Saturday, May 27, 2017

Mandevillas and more...summer is here

Laura and I went flower shopping today.
Groceries can wait until tomorrow.
Housecleaning, ditto.

White mandevilla.

Pink mandevilla

Red mandevilla.
Yellow mandevilla, accompanied by a purple dahlia.

A sunflower. Before long I can go face to face to take pictures.

The front garden not too long ago. I'm still trying to get all the plants located and arranged. Those balloon flowers will get a bit more contained tomorrow. The plant under the bench is Stella de Oro. It was getting too big back in the crocus. Now I know what it is, where it is, and how big I intend to see it grow.

I asked the transplanter if she liked it under the bench.
Long pause.
"Well, technically, it's not my garden."
I took that as a "No."

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Worst funny picture, ever

I’ve complained about bicyclists for longer than I’ve had a blog. On occasion I’ve taken pictures of bicycles on the road, described with some disdain. In fact, the township recently suffered bicycle events that bordered on cataclysmic, if you live in or drive in the township. One is a state law; one a federal ruling. It’s not possible to rank the sublime and the ridiculous, so here they are, in no particular order.

The state of Ohio has ruled bicycles may ride two abreast, and cars must give them three feet of clearance. The visual fulfills sublime to ridiculous on its own. There are posters all over town, all over the roads, of two bikers, side by side, and a car passing. The car’s door is open, to demonstrate a visual of three feet.

Ohio township roads may be as little as twenty feet wide, but generally are thirty feet. That divvies out to fifteen feet per lane, less things like the center line and the berm. Let’s say one polite rider is on the berm; his buddy is side by side, consuming say, a yard of actual road. So, fifteen feet are reduced to twelve. Whoops, less three feet of door, in order to pass, is nine feet. The average car takes more than six feet of width.

You get the picture. Bicycles own the road in townships. Our fine (R) representative, Jim Rinnacci, held a hearing no one knew of until the law was passed. Bikers presented testimony. The testimony has been sealed. The law says that the speed limit on all township roads that pass through a federal park (in the foot note, Boston Township and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park are noted as the only roads meeting the standard) will be twenty five miles per hour.

There ya go, folks. For a nice afternoon of traffic constricted bicycle riding, come on down to Boston Township and ride in the national park.

The other day, going to work, I passed a small car parked in a ditch, and across the road saw a fellow bending low, seeming to be looking. This was at the very top of Kendall Road. I slowed to see if I could help, and saw an old man, sweeping the berm.  A definite “do not get involved” situation, and I sped up to 25 mph  to continue on.

Coming home a couple of hours later, I passed the fellow again. He’d worked his way a couple of miles down the road, and only had the big bend at the Boy Scout Camp and past the lake at the golf course, to get on down to Akron Peninsula Road. Definitely under the speed limit.

I could restrain myself no longer. I took possession of the gully where I park to photograph my header tree, and said I had to tell him a story.

This township is overrun by bikes every day, and simply consumed every spring, summer and fall weekend. Years ago I relayed a phone message to the trustees: “It would be courteous of you to keep the berms swept for us.” The answer was, “Sweep them yourselves.” But, he never called back. All these years I’ve waited.

And there he was, sweeping the berms. We laughed, shook hands, and went on our respective ways.

Note to self--pictures through windshields generally are not optimal pictures.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Not winning this contest any time soon

Between not being permitted to go to work when I could work, then being criticized and more by the troublesome trustee, my six week backlog is not dented enough. The work is caught up, the mistakes are not. My counselor listened sympathetically, and said she would advocate for me. She called the trustee, explained traumatic brain injury, and for her trouble got an earful that included, if I wanted to resign, give two weeks’ notice.

That was a red flag I could deal with. I immediately wrote and signed my letter of resignation, effective that very day, and circulated it. I mentioned I would be in and out the remainder of the month, doing what I could. I’m down to sleeping only an extra four or six hours a day, and that’s been helpful. The stack of mistakes remain, and I think before June 1st, the mistaker will call the mistakees and outline the plan of remediation for someone else to do.

