Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"See, I Told You I Was Sick"

The title is said to refer to someone's headstone. Fortunately, it doesn't yet refer to mine (I discourage any plans for a headstone to commemorate my departure...when the time comes, spend the money on a road trip, instead). But I was right. I was sick. I just wasn't right about what was wrong.

After seeing the doctor last Wednesday and giving his minions what seemed like quarts of my blood, I was waiting until the first full week in September to find out what the blood tests, etc. revealed. By Saturday I was feeling even worse and had decided to wait it out by sleeping. About 1:00 pm the doctor’s office called to tell me to go to the hospital ER. My blood tests, it seems, told them I was in renal failure. So, off I went to the ER. And a lovely ER it was. Truly. I was impressed.

This hospital, the nearest one of consequence, is only five years old and I’d never been there. If necessary, I would go back. I would highly recommend it to people who need institutionalization; I mean that in the most positive way.

I was admitted. Sure enough, I was in renal failure, with exceptionally low blood pressure and, according to their tests, a boatload of potassium in my blood which, I learned, is not a good thing. It’s the sort of thing that can kill you. I recommend against working out one’s anger through the use of potassium chew-bones. I learned that drinking tiny bottles full of sodium polystyrene sulfonate (also known as kayexalate) helps rid one’s body of the unwanted mineral by binding to potassium which is then eliminated through, to use the phrase the ER doctor used, “pooping it out.”

Apparently, when the people doing the hiring for this hospital went to work, they discovered an abundance of capable professional females; there were EXTREMELY few men at the place. The ER nurses were all female, the ER doctor was female, the nephrologist they brought in to assess my renal health was female, the X-ray and sonographic technicians were female. Lot and lots of females. The “transport” staff, the people who roll sick patients around from test to test and wheel them to the door upon departure, are male. Women do the work that requires intelligence and education; men do the work that requires brawn and not much else. I’m not complaining. They all did a magnificent job. I may switch to an all-female team of healthcare providers, based on what they did. In assembling the team, though, I won’t make the mistake I made when, when speaking to the ER doctor, I bumblingly referred to the renal doctor as a “phrenologist.” She was very forgiving, though. God knows what the nephrologist would have thought…or done...had she heard my malapropism.

All of my accolades notwithstanding, my short time in the hospital was not without its downsides.

The professional medical staff and technicians seem to have a sadistic bent. They positively beamed when they entered my room, ready to subject me to all manner of indignities and pain. All of them sincerely enjoyed the jobs they had been hired to do, which was to torment a certain renal patient who was feeling pretty damn feeble. Even the midnight callers who awoke me to determine whether my blood pressure had fallen off a cliff seemed anxious to help. They did what they could to frighten me awake, apparently thinking that, by startling me, they would cause a life-saving increase in my very low blood pressure. To a person (with one notable exception about whom I may devote a scathing screed one day), they were focused. Vehemently so. Uncomfortably so.

Between intense periods of joyous stabbings by enthusiastic technicians with needles and proddings by intensely serious sonographers, I was able to watch television. I spent an inordinate amount of time on Sunday morning watching Food Network shows, where obscenely rich foodies strut their stuff and crow about their highly sophisticated palates. Just when I would get comfortable with a show, though, or would switch off the television and try to just rest, there would be people with sharp objects coming for me again.

During the two nights I was there, I observed an odd ritual. At about 4:00 a.m., a technician awoke me with the avowed purpose of drawing blood. On both occasions, the initial attempts to find a suitable vein were unsuccessful, resulting in multiple stab wounds in both arms (in one arm there was an IV, which did not deter the technician). When finally my body was trained to tense up in anticipation of the pain that was about to occur when I heard the phrase, “this will be a big stick,” the technician decided to thrust the pencil-sized needle into a real vein and filled several canisters full of my blood. This ritualistic blood-letting was one of the least pleasant aspects of my hospital stay. The “bad nurse” about whom I may write a book, though, is neck-in-neck for that honor. When my IV started leaking blood, her attempts to start another one in my other arm were completely unsuccessful. After her third botched attempt, she called for reinforcements; her colleague arrived awhile later and skillfully inserted a new line on the top of my left hand, drawing not a drop of blood.

But you’re not reading this because you want to hear about blood-letting. You’re reading this because your life is an empty shell and I'm the best you can do for amusement. Poor you.

