Frustration . . .

I’m beginning to think that the physics is against me. When I last checked into a medical facility – for the unbillical hernia repair – I weighed 223 lbs. Okay, I fully acknowledge that muscle mass weighs more than body fat, so it stands to reason that as I build muscle tone in body areas that have seen long-term neglect, weight loss could be a challenge.

But, seriously – only 2 months after beginning my program to get my abs back in shape, I’m now at 239?

Hernia Repair . . .

I’ve already shared that I had the corrective surgery for the hernia in my abdomen, but this update is to share that I’ve had the follow-up visit with the surgeon. He was very pleased with my recovery, and while he asked me to wait another 2 weeks before I start resuming my previous activities he said there should be no limits to what I do with my abdominal muscles after that.

I’m very happy with that. It is exactly what I’ve been hoping for, and waiting for, over the last 30 years. It is time to start getting rid of the watermelon I’ve been carrying on the lower part of my torso.

So, while I know I’m several weeks early, I’m announcing that my New Year resolution is that by the end of 2021, my abs will look more like what they did when I met my wife than they have for the last 10 years. I’ve known all along how to exercise to tone those muscles – now I have medical permission to start doing that. I’ve never had “six-pack” abs, but when I was a medic in the US Army my abs were flat, and that is the dream I have for where this will go. I just have to wait until the start of the new year before I can start. I’m excited!

Please forgive me . . .

I realized that I forgot to post a new “Saturday Posts” entry on Saturday, but I’m hopeful that you will all forgive me when you know the situation.

Last Wednesday, I reported to the local hospital outpatient surgery center at 0700 for the hernia repair surgery I’ve been waiting for since the mid 1980’s. While the surgery itself seems to have gone well, the first 3 days of the recovery were a trial in the extreme. I did not get any sleep at all after getting home for the first 36 hours. The pain medication they gave me (hydrocodone) did almost nothing for the discomfort unless I was also drinking coffee when I took it. It is a well known (within the medical community) truth that when you combine drugs that end in ” ine” the effects of the drugs are amplified. The active ingredient of hydrocodone is codine, while the active ingredient of coffee is caffeine. Together, in my recent experience, I felt a nice reduction of discomfort, while also not being able to get any sleep.

My solution to that was to quit taking the hydocodone, and after waiting 6 hours for the drug to vacate my system I started drinking vodka. That worked much better for helping me get any sleep, and since I made that decision I’ve experienced a slow but steady progress towards recovery.

Speaking as a patient, I must defer to the surgeon as to whether or not the surgery was a success. That being said, I think that when I see him later this week for the follow-up, he’ll agree. However much of a trial those first few days were, I do feel better. It’s my expectation that within the next week or two I’ll get what I’ve waited for all of these years – the authorization to begin light abdominal exercises with an eye towards full normal abdominal activity.

Updates . . .

Yes, yesterday was Veteran’s Day. I know that I have posted something about it every year for several years, but yesterday I did something more personal.

You see, I found a limited series on Netflix called “Medal of Honor” – which should be self-explanatory. I spent most of my waking hours yesterday watching that series, and saluting my brothers in uniform who rose to the occasion to deserve the highest military honor the USA ever awards. As one relative of a Medal of Honor recipient said in the show, “You want to think you’d do what they did, but you can never know for sure until you’re in that situation.” I was particularly impressed by the Medal of Honor recipients who have children or grandchildren who chose to enter the military service too.

I can only hope that Netflix will continue the series. All of those stories deserve to be told.

Additionally – I’m only about a week away from my first visit with the local General Surgery clinic where I’m supposed to get my abdominal hernia repaired. I do have one concern – that in the paperwork they sent me they wanted to know about alternative insurance. The Veteran’s Administration referred me to their clinic. I should need no additional insurance. If they are not willing to perform this procedure without some extra assurance of payment, I might have to decline. There is no way I’m going to sign anything that makes me, and by proxy my wife, obligated to pay for a procedure the VA sent me to them to receive.

Contractors . . .

I have no idea if what we have experienced lately is a part of a greater phenomena, but we’ve had a lot of trouble with local contractors in the last six months.

For example, the guy who installed, and has maintained, our house guttering for the last 6 years, was also the guy who was doing our mowing.  In the last 6 months, he’s been increasingly undependable, and has not cleaned our gutters since October, even though we paid in advance to have it done back that far.

We also just finished getting our house repainted, and even though we asked that the front door be painted to match the trim paint we selected, it did not happen.

I fully realize that Covid-19 has changed a lot of the rules of how contractors do jobs for private individuals, I am upset that we are having trouble getting contractors on the phone to discuss these problems.

