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Posts Tagged ‘health’

It’s been a challenging summer. Marked by clumsy acts, accentuated with life threatening set backs; it reads more like a soap opera than, “What I did over my summer vacation. ”

My wife keeps me on target with medications to correct or prevent one thing or another, checking to see if I’ve remembered to take them, and administering them when I forget.

Taking care.

She is our resident herbal apothecary, prescribing healing salves and herbal caplets with all natural ingredients, to do battle against the everyday ailments that plague most households. At one time her kitchen cabinets were stocked with glass jars labeled Valerian, Skullcap, Comfrey  and Golden-seal Root, a witches brew station right in our kitchen. I think the nature of homeopathic treatment is seated in the belief it will work, with enough common sense to know when to relent to the pharmacist at Walgreen’s. That’s were we find ourselves these days, Warfarin, Lisinopril, Levothyroxin; it’s hard to find these in herbal form at the Vitamin Cottage.

This past week I’ve been fighting the onset of a cold; a sniffle here and brain jarring sneeze there, it seems to have taken up residence in my chest. This morning at that time when the predawn light allows you to see the outline of objects in the room, but not enough to register the time on the clock; the dog wanted out and was whining at our bedroom door it must have been around 5:45 a.m. My wife is a lighter sleeper than I, and once she’s awake she usually struggles to get back to sleep. During the week I start my day at 4:30 a.m. and have the dog out by 5:00 such that, on the weekends the dog can get a bit demanding by 6:00.

I felt the familiar movements as she climbed out of bed, heard the bathroom door open, a faint rustling as she put on her robe to let the dog outside; the last of two remaining articles left behind by our children. As my wife left the bathroom I mentioned to her that we should check for the contraindication of an expectorant, that I might want to get some to help fight this cold. Things become more complicated when you have an assortment of pharmaceuticals sitting on your counter, and residing in your system. So I was thinking Monday or Tuesday would be soon enough, as that was when I was due for my next INR test at the doctors office.

Fifteen minutes seemed like a long time for the 30 pound mutt to do her business, and I had drifted back to sleep. I was a bit startled when my wife returned, continuing the conversation that had started when she climbed out of bed. Commenting on, how the best time to call the Walgreens pharmacist was at 6:00 in the morning. She was perky, happy, bordering on manic, “I called the Walgreen’s Pharmacist and he said you can take these”. I opened a sleepy eye, my Nightingale in a white terry cloth robe was standing at my side of the bed; in the palm of her out stretched hand, two oval shaped tabs, blue on one side, white on the other; in her right, a 20 ounce glass of water, with the expectation that I would be drinking the whole thing.

Thanks Walgreen’s, for your twenty four hour service! Now I’ve got to pee; who drinks 20 ounces of water before they get out of bed! I sure am glad my wife and I weren’t discussing vasectomies! With their 24 hour hotline, a filleting knife, and two aspirin; no wait make that Tylenol, there are contraindications for aspirin and Warfrarin. Who knows what could have happened!

Talk to you later.

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My ride home from the hospital should have been like any other; but leftovers from an anointing by my opiate angel had me drifting in and out as I struggled to maintain clarity, preventing this trip from being like any other.

I remember taking a concealed sigh of relief when the E.R. Doctor said; “Well, we’ve ruled out a heart attack.” I grimaced a bit as I drew a shallow breath into my aching lungs, the second ampule of morphine hadn’t quite completed its magic, as it slowly melted over me like butter on a hot pancake.

G-d I love pancakes

The unfamiliar word “embolism”, flew at me like an attacking Starling from a classic Alfred Hitchcock movie. If only I had watched more Grey’s Anatomy with my wife… maybe then I would have grasped the nature of the diagnosis. Embolism, it didn’t sound like heart attack, that was a good thing; so when I commented “Well that’s good, I’ve been off work for 3 weeks with this foot (pointing to the offending appendage) and I thought I’d be going back to work on Monday.” It was posed in the form of an announcement, with the verbal tone of PLEASE!! It seemed reasonable, it was Friday night no more pain in the chest, I finally felt like a well buttered pancake, life was good and I was ready to go!

