Lesson Learned

I have a husband and three kids.  I often grumble and complain about them but I would find it hard to survive if I lost any of them.  They make my life complete.

I also have two dogs.  Louis and Jayda.  I often grumble and complain about them but I would find it hard to survive if I lost either of them. They too, make my life complete.

Our pets bring us so much joy and are a massively important part of our family.  But I didn’t realise just how much until a couple of months ago , when we nearly lost our girl, Jayda.

Living in Cairns, Far North Queensland is a tropical paradise but it also has a hidden danger lurking in the grass, in the foilage, in the trees.

Ticks.

To be precise, paralysis ticks.

And a couple of months ago precious girl Jayda picked up a couple of paralysis ticks and could very easily have died.

Every two weeks we give our Canine “kids” an application of Frontline Plus or Advantix.  It protects Dogs from Fleas for a month or from Ticks for two weeks.  In order for the dog to remain completely protected from Ticks,  the medication must be applied on the skin behind the neck on the same day every two weeks.

But money has been a little tight.

And we got a little complacent.

Before I knew it, the dogs were more than 2 weeks overdue for their tick treatment.

My hubby had taken the dogs for a walk and let them have a run off lead through some bush land. Later that night as we watched TV we found a tick on the outside of Jayda’s fur.  My hubby then checked both Louis and Jayda over thoroughly for any more ticks and he couldn’t find any more. She seemed fine so we felt lucky that we had escaped so lightly.

With this near miss, I planned to get the tick medication the next day. Unfortunately it was the Saturday I was rostered to work a half day, so my hubby had to stay home with the kids, and Mr J had a birthday party to go to, so I had to drop him off on my way to work, and pick him up from the party after I finished.

After I picked up Mr J I got a phone call from my Mum to say that they were on their way to visit – so I stopped in at the Pet Shop to get the Advantix and stopped off at the cheescake shop so that we to pick up some afternoon tea.

When I got home, my husband said to me, “Jayda’s acting strange, she’s been off her food and she doesn’t seem like herself”.

“Do you think she has another tick?” I asked.

“I have checked her and checked her and I can’t find any” he said.  “She looks ok but she just seems a bit off”.

I tried to see what he meant but she was so excited that I had arrived home and she was really happy so it was hard to tell.  Then Mum and my Stepdad arrived.

I put the tick medication on her and then made a pot of tea. We were halfway through a cup of tea and a piece of cake when it my hubby noticed that she was starting to breathe with sighs and although she was able to walk she did seem a little weaker in her back legs.

“I think she may have a tick”, I said. “You’d better call the Vet and see if we can bring her down to get her check out”.  The Vet said to bring her down straight away, so Mum and my stepdad finished their cup of tea and cut their visit short so that we could go.  We got the kids in the car and left for the Vets straight away.

Jayda really, really hates going in the car, and even though it only takes 10 minutes to get to the Vets from our house, she became very stressed.  My husband nursed her on his lap to try to keep her calm but as her anxiety rose, her breathing became worse and worse.  We later found out that this is one of the things that the tick posion does to their bodies.

We got to the Vet and after waiting for about 10 minutes, it was Jayda’s turn to get checked.

After less than a minute of searching the Vet found the paralysis tick on the side of her neck.  My husband was beside himself because he had checked her over so thoroughly but he had not been able to find it.

The Vet explained to us that Paralysis ticks don’t feel like a ‘bump’ on your pets body like cattle ticks do. They burrow into the skin and the skin raises up around the tick so it feels like a slightly raised area. So you need to rub the skin underneath their fur gently with your fingers to try to find an area that is slightly raised and possibly sore when you touch it.  Spread the fur and you will feel / see that it is raised and very inflamed.

We were told that Jayda would need to stay at the Vets.  He would rinse her with Fido’s Tick Wash and begin her treatment.

We thought we would be in for a bill of a couple of hundred dollars – an injection of anti-venom and everything would be ok.

We were wrong.

The toxin doesn’t just paralyze the dogs legs.  It affects their nervous system and affects their ability to breathe.  It affects the function of their lungs.  They cannot separate water from the air and begin to drown. They need to be kept quiet and calm and they need to be closely monitored.

We found out that steps involved in the treatment of tick paralysis usually are:

  • Sedation
  • Removal of all ticks and repeated searches
  • Administration of anti-tick serum
  • Cage rest
  • Monitoring of bladder function.
  • Other treatments such as fluids, oxygen, suction etc.

We had to make an upfront payment of half the expected bill.  My jaw dropped to the floor when I they told me the estimated bill was going to be 800 dollars.  It could be more, it could be a little less.

I was in tears.  We only had just over $400 combined in our bank accounts – so it it cost us almost every last cent that we had before they could begin the treatment. We would have to find some way to pay the other half when we picked her up.  I phoned Mum from the Vets in a blubbering mess – luckily for me she agreed to lend me the money for the remainder of Vet bill when Jayda was ready to be picked up.