But, the worst thing of all—I don’t amuse myself anymore, and I probably bore all of you to tears, too. I haven’t found a bit of amusement in the setbacks. All the people who understand what they want to understand and not a thing more no longer make me say “Fool. Idiot!”. I don’t want to wait another year.

The good news is, we haven’t settled the blood pressure problem yet. I bought a new cuff. It’s little and cute. I haven’t had a blood pressure problem for so long, I couldn’t recall the difference between a decent reading and an indecent one. I took in the week’s list today, and my doctor said, “These are not good.” They were all one sixty somethings over eighty somethings, and I wasn’t fussed. She was, though.

Years ago, before I had the stroke, she and I had a blood pressure fight. Every drug she tried made me sick, one way or another. Another week and another week, I’m sitting on the table and she’s writing a new scrip. “This is like throwing spaghetti on the wall,” I snarled. “How many left before you get one to stick?” “You’re being referred to a cardiologist,” she replied, and so I have a good one of them, too.

Unfortunately, we could not remember the name of the drug he prescribed. I called the cardiologist’s office to check their records. Diovan, the receptionist announced a few minutes later. Diovan! How could we forget? It brought down blood pressure for six months before the stroke (not related), then we damn near killed me with no blood pressure at all.

The road guys would find me passed out at the desk and call the ambulance. I can’t tell you how many youngsters learned to insert an IV needle because of me. My favorite one whipped the monitor around to face him when I happened to glance over. Must have been a really low pressure reading. I looked at the other two medics watching him, and I told the kid he just passed Bedside Manor on his exam. That youngster now is First Lieutenant for the Memphis Fire and Rescue.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Dr. De Ren

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds…

I’ve known Dr. De Ren for ten years. Back when I had a stroke and no nouns, he was one of the first doctors I saw. He’s a neurologist, and was so young and serious. And Chinese, and handsome, with language skills not more intelligible than mine.  He listened to my noun less speech, or looked at the pictures I drew, and answered my questions. Once I looked at my notes, realized I’d missed an important point and shouted “Bird come back” at the nurse. Probably the first noun I used. The nurse just stared, but Dr. De Ren, outside the door, came back. I looked in the little book just now, and see I wrote “kind” at the end of the day’s notes.

I saw Dr. De Ren for several years, until there was little more stroke business to follow up. When I came back from DC after this pointless accident, I was given a list of doctors to follow up with, or be released. The neurologist was the nice, fat little Italian fellow, who dismissed me and my back pain. But, I already had an appointment with Dr. De Ren, and  knew I could tough it out.

Today Dr. De Ren came into the room saying “You had a terrible accident. Tell me about it.” And I did, and gave him a copy of the little Italian doctor’s MRI of my “perfect” brain. My history with Dr. De Ren began with an MRI of my brain, when he told me the good news was that I had one. I told him my complaints were that I could not stay awake, and the debilitating pain since those neurosurgeons (the swine!) had confiscated my NSAIDS.

“Well, you know, those neurosurgeons cannot stand blood,” he said. “So, they prescribe Keppra. Sometimes they cannot stand blood so much, they prescribe extra Keppra. I see you’re on twice as much Keppra as you can possibly need to prevent a seizure.”

“Why would I have a seizure?”

“Disorganized electrical activity.”

I could see where that might come from. But, “What is a seizure?”

He made fists of both hands and made his body shake, violently.  “It shakes the blood out of the vessels. And remember, those neurosurgeons hate blood! All the extra Keppra is making you so groggy! Perhaps they think you won’t notice the pain if you’re not awake!”

He cut the Keppra in half. We’ll see if I stay awake. He added a tiny bit more Lyrica for the back pain. We’ll see what happens. Lyrica puts me to sleep, too, so I take it at bedtime. I hope it works. It seems a shame to waste being pain free by being asleep.

