Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Some exposed wires."

If you sit down and watch any one of the half-dozen documentaries on Apollo 13 that can be found on YouTube, somewhere around the time of the explosion, the narrator will say something to the effect of, "Little did the astronauts know that there was a pair of exposed wires in the service module." Even the movie sums it up by saying that the explosion was caused by a defect that occurred years before the flight.

For years, I bought this explanation, as it seemed to be the only one offered. But I finished Lost Moon last night, and now I know a little bit better. The exposed wires are the very end of the whole thing. To paraphrase the book, the commission assigned to investigate the accident knew there couldn't possibly be one smoking gun, and that there had to be a number of problems for things to go THAT wrong in the spacecraft.

Allow me to explain that last statement. Even in the movie, the character of Sy Leibergot says that his instruments are reading a quadruple failure, and that that CAN'T happen. It had to be an instrumentation problem. There's a backup system for every system, and a backup for every backup. Almost everything was triple-protected, so the very concept of things going so wrong was considered impossible.

The epilogue of the book covers a lot more detail, but I think I can explain things here. The company that won the government contract to build the Apollo spacecrafts subcontracted out the making of the oxygen tanks. Inside the tanks were a fan, a temperature gauge and, believe it or not, a heater. Why a heater? Because it's very cold in space, and if the liquid oxygen inside the tanks got too cold, it could solidify to the point of being unable to pass through fuel lines.

At first, these things inside the tank were designed to handle the 35 volts of output from the spacecraft. But then it was realized that the launch pad folks used much higher voltage when prepping the ship. So the tanks were upgraded...everything except the thermostat, which was overlooked. That was the first part of the problem.

The next part was when fuel tank number two was switched out of one rocket and into another. Rather than move just the tank, the entire platform carrying the tank was moved. Unfortunately, one of the four bolts holding it in place wasn't removed. When the crane tried to remove the platform, the bolt held and the platform slammed back down. This was a relatively minor jolt, and the engineers on site proclaimed the tank still usable. That was problem number two.

It was realized that the tank wasn't 100% when there was a launch test. Afterward, the technicians attempted to empty tank two of its liquid oxygen, and discovered that the jolt it had experienced had probably knocked a drainage line out of place. But this was no problem, as they could use the heater to burn off the oxygen. The only time the drainage line was used was on the launch pad. Beyond that, the tank could still be used in space. That would be mistake number three.

So they snapped on the heater and watched the gauges to make sure it never went over 80 degrees inside the tank. There was just one little problem with that concept, and that being that the main temperature gauge topped off at 80 degrees. It couldn't possibly get hotter than that when the craft was in space, so why design the gauge to read anything higher? When they turned on the heater, they managed to fuse the thermostat open; now it would read nothing. The heater then brought the temperatures inside the tank to 1,000 degrees, cooking off the Teflon coating on the wires that led up to all the devices inside the tank. This makes mistake number four.

And so comes the final act in the series. Sy Leibergot, not liking the data on his screen at mission control, asked for a stir of the tanks. When Jack Swigert flipped the switches to do just that, the fans inside the tank started to whir...and finally gave off a spark from the exposed wires. The spark ignited the literally explosive oxygen inside the tank, and it promptly blew off the side of the service module. It also created a leak in the system so that fuel tank one would start venting its oxygen into space.

This isn't just theory. The entire incident was recreated right here on Earth, using an artificial vacuum at the NASA space center. Just as it had happened in space, the fuel tank exploded, taking off an entire side of the mock service module.

There was a bit more to the story, like what made Fred Haise so ill toward the end of the flight, and why Apollo 13 kept running shallow through the re-entry corridor. Humorously, there was also the bill that Grumman, the manufacturer of the LEM, was going to send North American Rockwell, the guys who put together the command and service modules.

This has been Everything, with your host Jerry Hathaway.

No...I don't think so.

Anyway, I'm hoping some of you found this as fascinating as I did. Perhaps you're not as amazed at things like space travel as I am. And I PRAY none of you think the whole moon landing stuff wasn't faked. ("I'm telling you! The little scratch in that ancient piece of film is a wire holding the 'actornauts' up!")

While I'm on this subject, I'll tell you why I'm not one of those lunatics who believes such nonsense. The conspiracy theorists who gripe about these things seem to have reams of evidence pointing to their correct assumptions. But when I lived in AZ, I had befriended a security guard, Dave. He had worked in national security at one time, and his efforts in Washington demonstrated one thing very clearly to him: Washington can't keep a secret. There are usually too many people involved in any one decision, and at least one of them is sure to open his or her mouth at the wrong time.

One of his security stories has crept into my head, and I can't shake it, so it must be told. The government apparently shelled out a pretty dollar to a contractor to build an unbreakable lock for storage facilities. After examining the product and being satisfied with it, Dave piped up. "I can get through that lock in less than one minute with the right materials," he said. The contractor scoffed and dared him to try.

So Dave ran off and got an air conditioning tuneup kit from his car and a hammer. Using the hose and valve in the kit, he emptied a can of Freon onto the lock. Then he took the hammer and whacked the lock. It promptly shattered, right in front of some very important military folk, thoroughly embarrassing the contractor.

Ahhh...I miss those chats with Dave.

* * *
In other news, Becky's in panic mode. We're down to our last few dollars, and money looks really tight right now.

What she doesn't realize is that it only LOOKS tight. We're going to have plenty of money in just a couple of days, and we have most of our rent already set aside. There's plenty of food in the pantry and we have clean clothes. Everything is rosy in comparison to how I was "living" in AZ.

I understand her thinking, though. She wants a comfortable cushion between her and being penniless. Somewhere along the way, we tripped over our plans to start saving for the wedding in several years, and nothing has been put aside. On that front, I've been waiting for her to put money aside so that I could match it the next month. Maybe what I need to do is start us off so she can be inspired to match me.

And that's all I have right now, folks. Be well, and DFTBA!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My scheduled demise

Whenever I'm sick, or even in just a tiny bit of pain, I take on a rather childish voice and say to Becky, "I dying." Yes, spoken with bad grammar and all.

Her most common response to this is, "You're not dying." But on occasion, she takes a cue from her mother and will say, "Tell me when you'll be dead so I can pencil it in on my calendar." It's a somewhat regular shtick, especially when you consider that I usually have some physical woe to complain about. When she asked for a date, I'll say something like, "Tuesday, the 20th."

Last night, I decided to check the calendar on my cell phone to ensure I had my upcoming PCP appointment on it. There, on 6 July, was the special specialist. And on the 19th, there was...ummm...something. I couldn't recall anything coming up on that date. So I brought the date up to see what was planned, and it would seem that between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM, I'll be "officially" dying. There was even a note that read, "I'm dying."

Me: (Utterly baffled.) "Ummm...I'm apparently going to die on the 19th."
Becky: What?!?
Me: It's right here in my calendar. I don't remember putting that in there, but I'm scheduled to die between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM.
Becky: (Starting to crack up.) I forgot I put that in there!
Me: When did you do that?
Becky: (Laughing harder.) The last time you told me you were dying, I asked you when, and you told me "Tuesday the 19th." I found the nearest Tuesday that fell on the 19th and wrote it in for you.
Me: Oh...How thoughtful.

She kept laughing to the point where tears were rolling down her cheeks. As she reminded me, the last time I'd tossed out a random date, she'd taken my phone and started fiddling with it. When asked what she was doing, all she would say was, "You'll see." And then we promptly forgot about it.

The discovery of her forgotten antics made for a good laugh last night, and now has the Steven Wright joke stuck in my head. "I know when I'm going to die because my birth certificate has an expiration date." =P

Be well, and DFTBA.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dreams of KS

Late last night, after going to bed early and sleeping about four hours, I awoke and found myself unable to return to the Land of Nod. I tried a little reading, and when that didn't work, I settled down in front of Becky's computer to play a little World of Warcraft. After a couple of hours of senseless roaming the imaginary world, I returned to bed and awaited the return of sleep...

...and I found myself missing the gang out in KS. After a time, I wasn't the most social creature. I was either waiting to talk to Becky when she was home, or I was ACTUALLY talking to Becky. I would mostly come out of my cave to interact with Ray and/or Cody briefly, go to see doctors, or give a brief greeting to those dropping by for a visit, and then it was back to my shadowy lair.

I miss Cody's fairly obnoxious, misanthropic sense of humor, which dictated fairly clearly that ALL humans were stupid. I'm actually of a similar opinion, except that I'm not nearly as much of a cynic as he is, despite my age. I still have hope that humans will do right by one another, even though it seems to be taking a long time for them to get it right.

He and I would butt heads every now and again, but then there was fairly good cause for those moments. I have my list of mental illnesses that paint the world some ugly colors now and a again, and my displeasure with those within range was hard to subdue. Meanwhile, Cody was the only one in the house actually earning an income, and this grated on his nerves fiercely. I also think he regretted offering me a home without having to pay rent. I was always offering my aid when my money came in, but he wasn't around for that very often. Still, when there was an absolute NEED within the house, I was there to help. (Can you say "air conditioning?" I think you can! =P )

Then there was Ray, my live-in taxi driver and practical care-giver. There were several lengthy drives in which we'd discuss very important trivia, and so many unconscious puns on his part that it could make one's head spin. Really, he sometimes put no thought behind what he was saying, and one of my favorites remains, during his job hunt, "I hope the job application at Pizza Hut pans out." (Really, Ray? Really?)

Ray was the go-to guy with many people in his life. Being unemployed for so long, the world around him had come to rely on him for one favor or another. His parents would call to ask him to drop by to do some heavy lifting. Wyatt would call from work to ask if Ray could make a food run for him. It seemed somewhat unfair that when Ray's car died its final death, so few leapt to his aid. I'd tried to help get the car up and running when I first arrived in KS, but its health was beyond simple repair work.

