Thursday, June 22, 2017

I've been trotting

off to the out-patient cardio-fitness center two times a week for the past few weeks, Reader Dear, and I've been meaning to give you the rundown. It's the push-and-pull of life, the cycling 'round of mundane chores, that has kept me from working out a space in time to press you with the details.

But, heads up, Dear Reader, here they come now:
This fitness center is located on the third floor of the local hospital's massive out-patient complex.  Now, one might suppose that if one were serious about getting physical exercise, one would exercise some discipline and use the stairs to get to the top of the building.  Let me just say, however, the elevators are plentiful.  It is ever so delightful to exercise the use of an "up" button to speedily get to a room where machines are awaiting one's sweaty physical exertion!
Before any use of the machines, however, I was soon to learn there is a whole protocol of prep work!  I'm going to give you all the steps, Reader Dear:
1. Check in.  Register at the automated kiosk.
2.  Go to the desk where the heart monitors are located and report your presence.  You will be given a heart monitor.
3.  Go to the locker room-slash-restroom, where you will choose a locker and can fill it with whatsoever you please (a fancy party dress, or fancy shoes, even a pet monkey if you so choose.*)  Keep the key with you on your wrist as you continue on to the  lavatory area.

4.  Following the in-person instructions that you were given on your very first session, hang the monitor around your neck in one of the provided aprons.  Attach the wires to your chest in three locations, with three sticky tabs.  (The sign will refresh your memory if needed).
5.  Step on the scales in locker room-slash-restroom and note your weight.
6.  Report back to heart monitor counter and fill out a form reporting your weight and the answers to several questions ("Are you taking your medications as prescribed?").

7. Do the ten warm-up exercises as listed and pictured on the large-print sign.

9. Apply hand sanitizer to your hands from dispenser on wall.
10. Wait for someone to take your blood pressure and escort you to a machine.

Whew, that was a lot of steps, Reader Dear!  A work-out!

11.  Begin your work-out.
*I did not make inquiries about this.
I don't advise it.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Death and Taxes

"Nothing's as certain as death and taxes!"   my father used to say.  He was usually just joking around at tax time.  But there's the truth of it that makes the statement (slightly) amusing.

As it turns out, Reader Dear, I've discovered one can get an extension on both!  Each has its deadline (better known as flatline in the case of death) which, with a little maneuvering (or all kinds of inconveniences and miseries) can be pushed further into the future!

Today, with our already-extended tax deadline approaching,  the Yard Man and I went to see our accountant.  We carried along our (semi-organized) jumble of papers.  We sat in comfortable chairs in a  cool, quiet room.  I drank the coffee (with a choice of four flavors) offered to me.  We answered a few questions, but mostly just let our pleasant, highly competent accountant do all the work!  It was (almost) delightful!

Our accountant will spend some time in assessing our taxes due; but, no matter how capable, precise and meticulous, the bottom line will not be the exact same figure as each of a dozen other accountants would give us, were we to present them with our (semi-organized) mess of papers.*
*It's the nature of the U.S. tax codes, Reader Dear! Seventy-thousand pages of federal tax codes yield various figured-out figures!

Which proves my own assertion, Reader Dear, regarding death and taxes:  "Nothing's as certain as uncertainty!"

Sunday, June 18, 2017

So, here I was

back at the rehab facility with my brand-new change of heart (newly zapped).  I was still eating in the Dysphagia Dining Room, and still working away at learning to walk up stairs, and still having my medications handed to me six times a day.  But I was entertaining joyous thoughts of leaving!

It's true, I confess, the thought of acting as my own doctor, nurse, personal trainer, medical aide and housekeeper [not to mention chef] ) was a bit daunting!  (The Yard Man was intent on filling some of these roles, but, alas,  he had no place to do his internship other than a horse barn!)

The day of departure came and it was rather amazing, Reader Dear, how much paraphernalia one can accumulate in the span of time it takes to struggle through a few weeks of rehab.