I just recalled another Dr. De Ren anecdote. My sister had some surgery once, and the doctor feared she may have suffered a stroke. He sent her and her MRI to Dr. De Ren, who evaluated it. The stroke could have happened any time in the past, even when she was born. Absolutely fascinating. He told her the good news was, she had a brain, and he absolutely could not seen in one ear and out the other. Now I wonder about my brain. But the important thing to remember is this: “Those neurosurgeons hate blood!”

Sunday, May 14, 2017

How to get yourself back to work after they’ve fiddled in your brain

This current hurdle is not my first time at the rodeo.  I had a stroke a few years ago that hospitalized me for a month, in three separate incidents. I was rather proud of myself for keeping up at work and missing no meetings, but mostly for being independent. I asked the doctor, as I was being dismissed, if I could drive. He considered the question for some time, and then said he could see no reason why not.

I knew my sister was dumbstruck, and I asked her on the way home, what she saw as a drawback. She replied she thought all the cars going by would confuse me. Since I had nothing going for me but a lot of chutzpah, we agreed on a driving test when we got home. I’d drive down the street and back up, and if it was a normal trip down the hills, around the bends, and back up, I was still a driver. It was, and I was, and that was the end.

This time it was not stroke, but a craniotomy to evacuate the hematoma that settled between my skull and my brain. I was kept unconscious for several days, and was routinely handed pain killers. I was not overly conscious of my surroundings for my five week stay, until the last week, when I decided it was time to leave.

At the rehab hospital I was again routinely offered pain meds, but this time for my old back problem. The docs had concluded my lovely ibuprophen, plus all the blood thinners to prevent a new stroke, had been the direct cause of the bleed into my brain that would lead to a new catastrophe.  

I have lived with chronic back pain for ten or more years, and have given the medical profession every possible opportunity to locate the source and end the pain. Abject failure on their part, until I thought I struck a happy balance with a Celebrex tablet in the morning and Lyrica at night. It’s been a happy combo for the last several years, until I woke up in DC and found the Celebrex confiscated.

So, the old protocol began. Try this, try this, try this. But all the drugs were narcotic, and the tiniest dose put me to sleep for four to six hours. The non-narcotics were useless. My back pain continues, debilitating. For the moment I’ve settled on acetaminophen, which barely functions for me. I’m about to begin asking all the medicos again for advice. There’s always the solution of Celebrex and never falling again, but I doubt I could convince a doctor to prescribe it.

Pain was only part of the problem interfering with my job.  My sister and I agreed on the same old driving test when I got home. Sadly my daughter had confiscated my car keys. She claimed it was on the advice of a doctor, and the keys would be returned when I passed a driving test. As the person inside my brain, I was confident of my ability to drive. Her confidence was zero.

I was scheduling doctor appointments, when I came home, and catching up on Laura’s. There were days with two or three, plus work. I tried setting up the Uber application, but failed completely. Beth and Janice decided to split days of the week driving me, until I took the driver test. I just begged for my keys. Both of them have full time employment.

The job that pays mine and Laura’s bills was suffering horribly. I found little windows of time when I could function; sadly, these did not occur at work. I was performing a job I have done for fifty years like a dolt. Sometimes I even put down my head on my desk and passed into pain and sleep. I told my daughter I could not work effectively, standing on the corner waiting for a ride. No keys were forthcoming.

Then serendipity crossed my path again. Early one morning there was a knock on my door from the equipment operators laying the French drains. My daughter had put my car in the street, so she and Jan could use the drive way. It was in the way of efficiently moving their equipment and laying gravel. I explained I had no keys. They offered a tow. I asked for time, and called Beth. Two or three hours later her husband was on my porch with my keys, and nightshirt flapping, I put the car in the drive.

I kept appointments on Thursday and Friday. The Thursday appointment was with the neurologist,  who asked why I was not already driving, as the CAT scan and the exam indicated no reason why I should not drive. The cutest, chubbiest little Italian neurologist high fived me when I said I drove to the appointment.

