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God Loves Veterinarians, Glitterati and Doctors …

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The winter rains have finally come to the middle of Texas.  Of course, this was the day I was planning to do something about the yard.  Darn, darn, darn.  Or something.  But drizzly days are good for hot chocolate and musing, so muse I shall.

(R) Annie (L) Jenna

Jenna, my white 70 lb something-or-the other, is sleeping in the studio closet by my computer.  I leave the door open because that is a favorite place for her when she is feeling insecure because of the weather, fireworks, or pre-aura seizures.  Today it is the seizures, so I need to be extra vigilant with her.  She is what is known as a “runner” when she has seizures and appreciates someone grabbing her by the collar so that she can just thrash around rather than running into things and trying to climb corners.  But, unlike the other white dog I had, she gets over them quickly, waking up to greet the family and checking out the back yard.  The other white dog, Roscoe, was a dalmatian-mongrel who went into ictus right away and took a long-time reawaking.

Canine epilepsy is more of a curse for white dogs than it is for colored dogs.  With Roscoe, it was a time when vets knew next to nothing about canine epilepsy, and the seizures were gawd awful to watch.  You want to comfort the dog, but nothing seems to work.  I can’t count the times I slept with Roscoe on the cold kitchen floor while he slowly recovered.  I didn’t know it at the time, but dogs are marginally aware of their surroundings, and take comfort in knowing their owner is close by.  Both Jenna and Rosco would come running to me when they were on the verge of seizing, somehow holding off until I could grab them by the collar and talk to them the whole time.

Joanne Carson, second wife of 'Tonight Show' host Johnny Carson, dead at 84  - New York Daily News
Joanne and Johnny Carson

I was frantic with Roscoe, and it was an era of several competing web search engines.  Yahoo! was leading the pack then, and I began a search on treating dogs for epilepsy.  My vet was of little help on this, though it wasn’t because he was negligent. There just wasn’t much information out there.  But I discovered a small group of people who also had dogs with epilepsy, and they put me in touch with Joanne Carson, one of Johnny Carson’s exes.   She was an MD and had an epileptic dog and thought to treat it like she would for one of her own patients.  She sent me reams of data to share with my vet, and my vet dutifully read everything.

The treatment for human epilepsy wasn’t much better for humans then than it was for dogs, but she developed a procedure that I am convinced led to Roscoe living a long and productive life.  It involved staying with the dog and comforting it as best you can, and Valium® administered rectally with a syringe and a cat catheter.  Messy business and more Valium® went on the floor than inside the dog, but it helped with Roscoe.  I don’t think Jenna’s seizures have been as severe as Roscoe’s though a dog-rescue colleague who is also a CBD distributer (thank you Sanchia!) convinced me that CBD oil does in fact help with her seizures and can be administered before and after.

Joanne gave me her personal Hollywood phone number and told me to call her at any time of the day when Roscoe seized.  She was as good as her word, and I called late in the evening.  She walked me through the ordeal, and kept me together, and stayed with me until Roscoe finally relaxed and started breathing normally as he slept.  She was my angel that evening.

In these tumultuous days of mine as I stare down Thanatos’s and his scary scythe, these moments when strangers rode to my rescue appear out of the fog of memory, greet me, and disappear back into the fog. I will be a miserable fool if I don’t remember that humans can and do rise above the mean circumstances and help their fellow man.  I am grateful for this gift of like and hope to be as kind and thoughtful as these two women were for me.

And with this soggy post, a soggy good morning!

Meeting Thanatos Head-On

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This has been a long week of sober assessments and reflections for me.  I am not in any acute danger of dying at this point, but my life has been put on a shortened leash.  Oddly, I am glad the uproar is over, and I can begin preparations for this stage of life.  I really don’t want to sound morbid, and while this recent spate of setbacks has sobered me a great deal, it is as much a stage of life that needs to be met head on as all the other challenges I faced or ran from in life.  I will come down extremely hard on the medical practitioner who tries to “protect” me from bad news.  I can tell positive thinking from fact, and I resent being treated as a child.  If my chances are slim to none, I want to know.  I refuse to let Thanatos blindside me.  I will look him in the eye as he swings his scythe.

But it isn’t with heroics that I’ll meet this challenge.  I will meet it by rising out of my bed each morning, walking into the kitchen, getting those first sips of coffee in me, taking my vitals, eating something simple such as toast or cereal and then taking my meds.  Snooks and I sit quietly with each other for a fleeting moment, and we talk. We have never been chatty with each other.  Sometimes it is soft morning talk and sometimes it is laced with true feeling. I do not wish to leave her unprepared, but I have so many loose ends to tie up.  I am thinking of issuing instructions to my medical people that it is time for palliative care and not therapeutic care.  If something will enable to live at comfort, breathe easier or maintain my strength, that is fine.  But if it is merely to extend my life beyond its time, it needs go away.

