Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Clean Up and Preparing for Winter

Time now has jet engines
My goodness it's the end of October already! This year, just like previous years, has flown by. Why is it when you are younger times drags. A month until your birthday seems to last years, but now it's zoomed up to and passed so quickly?

October is a rough month for me emotionally. It's our anniversary month and my beloved's birthday. Both of them have passed now so I'm doing better. The only bright spot in it is my youngest grandson's, Murphey, birthday. It's hard to believe he's two years old already.

We were hit by a tropical storm and had a brush by of another one this year. It left us a huge mess on our homestead. Trees, limbs, branches, twigs. and leaves all over the place. So far between Mel and I we've picked up three 4x6x4 piles of the stuff and that's only from the driveway and walkway areas. These three piles have been sorted between limbs that need a chainsaw or handsaw to cut, those we can break into 2' sections for kindling, and twigs also to be used for kindling. We need a variety of sizes to keep our wood stove going for heat every winter and a lot of it. Our wood stove isn't the most efficient model at burning wood, but it keeps us warm on even the frostiest of nights. That's what is really important. All I know is that I'm tired of picking up tree trash and there's still tons more to pick up. We haven't touched the six piles the driveway and orchard clearing made.

I took two tumbles this week. Once out in the yard. My AFO foot foot got tangled in vines and I went down hard. To make matters worse, my functioning knee landed  on a twig which broke on impact driving it just under my knee cap. I managed to get up on one knee, but my functioning knee would not bear my weight. It was severely traumatized and bruised. I had to call for Mel to help me up. Later that same day, my foot got hung on a cat zipping by to get out of my way. Down I went again. My functioning knee is now not only bruised but I got a nice rug burn through my pants leg. I've been hobbling around on it very gingerly for the past couple days.

All my hard work canning this summer is paying off. Now, I shop for groceries in the barn (for meats) or the storage building for canned goods and staples instead of driving to the grocery store. It's a lot easier popping a lid off a canning jar than using a can opener to pry lids off cans. Chicken pot pies are a cinch to make with canned chicken and vegetable soup. There's always a thin layer of fat to start the gravy with on each jar. Add some four as the thickener with the broth from the soup and I got gravy. The hardest thing is rolling out the pastry top. It's a quick thirty minute meal once the pastry work is done.

I bought some of those reusable grocery bags for shopping at all places. It makes carrying heavy loads of groceries on my non functioning arm a breeze. Since it is frozen at a 50 degree angle, by spasticity most of the time, I'm making applesauce with a bad situation. But I'll be happier with a functioning elbow again when the functional neurosurgeon gets finished with me. It'll take a few more trips.

I bought four 4-ft florescent lights for the barn. Now that is a well lit 14'x24' space all year around. It has an old barrel wood stove in it for the colder months. Mel built it to heat the house back when she was One Woman and Two Acres. After a failed attempt to make it work for the house, it was relegated to the barn. Just like everything else, but that's another story. It works fine out there. In fact, it will heat so well that it'll run you out of there just to cool off. A welcome change when there's snow on the ground. I'm just waiting for Tractor Supply to stock some more stove pipe. The single ply pipe Mel bought has rusted through in spots. I may just buy single ply again because it lasted three seasons. It's cheap enough for the metal barn. If it was insulated, it would be better, but I'm not going to that expense.

Living post stroke is adventure nobody, in their right mind, would want. But life is life and it's worth living to its fullest no matter who you are or what you're dealing with. Take it one step at a time and keep going.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Back in Business Again

Okay, I'll admit my blog has been a living post stroke downer of late, but today that changes back to the old me. <the cheering section goes wild>

After almost a week of being off my feet, I was itching to be back at it again. Yes, of course, I took it slow. Sort of. Well what can I say? Y'all know me.  <Grinning>

It's ragweed season in northern Georgia. My allergies just love ragweed. Yes, I called my PCP and got all my meds refilled. But more than that, it's Goldenrod season! To most folks, Goldenrod are a pretty yellow flower that grows like weeds in pastures and along road sides. Actually they are weeds, but to me they spell M-O-N-E-Y. Money you say? Yes, it's like money in the bank to me because this innocuous weed is my source for a natural yellow dye for wool and it's free.

