Archive for May, 2010

Space Camp – Day One

May 29, 2010

Space Camp has some very serious infrastructure and ground support issues but our intrepid group of campers was determined not to let pre-camp issues taint our experience and we are all glad we made that decision. At. The end of Day One, Cait already nominated it for the “Bestest Vacation Weekend Ever”, Cayla seconded the nomination and the vote was declared unanimous,

The space cripple picture in astronaut training jumpsuit and neck-brace is me but much of what goes on is the mental challenges assigned to real astronauts so being handicapped only limited one activity and believe it or not, it was prudence on my part. The actual people who run the program are fantastic and Whitney, our counselor and training instructor is the best.

The program started as soon as we arrived in camp on Friday and is intense. We all got to see Hubble the movie in an Imax theater. Hubble has been shooting images to the edge of space where there are fewer but weirder stars and constellations. The movies was moderated by Leonardo Dicaprio who could well become the new voice of science.

Space camp believes in training by immersion so the first big item was Discovery Mission Training by reading a script and role playing. Gene Krantz would have fired the whole bunch of us as there were quite a few “OOPs”, a few shuttle crashes, MIA’s, and a declaration that the missing astronauts were due to an alien encounter.

Amazingly the team seemed to do best and stop giggling when the simulator posted problems which needed to be resolved. Cait, Dagny, Ana and I were at mission control. Overall there were 14 in our group and I believe everyone was having as much fun as the six of us.

Carson and Cayla were astronauts on the Command Module.

The physical thrill for the day was a ride on the Multi – Axis Device which randomly spins you in multiple directions to simulate the disorientation of a free pin in space. Amazingly no one wobbled or puked not even 7 year old Miss Ana.

Cayla in the Multi Axis machine

Ana in the Multi Axi Machine

Cait in the Multi Axis Machine

Dagny in the Multi Axis Machine

Carson in the Multi Axis Machine

Only the Space-Cripple turned down the free ride. In 6 years Pippa will be ready and I hope Lauren and Andrew and Pippa join us for Space Camp the sequel.  I should be ready for everything by then,  While it is outside their one adult one child design for the program, I am sure if we all behave ourselves they will allow us back as a group.  Of course the way we behave maybe not.

Did I really get probed by Space Aliens in Florida?

May 22, 2010

Obviously, I can’t prove that my doctors were Space Aliens as I never had a chance to probe them, but I can make a very strong case that the Doctors were using Alien Technology. (Start the story at the beginning)

Now the premise of Independence Day was that the government had captured an Alien Space Craft and been working to discover it’s secrets since the 1947, Roswell, New Mexico Incident. A sub-plot was about an alcoholic pilot who claimed to be beamed up by aliens and probed in a manner which invoked such intense pain that he drank to forget the experience because no one believed him until the Alien mothership arrived to destroy earth.

1947 is a clear cut date which establishes a potential cut off for earth based technology and Alien Based Technology. We can expect that the earth based technology should be based on the premise of do no harm while healing and the Alien Technology just wants scientific answers without regard to human pain and suffering.

X Ray

The oldest test in the medical testing arsenal is the X-ray discovered by Wilhelm Rontgen in 1895 when he published a picture of his wife’s hand. He won a Nobel prize for his efforts in 1905. Now this test is somewhat dangerous but I am sure that is true of most of them. On the positive side it is painless and non intimidating. This is definitely a human test.

Electrocardiogram

Willem Einthoven, working in Leiden, Netherlands, invented the EKG (electrocardiogram) in 1903 and in 1924, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work. This is a very non intrusive method where they glue some wires too you and take some readings. You really don’t know you are being tested. This is a very humane test obviously invented by humans.

Echocardiogram

John Wild (1914–2009) first used ultrasound to assess the thickness of bowel tissue as early as 1949 based on ultrasound research dating to 1930. For his early work he has been described as the “father of medical ultrasound”. In 1953 the Swedish Scientists were the first to view the heart. Properly performed ultrasound poses no known risks to the patient. This is a very humane test obviously invented by humans. In addition, it is doubtful the United States Army would share secrets with Sweden.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

The original name for MRI was Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging and this was for a test which took long periods of time for a person to be shoved in a tube which was slightly smaller than their body and listened to a noise that was louder than a freight train roaring down the track. Obviously MRI is a vast improvement in the name even though the rest of the conditions remain the same.

In 1967 the first images of the inside of a body were taken. In the 1970 for the first brain MRI, the subject had to sit still for eight hours and the images took 72 hours to develop. In 1971, Raymond Damadian proved that magnetic resonance could be used to help detect diseases by the different nuclear magnetic relaxation times between tissues and tumors. In 1972, the second MRI image was taken. It was two dimensional which showed the length and width. The first MR image was published in 1973.