We greatly prefer to give our business to local, even independent, contractors, for the specific reason of supporting local, self-employed businessmen.  Not only do they usually care more about doing a good job, but they also are people it is easy to develop a personal long-standing relationship with.

Except that the rules seem to have changed, since the genesis of Covid-19.  Since then, even the contractors we already had good relationships with have become difficult to get in touch with. They don’t answer their phones, and sometimes don’t even have voice-mail set up on their phones.  Several of the ones we’ve worked with for years are now distracted by jobs they took on that have nothing to do with the businesses they were building, but that they needed to keep their bills paid.

It breaks my heart to do so, but I feel that I have no choice but to replace the contractors that have become unreliable with other contractors who will respond when we call them.

As a foot-note, we had our house painted last week.  Our all-brick house is now a very light tan color with brick-red accents.  That cost us $2000 US plus the cost of the paint, but we’re already seeing a return on the investment.  Our HVAC system isn’t having to work as hard as before, in the job of keeping our home cool for the summer.

Updates . . .

Two things we’ve done this past week have been upgrades.  The first was a new toilet, and the second was upgrading the bed my wife sleeps on.  Both require more exposition to understand.

When we bought this house 9 years ago, it came with that ugly “early ’70’s Harvest Gold” colored toilet and bathtub.  Now, the bathtub can be recolored, but not a ceramic toilet.  In addition to that, the tank on the toilet held 3.3 gallons of water, and used all of it for every flush, making it a huge water waster.  After talking to our plumber, we realized that if we replaced it now, we could pay it off in a year or two with the savings on our water bill, AND have checked off one purchase we would need for the future total bathroom remodeling project.  So we did.  The toilet we got has a dual-flush system to increase how much water we save.  When we only pass fluids, we can push one button on the tank and it only uses 1 gallon of water to flush.  When there is more material to flush, we push the other button, and it uses 1.4 gallons of water.  It looks great, and works perfectly. We’re happy with the result.

Shortly before we decided to move forward with that project, my wife made a trip to the chiropractor complaining about waking in the morning, EVERY morning, with back pain.  The chiropractor looked her over, and told her she probably needed a mattress that provided better support.  My wife took that to mean a firmer mattress my wife sleeps on. But, when she priced mattresses locally, the prices she saw ran from $250 to over $3000.  So as a compromise, I suggested we trade beds until we’d saved the money to get her new mattress.

Enter act 2 of that saga.  She had planned to go shopping for the mattress this morning.  In the interval time, I’d been having trouble sleeping on the same bed she did – to me it felt like a brick already.  I couldn’t imagine how you’d make it more firm, short of removing the mattress and putting a 4″ thick steel slab on the box spring.  But Merlin (one of our cats) decided to NOT let me sleep at all last night, and I realized it wasn’t about how FIRM the mattress was, but the unnatural way that my body had to bend to try to sleep on it at all.  The only points of my body making contact with the mattress were my shoulders, hips, and ankles – none of the area between those spots.  So, I had an idea – a Memory Foam Mattress Topper, to provide full support to all contact points of the body whether she’s on her side, back, or front.

When she got up this morning, I’d already briefly searched eBay just to prove my theory was possible, and explained to her what I’d figured out – including that the mattress topper was, at worst, half the price of the very cheapest mattress she’d intended to look at.  Also, no delivery fee, because she’d be able to put it in the car to bring it home with her.  She liked that.

Ultimately, that is what she got.  It worked so well, when she tested it after we finished installing it, she loudly exclaimed, “WOW!  This feels like one of those luxury hotel beds I always want to get lost in forever!”  Of course, the FIRST member of the family to actually sleep on it is – MERLIN.  LOL!

Sliding Doors . . .

There was a movie a few years ago called “Sliding Doors” about a woman who experienced several different outcomes of a single event of her life, based on whether or not she reached a set of subway car doors before or after they closed when she was on her way home.

Whether you call it imagination, or alternate reality, or parallel universes, I have the ability to see some of the alternate realities I might have had available to me, and that is what this post is about.

First, a disclaimer – there are certain realities of my life, as I’ve lived it, that I do not think it is fair to consider variable.  I do not think that anything I might have done would have changed whether or not I got a bone tumor in my left leg, or the migraine headaches that resulted from taking the pain pills after the surgery that it caused. It also is not fair to assume that any of my personal decisions would have changed whether or not I got kidney stones.  Those things likely would have happened no matter what I did.

So, with that said, let’s look at my personal “Sliding Doors” choices.

