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» Saturday, April 21, 2018Friends and Food
Certainly a better Saturday than last week's! If only I could sleep properly! Plus I had the most extraordinary reaction to closing my eyes last night: I was getting claustrophobic in my own head. I'm guessing exhaustion put a stop to that nonsense, because the next thing I knew it was some hours later and I was cold. Ridiculous because I'd been looking forward to sleeping because I'd changed the bed. Nothing better than sleeping in a freshly-changed bed.
We had Hair Day today; as James had missed the last due to being in the hospital, he was looking forward to a good shearing. He complained he was starting to look like someone from Duck Dynasty. Sheri made him look more like Mr. French from Family Affair, which is a great relief to him. We had a small crowd with a great meal: Alex cooked! He made chicken, pork, and beef brisket barbecue. The latter was particularly delicious, and I am a pork barbecue person. We watched bits of Wall-E, listened to Charles' tales of hiking in Tennessee and North Carolina, talked about the new Hallmark Christmas ornaments for 2018, and ate yummy food.
(We also found that a friend of ours that we hadn't seen in many years, James Sutherland, died recently. We don't know any details, but the news is sobering.)
We left after two and went to Sprouts on Dallas Highway to pick up beef bits (Sprouts has the best) and potatoes (I am going to try to make dialyzed potatoes, which is the only kind James is now supposed to eat), and I also ran into Petco to pick up more birdseed and coo to the budgies. We then backtracked to the Kroger closer to the Butlers' house because the idea of going to the Battle Ridge store or even the packed Smyrna store on a Saturday afternoon was abhorrent. This one is much easier to enter and exit, let alone to park at. We picked up milk, Miracle Whip, and mushrooms in short order, and also found Thai noodles.
We decompressed a bit at home and I worked on an art project, and then we had supper at Hibachi Grill, stopping to gas up the truck before coming home. It's going to rain tomorrow so we wanted to get everything stocked so James can make burritos.
» Monday, April 16, 2018And So to Home
Two very frustrating days have passed, after which we did get to come home.
I had not mentioned they had tried to send James to dialysis, but his blood pressure was too low (at least when they tried to do the dialysis) to do so. He was seriously ticked because "transportation" never showed up to take him back to the room and he was cooling his heels up in the dialysis clinic for over an hour. The nurse and a floor tech finally had to go up and get him. This was just an example of the tiny problems we had here during our stay.
Another example? On Sunday morning the room phone rang. It was Dr. Jackson from Kaiser, who was ringing James' room in a fruitless attempt to get in touch with someone at Wellstar to arrange for the followup care after James was released. He said he'd called several days and no one answered, and he was calling the room in the hopes that James' nurse was there. I paged the nurses' station and told them James' doctor was on the phone and wanted to talk to "Amy." I then chatted on the phone with the doctor for twenty minutes. No one ever showed up.
So Sunday dawned and doctors started parading in and out of the room. They all examined James—the cardiologist, the urologist, and the nephrologist—and said he could go home today! So he ate breakfast. And lunch. And supper. The nurse even came in to remove the catheter so he could go home (a notion we disabused her of, as much as James didn't want to go home with the damn thing). And when shift change came the new nurse says no, it's going to be tomorrow. I wanted to throw things. I did beat up a pillow when the room was empty.
Monday he did go home (during rush-hour traffic, natch), after two meals had been served, and I had a lousy lunch (some nitwit put cheese on my steak-and-cheese wrap, even though the written order said no cheese), although it wasn't as bad as last night's supper, which was chicken breast and roast potatoes, and the former made me so nauseated I couldn't finish it. The pulmonologist finally waltzed through and gave him an attaboy that she only told to me (his lungs sounded really good) and I guess that was our last hurdle because after the food they started talking about having talked to Kaiser (FINALLY), they pulled the IVs and got James some bags for the catheter and all the junk and James finally got stuffed into Twilight and the three of us got to go home.
And because hospitals are where you get no rest at all, James fell completely asleep during the episode of Call the Midwife we missed last night because the hospital cable system gets no PBS stations at all. Lord knows he needed it.
All I hope is that we are taking care of this catheter okay. We asked for some instruction on keeping things clean before we went home and never got it. The discharge papers says he can shower with it, so I hope soap and water are good enough.
» Saturday, April 14, 2018Next Verse, Same as the One a Month Ago
We are presently having adventures of an unpleasant kind. Again.
We had a followup with James' cardiologist on Monday morning. After fighting our way through rush hour traffic, we had to wait for the doctor because he was stuck in rush-hour traffic (apparently traffic on GA400 was backed up to Cumming, which is forty bloody miles away). He checked James over, asked him to make an appointment for an ultrasound, and we were free to go home.
James came home from dialysis that afternoon complaining of pain when he breathed in deeply. Hum.
By Tuesday the pain was better. He worked all day, we watched Forged in Fire. About bedtime the pain had increased again, but not terribly, and by the time next morning rolled around, it had lessened again and migrated to his left shoulder. At no time did he have any other form of pain, including anything to indicate heart trouble. He worked Wednesday morning and went off to an early seat at dialysis.
Thursday it was still hurting. We had to fish or cut bait. At 10 a.m. we went up to Kaiser Urgent Care in Kennesaw. He wasn't in there ten minutes when they told us he was having another heart attack! He was summarily bundled into an ambulance and taken, sirens screaming, to Wellstar Kennestone which was the nearest hospital. Twilight and I kept up with the ambulance pretty well until we hit the freeway, where it was too crowded for me to feel safe running at 80; had it been midnight we could have kept up. But I eventually made it, and made it back through a rabbit warren of corridors, and we sat and waited.
At some point they determined he did not have a heart attack. WTF? But we didn't learn this until we were given a room around dinnertime. What we did learn is that he had fluid on his left lung. I repeat: WTF?
