Prayers for our Nation

By Tina Cameron

My heart is yet broken again. Prayers, hugs, and love again being sent to people that I have never met. Facebook status being changed again for “Prayers for _____”. I have said it before in a blog–ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! That was in response to Law Enforcement Officers being beaten, shot, stabbed and murdered on a daily basis. Today is about the horrific shootings this weekend in two different cities–El Paso and Dayton.

I live in the land of the free, home of the brave. We do not live in a country that is in a war. This is The United States of America. People should not need to live in fear to go run errands at Walmart, the mall, or to go out with friends to a nightclub/bar to have a fun time. I have no words after these tragedies this weekend. Just tears, fear, and anger. Tears for the innocent people murdered in cold blood. For the 8 week old baby whose 25 year-old mom who was murdered as she shielded her newborn. This poor innocent child will never know his mom other then through words and pictures from his surviving family members. Numerous people were killed Saturday, August 3rd, 2019 at a Walmart shopping center in El Paso. They were doing what a lot of us do on Saturday mornings–running errands, grocery shopping, back to school shopping for their kiddos. When the unimaginable and unfathomable happened again in America–another mass shooting. So many people murdered, so many more injured and remain hospitalized. The young person responsible for this appears to be smiling on the still photo the police released as he walked into Walmart to unleash his mayhem. I read he left a manifesto. I do not want to read anything about this monster. The public needs to focus on the victims and their families, law enforcement, first responders, and the hospital medical teams who worked to save these people. Then I wake up to hear the news of another mass shooting in Dayton. Many died, many injured. Thank God, the shooter was stopped before killing more people.

I am one person, who cares for everyone, and I feel helpless because I do not know what to do to help these people. Prayers, hugs, and love are not enough to save the American people from these monsters that are living near us. I cannot fathom how someone could have that much hate and anger in them. Daily or weekly mass shootings do not belong anywhere in our beautiful country.

Fear has now become a part of mine and others’ lives. I now own a small handgun for protection at my home, however many places like Walmart do not allow guns in their store, so what are we to do to protect ourselves? Children should not witness their parents being slaughtered as well as parents watching their innocent 2 year-old be shot.

Anger, anger, and more anger. This is what I have felt since Saturday. I do not personally know anyone who has been shot in the mass shootings, however I have friends who know people shot and killed in the mass shooting that occurred in Las Vegas. Just this weekend, it was announced that a student was arrested for making terrorist threats and videos about shooting up the school. This is a private Catholic school where my nephew just graduated from, my niece attends school at and my brother coaches at. This is the closest I have come to a potential incident happening affecting someone I love. Thank God that law enforcement was made aware and the student has been arrested before he could carry out any shootings.

As much as these mass shootings continue to happen, I have to believe in my heart that there are more good people then evil in the world. We need to come together as a Nation and shout from the rooftops ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!! We need to spread kindness, not hate. We are all the same!! So, as I sit here typing this, my thoughts remain with the victims and the families of these senseless shootings. Please know that America’s heart breaks with you. Continued prayers for them, law enforcement, first responders and medical staff.

#spreadkindness
#loveoneanother
#weareallthesame
#prayersloveandhugs
#prayersformankind
#prayforamerica

Living with a Chronic Illness

By: Tina Cameron

Not many people know that my two sons and I have a chronic illness that has no cure. It all began when my oldest was 9 years old. He was injured in his karate class (kicked accidentally in the head) by another kid. He was close to having a detached retina, had a black eye, busted blood vessels and spent 8 weeks wearing an eye patch. What we didn’t realize for several weeks was that this kick to his head turned out to be a blessing in disguise. He started having a “clicking” sound when he would move his head up and down or left and right. He thought it was a party trick. Little did we know that it was actually very serious. From his pediatrician’s office we were sent straight to Palmetto Health Richland for STAT CT Scans of his neck and spine. I began getting nervous as they kept coming to get him for more scans. At last, I heard my name being called and looked up and it was the radiologist with my son and tons of CT films in hand. She said Dr. Fred Piehl (pediatric orthopedic surgeon) is waiting for you now. I said, “it is 4:50, they are closing”. She replied, he is keeping the office open for you, you need to go now. I called my mom and my ex-husband and they both met us there.

