Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Weird tihs

I mentioned on the koobecaf yesterday that I was feeling better than I have in a good long while.

As I figuratively pen this missive twenty-four hours later, I feel even better.

I don't feel good, mind you, or anywhere close to normal, but I feel so much better than I have for the last month that I believe I could leap small buildings in a single bound. A couple of doll houses perhaps. Building stature isn't the point here; the astonishing thing is that the concept of leaping seems an achievable proposition! Smileyfiretruckin'face!

My foot is less sore as well. It still burns and stings and is painful to walk on but gone is that grinding, pounding near-constant pain.

Perhaps the most amazing thing is that my mind feels sharp and clear now, where before it was anything but sharp and clear. It's a bit like waking from a dream; a dream where I existed in twilight torpidity, in a dull and colorless world filled with completely uninteresting stuff that didn't matter because it was all superficial nonsense.

This last is rather frightening. I think I could live with being crippled, with losing a foot or a leg. Perhaps, like Wheels, the RIO I've never met, I could learn to exist in a wheelchair. But I shudder to imagine life as it's been the last month or so, a dull nothingness of mental and intellectual dissipation.

This experience has had a lot of ups and downs. Just now it's trending up and the surgery to clean out the bacterial housing project in and around my heel bone is a mere nine days away. Then, I suspect, my immune system will get on with the job of evicting that rotten crowd of pathogens, and life will pretty quickly return to normal.

That's my hope, anyway.

And now, a few images of the contrasting face of early winter, taken 24 hours apart.

 Followed by a nice day...
 And then winter returns...

And hey, presto, wintry morn in Herefordshire!

Be well.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Making delayade

Well, surgery will be on December 8 or perhaps December 9. One or the other unless disrupted by the end of the world or something.
The moonrise November 14.

I've been struggling for the last week with being cross about the delay and feeling sorry for myself. Such a whiner!

I even let the weather change get me down a bit. We went from a high of 80 on Wednesday to a high of 31 on Thursday. A couple of cold, wind-driven inches of snow chimed in, and overnight temperatures tumbled all the way to 10 degrees.

So getting out, about and around was more difficult and less comfortable. I hobbled painfully through my winter chores and begrudged the great burden of having to report to the hospital daily for an infusion of IV antibiotics.

A real mopey arsehole I can be.

I had a tough night last night with aches and pains and fever and stomach upset. The morning dawned grim and cold and ugly.

My dog gave me a funny look when I prepared to head out for chores. She perked her ears, cocked her head to one side, and stared at me.

"Th' hell's your problem," she seemed to ask.

Then I got a whiff of my attitude and it smelled really bad.

I resolved to clean up my act.

I had to fake it at first. But it didn't take long to brighten my outlook.

With a big assist from Nona and from Nature's beautiful morning.
Nona's dad Jeeter, soakin' up the sunshine.

No wind, a huge blue sky, and the sun still high enough in the heavens to kiss the world with light and warmth.

As the temperature rocketed past 40 degrees the air came alive with the good smell of autumn. Damp earth, fallen leaves, warming bark, melting snow, freshly stacked hay bales, grain dust, warm cows, steaming fresh manure.

Snow and ice melted throughout the day. Cows and calves grazed, birds and small mammals flitted and fed, deer ghosted along treelines, the brilliant sun warmed by heart and my bones.

Then came sunset, with the atmosphere still and clear as glass while nature wielded her paintbrush on the canvas of the southwestern sky, daubing colorful pigments of air and dust and photons with gleeful abandon.

The air cooled and became bracing, cows continued to graze, dogs skittered around in dogish joy, and the last Cessna of the day turned final, chirped onto the runway, then snarled toward hangar and home.

I am so blessed to be able to experience the beauty of the day, the beauty of boundless, teeming life perched on the cusp of winter's annual nap. I could be chained to a hospital bed, could be really, really ill, but I am not.

I can take the delay that the world has given me and wallow in self pity. Or I can make delayade.

