For The Love Of Jeremy

kellyhuntson.com

This is a true story about two patients that I cared for when I worked in the epilepsy monitoring unit in the hospital. Only the names have been changed. The EMU is a highly specialized, closed unit, and has only 15 beds. Patients came for observation, treatment, and evaluation for surgery from all over the world. The average stay was between 5 and 7 days, sometimes much longer, depending on the success in locating where the seizure activity was taking place in their brain.

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They both had the same name. There was Jeremy 1 and Jeremy 2. One was from an Amish family, and one was from a Mennonite family. Both had serious seizure disorders. They were admitted around the same time. It was the third admittance for Jeremy 1, the second for Jeremy 2. It was the first time I had cared for either one of them.

  • Upon admittance, patients were tapered off their anticonvulsant medications in order to induce seizure activity. We also employed a variety of measures in order to trigger activity such as photic stimulation, involving strobe lights and patterns. We also used sleep deprivation. A number of highly specialized tests based on the individual patient’s case were then conducted. Since we were a small unit, I worked very closely with our neurologists and EEG technicians in administering the tests and evaluating the patients through continuous video and EEG monitoring.

There were many factors taken into consideration as to whether a patient was a good candidate for surgery, some were good candidates and some were not. Some came to the EMU multiple times because their seizure activity couldn’t be recorded during a previous stay. Some would return because their medication was no longer effective. And some who already had prior surgery had their seizures return again, and so returned for more evaluation. It was a long, complicated, painful journey to say the least.

Jeremy 1 had suffered from multiple, daily seizures since his childhood. He would experience them 20 to 30 times per day. Seizure activity in the brain varies widely in intensity. Some seizures are mild, while some are a lot more severe. Jeremy 1’s seizures were fairly mild, and when they occurred they were usually characterized by slight flutters in his eyes. But since they occurred so frequently, they seriously interfered with his life. His family owned a veal calf farm and he helped on the farm whenever he could. He was in his early 20s, strikingly handsome, talkative, and very polite. He had been homeschooled and didn’t have a driver’s license. He had spent the majority of his life with his parents.

Jeremy 2 also lived on a farm. His family raised corn and soybean crops. He also worked and helped on the farm as he was able. His seizures were more severe and disabling. He suffered with 2 to 3 per day, but they were of a much higher intensity accompanied by strong physical symptoms. Jeremy 2 was also in his early 20s and a handsome young man as well. He was very tall, stoic, and gentle, but also very sad.

Both of the families of these two patients were extremely involved in their lives, especially their mothers. I will never forget these two extraordinary women and how much they loved their sons.

Nursing is a very emotional profession at times, but you must be careful to keep your emotions in check. You must try your best to separate them from the care you provide, especially if it’s more critical in nature, so you can effectively concentrate at all times on your patient’s changing conditions. But as any nurse will tell you, we are human, and sometimes there are patients who have more of an effect on us than others, including their families.

On the day when I met Jeremy 1 for the first time, I entered his room and immediately was greeted by his parents with big smiles and warm handshakes. I approached Jeremy who was lying on the bed, watching a baseball game. It was very important that our patients stayed in bed as much as possible since they were taken off their meds. If they were out of bed during the onset of a seizure, it posed great risk to their safety, so we used bed alarms to alert us if they got out of bed unattended. Someone had to accompany them at all times if they wanted to go for a walk in the hall, as well as be by their side every time they used the bathroom.

I leaned against the padded rail on the bed and immediately noticed how handsome he really was. I think he was aware of it, too. The other nurses had joked about it in report. He had been here a couple of times before.

He glanced at me, taking his eyes off the television, and then really noticed me and started kind of looking me over. I could tell. His dad then said, “You’ve got a pretty one here, Jeremy, you better be good to her.” I could see he was a little embarrassed by that remark, so I brushed it off quickly and told them I would be right back to get his IV started. His mother followed me out of the room into the hallway.

She got very close to me and took my hands in hers. She told me she wanted me to know just how much she appreciated the work I did as a nurse. She said how they had been through so much, and that Jeremy was feeling really down about this latest setback. His meds weren’t working anymore, and he needed an adjustment if not additional medications. She told me she could tell that I would take good care of him and gave me a big hug.

The techs were coming down the hall to get his scalp electrodes in place, which took a while, so I had to cut her off to go get the supplies to get his IV going. Our patients required immediate placement of rescue IVs in case we needed to administer medication for prolonged or cluster seizures. Anything could happen during a seizure – some of the most common occurrences we dealt with were aspiration, increased secretions which required immediate suctioning, aggression, and patient injuries. At times, it would take two or three people to restrain a person during a violent seizure so they didn’t get hurt. And as soon as the seizure started it was critical to time its duration. During a particularly bad instance of aggression, I had one patient throw all of the food on her tray at me, lobbing rolls like baseballs, and then she took the tray and threw it at me like a Frisbee. You had to be prepared for anything.

