Sunday, September 20, 2020

Sunday Stroke Survival: The Wait is On

Or, should I say continuing. It seems I'm constantly waiting on something these days.

Monday, we got in the car to go to my vascular surgeon's appointment and it wouldn't start. It wouldn't have been so bad if the doctor didn't have an 24-hour in advance cancellation policy./ A missed appointment  cost me $50 and it wasn't my fault. The appointment was for a six-month scan of my right carotid artery.

It wouldn't have been so bad but we got slammed with storms from Bertha and Cristobal, and then Laura. The access road, really another driveway, washed out. Even with 4-wheel, drive it's near impossible to make it up the hill from our place to the main road. It has rained almost daily here and with each storm the drive gets worse. The owner of the land the access cuts through is hard pressed to repair it without a storm washing away his repair work.
Where I have trouble getting up the hill is the trouble spot I'm talking about. It actually looks pretty good in the video compared to now. There's no clay left on the broken pavement and the potholes I talk about have been repeatedly been filled in with broken cinder blocks and large rocks. Those bits and pieces are exposed and new bigger potholes have emerged as the water finds new ways to get down the road.

The tow truck drivers that have come to our assistance in the past have just refused to even try and that was when the drive wasn't that bad. Now, they look at us as if we're insane. "You want me to go where with my tow truck?! Uh, NO." So just how were we supposed to get our vehicle to the shop to get it fixed? We are both transplants here and didn't know anybody to call.

Mel and GEICO were working furiously to find someone. It took two days. but an angel of the last towing service in a three county area, said he'd try. He got halfway down and had to stop. He manage to get his flat bed tow truck back to level ground before he called with the bad news.

Mel's frustration turned to desperation and tears as she talked with him. Then, he said, "Wait a minute. Let me call you right back."

The dogs went nuts and tore up the driveway. Not only our two but the "community dogs" too in hot pursuit. Around the bend in our driveway came a big, burly, bear of a man. He hollered over the commotion of the six large dogs, Big and burly, but soft spoken and polite. "You were right. Passed that downhill bit it was smooth."

I called to the dogs to let him pass. Mel met him at our huge car park/turn around area by the barn.  Of course the Blazer wasn't there, it was back behind the house where Mel had dropped off 100 lbs of chicken feed. "I checked with my boss if I could come down and see if I could help," he explained. "So what's it doing?" They walked around back. If it wasn't for the virus scare, Mel would have hugged his neck and kissed his cheek. He'd walked almost 1/4 mile to get to us carrying a hefty toolbox.

After a couple of attempts to start the vehicle there was a definite gas smell, and then the the engine kicked over in a roaring start. Mel looked flabbergasted. She thought he was thinking, "Dumb females. panicking for nothing. But, he wasn't. He recounted a story of how a friend of his had a similar problem with his car. The result was a tiny pinhole leak in his fuel line. His friend almost tore his engine apart looking for it. He advised Mel with trying to start the car. It would start eventually. When she had the money, take it to the only garage in town. They had a liquid which would show where the leak was, but it wouldn't be cheap.

Mel once again suppressed the urge to hug him, but thanked him profusely. Now, we're waiting on enough days in a row for the owner of that portion of the driveway fixed. But we have remains of another slow moving hurricane passing over us with no break in sight for another week at least. So we are waiting for that.

We were able to get groceries and make it to my Botox appointment. Now, I'm just waiting for the Botox to kick in.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

I Got My Newest AFO!

I picked up my new AFO this week. I wish I could say it's a joy to walk with, but I can't. I'm currently nursing THREE pressure sores on my right foot.

One is is in the usual spot on the outside edge of my foot. For the second time now, my podiatrist had to evacuate dried blood from the sealed wound. Think of cutting away a newly reformed callus with a scalpel, and then scraping away at a half dollar sized, 1/2" thick mass of congealed and hardened blood. That's what eight years of pressure sores (10th time) in the same spot will get you.  This is from my old articulating AFO.

The second one is from is at the large ball joint of my big toe. This is from the replacement for the above AFO as it tries to keep my foot from inverting while spastic. It's just a standard fluid filled blister, but it's at a stage 3 and quite painful.

The newest spot (only erupted twice) is just below my ankle bone. This is cause by my new-new AFO as it loses the battle against my spastic foot. It would be at my ankle bone if the foot wasn't inverted almost 45 degrees in the AFO. It is also a stage 3. This one is excruciatingly painful as you can imagine.

All have ruptured and are in various stages of healing with the four times a day applications of gels and wet and dry dressings. Am I going to the wound care branch of the hospital for treatments, nope. They can't do anything that I can't do myself. Nurse heal thyself. I've just had so many pressure sores over the past eight years on my foot, I'd live there. LOL I'm only laughing to stop from crying. Why can't I be normal when it comes to AFOs?! It's the down side of being the Queen of Abby Normal I guess. All I want is to be able to walk without pain. I don't think that's too much to ask. Don't  even mention the "W" word to me (wheelchair). I'll slap you silly.