When evaluating the cruel and unusual conditions of this test and the fear factors invoked, it is hard to believe that a human invented it and MRI is more likely to be from an alien culture where people are much smaller in size and communicate by telepathy while ignoring sound. In addition to being post 1947 Technology, these are exactly the properties attributed to the Roswell Aliens.

Nerve Conduction Studies

To perform nerve conduction studies, surface electrodes are first fastened to the hand and wrist. Small electric shocks are then applied to the nerves in the fingers, wrist, and forearm to measure how fast a signal travels through the nerves that control movement and sensation. Hardyck and his researchers were the first (1966) practitioners to use the science behind this test. In the early 1980s, Cram and Steger introduced a clinical method for scanning a variety of muscles using an EMG sensing device.

This was definitely the most discomfort of any test I had other than the the Friday night MRI. I cant imagine a human believing that they can get valuable information by electrocuting a person and measuring the response. It’s easier for me to believe that this post 1947 technology came from an alien culture and reached the medical profession from Roswell Research.

Electromyography

From The University of Maryland Medical Center: In electromyography, “a fine, sterile, wire electrode is inserted briefly into a muscle, and the electrical activity is displayed on a viewing screen. Electromyography can be painful and is less accurate than nerve conduction. Some experts question, in fact, whether it adds any valuable diagnostic information.”

It is not until the middle of the 1980s that integration techniques in electrodes had sufficiently advanced to allow batch production of the required small and lightweight instrumentation and amplifiers.

Once again, this test is post 1947 Roswell, and I am sure that an Space Alien can ascertain more information from the test than the University of Maryland Author. This is definitely a crossover test, not only may it be invented by an alien technology, it may take an alien to meaningfully read it.

Conclusion

There is a clear-cut demarcation in medical tests developed before 1947 and those developed more recently. The earlier tests are based on humane treatment and the more recent ones all have cruel and unusual aspects. It is not much of a stretch for me to accept that the intergalactic Space Program of the Space Aliens ran out of money and the abandoned Aliens adapted to our life form and moved to Florida to practice really advanced space age medicine.

In the end I guess I don’t really care if they are Space Aliens or not just so I personally get the best care possible.

I Went to Florida to be Probed by Space Aliens – Day Three

May 22, 2010

So after Day One and Two of being probed by space aliens in Florida, how could Day Three be worse? Well the first two days were based on mental anguish without anything that was really painful especially if you don’t count my drinking a dozen glasses of water to flush the dye out of my system. Day Three included testing methods that depended on physical pain and being electrocuted. No Lie! (To start at the beginning of my Alien Encounter Go Here.)

The nerves in your body carry electrical impulses to the muscles to tell them to move. The speed that the impulse moves determines how quick your reflexes are and if the electrical impulse doesn’t move at all, then you are paralyzed. Nerve Conduction Studies are used to determine damaged nerves that do not transmit electricity.

Over my lifetime, I have been electrocuted several times starting at age 5 when I first started playing with electricity, again at age 12 when I built my first hod dog electrocuter, age 16 when playing with the ignition coil on my 40 ford coup (20,000 volts) and during my adult life whenever I got careless. Electrocution is not really painful, it is “shocking” and causes an involuntary response at every level. The image of the bucking body with a defibrillator or Frankenstein being brought back to life with an electric shock are very real at almost any level of electricity applied to the body.

Nerve conduction studies should be obviously simple a probe is attached to the upper arm and an electrical impulse is applied to the nerves in the wrist area and the speed of the impulse is measured. If the nerve is damaged and there is no response, they just up the power until you do respond. When the power is high enough, your body bucks all over the bed just like a Frankenstein monster and it is a complete body response with arms and legs on both sides twitching in an involuntary manner.

Now since some nerves are damaged and some not, you never really know when the technician is going to up the power. Also since nerves at the wrist are like branches of a tree compared to the upper arm, there are multiple places for them to probe before they get a complete picture.

After the random and aggravating electrocution process had gone on for some time, I asked the nurse if she got her training during the Inquisition and got no response.

The next test was only slightly less aggravating and administered by the neurologist, Dr. Luis Figueroa.

In Electromyography, a very thin flexible wire about three inches long is shoved through your skin and the doctor tells you to flex various muscles while he listens to static. The test is really not painful if you are comfortable with the concept of a thin flexible wire being shoved into your body at various locations on the arm.

I told him my comment about the torture and the Inquisition. His wry answer was that my question was rude because the Technician was far to young to be around for the Inquisition and it should be obvious that the quality of the training could only be had at Guantanamo. Well at least my doctor had a fine sense of humor which is good.

At the end of the day, Dr. Figueroa said that he found a small blemish on the brain that could be associated with a sub-acute stroke but he would like a heart specialist check me out to make sure I didn’t have any additional problem. Yes, the neck was bad but he would be happier if there were two months from the incident before I had the operation. The tests for the day were for carpal tunnel syndrome and yes I have that and may need it operated on someday.