Even more astounding was the stack of paper mail that awaited upon my arrival home (at least a foot high, and no more than a fraction of it lovely cards urging me to "Get Well Soon!") Apartment woes awaited, as well.  And all of the odds and ends one must attend to when arriving back from the dead (okay, okay, I plead with you, Reader Dear, just to use your imagination!)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Drawing to a close,

Reader Dear!  Though a long way from the very end of the journey, this tale of my Chat-with-Mother-Mary ordeal is soon to wrap up!  The impact of it may never come to a complete and final brush-oneself-off-and-be-done-with-it-all,  but the blow-by-blow, detailed account will soon be sliding into history.  (Just so you're prepared, Dear Reader of Mine, when you tumble abruptly into a mundane and slightly boring plot twist [aka, life "as usual"]!)

The preceding warning comes as The Yard Man transports me from the cardiac wing of the hospital, back to the local rehab facility (It's a new sport called facility-jumping at which I've gotten rather proficient [points are gained by getting your chauffeur to drive you through the local park en route back to previous facility (but, alas, points are deducted for devious thoughts of climbing out of the car and spending the night on the grassy lawn of the park, perhaps never to return to the facility where headed [or absolutely any other facility (ever!) for that matter]!)

But, listen up, Dear Reader!  Upon my return and establishment in a new room at the rehab facility, there is the heart-stopping news* that a second move is imminent!  (And we're not just talkin' beds and rooms here!)

Three more days and two more (sleepless) nights and I. AM. GOING. HOME!**

*Jesting, Dear Reader.  I know you know that in spite of the news, my heart continued it's reassuring thumpity-thump!
**And, while this home will FEEL. SO. HEAVENLY, it's actually located far outside of that area known as Heaven's Realms!
Doctor Jantzi is one five-star doctor, Reader Dear!  Believe me, he is golden!
"You can go home," he said.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

When next I opened

my eyes, I was a better person!  Ahem, Reader Dear, all I'm trying to say is that the medical personnel were able to shock my partially-bovine heart into a proper pumping rhythm!

It was a relief to know the deed was done, there'd be no more fruitless attempts.  (When first they had tried to do this heart-zapping thing [a few weeks earlier, I was told] they'd been foiled by a small blood clot!)

Back to my small double room they wheeled me, and I got to listen to my new roommate have conversations with her family*.  "I don't know why I'm here," she said.   "They just keep doing stuff to me.  I don't know what they're doing.  I don't know why."
*(only my astute assumption)

Over on my side of the curtain, however, I was preparing to leave the hospital (hallelujah!).  I would be going back to the rehab facility, and (wonder of wonders) both facilities had granted permission for The Yard Man to drive me there (no more ambulance rides!). 

I dressed and collected my tiny pile of belongings.  When a nurse wheeled me out of the room on my way to the hospital lobby, I bid goodbye to my roommate.  She was sitting in her chair by the bed, clutching an antique pocketbook.

Down in the lobby my nurse asked, "Do you know how old your roommate is?"
"No," I responded.  "She looked pretty old."
"She's one hundred years old!" the nurse told me.  "She came into the hospital because of shortness of breath!"

"Wow!" I said.
Reader Dear, it took my breath away!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

It was the next day

I awoke in my tiny double room of the hospital and quickly gained a new roommate.  But I wasn't paying much attention to what was transpiring on the other side of the curtain.  I was being prepped for what would be a shocking event!  No one had known the day before if I'd be in shape to have this procedure done or not.  My INR had to come down drastically!

This had, in fact,  been accomplished by multiple Vitamin K shots.  My INR was at an acceptable level and now the object was to correct the out-of-whack rhythm of my heart.  I had what is called Atrial Fibrillation (rapid and irregular heart and pulse rate).

What I needed, you see, was a change of heart!  An electrical zap!  A Cardio-version!

Since I was fasting, there was no need to wait around for breakfast.  I got trucked down to the zapping room early in the morning.   I was nervous, of course.  But,  I had inquired about the use of sedation.  When the answer was yes, I would have danced a jig if not for my complete physical inability to do so. (Well, and the fact that it would have taken quite a bit of nerve, and required no hesitancy to make a fool of myself).  What was so pleasing, sedation takes care of a mountain of apprehension!

