Posts Tagged ‘Neck Problems’

Tarpon Springs Adventures

July 1, 2010

Tarpon Springs is North of Clearwater with a population less than 25,000. It is notable for having the highest percentage of Greek-Americans of any city in the US. In size, the community is less than 20 square miles with about half under water. The first Greek immigrants arrived to this city during the 1880s, when they were hired to work as divers in the growing sponge harvesting industry. Like most fishing communities, there are good years and bad based on the whim of mother nature.

When a red tide algae bloom occurred in 1947, wiping out the sponge fields in that region of the Gulf of Mexico, most of the sponge boats and divers switched to fishing and shrimping for a livelihood. The city then converted most of its sponge-related activities, especially the warehouses where the sponges were sold, into tourist attractions. And somebody was bright enough to put a silly plastic Turtle in the middle of the town square. While logic would dictate that it should have been a tarpon, a ninja turtle is definitely more huggable than a Tarpon which is best described as a pugnacious, smelly, inedible, cold-blooded fish.

The first time Dolores and I saw the Turtle was probably 1999. I had always kept in touch with Carol since the day I first met her. When we both married and had kids we kept in touch and our families visited each other in New Jersey, Santo Domingo, St. Croix, Florida and watched each other raise families and pass through life’s transitions. We had comforted each other from afar on the passing of our respective spouses.

Lunch at Hellas with Tracey and Carol

Carol is a gracious hostess and when I was here in May to get probed by aliens. Tracy and I went to visit and have lunch at Hellas a Greek restaurant.

John, Tracey & Turtle

Naturally everybody laughed, had fun and told jokes with an awful lot at my expense. And as we were leaving, I insisted on pictures of us with the turtle. First it was Tracey and I and then it was Carol and I.

John, Carol & Turtle

On Fathers Day, Carol had me join her family for a fantastic feast. I have know her father for over 50 years and he is still earning spending money by betting on his skeet shooting skills and constantly winning. He travels as far as Ohio where he finds people who bet against him because they see an old man on the line. They soon find out he has the eyes of a hawk, reflexes of a bat and nerves of steel as he wins most bets. George is pushing 90 and his family gave him books on sports memorabilia to read for his birthday and Fathers Day. My mom gave up on reading in her late 80’s because it was too tiring so it’s nice to see George keep going.

I told George, I wanted to be just like him when I grow up as we caught up on old times. Carol’s daughter Tara was there with her husband as was Carol’s boy friend. I have know Tara all her life and everybody just adsorbed me into the family. Carol asked to see my daughter when she came to care for me and even though Saturday was my most painful day, we kept our date.

I am glad we did as the walking and company took my mind off pain and I instantly felt better. At lunch, I toasted the special 50th anniversary of our first kiss and Carol asked how I could possibly remember such trivia. Then her eyes lit up as she told me I made up the anniversary story because the first kiss was more than 50 years ago. It made me laugh and smile because she also remembered. Unfortunately, she also remembers all the pranks and tricks that she played on me based on my teenage insecurity and raging hormones which is why we never made it past that kiss..

Dagny and Poppa John

When we were leaving Tarpon Springs, I reminded Carol of my need to capture the Day with pictures of the Turtle. She pointed out that there is far more complexity to the culture of Tarpon Springs than the Turtle. I reminded her that when Dolores and I first came to Tarpon Springs with her, we all did the Turtle thing and if I searched for them, I would find those pictures. I also pointed out that I am not running from her memory because after 43 years of marriage, there is no way to even dream of erasing Dolores from my life. Besides, I believe that she was there both days enjoying the outing as she knew everybody including Carol’s family and Tracey and never missed a pleasant social event.

Dagny, Carol & the Tarpon Springs Turtle

The worst part of the day was thinking about what BP and a hurricane could do to the town. This is not about money, because the cost to relocate 25,000 people is nothing compared to the cost of disrupting all of the population of the Gulf Coast. But once a town like Tarpon Springs is gone, not even Disney could resurrect the authentic version.

As they say in the islands;

“God spare life”, I will live to see Tarpon Springs in a decade, just the way it is.