Day four of testing was actually Probe Lite as nothing was intimidating or painful. I had an EKG and echocardiogram which is pretty much a sonogram and as most mothers know this is not a terribly evil test. Both tests came out fine.

Obviously the red wine had won the battle of clogged arteries and my only problem was my blood pressure was high. But go figure, my wife died six months ago and my grandchildren were still suffering, I went back to the gym, lost 40 pounds, was paralyzed, my mother died, traveled 1500 miles to the funeral two weeks after being paralyzed, I had a brain scan, been pumped full, of dye and electrocuted. I am amazed and thankful that the stress didn’t kill me.

My story would end right her but during cocktail hour yesterday, people were asking me about the neck brace and I said that it is hard to conceive of any test worse than my Nerve Conduction Studies. One woman popped up and said she could top me. First she had it done twice, once locally and again when she went for the operation. In addition, they had done her legs and she pointed to a spot, just below the end of her bating suit in the groin area where they attached the fixed electrode.

As a guy I cringed and accepted that the fact that her alien probe experience was far worse than mine.

I Went to Florida to be Probed by Space Aliens – Day Two

May 21, 2010

Day two started rather pleasantly as Tracey was on a mission to buy a car and I needed shirts, shorts, socks and underwear and was considering a laptop but Tracey’s mission for a car came first. She found a Chrysler Sebring that was being sold by a lovely and more importantly, honest Real Estate Agent, Tina Capelo of Narzinsky Reality. (To start at the beginning of my Alien Encounter Go Here.)

She admitted that she didn’t know much about the car which actually belonged to her son and the car initially felt rough in the acceleration and steering but once it was fed a couple of tanks of super high-test gas and driven for a while everything smoothed out and Tracey has a very nice starter car. During the test drive, Tina gave us a tour of the area and talked to us about price declines openly and honestly. If I were ever to buy a house in the Clearwater area, I would certainly give her first shot at being my Realtor simply because she’s pleasant and I trust her.

The plan was to dump the rental car as soon in as possible and I walked into the rental office and said I needed a problem solver and the clerk at Enterprise asserted he was one. I told him I wanted to give back the car as I was unfit to drive and I was 30 miles from the airport and at $200 a day for the first two days I didn’t want to pay a drop charge. I also pointed out I was fully insured so my next alternative if I really had an accident was to just walk away from the car and not pay any drop charges anyway. I gave him my best pained expression which really wasn’t too tough. They took back the car without any drop charges.

The rest of the day was spent driving around the Clearwater area shopping until I went to The Imaging Center at 6 pm for the first Day of serious Mind Probing.

The MRI scan was actually three separate scans of ½ hour each. My friend Ted has had MRI’s and he swears his biggest problem, since he is deaf in one ear and as a pilot is not affected by the roar of the machines, is that he falls asleep and when he wakes up startled, he ruins the test. The rest of the world is not so lucky. I asked one technician if there was anybody who couldn’t control their anxiety, and he said no they just put the person to sleep and strap them down. Apparently, I fall between the two extremes but it is a very serious mind control game on my part.

The original plan was to do the three tests separately and this time the ear phones had no music or radio but were only designed to dull the roar of the machine. My panic level started to increase as he locked me into the gurney. First, he put on the earphones and then put my head into a cage and locked my forehead in place. Next was the chin lock which totally immobilized all of the head. After that they strapped my legs down. In the MRI lite test, I had music and a panic button if I felt stressed. This was the real deal and all pretense of niceness was gone.

As I entered the machine in near panic, I found the solution. I have a friend who loves a good massage as foreplay. So I mentally started with reflexology and started massaging the big toe of the right foot, before moving to every other toe. Then the focus was on the ball of the foot and using both thumbs. Next the arch of the foot is massaged using the knuckles and then the heel using the palm to hold the bottom of the heal and the thumb and forefinger to massage the back of the foot.

After completing the first foot I moved to the second. If you have never engaged in the ancient Egyptian art of Reflexology, you should check it out on the web or go to Barnes and Nobel. Your partner will love you even more.

After mentally completing the feet, I mentally massaged both legs and then had her turn over so I could massage her back, spine, shoulder blades, shoulders and neck while taking my time to make sure that her muscles in each area were losing the tenseness just as I had done with her calf and thighs.

I took my time with the mental massage and Reflexology, just as I would in real life. I then helped her turn over and took my time nibbling my way down the front of her body. Unfortunately, I was disappointed that I finished taking care of my friend and myself before the scan was completed.

I was disappointed because, my friend hates being rushed and wants to feel every muscle in her body relax before she makes love. But worse, since I was no longer focusing my attention on my friend, I became aware of my environment. I noticed that there was not the sound of another person in the room and that the machine was the loudest I had ever heard in any other MRI. Moreover, instead of short bursts of noise as in other tests, the loud drone was continuous.