The first choice I can remember making which would fit this category would be my joining the US military.  At that time, I had the option on the table of taking a scholarship to attend college.  Based on the laws of the time, if I had made the choice to enter college right after high school, I would not have had the medical insurance to cover the surgery on my bone tumor.  The best case scenario I can think of is that I would have lost my left leg entirely when the bone tumor manifested.  If I’d been in a math or music major, it is still possible I could have completed my studies and progressed to graduate school, but I would have been in serious debt and not sure of affording the expenses attached to completion.  Thus, I can’t find it in myself to regret the choice to join the Army.

The next major “Sliding Doors” moment I remember was after my discharge from the US Army, when I was on VA Vocational Rehabilitation, and studying Computer Science at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS.  After completing one assignment in the computer lab (this was in 1983, and ironically the computer lab was in the room that is currently my wife’s office) I had some time to kill and decided to explore the computer database to see what I could access.  Within minutes, I found myself face-to-face with the Computer Science Department’s Dean’s private files, and had access to ALL of the grades of every student in the program.  Looking back, I suppose that it was an option that I could have gone to the Dean and told him about this, but at that time I just freaked out (it hadn’t been so long since Matthew Broderick’s movie “Wargames” released) and quit the program to avoid becoming an actual hacker.  Going to the Dean might have saved my career, but I’m not sorry that I quit.  I can’t imagine that I’d have done well in a career where my whole job was sitting in a cubicle typing code for computer programs that I didn’t care anything about.  Choosing that major was probably a bad choice in the first place, but the Veteran’s Administration wasn’t willing to pay for me to go to college for anything where there wasn’t “documented need for trained workers” – or, to put it another way, they were only willing to feed corporate wage-slave demands.

After that, my next crossroads was spiritual.  For a while, I entertained the possibility that my interest in all things spiritual was leading me to a vocation as a Christian Minister, and I enrolled at a Bible college in the minister’s program, still in the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation program.  2 things of note happened there.  The first was that the faculty of the school didn’t like trying to answer questions that I kept asking, and I was asked to leave.  The second, while I was a student I took a course in Radio Broadcasting, and became a minor celebrity throughout the region because of my frequent air-time on the Bible College’s radio station.  When I told the director of the radio station that I would not be continuing as a student, he asked me to stay on as a DJ anyhow.

So, either of those could have turned out differently.  I could have accepted that the questions were “above my paygrade” and stayed in the program by choosing to stop asking those questions.  If I had, I’d likely be a church minister right now.  And, yes, it does not escape me that because of the rule “If it isn’t written, it isn’t true” I’m likely still an Ordained Minister of the Church of Scientology, for no other reason than that they never sent me a copy of any orders canceling my credentials. But, I don’t use them.  The other thing is, I could have stayed at the radio station, spinning discs and playing classical music, and made a fair,  but low, income until I had the experience to move up and embark on a full-time career.  However, the job I held there was SUPPOSED to be for current students (at least when I was hired) and since I chose to leave the student body at the school, my personal ethics wouldn’t let me keep the job.

Those decisions pretty much set the stage for how my life has gone.  Of course, along the way I’ve also been a waiter in a restaurant, a dish washer in a restaurant, a lawn mower, a security guard, a taxi driver, and even been offered a chance to be an independent business owner (gifted a business that was already making $250k/year in 1982).  But, in all of my exploration of those alternative paths my life may have taken, none of them led me to marriage with the wife I have now.

It’s just my humble opinion, but I think this is better.

 

Saturday Posts . . .

This is a post of updates . . . .

Yesterday was my trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to the VA Hospital for the MRI to see if I qualify for the femor replacement surgery yet.  It was a day of trials on every level.

First, because there were storms throughout the surrounding area, from 7am Thursday until we left  for Fayetteville I only got about 2.5 hours of sleep. I was already uncomfortable, and it was only going to get worse. Just after we passed through Joplin, MO, we drove into a torrential downpour that we continued to drive through the rest of the way to Fayetteville.  However, by slowing down and driving carefully, we made good time overall and got there safely.

When the MRI was started, the machine they wanted to use wouldn’t work – something about the coil for the magnets.  So, they had to use a different machine that was slower and far less comfortable.  The first machine would have been able to do the 4 images they wanted in about 2 hours – the one they had to use took about 45 minutes for each image.  That may not seem like much of a difference, but it’s huge when you’re already in pain, and the area that hurts is the area you absolutely can’t move if the images are going to be useful.  I got through the first image alright, but after starting the second, I had to take a break for a bathroom trip, and that ruined what we already had of the second image.  By the time we finally got the second image finished, I was in such pain I couldn’t  repeat them with the contrast media.  The technician was polite and understanding, but I felt like I had totally failed.  Still, there wasn’t any way to change the outcome.

