Monday, June 28, 2010

Apologies to everyone

I already know what everyone is going to say. "It's okay, Rob. You don't need to apologize. We understand." Except that my personal need to apologize isn't quelled by your acceptance. It's a part of my nature to say I'm sorry, even if it's not necessarily my fault that certain things happen. It should be old hat to some of you. It's my patented apology/explanation.

Who am I apologizing to? Becky, Ray, Cody, and all the folks who went to the GitP meet-up.

I've been blogging fairly steadily of late. Thus, readers will know of my tooth pull, my arm surgery, and my coming leg surgery. I just missed a few details along the way.

Like the infection that settled into my mouth after the tooth pull. I was given penicillin afterward, and it did NOTHING. Well, nothing good, like fight infection. There was pain in my mouth, which extended to my cheek, and even up to my eye. It hurt to blink! So I started taking antibiotics I have on hand for staph infections, and suddenly I'm getting better. Don't ask me how someone gets a staph infection in his mouth; I never understood how I got a staph infection in my kidney all those years ago. Still, my body is not recovering from surgery, a tooth pull, a serious infection...and is continuing to suffer under the pain from a need that requires repair.

As a result, I want to rest. I'm asleep at crazy hours, and awake at crazier hours. There doesn't seem to be any schedule to it. I'm awake one moment, and the next I don't seem to be able to hit my bed fast enough.

So yesterday evening, I was chatting with Becky when I told her I needed to get away from the computer for a bit. I laid down with a book...and fell asleep. I didn't wake until around 10:20 or 10:45, when she should've asleep. I was very upset that I didn't get to say goodnight or the like.

Then there's Cody and Ray, who've been trying to get me out of my room to join them in the living room to watch this or that. I'm fairly anti-social to begin with. But now that I seem to be recovering from EVERYTHING, it seems impossible to drag me from my cave to sit and watch a movie...

...Y'know what? I take back my apology from Cody. Totally taking it back. Die, bastard...DIE! I was sitting here, typing away, and I paused to stretch. Because my door is open, he snuck in and was silently standing behind me. I was stretching...and he reached out and tickled my ribs. It's not that I'm tickling, but the mere fact that he touched me and made some nonsense noise at the same time. Scared the living daylights out of me. So, no apology for you, Cody.

Finally, there are my friends from GitP with whom I tried to schedule a Skype call. With everything that's been going on, I kinda forgot I was trying to get that done. Heck, I forgot to ,ake a regular call to them. In the end, it was a rushed call to Smellie Hippie to explain. in which everyone shouted, "Hello Bor!" It was nothing like my two calls during the meet-ups before, and generally disappointing. I made a weak joke, "Next time in Jerusalem," which is a typical Jewish wish that we should all meet in the Holy Land next year, but altered it afterward to, "Next year in Johnson City."

Things just aren't going the way I'd like them to. I know I don't need to apologize for being ill, but as I said earlier, it's my nature. I'm sorry I've been unexpectedly dropping from commitments and forgetting that some of them are even in place. Perhaps after I've been repaired as much as possible, I'll be better at the stuff that makes me me.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Meaningless Followup Post

Well, THAT didn't work.

I was curious to see if the strange phenomenon of internet fame would strike got yet another silly reason. "People are sheep," on friend said to me, and I wondered how true it might be. I mean, we've seen some of the strangest things take off for no real reason whatsoever. Wouldn't it be amusing if a nearly meaningless post that suggested one relatively simple action take off?

"Boobquake" was my immediate inspiration for the post. A young, agnostic woman that happened to be paying attention to world events saw a ridiculous statement made by a leading cleric half-way around the world, and decided to attack his statement with science. "Immodest dress causes earthquakes," said the cleric. "Really? Let's put that to the test," replied to student scientist.

In a mad rush, hundreds of thousands of women leapt to answer her mostly localized call. She wasn't addressing the masses, just her small group of followers. Before she knew it, she was on television, explaining the concept of boobquake.

I went a little wild when it came to The Meaningful Post. Wilson Sporting Supplies sending me a check? Who was I kidding? And $5 from all who would get involved in "ballquake?" That would be too much of a dream come true. Besides, what would I say if the media really sat me down to ask about it? "People will jump on the bandwagon for anything that is strange, adorable, or potentially embarrassing for someone else. Tennis balls are inexpensive. And I just wanted to see if I could randomly cause the masses to bounce a tennis ball on my birthday." It was my own little social experiment that would have had no statistics whatsoever. Jennifer McCreight was infinitely more in tune with her followup of boobquake, posting statistics and all that good stuff to prove immodest dress did NOT, in fact, cause earthquakes. If anything, if I remember correctly, there was an actual reduction in tectonic activity. (Her next experiment should be to see if 100% nudity staved off all natural disasters, and it should be a year-long project. =P )

As for the whole $5 thing...? That was wishful thinking at its best. I spoke with Becky about it. In fact, Becky and I often discuss what we'd do with an absurd amount of money. To get 200,000 to send me $5 each...? That would officially make me a millionaire. And do you know what I could do with $1,000,000?

Well, I'll TELL you! The goal would be to invest it with a target return of 10%. That's an annual return of $100,000. For the sake of form, we will assume that at least 20% goes to Uncle Sam. That's an annual income of $80,000. Not only could my future family and I live comfortably on that for the rest of my life, but I would also have money left over to commit some of the deeds I've only DREAMED about.

Wanna know what I dream about financially? In no particular order, here's a little list:

1. Make an immediate call to Social Security and the Welfare office. "Hey, thanks for keeping me alive, but I no longer need your services." In fact, I'd be able to start paying back into Social Security, and await the day when I'm of an age that's more appropriate to retire...say around 70, if at all possible. And even then, there would be a part of me feeling a tad guilty at collecting money I don't need. With my money still bringing in a 10% return, I wouldn't need this "government handout."
2. Get private medical insurance. This will be a tad troublesome, and take almost as large of a bite out of my annual returns as taxes. This is because of preexisting conditions. Still, I wouldn't be sweating my every medical move. When I NEEDED a bunionectomy, (because said bunion was rubbing the inside of my shoes, blistering, and I was at constant risk of infection), my government-sponsored medical insurance didn't cover it. They would rather risk having to foot the bill (pun fully intended) on an amputated foot than pay the lesser amount to fix the problem. With private insurance, I could get things done without having to leap through a dozen hoops...and not hoping for another condition, as I did with the bunion, to get the REAL problem fixed.
3. Next comes the part where I'm a wee bit selfish. It'll happen when anyone is given a large sum of money, regardless of how giving they are by nature. I would buy myself things that I've wanted or needed for some time. New clothes. A new mouth. Pay off a few long-time, thoroughly outstanding debts. Maybe buy a console game or two. And, far from last or least, move closer to my sweet, beautiful Becky. No car. No fancy home. No traveling around the world. Anything and everything I want would likely cost under $3,000 per purchase.
4a. Make an effort to pay back that with which I've been blessed. For example, my housemates are interesting characters, to say the very least. I wouldn't hand them a stack of cash and wish them well. Instead, I'd ask what they want and get it for them. Oh, they may well want cars to replace what they own right now, but even with my income via investment, I wouldn't want to sink anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 on a vehicle for each. But to offer to get their current vehicles in complete working order...? Not a problem. What's more, I wouldn't suffer each time I got into Ray's car, as it would FINALLY have air conditioning!
4b. That's just ONE example. I had one friend who gave me more than what was fair to keep me alive each month while living in AZ. As I said, I was blessed. But the money he gave me went toward surviving, and nothing really luxurious. He never asked for anything back, but he would now start getting it. Why? Because it's RIGHT! (There's also this crazy lady in Ireland who could probably use some of what she gave when I was at my worst; it certainly hasn't been easy for her since she showed me such great kindness.)
5. I have had dreams of doing more things for the simple fact that they were right. Back in Sayville, NY, there was a soup kitchen that was in walking distance of the boarding house I lived in. I was well-fed three nights a week because the volunteers at this church put time and effort into helping those less fortunate. Well, now it would be my turn to give back. Since I'd likely head for NY to handle some personal affairs, I'd go there and get the precise information I needed to send an annual check. Then I would sit and calculate how many meals I could sponsor without doing myself financial harm. It would be nice if I could sponsor all of the meals they provide, but my quick calculation says that that figure is around $11,700 per year. That figure would be a bit beyond my means, especially when...
6. I'd buy many a gift for underprivileged kids during the holidays. I would argue that people shouldn't have kids if they can't afford to have them. That's simple logic. However, it's not the kids' fault their parents didn't think things through. Now those families are struggling, and the holidays are looking bleak for the entire family. They get in touch with various donation sources, and end up on a list, with further lists of what the kids need. Now imagine you're six or seven years old, and it's Christmas morning. You run down to the tree, see presents in your name, open them up...and find underwear and socks. Yeah, the kids need that stuff, but where are the FUN gifts? Well, that's where I'd be lending a hand. On those trees in the mall, where the needs of kids are listed, I would take those that listed only clothes and include:
a. Their needs, obviously.
b. A board game. (Because video games would require new games, or upkeep, or other things the parents might not be able to handle in the future.)
c. Two books.
d. A $25 gift certificate to...I dunno...Probably Wal-Mart. (They're EVERYWHERE!) In this way, anything missed could be bought, thereby completing the holiday season for them.
All told, that would be around $100 per kid, if that. Ultimately, I would like to set a budget of somewhere around $5,000 per years for that particular project. That's subject to change, depending on inflation and the needs of my own kids, should I have them. (And I want some, dangit!)
7. As with number four, pay particular attention to my Dad. G-d knows he wouldn't win the award for "World's Greatest Father," but he certainly gave it his best shot. He did infinitely better than my biological mother, that's for sure. So once a month, give him a call and ask if there's anything he needs that money can handle. Dad's health is slowly giving way, and I can't buy him a new body. But as his years start waning, I can add a little more luxury to it, and pray he enjoys himself a bit.
8. Give to a charity regularly. Because it's personal, I'd probably look for an organization that provides diabetes supplies to those who can't afford their needs. (If one doesn't exist, maybe I'll start one.) I, myself, have been taking the wrong insulin because my insurance seems to think one type of insulin is the same as all others. They're VERY wrong. I may not be able to save all of the financially poor diabetics, but I can try to save a few.