I was kind of thrust into the laps of these two guys by Siege, who had first volunteered their home as a place to stay. This life-saving gesture has never been overlooked by me. The main disappointment came when Siege started doing a rapid fade in our lives, but for good reason. Chasing a potential relationship, as I can attest, is always good cause to uproot one's self and relocating to another part of the country.

But Ray and Cody were there for me in ways that my own family was not. Stu should have been the one ferrying me to and from doctors, and he should have been the one coming running when there was a loud, mysterious thump from my room. When my imagination was running away with the worst that could happen over my foot, I would imagine seeing Stu over my hospital bed and, in a morphine induced haze, telling him as tersely as possible that his chance to be a real brother had passed years ago, and that he should go back to TN. And then, as my imagination went further, I would imagine seeing Ray, Cody, Siege, (having borrowed Jess's car, (she's Ray's sister and Wyatt's better half)) drop by the ICU one at a time, bringing their most horrid jokes to the field to make me laugh. Ray was there for almost every misstep I took that would end up rattling the trailer, and it was Cody who sat in the living room with me after my knee surgery was causing me unbearable pain, saying, "Rob, I enjoy watching human suffering as much as anyone, but that doesn't mean you should take care of yourself." (And I got no grief for crying like a baby with that pain, which was much better than someone telling me to "man up.")

It's funny, because the jokes often flew about me being Jewish. "Rob wants to open up his wallet and help out...GET THE CROWBAR!" (Not an actual line used, but certainly on par with the sentiment.) Always concerned about money, I was sure to arrange for things like the flat screen TV we bought the first Christmas I was there. "If I move or you kick me out or whatever, I'm going to want my $100 back." And then there was the couple of hundred dollars sunk into Ray's car, which ended up as little more than a one-ton paperweight in the driveway. Or the A/C that I helped to repair, only to not have need of it once I'd moved out. Cody basically gave me a lifetime warranty on the computer he built for me...but it's hard to wring repairs out of a guy who lives 1,000 miles away, and he wasn't exactly Bruce Wayne when it came to money. (Heck, I was still offering up financial aid, even toward the end of my stay there, when the refrigerator had given up the ghost. My offers were declined, with Cody telling me my move would be costing me enough on its own.) All of these things, I could have asked for some kind of refund. Sure, I could use the money, especially with things being a wee bit tight at the moment. But I won't be making demands of those guys, because, as I said, they were better to me than my own flesh and blood.

Of course, if they'd like to slowly "pay me back" via gifts during birthdays and the holidays, that'd be great. But I wouldn't make such demands out of my adopted brothers.

And right there was the thing that kind of touched me the most. Cody doesn't use the term with just anyone, as far as I know. It takes genuine caring on his part to start calling someone not related by blood "brother." And right at the end, that's what he started doing with me. It meant a great deal to me, since my actual brothers managed to dismiss me as having no value whatsoever. Forget emotional value; they wanted me to have monetary value to them, which is truly sad. But after a year and a half under the same roof, Ray and Cody became my new younger brothers...and far better than what I received via family development.

I miss you guys. I hope you're both well, and I hope you're both remembering to be awesome. =)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

To the "Bad" clowns...

Okay, which two purported "humans" out there have taken it upon themselves to check "bad" after almost every post I've made recently? Was it really "bad" that I received a better diagnosis than what I'd thought? Was it "bad" that, after sharing a bit of humor with my father and realizing his true commentary, that I was going to stick with the more positive side? Was sharing my verbal routines during conversation really that "bad?"

The opinion boxes are for a reflection of how readers feel about the news I'm sharing, not a critique of my writing style. This is all first draft material, anyway, and will never be "as good as I could possibly get it." So if you're looking for Shakespeare, I'm sure your local library has plenty for your perusal. If "bad" is all you have to say after all my posts, stop reading.

And with that, I'm off to vent some steam by beating up Girl Scouts and kicking puppies.

It's the little things you learn

Or perhaps this was a big one. I suppose it's a matter of perspective.

As mentioned yesterday, I'm working my way through the book about the Apollo 13 mission, as told by Jim Lovell and Jeffery Kluger, the latter of which was probably the one to add style to the story. It's dramatic enough to tell in the short and sweet language an astronaut might tell it, but then it probably would have been a much smaller book that sold for a lot less.

My knowledge of the Apollo 13 mission comes from the docu-drama of the film, as well as some online research. That happens to me. I'll see a movie based on history, and a part of me becomes very interested in what REALLY happened. It happened when I watched Braveheart, (in which my online research revealed William Wallace was just a really tall Scotsman who got into some fights). It happened with Titanic, to which I went as far as to read the Congessional hearing about the disaster). And it's been going on for some time with the Apollo mission, but I've never had the opportunity to buy Lovell's book.

Now I'm getting bits and pieces of the story that didn't exist in the movie, and these things are somewhat obvious, but excluded. Sure, they ran simulations for the astronauts, as shown, but did you know they also ran simulations for the control room? I didn't...but it makes perfect sense that they would. Everyone needed practice for these things, especially if you were about to send three lives into space in the equivalent of a very sophisticated aluminum can.

Clint Howard, brother of Ron Howard, played EECOM controller Sy Leibergot. (EECOM is Electrical, Environmental, and COMmunications; the communication part involved the sensors and their ability to send information back to Houston.) Sy is actually an interesting character in the whole story, and I say this because of what happened a week before the actual mission. What follows is a summary of what went down.

They were running a simulation with a full cast and crew. That is, even the astronauts were on hand for this simulation with the control room. Now, there's a moment before the space craft would go behind the moon, and there would be a communication blackout, when the data on the various monitors would become "ratty." Sy was not the only one watching his screen; there was a room in the back with several other guys who would be watching as well. And all of them saw a minor blip on the instrumentation that told them the pressurization of the command module was starting to drop.

No man is an island in NASA. Sy saw it and immediately questioned it with his backup gang. They saw it too, and all of them proclaimed it as the infamous "ratty data." They decided there was no real problem; it was that danged glitched that would show up in the moment before the astronauts went on the dark side of Luna. And so for the next 40 minutes, while Ken Mattingly was supposedly making his way around the moon solo, the others simulated to be down on our terrestrial satellite, EECOM did nothing...

...and paid the price for it. At the end of the simulated communications blackout, Ken came online and reported that he had zero cabin pressure, and was suited up against the near-vacuum that now existed inside the ship.

Had another flight director been on hand other than Jean Krantz, Sy might very well have been handed his walking papers. Instead, the simulation went on, with Lovell and Haise returning from the lunar surface and all three using the Lunar Excursion Module as a lifeboat. Ultimately, Sy was relieved that things had worked out as they did, as improbably as they did. I mean, really...Could anyone imagine things going so badly that they would EVER need to use the LEM as a lifeboat for three men out in space? "Impossible!" they would have exclaimed.

I'm going to get back to bed to continue reading. If you've seen the movie, you just might want to pick this book up to get some of the many details that were missing from the cinematic version, as it's all fascinating.

Be well, and DFTBA!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Disappointed in Dexter

The doctor gave me permission to sit at my computer for as long as I wanted; no attempted marathons or other assorted track and field events, though. Even better would be to keep my butt in bed as much as possible, as that would most certainly help to reduce the swelling.

So last night, after weeks of dragging myself through it, I finally finished Dexter in the Dark...and I was displeased.

What I enjoyed about the first two books was that it was all fiction, but remained possible. The odds are against it, but there could be a charming, handsome, "artificial human" out there that's quietly disposing the world of villainy by way of meeting the needs of his psychopathy. It was that link to the real world that made this kind of fiction fun to read.

But the third book went places that it shouldn't have gone. It took Dexter's "Dark Passenger" and turned it into a distinctly separate character from Dexter, and the concept of it abandoning him was something you'd expect to read about in a novel about demonic possession. (The DP leaving him is revealed on the back cover of the book, so it's not really a spoiler.) What's more, Jeff Lindsay kept cutting away from Dexter to have other characters share their perspectives. This wouldn't have been bad, except that at least one of these characters was part of the over-the-top fantasy. It read like, "Meanwhile, in Middle Earth..."

I kept reading this...thing...because I kept thinking, No...This is too much like a fantasy novel. Jeff Lindsay doesn't write in that genre. Surely he'll find a way to bring it all back into reality, and explain it scientifically or psychologically, and the story will right itself. But he didn't. It was completely unrealistic, right up to the end, and it was a disservice to the character and his previous stories.

Of course, it didn't help that I'd read a few reviews of the novel beforehand. Some critics liked it. Many hated it. None touched upon the fact that it was too fantastic. Their gripes or compliments were aimed at the way Lindsay would, for the first time, break away from the perspective of Dexter, and only Dexter.

And that, dear friends, is why I was disappointed in book three; it was too much of a fantasy.

Hence, I am taking a brief break from "America's favorite psychopath" and working my way through a little light non-fiction. I started Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger. I've always been curious about the REAL story behind the disaster, ever since watching the movie. In fact, the copy I have includes a commentary from Jim Lovell and his wife, Marilyn, which I listened to. He denotes the differences between creative license and reality, which was nice...but not detailed enough for me. And it was the little things that I found interesting, like the line that became so famous from the movie, "Houston, we have a problem." That's not what was said. The actual line was, "Houston, we'VE HAD a problem," and it was said by John Swigert.

So I'm off to the moon, to which point I know I won't be landing on it, but I'll be following some very brave men on an epic and extremely dangerous journey.

Be well, and DFTBA.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Casts and other things to play with

With nothing else to do, I decided to make yesterday a productive day. I was determined to get a few things done that needed doing. The two main goals: find out what was going on with that money that was taken from me by Medicare at the start of the month, and order up my "Roll About knee walker."