I went out with my half bushel baskets and filled it up one just driving to the main road. That's only what I could reach safely. Well all right, I did fall once. But, I got right back up and continued picking. I continued my harvesting along the main road gathering another two half bushel baskets. I did stop by the cattle farm less than a quarter mile away and asked to go into his hay pasture to gather some. Yes, I was careful not to squash his hay or fall again. I just went around the edges where his tractor went and I gathered pounds of the flowers. He even allowed me to take my van and drive around as I gathered the flowers which was extremely nice of him. In the old days, pre-strokes, I could have walked around his field with no problem. Now especially with a healing decubitus ulcer on my foot, not so much.

You might ask where I found my half bushel baskets. Well, it's part of my homesteading mentality of reuse/ repurpose everything. Over the past couple years, I'd bought a bushel and a half of peaches. I'd also bought sweet potatoes, and assorted other vegetables in bulk. I always saved these items and stored them in the barn. I've got large stacks of them. I always asked the farmer if they wanted them back because I know they had to purchase them. If they didn't, I kept them. I reuse them to harvest herbs and assorted other items from our garden. They are pretty well made. Not as good as a grape vine or wicker basket, but considering they were free to me why not reuse it until it falls apart? It's not hard to find reuses for almost everything, if you think about it.

Anyhow, I gathered my three half bushel baskets full and headed home with my prize. Normally when space was limited, I'd gather them up by the stems, tie them off, and hang them up to dry. This time, I couldn't be bothered. My foot was also throbbing like mad. I left them in the baskets to dry. Every couple of days, I'll flip them over in the baskets. They are drying nicely. Within a couple of weeks they'll be ready to use anytime I want to dye wool. Now, wouldn't you call that money in the bank too?

I also got my order from Zaycon Fresh. A 40 lb box of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I'd already planned to can this shipment. After living in hurricane country for as many years as I did, I learned the importance of not having all your meat products in the freezer. Heat and eat becomes the norm when dealing with days of power outages. Even up here, we lost power with tropical storm Irma and power outages in winter. I decided I wanted to par cook them on the charcoal grill. Ooh, yummy for the tummy! Being my one functioning handed self, it was a two day process. The first day was spent grilling off and rough chopping all that meat into 2" pieces. The second was packing the chicken into jars and pressure canning it. But now, I've got pre seasoned chicken, canned in its own juices, and ready for whatever I want to make with it. Chicken and dumplings, over simply heated and put over rice or noodles, and oh the chicken salad it can make...just to name a few options. One jar of two full canner loads, 40 jars, didn't seal so it's ear marked for chicken salad this week. The broth will season a pan of risotto. But after messing with all that chicken, it's chili for supper tonight.

So as you can see, I'm back to normal. Or at least, my living post stroke normal.

Nothing is impossible.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Touching Email and Thank You Readers

I received an email from a lady in Tennessee a couple of weeks ago that touched my heart greatly. No, it wasn't from this blog, but my other blog at the Cockeyed Homestead and it touched my heart at a time when I really needed it.

I have readers that have been with me for years. Only a few actually comment, but many other email me through the contact option. Sometimes, I forget what an impact my blog has on others. I'm just chatting away on things in my life. It's a saga...a never ending story that is my life. I hope to inspire, motivate, and bless others with my blogs.

I don't always know for sure even with the high hit counts in the analysis charts. Many may just scan a bit and find out it's not what they were looking for like I do when researching a subject. The internet is great for that. But to know someone is actually reading and digesting what I've written is great. To know that I've actually succeeded in my goal is awesome. It is a reaffirmation to me that I really am answering a calling by blogging.

Thank you readers.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: More Woes

It seems like of late, I've been writing about the woes of living post stroke than my usual upbeat blogs. This week is not different.

The decubitus ulcer (pressure sore) on my foot ruptured. It was my own fault. Instead of being a good girl and staying off it, I played last weekend.

It was the Big Red Apple Festival here. I'd never been before and planned on going for over a month. It was the 30th anniversary too. For this blink-your-eyes-and-it's-gone town, it was a huge deal. I had missed last year's and didn't want to miss it again.

