Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Best Part

    There's this thing called "referred pain," and it's not the best part of anything. Yeah, it's the kneecap that's broken and has the scary incision over it, but swelling and displacement and, I don't know, perturbation of the humors makes other bits hurt. I refer to my manifestation as the shin splint from hell. Moving the leg up and down can trigger it. Pulling the brace up when it slips down the leg can trigger it. A therapist bending the knee ferociously can trigger it. Even stretching in bed can trigger it. And if you have a dream in which you are sitting against a wall, and someone tries to steal a valuable knife that's down by your side, and you kick him with the left leg, which in the dream is fine, does that ever trigger it. Boy howdy. First you wake up and think, "Ow. Bad idea." And then you think, "THE FRONT OF MY SHIN HAS SPLIT WIDE OPEN AND WHEN I TOUCH IT I'M GOING TO FEEL A BLOODY MESS." Only the leg feels perfectly solid and dry. It just hurts. Like the shin splint from hell. I mean, the incision was pretty bad the first couple of days, as though periodically filled with lighter fluid and set aflame, but that wore off. A mere bit of prickliness remains. Referred-pain killer shin splints linger on, gradually a little less groan-inducing.
How it feels
How it feels, II
       But then there's the friend who brings you an orchid plant and a couple copies of The Enquirer (yeah, I read 'em) and offers to get groceries, even though she has to go to two stores because inventory hasn't recovered from the hurricane. And another stops in with food, empties and reloads the dishwasher and takes the dog out to the yard to play fetch, a one-woman band of elves. There's the young dear who's busy with her own life who sets up an online bring-a-meal list and goes first. And here come the comfort foods: lasagna, meat loaf, shepherd's pie (we almost fought over the last serving), an unusual chicken stroganoff (for which I must have the recipe), homemade Cuban picadillo with rice and black beans and the thinnest, crispiest tostones ever, and lentil soup and beef and vegetables and brisket and pork roast and a chicken and tomato dish worthy of a French bistro. And breads and salads and fruit and chocolate chip cookies and bourbon-laced brownies. (Yes, sir, gotta love them Presbyterians.) Couple of restaurant gift cards too.
    I am strict about exclamation points. I edit them pitilessly from all church publications. The aforementioned organizer of meals knew she was taking a chance when she emailed that it was no problem to arrange help because our church people love us! She used exclamation points! I didn't mind a bit! I love them too. And that's the best part.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Middle Part

    They didn't bring me dinner in the hospital because there was a slim chance I could go for surgery in the morning. No one was sure because of Hurricane Irma. Once it got late enough that the staff knew I wasn't on the schedule for Sunday, my nurse scrounged up some chicken noodle soup in a styrofoam cup and a very plain sliced turkey sandwich in one of those clear plastic triangular packages. Hunger truly being the best sauce, I savored every bite.
     There was a hurricane out there somewhere, but up on the seventh floor in that sturdy building, there was little sign of a storm. My bed faced away from the window, so I couldn't watch the clouds, or even take it very seriously when they rolled my bed as far from the window as possible because of a tornado warning. My survival instincts fixed instead on getting somebody in here with a bedpan stat. (I never actually used the term "stat," but it sounds ever so imperative.) Imperative was the word of the night, since I'd been forbidden to drag myself to the bathroom. This is distressing to a person who has given birth four times, is under major stress, and is... old. So, sorry, adoring public, but that was my focus while Irma did her worst outside.
       If I'd been ambulatory, I might have seen the staffers of all kinds that I later heard were bunking down in offices and break rooms to make sure there would be enough nurses and techs and transport people to run the place the next day. Did I mention how thankful I am for modern medicine? And extra thankful for the people who do things like that to make sure little old me is taken care of? I told one of the nurses, "You make me feel like I'm the only person in the hospital." She smiled. "That's the goal," she said. I learned later that a staffer or two had been perfectly happy to stay where electricity was guaranteed, as opposed to their hot, dark homes. I don't care. They're still noble.
    Sunday morning, I was still on the no-food list, so nobody brought breakfast.
There was mention of oatmeal, but the promise was washed away with the storm. Fortunately, there was plenty of oxycodone. I seem to remember some sort of fairly edible lunch. Then, good news: no dinner for you. Because you're on the list for surgery on Monday. After non-breakfast, the surgeon came in and initialed my left leg with a marker. It was on.
     I wish I had more to say about the operation, but all that registered was being rolled to the surgery staging area, where the most interesting sight was the man across the way. He had a beard like you can't imagine: rolling masses of variegated gray surging across his chest from shoulder to shoulder, Lear's limerick brought to life. "There once was a man with a beard/ who said, 'It is just as I feared./ Two owls and a hen/ four larks and a wren/ have all built their nests in my beard.'" Gotta love the classics. Then the nice anesthetist came along and poured some oblivion into my IV. Next thing I knew, I was back in my room with two screws in the kneecap and a couple of wires stretched over it to keep it in place.
     I was starving. I told the nurse that back in my baby-having days, we got apples and freshly baked cookies in this very same hospital. She brought me some more chicken noodle soup in a styrofoam cup and a turkey sandwich in a clear plastic package. And a packet of mayo. When darling daughter's family came to visit later that afternoon, the nurse brought in a stack of graham crackers. So that's all right. The little guys wrote and drew adorable get-well notes on construction paper. That's a whole lot better.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Worst Part