The first time I met Jeremy 2, I entered his room and saw his mother sitting by his side. She was dressed in traditional Amish clothing and quickly stood up to meet me. She was very polite and soft-spoken. Jeremy 2 was asleep in bed. He had been through surgery to have “depth” electrodes placed deeper in his brain in order to find the location of his new seizures. I told his mother I would return shortly to do an assessment.

I was in the middle of gathering supplies when I heard a bed alarm go off. It was coming from Jeremy 1’s room. I ran to the room and sure enough, there he was out of bed heading for the bathroom. His mom and dad had left to go get something to eat, so he was alone in his room. I told him once again how important it was to hit his call button when he had to use the bathroom and that someone would come to help him right away.

When patients had scalp or depth electrodes, there were many cords that plugged into equipment in the room. All of the cords had to be unplugged and then carefully held to the side so the patient could move around. Even when they sat on the toilet, someone had to hold the cords for them, in addition to being right by their side in case a seizure started. He said he just hated being a bother.

I went back then to Jeremy 2’s room. He was awake and I introduced myself. I could tell he wasn’t feeling good and seemed sad. I reassured him that I was there for him if he needed to talk as well. His mom liked that and encouraged him to talk to me. After I was finished with his assessment and neuro checks, I told him I would be back soon and to let me know if he needed anything. His mother followed me out into the hall as well.

She asked me if I could go in later when she wasn’t there, and sit with him and try to get him to talk. She had tears in her eyes as she told me how depressed he was. He felt like there was no hope. He had had surgery before, but the seizures had returned. He was here to be evaluated for a second surgery. Her face was so careworn under her white bonnet, and her voice was very soft. I could see how tired she was. I told her to just go back to the guest house and rest. She was so incredibly appreciative for the respite.

As I passed Jeremy 1’s room, I glanced in and saw him back in bed watching the game. He smiled at me and asked me if I was a baseball fan. Then he asked if I had a minute to watch the game with him. I checked the times on my scheduled meds and could spare about 20 minutes. So I stood next to him and we watched the game. He asked me a lot of questions about my life. He was inquisitive, but respectful, and said, “If I’m getting too personal, just slap me.” It was so endearing, and I kept talking to him because I knew how much time he spent with his mother and that he just wanted the opportunity to have a conversation with a woman when his mom wasn’t around. When she returned after being away for some time and saw me standing there engaged in conversation with him, she quickly excused herself and waited in the hall instead of coming in and joining us. She wanted her son to have a little privacy so he could keep talking to me – so he could feel more like a man even if only for a few minutes.

After I got caught up with everything, I went back to Jeremy 2’s room. I got him out of bed and told him we were going for a walk. Ambulating patients was usually done by ancillary staff, but I wanted him to know I cared, so I did it myself. When I had the time, I liked to walk with patients and just chat with them anyways.

I held his arm as we walked slowly up and down the hallway. He towered over me. Other staff members joked with him as we walked along, telling him I had a crush on him and that I insisted on walking with him myself. We did everything we could to make our patients feel better. I did most of the talking, but he was engaged nonetheless, and his spirits were lifting.

After I got him all hooked back up again and situated in bed, his mom returned. She told me she wanted me to have something. Accepting gifts from patients is something you don’t do unless it’s something like baked goods or flowers. She had bought a Christmas ornament for me in the gift shop and really wanted me to have it. It still hangs from the rearview mirror in my car today.

Jeremy 2 did have his second surgery but was admitted to the ICU with complications. I visited him in the ICU twice. He was aware I was there, but couldn’t speak. He passed away in the ICU at the age of 22.

I got to know Jeremy 1 pretty well while he was in the unit. If at all possible, he asked for our patient care assistants to accompany him to the bathroom and to clean him up, instead of me. His family was around all the time and I had wonderful conversations with his mom and dad. She gave me the web address to his Caring Bridge site which kept family and friends updated on his condition.

Then one day something awful happened. I heard his bed alarm go off and rushed to his room with a few other staff members. He had tried to make it to the bathroom by himself but didn’t make it onto the toilet in time. His back side was covered in feces from head to toe and it was on an entire wall in the bathroom. I have seen a lot in my nursing career, but this was the worst case of explosive diarrhea I had ever witnessed. There were three of us there and we were all working as quickly as we could to clean him up and get him back into bed. He was leaning on the bathroom wall with his back to us – completely exposed, legs spread and naked, as we wiped him down. He kept repeating how embarrassing it was and how sorry he was over and over again. We couldn’t reassure him enough that we had seen it all before and it was nothing to be ashamed of. But his humiliation at that moment brought me to my knees. My heart broke for him.