As we all set in his office, I feared the worst. Corey was in the hallway and he spoke to us first and informed us what his condition was and that it could be life-threatening, and that Corey needed to be aware of it. He was diagnosed with Atlanto-Axial Instability of his Cervical 1 and 2 spine. He could turn, cough, sneeze or get in his head and it cause him to break his neck and with that he could break it and be fine, break it and become a quadriplegic instantly, or break it and it kill him instantly. We went home in shock. Everything changed, from how his bed was positioned, to never being able to play contact sports, diving in my parent’s pool, and his karate career was over. He was also home-bound from school for 9 months. He was 9 hours short of getting his black belt. He what is edsalso taught two classes of karate a week. We were sent to a neurosurgeon and neurologist as well geneticist. After our first visit to the neurologist, he said I think you all have this rare connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Type 3. He told me to look it up and then sent us immediately for lab work on another floor in his office building. Shortly after his labs were drawn and we were waiting to leave, Corey grabbed his head and said, “I don’t feel well”. He proceeded to fall out of the chair, had a Grand-Mal Seizure and quit breathing and his heart stopped. I am a nurse and at that moment, I freaked out and was only the mommy. Thank God there were two other nurses there for lab work that revived him. We were on campus of the Children’s Hospital, so we were admitted from the emergency room for the weekend. He was also having incontinence of urine and numbness/tingling in all his extremities. Seizures also go with the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).

Once we had the official diagnosis from the geneticist, I became obsessed with finding everything I could about it. My friends who are physicians had not seen cases in over 20 years. It can affect your heart and affects all your connective tissue in your body, it affects your skin. The type we have, type 3 is now called hEDS (hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome). There are now 13 different type of EDS. It is a group of inherited connective tissue disorders caused by abnormalities in the structure, production and/or processing of collagen. So, we have faulty collagen. Collagen supplements do not work for us, because it is our DNA that is screwed up. Basically, the boys and I have easy bruising, easy bleeding, incisions after surgery do not stay closed and we are extremely hypermobile and have soft, stretchy skin. We are prone to multiple dislocations daily, pain all over, bruises that come from something as simple as rolling over in bed. EDSers also have multiple medicine and food allergies and Corey and I do. This condition is hereditary, so unfortunately if my children have kids, there is a 50/50 chance their kids will have it as well. The most serious type is vEDS (vascular EDS)-this is where most people do not live past 35 and they usually die unexpectedly from an aortic dissection. My older son has the most serious case of hEDS out of the three of us and I have it moderately and my youngest just has it mildly.

When Corey was growing up, he began having dislocations from changing his shirt or raising his hand in class, to hip dislocating from walking in the school halls. He went through extensive physical therapy for 3 months and to this day must work out daily. We ended up not having the rod placed in his spine and gradually the numbness and incontinence went away. His instability in his C1 C2 spine has closed some which is wonderful. He learned how to put his shoulder or hip back in place on his own to avoid trips to the ER.

My hip has dislocated once, my shoulder 3-4 times from rolling over in bed when sleeping. I am in constant pain all over almost daily. My knees are bad and slip out at times, so I have braces to wear as needed or when I run. Bruises on my body, stay about 8 weeks where on normal people, just a few days. I even get bruises from fire ant bites.

Both boys have had complete knee reconstructions, at age 16 and age 26. We know we will be facing knee and hip replacements as we age. This condition affects our eyes, our teeth, and pretty much our whole body. Most people with hEDS also have Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, migraines, and more.

Knowing that you have a chronic illness with no cure is a hard pill to swallow. However, I try not to let it run my life. I deal with the pain and take Advil with me everywhere. There are days, I hurt so much all over I cannot get off the couch. Many physicians have not ever heard of EDS and many do not believe the patient and think they are hypochondriacs. Family members also doubt us (not mine), but people that I have met in online support groups. We started calling ourselves Zebras because in Med School, thewhy the zebra students are taught to that when you hear hooves, think horses, not Zebras. In medicine, the term Zebra is given to a rare disease or condition. That is how we became known as medical Zebras. Because of the complex nature of our disorder, we are followed by primary care, rheumatologist, geneticist, cardiologist, physical therapist, gastroenterologist, urologists, neurologists and many more specialists as things arise. Some of the friends I have made in my support group are already on disability at 22 and 32 years of age, so I feel blessed that as of right now, my joints have tightened up, I can deal with the pain and that thank God, we do not have the vascular type. I thank God everyday that my boys otherwise are healthy and that Corey’s doing much better and is in great physical shape.

