Saturday, April 09, 2011

3214 Believe your instincts

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.
--Lena Horne --


I mentioned in a previous post the hospital roommate, and her telling the surgeon on Tuesday about how she'd been complaining of bloating and a "wrong" feeling in her abdomen for almost a year, and how her complaints had been ignored or attributed to whatever was convenient.

Her situation is much more serious than mine, with lethal consequences, but the story is similar.

Over at least the past year and a half, close to two years, I'd been complaining that my morning urine was very dark, and smelled very bad. It lightened after I'd been up for the day and drinking water, but the strong "wrong" smell remained. It was so bad smelling I was almost ashamed to use public bathrooms. No other symptoms.

I'd use those urine test strips occasionally, especially after time with The Man, just to check, and they'd say UTI, so I'd go to the doctor, they'd use the same strips and say "UTI", and prescribe four or five days of twice-a-day antibiotic, and that would be it. It didn't fix the darkness or the odor.

The darkness and odor had started shortly after I started taking the thyroid supplement, so I thought maybe that was it. On the trip to Morocco last April, I didn't take the thyroid pills with me, because it was easier not to take a prescription through customs, and because I thought I'd find out if that's what was causing it. Oddly, it turns out, the odor did lessen. It shouldn't have, but it did, so of course I thought I'd found the cause. When I resumed taking the thyroid pills, the odor came back.

At least twice, possibly three times in the past year I had pain in the same area as last Saturday's, with a bit of bowel and bladder urgency and some nausea, but it wasn't so bad, and it went away after a few hours. It usually occurred after I'd been lifting and loading boxes for the move, so I naturally figured it was just my back. And, it was simply too low for kidney, so that never even entered my mind.

For the past six or eight months I've had a feeling that there was something very wrong in my abdomen. No particular reason, just that feeling of something "off", of foreboding, of impending doom. And for no reason in particular I settled on my liver and kidneys, instead of any of the other vulnerable organs hanging around in there.

I mentioned it to my doctor this past February. She poked at my tummy, and that was it. I walked out of there with another 4-day prescription for a UTI antibiotic, and she took me off the thyroid suppliment, saying I didn't seem to need it any more.

The urine darkness and odor continued, and the feeling of impending abdominal doom increased.

I don't think my complaints of the constant dark color and odor, or my concern that something wasn't right in there, were taken seriously. I did ask once if it was the thyroid supplement doing it, and was told no, but there was no further attempt at explaining it.

I'm a bit annoyed by that.

I've probably had the kidney infection (not just bladder infection) for two years, and stones for at least the past year. Luckily, the doctors said that the kidney seems to be functioning even though it was blocked and very swollen, but I wonder how much longer I could have gone with the infection if it hadn't gotten blocked by a stone and thrown a fit. How long before the kidney died.

Moral of the story - when your body says something's wrong, something's wrong! Kick and scream until someone helps you figure it out.

3213 Daughter Takes Charge

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Caring isn’t what you feel, it’s what you do. If you don’t do, you don’t care.


Friday night at the hotel I fell asleep with pillows piled all around me, while reading a book. I woke Saturday morning all twisted over to the side. My back hurt. This is normal. I have four areas of my back with delicate disks. It usually works itself out in an hour or three with a little stretching and some aspirin to take down the inflammation and swelling around the nerve. Once every four or five years it goes out so badly that I can't straighten up or walk. Then I find a comfortable position and stay in it for a few days until the inflammation settles down.

A pinched nerve in the back can cause other problems, depending on what that set of nerves does - like shutting down peristalsis and the "bladder-is-full" nerves, or exactly the opposite, causing a sense of urgency in those areas, or as with Ex#2 causing incontinence. My right foot and ankle still have some residual numbness from a back attack in 1983, when the nerve was pinched so badly it died, and shooting pain down my left hip is common.

So naturally, I thought that's what this was. I washed and dressed to go downstairs because there was a presentation I wanted to attend. I didn't put any makeup on because I felt pretty rocky.

A half hour into the presentation I was back in my room, panting from the pain. If you put your hand around that large muscle on your hip bone with the fingers pointing toward your spine, the pain would be right under the tips of your fingers. Too low for kidney, right? Has to be spine, right?