The bottom line to this long and boring story is that I was released from the hospital with a tentative diagnosis of acute renal failure. I was told my blood pressure may have dropped considerably because of my recent changes in diet, which would have been exacerbated by the blood pressure medications I was on. The reduction in blood pressure could have signaled my kidneys to stop functioning at capacity, which resulted in the build-up in my blood of “bad stuff” like potassium and creatinine. The twice-administered kayexalate drink helped remove bad stuff and my potassium levels improved considerably. My blood pressure, on the other hand, is still too low, but the doctors theorize it will return to “normal” fairly quickly. BUT, I am to see the nephrologist (the female’s partner, who took over for her on Monday) and my family doctor this week for follow-up.

I’m counting on this entire episode being an unfortunate accident that does NOT indicate that I have kidney disease that will require an entirely different diet and other such things I am singularly unprepared to accept. We shall see. I’m not back to “normal” in terms of energy, but I expect to be at 100% in very few days. And I’m still losing weight!

Saturday, August 28, 2010


It's almost 4:00 a.m. I've been awake since before 2:45. I'm tired, and probably will be able to go back to sleep before long, but not yet.

I just read an email from a woman I knew 40+ years ago, quite awhile before I graduated from high school. She's an assistant U.S. attorney now. I connected to her through another woman I happened to stumble upon on Facebook; this other woman went to my high school. I knew neither of them very well, but now, all these years later, I'm finding their lives interesting. Both of them have had some truly bad misfortunes over the years, causing me to reflect on how generally positive my life has been so far. The attorney and I share some common histories of health maladies. She strikes me as intelligent, though she admits to being a conservative which is a disappointment; I like to think intelligent people, from my past and my present, would tend to be liberal.

Still no word on what my physical ailments might be. I had lots of blood drawn earlier this week, but I don't have the results yet. I have had chest X-rays and neck X-rays and am awaiting to be scheduled for an MRI. I also have to schedule a stress echocardiagram. The "second phase" of my physical is scheduled for more than a week hence. Until then, at least, I suppose I have to cope with upper body and arm and leg "tiredness," for lack of a better term. That and sometimes intensely sore calf muscles and general tiredness. And a nagging pain in my left side, just under my rib cage. I hope I'm not falling apart. My energy is a touch better than it has been earlier this week, though. Maybe.

But not enough to stay awake any longer. I need to lay on my side; maybe the nagging pain will disappear, or at least subside.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Caving In

Maybe I'll find out tomorrow whether there's any cardiac relationship to my recent spate of extreme muscle pain and weakness in my arms and, more recently, my calves. Today I had to leave work this morning because I was so weak I could barely stand. And walking was extremely difficult because of the intense pain in my calves with every step. This is all after I've had sensations in my neck and shoulders and upper back...sensations like my body-parts are going to sleep.

At the moment, I'm much better. Pain is not nearly as bad, though "aches" are rampant. I see a cardiologist tomorrow afternoon to make up for skipping my last three semi-annual appointments. Then, in mid-September, I get a real annual physical, again only two years late.

And maybe soon I'll see a dentist. Wouldn't that be unusual?

Old Photographs

I have a tendency to look at old photographs and assign to them a sense of romance or adventure or wistfulness for a time gone by or god knows what. Maybe that's what meaningful old photographs do to people. But some old photographs just bring back memories that should never have formed and, certainly, shouldn't persist. Those are the photographs that should be burned. But we're never quite ready to burn them, are we? There's always a chance we will, one day, see something more in them than what there was when they were taken. I guess I've done it again. I said "meaningful" old photographs when I should have said photographs we wished had meaning, in the more pleasant sense.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Courage to Explore

I scanned the graveyard, looking for evidence that the corpses left here had meant something. I was looking for a sign, a headstone. Anything. Just a hint that said, "Once upon a time, those left here mattered." Not to me, perhaps, but to someone. Anyone. Where, I wondered, were the signs of grief at their passing?

While I gazed at the huge expanse of discarded tombs and open graves and mounds of empty, sterile earth, I felt as if my gaze was returned by every one of the inhabitants, looking to me as a savior, someone who would prove that someone really did care. They looked at me in anticipation that I would revive them and acknowledge them for the potential they once had, and might still have.

But the headstones, if that's what they were—those broken markers struggling for visibility from beneath an eternity of snow and seasons—had long since seen any meticulously carved messages etched and eroded away. The funereal winds, heavy with the dust they, themselves, had pumped into the tense atmosphere, had erased any messages that may have been destined for remembrance.