     The worst part of slipping in a puddle of dog urine when a hurricane is near and breaking your kneecap in two is... um, that. Hurricane Irma was due in Orlando on Sunday, so on Saturday I was going to get all laundry and dishwashing done and turn the ripe bananas into banana bread, all the things that require electricity, before the storm struck. I was hustling a stack of shirts back to a bedroom when I located the latest dog puddle. The Amazing Shelter Dog had been suffering an infection that made her forget her house-training. Feet flew up, head and elbow thumped against youngest son's door, and knees went into a swan dive with a one-and-a-half twist. My bottom went smack into the puddle.
     As menfolk emerged from respective rooms, my hand flew to the painful spot, felt round bone off to the left of where it belonged, and squeezed it back into place. Still felt worst pain of my life. Hollered. Hubs called 911, and we mopped up as much dog pee as we could with paper towels. When EMTs arrived, they couldn't fit gurney into the hallway, so bundled me into a carrying chair of some sort, lifting the leg as gently as possible. I hollered some more.
     Turns out the best way to get from this carrier to the gurney is to hoist yourself, while an EMT transfers the leg. "Last time I did this," I said, "I was in labor. It wasn't any fun then either."
     The worst part of being hoisted into the ambulance was feeling the soaking wet skirt, now cold under me, and thinking I would leave a wet imprint on the sheets. Focused on the hubs tail-gating the ambulance. "Is that your husband?" one of the EMTs asked. In the Winter Garden ER, they gave me a shot of morphine. The worst part of morphine is that it sends a creepy sort of tension up the neck and through the jaw, and the pain relief only lasts 15 minutes or so. The doc ordered X-rays, and in rolled a portable unit, so I could remain in my puddle while they detected the worst of the news: kneecap was broken into two separate pieces on the horizontal. Quad muscle attached to top half and tendon attached to bottom half both gave their halves a good, strong, dislocating tug. Whee. Must transfer downtown to where the ace surgeons are. When a room becomes available. In the meantime, got a steel and canvas brace strapped onto the leg. Worst part of that was, I couldn't kiss the hand of whoever invented the thing. Keeping the knee still was better than morphine.
     Hey, a room is available. Call the transport people, who haul me onto their gurney on the damp sheets. "One, two, three." At least no one can look askance at the wet spot. Riding backwards in the big ambulance was disorienting. They might have been driving me anywhere through the great masses of gray clouds, but they pulled up to the Florida Hospital door and trundled me in, through lobby and hallways, into elevator, up to seventh floor where all the busted legs go to await the sawbones.
     Had any nurse ever before heard a patient beg, "Please oh please, put me in one of those drafty, embarrassing hospital gowns"? Well, this one did. I have to admit, the gowns have improved. They actually extend across your rear, and you can tie them at the side. Could have been worse.
To be continued. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

What She Was Made For

     Many a nature film has showed me lions bringing down an antelope or wolves selecting and devouring the slowest caribou, so suppose I was as well prepared as any child of the suburbs. And yesterday my dog Tiger Lily leapt repeatedly at the porch screen, snapping her considerable jaws, until a trespassing dragonfly lay on its back on the sill, one leg twitching its last. In fact, it had only one leg. Tiger Lily couldn't know that I really like dragonflies, with those huge glinting eyes and iridescent wings. An intruder is an intruder. She has even barked furiously at the little windows next to the front door until we realized she was protecting us from the scary dried starfish whose alien arms stuck out beyond the top sill. 
     Today she caught a squirrel. She walked out with me and my bag of eggshells and banana peels to the compost bin. I was about to set the empty bag aside and get ready to play some fetch when she dropped her shredded, filthy knotted-rope toy and dashed at the big oak in the rear corner of the yard. A squirrel skittered up the trunk, as usual. Then a second one appeared. Lacking wit to climb straight up, it ran around the trunk, only a foot or so above ground, with Tiger Lily right on its tail. 
     We're pretty sure Tiger Lily is a Catahoula leopard dog. They breed them, a mix of many, in Louisiana to rout wild hogs out of the swamps. Her body shape is somewhere between a boxer and a greyhound: big chest, tiny waist, long spine. She's very fast, strong and smart. She likes people better than other dogs, and she has the brindle pattern common to the leopard dogs, in her case a tawny base with distinct, black tiger stripes. And I can easily picture her bounding through the bayou, snapping at the heels of a hog. 
     For this chase, she kept a tight radius, and, as the squirrel slowed a little on maybe the tenth circuit, she grabbed it and flung it onto the grass. Pounce, grab, shake. When it flies loose, nudge it to see whether it's playing dead, which it did a time or two, then tried to run. It didn't get far. 
     I did hope she wouldn't go full feral and try to extract its liver while I fetched the shovel. She stood guard over the corpse while I dug the deepest hole I could manage and restrained her instincts while I slid the shovel underneath, noting the teeth marks and slobber in the grey fur. Covered it, tamped down the soil and picked up her fetch toy. Normally, when she returns it to me, she shakes it until I have to say, "Yeah, I think it's dead, girl." For this session, she brought it to my feet and dropped it. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Eyes Quit