I began to count seconds between the highest and lowest pitches of the very loud noise and figured it was around 80 seconds and that the cycle had repeated about 6 times. I began to panic as I came to believe that the technician had died from radiation poisoning from the out of control machine that I was locked inside and if I survived the ordeal, it would be as a vegetable. I was about to have a panic attack when the machine stopped making noise and the technician started removing me from the machine.

I asked the technician how long had I been inside and he said that it was an hour and ten minutes and he had completed two tests because I was so relaxed. I didn’t bother telling him about my near panic attack but was rather proud that I had not done a mental disservice to my friend.

The final test was actually a little shorter than a half hour. The technician pumped some weird dye through my veins and arteries that would light me up like a Christmas tree and make pretty pictures. They were checking to see the cumulative effect of whether the red wine had defeated the red meat and fat in my diet. In a few days I would find out that the wine had won and my veins were clean.

I was amazed that they had held the imaging center open after hours just for me and the technician was working over time on Friday so that my neurological examine could be completed on Monday.

Unfortunately, I had a minor reaction to the dye and woke up every 30-45 minutes to drink a glass of water. I drank more water that night than I dank last year as I rarely touch the stuff unless I’m sick.

Saturday, Tracey and I went shopping and then we had lunch with the first girl I had ever been in love with who had remained a lifelong friend. It was delightful as the conversation flowed and no one was left out except occasionally me as the two woman ganged up on me. It was all good fun and a delightful day of catching up on our past lives and our new directions. We occupied ourselves with lunch at a Greek restaurant in Tarpon Springs and a tour of the cute shops on the dock of the Greek sponge diving industry.  At least in America, Greeks are hard-working and Prosperous unless British petroleum screws them up too.

Sunday, was Tracey’s planned departure date and she had to go because on Monday she was leaving for her vacation in St. Kitts. This would only be a minor inconvenience as my daughter, Dagny was planning to arrive on Tuesday so she could be with me for the surgery.

I Went to Florida to be Probed by Space Aliens – Day Three

I Went to Florida to be Probed by Space Aliens – Day One

May 19, 2010

When I booked my tickets to Florida to take care of my Paralysis, I thought I was superman. As a matter of fact, the day before I went to Florida, I opened a new checking account and ordered superman checks. In my mind, I thought the trip was going to be mostly fun. My Doctor had already seen the x- rays of my spine and they were rough. He advised against a simple adjustment and said I should get a MRI and a professional evaluation by a spine specialist and let them worry about any adjustments. (To start at the beginning of my Alien Encounter Go Here.)

Seems that Dr. Scott Webb of the Florida Spine Institute was a personal friend of Dr. Bishop and had a great reputation. After a parathyroid operation 15 years ago, I had no reluctance in accepting Dr. Bishop’s advice.  Parathyroid is tough to diagnose with symptoms of pretty general pain and a need to sleep 24 hours a day. Just before the operation, the only way I could stay awake for 4 hours was by taking massive amounts of steroids which would have qualified me for the Olympics if I worked out instead of sleeping 20 hours a day.

I decided to second guess his suggestion of getting my parathyroid operation done right away (September ) at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and tried to find my own expert at the University Hospital which was close to my children. Just in case I died, they would be stuck with the mess, and I had no family in Florida. Well when October and November passed and I had not heard back, I booked my operation in Miami in January and had all my kids home for Christmas for one of the most loving Holidays ever.

In March, the University Hospital called me and confirmed that I had the operation elsewhere. Seems they misplaced my file and when they found it six months later they called to see if I was dead or had the operation elsewhere. At this point I figured I might have cut that adventure a little close but what the heck, I survived and had a great Christmas as a bonus. But that’s a whole different story.

The Florida Spine institute turned out to be a truly amazing place, it is big and highly efficient. As a matter of fact, I was totally impressed with the friendly efficient help of every organization I touched except for the airport car rental. Somehow they pushed the rate up to $200 per day for two drivers (my traveling companion was under 25) and since she is moving back to Florida, it became cheaper to purchase a car and insure it so we returned the rental car on Day 2 without a drop fee. The neck brace convinced them that I was too great a risk so they waved the drop charge even though we were 30 miles from the airport.

La Quinta Inn was a friendly, safe, clean, place and no one seemed to notice the 40 year difference in the age of my traveling companion and myself. They offered a complete breakfast that you could gain weight on even if it was the only meal you ate for the day. The Tilted Kilt restaurant next door offered good food, drinks, and service and the waitresses in their skimpy outfits were easy on an old mans eyes.

I was at the clinic at 8:30 am on Thursday and before I finished filling out their entry forms, they were moving me to be x-rayed. The x ray team was a young woman and man who were pleasantly bantering with each other and myself as they went about their work. Some how with their equipment, they were trained enough to assess if the pictures were good enough or they should do them over although they expressed no opinions to me, medical or otherwise.