Of course we all carried on as if nothing happened. But each time I interacted with him from that day forward, he wasn’t quite the same. He left the unit once again with new medications and the hope that they would work to keep him seizure-free. His mom begged me to stay in touch with him after he left, and I did, through his Caring Bridge site for a long time. But the last time I was in touch with him, his mother told me that his seizures had returned.

~

Copyright © Kelly Huntson and kellyhuntson.com All rights reserved

 

 

 

77 thoughts on “For The Love Of Jeremy

  1. None of us wants to be vulnerable and require such intimate care from others. How difficult it must’ve been for your patients, especially a young man having an accident like that in front of his pretty nurse. As you point out, we try to assure them it’s not a problem and we’ve seen it all before, but I suspect it does little to make them feel better. I doubt it would me either if I were in their shoes. Thanks for sharing the story, Kelly.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Heartrending, Kelly. You and others in healthcare often see us at our worst, when our dignity is fragile and our sense of self compromised. The compassion nurses demonstrate for our whole being is as important as the medical care. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You are such a sweet heart. Thank you Kelly. Your story is compelling. Patients do better with loving nurses around them. May God bless those who care for others when they are in their low moments! May God bless you!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great post and excellent music selection!!!!! It is true, through our years of being nurses we come across patients that you instantly click with and it is so hard when something most unexpected happens. It always is in the back of your mind. I always say – our patients (in my case the trauma patients) are always with us where ever we go, their faces popping unexpectedly in our mind’s eye like a fishing float to the smooth surface of a still lake. Thank-you for this wonderful story!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. When I was younger, I worked at a Speech Development School and mostly dealt with Aphasia. But with it, came a lot of other issues. Some also had seizure disorders. I remember once when I had nine girls in a cabin and took my best friend with me as the co-counselor. All nine girls were on medication for seizures. It was probably the most responsibility I’d ever had. And most of the medications were given more than once a day. I am in awe of your experience. What an amazing job you have.

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  6. What a heartbreaking story, Kelly. I worked with someone who has seizures once, although her seizures didn’t seem to be severe. I have a friend who’s daughter has many seizures in a day and now has a guide dog to help during the night. It must be so difficult because there’s so much about the brain they don’t understand. I could feel for your patients and for you and the difficult job you had. They were both so lucky to have you in their care. You have such compassion and your heart is in it. It shows in this piece. Thanks for sharing your story. xox

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is heartbreaking, Kelly! The more I appreciate people like you who are there for others. You have an important job which for sure is not only a job but an attitude of life. You might see a lot in your days and I honor your for dedicating your life to people in need!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I always have to remember that truth is much more compelling than fiction… proven right here. This was riveting Kelly, and so bloody sad that I will likely think on it all day.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello! Well, I would like to think hope is never really lost. Even during the toughest times you have to keep your hope alive by pushing through, right? Thank you for your comment!

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  10. It seems you have chosen the right profession, Kelly, and that is beyond wonderful. Thank you for your care, your sensitivity, and all that you do in the course of a day that most of us cannot imagine. Thanks for sharing the Jeremy stories. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi SD! I wasn’t aware that you were a nurse – so glad I know that now! Yes, patients do stay with us where ever we go – I like how you said that. I love sharing these stories because they bring back such fond memories of special people. Sounds like you feel the same way. Thank you for reading and commenting here! :)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hello! Thank you for stopping by and reading this! Sounds like you have experience in this area as well. That sure is a big responsibility with 9 girls – with or without any medical conditions! Thank you for sharing that story with me, I’m sure you have many more from your experience there. That’s wonderful work you did :)

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  13. Hi Amy! Sounds like you are very familiar with these conditions. It’s so prevalent and especially heartbreaking when a resolution can’t be found. Very hard way to live, as you know. I’m glad this came across compassionately, because I wanted to bring attention to their difficulty in dealing with it all. Thanks so much, Amy xo

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  14. Hi Erika! Thank you for this wonderful comment. I agree that your attitude gets you through a lot – something you are an expert on! Your support means a lot to me. Thanks again :)

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Trent! Aww… so sweet. I appreciate you taking the time to read it. I know it was long, but I couldn’t cut it anymore. It doesn’t surprise me that it touched you. It takes a sensitive person to write the way you do. Thank you.