I'll spare you the piecemeal details. He had lots of tests. They said an option was to aspirate the fluid from his lungs with a needle. However, this was a little dangerous on the Brilinta. They said they might try a dialysis treatment on Friday to get the fluid off. I went home Thursday night, walked the dog, scratched the bird, took a shower and dropped into bed. Friday morning I reversed the procedure except for the shower, and arrived to discover he'd been taken down for a CT scan.
There was more fluid in his lung than yesterday. They took him down for the needle aspiration, Brilinta or no Brilinta, and removed 1.6 liters of fluid from his left lung. Seriously...WTF? Anyway, he passed with flying colors, no problem at all, and they told him there would be pain because the lung needed to reinflate. (The no fluid breathing hurt worse than the fluid breathing. Just saying.)
tick...tick...tick...watch substandard television and wait. At five the nephrologist breezed in. Your kidneys are swollen and you have a blockage down there. I think I've heard this song before. Yes, it was our old friend Mr. Prostate blocking Mr. Urethra causing Mr. Bladder to run in reverse. The Kidney Twins don't work in reverse. Catheter was suggested. James protested that he has been urinating. Ah, but not enough.
Urologist comes in during dinner, convinces us catheter is a Good Thing. Mr. Bladder promptly sighs in relief and dumps 2000 milliliters of fluid in the bag. Well.
Unfortunately after the first bag it starts coming out stained with blood. We're told this is irritation. Well...yeah...considering. I go home after Masterchef Junior, sleep badly, and spend from six a.m. to six forty-five crying. Happy Saturday.
Needless to say James is still not feeling too swift. It still hurts when he sneezes, coughs, or takes a deep breath (pulmonologist was just here and says she will get an x-ray to see if problem is detected, but his lungs sound much better), the catheter hurts and what's coming out looks like strawberry juice, and he's depressed. (Hell, I'm depressed and I'm not stuck in here and not hurting.) So when every single person waltzes in here to ask him how he is, what's he supposed to say? The dialysis supposedly was supposed to help the fluid accumulation. But if his prostate is still obstructing his urethra, isn't the prostate the problem? This is the second time this has happened in less than two months, and this suck-ass process of going to different hospitals has not helped. They have his medicine doses muddled (they still have him on the high dose of Coreg when the cardiologist put him on a lower dose on Monday and now his blood pressure's low—ya think?—the cardiologist just came through and said he'll go fix that if need be) and four walls are just four walls.
I still like Wellstar Cobb and Northside better than here. It is, however, still heads, shoulders, and giraffe necks above Piedmont.
And for those of you who are waiting for the cafeteria report (like you were), Wellstar Cobb still holds the best record, although I hear the restaurant attached, the Bistro, isn't bad. But the food is too expensive (I checked yesterday hiking in from the Blue Lot, which the nurse told me was closer than the Green Lot; she must use a tesseract, because I had a shorter hike at Piedmont), so I'll stick to the cafeteria. Their chicken noodle soup is at least decent; I had three bowls of it yesterday because my alternatives were spicy chicken wings, Chick-Fil-A sandwiches (fried; ugh), and a Swiss steak that was seven bloody dollars. At least it wasn't an oversalted slice of deli turkey and a roll for the same price.
tick...tick...tick...still waiting. Thankfully we discovered TNT is doing a marathon of Star Wars today or we'd be watching sucky Chip and Joanna on HGTV.
» Sunday, April 08, 2018Stand Down
It was a very quiet weekend. James had a slightly early seat on Friday, so we went out to Folks in Hiram so I could have something soft to eat. Yes, Ms. Procrastination waited so long to get her prescription toothpaste that she had to eke it out and has paid by having a toothache. Well dosed with Ambesol, I was able to eat chicken and dumplings, but the cole slaw hurt. We just came right home.
Tooth was still hurting during the night and I had frightful dreams of having surgery and of someone who forced me to take some kind of opioid I didn't want and I was all muddle-headed. But besides that we actually slept late, and it was nearly noon before we went out. We made a short trip to pick up a couple of things at Publix and some tooth care products at CVS. I applied the Orajel when I got home and it worked a treat for the rest of the afternoon. James went downstairs and worked on a rocket model and I tidied a little in the craft room and also worked on a drawing of a sheep.
For supper we went to Fried Tomato Buffet because all I wanted after last week's "riblets" were some decent barbecue ribs. It wasn't pleasant chewing, but it tasted good, and we had ice cream for dessert. I thought I would be very tired after going to bed so late, but I could not get to sleep until almost three. I've had trouble sleeping all this week and this is just another notch.
We decided to go into Buckhead today to the Barnes & Noble, and I was glad I grabbed the coupons on the way out because there was a new Ellie Rush mystery on the shelves. (Ellie is a Japanese American bicycle police officer in Los Angeles.) Alas, still no copies of "Best of British." We also dropped by the Container Store with a coupon, and looking for new versions of the flashers/reflectors James had on his power chair. We have small ones that flash, but these were rectangular and about two inches long; we had a red one and a white one (both apparently ripped off the chair when we got in the accident). They didn't have any and I don't see them in their online store. We got a new "clic-clac" container with the coupon and bought two more of the small flashers. (We also tried the Perimeter Mall-area store, but they weren't there, either. The clerk who tried to help us said they may just be a seasonal (read: Christmas) item.
Had our first Asian chicken salad supper of the season and watched Call the Midwife and Unforgotten. The latter is quite complicated and Trevor Eve plays a right bastard in it.
» Sunday, April 01, 2018I'd Tell You What We Did, But Then I'd Have to Kill You
James' dialysis kind of put a crimp on our weekend at Spycon. He got an earlier seat on Friday, but by the time we had dinner, it was too late to drive to Alpharetta, and he was too tired to do so anyway. Sorry to have missed the spy toys panel and Man from U.N.C.L.E. panel. Saturday morning we slept in and ate breakfast before arriving at the hotel, the beautiful and modern Marriott off Windward Parkway. It was quite swank, all in greys and beiges with minimalist modern furnishings that made me feel underdressed for the con!