There has been serious sleeping the last several days. On Saturday I literally slept the entire day. I do recall from past anesthesia, I just sleep and sleep until the last molecule has left my body. It has a purpose, and a price. It makes no difference, if I can tell when I can go to work. Laura and I went this morning. She did my back filing, and I got a large batch of checks ready to run Monday. That will straighten out one third of the horrid mess I made of the job last week, when I couldn’t function.

Normalcy returns. I’ll solve the back pain, and be my old self again.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A fine flowing ditch of serendipity

When we moved in last July, there were some less than wonderful aspects of the house and property, as there always are. One was drainage of storm water. Occasionally I would take the maintenance man by the elbow and point out the defects, some of which were attended to, and most of which were not. Management here was no better, and management “higher up” was useless, which sometimes is the problem with rental property. If yours does not meet these standards, bake cookies, often.

When my next door neighbor and soon to be friend moved in, her tolerance level for less than her standard took her toe to toe with management even sooner than it did me. By fall I was so concerned about her blood pressure I suggested she back off and leave it to me. What happened next shows there is serendipity in more than we know.

I asked Mr. Google several times for an organization that regulated mobile home parks and struck gold with the Association of Manufactured Home Residents in Ohio living in Communities (formerly known as parks)…and so forth and so on, that actually regulates the park conditions. 

To be sure, I called the head of my county’s health district, and got the name and phone number of the Association’s director, to boot. Then, when I dialed the number in the state’s capitol, the director himself answered the phone. It may be that small, or that understaffed, but it was a real talking person, and we had a real conversation.

“Yes,” he said, “we are working hard to bring the last of these communities into compliance,” and “yes, I will have Bob near that address next week. I’ll have him make a call and look around.” Bob picked a perfect day to take a look, because not only did he encounter flooded properties, mine and my neighbor’s included, Bob met the next level of management, looking around the property for the first time in a year or so (according to some other flabbergasted residents). I think perhaps Bob knew who to call and say “Want to walk the property with me tomorrow?”

Sometime during the week, Bob’s boss called me and said Bob had reported that management said the entire problem would be solved by the end of March. This was during one of those spring like days in January. I made a note on my desk pad and proceeded to forget about it.

I left for spring break vacation in DC with granddaughters, not considering the note on my desk pad about drainage resolution, and at the end of March I was comatose, with no recollection of the drainage of my property being corrected. 

When I actually returned home at the very end of April, drainage still was not on my mind. An entire week of May passed before my neighbor, who schmoozes with people and knows things said “Aren’t you excited! They’re starting the drains this week.” And by golly, they did.

Perhaps the universe had me in a coma for a reason, men tending not to work so well when nagged.

Today Dan, the maintenance guy, told me about the pipe with holes under the gravel, and when it settles a bit, they’ll dress the top with topsoil and plant seed. I told Dan that would be great, and not one more word that might sound nagging.

Sunday, May 7, 2017


I’ve not always had decent heath care, but since eligibile for Medicare, I’ve been OK with what I have. I have a small pension from one job that I devoted to health care, and stayed on a reasonable keel for the last  decade. Only this year has my health insurance cost outstripped that little pension. The weakest part of my plan is the rehab, but I’ve always looked around for money to cover that cost, when necessary, and, all in all, been satisfied.

Fast forward to the April weekend when Beth and Ruth drove my comatose self to the hospital in Akron. The hospital, Akron General, has been my standard of care my entire life. In the recent round of hospital wars, it was acquired by Cleveland Clinic, and some company is making a fortune adding an enormous Cleveland Clinic logo at the top, and dropping the other identifiers a line. Imagine how far down the Edwin Shaw sign has descended. That was my destination and I was almost there.

I spent the weekend at General, and was transported to Shaw on Monday morning. After some preliminaries, I was slipped into the therapy production line. Three main venues occupied my days: Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. I was surprised at the value of speech therapy, mostly about problem solving.

