Category Archives: Health

Dad

The other news this new year is about Dad. The week before Thanksgiving he was out with Mom and tried to get out of the car on his own and fell. Mom had gone into the store with the understanding – her understanding – that Dad would wait for her.

It was a perfect example of how we are all living in the past to some extent with Dad. He thought – as near as we could later find out – that he was to go in as well. He got out of the car and promptly fell. A passer by saw him and called 911. His injuries were not severe but in the course of examination at the ER, a chest X-ray was taken revealing a golf ball sized ‘mass’ in his lung.

Normally a biopsy would be conducted to verify what this ‘mass’ was but neither Dad nor any other member of the family was in favor of it. It would be very stressful and the likelihood was that it would in fact be cancerous. That begged the question of what would be the next step. Surgery, radiation, or chemo? No, the consensus was to let it go.

At the same time, the doctors said there were some ‘abnormalities’ in his blood work. My own view of the progression of information was a bit skewed as I was busy working during those first days but about a week later I asked Mom what she had been told.

Leukemia.

The doctors recommended we begin hospice care. It took a while for me to figure out what this exactly means. Evidently, this implies that life expectancy is 6 months. Kaiser brought a hospital bed and some medicines and supplies to the house but the extra care Mom needed was not part of the deal. She had to call providers and set up a schedule.

Of course all of the children were involved in all of this. My own help was minimal but all of my siblings made major contributions to the changes. Teresa, Mary and Tim are in the medical field in various ways and were able to understand what the doctors were saying. We all came to the house and filled in the cracks of care.

Mom has gone from having help 4 hours a day 3 days a week to 12 hours a day 5 days a week. Only a small part of the cost is covered by insurance. To save money, we sibs have promised to cover the weekends.

Dad’s only indication that he is in pain is when he is being moved out of the bed. He doesn’t say anything but we notice the strain in his face. As far as I know the only medication he is taking is a stool softener. He still uses the walker to get down the hall to the living room. He likes to watch football on TV. He eats meals in the dining room. He listens to the conversation around him and occasionally tries to say something but he cannot construct sentences any more.

Mom had his favorite priest come and say Mass for him. He also got the Sacrament of the Sick. I believe this is the same as what we used to call Extreme Unction, or Last Rites. Mary actually got him out to Church on Christmas Eve which he enjoyed.

As for the future, death awaits us all. Dad is likely closer than the rest of us. We are doing our best to make his remaining days as comfortable as possible.

at Mom and Dad’s

I came down here yesterday because Mom had an issue with vertigo and was going to the doctor. I had the day off and didn’t want her to drive if it could be avoided.

The doctor said basically that there was nothing to be done about the vertigo except rest. Mom had taken some expired medicine she had for sea sickness and thought it had helped but the doc said no, don’t do that.

Anyway, she’s better now. She has an appointment with her dentist this morning to put a permanent crown on so I decided to stay and drive her there as well. Her original plan was to drive up to Jane’s tonight for a Pampered Chef party which worried me. Last night, though, she decided she was not going to go so I feel better.

The weather was warm yesterday, in the 80s, and it reminded me of the air conditioning battle I had waged and lost six months ago. It’s a little after 7 now and I’ve been up for about an hour. It’s beautiful outside but it promises to be warm again today. Mom and Dad close their house up tight every night religiously so this morning the first thing I did was go around and open up some windows and doors. (I had the window wide open in my bedroom.) The temperature in the house has gone from 73 down to 71 in that time. All the fans that were running last night were shut off during the night.

When I lived in Grass Valley, we would set the fans in the wide open windows running full blast at night. The house would be almost too cool in the mornings but we would button everything up by 8 or so including keeping the drapes closed and the house would stay at a reasonable temperature most of the day. I know Mom and Dad want their house to be secure but comfort is a thing too. I am going to try to convince them that there are not burglars going through the neighborhood every night looking for open windows.

Mom did say last night that she will be proactive about going to the library or the movies (for air conditioning) if it gets really hot. I’ve been in my coastal cocoon lately so it was good to get a reminder that it’s summer time in Santa Clara. I’ll watch the weather more carefully.

Jane is finished with school as of tomorrow so she’ll be able to come down more easily for a while.

199

I hit 199 on the scale a week or so ago but back slid up into the 200’s again. Today it was back at 199. I’ll keep trying. My records show that I was consistently around 180 in the 1990s. I know, that was 25 years ago, but it isn’t like it was my high school weight (165!).  Sepi has me eating better. I’m not exercising besides walking a lot when I’m working. And I’m not working that much . . .