We walked about getting a "lay of the land" and strolled through the dealer's room (I won't tell you how much someone wanted for a 1960s Man from U.N.C.L.E. lunchbox!) and peeked into the video room where they were just starting Search (which reminded me that I had never bought the series). We did see Lana Wood (sister of the late Natalie Wood who played Plenty O'Toole in a James Bond film) getting ready for her panel, but decided to go for lunch before seeing some panels. We ended up having lunch in the hotel restaurant—they had specials for Spycon attendees—with Louis Robinson, ending up talking about crazy politics/politicians and freedom of speech.
Next we went to a panel about forgotten James Bonds, especially Barry Nelson and David Niven...at least Bond fanatics remember George Lazenby. Following was the panel that Louis was doing: comparing the spy novels of Ian Fleming to those of John LeCarre. Certainly James Bond and George Smiley are poles apart!
Sadly we had to leave before Louis' other panel about the ENIGMA machine and Bletchley Park as well as a panel about other spies in media, since we really wanted to go to Ken Spivey's birthday party. Alice and Ken came to visit James in the hospital and stayed most of the afternoon, so we wanted to return the favor.
The next panel "Ian Fleming's Mad, Mad World" had two men talking about the media references we see to James Bond all the time without thinking about it (in advertising, for instance). The one man hadn't heard about the bail bondsman on County Services Parkway, "Bond James Bond," and I was able to find it on Google Maps to show it to him. The other gentleman was talking about his collection of different editions of Bond novels, and I think we kind of highjacked whatever presentation he had because first I wondered if the novels had been changed for American audiences like they did with Harry Potter, substituting American English for British English (like "elevator" for "lift," etc.—and yes, in the early editions they did, which I'm sure ruined the flavor of the books) and then we started talking about how they had changed the titles of some of the books: Casino Royale, for instance, was originally entitled You Asked for It (what the hell does that even mean? how generic can you get, and Casino Royale sounds so much exotic) and Bond was called "Jimmy." How revolting!
Following this panel, we went back to the hotel restaurant for lunch, and then sat chatting with Clair and Daniel Kiernan, Bill Ritch, and the other ARTC folks until it was time for their performance. It was Easter Sunday, and some nice person had "hidden" (in a hotel with minimalist modern furniture like this, it was pretty hard to "hide" anything and I bagged about eight of them in a minute) Easter eggs in the space outside the meeting rooms, so we had some peanut butter eggs and hard candies as a treat.
ARTC did an entire "Crimson Hawk" adventure (our hero is, in real life, a multimillionaire nebbish), complete with funny "commercials," and then it was the end of the convention and the closing panel. We had a hard time getting here, but on the whole we enjoyed what we saw. We hope the next one will be a little less Bond-centric, and we hope Victoria Price can come back. She is truly [excuse the pun] priceless!
On the way out we had one last look at the two James Bond Lotus cars that were outside all weekend. One, a regular Lotus car, was the same model but not the exact car that Sean Connery drove; however, the aquatic version was the real deal. Someone else attending the convention had a vintage Jaguar that was parked outside, and we saw Lana Wood getting a ride in it on Saturday.
» Wednesday, March 28, 2018A Home Alternative?
Something a little scary but hopeful has happened. On Monday, the dialysis clinic asked James to come in an hour earlier today and for me to come with him, so they could talk with us about the possibility of home dialysis. It is apparently has many advantages: easier on his heart and happens while he is asleep. It is done via the peritoneum and would also mean we could travel (not that we can actually afford to now) without having to find a dialysis clinic and spend four hours there. There is also a longer life expectancy. We would both have to take classes and be able to store supplies.
James actually got an earlier seat today, so I didn't have to be there until four (which was nice because I was under the weather). There are a lot of steps to this. First Kaiser and Dr. Kongara would have to sign off on it. Then James would have to have surgery—and probably be in the hospital five or six days because of the Brilinta—to insert the access point (it looks like it goes through your navel) and heal, and in the meantime he would continue to have thrice-weekly dialysis during the hospital stay and the healing process. Only then would we have the training (eight four-hour classes) and then the dialysis would be done manually for a few days before starting on the type that happens when he is asleep, just to make sure the catheter and the machine was working properly.
It does sound a bit daunting, but if it's better for James we must consider it. The biggest problem will be the supplies. The counselor we talked to today said we would have to have a five by seven space, which is the size of a small closet. We have no free closets, even if I could jettison more junk. It's possible we can clean up the additional pantry items downstairs to make some space in the downstairs hall (which will make it very narrow), but I'm not sure it will all fit down there. In any case, it's going to be a ton of work making this work out.
» Sunday, March 25, 2018Atomicon, Day 4
James slept so well last night I checked him to see if he was still breathing. I do that a lot these days, it seems. But it has been better to sleep this weekend. I found out when I checked out—the front desk people found out what happened yesterday and instead of asking me, automatically put us down for next year—that they did put a new mattress in that room. You can really tell. I could feel the springs in the old one, and my hips ached every morning.
Breakfast with the gang, then packing, portaging into the conference room, and then chat until one by one, couples and individuals began to leave. I took very few cookies home, and want to save them for a game night. Chris was nice and helped us get our suitcase and other things loaded onto the truck and then we were headed south under a cloudy sky.
We stopped at the North Georgia Premium Outlets. James got some nice pocketed t-shirts and a couple of pajama bottoms, but all the underwear they had that wasn't boxers was white. He grumpily got one pack. I couldn't find any six packs of underwear, either, just expensive three-packs for $22. Seven dollars apiece for panties? What are they made of, silk?