In my imagination, with my income of $80,000 a year from investment interest, I would be giving away around $30,000 annually. A wife, kids, and a home might alter the course of these plans, but I think $50,000 a year should make for a comfortable life...

Ah, but it was all a dream. A dream attached to an experiment. And it was an experiment borne on curiosity.

However, this doesn't mean that I'm done. I'm hoping that in the near future, I'll be able to conduct yet another experiment. Oh, I'm not USING my readers. But in order to further some of my agenda, which also includes me doing many good things for total strangers, I would certainly appreciate their help. And hopefully, you'll recognize the experiment when it comes.

Thinking back over this post, there are those who may be skeptical of the things I said I'd like to do if I had gobs of money. It's easy to sit back and think, Give me a break. No one would do as much as he claims he'd do with just $1,000,000. It's just not possible. People with more have done less, and lost their fortunes along the way. I would ask you to think again, this time taking into account that which I've been through. I've been through life's meat grinder more times than I'd ever want to count. It is by the grace of G-d and the timely kindness of people that barely knew me that I'm even ALIVE today. I've already told of some of my experiences out and about in the world...feeding strangers...getting lost kids where they should be...and other such things. My desire to do good deeds wouldn't be diminished by money, but reinforced by the ability to actually DO something.

I'm off to conquer imaginary worlds, to love a real woman, and make every attempt to be well. And for that last, you should all make a similar effort. =)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Meaningful Post

This post has great meaning. I am actually saying this without realizing how meaningful it is. It's simplicity is what makes it elegant, and when I finally commit it to the internet, my life will never be the same.

It begins with several of my followers. They leave comments, telling me how much my post affected them. Never have they read words put together so beautifully. They were amazed at how profound my message was, and they could instantly feel it. It's THAT moment. The moment when the course of their lives was altered. Not only would they never see the same old situation as they had seen it every day, but they were never going to do that thing that I mentioned they should never do.

Those who follow my blog then get in contact with my followers that didn't comment. "Have you been following Rob's blog? Did you read what he said on 24 June 2010? If the answer is no, then you need to go there right now, read what he wrote, and never forget the meaningful message he left there." Those who didn't leave comments before now leave comments as well, with just one that claims he/she/it didn't get it. Although I censor the comments, I approve that last, as it wasn't rude or insulting. His/her/its opinion is just fine with me, so long as this person played nice with all the other kids on the block.

Now that all, or at least most, of my followers have read my meaningful post, more than a few get a bug in themselves to share it with those who aren't followers. My blog's web address is shared during phone calls, over coffee, and posted on a forum or two. "You must read the meaningful post. It certainly spoke to me, and I think it's applicable to all who still draw breath. And as Rob suggested, we should all bounce a tennis ball throughout the day on 9 July 2010 to demonstrate our solidarity pertaining to the meaningful post." The concept takes off as someone tags a name to the day of bouncing a tennis ball. Just as there was the accident that was known as "boobquake," by simple virtue of my being male there will now be "ballquake."

This is where the warning comes in one of my e-mail accounts, (the one not linked to this blog). It reads: "Dear Rob. Your meaningful post has gained some recognition on such-n-such forum. Here's a link. You should read what people are saying." What it means, however, is, "Hang on to your [endeared body parts]. Your life is about to explode."

I've been oblivious. Being disabled, all of my days are Saturdays and there's been no rush to do anything. I go to the site and see a thread bearing the general concept of my meaningful post. In only two days, there are now hundreds of replies. The masses have read the aforementioned post, and they all get it. They won't see that daily event the same way. They won't ever do that thing I said people shouldn't do. And to show how much they believe in my message, they have vowed to not only bounce a tennis ball on 9 July 2010, but are trying to get their friends and family to bounce tennis balls on that date as well.

Disbelieving what I'm reading, I check my e-mail. The world at large broke my in box...or tried. There are HUNDREDS of messages claiming in the subject heading that a comment was left for the meaningful post. There are so many, in fact, that I don't bother to open them individually. I head for my blog and into the comment moderation page. What I see is incredible. Message after message exclaims that the meaningful post was, indeed, quite meaningful for hundreds of people. Not only are they with me on every point, but some share a few of their own stories about that daily event. There are even a few that are ashamed, for they have done that thing people should never do, and they are now sorry they did it. They hope that, although I don't know them, I will forgive them. (Of the hundreds of comments, one joker tells me he/she/it ALWAYS does the thing he/she/it should never do and enjoys doing it so much they will continue to do so.) (I reject it, simply because it was rude.)

By the next morning, the meaningful post is, at the very least, an internet sensation. AOL and MSN both headline their news with the meaningful post, including links to my blog. The count on comments is out of hand. I can't keep up or hope to read all of the comments, so I accept them all.

An investigative reporter from a local newspaper has done his/her/its homework, and has called to ask for an interview. This intrepid reporter wants the scoop on the meaningful post. What inspired me to write it? Did I expect anything like ballquake? How many fingers am I holding up?

This is absurd. I was simply speaking my mind about something that affected me, as I do quite often. Now there is a movement on the issue. By day number four, there are hundreds of thousands of people all over the world who will bounce a tennis ball on 9 July 2010 in honor of me, the meaningful post, and the message it conveys.

In a feeble attempt to slow the progression, I write a meaningful followup. My 6,003 followers all leave a comment. The general message: "It's too late now, Rob. The message of the meaningful post is out there, and ballquake is on."

Because so many people are involved, more than one source of news wants my attention. Would it be okay if they joined me in my bedroom via satellite at some ungodly hour of the morning to talk about the meaningful post and ballquake? Do I think ballquake will become an annual event? If a train leaves NY at 10:30 AM and travels at 35 MPH, and another train leaves Chicago at 11:20 AM traveling at 40 MPH, where and when will they collide?

I've been seen on the news, which managed to get broadcast on the web, so almost everyone knows my face. Strangers approach me to shake my hand. Women of all shapes, sizes, and ages ask me out on dates. (Sorry, ladies, but I'm spoken for.) Mothers want me to touch their babies in the hopes that my sweat will infuse their children with the incredible wisdom found in the meaningful post. And miraculously, every human being I encounter has a tennis ball somewhere on their person. (For some, I am forced to look away.)

On 5 July, I receive a phone call from Wilson Sporting Goods. Their best marketing people couldn't come up with a better sales campaign, and they want to send me a check for my good work. I ask if this is a prank, as no corporate executive would give away the sum which is promised to me. A quick search reveals tennis ball sales are up 3000% and rising. It's no joke. They want to send me a six-figure check.

Before, I was just some disabled guy who would babble on his blog about that which is and isn't important, personally and globally. Now that I've posted the meaningful post and the meaningful followup, people are hanging on my every word. When I have nothing new to write, they go back and read older posts. Other meaningful posts are found, and my new readers wonder why they never heard of me until recently. They cannot wait until 9 July rolls around so they can bounce their tennis balls with thousands of others on our planet.

Thus, the post and ballquake steamroll forward, with me becoming all but a bystander. It's beyond my control. If I told everyone to stop, they'd all point to the meaningful post and proclaim that I was speaking out of stress. "Fear not, Rob. We will carry on the message of the meaningful post, and our balls will be displayed appropriately come 9 July."

On 7 July, I have my surgery. When I get home, I discover there's been a delivery. Everyone planning to participate in ballquake is now aware of my disabled plight, and has sent $5 to the newspaper that made the initial report on me. The newspaper, in turn, has delivered the mail to me. Hundreds of thousands will participate in just two days, and each has sent me $5. And so it is, as a "get well present," I go from living beneath poverty level to becoming close to a millionaire. (It certainly would be nice to have internet fortune to go with internet fame, would it not?)

I am overwhelmed. I never expected such wildly popular feedback from expressing my opinion. While my health is still on somewhat shaky ground, my life has been altered. Now, with the excessive money on hand, I'll be able to do something about that thing I see every day. And as for that thing people should never do...? Well, it's practically being taught in classrooms. "It's just not nice to do it."

