Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wait...Good news?!?

Yes, I actually come to you with good news. Mind you, the pessimist in me is shouting that good news only means disaster is waiting around the corner, but I've been trying to keep that particular voice drowned out.

First of all, I went for a followup visit for the wound care on Monday. The first good sign was that I'd dropped five pounds in almost as many days. This is probably due to my lack of appetite since my foot became infected, but I'll take it. It's the first time I've been under 190 lbs. in a long time.

Next came the examination with the CWCN, whom I may also call "Gina" every now and again. The lighting at home often had me wondering exactly how bad this thing was getting. I was experiencing pain in the area, which wasn't happening before, and I could've sworn the redness was spreading out further from the holes in my skin. Again, lighting makes all the difference, as does perspective. Being unable to change my view in any way made it difficult to properly examine the wounds.

Gina, however, was ecstatic. Her face lit up with a smile as she started raving how great the wounds looked. She proceeded to wash them, and then went through he routine of measuring them and taking pictures. She was absolutely floored that the older wound had healed an astonishing 50%! Let me clarify...The older wound, which was still a significant worry, had healed 50% in approximately FOUR DAYS! The other wound had also closed a bit, and was certainly not looking as pus-filled as it had been before. When a measurement of my ankle was done, I was told the swelling had gone down my two centimeters.

Now, I've had a hard time healing such wounds in the past. Part of the problem is the fact that I was told to use 1% silver sulfadiazine cream on such things. This topical antibiotic is often used on severe burns, and helps to keep the skin moist. Well, skin that's kept perpetually moist doesn't heal all that quickly, especially when it's NOT a burn, so the cream was aiding in producing a reduced healing rate. Because I was skeptical that things were looking so good, the CWCN showed me the before and after pictures. "Pic or it didn't happen"? Well, it was happening.

Not only was the alternative care aiding in the healing, but we learned that I'd been taking the perfect antibiotic for the infection. The second wound, as I was still overlooking the first because I thought it was healed, was cultured while I was at the ER. The results were in, and one of the antibiotics I was taking turned out to be the right one to combat the problem. I was told I could stop taking the other, as it wasn't really doing anything, and sent home, with a followup happening again next Monday.

It occurred to me, however, that there could well be one other factor that was adding to my healing: NEKO! Yes, my sweet Neko has remained a daily event, with us chatting for hours on end. (We recently realized that Skype could add an entirely new dimension to our chats, so we've been doing that.) The main thing is that when I talk to her, I'm all smiles. I feel good about many things, including myself. This means that I'm likely receiving a hefty dose of endorphins as we chat, and those happy little hormones aid in healing.

Another thing about Neko is that...Well, there was a time when we'd chat and I'd tease her about "when we meet." Somewhere along the way, "if" turned into "when." Lately when we chat, it's been turning more and more into a likely reality.

"Wait a minute, Rob. You're not going to the GitP meet-up because you need to save money for a new mouth, remember?" Oh, believe me, I haven't forgotten this little nugget of info. The thing is, if I forgo a month of saving, and she helps me with the finances of visiting her, as she has absolutely insisted on doing, then I'll actually have no worries. A train ride from here to there is $170, and my plan is to save $175 a month. Give up one month, and I get to finally meet the woman I...

Oh, wait. That's right. We're not saying that word yet. You know...the L word. (No relation to the show.)

But let me ask my audience what they think. When we chat, she calls me "her Rob," and she's "my Neko." (Yes, I call her by both her real name and nickname when speaking in that romantic possessive, and I am sometimes "her Noun," based on my CoX character.) We have the capacity to set the butterflies swirling in our stomachs, as well as get our hearts pumping faster with just a few words. She has wondered aloud several times why she's even bothering to go to Puerto Rico. She once feared that things wouldn't work out romantically on her trip, and now she's almost afraid they will. We fight desperately not to paint images of the future, but manage to do so anyway. My perspective of her has change, so that she is no longer pretty, but beautiful. Of late, when we get on Skype, we can chat for six hours straight and still want to chat when we should be saying goodnight. So you tell me, (and her, since she reads this blog)...Do you think we're in l-l-l-l-l...in l-l-l-l-l...Do you think we've already fallen for one another?

You know what else? I've gone through my usual routine of forewarning someone I'm interested in, telling her the grand list of things that's wrong with me. Not only has she not run screaming from me, but has even said that when she finally gets her degree in nursing that she'll be able to take care of me! Dear G-d, what did I do right that I would find a fantastic woman like her?!?

Amazingly, I'm still trying to stay guarded. Having had so many romances go sour on me in an instant, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I have grown attached to her. I feel more complete with her in my life. I spend part of my time trying to quell the feeling that all of this will turn to crap in mere moments, and the rest of of my time basking in the glorious feeling she inspires in me.

I'll try to keep you all posted on when she realizes the mistake she's made and runs screaming from my life...but here's hoping that day never comes.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Big Apple is rotting.

People tend to forget that New York City is made up of five boroughs: Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. "The Big Apple" tends to refer to Manhattan only, but if you're not picky, you can include all the other boroughs, as I have.

And why is it rotting? It was just one incident. Just one. And it's made me lose some of what little faith I have in humanity.

You see, a woman was attacked by a mugger last Sunday morning. A homeless man intervened and was stabbed. The mugger ran one way. The victim ran the other. And the homeless man staggered a few steps before he collapsed. When emergency folk got to him, he was dead, lying in a large pool of blood.

So far, this isn't really news, right? I mean, people get killed all the time. It's horrible, but there are some horrible people out there, and that's the way we try to explain it away so as not to live in fear all the time.

What makes this news is that the homeless man, Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax, age 31, finally identified only recently, collapsed in front of a security camera...and lay there for an hour and twenty minutes.

Oh, wait. Still not news, right? Crimes are caught on tape all of the time. We're shown such things regularly, and often become numb to how violent some people are. It keeps our psyches safe.