We also dropped into a little gift shop, where I got a couple of little gifts, and Yankee Candle, but, sadly, no roasted coffee flavor. Apparently it's discontinued and gone. ::sign:: (Yankee Candle actually has regional scents that sell in one place, but not in another. In 2015 they had a new scent called "Maple Pancakes" that I was going to get when I got home, but it wasn't for sale in the South, just in New England.)
We also ate there and was glad James didn't have Chinese with me: my sesame chicken was hideously salty. We're not used to really salty Chinese because Hibachi Grill doesn't overly salt their food and we go there most often.
Tucker came charging into the lobby of the vet's office when they fetched the fids for us, and thankfully they'd put Snowy in his carry box so I could put off being bitten by my cute little birdy buddy. Then it was off home and back to Snowy's "teevee" and having a load of clothes to wash (and also a load of towels). We had potlucks for supper and settled back to be earthbound creatures once more.
Was surprised to discover Call the Midwife began tonight! I thought it was supposed to start on Easter Sunday. Plus we got two episodes instead of one. Was so amused by Timothy's crush on the au pair, but the rest was so heart-rending.
» Saturday, March 24, 2018Atomicon, Day 3, or "Afternoon? What Afternoon?"
So what were we going to do today? I wanted to go to the Mount Yonah Bookstore, and we both wanted to go back to the oil and vinegar store for more white balsamic peach vinegar. It was supposed to rain off and on during the day, so that limited where we could go with the power chair, but I figured we could just hang around the hotel. Heck, I didn't sleep well, so I could even take a nap.
James was waiting on the side of the bed while I used the bathroom and I heard him say, "What the hell? My pulse can't be 147."
But that's what his Fitbit said. Then it went back down to 80. Then it went back up to the 140s.
I said "Maybe you're hungry." My heart does tend to beat faster when I get hungry (but I gotta admit not that fast).
So we had breakfast and his pulse was back down to 80. Good. Me, I spilled milk all over the floor. (But I didn't cry over it.)
Except when we got back in the bedroom it was back to 147.
At this point I went out to the conference room to get Sue Lawson, who's a registered nurse. She took his pulse and said his heartbeat was very irregular, going fast and then going back to normal. So we called up Kaiser and of course you know what they said: go to the nearest emergency room. This was in Demorest, about a half hour down the road. I was about to freak and thankfully Jerry was there to help get me through. Hugs from friends work wonders.
I will draw a curtain over the boredom of the next five hours. They asked questions. We got put into room 19. They did an EKG (normal). They put him on a monitor, and, except for one instance, his heart rate stayed even in the 80s, which is where it's been since he came out of the hospital. His blood pressure was the same as it was at the dialysis clinic. His blood oxygen was in the lower 90s but improved. Then they took blood. Meanwhile we grew hungrier and hungrier, and although the nurse brought us grape juice and graham crackers (everyone was very kind, even the orderly), we were starving, and it didn't help that at 2:30 someone brought roast chicken into the emergency room. We could smell it through a closed door. That was cruel.
The upshot was that they could find nothing wrong. His blood tests were all good except for one enzyme which was high, and this enzyme is typically high in people with kidney disease. Instructions: keep an eye on yourself. Talk to your doctor when you get home. Yes, indeed, especially about the Coreg, which the Kaiser doctor pulled him off, unless his blood pressure is over a certain score. Coreg is a beta blocker, and you can't be taken off it abruptly like he was. I am wondering if this was part of the problem.
We left the hospital just as the bookstore closed. Today was just not our day.
So we rejoined the "family by choice" back at the hotel and eventually went with Alice and Ken, Sue, and Debbie to Bigg Daddy's for a very welcome dinner. James had the most yummy looking quesadilla. I had chicken wings. I could have eaten six more.
And now we are back in the conference room. Some folks are computing, or coloring, and there's a game going on in one corner. It's a happy place.
» Friday, March 23, 2018Atomicon, Day 2, Part 2
The end of the day was both good and bad. The nice part was going to a little hole-in-the-wall place, White Columns, near the dialysis clinic that had "home cooking." I was dying for chicken and dumplings. Unfortunately they had run out of chicken and dumplings an hour earlier, and I impulsively exclaimed, "Awww, he was in dialysis an hour ago." We both had a good dinner: James had some chili and something called a cheeseburger casserole (very small), and two vegetables; I had an open-faced roast beef sandwich with real roast beef, and the cook said my baked potato so they gave me a second one for free.
So when time came for the check, the waitress asked if we needed anything else, and James said we were just waiting for the bill. The waitress said someone had already paid the bill for us. Wasn't that sweet?
So we consulted the GPS and went the shortest way. The first part was pleasant; we listened to "A Way With Words" and the road was wide and clear. Then we turned toward Helen and the roads got narrower and darker, because even though we were on DST we had used up all our light hours eating. We ended up on the Richard B. Russell Scenic Parkway, which we have driven before, but in the daylight. At night it's frightening, because it is up and down steep curves on the side of the mountain, up to several thousand feet. I didn't know how this could be faster than the way we came, but halfway through, when I realized where we were, I was scared to death, not for me, but for James driving. I was afraid he would start having heart problems again, but there was nowhere to stop and it would have been dangerous. So we did this for 40 straight minutes of sheer terror, and when we finally got to the hotel we were wiped out.
So it was a great relief that everyone was still up and we ended up the day with laughter, playing Cards Against Humanity.
Atomicon, Day 2, Part 1, or "Live From Nephrologyland"
Do you remember daydreaming about all the places you'd love to go? Maybe for you it was white sands and surf, warm beaches and pina coladas. Or it was the pine forests, or the wild oceans, or the sophisticated city or the bucolic countryside with the lowing of cows and the tossing corn. You'd visit all the art museums in the world, or see where James Herriot lived, walk the perimeter of the Great Wall of China, explore the Australian outback, pretend to be Mowgli in India or a Bushman in Africa. Me, I dreamed of all the history museums everywhere, or a literary tour of England, seeing real wild budgies in Australia, and exploring Boston.
