Today marks the 1 year angel-versary of my Grandma. She died last year of complications of Alzheimer’s and dementia that she had been battling for years as it slowly stole her speech and ability to communication. This post is dedicated to her today and the amazing lady that she was in my life. She was caring and kind, sweet and supportive. She made me smile and smothered me with her yummy baked goods and her calming cups of tea. I miss her immensely and look forward to the day I will see her again.
In memory of her today, is the story of a gift that she didn’t even know she “gave” to our family:
About 4 years ago I went to visit my grandma in central Pennsylvania where she has been living for over 50 years. I was there to help her clean out her apartment as she prepared to move to Florida to an assisted living facility near my parents.
There were lots of things to go through and my grandma wanted me to pick out what I wanted to keep- from dishes to pictures from photo albums and even her jewelry.
In the evening, we took a break from packing dishes and started sorting through her jewelry box full of necklaces, brooches, rings, and earrings. I came across an interesting item: a medical alert necklace.
I was shocked because I didn’t know that my grandma had any medical conditions of concern (other than the dementia), which would warrant her to wear a medical alert necklace. Obviously, she wasn’t wearing it at that moment nor do I think she had worn it in months, maybe years as it was tucked away near the bottom of the box. I turned it over to read it’s inscription:
allergic to: tetanus anti-toxin
When I asked her where this came from and if it was hers, she told me, “Yes” and mumbled something like “I don’t like wearing that thing”. Grandma was moving to an assisted living facility and she was in the early stages of dementia so her recollection of the past was a little foggy but she told me about a time when she had her tonsils taken out when she was a young mother. My dad and his brother had gone to get their tonsils taken out in high school, and she got hers out at the same time. I remember her describing that after the procedure she had blood pouring out of her mouth and that is when she got this necklace.
I asked my dad later about it and he remembers her getting her tonsils out with him and that she had to stay a while longer in the hospital due to some “complications” but he did not know anything about the medical alert necklace.
You maybe wondering why this necklace was one of the greatest gifts of my grandma’s jewelry box. As some of you know, the last few years we have been struggling with the health of our daughter trying to figure out what might be going on with her and the suspected of mitochondrial disease that some doctors believe she has. I have been doing quite a bit of research trying to figure out what has been going on in our little one’s body. One thing we had noticed is that every time she received a round of vaccinations, ALL of her symptoms worsened. We weren’t exactly sure why but had a few hypotheses. This new clue was a glimpse into my Grandma’s past medical history and a clue that another member of our family also had difficulties and complications with a vaccine: specifically the tetanus shot. But why and did this have any connection to our daughter’s health?
Here is just some of the science I dug up in my quest to understand more:
Details on the Tetanus shot offered today (likely NOT the same formulation that my Grandma had)
Clostridia Tetani is the bacteria that produces a toxin called Tetanospasim (known as Tetanus Toxin).
1960 correspondence on Antitoxin: Allergy to Tetanus Antitoxin
Paper on tetanus/autism connection: Autism and Clostridium tetani.
Connection between Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and tetanus protection: Inhibition of tetanus poisoning by vitamin B-1
2014 Report on Tonsilectomy: Study highlights tonsillectomy numbers and risks (my grandma’s surgery was probably 50 years ago… if these are the stats in 2014 I cannot imagine what they looked like when my grandma had her surgery)
There is much more out there.. but I will stop here.
I wish I could include a photo of that precious gift with this post, however after my grandma’s death I tried to find the necklace. I had given it to her and told her she HAD to wear it- especially since she was going to a new medical facility. I notified my dad and urged him to get it on ALL her medical records, which he did.
The necklace is gone, and so is my Grandma; but her gift remains. RIP Grandma.
I love you.