The urgency hit, both. Over and over, until bowels and bladder were absolutely empty, but I still felt like I had to go. The pain was so bad I was unable to stop moaning and panting - deep deep fast breaths - and I knew the panting could cause nausea, and sure enough - after five trips to the bowl I was throwing up only foamy yellow water.

This was bad. Real bad. I'm too far from home to hurt this bad. Today is Saturday. I have to get home, now.

I thought of a dozen ways to get both me and my car home. I knew I couldn't drive myself (even though I did drive myself to the ER in 2002 with the gall bladder attack with almost the same degree of pain and throwing up, but that was a 10-minute drive, and this is two hours). I could ask some Mensans for help, but that would be complicated, because I couldn't accept leaving Hal all alone here - at $12 per day for parking, and the possibility of towing once I left the hotel.

I called Daughter and asked if she had any plans for the day, and if not, could she and Hercules come get me, and yeah, I need both of you because someone will have to drive Hal home for me too, I can't leave him in the hotel garage. She said she'd come, but that I should call 911 and go to the hospital. I said I didn't want to do that. She said ok, and she'd be there in a little over two hours.

I guess I sounded pretty bad to her, because within minutes hotel security was at my door, followed by a hotel manager, and I could hear the ambulance siren coming down the street. Yeah, Daughter had made some calls.

I gave up to the pain and the experts and let it all proceed. ER, CT scan, xrays, grateful for pain meds, grateful for the urologist willing to come in. Immensely grateful that within minutes of my saying I was freezing, I was wrapped in the most wonderful hot blanket, that held its heat for the longest time.

The anesthesiologist planned to use that "twilight" stuff, but I told him either we went with a simple sedative, or completely out, because the last time I got that other halfway crap, I had no short term memory for literally years. I do handle full anesthesia well. I rebound from the deep stuff quickly.

The kids arrived before I went to the OR. They stayed in my hotel room Saturday night, and actually went to some of the activities and programs Saturday night and Sunday morning, with Daughter wearing my id badge. Hercules returned home Sunday evening, and fed Jasper. The hotel was willing to extend the room through Monday at the Mensa group rate for Daughter (on my credit card). Daughter drove Hal back Monday evening. She said that after the first few miles, she enjoyed driving him, but once she got home she chickened out and didn't attempt to put him in the garage.

[At one point, a doctor asked me if I would be sure to do something-or-other. I said, "You met my daughter. Do you think there's any chance I won't?" He laughed.]

We didn't know when I'd be discharged until it actually happened late morning on Tuesday. I considered renting a car one-way if possible, or finding a bus/train combination, or a limousine, since I didn't have to worry about Hal. I called Daughter, and she said she'd come get me, but I wouldn't be until later because she had some appointments.

She picked me up around five-thirtyish, I think. Or six-thirtyish, maybe. I forget.

What she didn't tell me was that one of the appointments was with her OB. She's 80% effaced and 2 centimeters dilated. The doctor said "See you in two weeks." I was shocked. If she'd told me that during the phone call, I might have faked an aide coming in with the news that they'd found a limousine service for me!

Yeah, moving down here was a good idea.


When I was young, I had extremely low blood pressure, like low 70s over mid to high 30s. It climbed slowly, and lately it's been like 123-128 over the low 80s. I've been very unhappy with that.

In the hospital, it was consistently mid-70s to low 80s over low to mid 40s.


It wasn't just from lying in bed. I was up and roaming the halls (speed walking, actually) when I wasn't hooked up to an IV, right out of the OR, and I wasn't on any meds other than the antibiotic. Actually, I now recall that I used one of those machines in a drug store a few weeks ago, and it registered so low I thought it was broken.

I'm anxious to check it now. My own cuff and stethoscope are in the Suzuki at the old house, so I can't do it myself. I need to find one of those machines again.

I wonder what caused that, why it has fallen so much in the past year or so? The new diet, maybe? I hope it's a good thing, not another ominous sign we're ignoring.

Friday, April 08, 2011

3212 Bits and Pieces

Friday, April 8, 2011

Omission is the greatest form of lie.
-- George Orwell --



Remember when I said that Nature's mothers reject their babies only when the babies are unlikely to reach reproductive age? So Knut the polar bear probably had something wrong with him that his mother could sense? Turns out he had a congenital brain malformation that caused him to stop breathing. One point to me.