     Yesterday I spent an hour in a torpedo tube with a  jackhammer, a pile-driver and a woodpecker. MRI. It stands for Major Ruckus Inside. I got through one round of the Lord's Prayer before I became the mother in Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron. (Short story. Read it.) Halfway through, the tech slid me out to stick a needle in my arm. Vein collapsed. Switched to back of the hand. She extracted the needle when the hand started to swell and sting, but enough stuff ran in for the necessary cranial chiaroscuro. Can't wait to see the proofs.
     Keeping eyes closed during the jaunt was easy, because my right eyelid hardly opens at all, and the left is at half-mast. Two fun things are careening along side-by-side: blepharospasm and double vision. A while back, my vision suddenly doubled. While I was driving. Doc said it's common with age. (Stinking age.) Corrected it with prism lens in glasses. A year later the double vision doubled, needed twice the correction. Made him nervous. Tested me six ways to Sunday, found nothing organic, but referred me to specialist to make sure I had no bugs in the brain.
     All this time, I'd been alarming friends and family with almost constant squinting, made worse by stress. One solution, Botox, said the doc. Needles around the eyes? Um, no. But the specialist couldn't bear to watch me blepharospasming, he said, when he knew Botox could help. Nowhere near as horrible as I imagined, he and his assistant assured me. Finest needle in existence, smaller dose than cosmetic use, placed differently. No plastic face. No sweat. Seven sticks per eye, two in upper eyelids, were about as much fun as you'd expect, but Lamaze breathing got me through four childbirths, and it got me through this. Then he ordered the MRI and blood tests to spot any cysts, tumors or chips inserted by aliens to cause double vision.
     By evening, I had fever, abdominal cramps, pain across my back, nausea and general misery. About 2 a.m., I thought to ask Siri "what are side effects of medical Botox?" (She says "bottocks." Heh.) And there they were: fever, cramps, back pain, nausea, general misery. Drooping eyelids too. That started a couple days later as the first delights started to fade.
     Called the spec's office. No, no, no, said they, nobody ever gets side effects like that from this application. No patient ever has. Droopy lid isn't unheard-of, but it should be better in a week. Four days later, joke's on you, the right eyelid is lower than ever, and the left opens only halfway. I think I look like I've had a stroke, but the hubs says I only look drunk. Hey, that's a relief.
     In another couple days, the spec should have the MRI results. He will also get an earful-- an eyeful?-- about side effects.
     

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Faults in Our Stars; Faults in Ourselves

     Michelle Malkin and friends explode in mockery over Katy Perry (a singer) seeming to suggest "no borders" and "co-existence" as answer to terrorism. "No!" shriek KP fans. "Listen to the whole interview!" I did. She was mostly incoherent about "fanbases" uniting and not being nasty to each other on Twitter-- I think-- but it was in response to a question about the bombing of an Ariana Grande (another singer) concert in England. So, MM was maybe too quick to ridicule, but it wasn't all that far-fetched, given the context and KP's use of heavily-loaded terms like "no borders" and "co-exist." Verdict: both wrong.
     Meanwhile, some are lambasting Ariana (the singer) for failing to dash to the hospital to comfort injured fans while condemning Islamist terrorism. Why does anyone think she would have anything useful to say beyond "This is horrible"? And are patients and their families sitting there asking "Where the heck is Ariana?" And just why, exactly, does anyone look for cogent political, religious or sociological analysis from people who sing and prance around in odd costumes for a living? And why do such people keep trying to give it?
     Mean-meanwhile, others berate Demi Lovato (a singer), who was accused of the sin of "cultural appropriation" for wearing her hair in dreadlocks, only they weren't dreadlocks, but they're still mad at her for failing to thrash herself with sharp barrettes over the very possibility that she might have ever even allowed the notion of dreadlocks to enter her fashionable head, and of course she wouldn't because that would be just intolerable. My head hurts. Maybe my cornrows are too tight. Anyway, a disillusioned fan illustrated what the problem is with all of this. He said Demi's flippant response was rude to "fans that rely on you to provide them an up-lifting attitude to the world." Good grief, lad, she's a performer. Provide your own attitude. 
     I recall really liking the Moody Blues. Eric Clapton. Smokey Robinson, both the Beatles and the Stones (there were militant camps back then). I might have nodded sagely to Buffalo Springfield and "There's somethin' happenin' here; what it is ain't exactly clear..." They could be pretty deep, man. But relying on any of them for anything more than cool music would have been dumb.
     It was also dumb for people to burn piles of Beatle records (those flat, round, vinyl things) after John Lennon said, "We're more popular than Jesus." At the time, I thought I got his point. Teenyboppers were much more likely to scream and proclaim their adoration at Beatle concerts than at church. He wasn’t claiming to be better or more important than Jesus… but he probably shouldn't have said it. And certainly no one should ask. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