I was pulled from the gurney directly onto the zapping table.  Plastic guards were inserted into my mouth to prevent me from biting my tongue (off).  Yikes, I thought, thank goodness they had past experience to guide them in their preventative measures!  The staff carefully explained what would happen while I was transported off to carefree abandon:  They would first of all insert a camera down my throat and determine the absolute absence of any stray blood clots in my heart (which would sadly mess up their plans).  Next, they would attach paddles to my chest and shock me with a strong electrical current.  This action would so freak out my heart that it would straighten up, behave, and start beating in perfect time! (Er, strictly my own translation, Reader Dear).

"Here's the anesthesiologist now!"  one of my nurses announced.  I chatted a bit with the sedation guy as he inserted a needle into my arm, and then he warned me, "This may sting a little as it goes in."   
Reader Dear, it was a monumental understatement!

Aaaargh!  "Ahhh, ohhh, oh it's awful!" I exclaimed. "It's terrible, terrible!  (moan, groan)  AAAAAGGGGHHH!" (moan, groan).  "I don't think I can sta....."

Friday, June 9, 2017

To the rescue!

If you'll recall, Reader Dear, I was lying on my back in a hospital emergency room.  My INR was at 10!  My blood was so watery it was about to do me in at the drop of a hat (or a similar clumsy action, at any rate).  Rushing to my side with a syringe full of super-power was my very own super-hero!  He looked like an EMT (emergency medical technician), but could have been a doctor.  Or a nurse. Or a nurse practitioner.  Or a nursing student.  There's even a possibility it was just some stranger who (slipped off a red cape and) donned a white jacket.  He gave me a very big dose of Vitamin K!*

I was then admitted to the hospital and wheeled to a tiny double room with a curtain separating two beds.  (Hallelujah for small blessings--I had the window!)  Sadly, I had to make peace with the fact that I was once again occupying a fell-fledged hospital bed, and I had no idea how long I would languish there!

I was in no mood to chat with my roommate.  However, she on the other side of the curtain had already been in the hospital for a few days.  She carried on lengthy phone conversations with her friends (there's always the possibility they were her enemies, but it seemed quite unlikely).  She was from out-of-town, but happened to be in the area to attend the confirmation ceremony of a granddaughter of hers.  She had purchased a new dress for the occasion.  It was expensive, and it was nice! But, then, alas, while enjoying the refreshments after  the service she had thrown up all over the new dress (This was a symptom of the heart attack she suffered).  Now, of course, she was concerned about the dress.  Did they have to cut it off of her?!  Was it completely ruined? Could it be cleaned?!  Before I could hear the final installment of her story, she was discharged.  She ate her supper of crab cakes** and left.  (You will have to accept the fact, Reader Dear, I can never give you a proper ending to her tale. [Many times I've pondered the condition of that dress, but the odds are pretty great I'll never know]) 

Of course, I had my own conversations with The Yard Man to inform my roommate, if she cared to listen:  "No way, no way! I can't believe it!  I rose from the dead, and survived all those weeks of rehab, only to end up back here at the hospital!  They're going to do a cardio-version on me tomorrow, if they can get my INR low enough. Whatever a cardio-version is,  I sure hope they sedate me if it's anything even slightly disturbing.  Oh, and here's another thing--if I die again, this time I'll be begging Mother Mary to let me move in with her!"

*This vitamin, I learned, has the magical ability to rapidly thicken one's blood!
**She could have left mid-afternoon, but she'd chosen the crab cakes that morning (on the menu form) and by golly she was sticking around to eat them!***

***They smelled good.
     (I had to fast).

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

INR Reading

The following is background information, Dear Reader.
It's to set you up for the punchline (which may not give you a punch in the stomach the way it did me).

INR=International Normalized Ratio. 
Finger prick=drop of blood
And a drop of blood, Reader Dear, when it is paired with a particular, properly working piece of equipment (found at every medical lab) will yield a person's INR reading (printed-out number).

The International Normalized Ratio reading will tell you how "thick" or "thin" your blood.  Thick blood tends to clot too quickly.  Thin blood keeps the clotting at bay.  The medication intended to thin the blood can vary, but the most commonly used is Warfarin.  It's nickname is Coumadin (I much prefer the nickname, Reader Dear. [I happen to know that Warfarin is the hidden drug of choice when rats are offered their final meal]).

