Friday, June 22, 2007


Joey and Alex refer to Uncle Tim as "U.T." and Aunt Patty as "A.P." It's been like this for several years and we think nothing of it, but I suppose to people who aren't aware of my sons and their "verbal shorthand" for lack of a better term, it can be confusing.

They also like to use the last syllable of a word, instead of the whole word, but only for certain words. Joey "sizes" 5 days a week (exercises). Both boys like to use "chup" when they eat almost anything (ketchup). Alex really likes "cream" too (ice cream). It was goofy at first, but now it's what we expect to hear from them.

Anyway, A.P. got out of the hospital today. It's been a long week for her, with a L O N G incision on her 5' tall frame, and all those staples to deal with. She is so grateful that the surgery is over though, and as of right now it looks like she won't need chemo or radiation, so we're all thankful for that. She's always busy doing something or another, so this has been pretty tough on her. Her mom has been in a nursing home for basically 2 years, with a short stint back home, and several trips to the hospital, and A.P. goes to see her every single night after work and on the weekends A.P. and U.T. take Mary to their house for several hours at a time. In the past couple of years, Mary has had a quadruple bypass, her big toe amputated, then her leg amputated up to right below her knee, THEN her other leg amputated to the same point. This woman is still going strong! The following is an article about her that appeared in our local newspaper:

Need inspiration? At 81, Mary **** learning to walk again

Mary **** loves to walk and intends to do a lot of it ... as soon as she can.

It was difficult for her to do so the past two years because the 81-year-old diabetic double amputee literally didn’t have a leg to stand on.

Today, thanks to two new prosthetic legs, Mari is beginning to achieve her goal, and while she requires the aid of a walker, she is happy to be taking those first steps toward independence once again.

Mary resides in *** **** Health Care Center assisted living facility at *****, where she is a daily inspiration to both residents and staff.

Despite the fact that medical problems have plagued Mary’s family through several generations, she said she has never succumbed to self-pity. Her father, Antonio *******, was diabetic and walked on a wooden leg.

“Just look what a difference technology has made in artificial limbs,” she said. “My father couldn’t bend his knee and had to walk stiff legged. I can walk almost like I have my own legs. Isn’t that a miracle?”

Mary’s brother, Louis, was born with Duchene’s muscular dystrophy and died when he was 21. Her own son, John Jr., was also born with Duchene’s, and the family’s life revolved around him until he died at 28.

“My daughters (Brenda ****** and Patty *******) were easy by comparison,” Mary said. “We all pitched in to help, but most of the responsibility fell on me.”

John Jr. was diagnosed when he began to walk and was in a wheelchair for most of his school years.

“That was in the days before vans and electric lifts,” Mary said, “and I had to lift him and the chair in and out of the car. He never missed a day of school. Wherever he wanted to go, I took him.”

And “wherever he wanted to go” meant sporting events.

Mary admits she is an avid Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Indians fan as a result.

“I had to become one,” she said. “I was there all the time, what else could I do?”
The family also was and is dedicated to ***** High sports. Mary and all three children are graduates of ***** High, so they attended every baseball, basketball and football game.
“Sometimes I would get to yelling too loudly, and John would get embarrassed and tell me to be quiet. I just told him, ‘Listen, you brought me here. If I want to yell I will, and you will just have to listen.’”

Sometimes at home John would have three different radios and a TV set all on different stations so that he could listen to four different games at once. He was a statistical genius and kept stats on all of his favorite Ohio teams.”

John was determined to do everything he wanted. Mary went along for the ride.

She recalled the time they were visiting Niagara Falls, and he decided he wanted to go under the falls, wheelchair and all.

“John always said, ‘Don’t feel sorry for me. Just treat me like you do everyone else,’ she said.
“And that is exactly my philosophy too. I never ask, ‘Why me?’

“I just say, where do we go from here.”

Mary, Louis and Brenda all carried the muscular dystrophy gene, and because the family was aware that it is passed from mother to son, Brenda chose not to have any children.
Patty, who does not carry the gene, has one daughter, Holly, 31.

In 1998, Mary’s husband John died, and in 2005, just two weeks after her 80th birthday, she suffered heart failure and underwent a quadruple by-pass and mitral valve repair. Because she was diabetic, the harvesting of veins from her legs left her with poor circulation, which ultimately led to amputation.

“It was odd,” she said. “I had two little infected ingrown toenails, and they ended up costing me my legs. The doctors tried everything they could to save them, but nothing worked. I was fortunate that they were able to leave me my knees, because that makes it easier to walk with the prostheses.”

Mary lost her left leg in 2006. When she was fitted for the prosthesis, the doctor told her not to expect to be able to walk right away. The minute it was fitted she took two steps and soon was able to walk around the grocery store to do her own shopping.

The right leg amputation took place last January. Mary took four steps when fitted with that leg. Her immediate goal is to be able to walk from her chair to the dining room table and back, a requirement for leaving rehabilitation and returning to her own apartment in *** ****, where she has lived for two years.

“I don’t mind not having my own legs,” she said. “I just want to be able to walk. If you don’t try, you will never get anywhere.”

Her only regret is not being able to drive.

“She has such a good attitude,” said nurse Susan ********. “We’ve seen her through both amputations since she came here after heart surgery. Amazingly, she never gets depressed. I’ve never heard her complain.”

Johnalee ******, restorative aide in physical therapy, also is amazed. “I’d have folded a long time ago, and here she is so inspirational to others that our home activities leader, Shannon *****, has decided to go to school to learn to work with prostheses,” Johnalee said.

Mary, who said her toughness comes from her father’s ‘good old fashioned Italian bull headedness’, advises everyone to take good care of themselves.

Daughter Brenda said that after taking care of her father, brother, grandmother and son, her mother is careful about diet and health, and Patty adds that her mental health is really what keeps her going.

“I’ve never heard her say anything bad about anyone in her life,” she says.

The daughters both work in town, so they are able to visit every day. Between their visits, Mary participates actively in social programs, attends Mass, and watches sports and game shows on television.

Recently, she began watching “Dancing With the Stars.”

“I should be on my feet any day now,” she said. “And who knows, if I get these legs moving right, I may be dancing too.”

It's easy to see where A.P. gets her strength. Her mom, Mary, is a very special woman. We're just glad that they're both doing well right now!

Aunt Patty, and yes, her arm is in a sling because at the time this picture was taken she had recently had shoulder surgery.