Friday, August 29, 2008

Adventures in math.

Since it was almost time for me to sign a new lease, I approached the management office to ask a favor. I'm living here almost four years, and have been a good tenant. Was there any way I could sign a new lease, but have them delay my rent increase until I received my annual Social Security Disability raise in January? The rent increase is usually $10 a month, and since SSD isn't matching the downslope of the economy, $10 starting in October would be really rough. I'm not nearly as rich as my fictional vampire.

The manager talked to the owner, and the best deal they could muster was a $5 increase, starting in October. For the next year of my lease, they will gain an increased total of $60 from me. Had they withheld any increase whatsoever, and hit me with $10 come January, they would have gained $90 total for the remaining nine months of my lease. To say I'm confused by their business sense is to understate my feeling.

What's more, my place is in no shape for a free carpet cleaning. I had the option of taking that or a discount on my first month's rent. Obviously, I took the discount, which is another $50 that will remain in my pocket.

In the grand scheme of things, this all looks pleasant on the surface. But they could have left my rent untouched and I'd still struggle through each month. Even if I made $800 a month, I'd still be living beneath poverty level. That discount of $50? It's really a discount of $40. Why? Because even with the mild increase, I'm going to be suffering financially until that annual raise. So what I'll do is overpay by $10, then continue to make my regular payments come November, shorting my official increase by $5 because I technically can't afford the increase yet. December will see the same thing, thereby using up my "overpayment."

It's like a circus act, doing all of this seemingly basic math. Don't believe me? Go take a 15 mg. morphone sulfate and two 7.5/350 percocets, and let's see how well you do.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Rejected!

I have been in touch with a nice young woman about the MRI my doctor ordered. At each step of the way, she's kept me up to date with what my insurance has been doing. And it's the insurance that stands in my way.

First, they wanted me to get x-rays taken. Well, those were ordered, and I eventually got those taken. They showed nothing.

Then the insurance wanted to know if I'd had any other pictures taken any physical therapy. No to the former, and PT on what for the latter? We don't know where the problem is. Is it my head, neck, shoulder, or chest? The reason I ask is because my neuropathy plays some truly odd tricks with pain. The most bizarre incident with pain occurs with my insulin injections. I'll take a shot in my stomach, and feel the pain of the jab in my forearm. Whenever I explain this, the person listening looks at me as though I've spontaneously grown antlers.

And so, with nothing else to do at the moment, I have scheduled the nearest appointment with my PCP that I could, which is next Wednesday.

Meanwhile, I have been using a neighbor's kids to help me with my most difficult, physical task, and that's changing my cat's litter. I can't carry the 10 lbs. bag back from the grocery story, nor can I lift and carry the old litter out to the dumpsters. Thus, I show up at my neighbor's house and, in a fairly silly voice, ask if I can borrow "the little slaves." She has a son and daughter, and I have made it clear that I will NOT borrow just one. Either they can both come, so I'm not left alone with a minor, or whatever task I need doing doesn't get done. It's for the kids' protection and mine, as I've been the victim of slander previously for just being a nice guy.

It's a long story, but the short version is that because I'm disabled, I'm home all the time. I was babysitting this woman's three daughters while she was off job hunting or working almost every day. Well, all the neighbors saw was three little girls entering the home of a guy in his late 30's (this was a couple of years ago) who lives alone with his cat. The rumor mills started, and before I knew it, I was being harassed.

It got worse when another woman sent only one daughter to my place to be watched for a bit. The kid came over, played on my computer for a while, and left. Little did I know that mother and daughter were in on the slander routine, and I was soon facing an accusation of touching a minor inappropriately.

I put a rapid end to it by confronting the real guilty parties. "If these accusations have an ounce of truth, let's call the cops. You dial 911, and I'll sit here to await my arrest. The day I do any such thing to a child is the day I deserve every ounce of punishment that comes with such a crime. And all it takes is the word of the child. So, let's get the police here and do what's right."

Well, not only were they afraid of getting the police involved, to which point they were probably afraid of getting caught in their lie, but 90% of all parties involved in this little slander odyssey were eventually evicted from my apartment complex for being too much of a problem for management. Heck, the woman who sent the lone child to my place was under investigation by Child Protective Services for creating a poor living environment for her kids. (When I went to confront her, her apartment smelled like an animal shelter that hadn't been cleaned in years.)

Yes...That's the short version of that story. Perhaps, if anyone shows interest in all the gory details, I tell the whole thing.

Wow! Look at that tangent, would ya?

I'm just hoping something can be done to iron out this whole thing with my shoulder. I'd rather try and fix the problem than continue to cover it up with painkillers.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I'm cheating on this blog!