Come 9 July, I have a housemate drive me to the nearest mall. News crews have gathered, as has a crowd. Ballquake is on. The collected masses see me and start bouncing their tennis balls. It is the most bizarre "standing ovation" I've ever heard. To show that I am with them on the "holiday" I accidentally created, I produce my own tennis ball and bounce with them. It is "the bounce heard 'round the world."

All of this would be nice. I mean, a mere $5 sent to me by a few hundred thousand people would not only set me up for life, but allow me to be as charitable as my heart and mind are. Sponsor a few meals at various soup kitchens. Donate gifts to underprivileged kids during the holidays. Feed a hungry stranger now and again. That kind of thing.

There's just one problem. I don't have a meaningful post to make.

Affairs of the knee

Okay, watchers of Rob's health...It's time for an update on what's happening with the main joins on my limbs. Seeing the surgeon today learned me a few things, it did.

First was an inspection of my left elbow. There's nothing quite like seeing a child who is very proud of the picture he drew in class...although a close second is a surgeon who's pleased by the work he's done on a patient. It turns out that my surgery wasn't the simple procedure I thought it was. According to the doc, he usually goes in and frees the entrapped nerve, giving it a little more breathing room by making a slight relocation. My ulnar nerve wasn't that cooperative. Once relocated, he tested the joint, only to find the nerve snapping right back to the trouble spot. Using inner layers of skin, sutures, and a soft sheath of tissue on the outside of the bones, the doc created a sling in which the nerve could move back and forth.

The lack of exterior stitching, he explained, was to ease my healing. My skin is somewhat dry and delicate. Interior sutures meant less torture for the skin. That said, there is one tiny issue, and that's a small part of the incision that's healing...well, more slowly than the rest. I explained that I had the supplies at home to commit to genuine wound care, and this pleased him.

Now on to the knees. Yes, knees - plural.

Back on 4 March 2010, I saw an orthopedic surgeon with all the charm of a cinder block. (You can go find the post yourselves. =P ) Since my current doctor used to be part of the same practice, I was treated to the idiot's nickname: "Chuckles." I found this amusing, since he was about as funny as cancer. The idiot said there was nothing wrong with my left knee, which was my main complaint at the time, but a tear in the right meniscus. I wasn't concerned about the right knee. My worry was on the left side. This was dismissed by the idiot, with him telling me there's nothing wrong with my left knee.

Not what I was told today. The MRI I had on both knees at the start of the year shows wear on the knee, along with a possible tear. Since it's not an immediate concern, we're shelving the idea of surgery on the left knee for the moment. The immediate concern is the right knee.

And the right knee does, indeed, need surgery. I not only have the tear of the meniscus, but the patella may need a little "cleaning up." As the doctor put it, about 89% of the knee cap looks to be in good shape, but he'll assess it more clearly once I'm on the table. Via sight and touch, the doc confirmed fluid gathering in the knee, which is a sure sign things aren't what they should be. Despite my issues, he was rather impressed with the range of motion I had, specifically when I curled the knee to bring my heel almost to my butt. Toward the end, he went about his habit of drawing on patients and took a pen to my knee to show me where incisions would be made, and what would go into each hole.

One of my key concerns was the fear that my knee would have to be opened wide for major work to be done. It's the difference between a month and three months of recovery. I was told that almost never happens anymore. Said practice was more common when the doc was much younger. Now...? Almost everything can be done through tiny holes made at the site.

He left and the nurse came in to start the scheduling process. What I wanted most in that moment was to ensure there would be enough time for my arm to complete as much healing as possible, since I would need to use crutches immediately following the surgery. The debate was whether I should have the surgery on 7, 9, or 14 July. My thought was: The sooner, the better! And since the 9th is my birthday...well, having surgery that day just wasn't a happy-happy idea. We opted for the 7th. And what makes this surgery even better is that there's no need for scheduling pre-surgical testing. My recent testing carries over nicely.

And so, with 20 surgeries under my belt - surgery being anything that required consciousness-altering anesthesia - number 21 is all set to happen on 7 July. Just two more things need to happen before then.

One is the phone call telling what time I need to be at the hospital. That's just part of the waiting game. The other is a visit to a physical therapy practice so they can log my range of motion, various dimensions of my leg, and give me a grand list of exercises to do at home. And should I need it, I'll be on the books for more therapy after the surgery.

*sigh* Then, when all this is done, I get to schedule surgery for my right elbow.

This would be so much easier if we were all made of LEGO. A body part wears out, just unsnap it and replace with new pieces. And wouldn't it be neat to have joints made of various colored blocks?

Hmmm...Maybe not.

Anywho, that's that. Be well, faithful readers!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Spoon Theory and Mental Illness

I wrote about the Spoon Theory last Saturday, and have since adopted that particular form of thinking. So when a sudden bout of exhaustion hits me, I'll say something to the effect of, "Ugh! I'm suddenly out of spoons. I need to lie down."

Oh, a brief note before I go on. Christine Miserandino's "Spoon Theory" was a cut and paste. There might be concern because it's copyrighted material. The thing is that I didn't profit from it in any way. All I did was share that which has been spreading around the web. I could have linked it, but not everyone follows such links, and I wanted to share that which came to mean a great deal to me in an instant. I made no claim to it being an original work, so...Yeah. No real worries there.

Mental illness puts a spin on the spoon theory. Assuming Christine is correct, the disabled person starts with so many spoons per day. We'll go with the 12 she handed her friend. This represents the physical side of disability. And while she has an incredible outlook on life, it's a documented fact that those with physical disabilities usually suffer mentally. Now let's say the person with the mental disability has PTSD and severe recurring depression, just like me. It's a normal day with nothing extravagant planned.

Right. Normal day. Here in Kansas, that could mean waking up to the sound of thunder and rain coming down so hard on one's home that one could mistaken it for Armageddon. No problem. I've been adjusting to the weather here. I get up, take pain meds so I can move, and sit at my computer while I await their activation.

Then a lightning bolt hits very close to home, and the sudden crack of thunder interacts with my PTSD. I scream in brief terror and jump in my seat. Once my heart has resumed its normal pace, I realize that that one incident caused me to drop three spoons. I'm down to nine for the day in an instant.

About an hour later, my painkillers are working and I'm feeling a tad bit more mobile. I shuffle into the kitchen to see what's around to eat. The entire breakfast routine burns a spoon.

While I'm in the kitchen, I see I'm running low on my latest addiction, diet root beer. Time to assess my day. Am I feeling up to a snack run with one of my housemates? Sure, it'll be good to get out of the house. However, I am immediately drained of another spoon when in my housemate's car. He needs his AC fixed. The heat, humidity, and raised pollen count establishes a minor wheeze in my lungs. I take a pull off of my inhaler, but the damage has been done.

Shopping takes another spoon from me, especially with my bum knee. I make the best of it, despite being drained of what seems to be an inordinate amount of energy. I'm at six spoons.

Another spoon goes away when I get home. I feel grotesque. I sweat so much that I think I lost a stone. I shower, hence the spoon burn. Getting dressed doesn't take anything out of me, as I simply throw on underwear and a pair of shorts.

Because I'm a late starter on the day, my beloved Becky is home from work and online by the time I'm cleaned up. We get on Skype and chat, play games, or just stare at one another through our video cameras. It's the best spoon burn of the day, and leaves me with four as we head into evening.

I've been a combination of conservative and lazy. I know I only have so much in me each day, and I try to keep extra spoons in reserve. I mean, there are people who rely on my to be the voice of reason when they're in psychological crisis. While it's all well and good that I have become a symbol of hope, sometimes I avoid being available for such crises, as I, myself, have become a spoonless wonder.

Becky and I say goodnight after many hours chatting, and I'm still a four-spoon man. My housemates handled dinner, saving my the energy, if not the finances. So one would think I've actually done rather well for myself...

...until I start thinking. Yes, it's been a good day. I got things done. But my knee is now swollen from shopping, and has been feeling like it's going to fall apart at any moment. Despite taking more painkillers throughout the day, I hurt. I try to dwell on the new light in my life, Becky, and think how lucky I am to have found her...but it just doesn't make sense. How does a guy as broken as me end up with such a beautiful woman like her? I'm also lucky for my housemates, who are understanding that my activities are limited. Beyond that, I sit around on most days, accepting a government check for being disabled, and play computer games. I would get a job I could perform at home, except that it would obliterate my insurance. These thoughts ricochet around my brain in only a few minutes, and before you know it, I'm in a depressive slump.

Remember the four spoons I had? I dropped them. They're gone. It could have happened much earlier in the day, so I was relatively lucky. Now, at the end of the day, I am a spoonless wonder, and all I want is to go to bed and ignore the world. I need to get to sleep before I start dwelling on how much better the world would be without me.

I suffered just such an episode last night, dropping all of my spoons in a matter of moments.

It could always be worse. Someone with severe bipolar mania might drop all of their spoons when they wake up. Schizophrenics are probably unaware of how many spoons they have at any given moment. Someone with a worse case of PTSD than mine could end up stabbing people with their spoons. And substance abusers, who are usually people with one mental illness or another and are self-medicating, are replacing their spoons with chemicals, only to discover when it's too late that their "new" spoons do incredible amounts of damage to their bodies.

I could probably expand this. Not sure if I'd copyright it, as Christine did. Not a first draft like this, anyway. But this is my personal addition to her theory. My hope is that is will further expand understanding when it comes to disabilities. Not everyone is handicapped by something that's malfunctioning physically. Sometimes the problem is in the brain's wiring.