Three weeks on the mend from a self inflicted coffee cup wound. I had WWII down pat, go ahead ask me any question;

Who made up the The Weimar Republic? Answer: Bad guys.

Next topic, Matlock; What was the name of the first private investigator who worked for Ben Matlock?  Answer: Tyler Hudson.

Bonus round: What was the first name of J.B. Fletcher’s  (Played by Angela Lansbury) dead husband? Answer: Frank.

Yeah, three weeks in front of daytime T.V. had turned my brain to mush, the morphine sulphate was just the icing on the cake.

The silence in the room had drowned out all but the audible Beep, Beep, every .789 seconds from the monitor over my right shoulder, a DOS green line spiking in rhythm with those relentless  beeps as it traveled across a black screen. It was the only tangible truth that I recognized that the Doctor was right; I wasn’t having a heart attack!

If there was one of those stainless steel bedpans in the room, I think my wife would have handed it to the E.R. Doctor who would have gladly gonged me on the head with it. The only thing holding him back was that it would have been pointless given the circumstances, and the two vials of morphine now coursing through my brain.

The doctor shook his head. I’m not sure if it was his disaproval of my  suggestion  of returning to work, or his feeble attemp to grasp my reality. “Mr. Gest”… I hate when someone in authority uses my sir name; I akin it to your mother using your first, middle, and last name, when you’ve done something stupid, like starting the patch of weeds on fire in the back of the elementary school.

“Mr. Gest, you have a pulmonary embolism, I don’t care how long you’ve been out of work,  if we don’t treat this now, it really won’t matter”. He looked at my wife, figuratively handing the stainless steel bedpan back to her. I believe they got my attention.

It was now Sunday, drugs with names like Coumadin and Lovenox are now my new best friends, while terms like self injections, and bleeding out hide in the wings, potential villains in my very own Shakespearean tragicomedy.

Denial is a curious thing; by our own ignorance it can make us appear invincible, while in reality it is often our greatness weakness.

Talk to you later.

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I’ve spent the last several months trying to overcome the whims of intellectual reasoning. It’s good for your heart, it will improve your energy levels, you’ll feel better; it was that little voice from the left side of my brain carefully selecting just the proper words to coax the stubborn right side of my brain to take action. It’s been going on for quite some time, this battle of the brains. The right side only needed a draw to win, I don’t have time today, it’ll be too crowded at the gym, I feel a cold coming on; when it comes to deliberation my left brain is an idiot.

I don’t know what changed the tide, maybe it was guilt brought on by assurances to my wife that I’d go, or memories from years past when I did feel more energetic, or maybe my right side  decided to sleep in, what ever the case this Saturday morning found me in the gym.

 

Stepping up to the plate so to speak.

 

I had forgotten what it was like on Saturdays; a lot full of cars with models matching egos, Corvettes, and Beemers, an Audi TT, a Cadillac Escalade parked at an angle taking up two and a half spaces, we had entered the land of the peacocks. My wife and I drive a Dodge Charger Hemi-less, I’m not sure what that says about us. Driving up one lane and getting ready to turn down the next, it reminded me of grocery shopping with my Dad, searching for shoe laces or boot polish in the days before they had isle directories. To my right were eight open spots at the end of the lot, I motioned for my wife to pull into one; “I was looking for something a bit closer.”

Okay, let me get this straight; we’ve  come to the  gym to work out, to improve our cardio health, and she’s looking for something closer to the door?  My right brain had come out of it’s morning slumber and was seizing the opportunity to start an argument, anything so that we could call this fools errand off, my left brain kept him in check. He did manage to get out an elevated eyebrow, questioning the logic in parking close to the front door of the gym. My wife caught the irony and  responded quickly; “It’s cold out, and I only wore a sweater.” Good save. We parked at the end of the lot and walked all the way to the front door.

 

Excer-pain machine.

 

It had been over a year since I last stepped in to a gym, the pounding rhythmic cadence of techno filled the air. Women in spandex galloping on tread mills, men in NBA style shorts and leather lifting belts crafting ambiguous poses, sizing themselves up for the mirror covered walls. Nothing had changed, I was back in peacock city. I looked for some kind of sign indicating the location of mens locker room, I needed to stow my gym bag and coat.