Goals!

sick

Sick. I’ve been sick. I’m pretty sure it’s just a head cold, but it has kept me low for almost a whole week now. Sunday I wrote in a post that I had a headache. That’s not uncommon but Monday it came back and it wouldn’t go away throughout a nice Christmas Day at Mom and Dad’s. Sarah had been at Jane’s Sunday night decorating cookies so I went over and did some. Here are our results:

Sarah came and stayed at my place Sunday night. Monday it was the two of us plus Rose in my car going down to Santa Clara. Jane and Joe and Jack came down. Mary was already there since Saturday. Teresa was there until about 2 when she had to go to work. Julian and Lisa came down but they were sick and didn’t stay long.

My headache never went away, despite some rather frenzied applications of medicine: ibuprofen, excedrin. maxalt – nothing worked. The next day I was torched. I stayed in bed pretty much all day and night. The headaches were under control but I was extremely tired. I did check my temperature but there was no fever. Wednesday I was going to go back down to Santa Clara and stay overnight but I knew I couldn’t do that nor did I want to expose Mom and Dad. Jane called me and said she would drive me down just for a couple of hours. It was Dad’s birthday. Jane got him to agree to walk over to the new visitor center at ‘Apple Park’. That was nice. the weather was perfect.Cool but sunny.

Yesterday I felt better and got out to do some grocery shopping. In the afternoon, I went to take a nap but actually felt pretty good so I got up. I still went to bed about 7 as I had every other night starting Tuesday. By now the fatigue wasn’t so bad but the constant stuffiness in my head along with the coughing and runny nose. I take Afrin at night so I can breathe but try really hard not to take any decongestant during the daylight hours. Sometimes I think the Afrin works a little too well, creating a direct path for the cold air to blast through my sinuses to the back of my throat, where there is a tender spot from the post nasal drip.

Well, today I went to work and did ok. Luckily just an 8 hour day and no one was in the building but Tim W and me. Tim put up with my sniffles. I didn’t get too close. Now it’s almost 8 and I’m heading to bed.

One last thing. Mary got this picture of Dad on Christmas Day as he was taking all the torn up wrapping paper out to recycling. He’s still got his sense of humor!

musings

I see that it’s been a week since I went out of my norm and posted on a political theme. The hope I felt only a week ago has been dashed by the passage of the Republicans’ ‘tax reform’ bill. As a side not, I put ‘hope’ in my tag window for this post and saw that it’s the first time I’ve tagged that word. That’s pretty sad that I haven’t written about hope in 18 months of this blog.

I’ve written about goals, which are kind of like hope, I think. One implies the other, although I’m not sure which would come first.

I’m going down to stay with Mom and Dad today. Just one night then home again tomorrow night. Work on Saturday then back down to Santa Clara on Monday, Christmas Day. I believe we’ll have 13 for dinner. That’ll be nice. Tim shared with his siblings the birthday card Mom and Dad sent him last week. Dad wrote on it, which is not common any more, but it was somewhat disjointed. He referred to his having ‘half a brain’. I told Tim that that was the worst of what is happening to him: he knows. It won’t get better so, to me, that means treasuring what we can when we can. Thus, I visit as often as possible.

At work, I’ve been trying to develop relationships with people outside my norm. I try to take time to have real honest talk with some of the Davies Hall ushers, with some of the Symphony staff. Everyone is at work, so we all recognize that is our priority but there are private moments. Working primarily in the front of the house, I hardly have any contact with the musicians any more. The last three or four shows I’ve done, Sarah was playing but I didn’t have time to get back stage at the right moment to talk to her. It’s been extremely hard for me to get out and do things not work or family related.

low

Thursday morning, I had an idea for a nice post. I took my laundry down to the laundry room and the sun was coming in low through the foliage in our little central patio/garden. It was very pretty. When I got back upstairs, I sat at the computer to write, but I saw I had a bunch of emails. I looked through those and answered a couple and the moment was gone. I slid into FaceBook and the news of the thievery in the Senate and the sunshine meant nothing any more.

I had been thinking I would go down to Mom and Dad’s later and stay overnight but I found myself sinking further and further into torpor. I tried to come back to write, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t pick up the phone to call anyone. Eventually, I got out to the mall where I wandered around – hardly anyone was there – looking at stuff I wasn’t interested in. I had some vague idea I could do some Christmas shopping. I did get a couple of things at the drugstore and got to the grocery store.