Yes, dear readers, I am cheating on this blog with the fictional one I've started writing. I mentioned doing something like that many posts ago. I've been wanting to write something, but every time I sit down to do so, the fiction doesn't come. Too many real life worries plaguing me.

Well, I set up a second blog with the intent of using the persona of a superhuman character forced into a life of crime because he's being hunted by the government. But when I started typing, a completely different story came out of my fingers. I'm four posts into it, and my vampyre is catching up nicely after sleeping for 25 years.

In the real world, however, I have had the blood work and x-rays that I've been needing to get done. Both have come back negative, leaving me to wonder what's going on in my shoulder. I'm waiting for my insurance to approve an MRI. Hopefully we'll find out then what's wrong with me.

That's always a strange idea to me. "Gosh, I sure hope they find something wrong!" Not that I want them to find I have a problem, but I really do want to know what's causing me so much pain. The good news is that it's not osteomyelitis, because that would definitely show up by now on an x-ray.

At least I'm getting some writing done, and not just about my woes. I now have Charles Miller to lead down a road of nocturnal adventures.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Party time!

Aside from yesterdays somewhat amusing tale of the 12-fingered toddler, I figured I ought to tell a few more tales that are much happier than wallowing in misery. And so, we delve into a tale of a party from my early 20's, where my buddy Bryan proved to be one of the funniest drunks on Earth.

It all started with Mike, whose father had a house way out in the Hamptons. Mike's dad was away on business, so Mike decided it was time for a summer party. Since drinking wasn't really my thing when so far from home, I was the designated driver. Thus, I drove Bryan, Rick, and myself out to the far end of the northern fork of Long Island. On that night, Bryan had a mission: to put away an entire suitcase (that'd be 24 cans) of beer all by himself.

Some important facts about Bryan. He was 5' 6" and weighed all of 130 lbs. at the time. The only fat in his body were those cells that made up his gray matter, and he was determined to kill as many of those cells as possible that night. Although he engaged in no sport officially, he was very athletic, especially when it came to feats of agility.

The officially scene of his antics was the front porch, which was raised approximately three feet from the ground. A railing on the porch added the distance to the ground by another three feet. It was here that Bryan began to drink...and drink...and drink.

As he became increasingly drunk, Bryan started having a deeply emotional conversation...with the porch banister. He leaned close to it, gripping it tightly with one hand while a beer was in the other. With slow, slurred speech, he declared, "I love you, banister. You're my only true friend. You're always there for me...to hold me up...and make sure I don't fall down...a lot." This, of course, had Rick and I laughing at him, to which he said, "You see? My friends laugh at me. But not you, banister. And that's why you're my best friend. I don't need anyone else. Just you, banister...and this beer." He added that last part by raising the can almost in defiance at us. From time to time, his declarations of love were punctuated by loud belching that had one girl claim Bryan must have swallowed a demon, because nothing human could make those noises.

At the point when he was more than three sheets to the wind, a fight broke out inside the house. It was between a some guy and his girlfriend, and word was that the guy had hit the girl. Well, Bryan chose this moment to be chivalrous. "I'll stop the fight!" he announced, releasing his hold of the railing and turning to the front door. He stood there for a few seconds, facing the front door, swaying. "Someone push me toward the house. My legs need some help starting."

Realizing that he could do little to help inside the house, we thought it at least amusing to see what he would do if at least given the chance. Thus, Rick and I got behind him and gave him a slight nudge toward the front door.

For those who think he simply fell over, you weren't paying attention to the part where I said he had a great deal of agility. He may have been severely impaired, but he was on a new mission: to save the girl.

That nudge got him on his way, and he staggered a few feet to the front door, reached forward, grabbed the numbers on the house that marked its address instead of the doorknob, and pulled. It came off in his hand. His new mission was momentarily forgotten as the few functioning brain cells realized what he'd done. "Oh no! I broke the house!"

By the time he got inside, the fight was over. All that beer in his system, however, demanded he take on a new quest: use the bathroom. Alas, with so many people at this party, the two bathrooms in the house were occupied, and would likely remain so for a while. He had only one other option: use the bushes around the house.

Now, a sober person would simply walk down the stairs, move around the porch, and find some partial privacy to relieve themselves. But Bryan was so smashed he would need the Hubble telescope to even see sober. In a sudden burst off dexterity, he leaped the railing to get to the ground. It was very much like a Warner Brothers cartoon, because his body appeared to pause in the air just long enough for him to straighten out and become parallel with the ground. Gravity re-engaged and Bryan fell out of view. Rick and I could not see him, but we could hear him. There was a thud, followed by sputtering. "You know, if I was sober, that would really hurt. And this ground needs salt."

