Nellie Jacobs


Igniting Imagination

 Nellie's WOW Story:

In early 2010 I faced a crisis, a dilemma I could never, ever have
imagined. It wasn't within the framework of my thinking, not in MY lifetime.

Isn't this the way things happen?  

We go along in life, busy dealing with all kinds of challenges, minding our business, following our routines, experiencing some sort of normalcy. Then - often without any warning - WHAM, we're hit with a BIG one. It might be a career "failure", a natural or man-made disaster, a relationship ending, the death of a loved one, or a monumental health issue. When something like this happens to us or someone we love, it affects everyone within our circle and beyond.

The way in which we face challenges, combined with our attitude and support network can inevitably pull us through a crisis or life change. That's what happened with me and my family. 

During the 2009 Christmas holidays through the beginning of January, my husband suffered with severe pain and familiar indications we thought were kidney stones. With one after another visit to emergency departments, the days that followed were confusing and frightening, to say the least. Teams of doctors at the hospital studied his symptoms and ordered one test after another.

The shock of the unexpected diagnosis of kidney failure with urgent need for dialysis treatments three times weekly deeply affected both of us as well as our kids, their partners, my mom, our relatives and close friends.

My husband and I are resilient and very practical people. Neither of us ask, "why me?" Stuff just happens ...

We don't ask, "What is the reason for this?" I'm not talking from the
medical viewpoint, but existentially. In retrospect, we can make up a
gazillion reasons. At the time, however, we had to deal with each step as it unfolded. No one was going to do it for us. No one could do it except us. We decided to make the best of the situation - and we did.

The kidney friendly diet is really limited in scope. Too much salt, potassium, phosphorous or protein can be destructive. No whole wheat anything. No bananas. A half cup of potatoes needs to be boiled and drained twice. Too many tomatoes can potentially kill someone with failing kidney. I learned to shop for and cook foods my husband was allowed to eat, and I ate what he ate. How could I not? 

My husband opted for hospital treatments Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons so he could go to his office on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He'd take work-related reading material to occupy him while undergoing dialysis.

Fifteen hours of dialysis weekly provides at best 10% normal kidney
function. The body begins to deteriorate over time. Shortly after the onset of dialysis, every kidney patient is automatically added to the end of a recipient list for a donor transplant. In Ontario, Canada, the wait for a potential cadaver donor is about seven years.  I couldn't imagine waiting that long. 

Usually, the best candidate for transplant is a blood relative under the age of 65. We absolutely refused to consider our own kids. You can imagine why-I'm sure.

So... I went for a blood test. 

Before this, neither of us knew our blood types. My husband discovered he has O positive, the most common blood type. A person with O positive blood is a universal donor. In other words, that person can give blood to other blood types. But a person with O positive blood can only receive O positive or O negative blood.

We and the teams of doctors were all absolutely stunned when my results came back indicating I was O positive. What are the chances?
This was obviously a sign. It was a miracle.

Admittedly with great trepidation, I agreed to go ahead with testing to find out if I was truly a match - not just figuratively, but medically. Months of appointments followed. Each series of intensive testing led to the next. I was tested from head to foot and from inside to out. I was checked out physically and emotionally. Over those long months, I started an intensive exercise regime to ensure my body would be strong, just in case it would be a go.

And then... the final word came. We were a match!

Honestly? My next thoughts were, "Oh, "s..t!" It's one thing to think
altruistically. It's quite another to be faced with reality.

I was scared. As a little girl... as a teen... as a young woman falling in love... as a mother with young kids... and now as a proud grandmother,  I could never, ever in a million years have imagined this happening. It wasn't within the framework of my thinking. How could it have been?

Now, faced with one of THE greatest challenges of my life, I felt completely vulnerable. I turned to the life-long example my parents set.

They were my role models for making opportunity knock and my lifework. As immigrants who left Europe following World War II they'd lost virtually everything familiar to them, including many family members as well as friends. I was a toddler when we sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.

Without money except for $5 my mother had sewn into the hem of her coat, they had little education and spoke no English. Arriving in North America into the arms of sponsoring relatives they were anxious yet filled with hopeful anticipation. Determined to be successful, they enrolled in English classes, developed networks and found jobs. 