Now, Dear Reader, I had been medicated with Coumadin for weeks.  It is a tricky medication, but I didn't realize just how fickle. Here are some of the facts:

1.  It's very important to figure out the dosage so as to keep one's blood at the proper viscosity.  Taking an INR reading every few days is critical to knowing how much of the drug to ingest.

2.  A proper reading for my condition (hoping to avoid another heart attack) is anywhere between 2.0 and 3.0.  Under 2.0 and one might as well not bother taking the Coumadin. Above the level of 3.0 and one can bleed like water from a wide-open tap!

3. An INR over 5.0 is risky. 8.0 is extremely dangerous.  Internal bleeding from any little bump or jolt can quickly take one to the promised land (possibly chatting with holy beings).

All of this wordy explanation, Dear Reader, has been to set you up for the astounding (and slightly unnerving, if not downright terrifying) news that I got upon reaching the Emergency Room of the hospital.

My INR reading was 10.*


Monday, June 5, 2017


in the road, Reader Dear.  It was only to be expected.

There I was,  plowing ahead, re-conquering the skills I had gained as a toddler (you know--chewing food, walking).  Except for the monumental sleep issue (morning, noon and night, desperate for more of the glorious shut-eye), I was feeling pretty good about my progress!

I was getting lots of visitors, many of them raving about my good looks (You wouldn't believe it, Reader Dear!  Compliments abounded!  "Wow, you look terrific!"
(Now, I do not recommend the necessary death/life thing* as a way to improve one's looks; but, it's a fact: Anyone who's seen you languishing on a death bed, and consequently views you again a few weeks later is very likely to be astounded at how good-looking you are!  They will tell you so, often and emphatically!*
*I really have no way to know, but I'm guessing it works better than Botox!

However,  then came Monday morning.  My newly-evolving routine was to get up and single-handedly (awkwardly, laboriously) wash and dress myself in (mostly) comfortable street clothes.  I was already fantasizing about waving farewell to the rehab facility!  On this morning, I was seated at the sink with a warm, wet washcloth to my face--ahhh, heavenly!  It was such a pleasure to wash my face!  I was making such good progress!  I couldn't, however, shake off an uncomfortable feeling in my upper torso. 

"I have kind of a bad feeling in my chest," I complained to the morning nurse when she returned. "But it's not terrible.  I'm hoping it will go away soon." There were a few questions in response.  Then she left the room.  Ten minutes later an EMT* showed up at my door!
(Emergency Medical Technician [with a gurney in tow]).

"We're taking you to the hospital!" the nurse explained.

Right about then, Reader Dear, is when I snatched back that award I'd bestowed upon myself (title of Wonder Woman) such a short time ago!

"There's no way, you cry baby, that you deserve that title," I told myself, with tears streaming down my checks.  (Dear Reader, it's not an easy thing to say to someone, especially when they're being carted off to the hospital for God-knows-what kind of treatment, and they've been reminding themselves over and over how they never want to see the inside of a hospital again (at least not atop a gurney), please, please, please, never!)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Once I Started Eating,

my days at the rehab facility had two more "events" to fill my chart.  I was already spending large chunks of time in therapy sessions.*

ADL: Activities of Daily Living
PT:  Physical Therapy
OT: Occupational Therapy

These activities were scheduled from as early as 7:30 am to as late as 3:30 pm. Each morning, the (random) timing of my activities would be jotted down (by a nurse) on "the board" (my own private agenda) hanging on a wall near my bed.

So now, I had lunch and dinner to fit into the list.
DD: Dysphagia Dining

(Breakfast, Reader Dear,  was very often out of the question--far too early in the day!)

Starting out, I was wheeled to the dining room, but that soon evolved into me walking to the dining room, begging or borrowing a wheelchair in which to sit, and then being pushed back to my room.