Thankfully, Bryan did more than relieve his bladder. His stomach had had enough, and so we heard him heaving a bit to empty it out. Upon his return, the love affair with the railing went on.

Ahhh...To be young and stupid again. Perhaps one day I'll tell another tale of Bryan in "party mode," where I was more involved in the festivities. Then again, as amusing as such tales are, it might be better that I continue to play myself off as having a brain than stumble down "The Avenue of Less Intelligent Deeds."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"My name is Inigo Montoya...

...You killed my father. Prepare to die!"

I finally went out and accomplished some of the things that have been waiting far too long to get done. Aside from the unplanned activity of losing 300 pounds under the Arizona sun, I had blood and x-rays taken.

During the wait for blood, I chatted it up with the mother of a one-and-a-half-year-old boy and, most comically, the kid. This is not uncommon. With my meds working at their strongest, I'll talk to a cinder block.

When I have to go somewhere, I bring a book. Always. It's very rare when I forget to bring something to keep my eyes busy. Today, however, I could not keep my eyes off this toddler. Most specifically, I couldn't keep my eyes off his hands!

For those who have not seen The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya spends most of the film in search of Count Tyrone Rugen, the man that killed Inigo's father. His only clue is that his father's killer had six fingers on his left hand. The Spaniard even has his dialogue planned in advance. When he finds the killer, he will say, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Well, I found the killer. Granted, he's only a year-and-a-half old, but he's the most likely suspect. Doubly so, as he has six fingers on each hand! According to his mom, they are simply fleshy extensions that look like fingers. She tells me there are no bones, and the true oddity about them is that they end in fingernails. She also says she's planning to have them removed in the near future.

If it was me, I'd let him keep them. I mean, think about how much easier math lessons would be when he's in school. He'd already be able to count two higher than most kids! Think of the confusion he'd cause when flipping someone the bird by extending his ring finger! (Technically, we all have four fingers and a thumb on each hand, so his middle finger would be his ring finger.) And then there's the whole Dr. Hannibal Lecter thing, where fingerprinting him would have to extend to the back of the card! (It's covered in the books, not the movies.) If they ever managed to become functional, he could write and play the most amazing pieces for the piano!

On a slightly more serious note, I'd wait and let the kid decide if he wants them removed. Unless they posed some kind of medical threat, I'd let him keep everything with which he was born. Let him decide if he thinks himself a freak or the coolest kid on the block for having extra digits.

Besides...What if removing them destroys his ability to use his mutant powers? "Sorry, kids. Dodecadigit Man can't save the day anymore. He's only got ten fingers now."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Guilt and Shame

There is an ongoing joke I have with friends and family. "Nothing that happens to me will kill me; but it will make me suffer." Once that's said, I will go on to explain the most outlandish accidents. As an example of this, Stu called a few days ago. In that discussion, I all but whined that I'd like a month - just ONE month - that was disaster free.

Stu: You're asking for too much. It'll never happen. You're better off asking for a week, and when that week is up, you step outside, look to the sky, and say, "That was good. How about one more?"
Me: Stu, you're forgetting my luck. After that good week, I'd step outside, look to the sky, and probably see the nose of a passenger jet coming right for me. And with my luck, once it's crashed, I won't be killed...I'll just be really hurt."
Stu: Yeah...Probably.

GitP doesn't allow for religious chat on their site, and I'm honestly not that religious myself...but part of me wonders if these ongoing disasters in my life are some kind of divine punishment. It's as though G-d is saying, "You have proven yourself to be the best that many of My children can be under the worst of circumstances. But every time you sin, I will bestow a punishment on you."

So we come to one of "the Big 10." Thou shalt not covet anything of thy neighbors. We humans see that mostly as "Don't steal." I interpret that a wee bit differently. "Don't want for anything that belongs to anyone else." But I do. Mostly, it's money, and it's not as though I want all of someone else's money. I just want enough to be living above poverty level. And I don't want a car, or any of their other toys, or anything extravagant. I want the capacity to survive without having to hold my hand out.

Oh, but there are other sins I've committed. At least, things that I consider a sin, especially against my fellow humans. During that conversation with my brother, I blatantly lied! It was the very first time I've lied in many years.

You know...That's not exactly true. I lie all the time. It goes like this...

Me: Hi. How are you?
Person: I'm fine. How are you?
Me: Oh, I'm okay.