Remember when I said that although the Egyptian military seemed to be friendly toward the revolutionaries, it seemed to me that the army brass was just using the movement, and would be unwilling to give up power once they got it? According to Lisa Goldman, a journalist currently in and blogging from Egypt, the Army is "acting in an increasingly repressive manner." See her report at Two points to me.


Annoying People:

We have all known at least one person who made us cringe when we saw them coming. There's usually something a little "off" about them, an intellectual or social deficit of some kind, that isn't their fault exactly, they try, but it's just "off".

They are very aware of their alienation and desperately want to be liked, to be friends, and it's painful to them because they don't know why it's not working, so they try harder to be friendly and helpful. They give too much. They're like puppies, panting, watching you for reactions, licking your hands and frantically wagging their tails, which is endearing in a puppy, but not in a human. It's beyond simple neediness.

It's so sad. Their attempt to get past the passive alienation turns it into active alienation.

You don't dare take pity and let them in (you can't even say "thank you" when they give), or they'll smother you with their gratefulness. You'll never take another free breath unless you can be cruel enough to cut them off.


Something I wish I'd never heard:

In the hospital, I acquired a roommate on Monday. She'd had major surgery Monday morning, and arrived in the room early Monday afternoon accompanied by her husband. Within minutes, her children and their spouses and her sister arrived. (They were pretty loud. I kept thinking please let the woman rest!) Anyway, I heard her say several times as people arrived, and a time or two to phone calls, "It was cancer, but the doctor said they got it all. But they want me to do chemo anyway, so they put in a port." People congratulated her on the "got it all".

Very early the next morning she got a phone call from her sister, who had gone straight to the ER from our room the night before and was admitted with diverticulitis. She was on the floor directly below us.

A bit later, but still before breakfast, her surgeon came in to talk with her.

Now, I understand that when there are two beds in the room, sometimes there's not much privacy, especially if the person in the other bed can't just get out of bed and leave. But I had been walking all over the floor, and when he came in I was standing at the window. He had to have seen me when he came in. Given what came next, I think he really should have asked the nurses if I could easily leave the room. I wish he had. But then, surgeons are not noted for their sensitivity.

The curtain between the beds was partially closed, so I couldn't see her and she couldn't see me. I was unaware of what was to come next, or I would have left then, but it quickly became too late. He confirmed that she had ovarian cancer, stage three, and she would start chemo as soon as her incision was healed. She said "but you got it all, right? The chemo is just in case?" He said, "well, we got all we could see, but with ovarian cancer, there are always cells that have traveled and set up camp elsewhere, and we can't see them." "So the chemo is to kill them?" "Well, it won't get them all. The chemo will just give you maybe another three years."

(What the hell? Has he never done this before?)

She said, "you mean I'll die in three years?" The shock in her voice, and what must have shown on her face made him backpedal fast. He said, "well, maybe five. Or even seven. Who knows?" But even I didn't believe that. He sounded too panicked. He was also fool enough to point out that she was actually lucky (yes, he did use that word) because there are many cancers that would have given her even less time.

She talked about her son's new baby. She talked about how she'd been complaining about bloating for the past year or more, but doctors always blamed it on something else, like her trip to Mexico. How maybe if someone had believed her, had taken her seriously....

I didn't know what to do. I wanted to climb out the window. What could I say after the doctor left? I'm a coward. I decided to pretend I'd been still asleep.

Now, what happened next caused me to have enormous - make that the biggest word possible - respect and admiration for that woman.

Almost as soon as he left she got another phone call. She pulled herself together and chatted happily, suggesting that whoever had called, when they came to visit, should visit her sister, too, "she's right below me, if I stomp on the floor she'd hear it, isn't that amazing?", and "yes, cancerous, but they got it all". During breakfast, her other sister, the ICU nurse (at another hospital) visited, and again she was cheerful, and didn't mention the prognosis. Given her reaction with the surgeon, I don't think it was denial. It was more like she just wanted to keep it to herself for now.

After her sister left, the priest arrived. She looked at him and said, "You here for last rites?" and her face fell. I left the room.

And then her husband arrived, with the son, daughter-in-law, and their 3-week-old baby. Again, no slightest hint of anything wrong. I went for walks several times while they were there, and every time I returned, they were still being happily raucous.