I had not walked in four weeks. The first time I stood, using a walker, my knees buckled. Nor was the therapy as easy a road back as therapy from the stroke. Actually, shame on me for comparing the two. The physios pointed out, over and over, my deficits were stroke residual, not the craniotomy for the subdural hematoma. Couldn’t blame it on the fractured skull. It’s easy to see now; I coasted for ten years keeping even with the stroke damage, not working harder to get ahead.

Live and learn. Haha.

I had one setback in rehab, that still has me concerned and something I must learn more about.  Two of my physios were concerned that my speech was slurring, and I couldn’t stay awake. I returned from every session, skipped the meal and went to sleep. It’s called hyperammonemia. I don’t know if I’m over it or what else I should know about it. The good news is, these two women recognized and reported it. The worst news, in my case, is that it subtracted two good days of physical therapy from my schedule, and this kind of insurance is unforgiving about physical therapy. Nine days per incident and off you go.

I have been working on my own now, scheduling my life. This week coming up I have appointments with the neurologist on Thursday, my same physiologist who was so disappointed with my stroke progress ten years ago on Wednesday, and various others on Tuesday and Friday.

I got a hair cut over the weekend. Melanie had little good to say about Washington General’s sense of style. “They have none, though they did a decent job of parting half to one side and shaving it.” There was no sense in reducing the left side to match the stubble on the right. The left is trimmed and the right must catch up. Pictures may follow.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Why I recently discharged myself from two excellent medical hospitals. I don’t recommend it highly, but sometimes it’s the required jump start.

I was hospitalized from March 26th through April 28. I was in George Washington Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC, though April 14th; in Cleveland Clinic (Akron General) for the April 15/16 weekend, and on to Cleveland Clinic (Edwin Shaw rehab) on April 17. Laura stayed with Aunt Beth and Caroline for the rest of the holiday, then with a school mate for two weeks, then with Aunt Janice, living from her suitcase.

There is no universal hospital system in this country. For all the grand talk of the last thirty odd years, computers do not talk to each other.  Nor do doctors. When my brother-in-law retired, my sister refused to move to southern Ohio for Tom to be closer to his family. Old truck drivers don’t get it; the doctors, the hospitals, the rehab is not out in the corn fields, nor is he. Jan and Tom still live in our doctor central, and amid all their friends.

When I had sorted through enough grey cells, and begun asking questions, I knew it was decision time. The DC doctors appeared once a day, and I realized they were talking to me about not leaving. They would transfer me to rehab in DC. They pretended to, or perhaps actually knew nothing about Edwin Shaw rehab clinics in Ohio. I’ve gone to these since my hip was replaced in 2003. I was there last the day before we left, and scheduled our return for Thursday, so I could keep my Friday appointment.

The fact I had responsibilities in Ohio made no nevermind to the DC docs. I have a granddaughter in school. I have a job. I have a home, with expenses to pay.  I have family and friends. I have a cat. I was well enough to move on to rehab. The DC docs wouldn’t even look up “Edwin Shaw rehab.”

When the DC docs left the room, I called my clinic and had a nice chat.  I left my therapist a message, and  told them I would be there to start rehab on Monday. There were logistics, of course. New patients are admitted on Monday. I was in no shape to spend any time out of the hospital, so I arranged to show up at Akron General, be admitted through emergency on Friday, and on to Edwin Shaw on Monday.

The Edwin Shaw folks were a bit incredulous, but said if I actually arrived, of course I would be admitted. I called my daughter, told her I was being discharged Friday, and could she come down from Cleveland to drive me back from DC.  When she arrived, she fell in with the plan, more or less. Like me, she found the reasons to leave far outweighed any reasons to stay. They are a post themselves.

The DC docs put together some unhappy discharge paperwork, I was rolled into Beth’s car, with Grandma Ruth riding shotgun in the back seat, and we were off. We arrived at Akron General’s emergency room, and politely took our place in line. I dozed, and completely gave up my plan to get Beth and Ruth on their way.  I knew my name and knew I could raise my hand when it was called. But, they would not budge, and so be it.