I shall try to do the latter.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

bugs and biology, plans and perigee

Plans change

I was scheduled to have surgery last Friday, November 11. At the last minute there was some kind of problem with the insurance, which seems to come down to a lost authorization email and fax.

Well, it’s not the end of the world, just a delay. Disappointing though.

I’ve been struggling with osteomyelitis in my left heel since September 5. The daily IV antibiotics are holding it in check for now, and the PICC (peripheral intravenous central catheter) line makes getting the antibiotics much easier, but the whole thing is getting old fast.

I had some hope that the antibiotics might do the trick and allow me to avoid surgery, but the surgeon says the infection won’t go away until the infected hardware from my 2007 surgery is removed, along with some of the necrotic (dead) bone tissue.

I keep wanting to feel sorry for myself but with my medical background I know that I’m fortunate indeed to be suffering this malady in 2016. Thirty years ago, back when I was a navy paramedic, osteomyelitis was much harder to treat. Today’s antibiotics are much more advanced and efficacious. A similar surgical delay back in 1986 would likely have been a serious problem. Today it’s potentially a problem, but unless I take a turn for the worse the delay is nothing more than an inconvenience.

As recently as 50 years ago -- 1966 -- a similar infection would have been essentially untreatable with antibiotics. Most likely I’d have lost the foot to amputation, and even with amputation there would have been a frighteningly high chance of a fatal outcome.

This is a good example of the power and efficacy of modern antibiotics, and it rather tosses a bucket of water on the commonly espoused narrative regarding the “crisis” of antibiotic resistance.

While it’s completely true that pathogens can and do develop resistance to antimicrobials, resistance is neither as simple nor as one-sided as we often hear. There are a great many variables involved. Perhaps the most important is the fact that our immune systems are no more as static as bacteria. While bacteria can adapt and evolve resistance to antibiotics, our immune system can also adapt and evolve the ability to respond. This ability to adapt is one of the basic characteristics of life.

Antibiotics are wonderful, life-saving medicines. They have completely changed the face of medicine. Today we scarcely give a thought to dozens of diseases that were nearly universally fatal less than 80 years ago. But antibiotics are not magic, and they are not really the thing which cures disease. The thing that actually cures disease is the body’s own immune system. Antibiotics give the immune system a critical assist by slowing the progression of the bacterial assault. This gives the body the priceless gift of time -- time to muster more energy and more and better defenses. In the absence of a functional immune system, antibiotics have no chance of curing bacterial disease.

We modern human beings can do some amazing and incredible things. It’s good to remember our limitations though, and keep things in a reasonable context. We can produce life saving pharmaceuticals, yes, but we cannot “make” an immune system. Perhaps we’ll gain that ability in the future, but for the present we must rely on nature.

Distances vary

As I write this on Monday morning, November 14, I’m looking at some of the pictures I took just after sunset last night. The pictures are beautiful, but they don’t come close to replicating the experience of last evening’s moonrise. That’s the limitation of photography, which yields only a two-dimensional representation of a four-dimensional event.

This month’s full moon, which is often called the Beaver Moon, happened to be a “supermoon.” By definition a supermoon is a full moon which coincides with lunar orbital perigee. In other words, when the moon comes closest to the earth in its orbit.

The moon orbits our planet in an ellipse, rather than a circle. So far as we can tell all of the planets, moons, asteroids, dust clouds and even stars trace an elliptical path through the heavens.

The distance between earth and the moon averages out to just under 240,000 miles. At the farthest point of its orbit it’s nearly 255,000 miles distant. This point is the apogee of the orbit. Perigee, which we saw this month, can be as close as 222,000 miles.

There are a great many gravitational forces acting on both the earth and the moon, so the moon’s orbit is anything but exact. It hasn’t come this close to earth since 1948, and won’t come this close again until 2034.

Sunday and Monday evenings the nearness of the moon made it appear to be about 14 percent larger than average, and it cast about 33 percent more light than average.