Well, this is the part where my faith in humanity falters. According to the NY Post, over 25 people walked past the dying man, and none of them called for help. Some people called 911 when the attack occurred to report a woman screaming, but the cops found nothing. After that, there were no calls...and yet 25 people passed the dying man, often gawking at his collapsed form.

Oh, wait. That's right. Two people DID do something. One particularly coldhearted bastard stepped out of his apartment building to use his cell phone to take a picture. Didn't use that same phone, or any other, to call for help. The other shook Hugo vigorously, saw the blood, and kept walking. That person also didn't call for help.

Hugo was found by accident when firefighters responded to a non-life-threatening call.

I was fairly young when I learned about the 911 system. I learned that when things are seriously bad, and there's no one around to help, you call 911 for the police or firemen. Eventually, as I grew older, I heard of a case, that of Kitty Genovese, who was raped and killed while dozens of people listened to her cries for help. The Post says some even witnessed part or all of the attack on Kitty. And why did no one summon the police? Because everyone thought everyone else was doing just that. With that in mind, I have called the cops, (especially when I lived in Phoenix), several times, because I can never be sure if anyone else is even bothering to do so.

But this just leaves me feeling sick. Twenty-five people, all of whom didn't go to the nearest payphone, (and NY practically has one within spitting distance). TWENTY-FIVE! And two of them had some interaction with Hugo as he was dying or already lay dead. One took a picture, and the other walked off when he saw blood. THERE'S NO RECORD OF ANY 911 CALLS BEYOND WHEN THE WOMAN WAS ATTACKED!

What happened to the city I virtually grew up in?

When I was 16, I went into Manhattan with some friends. The weather was on and off that day, and when it rained, it RAINED. This left some of the street corners, which are in perpetual need of repair, badly flooded. But we were young and agile, so leaping such monstrous puddles was nothing.

We were standing at one particular corner, when a tall, fit man looked down at a tiny, elderly woman, and asked her if she needed help getting across the street. I had always considered "helping little old ladies cross the street" as a joke. This woman had been looking at the puddle, and may well have decided she would have to trudge through it to get where she was going. The guy was wearing a shirt and tie, and those business types tend to not want to get their suits messed up. So try to imagine how everyone reacted when the light changed, he scooped her off the ground, leaped across the puddle, carried her the rest of the way, and gently set her down on the opposite sidewalk.

Everyone around him applauded, including my friends and I.

We need more people like that guy.

Meanwhile, there are 24 people in NY who have set themselves on the road to Hell. Oh, you know I'm not religious. But it's times like this when I truly hope Hell exists, as some people simply belong there. And to the one I didn't count...the one who took a picture and walked away...Well, I deem him the very worst of the lot, and pray he'll have an express ride to perdition.

If you want to read the various stories that are now out there about this crime, or, if you're brave enough, watch the horrific video, simply Google "Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax." Oh, and it should be noted that some reports say "almost 25 people," and that Hugo may have been 32.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What used to be a man...

...is now an emotional wreck. This ulcer is taking it toll on me physically and emotionally, and I officially lost it last night.

I don't like to lose my grip on negative emotions. "To the dark side, that path leads." Emotional outbursts often leave me feeling ashamed and regretful. But things came to a head last night, and the shiny exterior of Rob, all-around nice guy, and beloved Bor to many, shattered into so many pieces.

After making my blog entry yesterday, I tried to take a nap. I informed my housemates, Cody and Ray, that I was going to lie down for a bit. No sooner does my head hit the pillow than I hear the front door open with the arrival of Steve and Wyatt.

These two are nice guys. They're funny guys. But when Steve is in the mix, there tends to be no control over the tone of conversation. Steve, not really having a home to call his own, has been crashing on various couches. (The main place he stays is often referred to as "home," even though it's not any kind of permanent residence.) This led to a warning from me a week or so ago, when he was spending the night, in which I flat-out threatened him. "Disturb my ability to get some rest, or wake me up, and I'm kicking you out." I later apologized for this threat, and believed my message had gotten through.

It hadn't. Not only is Steve loud, but he inspires others to be loud. And just when I'd finally drifted off to sleep, the noise from the living room had me wide awake...and pissed off. All I did was shuffle out there and glare, to which everyone apologized. But it was Steve that remained tha main culprit.

The night went on as usual, which meant a call from Neko. She wasn't in the best of moods, so I had her read my recent post, "Holy $#*%!!!", while I was on the phone with her. As we all know, it's not what you say, but how you say it, and the way I spoke of my terrifying adventure to the ER had her laughing. (Mood improved...I'm a good guy.)

However, as our conversation progressed, I learned that she's in emotional turmoil. She has two great guys in her life, one of whom she claims is me. The two of us treat her with caring and respect, to which she is completely unaccustomed. And it all started with me teasing her that she was falling for me. I even sang, "Rob and Neko sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G..." She became quiet, so I asked what's on her mind, and that's when the revelation was made about her emotional confusion.

I have been EXTREMELY open and honest with her. We've even discussed how I'm in a great position to sabotage her relationship with the other guy, thereby placing me ahead of him, but haven't done any such thing. It turns out that that tact was worse than anything I could have done, as she said, "You really are a nice guy, and I hate you for it." (Well, I helped get that sentiment out, but that was her basic message.)

Thus began a lot of talking from me, in which I flat-out admitted that every call I make has an ulterior motive. I DO want to win her affections...and that I don't want to be the source of any pain for her. The other guy, whom I'll call "Dan," was in her life first. She's going to see him in May. My coming late to the game has created confusion, especially when she called me "her Rob" at one point, and didn't even know when that happened. "When did I become so attached to you?" But when she first called me that, I returned it by calling her "my Neko," which still makes her giggle like a school girl with a massive crush.

