Monday, May 30, 2016

Non Impediti Ratione Cogitationis

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana
 My father was an automobile mechanic, so I grew up hearing a lot about transmissions and master cylinders and differentials, brakes, valves, heads, gaskets, and the like. The smells that bring back some of the fondest memories of childhood for me are not necessarily freshly baked bread from the oven or cookies or something wonderful cooking on the stove (although of course I love these smells as well).

No, what I remember with the most fondness are the smells my father brought in the house with him at the end of the day—lube grease, solvent that he cleaned parts with—the smells of a working garage where cars are fixed. Even today if I happen to go into the garage where our cars are repaired, it brings back so many wonderful memories of my dad. Well, that’s all to try to explain why I have enjoyed listening over the years to Car Talk, the public radio program hosted by Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, or by any other name, Tom and Ray Magliozzi.

Sadly, Tom Magliozzi died in 2014, but the programs continue to air. Tom’s self-proclaimed motto was

Non Impediti Ratione Cogitationis, or
“unencumbered by the thought process”

which is how I seem to be behaving since last Thursday in connection with my adventures with the knee scooter.

Just to expand a little bit on the scooter adventures, which I wrote about a few days ago.

My husband watches me trying to negotiate myself through the house and shakes his head. “This is too painful to watch,” he says

I suspect he had far more trouble using the scooter in his office than I am having in the house because it is such a congested mess in there, but I didn't actually witness any of this going on—I just heard groans, the yelling, and the colorful language—because about the only time I go in his office is when he calls me in so I can see the spectacular mess he has created (Fort Richard—piles of tubs that have found their way around his chair to the point where he is just about blocked in) or to to hunt down the cat if we have forgotten to close the door to the room once she is in the house for the evening. There are hundreds of places to hide in there and we don’t want to shut her up in that room overnight.

Maneuvering through the house is really is not getting that much easier, but perhaps it will. Especially if I remember some of the mistakes I have made and don’t continue to repeat them. And what are the chances of that? Slim to none?

So much of what I do during the day is unencumbered by the thought process; I mean, if just thought ahead a little bit to what I need to do. For example...  at about 9:30 this morning I decide it is time for a second cup of coffee and to visit the bathroom, so I position myself on the scooter and propel myself into the kitchen. I coast by the kitchen counter, pour the coffee in the measuring cup that I use to it heat it up in, make the right-hand turn to coast by the microwave, pause, put the coffee in and get it going, and then maneuver myself around (which morphs the 3-point "Y-turn" into a 7- or 8-point turn) so I am going into the bathroom backwards (for this reason I find it is better to visit the bathroom before the need becomes urgent).

By the time I come out of the bathroom the coffee is done. I am headed in the right direction for the return trip to my working space—so far so good, except I have forgotten to bring with me the insulated “mini-mega mug” I am using for my coffee. It is still sitting on the 18-gallon tub next to my chair (I have learned the hard way not to leave any liquid where it can spill on the computer keyboard). So, I have to go back into my working space, get the mug, turn around (again, this is excruciating—I almost inevitably get stuck so I have to muscle the scooter around), head back into the kitchen with the mug, transfer the coffee, add the stuff to make it palatable, then turn around (again) and head back to the computer.

Thinking all the while to myself.

This is ridiculous. Use your head next time. Don’t do this again!!

And then at about 1:30 or so I decided I would like some iced tea (it’s sort of a hot, muggy day) and that it might be a good idea to visit the bathroom again. So, I heave myself out of the chair and onto the scooter and wind up at the kitchen counter… wait for it… wait for it… without the mug. So I  get to go through the whole routine again.

Am I ever going to get it? I dunno. I hope so.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Done At Last... Done At Last

We are pretty much all aware by now that there are things we can do––and the things we should not do––to help keep us healthy. Unfortunately, sometimes the genes we inherit from our ancestors stack the deck against us, and all of our efforts to stave off what looks like the inevitable don’t have quite the result we hoped for.

I had known for a long time that I was at high risk for osteoporisis, so I did everything I knew to do to keep my bones as strong as I could. As “Not a Dr Bob” pointed out when he told me the news that I had compression fractures in my upper back and my DEXA scan results were grim – “If you hadn’t done all of that stuff, you might be in even worse shape…”

So he sent me off to see an interventional radiologist about a procedure where they inject plastic cement into fractured vertebrae to prop them up, but he decided I was not in bad enough shape for that procedure at the time so he prescribed a year of a very expensive osteoporisis drug that I had to inject every morning.

