Okay, I have been silent this past week and for a good reason. My mother has a history of pneumonia and two weeks ago yesterday she went down to the Naval Hospital at Bethesda because she didn’t feel good. The x-rays showed pneumonia in the early stages but they went ahead and admitted her to get her on IV antibiotics. This is the standard procedure for her because of her history. But the next day, she started having problems with her vision. Now she is still getting used to trifocals but they sent her down to opthalmology clinic to have her eyes tested.
The doctor on duty found nothing out of the norm but wanted to do a brain scan just to rule out any problems with the optic nerves. The scan revealed lesions on my mom’s brain. Lesions on the brain sound worse than they are. Basically a lesion is anything that damages tissue. One thing about military hospitals, and Bethesda in particular, is that they are not afraid to run tests to find out what is wrong.
The National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda is a teaching hospital. The military medical school is located on the campus and NIH is right across the street from the hospital. So there was a team put together for my mom which consisted of medical students, residents, and doctors from both NIH and Bethesda. They decided that there was a spot where they could easily get in and obtain a sample for a biopsy. Last Thursday, she went in for what was supposed to be a simple biopsy operation and turned out to be almost a five hour long operation. Once they cut her skull, the surgeons saw that it was a tumor and they decided to get as much of it out as they could. The pathology reports do indicate that it was cancerous but the team feels that they got most of it out. None of the scans show that the cancer has spread so her team is very optimistic about getting it all cleaned up with chemo and radiation.
While she was in the hospital, I spent some time talking to the corpsmen on the oncology ward. And of course, while I was talking to them, I found out that this ward and the surgical ward never see any hand knitted hats for chemo patients and other patients who might need them. The surgical ward is right next door to the oncology ward and this is where many of the wounded from the war zones come to for care.
When a soldier is wounded in the field and treated at a field hospital prior to being transported to either Walter Reed or Bethesda, they are basically stripped of all clothing and placed into hospital gowns. It can take a bit of time before clothing catches up to the solders. Many of the soldiers who arrive at Bethesda are those in need of neurological care as a result of bomb blasts. Those needing orthopedic care tend to go to Walter Reed.
I said that I would be knit hats and make some small toys such as the Purl frog for the wards. If I can force myself to sit at the sewing machine long enough, I might even get some small lap quilts done. I told Cindy (the corpsman) that I would mention this on my blog and hopefully the knitting community would help. If you want to knit something, the only requirements are that it be soft. Chemo patients get very cold and softness matters.
Many of those who come in with neurology problems end up having surgery so their heads are shaved in the process. A small item placed in a patient’s hand who is unconscious can make a difference. There are signs and banners all over the hospital that have been signed by all sorts of businesses but they are just signs on a wall. A small item that a patient can keep that was made by hand can actually help their psychological healing by showing that some one cares. They may never know your name but they will know that some one cared enough to make a hand made item for them.
I would like to encourage anyone who want to make some thing to let me know. My mother will be going down to the hospital on regular basis for chemo and radiation starting in the next few weeks. Plus she is down there on a regular basis for doctors’ appointments. She said that she would deliver anything that is made. I will probably be going down with her sometimes to give my dad a break with the driving since it is a 40 mile one way trip. Right now I am working on a few more hats for my mother but I will be knitting hats for the ward after hers are done. (She now has 4 hand knit hats and I have 3 more on the needles.) So if you want to knit or make something, please either leave a comment or send me an email and I can send you my mailing address. And please pass the word on to any knitting groups you may belong to as well. My LYS is going to be posting a sign and will be encouraging people to make items for the wards as well. And as to what to make, you could make hats, mittens, scarves, prayer shawls, soft toys or what ever you think would give comfort.
And my mother is feeling fine right now. She got out of the hospital last Saturday and went out to the mall and bought herself an iPod. She has been out shopping for clothes and is right now on her way to oil painting class. There will be bad days ahead but right now she is living life to the fullest she can. And I do have a picture of her new scar but I won’t post it here. But I will post photos of two of the new hats. They are both the same pattern one in alpaca and the other is in a handspun by P of Knit Buddies. The other two hand knit hats she is wearing right now are one that was knit by Jodi of A Caffeinated Yarn and one she just got today from P in today’s mail. My mom was on her way out to lunch with a friend but she had her friend detour so she could pick up the hat which she promptly decided to wear today.