This graveyard was filled with invisible skeletons, hidden as they were beneath the accumulated detritus of wishes and dreams and even some prayers. But I knew that not all of the denizens of this place were dead. Their hope, as they clung to the tight enclosure that surrounded this expansive plot, was palpable. I could sense that they remained barely alive, hoping someone, anyone, would come to understand that they were not dead...they had simply been left for dead. They were struggling, hard, to take in another fresh breath that would revive them and allow them to step back into the world. They wanted someone to breathe new life into them.
But this is the place where we are told they are meant to be buried.

Some of them were aborted shortly after birth. Others tried valiantly to survive what were no doubt inauspicious beginnings. Many, perhaps most, of them might have been saved if given enough nourishment and encouragement and a safe place to develop and grow.

But they failed to thrive in this sometimes cruel world and so were quietly extinguished and sent to the graveyard. Most of them, who were undeveloped and unnourished, passed silently from consciousness without notice. And here is their final resting place. Does anyone have the courage to open the caskets and explore this graveyard, this place where so many have died alone and unfulfilled?
This is the graveyard of ideas.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Los Cenzontles--La Luna

Excuse me while I check this out.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Celery Stalks

12.4 pounds down, 71.6 to go. If I accomplish this feat I will weigh 160 pounds. I cannot BELIEVE how much weight I've put on since my temporary health fanaticsm right after my coronary bypasses. That was six years ago. My lowest weight at the time was 185, very briefly. That was after I'd lost about 25 pounds or thereabouts. I have 46 pounds to go just to get there. I've put on SO much weight since then.

Mamas don't let your babies grow up to eat pizzas,
Let 'em eat carrots and celery stalks,
Make 'em play sports and take strenuous walks.

OK, I can't do this, but you probably get the message.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I'm not sure of the best descriptive term. Writer's block isn't it. It's not that I can't write, it's that I don't feel like I have anything worth writing about. Writer's dullness isn't really it, though, because I could write about things that could, with sufficient attention and planning, be interesting and entertaining. The need to give a great deal of attention to the task suggests it may not be an innate skill. Writer's inadequacy could begin to describe it, I suppose, except that it's not so much inadequacy as it is malaise. That might do it. Writer's malaise. It sounds close, but there's something not quite right about it or perhaps something is missing.

Upon closer reflection, it becomes abundantly clear and embarrassingly simple. It is Wanna-be writer's malaise. I've mistaken myself for a writer when, in reality, I am a wanna-be. I talk a good game, but I don't write enough to make it real. And finally, I'm experiencing what it for what it is: a wish to be a writer who possesses born skill...but, instead, being one without sufficient drive, talent, or content to give purchase to the desire.

Perhaps, though, I just have to be in the mood. There are times when I've felt like my writing was excellent and that it had the potential of getting into readers' minds the way some of the authors I've read have gotten into mine. But, back to reality. If I write, I will write when I feel like writing. Not until.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Saga of Salads

Today is day seven of my endeavor to lose literally dozens of pounds of ugly fat. My rapid weight loss seemed to occur during the first three days. Since then, it's been drifting ever-so-slowly down, with no hint of the enormous drop that I hoped to see by the end of week one. I must have patience, though; I didn't gain all this excess weight overnight and I won't lose it so quickly.

It would no doubt help if I actually followed-through on my promised exercise regimen, but I have been unable to do that...well, partly unable and partly unwilling. The unable component has to do with the horrendous aches/pains in my neck and shoulders that have been hitting me these last several days. The pain gets so bad that the only thing that will resolve them is Naxodol and laying on my side in bed.

Yesterday, I made the mistake of deciding I could do some yard work and outside window-cleaning, which badly exacerbated the problem. I suffered for it all yesterday afternoon and into last night. Two Naxodol tablets helped by putting me out for a few hours, but they're running low; I've made overtures on Facebook to anyone traveling to Mexico to bring some back with them next time they cross the border. My sister-in-law has offered to bring some next trip up; I may get some from a business acquaintance who's off to Cancun next week. Who knew I would one day be depending on border crossings to give me the pain relief I need? Too bad the U.S. government's system of "protecting" its citizens is so paternalistic and authoritarian. I should not go there; I will only write a fiery screed condemning what has devolved into a near-totalitarian state, even under a "Democratic" administration.

