Charlotte A. (Rokke) Wright

My name is Charlotte A. (Rokke) Wright and I was buried on my 62nd birthday near my hometown of Belmond, IA. I had Glanzmann's Thrombastenia since birth but was only diagnosed in my 20s. Before I was thought to have von Willebrand's disease and consequently my spleen was removed when I was four years old.

I have a picture outside our house the day we left for the hospital.

During those early years I made a lot of trips to various hospitals in Iowa City and Mason City, Iowa and to St.Mary's and Methodist hospitals in Rochester MN, both of which are affiliated with the Mayo Clinic. My life was punctuated by IVs, which I hated, and blood transfusions. But don't weep for me.

Since there was no blood bank then, my dad had to locate local people in the community to come in and donate blood for me when my hemoglobin got too low. And there were a lot of them. (Overall I had over 2000 units of blood products during my lifetime.) And I had a way of needing blood at very inconvenient times, like in the middle of harvest. It was only during my 33rd year of life that our blood bank in Cedar Rapids where I was living at the time stopped requiring replacement of the blood products I used. Actually, that occurred during the time I was in the University hospital in Iowa City for almost a three-month stay and had two major surgeries a week apart for intestinal blockages from adhesions. I lived the remainder of my life with an illeostomy as a result of that episode. It turned out to be a blessing because I quickly knew when I had internal bleeding (or a warning that a bleeding episode was coming on) by looking at the color of the output. After having a hysterectomy in 1973, internal (GI) bleeding was the biggest thing that I had to contend with. Sometimes it seemed to coincide with the change in seasons. Sometimes with a big event that I'd been looking forward to, like a vacation. Many times I spoiled these fun times for my brothers and family because we had to go home because of a bleeding event.

In 1979 after being married to Paul for only five years, I had an intestinal bleed that went on for four months, progressively getting worse. I had a month long stay at the Iowa City University Hospital, then back to Cedar Rapids for another month, then took the long ambulance ride to St.Mary's hospital in Rochester. I spent a month there, receiving 3 units of blood on one day and 4 the next, each and every day. In the meantime they ran every test they knew of to determine the source of the bleeding. Finally, in desperation, they decided to do exploratory surgery and scheduled it for May 1. But a change of surgeons required that the surgery be postponed until the 2nd. I was scheduled to have a platelet pheresis performed on the 1st instead, the day before surgery. All of or friends and extended family and their friends didn't know of the change though. So they all prayed for God's intervention on the 1st. And he did. Before they could even put in the second central line required for the procedure, I was healed. I stopped bleeding, instantaneously and spontaneously. Paul had helped me change my appliance (bag) after my bath and breakfast, and from that point on there was not a speck of blood in my output. Don't weep for me. For I was touched by the hand of God.

That wasn't the first time. There were many times that my parents and loved ones thought I was lost to them. My mother had many premonitions that something was about to happen to me.bleeding episodes that is. And she prayed. She also received comforting messages that "all would be well". And they always were. It's was wonderful to have a praying mom.

Hospitals were always a challenge for me, although I loved them. I worked in the Belmond hospital and from 1970 on in Cedar Rapids St.Lukes Hospital. The last few years, before retiring at age 57, I took care of the books for the hospital foundation and loved my job and the people I worked with. I hated to go but it just seemed like the right time. I did work a few hours a week for a while to help with the transition, both for the foundation and myself. The challenging part was being a patient, both at St.Lukes and the other medical centers. There wasn't always an IV therapist available and some of those called on to start my IVs were challenged by my tiny veins and multiple sticks were required. In fairness to the nurses, they referred to me as a "hard stick". Many of my veins had been ruined from IV iron in my early years. I'd also had radiation and a variety of experimental treatments. I liked to go to the same floor and have the same nurses when I needed transfusions. I always needed benadryl and tylenol to minimize reactions to the blood products. And I liked to have my hand taped to a styrofoam board (hand) to minimize the possibility of moving or dislodging the IV. And, I wanted to use the bedpan for the same reason; to minimize movement until it was time to go home. It was so great when they started using IV pumps. Before them, we counted drops of blood and as the day or evening wore on they would slow down and I would readjust the flow myself. Sometime I'd have to move the catheter a bit because the site would be positional. My mother, and later after marriage, Paul would stay with me and make sure that the IV didn't stop as I was usually very tired from the benadryl. Sometimes it would stop and I'd have to have another one started. What a worry. But don't weep for me.