The call to Social Security was surprisingly easy. I expected to be told to call various other agencies, just as I had been at the start of the month. Social Security told me to call Medicare. Medicare told me to call the local welfare office. The local welfare office told me to call the welfare office back in KS. KS told me to call welfare here in PA again. It was frustrating. But on my final call, the one to the local welfare office, I was told that it was possible that the overlap between services in KS and PA might have confused the system, and that it would take a few months to correct itself. That is, it would take a few months from when my services started here in PA back at the start of April, meaning that it should be corrected this month.

In my mind, that meant I could make calls until I was blue in the face with explaining the problem, and no one would be able to really do anything. This was a system error, and we'd have to wait for the system to catch up. If it didn't, THEN we'd have to find someone to go in and fix the problem. So I waited. And when I called yesterday, I was told by the SSI representative that the problem had been fixed on 21 June, and that I should have the money refunded to me within the next few weeks. And then she realized I had direct deposit, and that it would only take days.

For some goofy reason, I had greater faith in the system than that, immediately logged onto my bank's web site, and there it was: $346.20.

This brought yet another great sigh of relief from Becky and I. While she has managed to use her school loan money to pay for rent, she miscalculated and failed to cover July. That means we'll be paying that month out of pocket, and it's not cheap here. She's been fretting over how we'd be able to pay it and still be able to do things like eat. With the sudden arrival of that money, we can breathe easier.

My next big call was to a local surgical supply store for my Roll About knee walker. This is a device that is far more stable than crutches, and will ensure I put absolutely no pressure on the foot whatsoever.

The good news: they had one in stock and it could be delivered. The bad news was that insurance wouldn't cover it in any way, and it would cost $80 a month to rent. Well, since I was now sitting on an "extra" $346, I didn't see this as a problem. I ordered it and had it delivered to my apartment...

...and discovered that Roll About knee walker was the equivalent of a scooter on steroids. It has three wheels, with one in the back, a long seat/knee rest, and really tight handbrakes. The guy who delivered it showed me how to use it, and that's done my adjusting the height of the knee rest, laying my lower leg on it, shin-side down, and then pushing along with the other foot.

LET THE TERRORIZING BEGIN! There really wasn't much room in the apartment, but that didn't stop me from getting on it and chasing down Nike and Raine. Both cats fled before the monstrosity that is medical assistance equipment! (Insert evil laughter here.)

The problem, however, is that there really isn't room in here to maneuver. I can go from point A to point B without a problem. But then turning the thing around is a task and a half. I soon found myself getting off it to just pick it up and turn it around, which immediately defeated the purpose of having it. I resigned myself to cane-walking around the apartment, and using the walker when I'm out and about in the world.

And now it's time for news on the cast. It is, after all, part of the post title, so there must be news about it, right?

I was very impressed with how the cast was constructed. The very first thing the casting nurse put on my leg was strips of gauze soaked in calamine lotion. This was to protect my very delicate diabetic skin. I get an ulcer if you just look at my legs and feet wrong, so this precaution was greatly appreciated. It would also mean a lot less itching inside the cast. Then I received the standard amounts of thick padding. She started applying the fiberglass, and then, to my surprise, added even more padding to the bottom of the construct. This is why I keep telling people I have a GIANT cast. So much was added to this thing that I'm of the belief it could stop a bullet from a .357 Magnum. (A theory I will NOT be testing, thank you very much.)

Now for what may be a problem with the cast. You see, it's supposed to be full contact. That is, there should be no room whatsoever inside it for any kind of movement. A reduction in swelling is expected over time, but I don't think it was expected on the very first night. I spent the rest of the day - the day I got the cast - sleeping off the emotional drain the doctor's visit had brought. On top of that, I slept through the night. And come morning, there seemed to be entirely too much room inside the cast for it to be effective. And being the bed patient that I can oft times be, I kept moving my foot around inside the cast. I was doing this without thinking about it, and have to remind myself that I'm in this monstrosity for a reason.

Aside from playing with the cast in that way, nothing else, thankfully, has been happening. Becky, bless her, has yet to make good on her threat to buy a Sharpie and draw Sailor Moon characters on the cast while I'm asleep.

That's all I have to report at the moment. Becky and I are going to be heading out to do a little shopping, which means I'll FINALLY be getting some exercise. That scooter-walker-vehicle of destruction is sure to let me start working some muscles that have been getting soft over the last few months.

Be well, and DFTBA!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

So, about yesterday...

...and the post I made. I said there was a bit of humor that occurred that involved my father. Well, I was so relieved at the news that my foot wouldn't be coming off in the near future that I felt I should call him from the car.

Explaining a medical condition to my father isn't easy. He doesn't latch on to the complex information the way I do. Telling him the difference between Charcot-Marie-Tooth's disease and Charcot arthropathy wasn't easy, but I did as the doctor had done for me. The former is skeletal-muscular, and the latter is neurological.

It seemed Dad was missing a vital part of the whole experience for me. Somehow, I'd managed not to connect what was happening to my foot directly to diabetes. That, or he wasn't grasping it. So he asked if this was diabetes related, and I said that it was. This prompted him to start asking all sorts of questions about whether or not I was taking care of my diabetes. Well, that turned into an explanation about how stress and pain cause me to lose control, and how I'd been having a hard time of late because of the foot. And to quell his fears, I fed him the last HbA1C result, which was 7.5, down from and 8.3, and should be between 5 and 6. That that particular result is over four months old didn't need to be shared with dear old Dad.

The conversation then went back to the foot, and what's to be done about it. I told him about needing to wear a cast for about three months, which thrilled us both. I tried to explain that the process was to wear the cast for two weeks and hope the swelling went down, then get a new cast and repeat the process, until such time as I could be fitted for a brace that I'll wear for an undetermined amount of time. (It could be for the rest of my life.) Not sure if Dad latched onto that information, and I suspect that my next followup call with him to let him know my progress, and about the new cast, will have him asking, "Why did they put a new cast on you?" *sigh* "Because, Dad, I was tired of the red cast they put on me, and had reconsidered the idea that hot pink was a much more sociable color." (Becky tried to convince me to get the hot pink coloring for the cast, to which I said I did not want to get beat up should we appear in public at all.)

Dad then moved on to what we both deem rather important. Did I get along with the doctor. Well, the doctor was a young guy, and he was all business. I didn't get to crack wise with him at all, and I think that's because I was in a clinic. He probably had a dozen patients to see in one hour. So here's what he has to to in five minutes: review any radiology films the patient brings, make an initial assessment, order more films if necessary, examine those, decide on a course of treatment, see the patient and explain said course, answer any questions the patient might have, alter treatment for the patient's well-being, and make notes about everything I just mentioned for any official documentation as required by the clinic. Explaining all of this to Dad would have meant little, so I simply kept it as, "He was all business." It then went something like this...

Dad: Yes, but did you like him?
Me: I liked the fact that he was concerned about my worries over a bone infection, and ordered a specific test to rule it out, if only for my state of mind.
Dad: That's good.
Me: He also explained things in terms that I could understand.
Dad: Oh...Did he know that you're probably smarter than him, and understand more than him?
Me: Well, I didn't want to rub that in his face, Dad. It's important not to bruise a specialist's feelings like that.
Dad: (Starts chuckling.)
Me: He'd be no good to me or other patients if he just sat in the corner, crying that I was smarter than him.
Dad: (Still chuckling.) True.

It was rather humorous, him falling back on the smarts he knows I have, which was good...

...but it was also a left-handed compliment, which I only caught on to this morning. Here's how it really translates. "Rob, you are so smart, and yet you've done nothing with those smarts your entire life. I'm so glad that the best of my sons is now unemployable and spending his time watching TV and playing video games." Trust me on that one, gang. Dad may not have said it, but something just like that was going through his head.

But you know what I'm going to try and do? I'm going to attempt to hang on to the good in our conversation, and not harp on the bad. Dad may be disappointed in all of his children, but we are the product of his and our biological mother's rearing. That said, I'm my own man now. It's up to me to choose what my mind latches on to and keeps as valuable. I'll choose his laughter over his disappointment.

Be well, and DFTBA.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The sigh heard 'round the world.

Nothing to see here. Move along. Move along.

Oh, wait. Were you possibly interested in what happened at the special specialist today? Is THAT why you're here? Well, I'm not telling you. So there! =P

Okay, maybe I'll tell you a little about what happened. Then again, when have I been able to tell just part of a story?

Last night, I prepared for the worst. Not only did I pack a bag on the chance that I'd be sent right to the hospital to be admitted, but I also shaved my arms. "Ummm...Rob? Why did you shave your arms?" I'll tell you why. Y'see, the testosterone fairy was a wee bit generous when it came to my arms, and I've come to know that removing an IV is infinitely more painful than having one put in.

But there's another, far more superstitious reason for doing these things. Every time I've feared a hospital stay, I've packed a bag and shaved my arms. The result is that I'm not admitted to a hospital at all. I now believe that if I were to leave my arms in "gorilla form" and not pack a bag would land me in the ER, waiting for a room to open up on some floor above me.

Becky and I were up bright and early to make the trip to this specialist, and I'm actually glad we left earlier than planned...as we went to the wrong place first. We went to the main hospital instead of the orthopedic clinic.

The visit started with a bit of fun. A form had been sent to me in the mail. On it were various columns to list my medications. I'm accustomed to listing my meds, including the dosages. But this form asked WHY I was taking each med, and to describe what it looked like. So I started with my long acting insulin, Lantus. Reason taken? "Fun." Shape and color? "Rhomboid and plaid." (Shhh! I know plaid isn't a color.) When I listed my Zoloft, I put my reason for taking it as, "Stops me from killing myself." I followed this with Xanax and its reason, "Stops me from killing others." =P

The nurse got a kick out of my answers. I explained that I was under enough stress with this whole thing, and that I was going to take my frustrations out on something. Better it be a silly form than the staff, right?