She must have enormous amounts of strength. I don't think I could have done it.

They discharged me somewhere between noon and 1 pm, and I left as soon as they let me. Went to the drugstore down the block to fill the antibiotic prescription, and then waited for Daughter in the lobby. When I had left the room her visitors were still there and I didn't say anything to her beyond goodbye.

I'm a hopeless clod.

3211 What Classic Movie Am I?

Friday, April 8, 2011

The hardest memories to rewrite are the ones stored before language, before there were words to describe them. Those are the ones that continue to influence our reactions for the rest of our lives. We may be aware that there's something unreasonable going on in there, but we don't know what it is, because it isn't in words. We reason in words, but we react without words. And even when we reason, it's built on a foundation of no words, something we can't describe, and therefore can't easily change.
-- Me, in post #2179, 12/23/08 --


Every time you take the test you get a different set of questions. I took it several times with the maximum number of questions, trying to answer as honestly as possible (except some statements make it confusing, like "People find it difficult to read me, and that's fine with me" - well, what if I DON'T think people find it difficult to read me? That kind of thing.), and it came out the same every time.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

3210 Aaaaarrrgh!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to,
it doesn't mean they don't love you with all they have.


I have three dirty toilets. I have three bottles of toilet cleaner and three brushes, one in each bathroom. For months now, I have been cleaning the bowls with just plain water and the brush, or a shot of liquid soap, or a bit of bleach, because


"To open, push down and turn." Push down. Turn. Click... click... click.... Nothing. Push down harder. Turn bottle under my hand. Click... click... click...." Nothing. Push down gently. Turn. Click... click... click.... Nothing. Nothing but clicks and no rising of the cap toward, like, opening.

I don't understand.


Later, evening, same day -- I took the bottle across the street and handed it to SIL Hercules. "Here. Open this."

He laughed. It's the A&P house brand toilet cleaner. Daughter had bought a 2-pack of the same stuff a while ago and had made the same request. He'd finally resorted to punching a hole in the neck of the bottle.

I fully intend to take the flippin' thing back to the A&P and hand it to the store manager. "Here. Open this."

3209 Interesting weekend in White Plains

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sometimes when I'm angry I have the right to be angry,
but that doesn't give me the right to be cruel.


I went to a weekend Mensa gathering last Friday, at the Crowne Plaza in White Plains. I had volunteered to work at the registration desk, handing out the id badges and the programs, so I arrived early. I like working the registration desk because you get to meet almost everyone who comes in.

After my shift I hung out in the hospitality room until about midnight.

The next morning, I got visited in my room by hotel staff and security, and then got a ride to the White Plains Hospital Center (strange name...Hospital Center?) in an ambulance with sirens and lights and everything, followed by a CT scan and a bunch of stuff, and then into the OR.

My left kidney finally got thoroughly pissed (that's a pun) at being ignored for the past year and a half at least, and attacked me. It was very nasty about it. It should have obeyed that green quote above.

The short story is that there was a large stone firmly wedged in a tube (and a smaller stone further down) but they couldn't remove the larger stone because the kidney was very infected, lots of edema and general nastiness, and they didn't want to touch the stone until the infection was gone. So they put in a stent (they went in through the bladder, no cutting) so the kidney could drain, put me on four days of IV antibiotics, and kept me captive until my temperature stayed below 99 and the cultures told them what oral antibiotic would work. (It turns out all of them.)

So now I'm home. Pills four times a day for 21 days. I have to find a urologist here, and once the kidney is no longer infected, the stent and stone need to be, uh, addressed. Exactly what and how remain to be determined.

In the hospital, I walked. Round and round the halls of my section, over and over, whenever I wasn't actually attached to the IV (the IV was for 1/2 hour every six hours), until they gave me permission to widen my route, and I walked the whole fifth floor. But today I still feel wrung out. (Snork. Probably from blood loss! They drew blood like every four hours. Or sleep deprivation. You're not allowed two consecutive hours of sleep. When I left the hospital I noticed a sign in the lobby that they were having a blood drive. Hmmmmm.)

That's the me part, but I figure I should get this out now so folks don't think I disappeared.

Later, the rest of the story.