But it's not fair to her. My calls are always an effort to win her over, even if our conversations are trivial or filled with "silly flirting." I calmly explained that I didn't want to be the guy who made her emotional state such a mess, and that there was now a HUGE difference between what we WANT to do and what we SHOULD do. The former is that we continue on our current path, thoroughly making a mess of her head. The latter is that I stop making calls to her, thereby reducing her emotional distress. Mind you, I wasn't making any effort to tell her to vanish. I made it clear that "my Neko was welcome to call me whenever she wanted." But the calls from me would have to stop, because I AM making an effort to gain all of her attention, thereby leaving no room for Dan. It wasn't fair to her. It wasn't fair to him, (although I'm not terribly invested in how he feels about things).

So there I am, doing what's right, and being a nice guy in the process...which leads Neko to a lot of crying. "I really hate you right now. Why'd you have to go and be so damned nice?" It made things worse that I told her to take some time to think, maybe call her best friend to discuss what was going on. This brought even more tears. When asked WHY she was crying, she stated that she had no idea. But I had some, and shared them. For all the bed relationships she's had in the past, along come two guys AT THE SAME TIME who treat he almost like a princess. But I made it clear she can't have both of us, and he was in her life first. Better that I should back away a bit and give her room to breath, rather than stifle her emotions. And if she DOESN'T want me to back off, she could say as much...and understands that such a path will be filled with me devious efforts to bring her into my life. (Yes, very devious. I will "nice her to death.")

We ended our call on a happier note, with only the aftermath of her crying to deal with. Like many people, she dislikes such fits of emotion because it stuffs the nose, makes them sound funny, etc. She will call when she wants...which I honestly hope is soon. I've been falling for her, as well.

In the rest of the trailer, it was a night filled with the usual suspects. And as Cody headed for bed, with Steve in the living room, I started getting angry...Genuinely anger.

I'm still trying to adjust to the fact that I live here now. While the two guys I live with may be overgrown juvenile delinquents, gamer geeks, and slobs, I have it pretty good here. If I say I have a problem, they do their best, (which is sometimes pretty bad), to help me. Still my frame of mind has conversations like the following occur from time to time...

Me: Cody, I know you're working soon. Are you going to need the shower?
Cody: Why do you ask?
Me: Well, I was going to shower, but I have no obligations, so if you need it...
Cody: Rob, you live here too. Go take your damn shower.
Me: Shoot me for being considerate.

So there's Steve, in the living room, playing video games while Cody retired, and I was angry that he'd once again been clearance to spend the night without anyone asking me, in my precarious medical state, if it was okay. I went out to the living room...

Me: Steve...? Is anyone coming to get you to bring you home?
Steve: Ummm...I guess not.
Me: I see. So you intend to spend the night, and no one asked me if I was okay with it?
Steve: (Stunned silence.)
Me: Well, that's just f****** great. For all the times I'm reminded that I live here too, I'm never consulted about you spending the night. This is great, because the guy who interrupts the rest I desperately need is now getting to enjoy the hospitality of our home. I am sick, Steve, and you are making me sicker! I moved here for the express reason that I can no longer live alone, and you are making things worse!
Steve: I'm sorry.
Me: No you're not. Because if you were sorry, you'd make some changes to your behavior. Instead, it's like dealing with a kid who can't control his mouth...ever!
Steve: (coming across as though merely placating me) Okay, Rob.
Me: Yeah, that tone is definitely winning me over.
Steve: Okay, Rob.

(This is NOT word-for word, as my memory falters when I'm enraged, and encompasses two separate conversations, but the sentiments are here.)

I returned to my room and fumed for a bit, and took a Xanax to calm me down; my emotions were rapidly getting out of control. Feeling as though he'd taken a patronizing tone with me, I resisted the urge to head back to the living room and just kick Steve out...into the thunderstorm that was raging.

How Cody didn't hear this is beyond me. I was NOT using my "indoor voice." And Ray had gone out with a few people, including Siege, for a few drinks. So when Ray came home, it apparently became a quiet discussion in the living room about getting Steve somewhere else...

...and I learned this from Siege, who came to my room to talk. He'd heard about my ulcer adventures, and the moment he mentioned them, I broke down. Tears streamed down my face as I asked, "Why can't I go through a single month without SOME disaster striking? I mean, just when I think I'm done with one problem, another manages to start up. When do I get a break? Is it really asking too much to have a month off from all of my medical dramas?"

Siege did his best to quell my anger and frustration. As backward as it seems, one thing he said connected. "I know it's terrifying to think about losing your foot, but if they took it, it would be one less thing to worry about." It's true...and yet despite it being so problematic, I have been rather attached, literally and figuratively, to my feet. That, and I have the silly superstition that once imbs start coming off, the diabetic has about 10 years of life left. (Don't ask where it comes from; I'm not up to telling that tale.)

Somewhere during our chat, I learned that Ray and Steve were in the living room, attempting to find somewhere else he could spend the night. It being 2:00 AM, I wasn't going to have that bit of guilt riding me for the next few weeks, so I returned to the living room. "Steve, you can spend the night. But it can't be an automatic assumption that you're welcome here, especially after waking me from the rest I desperately need." Ray attempted to intervene, telling me that they were going to get Steve somewhere else, to which I repeated that Steve could spend the night, but people should really consult ME, as well.

Siege and I chatted a bit more, and then he was on his way. By then, my Xanax dose was really kicking in, so it was bed time. This morning...? Well, I was supposed to go for an MRI on my left elbow and C-spine, but I called and explained that a diabetic ulcer was complicating my life. They were fully understanding, and I did NOT reschedule, further explaining that until I know what path this wounded foot will take me, making and keeping an appointment would be difficult.

And now...? To be honest, I'm exhausted. I just want some rest. So I'll on my way, try to reassemble the man I usually am.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Myth Informed

Ah, Robert Asprin was quite an influence on me many, many moons ago. However, the title of this post, although never used by the aforementioned author, is fitting. I was believing in a myth, but was informed otherwise today.

On my left foot, there are officially THREE ulcer sites...

The first, directly on my ankle, was the product of wearing sandals when I lived in AZ. I was just enough of a nerd to wear socks with my sandals, but they proved no protection from the ankle strap. It sawed into my skin and created an ulcer that took between a year-and-a-half to two years to heal. (I know I've mentioned it deep inside this blog, but no longer recall how long it took to become the scar it is today.)

