Thursday, June 25, 2015

Who Gampa USED to be - Kathleen Gibson

Ah, fresh air. Standing outside the house with then six-year-old Dinah Jane one pleasant evening, I took a deep breath. And inhaled at least three mosquitoes.
“Oh, brother,” said I, “let’s get back in the house before we catch West Nile!”

“What’s West Nile, Nana? Can we still play with that when we catch it?” she asked.
Her questions startled me. Not until then did I realize that our grandbeans, as we call our grandchildren, have little understanding of my husband's ongoing struggle with neurological West Nile Disease. In many ways, we’ve moved past the 2007 invasion of what we called “the pirates.” We seldom name it in their presence. Life is full, God keeps sending daily strength and our blessings far outnumber our troubles.

But perhaps it’s time to explain to the little ones just why their grandfather can’t run and play like many other men his age. Why he uses a walker, a cane or a scooter. Not even the eldest, four years older than Dinah, can remember when Gampa could chase a ball, shingle a roof, swim a hundred lengths, climb down into a cave or slam a shuttlecock over a net. If he could suddenly do those things, they'd welcome them – but perhaps they’d also miss the grandfather they know and love now. 
To them, Gampa's the grey-haired, bearded mountain of a man who gives them rides on his walker, and lets them drive his scooter. The gentle giant who quietly slips from the room when they get too noisy. The Candy-man who adores giving gifts and watching kids’ shows. The man who takes frequent naps, and stays home while Nana goes to work.

Of course, he does far more than that. That’s the kid’s eye view. And that’s how they love him. How we all love him.
Every summer, the media reports West Nile statistics, along with the usual warnings: Eliminate standing water. Stay inside between dusk and dawn. Wear repellant. (And no, certain well-known linaments, mouthwashes, and body oils cannot substitute for Deet). But nothing warns better than a personal story.

Rick, then 54, contracted WND in 2007. He spent six months in hospital and rehab centre, battling his way back from not knowing his own name or the names of his vegetables to remembering both. From paralysis in three limbs to limited mobility. Except for our faith in God and supportive family and community, we could not have endured the upheaval the mosquito injected into our lives.
My book, West Nile Diary, One Couple's Triumph over a Deadly Disease, details our journey. It's a journey that carries on today, as WND-related complications spiral Rick's health slowly downward, just as the long-term research indicated it would. We grab the happy moments and the opportunities to share God's faithfulness -- in spite of our particular pirate.

As we've watched the reporting on West Nile Disease, we've noted that a greater percentage of people – almost half – who become ill from WND, contract the more serious neurological form. In 2007, it afflicted only a small minority. This means there's even greater reason to take mosquitoes seriously. Worldwide, the bug still kills more people than anything else.

We thank God for what remains. We count our blessings. We swat mosquitoes. And sometimes, we still tell our story.

Kathleen Gibson is a writer, broadcaster and newspaper columnist. She and her clergyman Rick Gibson, have shared their story widely. This Sunny Side Up column was previously published in various Western newspapers.


Peter Black said...

Kathleen, thank you for providing these engaging reflections and the update on Rick's and your WND journey — your triumphing together over that distressing and deadly disease. Inspiring. No doubt your account, through your writings and book and testimony, will have great value in impressing on others the importance of taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites. ~~+~~

Lux G. said...

So those mosquitoes. :D
But thanks for this post. Always lovely to read your work.

David Kitz said...

I just killed a mosquito before I read you post. Thanks for caring and loving your mountain of a man now and throughout a dark time.

Kathleen Gibson said...

You know...I should listen to myself. After all that, I barely wear mosquito repellant, mainly only in late summer, when most of them are carrying WND. Like most people I hate the feel of the stuff. And I'm (likely foolishly) thinking that if I didn't get it before.... Uh oh... Thanks for your kind words.

fudge4ever said...

It was good to hear an update about your husband, and also a reminder to take those skeeters seriously!
Pam Mytroen

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