Eventually I was asleep in a warm, soft bed, with new tags around my wrist and Beth and Ruth back on the road, north to Cleveland. I had home just down the road, the weekend off and the beginning of the next phase of recovery looking decent.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Minors on the town

Good to their word, the girls called Aunt Beth, while grandma drifted through bead land. I have no idea what made the sound I fixed on, but it made the dreams work out. The doctors kept me unconscious for four days. In that time I had a right craniotomy for subdural hematoma evacuation of my encounter with the grill.

I can say this: if someone volunteers to perform my very own craniotomy, I’d probably decline. But, the most pain, post-procedure, was the little slice into a groin artery to thread a drain to my brain to evacuate two hematomas, a nice big one from the sudden stop against the grill, and a smaller one just a couple of months old that I bet a sudden stop against my own cupboard door left. The surgery left me unable to talk or walk, but the nice surgeons drifted in every few hours to tell me I was doing a good job, before sending me back to beads and park rangers.

My daughter Beth came to claim the girls, and her husband Bill came to drive home my car. When they called her, Beth told them to Uber back to the motel, order in a pizza, and not create a disturbance. Oh, yes, and order a new room key with the best story they could muster. Beth checked them periodically, and was satisfied all was well. At least the phone was answered, as expected.

The very next day the girls expressed their disappointment at missing the Jefferson memorial and the tidal basin boats by grandmas’ sudden stop. Good for them! Beth took them back to view the marble they missed, before heading back to Ohio, the next morning.

As they left the hotel the next morning, the girls suggested a quick trip to Starbucks, across the road,  and Beth led the expedition. Before the doors closed behind them, the wait staff were out from behind the counters. “There you are! We’ve been talking about you! How’s your grandma? We’re so worried about her.”

“Grandma will be just fine,” Caroline announced. “Mom’s taking us home and coming back for grandma.” Thirteen year old minds deal beautifully with time and place. Beth exited behind a latte and a chocolate with double whipped cream, smiling.

Grandma did leave, a couple of weeks later, though not discharged. It was a fine adventure, and I doubt my grandchildren will realize it for several more years.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Vacation images

For the longest time I just heard the beads, click, click, clicking, and watched the picture forming, building from the bottom to the top. When I was tired, all the beads slid from the bottom and new beads fell to start a new picture. The pictures were Disneyish, but not Disney. They were pictures I’d seen during the day. Cherry blossoms, of course. Children. Families. People who understood the meaning and use of etiquette. People who had no idea.

A ranger would say, quietly into an ear, “This is a national monument, sir. Please remove your cap, take your smoking materials to the other side of the perimeter; take your argument with your friend there, too.  I had to smile; I didn’t remember hearing so much during the day, but there they all were, back again. I smiled. We are one rude nation.

I was tired; the girls and I had been on their feet most on the day. Caroline and I consulted, decided to go back to the Union Station for some supper, and come back to see our last monument, the Jefferson Memorial. They could ride the paddle boats for a bit, then back to the hotel and a good night’s sleep for Mt. Vernon and Montpelier. It was a bit of a hike down the hill to the red bus, but we were among the first on. These red busses fascinated me; on anywhere they stopped and off anywhere they stopped, for a buck.

A look around and I was beginning to sit down, when the bus exchanged its snooze at the curb for a dash to the center lane. I fell to my shoulder and sped pell-mell down the aisle, until my head crashed into a metal grill. I brushed off Laura and Caroline, who were up at once to help. I got up, got to the seat, and took a look at myself and at the bus. “I need to go somewhere to clean up,” I said. The girls said nothing.

The bus pulled back to the curb. Police came on; passengers left. I wondered for a second about their dollars. But the police were down to business, collecting information. We, obviously, were going nowhere. I considered my granddaughters, more mature than minors, but minors nevertheless. 

I picked a policeman from the group, and told him he was in charge of them for the time being. I told the girls the same; the policeman was in charge until he handed them off to a new person in charge. I told Caroline to call her mother. Then I stopped remembering.