Mz Muse

So, my morning coffee posts will be more of the end-of-life chronicles rather than kicking politicians and journalists to the curb though I am sure that I’ll squeeze them in somewhere.  They are in the words of the military, a target rich environment.  I am going to drag Mz Muse out of retirement once again to talk about this.  Sometimes I need an acerbic wit as a foil to my melodrama.  Mz Muse hates melodrama and poorly executed hyperbole.  But I think it will also be our last goodbye.  Three novels sit in obscure file folders on my PC, and now I know they will never be opened again.  So I no longer need someone to build a fire under my butt to write.  Who knows?  Perhaps I’ll even say something nice to her, though I am sure she will wait for the punchline.  It will be a bittersweet goodbye.  I will in fact miss her. We had a long run.

So the winters day flits by.  Piles of construction debris and material await moving to the burn pile or put on sleepers.  The fence will not be repaired, one set of steps wont be getting fixed.  I want to mow before the spring greenery starts to grow so that the Bermudagrass has a better chance of growing … I can still ride a mower.  Yeah.  I am not going to lay down and die either.

And more health updates

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Well, the indignities of old age keep piling up.  And I thought that I was making so much progress.  Hopefully these bitchy little posts will run their course, and I can look at something besides my own navel.  I am so tired of my griping.  My bladder is a mess, much like a balloon that as lost all elasticity, so I wear a catheter for the rest of my life.  I have been diagnosed with severe COPD and emphysema, so my physical therapy is not going to yield the results I hoped for.  I am fighting a holding action now.

The one bright ray of sunshine is that the latest heart stents I had installed ended over five decades of discomfort.  Funny how you can carry so much pain and not realize it until it stops.  I still have an upcoming pulmonary consult at the end of the month, and a sleep study the month after.  At some point all this must stop, but fight has noy been beat out of me yet.

Soon, I’ll be back to remarking on the ever-expanding circles of stupid that has engulfed the nation.  It is strange how we laughed at these fools before.  I sure am not laughing now.  I am thinking there is no cure for it. Even so, come Melech Y’shua.  It is time.

Tu B’Sheva, 5703

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Tu B’Sheva, 5703

A celebration of the rebirth of trees, and it would be my Jewish birthday this Sunday.  I’ll not bore you with a litany of spiritual events that surrounded my life so many times on this day, but each of them profoundly changed me.  Even during those times G-d and I were at loggerheads.  He was ever the gentleman, persistent with me, but never overbearing.  On this day, alone in an attic of an old house in Denver around midnight on Tu B’Sheva 1582, I yielded to him.  He has remained faithful since then, even during those times doubt consumed me. He stayed the perfect gentleman.

May I keep that same respect for those who haven’t found him.

Because the Hebrew New Year is synced with the ripening of grain, it “floats” every year and doesn’t occur on the same day on the Gregorian calendar.  It is NOT my observed birthday this year, so no well wishes are needed!  I just wanted to talk about it!

First you take a deep breath.

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How can I break bad news remotely? | The BMJ

Well, I got the dreaded 8am call from my pulmonary specialist, and I inherited two genetic maladies.  Emphysema and COPD.  One was very serious, but I don’t remember which one.  Being the google maven I am, I did my research, and the prognosis isn’t good.  I had smugly thought I had aced the test.  So, some very expensive meds are ordered, but with insurance, they will only be about $45 a month, and that is hardly bankrupting.

Years ago, I had speed read a book called First You Cry by Betty Rollin about her reaction to that sort of call informing her of a malignant breast tumor.  I didn’t cry, but I did take a few deep calming breaths, and realized I didn’t have to do all the preparations today.  There is time to exercise, to dream, to read, to solidify family connections and to prepare Snookums.  I think I have at least one good summer left in me, and I am going to make it a good one.

But I do need a plan, an outline if you will.  Papers must be notarized, codicils written, useless items given away/sold/junked.  I will simplify my life to better tend to the important things.  My eyes are good, my energy is enough to run errands, my mind is sharp enough to write.  I have a hoarding instinct, though by comparisons to others, a very mild case. But  I don’t think I am going to need new stuff.  Stuff has suddenly lost its hold on me.

I fret most about Snookums.  It is like deserting her at a time she needs me most.  So much to do in that area.

I am putting fiction on the back burner and avoiding “coffee” posts if they are too mawkish.  It is a time of introspection and not regret.