And so, with that said, I'm off. The power was out for about an hour this afternoon. The gathering heat here at home drained me of a spoon or two. Oh, we have power back, but the spoons don't regenerate that swiftly. It takes sleep for that to happen.

May all of my readers be well and spoonful. =)

Monday, June 21, 2010

I'm a lucky guy

Know why I say that? Because my girlfriend is EXTREMELY understanding of my issues. It could easily be otherwise, but I have been blessed.

An example of this would be yesterday, late afternoon. Becky and I were chatting, fiddling around with City of Heroes and World of Warcraft, when I seemingly "ran out of spoons." (You didn't read the last post, did you?) I went from being okay to being unable to lay down fast enough. There are now two reasons why this could happen.

The first is psychological, and I believe I've written about this. It's as though my mind simply can't handle reality as it is, and seeks an unconscious state where anything else is possible. If this is the case, I prefer my brain staying on course and allow me to dream happy dreams. Instead, my psych issues then take the wildly improbable forms of nightmares. Like becoming the new cast member on the show "Bones" and foolishly chase after a serial killer, only to find out he's not working alone, and they're in the process of successfully killing me when I wake. (Thanks, psyche!)

The other is physical. Arm surgery 12 days ago, and a tooth removed last week...My body has been screaming for rest. What's more, joy of joys, I think the mouth part is infected, despite taking antibiotics faithfully. Mind you, the only sign of infect I had was the night of the pull, and my temp was only 99.1. (Another half a degree and I would have been two degrees above my norm.) After that, all has been normal. Still, minor pain from the tooth, and pain from the arm, even with painkillers...These things tax the body. Rest is needed. And when my body wants rest, it usually doesn't leave me much choice in the matter.

Becky has been wonderful about such things. Much better than I am. I mean, I've accepted certain aspects of my life. I was okay with all of it until she came along. Now I'm always concerned that being who and what I am, with such things being reality instead of merely words of warning, will make her run. Instead, she remains rooted in my existence, and I'm deliriously happy about that.

What also makes me a lucky guy is her and I practically existing on the same page in almost everything we do. Sometimes we plan things to show our solidarity...Like when we're on City of Heroes. We'll wait until a crowd has gathered, coordinate ourselves on Skype, and then enact a dramatic costume change, with thunder and lightning to draw attention to ourselves. That one never gets old. But then we were playing World of Warcraft the other day, both using palAdins, ( =P ) when we activated the same power at the same time, neither of us communicating we were going to do it. We got a good laugh out of that.

Setting aside games, we are often contemplating the future, and we seem to come together on that as well. So far, we have the following planned:

1: Sometime in the next ten and a half months, I'll be asking her to marry me. (Only one woman could steal me away, and Ms. Halle Berry isn't returning my calls. =P )
2: Becky will start nursing school during the next Spring semester of college. (Living arrangements are still being discussed.)
3: Come the end of the semester, as long as most of my major medical issues have reached a level of being status quo, she will drive out to Kansas and move me back to her place. The "blissfully living in sin" will begin.
4: The current plan calls for her to finish school before we're wed. This means, at bare minimum, another years and a half before we're married. I have foolishly volunteered to let her practice putting in IVs on me. If I stop posting suddenly, it's probably because I bled to death. =P
5: The debate goes on as to HOW we'll be joined. We're pretty certain a Justice of the Peace will have to do it, as we're of different religious backgrounds. The debate is whether or not we do a whole ceremony with a reception afterward, or do we elope and flee to our honeymoon as swiftly as possible.
6: At the mere mention of where I'd like to go on our honeymoon, Becky was in instant agreement. DISNEY WORLD! I want to go on as many rides (that won't kill me) as possible, as well as spend some time at Epcot Center and Universal Studios, Florida. And since this is two years away, all of my followers can start saving up now so we can afford such a trip. =P
7: Becky will establish her career before we start trying to have kids. Let's all try to keep this one in mind when, in about a year, I come back on to announce she and I are having a baby!

So, yeah...I'm EXTREMELY lucky to have Becky in my life.

Also under the category of luck, if one wants to call it luck, it turns out I have no sutures to remove. All of the stitching is internal and will dissolve over time. The only thing that makes this UNlucky is the fact that I pull on these interior sutures when I try various things. I need to be careful until they're gone.

And that's it from my end of the world, folks. My last words are a request. I'm not sure if people are reading this blog anymore. Sure, I know a few are, but all 19 of my "followers?" I don't thinks so. If you don't leave a comment, I would appreciate you checking the happy little boxes that let you vote on said posts. Just knowing I'm not writing to a mere four people would be nice, y'know?

Be well, all! =)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Spoon Theory

I stumbled upon this while following links from another site. This is a necessary reprinting of a story, with credit given to the original author. If you're disabled, and have a hard time getting people to understand, this should help.

The Spoon Theory

by Christine Miserandino www.butyoudontlooksick.com

My best friend and I were in the diner, talking. As usual, it was very late and we were eating French fries with gravy. Like normal girls our age, we spent a lot of time in the diner while in college, and most of the time we spent talking about boys, music or trivial things, that seemed very important at the time. We never got serious about anything in particular and spent most of our time laughing.

As I went to take some of my medicine with a snack as I usually did, she watched me with an awkward kind of stare, instead of continuing the conversation. She then asked me out of the blue what it felt like to have Lupus and be sick. I was shocked not only because she asked the random question, but also because I assumed she knew all there was to know about Lupus. She came to doctors with me, she saw me walk with a cane, and throw up in the bathroom. She had seen me cry in pain, what else was there to know?

I started to ramble on about pills, and aches and pains, but she kept pursuing, and didn’t seem satisfied with my answers. I was a little surprised as being my roommate in college and friend for years; I thought she already knew the medical definition of Lupus. Then she looked at me with a face every sick person knows well, the face of pure curiosity about something no one healthy can truly understand. She asked what it felt like, not physically, but what it felt like to be me, to be sick.

As I tried to gain my composure, I glanced around the table for help or guidance, or at least stall for time to think. I was trying to find the right words. How do I answer a question I never was able to answer for myself? How do I explain every detail of every day being effected, and give the emotions a sick person goes through with clarity. I could have given up, cracked a joke like I usually do, and changed the subject, but I remember thinking if I don’t try to explain this, how could I ever expect her to understand. If I can’t explain this to my best friend, how could I explain my world to anyone else? I had to at least try.

At that moment, the spoon theory was born. I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table; hell I grabbed spoons off of the other tables. I looked at her in the eyes and said “Here you go, you have Lupus”. She looked at me slightly confused, as anyone would when they are being handed a bouquet of spoons. The cold metal spoons clanked in my hands, as I grouped them together and shoved them into her hands.

I explained that the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.

Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case Lupus, being in control.

She grabbed the spoons with excitement. She didn’t understand what I was doing, but she is always up for a good time, so I guess she thought I was cracking a joke of some kind like I usually do when talking about touchy topics. Little did she know how serious I would become?

I asked her to count her spoons. She asked why, and I explained that when you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of “spoons”. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many “spoons” you are starting with. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not lose some along the way, but at least it helps to know where you are starting. She counted out 12 spoons. She laughed and said she wanted more. I said no, and I knew right away that this little game would work, when she looked disappointed, and we hadn’t even started yet. I’ve wanted more “spoons” for years and haven’t found a way yet to get more, why should she? I also told her to always be conscious of how many she had, and not to drop them because she can never forget she has Lupus.

I asked her to list off the tasks of her day, including the most simple. As, she rattled off daily chores, or just fun things to do; I explained how each one would cost her a spoon. When she jumped right into getting ready for work as her first task of the morning, I cut her off and took away a spoon. I practically jumped down her throat. I said ” No! You don’t just get up. You have to crack open your eyes, and then realize you are late. You didn’t sleep well the night before. You have to crawl out of bed, and then you have to make your self something to eat before you can do anything else, because if you don’t, you can’t take your medicine, and if you don’t take your medicine you might as well give up all your spoons for today and tomorrow too.” I quickly took away a spoon and she realized she hasn’t even gotten dressed yet. Showering cost her spoon, just for washing her hair and shaving her legs. Reaching high and low that early in the morning could actually cost more than one spoon, but I figured I would give her a break; I didn’t want to scare her right away. Getting dressed was worth another spoon. I stopped her and broke down every task to show her how every little detail needs to be thought about. You cannot simply just throw clothes on when you are sick. I explained that I have to see what clothes I can physically put on, if my hands hurt that day buttons are out of the question. If I have bruises that day, I need to wear long sleeves, and if I have a fever I need a sweater to stay warm and so on. If my hair is falling out I need to spend more time to look presentable, and then you need to factor in another 5 minutes for feeling badly that it took you 2 hours to do all this.

I think she was starting to understand when she theoretically didn’t even get to work, and she was left with 6 spoons. I then explained to her that she needed to choose the rest of her day wisely, since when your “spoons” are gone, they are gone. Sometimes you can borrow against tomorrow’s “spoons”, but just think how hard tomorrow will be with less “spoons”. I also needed to explain that a person who is sick always lives with the looming thought that tomorrow may be the day that a cold comes, or an infection, or any number of things that could be very dangerous. So you do not want to run low on “spoons”, because you never know when you truly will need them. I didn’t want to depress her, but I needed to be realistic, and unfortunately being prepared for the worst is part of a real day for me.