eds scoreSo, the next time you see a contortionist on America’s Got Talent, more than likely, they have Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. And, if you see someone parked in a handicap space get out and they can walk (just slowly) or is young and, in a wheelchair, —do not judge. Not all disabilities are visible. Because of so many people in the medical field not knowing or even understanding EDS, awareness needs to be widespread globally. Fortunately, May is EDS Awareness month and with numerous online support groups on social media, we are getting the awareness out on what this disorder is. What we need most is for our physicians to believe our symptoms and not dismiss us, or think we are hypochondriacs. There are genetic markers for vEDS, so I am not sure why medical professionals are not believing genetic testing.

eds meme

One Year Later: The Grief Continues

By Tina Michelle Cameron 

Today marks the one-year anniversary of making the difficult decision to send my sweet Haley Michelle-my beloved Yorkie over the Rainbow Bridge. My first blog was about her because it was so fresh and raw; today, one year later, it is still so painful. Pet grief is real. People that are not dog lovers do not understand. Haley was in my life for almost ten years. She brought such joy to my life and to my sons lives (even though they thought she was a girl’s dog and thought I was crazy to dress her up in dresses). They grew to love her and even talked sweet baby talk to her. She was always so happy to see them when they came home and couldn’t wait to greet them at the door when they returned home from college for the weekend.

Call me crazy, but Haley was “my daughter I never had”. I often joked I didn’t have to send her to college, I could take her places with me, dress her up in dresses, pajamas and Haley 2hair-bows (she hated the hair-bows and could shake them out in about 10 seconds). She loved cheese and knew where it was located. Like clockwork every morning, she would go potty and then return and sit in front of the fridge until she got a small bite of a cheese stick. When she was a puppy, every night, she would carry her baby (stuffed animal) up to bed. She would go tell the boys goodnight and sit outside their door until they told her goodnight.

Haley was sick from 8 months on with several major illnesses and each time she would get sick, I thought it was going to be time to say goodbye. She went into liver failure at age 2 and I was told she would not live to be four. So, I decided she would eat whatever her little heart desired. Besides cheese, she loved Cheetos and chicken. In a million years, I never thought at almost 10 years old, her liver enzymes would be normal, and she would be diagnosed with a rare pancreatic cancer. This cancer would ravage her tiny body. First, with weight loss (despite having a great appetite), then with low blood sugars, seizures, no appetite for food or water followed by bleeding. Twelve days after diagnosis, I made the difficult decision to end her suffering. I wrapped her inHaley 1 one of her blankets, held her and told her how much I loved her through the tears. Before I could get the words “I’m not ready yet” out of my mouth, the second medicine was given by the vet and it was over. The sweet vet tech took a picture of me holding her just before that and Haley perked up for a second, looked at the camera (she hated having pictures taken) and appeared to be smiling and at peace. I know I did the humane thing by ending her suffering, but my heart still hurts. I still cry when I think about her. My sweet daddy came over that afternoon and we buried her in my backyard. I allowed my other pets to see her and say goodbye. I made her burial site a little flower garden which makes me smile when I look at it.

Peyton grieving for Haley

Peyton grieving the loss of Haley

The loss of a pet is real and painful-not just for the owners, but also for the other pets in the family. Peyton, my other Yorkie is still not herself. She stares out the window for most of the day, doesn’t play like she used to, and will cry on my lap for no apparent reason. I know with time, my grief will get easier, but for now it is still painful. Writing about her today on the first anniversary has helped me get through the day.

Zookeepers are Special People

By Tina Michelle Cameron

If you follow my blogs, then you know that I am a huge animal lover and you know that I have been a volunteer at Riverbanks Zoo since July 2017. I volunteer in The Farm and Zebra/Ostrich areas. I have the pleasure of working with several amazing people who are full-time zookeepers. I decided to write about them and let everyone know a little bit about these special people who I have the privilege of working with.