You know that inevitably you always end up in less desirable places as well: a hospital stay, standing shell-shocked at the side of the road after a traffic accident, and, when you're a lady, something that involves stirrups but unfortunately no horses. One place I never imagined being was in a kidney dialysis center, and certainly not watching someone my age undergoing the process. But that's where I sit at the moment, with poor James plugged into a squat rectangular tower that looks vaguely like those old computer units you would see in 1960s films, minus the revolving tape, clear plastic tubes to and from his body carrying his blood through a filter that looks like a long clear pneumatic tube.
We are "visiting" at this clinic because it was the closest one to Helen for Atomicon weekend. This will be our routine in the future if we want to go away: tell the treatment place where we are going and they will find us a dialysis place as close by as possible. In this case I am not sure why they did not get us into Gainesville, which was only 26 miles from Helen, rather than Ellijay, which is more like 65. They told James the closest place was Demorest, and they were full. I don't even know where that is. It was the price we paid for getting to go on this weekend at all, since as recently as Monday he was still in the hospital, and it was sure better than driving up GA400 again! Instead we backtracked to the very end of 400, then went northwest on GA136 and turning on GA52, a nice country road spread dotted with homes and the occasional farm and cows, which brought us past all the apple orchards, the trees just losing their blossoms, we see advertisements for when we come up for the Apple Festival in October. Sure enough, we reached the place where we were supposed to turn, and there we were on the very same road where we turn back on GA515 to get home when we finish up at the Lions Club grounds. The dialysis center here in Ellijay is in a strip shopping center along with two thrift stores and a restaurant. To my surprise, they keep the blinds up, although I guess this is cautionary to the people passing by, a reminder to take care of your kidneys! Each dialysis machine is flanked by a rolling chair on one side, a TV on a swing arm on the other, and this place seats about twelve. (And they do not have a big poster up as in the regular dialysis clinic James goes to, which calls his catheter "the white line of death." Seriously? You have patients here who are already wigged out and you hit them with that?) The clientele runs from people younger than James to the elderly, and many of them are good friends with the staff.
Otherwise, so far it's been a passably nice day. The mattress in the handicapped room appears to have been replaced; my hips did not kill me when I woke up this morning. The pillows are still problematic: I had to take three Advil to get rid of the kink in my neck. We had breakfast with Tony and Teresa Pye, Tony's friend whose name I didn't catch, Terry, Aubrey, and Shari, where Terry regaled us with stories of Aubrey's eccentricities (as he sees them; meanwhile Aubrey was peeling a pear with a spoon and looked amused), and finally Alice. A bit later we had a short chat in the common room, then put on our coats and walked to downtown Helen, which was just waking up and pretty much empty except for two ladies taking photos of the flowers. Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen was open, so I got my annual almond bark and James got some sugarless candy. We peeked in windows, but, alas, neither the Christmas store nor the olive oil/vinegar place was open yet. We need more white peach balsamic vinegar for summer salads!
When we got back a small crowd (Boulers, Alice and Ken, and Juanita) were getting up a mission to Wendell's, the little breakfast-and-luncheon place from last year (there really is a Wendell; he's 80 and still cooks, and he came out to ask if we were enjoying our meal last time), and we were going to have to leave for Ellijay soon, so we arrived there about ten minutes after they did and had a yummy lunch (as opposed to a mediocre dinner last night), and Wendell came out and chatted with us again. He said he learned to cook from his mother, who learned to cook at the age of ten, and when she was married at age 25, his grandmother looked at his grandfather and realized she was going to have to get up the next morning to cook breakfast, which she hadn't had to do in fifteen years!
» Thursday, March 22, 2018The 360
Well, it's been an interesting 48 hours.
Yesterday James went to his first dialysis treatment at the clinic. He went off with a book, his baby laptop, and his tablet, to see what was the best thing to suit him. He came home upset and angry because of the cath and sitting still for four hours and feeling trapped. Let's say we both had a meltdown. Let's also say this is one of these natural things that happen when you face serious medical conditions. But it wasn't a happy evening. He spent most of it miserable, and I spent most of it crying. Dinner tasted like sawdust (it wasn't that good anyway, but if James had been in better spirits he could have improved it). I finally put on the new version of Swallows and Amazons that I recorded off the Starz preview. It looked beautiful—the Lake District is so gorgeous!—and I loved Tatty (yes, Tatty, they had to change her name because apparently today's kids and adults can't get through a character named "Titty" without sniggering like an uncouth teenage boy) and her keeping the ship's log, but they made the kids incompetent: they lost the food, they argued, etc., which they did not do in the book; their parents allowed them to go camping on their own because he knew they were capable. This was even worse than the rubbish spy plot they threw in. Also, Nancy Blackett didn't look a thing like I imagined her.
I think James slept some; I kept waking up and finding him sitting at the edge of the bed, wrapped in one of his blankets. I woke up calling for my mother at least once and disoriented other times. He got up at seven and worked for two hours and then he had to go to a doctor's appointment that ran an hour late. This was a pain in the ass because we were heading up to Helen today for Atomicon. When we finally got released we had to race back home to pick up our things and load up the animals (who are going to "camp" and also getting their checkups) and drive to the veterinarian's office, and after what seemed like an endless check-in, we finally got on the road at 3 p.m. Luckily there was little traffic going north, although we were delayed stopping for gasoline and then for lunch at the slowest Wendy's ever. In relief we arrived at 4:45, and Aubrey and Jessie were nice enough to help me offload.
The rest of the day was great. We sat and talked to Jessie and Aubrey and Shari and Caran, and then Juanita and Alice and Ken wandered in, and eventually we all got together and walked to Catch 22, a gastropub. The food was iffy. James and I both ordered steak sandwiches. I couldn't eat mine; the beef was heavily peppered. Even James noticed, and he likes pepper! I ended up with a salad instead. Juanita's fish (with chips) was overcooked and the coating too thick. Now, Shari and Terry enjoyed the steak and mushrooms they had (and the cheesecake, too), and Jessie liked her barbecue mac and cheese. Nevertheless, the company was great, and a small group of us sat around at the hotel talking afterwards.