We went through the rest of the day, and she slowly learned that skipping lunch would cost her a spoon, as well as standing on a train, or even typing at her computer too long. She was forced to make choices and think about things differently. Hypothetically, she had to choose not to run errands, so that she could eat dinner that night.

When we got to the end of her pretend day, she said she was hungry. I summarized that she had to eat dinner but she only had one spoon left. If she cooked, she wouldn’t have enough energy to clean the pots. If she went out for dinner, she might be too tired to drive home safely. Then I also explained, that I didn’t even bother to add into this game, that she was so nauseous, that cooking was probably out of the question anyway. So she decided to make soup, it was easy. I then said it is only 7pm, you have the rest of the night but maybe end up with one spoon, so you can do something fun, or clean your apartment, or do chores, but you can’t do it all.

I rarely see her emotional, so when I saw her upset I knew maybe I was getting through to her. I didn’t want my friend to be upset, but at the same time I was happy to think finally maybe someone understood me a little bit. She had tears in her eyes and asked quietly “Christine, How do you do it? Do you really do this everyday?” I explained that some days were worse then others; some days I have more spoons then most. But I can never make it go away and I can’t forget about it, I always have to think about it. I handed her a spoon I had been holding in reserve. I said simply, “I have learned to live life with an extra spoon in my pocket, in reserve. You need to always be prepared.”

Its hard, the hardest thing I ever had to learn is to slow down, and not do everything. I fight this to this day. I hate feeling left out, having to choose to stay home, or to not get things done that I want to. I wanted her to feel that frustration. I wanted her to understand, that everything everyone else does comes so easy, but for me it is one hundred little jobs in one. I need to think about the weather, my temperature that day, and the whole day’s plans before I can attack any one given thing. When other people can simply do things, I have to attack it and make a plan like I am strategizing a war. It is in that lifestyle, the difference between being sick and healthy. It is the beautiful ability to not think and just do. I miss that freedom. I miss never having to count “spoons”.

After we were emotional and talked about this for a little while longer, I sensed she was sad. Maybe she finally understood. Maybe she realized that she never could truly and honestly say she understands. But at least now she might not complain so much when I can’t go out for dinner some nights, or when I never seem to make it to her house and she always has to drive to mine. I gave her a hug when we walked out of the diner. I had the one spoon in my hand and I said “Don’t worry. I see this as a blessing. I have been forced to think about everything I do. Do you know how many spoons people waste everyday? I don’t have room for wasted time, or wasted “spoons” and I chose to spend this time with you.”

Ever since this night, I have used the spoon theory to explain my life to many people. In fact, my family and friends refer to spoons all the time. It has been a code word for what I can and cannot do. Once people understand the spoon theory they seem to understand me better, but I also think they live their life a little differently too. I think it isn’t just good for understanding Lupus, but anyone dealing with any disability or illness. Hopefully, they don’t take so much for granted or their life in general. I give a piece of myself, in every sense of the word when I do anything. It has become an inside joke. I have become famous for saying to people jokingly that they should feel special when I spend time with them, because they have one of my “spoons”.

© Christine Miserandino

Friday, June 18, 2010

From the Loony Bin: Part 2

Or...When Men Are Powerless!

No, literally. We were without power last night for a good nine to ten hours. One of the power distribution boxes in the neighborhood decided to catch fire. Things that go up in flames rarely work the way they should, and so the power went out on our side of the street. And just our side. Across the way, people were home and comfy in their air conditioned trailers. We'll be blowing up their box for revenge at an unknown date. =P

Our first method of combating the situation was to head to Wyatt's house. We were told it would be at least an hour and a half before power was restored, so that's how long we waited...and then I was done. That is, I was running a low-grade fever from the tooth removal and needed proper rest. Power or no, I wanted to lie down.

The things about trailers is that they are very much like aluminum cans left in the sun. They gather heat, and become quite uncomfortable. So when we returned and discovered we still didn't have power, I used...MY BRAINS! (Yes, I still have functioning brain cells!) I took a clean, long sock and filled it with ice cubes. (They were just melting, anyway.) I draped the sock around my neck, and I was instantly cooled off. In fact, I was comfortable enough to fall asleep.

Before sleeping, I turned off my reading lamp...or so I thought. When the power returned in the wee hours of the morning, it was the light that woke me. (Genius!)

Ah, but this is about the loony bin, and so there are other things to discuss.

Like the Great Steve Conspiracy. Steve is an admitted ex-drug addict. I can't tell you how many of his stories start off with, "This one time when I was high on heroine..." I've never said anything, but I personally found his amusement at such tales rather disturbing. Oh, I have a few tales that start like that. But they're just a few. Almost ALL of his stories start like that. And the concept of an "ex-addict" is pretty stupid. There's no such thing. Once an addict, always an addict. It's just a matter of whether or not someone is using or not.

Anyway, there was a point where I had some of my percocet go missing. I trust my housemates implicitly, so they were never suspects. Wyatt, who suffers from a degenerative disc disorder, would sometimes arrive in absolute agony, and I would volunteer a percocet to keep him from perpetually wincing with almost every move. (I pressed him to get his own meds, as I am not a pharmacy.) On extremely rare occasion, Steve would do something that hurt him, (and there were always witnesses to such painful acts), so I would also pass him a pill.

This kind of thing happens all the time between friends and family, despite the warnings on bottles, so no frowning upon me. I also gave nothing when I realized that my supply was limited. This was rare, as I was actually able to maintain a schedule that kept me ahead of the game when it came to my meds. All was well.

And then there came the day, numerous months ago, when quite a few of my tablets went missing. The circumstances surrounding the first disappearance of pills was a little fuzzy. Did I misplace them? Did Nike nock around my pill container, causing me to lose them? I wasn't sure, but I brought it to Ray and Cody's attention.

The next time pills vanished on me, things were less fuzzy. It was a Wednesday. (When I remember it this clearly, even many months later, you know something's up.) I was taking my second pill of the day, and checked to be sure there was still eight pills in the remaining days of my pill divider. Then I retired to Cody's room to continue playing on his computer, as I still didn't have mine yet.

During the hours spent on his computer, Steve, who was hanging out in the house, demonstrated his "ninja skills" by creeping down out creaky hallway in silence. His intent was to try and scare me, but the floor gave him away before he reached Cody's bedroom door. We joked a little bit, and Steve returned to the living room.

I went to take another painkiller a couple of hours later and was surprised by what I found. Around 10 or 12 tablets were missing from my pill divider.

I called Ray back to my room and the great conspiracy officially began. Of the suspects available, only Steve had motive, opportunity, and knowledge of how my pills were stored to commit the theft. When confronted, he denied it, of course, stating that he's enough of a jerk that if he HAD done it, he would admit it. Uh huh. My thought was, "I never lie," said the liar. From then on, I kept my pills on me, as I couldn't trust the guests coming and going all day in our home.

I haven't been on perocets for some months, so you must be wondering why I'm bringing it up now.

Well, it has something to do with Ray's dad and the fact that a portion of his regular percocet prescription gets handed over to Ray for safekeeping. (This is my assumption. I don't pry into other people's business. That, and by remaining hazy on the details, I can't answer any questions if it ever comes under scrutiny. The New Yorker in me can then officially say, "I'm sorry, officer, but I have no idea what was going on.") Last week, Ray's father came by and counted out 50 tablets. Then Ray counted out 50 tablets. Then the two of them counted out 50 tablets. It was triple-counted...in front of Steve, who then accompanied Ray to wherever the pills are hidden. Since Steve was a trusted friend until that moment, there was no reason to hide the activity from him.

Now as far as I know, this emergency stash is for the sake of having extra pills hidden away for Ray's dad. Should the man run out, he has some set aside with his son. The next day, when this stash was check on, 18 tablets were missing.

This time the list of suspects boiled down to one, and only one person. I didn't even know Ray's dad had been by. Neither Cody nor Ray would steal meds that are needed. No one else was around, except Steve. Thus, we have the criminal...we just can't get a confession from him. Steve's claim is that his admission of previous drug use just makes him an easy suspect. What he's failing to realize is that there is no one else to blame. It may all be circumstantial, but even all of the circumstantial evidence points to him.

If you ask anyone who knows me, they'd be able to tell you that I have a great deal of patience. It takes a lot to make me genuinely angry. Thus, when I tell you I'm angry with Steve, you know I've been pushed to my limits. The others don't want to have any great confrontation, and I can understand that. No one (that I know) likes having a fight. They've made it as clear as possible to Steve that he is no longer trusted, (which I'll discuss in a minute), and a new household rule was laid down: no one is to walk past the bathroom without being escorted by someone who lives here. And I, personally, have made it clear that Steve is no longer welcome to spend the night. I don't care what his circumstances are; he can't stay here for any reason whatsoever. The fact that he brought drama into my home has me ticked off, all on its own.

Now about the whole trust thing...I don't understand how anyone can be called "friend" if you don't trust them. At best, in my book, Steve is "an entertaining and relatively nice acquaintance," and that's it. He's not a friend. You can trust a friend. I don't trust him...at all.

