False Alarms

There is a white plastic frame mounted on the wall that holds a black touch screen. The screen flashes with three electric, vacillating lines — one green, one white and the top one is blue: vital signs. These lines have become my friends, my enemies, the summation of my world for the past 44 days. They connect me to my infant son, to his health more specifically. I’ve memorized their frequent alarming sounds, two that inform me that he needs to be reminded to breathe, or do so more deeply, and the other tells me that something has sent his heart rate flying.

Most of the time, the NICU numbers report his condition perfectly. But then there’s a rare time where I am flustered over his breathing rate and the nurse reports that the numbers are not matching up. In reality, he is breathing fine. False alarms.

False alarms are frustrating. They create a sense of vulnerability. Of being out of control.

I’m a planner, a list maker, a detailed schedule crafter. I like to be productive, to cross things off my list, to have a plan and watch it execute beautifully. These days in the NICU, these false alarms are teaching me the importance of being OK with being out of control. I’m learning to be grateful for the thing that before I hated — not having control over details. Even the very most important details, like my son breathing healthy breaths. It is not me that keeps him breathing and it’s not my planning that keeps our life together. There is a God who powerfully keeps our health and holds the universe in place, so that I can rest at night. I’m learning to be grateful for what I used to despise — having someone besides me take control.

In this month when we celebrate gratitude as a community, reporter Kristy Crawford approached locals to dialogue about what comes to mind at Thanksgiving. People chimed in saying their difficult times became their most grateful times, their perspective was drastically changed by challenges. Urbana residents Tom and Sarah Villeneuve talked about her family’s struggle this fall where her husband Tom went through a bone marrow transplant after a cancer diagnosis. His donor was his son, Eric.

“I’m thankful for friends, family and community members who supported me and my family beginning with my cancer diagnosis through my recent bone marrow transplant, for my son Eric who willingly donated his bone marrow (and my son Matthew who was also willing to be my donor), and I’m especially thankful for those who joined the Be The Match bone marrow registry during swab drives in March and April,” Tom said.

Kim Curry-Fogarty, who lives in the Highlands, launched a massage business last year but after some significant back problems had to put her business on hold. Reflecting on this past year, Curry-Fogarty said that her gratefulness overflows.

“When we think about Thanksgiving, we picture family and friends together, gathered around a table set with a bounty of delicious food,” she said. “I realize for many families in financial distress there is no bounty. So I am very thankful for the Greater Urbana Area Food Bank. I like knowing that local families in need have this wonderful resource available to them for everyday meal needs, but especially during the holidays when so many traditions are centered around meals. Every family deserves a turkey dinner with all of the trimmings, and the food bank helps to make this possible. I am proud that our community is so supportive of it.”

The Villages of Urbana administrative staff chimed in with its thankfulness this season. Aimee Winegar, general manager of VOU, said she is grateful for the beauty of nature at this time of year.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to work for such wonderful people in Urbana,” said Melissa Kasimatis, VOU’s assistant manager.

In a month when we feast together with loved ones, keep in mind those in our area who may not have the finances to cook up their own feast, as Curry-Fogarty did. There are a number of ways that as a community we can support the Greater Urbana Area Food Bank — a food drive, community restaurant nights and even a day at Adventure Park USA. See page 8 for more details. Jo Ostby, who runs the Food Bank and has begun writing foodie pieces for us every month, offers a recipe from local chef Rich Regan of nearby Monocacy Crossing, a dish you may want to add to this year’s Thanksgiving menu. Check it out on page 5.

Take time to read Pam Schipper’s article, “A Principal Woman,” that digs into the history of Urbana-area schools and the vibrant person known as Pauline. Jane Pauline Hendrickson Runkles was the only principal in Urbana, a former teacher who began her career locally in 1924. Pauline grew up in Urbana, living in a gable-roofed home on Urbana Pike. More on Pauline can be found on the front page and on The Town Courier Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TownCourierUrbana), there is an album of photos from Pauline’s life.

Also, take a moment to note the locals who are devoting themselves to greater causes. Flip to page 3 to read about Ijamsville resident Dave Greenlees, who recently founded a non-profit organization that helps children in poverty, Trellis Arch. Also, turn to page 3 to discover the ways that former Frederick County student Brigadier General Linda Singh speaks out against sexual assault. In addition, locals participated in The Push-up Challenge early last month to raise funds for orphaned children in Haiti. See more on page 24.

As the holiday season progresses, take time to be grateful, to give back to our community and as you see individuals doing so, please let me know so we can highlight these local but often unspoken heroes in future issues of The Town Courier. To discuss this month’s issue or any activities in our local community, contact me anytime via phone at 240.409.6734 or at bethany@towncourier.com. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

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