The second ulcer is one that appeared a couple of months ago. I have no idea where it came from, but I treated it as I normally do, and it seemed to heal.

The last ulcer is the one I wrote about yesterday.

Back up to ulcer number two a moment, and understand that this was the "myth" part of this post's title. It was NOT healed. Oh, it was faking it rather well, but it turns out that it might well be the cause of the new ulcer. And here are the details of this knowledge and how I came to have it...

I mentioned yesterday that I was to call a wound care specialist today and make an appointment as soon as possible. Monday, I thought. That's probably the best for which I'll be able to hope. And so I made my calls to the specialist to get in to see her...only to end up listening to a ringing phone with no one around to answer. I mean, it's a specialist. Someone should pick up by ring number five, shouldn't they? And various answering devices used by doctors and the like tend to pick up on ring number one. So I was kinda screwed in making my appointment.

Luckily, the wound care specialist was handed a reminder that I was in the ER yesterday, and she called me! What's more, she claimed to be able to see me today, which I believed wasn't necessary. I was treated at the ER yesterday. What could she possibly do for me today that would change my treatment? So rather than agree instantly to be seen today, I was willing to wait until Monday, as I'd originally thought.

But while chatting with her, she mentioned that she was called at home for a consultation yesterday evening, and that put me on pause immediately. Wait...The doctor called another profession AT HOME for consultation? That probably means this is as serious as I'd been imagining. With that thought sinking into my mind, I agreed to come in today and have her examine my new ulcer.

I learned upon my arrival that I was what the specialist's office called a "preferred patient." This is their way of saying, "Not only do we want to see you, but we want to see you NOW!" In fact, I wasn't even permitted to finish my paperwork that most doctor office's require before seeing patients. I actually sat in a recliner while the Certified Wound Care Nurse (CWCN) attended to my foot.

The very first thing to happen was to have the myth disproved. The second ulcer had not only not healed, but was deeper than the new one! Instead of developing skin properly over the ulcer, I developed a callus. A rather DEEP callus. A rather deep callus that has to be DEBRIDED so it could heal properly. This involved a fine-tipped scalpel and careful work by the specialist. (While she consults a doctor before releasing patients, this nurse does all of the real work.)

I don't have one active ulcer...I have TWO!

What's more, the "fake-healing" ulcer may be the cause of the new one. With all of my complications, there could well be something lurking within that caused the new wound to appear. This wound may have come about from an infection that started inside and worked its way out. And this explanation best explains why my foot swelled like a balloon.

So what now?

The CWCN gave me new instructions on how to treat the wounds. Photos and measurements were taken so a visual record can be kept of the infection. I am to continue my antibiotics, as well as follow up next Monday with another visit. If there's no improvement, or if it seems that it's getting worse, she will want pictures to see what's going on INSIDE the foot. (Yay...more x-rays and/or MRIs.)

And that's it. That's the update. Until there's more news, or I think of something more entertaining to speak about, I'd ask my readers to say a little prayer that this works out for me...because, although some of my fears were dispelled, I remain terrified.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Holy $#*%!!!"

Those were the two words I exclaimed in the middle of a normal conversation with Neko. This reaction was a mix of anger and concern, as I had looked down and saw dried blood on top of my left sock. My first thought was, Great...That latest ulcer has decided to "unheal" itself and is bleeding again. Upset and anxious, I told Neko to hang on a minute. Then I took off my sock to inspect what I figured would be the usual amount of damage.

I was wrong. I was VERY wrong. Not only was this a brand spanking new ulcer on the top of my foot, but the wound, general surrounding area, and outer ankle were swollen, as though I'd managed to break a bone.

It was far too large to be considered my typical problem. So I was back on the phone with Neko, telling her that I needed to get to a hospital immediately. I said I would call to keep her posted, and rushed...

...to take a shower. Let's face it, kids. I have no one I need to impress on a daily basis, so it had been a couple of days since my last shower. I was instantly self-conscious about smelling like one of the literally unwashed masses, so showering would be first, followed by rushing to the hospital. I was so concerned about getting things done swiftly so we could be on our way that I accidentally ripped the towel rod from the bathroom wall. (Recent repairs to the already decrpit rod could only last so long, and I made sure of that!)

My next concern was that I pack a bag. The look of this thing had me believing I'd end up admitted to the hospital, so I threw some clothes and toiletries into my backpack, along with a book. In addition, I had Ray stop along the way so I could get some cash from my bank. It would be irritating should I suddenly need something in the hospital, only to discover no one had cash to buy anything. With money on hand, I could tell them to come get money, go buy me things, and return swiftly...or I will cry or something.

With everything set, we went to the ER...where I was baffled by how it was set up. There are two registration stations, but the woman at each seemed busy doing other things. The desk right by the ER door was vacant, so I was left to wonder how anyone receives any aid whatsoever there. When I asked one of the women how patients register, she said that I'd have to see the triage nurse first. Well, that's great. How do I see the triage nurse behind the big, locked doors if there's no one to go tell her I need help? I wandered around a bit, then decided to ask the other woman working registration. She agreed that I'd need to see the triage nurse, and went back to doing other things...

...until she realized NO ONE was actually helping me, and led me to see the nurse herself. There, they took all kinds of information from me, including my vitals. My blood pressure, which is normally 110 over 70, was 146 over 85. I mention this detail to show that I had physiological proof of how scared I was over this wound. What's more, I was sweating in a relatively cool emergency room. Definitely not normal for me.

With all this done, I went back to registration to sign paperwork. My nervousness immediately led to me making some rather strange jokes during the process. When asked who my primary care physician was, I replied, "Some guy name Lou who stands on a street corner." (No idea where that one came from, but it earned me a laugh from the woman helping me.)

All registered and triaged, it was time to wait. And the first thing I did was call Neko. (Hmmm...These "cell phone" things are pretty handy!) I let her know that I was at the hospital, that I wasn't being rushed into the back, which was a good sign, and that I would keep her apprised of the situation. Then it was back to the waiting room...