Depending upon their shifting circumstances our growing family moved dozens of times within the city. During these pre-adult years, moving from home to home, from school to school (13 in total), I took note of my parents' courage, tenacity and creative-thinking. At various times, my mom took home piece work sewing beads on sweaters, worked as grocery store cashier, 
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and manicured nails at a hair salon. My Dad was first a tailor who learned to sew on the job, then a shipper in a discount store, butcher (for a week), variety store co-owner, property manager, and finally, manufacturer - first of children's coats, then of socks. Facing and overcoming a multitude of setbacks, my parents ultimately thrived.

Observing them and their friends, I wondered about what makes people tick creatively? How do they overcome adversity? What elements lead to their success? I became determined to somehow share what I discovered at every stage of my adult life; since we can learn so much from each other, I also expected to connect like-minded people. As a young mother I co-founded Creating Together weekly programs for mothers and tots, co-published a non-profit MAMMA quarterly publication and co-hosted a spinoff call-in TV show MAMMA Speaks Out, both run by women volunteers. I've written articles and books, formed book clubs and study groups, and featured guests on my "Igniting Imagination" phone-in Internet radio program. 

So, back to my story: As I had stated previously, I resolved to use these uncertain and frightening months leading up to surgery to make opportunity knock. I became a volunteer for a five year living donor study. 

In preparation pre and post surgery, my husband and I had a multitude of issues to address. A small but not insignificant problem was how we'd notify our considerable networks while dealing with our recovery. Shortly before surgery I sent out a blast email with specific details and expectations of recovery, informing everyone that our kids would provide regular email updates. Concerned about recuperation, rest and possible infections, we also announced that no one was to send flowers or gifts to the hospital or home and, until they heard from us directly, only our very immediate family could visit us. 

A big issue, however, was how we'd manage to look after each other afterwards. Although I didn't really need nursing care when I was released from hospital after five days, our youngest son took time off work to stay
with and help me. Five days later, he picked up my husband, at which point the two of us managed to look after ourselves, relying on relatives and friends who wanted to help. For the first time in my life I accepted most offers.

Fearing infection, we endured periods of isolation leading up to and after our successful November 25th, 2010 surgeries. During that time, I sped up the completion of two books to stimulate creativity. Magical MousePaintingR: A Tool for Computer Creativity, is an e-book offering basic art and computer principles, scores of tips & challenges, and my colourful illustrations. 

Making Opportunity Knock - the first in an inspirational Mining Your Resources book series-offers probing interviews featuring creative-thinkers who share their compelling stories, personal insights, specific skills and possible applications. With inspiring quotes, end of chapter exercises, and back of book questions, it provides great material for lively discussion and debate useful to therapists, study groups, families, teachers, or anyone wanting to understand more about themselves and how to use that knowledge.

Nellie Jacobs is a Proud Member of Our WOW Directory 

What sustained me over the course of that year? The inspiring stories told so honestly by individuals interviewed for Making Opportunity Knock, our adorable grandchildren, the love and incredible support of my mom and our kids. Family and friends kept me focused on the positive, bringing food and books. Since I was instructed to recuperate for six weeks, they visited, and took turns driving my husband to follow-up appointments and hospital labs. 

In May, 2011, my completed new books were published and launched. A few months later, more than 60 wonderful friends and relatives who'd given us comfort in so many ways arrived as guests to our home to celebrate the first year anniversary of our surgeries. That fall evening we basked in the aromas of good food and sounds of laughter. We expressed our deep-felt gratitude for supporting us in making opportunity knock.  

I am now active in Kidney Foundation of Canada committee planning events to raise money for kidney research and education. 

I continue to be interviewed in print and broadcast media.  I speak to large organizations and small groups about all or any of this.

In today's world, success is all about creative thinking and innovative solutions. It's about overcoming obstacles, mining the vast resources within "you" and identifying and taking advantage of infinite opportunities available out there.

Connect with Nellie on her website, via her Blog, or Social Media Profiles: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Listen in on her Radio Show


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