The nurse was followed by a rather attractive PA. I was most amused when she came in, pointed to my right foot, and asked, "We're seeing you for this foot?" I should have said, "Nah. That foot's fine. It's my shrinking left foot that has me worried." Instead, I just said, "Good guess." Then I almost immediately jumped into my fears of what's been going on, and how I'd prepared myself for a possible extended stay in the hospital. She stated that such a thing wasn't probable, to which I replied, right in front of Becky, mind you, "You might be very attractive, but I'm not buying it!"

Why the PA came in at all was beyond me. She looked at the foot, we had a bit of brief banter, and then I was hustled off for even more x-rays. The doctor wanted weight-bearing pictures to see if the bones were aligned.

In short order, the vaunted specialist arrived, and was ALMOST sure of his diagnosis. Apparently, there is a vast difference between Charcot-Marie-Tooth's disease and Charcot arthropathy. All of this time, I thought I had the former, and it's the specialist's opinion that it's the latter. And if you looked at those links, there's a BIG difference between them and their respective treatments.

But before we went on, I expressed my great concern over the possibility of osteomyelitis. It seemed rather foolish, to me, anyway, that I MIGHT have it, yet no one was doing anything about it. Well, the doc was almost sure there was no reason for concern, but was willing to do something about the stress that possible infection generated in me. He's ordered a radiology test in which my blood is infused with a radioactive substance that will head right for infection by using my own white blood cells. I'll be handling that one ASAP.

Meanwhile, it was time for treatment, which is a full-contact cast. I wear this for two weeks and hope that the immobilization of the foot helps to reduce the swelling. Then I go back to have a new cast put on. And so it will go, until the doc says all is as well as it can be...and then he'll fit me for a brace that will hopefully help me avoid further damage to the foot.

So there it is. That's about all I have, with the exception of some humor with my father afterward, but that'll have to wait. This whole thing's been emotionally draining, and I need sleep.

Be well, all, and DFTBA!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Doom, gloom, and other bits of joy

So, tomorrow is what I've come to believe is my own, personal Judgment Day. I'll be visiting the special specialist, and we'll all find out what's to be done about Destructo-Foot.

Leading up to this pending visit has been a lot of stuff. Physical and emotional stuff that's getting harder and harder to cope with. And last night, the tension within finally burst, bring me and my beloved to tears.

But let's review, just in case you've been missing a few posts, shall we? Here's what you do: look at the number next to the review for the physical, then match it with the number that follows on the emotional. So...

The Physical

1: Almost two months ago, I paid my first visit to my new podiatrist. We didn't know a whole lot, other than that I was demonstrating some of the classic symptoms of a flareup of Charcot-Marie-Tooth's disease. Plenty of scary-looking swelling, redness, and a significant temperature difference between my two feet. An appointment was made to see the special specialist and x-rays were ordered...

2: ...and they didn't tell us much. I might have this problem growing in my foot, or I might have that problem with my foot. The damage occurring to the bones made it difficult to tell what was what. So I'd simply continue my bed rest and wait, with a followup to the podiatrist scheduled.

3: On April 29th, I posted some pictures to my blog to show exactly how swollen my foot is.

4: The next visit to the podiatrist had us wondering what was going on with the second toe of my left foot. I have an ulcer there that's completely covered in a callus. This was a considerably minor issue as compared to the right foot, but the doc suggested we get x-rays of the toe, just in case. And, hey! While we're at it, let's get fresh pictures of the right, just to see if there have been any changes.

5: There was. They were now considering the possibility of there being a genuine case of osteomyelitis. But they couldn't be sure, because an x-ray of someone with Charcot's foot simply shows the bones making a mess of everything. And there still seemed to be so much time left between that moment and when I'd see the special specialist, so the podiatrist now ordered an MRI.

6: The MRI, while fascinating to look at, was also disturbing. The contrast they injected was designed to light up anything worrisome. If that's the case, then there were a lot of little worrisome spots to look at. The report made looking at the MRI even better, with the phrase "grossly abnormal appearance" preceding a list of bones that are in bad shape. The worst seems to be a bone called the talus, which connects the foot to the leg directly. As an added bonus, the MRI picked up a fracture in that very bone. (Yay?) All we could do was wait for my appointment tomorrow.

The Emotional

1: The whole Charcot's foot thing was quite a scare. This is one of those things that brings about the amputation of a foot on a diabetic. When the foot collapses completely, there's really nothing left to walk on. It's too painful to bear weight, and it becomes a wiser choice to remove it. I was prescribed bed rest, which didn't go over very well with me. I'd tried to continue doing what I could in life, despite being judged disabled. Now I was being told to do nothing that involved being on my feet, and being in bed was an even better choice.

This left everything in Becky's hands, and...Well, Becky isn't exactly lazy, so much as she'd rather not have to be a grownup if at all possible. It has to do with her psychological makeup, which I understand in far greater detail that you...and I ain't revealing that which a future husband ad wife have discussed. Still, she was left with work, school, and now taking care of the household, with me a spectator at best. It was frustrating.

All of this was made much worse by the pain I was experiencing in my foot. My toes felt like they were on fire. Sharp pains were shooting through my foot, and these pains were unlike the shooting sort brought on by neuropathy. Perpetual pain that's increased from my "normal" perpetual pain was just making me miserable.

2: Not knowing is somewhat worse than knowing, because there's an inability to take any kind of action. A psychological pressure starts to build when you know there's a problem, but there's nothing you can do about it. I was stuck in bed, watching movies and praying the special specialist's office would call with a cancellation. There was no such luck to be had.

It didn't help that a visit to my PCP revealed that I was slowly making my way from 180 lbs. to 190 lbs, and climbing. Weight issues kind of run in the family, and my inability to so much as walk across the street to the market for some light food shopping was starting to reflect on the shape of my body.

3: Being in communication with people over the internet means that there's always the chance I could just be telling tales. "Pity me, for I have this disease you've never heard of!" I felt I had to prove it, so I posted those pictures. If anyone saw them and felt a kind of fear, try to imagine looking at the end of your leg to see such a foot attached to you.

4: I was so frustrated by being stuck with a virtual inability to do much of anything that I was ready to say, "Just take off the damn toe so I have one less thing to worry about." Not a good thought, but at least I knew something would be happening, instead of just lying about all the time.

5: Osteomyelitis has become a kind of foul word to me. Having had it once, and only once, I've come to fear its existence. A bone infection would mean hospitalization, and a couple of months on IV antibiotics. It would mean another chest catheter, which would mean special maneuvers in the shower to keep it dry. It would also mean more pain, bone disintegration, and a greater possibility of amputation should I be unable to shake it.

I had to collect a copy of the MRI for the special specialist, as he'd be unable to pull it up on his computer. Well, since I had it, I might as well look at it, right? I understood absolutely none of what I was looking at, cool as it was to watch the pictures "generate the insides of a foot" as I scrolled through them rapidly. Those parts that I saw "light up" may be absolutely nothing, but they gave me more things to worry about.

As though I didn't have enough to worry about. Here I am, sitting on my butt all day, unable to do much of anything at all, and fretting the future. Becky and I are constantly talking about the bright, beautiful future ahead of us, and it looks bleaker with each passing day. I'm so frustrated by this malformed foot that I'm starting to think removing it would just cut to the chase, so to speak. "Take it and let me get on with my life."

And then came father's day. As a good, dutiful son, I called my father. He asked the dreaded question, "How are you?" and I answered. As I vented my frustrations as to being unsure what to do with this foot, and how I was ultimately displeased by things like weight gain and my inability to do the dishes, he decided to weigh in on my life. "You have to do something. You're planning on being a husband."

Thanks, Dad. I wasn't feeling bad enough just yet. I needed a good shove over the edge of depression to make me contemplate the worst. Should I cut the foot off here at home, or wait for the doctor to do it? Maybe then my self-worth will climb one miserable notch so that I'd feel like I was worth ALMOST nothing.

It all came crashing in on me last night. Becky and I end each night with a kiss and an "I love you" from each of us. If these things don't happen, come away with a sense that something's wrong. So when she said "I love you" first, my response was, "Why?"

And the question was choked by tears, anger, frustration, and no view of the future. Over the last few weeks, I keep thinking that Becky is wasting her life with me. I'm too broken to be a husband or father. And so the contradictory thought keeps coming into my head, I love her and need to save her future, so I should break up with her and be the lonely, miserable wretch that I am. This is immediately countered by, Oh...So you should shatter her heart because you love her? Brilliant.

Well, we talked for a bit, lying in the dark, with her holding me and doing quite a bit of crying herself. Becky hates seeing me in any kind of pain. And at the end of the conversation, we had a movie moment. It's as though someone scripted the lines, which were perfect.

Me: I'd be lost without you.
Becky: I'm not going anywhere, so you'll always be able to find your way.

G-d, I love this woman!

Monday, June 20, 2011

In brightest day...

In blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight,
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power, Green Lantern's light!

So...Here's how I ended up going to the movies this evening. My computer needed to be repaired, so I handed it off to a local guy who works relatively cheap for people who aren't incorporated. (He bills businesses at $79/hour!) It was initially thought that the problem was the power source, so I got enough cash on hand to pay $100, which is what we paid when Becky's computer had the power supply repaired.

But it didn't cost me $100. In fact, my computer's problem was the graphics card. Once it was removed, my computer booted up just fine. (In fact, I'm typing on it right now.) For his services, I was charged all of $20, and that left me with $80 burning a hole in my pocket.

