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Posts Tagged ‘flesh-eating bacteria’

Tonight marks the 14th anniversary of the last night that I had a living little sister. It doesn’t seem like 14 years, and her last night on earth was spent in a coma, and far, far, far away from me. She touched a lot of lives and is remembered fondly by so many.

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One year, we held a huge wedding in the backyard of our house in Winnemucca. Teddy Bear and Pinky Cat got married. Teddy still lives with me, safe in a box with his Best Man, Lucky Dog. Pinky Cat went on to live with Deni, and was lost somewhere along the line. Perhaps she died when my sister’s rental burned down. Teddy and Pinky never got divorced, they merely lived separated.

We baked a heart-shaped two-layer cake and frosted it with home-made icing that didn’t mix quite properly, so it was a pink frosting it white powdered sugar polka-dots. The stuffed animals spent their honeymoon in their tree house (pictured).

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When asked by the Mayor of Winnemucca what she would do if she was Chief Winnemucca ( a real historical figure) and all of her people were starving, but someone brought her two chicken eggs, Deni replied, “I’d scramble them and share them with everyone.”

Her family nick-name was “Sam”. When she was very little, there was a back yard baseball game. The neighborhood boys protested that girls could not play. The father in charge looked around and said, “I don’t see any girls. Oh: here’s Tommy, George, and Sam.” Sam was the name that stuck.

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Deni, Terry, Jaci

We never wore shoes, my sister and I. We walked from our house to the public swimming pool across sidewalk, asphalt, dirt, gravel, and railroad ties (the worst!) in 100 degree weather, but we never wore shoes.

My father believed that my sister got a cut on her bare foot and that was where the infection began. Certainly, the era of going barefoot was over after March 3, 2000.

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Terry, Jaci, Sam

It happened quickly. She cut her foot and washed it, then forgot. But it hurt more than usual. And her leg began to throb. and then she was sick to her stomach. She called my dad, a widower by then, and cried that she was “afraid…” She was newly married to her second husband, struggling to raise her three small children, and living in a single wide trailer my dad bought her.

Dad called me on the 2nd of March to tell me that Sam was being rushed to Reno via LifeFlight. She was in a coma already.

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She was not quite 41 years old and trying to get her life straight. She’d been a drug addict, an alcoholic, and she’d done her time in jail. She had four children by different fathers.

When Mom died in 1995, Sam was probably 17 years old emotionally. That’s what chronic alcohol and drug abuse does: arrests your emotional development. She was an alcoholic by the time she was 17.

When Sam died, she was probably 23 emotionally. She was close to Dad, and he mentored her (sometimes begrudgingly) in home repair and keeping a steady job. She wrote me long letters on how she was turning her life around.

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We fought like sisters. We giggled like sisters. She was the brave one who knew no fear; I was the shy one who needed to consider all the risks. She was a talented artist, a loving mother, and a loyal friend. She had a temper to go with those dark brown eyes.

The diagnosis was “necrotizing fasciitis” (Flesh-eating bacteria). It is a deadly form of the Streptococcal bacteria that gains entry through a wound. It can be a pin-prick size of a wound, but if the bacteria is present and there is no immunity, it begins to attack the muscles. It rapidly moves to the organs, and most people who die of it, die of Toxic Shock Syndrome when their organs simply shut down. The lucky ones may end up losing a limb, and a few emerge apparently unscathed (but deeply scarred internally).

My great-grandmother on my father’s side died of a streptococcal infection that attacked her organs. My dad believed it was the same disease, but Grandmother died in 1930 in Salt Lake City and her records were lost. We have only my grandfather’s diary entry to go by, and his description is terribly like what took my little sister down.

Both women died too young to leave small children behind.

I flew down for the funeral. It was a much harder funeral to attend than my mother’s. Mom’s death was slow and agonizing and predictable: emphysema robbed her of her ability to breathe on her own. My sister died pretty much overnight. There was no warning for me, no way to prepare myself emotionally – and then I had to face her orphans!

Chrystal cuddled up with me during the funeral. She was the oldest of the little ones. Her big brother sat on the other side of her, a young man already.

It wasn’t all sad. My brother did the eulogy and he told all the funny stories he could think of. The crowd was tense: nearly everyone who came wore their “colors” – members of an outlaw biker band that had the local city police circling the church in hopes of serving a warrant or two. My brother was still a county deputy. The pastor had never had so many obvious sinners in his church before (it was standing room only). There were childhood friends who came hundreds of miles to say “good-bye”. All the strays my sister had taken in over her short life.

Terry played the song that he said best exemplified Deni’s short life on earth, a life she embraced fully.

It brought the house down.

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I get sad when I think about the good times we had together, the bad times we shared through letters, and when I watch Deni’s kids struggle to grow up. Sam wasn’t successful by business standards, but she remains an icon of fierce loyalty and love for the hundreds whose lives were touched by hers.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥Lovin’ Denise♥♥♥♥♥♥♥
Fourteen years.

