing I could do to help her save her mother. 

 I immediately fell into a police dispatcher role instead of the medical dispatcher I was supposed to be that night.  This child, numb from shock,  did an amazing job and gave me good, solid information that was critical to finding the suspect ~ her own brother.  Because I worked full-time at the sheriff’s department and knew my way around those radio channels,  I got on their main channel and dispatched what information I had about the suspect and the vehicle to the units responding.  I think I may have even gotten on the other radio channel used to call surrounding agencies to relay the information to state patrol.   I know at some point during the call another dispatcher at the hospital stepped in the room to assist me.  I don’t recall who it was, but he was helpful and may have put some of that information out on the air for me.   Did I step on the toes of the sheriff’s department dispatcher by doing that?  Absolutely.  Did I care at the time?  No.  Looking back, I hope I didn’t offend the dispatcher working at the sheriff’s department that night.  Because I could listen to the sheriff’s department main frequency, I knew what they had going on.  I knew this was really the only call they were dealing with at the time and I knew the deputies were desperate for information imagining the horror they would find once they were on scene.  I decided to relay that information on their channel myself rather than taking the time to relay it to their dispatcher and have him put it out.  I did it to save time.  My concern was that there was an armed teenager (barely legal to drive if I remember right) out on the roads and I wanted those deputies to have that vehicle description.  I wanted to relay every possible detail that might help them in locating the suspect if they came across him while en route to the scene.  Because this child gave me such incredibly GOOD information in the midst of such an extreme situation, her brother was found in that vehicle within, I believe 30 minutes of the call.   I believe it was State Patrol who located the suspect and vehicle. Considering all the back county roads, it really was quite outstanding that he was found that quickly.  He was found before he could injure anyone else and thankfully he didn’t open fire on those officers.

I remember after I disconnected with her once the officers were on scene, the dispatcher that had stepped in to assist me asked me if I needed a minute or two to step outside and get myself together.  I remember immediately saying “No, why????”  I think I was so focused and in the zone of finding that suspect and worrying about those officers that I completely buried whatever I was feeling emotionally so deep that I was numb.  It took a while for it to sink in and when it did, I just felt stunned.  My heart ached for the daughter that would remember her mother in such a horrifying state.  The guilt that I had asked her to check on her mother, forcing her to see her in that horrible state, made me physically ill.  To this day, I don’t know if I did the right thing. 

There is a saying that hindsight should never be allowed in the court of self-judgement.  Knowing what that child saw, it is difficult for me not to judge myself.  There are those of you that will think “why on earth would you ask a child to do that?”  And there are those of you that will say “you had no way of knowing what condition her mother was in.  If she could have been saved and you didn’t send the child to check on her and she died, you would have to live with that too.”  I go back and forth.  I can tell you that there is no amount of money that can compensate for the heartache I carry with me day to day from some of the calls I have taken.  Sometimes the calls end better and a life is saved.  Those are the calls that make this job worthwhile to me.  The problem remains that I never know what is on the other end of the line when that 911 line rings.  That being said, I know someone has to answer that call.  Someone has to remain calm enough to think clearly and make split second decisions.  Someone has to bring order to chaos.  Someone has to get through the hysteria to get the information needed to get the caller the help they need.  Not every call is life or death, thank goodness.  If it was, I’m not sure I could do this job.  Anyone that has been in this profession long enough will have stories like the one I just described.  Calls they carry with them from day to day.  Heartaches that never leave.

Because I worked in dispatch the next day at HCSD, I had the ability to see the suspect in jail through the camera system located in dispatch.  It was difficult to look at him knowing the heartache he caused his family.  I remember the jailers telling me that he had said the devil made him do it.  I know he got a hefty sentence and might still be in prison for the crime he committed.  I’m not sure.  It isn’t him that I think about and carry with me.  It is his sister who was forced to swim in that sea of terror the night he decided to take his mother’s life.  It is his sister that I hope with all my heart is doing well today in spite of what she went through.  Although I know I did the best I could at the time when I asked her to check on her mother, I hope she can forgive me for giving her such a horrific last image of her mother.  That was never my intent and I am so very sorry she lost her mother in such a violent way.  I don’t know if she ever thinks about the person who took her call that night.  In many ways I hope she doesn’t.  I hope somehow she has moved on and put it behind her.  I carry her with me and say a prayer for her each and every time I plug into my console and answer that 911 line.  I pray that no child will have to endure the horror of what she experienced that night.

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