Some dogs do not recover from paralysis ticks.

We consider ourselves to be very lucky.

Jayda recovered well and I was able to pick her up after a couple of days.

But she had to be kept calm for two weeks, which meant I had to take her to work with me so she wouldn’t run around and get excited.

We have learned our lesson.

We won’t be letting the tick medication lapse again.

We also have fido’s rinse on hand.

Each second friday night we bathe the dogs in fidos rinse, before applying the tick medication on Sunday night or Monday morning.  Fido’s rinse will kill any ticks on contact and prevent reattachment for up to 3 days.

It was an expensive lesson yes – but the worst part was thinking that we could lose our precious Jayda – not knowing whether we would be bringing her home.

We feel very lucky to still have her in our lives.

Please Note – This is NOT a sponsored post.  I decided to post this because it is one of the worst tick seasons there has been and I hope that my experience can help one person prevent paralysis ticks from affecting their pets.

A Wedding and A Funeral

I thought about C again today as I was on my way home from dropping my husband off at the gym.  Its been a little over 6 years since he passed away, but there is still a sadness in my heart.

If he was still alive, what would he be doing today?  Would he be married?  Would he have kids?

I wipe away the hot tears that threaten to stream down my face.

Guilt.

I don’t even know if I have a right to mourn. I don’t know if I have the right to still be mourning.

Of course I have a right to mourn.  To feel sad. To feel loss. He was my brother.  No one would dare say that I don’t.

Except the voice in my mind.  “Part Time Sister” it says.  “You weren’t really a part of his life”.

Why do I feel this way?  Why do I feel that I don’t deserve to grieve? That the grief, the sadness, the loss isn’t real?

We had different mothers – I didn’t grow up in the same household that he did.  I lived with my mother, stepfather and half-sister.

But every second weekend, when Dad came to visit me, I had a different world. Another family – with a stepmother, two half-brothers and a half-sister.  We played games together, and we fought with each other, just like siblings in any other family.

But I was never accepted by my stepmother, and I wasn’t one of “them”.

When I was 14 I had to leave home and went to live my grandmother. I had been through a traumatic time and after 2 suicide attempts at 15, I went to live with Dad and his family.

Despite my grandmother’s reservations, I was looking forward to it – it was my chance to re-invent myself – to start a new life – a chance to bond with father and my siblings.  My stepmother seemed supportive.

But it wasn’t long before she made my life a living hell.  Mind Games. I never knew from one day to the next whether she would be my best friend or my worst enemy.  After 6 months I couldn’t take it anymore and went back to live with my grandmother.

I distanced myself from Dad and his family somewhat – and as soon as I finished school and began to live my own life, I tried to have as little to do with “them” as possible.  I thought about my half siblings from time to time, but was busy with my own life.

With the birth of my first child, “Miss O”, I found out that Dad had separated from my stepmother. I was living in another state at the time, but on a quick visit to Cairns, managed to meet up with with him.

Not long before my visit, C had been involved in a motorbike accident.  It was touch and go for a while, but he managed to survive.

I was able to visit him in hospital with Miss O.  This was the first time I had seen him since he was in primary school.  He was a man. But he looked so frail.  He didn’t know who I was.  It was heartbreaking to see him like that.

Eventually, after months of rehabilitation, he was able to live a normal life once again.  He loved life, and lived it to the full.  He even got his motorbike licence again.

When Miss O was about 2, we came back to Cairns to live.  I was excited about being able to have my mother, sister and my father in Miss O’s life. I began to rebuild my relationship with Dad and got on really well with Dad’s new partner.

I began to start to reconnect with my brother C as well. We met up a few times at Dad’s place and as he had become a Christian we attended a few services together at one of the local churches.

One of the last times that I saw my brother was at my wedding.  He had a fantastic time and I am so glad to say that on that Day, he was happy – and I can remember him happy.

But this memory is a double edged sword.

As much as I loved and got along with Dad’s new partner, she did not get along well with Dad’s other children.   Although C was the only one to attend, she did not come to my wedding because I had invited all 3 of them.

So although I was happy C was at the wedding, at the same time I was also upset and a small part of me wished that he didn’t come, because I wanted Dad’s partner to be there, enjoying the wedding with Dad, with all of us, too.

I feel incredible guilt about this now.  Every time that I think about C, I think about how happy he was at my wedding and how part of me had wished he wasn’t there.  How incredibly selfish of me.

Worst. Sister. In. The. World.

Almost a year after the wedding, Dad phoned me to say that C was in the hospital, after another motorbike accident.    He had some serious injuries – he was in a coma – but they thought that he was going to be ok.