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  16. Hi Van! That’s so lovely how you said that. Thank you very much. There are so many more stories to share. I love writing them because it brings back memories of so many wonderful patients I’ve had the privilege of caring for. Thanks again. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Hi Nance! Working now in health education isn’t quite as bad. But I am still quite immersed in other kinds of pain in people’s lives. When you can help in any way, it really does make it all worth it. It keeps me going. Thanks, Nance xo

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  18. I read this at 7 in the morning and I just cried. God bless the mothers for seeing their sons going through the whole ordeal.

    Thank you for being a nurse. I am always grateful for them the two times I had c-sections and then another two when my sons were hospitalized.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Hi Trang! Your sincere sentiments really touch me. I could write pages and pages on those moms, for sure. I had 2 C-sections with my kids as well! Couldn’t have gotten through it without my nurses, either. Makes me proud to be in the profession. Thanks again xo

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  20. I love your blog and thanks for sharing!!! When I wrote my book, I put in it all the little memories I have of all the children I had worked with over the years. It was very therapeutic, and I was able to put them into a happy place, and that’s a good thing!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Oh I couldn’t agree more! It’s amazing how I feel after writing about patients and sharing their stories. It really is therapeutic! It’s like you’ve been carrying so much around for so long, and then you recall things and write it all out, and to look back and see it in written form just excites me to no end! That’s a great idea you had to put it all in a book. I’ll have to work on that. :)

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  22. Thank you Nurse Kelly. I have been a patient many times and the only positive aspect of my hospital stays was the compassionate treatment I received from the nurses. They were angels. I still dream of them. Never have I been so well cared for.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Hi Dennis! That’s wonderful to know. They must have really made an impression on you if they’re still in your dreams! Thank you for reading and commenting. :)

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  24. I think you were meant to be there with both Jeremy’s who needed someone with compassion and warmth. Sorry to hear about the Jeremy 2 who died. His mother seemed sad, as he felt down, too. I was trying to determine if the emotional impact of sadness prevents full healing. Mind-body connections are mentioned in studies. Also, scary to hear that Jeremy 1 is still suffering fr seizures. You are an angel, Kelly!

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Kelly, I know that at times I’ve been in the hospital in areas where there are serious illnesses and issues, and it’s those times when you realize that every person in those rooms, are individuals ..not just patients in a sterile environment. Many have been through so much, as well as their families and I’m sure that every one of them, hopes that the nurses and doctors caring for their loved ones is caring and compassionate, as well as efficient in their duties…. just as Jeremy 1 and 2’s families did… and had! Diane

    Liked by 1 person

  26. You are so sweet. Thank you for taking the time to read this. You bring up such a good point about mind-body awareness. Absolutely it is a factor in healing. Repetitive thoughts and emotional patterns can affect physical traits – for instance, anxiety can produce muscle tension. The mind definitely contributes to getting well. Look at the connection between stress and the immune response! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here and for your kind words.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. You know, you would have been an excellent nurse with your heart and compassion, Diane. I hope there are ways you are sharing that with other people (besides your blog) because it is something that can make such a difference in another person’s life. Thank you for your insight as always. xo

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  28. Thank you, once again, for choosing nursing as a profession.

    I remember when I had my first-born, and going through the unexpected c-secion, there were two experienced nurses, one of them used to be a Catholic nun. They both took turn to take care of me, knowing that my husband and I did not have any family around (we were still living in Boston then). Even after they ended their shift, they would come and check on me to make sure that I was doing well while in labor, and postpartum recovery.

    I was so thankful for just the emotional support.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I had a similar experience with my first-born as well. I will never forget the nurse who helped me through it. I labored for 2 days before the doc finally declared “failure to progress” and did the C-section. It was horrific!
    Nursing is actually a second career for me – something I wanted to do for years, then finally went back to school and did. My kids were both very young and I attended classes at night. It’s hard, but can be done, and a lot of people make the same decision later in their lives when they feel like they’ve finally decided what they want to do “when they grow up.” But you have to find an area you can work in to maintain a good work-life balance as well, because you can get really burned out. It’s not easy.
    So glad you had a good experience through that huge event in your life. Thanks for sharing that with me. I love to hear stories like that. xo

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  30. Hi Erika! I will try to do it if I have time – thank you! Getting ready to leave on a vacation, so I’m kind of buried, but thank you for passing on the challenge to me!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Well, I wondered when my kindred spirit would show up here! Thank you! It was an amazing feeling after writing this – kind of therapeutic and freeing. How is your writing going?