...where I entered the Twilight Zone. Of all the people to sit next to Ray and I, it had to be the woman who had little control of her two kids. My guess would be that one boy was a year and half, and the other boy was around three. Now you have to understand, I like kids. They can be quite cute, and I'd love to have some one day. So I was ultimately amused by the older child after I'd made an inquisitive face at him. I did so by raising just one eyebrow. My actions baffled him. He sat there for a few minutes, trying to get only one of HIS eyebrows to rise, and finally resorted to using his fingers. Insert a chuckle from yours truly.

My chuckling spurred him to flat out ask for my name. I said what the mother should have said. Thankfully, she was right there, so I didn't feel strange with saying, "'What's my name?' You know you're not supposed to talk to strangers, right?" (The mother smiled her approval.) And here's where it got weird.

Me: You know you're not supposed to talk to strangers, right?
Kid: Are you a stranger?
Me: Well, yes...I can be pretty strange. (Chuckle from mom.) But, yes...I am a stranger.
Kid: Strangers don't have knives. (Of course, he said "knifes," but we'll go with proper English, okay?)
Me: Wait...What?!?
Kid: Strangers don't have knives.
Me: Where did that come from?
Kid: You're not a stranger.
Me: Yes, I am.
Kid: Do strangers have knives?
Me: What, pray tell, are they showing for Saturday morning cartoons these days? Where is this coming from?
Kid's Mother: (Addresses son by name), what are you talking about? (To me): I have no idea what he's talking about.

This bizarre chat was interrupted by the fact that the younger one was wandering about and spilling mysterious fluids from his "sippy" cup. While the mother collected the toddler, Ray got some paper towels to help clean up the mess.

Hoping the odd conversation was over, I talked to Ray a bit, did a little reading, only to have Bizzaro Child say to me out of the blue, "Strangers don't hit kids." Right. Whatever you say, miniature mutant boy. I have a sinking feeling that there's already too much violence in your life, but I'm in no position to counsel you.

Relating this story to Steve and Cody received a lot a laughter, as well as the following reactions.

Steve: When he said "Strangers don't hit kids," I would've said, "Oh yeah?"...and hit him.
Cody: I would have turned to the mother and asked, "Do you actually interact with your kids, or do you just feed them and hope for the best?"

Back in the real world, it was approximately two hours before they called me in. My wait time was lengthened by an unconscious girl being brought in by her family, (announced as a "code green" over the public address system), one of whom was carrying a pill bottle. The speculation in the waiting room was that the girl had attempted suicide. If that was the case, I would have played the role so many have come to expect from me..."Bor the Barbarian Monk to the rescue!" But she was already in the hands of professionals, so I didn't need to do a thing.

The ER doctor comes in and begins his examination. Honestly, I'd never seen a doctor pay such close attention to detail, nor take as many notes as he did on what he observed. He was pleasantly astonished to discover I still had an excellent pedal pulse, despite 35+ years of diabetes and obvious severe swelling. His course of action was not immediately clear to him, and he actually debated what to do with me before making his decision.

But let's back up a moment. Some of the best jokes are old jokes. I've been to enough ERs and seen enough doctors to know which ones fly, and so I went with a reliable one.

Doc: So, what's going on?
Me: I came to see a vet.
Doc: Excuse me?
Me: A vet. You know...Veterinarian? I figured it would just be easier to put me down, and animal disposal fees are cheaper than a funeral.

This is the part where they usually laugh, and we get down to business. But not this time...

Doc: Then you're in luck, because I also have a degree as a vet.
Me: (After confirming that he was NOT joking.) Y'know, I don't know if I'm impressed or disturbed by this fact.

It was further confirmed when the nurse walked in. The doc shared what was supposed to be MY joke, only to have the nurse laugh by the strange turn in conversation.

(Upon hearing this, Steve pretended to be the doctor..."I couldn't make it as a vet. All of my patients kept dying. So I took on human medicine instead.")

The verdict was to TRY and treat this at home. I told them how I usually treat such wounds, which was approved by the doc. He wrote a couple of prescriptions, one of which is a MASSIVE dose of antibiotics. (When I say "massive," I'm talking about a double-dose of what appear to be horse pills.) Then he had the nurse return, give me the first massive doses of the antibiotics, SCRUBBED the wound, measure it, outline the red area with a felt pen (that they gave me to continue monitoring the size of the infection), plaster it with antibiotic cream, and put so much gauze padding on it that I could drop a 50 lbs. weight on it and feel nothing.

Tomorrow, I am to make a call to a wound care specialist and make an appointment for as soon as possible. Should there be any significant negative changes, such as the size of the swelling, redness, and/or pain, I should return to the ER immediately.

Thus, Ray and I headed home to order Chinese food. We'd been a total of four hours without even a few snacks. The money I'd gotten from the bank now went to dinner. While Cody did nothing in this adventure, other than to look at my foot after I first noticed it, and exclaim, "Holy $#*%! What'd you do?", I included him in the dinner arrangements anyway.

Heh...Steve was here at that time too, and he asked if I had any idea as to what caused the wound. "Of course I do," I replied. "Once upon a time, when I was seven years old, I became a diabetic. The end."

With food on its way, I get comfortable and immediately called Neko. That poor woman. She was startled by my initial exclamation, and continued to worry about me, even after I'd called her from the ER. She really is very sweet. (Which means I probably shouldn't be pursuing her, what with me being a diabetic and all.) There was a part of me that wanted to stay on the phone and chat a while, but doing nothing can be exhausting.

So I am fed. I am bandaged. And, as I told Neko I would, I have blogged.

The reality is that I'm still concerned over this foot. Even though I've had it treated, and will continue to treat it, it's terrifying when the only explanation you can give such a serious-looking wound is "because you're a diabetic." And so much swelling! I've never had such a severe reaction to a diabetic ulcer before. My immediate fear is that this wound is the result of the other that appears to be healed, but is now osteomyelitis. G-d, how I fear ever having to endure that damned infection again!