Back to the diet/lifestyle adjustments. I'm find that I actually like the smaller servings and avoidance of heavier dishes. Don't get me wrong, I love foods that are very bad for me, and I like them in large quantities; but something about this new, lighter diet is very appealing. I have to admit, though, that the called-for serving-sizes of vegetables are a little unreasonable. Last night, for example, I baked a medly of vegetables that should have been good for four servings; we made it into two servings. Maybe THAT's why my weight isn't dropping like a rock! No matter, it's OK with me. As long as I can continue to slow but steady decline. As of this morning, my cumulative weight loss is 8.8 pounds; only 1.8 pounds more than I'd lost at day 3. I will continue, though.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Floating Away

Just three days into my South Beach-like diet and I'm having no trouble at all keeping with it. The only difficulty is the amount of work involved in chopping vegetables! With the amount of veggies we're eating, it seems like I'm constantly chopping, chopping, chopping, then mixing and matching them for odd little meals (that are, by the way, quite tasty) and mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks.

I'm not sure I need the snacks, but I'm following the proposed meal plan reasonably closely, anyway. If I could simply consume veggies in vast quantities and still get the requisite vitamins, protein, etc., I'd almost be willing to give up meat. Maybe.

By this morning, since my first official weigh-in on Monday morning, I'd lost seven pounds, the vast majority of which, I'm sure, is water. That's OK. I remember last time I did this the water loss or whatever it was helped me fit much more comfortably into my clothes. Laying off the booze is no doubt helping. I didn't realize how much I'd gotten used to a drink or two here or there or there or there or there or over there.

My consumption of water, flavored ever-so-slightly with lime juice when I'm drinking it at home, has sky-rocketed. I'm floating those pounds away. I figure by the time I'm old enough to collect Social Security, I'll have lost enough weight to be a mere wisp of a geezer.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Drop the Pounds, Mister!

I hope I've finally reached the point of achieving some degree of discipline about my weight. I just have to shed some pounds. Lots of them. I'll start by doing a stint on the South Beach diet (or close facsimile thereof), then simply change my lifestyle. "Simply." Hah! Well, it won't be simple but I need to do it.

Now that I'm thinking in those terms, I also will return to my long-lost regimen of taking walks early in the morning. Even though the temperatures before daylight are in the low 80s, I will do it, by God! I'll get up and walk. I'll start slow (else my knees will curse me and call me names), but will try to work back up to my erstwhile pace.

I don't know whether to set a long-term goal (i.e., when to achieve my "ideal" weight and what that weight should be) or simply plod along and watch the pounds melt away. I'm leaning toward setting a goal and announcing it to the world so that I might feel obliged not to give up for fear of being labeled a quitter.

Let's see, for someone of my height and bone structure, I'm thinking I should weigh about 170 pounds. That is a long, long way off. I'm probably topping 250 now. An 80 pound weight-loss target? And then keeping it stable. Whew! We'll see. If it weren't illegal to post pathetic pornographic pictures of geezers, I might post a nude photo of myself each week. Aside from offending anyone who visited this blog, though, I would reduce my already paltry traffic count to zero. So I won't do that.

I'm not patient, though. So this endeavor is going to be grueling for me.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My First Mistake...sort of

I'm feeling the pressure. I terminated the employment of a staff member a couple of weeks ago and it's really getting to me. She had to go, there's no question about taht. But it put me under the gun. And I do not like that, even a little.

The temp we have is doing reasonably well, but I'm not sure he's got what it takes to do what I need for the long haul.

I should never had started a business that requires employees. That was my first mistake.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It was a dark and steamy morning...

Here I am again, up way too early on a Sunday morning. I got up around 4:30, but I had been awake off and on for a long time before that. It was a string of dreams from which I awakened that convinced me to get up; I didn't want any more of those dreams. The heat and humidity may have something to do with being up at this hour. It's too damn hot and I feel like it's way too humid, too. We should relocate to a cooler, drier climate.

The first dream involved me sitting at a table with the board of directors of a client organization. They were arguing over whether I should go to the parent organization's annual conference. I just listened, not telling them I had no interest in attending. The second one involved me digging around a back-yard with a shovel, to discover that a wooden deck was buried underneath a foot or two of soil and grass; one of my brothers chastised me for damaging the wood with the shovel.

Neither dream was particularly offensive, but both were annoying and had the character of dreams that could keep repeating if I drifted back to sleep. So I didn't.

I haven't made coffee yet...I haven't decided whether I will. Nothing of interest has struck my fancy on my internet wanderings yet this morning, so maybe I need coffee to jolt my imagination awake.

So, I'm off to wander...trying to decide.