Thursday, August 27, 2009

How do I (not) love thee, Cystic Fibrosis?

UPDATED 08/29/09: I added a link to Richard's obituary in the Birmingham News. In other news, I heard that the layout for obituaries on Thursday, August 27th included both Richard and Shantel's. They ended up side by side. I've asked my grandmother to save me a copy.

Although I have been meaning to write a lovely post about our fun-filled
Viva Las Vegas getaway, which I will do (come hell or high water), I find that first I must write about some not-so-good news that I've received in the last two days.

Main Entry: death
Pronunciation: \ˈdeth\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English deeth, from Old English dēath; akin to Old Norse dauthi death, deyja to die

1 a : a permanent cessation of all vital functions : the end of life b : an instance of dying
2 a : the cause or occasion of loss of life b : a cause of ruin
3 capitalized : the destroyer of life represented usually as a skeleton with a scythe
4 : the state of being dead
5 a : the passing or destruction of something inanimate b : extinction

No matter how you define it, death is not fun-filled. Death hurts. Death is a trial. To put it mildly, Death f*n sucks.

In the past two days, I've lost two friends. One to CF (and cancer). Not unexpected, but never expected. The second, very unexpectedly, was our nurse, Shantel.

You may know or have heard of Richard through Kori (her blog is private). I've known Richard since I was about seven years old. I first met Richard when I went to CF Camp (which have since been discontinued but remain one of the many highlights of my childhood).

I honestly can't say that I was ever close to Richard, but Richard was always there. He was the eldest CF in "my group" of CF patients that grew up on 5SE and UAB (I'm the baby of the aforementioned group). I always admired Richard because he had a kind word for everybody, no matter how bad he felt. Even in our last hospital stay together (my most recent), when we knew the cancer was terminal and death was inevitable, he smiled at me when I walked past his room and we spoke a few words together. It wasn't much, but just enough.

While I don't profess to have a religious bone in my body (or perhaps it would be better said that I don't place faith in any one religion, but in many), I know that Kori, their boys and many others will find solace in the fact that "Richard graces the gates of Heaven today at 12:26 AM" on Wednesday, August 26, 2009. Richard, you will be loved, remembered, and missed.


Barbara Shantel Rich (Shantel) was our nurse on J3 and 6S at UAB for as long as my (rather short-term) memory allows me to recall (about five years, I think). But it seems as if I've known her for much longer as she had one of those personalities that made you feel as if you've known her forever. She was always there when you needed her - administering medicines that you needed, bringing blankets to keep you warm, and providing a good kick in the ass (if that's what the Dr.'s ordered, of course).

Nursing (in general) and the care of CF patients (especially some of us) can be stressful on the best of days, but Shantel was always there with a smile. She took care of me when I was at my worst and cheered me on when I was at my best.

A "normal" person might not get it, but every CF patient understands when I say that our doctors and nurses become a part of our family. The nurses at UAB, including Shantel, have taken care of me when I've been desperately sick, have kicked me in the tail when I'm just being lazy, have put up with my prednisone-induced nights of sleeplessness and have always been there when we needed them. Even if we thought we didn't. Thank you, to all of you. We don't say it nearly enough.

Shantel, I'll always remember you. You were one of the few nurses that (successfully) managed to access my teeny-tiny baby port on the first try, you brought me blankets when I thought I was freezing to death from many medication-incuded fevers, and you put up with my steroid enhanced moments of bitchiness. Thank you so much for being such a great nurse. You were and are an amazing person!

If you knew Shantel, please stop and leave your thoughts for her family here.


Regretfully, I'm also writing of the death of David. David, another CF patient, was a few years older than I. He passed away while I was in the hospital and I did not take the time to remember him then. His death was unexpected as well, although I know that he has been very sick for the past few months.

Unfortunately, I didn't know David well. We went to school together at UAB and I would often see him in the old Education Building but we generally exchanged no more than a nod or a wave at each other.

David was well known around the hospital (at Children's) and I remember many, many a story about all the things David managed to get away with (or not get away with, sometimes). He and I didn't run in the same crowd, but he'll be remembered. My thoughts are with his family, his wife, and his son.


They say that death comes in threes. I hope that's true. Death, I'm done with you.