I went back to the waiting area and before I had read very much of my book I was called to see Dr. Joe who was substituting for Dr. Webb who was out sick. He had read my x-rays and agreed with Dr. Bishop that my spine looked like hell, and before any decisions were made, they also wanted a three dimensional MRI so they could see the complete picture.

The waiting room at the Imaging Center appeared full but they said they would slip me in about 10:15 and they did. Being in an MRI for a short test is a unique but not terrifying experience. All metal must be shed from your body along with wallets, credit cards, hotel keys, and anything else with a magnetic strip.

For this MRI lite, I was allowed to wear street clothes and when they say all metal they mean it. The stapled laundry tag on my shirt was enough to invalidate the first test so they had to start over and since I had left my belt on it was a constant distraction to me as it vibrated and jumped around every time they turned up the power. For those who have never had this unique experience, they shove you in a tube about 1” wider than my greatly reduced current body size and blast you with loud magnetic waves. The original time I did it at 260 pounds, I actually had to fold up my shoulders to fit inside. They now provide non metallic headphones to pipe in some music and distract you from the sound.

The other unique aspect was I felt my neck getting warm in the ½ hour test and when I got freed from the machine felt the temperature of the bed in my neck area and it was not hot. When the technician asked what I was doing, I told him I felt my neck getting warm, and he explained that it was internally generated. In other words, I was being cooked like a piece of meat in a microwave.

Before noon, I was in a patient room and visited by Drs. Joe and Webb. Seems Dr. Webb came in sick so he could be part off the evaluation process. As they explained it, my neck was bad and dangerous. If I didn’t get a neck operation, I could end up paralyzed permanently. I told him I knew the cure for paralysis and my daughter, Dagny agreed. The hint is 357.

They wanted me to schedule the operation for the following Wednesday and stay a week longer for recuperation. I didn’t see a real choice so I agreed to change my accommodations.

The other little item was that while the neck was bad, they were not sure it was the cause of my paralysis so they wanted me to see a neurologist that afternoon at 2:30. Dr. Figuroa put me though those standard tests of stand on one leg, touch your nose; stand on the other leg and touch your nose with your other hand; stand on both feet and touch your nose with both fingers. He also wanted all the gory details of the event as outlined in the first post. At the end of his examination, he wanted to run an MRI on my brain and veins to determine if I had a stroke and one was scheduled for Friday at 6 pm sharp and don’t be late as the lab would be closed for other business.

At the end of Day 1, I had filled out forms describing my complete medical history, I had filled out a form describing my ability to walk talk, run swim, bicycle, climb stairs, wash and wax my car, mow my lawn and have sex. I left some of the areas blank as I believe it is a personal decision to hire someone to mow your lawn or wash and wax your car.

The 7 hours of probing which included completely read x-rays and MRI’s would have taken a week in St. Croix and with scheduling problems and limited equipment, possibly longer. So at the end of Day 1, I was amazed at the Clearwater Florida Medical Industry and all of the industry related services like cabs, restaurants, motels, shops etc.

Oh yeah, they fitted me with the horse collar to stabilize my neck.

Go to Day Two

I Went to Florida to be Probed by Space Aliens

May 16, 2010

I remember from my youth being fascinated by all of the stories in the National Enquirer about space ships crashing at Roswell, New Mexico and am a huge fan of Will Smith and the nerd in Independence Day, the recent movie. I read everything I could about people being beamed up and probed in every manner possible and descriptions of the excruciating pain of the examination.

I was also a fan of the twilight zone particular those stories involved with alien encounters and humans being treated like lab rat to be probed and examined. As time passed and instant communications became the norm with videos of every event possible hitting cnn.com and the Internet, I started to doubt if any of those stories were true. After all, there is no reason for aliens to come probe us and then suddenly stop as if their intergalactic space program went broke and ran out of money.

Now hold that thought.

My encounter with being probed started a month ago on April 12th the day a good friend, Elsie Blanc, was being buried. I woke up early and did my normal routine of checking the price of oil on the Asian exchange, going to the bathroom, weighing myself and brushing my teeth and then normal stopped.

I felt my left leg getting weird and weak so I gently put myself on the floor and dragged myself to the bedroom. I realized that my left leg was totally paralyzed with no feeling or ability to control it with my mind and even using both hands to move it or lift it was only marginally successful.

I called my friend and coworker Vanise and told her to come get me as from experience she would be faster than an ambulance. She arrived in about 25 minutes and by the time she got to my home, I had crawled to the other end of the house to get an appropriate walking stick and and managed to dress myself which is pretty tough with a dead leg.