Advertisements

If You Can Tolarate the Food, You Can Leave the Hospital.

June 30, 2010

Tolerate is an interesting word and I wish I had my camera to take pictures of the food I was being asked to tolerate.  I went to the hospital at 5:30 am and woke up about 4:30 pm. I had leggings on my leg working in a peristaltic manner that could move the blood through my legs two days after I was dead,  I have  already written about the catheter but also had six needles and two blood pressure devices probing my body and my first quest ion was when would it all be removed and when could I leave the hospital.

My first test was if I could tolerate the liquid food, I would get solid food and then they would check me for discharge.  If I didn’t eat the food, I couldn’t go home.  Dinner that night was the color and surface texture of old-fashioned concrete blocks with their characteristic gray color and white pebbles occasionally poking through the surface.  I protested that this was an unfair test as on the healthiest  day of my life I would never cook, serve or eat a meal that looked that bad.  There was no way I would tolerate food that bad and rejected the whole meal.

The next morning was an equally unfair test.  They served a chicken broth made from the powder base that institutions use.  It was barely warm and the salt, fat chunks, and spices were laying undissolved on the bottom of the bowl.  I tested the so-called broth and once again was forced to reject it because it had enough salt to stop my heart and make me a lifelong resident of Largo Medical Center.

I ate the jello, but would have preferred jello shots, drank the juice and drank my tea and begged my nurse for administrative relief from the requirement to tolerate their liquid foods.  She asked about Graham Crackers which was one of the comfort foods of my youth that I rarely eat anymore because of the sugar but jumped at the offer.  I inhaled three packages without problems and was declared fit to eat solid food.

Amazingly, the lunch was tender morsels of beef in a  mushroom onion gravy served over  a bed of noodles. Now this was real food that I would make in my coffee pot, serve and eat.  It was the only meal that I actually ate in the hospital in 36 hours because I simply couldn’t “Tolerate” he thought of anything else.  This is a long ways from the days of my “see food and meet diets”.

I still remember those concepts well, if you see food, eat it.  If you meet food, eat it.

Looks like I have to really thank Cait and Dagny for changing my eating habits and having me start to focus on preparing and eating “meals for one” with flavor, taste and substance that I like and remember from a lifetime of cooking.  The family remembers my Mother as a fairly bad cook,  but in her defense, the poor man’s chicken broth and potato soup that she made and served was a lot better than the hospital food I couldn’t tolerate.

The Concept of Pain

June 25, 2010

The Happy Face Pain Measurement Scale

About one week ago I sent this email to my sister Anne Marie

Leave tomorrow to go to Florida to get my throat cut. Just in time – I am starting to understand the concept of pain which I more or less rejected since football at age 12. This is beginning to piss me off as it is far more bothersome than getting shot at age 14. Broke down the other night because my standard bottle of wine was not enough to put me to sleep so I actually got up and took 4 aspirin.

That’s probably the first step to Oxycontin addiction.

Hope I can get the doctor to prescribe wine in the hospital. I have excellent tolerance to that pain killer over a lifetime of experience and it seems to have muted all physical and even mental pain in my life.

When the doctors do all my strength and blood tests and liver function tests they kind of don’t accept that I drink my bottle a day because I am very well preserved and one doctor even said” it must be red wine.”

Love John

Well I did not get myself a disc fusion because I was worried about pain, I was worried about the thing moving more than the 1/8 inch it had already wandered out of place, crushing my spinal cord and making me a paraplegic. The doctor suggested that with my lifestyle an accidental whiplash was a high probability event. I can stand and live with the concept of pain, I cannot stand the idea of being paralyzed.

I guess that most people who get back operations need them to mitigate pain because that is all the doctors and nurses are trained to talk to you about and I simply wasn’t interested. They give you a pain manual with a happy face chart to define your pain level, the manual describes all the pain medications that you will get including a self administered drug pump to pump pain medicine into your vein until you pass out and wake up in enough pain that you want to do it again. In addition to the injection pump medicines, you can get needles and pills including narcotics.