That's my lie. "I'm okay." I'm never okay. I'm never even close to okay. But what am I suppose to do? Lay my problems before every human being that I meet and then hope and pray that they will give me what's theirs in an effort to make my life better? There are those who are willing to help, and yet I can't bring myself to flat out say, "Please...could you send me money, now and forever, so that I might not fear starvation?" Saying something like that brings on a tremendous amount of shame and guilt. Then again, lying as I do...that my life is okay...also brings about shame and guilt. And, of course, when someone offers their aid without my asking, and I accept, I still manage to feel shame and guilt. It's a perpetual lose/lose situation.

And then I lied again in an e-mail to a friend. She's been running very late on my birthday gift. It's a grand total of $45 to be spent at Wal-Mart via gift card. In my e-mail to her, I said I have NO money. That's not entirely true. I have $4.06 in the bank. Considering the amount, it wasn't a very big lie, but it was a lie nonetheless.

But then there was a dose of the truth. A horrible truth. I did something to survive that I prayed I would never, ever have to do. I won't give the details. What I will say is that the level of shame and guilt I feel over what I did to survive made my blood pressure skyrocket. Yes, I can actually feel it when it happens. As a result, a blood vessel in my eye burst, partially obscuring the vision in my right eye.

The guilt and shame poured over into my dreams last night. It was Stephen King's The Stand, GitP style. A super-virus had escaped from a lab somewhere, and people were dying all over the world. Only the people from GitP weren't affected, and so we started making arrangements to meet somewhere in the middle of the United States. And we started our migration before the rest of the world had been wiped out. In this way, we still had electrical power and were able to stop here and there to post to the forum to keep everyone updated on our progress.

In this ongoing apocalyptic dream, I had stolen a van. (Stolen? The driver was dead, if I remember correctly.) During my trek, I was determined to leave no one behind. Thus, I would stop at one point, post to the forum, move on to the next town, post again, go back to the last town to make sure I hadn't missed anyone, drive two towns forward, post, drive back to the last town, drive two towns forward, and so on. Now, I don't understand how or why this was, but I apparently never made it out of Phoenix, because toward the end of the dream, I'd found another Playgrounder named Collin. For some reason, he was depicted as having only one leg. And I found him at, of all places, a gas station, using their computer to post to the forum. We were heading back to the van, and I told him I needed to find some insulin...And then I woke up, my blood glucose ridiculously high.

How does guilt and shame come into play in this bizarre dream? Well, a tiny portion of it was that two people from the forum, Grimm and Em, brother and sister respectively, were supposed to meet me in Phoenix, and when I didn't find them quickly, I kept moving. The fact that I wasn't waiting made me feel terrible in the dream. Then again, I was being spurred to move on by the talking goldfish that told me that more than people were dying. I seemed to be entirely too focused on what I needed.

Yeah...I need therapy.

I don't know what's going on in my head, but it seems that I'm drowning in a sea of guilt and shame. What's more, these feelings are not completely by my design, but part of the feelings are. And this post may well be another source. I am asking for help, despite the fact that I hate asking for it. I will accept help, despite the fact that I hate accepting it. And I will continue to drown in this vast expanse of guilt and shame until, it seems, the end of time.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Attack of the giant nerd!

I have a strange thing that happens when I watch an historical drama. There's a part of me that wants to know what really happened. Thus, I will search for information on the truth, and not what Hollywood has done to the truth.

A prime example is right now. I have Apollo 13 playing in the background. The movie is based on the book, Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, by Jeffrey Kluger and James Lovell. There's even a bit of history about the making of the movie and the book, as the book wasn't actually written when the movie went into pre-production. Only a few chapters had been submitted to the publisher when Ron Howard was all over it, wanting to buy the movie rights!

There's some amazing stuff hiding on the web pertaining to this story. For example, on YouTube, I found a post-mission interview of the crew by searching the key phrase "Jim Lovell interview." I sat for an hour, watching them tell the tale and answering questions from the press, and there are other items there that I plan on watching.

Oh, but I took my nerd-ness one step further. I actually did a search on Google for the mission transcript. There are aspects of the movie that coincide with actual history, yet aren't entirely correct. (An online friend and her virtual obsession with the Beatles makes this one stick out in my mind.) In the movie, Barbara Lovell blows a fuse over the Beatles breaking up, saying, "I hate Paul! No one else can ever play their record again!" Listening to the commentary for the movie by Marilyn and Jim Lovell, they mention that they don't recall Barbara reacting that strongly.