Vanise is taller than me and about half my weight. She had to assist me in walking to the car because I really had difficult holding the stick and keeping my balance while hopping on one leg. When we got to work I was beginning to feel some movement in the leg but had difficulty handling steps without the support of Vanise. By 5:45 am I was at my desk. For the next 45 minutes, I continued testing my leg and by 6:30 I was once aging walking and able to jog. But all was not well, as I had a problem skipping and my depth perception on the left side was atrocious as I kept on brushing against the backsides of the eight woman I work with and apologizing.

When my personal physician arrived at the shopping center where I work, I walked under my own power to his truck and showed him I could walk and jog and described the event. I was at his office ½ hour later and he ordered x-rays. I was out by 9:15 am including the x-rays so did the only logical thing. I decided to take the day off and texted a young person 1/3 my age for a luncheon date. The biggest issue was even though I was driving an automatic jeep, I was terrible with my left sided responses like putting on a seatbelt and using the turn signal.

The evidence this was not a stroke was that I was in shape working out against a heart monitor while doing cardio training, had lost 35 pounds and had walked the episode off. You don’t simply walk off a stroke like a football injury or so they say.

My friend Ted who is very health conscious and my daughter who tries to take care of me both suggested I go to Florida to get checked. I told them I would wait for my physician, Dr Frank Bishop to tell me what’s up.

Well, on Thursday I had a consultation and got the results and Dr Bishop said that he would need an MRI to make a final determination but since he would recommend a classmate of his anyway and since testing was cheaper in the U. S. I may as well go to Florida and have everything done there. In the meantime skip the gym and give up sex. He referred me to Dr. Scott Webb of the Florida Spine Institute. I booked Tickets and he set the appointment. Dr. Bishop got half of what he asked for as I skipped the gym.

Before going, I researched the Institute on the Internet and couldn’t find a single negative comment from anyone. Now that got me worried. Were all their patients too old to complain, were all their mistakes dead, had a team of lawyers worked to take all negative comments down from the Internet under threat of litigation or were they really that good? Only time would tell but it gave me something else to worry about other than paralysis.

So what does the picture have to do with my back. That’s my friend Vanise who literally picked me up and carried me to work after I had my paralysis incident. We were at a fund raising Breakfast for our friend Donna Christiansen, Delegate to Congress at the Palms Hotel. I am glad I treated her like royalty on Sunday because she came trough like a champ on Monday.

Go to Florida Day One

The St. Croix Vegetable Market

May 16, 2010

  

The St. Croix Vegetable Market is one of those places you just have to love. You can go there to socialize and meet old friends, you can go there to talk politics or catch up on news that never made the papers. You can go there to purchase ornamental plants and herbs. You can even go there to purchase fruits and vegetables. The only thing you can’t do is go there if you are in a hurry.

 Whenever my daughter is on vacation, she wants to go and her cousin has learned to love it because it is full of fruits and vegetables you don’t get up north. Cait had a big head start on loving farmers markets. She grew up within 5 miles of dozens of farm markets and her mother or father was always running around to one or the other. The biggest difference between here and there comes because of the small size of our farms, and the culture which means everything is picked fresh and nothing is stored. Now because of temperature shifts, seasonal changes and the amount of water each week you can never be quite sure what you are going to get or how dear the price. Today fruits were in season and cheap.

 I brought eight mangos for $4.00. Four were ripe and would have cost $1 apiece a week ago and 4 were thrown in for free because they were over ripe and good for juice. The yellow fruit in the picture is a carambola which has a star profile and makes a beautiful garnish for fish. They can be sweet or sour and you can’t tell by looking at them. I like the sweet ones and avoid the sour but today it did not matter because I will blend them with the over ripe mango when I make juice and they will be fine. The other fruit is a Java apple which has a crunchy texture like eating flavored air. You could eat them all day and starve to death but they make a pleasant snack.

 I also purchased Arugula, Parsley both a plant and fresh cut, a butternut squash and scotch bonnet hot peppers. There were no cucumbers or tomatoes because it is the wrong season, but that’s part of the adventure when you go to a local Vegetable Market. I have been to the one in Marblehead, Massachusetts with Lauren and Andrew and been to the one in Alexandria VA with my granddaughter’s and Cait, my niece.

 At first, my granddaughters thought it was weird to follow Poppa John around and listen to him talk about all kinds of stuff to various people, but when they found out that their Mom and cousin Cait loved it as an adventure, they decided to join the family and have fun skipping, tasting food, or begging for a piece of fruit or strawberries to take home.

 It’s a good thing I like fruits and vegetables because now that my doctors want me to lose another 30 ponds for a total loss around 65 pounds, I have to start eating like a rabbit instead of a fat savage. Oh well, life is just one adventure after another.

THe Philadelphia Art Museum

May 13, 2010

 

The picture of Andrew and I is less than two weeks after my paralysis episode and at least in Philadelphia, I am walking upright and unassisted like a human. As I was trying to explain to one of my young friends, there is no difference to me between an adventure of the body and an adventure of the mind. All adventures are fun and a trip to the Philadelphia Art Museum is the same as Hang Gliding, Para-sailing or a trip to Space Camp. Fun is fun and it is all good.