That part is odd.  It is true that God shows old men more of his mind than he does young men.  When I was young, it was my ability or lack of ability to follow his rules.  Today, I just want to watch him and marvel, and I don’t care whether I follow a rule or not.  At this stage in life I am not likely to get in too much trouble by just drifting along.

So that is the update.  I don’t know where these little missives will go at this point.  I do want to chronicle this adventure, but I want to stay positive and upbeat.  I do not fear death, but I am not overly fond of dying.  Keep in mind that the prognosis is about five years out, and even then, the odds are still six out of ten that I’ll make it past five. Being a gambler, those aren’t such terrible odds if you already have a pile of chips in front of you.  And boy!  Do I have a pile of chips!

Good morning!!

A Curmudgeons New Year!

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Well, the New Year has begun warmly today with a high of 72° and a very slight chance of rain.  I am glad because I have been trying to write 2022 on my checks and official documents all of last year.  I must have been unconsciously wanting the year to be over.  2022 brings hope with it, though I am a pessimist by nature.  Set the bar low enough and you aren’t disappointed.

Recovery is still coming along slowly, but I do think the physical therapy is helping.  My therapist is slim and trim, and in her 50’s though everyone would guess early thirties.  She comes twice a week to torture me back into physical health.  I do feel a bit of progress that helps keep me out of depression at my sorry physical shape.  My upper body strength is pretty good, but my legs won’t carry me far.  Stamina is my main goal now, but the brief walking exercises take it out of me.

 This is the first morning I woke without nausea.  What a blessing that was!  I am weary of post-prandial and morning sickness.  Next up is a visit to the pulmonary clinic for assessment, then to the urologist for another look at the bladder.  Hopefully the catheter comes out then, but if not, it’s the rooter-rooter curse us old curmudgeons men deal with. 

And lastly, the sleep clinic people for assessment.  I haven’t forgotten how to breathe since I left the hospital, so I suspect that much of the apnea was caused by the high-powered drugs I was getting.  But a breathing machine also recorded several episodes where I stopped breathing but because it would breathe for me, I didn’t awaken.  It was heaven for me, so a CPAP machine is looming large into my future.

The New Year’s celebrations were kind to the mutts this year, with Tic wrapping himself around Linda’s head, and Jenna being clingy, but surprisingly calm.  She sometimes works herself into seizures, but flashes of light from lightning upset her most.  The fireworks weren’t accompanied by flashes, so she was more settled.  ‘Becca da Beagle isn’t bothered by anything other than me sitting in her chair.

It feels good to be driving again after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus.  Unfortunately, I developed other physical maladies after getting cataract surgery, so the driving time had to postponed.  Poor old Bucephalus, as I call my aging Dodge mommy van, had a dead battery and I noticed one brake was dragging, so it is off to the mechanic early next week with him.  My hearing aids need to be serviced after that, then  my two riding mowers need transporting to the mechanic as soon as Bucephalus is back in shape enough to pull a transport trailer.

So the New Year begins with a full task list.  I hope my legs hold out long enough to get all that done …

I wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year, and a pleasant good morning!

MzMuse and Coffee

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Well, here I sit, staring at a blank page on the word processor.  I have been a slacker when it comes to writing.  But I am OK with it because I met out the punishment for my laziness, and I rarely harm myself.

Fiction is dead to my brain.  I lay in bed and let my mind wander for new themes, but all I do is rehash the old ones.  I even drug Mz Muse out of retirement, and she simply agreed with me that I am a sluggard that is too lazy to even shovel food into my face.  She has ever been a fan of mine.

One of my adopted mentors, Gene Amole (of blessed memory) was a columnist with the now defunct Rocky Mountain News.  WWII vet who refused to glamorize war and was hyper-critical of Hollywood’s portrayal of it.  His biggest gripe was that men died silently when wounded.  Having taken part in the assault during the Normandy Invasion, his recollection was that the wounded were screaming in pain before dying.  Hard stuff.  But Gene also owned a classical music radio station in Denver and hosted a morning show.  Often you would hear birds chirping from an open window in the cramped studio.  How I miss that radio station, and how I miss his curmudgeonly posts on political hubris.

But to continue, his muse was an imaginary “idea fairy” that he had conversations with and would write down their conversation.  The idea fairy wore a ratty tutu and sat on his typewriter.  Yes, Virginia, there was a time when word processors did not have spelling and grammar checkers, and if you made a mistake, you had to cross the lines out with a pen and rewrite them.  He would post his conversations unedited, and you learned that the first draft of his column was a horror of typos, grammar errors and lousy formatting.  I took the idea of the idea fairy and made my own muse.  MzMuse.