Our crowd is a little smaller this year because a couple of folks cannot come due to illness. We are lucky we made it ourselves, and tomorrow is not our own.
Doggedly we will continue.
» Wednesday, March 21, 2018The Rest of the Medical Saga
So we cooled our heels in the hospital all weekend, with a welcome visit from the Spiveys on Sunday. Picked up some barbecue pork for myself at Publix on Friday with a cheap bottle of sauce so I could have a decent dinner for three nights. Sure better than the peppered meats downstairs.
Monday I was at Northside early so that I could be there when James went down for his permcath. He was out of the room for almost two hours, although he said the actual procedure took no time at all. Then he could finally have some lunch and then later he went downstairs for dialysis for the first time since last Monday. I read Space Helmet for a Cow, volume 2, and dozed off and woke up, and read some more.
And after that they let us go home. Yes, at night.
This wasn't without its peculiarities. He had the Foley catheter removed on Sunday. Unfortunately, since that time he had not made any water at all, so the Kaiser liaison doctor was very firm that he would have to have another put in before he left. This didn't make him very happy, but she was worried about urine buildup in the bladder again, which seems to be what caused this whole debacle, so I wasn't going to argue with that and neither was he. However, they had his discharge papers all made out when he got back from dialysis, and there were no orders for a catheter before he left. When we mentioned this to the nurse, she said she had orders just to do a bladder scan, which she did, and this revealed his bladder was empty. If bladder was empty, no catheter.
I had packed up most of the stuff while he was downstairs, so we managed to beat the rainstorm pending all day, but, alas for Tucker, not for his walk. We got very wet, and he pee'd and dragged me back inside. Anyway, James and I weren't up very long—just long enough for Snowy to get some attention and Tucker to attach himself to James. I took a shower and James had a sponge bath, and we collapsed in a nice comfortable bed and slept with no bonging IV drip alarms and people waking you up at 3 a.m to see how you are doing.
James was exhausted when he got up Tuesday and this made him very apprehensive. Except for Friday and Saturday, he hadn't felt that bad the whole time he was in the hospital. Now, basically to get him out of there before the storm broke—and what a storm! the damage reports on television looked like the aftermath of a battle in some places—he had decided to skip eating the supper they brought for him. We had no dish to put it in, and took it home in the plastic drinking tumbler they give everyone, but he didn't want it when we got home, just to go to bed. He hasn't been able to get around much, not like the last two times he was in the hospital and we would go walking the halls, because his knees are very bad now, so we'd only gone for a short walk around the corner to the elevator twice, and a couple of days when he was using the toilet, so he'd pretty much been in bed a solid eleven days. The stairs alone knackered him.
But he'd expected to wake up a little more refreshed and he wasn't, and unfortunately we had errands to run. We had to stop at Kaiser for his new prescription, something to rid his body of phosporus while he is on dialysis, then we went up to the dialysis clinic to scope it out and ended up filling out the endless forms, and finally we stopped at Publix to pick up a couple of things. He had eggs for breakfast, and a little less than half of his supper from last night for lunch, and we had pork chops for supper, and as the day went on, he felt better, until he was pretty much his old self by nightfall, cheered up by two episodes of Forged in Fire that he hadn't seen. I am guessing he was weak from lack of nutrition.
Through the entire day we were waiting for the Mythical Visiting Nurse. You see, the Kaiser doctor from Northside called this morning, annoyed as hell that he had not gotten the catheter. She talked to us, then called around, and a visiting nurse was supposed to come by and fit him for one, and we basically worked all our errands listed in the paragraph above around waiting for the call that this nurse was on her way. Well, we got called by the visiting nurse supervisor, but we never saw the nurse. First they were confirming our address, then they asked if we had any supplies (James told them that up-front no, that we had no supplies), and finally it was like 5:30 and the Kaiser doctor was back on the phone, frustrated—I guess the nurses don't come that late. But instead she had made us an appointment with a urologist tomorrow morning at 9:15. He would do the job, which I preferred anyway, since the original one hadn't worked out so well. In the meantime, James had been urinating all day. Granted, not a lot, but he was going on his own. We both couldn't help thinking it was a shame to ruin it.
So this meant we had to get up this morning at o'dark thirty (since some moron messed with the clocks last week and now it's pitch dark practically until eight) so we could have breakfast and walk Tucker before driving across town in rush hour traffic for the appointment, since it was at Glenlake, probably the worst-placed Kaiser location ever, next to Atlanta's infamous state route 400, the "GA 400" which is a whole lot slower than the Indy 500.
Well, turns out when we got there we did not see the doctor, but the nurse, who said that before any catheter would be inserted, he would take a bladder scan to see if there was an excess of liquid in it. This was the same scan the nurse did on James Monday night. The nurse found only 14ml of liquid in his bladder, and since James was offloading urine on his own, the urologist said the only reason that they would put one in would be if he had more than 150ml there. So, no catheter.
Plus when we got home we got a call from the clinic: did James want to come in earlier, like 2:30? Sure. We abandoned our plan to eat dinner—we are planning to eat dinners in the afternoon on dialysis days so we will not have to digest heavy food at nine p.m.—and he went off taking the bag they provided for him: comes with a travel pillow, blanket, and a set of headphones (not earbuds, real headphones) and his baby laptop and a book.
And so here I am catching up. We took something out of the freezer (can't tell if it's chicken or pork) and I'll make it with some mushroom rice, because that goes with everything. 😀 An hour ago I went to Kroger to get milk.
And I'm still wondering if Kaiser doctor from Northside is going to call back fretting about the catheter...