 

Naturally my son ignored my undefined episode of paralysis and parked 50 blocks away, more or less. When we finally got to the steps of the Museum, he dropped the Rocky challenge on me because he thought he could beat an old cripple to the top of the steps. Naturally, Lauren captured the comradery at the start of the “race”. The last time we raced up the steps was in Praiano on the Amalfi Coast. I ended up with a pulled groin tendon and walked with a cane for six months but he never saw it as I hid my limp until he boarded his plane and swore his mother to secrecy.

 This time I was under Doctor’s orders not to exercise but as we read in previous posts, I am a very physical person. Andrew knew that and I definitely beat him to the top as he followed behind not believing I would accept the challenge. I also believe he was behind me to catch the corpse if my neck snapped during the effort and I once again crumbled to the ground.

 Of course in our family, it’s difficult to separate the physical or emotional from the mental. During the same week as Mom’s funeral there was a Picasso exhibit at the Art Museum and Lauren and Andrew asked if it would be proper to go. I thought of what Mom would say and the answer is of course yes so we all went and found it crowded. Lauren’s Doctorate and focus was on Medieval History and according to Lauren, the Philadelphia Art Museum has one of the best collections in the Nation. So when the Picasso exhibit was overwhelmed with people we decided on General Admission.

 I have been going to the Philadelphia Art Museum for 45 years and it is a very physical museum aside from Sylvester Stallone running up the steps in Rocky. There are guards all over the place telling you to turn off the flash, don’t touch the painting etc. but no one ever gets kicked out so it’s a great place to be up close and personal with great art just like it was in your living room. I hope Jerlyn remembers touching the Pissarro because not many get to touch the masters. This trip was routine for me as I only got yelled at half a dozen times and got up close and personal with Renaissance art.

All art has meaning but as my life changes, the meaning I am seeking also changes. On this trip two paintings jumped out at me begging to be remembered because there message is about 400 years old and still meaningful to me today.

 The first picture was poignant because it reminded me that my friend who has given up on love and trusting people is not all wrong.

 

This picture is over 400 years old and describes a principle that goes back to the Roman Empire.The title is:

Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus Would Freeze.

 Most know that Bacchus is the God of wine and parties but most would not recognize Ceres as the Goddess of growing plants hence the word cereal. The message is brutally simple without an adequate supply of food and pleasure in a person’s life there can be no place for love in the heart (Venus Freezes).

Think about the inverse and it is truly obvious. For those living a life of hunger and misery cohabitation is a necessity pleasure. Love and the ensuing sacrifices are a luxury.

 The next meaningful painting to me on that day was:

 The Massacre of the Innocents

 This painting is a pictorial representation of the Gospel of Matthew 2:16-18. In the story Herod the Great, King of Judea slaughtered all babies under the age of two because he was fearful that Jesus Christ would take over his Kingdom on earth when he came of age. Since he didn’t know Christ, he killed everyone under the age of two. From the 10th century, monks depicted this scene in manuscripts and every hundred years or so one of the Masters offered the world another version. This one was painted in Naples, Italy around 1640 by Francesco de Rosa. At my age, I cant help but reflect upon how innocent my childhood was and how much our mother protected us. Between social networking, poverty, the internet, loss of religion, television and all the other wonders of the contemporary world a day will not pass when there is not a story of murder or molestation by both parents and total strangers.

Right after returning home, I was watching two boys and a girl playing on the beach. She was submissively laying on the sand while the two slightly older boys were covering her in sand including her hair. Ste tired of the game and sat up. In unison, both boys slammed her in the solders with their hands and held her on the sand. She submitted and they continued burying her in sand without protest. All I could think of was:

The Massacre of the Innocents

Oh well it was a great trip to the Philadelphia Art Museum and I enjoyed all the times I had been there over the past 45 years and also, how much Dolores and I had enjoyed it.

 

Coffeepot Sous Vide – not yet.

May 13, 2010

When you are hacking, its good to document success and failure.  Now when I first heard of sous-vide, I rushed out and to purchase my hand vacuum pump and a box of vacuum bags.  This part was perfect. But the coffeepot has exceptionally poor temperature control.  You can have any temperature you want if it is 170 Farenheit. The first result was alright but I wouldn’t serve it to company.

I attempted to build a temperature controller with one of those light dimmer switches  figuring that the heating element in the hot tray part of the coffeepot worked the same as a lightbulb. 

The dimmer switch looked pretty and worked to dim a light but had no effect on the temperature of the coffeepot which either held 170 or shut off.  I naturally took the bottom apart and built a jumper to bypass the thermostat and the control circuit to no avail. Once again it either held 170 or shut down.

At this point I quit on modifying the internal circuits and try a different approach.  The light dimmer cost me under $15.00 so it was not an expensive failure.  Certainly not the level of BP in the Gulf.