Fortunately, we had good driving conditions for the trip home, and concluded our day eating supper in our own home with our cats happy to have us back.  I did a little bit of more searching on the internet, and discovered an article on PubMed summarizing recent research into Total Femur Replacement (TFR) surgery (it was published in 2015) which indicated very strongly that I’m almost certain not to get the surgery.  There are significant risks of life-threatening infections post op for patients over the age of 50, and I turn 57 next month.  Combine that with my history of a bone tumor and already compromised immune system, and I’m simply not a viable candidate.

I sort of wish I’d known that a month ago.  I wouldn’t have wasted the time and resources.

Exposed a lie . . .

Yesterday was a very long, but ultimately worthwhile, day for us.  It was my first visit to the new VA Health clinic in Joplin.

Of course, being a new facility, it looked nice.  In fact, it’s so new that the installed TV’s weren’t hooked up to any programming, yet.  LOL! To me, that was actually a good thing – we didn’t have to sit through hours of TV commercials while waiting for my appointments.

Anyway, the new care team I’m working with is AMAZING!  Every member of the team is either a veteran, or directly connected to a veteran.  They all expressed that they want to treat every veteran the way they’d want their family to be treated.

A direct result of that was exposing a lie told by my previous care doctor.  The previous one had told me, many times, that the Imitrex he was giving me was the ONLY prescription for Imitrex he could write.  10mg tablets, 9 tablets per 90 days, no automatic refills.  Yesterday’s visit with the new doc was RUSHED – his nurse said the doc usually wants to spend 2-3 hours working with a new patient on the first visit (I got 15 minutes because of a scheduling glitch) – yet he heard my complaint about the Imitrex and had no qualms about writing a new prescription for Imitrex at 50mg, 18 tablets per MONTH, with auto refill.

I think, in the long term, this is going to be a better experience, with another positive change scheduled to happen in June.  That change will come from Congress, so we’ll see how it works.

Updates and/or confessions . . .

Well, it has certainly been a year.  My wife and I were talking recently about all that has happened since Halloween 2016, which was about when we put the gas fireplace insert in the house, and trying to do the numbers.

Here is what I came up with:

Fireplace Insert             $3500.00

Hot Water Heater             500.00

New HVAC System       4500.00

Refrigerator                       450.00

Car starter (2x)                 300.00

Repair Oil Leak              1000.00

Which, I do believe, tallies up to just over $10K in house and car maintenance, in just over one year.  On the agenda for the coming year – replace our 20 year old car, and try to regain access to our garage.

Now for the confession.  This is something that has been in the back of my mind since my Thanksgiving post about my friend Francine.  So far, we haven’t heard any news about a change in her status, but the truth is, even if there had been a change, her family would be so busy with everything that they wouldn’t likely be thinking of updating a Facebook page.

But, the fact that she is dying (or has died) from cancer got me thinking of how surprised I was to hear the news.  Which reflected back on me – some things I haven’t put in my blog, so none of you know anything about them.  While they aren’t as imminently life threatening as cancer, it still feels dishonest to not tell you what is going on.

So, let’s back up about 6-7 months.  I’d been using my home gym to build strength, and muscle tone, and I really felt things were starting to turn around for my health and fitness.  Then, one day I woke up, and couldn’t raise my left arm up to shoulder level in any direction.  The pain of attempting to move it at all was severe.  My initial reaction was, “Oh,, I probably pushed that last workout a bit hard, and I’ll just need a few days off.”  Well, a few days became a couple of weeks with no improvement, so I asked my wife what she thought I should do.  After some discussion, she said she thought it was “frozen shoulder” – something I’d never heard of before, and suggested I go to the chiropractor.  And I did.  It didn’t even take him a whole minute to confirm her suspicion.  “Oh, yeah, that’s frozen shoulder, alright.”  He ran me through some range-of-motion tests, then gave me some home-exercises to do to “loosen it up.”  He also said that, while cheap, this was the LONG, SLOW path to recovery, but it would work.

Now, today, I only sleep about 1 1/2 hours at a time, and it has been like this for 6 months.  I’m in pain constantly, and while the exercises have my range of motion back to about 85% of normal, the pain has not reduced one bit.  When bad weather affects arthritis, or migraines kick in, that is on top of the trouble with the shoulder.  It has reduced me to a babbling wreck more than once, as well as causing me to miss some past Saturday posts.  I don’t know what to do anymore.  I even have trouble remembering what day it is, without help from my computer.

So, this isn’t actually killing me, but it has seriously screwed up my quality of life.

Oh, and in keeping with the updates and confession theme of this post, the new program I’m doing for the migraines has had a noticeable effect now.  While the migraines aren’t usually as sharp as they were, they also don’t tend to go away anymore – ever.  It has been like this for a couple of weeks.

I’m ready for a new game, perhaps even a new avatar.  This one is busted.

Next lifetime – can I be Supergirl?  PLEASE?