Well, Becky is working tomorrow, which took the idea of a movie tomorrow out of the picture, and I may well be sentenced to something painful, or at least uncomfortable, after I see the special specialist on Wednesday morning. I was determined to go out and have a little fun, even if jolts of pain were being fired out of my foot to my brain. So it was that we went to see The Green Lantern.

As usual, when handed a story with A LOT of source material, they took creative license with it. I didn't follow the comic book version with as much zeal as I did the X-Men, so I wasn't missing anything. But they did do something right toward the end with the Easter egg that made next to no sense. I mean, there was no reason for the guy to do that thing to the stuff to take the ambiguous noun. (Yeah, I'm not gonna spoil anything with this one...not much, anyway. But do yourself a favor and stop reading right about now if you have any intention of seeing this thing.)

It seems that every superhero movie involves someone learning that mild mannered So-n-so is actually the glorious protagonist. Most of the time, the hero wears a mask, and so it's exceptionally difficult for those who know him to learn the truth. What has always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS bothered me is Clark Kent getting away with just a pair of glasses. Really...that was his brilliant disguise? And one of the absolute best reveals of his identity was right...here!

Well, tonight's movie wasn't that ridiculous. No...The moment the hero presents himself to the woman who's known him since he was 11 years old, she leans in close and backs away, exclaiming, "Hal? Hal Jordan?!?" It was perfect, as it made the characters seem just a little smarter than average.

While I enjoyed the story, it was missing...stuff. The overall tale really could have used more. From start to finish, including credits, the movie was 105 minutes long. It could easily have been two and a half, with some more substance.

The problem with that idea is that every scene that included the Green Lantern in uniform was made to be an effects shot. It's not even a slight joke. On every close up, when all you'd see is his mask, there was green energy rippling across said mask. It was...too much. I would theorize that such a method of presenting the story chewed up a great deal of the budget, which was sad.

While I was teaching myself to write screenplays, I learned what to write and what NOT to write. Exposition coming from a character's mouth is weak writing. So when the best friend says, "I'm your best friend," I kind of sit back and think, Was there no way to actually SHOW they're best friends? Of course there was...but there was probably no money to film it. It removes substance from the story.

So when we find out that there's some kind of link between the characters of Hal Jordan, Carol Ferris, and Hector Hammond, we're left to guess what the details are. Hector has loved Carol since he first laid eyes on her? That's nice. Wouldn't have known it if he didn't actually SAY it. And when was it, exactly, when he first laid eyes on her? And how is it that he's able to greet Hal by name at the party. In fact, why was there a party at all, other than to have the hero show up to save the day?

The lack of substances shows in that the story comes across as disjointed. It just seems all over the place, and that's the main reason the critics are beating the snot out of this movie. The budget was blown on CGI and not the story itself, making it a large target.

That said, I still liked it. What they didn't tell us on film I generated inside my head, and my imaginings still managed to fit nicely into what we were shown. This wasn't meant to be a masterpiece of theater. If it was, classical Shakespearean actors would have been brought in to help with even just the voice acting. They weren't, which was okay.

Ah, but since I ripped into X-Men: First Class, I'll hold on to the hope that the sequel at least holds true to whatever they established in this film.

Be well, all, and DFTBA!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It's all routine

"Skywalker something something something dark side. Something something something complete!" Ummm...That is, Skywalker said mentioned that he'd heard my "dead in 10 years" theory before, and I can't help but wonder if perhaps I hadn't mentioned it before. The concept is a bit paranoid, if not outright weird, so I thought I'd been keeping it to myself. Had I actually spoken of it to someone else before Becky? If so, it should be noted that while I love my friends, I don't call any of them "my love."

But it's a routine of mine, even if it's one that only exists inside my head most of the time. And as I thought about that, I realized I have a lot of things in my conversational style that are routine, and I thought I'd share some of them.

In reference to my father getting remarried at the ripe age of 69: "G-d bless Dad. G-d bless Viagra."

When trying to get underway: "I have things to see and people to do." (If you missed it, go back and read that one more carefully.)

If someone ever tells calls me "one STRANGE individual," I screw up my face and reply, "No. I'm TWO strange individuals."

On the topic of being a perpetual klutz: "I've been alive for (insert number of current age) years and I still haven't learned I can't fall up."

To comment on the kind of luck that rules my life: "One day, I'm going to step outside, look to the sky, and ask G-d to give me a break. That's probably when I'll see a plane falling nose-first right at me."

For those times when I've crossed a line in conversation, and want to try to break up the tension with humor: "Looks like my love of sole food has caught up to me." (Get it? Foot in mouth...SOLE food?) There's also the ever-popular: "Open mouth, insert food, chew vigorously." Finally, because it's still entirely too common in my life, I'll sometimes say, "Oh, great. Looks like I've put my foot in my mouth up to the knee."

I read it somewhere, and it became the silliest pickup line I ever used: "Hey, baby. What's say you and I go back to my place...I'll turn the lights down low and put on some soft, romantic music...I'll break out a bottle of expensive wine as we settle down in front of the fireplace...And then I'll put on my Spider-Man pajamas and we'll do things I'm going to tell my friends we did anyway!" There was also the much shorter, "Excuse me, but would a marriage proposal be too forward?" (Neither ever worked.)

When my klutziness hits while in a store, and I manage to knock over some merchandise...or a sign...or something else that basically belongs to the store, I'll say, "Great. I broke (name of establishment)."

If someone should happen to fail or forget to handle one task or another, my first response is, "You're fired." (Becky hears this one a lot.)

Having been reared Jewish always makes for some good humor, and when I'm feigning a threat of a lawsuit: "Hey, I'm Jewish. I can pull a lawyer from the aether!"

Troublesome and/or rambunctious children have been receiving the same line to parents for some time. "Two words of advice for you: TRANQUILIZER DART!" (I eventually expanded such a concept, but Becky is against my campaign of "Booze for Babies." No idea why. =P )

When asked what I'd want for whatever gift-giving occasion is coming up, I immediately reply in a childish voice, "I want a pony!"

Finally, there's one that comes from a bit of writing I did ages ago. I'm not sharing it's full origin, as that would have the sentence make sense in that context. Simply put, it was a protagonist's reaction to a rather horrific sight. I now use it whenever a problem seems to be looming. "It could've been worse...Could've been a rhino."

I'm sure there are more, but I kind of needed to break up my recent "doom and gloom" posts with something lighter.

Be well, and DFTBA!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Needs and Wants

Howdy, all, and welcome to my 501st post. Yes, that's right. I've been at this for a few years, and it would seem my last post was the 500th. Pity I didn't realize it, or I would have made some kind of big deal about it. "Hey, I've been gushing about my life and various thoughts for 500 posts! Have some cheese with my whine!" If you've read every single post, you win an official Rob Meadows no-prize. Just send me your address and proof of your having read every word, and I'll get that in the mail to you ASAP. =P

Oh, come on. No one remembers when Marvel would send out "no-prizes" for pointing out story errors? It was the best thing to not receive ever!

Anyway, I've had some time to do some thinking over the last couple days, and I've decided that I'm not very happy with my current foot situation. In fact, some deep part of my genetic code is currently deciding when and if I should sue someone for all of my current pain and suffering. Aside from the fact that Charcot's foot just happens to some diabetics, I'm sure this prolonged process of dealing with it is someone's fault.

The immediate issue is the pain I'm in. I have a fentanyl patch feeding me a steady supply of painkiller designed for those who are opiate resistant. "Resistant," as in, "I've been in them too long and am not getting the relief I should." And yet I have been prescribed opiates for breakthrough pain. Oxycodone and dilaudid, to be precise. When people hear that I'm on these meds and taking them regularly, they're usually stunned that I'm even conscious. One person even commented that it says something about the pain I'm in, as I'm not laid out and drooling in a corner. Maybe that's true, but the counter-argument to that is that my body just doesn't recognize these prescription chemicals anymore.

There's also a question in my mind about whether or not my pain is real. That is, we can all probably agree that a portion of it is real, but is there any portion of it that's imagined? Reading the MRI report on my right foot and ankle certainly didn't improve anything for me.

Over the last two days, there's this one pain that's seemingly getting worse. And to understand exactly where it is, let's all look at this, shall we? Okay...You see that spot on the side view, where the navicular bone and the cuneiform bone meet? (See the top view for the names, but the side view for locating where my worst pain is.) Right along the bottom, there, where the foot would arch...it feels as though someone has shoved a knife in there and is just poking away at the bones. Mind you, I broke something in there many years ago. I foolishly kicked a car in my late-ish 20s, and those bones collided, resulting in one of them chipping. I no longer remember which one, but that spot has always been a site that aches during incoming rain and snow.

Neither the navcular and cuneiform bones aren't even mentioned directly in the MRI report...although the cuneiform gets mentioned as part of a group. "Grossly abnormal appearance of the talus, all of the tarsal bones, and anterior aspect of the calcaneus." So...is the increased pain imagined? Is there a problem that's simply not being seen because my foot is such a mess? Is this a result of an old wound becoming incredibly painful because my foot's a mess? I just don't know. As for the aforementioned fracture of my talus, (see last post), I'm feeling "discomfort" there, but no severe pain. Is that because my painkillers are actually working? What, pray tell, is going on in there, and why can't I get any solid answers from anyone whom I've already seen?

This all brings me back to my post title. We all have needs and wants. In fact, a recent video post by Hank Green talks about that which qualifies something to be considered "alive." He claimed that all living things "want." I countered, in the comments, that living things actually NEED. Humans, for example, need to breathe and eat, and can do these things on their own. His attempt at discussing the concept of Google being alive...? That doesn't work, as Google, itself, needs nothing. Oh, it may need maintenance, but Google will wait an eternity until someone comes along to take care of it.

