Saturday, January 23, 2010


In Memory of my Brother Gerald Dickinson

In Memory of my Brother Gerald

So much has happened in the last 6 months that I do not know where to start. A lot changed in my life on August 20, 2008, when I lost my third and last brother . This brother had a hard life but he never let it keep him down for long, but the bone cancer was just more than his worn out system could handle. He lacked 3 months of being 82 years old. Few family members gave him the understanding for what he was going through most of his life while he was growing up. He was only 14 when he first started having problems with one leg. He ended up in the Hospital where he stayed for over a year. I was only 10 years old at that time, but I still remember the Glens Falls Hospital allowing our parents to bring all of us up to the main waiting room where the large Christmas tree was set up where we watched our brother open his Christmas gifts. They brought my brother Gerald down on a movable bed so we could visit with him. After all this time I was beginning to wonder if we were ever going to see this brother again. I was always interested in medical knowledge, so my curiosity about his leg was wanting to see what it looked like. I still remember asking him if I could peek at his leg and he shook his head yes. So, I slowly, carefully lifted the sheet and was shocked at what I saw.They had a support over that leg to keep the sheet and blanket from touching that leg. he told me they left that leg completely uncovered when he was in his room and had just covered it so people could not see it while he was with us. He had osteomyelitis, which is a kind of bone cancer and there was so much dead and pussy looking flesh and such a very deep indentation where they had operated and removed a large section of the leg bone from the knee down to just above his ankle on the outside of the leg. They had not removed the entire bone, but what was left sure made that leg look so skinny, not much thicker than what you would see on about a one to two year old. I used to wonder how that thin bone would ever hold up his body for walking when he was healed. Back then they did not have all these medical medicines they have today, so they used live maggots to eat away all the dead infected flesh. I remember they were wiggling around in that long deep cavity. When a Nurse noticed me looking at the leg, she rushed over to re-cover the leg. None of the others came over to that further side of his bed while I was peeking, so they never saw what I saw. I think they thought I was crazy after we got home when I told some of them about those wiggly wormy looking things crawling on his leg. I later learned they were called magots which would eat dead flesh and never hurt the live flesh. The nurse had pushed the bed close to the wall, so they probably thought no one would ever squeeze between the wall and the stretcher, so his leg would never be uncovered. Well, I actually never uncovered the leg, just lifted the sheet up far enough to peek at the leg. Years later, after I started working at the Hospital as a Nurses`s Aide, I learned from the very Nurse who had cared for my brother during that year about the night my brother`s fever had risen so high that they thought they were losing him and the Dr had her phone my parents to come immediately to the Hospital. The Dr informed my parents that he would die if they did not remove his leg immediately. My mother`s faith was so great that she would not sign for that operation. She felt he would make it, and he did. One evening, (I worked the 3pm to 11pm shift) after I had finished all my work and was getting bored for something more to do, I asked the head floor nurse if she knew something more I could do. I had even straightened out the linen closet for something more to do. I worked on what was called the -4 West wing- on the 4th floor , where all the private room were back then and we all called that wing "The Gold Coast" as it held the most expensive rooms in the whole Hospital. Mercheron, the floor head nurse mentioned that Jennings could always use more help on the 2nd floor North where all the wards were. Those rooms held from 4 to 6 patients to a room. Her floor was always over filled with way too many patients for the few nurses to handle , they were always rushed there trying to help so many patients. So, I went down to 2nd North and I suddenly remembered she had the same name as the Nurse who helped care for my brother about 8 years before. I asked Mrs Jennings if she had worked there when my brother Gerald was a patient and she said yes and started telling me about what my brother had gone through. She told me about that terrible night when they thought my brother would surely die. Then later she came into the room where I was helping a patients and told me there was someone she wanted me to meet. Turned out to be Dr Bartholomew ( Dr Bart as he was often called). She told me he was the Dr who saved my brother`s life so many years before. Dr Bart then told me he could not take the credit for saving my brother`s life, that he had already done everything humanly possible and there was nothing more he or anyone could do and he was sure they were losing the lad. Then he told me "It took someone more powerful that I am to save your brother`s life". I never forgot his words or the serious look that came into his face and eyes while he said it. You knew he was saying it was God who saved my brother`s life that night when things looked so bad. Maybe my knowing all this and hearing what a hard time my brother went through that made me more caring with this brother than most of the other brothers and sisters were with him.