The person that interviewed me when I applied to become a volunteer and that I have

Jessica with horse

Jessica

worked the longest with is Jessica. She is 27 years old, married and a mommy to a beautiful 5-month-old little boy. She also has several fur-babies at home. She has always had a love for animals and has always wanted to work with animals since she was little. When she was in high school she volunteered at the zoo and realized that was where she wanted to be. She has been a keeper for 8 years. She went to Purdue University in Indiana and has a BS degree in Animal Science.

Jessica with OpossumHer favorite animal is a jaguar, but her favorite animal at Riverbanks Zoo are Plum and Basel—who are two of our new baby goats. She loves knowing that she is a part of enhancing the lives in the care she gives the animals and with teaching the public new facts about the animals. Her hobbies include hiking, kayaking, and going to the beach to fish.

Mallory is 32 and from North Carolina and is also a mommy to fur-babies that include a dog and 2 chinchillas. She also served 6 years in the Air Force. Mallory also knew growing up that she wanted to do something with animals. At first, she wanted to be a marine biologist or a vet tech, but then discovered a

Mallory with Giraffe

Mallory

zoo-keeping program and became a zookeeper. She has a degree in Zoological Science Technology. She has been at Riverbanks Zoo since 2017 and was recently promoted to a swing keeper and is working in the cat/bear area. How cool is that to work with lions and grizzly bears.

In addition to all that she has accomplished, she also has an Elementary Education degree. We have become good friends, and this was a new fact I learned about her this week. Her favorite hobbies are gardening and photography, and Mallory with sealher favorite animal is the platypus because it is an egg-laying mammal! Her favorite experience she has had was going to Kenya for 20 days last year to see how conservation efforts work and how they protect the animals there.

Last, and certainly not least, is Laborde- “the only male in the Farm area” as we know and love him. Laborde is 30 years old and has been in the zoo “industry” as he says for 6 years and a zookeeper for 18 months. He has an

guy with horse

Laborde

Associates Degree in Zoo Animal Technology from Santa Fe College. He will be leaving the Farm area as he recently was promoted to work with the gorillas/monkeys.

He knew he wanted to work with exotic animals without having to travel. His favorite animal are alligators. He enjoys going to swamps and finding them. He also likes working with the Capuchin Monkeys- he says, “they have so much personality and intensity; and, it is like watching reality TV every time he works with them”. His favorite guy with snakeexperience as a zookeeper was taking the ponies into the river at the zoo. He also enjoys watching You-tube.

I hope you enjoy reading about some of these wonderful zookeepers that I get to work with. I have learned so much in my time there about animals and conservation. Zookeepers get to know these animals, their behaviors, mannerisms and will notice if something is wrong with them. They work in the hot, cold, and rainy weather. They must also watch the weather in order to keep the animals safe. They are caregivers and educators; so next time you visit the zoo and see a zookeeper, thank them for what they do—because they deserve it.

Enjoy the photos.

My First Trip to the Greenville Zoo

By Tina Michelle Cameron

Today I went to Greenville for the first time and went to the Greenville Zoo. It is in the middle of the city on a cute little side street not far from the interstate. As many of you know, I love animals and I am a volunteer at Riverbanks Zoo going on 2 years.giraffe pic

The Greenville Zoo is smaller than Riverbanks, but it does offer a wide variety of animals to see. It has a park/playground area and picnic area near the entrance. It is very affordable, and the map is easy to read. Despite the hot weather, there was a breeze and it was slightly overcast at times. Apparently, when I arrived at 1:20 pm I had just missed all the school buses leaving, so it was perfect. There were only about 15 people walking around.

flamingo picThere are a variety of animals to see from different species of monkeys, to lions, to an alligator, snapping turtle, and a red panda. The food prices were reasonable, and the staff were very friendly. The animals are surrounded by lots of trees and plants and they all looked happy. There are also areas for small kids to play in.

So, if you are looking for a short-day trip, Greenville is just up the road about 90 minutes. Enjoy the pictures of my afternoon.

 

I Did It!

By Tina Michelle Cameron

I did it! I did it! After 2 ½ years of taking classes as prerequisites and being accepted into the RN to BSN Mobility Distance Learning Program at The University of Alabama last May—I am now able to say I am an alumna! Class of 2019!