MzMuse is a dour, frumpy middle-aged woman with hideous tastes in clothing.  She is modeled after an old boss of mine who was hardnosed and generous at the same time.  She wears a pink Rayon™ blouse, a brown woolen pencil skirt that sometimes shows the tops of her hose and the garter snaps.  Yeah.  Pretty dated.  But she is mine and I love her.

MzMuse

However, I decided to not resurrect her for this little missive.  I want to go somewhere with it, but the destination still hasn’t presented itself.  I am looking for something to kickstart my writing now that I am feeling better than I have in many years, though I am left feeble and easily winded by the ordeal.  I did not know that I was so damaged.

Onwards

Usually when I sit down to write and do not know where I am going, I put something down.  It can be nonsensical, or a peeve, or just an observation that kicks off the essay.  I am more of an essayist than a novelist.  After five hundred words or so, I have said all that was necessary.  But today, this is what has come to my mind.  I had hoped that I would have started a new tale rather than mull over my sad fate.  But it is what it is.  A writer writes.  If he does not write, he is not a writer.  So, write I shall.  Even if it is just a coffee post ..

Good morning!

On the Mend

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On the Mend Card by Alison Friend - Two Bad Mice

This is merely an update for family and friends, and if you find it boring and tedious, I shan’t be offended if you move on to more entertaining posts. One cannot always write for his larger audience!

The Foley catheter is still in.  The earliest I see the urologist is Dec 28th, but I have grown used to having it in. Not having to get up in the middle of the night to piddle is one blessing.  I am still getting crystalized clots from time to time, so maybe it is for the best. 

The stents were the real blessing in this ordeal.  One pain that I had long believed to be GI problems turned out to be heart pain, and I am sleeping through the night pain-free for the first time in many, many years.

I am still very weak and rising for that first cup in the morning is another ordeal. I have learned to sit on the edge of the bed for a few minutes before padding into the kitchen.  By the time I get a cup from the cupboard and pour it, I am weak and winded.  A few steps more and I collapse at the kitchen table.  I have a scale there that I need to weigh myself each morning to decide if I need to take more diuretics, and after a few sips of coffee, I weigh myself.  Then it is out with the blood pressure cuff, the pulse oximeter, the thermometer, and the glucose meter.  When I get all those measurements done, I have something to eat.  Lately, I have been off my feed, and either a couple of pieces of toast, or sometimes a glass of V8 juice, I am ready for the meds.  That is followed by nausea, and I pad down to my studio to check on the world outside my virtual and real windows. After I am up for a while, I become marginally stronger and can shower myself.  Today I might try to drive for the first time in a couple of years.  The battery is toast in Bucephalus, so it is boost it, and try to drive down to Walmart for a new battery.  I am not sure right now if I have the confidence to do it without Snookums being along.

I am starting home physical therapy this week to try and get myself strong enough for cardiac rehab.  Cardiac rehab is done at the hospital, and the parking lot sits at the bottom of a hill below the entrance.  I don’t think I could make it up the hill at this point.  So, it is home therapy once a week until the holidays are over, then twice a week for as long as necessary.

January, February, and March will be a round of follow-up visits and ending with a sleep study.  I developed apnea in the hospital, probably due to the high-powered antibiotics and sedatives.  I was afraid to sleep because I would wake up not knowing how to breathe.  So they put me on a CPAP machine and that stopped that. I haven’t had that severe of an attack since I left the hospital, but I suspect that a CPAP machine is in my near future.

And that’s the health update ending in annus domini 2021 … may the upcoming year be a better one.

As one wag put it:  … the moment you realize that 2022 is pronounced just like 2020 too …

Tedious Update …

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I hope this the end of my hospital/near death stories.  You probably hope so too!  This is to update those of you who are interested on a few things that I omitted in my earlier facebook posts. 

I went to the ER after a week on antibiotics from my personal physician that didn’t seem to help.  I foolishly took time to make that decision a week to see if the medicine worked.  It didn’t.  It was procedure time, and when I went into the hospital, they were on me like bees on syrup.  My kidneys had shut down, my heart was in constant arrhythmia and the docs later told me that I probably would have died had I waited until Monday like I first thought.

I had been having problems with urinating for a few months earlier but put off seeing the doctor until it was more convenient to me.  Yeah, I know.  Stoopid with a double oh. So, the night before I was going to call the doc again, in straining to pee I could feel I broke something, and finally told Snookums to drive me to the hospital.

The doctors were on me like bees in a hive.  The ER doctor hovered.  The urologist on- call inserted a large foley catheter, as I howled in pain.  The Cardiologist on-call was on the spot and had me hardwired into the shocker.  I am happy to report that I didn’t trigger the shocking machine.