It was a long haul (hall) from my room to the eating spot; consequently, it  took a few days for me to manage to walk both to and from the dining room unassisted
(however, upon performing this feat, I did receive the impressive title of Wonder Woman!**

**Self-awarded, Reader Dear
[and kept strictly private (I had no wish for news cameras, or the rehab facility to have to deal with crowd control)])
DD:  Dysphagia Dining

Just as in my walking, I progressed in my eating.  Each time I reached a new level, there would have to be an "assessment" of my ability to chew and swallow--1. Mushy 2. Tiny chopped 3. Large chopped (These, Dear Reader, are not the official terms.  I am taking liberties here and calling things the way I see them!)  While I aspired to reaching level four and eating  4. Not Chopped, I discovered upon reaching level four, that it was, in fact: 4. Even Larger Chopped!  (I never made it out of the Dysphagia Dining Room, not because of my inability to chew and swallow large chunks, but because time ran out for the "assessment"!

*Between all the activities, there was the on-going struggle for sleep.  I'd sit in my reclining chair with a pillow and a blanket, and I would tell myself how lucky I was that I had a whole two-hour stretch until the next activity.  Twenty-six minutes later I might be asleep.  Twelve minutes later, when awakened, I'd think, Well, I've still got an hour and twenty-two minutes...still time for a very fine nap.  Alas, thirty-five minutes later, I'd be pondering the fact that I'd managed only a few more minutes of sleep and now there was only a forty-seven-minute window of time remaining. (Reader Dear, it kept my brain busy doing the math!)

Now that lunch and dinner were added to my schedule, I sometimes had to ask myself, Which is more critical to my health--food or sleep?  (Due to the fact that I had no good, honest, intelligent answer, I had to go with my gut .**

**[I never missed lunch or dinner]).

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Deal-Me-a-Pudding Deli

Here you are, Viewer Dear, with a peek at the Dysphagia Dining Room (I've decided to give it a more agreeable title)!  It is actually a separate, smaller room within the larger dining room of the rehab facility (where I was staying).  Dysphagia dining was for those with difficulty swallowing, but there were plenty of windows looking out to the broader world of healthy swallowers (large dining room).   The Dysphagia Dining room was populated by only a few tables, and plenty of space for wheelchairs, since wheelchairs were the only type of seating. (Fortunately, I had one).                  
After the first meal was served to me in my room, I began my back-to-meal-eating sojourn    here. *

First meal here, I was seated at the table at the far end of the room, facing the blank wall.  To my left was Charlie, elderly and hard of hearing.  To my right was Leroy, elderly with  very garbled speech.  Please know that dinner conversation was minimal!

Near the end of the meal, Leroy took his "Magicup" (to the best of my knowledge, Reader Dear, this was a type of pudding containing lots of nourishment), and painstakingly tucked it under his shirt.
"Your secret is safe with me!" I assured him.

Alas, however, when his nurse came to fetch him, she seemed to have a sixth sense for this kind of action.  "Leroy, no!  You know you can't do that.  Put it back on the tray!"  To this day (and I suppose forever) I don't and won't know if Leroy was trying to get out of eating the Magicup, or if he simply wished to have it for a bedtime snack (my guess is the former).  If you happen to know Leroy, Dear Reader, will you ask him for me? 

*Later, when obtaining a photo, the great big banner proclaiming "DYSPHAGIA DINING" had disappeared.  But it was there to greet me with its nine-inch letters, stretching the whole way across the far wall, when I first came to this facility.  (I found it so amusing**)
**As I picutred a brand new restaurant opening up in a busy metropolitan area.  "Have you read the latest yelp reviews on that new eating place downtown?!  It's got a weird name--'Dysphagia Dining'!" 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Dysphagia Dining

Reader Dear,  I was now walking, talking and... eating!  My first meal was brought to my room:  Cooked chicken, Mashed potatoes with gravy,  Peas, and Applesauce.

The Speech Therapist had told me to expect pureed foods, and that's exactly what it was: dysphasia dining* at its finest!  The chicken was ground and shaped into a mushy patty; the mashed potatoes were the instant kind, the peas had been pureed and then molded to look as though they had not been pureed. (It was all slightly weird, but I appreciated the thought behind it--with a little luck, one's brain might suggest to oneself that this is a normal plate of food!).