Meanwhile, at 01, 00, 16, 15, (that's days, hours, minutes, seconds), the man on the CAPCOM station in Houston was reading the news to the astronauts. Toward the end of the time stamp: "Okay, let's see. The Beatles have announced they will no longer perform as a group. The quartet is reported to have made in excess of a half billion dollars during their short musical career. However, rumors that they will use this money to their own space program are false." Lovell joked in reply, "Maybe we could borrow some."

Another huge difference between the movie and the actual event is the acting. Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon all react to the accident rather frantically. Some time ago, I found recordings of the real accident, and almost everyone sounds calm, cool, and collected. But then it wouldn't be good theater if the actors were virtually monotone in their performances.

The events of the accident are truncated in the movie. What happens in five minutes of film took over an hour in real life.

02 07 55 20 Lovell: I believe we've had a problem here.
02 07 55 28 CAPCOM: This is Houston. Say again, please?
02 07 55 35 Lovell: Houston, we've had a problem. We've had a MAIN BUS B UNDERVOLT.
02 07 55 42 Roger. MAIN BUS BE UNDERVOLT.

(For some reason, all the tech-talk in the transcript is all capitalized.)

There's a good reason why everything that happened in the real event is crammed into a relatively short piece of film. There is so much tech-speak that the average audience member would be completely lost. What they already have in there is baffling enough, and for the life of me I can't fully grasp "gimbal lock," other than that if it happens, the astronauts would be lost in space.

Now, the movie has Tom Hanks, as Lovell, delivering the line, "Are you saying you want the whole smash? Closing down the react valves for fuel cell shut down? Shutting down the fuel cells? Did I hear you right?" That's not exactly what happened.

02 08 57 26 Haise: Are you saying furl cell 1 and 2 - 1 and 2 are trying to hold up but we're leaking O2 out of fuel cell 3? And you want me to shut the REAC valve on fuel cell 3? Did I hear you right?
02 08 57 40 CAPCOM: That's affirmative. Close the REAC valve on fuel cell 3.
02 08 57 48 Haise: Okay. I'll go to the SSR page. Do you want me to go through the whole smash for fuel cell shutdown? Is that correct?

(SSR, by the way, is "Special SubRoutine.")

Is it just the giant geek in me, or do others find all of this fascinating?

Oh...And that famous line has now become a pet peeve of mine. "Houston, we have a problem." That's not what Lovell said. It can be heard in recordings and read in the transcript. "Houston, we've had a problem."

*sigh* Hollywood and it's need to drag history into a back alley and beat it as close to death as possible! Perhaps one day I'll go into how Mel Gibson butchered the Battle of Stirling Bridge in Braveheart.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Maybee I shoulda bin a doctuh.

Of course, becoming a doctor relies on receiving a great deal of education. Me? I tend to not so much study as stumble upon information.

Like today...I used Internet Explorer to open AOL, and AOL, as usual, started cycling through its top stories. One such story was about Zocor, also known as Simvastatin. Golly, I though, I take that stuff. So I opened the article, and it started speaking about drug interactions. I was on none of the drugs listed, but two words stood out exceptionally clear to me: muscle damage.

Quickly, I started doing the math on my current situation. My shoulder problems seem to coincide with an increase in my Zocor, from 10 mg. to 40 mg. a day.

So I brought up Google and searched for the medication itself, specifying that I wanted the simplistic breakdown of Wikipedia. But Wiki didn't actually list side effects of the drug. It just referenced footnotes. Thus, I followed one of those links, and found the page that listed side effects. Muscle damage, without any mention of drug interaction, was listed under the heading: "Stop taking this medication if you experience any of the following side effects!"

New thought: Aw crap!

I called my doctor's office immediately, and was transferred to the nurse. This a new and annoying factor of doctors of late. Gone are the days of house calls...of receiving messages...and of talking to patients on the phone. Now it's, "Talk to the nurse or set up an appointment." As it happens, the nurse was sitting with my file in front of her, working on setting up my MRI. I asked about the Zocor, and she wasn't sure about it. Her suggestion was to wait for the MRI, then come in to discuss things further with the doctor.

Is it me, or is no one taking my pain seriously?

Dissatisfied with this response, I called my pharmacist. He told me that an MRI would likely not show the actual muscle damage if the Zocor was causing the pain. but did say that there was blood work that could be done.

Hang up with him, call the doctors office, and talk with the nurse again. Since she doesn't have any answers, and basically will not communicate them to the doctor, she told me to set up an appointment so I could talk to the doc directly. Wednesday, 2:30 is my appointment.

What I'd like to know is why neither of two doctors thought of this. Why is it that I am the one who stumbles on this common bit of knowledge and brings it to their attention? And with a warning to stop taking the drug immediately, why do I have to wait for an appointment? Why isn't the nurse bringing this to the doctor immediately and having him call me back? Is he too good to speak to the lowly patients? (And just how many questions can I ask in one paragraph?)