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I made no headway in de-cluttering. Seriously, I have a hard time parting with things. But I did a heck of a job cleaning & organizing. I just wish it didn’t wear me out so much.

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The loft is our library. I have never counted how many books we own and they’re only semi-organized into groups. There are more books downstairs and in my studio, and more in the boxes I packed at my father’s house in 2011 and left in storage.

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There are more books in the left-hand corner of the photo (out of sight). I tried to group things so when I do have the time and energy, and that television is gone, I can sit down with a copy of the Dewey Decimal System and organize the books. No, I am not going to number the shelves, nor am I going to try to catalog what we own.

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Yes, that is a cauldron full of rocks. No, I don’t know what I am going to do with those rocks. I hate to throw rocks out where the moss and mildew consume their natural beauty, know what I mean?

OK, so you don’t know what I mean. It’s just hard to part with rocks. I’ve pared it down to this bucket.

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These are rocks, too, but at some point in time, a human being formed, chiseled, and used these rocks until they wore down to fit the hand that wielded them: grinding stones of different sizes and shapes and one coup stick. I try not to think of the heads the coup stick was used on.

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Old pottery and insulators. We have a lot of old insulators. We do not have a lot of old pottery.

That bookcase seeds to be stripped and repainted. I’ve been hauling it around for more than 30 years, it has been painted 3 times and never stripped, and the paint is peeling. I tell you: I hate to part with anything practical, even if it is presently ugly.

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Pewter. The pewter lid in the bottom of the photo is actually a can opener for canned milk. On the flip side, there are two sharp points for indenting the can of milk. The ornate lid at the top is an anomaly. I wish I had the entire pewter set. That lid is ornate and beautiful.

The ice bucket has been in my family for years. A legend is attached to the bottom of it: “Jaci, I don’t know how old this ice bucket is. It was around when I was a kid, pre-WW2. Dad.”

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Ignore the horse. It’s a project. I need to get some galvanized tine & try to beat out new forelegs for it. I have one of the legs for a pattern. It is *not* an antique, anyway, but a replica. No, the treasure here is the trunk.

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The trunk came from Scotland in the early 1880’s when John Melrose immigrated to the United States of America. He had to sign papers that he would not take sides in the American Civil War. The Melroses are hard to trace because Phillip begat John who begat Phillip who begat John who begat Phillip who…

In Scotland, Phillip was born. He married and in 1826, John was born. John came to America. He married and in 1861, Phillip was born. Phillip married and in 1901, John was born. John was my grandfather and he had no sons, only daughters.

This trunk was my mother’s treasure and she passed it on to me, along with all of her genealogy work.

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I probably should take this down. It is hard to contemplate taking it down. The day is still raw in my memory. My son enlisted because of this day in history. This day in history is to my generation what December 7, 1941 was. The only difference between those days is that in 1941, the enemy not only declared himself, but took full credit. I’m not certain we will ever know who, exactly, was the enemy on 9/11/2001. But whoever the enemy was, a lot of heroes gave their lives on both dates. Some were soldiers and some were First Responders.

It may be awhile before I can take this down, fold it up, and retire it.

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From left to right: Arwen, with newborn Javan. Above: Sylvia Cusick Wilcox with her two children, Mary & Jack, and a beloved family pet. Sylvia died within a year of this photo due to complications from the streptococcal bacteria. My dad believed – and I do, too – that she died of flesh-eating bacteria, the same as my little sister. Necrotizing faciitis. She died in Salt Lake City in 1930 and there are no longer any records.

The dog in the last photo was someone’s beloved pup. I found the photo at a Goodwill store. He looks a little like my childhood pet, Butchey, but I think this dog is purebred Cocker Spaniel. He meant something to someone because they had his photo enlarged and framed, and probably hung it on their wall until they passed away and someone from the younger generation didn’t know who the dog was.

So I bought the picture and I hang it on my wall because it reminds me that every generation has had at least one beloved pet that was worthy of a framed photo on a wall.

(That’s a candle holder right above the dog. Goes in a mine, most likely. The long, sharp end is hammered into the wall & the sconce is at the top. I have it hanging sideways to how it would be used.)

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Godot approves of my new arrangement upstairs.

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Zith is thinking about it. She’s not sure about being relegated to the inside of an antique school desk…

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When the TV is moved out, I’ll be able to get better photos of the pump. It’s an old water pump for use with a large dredging system. It sat in the alley behind a girlfriend’s house for decades. When Don & I rented the house, we cleaned up the property. Don converted the pump into a Very Heavy Coffee Table. It takes two men to lift it and move it. That pump is all cast iron.

You wouldn’t believe the offers we’ve had on that monstrosity.

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The entry to my studio now looks pretty and clean.

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THIS is next weekend’s project: dealing with the clutter in the rest of the loft. I wasn’t up to this mess this weekend. This is going to require storage boxes and serious decluttering. Wish me luck.

(No animals were harmed in the collection of those antlers. They are all shed antlers).

The End. Or: The End until I bring the rest of the books home and I sit down and organize the books. That’s a scary thought.

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