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20 years

 

Bravest-Woman-Hed

Anne Vilma Vecchio was born in Kearny, New Jersey at 10:52 a.m. on December 3, 1947. A few days later she was resting snugly in her own crib at 431 Elm Street in Kearney. She was pretty much a pampered and much-loved child who easily grew into a pampered,.much-loved woman until God called her home at 9:47 pm on July 30, 2017.

I first met her at the Moose Lodge in Parkersburg, WV shortly past noon on July 5, 1966. My reason for stopping wasn't because I was expecting to "meet up" with someone in the bar of the Moose Lodge for a "hot date." I was a 25-year-old single guy stopping by only to have a cup of coffee and pick up the key to my parent's home (my parents managed the Moose Lodge.) My wife to be, on that day, came—with her parents—for lunch and to play the slot machines.

Anne Vecchio, a very attractive 19-year old young lady, would become my wife in 127 days. If someone had told her at that moment, after looking at my baggy khaki pants and a wrinkled, red plaid shirt (when the guys her age wore pegged pants and knew how to use a steam iron or had a mother willing to iron their clothes), I noticed her, and she noticed me—or rather, she noticed my baggy pants and wrinkled shirt. She appeared to slide behind her mother until I focused my glance elsewhere. She apparently was not too impressed.

She was playing one of the nickel slot machines, as was her mother. Her dad, a supervisor at the local DuPont plant, was the "high roller" in the family. He was playing one of the quarter machine—the wrong one. He was losing. The clingy-dingy of coins dropping into the tray beneath the bells and whistles wasn't clinging and dinging. The bells weren't clanging. All you could hear was the sound of new coins dropping into the slot and the ringy-dingy-ding of the wheel turning, followed by an inaudible sucking sound as the "house" won his money . But, he was enjoying himself and, I guess, that was what's important. My father-in-law was a short man who always had a cigar clamped between his teeth. But in stature, he was a giant of a man who was admired by everyone who knew him, especially US Senator John D. Rockefeller [D-WV] who counted on my father-in-law to deliver Wood County to his column on election day.

While I was drawn to the good looking young woman I would marry on Dec. 10 in Parkersburg, WV, a tornado was demolishing Enid, Oklahoma. The news of it was on the TV behind the bar, and although I've always been a news junkie, I didn't notice. Anne&Jon2Never knew about it until I saw it on TV later that evening. She was distracting. Dark brown eyes, olive skin, deep brown hair. She was wearing navy knit slacks and a matching navy top with a small white anchor embroidered at the neckline. (The photo on the right was taken about a month later because I wanted a shot of her in the outfit she was wearing when we met.) Who says guys can't be sensitive?

I learned later (from her mother) she was trying really hard not to look at my baggy pants or wrinkled shirt. I didn't know it at the time, but that pair of baggy khaki's and a wrinkled plaid shirt almost sunk an idyllic marriage that lasted just shy of 50 years before I lost her to sepsis poisoning. I also learned, later, that mothers are sometimes conniving for reasons of their own. In Anne's case, it was her current boyfriend—a guy who Anne's mother did not want her daughter seeing. I think she thought, with pegged pants and a shirt that wasn't wrinkled and didn't look like it was made from a picnic tablecloth, I might do.

Her mother liked me. She slipped me their phone number before they were shown to their table. When I called that evening, her mother made Anne talk to me. Baggy pants, wrinkled shirt and all. Since I had seven years on her, I'd kinda forgotten how teens—even late-teens—date. Her idea of a first date was driving through the drive-in burger joints to see "who was there." Mine was go to a nice restaurant, have a pre-dinner cocktail and a good meal. I began rethinking the notion of dating a 19 year old—regardless how pretty she was. I wasn't ready for a rehash the senior prom. Before I went to her house, I drove to JC Penney and bought a couple pairs of pants—with pegged legs.

I thought I was safe. I believed if you ask a date her preference of the movie, she would actually tell you. They don't. Second mistake: a western movie. Steve McQueen. Everyone in 1966 liked Steve McQueen. But first date movies have to be a chic flick or a real scary one. No female on a first date wants to see a movie called Nevada Smith. When the movie was over, she was hungry. Mistake number three: a truck stop for a burger, fries and a coke proved to be worse than baggy khaki's and a wrinkled red plaid shirt. Nothing else was open except the burger drive-ins, and I didn't want to repeat that. So, let's skip a few years—or maybe a couple of decades.

The late 80s and early 90s were painful years for Anne. The two medical problems that would eventually become the source of the medical problems that would ultimately cause her death began in the early 80s. She became diabetic. About the same time she was getting very serious pains in her side. Anne was one of those hearty souls who never made a doctor's appointment she didn't try to break. If the excruciating pain she was experiencing when she made the appointment (or rather, had me make the appointment for her) was gone on the day of the appointment, she would fake an imaginary migraine headache or some other excuse to cancel the appointment.