If the absolute agony I'm experiencing turns out to have the simple solution of no longer taking a pill, I'm going to hurt someone. Mind you, I'm a pacifist, so I'll probably hit a wall and break my hand, thereby fulfilling the promise to hurt someone. Not exactly something I'd enjoy, but quite likely because I'm practically made of glass.

Still, in a way, I hope that this is what's happening. Thoughts of cancer and osteomyelitis have been running through my head since this pain started. The pain has been nightmarish, so it's no surprise the worst has come to mind. I keep telling myself that if I had either of those, I'd be in much worse shape. Cancer would race for my lungs and be affecting my entire chest by now. Osteomyelitis would have caused bones to weaken and snap from simple use. But a stupid, freakin' pill...Now THAT I can see causing all this pain and little else.

Now, I usually make some reference to the title of my posts somewhere along the way. It may not be clear, so here it is: The answer is so simple that it's stupid. And if it turns out to be my meds, it's going to make these guys with over eight years of education look like morons.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Where's my uncle-ness?

My dear friend Julie has been without proper phone service, as per her last e-mail to me. Her cell phone refuses to behave. Her home phone apparently gets incoming calls, but she can't make outgoing calls. Thus, I am without important information, like how things are going with the child she that was due on 8/8.

Because we're so close, I have always been "Uncle Rob" to her son, Keiler. ("Uncle Wob," according to his current method of speech.) Well, it's supposed to be crazy eights for little Rudy, my "niece." What a kick it would be if she was also born at 8 lbs., 8 ounces. Born 8/8/08, weighing 8-8. That would be a fun topic of conversation for the rest of her life.

Alas, there's been no news, and so I am left to worry about what's happening thousands of miles away.

Which reminds me of an amusing little tale that occurred ages ago. My Dad was in the Marines, and sending a telegram cost by the word. His sister, my aunt, was pregnant with her first child. Back then, they didn't have the technology to tell a baby's sex before birth, so whether it was a boy or girl was a mystery. To save money, they left the specifics to the wording of the telegram. Thus, my father new she'd given birth to a girl when he received the message, "You're an aunt!" (Had it been a boy, it would have said, "You're an uncle!")

My shoulder is killing me, so I'm going to cut this off here. I just wish I would hear something, and SOON!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

And sometimes their ears work, too!

As I posted yesterday, I went to see my PCP. There are actually two doctors that I see at this particular office. I'll call them Dr. G and Dr. M.

It was Dr. G that diagnosed me with Charcot's neck, told me to stop researching medical stuff on the net, and was so confident in his diagnosis that he felt pictures - x-rays and the like - weren't needed. He wrote a prescription for pain meds and hustled me out of the office.

Looking for a kind of second opinion, even though it was at the same office, I pushed to see Dr. M today. I explained what was going on with me in terms of pain; how I was reaching for more of the pain meds than I should and how that, in and of itself, bothered me. Then I stressed that which was grotesquely obvious: with the kinds of meds I'm taking, as well as the specific doses, I should NOT be in this level of pain AT ALL! Oh, I should be able to feel some pain. Being unable to feel any pain whatsoever is dangerous, as we wouldn't know when we were hurt and should see a doctor for infections and the like. But to be on the verge of tears every morning, as well as after extended LIGHT use of my left arm? No...Something is very wrong.

Dr. M, being wise and compassionate, wrote for more pain meds. The morphine sulfate will stay at 15 mg., handing me 1.25 mg. of morphine every hour. This is almost nothing, but it's strong stuff. As for the percocet, he rewrote it for one or two tablets every six hours as needed, instead of just one tablet.

After that, he wrote the two prescriptions which pleased me the most. The first was for a chest x-ray. The other was for an MRI of my shoulder.

At last, a doctor that actually listened to me!

Ultimately, it's frustrating when you want to know what's wrong, ask, and get an answer of, "Because I said so." That might work very well for the doctor, but it does nothing to address the concerns of the patient. Don't tell me there's something wrong and then refuse to explain it. I'm a bit smarter than the average bear, and having it explained in detail goes a lot further with me than withholding information.

Tomorrow, providing I'm up to it, I'll be off to get that x-ray. If not, it'll wait until Monday. As for the MRI, it requires approval from my insurance, so that probably won't happen until some time next week, if not the week after.

Meanwhile, I believe I'm going to start seeing the doctor with the working ears more often. It's the difference between a doctor that cares for a patient and a doctor that cares about a patient. I like the latter much more than the former.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I thought I knew pain...

