Coping With Loss And Sequestration

Coping With Loss And Sequestration

Sequestration and the Anguish of Losing Jake

Tragedies are suffered as we travel through life. It is unavoidable.  Buddhist monks will tell you that holding onto what is thought to be constant is where suffering begins.  Some changes are personal some are professional.  Over this weekend I endured a tragedy and easily made the intellectual connection to the how the two converged.  What could our new puppy Jake and Sequestration have in common?  You would be surprised.

Our daughter pleaded for two years straight to get a puppy and finally, we agreed to open our hearts and home to the idea. I located a wonderful breeder and we nurtured a relationship with our chosen little purebred Yorkie Jake until he was old enough to be brought home. We were already head over heels in love and clearly this little sprite was going to fill our lives with joy.

And for six days he delivered.  My husband and I congratulated ourselves on what a wonderful thing we had done for our child. I read puppy development books like a scientist and researched pet insurance and products with all the academic training I have accumulated over the years.  Our child was over the moon and we chronicled every happy moment on our media devices. We posted, shared and opened everything up.

On our sixth night together, that all ended.  Apparently, he had been poisoned by mycotoxin that lurked invisibly in the mulch in our flowerbeds. Twelve hours and many horrific interventions later, we grimly brought his tiny, two-pound body home to be buried.

I could go on and on about the toxic world around us, the futile attempt to control our surroundings, the quixotic attempt to make our child’s life perfect but you know it all.  What I want to convey is the profound opportunity for growth the reminder of the fragility of life can be. I rediscovered the more tender sides to my maternal nature, which have long been in conflict with my professional aspirations. The tragedy brought our family closer and my neighbors and co-workers expressed a compassion for our loss that was tender and healing.

I reassumed full-time commuting work running the Grants Administration world at Seattle Children’s Research Institute after my child entered Kindergarten.  In this capacity, I witnessed the day to day struggle so many of the research departmental staff experienced in terms of funding and personnel.  Individual’s fragile professional lives rested on that next award. The Primary Investigators carried so much responsibility and the pressure to keep her/his office and staff intact seemed overwhelming. No wonder passions always ran so high when the Office of Sponsored Research couldn’t submit a proposal because it was missing a budget.  The presence of the staff the PIs trusts to do the work and who know the work was constantly threatened by the terms of the award. Sequestration has ushered in a whole new senseless set of anxieties and losses.

According to the President of SRA Sandra Nordahl:

“Research administrators touch every aspect of the research process, ensuring it is humane, ethical and responsible. Sequestration jeopardizes these high standards by threatening the livelihoods of dedicated researchers, and research administrators and managers. The 5.1% cut to the NIH budget alone will cause a predicted loss of 33,000 jobs in the U.S. according to the American Heart Association.”

SRA wisely listened to the concerns of its 4000 members and in compassionate response, has set up a Sequestration Resource Center (  Traffic to their site has increased ten-fold since March 1, 2013. SRA has long functioned as an informed insider in the world of Research Administration.  Knowing that they are providing the best information in a timely manner goes a long way in helping professionals prepare.

It can be these types of responses to life’s disappointments and uncertainties that give us the strength to heal.  Little Jake, with all of his two pounds of life, dropped the weight of a 50-ton happy bomb onto our lives. I am in awe of the caregivers that worked on him for over 12 hours so bonds wouldn’t be broken.  Also, I have to mention of course, that it was because of the tireless work of researchers and the funding they received, that the culprit that ended the life of our puppy could be identified, explanations given and preparation undertaken. No doubt, given the timing of the articles that I was devouring about mycotoxins and canines, InfoEd had a hand in helping that precious work along.

The animal sympathizer in me asks, “What did Jake get in this deadly agreement?  Why did he have to suffer so much to teach me the things I, at 43 should be more than cognizant of?” I wish I had answers and I wish the upsides to this were not all human. All I can conclude is that Jake brought the best out of many people and I am so grateful and humbled to have been chosen to learn. As Sequestration threatens the peace of mind and security of our entire community, I hope that partnerships such as the one with SRA and InfoEd can work to bring clarity and healing to any loss that may cross the doors of our clients and members.

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