This recent drama has me seeing Steve in an all new light. And it's not a good light, either. I see him as I see my brother Barry. They both have a ton of charisma, and can often get what they want, when they want it. But given enough time, they will reveal their true selves, and that's when everything falls to crap. Neither one learns from their mistakes; they simply move on, finding a new group of people that are of use to them.

My plan is to remain civil with Steve...when possible. My anger could well get the better of me, at which time I may simply call him "Barry" for my own satisfaction. From my point of view, that's a pretty big insult. The best scenario would be for Steve to stop showing up here. I mean, he embezzled money from his last job, has been using numerous people for the fact that they have a roof for him to stay under, and is now suspected of stealing medications that were NEEDED by those taking them.

That's about all I have from the Loony Bin. With any luck, come next May or June, I'll be fulfilling the plan of moving in with Becky. Then I'll be doing even more to get my act together, as I should have a bride-to-be by then. *contented sigh* There's nothing like having a ray of hope - and a beautiful one, at that - to help you through excessive drama.

Be well, all.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

When I was younger...,

...just a bad little kid,
My momma noticed funny things I did.
Like shooting puppies with a BB gun...
I'd poison guppies, and when I was done,
I'd find a pussy cat and bash in its head!
That's when my momma said...

What did she say?

She said, "My boy, I think some day...
You'll find a way...
To make your natural tendencies pay.

"You'll be a dentist!
You have a talent for causing things PAIN!
Son, be a dentist!
People will pay you to be inhumane.
Your temperament's wrong for priesthood.
And teaching would suit you still less.
Son, be a dentist.
You'll be a success!"

Oh...Does that have some bizarre, yet pleasant memories coursing through your head? Here...Have the whole song.

What brought this song to my head was the fact that the dentist I saw today was NOTHING like Steve Martin's character. She was a petite blonde that was exceptionally kind. So kind, in fact, that I would even recommend her in terms of care. And, really...Who recommends a dentist? No one enjoys seeing them, often doing exactly what I did: avoid it until it was absolutely necessary.

Oh...Seems something's missing from this tale. I mean, I was supposed to see the dentist yesterday, but saw her today. So you're all probably wondering what happened. It's quite simple, really. Kansas weather happened. I was preparing to leave for the dentist yesterday when it sounded like someone was throwing rocks on the roof of the trailer. A look outside revealed marble-sized hail and buckets of rain pouring down. I wasn't about to risk life and limb trying to have a tooth removed, so I rescheduled for today.

What's to say about a tooth removal? "It was fun"? I don't think so. This was, however, the first time I'd ever received a nerve block to get a tooth removed. I was accustomed to doctor's doing their bed to numb just the site of the removal, and that was it. The tiny woman who worked on me today did otherwise, which fascinated me...and almost caused me to have a heart attack.

Little factoid about injecting nerves: one wrong move and it HURTS! The doc was injecting the nerve to block the lower right quadrant of my mouth, when she hit the nerve sheath. This caused a tingling, fiery pain to shoot through my lower lip, and made me cry out in unexpected pain. Mind you, I was expecting pain, as she was shoving a needle into my mouth. What I wasn't expecting was the intense pain associated with being slightly off target.

From there, I was astounded by the difference between this tooth pull and my last. The last time was a kind of "comedy of nightmares," as the idiot dentist clamped the tooth and began pulling outward. He couldn't get proper leverage to pull the tooth, and was sweating with the effort. But the mini-dentist today was able to clamp onto the tooth, wrangle it back and forth a bit, and then pull that sucker free without straining a muscle. And to say this tooth was worse than the last, thereby giving the first dentist an excuse, wouldn't be accurate. If anything, this tooth still had strong roots; it was the body of the tooth that was at issue here, while the first dentist had weakened roots with which to contend.

I think the difference is that the doc I saw today just knew what she was doing.

With this brief report being given, I'm off to relax, praying for a return of muscle control to my lips so I can drink without dribbling, but also praying that it remains numb where the tooth was removed. I doubt I'll get both, but one can hope.

Be well, all.

Oh...By the way, I forgot to report that the overall cost of today's adventure was $70.00. I have no idea how that worked out, but I won't complain. The minimal cost before going in was $95, but I saved $25. I'll take it!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

FRACK!

I try desperately to avoid cussing, though I've been slipping quite a bit in the real world. And yesterday proved to be an excellent day to let that habit go wild, as I finally arranged for this demonic tooth to be exorcised.

The assumption was that I had the same coverage from KS as I did in NY and AZ, in that at least a tooth extraction would be covered. It turns out that I was WRONG! Oh, was I wrong. I have NO dental coverage. None. At all. And the thing is that I have no choices in this one. I either get this tooth taken care of, or I risk serious health issues that could come from ignoring this bad tooth.

It started with my calls to various dentists.

The first one said they had no openings, but would happily put me on a waiting list. They were very pleasant over the phone, so the prospect of seeing friendly people in a time of crisis was emotionally soothing. I accepted the offer to be placed on a waiting list, but also asked if they could recommend anyone else for my growing emergency. They did. Thus...

My next call was to a dentist whose staff wasn't as friendly, but they had an opening at 2:30 the same day. I took it. With the pain either being at a minimum and not bothering me at all, to making me want to weep with the absolute agony, I had to do SOMETHING. I made the appointment, retired to my room...

...and I don't know why, but insurance popped into my head. I suddenly wondered whether or not the dentist took my insurance. So I called the dentist's office back, and found out that they didn't take it. As a result, I called the first dentist. Before I asked to be placed back on the list, I asked about insurance. They, too, didn't take Medicare and Medicaid.

Well, surely the local clinic would take it, right? I was seeing their medical affiliate for my general medicinal needs, so they must have the same system, right?

The thing is that I'd been given the run-around by the dental clinic in the past, so I called the nurse practitioner that usually takes care of me and asked her to pull strings. She did, and the dental clinic called me. I was given a nightmarish list of things to bring to their office, and they would try to get me in as soon as possible.

This turned into a mad rush to find everything they wanted from me, including my annual Social Security award letter. (It includes the detail information of what they claim is my due for the upcoming year.) Since I received it last December...Yeah, finding that was fun, especially with only a semi-useful left arm. But find it I did, and I was off to the clinic.

It was there that I discovered I didn't have something called "Title 19." I have no idea what this is. I assume it involves a secret handshake, along with a secret decoder ring, that allows me to get THE BASIC HEALTH CARE I NEED! Whatever it really is, I don't have it. Using a sliding scale based on my income, they determined the cost of an exam, x-rays, and extraction. If the doc x-rays just the one tooth, it's $40.00. If the whole mouth is x-rayed, it's $87.50. And if the doc actually decides to pull the tooth, which I pray he will, I'll have to tack on another $55.00. All told, including the extraction, my total will be somewhere between $95.00 to $142.50.

I'm trying to do the math on this. I have 27 teeth left to my name...soon to be 26. To x-ray them all, it will cost $87.50. But for one, it'll be $40. Mind you, I don't like the idea of paying $40 per tooth, as that comes to $1,080.00! So I'll reverse the example, using the total amount quoted. That would be $87.50 divided by 27, which equals a rounded up total of $3.25 per tooth. Where did the price of $40 come from? I like $3.25 MUCH more! Tack on the $55 for removing the troublesome tooth, and I have prices that suit my current financial situation a lot better.

Of course, I could be wrong. They may only be taking x-rays of the lower line of teeth, which alters the cost per tooth to $6.25. It's still much better than $40 given to me in the estimate.

What mystifies me is the complete lack of coverage of something so vital. I mean, there has been a link established between periodontal issues and heart disease. So how does the government overlook something that serious? Is there some benefit to saving money on dentists, but paying out thousands of dollars for the care of a heart attack victim? (Just because it's linked doesn't mean it happens all the time. I only found a few thousand articles on it while looking into the dentist yesterday.) I just don't get it.

Anyway...My dental appointment is at 2:30 today. I plan on cornering the dentist and saying, "Look...you can visually inspect my teeth and see I have a lot of trouble ahead of me. I'm not prepared to shell out over $100.00 for everything you could do today. Just x-ray the ONE tooth so you can see what you're facing in removing it and get it out. I'll burn the next bridge on the road of dental care when I'm better prepared for it."

The thing is that the entire mouth has to go. Under my current "lack of insurance" plan, It'll cost another $1,430.00 to remove them all, especially if we stick to the price tag of $55.00 per tooth. Add another $1,750 for dentures to replace them, and...

*sigh* Becky...? Honey...? We really need to win that lottery jackpot. This way, as we stand before the cameras and answer questions from reporters, I can answer that fateful question, "What do you plan on doing with the $200,000,000?" with, "SEE A FRACKIN' DENTIST!"

* * *
By the way, folks...Do you see the part where my followers are gathered? (Wow...I have 19. Maybe I should have a contest when I hit 50...give away my spleen or something.) Anywho, there's one that says "Becky" when you mouse over it. That's my lovely lady, right there. She would like more followers, but you don't really know her, so that's not necessary. However, she has been posting something I wrote while she was visiting me. It's a fairly consolidated version of how she and I ended up as a couple that's "engaged to be engaged." (And it was a fun exercise, writing from her perspective instead of mine.) If you're interested, it starts here. If you want to read that version, instead of hunting down every post that covers it here, then head on over to her blog.

