Thanksgiving – a time to count blessings

Many around the world are covetous of the United States’ Thanksgiving Day tradition.  I’m writing this on the fourth Thursday in November, when Americans at home and abroad gather to enjoy a celebratory meal followed by a long weekend.  They’re giving thanks for a number of particular reasons, flowing from the founding of their nation as marked by the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers at Plymouth Rock late in 1620, these settlers’ first harvest a year later, and the breaking of a serious drought in 1623.  The original thanksgiving occasions took the form of grateful Christian worship meetings rather than a high-calorie meal!

The Netherlands is my country of origin and Australia my adopted country: sadly, neither has anything like Thanksgiving… nor do many other countries (other than Canada) to my knowledge.

In this post I would like to register some of my thanks at a personal level and in regard to my writing these posts, which are a modest part of the centenary of infant pyloric stenosis (“PS”) surgery.  I regard God (as I’ve come to know God through Jesus Christ) as the ultimate maker and giver of everything that is good, and so I honour and thank God  –

  • For the gift of life which most of us today in the developed world take for granted, but which my PS scar keeps reminding me is always a tenuous gift.
  • That PS is so readily treatable by a course of medication or by surgery.  Although I have hated my scar and still have mixed feelings about it (as I do about my other personal inadequacies and battlefields), I have come to realise that without prompt surgery I might not be writing this today.  And of all the abdominal conditions of infancy, PS is not only by far the most common, but also the one that is the most easily corrected and with the least “collateral damage”.
  • For my parents who, even though as people of their time they were ill-equipped to help me understand and “own” the trauma and pain my PS surgery caused me, nevertheless suffered much and loved me through what was for them too a horrendous experience.
    More generally, I am grateful for strong women who can become assertive and even pushy mums.  The web is littered with stories of mothers who stood their ground when they are put down by a condescending doctor who belittled their prior experience of PS, their parental research, and their motherly instinct that something was seriously wrong with their baby.
  • For the hospital staff who nursed me during those first weeks of life in such a way that despite the rough-and-ready way infant surgery that was done at the time, I wasn’t added to the medical morbidity (complications) and mortality statistics.  (The psychological/ emotional after-effects were another story, but unknown at the time.)
  • That medical science, researchers and writers have during the past 100 years added unimaginably much to our understanding and skills in treating life-threatening and life-affecting medical conditions.  Whether it’s the risk factors of a relatively obvious abnormality like PS or the mapping of the brain or genes, we are far from in control, but we do feel increasingly empowered.
    More generally again, I give special thanks for doctors with good diagnostic skills which allow PS babies to start treatment before they are near death, to surgeons who know their stuff and have a deep respect for their tiny patient’s emotional and cosmetic well-being, and to parents, pediatric specialists and hospital sections with the courage and kindness to advise and try medical treatment of PS rather than letting the surgeon set the agneda.
  • That support communities and forum interaction are so common and easily formed and developed today!  As one who was deeply affected at the personal level by my PS experience, I know what it was like to live in isolation from information, explanations and others with the same nagging questions and deep aches.
  • That my two years of weekly posting at this address has met with such a strong and positive response.  Although comments have been fairly infrequent apart from those of my faithful co-blogger, they have been invariably positive, appreciative, and in harmony with my passion here.  Often they have been a complete surprise and most heartening.  And the number of visits far, far outnumbers the comments.
  • For the fact that none of my children and grandkids have developed PS.  Infant PS is known to result from any of several factors, and it seems more likely that my stressed out mother was involved in my first problem than my genetic code.
  • Generally again, I thank God that in the developed countries at least, babies today rarely die of PS.  Until some 50 years ago, there were some terrible mortality rates due to delayed diagnosis, the unavailability of suitable treatment, and surgical and post-operative complications.  Times have certainly changed!

4 thoughts on “Thanksgiving – a time to count blessings

  1. billover70

    On this Thanksgiving Day I pray the peace of Jesus to be upon you regarding this experience and all concern of this thing of the past be removed from your mind… In His Holy Name, so be it.

    Bill Hunter
    Texas, USA

  2. Fred Vanderbom Post author

    Bill backgrounded this by email –
    Seemingly, we have a couple of things in common other than the PS thing… a shy childhood and scant amount of hair on the head. 🙂
    This is what “they” told me re: my experience (I was slightly surprised to read that one person reported some detailed recollection):
    1. It was 1936.
    2. Family “knew nothing and suspected little” except they had a baby that was dying.
    3. Doctors determined that the infant was too weak for surgery and proceeded to provide nourishment through “needles in the back”.
    4. Surgery such as yours was performed on the 28th day.
    Except for praising God for all things that resulted in a positive outcome, I have spent .00001% of my time thinking about the event… I am truly saddened to learn that others are burdened by their experience.
    By the way, the reason I found your blog had something to do with Thanksgiving. As I was tossing about on my night bed and thinking of things for which to be thankful, the PS thing came to mind. I sprang from my bed and leapt to the key board of the Ethereal Communicator… and Walla!… there you were with the info I was seeking.
    I’d googled “pyloric stenosis infant mortality rate 1936”: I was searching for info regarding the degree of my good fortune. You provided what I wanted to know plus learning that I have been spared the concerns that have burdened others.
    Have a happy Thanksgiving.

  3. Wendy

    I too am thankful for having survived PS. I am happy to have made it to age 60 at which time I finally feel whole and perfect and lovable. I am thankful that I’ve been able to connect with my PS brother and others who’ve come through PS ok, and I am grateful to have been given the experience so that I’ll be able to help others through their traumas. I am grateful for all the care I received–from the surgeons, nurses and staff, and to my parents and family. And I am grateful to myself for hanging in there through the surgery and all these many years.

  4. Fred Vanderbom Post author

    So grateful for these lines, my Scar-Sister! Being thankful is not always easy as it has to be genuine to be of value, but we’re getting there. And the benefits are many and major.


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