At home about 6 pm, I ate several bowls of sugar cereal for dinner and went to bed.

Friday was much the same, only I never went out. I checked FaceBook, played solitaire, worked on the jigsaw puzzle, actually read some real books (oh, I got to the library Thursday). In the evening, I saw Rose was home so I went over to talk to her. She was working on some Christmas decorations and had a kind of technical problem so I gave her some ideas and then some tools (skinny pliers). Somehow that made me feel better. I ate a decent dinner and again went to bed early, about 8.

Today brought the news that the Senate actually passed that abomination of ‘tax reform’ but I feel a little better. Better enough to write.

It’s interesting. I want to write deep, important thoughts, but often when I’m thinking those thoughts, I don’t want to sit at the computer. Certainly the last two days were like that.

I’ve got the day off so I will try to get back to my sunny thoughts of Thursday morning and share them with you.

PTSD

Despite all my blowback from Zach’s death, I really hadn’t thought about my reactions in anything like the terms usually used to describe PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is most commonly referenced, in my experience, to soldiers after having been in a shooting war. Nowadays, Iraq and Afghanistan are the poster children, but many people came home from Vietnam with it. No doubt many came home from Korea and World War II with it as well, although the syndrome wasn’t recognized in the same way then.

Some of these countries have ongoing trauma, but out of the remaining ones, I’m sure German, Japanese, Russian soldiers came home with PTSD. Vietnamese and Koreans never had to leave home to get it.

So I don’t want to equate my feelings with those of soldiers – of any nation – who have spent months or years in war zones, killing people, seeing their friends killed, and nearly being killed themselves. But the other day, as I was driving on a two lane road at dusk with oncoming traffic going 50 or 60 miles an hour, as I was, I had a little twitch. And that image of Zach’s broken body flashed before my eyes again and I for some reason thought,’ PTSD.’

I haven’t been to a therapy session since last spring. I haven’t been to a good therapy session since Dr Perry left in January. I had a phone session with Linda S that was not satisfying and inconclusive. See my posts on ‘Goals’. I don’t think I will start up again with either although I have had ideas of trying to contact Dr Perry and do some kind of long distance therapy. So far, no action on that.

During the last month, as I was often going to work during regular rush hour, there were times when I felt myself getting extra twitchy while driving, while watching other people do really stupid things on the road. Except for the other day, all the driving I’ve done here in Washington has been fear free. I picked up my rental car today and drove up to a music store about an hour north of Duvall, then came home on a state highway that was mostly two lane. Perhaps I was distracted by having a new car to drive, or by the scenery, but I had no flashbacks. I do often take note when I am driving at 50 – 55 miles an hour of how fast the trees are going by. Sometimes I think of someone hitting my car at that speed.

I think the day will come when I will go back to Baton Rouge and stand along that road and time the cars leaving that intersection. Jake sold the house and lives in Las Vegas now. Micah and Julie are still down there so I will no doubt ask them about it again. The second anniversary of that awful night is next week but I’ve already decided that I will only celebrate Zach’s birthday any more, not his death day.

kidney stone

I knew it was in there. I passed kidney stones many years ago. I discovered a particularly large one residing in my kidney in 2011 when I had an X-ray for my back problems.

There was no pain associated with that one so it wasn’t until 2014 that I did something about it. Lithotripsy is the technique where high intensity sound waves are focused on the kidney housing a stone. In theory, this breaks the stone apart, allowing it to pass naturally.

In my case, the stone was so large it did not break up. In the post-op meeting with the urologist, I was shown an X-ray of my kidney. I could see the stone sitting in there with a neat round hole through it!

I think the doctor was stunned. He had no advice other than to drink lots of water and hope it would dissolve on its own. Other than issues related to the stent he put in, there still was no pain associated with this kidney stone.

Cut to about 6 weeks ago. One day not long after our brutal heat wave, I was horrified to see my urine come out a very dark red. Naturally, I got religion quickly and drank lots of water the rest of that day. The color subsided.

About ten days later I was awakened in the early hours of the morning by a pain in my lower back that I immediately recognized as kidney stone pain. My biggest fear was founded on the fact that I had no pain medication stronger than ibuprofen. After a couple of nasty hours, my heating pad and 4 doses of ibuprofen allowed me to get back to sleep.

The next day I wrote to my doctor. She knew my history of course, so it wasn’t a problem to get a small prescription of Vicodin to have in case the pain returned.

I only used it once, but I never went anywhere without it. My security blanket!

