Grandma is losing her leg

Grandma is losing her leg after 10 weeks in the hospital with a short stint in a rehab center. The bacterial infection has come back with a vengeance (for the fourth time) and this time will take her leg.

The doctor gave her three choices: amputate one leg, both legs (the other foot has started to change color) or get on hospice. My Uncle stood next to her as the doctor spoke and she cried uncontrollably – the first time I’ve ever heard of her being anything else but composed.

doctor's scope from Grandma is losing her leg blog

We’ve never had a hallmark grandmother/grandchild relationship and never will, but despite our differences she has taught me an important lesson nevertheless…

Janet Irene Ruth was born a little after the Great Depression and that’s about all I know of her upbringing. She had a sister and got married relatively young.

Unfortunately Janet married a man who loved the bottle and beating his family. My mother and uncle were a product of their marriage. Janet eventually left her husband when my Mom was in her preteens, but her oblivion and disconnection from reality stayed.

Grandma would call the house phone every week to talk to Mom and if one of her grandkids accidentally answered the phone instead, she’d skip over pleasentries and demand we put our mother on the phone.

A weekend visit from Grandma meant preparation for nonsenseical demands that I could never get right. She liked to bark orders and being the oldest, I got the brunt of it. “Help your mother with the dishes, Shannon. Go check on your sister, Shannon. Did you take the dogs of a walk, Shannon? Get me my drink, Shannon.”  

I would vent to my mom about how unfair she was being and my mom would say, “She’s just confused, her mother raised me so she thinks it’s her job to raise you. I’ll remind her once more it’s not her job.”

cinderella do the dishes - grandma is losing her leg

Grandma never failed to comment on my weight each time she visited and was a firm believer that gum before dinner meant a spoiled appetite. She was not the grammy who kissed boo-boos or hid York peppermint patties in her cubbards for you to find.

But that’s not how I’ll only remember her.

On nights me and my siblings slept over, Grandma and I would cuddle up on her armchair to read a story. She’d grab whichever suitable kid book lying around and have me read it out-loud.

She also had a closet full of shoes and clothes she’d let me play dress-up in.

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I’d clunk down the hallway in heels two sizes too big for my feet wearing her dress slip like a summer wrap. She’d clap, tell me I looked gorgeous and instruct I go find another outfit to dazzle in.

She’d also let me sit at her desk and play on the typewriter. “Write me a story,” she’d say. I’d clack away, pushing the keys down as hard as I could to write her a short story. I’d shout, “Ok, Grandma I’m done!” and she’d turn her attention back to me and say, “Alright, read it to me!”

It didn’t matter how many times I scuffed her shoes down the wooden hallway or how long I clacked away at the typewriter. If I had more gas in the tank for another story or fashion show, she’d clap or listen for as long as necessary.

In those moments she got it right. She was the Hallmark grandparent and for those moments of “grandparent clarity,” I  look past her shortcomings and can truly say I really do love and adore my Grandma, because at the end of the day no-one else can be her.

It’s been six years since I’ve seen her and a lot has changed. Our last conversation proved her mind is on a loop and her sense of time has warped, but our relationship has recently made a gray area in my world seem a little brighter and easier to understand.

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I suffer from my own type of disconnection. Instead of being oblivious to life truths and reality like Grandma, I’m terrible at understanding the value in relationship connections outside of my small circle. I’ve written about my disconnection in another blog, you can catch up here.

It’s incredibly difficult for me to tolerate people who I deem as unworthy of my time. I’ve learned my [friendship] test is a tough one to pass (I’m working on it, don’t worry ;)) and this makes me sound like an ass, but this test of who I let in and out is how I’ve kept myself safe for so many years.

But this strict test doesn’t have bend for people you’re forced to have contact with on an every day basis that you don’t want to have contact with, and this is where ol’ Grandma gave me some perspective.

I accepted my Grandma for who she was a long time ago and stopped holding her to the standard of grandparents I had in my head, instead I appreciated her for who she was in my life and loving her came easier.

Letting go takes on a whole new meeting when you understand its content.


A few weeks ago I was able to finally get Grams on FaceTime while she was trying to recuperate at the hospital. Nothing like seeing reality for it to hit you.

Grandma is very sick.

As of yet, Grams has opted to amputate (above the knee) her right leg and will go into surgery within the next 24-48 hours. I worry she won’t wake up from the procedure and if she does, I’m not certain she’ll survive the post-op.