As to my needs...Something is wrong with my foot. Seriously wrong, and it seems to be progressing in a bad way. I NEED this problem to be addressed, and rapidly. Because somewhere in my heart, I believe I also need to be on IV antibiotics, which will help to resolve the issue. I believe I NEED that bone biopsy.

As for what I want...? I want to be able to walk. I want to be able to engage in "extracurricular activities" with my beloved without the perpetual distraction of severe pain in my foot. I want to start working on shedding the weight that's been slowly increasing because I spend most of my day on my back doing nothing at all. And I want a happy resolution to my current medical problem, without it costing me a foot.

You see, this is where the comment on my last post kind of pushed a button for me. I know Ale didn't intend any harm, but that last line..."...that's always good news, no matter how bad it may be." She was referring to possible treatments, and the worst would be an infection so deep-seated that the only way to rid me of it would be to take the foot. That terrifies me because...

Okay, you might think I'm nuts, and I've only ever shared this idea with one person. (Sorry, my love, but it's time to share with the world.) It seems to me that when a diabetic starts losing body parts, they're dead in about 10 years. I haven't researched this in any way; it's just that when I hear about a diabetic having lost a foot, the story goes on to said diabetic dying within 10 years. I just found love, and have been building a future with her. I'd like to fend off my superstitious fate for at least another two or three decades, if at all possible.

So, come next Wednesday, I'll be seeing the "special specialist." On that day, with Becky propping me up, I'll be making my best effort to insist certain actions be taken. I need that biopsy to make sure there's no infection creeping around inside me. I need treatment that will help to fix this whatever the heck is going on, (because simply calling it "Charcot's foot" no longer seems to be enough).

And I want my life back, as limited as it was to start with. Because if I'm going to be prone for the remainder of my years, then the future simply looks bleak. What good is a stay-at-home dad if he can't play with his kids or rush to them when they need him? What good is the husband at home who can't even do the dishes or get the trash ready to be taken out? I may have been disabled prior to all of this, but I was able to imagine, and even execute, some of those activities. Now...?

My life NEEDS fixing. =(

Be well, and DFTBA.

* * *
Just as a side note, I have been failing to mention other possible treatments for my foot. It's always been as minor as IV antibiotics or as traumatic as amputation. There is apparently middle ground in there somewhere. My podiatrist said there's a good chance the special specialist will wrap my foot up in a cast. My fear of that is that my foot will be "forced" into a position that doesn't feel so great.

Another alternative would be to visit the more "aggressive special specialist," who would attach all the bones of my foot to a wire frame and have my bones "suspended" away from all of the others. I'd be able to walk on this contraption and it would prevent my foot from collapsing in on itself, as is what tends to happen to a Charcot's foot.

And if osteomyelitis involved, they can open up my foot and cut out the infected tissue, then use "prayer tactics" for the bone to grow back infection-free.

Those were only mentioned. There's no knowing exactly what will happen next. Hence, all the "fun" I'm having of late. =/

As I said...Be well, and DFTBA, folks.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More to worry about

This whole "hurry up and wait" routine is making me crazier with each passing minute. And when the minutes are filled with doctors explaining things, it makes the waiting even worse.

I went to followup with my very likable podiatrist this morning. The brief "nothing new" I was given over the phone was all well and good, but it was important to have the appointment so everything could be explained. It basically boils down to this: my foot is such a mess that almost nothing definitive can be seen. But where the doc remains unsure of things, I'm pretty concerned about two items on the MRI report.

The first: A fracture along the lateral aspect of the talus is seen. This is the bone directly attached to the bones of the leg. The only explanation for a fracture is simply that I have Chacort's foot. Bones break. The end.

Now for the other one, combining two sentences at different points of the same paragraph: There appears to be some bone destruction destruction involving the talus... and ...the possibility of osteomyelitis involving the distal portion of the talus cannot be completed excluded. Bone destruction...The last time I experienced anything like it, it was during my singular case of osteomyelitis. Is the bone so infected that it's been weakened, and that's when the break occurred? Or did the break occur first, allowing for a possible infection to get into the bone? There's no way to answer my questions, as the foot is "just a mess."

And at this point, there's only one way to find out if it's truly osteomyelitis. Someone would have togo into my foot and get a bone biopsy, as all other imaging tests would simply show that my foot's a mess, which is nothing new. So what's stopping this next potential test to make sure my foot is infection free? The fact that I'm seeing a "special specialist" next week. It's been a very long wait, and I'm praying there will be some definitive answers when I get there. Alas, my podiatrist wasn't very helpful on that front. He said that I could go to see a dozen doctors and come away with a dozen differing opinions. I'm reaching the point where I'd rather be on IV antibiotics just in case, rather than simply playing this waiting game.

There was one good thing that came out of this particular doctor visit, and it happened as Becky and I were walking out the door. There was a patient awaiting his turn with the doc, and he made a comment about the thrills of wearing a CAM walker. In the brief banter that followed, mention of my coming visit to the special specialist came up. This other patient had seen the very same doctor, and gave him what can only be called a rave review, putting my mind at ease to a degree.

And that's all I have at the moment. There's really nothing new to report, other than the fact that I have more reason to worry all over again. And while I'm sure at least one friend out there will be tempted to call, I suggest waiting. I'll likely be trying to get some rest, and there's nothing new to discuss. Next week, however, there might be.

So...Be well, and DFTBA!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

LEGOsapiens

Becky and I are up early this morning because she has to be at work on mere minutes from when I started typing this post. Both of us were up at 7:00 AM, but she didn't get to sleep until midnight, and I couldn't sleep until a couple of hours after that. I don't sleep without meds because of my pesky PTSD, and while it's often enough to make me tired and get me to sleep, sometimes my brain just keeps on thinking...and thinking...and thinking.

Last night, while Becky was at work, I got hungry. I'm not supposed to be on my feet, but I had a craving for matzoh brei. That meant having to do a few dishes before cooking. And along the way, it meant using the automated scrubber I've had for a few years. (Sorry, Ray, but I insisted upon it coming with me when I moved.) When I tried to use said scrubber, it didn't work. I went to where we keep our batteries hidden...and while I found the batteries, I also found an empty can of diet root beer in the hiding spot.

When I lived in KS, we were three bachelors living in a trailer, and it looked like it. It was man/boy heaven, with plenty of electronics and movies to keep a grown man entertained for years on end...unless you're Cody, who could devour an epic video game in a single night if he puts his mind to it. And we were slobs. I would make jokes about there being animal skins and bones tossed in the corners of our "cave"...except that I think there really were animal skins and bones tossed in the corners. There were fur balls throughout the trailer large enough to actually build a fifth cat.

And so it was that I thought I'd make a humorous point. Becky and I are getting a bit lax on household duties. When she got home, I greeted her at the door, covered her eyes, and walked her to the main living area. I uncovered her eyes and said, "Welcome to Kansas!" While it was meant to be amusing, it ended up making Becky feel like she wasn't doing enough, even though she does almost everything already, and made me feel like a jerk.

There I was, late at night, wanting to sleep because the meds were kicking my butt...and unable to because I kept thinking about how I'd inadvertently hurt the woman I love.

This morning I was about to explain my desire to have a brain made of LEGO to Becky, when it occurred to me that I should simply blog about it. Then, as I was looking for prior blog posts, I realized that I'd made mention of humans made of LEGO before. Still, it seems to be worth repeating, since it's a theory I seem desperate to hang on to.

Take my Charcot affected foot, for example. It's a literal pain. My life would be infinitely easier if I could simply unsnap the bad foot and replace it with a new one. I might not have to replace the entire foot, either. Just take off the long and/or wide blocks covering the foot, removed the broken blocks deeper within, and snap my good "skin" back into place when I was done.

My brain makes for another example. Those parts contemplating how much of a jerk I can be could be removed, leaving just enough of my LEGO brain in place to perform early morning functions, and I could just get my sleep.

Taking it a step further, imagine the sociological implications of being LEGOsapiens. How many times has it been argued that men don't understand the lives of women, and women don't understand the lives of men? Well, the answers could be gleaned with a "gender modification kit" bought at the local Toys 'R Us. Ladies, you'd no longer have ground to be upset with your men after child birth when you make your husbands use "the extra fertile uterus addition" that's been made for those stubborn men who don't seem to appreciate what you've been through. You'd also finally be able to have you answers to the grand mystery of why men can't always hit the toilet when you snap on the appropriate parts for a few months. (And guys...? I think you'd appreciate the seat being down more often if you had to sit every single time!)

Imagine the unfortunate circumstances of losing your cushy desk job and being forced into manual labor. It's just been so long since you've had to work your body that hard. But no worries! A little extra muscle is just toy store visit away, thanks to the conversion into LEGOsapiens! And plastic surgeons would have to start practicing "real" medicine when a tummy tuck is handles by removing those "extra blocks around the middle."

Biblically speaking, it makes Genesis seem a lot more fun. "And on the third day, after creating the light and the dark, and calling them night and day respectively, G-d busted out his LEGO: Omnipotent Edition. And He made some REALLY cool stuff." He might not be called "G-d," would he? Imagine a world where we all worship "The Great Toy Master." The world just might be a lot more fun to live in then, don't you think?

* * *
Before I run off to kill a lot of pixilated beasts, there are a few things I should mention.