No One Escapes the Cone of Shame

     Our yard is full of raised garden beds, trellises, poles and pegs and pineapples, any number of things that might slash the legs of a dog whose only speed is full tilt. When the Incredibly Speedy High-Jumping Shelter Dog got a little gouge on her ankle while chasing her Kong fetching-ball, which bounces like a Super Ball, through the far reaches, I figured I'd better find some place wider-open for our fetch sessions. I started loading dog, youngest grandchild and new Chuck-It ball launcher, a sort of atlatl for the suburban dog-owner whose arm isn't quite up to the distances this dog loves to run, into the trusty Subaru Forester and zipping off to the vast rear of our church property-- wide open, mowed, frequently played upon by school kids. 
     One day, we inadvertently crashed the school's break time, and the child-loving Tiger Lily was a hit with the students. They petted her and took turns throwing her ball. The schoolmarm pronounced her the school mascot. Great fun, until one day...
     I suppose it was a good thing no children were about when she returned from a long fetch with a gash on her leg, a good inch long, and a quarter-inch or so deep. As I moaned, "This isn't supposed to happen! There's nothing out there to cut yourself on!" she went on nudging the ball to induce another throw. Instead, I rinsed the cut with some of her drinking water and loaded up to return home. 
     "What do I do?" I asked assembled family. Husband's family dogs had never bothered with cuts; they just got hit by trucks. Son-in-law, most experienced with dogs said, "It'll be all right; I wouldn't worry about it." (Or, as they say in Wyoming, "Just rub some dirt on it.") Online dog-care sites had advice aplenty about bandaging dog wounds, and ways to keep bandages on in spite of teeth. I tried. Neosporin. Gauze. Butterfly bandages. That rubber tape stuff that sticks to itself and not skin. Finally, Sunday afternoon: Steri-strips, layer of rubber tape, rings of first-aid tape, and several more layers of the rubber stuff. She licked, but didn't chew. Only, by morning, she had somehow shifted the bandage bracelet up her leg and uncovered the hideous gaping wound, which looked for all the world like we'd cut into a rare steak to test for doneness. Where the Steri-strips went, I know not. I called the vet's office. They said to bring her in. 
     "That's quite a gash," said the vet. And here's what he would do: sedate her, clear out the "granulation" in the cut, which had been made worse by her licking, stitch it closed, and put her in a cone. The Cone of Shame. Come back in two hours. 
     I carried her collar and leash to the car. I went to Trader Joe's and bought coffee beans and cookies and mesquite-smoked almonds. I drove around to all the Poke'-stops I could think of. And after the last one, on the straightaway toward home, the heretofore distracted part of my psyche began to shout, "You are a dope. You failed that poor dog utterly. How could you think you could doctor her yourself?" And so on. Back home, I carried the shopping bag in and made ready to head back to the vet's. The hubs tried to comfort me. I had to stop him because it made me cry, as sympathetic reassurance does, and I still had to to retrieve her. 
    














     Back at the office, I told the doc I felt I should be wearing the Cone of Shame. Well, said he, even if you'd brought her in two days earlier, given her, ahem, reluctance to participate in medical procedures-- it took two attendants to hold her still enough to give her the anesthesia-- he might have had to do pretty much the same things anyway. I told him I felt a little less miserable. 



     She's home, with her pain meds and antibiotics, navigating the house with some difficulty. That darn cone. But her stub of a tail is wagging again. She's more reluctant than usual to let me out of her sight, because LOOK WHAT THEY DID WHEN YOU LEFT ME THE LAST TIME. I promise, girl, in future, my mommy instincts will outweigh all other concerns, and if I'd take a child with the same symptoms to the doctor, I'll take you to the doctor. Because, darn it, I love you.