When he finally was discharged from the Hospital he was not able to walk and I remember my mother carrying his (wicker woven seat, huge very heavy wooden antique high back) wheelchair outside and placing it under one of the trees in the shade in our front yard. Then she would lift and carry my brother from the house and place him in the chair where he could get some fresh air and watch the rest of us kids playing. I remember one day when we were playing a game of crochet where you use wooden mallets to hit round wooden balls through wire wickets that were pushed into the ground. There was a course that you drove the ball through from one wooded post to the wooden post at the other end. If I remember correct there were 2 wires in front of each post with enough space between them for the ball to roll out of line, plus one wire in the center spot and two more spaced on each side half way between the center wicket and the two end wickets on each side. Covered a large section of our side yard near the house. To get back to my brother, while we were playing I noticed he had dropped his pencil he was using to work in a puzzle book. Our police dog usually would lay down beside him under the tree unless we were playing baseball in the field on the other side of the house where the dog would run around the bases with us. Gerald could also watch us there from the front yard. So, I rushed over to pick it up for him. I still remember one sister yelling at me to hurry up, it was my turn and that I was holding every else up. I did not care about being yelled at, I felt my brother`s needs should come ahead of our fun game. It always bothered me that he was not able to play the games with us. I used to think it must be terrible to watch every one else running around and having fun while he had to just sit in that big monster chair. I remember how small he looked in that chair because the back of it was real high. I still have the pictures I took of him in that chair when I received my first small camera.

While Gerald was laid up at home, a teacher, Mr Brady, came to out home evenings and tutored my brother since he was not able to attend school. Mr Brady was the same Teacher who later became both my eighth grade teacher and our school principal- so the principal held both jobs at the same time. Then my brother surprised the DR`s when he started to learn to walk again. The knee liquid had been drained twice from that knee while in the Hospital to hopefully stop the osteomyelitis from going above the knee and killing him. They said that made the knee stiff so it would never bend, plus the bone being so thin they felt it would never hold his weight for walking. So we all felt he would spend the rest of his life sitting in a wheel chair. He was a fighter and did learn to use crutches for more support and started walking. The following year he started High School and was still using crutches two years later when I started high School. Then he wanted a bicycle and my parents bought him one and he learned to ride using that leg to pedal which helped to strengthen his leg bone and he soon stopped using his crutches- rode his bike to school. I remember how the teachers would make him wait in the room until all the other kids had entered rooms and the halls were clear before allowing him to walk down the halls on his crutches. So, this kid who would never live through the night, beat those odds, then this same kid who would never walk again ended up not only walking but riding a bicycle. I remember times when he would have me sit on the crossbar of his bike as he coasted down the steep short hill near the High School.

That leg always bothered him, but he seldom complained. He knew how lucky he was to just have that leg and be able to walk with it. Things continued this way for many many years until he was almost 80 and things caused him to lose that leg. Started with cancer in his throat gland which had to be removed. This caused his body to react like one with Diabetes since that gland was no longer there to handle the sugar content in the body. So he had to be treated with pills to handle it. Next came prostate cancer and the monthly shots for that. Then came more leg problems and the leg bone got so bad they feared it could break at any time and to save his life, this time they had to remove the leg. I had the same fears my brother had lived with all his life, that operating on that leg might make the osteo active again as all tests over the years proved it was still in his system and could become active at any time. No one admits that his bone cancer was actually the osteo, and I do know that when my husband had prostate cancer he also had cancer in a couple ribs and my brother`s had also spread to a couple ribs. So, we will never know if the bone cancer that killed him was from the prostate cancer spreading or from the operation waking up and spreading the cancer into his other bones. I only know that the Dr told me that as long as my husband kept taking the shots he would die with the cancer, but never because of it as the shots were supposed to keep the cancer locked where it was and not allow it to spread. That is just another reason I do believe removing the leg started the osteomyelitis up in full force and was the cause of the bone cancer that he died from.

From the time we lost our mother back in 1995( year after losing my youngest brother at age 60 in 1994) my brother was living alone in the family home and he started spending lots more time at our home. Then after losing Walt, Gerald and I started attending things together instead of each going alone. This continued for a few years until he lost his leg. Then I bought my new Aveo 2009 car with the larger trunk area and the back seat could be dropped down for even more room. It was large enough for me to put his walker in without having to close the walker up, so I started taking my brother places to see people since he was unable to drive anymore. Things went pretty good until he started having more trouble and could no longer walk with the prosthesis. Then I was again feeling bad because I could no longer put him in my car and take him visiting family and friends. I could have gotten family members to help me lift him from the wheelchair and into my car, but there would have been no one to help me get him out of the car and into other`s homes.