FullSizeR004

My graduation day was May 3rd, 2019 at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I had worked so hard to get to that point I wanted to experience all I could as a Senior. I had Senior pictures on campus made, I decorated my graduation cap which got numerous comments on how pretty it was. It was a wonderful weekend. I have dreamed of earning this degree for so long. I have been a nurse for 28 years and once my boys were grown, it was time for me to finish what had been on my bucket list since I was 18. So, 32 years later, my dream of having a four-year degree came true.

I attended the class ring ceremony with my mom on April 4th. I absolutely love my ring and what it represents. I wear it every day. The next weekend, I drove back to Tuscaloosa and had Senior pictures made and attended the annual Spring football game—it is called A-day. That morning, I also attended a breakfast where Coach Nick Saban was a speaker. It was amazing.

Resized_20190503_165519  I am blessed that my 2 adult sons and my parents were able to attend the graduation ceremony in Tuscaloosa. I went to the Presidents Mansion reception, which was nice, followed by a separate reception for the Distance Learning students. The graduation ceremony was after that and I must admit that I was nervous walking in alone to check-in and line up with the several thousand much younger graduates. I was thrilled to get to spend 90 minutes in the football teams indoor practice field. I stood on the 50-yard line and took a selfie.

Walking in to the coliseum I became excited and tearful all at once. I finally was able to locate my family in the stands. I prayed that I did not trip and fall walking across the stage and that my pictures they took earlier would come out well. When I picked up my card for lineup it said I was graduating Magna cum laude—I had no clue. I was given a sash to wear. I did not text my family to tell them, I wanted them to be surprised. I knew I good grades, but Distance Learning students are not recognized for the Dean’s List, etc. So, I had assumed they would not recognize all my hard work at graduation, but I was wrong! This was one of the best days of my life and having my children and parents there made it better. I even wore my son’s graduation cap he wore 4 years ago when he graduated from Bama. He even gave me a note before the ceremony that he wrote me, and his note was still in his cap that I wrote him the day he graduated.

I have enclosed pictures of my day. We had a great weekend and I am so proud to have this degree. My new id badge will read Tina Cameron, BSN, RN, OCN. I cannot wait to have it changed once I go back to work from vacation. I also have been accepted into the MSN program at The University of Alabama for Fall 2019, so I cannot wait to start grad school and in 2 years have my master’s degree.

Resized_TCB_0200_811289033076249            I would like to thank all my family and my friends who have supported me the past 3 ½ years. You will never know how special each of you are to me and how much I appreciate each of you.

 

 

Riverbanks Petting Zoo

By Tina Michelle Cameron

As many of you know if you read my posts or are friends with me on Facebook, I am a weekly volunteer at Riverbanks Zoo in the Farm area, Zebra/Ostrich and the Education Center. I have been there almost two years and it is the highlight of my week on Tuesday mornings. It is physically demanding, especially in this heat, but I absolutely love it. I am tired, sore and smelly when I come home, but it is a good kind of tired, soreness and well, not so good smell.

IMG_1550  If any of you have been to the zoo since January, you may have noticed that the ponies are gone. They are now living on farms and having a great retirement. I have a great friend, Darlene, whose daughters’ horse is at the same stable and so I get regular pictures and updates on them. What is now in the place of the pony rides is a brand-new petting zoo that just recently opened about two weeks ago. We have several chickens in a coop, three baby piggies and as of right now, 19 baby goats that are absolutely precious and growing like weeds. There will be 11 more baby goats coming soon.

 

We have a few different types of goats; They are a Nigerian Dwarf, American Lamancha, Saanen and then one Nubian, whose name is Mike. He is my favorite new baby.  He absolutely loves people, being petted and getting attention. He is the only one that is going to be big like the other 3 goats at the Farm. 

If you are a zoo member, you get admission to it, but you can buy treats to give the goats, brush and pet them and watch them be fed by our wonderful zookeepers. The entire petting zoo is ADA compliant and I got to meet a wonderful little boy and his mom yesterday who was not able to run around like the other children, so I picked up Mike, so this sweet child could pet him. It was his first experience in petting a baby goat and it made my day.

Please come out and check out our new petting zoo. The kids are sure to love it and the parents as well. Enjoy the pictures. Mike is the one with the long floppy ears.