First, my computer is dead. It starts to power up, but makes no visible effort to boot its operating system. It would be nice if I had Cody around once more to fix it, but he's no longer a stroll down the hallway. I seem to recall a verbal contract stating that he would handle any issues with my computer should his creation fail me, so...Cody, if the problem isn't operator error, expect a bill! =P

On a less amusing and far more frustrating note, Becky has been suspended from work for a second time. As a cashier, they don't fret a till that's $10 over what it should be. But when it's $10.02 over, that's a problem. Becky has no explanation for why her drawer was over last night. After the first suspension, she started taking extra care, counting money three times in the process of handing back change. Still, we're thinking it might be time for her to seek out employment she actually enjoys. She's going to start looking for work at a group home, where she can be truly helping people with physical and mental disabilities.

Finally, if anyone who's accustomed to watching for status updates on my Facebook account has noticed my silence of late, that's because the security measures on FB have made it impossible for me to log in from a strange computer. I know many of my Playground friends by their Playground names. FB starts showing me pictures and asking me to name them. Even better, FB will simply show me the backs of my friends' heads and ask me to name them. Brilliant, eh? So my FB statuses will either come from Becky's account, or not at all.

Be well, all, and DFTBA.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The brief update of DOOM!

Let's face it...I've had plenty to worry about lately. That x-ray report was scary enough, and the doctor rushing to get me an MRI certainly didn't make me feel relaxed. There was a part of me that wanted yesterday's date with Becky because I thought we might be split apart briefly as I spent time in a hospital.

Thus, made it my business to call the podiatrist today. In fact, I just hung up with his office, and after briefly reporting to Becky, I came here to let those who read this thing know: there's nothing new on the MRI that wasn't already seen on the x-ray. This is important, because the contrast that was used would light up any infection. It wasn't actually said to me, but my assumption is that there were no "lights of doom." In other words, no osteomyelitis.

I'll still follow up with the podiatrist so I can hear the full report. I know things aren't good in my foot, as it still hurts and there's enough swelling there for TWO feet. But the lack of bone infection gives me a sense of relief, as this somewhat lowers the risk of having them cut into my foot...or cutting my foot off.

My thanks to all who've demonstrated concern over this, and know that I am breathing a huge sigh of relief this morning. And, as usual, my eternal thanks to my beloved, who's made it her business to let me know that she loves me regardless of the doom and gloom I'm facing.

Be well, all, and DFTBA.

PS: Sorry if I scared anyone with the "of DOOM" part of the post title, but it feels like everything in my life is "of DOOM" lately.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

X-Men: 2nd class entertainment

It's kind of amazing, really. Becky and I have been together for over a year, and our very first official date was on our one-year anniversary. It's true. We went out to the movies, with her buying the tickets and me buying the munchies. Much to my regret, we saw Thor in 3-D.

So the other day, amidst the worry that I may have a bone infection, I suggested we go to the movies. We could use a second date, as sitting around at home all of the time can start to grate emotionally. Being a pair of superhero geeks meant we could only see one new film: X-Men: First Class. If you haven't see it and plan to, stop reading now, as I'm sure to be spoiling plenty along the way.

It was good. Plenty of mutants doing mutant things. The use of powers is really what we want from every superhero film. Yeah, I could use a good story, but can you have Spider-Man juggle a few cars while he drops some exposition on me? And while it was good...it wasn't great, and opened major plot holes along the way.

MAJOR, MAJOR PLOT HOLES! (Someone was definitely sleeping at their computers while they pretended to write this.)

Going back to the third X-Men movie, which many of us would like to forget, they showed Professor X and Magneto run off to recruit a very young Jean Grey. With Patrick Stewart playing Xavier, he was bald and walking. XFC, however, takes place years before that, during the Cuban Missile Crisis...and shows how Charles lost the use of his legs.

Back in the first movie, Charles explains that Magneto helped him design Cerebro. In this movie, Hank McCoy takes the credit.

The new movie introduced many characters to us, including Emma Frost and a teenaged Cyclops. Neither of them were all that old. But the new movie has Emma wandering around at about age 30. And her diamond skin getting cracked by a metal bed frame...? I know they needed to move the plot along, but that was a pretty hard push.

Introduced in this movie was Havok, AKA Alex Summers, Scott/Cyclops's YOUNGER brother. They made his energy emissions red, which was a nice nod toward them being family, but the vast age difference skewered the whole thing. I mean, the first X-Men movie told us it was taking place in the present. Since the Wolverine tale makes it seem as though mutants were responsible for whatever happened at Three Mile Island, it puts that movie's end in late March of 1979. Topping this off is that the Cuban Missile occurred in 1962, and Havok was brought to us straight from inside a prison, making him an adult to start with.

I understand the desire to take creative license, but die hard fans like myself are only willing to go so far.

When I heard that Sebastian Shaw was going to be a character in this tale, I thought it would involve a criminal mastermind who just happened to be able to convert kinetic energy into raw strength. Instead, he was handed a number of other abilities as well, and was more of a bully than a mastermind.

Aside from my complaints, Xavier and Magneto stole the show. Strong characters with powerful motivations, and frequently using their powers the way anyone with powers actually would. Especially some of the antics of Xavier.

So it was a win/lose kind of movie. If you ignore everything established before, it's very good. But they already revealed parts of the future, making it very easy to create plot holes in a prequel without proper research. With Bryan Singer as one of the story's creators, as well as its producer, you'd think there'd be more of that attention to detail. When you take a good story and two excellent leads, and then create plot holes large enough to drive a truck through them, you get second class entertainment. They could have done better...they just didn't.

Be well, and DFTBA.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bracing myself

Well, the MRI has been taken care of. I spent an hour and a half on the table, with the technicians denying me the satisfaction of reading a good book in the process, as they believed I would move too much if I were permitted to hold a book. Just to prove a point, I spent most of the test scratching every little itch, with the occasional cough, just to show that I could pull it all off without moving my foot at all.

Now it's "hurry up and wait." I'm dreading that call..."Mr. Meadows, we need you to come to the hospital by way of the ER. The MRI you had done is showing some hotspots of infection." Well, then it would be me packing a bag and heading to the hospital for what I hope would only be a week's stay.

The last time I had osteomyelitis, I was in the hospital for 27 days. (Link provided in case you're new and haven't read that information before.) While I was there, I had them run a number of other tests to "check my oil, give me a tuneup, and make sure my timing belt was up to speed." What can I say? A lifetime spent with auto parts as the family business had me making a lot of automotive references. They also seemed to take frequent x-rays of the infected foot, an MRI or two, and even a bone density test. (The last required a radioactive isotope be injected, and I wandered about poking people and saying, "I am Radioactive Man! You're infected...and you're infected...and you're infected."

So many days in the hospital, you learn to start making your own fun.

The thing is that, in the end, I was simply there to receive an hour-long dose of vancomycin by way of IV twice a day. That's it. After that, much of the time was spent looking after my roommate, who'd been in a serious car accident when he was a child. His body was essentially wrecked in the accident, and had only partial motion in his left arm and hand, and could only answer yes and no questions. This information was in his chart, yet the hospital staff would often reply to the call button and ask, "What do you need?" Truly brilliant, really. And so I would leap to his aid, running down a list of yes and no questions for him until we'd hit upon his needs. "Are you feeling sick? Are you thirsty? Do you need to be changed?" Very often, as I would step out for a smoke, I would stop and make sure he didn't need the little things that *I* could provide. "Do you need your TV remote? Can you reach the call button? Should I send a nurse in on my way out?" His mother was oh so appreciative that he ended up having me as a roommate.

Once he was gone, I went a little crazier, as there was even less for me to do. I read the books that were sent to me by Julie, who'd had them shipped right to the hospital. (G-d bless Julie and her concern for the growing madness of my extended hospital stay.) There was only so much "Celebrity Poker" to be watched, and even "Law & Order" would start to loop around, showing the same episodes over and over again.

Once again, all of this is IF I have osteomyelitis. I'll be admitted, and treatment will start. That's when I'll become a pain in the butt to the staff, essentially demanding that they get on the ball and insert a chest catheter for me to handle the IV meds at home. The hospital might be advantageous in that they'll be able to give me IV morphine for pain, but that's it. After that, it's an incredible expense to the insurance company to have me sitting around for IV meds twice a day. I would prefer a PICC line, but there's a problem with one being inserted through my forearm.

It was very strange. During that first and only episode of osteomyelitis, they shaved down my left forearm and inserted the PICC line. They even took a chest x-ray to be sure it went up my arm properly, ending up in the major vein of my chest. (I have no idea what its name is; darn that lack of a gross anatomy course!) The line passed through the vein that comes close to the surface along the bicep, and it was in that exact spot that my skin started becoming very red and extremely tender. (My shirt brushing the skin was causing me pain.) I have no known allergies except for fluorescein dye; there's an iodine component that, when it's injected into my bloodstream, it makes me violently ill. The PICC line was made of the very same material as a normal IV, and I hadn't reacted to that, so many of us were scratching our heads at this mysterious reaction.

They pulled the line, shaved my right forearm, and tried again. It seemed that they wanted to rush me out once it was in, to which I made them wait. Lo and behold, I had the same reaction in the same spot, but on my right arm this time.

They opted to install a chest catheter. This worked a bit better, and I didn't have any reaction to it. I was able to go home and handle my IV meds on my own, with a nurse coming by every few days to change the dressing. And being at home made me infinitely more comfortable.

And that's what I want. Although I am occasionally left a mere 12 inches of room on the bed, I am accustomed to sharing a bed with Becky. Without my beloved to drape my arm over her and occasionally cuddle, I'd feel lonesome. What's more, she probably wouldn't sleep as well, either. And so, if I am yanked from my home and put in a hospital bed, I'll be busting chops almost immediately to get myself back where I truly belong.

And that's all I have at the moment. Nothing really new. Just me venting my usual concerns, and praying that they're unfounded. Still, this post begs the question: what will Zeb critique next? =P

Be well, all, and DFTBA!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

This raises the possibility...

Allow me to quote the radiology report. Mind you, the time difference between x-rays is from 27 April to 31 May.