...but I seem to have been wrong.

I'm seeing my PCP (Primary Care Physician) tomorrow, primarily because it's time to refill my pain meds. To be honest, I'd rather not have more prescription painkillers. What I want is a stick of dynamite. I want to glue it to my armpit, light the fuse, and be done with the entire region of my body that's causing me so much pain.

Of course, without these meds, my foot will also go back to causing me severe pain. I don't want the meds, but I apparently need them.

The worst is when I wake up. The meds from the night before have worn off by then, so the pain is usually at its worst. I don't even have to do anything; I just sit and moan, gripping my collar bone area, shoulder, and neck. It seems easier to fight back the tears than the prayers for death. The pain is so severe that I am left to wonder what's been broken in there. What's broken, and how can we get it fixed?

Illogical thoughts easily come into play. I'm sorely - almost literally - tempted to walk into my doc's office tomorrow and say, "Go get a chainsaw. I'm giving you permission to split my left shoulder and neck wide open, reach in with your bare hands, and rip out anything that doesn't look right." Of course, after using a chainsaw as a surgical tool, I imagine everything will look like it needs replacing/removing. The pain is so bad, however, that I don't necessarily care.

Keep in mind that this is coming from a guy who's dealt with broken bones, multiple surgeries, serious infections including osteomyelitis and acute appendicitis, and countless crashes into floors and walls. Pain and I know one another for a long time. What I didn't know was how powerful chronic pain could become. It becomes so intense that I find myself reaching for the painkillers again...and again...and again.

So far, I have yet to endanger myself with the amount of meds I take, and I stretch them into the time frame for which they're prescribed. For example, a 30 day prescription tends to last me 28 days. Substance abuse? Hardly! If I was abusing these meds, I'd be back at my doctor with some ridiculous story, like, "I lost my prescription," or "My meds were stolen." When I hear stories like that, I want to incredulously ask, "Exactly how stupid do you think the doctors are? Do you honestly think they can't see though such a flimsy excuse?"

But I'm stuck. I have no other options. I'm going to have to ask my doctor to increase the meds I'm on. And what bothers me more than I can put into words is that I'd just found the perfect dose to help me cope with the arthritis in my foot, when this neck/shoulder problem came into play.

I so desperately need a break...I'm just afraid it'll be a broken bone.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Can we kill it?

My brother traveled from TN to NV so his family could visit some of the wife’s family. Yes, now would be an excellent time to show off their pride and joy, Xander, my four-year-old nephew. And on the trip home, Stu, Nicki, and Xander were all to pay me a visit; we were supposed to go to lunch.

The best laid plans…

The problems apparently started before my brother reached Phoenix. Because of where the payment date of my phone bill lies in the month, I am always running late. Not seriously late, but just late enough that I have to call monthly and make a payment arrangement to prevent them shutting off my phone. This phone company has become a bit fussy, so they won’t even let a full month go by before shutting me down. Hence, my monthly calls to them.

Unfortunately, my last call was apparently with the wrong department. Oh, they noted my account, showing clearly that I was going to pay them on August 5, but the department I spoke with couldn’t enter it into the system properly to prevent shutdown.

So my brother was an hour out of town. I’d been waiting for his call before I showered so I wouldn’t miss that call. Unbeknownst to everyone, my phone service was shut off this morning. I found this out when my brother knocked on my door, asking, “Did you know you have no phone service?”

I took a quick shower, joined him and his family in the car, and we were off to one of those all-American restaurants, where just one meal would be a true test of my cholesterol meds. But what was meant to be a short, pleasant family outing soon became an exercise in patience, thanks to my “cute” little nephew.

There was absolutely no way to control this kid. He went where he wanted, screamed a lot, and cried when he wasn’t permitted to do as he pleased. I was embarrassed by his behavior, as well as that of my brother and his wife, as they were arguing not so quietly as to what to do.

Stu wanted to spank his child for misbehaving. Not beat his child…spank his child. A few painful swats on the butt to make the kid understand that this rambunctious behavior would not be tolerated. I even said to him, “Take the kid of out screaming range and administer some corporal punishment.”

In turn, Nicki was afraid that Stu would go to jail if anyone witnessed him spanking his son. I thought this was absurd. Have we really become so afraid that we fear imprisonment over disciplining a child? It would not involve red-hot pokers, instruments of torture, or the breaking of bones. We’re talking about bending a child over one’s knee and applying a few smart raps. Alas, Nicki’s methods involve “time outs” and trying to bribe Xander into good behavior.