I told them I wanted none of it and all I wanted was wine and aspirin but couldn’t have the aspirin because of bleeding. Most wanted to know why I wanted the operation if it wasn’t for pain and so I explained the floating disc which didn’t really bother me except for the fear of paralysis. They asked about how I found out and I told them about my ill defined stroke with no know cause that I walked off in an hour and they told me I would need pain medication afterwords, I said not.

On the actual chart that was used on me, the ranges were 0-1, 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 and 9-10. I told them that since 1995 I have never had a pain free day, I just stopped worrying about it because the pain medicines I tried killed my libido and appetite and also gave me nightmares. I decided that sex, food and sleep were three things I needed so I gave up on pills and drank wine and it worked for years.

After my neck was diagnosed as possibly crippling I was told to start thinking about pain and the warning signals I was getting from it. With fear in the picture and listening to the pain signals, I began to feel pain at what I described to be the five to six level prior to the operation.

Just Woke Up to Dagny and My Class 3 Happy Face

I woke up knowing the operation was a success and even had my little 3-4 happy smiley face in place. I refused all pain medicine as I told them I was leaving the next day – no drug pump, no alcohol withdrawal pill, no pain pills, no nothing.

Getting Ready to Dance a Little Irish Jig

The next day I got out of bed alone and the picture of my class 3 happy face was actually pensive as I stood up and did a little Irish jig for my daughter and the nurse to convince them I was fit to go and besides if I hung around the hospital and tripped all over those hoses and wires I would be a liability hazard.

I was disconnect from the wires and hoses and sent upstairs to be checked by the Internist, nurses, physical therapist and every resident and 4th year med student who was curious to see the guy who was insisting on leaving drug free and out of pain the day after his surgery so he could start exercising and get back in shape. The only comment came from the professor who had checked me in and allowed the procedure despite the moderate risk and he told me that perhaps I had understated my pre-operative pain because he thought I looked like I was at the 7-8 level.

I told him I doubted it as when they had pulled the catheter from my penis, I had screamed “Holy F#@*ing – opps, sorry” and accidentally slammed my arm with bandages on the bed rail as I was blinded by pain and swore in front of the nurse and bled about a pint of blood all over the place as it spurted out my vein. I gave that a nine which was at least 4 to 5 hinger than what I was used to and if I was really at 7-8 that would have had to be a 13 which was off the scale.

I guess my every day pain tolerance is different from others and I am glad for that. If I really felt a temporary 9-10 and others live with a daily 7-8, I don’t know how they can stand it and no wonder many resort to pain killers. I hope I never feel a 9-10 pain level again even on a temporary basis.

The sweet nurse forgave me and even apologized even though I was the one who lost it and swore and she was just doing her job.

You just have to love the wonderful staff of Largo Medical Center.

Under the Knife

June 23, 2010

I remember the phrase “under the knife” from my youth and the fear that it invoked mostly because of the fear of the unknown. To me the only unknown factor was whether or not I was fit enough to die. Yesterday, I was declared healthy and able to proceed with my operation,

Seems that I am not the only person who fears the unknown, The biggest issue was the cause of my paralysis incident and whether or not it was a stroke. The team of teaching doctors wanted all the answers before surgery and there was no apparent reason for a stroke. I was in shape, had lost 40 pounds, was eating a healthy diet, and the symptoms were unusual in that it was not complete, didn’t last long enough, and I walked it off without medicine or professional help. Yesterday it was defined as a stroke without the usual symptoms and for unknown causes. This allows them to proceed with surgery after declaring that I was a moderate risk because of their fear of the unknown.

That all doesn’t bother me because there is hope of removal of the neck brace and getting on with my life. I am like one of those high string race horses with a cast on the leg who beats themselves to death in their stall because they cant stand the cast. Last night I drank my wine and went to bed without aspirin and sleep well after I removed the cast in the middle of the night without knowing. I am planning on exercise and Dagny and I are planning on a full recovery in a couple of days.

The pre-surgical paper work is talking about don’t lift 5 pounds, don’t do any strenuous exercise, how to lay flat on your back and wiggle your ankle, don’t drive, the multiple pain medications, don’t swim etc. The only thing I can do is stand up and walk. Dagny and I laid out a 1.5 mile course which I hope we can complete in the 20 minutes of walking time I am supposed to do 3 times a day. Of course, I am supposed to do this outside in Florida without sweating because I am not supposed to shower for a week. And definitely no active sex as if there is any other kind.

