23 February 2017

Surgery on a toe to remove ganglion and fuse a joint

The question is - would I do it again?

In about 2008-2009 I had a ganglion on the second toe of my right foot. This was uncomfortable and
I had to wear a corn plaster when doing field work in Phalaborwa because the ganglion was continually chafed in my shoes or boots. I then had the ganglion surgically removed and after the healing I was fine for many years.

But then a ganglion formed again on the same joint, and a short while later on the equivalent joint of the left foot. I put up with this for a while, but it would become inflamed at times and burst at times, and it was not something that I could continue to live with.

I consulted an orthopaedic surgeon who recommended surgical removal of the ganglion, and that because this is a sign of the onset of osteo-arthritis, that it was likely that I would have repeated ganglion formation unless the cartilage and capsule for the joint were removed. He would put in a wire to fuse the joint and then I should have no more ganglion formation in those joints.

I pondered this and acknowledged that something had to be done and that the ganglion was a serious impediment to my normal functioning and the amount of walking that I routinely do. So I agreed to the surgery and on 19 July the joints were removed and the recovery proceeded. I was booked off work for six weeks, but was able to work much of the time at home for the first weeks, and once I could drive again I returned early to work. I missed the walking that I often did, parking at the administration buildings and walking about 500 m each way to and from my office.

The pictures are on 31 December (5.5 months) on the left and 22 Feb (7 months) on the right. 

It is now more than six months and I am not particularly aware of the surgery to the toes. The joints are not really obviously missed because the toes do not bend that much anyway. But there is not denying that they are different.

I have pondered what might have precipitated the ganglion formation and wondered if in some way it might have been due to irritation from the strops (surfer's web sandals) that I have been wearing for a few years. The surgeon was not sure that there was any real cause other than aging.

It was quite amusing when we went to vote shortly after the surgery and Sally was told by one young lady that I should return to the car and they would come to me for me to cast my vote. She indicated that I was an amputee! Well, I was not up to standing in the queue, but amputee is rather an extreme label 😉

22 February 2017

Some reflections on blessings that my family has had at the Temple

My family has visited the Johannesburg Temple every year, I believe, since it opened thirty years ago. Our annual holiday would be to visit family in the Johannesburg area so that we could attend the Temple. We drove the N1 between Cape Town and Johannesburg year after year, and usually stayed with my wife Sally's mother Margaret Burns in Pretoria so that we could enjoy the Temple. But it did usually mean that one of us could attend at a time because we usually had one small child, then two, three, four and five. Sally was often breastfeeding. So it was a real blessing to us when we were able to stay in Patron Housing when that opened. What a difference that made! It was possible then for Sally to attend the Temple each day because I could take turns babysitting while she served, and we could change so that she could breastfeed or babysit while I participated in ordinances. We could enjoy the Spirit of the Temple in a way never before possible. As the children grew and the older ones could look after the younger, we could attend together more often.

We have found it a great blessing when we attended with other ward members and different people could take turns caring for children allowing parents that otherwise would not be able to participate, to enjoy the blessings of the Temple. We would make sure that all children were cared for so that as many adults as possible could be in the Temple participating in baptisms, initiatory, endowment or sealing ordinances as frequently as possible. Travelling from Cape Town, this was always a wonderful blessing.

I remember last December babysitting my 6 grandchildren and the children of a son-in-law’s sister. This sister and her husband, bishop and sister Ferrett of Fish Hoek ward, had the most remarkable visit that they had ever had because they were able to attend together for the first time since their own sealing. All of this was possible because we were at Parton Housing, the families in the family rooms, although the Ferretts were staying with her brother in Vereeniging and not in Patron Housing. I read to them and then took them into the Temple garden, and when they became a little rowdy in the Temple garden I took them exploring in the gardens at Enduleni, looking for fairies and wild animals. But Amanda Ferrett had apparently not had a good Temple experience before, and this was a real turning point for her, blessed by Patron Housing.

For me, I felt as reverent and blessed a Temple Spirit having the children in the Temple garden enabling parents to be inside together as serving inside. I looked after the two children of my counsellor in the bishopric so that he and his wife could attend and endowment session together. I served as an ordinance worker from December 1995 to September 2013. It had been a blessing to be able to bring members of my own ward or stake through the veil, or to officiate in my own children’s endowments. I would participate in at least one endowment session, carefully observing for anything that appeared to be different before mentioning to the Shift Coordinator that I was available should I be needed in any way, and asking if I needed to know anything that might have changed. It was wonderful being able to serve in that way. I was saddened when told that because more than three months passed between some of my visits I could no longer officiate. Serving the children in the garden so that their parents could sit together in and endowment was also wonderful although in a very different way.

Each of our children was born in the covenant because Sally and I had been sealed in Salt Lake Temple immediately after our marriage in 1981. It was such a wonderful blessing after years with no Temple in South Africa to be able to frequently visit the Johannesburg Temple, and such an increased blessing when Patron Housing was available. We hope that the Temple managers can find a way to enable families to serve in the house of the Lord in the way that Sally and I have been able to do by making it possible for them to use the family rooms, although we do understand that it should be on the proviso that they always have proper care for each and every child.

Breast feeding mothers are blessed with the flexibility that the husband can attend a session while she is feeding and the father can care for them for the other session while the mother attends. This is possible because they have a room in which the mother can feed in private. Ward groups add to the flexibility, enabling parents to serve together where they might otherwise not be able to do so.

People, left to themselves, are happy and content

Interesting insight that I gained one day driving slowly in peak hour traffic on the N1. There was a team of men working on the side of the road. They were probably erecting street lights in about 2014, and one big, hulking man was skipping merrily along.    
I realised that most people, left to themselves, are happy and content.    
It is very easy to persuade one that he is unfortunate because he lacks something that another has - it will always be the case that someone has more of something than we have. Or that he is entitled to something. Or that he has rights that others should ensure. We need to recognise that we, in turn, have more of some things than others have, or are better in some ways than others. I remember my mother pointing out that the goat herder on the mountains can almost certainly speak more languages than I can.
It is not easy to persuade one, though, that he must meet the needs of others, or ensure those same rights for others, or share what he has with others.    
This entitlement is one of the biggest maladies that we face in the world, and South Africa is an excellent example of the malady. Donald Trump elected US president, Jacob Zuma giving State of the Nation address in South Africa, BREXIT in Britain, and so forth. 2016 and 2017 are proving to be remarkable years.

Coincidentally, I wrote this on Friday morning 11 Feb 2017, and on that evening I heard an interesting quote on a business radio programme. 'Comparison is the thief of joy'.