Regina Orton

Regina Orton opening gifts

Regina Orton opening gifts at her 70th birthday party, held in her home, October 13, 1999

This is my mom, Regina Sesselman Orton. She is 71 now, retired from her job as a file clerk with the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services. She is an insulin-dependent diabetic, legally blind, and just received a kidney transplant in July of 2000.

When these photos were taken, she was on hemodialysis three days a week for four hours each treatment. She had sustained two falls in a one-year period, the first breaking both of the bones in her right leg, the second breaking her hip. Both required surgery, and the osteoporosis in her lower leg was so bad that she required bone grafts to repair the breaks. (The osteoporosis was a result of the hemodialysis leaching calcium out of her bones.)

Because of her frail condition and the toll constant dialysis was taking on her, Regina hired aides who initially stayed with her 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, her savings dwindled to nearly nothing and she had to cut back on hired help. Today, she has one woman, Sharon Herrington (below, middle of the back row), who helps her 30 hours a week. Sharon is a godsend! She's great with my mom, and is much more a personal assistant and companion than a home health aide.

Regina with some of her aides
Regina with some of her aides. Left to right, Sheila Serhan, Sharon Herrington, Marge Bayer.
October 13, 1999

Regina has had a fairly hard life. The oldest of six children, she had to quit school at 16 and go to work for New York Telephone Company in Monticello, New York to help her mom, Geneva Harrington Sesselman, support the family when her dad, Andrew Sesselman, abandoned the family. Her mother died in April, 1995, in a nursing home in Saratoga Springs. She too suffered from diabetes, and had lost her vision.

Mom and her sisters
From left to right: Elaine Sesselman Rohling, Marilyn Sesselman Izzo, Geneva Harrington Sesselman, Veronica Sesselman Martin (standing), Regina Sesselman Orton.

Ronnie Martin, Geneva Sesselman, Regina Orton

Ronnie Martin, Geneva Sesselman, Regina Orton

Her brother Jimmy died in July, 1994 and her sister Elaine died in February, 1995, both suffering from cancer. Her sister Gerry (Geraldine) died at 16 in 1947. She had numerous medical problems, and attended St. Mary's School for the Deaf in Buffalo, New York. Her sisters Veronica Sesselman Martin of Milton, Florida and Marilyn Sesselman Izzo or Saratoga Springs, New York are still alive.

Regina's Wedding Photos
Taken 5/21/1950 at Hig's Cascades in Greenfield Center, NY
Wedding Photo 1
From left to right: Wesley Jesse Orton, Jr., Regina Sesselman Orton, Helen Feulner Treadway, Mitchell Treadway.
Wedding Photo 2
From left to right: Frank Kubish, Wesley Jesse Orton, Jr., Regina Sesselman Orton, Marilyn Sesselman (later Izzo).
Wedding Photo 3
Wesley and Regina cutting the wedding cake.
Wedding Photo 2
From left to right: Geneva Harrington Sesselman, Wesley Jesse Orton, Jr., Regina Sesselman Orton.
Wedding Photo 2
Wesley Jesse Orton, Jr., and Regina Sesselman Orton

On May 21, 1950, she married Wesley Jesse Orton, Jr. in Greenfield Center, New York. For the first several months of their marriage, they lived in Saratoga Springs, then moved to a house in Greenfield Center, on Sand Hill Road, where she still lives. I was born on December 15, 1951; my brother Mark was born on August 10, 1954.

Mark Orton and Family
Seated: Mark W. Orton and his wife, Kathy Diehl Orton
Standing: Mark W. Orton, Jr., his wife Stacey, and Jason M. Orton

My early memories are of my mother working days and my father working nights as a security guard at the Saratoga Raceway. He would stay with me while my mother worked. In addition, he periodically did freelance logging, selling the wood he'd cut to pulp mills.