Thousands of miles separate us so I won’t be able to give her an encouraging hug before she goes under, but I can hope she’ll sense these next pile of words and feel me with her.

I love you Grandma.

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The V.A. Hospital is a Joke

Dear Mr. President & South Dallas V.A. Hospital Director,

The Veterans Affairs Hospital in South Dallas is the most atrocious building, company and hospital I’ve ever had to set foot in. The receptionists you employ to handle the front face of your organization are horrible, rude and miserable human beings. I hope that with this letter, it challenges you to take a closer look into how the people who selflessly fought for this country, are being treated with such a lack of respect, a dog wouldn’t bother its time.

On February 6, my husband and I spent almost six-god-forsaken-hours at your E.R. not counting the two hours it took to drive both ways. He didn’t even get to see a doctor. A total of 10 hours wasted at the hands of your entire staff. Tell me, how would that make you feel? Do you remember what it feels like to be treated like a peon?

The whole fiasco started a week ago, when my husband injured something near his groin area. After two days without a change in the swelling or pain, that Wednesday morning he called his primary doctors office in Denton, another V.A. clinic, to schedule an appointment. That receptionist took down his information and promised a phone call by the end of the day.

No such call came, instead an explanation that appointments could be made after business hours, implying my husband needed to practice patience. So he did, for three more days until on Friday when he left work early to sit in their offices until they had to see him. It’s hard to promise a phone call to someone when they are standing in front of you.

His primary doctor explained that he wasn’t sure what was causing the inflammation but that if it were him, he’d make a trip down to the V.A. hospital in South Dallas. A urology appointment could take at least a month, and with it being so close to the family jewels, it was in his best interests to make sure nothing major was wrong.

So here we are, still waiting, staring at this faux wood walls waiting to hear his name called. So that he can vanish behind the mysterious doors that are so damn hard to get through. Where nobody knows how to get in, but plenty have made it through, just not my husband.

A women at the from desk, rudely waves off my husband at the four hour mark, when he questioned if his name had already been called. “You’re still waiting for a bed.” She couldn’t even remove her eyes from the computer screen to give him the shitty news. Where did these people, if they can even be called that, get their people skills? Didn’t they receive any customer service training?

These same employees were chumming it up with their fellow coworkers while texting and browsing around on their phones. A constant show of how much they didn’t care about the people waiting beyond their plastic patrician. What a bunch of disgusting individuals.

But it’s true, isn’t it? They don’t care, because this hospital gives “free” health care to its guests and if you don’t want to receive the free part, you are more than welcome to visit a regular E.R. I heard that solution come from a few of your employees mouths, as a problem solver for other wannabe patients. Is this how you want to be represented?

Two more hours have passed, and this time it’s my turn to do the questioning, women to women. “Hey, I was just wondering if there is any way you could tell me how much longer it’s going to be, we’ve been here almost six hours.”

Without as so much of  glance my way she told me, “he’s still waiting on a bed.” She never even asked about my last name.

“We’ve been here longer than all the people in this waiting room, you can’t give me any information on how much longer it’s going to be, or where he is on the list?”

“No, we have a priority list and that is how we see our patients.”

I had tears in my eyes because of how frustrating it was, words couldn’t describe the feeling, only the sounds of steam coming from my ears and my teeth grinding gave truth to my emotions, furious.

“Well when will my husband be a priority? How much time do we have to pay before he is allowed a doctor?”

I have few suggestions for how to better operate this lack of professional taste and common courtesy company, and it’s to employ people who have a heart. Administer attitude and personality tests, those in the green are only allowed to deal with the public, the rest of your barbarians can work with behind closed doors.

The amount of disrespect shown in such a small space is sickening. I have dealt with the public since I was 15-years-old and I have always treated people the way that I would want to be treated. Communication is what makes all relationships work, and it’s a crying shame the people in charge of this world don’t know that.

It’s a shame our own country can’t protect the same people who fought to protect them. They fulfilled their contract, now fulfill yours. If small business owners ran their businesses the way the government runs theirs, they would be out of business and maybe that’s the solution to the problem.

Get your act together.


An angry, taxpaying, higher educated, concerned and frustrated wife.

“Shinseki Obama VA hospital”Jeff Koterba May 22, 2014

**Update** A little over a week later the V.A. called my husband asking if he was okay. The hospital called his name at 5 a.m. the next morning (11 hours after we arrived) and he wasn’t there. They were calling to make sure he was still alive …