Ultimately the pain in her side (or elsewhere on other occasions) got so bad it wouldn't ease up at all. On that particular night, she opted for the ER. The medical dilemma this time proved to be her gallbladder. They took an X-ray of her gall bladder but couldn't find it. They changed the contrast until they could see the faint outline of a gallbladder, but they couldn't see what was going on with it.

They finally concluded she had gall stones which were so impacted that all that showed on the film was a black mass. They treated her, gave her a strong pain killer and recommended a hospital staff gastroenterologist. Not sure how many days later it was before she went under the knife for what should have been about an hour long operation. The procedure took over three hours. Anne apparently had so many gall stones that they ground themselves into a fine grit. When they removed her gallbladder they discovered that the gallstone grit had filled her pancreatic duct.

On March 23, 1992 Anne was admitted to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital for an ERCP. The doctors had to look inside her pancreatic duct. Her surgeon, Dr. Mordecha Rabinovitz, MD had to know if there was a billiary stone blocking the duct. While there wasn't, what they did discover was that the duct had narrowed to such an extreme that even the bile secreted by the pancreas could barely pass through it. The narrowing was so severe they could not insert a stint which, I understood, was the purpose for the procedure.

She was diagnosed at that moment as having acute pancreatitis, upgraded from recurrent pancreatitis (a temporary problem), later modified to chronic pancreatitis (a permanent continual life-threatening condition). During her first post-op appointment, she asked her local gastroenterologist, Dr. Reddy, what that meant in terms of longevity—how long did she have, or rather, when would she likely die. The doctor was forthright—and blunt. He said usually people with serious pancreatic problems survive about ten years. He then told her that patients with chronic pancreatitis—even if it does not evolve into pancreatic cancer—suffer extreme pain; noting that pancreatic pain is believed to be the most painful human disorder.

For that reason, he told her, most people with chronic pancreatitis have a procedure done where saline is injected into the nerves to destroy the pain sensors in the chest cavity, thus making the condition much more bearable as it worsens. The downside, he told us, is that if you are suffering a heart attack, the pain sensors which warn you that a life-threatening event was taking place, would not alert you because those nerves would be dead—as likely would be the patient not experiencing the pain warning. She declined the procedure. Her mother had already had a couple of heart attacks and she believed that was something that would be in her future. She needed the warning signs God built into our bodies. Anne feared only two causes of death—heart attack or cancer. Her mother died of a heart attack; her father died from cancer.

My wife had a better library of medical books than most newly practicing physicians who, after examining her, would talk to her in "doctor speak" (words with four or five or more syllables that lay people couldn't understand). For the doctor, it was a way of being forthright with a patient by telling them everything without actually telling them anything. I've seen a lot of very amazed ER doctors sputter when, after his explanations, she would ask him with questions using the same "doctor speak" verbiage they had just flattered her with. This was the first time she told an Emergency Room doctor she believed she had chronic pancreatitis, the ER medic said, "I doubt that. If you had chronic pancreatitis you'd be climbing the walls in pain." He didn't know my wife, but likely thought the only thing she was suffering from was Munchausen's Syndrome.

The ER medic ran her blood amylase and lipase levels. Her lipase level which should be 0 to 160 U/L was 5,100 U/L. The ER medic was suddenly very apologetic as he marveled over the fact that she walked into his ER without any outward sign of the pain which a lipase count over 5,000 provokes. In fact, she should have been wheeled into the ER on a gurney, not walking in under her own steam.. Before Anne could speak these words "...I don't want to do this, I just want something to get rid of the pain so I can go home..." she was in a hospital gown, and a staff gastroenterologist was parading a group of medical students and newbie interns around her bed. Balloon-drop(Did I tell you that Anne didn't like hospitals anymore than doctors' offices?) Her lipase was at 2,000 when they released her three or four days later—about where the lipase level of most severely afflicted pancreatic patients are at when they arrive in an ambulance.

Anne's high pain threshold was her biggest problem since, if the pain she experienced was not severe enough to send her to the emergency room, she tended to ignore it until it was. Like her lipase level soaring to 5,100 U/L. Her pancreatic disease came from ground-up gall stones invading her pancreatic duct. The pancreatitis caused her diabetes. The diabetes led to the clogged arteries, veins and capillaries which led to the amputation of two toes, and the ensuing related medical problems that led to sepsis that ended her life.

Anne was my soulmate from the day we met at the Moose Lodge in Parkersburg, WV so many years ago. We fit like the perfect hand inside the perfect glove. She led me to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1978 and, on Sunday, July 30, 2017, she went ahead to prepare a place which we will share for eternity. May the Lord God cradle her in His arms until I arrive somewhere down that rocky road that leads to the Gates of Heaven. And may the Holy Spirit, who is the actual "Keeper of the Keys" allow this repentant sinner in, to be with the woman he loved on Earth for almost a half century.

 

 

Just Say No
Copyright © 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
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