FINDINGS: Large amount of soft tissue swelling around the right ankle seen. Advanced degenerative change in the right talonvicular joint seen. There is suggestion of some change in the morphology of the distal talus as well as the navicular bone. This raises the possibility of infection in this region. There has also been some change in the appearance of the distal talus as well as the navicular bone. Some lucencies within both of these bones are noted. This raises the possibility of a possible chronic osteomyelitis.

Old healed fracture deformity of the right third metatarsal bone distally seen.

Translation: Oh, crap...here we go again.

Okay, that's not an exact translation. Let's try that again using online resources, eh?

Large amount of soft tissue swelling around the right ankle seen. Advanced degenerative change in the right talonvicular joint seen. Well, it would certainly help to know what the "talonvicular joint" was, wouldn't it? Here it is now. That would be the very top of my foot, where it attaches to the ankle. There is suggestion of some change in the morphology of the distal talus as well as the navicular bone. Those would be the two bones that make up the talonvicular joint. This raises the possibility of infection in this region. Oh...joy. There has also been some change in the appearance of the distal talus as well as the navicular bone. Some lucencies within both of these bones are noted. I believe that this means they can see through the bones a bit more than they could in the first set of x-rays. It hints heavily at the idea that there's less bone matter to get in the way. This raises the possibility of a possible chronic osteomyelitis. Oh...double-joy. (Old healed fracture deformity of the right third metatarsal bone distally seen. This last line only confirms all the times I've spoken about having osteomyelitis in the past.)

So...this report begs the question: why am I not in the hospital? Well, Charcot's foot has a way of messing with an x-ray, allowing for these types of things to be seen quite often. What looks like osteomyelitis is often just the mess created by all of the micro-fractures occurring in my foot. No need to panic if all of this abnormality is normal, right?

Except that there has been some very specific pain coming from the area that's described. A very sharp, nasty pain. It's one of the key reasons I dread a shower, as staying on my feet for more than five minutes makes me want to weep. And when I pointed this out to the podiatrist, he jumped on the idea of getting a much better look. Thus, I'm scheduled for an MRI tomorrow afternoon. He even had me get blood work done to be sure my kidneys could handle the contrast that will be used.

As terrifying as all of this truly is for me, that didn't stop me from cracking wise with the doctor. Now that he had the patient in his office, he practically came running to see the foot for himself...as if the possibility of a bone infection would change the exterior. To quote his initial reaction to reading the report, "It made me say 'bwuhuhlaaaagh.'" I actually asked him to spell that for this blog post, to which he could only laugh.

Becky has got to be thinking that I'm either incredibly brave for being able to joke in the face of such scary things, or utterly insane. (Probably both.)

I really don't have much else to report. I mean, I could give a rundown of every joke I made, but my head's a bit fuzzy after taking Xanax to address my anxiety. It's time for this broken diabetic to get more rest. With any kind of luck, my foot is just an incredible mess that only APPEARS to be infected. But I'll be sure to keep you folks posted.

Be well, and DFTBA!

Goodnight, Rosebud

I thought I'd been cultivating good relationships online. I mean, I have an exceptionally difficult time getting out to make "real" friends, so I try to make things work electronically. Mind you, I don't like it that much. I'd rather see and hear friends than perpetually read only their words, but my health doesn't permit me to do a whole lot socially.

Over the last few years, I lost a good friend to life. Mush became far too busy for s friend like me. When last I spoke with him, it was to ask for help to get to my dying brother, and he sounded like he'd gotten remarried to his job, instead of staying married to his wife. I didn't think asking for financial aid to get to my brother was too much of a stretch, what with him buying a $1,000,000 home not too long before. But Mush never even seemed to care enough to followup to find out if Stu was dead or alive. The whole situation helped put our friendship into perspective, and it wasn't good.

Last night, I wrote to my friend Julie. I could tell something was wrong. What I'd see was a lot of status updates throughout the day on Facebook, with little direct contact with me. I'd reply to some of what she'd say in the hopes of earning a laugh...but found out that she was taking mild offense or was taken aback by the things I'd say. That was never my intent with anything said on FB, but it would seem that that's what's happening.

And so it would seem that I am once again losing a good friend to life, which, I suppose, is far better to losing them to death. Her life is far to hectic to have someone as needy as myself in it. She states that I seem impatient and unwilling to understand. That's untrue, but explaining that would be difficult. Because it comes out as, "I know you don't have time to explain things to me, but you need to take time to explain things to me." That just doesn't work. She really doesn't have time to explain anything to me, and I certainly won't demand it. Not anymore, anyway. That's what it seems I've been doing, and that has yet to work.

And so it is "Goodnight, Rosebud" on another friendship. Oh, Julie will remain on my friends list, but my communication with her will be minimal at best. She doesn't need another burden to carry, and I'm quite the load. (Last weigh-in at the doc still echos through my mind...reaching 200 lbs. shortly, I'm sure.) As I told her in the reply to my private message, "I'd rather have a good relationship with you with more silence than a bad one with my foot hanging out of my mouth at all times."

I just wish "Life is what happens while you're making other plans" was a bit more inaccurate at times. =(

Friday, June 3, 2011

The timing could be better...

Yesterday turned into a bad, bad, bad, bad day. And it didn't start off so great, either, as I was in a tremendous amount of pain when I awoke. It felt as though I'd spent all my time while asleep stretching my Achilles tendon beyond its capacity to be stretched. If it had "felt" torn, rumor has it I wouldn't have been able to walk at all, so it just felt severely strained.

Off to my PCP I went, as I had an appointment for yesterday, anyway. We spoke of this, and that, and of how I must continue to play the waiting game for the special specialist I'm scheduled to see on 22 June about my CMT. There was nothing truly noteworthy about the visit, save that I got the receptionist to laugh over how life treats us humans. She had shared the news that her father is in the hospital with ravenous cancer, to which I said, "It's odd how life reverses our roles. When we're kids, it's our job to worry our parents to the brink of death. Then, as we grow older, it's our parents who start worrying US to the brink of death." Like getting on the phone with my Dad, who casually reports that he took a fall and has a black eye. It leaves me to wonder how bad the fall really was that a part of his HEAD collided with something.

Becky and I returned home, where I did what I tend to do best after visiting a doctor: I slept. It can't be the physical drain, as I spent last weekend doing much more than visiting a doctor, and was able to remain conscious. The only thing I can think of is that it's so emotionally draining that I needed to shut my brain down.

Upon waking, there was a discussion of what we should do for dinner. Decisions were made, and Becky left for the market across the street to grab a few things, leaving her phone behind. Since it was on silent mode, I never heard it ring, which is why I was surprised when MY phone rang with 'Nita on the other end. There was news, the likes of which most people don't want to receive.

Becky's grandfather took a bad fall. Bad enough to break his hip. He snapped the ball joint at the head of the femur. This turned into a mad rush to find out what's going on, as we were told no one was sure what hospital he'd be staying in, whether or not he'd need surgery, etc. As the night wore on, we learned that surgery needed to happen ASAP, and that the hospital he was brought to was able to find a surgeon to handle it.

There's a part of me that would love to be able to blow sunshine up people's butts, but that would be akin to lying, and I only tell very small white lies that never require repeating. "The cat puked on my orders for blood work, doc. Can I get a new copy?" Things like that. And in the data base that is my brain, I know that hip surgery is one of the more serious operations, especially on a man who is in his mid-70s. Later in the evening, after our argument, I tried to urge Becky to go be with family while her grandfather was on the operating table.

Oh, did I fail to discuss the argument? My bad.

It would be nice if Becky and I had nothing but happiness, sunshine, flowers, and all that happy horse-hockey. But we're human, and humans have disagreements. Once again, I won't discuss what the source was. I don't need to be dragging every piece of dirty laundry we have across the net. But it had us both in tears, and I was right...again...as usual. I can even prove it by handing you this bit of dialogue between her and I:

Me: (Having stated my case calmly and clearly.) Any arguments, objections, comments, random acts of violence against me...?
Becky: You'll notice that I tend to get very quiet when you're right.
Me: But...You're ALWAYS quiet during these arguments!
Becky: You're always right.
Me: (After a moment's pause.) You can't tell me stuff like that. My ego will swell to the point of exploding.

I must say, for the record, that I don't actually enjoy being right all the time. It's like some bizarre indicator that I'm perfect, and I know for a fact that I'm not. Not physically. Not mentally. Not in any way. There's always room for improvement, regardless of who you are. (I'm looking right at you, Charlie Sheen!) And bringing Becky to tears tends to bring me to tears, so it really just sucks all around.

So, it was AFTER the argument that I felt in necessary to share the news that hip surgery is extremely dangerous, and tried to urge Becky to go be with family. I would happily go to, as a show of support, but I pushed my luck last weekend when we visited her family. This leg needs rest!

But wait! There's less!

Less money, that is. I popped onto my bank's site to make sure my Social Security Disability had arrived safe and sound, only to find it not so sound. $385.80 was missing, and this had me scratching my head as to why. There'd been no notification about money coming out, so where was my money?

After several calls, all lasting entirely too long, with various government agencies, I learned that Kansas failed to shut down an aspect of my State benefits. This is causing great confusion throughout the system, and so I've been billed retroactively for my Medicare benefits. Up until now, I've made so little that every State I've lived in has paid for that benefit. But because someone somewhere failed to check a box on their computer, I may well be out that $385.80 forever. And I kind of need that money to live.

Yeah, the last 24 hours have been just great. Here's hoping the rest of this day has some good news for Becky and I.

EDIT: According to information gathered in a return call from the KS welfare office, the problem is here in PA. I really should start practicing my swimming skills once more if I'm going to be making my way through this sea of red tape.