We had some good times every summer for three years in a row attending our High School yearly picnics. I had never attended them before, but my brother had gone for a couple previous years and was disappointed that he could no longer attend them, so that was what started me taking him. The first year we went I was having trouble driving, so our youngest sister drove us down and picked us up. The next two summers I picked him up and drove us there. All three summers I never did find out who might be there from my own graduating class as I just located which tables were being used by my brother`s class and then I stayed with them to help him out, getting his meals for him and other things. It would have been great to have seen some of tne members from my class, but his class made me feel very welcome at their tables. I knew all his class as they were just two years ahead of me and I had some of them in some of the extra subjects ( Geometry, Intermediate Algebra, Latin, Designing, Mechanical drawing , Typing, etc., .) that I took up, plus in the "Ticket Please Club" that I joined in High School. Belonging to this Club got me working collecting at all our Home sport Games without paying, which was nice. I was just a Freshman ( 1st year of High School) when I was picked to work collecting tickets at his class`s Junior Prom ( his third year of high School - a Dressy school dance where they dressed in long gowns and dress suits and where his class held their ceremony picking the King and Queen for their class.) To attend your Junior prom, you either had to be a Junior ( in 3rd year of High School) or go as a date with someone in that class. Once the ticket collection period was over we were invited to share in their meal and some even invited mw to a dance with them. So I did have a fun time- even had to wear a long gown while working there, which was exciting since I was only in 1st year of High and 15 years old at the time. Two years later I attended my own class`s Junior Prom with a date, not working this time, but I did stay a member of the Ticket Please Club till I graduated from High School. It was nice having two friends from his class show up at my brother`s Funeral Wake . When they spotted me they said they were hoping I would be there when they arrived as I was the only other one in my family that they knew. I tried to make them feel as comfortable as they had made me feel while I introduced them to my sisters and sister-in-laws. Gerald would have been so pleased that they cared enough about him to come. That was the kind of caring people they were and he was well liked by most everyone he met. They were very nice friends, even to me that used to be Gerald`s little sister in high School. My cousin was also there and she was in my High School class, but they never remembered her, even though she had been a cheer leader at the games. She had asked me to join with her, but I just was too shy back then to be up jumping around in front of so many strangers who attended our games.

I went down home to visit Gerald often and we had fun playing games together, some on the computer like the bowling and miniature Golf games, one board game we played was a game he had bought for me called "Horse-opoly". It was like the old Monopoly game, except everything had to do with horses. I did my best to bring him some enjoyment as much as I could. Every night we would catch each other on yahoo messenger to say "Good Night, have pleasant dreams, I love you" before we went off the computer for the night. I still find myself wanting to do it after 6 months.
My three daughters had all had training caring for the elderly, and they went down to help my nephew and his girl friend caring for Gerald the last couple weeks when things got worse. This nephew moved in with Gerald when he was operated on to remove his leg and they stayed living with him for the last three years to help care for him. Many family members were there with him that last day so he knew how much everyone loved him. Earlier that morning he told one of my daughters that he had to keep fighting because he was worried about his sisters. Even in all his pain, he was still thinking of us, not of himself. My daughter told him that we would all be hurting, but that we would be ok so he did not have to keep fighting the awful pain any longer, that it would be ok for him to let go, that we would understand. I was one of those holding his hand when he took his last breath. He went into a light coma shortly before, but I sensed he still was hearing us just the same by the way his hold on my hand still had some strength to the last breath and by the expressions on his face when I spoke to him. Because of his leg he always knew the osteo could break out at any time. Many times over the years spots were always breaking out and starting to bleed or look infected in different places on his leg, always reminding him it would always be there in his system. The skin remained so thin over the bone that any bump might cause a break in the skin and bleeding would start. Today they have a cure for osteomyelitis if it is caught in time, but years ago this medicine did not exist and his was too advanced to be of any help for him. He never wanted to become a burden to anyone,so he felt it would be unfair for him to marry . I never could change that feeling. So, he had no wife or kids to make his arrangements and we had him buried between our parents and our oldest brother Fred who had died in July 2008, just 13 months before losing our brother Gerald . We were always a very close family and it was doubly hard losing two brother so close together. My family used to be a large one, I had three brothers and three sisters, three were younger and three were older. Now there is just us four sisters and my older sister is 2 years older than I am, she just turned 80 years old last July. So, instead of having 2 older brothers and 1 older sister, I now find myself the next to oldest in the family with 1 older sister and 2 younger sisters. I have one sister who is 4 years younger, the brother we lost in 1994 was between her and I in age and the youngest sister is only 67. I guess that is the hardest thing about getting older, losing so many of those you love. Gone, but never forgotten. Their love will always be remembered by those who are left behind.

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'Gone, but never forgotten.'
How very true.mThat was a nice tribute to your dear brother Dotm.Your post leave a lasting iimpresseion and so did this one. I really feel that brother Gerald must be smiling in heaven and feeling proud of you.
Oh, Dot, such a heartwarming post. Your brother, Gerald, was such a courageous man, and you such a wonderful sister. I know how much you miss telling him goodnight. God bless you, my dear, sweet friend.

Take care, and I hope we can continue to communicate if only in this way. You're a very special lady! (((hugs)))
Your brother was a tough soul.
One that doesn't know what quit is.
They don't make people like that any more or not enough of them.

I have known a lot of them, a few i will never forget for their courage and determination until the end.
Those are the people who know how to live.
Thanks Hip Grandma, His last thoughts were for us, his sisters. He was liked by everyone who met him.
Thanks for dropping by. I love hearing from you.
Thank you Sally, I have missed coming to every ones blogs and will try to do better in the future. I would also like to keep hearing from you and send my "Hugs" back to you. My friend, you can also e-mail me any time you wish.
Hi Walker, Yes he was a tough fighter and took everything that was handed to him without giving up. I remember my mother once telling me that my brother was real sick with pneumonia twice when he was a baby and they were worried, but he beat it both times. Being 4 years older than I am, I never knew this till my mother told me. Thanks for the kind words. I was lucky to have had three wonderful brothers and they will always be missed by me and my family. Thanks for stopping by.
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