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|Newsletters: Down Home with Nancy|
Down Home with Nancy
Bright and principled, 49 year old Nancy Harvey has a well-balanced, practical and spiritual approach to life and its many challenges. Nancy has had Crohn’s disease since she was in her early twenties. Her Crohn’s was exceptionally severe, with no remissions, and as she recalls, “there were few treatment options back then.” In 1980, following a major bowel resection, she ended up on TPN. Luckily, she is able is eat what she wants, although with her short bowel, she watches her intake before going out.
The bulk of her nutrition is taken at night. Nancy infuses a 3-liter bag of TPN over 12 hours. Her husband, Jim, plays a big role in her care. “Jim grew up helping out at home, so helping out around our house and with the TPN is no big deal to him,” says Nancy. He and Nancy enjoy the time they spend together hooking up each night. As she explains “It’s always been a good time for us to chat.” Although she admits that, “Sometimes, if we’re not careful, we start talking and forget where we are in the process — which can be a problem.”
Nancy and Jim live on two acres outside Jefferson City, Missouri, with their many animals: geese, ducks, four dogs and two cats. She jokes that with her short bowel syndrome, she relates well to the geese’s quick digestive system. Her main companions, though are the dogs — most of them mutts she found abandoned. They’re all different sizes, and all react differently to the TPN. “One of the dogs is afraid to be near me when I’m infusing,” she explains, “and another is very protective.” A third dog even sleeps with Nancy when she’s hooked up!
According to Nancy, pets provide good companionship and shouldn’t be too much of a safety concern for consumers to keep in their home. She stays away from the cats when she is infusing, and is careful when she pets them (to avoid a scratch which could get infected), but so far she’s had no problems. Well, almost no problems. Once, many years ago, she was sleeping when a thunderstorm woke up her German Shepherd. He was scared, and as he jumped up, he got tangled in the lines. He ended up pulling the spike from the bag. “It was a big mess, but it sure was funny,” she recalls. “It was back in the days when I used to mix my own bags. So while Jim mopped the floor, I just mixed another bag and hooked up again.”
Be Happy: Stay Active
Nancy has taught French for most of her adult life. She stopped working two years ago because of a complication from breaking her leg in 1996. At the time, her catheter was in the leg that was broken. She had trouble healing from the pin they inserted and eventually her line became infected, leaving her with one good vein for TPN.
Even though she’s retired, Nancy stays busy. She and Jim moved to a new home, where she volunteers at the school up the road. She shops; she enjoys cooking for family and friends; and has even taken to writing. She’s had three articles published, two on euthanasia (accessible at www.FirstThings.com, search by author “Nancy”). Her interest in the topic stems from her experience with her own health problems. She feels consumers are at risk. “TPN afford us a good quality of life, but it’s terribly expensive. Some people don’t understand, and may feel it’s not worth paying for,” she explains.
Her advice to other consumers who aren’t working, is to get out and volunteer. “It’ll raise your spirits,” says Nancy. She suggests working with kids. “They’re just thrilled to have some attention, and it’s as easy as reading a story for an after-school program.” She continued, “All schools are eager to have volunteers. You can help as much or as little as you like.” Nancy uses a cane and says the kids clamber to help her. She thinks it’s great for them to be exposed to people who are different or disabled. “It helps them realize that if challenges come their way, they can still move forward with their life,” she adds.
Nancy is grateful for her strong support network and her faith. Her husband, parents and friends are all behind her when she needs them. “I was lucky. When the disease hit, I wasn’t devastated because I knew what’s important in life.” Twenty-some years later, her disease and therapy are still just one part of her normal, full life. Her secret: “You need to reach out and enjoy life — care for the people around you. No matter how sick you are, you can still show love, and people today are starved for affection and concern.”