» Thursday, March 15, 2018The Medical Black Hole
I have not fallen off the ends of the earth. Although in this case, we might as well be there.
Thursday night James had pain in his shoulders, like the kind he had when he had pneumonia. We decided that he'd take a shower, get some sleep, see how he felt in the morning. In the morning he was worse. The advice nurse told us not to go to the nearest emergency room, but to the Northside emergency room. [eyeroll] Guess what time it was. Yes, rush hour. Poke, poke, poke, all the way there, with James breathing harshly beside me.
They took him right back, and at first it looked like he indeed had pneumonia. We spent a few hours in ER, then were transferred up to a holding room for investigation and possible admittance. His EKGs were coming out fine, but it was extremely painful when he breathed. They served him lunch and he couldn't even eat it. Then they took a sonogram. Then an echocardiogram. Finally, very late in the afternoon, he was downstairs having an ultrasound when the nurse came to me and said, "I'm going to take you downstairs to the cath lab. They're taking your husband there immediately; he has fluid buildup around his heart."
So I eventually spent nearly two hours walking up and down the eventually empty corridor of the cath lab (because everyone there had gone home, except for the group, including James' cardiologist, who were working on him) crying and saying my prayers over and over until they let me into ICU. They'd taken a mess of fluid from around his heart and, to add insult to injury, his prostate had enlarged enough to block his urethra, so his bladder was backwashing into his kidneys. They got three liters of urine out of him eventually! Plus he had a drain in his chest, which the cardiologist used to pull even more fluid out.
So we spent three glorious [sarcasm alert] days in ICU, where they threw me out three times a day even though I am listed as a "care partner," not a visitor. (I get the point of limiting visitors around ICU. They had patients in there where six to eight visitors were arriving at one time! But I was helping out, keeping my mouth shut and myself out of the way, and doing what I was told.) Inevitably, they fixed him up with a temporary catheter and he had two dialysis treatments, which they hoped would help the kidneys and the heart. Alas, a bit of fluid did re-accumulate around the heart, so they made the decision that he is going to have a permanent catheter inserted and will have to have full-time dialysis, at least for now. 😔 We'd thought we'd kept that at bay, but that drug he shouldn't have taken in January and the backwash had done him in.
Sunday afternoon we got transferred to a regular floor. There were a few more plans. A coordinator named Tiffany started working for us to get James in a Kaiser-approved dialysis clinic. (Sadly, he was unable to get in either of the ones on the East-West Connector or at the Galleria, which would have been closest. He will have to go up near the Big Chicken, and on the "last shift," at 4 p.m. We will have to have "dinner" on those days and then send him off, because he can't eat a full meal so late at night when he will finally get home, between eight-thirty and nine-thirty.) He would have a dialysis treatment on Monday, and then on Wednesday the permanent cath would be installed and he would have dialysis, and Thursday he would go home. Friday (tomorrow) he would start at the dialysis clinic.
I can tell you now that we are not home today.
I called him Wednesday morning (the main floor room is a tiny room, and there's nowhere to sleep but a very hard recliner, which, believe it or not, was worse than the "padded boards" downstairs in ICU that I'd slept on Friday in one room and then Saturday in another—they needed the original room because it was a negative pressure room—so I have been going home at night since we got into the regular room to take care of the fids and sleep and have breakfast), and he was still waiting (and starving) for them to take him downstairs for the permcath. By the time I arrived on Wednesday they had fed him. The cath was off because the vascular surgeon refused to do it because he was on Brilinta. Instead he will have to cool his damn heels here for five days with a Heparin drip until the Brilinta gets out of his system. The vascular surgeon we talked to in ICU on Saturday knew he was on Brilinta and just as much told us he wouldn't do a procedure while he was on it. So why didn't they start him on the Heparin drip on Saturday? They told us they were hoping they wouldn't have to put him on dialysis permanently, so they didn't do it, but I think they'd pretty much decided by Saturday it was going to have to go on.
Plus apparently they told him he can't go more than three days without dialysis, so that means we couldn't skip a Friday for Atomicon or WHOlanta or whatever, BUT he can go five fucking days here without dialysis because some moron authorized the removal of the temp cath before the permanent one was put in, so he can't have any more dialysis until Monday.
After 21 years as a purchasing agent, the one damn thing I had firmly banged into my head is that you don't end one essential ongoing project--like storage for vaccines or electronic communications--until the new one is ready to be put in place. So not only is he stuck here, but he's stuck here not able to do anything toward getting well except be a good little sheep with an infusion bag. He is on infused Lasix to prevent more fluid buildup, but between now and Monday it's possible that fluid could start building up again around his heart, and then they will have to do another temp cath! He will have an echocardiogram again tomorrow to make sure that is not happening.
(The nephrologist did tell us the "no skips" are not set in stone. We could tell the dialysis clinic he would be out of town on one of the days, and they could schedule him for a day before, or we could go into a long weekend, for example, being very careful about his fluid intake, taking extra furosimide [Lasix], and eat very carefully, keeping an eye out for swelling, shoulder pain, breathing difficulties, etc.)
So we are at present stuck watching Mysteries at the Museum and being bored, which is better than Friday when James was utterly miserable, in pain with every breath he took, and then later flat on his back in ICU with a drain in his chest and a Foley catheter in...well, in the place where Foley catheters go. (The latter is still there. He'll have to prove he can go without it before we leave. I just wonder what we can do about the prostate.) He had to have it fixed at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning because it was giving him terrible pain; I was woken up by the urologist "reseating it" and James groaning. Now that he is better and growing restless, I feel better for him but am as frustrated as him about the holdup for the Brilinta detox. At least if they hadn't removed the cath he could have been doing the dialysis, which would be progress.
But I was completely strung out Friday night. I went in the ICU waiting room needing a good cry, was comforted out of it, but couldn't bear staying in there because it was so loud. At least a dozen people talking and laughing made such a racket I went out into a hall and found a corner to sit in. (I tried going back in there later, only to find myself seated across from a woman talking to a doctor about a patient in renal failure. I fled.)