It was the beginning of March and I was heavily pregnant with my second child – Mr S –  I was due at the beginning of May.  I working full time and between that and looking after Miss O, I was exhausted after each work day.  I didn’t seem to find the time or energy to get up to the hospital to see him.  I spoke with Dad a couple of times and he told me they thought he was improving.  I justified it by thinking it would be better to visit once he was awake.

I’ll never forget the day that I got the next call.

I was at work on my lunchbreak when Dad called.  “Hey Dad, What’s Happening?” I cheerily chirped as I picked up the phone.

As soon as I heard his grave sounding voice I knew that something was very, very, wrong.

“C isn’t doing so well. You had better come up to the hospital.”

“What do you mean?” My voice went high pitched as I tried not to cry, “Is he going to make it?”

Tears started streaming down my face as I prepared to hear the words I didn’t want to hear.

I don’t remember the words he said.  It’s all blurry.

Why didn’t I visit him in the hospital already?  I should have been there.

A blood clot had travelled from his injuries to the base of his brain. He was brain-dead.

They were going to turn off the machines.

“If you want to say Goodbye you will have to come now”.

I was devastated. Why wasn’t I a better person? A better sister? Why wasn’t I there already?

When I got to the hospital, I had to wait in the corridor outside his room for what seemed like ages.

Dad was there, my ex-stepmother and my other half-siblings were there.

After what seemed like forever, I was finally able to go and hold his hand. I sat there for a while.   I told him that I loved him.

Then my ex-stepmother asked me to leave the room while his ‘real family’ said the rest of their goodbyes.

This was hard to take.  I was his real family too.

I knew what she meant.  I understood. I was not part of their special family unit.  I was not part of their day to day lives.

I could see the pain in her face.

She was losing her son.

I had to be strong. I had to let the hurt go.

Alone.

I sat in the corridor.

The turned off the machines.

I sat in silence.

I prayed and prayed and prayed that by some miracle they were wrong and he would start breathing on his own.

But that didn’t happen.

C passed away.

Quietly.

There was now a lot to be done.  People had to be notified.  The funeral had to be arranged, however, because C had died as the result of injuries from a motorbike accident, he had to have a post mortem and the coroner had to prepare a report. So for now, no date for the funeral could be planned.  My ex-stepmother was going to arrange the funeral.  There wasn’t much for Dad and I to do.

I gave my youngest brother a lift home in my car.  Then I went to my other sister’s house, where my mother, aunt and sister were waiting to comfort me.  I cried and cried and cried.

Before C’s accident, Dad was planning to move to Brisbane.  His partner had already moved there for work and Dad was trying to finish renovating his house before he left. My husband and I were going to rent the house from Dad.

On the Saturday after the machines were turned off, some of Dad’s workmates came around to help Dad paint the outside of the house. Dad asked me to prepare some  food so I bought some beers and cooked up a barbecue for the blokes.

There were quite a few blokes helping out, so the painting was finished relatively quickly. They didn’t hang around for too many beers and snags though, as a cyclone warning had just been issued, and they needed to get home to square away their yards.

I lived in a flood prone area too, so after the painting, I had to get home to move as much stuff as we could up to the second floor of the townhouse, in case the cyclone hit and we had a storm surge.  We also decided to go and stay at my sisters house, as it was a much safer area.

Cyclone Larry came in fast, crossing the coast near Innisfail, causing a large amount of damage between Cairns and Townsville, and leaving just as quickly.

A few more days passed, and it was finally time for the funeral.

Going to that funeral was one of the saddest days of my entire life.

I didn’t ever think we would be burying my 24 year old brother.

Some things happened at the funeral that reinforced I wasn’t part of “the family” and I felt really hurt.

I wasn’t mentioned on the funeral notice.  C was Loving the son of S and A, loved Brother of B and S. Fondly loved Grandson, nephew and friend of many.

I wasn’t mentioned when the minister spoke.

I wasn’t included in any of the stories or pictures celebrating his life.

I was part of the family, but I was at the same time I wasn’t.

I didn’t sit with Dad, my ex-stepmother and siblings.

I felt like I didn’t have a right to grieve like them.

I was no-one.

But I sucked it up and put on a brave face. I had to.

The day wasn’t about me.

So what if the voice says “Part Time Sister.”

Maybe I was.

But I loved him.

He was my brother.

He was part of my life.

So that voice can just shut up.

Rose Coloured Glasses

On Monday we decided to shrug off the housework, get out of the house and go for a drive. We visited the Mount Hypipamee National park and on the first leg of the journey we had a great time breathing in the beauty of dinner falls.

But the main reason for choosing the Mount Hypipamee National Park was becuase I wanted to take the kids to see the the Mount Hypipamee Crater.

The crater was formed as a result of a volcanic gas explosion and until recently, it was believed that it had an underwater tunnel connecting it to other waterways.