    Liked by 1 person

  32. This is great. I have not written anything. I think maybe this weekend I’ll see what happens to my mind. .

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Yeah, you need a lot of time for the stuff you write. You can always get away with the length, too. I cut this piece a lot – still came out long, but it was a good experience trying to piece it all together from memory. Thanks for reading it! I’m sure you have so many incredible stories.

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  34. Nursing is a tough vocation and I admire your dedication Nurse Kelly. I thank my nurses for always taking good care of me…in ICU, CCU or high dependency wards. The numerous ca bells I rang to get assistance. I am sure you are a great nurse and am grateful for your share. Lovely post :-)

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  35. Thank you for reading this and commenting here, GH! It’s so nice to hear that you’ve had good experiences with respect to your care in the hospital. Most of the time that’s the case, but unfortunately, not always. Thank you so much for your kind words as well. Means a lot to me. :)

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  36. I used to work in two retirement homes as a dietary aide. While I never had to do the tasks you do, I know how it feels to become attached to the patients you care for.

    I was in charge of making sure they lined up the kitchen to get their food in an orderly fashion and to assist those who couldn’t. There was a resident there who used to be a ballerina when she was younger. She had a walker so I would help her with bringing her food to her table and she was the sassiest woman ever.

    Well, one day, she started saying she wasn’t feeling good. She said it was a cold and she was going to lay down. Three days later, she was taken to the ER. Two days after that, the director of the retirement home informed the staff that she would not be coming back. She was diagnosed with advanced stages of cancer and she asked to be sent to a hospice.

    My boss, his wife, his granddaughter (who was my supervisor and friend) and I went to the hospice later that week to visit her. It was a Sunday. And as she lay in the bed she told us how much she loved us. She also said something that stuck with me to this day. She said “I made peace with the fact that I’m going to die soon. Don’t cry for me when I die, think of the good.” We stayed with her all day and into the afternoon when she eventually passed.

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  37. Alexa! Can’t believe it’s you! I LOVE your new photo! I saw your follow, so I followed you back. I will look forward to reading your posts again! This story you just shared should be written as a post. It’s so beautiful. That’s so wonderful that you could see her and hear her say she loved you. So glad she was at peace as well. Thank you so much for telling me about that experience in your life. I am packing for a trip, but will check out your blog as soon as I can. I hope you are well. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Very touching post. I know how difficult it is to find the right degree of professional involvement. But of course, it’s about the patients and also about being able to do the job and not break your heart in the process. Thanks for sharing and for you hard and caring work.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Hi Olga! You summed up my feelings perfectly on this. Sounds like you speak from experience. Thank you for reading, commenting, and the twitter shares. I really appreciate your generosity. Looking forward to getting to know you! :)

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  40. That’s a very beautiful thing to say. Thank you very much. I’m sorry to hear of your health issues. I hope you’re okay. Thank you for your kindness. :)

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  41. I just go in to flirt with the nurses :)

    Once, a lifetime ago when I played rugby I had a severe hematoma on my lower leg. The Dr determined that he had to open it up and remove the blood clot. He used a local, opened it up while I watched and used a small silver spoon like tool to scrape out the clot.

    I was young and hard and fit, and the nurse was an older black woman. As I sat in the operating room and watched the blood stream down my leg and he cleaned out the clot I began to feel queasy. The nurse must have noticed and reached out and touched my hand and squeezed it. After almost 40 years I still recall that moment for her kind, compassionate touch. Nurses matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Thank you for sharing that with me! Quite descriptive! I’m glad to hear a nurse helped you and left a lasting impression on you. It can sometimes be a “thankless” profession. And I agree, that they matter – you can only hope you receive good care from them these days, because the working conditions in the hospitals are tough. Thanks again for your support :)

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  43. This is an amazing piece. I am so sorry for Jeremy 2’s family and for those who were touched by this gentle, sad, giant. The last year my Dad’s fight for his life before he lost the battle, proved to me that without the warmth, compassion, and personal touch of his nurses, he would not have survived to fight for as long as he did. They took the time the doctor’s could not afford to (well, if I’m honest, I’d say time the doctor’s didn’t make for him), to get to know him as a man, not just the patient in room xxx. And they were individuals with him too…he knew which one he could joke with and which one would appreciate a good story, or tell him one instead. He was such a proud man…to be exposed in the ways you’ve described with the Jeremys could have lead him down the path of depression and feeling small, but they never let that happen. I can’t thank you and the special people who choose your profession enough, for making the difference between, if not always life and death, at the very least, wanting life over death.

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Thank you so much for reading this, Rhonda. You sure are a generous soul. I’m glad to hear your dad, and you, had a good experience with his care. That makes me proud of the nursing profession. Thanks again. xo

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