He worked on his own pretty steadily until my brother and I were both hospitalized at the same time in the winter of 1964, he for a compound fracture of his thigh bone that required traction, and me for appendicitis, which required emergency surgery. Of course, we had no health insurance, and the hospital bills drove my father to leverage some of his political connections to get a State job with the Department of Transportation.

My father was active in local civic and political circles, and was elected to Town Justice in Greenfield in 1971. He was also a Lieutenant in the Middle Grove Volunteer Fire Department, and a past Captain. My mother was active in the Ladies Auxilliary.

Wesley died in April, 1975 of a very sudden heart attack. In an ironic coincidence, he was buried on the day my brother's wedding was initially scheduled to take place. Of course, the wedding was rescheduled.

Regina was asked to take over the remainder of my father's term as Town Justice, and agreed. She also took a job, and continued to keep her home in Greenfield. Eventually, she went to work for DCJS in 1985. She was granted a disability retirement from DCJS in 1996.

Me and my mom
Me and my mom, October 13, 1999

Her kidneys failed in 1994, and she began dialysis. This became more difficult for her as the years wore on, as it seemed to sap more and more of her strength. It got to the point where she could do nothing but rest after her treatments. She was placed on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. I offered to donate a kidney, but because I am also a diabetic, the doctor told me that they would not take a kidney from me.

Regina, looking very tired
Regina, looking very tired. This was after dialysis, and she was exhausted.
October 13, 1999

In July of 2000, Regina got the call she'd been waiting for, and rushed to Albany Medical Center in Albany, New York, to be tested for a kidney transplant. The donor kidney was a match and the surgery took place. She was only hospitalized for a week or so, then went home with a functioning kidney.

Because of the necessity of suppressing her immune system to prevent rejection of the donated kidney, my mom had a huge risk of rejection and/or infection, and had to be monitored constantly. Her intake and output had to be charted to ensure that she was not retaining fluid, and she had to go to Saratoga to have blood drawn 3 times each week so that her doctor could monitor her progress. Every other week, she went back to Albany Medical Center to have a check-up. They also had her see a endocrinologist, who works to get her diabetes under good control.

I moved into her house when she returned from the hospital, and stayed with her until fall when it appeared as if she'd gotten over the hump. In addition, she still had Sharon, who worked with her 30 hours a week and took her to most of her medical appointments. Regina spent most of her time at home, relaxing and watching copious amounts of television. On the days when all that was available was sports programming, she turned off the tube and listened to a good book. She was especially fond on Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta stories.

On September 11, 2002, Regina fell ill with a bladder infection, which completely debilitated her. After she got out of the hospital, she moved in with me, and stayed here (except for frequent hospitalizations) until she suffered a massive stroke from which she could not recover. My brother and I sat by her side for almost a week while she hovered in a coma. She died on April 16, 2005 at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady. Her death certificate mistakenly identified the cause of death as an injury caused by a fall.

My brother Mark Orton and his wife, Kathy A. Diehl Orton, now live in Toano, Virginia, where he manages a metal can manufacturing plant for the Ball Corporation. His sons, Mark and Jason, have both married.

Mark Jr., his wife Stacey, and sons Justin Alexander and Ryan Wesley live in Oklahoma City. Mark Jr. is a second lieutenant in the Air Force, and is stationed at Tinker AFB, and is assigned to fly the large AWACS-class jets. In his spare time, he races mountain bikes.

Jason, his wife Sarah and their daughter Brianna have settled in Virginia near Mark's house. Jason is a welder.

I am still living in Schaghticoke, working in Albany for the Governor's Office of Employee Relations, where I'm the agency's IT Manager. I am also a co-chair for the NYS Forum's IT Accessibility Committee, and am very proud of the work I've been able to do with that organization to improve the accessibility of the state's web sites for people with disabilities — a crusade I took up after I saw the shoddy treatment my mother received as someone who was blind.

So that's the rest of the story — at least for now.

Copyright 2001 - 2006 Debi Orton

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