I had visited the crater when I was a kid, so for me the crater was an amazing, mystical place, and I wanted my children to experience that same sense of wonder.

[I even had dreams about the crater when I was a child. The most recurrent one was where Aliens were attacking the earth, and many of us (humans) descended into the crater going under the green sludge (in real life the green is just a layer of duckweed but in my dream it was green sludge) to emerge into a new, safe land, where we formed a resistance. Other times, the crater was just a part of the topographical landscape in dreams – particularly ones about volcanoes and lava, usually trying to escaping from the flowing lava and fireballs.]

So after we explored dinner falls, we climbed the relatively short but steep rainforest track to the Crater.

(So you don’t think I am totally unfit or anything I’ll just leave out the part where I was huffing and puffing by the time I got to the top. Future Post Alert – Did I mention that I am overweight and just recently discovered I have to lose 20 kilos? I have a plan to do something about this, I just have to work out what that plan is.)

Seeing the crater again after all those years was strange. I had seen the crater so many times in my mind’s eye, from the perspective of a young child. Now that I was here again, I had to take off my rose coloured glasses, and see it again for real.

Thank you to the kind lady who offered to take this picture for us. It feels nice to have a family pic.

The crater still was still beautiful. Looking at the sheer rock walls, the rainforest and into the deep abyss (from the safety of the viewing platform) was still a breathtaking experience.

But it wasn’t the way that I remembered it.

It wasn’t exactly the way my mind’s eye had made it out to be.

Of course, the crater has not changed. I have. I am taller. I am older. When I look at things now, I see them from a new perspective.

This got me thinking about the different perspectives we have about things in our past.

Movies that we watched. People that we knew. The things that happened to us.

The movies that were super scary or super awesome when we were kids, are not necessarily that crash hot when we revisit them as adults.

[Take Jaws for example. Worst. Movie. Ever. But back then it was really scary! Another great example of this – Electric Dreams – where the guy’s computer comes to life and tries to ruin his relationship and control his life – I watched that again recently and had a red mark from all of the head slaps I gave myself for putting myself through watching it again.]

The people that we knew back then that were super cool or the meanest horrible bullies are *usually* very different people when we meet them again later in life.

The things that happened to us, the things that we did as kids, both good and bad, are all things that we remember from a child’s perspective.

In a world where each day contained the possibility of a new adventure; when the dark contained monster; when each school day (particularly sitting there in maths) felt like it was never going to end.

Sometimes the way we remember things that happened to us or things that we did as a kid can also be totally different from the people that we experienced them with, depending on our age, our likes and dislikes, and many other factors. For example, the school bully will have a different collection of memories about their school lives than their victims do. Even siblings may remember shared experiences with completely different perspectives, and remember things that happened in a completely different way.

Sometimes its a little bit fun to keep those rose coloured glasses on.

I don’t want forget about how the crater was a magical mystical place for me as a child. I can still choose to remember it the way I did before.

I can choose to remember how good certain songs, cartoons, movies made me feel when I was growing up.

However, sometimes its healthy to let those childhood perspectives go, particularly if they are holding us back. If we experienced traumatic times in our childhood, it can be good to look at these things with adult eyes. Going back to process the things that happened to us with the wisdom and knowledge that comes with age, can help us to gain new perspectives, find new ways to cope and achieve a new level of understanding, so that we can begin to heal and move forward with our lives.

The final lesson that I took from my visit to the crater is about the way I parent my children right now and what they will think about me in 20, 30 or 40 years time.

Its my job to nurture them, guiding them to discover their path in life, hopefully shaping them in to beautiful, caring, loving individuals that go onto to lead fruitful, successful and happy lives.

This means that there will be times that they don’t agree with the decisions that I make for them. From their current childhood perspective, I may be mean, or dumb, or just not understand. It may literally feel like the end of the world if my 10 year old daughter can’t do something that I feel is inappropriate for her age.

I am not a saint and I am certainly not a perfect mum. I know they will frustrate me at times and I will make mistakes plenty of mistakes along the way. I work full time. In the hustle and bustle of life it can easy to be overwhelmed by schedules. I can’t always make it to the school assembly. I can’t always do things that stay at home Mums can do. Sometimes I feel guilty about that.

I can also do my best to listen, to love them, to talk to them about anything and everything, to make them feel important, and take an interest in their interests and in what they are doing, even if I can’t be there. I can do my best to make time to provide them with amazing experiences that they will remember for ever, experiences to let them know how much they are loved. These don’t have to be grand gestures. Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

Hopefully when my children are are older and wiser, looking back at their lives, without their rose coloured glasses, they will know three simple things.

I worked hard to make sure they had everything they need.

I did everything in my power to make them feel safe, protected and loved.

I love them very, very much, even more than life itself.