Naked men shlonging about stripped for the showers, modesty in here is a rarity unless you’re fat or over fifty. I was both; and a little apprehensive, and a bit disgusted with myself for having gotten so far out of shape. None the less I was here, they say that is half the battle, that was my left brain patting me on the back, my right brain however was withholding judgement; “We’ll see how this goes.”

Very soon I could feel a bit of moisture beading up on my forehead, I grabbed my towel and patted it dry, the I-Pod I had was cranking out one of my favorite tunes; Sympathy for the Devil by The Stones, I wasn’t about to cave to techno. I could feel that my heart rate was up, my breathing was deep, but not too labored, I could feel the burn, man it had been too long. With my left shoe tied, and one to go, I was nearly dressed; look out elliptical machine here I come.

Talk to you later.

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Monday was one of those moments that tests the mettle of an individual, the patience of an institution, and my ability to deal with the insanity that defines the every day events of my in-laws, Alice and Lenny.

About six weeks ago Alice (remember… never mind.) went to the doctor to get her eyes checked, only to return home to inform us that she needed to be fit with a pacemaker, go figure. Thank goodness she wasn’t having her bunions checked, she may have gotten a vasectomy! At 83, high blood pressure, fading eyesight, and the stress of caring for her 85 year old husband Lenny has taken its toll. Learning that she is in need of a pacemaker didn’t really surprise me. Lenny has one, so it only seemed fitting.

As I sat with my wife and her father in the family waiting  room while Alice was getting fitted and wired, I thought it only proper to attempt some kind of idle prattle. Anything to cut the edgy silence that inevitably descends over a waiting room in these situations. Should I ask him how he’s doing? Or talk about his other daughters? His favorite T.V. show? When I need something to cut that heaviness with my own father; the weather is always my safe place.

“So Dad, how’s the weather?” This usually gives us  a good 10 or 15 minutes of chatter, avoiding any real conversation about religion, politics, or the Home Owners Association at the mobile home park in Yuma Arizona, it’s our safe place. Fooling no one but content, quietly reassuring ourselves that it counted for something.

With my father in-law our safe place has always been his health, or lack of it. “So Lenny, how are you doing?” That is usually good for about 10 or 15 minute discussion on the activity of his bowel, before he nods off to sleep. Hoping to avoid the topic I went for the high ground, anything to divert the conversation to a safe topic.

 

Enough said.

 

“So Lenny, Alice said you went to the doctor to get your hearing checked last week. How’d that go?”

“What!?’

“I said, how’d things go with your hearing test the other day?” The absurdity of the question echoed off the walls in the small empty waiting room, as I raised my voice up a decibel or two.

“Good, good. The doctor says my hearing is fine.” His response carried a meter of disbelief, as if I had asked a 4 year old if he believed in the Easter Bunny.

“Really…” Trying to suppress the sarcasm that dripped from my comment, while I forced the corners of my mouth down to mask any sign of amusement. I could have been playing liars poker with a 9 year old.

“Yeah, I had Alice talking to me  on the right and Doctor Chimis talking to me on the left, and I heard them fine! His response had a hint of defiance to it.

“That doesn’t sound very scientific, didn’t they use some kind of head phones or something?”

I glanced to my wife, with her knitting needles flaying away I could tell she wanted no part of the conversation. Her safe place was discussing dairy free dietary choices, Lenny and I had allowed our dialogue to  wander into an unrecoverable abyss.

“What?’

“I said, what degree of hearing loss did they say you have?” Understating the obvious.

“He said I had about 30% loss in my left ear.”

“What about your right ear?”

“What?”

“Didn’t they think that was a significant enough loss to warrant a hearing aid?” My prayers have been answered, he admitted to a 30% loss, this is the first time he’s actually put a number to it, maybe he’ll see the value in getting a hearing aid.

“No, I can hear fine, people today just whisper too much! They need to learn to speak up!” I glanced over to the chair where my wife was sitting, she gently shook her head in a familiar I told you so fashion.

Having had quite enough of the inquisition, Lenny rose from his chair, steadied himself and walked over to the flat screen T.V. mounted on the wall, adjusted the volume..37… 38… 39.

“Who keeps turning down the volume?”

Talk to you later.

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