I'm going to medicate my way to being more relaxed, and I will keep my few faithful readers posted.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Allow me to introduce...

HELLFIRE LOVER!

Wait a minute. This is the succubus that's been terrorizing the Rogue Isles, robbing banks, kidnapping influential people, and murdering her opposition? I mean, the fanged skulls look somewhat impressive, but the whole package isn't all that, right?

Wait a minute. I think I got it.

Allow me to introduce...

HELLFIRE LOVER!

Oh, yes. MUCH better. I mean...

Look at those...those...Well, how can you miss them? Are you BLIND?

Anyway, HFL is my latest character on City of Villains. The folks at Paragon Studios are gearing up for the summer release of Going Rogue, and have been teasing us by handing out two new power sets. The first was Dual Pistols, with lots of flashy animations while you fire off an impossible amount of bullets from your flintlock.

Yes, when choosing the look of your weapon, you can choose a flintlock. Instead of firing ONE bullet, as it was back in yesteryear, you can fire off around 30 with Hail of Bullets. Go figure.

Now that closed beta is over, I can reveal the fact that I was in it. This time, they introduced a new power set for Masterminds: Demon Summoning.

"What's a Mastermind?" In terms of hit points, they are the weakest characters in the game. If someone sneezes in your general direction, you'll be knocked off your feet, perhaps even propelled backward for either 50 yards or until you collide with something solid, like a wall. Even the attacks of the MMs are weak, doing what seems to be less and less damage (comparatively) than when you first start out.

That said, MMs are FAR from being useless. You see, they get to summon various minions, and have the ability to command said minions to do their dirty work for them. Until recently, you could have ninjas, robots, soldiers, street thugs, or zombies. Now they've added demons, and they've done something a little different this time.

As a MM, you get to summon six minions. You get three lowbies, two mediums, and one large. And these guys are about as powerful as indicated. The lowbies, for example, are pesky and relentless attackers, but tend not to last long. The large minion, however, can make all kinds of trouble for your opponents. And with the lowbies, only a couple of sets would allow for one to do something different from their fellows. Take the thugs...one of them is a pyromaniac, and will pull off all kinds of destructive tricks. With the soldiers, one of them is a medic that will heal you and your other minions.

The demon summoning group offers a different power for each one! Let's summon them and take a look.

Hellfire Lover, if you would be so kind as to cast your spell...?

My, that certainly looks nifty...

And there we have it; all three lowbies popping from the ground.

The one on the far left tosses around fire. The middle guy uses hellfire. (What the difference is between that and regular fire is beyond me.) The critter to the right slings ice around.

So I've been having fun for the last couple of weeks, trying to level up this character to see what she can do. Not all that high at the moment, but I also have...

Hellfire Lover, if you could bring that other guy up from the bowels of the Abyss, please?

Again, nifty graphics. What's more, she has a different symbol for bring up the next level of minions.

There we go. This is the "medium minion," and he has a few extra abilities that make him a valuable member of the MM's team. Not only does he regularly give out a fiery protective aura, but he can also heal badly wounded minions. Actually, he's been healing them when they're NOT badly wounded. Still, when things get messy, it's good to have him on the job.

One of the fun things they did occurs in the animation for dismissing this medium-sized demon. While his dismissal dialogue isn't anything to write home about, he visibly doesn't seem to want to leave. He howls and starts clawing at the ground, attempting to prevent his dismissal. Just take a look when Hellfire Lover send him home...



He can fight it all he wants; he's going home.

As mentioned, Paragon Studios has now turned this over to open beta. If you have a City of Heroes/Villains account, just check their forums on how to get on the test server, as well as how to copy existing characters from the live servers to test.

One thing I'm annoyed with during the change from closed to open is the return of something I sent in as a bug report. You can summon your "demonlings" without a problem, but the moment you cast Summon Demons, everyone you control, including your original character, pauses every few seconds to go through a power-up animation, despite not being powered-up. The repetitive growl of the demonlings announcing their newfound abilities starts to grate.

I also reported the general dialogue of the minions. Each has a live to acknowledge that it's received your commands. While I'm a G.I.R.L., (Guy In Real Life), there are quite a few ladies playing CoX, and the demon minions are constantly saying things like, "Following the master," or "Must protect the master." What if they should be protecting the MISTRESS?

This post, for all of its pictures and general silliness, is dedicated to the friend who's user name helped me to create this new character. This is my way of paying a small tribute to her, and letting her know I'm thinking about her and her current woes, and hoping things are resolved in the near future.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Not going as planned

On 11 March, I wrote about my oral woes. My mouth needs a new mouth. Today, I'm going to share some of the details, and explain why I say that, even though I'd summarized back then.

Years ago, while in NY, I went to the dentist because I knew I needed a cleaning. I wasn't looking forward to having my teeth scraped, but there's only so much one can do at home. The dentist asked when the last time I'd seen a dentist was, and I told him that I couldn't even remember that far back. Fearing the worst, he took x-rays, and was amazed to discover I had no cavities whatsoever. Oh, my teeth were out of alignment, but that was stress causing me to push my teeth forward while I was asleep. So he cleaned my teeth, and that was the end.

A few short years later, I moved to AZ, and found myself suffering what had to be one of the worst ear aches I'd had in ages. It was late in the day, and certainly not ambulance worthy, so I took a bus to the nearest emergency room, where they examine my ear and saw nothing at all. That's when the ER doc looked in my mouth and saw my gums were infected. He prescribed antibiotics, and I was fine in a few days. But the one thing he said that stuck out in my mind was that my teeth weren't in good shape at all.

This was a mystery to me. How could my teeth have gone from being cavity-free just years before to being the potential nightmare he saw? I took time to look around my mouth, and for anyone without dental mirrors and has also done so, you know what this is like. It means using both hands to spread your lips in various directions and practically unhinging your jaw to see what's what in there. I didn't have to look far. Right where the gum met my lateral incisor was a black hole that screamed, "YOU NEED A DENTIST!"