Maybe the combination of Botox and this new AFO will stop the pressure sores. I'm hoping. The next month will tell the tale.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

RIP Patches

It took me a while to write this and still it hurts. We lost my beloved Patches this week to liver and kidney cancers that we didn't know she had. It wasn't until we took her to the vet for drastic weight loss that we found out the cause.

She was our youngest daughter's cat that we got from the Humane Society. When our daughter went to college and was gone for six months, this cat warmed up to me rather than than attacked me. She was a 6-month old feral kitten that chose Jennifer at the shelter. She jumped onto Jennifer's shoulder and dared her to look at any other. We renamed her Patches rather than Pockets because her tortoise shell coloring. Mel later dubbed her "Apache"
because she always remained aloof and ready to attack. Being feral, she only took to Jennifer and sometimes my husband.

When she realized that Jennifer wasn't coming home for a while, she changed her manner towards me in small increments. She started being my escort to and from the house. When I was out in the yard, she was with me. A healthy six feet at least, but she was there. Her aloofness continued somewhat until two weeks before dying. She was never one to be held or cuddled. Instead she would lay on top of you while you slept, or up against you. I never quite knew whether it was a show of affection, or an effort to stay warm with shared body heat.

But then again, when my husband was finally bed bound, she lay beside him except for about three hours a day to take care of her business outside and eat. Even the Hospice aides had to work around her to do his care. She just couldn't be budged away from him. Even after they took his body away, she laid on the spot where he lay until they took his hospital bed away. Even then, she laid on his pile of sheets grieving his passing.

Why did we wait so long to get her into the vet? Once she heard the word vet, she'd go into hiding and wouldn't come out until after 5 PM. Safe from going and she knew it. We also had car trouble with our only vehicle that lasted a week, but that's another long, cockeyed story. Finally, she came out of hiding when Mel returned from the grocery store (long after her appt time). She was lying on the walkway. Too weak to even meow. She was badly dehydrated and she hadn't eaten all day...safe in her hiding place.

Being after 5PM, Mel hurriedly called the vet. Could we catch her and bring her in on Saturday morning. That night, we tried to entice her to eat with a can of tuna (people food not cat food). As much as she wanted it, she couldn't eat or drink. Later, Patches went to the water bowl on her own. She was too weak to lift her head long, but I watched her lap up some water. As the weight of her head pulled her nose under water, she raise up enough to rest her head on the dg food dish to allow the water to drain from her nose and mouth area. After a few minutes rest, she'd dip her head towards the water dish again to repeat the process. She finally stopped and lay down beside the water dish. I didn't expect her to live through the night.

During the night, Patches did something strange. She lay next to me. Crawl about six inches and lay her head on my available body part, stay there for a few minutes, and then move on. From the top of my head and back again. I thought it was Patches touching my body warding off evil because she would be able to protect and escort me anymore. Mel said, because she couldn't see that well that she was using my body as a reference point. It could be that both of us are right. We'll never know for sure.

airplaned ears
Saturday morning, I put Patches by the water bowl. She was still there when I returned from changing my clothes. I picked her up. Her ears airplaned because I was loving on her and she detested being cuddled. I gently put her in the carrier. She tried to scratch me and I made a shushing noise and put her in. She hated that carrier since she was in it for six hours on the move up here. She resigned herself to be carried in it. I had made a nice comfortable bed in it for her.

At the vet's office, the aide put the cat onto the scale...5.5! She'd lost half her body weight. Patches regular weight for the past five years has been around 10 lbs. She wasn't fat just a big, short haired cat. In her younger years, she weighed in at 15 lbs of muscles and bones, not fat. But, age has some strange ways. That and her lifestyle here with of plenty of tree to climb, rats and rabbits to catch, and two acres or more to roam of hilly terrain made her more svelte. Unlike her human counterparts.😸

After finding that her liver and kidneys had palpable masses, and the blood work, there was no question about it. Her kidneys and liver functions had shutdown. She was dying quite painfully of starving to death as the rest of her body caught up with her liver and kidneys. Tears coursed down my face as I denied a hospital admit to run IV fluids to bolster her up. There was simply no treatment for a cat this age. At 18 years old, I had to let her go. I rubbed her head as they gave her the injections and in a few short minutes,  she was gone.

RIP Patches. You had a life full of taking care of others. You deserve it. While you're up there, tell your "Daddy" I miss him too.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Sunday Stroke Survival: Silent Reflux

When I asked my surgeon why I was still having a hoarse voice and pressure where my enlarge thyroid was, he was stumped. The hoarseness was one of my symptoms of my thyroid cancer. The pressure he chocked up to scar tissue. For the hoarseness, he decided that a visit to an ENT (ears, nose, and throat doctor). It turns out that the hoarseness and pressure were cause by silent acid reflux.