They debated much on the medications I was given.  Some of the cardiologist’s meds were at odds with the urologist and vice versa.  They rinsed my bladder for over a week or two, but since I lost all track of time, I am sure I got the sequence and times wrong. 

But to continue.  You know you are in trouble when you see nothing but doctors around your gurney saying OMG! Huge clots flowed out of the Foley and into the bag.  The doctors sounded like fishermen comparing the sizes of their catch as each stream of clot oozed out into the clear tubes.  They couldn’t believe that I waited that long to come in.

I hovered between deep sleep and periods of lucidity while my bladder was rinsed of blood clots and other detritus, and somewhere in all that I went into the cath-lab for four stents.  It was painful as all hell which was unusual for me.  My other balloons and stents didn’t hurt like that.  But what I thought was indigestion for the last many years was angina.  Finally, after years and years, success with that!

I was then wheeled out to the recovery room in intense pain where the nurse offered me Tylenol® and I went off on her.  I feel a bit guilty of that now, but I felt that my pain wasn’t being addressed.  Finally, the Cardiologist gave me fentanyl and the pain sort of subsided to the back of my mine but didn’t totally disappear.  To this point, the doctors don’t think that was from the cath, but that’s where it started, so I am assuming they bruised something near the backbone.  They gave me topical pain killers, but they didn’t stop the discomfort.  But in time, that did go away near the end of my stay.

Then I forgot how to breathe when I fell asleep.  I have suffered for years with night paralysis, but it never effected my breathing.  But waking up trying to remember how to breathe frightened me.  They put me on a CPAP breathing machine, and that solved the breathing problem, and the heart pain.  I haven’t had that happen since I left the hospital, though, but a Sleep Study looms big in my future.  

I was discharged two weeks later and have felt pretty good except for a time when the Foley was clogged, and I went to the ER to have it changed.  I failed the pee test and I expect that the old Roter-Rooter of the prostate also looms in my near future.  I can’t say I am fond of that idea, even though I have been assured that it is relatively painless. Doctors seem to have a different standard for ‘discomfort’ than I do.

Physically I am very weakened.  Just the 30’ walk to the kitchen tires me.  Recovery in that area is going to be a long time routine, and I am not so sure that I am up to it.  I am tired.

So, thanks for the prayers! I couldn’t believe how many people where praying people, including a couple of nurses!  I am sure that is the reason I have come out of the experience reasonably well.

Thank you all!!

The Scrub Down

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We can only tell so many near death stories without bad luck catching up to us. I dodged that bullet that had my name on it again.

I originally wanted to describe an event that happened to me when entering the hospital.  I wish I were an artist and could paint the picture that is in my head because I can make the words describe that sublime moment of humiliation.  I manage tragedy with gallows humor, and that is very disconcerting to other people, so I save that sort of humor for a few people that I know can handle it. I have decided to break the tale down into short essays and see if I can return to the original story with a freshened view.  I really want to tell it, but it must be more polished before I post it.

It is not a very sanitary story, so if bodily processes and gore upset you, go no further.  You have been warned.

The Scrub Down

See the source image

I had been in the emergency room around three hours as doctors irrigated out blood clots from my bladder.  My body was shutting down when the ambulance brought me in.  I was not aware that I was in such serious trouble.  I just thought I was having the usual male curse of a swollen prostate.

Several doctors were standing around commenting on the huge clots.  You know you are in trouble when one of the doctors say, “Oh my God!” as each huge dollop of clotting exited into the plastic bag hanging off the edge of my gurney.  I was a star.  Everyone stopped by to see the fluid draining.  They had never seen that much clotting before.

But the release of the pressure was a blessed event, right up there with an epiphany as I laid there on the hard pad of the ER gurney.  The doctors were still busy figuring out how to restart the kidneys and fighting the arrythmia in my heart. It appears the treatment for the two problems were in opposition to each other, and they were doing a ballet dance of controlling medicines and reacting to lab results.  When I was stabilized some six hours later, they transferred me to their Level 1 Intensive Care where each patient had their own nurse, and the rooms were large enough to allow several medical specialties room to work on the patient at the same time.

Waiting around the bed were six nurses, each armed with an orange scrub brush mounted on the end of a short handle.  I was very unsanitary at that moment, and I was really humiliated at the body filth.  But this small squad of petite scrubbers did their work over every inch of my body with military-like efficiency.  When finished they all turned at the same time and exited single file from the room.  It felt good laying on the soft mattress and clean sheets, and I let my humiliation slowly bleed out. Modesty and dignity had to go into storage.