But, here's the thing: I was not hungry!  My trusty bag of dripped-in nutrition had not been removed more than a few hours earlier.  I found it difficult to eat this meal that should have thrilled me with its real, honest-to-goodness-cooked-food-in-the-mouth feel, if not its taste and texture!

But, having such an aversion to food going on the garbage heap, I did my level best to eat the pap; I didn't get half of it down.

*Tomorrow I will take you with me, Viewer Dear, to the Dysphagia Dining Room**!  It's an exclusive dining spot for those with difficulty swallowing.  Does it not sound delightful?! (I am rolling my eyes!)

**I'm also working on an improvement of the disagreeable name.
How about:

Mushy Meals
Semi-solid Suppers
The Gelatinous Joint

***Help me out, here, Reader Dear.
Any suggestions?!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Open Sesame!

Now that the tracheostomy tube was out, it opened up tantalizing possibilities!
Reader Dear, think:  Food, glorious food!
Think: End of plastic bagful of flesh-colored formula dripping into me moment by moment!

It opened up the likelihood of taste-chew-swallow!  Two days after the big tracheostomy tube removal party, I got another go at ice chips and applesauce (and wow, minus the bloody blue dye ["bloody" only used here as the British would use it; no need to panic!])  This time I passed with flying colors (ha, non-dying ones) and there was no retraction later.

Carole told me, "We are going to start you on soft, pureed foods.  I will come to your room and observe you eating the first meal.  They will bring you a breakfast tray at six-thirty tomorrow morning."

I blanched.  "Six-thirty in the morning?!"
Then I added, "Even in my most ordinary life, even before drip-feeding, I was never, never ready for food at six-thirty a.m.!   Do I have to eat that early?  If I am ever-so-lucky,  I will be sleeping at that hour!"

Now, Reader Dear, it was a real effort for me to deliver this message with much force.  When the tracheostomy tube was removed, there went the Passy-Muir valve as well!  Once again, I had to work to speak!  It meant pressing on the bandage at my throat, trying to block any escaping air.  I was back to getting worn out with wordiness!  Nevertheless, I got my message across.

"We can start with lunch," she said.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Top o' the Mornin' to ya,

Reader Dear!  Here I am, only one day into my much-improved living situation and I find out there's to be a St. Paddy's Day "event" in my very own room!

To be honest, I will have to divulge that the string of green beads presented to me, and the crowd of on-lookers in my room had less to do with the luck o' the Irish and much more to do with me and my neck contraption.  For you see, Dear Reader, my tracheostomy tube was scheduled for removal!  Beat the drums!  Strike up the band! Cue the bagpipers!

My Speech Therapist, Carole, told me she'd invited some nurses and nursing students to come and observe the goings-on.  Also at the party were The Yard Man, Only Son, Lil Sis and Big Bro (my loved ones who happened to be visiting).

I was nervous, of course, as the whole show pretty much revolved around me and Carole.  If she were to do her part well, I was sure I could do an admirable job with mine.  But...hmm...I had no prior experience with this sort of thing.  And...hmm...what if she were to muff her part of the job?!

The room filled early.  "Standing room only!" I announced, and everyone seemed happy just to have gotten a spot.  There was camaraderie, everyone appeared to be in a good mood.  The news cameras appeared (amazing how much they resembled a cell phone and a little old one that usually resides in my handbag)! Excitement was mounting!

Carole took a position near my head.  "Look closely," she announced to everyone. She put her hand on the valve extending from my neck.  "Here we go!" she said.

Then, just like that, the show was over!  So short and sweet! (It may have seemed a bit too brief for the audience, but that surely made it sweet for me--twenty seconds, start to finish!) I could feel the tube coming out, but it was only a slight discomfort. A bandage was placed over the open hole in my neck.

There was a round of applause!

Though I likely have not a drop of Irish blood in me, I was feeling mighty lucky, indeed!


p.s. Viewer Dear...
Now we're several months post-Paddy's Day, of course, and I'm having no such good luck with Blogspot! It won't let me delete this redundant photo, and other frustrating, snarly problems! (mumble, mumble)