By placing a camera through my nose and down to my trachea, the damage done by my stomach acid was evident. There were burns on my vocal cords. Unlike the GERD (heartburn type) that my internist pulled me off Plavix for leading to my stroke, this type of acid reflux had some strange symptoms like acne, persistent cough, sensation of post nasal drip, and trouble swallowing. The exact same complaints I told my PCP about stating my allergy meds weren't working.

A simple prescription of Pepcid rather than Prilosec actually fixed all these complaints. My allergy meds are working fine again. Plavix and Prilosec are contraindicated.  Pepcid over the counter is easy to come by, but the prescription product is in short supply. Monthly I'm having to call around to different pharmacies to get my 60 pills for my prescription. Over the counter, I can get the same thing but at the dosage the prescription is equaled to 120 tablets a month at a cost of $84 which my insurance won't cover. I pay $10 with my insurance.

Why the shortage of the prescription version? I had to go online to find out. It all has to do with Zantac being pulled from the market last year. All those patients plus new patients were switched to Pepcid. But you'd think after a year, the company would have figured out the production increase by now, wouldn't you? Well, they haven't. So I go through the list of the five pharmacies within a 20 mile radius of me each month praying somebody's got it. For the last three months I've been lucky and found it so far.

The fact is all of my symptoms of post nasal drip, acne, hoarseness, increased trouble swallowing, and that nagging cough disappeared within two weeks on this medicine. It was like a miracle cure for something I never knew I had wrong with me. But it fixed all the little things. Unlike the GERD I suffered with a dozen years ago, heartburn isn't one of the symptoms. In fact, the symptom that I had in common with the two was my inability to sleep on my back. With the GERD lying on my back brought on heartburn, while with the silent reflux, it brought on shortness of breath. I literally could not draw a full breath. This too has disappeared while taking this new medicine.

I can't tell you how relieved I am in spite of the difficulties in filling this prescription. Now if only the drug manufacturer would get it in gear so I won't have to go on a scavenger hunt each month for it, I'd be one happy camper.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Sunday Stroke Survival: Picking Figs and Cherries

This week I've had a song stuck in my head as I harvested the cherries and figs. Can anyone guess that song?

It's just one of those jingles from my childhood television watching. But as I picked the cherries and figs, it went round and round my head. Each time I picked one and dropped it in my five gallon bucket it made a plopping sound, and after a while, the juices made a slight fizzing sound.  

Mel thought I was crazy when I chopped the main trunks of these trees at four foot tall as they grew, but there was a rhyme to my reasoning.  I knew that when we would eventually espalier the trees or let them be, they'd be easy to harvest. The heavy fruit covered branches would almost sweep the ground. With careful pruning each winter, the new growth, where the fruit would grow, could be simple to harvest. "Ah! What a relief it is!"
Granted these trees were only planted three years ago so the harvests are small. I really didn't expect anything more than a couple jars of jam and some fresh eating until year five. Just like with the peaches, these trees flowered up beautifully in the spring. The bees were happy. They are still buzzing around the late bloomers. And just like the peaches, the fruits are about half the size they should be. It's been a crazy weather year for us with the winter chill and frosts not leaving us until mid June. Now, I've picked a five gallon bucket of each fruit this week! We are blessed!

By planning, I adjusted the height of these fruit trees around my limitations. Knowing my vertigo issues helped me do this planning. In caring (pruning/fertilizing) for these trees everything is no higher than my height. The same goes for harvesting. We will probably spend most of this winter espalier these trees. AKA, digging post holes and running wire to twist and tie the branches to before spring. I'd planned for posts every six feet and four strands of wire like we did four our raspberries, blackberries, and grapes. 

Yes, the end yield of harvestable fruit is reduced, but in actuality one tree would yield enough for us for several years in one regular tree left to it own devices. But I'll be able to harvest each fruit as it becomes ripe with no loss of unreachable fruits. By planting two of each kind of fruit provides better than average pollination (even with self fertile trees) and a better harvest. When insects or diseases strike at a tree, it will be much easier to handle too. If netting is needed to prevent birds from taking more than their fair share of fruit, It's much easier to throw netting over a 5' tree than a 20' tree even without disabilities. 
An expected bountiful harvest two years ahead of schedule was a welcome blessing with the cherries and fig trees producing this year. It may not be a fabulous harvest that it will be in a few years, but for us we are thankful. I'll end up with two more 5-gallon buckets full at least before I call an end to the harvest for putting the fruits by, but there will be several more weeks of fresh eating before the season is done.

Nothing is impossible.