I had one more episode about a week after that of the extremely dark urine. No pain, but I upped my water intake again and it lightened up pretty quickly.

Last week I started getting odd feelings while urinating. Not pain exactly, but discomfort. Something was moving around in there! I doubled my water intake. I figured the bastard was in my bladder by now.

Today it came out. About 1/4″ long and maybe 1/8″ in diameter, it made a satisfying clunk in the toilet. I had no problem fishing it out. Woo hoo!

I’ll call the urologist tomorrow and see what he wants me to do with it. He’ll probably want to do an analysis. I’m willing to bet it your basic calcium oxalate stone.

Back in 2013 when I was first consulting this urologist about the large stone in my kidney, I asked him why it was important to do the lithotripsy procedure. He said that it was blocking the lower half of that kidney and it would eventually kill the organ. Recently (like in the last year maybe), I’ve been wondering if I should go back to him and find out what is going on down there. Is this stone part of the big one? Or am I generating new stones now?

Oh joy.

more on goals

My follow up session with Linda was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon so I’ve been trying to focus on the idea of ‘goals’ again. All in all I feel pretty good about how the summer went: Jeremy’s move and the Germany trip. The last two weeks I’ve worked a standard 8-5 M-F schedule which is draining in a way but I felt I handled it pretty well.

Now that I’m back, it’s the turn of the other two principals at Davies to get holidays. Arno is leaving Tuesday for his usual driving trip to the Midwest. He’ll be gone five weeks. Jim, after shocking us all last year by cutting his schedule down to a ‘normal’ 40 hour week, announced he’ll be taking the month of October off completely. There are others who can and will step up to help with the shift coverage, but at the moment, it looks like the bulk of it will fall to me.

So I decided my ‘price’ will be a couple of weeks off in November. I will always want to visit Jeremy and Ashley and Rosalie but I also have an unfulfilled promise to visit Peter and Nanci in Spokane. And I like to stop in on my cousins Dan and Nettie also in Spokane.

Is this a goal worthy of discussion? Honestly, I don’t know how Linda would respond to this. I emailed her the other day that I was cancelling the session since I had been scheduled for work at that time. She hasn’t responded. The bereavement group that seemed so promising a few months ago doesn’t hold appeal.

Since I’ve been back I’ve had one day where I had a lot of time to do things and I didn’t and I felt bad about it. All the old thoughts about how I should use my time better and what those uses should be came and went. Then the next day I went to work.

I feel good that I’ve been posting pretty regularly since I got back. I feel good about being in the Skyline band again. (At the request of Zack I’m playing bass this semester.) I feel good that I have a handle on how much work I have in the weeks ahead. It’s more than I would like but if the payoff is two weeks off in November I’ll take it. Jeremy tried unsuccessfully to call me this week two times when I said I was available so I felt bad about that. Then we had a nice Skype session Friday night so I felt better. He’s having a tough time getting a decent job. Ashley is very happy with her new teaching setup but that cuts both ways with Jeremy. I don’t have a magic wand to make it all great. That would cut both ways too, I guess.

goals and quotas

Quotas are, of course, related to things quotidian so I’ve been thinking about the relationship of these two with the idea of goals.

Quotas are even more pejorative than quotidian. Quotas are something assigned to a sales person. It implies things that must be counted which takes us away from the rarefied air of ‘goals’.

Yes, sales people have goals, no doubt, but I’m trying to stay in the realm of goals that can’t be counted, at least not with numbers. Today, for example, I have a goal of getting my laundry done. I am nearly done with my goal of writing in this blog today. I have a longer term goal of preparing for my trip to Germany in 11 days.

None of these can be subject to a quota, but are they quotidian? Laundry is quotidian. A trip to Germany is not. Is the goal of getting my laundry done less of a worthy goal because it is quotidian?

Also, the trip to Germany can be quantified in the sense that the date will come and I will go to Germany and come back and then it will be done. Or accomplished, if you will.

What about my goal of staying healthy? That is open ended and ultimately not achievable. We will all die, some too soon like Zach, and others after a long and fruitful life. So I shorten my time frame on that goal and concentrate on eating right and sleeping properly. Exercise is what I get only at work, sad to say. When work ends, I will be faced with a challenge to exercise my body.

(I still haven’t looked up quotidian. I’m pretty sure I’ve got it right but if I don’t I’m looking awfully silly right now. I suppose another long term goal is to go out on a limb, to take chances, more often. No saws allowed!)