There was a great deal of stress associated with this drug, but it didn’t have to do with the injections. It had to do with fighting with the insurance company to pay for even part of the cost, and the requirement that the drug had to be kept cold in the refrigerator. It had to do with increasingly inept UPS delivery practices that had the insulated overnight packages with 3 months of the drug in cold packs being delivered to our neighbor’s house on a day when they were not home and sitting there for an hour or two in the hot sun before we realized the driver had made mistake… or riding around in the hot truck all day long instead of being delivered first in the morning… Had to have backup plans in place in case we had a power failure that lasted more than a couple of hours—and indeed, some friends in town were kind enough to keep the drug for me overnight once when the power went out.

The injections were not a problem: getting the drug out every morning while my coffee was heating, attaching the needle to the pen,

grabbing a pinch of belly fat (of which there was plenty), and pushing the plunger to deliver the dose came to be part of the daily routine.

And then suddenly there was only one pen left in the refrigerator, and before too long I had injected myself for the last time.

The interventional radiologist’s very capable assistant has been in touch, and as soon as the repair on my foot has healed, I’ll be heading back for another osteoporisis drug that has shown good results when used after the one I just finished.

But in the meantime, I’m done at last… done at last.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Foot or How I Learn to Drive the Knee Scooter

You two should write a book about the experiences of having foot surgery. Bet it would be a mix of comical and “I’m seriously going to kill someone.” K.M.c.L.

Behold The Foot.
The phenomenon that occurs when a body part (particularly an appendage) has something wrong with it and becomes the total focus of attention.

My left foot began breaking down a year ago, right about the same time the blood clot developed in that leg. For quite a while I thought that the problem in the foot was a consequence of the blood clot. But I was wrong.

After my husband's Achilles tendon repair in early March, the surgeon who did the operation came in to talk to me about what went on, and I asked him to look at my foot to see if he could tell me if it was a vascular problem or an orthopedic problem. He very kindly agreed to do that (without an appointment!). He eyeballed my foot, grabbed it, and pressed hard near the ankle, and I about went through the roof.

"Does that hurt?" He wants to know.

"Oh yeah."

"You have a flat foot deformity," he says, "that's my wagon wheel."

And so last Thursday he grabbed the wagon wheel and worked on my foot for about 2 hours to rebuild the arch and fix the torn tendons and some other stuff that he explained to my dearly beloved in the postoperative conference who, of course, did not remember most of it.

So far so good, I think. I have not had to take a pain pill since early Sunday morning, so I feel much better because my foot has stopped hurting and the pain medication made me very sleepy and muddle headed. There has been a lot of publicity lately about the problem of people becoming addicted to opioid pain medications, so I get it that it happens. The pain relief was great, but I don't like the way it made me feel, so I am very glad I don't have to take any more.

I watched my husband sail through the house on the knee scooter for about 8 weeks, and complain about it (but it is much better than crutches, he assured me), while he recovered from his foot operation, and now it is my turn to drive the knee scooter while I wait until the new and improved foot emerges from the cast/wrapping (which feels like it weighs about 30 pounds) in a few weeks and continues to heal until I am cleared to walk again. about 8 weeks.

I am gradually figuring it out, but I frequently find that I have gotten myself in ridiculous positions where I can barely move forward or backward and a "3-point Y turn" is impossible and I have to muscle the thing around so I can get going in the right direction. 

We have an incredibly tiny bathroom, and my dearly beloved suggested that if I were to back in, it might make transferring from the scooter to the commode a little easier. He was right -- backing in is no easy feat though and sometimes I am not sure whether I am going to make it in time.

It didn't take too long to realize that running over the toes on my good foot with the scooter was a bad thing, and so I have become much aware of where my right foot is and a lot more careful. I am sure there will be quite a few more lessons to be learned before I can walk again. 

I spent about 6 weeks fetching and carrying for my husband, and now it is his turn to fetch and carry for me. I don't think he is quite ready to "kill me," but the strain is beginning to show.