Posts Tagged ‘pain’

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.

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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.