Everyone here is as nice as last time, but the food downstairs still stinks. I had some turkey Sunday night that must have had the complete daily allowance for sodium in it. Yuck! The salad bar has little variety and lies untended half the time. Most of the entrees are peppered, and you get tiny portions for $4-$5, and then have to pay another $2 for a spoonful of rice. James is getting bigger portions from the patients' kitchen than you get for your hard-earned cash. Milk is a dollar for a pint! Sunday afternoon when they threw me out I went up to Perimeter Mall and bought myself something from Tin Drum, which I had both for lunch and for supper. At least it tasted good and filled me up. On Monday I bought myself some bread and mortadella for sandwiches and to dip in soup, and then Wednesday I bought more bread and made sandwiches using the chicken salad I bought for Hair Day last Saturday, since I don't want to waste all of it. (It's...bland. Eh.) Those will last through Sunday. Tonight I'm going to have the last of the mortadella as a side with a salad from downstairs and the usual stale dinner roll. (I hope I am lucky and they have olives. They don't some nights.) I'm spending $6/day on parking and don't have money to spend on rotten food.
» Wednesday, March 07, 2018The Overloaded Pantry and The Tiny Invaders
How do you know when it's spring in Georgia? Insects appear.
It's fine if you're outside. Spot a mosquito hawk buzzing around or a green fly against the red bricks of the front porch, and you sigh, but it's expected. But when you emerge on a warmish, bright Monday morning and find several dozen tiny little bugs on both sides of the doors to your pantry, it's more like an "oh, hell, no" day. What made it worse is that I saw the same little guys last year. When the exterminator came by for the spring quarterly spray a few days later, I had him spray around the doors to the pantry. But not in the pantry, which was cheek-by-jowl with all sorts of packaged foods.
The pantry's sort of been a thorn in our sides for a few years now. It's not a walk-in type, but rather a shallow closet, maybe about fifteen-twenty inches deep, with bifold doors. Over the years it's been filled with a Del's lemonade kit, a container with chow mein noodles, bottles of coffee syrup, Rice-a-Roni and Knorr sides, cereal and pasta put in large plastic containers, boxes of soup and pasta and cake mix, mandarin orange and applesauce and pineapple cups, casserole mixes we bought at the Yellow Daisy Festival, Reynolds Wrap, slow cooker liners, birthday candles, old cake decor, chips for cookies, baker's chocolate and cocoa, Asian noodles, and more. Over the years, things we wanted to "save" for special occasions got pushed to the back while newer things stayed up front. One of the things I knew I had to do once I retired—since it would be a full day job—was give that pantry a thorough cleaning-out.
Well, today had to be that day, judging by the little insects that were still hanging around the doors to the pantry. I called up Northwest Exterminating and they said they could come tomorrow, so it was drudge time.
It was worse than I thought. The little bugs didn't come from the outside, like the time we had ants climb up the deck and saunter into the dining room as if it were their own, or the time we carried cockroaches in on wild birdseed bags. These guys were coming from inside the pantry, from under the baseboards.
I'll spare you the details to not make myself queasy again, but let's say it was a mess. All the favorite stuff we'd saved for special occasions had been chewed and some of it invaded. I remember reading about a woman who died before she had ever used all her "special" clothes and shoes because she never found an occasion special enough; this was the same thing. I tossed what had been delicious soup mixes, and grain mixes. I tossed anything that was open. And it gave me another opportunity as well to clean out food that was too salty or too sweet or baking things we'd never use, not to mention jarred pizza sauce dated 2004 which must have come from the old house!
Along the way I had to clean out the potato bin, which was the least objectionable thing. The floor with all the dead bugs on it was the worst.
So I ended up with two largish plastic containers of food left (and the casserole mixes put into plastic ziplock bags) and four trash bags out in the garbage (not full, but heavy). Then I swept the walls and sprayed them with a vinegar/Windex cleaner mixture and washed the wire shelves and then scrubbed the floor after sweeping it up. Washed the shelf that was in there as well, and the potato bin, and after over three hours, I was done, and I was beat, and angry at myself at letting this go so long and losing those soups (although James couldn't have eaten them anymore anyway).
So it's done, and the exterminator will be here, and after he treats I'll ask if there's anything to prevent this happening again. Baits? Bay leaves?
Besides our not saving for special occasions again because you've finally realized that every day you're alive is a special occasion.
My reward for this performance was James coming home to make a delicious dinner of beef bits, mushrooms, onions and cashews, and roast potatoes. You can keep your gourmet dinners; this was heaven on earth.
» Sunday, March 04, 2018The Quiet Day
So today was the quiet day after yesterday's adventures. We slept late, had breakfast and I walked Tucker, then we went to both Kroger and Publix hunting "the wild grocery" before coming home. After the "hunting" was put up, we allowed ourselves to be sucked in by Bargain Mansions, which is an HGTV series about a woman who restores huge old homes. If it sounds familiar, it's a riff on Rehab Addict, except our hostess here is in Kansas City, Missouri, instead of Detroit and has her dad helping her. She buys large old homes (they aren't really "mansions" by any definition, just "McMansions" if anything) which need a lot of TLC and generally puts a little more modern swing on them than Nicole does in Rehab Addict (I like Nicole's houses better). Still, it's fun to watch. I finally turned the television off and James went downstairs to "the man cave" for the first time in ages and I read and listened to new age albums. Had eaten my City Café soup for lunch and then had my leftover turkey over fresh slices of bread for supper, plus a mandarin orange (we both had three today!), and a peanut butter HoHo each as dessert. Spent the evening reading.
The only chores I did today were emptying the dishwasher, washing the towels, making the bed, and sorting my pills. I even forgot to do James' pills! So I have a bunch of work cut out for me tomorrow.