Now, it's all well and good that I should point people toward my girlfriend's blog, but some might be wondering why it came to me that I should do that. Well, my dental issues were a big part of why I was staying in KS. Aside from having established medical care and needing a few surgeries, it's easier to just get it all done here instead of starting from scratch out there. Unless I can get this insurance nonsense ironed out, that may change.

Once a year, KS has a dental clinic somewhere in the state in which they offer free everything. Well, ALMOST free everything. Instead of busting my butt to save up for dental care here, what I may well do is wait until that clinic, which should be in April of next year, have "my mouth removed," and then get my rear in gear to move to PA to be with my lady.

And let me tell you, having met her face-to-face was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life, as well as one of my greatest mistakes. Why was it a mistake? Because I MISS HER!!! I miss holding her and talking about anything that comes to mind. I miss sitting in the same room, doing different things, comfortable in the silence, but ultimately knowing that the woman I love is within reach. And of the intimacy that we shared, I miss her kisses the most. She is without doubt the most fantastic kisser I've met in a LONG time. Not just my 10 years of no real relationships. I mean going back several decades. Playful, tender, and/or passionate...her kisses are absolutely incredible.

I want to be with my Becky. The sooner I can make that happen on a more permanent basis, the better.

So...Yeah. Got lost in a tangent there. Go read my story of her story of how we met, and BE WELL! =)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My medical issues lack coordination.

Seriously, that's my thought. I can never have just ONE issue to handle. It usually hovers right around six. Six issues. And each one needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Alas, I am incapable of sending each issue off to have itself taken care of by a doctor on its own. I need to be there, with all of my other issues on hand.

I didn't mention something that occurred on the morning of my surgery, mostly because it slipped (and keeps slipping) my mind. About 15 minutes before meeting the anesthesiologist, a rather troublesome tooth began to ache. It was so bad that I kept holding my right hand to my mouth, as though that would possibly make it any better. (I always found that a little odd. Why do we reach for parts that hurt, especially when we know touching will probably increase the pain? Then, of course, there were those months when I had a kidney stone. Holding my back while it throbbed deep within certainly didn't reduce the pain, and I think actually holding my pained kidney in my hand would have been an issue unto itself.) When the nurse asked me what was wrong, I not only told her, but showed her. She actually asked if I wanted to postpone the elbow surgery. I declined, reasoning that in about half an hour I would be unconscious and wouldn't care if my mouth exploded.

The anesthesiologist was very nice about it, shoving 4 mg. of IV morphine to give me immediate relief. Because of my regular morphine usage, I didn't get that "Wheeee!" feeling, but DID feel the pain abate. That was good enough for me.

Now, some time ago, when I mentioned that I wasn't going to the GitP meet-up due to the cost of my dental issues, I formulated a plan. I've seen those unfortunate souls who've decided to have up to half, if not ALL, of their teeth removed in one sitting. Insanity if you ask me. There's something quite disturbing in seeing someone give you a crimson stained smile, with blood dribbling out of the corner of the mouth. They look like toothless vampires.

I could get everything taken out right now, no problem, but I don't want to experience what I've heard called "lip shrinkage." That's where a person's mouth appears to curl inward, silently informing you without actually seeing inside that they're toothless. I planned on doing a few teeth at a time, and also planned on doing it once I was closer to being able to afford dentures.

But now I have a real problem. The tooth that "attacked" the day of the surgery seems to be decaying right at the gum line. It's that edge of the tooth, or perhaps something else deeper inside it, that brought me an unpleasant surprise last night. (It's now Tuesday morning, much to my dismay.)

You see, to survive my growing dental issues, I've taken to using local anesthetics like OraGel and Anbesol. Just a little bit on the painful area, and I'd be able to get by with slightly greater ease. I was applying some gel last night when the applicator I was using came away with red on the tip...and the gel is more of a pink color. I put the opposite end into my mouth and pressed gently on the site, and watched as blood came from the dark bit of ugliness. That pretty much means this tooth needs to come out a lot sooner than I'd planned. I'm awake all night from it, and plan on calling dentists to see who can not only take my insurance, but see me IMMEDIATELY to have this tooth removed.

But...but...I JUST HAD SURGERY TO RELOCATE MY ULNAR NERVE! I know I'll probably never have a day free of medical woes, but can't I get a break from medical disasters? I mean, I don't have ONE diabetic ulcer on my foot; no, I have to get two. I can't have a fungal infection in just one area, but three. Surgery on just one elbow? That would be too simple. And for added fun, my right knee doesn't get better; it somehow manages to get worse...in the middle of Becky's visit...during a relatively slow walk through a mall! It's crap like this that makes me believe I won't die peacefully in bed. Instead, I'll start bleeding from everything, all of my bones will suddenly snap, my skin will melt off, and then I'll burst into a massive ball of flame. And even then, I might survive a few days, only to be finished off by a paper cut.

As I've suffer through this latest adventure, going back to when I officially decided to start saving up for replacement chops, I've had time to think about how all of this seemed to happen so fast. When I left NY for AZ, I believe I had perhaps one dark spot on a tooth that could've used a filling. That was it. In my five years in AZ, my mouth turned into a disaster area. I even had to have a tooth pulled smack in the middle of my five-year stay in Phoenix. Is it possible that teeth can go this bad this swiftly?

Or was I lied to? This question has been burning in the back of my mind. You see, some time in 2002, while living in NY, I went to see a dentist because it'd been years since I'd seen one. Nothing personal, I just have no great love of dentists. He told me that aside from needing a cleaning, and that my teeth were hopelessly misaligned, my mouth was in great shape. NY Medicaid actually handled all basic dental work without batting an eye, so I had the cleaning process taken care of. It never occurred to me that the doctor, who might have to accept lower rates from the state on charity cases, essentially lied to same himself any real work he'd have to do at a discounted fee.

A mere three years later, a small hole appeared in a tooth...and I'd only noticed it once I was in AZ.

AZ...Oh, they're very good when it comes to ignoring the needs of the needy. When I first got there, in figures that are rounded out, I was earning approximately $1,600 dollars BENEATH poverty level. And what did they give me for a food stamp allowance? A mere $20 a month. TWENTY FREAKIN' DOLLARS!...that they cut to $18 the next year, then down to $10 the year after that, and finally cutting me off completely. If that's how they addressed my nutritional needs, you can imagine how concerned with something like dentistry. Theirs was strictly a "pull policy," with no "drill and fill," no cleanings, and no dentures.

Two years after I'd moved to AZ, a tooth that was NOT the one with the growing hole in it started causing me problems. But I didn't know that. I made my way to the nearest emergency room because I believed I was in absolute agony from the world's worst ear infection. I was very close to begging for gobs of morphine to help me at least sit there and let the ER doc examine me. (I wasn't on a regular regime of narcotics yet.) But I withheld that request, allowed the doc to look in my ear, only to have him report that there was NOTHING wrong with my ear. So he looked into my mouth, and there it was: a tooth apparently going bad, seen at angles I couldn't achieve at home, with an infected gum. But his report wasn't about A tooth. He flat out said that my TEETH - plural! - were in bad shape. Thus, I was given antibiotics and a referral to a dentist that was able to take me immediately. And before I left, so that I could go home and get a little rest, the bothersome area was injected with local anesthetic. In fact, to give me decent relief, he stabbed the region in about four different sites. And to make it even MORE fun, when the anesthetic was no longer going into my gum, it would pool inside my mouth...and it tastes like poisonous death.

When I went to see the recommended dentist, he took x-rays and told me I had seven cavities. SEVEN! In five years, (my educated guess), despite brushing every day, flossing, and the like, I had seven cavities. IT seemed like an awful lot in a very short time, and that was when I first started thinking I may have been lied to back in NY.

The removal of that tooth was a lot of fun. While most of the tooth had turned to crap, the roots were still strong. The doc and I had to brace ourselves in opposite directions, and he pulled with everything he had to get it out...taking some of the gum with the tooth. That was a first for me. I'd had teeth removed, and seen only the tooth at the end of the procedure. This was the first time I got to see fleshy matter still attached. (Yummy.)

As for the other teeth...? Well, I didn't have any complaints about them...yet. Thus, the doc would do nothing else. Repairing them wasn't covered by insurance, and I was struggling financially to eat. I had no money to shell out for dental repair. My only remaining option was to hope they decayed slowly.

Apparently, my time is up. I got another seven years out of my original works, and now I'm definitely going to have to start losing them. This one tooth, the one that started acting up on surgery day, has been plaguing me for months. Now that the gum is starting to bleed, the time has come to removed it, as well as perhaps some others. This bothers me because a [vaguely] healthy diabetic diet kind of requires proper chewing...especially since I just might be developing gastroparesis. And I don't have the $1,750 that was quoted to me for dentures.

*sigh* I'm going to attempt to keep my mind active so I can contact a dentist when business hours begin. I've been awake all night, so what's another hour, right? But - damnit! - I wish my issues would have a meeting and decide to take turns instead of trying to crowd me. You know...get on a schedule of some kind...coordinate their efforts...and possibly work in one week breaks before I spend weeks recovering from each disaster.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ahhh...MUCH better!