Well, the next week will determine whether I am superman of if the caveats of the pre-surgical paperwork are the same for everyone.

American Hygiene & The Miami J Collar

June 21, 2010

I really began to question the personal hygiene of Americans, when I was fitted for my Miami J neck brace. Before I was done wearing it for one day, I was constantly aggravated by the raw skin under my chin from the interaction of the pad and the stubble of my beard. Because of the sensitivity of my skin, I always shaved with one of my wife’s pink razors depleting her supply of fresh new blades while being more or less intimidated by buying my own supply unless on vacation where no one knew me. After all what real man wants to be caught buying pink razor blades by someone he knows.

The brace wasn’t on an hour before I knew it was disgusting. In the next 24 hours, I shaved twice, was stuffing washcloths in front to adsorb the sweat and experiment with everything else from paper towels to tissues. I think I even begged a girlfriend for a pad because women face the same extremes of moisture and shaving stubble hopefully without as much irritation as the Miami J neck brace.

The issue of personal hygiene has always been important to Virgin Islanders. A shower can use 10 to 30 gallons of water depending on how careful you are and then there is the issue of when to shower. Do you do it at night and make your spouse happy or in the morning and make the world happy or how about twice a day. When you have kids who love long showers, the amount of water you use will make it inconvenient when your cistern runs dry and expensive when you buy a new truckload of water.

For me, the morning shower was imperative and additional ones taken as needed based on the amount of sweat and physical activity during the day. Especially now, since the kids are gone from the house and my wife and I never ran out of water.

I had been fitted with the brace with severe warnings i.e. wear it 24 hours a day seven days a week and never take it off or your head may snap and you’ll be paralyzed for life. If you have to clean it, get a friend to do it while you lay flat on your back with your head between two pillows for the two hours it takes to wash and dry the pads. Find a close enough friend that will do this for you and not be interested in recreational sex while you are lying in bed bored to tears because if you have sex, your head might fall off and you will die.

The very next day I went back to the doctors office only to find that the office didn’t know any thing about their being a supply of sanitary pads for the Miami J, so they would get me the Therapist who explained that I should shove a nasty washcloth down my throat and not worry about the appearance. When I complained, he promised to have his distributor contact me which he did. The salesman said he had never heard of such a thing but would check on the availability and I just told him to get me a $100 worth on my credit car and mail them to me. I never herd from him again and I started to worry about the personal hygiene of Americans who could wallow in filth like pigs and not complain.

I then called the manufacture of the device who told me they could not sell me any replacements because I was not a Distributor but they would find me one in the DC area as that was my next trip to America. I have to admit, they recognized that if Americans could be convinced on the need for personal hygiene while convalescing, they would make a lot more money by selling additional replacement pads. The distributor did return my call but had none in stock but would check their records to see if any of the local practitioners had any. None did and that was the end of the trail.

I didn’t bother looking for someone to wash my dirty pads so they could be reused as I considered that an unreasonable test of friendship. In the end when they were disgusting, I washed them myself and since I couldn’t stand the uncomfortable brace just left it off for the 2 hours it took me to do it in my washing machine and dryer. I might have even engaged in recreational sex during the free time without the brace. I also took it off when I went for an hour swim each day and since the thing is so disgusting, I even learned to take it off in the middle of the night when sound asleep. The last one cost when I would sleep in the wrong position and wake up in fairly strong pain.

I also begin to understand why no one complained. Just like a pig would prefer to run free and not to wallow in shit, when confined to a small dirt pen, a pig will learn to eat off the soiled ground and roll around and excitedly wallow in filth while awaiting feeding time. In the end, I learned to accept the sweaty filth and smell of the Miami J without complaining too much or even barely noticing it.

My only fear is that they put this same nasty piece of garbage on my throat after successful surgery and I die from one of those new hospital super bugs that also love to dwell in the sweaty filth of the pads of my Miami J Collar.