I figured it was going to be like most of the other festivals I've been to since moving here, thirty minutes tops to see everything. I was wrong. Three city streets were closed for several blocks. Of course, I just had to see all the food vendors. Almost every restaurant and church for a three county area was represented. BBQ, gyros, hamburgers, hot dogs, homemade sausages, a variety of ices and ice creams, and baked goods galore. I couldn't decide what to eat. My mouth was drooling over all the goodies. In the end, I opted for a hot caramel apple offered by the local real estate office. I also got the mandatory 30th anniversary Big Red Apple Festival t-shirt. It was offered at a price I couldn't I mean really! Go to an apple festival and not eat an apple?! Unheard of.

I bypassed the kid zone with their bounce houses and apple bobbing tanks, and headed for the arts and crafts section two streets over. Handmade jewelry, wood carvings, soaps, aromatherapy oils, paintings, handmade sewing projects, quilts, needle work, honey, jams and jellies, and the alpaca farm wool and alpacas booths all found me perusing their wares. Not that I had need for any of it. It was just so much fun looking at all of it.

My foot got more and more raw from walking the sloping pavement. I hobbled to Lisa's booth at the front of the row. Lisa is the coordinator for the Clarkesville Farmers Market. I'd been talking to her quite a bit this summer about opening a booth in that market next year for the homestead. I'd spent all season doing market research. I could barely take a step without pain. I knew I'd overdone it.

I was looking at her homemade, organic bug repellent when I felt the ooze start inside my sock and AFO. The callus over the blister gave way. I glanced over to my van parked across the street judging if I could make it that far. I had no choice. I walked each painfully gauged step to my van. A police officer dutifully held up traffic for me to cross the street. I apologized for taking so long as I passed him. He said they could wait for me to take my time.

I wasn't even going to try and survey the damaged foot in the car. I knew I'd never be able to put my AFO on again to walk into the house if I did. I drove home thanking God for my cruise control and only having  two red light and a stop sign before home. I left everything in the car and climbed the four steps into the house.Why didn't I take the new ramp?  The ramp is harder on my foot going up.The stairs were quicker. You see I also had to pee. I hollered at Mel yo bring the stuff in from my car as I sat down in the sofa. I pulled my shoe and AFO off. Gingerly, I pulled off my sock. The 4x4 I had folded for padding had soaked through. I peeled off the tape and as I pulled the 4x4 off the callus came with it. The gaping sore greeted me. "Hello again!"

So I'm off my feet for a days. Well sort of. I still force myself to get up, get dressed, and do the necessary bathroom visits, but otherwise I'm off my feet. I've bandaged my foot with Ameris gel and folded 4x4s. My AFO is off unless I have to walk. Six more days and counting until I can order my new shoes. I can hardly wait. Actually by the time you read this, it'll be tomorrow. Then it will be waiting until I can et them. The sore should be almost healed by then.

Even with all this pain, the festival was worth it. Sometimes, you just have to be bad and have fun.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: I've Gone and Done It Now...

I've gone and done it now. I finally got tired of the hurry-up-and-wait for others to act. I've only been talking about my waiting for what...three or four months now?

I figured waiting on Shepherds Center was just another wait time twiddling my thumb awaiting the unknown. Try doing this with one functioning thumb. I was born under the zodiacal sign of the bull. Very apt for me because I'm stubborn as a bull, and hate being patient awaiting on others. I took the bull by the horns.

I made an appointment with a neurosurgeon in the next big town (30 minutes away). Today (Tuesday) was that appointment. I apologized before I began my tale because I might get ugly in the telling. I figured forewarned is better than them thinking I was just another whinny stroke survivor boo-hooing about their life of limitations. You all know I'm NOT one of those people.

I figure I've been more than patient and cooperative for the last few years with trying everything for combating my post stroke spasticity. I've done research upon research for alternatives. I've played guinea pig for treatments, drugs, and anything anybody else could think of including electricity running through my limbs. Endured pain levels where all I could do was curl up and cry because there was no relief. It was all done in the hopes of controlling this demon which has stolen my recovery. Quite literally. I've lost what I've regained of arm and hand function because of the spasticity.