The most startling thing was my desire to spank the kid. Please note that I’m a pacifist. The only time I’d ever raise my hand for a violent act would be in the physical defense of myself or a loved one. Even then, I doubt I’d be able to do much in my physically deteriorating state.

The result was a whole lot of nothing, and the destruction of a nice visit. Nicki took Xander out to the car, asking that their meals be wrapped up to go. Stu and I sat and ate awkwardly, our primary difficulty being that we couldn’t get past the outrageous behavior of his kid. The simplest solution that came to my mind as I walked into my apartment was, “Kill it. Try again with a new model.”

Oh, but I’d never really wish something like that, especially with my nephew. He really is a cute kid. But before exiting his car, and knowing their next stop was supposed to be the Grand Canyon, I told him, “I’ll be watching the news. You keep your kid away from the rim, which has no rails. Got it?”

And with that, all I can do is pray that he doesn’t go running off and find himself plummeting hundreds of feet to his death. It would more than kill that boy, but possibly my brother and his wife. A good part of me wishes they would just continue home without the Canyon visit. The rest knows that there’s no stopping them, which leaves my nephew’s survival to prayer.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

It's killing the carless, too!

Poor, poor Exxon. They were only able to make 12 billion dollars in profits last quarter. That's profits, boys and girls, which excludes all the costs of doing business. And because they made less than what was expected on Wall Street, their stocks drops. Really, people. Just think of those poor CEO's suffering because they didn't make the projected income. Why, they might have to wear the same pair of socks twice before throwing them away!

Meanwhile, back at the Rob-cave, my Social Security check arrived a few days early because the 3rd of the month falls on Sunday. When "payday" for the disabled falls on the weekend, we get our money on Friday.

I paid my rent. I paid the phone bill. I bought food. And for being a good boy, paying my bills and such, I now have $100 to my name.

Rounding down, I make $700 a month. This means that I live beneath poverty level at all times. Thanks, however, to some kindly souls, I have received help when I've needed it most. I don't like to sit with my hand out, begging the masses to help me do silly things like live, but the system isn't designed to keep up with the times.

Gas prices are a prime example. Because the price of fuel has skyrocketed, it now costs more to put food on the shelves of the local market. The price of everything has gone up at least 50 cents here in the States. That means the purchase of 10 items costs me an extra $5.

The figures representing poverty level, however, have not increased to match. To live in poverty, as a single adult, I would have to make $10,400 annually. That's to live at poverty level. With the rising price of everything known to man, however, one would think that number would be adjusted. Well, you thought wrong.

Come January, I will receive my annual "raise" from Social Security. Raise your hand if you think the government will raise it enough to compensate for our sinking economy. Okay, good. Now, if you raised your hand, amputate said hand and file for disability to find out the truth for yourself.

The maximum raise, as I understand it, can be up to 3%. It can be, but usually isn't. It tends to be a touch more than my annual rent increase of $10, which means I'm not really getting much of a raise at all. And I try not to look too closely at news pertaining to Social Security, because all of it is grim. The government whines about the future of the program while those of us living in the present make unhealthy cutbacks, like on food, to get by.

In an effort to survive, I have put an end to my last luxury. City of Heroes is a thing of the past, as I can't possibly give up $15 a month to play for a game. And while riding the bus yesterday, I saw a guy answer a second cell phone. My only thought was, Wow...I wish I was important enough to have ONE! July was probably my "last hurrah," thanks to a few cash gifts. No more movies, in theaters or on DVD. No more dining out, even when it's only been off the dollar menus of fast food places for some time.

I don't even own a car, and I want to know how things got the way they are. Because car or carless, gas prices are killing us all.

Friday, August 1, 2008

You don't know Jack: The Explanation

The titles of my posts usually have something to do with the body of my posts. By now, people may have read it and wondered why I capitalized "Jack."

Well, there's a guy named Jack Emmert, CEO of Cryptic Studios, and I was going to include a rant against him. I, as well as many others, believe that his "vision" for City of Heroes took an excellent game and ruined numerous aspects of it. He made promises and broke them. So I was one of the many who went to the CoH forums and raged against him.

Oh, but I took it one step further, and ended up being banned from said forums. You see, I decided, in one of my less intelligent and less kindly moments, to send him the rudest private message I could muster. I believe it was something to the effect of, "Please let everyone on the forums know when you've found your testicles."

Yeah...not one of my shining moments.

Anyway, there was a section of the last post that went into detail about he'd done to gain my ire. I deleted it, (mostly due to an illogical fear of a libel suit), but failed to change the title. So I thought I'd pop in this morning to explain the title and...well, that was it.

Be well.