My husband and I have a favorite verse. It's Psalm 118:24. "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." It's going to be inscribed on my headstone. Those were the words he spoke to me early the morning of May 1, 1979 when he first came into my room in St.Mary's hospital. I always had sort of a motto that I lived by. I think it first came from my mother: "You have to take it Charlotte." Later I shortened it to "You have to take it." I told others that also when they were going through a rough situation. In a way it means the same thing as the scripture verse except the verse carries the thought a step further. God always knows what we're going through and he never gives us more than we can bear. You can count on that. So why not rejoice in the sure knowledge that God's plan is going to be in place for our life each day?

The Holy Bible always brought comfort to our family. The last 6 of the 9 weeks that I spent in Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville my husband read Psalms to me, morning and evening. Always the same ones, although sometimes he added one or two. He always read Ps. 91, 103, 118, and 139. Sometimes he included the 23rd Psalm because it is so familiar and comforting. And there were a few others also. I think they may have comforted him and the others that were around at times (his sister, brother, my cousin, and my best friend) as much as me. But don't weep for me. I'm with the Lord now, just as He promised. I won't need any more IVs or transfusions. No more lying around waiting for my bleeding to stop. I had a really full life and wasn't deprived of doing anything except the roughest of activities. I traveled and did most of the things that anyone else my age might do. By the way, I was once in the middle of a minor bleeding episode and we drove from Iowa to Arizona anyway. We thought we could make it back before I had to have more blood. I stopped bleeding just as we crossed the continental divide. We could hardly believe it. We were always amazed when He reached out and touched me.

Don't shed any tears for me now. The Lord was true to His word and it's more beautiful that you could ever imagine here. Turn off the TV. Smell the roses. Visit your loved ones, relatives, and those that don't have a friend. Ask forgiveness where you need to. Be the best husband, wife, mom, or dad that you can possibly be. Study God's word and get right with him. It isn't too late. I'll be waiting for you.

Written for Charlotte by her loving husband, Paul J. Wright, Clarksville, TN. 8-15-2002


A Tribute to Charlotte from Paul

After God made Charlotte, He broke the mold. I know that's been said about many people but in her case it's most certainly true. Charlotte was unique. She was created a little different from the rest of us, with a blood disorder only shared by a few in this country. She was raised in a farming community by loving parents. She required special care as a youngster and was surrounded by a host of relatives who believed in God's love and grace.

When I first met her, I was attracted to her eyes. Soon her personality captivated my heart. And that blossomed into love as the Christmas season progressed in 1974. That was the beginning of a life long relationship and commitment that never faltered. From the beginning I've often thought of Charlotte as a sort of biblical Nathanael, one in whom there is no guile. What you see is what you get with Charlotte. The difference between Charlotte and others who you might say that about is that her first impressions or thoughts verbally expressed were always positive. She always gave the benefit of the doubt to others. She always thought the best of them. She always thought of how she could encourage someone. She always lifted me up and thought of my needs before her own. She had a caring heart. Not to just do for others, but to provide stimulus for them to stand on their own feet. Charlotte had a way of impacting those around her. One friend said to me the other day, "If I'm troubled or have to make a tough decision, I ask myself "What would Charlotte do?" You often hear people say "She's been such an inspiration to me." Charlotte was a weak physical vessel, but God used His power manifested through her to touch many lives. Charlotte was humble but able to talk boldly to anyone no matter what their position. She was truly a woman of virtue. She was beautifully handcrafted by her Creator. I have been blessed and privileged to spend almost 28 years with Charlotte (Rokke) Wright.


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