The results of the appointment...they can't help me. In this case, there was a BUT. The kind of BUTs I like. They can't help me but they will make an appointment with someone that can a functional neurosurgeon at Emory University in Atlanta. It means diving an hour, but at this point I'm grasping at straws..any straw available. Somebody on this Earth has to have the answer. These guys literally helped write the textbook on the subject.

Although in looking at the abbreviation (above) for the American Society for Stereostatic and Functional Neurology, it's ASS F(i)N(al) struck me as I first saw it. I don't know if this means they are all asses and what they say is final, or that this is the final straw for my ass. Either way, it's a shot of hope.

Now about my shoes. I've been waiting and burning up Ma Bell for months now also and still no shoes. I thought I had resolved this problem a month ago. Nope! The orthotic company still has not received the necessary paperwork as of this morning. Since I was in town for my neurosurgeon appointment anyhow, I decided to hail hell fire down on both offices until I had an appointment to get my shoes ordered. I was tired of waiting. I'm already starting on yet another decubitus ulcer forming on my AFO clad foot because of my shoes no longer supports my foot correctly. I was not my usual nice person in either office. I went to the orthotics place and picked up another set of the paperwork and hand carried it to my PCP's office. All of four blocks away. I signed in at my PCP's office. No, I didn't have an appointment, I explained to the front desk clerk, but I wasn't leaving until I got this matter resolved today. I explained why I was there too to the poor girl. She in turned called one of the nurses up to the front desk. If all else fails...pass the buck. I explained my situation again. The nurse took a no nonsense attitude and marched to the back of the office where the doctor was seeing patients.

Fifteen minutes later, the nurse returned with the filled out and signed paperwork in hand. I rose to take them from her. She shook her head and walked to the fax machine. Within five minutes, she motioned for me to join her at the desk. She told me to go to the orthotics office and make my appointment for my shoes. She was a nurse after my own heart and she did exactly what I had done in the past. Again, she apologized for the delay in getting it done, but her actions spoke volumes. I went to my brace maker and got my appointment...October 18th, my beloved husband's birthday. Two weeks after that, I'll have my shoes.

It's been a eventful/uneventful couple of months. Hopefully, not soon to be repeated.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Suunday Stroke Survival: News and Insurance Woes

I finally heard from my neurologist about getting an appointment at the Shepherd Center!!!
(Whistling and one-handed clapping)

That's the good news.
(CLUNK! The other shoe dropping)

The bad news is that they are not taking any new patients. My neurologist's office will have to call back in October or November to see if there is an opening. So I;m still waiting. But I do have a toe in the door. Sort of. With Shepherd's being one of the top spinal/brain centers on the east coast, a waiting list is to be expected. The last time I was there a couple dozen years ago, I had an 'in' (leverage). I was a spinal trauma, life flight nurse with a severe injury and they had an experimental surgery. I had doctors pulling for me. That's not the case now. Now, I'm an old (five years post stroke) stroke survivor looking for options. I understand the difference, even though I'm the same patient.

The odds of getting into the Center and having something done before the end of the calendar year is looking pretty slim. Why the push? Well deductibles for one. I've gone round and round with my medical insurance program since my Medicare kicked in back in July. Yes, my insurance is cheaper by $30 a month. My Blue Cross/Blue Shield is now my secondary insurance. They've got divisions called Pre-65 and regular medicare. It shouldn't matter, right? Medicare is Medicare and my BCBS is secondary. But because I'm not 65, by a couple of years, they only reduce my premiums by $30 instead of 66% (100 a month versus 300 a month) like at 65. It's a racket, right? Who besides me, thinks this?

I'd shop for a different policy, if it wasn't mixed up with my retirement pension. It's also terrific insurance that has a maximum out of pocket and a low yearly deductible. Yeah, I'm just griping here because there is nothing I can do about it. With my Medicare, the chances of my hitting my yearly BCBS maximum out of pocket expense ever again is nil. Which is a good thing, but a bad thing when you compare the benefits of the BCBS policy. I can foresee me spending close to the maximum each year without actually crossing the threshold each year.

I guess I've got a choice to make. Either to wait in Shepherd Center or find another neurosurgeon. The bad thing about my move to north Georgia is that I know no one that includes doctors. My years of experience and tracks records means nothing. I'm starting from scratch. Wish me luck.

Nothing is impossible.