Easier said than done in AZ. Medicare (in general) and Medicaid (out there) have no "drill-n-fill" policy. They'll extract all of your teeth for nothing. But replacing them...? Not a chance.

So I've been doing my best to simply live with this mouth that's now filled with decay. Some of the holes allow for food to become trapped, regardless of how well I brush, and that's allowed for my gums to become infected over...and over...and over again. I've practically lived with a prescription for penicillin amongst my meds since moving to KS.

Knowing I need dental work done, and there being a dental clinic right next door to the medical clinic I go to, I FINALLY worked up the guts to walk in and ask what can be done for me. As before, they'll pull everything for free, but that's about it.

Another thing that has recently entered my mind is the possibility that I have osteomyelitis in my teeth, (or jaw, as my online research claims). I mean, I have one of the symptoms, which is joint pain far from my teeth. I've been taking narcotic painkillers to deal with just that. What if what's going on it my mouth is the cause for all of my bodily woes? Well, now I have one more reason to get my ass in gear and get this looked at, because if that's what's happening, I need IV antibiotics. Anywhere from four to eight weeks of them. (And that means another chest catheter. Oh, joy.)

Even with the worst case scenario being osteomyelitis in my mouth, the teeth have got to go. And once they're gone, I'm going to NEED replacements. No, not surgically implanted replacements. That's too much for me. I have enough on my plate without having each tooth surgically replaced. I'm talking dentures. (What's good enough for Dad is good enough for me.) And the reason I say I need replacement equipment is because I need to be able to actually CHEW my food. I already digest my food slower than normal. (Don't ask how I know this.) Without the ability to chew, it would be even slower.

On 11 March, I put a price tag on replacements. I claimed "almost $2,000." The price I was actually given was $1,750. Close to $2,000, but not quite. Since last month was a lean month for me, I have started the saving process this month. Even if I manage to save $200 a month, it won't be until Christmas when I'll be able to finally get my mouth replaced.

This month, I was given a drop of hope, only to have it evaporate with a few keystrokes. Kansas has something called "The Mission of Mercy," brought to the people from the Kansas Dental Charitable Foundation. For two days, people from all over the state gather in Independence, Kansas to have dental work done for free. Initially, I was told they do EVERYTHING. So I thought my need to save money was over. But doubts were cast over the process, resulting in me doing a little research. It turns out that they only do extractions, fillings, and cleanings. I have too much going on in my mouth for mere fillings. Extractions would result in an empty mouth. And a cleaning...? That's almost the punchline of a joke. Thus, the Mission of Mercy would have been a waste. However...

Okay, here's what I'm planning on doing. First, I need to check to see if osteomyelitis has anything to do with what's going on in my mouth. If it does, I need to get myself set up for the IV antibiotics via a chest catheter. Then I need to contact the Kansas Dental Charitable Foundation and find out if there's some way they can help me get a new mouth going. I'm hoping I can plead my case well enough that they agree to help. And if that fails...Well, my friends, I'll be begging for aid again.

I hate doing that. I was free and clear, now that I've moved in with people who give a damn about me. But this need has grown much larger, and it seemed to have done so smack in the middle of last month. Sure, it was bad when I first got here, but it's become a nightmare as of the middle of March, when it seemed that everything I ate was causing me discomfort in my mouth. I need help, and may be forced to ask my old network of financial aid to help me out.

I'll leave it at that for the moment. Just thought I should fill you in, (no pun intended). Meanwhile, be well, all.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

There are worse addictions

Well, Neko and I have become thoroughly addicted to talking to one another. Every day, several hours each day, we talk...and talk...and talk. Sometimes it's about something significant, and other times it's about nothing important. But we talk every...single...day! I even called her the other day to tell her I couldn't talk to her. How's that for backwards?

It was Friday, and it was time to refill prescriptions; I would actually be running out on one particular medication that day. My doctor decided to increase the Dilaudid I'm on, (that's replaced my percocet), so instead of 4 mg. I needed 8 mg. Before heading out to the pharmacy, I called to see if they even had it. Both pharmacies here didn't. I couldn't simply start calling around pharmacies in the next town over because I'd signed a contract with the pain management doctor. I liked the fact that I had to do that, as it meant he takes prescribing such meds seriously. Still, when you need to pick up 120 tablets of one kind or another, it becomes a kind of quest for drugs.

So I received permission to start calling around to see if anyone else had 8 mg. Dilaudid, and it seemed that NO ONE had it. What's more, Wal-Mart told me that when they order such strong narcotics, they don't get a confirmation on said orders, making it a surprise as to whether or not it'll show up with the next delivery. They said they would order it, but it wouldn't be in until next Wednesday, and that's if it showed up at all.

Another pharmacy said that Dilaudid only came in 2 mg. and 4 mg. doses, and that they'd never even heard of 8 mg. tablets. This news left me completely baffled. Why would my doctor write a prescription for nonexistent pills?

I called the doctor's office again, and was given more complications. My doc was OUT OF THE COUNTRY until later this month. Because I hadn't called every single pharmacy out there, giving up after four additional calls, they told me to finish calling EVERYONE before calling back.

I did as instructed, and the results didn't vary. The pills could be found nowhere. On my final call to the doctor's office, I was told that they would see what they could do and they would call me back once they had a plan.

Now came the call to Neko. We make our plans to talk the day before, and "call time" was rapidly approaching. I'm inept when it comes to checking my voice mail, so I've asked she not leave messages there, and I didn't want her to think I was suddenly ignoring her. Thus, I called her and said, "I called to tell you I can't talk." This earned a laugh, to which I did my best to rapidly explain what was going on. We were on the phone for all of three minutes, and that was that.

Shortly afterward, my doc's office called with a new plan. The staff couldn't write a new prescription for another medication, but they could write an altered one that allowed for 4 mg. tablets taken two at a time. A member of the staff would deliver it to a pharmacy near them, and all I had to do was travel to the next town to pick it up.