Feeling Mortal!

May 11, 2010

Over the past two months, I have had some strange experiences including paralysis, death of my mother and dealing with a close friend who has turned hard and angry over the hand that life has dealt her.

I refused to write about any of it until I developed a prospective which allowed my sense of humor and my total love of life to emerge victorious as dominant forces in my writing. 

Thank God for family and friends. 

Vanise is tasking care of the business so I could come to Florida. Claudie and Suzi are supporting her.

Two lovely women from St. Croix have called and laughed with me.

My Friend Carol who lives in Clearwater has also laughed with me.

My family, included Anne-Marie, Katherine, Cait, Andrew, Walt, Dagny and Carson have all laughed at me. As a matter of fact, so did Carol.

While my sense of humor never left, my writing was a little flat.  I am now back to laugh at the written stories which were forced  out of me by Jerlyn, Anne-Marie, Cait and Katherine who were in constant electronic communication forcing written answers and I hope some of those stories will encourage others to take care of themselves starting right now.  Actually, I am glad that right now was December 28th for me but you can’t turn back the clock so I am rather contented with my former  life of debauchery.

In retrospect my wife dying made me sad and filled me with excessive grief which is just now subsiding.  I skipped exercising and dangerous activity for about 3 months until I could focus enough to not put myself in harm’s way.  On January 19th, I was feeling healthy enough to excercise and joined a gym. At the gym I was walking at 4 miles per hour for a couple of miles and doing serious interval training on a rowing machine. Interval training is where you excercise as hard as you can while getting your heart beat up to 150 for four minutes and then slow down for 3 minutes. You repeat each set 4 times.  

In early March I was snorkeling in a riptide over a barrier reef with sharks in the area for over an hour with my son. At the end of March I was jogging in an interval pattern with Cait, Dagny and Ana in winter.  I was feeling immortal.

Even the death of my Mother did not alter the feeling of immortality.  She was a good woman who lived a good long life and we had a birthday visit with her in March that showed that even though she was immobile and  speechless, I would never be so crude to say she was better off dead as she was responding to the presences of her family with her eyes and even smiling and laughing at jokes being told at her expense.  This was not a wake but a normal family celebration of a great woman’s birthday.  When she died, I was indeed sad as there would be no more smiles, but as it turns out there would still be love. 

Now paralysis was enough to slap me up side of my head and challenged my absolute faith in my own immortality.  I woke up went to the bathroom, weighed myself and was brushing my teeth when I felt weak and lowered myself to the floor paralyzed on my left side.  My left arm was weak but recovered almost instantly and my left leg simply did not exist except as a dead anchor on my body.  I crawled to my bed and made a phone call to Vanise to come pick me up. 

The following conversation at The Florida Spine Institute sounded weird to them but those who know me and St. Croix it was all logical:

Doctor, “So you called 911”

John, “No”

Doctor, “Why not?”

John, “Because when my wife died in October, it took them 45 minutes to get there and they had me doing CPR on a corpse for the whole time.  Vanise got there in 25 minutes.”

Doctor, “So Vanise took you to the emergency room?”

John, “No, she took me to work.”

Doctor, “She took you to work??  Are you nuts? Didn’t you get any Medical care?’

John, “Yes, my Doctor shops in the same shopping center and I worked off the paralysis by the time he arrived and could walk and jog but he still had me come to his office by 7:30 am and I had X-Rays of my spine by 9:30”

The reason my Doctor had discounted a stroke was because I had lost 40 pounds, and gotten in shape, was eating right and the x-ray of my spine was a mess with compressed floating disc’s and other weird stuff.  He ordered me off all excercise including sex but if you are lucky enough to have a willing person half you age why not give the concept a test? Twice?

While many things I was able to do within a couple of hours, there were others which pissed me off. Even though I could jog and walk within hours, it took me three days to relearn to skip.  This is very important in my immediate family as everybody knows you are starting to get old when you forget how to skip. Another issue was I seemed to have lost my left side depth perception as I bumped into furniture, door jams and the rear end of the eight women I work with.  That actually bothered me more than them as most had arrived early enough to see me as a cripple.  My point is that there are more than enough willing woman in this world so there is no excuse for a man touching a person who is not in the willing category.  The last thing I recovered was my ability to drive my 5 speed standard transmission far too fast. 

When over driving my car I use ever sence at my disposal. Shifting and steering are done with both hands and feet working as partners. At first it was so bad, I had to mentally plan to put my left  hand on the steering wheel and left foot on the clutch and putting on my seat belt and using the turn signal became conscious acts of will power. I relearned to drive again when I learned to skip. Shortly after that the aforementioned willing partner was put to the test. 

Joking aside, I did cut way back on work and let Vanise take over, booked tickets to Clearwater, and got a referral to the Florida Spine Institute.