Dear Friends, 

Greetings for the new month of March!  Yes, after a few weeks of recuperation from surgery, I am able to jot down a few notes to share with you as we start a new month.  I’m on the mend and praying for more patience.  All is well.  My basal cell skin cancer was not life-threatening, thank the Lord.  But the planned out-patient surgery had a complication that necessitated a couple of days in the hospital and more time than anticipated in recovery due to a Factor VIII blood condition (basically called a mild hemophilia) that I share with two of my brothers (Jim and Tom).  Without going into all the details, this condition crops up from time to time and causes some uncontrolled bleeding.  It is passed from mothers to sons.  Even with prior precautions taken by the medical staff for this procedure, the bleeding was pretty severe.  Thus, the best course of action was to watch the situation in the safer confines of a hospital setting rather than bleed out in my bedroom.  This also enabled me to check with an amazing hematologist and his staff to assess the situation not only for myself but for the other members of my family whose children and grandchildren and future future generations might need a clearer estimation of this factor deficiency condition for their lives.  Since I have no children and in particular no daughters, I’m ok for the future.  My brothers, however, each have two daughters, so they need to be wise about possible issues.  Thank God we live in these days when medical research and practice is so advanced and available.  

What is most coincidental is that my newest grandnephew Tommy in Columbus was born with this same condition some six months ago.  Luckily, over the decades, doctors and researchers have made tremendous strides in dealing with this medical conundrum,  much more so than when I was young.  My two brothers and I each had our own particular issues of bleeding over many years, even before we were diagnosed.  For example, I had bleeding problems with a tonsillectomy at age 14, a wisdom tooth extraction at age 30, etc. even before we had been tested for Factor VIII issues.  And my older brother nearly died from an emergency appendectomy in the 6th grade.  And yet, when I had my own appendectomy, there were no issues.  Go figure.  The mystery of the human experience!!  Normal clotting issues such as times of normal blood draws, et al. don’t seem to be affected by the deficiency.  Only when the procedure is more invasive does it seem to crop up. 

Actually, my mother tried to address the issue often with doctors when we were boys.  Obviously testing for this and using the available medical knowledge at the time were addressed; however, advancement in medicine, genome understanding, etc. have come such a long way and increased exponentially since we emerged from the caves of the ‘dark ages’!!!!!  LOL.  

Mom was relentless in sharing her thoughts with pediatricians throughout our childhood.  Finally when my youngest brother was in college, he needed to have his tonsils out.  And when a new doctor was consulted and told about the bleeding issues by my mother, he advised my folks to visit a world-renowned hematologist here in Cleveland to do further testing.  This man was brilliant. Even today, he is revered as the guy who wrote the textbook on hematology and blood issues.  He was always looking for families to further his research.  He tested the entire family and helped us to see how this deficiency has passed from mothers to their sons.  Women don’t seem to contract the issue; however they do pass it on to sons.  I’m no expert, but the mysterious world of genes and chromosomes dictates how and when this condition becomes active.  Such is the extent of my ‘deep’ hematological training thus far.  

So the verdict is:  I will live.  Actually, the experience has been a testimony once again to the tremendous talents and expertise of the medical community here in the greater Cleveland area.  The doctors and nursing staff and every person I’ve met in the hospital during this experience have been brilliant, talented, and most caring in their professional dedication.   Truly, we live in the best location in the nation.  

I’ve been so blessed in family and friends from near and far.  My siblings and their families have taken more than excellent care of me over the past weeks.  Driving me to appointments, giving me their time and selfless  attention, doing errands, etc.  My sister-in-law Jill just retired from many years of nursing and truly watched over me with loving kindness.  Our entire staff at SAM have done their usual over-the-top best in caring for the ongoing life of the parish and in making sure that your needs were met in the best ways possible and making sure that smooth sailing was the order of the day.   Neighboring priests have willingly stepped in to assist.  Our bishop and priests in the diocese looked after my needs with genuine fraternal concern.  Fr. Schlegel and Fr. Bona stayed here and added to their own work and ministry.  Fr. O’Donnell and Fr. Hudak showed their love of the SAM community with humble and thoughtful goodness.  And the people of the parish and the youngsters in school and PSR along with the entire staff have showered me with prayers and cards beyond imagining.  I cannot thank everyone enough for such outreach and concern.  It means a great deal. And I’ve been reminded again of the challenges endured by so many of our parishioners  and many good friends and relatives who deal with illness and who are in need of healing each day.  You have been on my mind constantly.  

So on I go.  I’m anxious to return to ‘active duty’ asap, but must follow the directions of the medical experts.  My job?  Stay well, obey orders, and practice patience.  The biggest cross is not being able to wear my glasses for some time.  Hence, no driving, spotty reading, and trying not to scare younger children when they see me.  For the first couple of weeks, I looked like I was beaten with a baseball bat!  While trying to pray and celebrate private masses at home, I have also caught up on DVRed programs and movies, etc. But I do miss clear sight.  So again, my deepest thanks for your concern.  Missed seeing you — literally and figuratively — but know that your spiritual and parish care has been in the good hands of our dedicated staff and ministers.  So let’s pray for more vocations to ministry so that the future of parish life may be assured.  

See you soon.  Oremus pro invicem. Soli Deo Gloria.  On reflection,  I have to smile when I think of my loving mom who consistently told doctors about the ‘bleeding tendency in some of her children’.  She knew, as all moms and dads know.  She is still smiling.  She was vindicated in her own medical assessments.  And I smile when I think that in the 1950s and early 60s we never heard about sunscreen.  We used to use baby oil and iodine.  People said, “Go out and get some sun.”  My Irish ancestors and Welsh ancestors are smiling, too.  Watch out for sunburns.  The damage can be done by one sunburn.  And thank God for dedicated medical personnel.  

Short emails are welcome.  God bless. No word yet on a new priest associate.  But keeping my fingers crossed.  

MJL