Okay. Good. Except that Ray's car still needs some repair work, and we would have to borrow his sister's car to get there. What's more, Steve was hanging around, and he decided to come with us. So we headed over to Ray's sister's place, only to have her and Wyatt want to join the quest for drugs. Thus, the five of us piled into the car and we were off.

Upon my arrival at the pharmacy, I then had to leap through insurance hoops. This has been an adventure unto itself lately. My AZ insurance remained in effect until either the end of February or the end of March. Trying to get an answer out of the people in AZ has proven fruitless. At one point, when I called to tell them I'd moved and they could discontinue my benefits, the dolt on the phone told me that I would have to come down to the office to make any changes to my benefits. "Ummm...I live in Kansas now, and there's no way I'm coming to your office!" So the morons waited until they received return mail before cutting me off. The overlap with my Kansas insurance had only produced headaches.

Right. I get my meds. But do we go home? Nope. Now we have to go out to eat. So we head for some place that serves up some of the most grease-laden food in town. I decide what I want, tell Ray, and then sneak off to...

...call Neko. It's what was on my mind for most of the trip. "How much time is left to talk to Neko before it gets too late?" Once again, I couldn't be on the phone long, because now I was trapped at a noisy eatery with four other people. What's more, just when I though I'd found a relatively quiet part of the parking lot to make my call, some git on a motorcycle parked near me and just sat there, his engine running. (No gas crisis for him, eh?) It was another quick call, and with the promise that we would chat Saturday.

Wow, did we chat Saturday! I believe we had two two-hour conversations, with one interrupted for her to do something for someone in her house. (Long story made short: when she left her boyfriend, she moved back in with her parents, where her brother, who's getting a divorce, also lives.)

One of the things we've discussed is the fact that we are growing thoroughly addicted to talking to one another...even when the conversations are about that which I don't want to discuss.

*sigh* Long before I entered the picture, Neko had a friend who lives in Puerto Rico. Before she and I ever picked up a phone to chat, she made plans to travel down there to meet him. The reality is that their relationship is much more than long distance; it's international. It would be EXTREMELY difficult to turn it into more than what it is. Still, she's going to see him, which means it's likely more than a friendship.

This is what makes my growing attachment to Neko a bad thing. It's like trying to tie myself to a bit of water in the ocean. I like her a great deal. I care about her a great deal. And there have been a couple of moments where I almost slipped and said "the three words of doom" to her.

Y'know, for a guy that wants to minimize the drama in his life, I do an excellent job of creating quite a bit of it. But in terms of addictions, I suppose there are things that are much worse upon which to develop a dependency.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Eye cracked this time.

I've had two doctor appointments in the last two days. There's good and bad from both. However, because of my chosen title, I will start with my eye appointment from today.

My hope was that we'd done enough work on my right eye that I could escape another round with the laser. Unfortunately, I was either misinformed or remembered incorrectly about the number of hits I've taken with the laser. The renewed approximations were 200 on the first round, and 400 on the second. With a total of 600, I still needed another 400 shots with the laser.

The initial examination, however, revealed that the previous surgeries were doing their thing. The neovascularization that had occurred was fading away, leaving the original equipment functioning properly. The optic nerve, the doctor told me, no longer appeared to be at risk for becoming detached. This left me with a few new blood vessels that could still cause my retina to become detached, and while the doctor was somewhat willing to let me forgo another session of laser hits, she urged that I get it done so we could get it over with.

Because my last two sessions hadn't gone so well, we were of a mind to split it in two. Do 200 today, and 200 next week. But more multiple treatments would mean multiple episodes of anxiety. My real desire was to get it finished. So I devised a plan while waiting for the doc to come in and fire up the laser. Instead of concentrating all her fire on that super star destroyer...Ummm...Instead of concentrating all her fire on one trouble-spot, move around and work on multiple areas, so as not to aggravate an area too rapidly. It helped a bit, but I still required a break mid-session.

Toward the end, Valium or no, I was still starting to have issues with the pain and the fact that I was trapped in that apparatus with someone holding my neck from behind to keep me from moving away. I was not only sweating and shaking, but almost mewling with discomfort. When the doctor called it quits, I flat out broke down in tears. I had been pushed to my limits by this last session.

The good news is that we got it all done. Another round would be unnecessary. The doc and her assistant were keen on complimenting me during and after the procedure, telling me that I was doing, and had done, so well.

Exhausted and loaded with pain in my right eye, I got home, called Neko to let her know I was okay, but needed rest, and napped for a couple of hours. Now, while I can only see properly out of my left eye, the pain is less, and I'm feeling a tad better.

Now for yesterday's doctor appointment.

I went to the pain specialist for a lovely test called an EMG on my upper extremities. This entails putting a couple of sensors on my hands and jolting me with an electrical current. The goal was to check the responses of my reflexes. This is not the same as when a doctor simply checks to see if you HAVE a reflex, such as when they tap your knee with that rubber mallet. This was a measurement of how good the reflexes are.

For years, I've been pointing to my hands and stating that the atrophy so easily seen is a result of diabetic neuropathy. This is only partially correct. Diabetes may well be the cause, but not diabetic neuropathy. According to the EMG, I have an entrapped ulnar nerve. This is something that can be caused by diabetes, hence my being partially correct. And it appears to be at its worst in my left arm.

So what do I do? Well, the doc has recommended I see get it corrected surgically. He said if I don't do this, the muscles will get worse, and in short order my left hand will be useless. I have an appointment with a specialist at the start of May, and I'll get a second opinion on the whole thing.

Which reminds me...The problems with my knees have yet to be resolved. When I last saw my PCP, I asked them to refer me to a new orthopedic specialist, and they've moved at the speed of dark to get that done. The semi-good news on that front is that with winter fading away, the pain has decreased. With my hands apparently in greater need at the moment, I suppose I'll have to put my knees off for the time being.

And that's the medical update for the moment. I'm contemplating heading for bed again, seeing as how this entry has managed to exhaust me.

Be well, all.