Okay. Take a guy with lots of arm hair, partially shave SOME of of the hair, cut his arm open, put lots of tape on the incision, wrap it in a thick, fuzzy cottony substance, and then wrap an ace bandage just a teeny-tiny bit too tight on the area you're operated on. The result is a combination of intense pain and itching in your "victim."

So it was with me and my recent arm surgery. I believe I made things worse by not taking the pain meds as prescribed. "Bad, Rob. Bad!" Relax. I wasn't taking MORE. I was, in fact, taking less. The doc had prescribed only 40 tablets of the lowest dose of percocet. (That's the 5/325 tablets, in case you were wondering.) According to the bottle, I could take one or two as needed every four hours. I managed to reason, however, that I was already on some strong stuff, and needing that many tablets probably wasn't going to happen. Besides...if I took them exactly as prescribed, what with the initial pain of surgery usually requiring two at a time, I would have less than four days of tablets. I wanted to make them last.

Thus, I made myself suffer the first 48 hours after surgery. I would not pop pills as often as I could to get relief. I would find a comfortable position in bed and rest. I brought up the sweeling in my hand in my post-op post. Well, I was given the simple solution of elevating my arm above my heart to fix that. This method helped, but only slightly. After that...Well, there was no such thing as a "comfortable position in bed." Elevated, not elevated, across my chest, across my stomach, lying on my back, lying on my stomach, doing something, doing nothing...I was in absolute AGONY!

I finally succumbed to the pain, grabbed the prescribed meds, and popped two. I got some relief, and managed to sleep for all of two hours. (Go me!)

Upon waking up, however, I discovered an old problem that seemed to be getting worse. I had an absolutely maddening itch under the dressing. Because my pain seemed to be everywhere, I didn't know where to scratch if I were to try and get something inside. (Not wise to start with, but I was in a pretty bad way.) So now I had a new issue, and drugs wouldn't help. Should I unwrap it and scratch, then redress the wound? Or should I follow instructions and leave the dressing on until Sunday? My internal argument toward unwrapping was only strengthened by the fact that I now have my own little wound care kit right here at home.

The itch won the fight. Off came the ace bandage, (and was stunned by all the padding that was put into this thing). Off went the fuzzy, cottony stuff. (Enough padding, I think, to stop a bullet.) Off came the gauze on the incision.

And in came the nausea.

Many, many moons ago, I visited Mush in med school. He brought me down to his gross anatomy lab and showed me the cadaver on which he and other students were learning. And after viewing another human being splayed open like a Christmas turkey, you know what bothered me most? The smell of the formaldehyde. That I could see deep into his chest cavity was okay. The stink of the preservative chemical is what made me want to leave quickly.

That said, I can handle many things visually. In "Sean of the Dead," I believe it's when the character of David is killed, I was most impressed by the seemingly anatomically correct rending of his torso. That was pretty neat. But show me any significant amount of my own blood and my stomach does a few flips...and not the kind I get when talking to Becky.

Ah, but the bandages were off, I could see where the incision was, and I SCRATCHED! Praise, G-d, I was able to get some relief!

And then it hit me that I'd received another kind of relief. I wasn't in nearly as much pain. In fact, I was in almost NO pain! Oh, I can understand that the pressure dressing was there to stop bleeding and such, but if I had known to loosen the bandage a bit to get some pain relief, I wouldn't have spent 48 hours with so little sleep, or trying to keep my moans of pain to a bare minimum. (Yes, Becky...I did some moaning when I wasn't in earshot of anyone. It's not...manly.)

I re-wrapped the incision after I was done tending to the maddening itch, then set about marveling at how much better I felt without the pressure on the surgical site. My marveling included six hours of sleep. Interrupted sleep, but sleep nonetheless. (It was interrupted by a particularly gory nightmare, ending with me being killed by a pair of psychopaths. (During the second round of my mini-sleep-fest, I dreamt of an explanation as to how mythology, history, and current theology all fit together and remain true. (The Earth was, in fact, flat until Columbus went on his sailing "vacation." That's when G-d fixed it.)))

Strange dreams and sufferings now in the past, I feel MUCH better. I still need to be careful about what I do - no bending the hand at odd angles or the like. Although it's kind of late, I've actually felt safe taking a Xanax, knowing I'll be able to sleep comfortably and won't be waking up to fumble with pain meds in the dark (That last bit can be a tad dangerous.) So it is that I am feeling so much better that my mind can focus on a few extras.

* * *
Like the fact that NO ONE commented on my post which featured a picture of my sweet, beautiful Becky. That's my lady, folks. Do what you all do on GitP and say nice things about her, even if you're LYING!

No...Don't lie. Be truthful...and say nice things about her regardless of your honest opinion. =P

* * *
I'm not sure if Susan has had her surgery yet. I imagine it would have happened by Friday, at the very latest, but I could be wrong. Meanwhile, my prayers remain with her on as speedy a recovery as possible. And if you or your husband is reading this post, and the pain/itching is incredibly high, just loosen the bandages a bit. =P

Seriously, I hope all is as well as it can be. For me, a nerve was relocated. For her, the entire right side of her hip is being removed. The quest for recovery will likely be long and arduous, but one can always pray in the hopes that G-d can lend a divine hand in her trials.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Introducing...

...my sweet, beautiful Becky!

This has been a while in the making. Alas, the connection on Skype wasn't the best. Often, when the connection WAS good, I never thought to snap a picture of her.

Finally - FINALLY! - I had the presence of mind to not just get a pic, but one of her with that dazzling smile of hers.

When she was here, she read something to me that I discovered was all over the internet. Sometimes it's presented as poetry, and at other times it's just a paragraph. Regardless, Becky deemed it pertinent to our relationship. It goes like this:

Find a guy who calls you beautiful instead of hot,
Who calls you back when you hang up on him,
Who will lie under the stars and listen to your heartbeat,
Or will stay awake just to watch you sleep.
Wait for the guy who kisses your forehead,
Who wants to show you off to the world when you're in your sweats,
Who holds your hand in front of his friends,
Who thinks you're just as pretty without makeup on,
One who is constantly reminding you of how much he cares,
And how lucky he is to have you.
The one who turns to his friends and says, "That's her."

All of the above...? Done it, with the exception that I didn't listen to her heart while lying under the stars. And much if it was before we'd met face-to-face. The pic at the start...? That's Becky after a long, hot day. I still think she's as beautiful as ever...dressed down...no makeup...The only accessory she needs is her smile, and that jjust makes her leap from beautiful to positively stunning.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Post-Surgical Post

Ow. Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow. Typing doesn't feel that great either, although I am only using one finger and my thumb. I'm also sitting back, away from the keyboard, arm propped on my knee, as bending at the elbow or just trying to hold my arm up on its own is incredibly difficult. I'm typing very slowly. And even if I did none of this, I'd be sitting here and moaning, "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow."

The surgery went fine. I was rather surprised to have the doc come see me AFTER I was conscious. They usually try to chat with me while I'm still mostly out of it. He told me that the nerve was really entrenched, and was able to lift it out and settle it in a much better place. All should be well, or at least better, once I've healed up from the surgery.

Little laugh after the surgery...I don't remember the first exchange between me and the post-op nurse, but the second had me chuckling. The nurse apparently came back around to ask how my pain was now. Now? I wondered. Did I tell you how my pain was before? Apparently I had, as I immediately answered with with my default. On a scale of one to ten, my pain was a seven. "Oh, good," she replied. "It's down from the 26 you were before."

My immediate concern is the amount of swelling in my hand. I can't help but wonder if the bandages are on just a wee bit too tight. If it starts REALLY bothering me tonight, which it isn't thus far, I'll call my doctor's emergency line. Otherwise, I'll call tomorrow during office hours.

The other "fun" aspect of post-surgery is my inability to move my fingers without my forearm aching. This accounts for the way Im typing. At this moment, my wrist is resting on my knee, and I've been repositioning my knee to bring my index finger over the keys I need. My thumb has been using the Shift key as needed.

Even with these precautions, I don't have much left in me. I just wanted to stop in and give a report on my current status to any and all who use this blog to look in on me. Becky has already received as much of an update as I could give on Skype.

My painkillers are starting to work, so I'm off once more to attempt to rest. Be well, all.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Pre-surgical Post

Second post in the same day, but I just wanted to pop in and remind folks that I may go silent for a bit, what with the doc operating on my left elbow.

What's he doing exactly? The way I understand it, my ulnar nerve has become entrapped. It's a common enough occurrence. Moreso in diabetics, I'm told. The doc will open up a long incision, lift the nerve, place it somewhere where it'll be free once more, and close me up. The hope is that when I'm fully recovered, the nerve will be sending the proper messages back and forth to the brain, and the muscles in my hand will start to rebuild...provided they're not completely destroyed by now.

For all I know, I'll be able to type with just a little maneuvering of the keyboard. Then again, I might have issues moving my fingers, especially after the doc has futzed with a major nerve pathway. I don't know. I mean, I was surprised to discover I could limp about after knee surgery without severe pain, so I just may be able to write an entire novel tomorrow evening.

So, should I be absent for an extended period, you folks are hereby commanded to BE WELL! =)