I hope you had the opportunity to d a bit of moon gazing. It was beautiful.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A snapshot of what the media is not reporting on

Perusing koobecaf yesterday and came across this exchange between some young twenty-something fellows. This Sam kid happens to be my nephew. Seems he's no longer really a kid, that he's got his stuff suitcased better than I did at his age, and he's not alone.

I'm developing a suspicion that we'll be okay.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Update on Seven Seconds

You may have read this post a couple of years ago. Here is a different take, seen many years later through the eyes of the daughter of a classmate of one of the two men who fell that day. It's good stuff.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Okay, just a quick update here. Been a rough couple of weeks. I was a good bit more sick than I was letting on, even to myself. Well, bone infections make you pretty sick, so that's to be expected.

The IV antibiotics don't make you feel so hot either.

However, it wasn't that long ago that bone infections made you dead, and there weren't any antibiotics.

It's important to keep a sense of scale, context and perspective.

Here's a pic of my new picc line. The fellow who put it in graduated four years ahead of me at good ol' Kimball Reform School, then ran off and joint the navy and became a corpsman. He spent his naval service with the Marines. It's a big world, but there are a lot of big connections.

Anyway, I had a bit of a breakthrough yesterday. I'll not go into extreme gory detail (I'll throw in a video for that) but let's say that the pressure that had been building in my heel bone was relieved. The pain went away almost instantly and I began feeling less sick right away. Last night I actually slept a full, restful night's sleep for the first time in a long while.

This morning I feel giddy -- almost drunk -- with wellness. Or at least not-sickness.

I feel certain that the many thoughts, prayers and well wishes have been playing a central role in the healing process. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am blessed.

So, pre-op visit in the morning, then surgery on Friday.

I would guess, given yesterday's breakthrough, that the surgery timing will be just about right. I feel like my immune system is gaining strength and gaining the upper hand. The debridement will take care of necrotic tissue and remove all the old hardware and suture material (aka bacteria apartment complexes) and the post-op healing should be quick and straightforward.

I could be wrong, of course, and I don't want to count all my chickens before they hatch, but after yesterday I'm feeling pretty good about the outcome.

Thanks again to all you kind people out there. As a token of my appreciation, let me share a video. This is the procedure (more or less) that I had back in 2007. There are calcaneal debridement videos out there, but they're pretty gross.

Well, I guess this one is too. I won't feel bad if you don't watch it. For a corpsman it's pretty fascinating, but we tend to be strange that way.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Still alive

I apologize for the recent lack of posts. Been feeling a bit small for the last week as my immune system battles the forces of darkness. I'll be seeing the surgeon again tomorrow and anticipate a surgical intervention in the near future.

Still getting IV antibiotics every morning and I'll be heading off for my daily dose in a few minutes.

Couple of random thoughts...

When Walt Garrison signed with the Cowboys in 1966, it was the custom for signees to receive an automobile as a signing bonus. Garrison, a real Texas cowboy who earned a pre-vet degree while playing football at Oklahoma State, asked for, and received, a horse trailer in lieu of an automobile.

When Cobi Hamilton signed with the Bengals in 2013, the automobile signing bonus was a thing of the distant past. These days signees receive cold, hard cash. Hamilton, another real Texas cowboy who played college ball at Arkansas, took his $93,000 bonus to the sale barn and bought cattle.

For most players, the NFL is a solid bitch of a career. For all but the very elite, the league chews its players up and spits them out in a year or two, essentially broke, and with few skills and little experience with which to face the rest of their lives. Well, that's life, they're big boys, and that's the breaks.

Hamilton was cut from numerous practice squads in '13 and '14, and was out of football entirely last year. He spent 2015 working on the family ranch.

This year he made the cut with the Steelers and seems to be doing quite well. But he also seems to be a well grounded farm kid at heart, and I suspect he'll be okay whichever way the ball bounces.

You gotta wonder why the media and government can only report on and stir up riots, and why no one seems to think of pointing out the countless American success stories, the countless American lives built one stone at a time on foundational American principles.