Friday, May 13, 2022

Punk Rock and surgery part II (YGTBSM edition)





PBJ and cereal for brekkies. Space tent in the background.

What's a space tent, then?


I promised this a long time ago, clear back on October 11. SMH. Big thanks to John Blackshoe for the reminder, and to all of you kind readers for hanging in there while I've been  wherever the hell I've been...

Before we get to the part two, Let's have some music. When it comes to music, I like what I like but I can't tell you why I like it. I've liked Modern English for 40 years. Can't tell you why. Their lockdown edition of "Melt With You" is awesome.


And now, again from England, my new favorite punk band Not Tonight and the Headaches "Reasons to Smile."


'cause I am
at the end of my rope,
with these things
that wind me up,
but I won't
go givin' up,
'cause you're,
you're the reason I smile through it all...

 ##########

Let's see, where was I?

In the OR I felt warm and relaxed. There was a bit of conversation but I don't recall the details. The Seahawk Anesthesiologist placed a mask over my face. "Just breathe normally," he said, so I did. I detected the faint odor of anesthesia gas.

Then I woke up in the recovery room.

##########

I was a bit muzzy at first, having just come out of general anesthesia. The first order of business was to check my legs. I'd just had spinal surgery after all, so the question was whether I was paralyzed or otherwise neurologically compromised. So. I could wiggle my toes and bend my ankles. I could feel the sheet on my legs and feel my feet moving against the gurney and the sheet. Perfect. I could also bend my knees, but, oh crap. I had a foley catheter in. Firetruck! It pulled and stung as I moved my legs. Shit!

"Hey, I'm Betty. I'm your recovery room nurse. How are you feeling?" She'd been been quietly sitting on my right side. I hadn't noticed her before she spoke. I glanced at her, then glanced again. Another fetching beauty, brunette this time rather than blond. That I noticed this immediately upon coming out of anesthesia says a lot about me, I think. You can take the sailor out of the navy, but you can't take the sailor out of the sailor.

"Good, actually," I said, "but let's get this catheter out. I can move my legs and I'll be able to get up to pee."

"Okay, let me check your legs first," she said. "What's your pain level?"

It was something I'd been co-assessing as I checked my legs. I was quite surprised to have zero pain at the incisional site, even though I could feel the site and that "something" had been done there. I suspected that the surgeon had injected a local anesthetic to ease the onset of incisional pain and allow me to wake up without a high level of hurt. I'd seen navy surgeons do this during appendectomies and even used the trick myself once upon a time. More importantly -- and more surprisingly -- to me, the grinding radiculopathy pain I'd been living with for two-and-a-half years was gone completely. No numbness-aching-burning-poking-stabbing pain in the left leg and foot. At all. It was, well, amazing.

"it's zero," I said with wonder.

Betty did a double take. She checked my legs carefully, paying close attention to sensation. I passed the test.

"Let me check on the catheter," she said. Rather than scurrying off to find the person with authority to yay or nay the request, she picked up her phone and did some texting magic.

Her phone vibrated with an incoming message. "They're checking with the surgeon. Are you hungry?"

"Ah, not really," I said. Seemed like a strange question for the recovery room.

It was at this point that I realized it was (IIRC) sometime after noon. The surgery had taken a while.

One of the first things Betty did for me was get me my phone. The first thing I did with the phone was snap a post-op selfie to prove to the world I was whole and completely unaffected by the anesthesia.
Sober as a judge. If that's even still a thing.

She also handed me my Alex dog tags. Which was cool.


In a relatively short time we got permission to remove the catheter, which was a major win as far as I was concerned. Betty told me there would be a delay in getting me up to my room because they were having to set it up as an isolation room due to my status as a MRSA carrier. I guess I was the modern equivalent of Typhoid Mary. MRSA Mikey? Something like that.

As I sobered up Betty and I had a long, rambling conversation. I don't remember a lot of it but it seemed nice. I do remember her telling me I was the best post-op patient she'd ever had. The sailor in me was convinced that she was hitting on me. The above-the-brain-stem part of me realized the truth. I was physically fit so I'd weathered the surgery well, I was constitutionally opposed to being whiner, and with my background in medicine the very last thing I wanted to be was "one of those" patients. So I wasn't.

While we chatted and my brain cleared I snapped a few more pics. I had a bunch of those patient identification bracelets. They checked my ID with each patient encounter, which was comforting. For certain values of comforting (I know how the sausage is made). They scanned the barcodes with each encounter as well; part accounting and part charting. And the red one is a bright warning to one and all that I'm allergic to Bextra, an old-school non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug which is no longer on the market because a lot of people had serious side effects and adverse reactions while taking it. Bextra is an interesting case, as it's one of those Cox-2 inhibiting NSAID's, like Vioxx, which caused statistically significant increase in heart attack and stroke. It also caused a lot of serious skin reactions, which is the adverse effect I had when after taking a single dose. The FDA pulled drug approval on Bextra and Vioxx despite Pfizer's loud complaints.


I still had an IV in my left wrist.


In addition to waking up with a foley in place, I also woke up with and A-line in my right radial artery, clear down at the wrist. I was a bit surprised at this, because in my experience arterial lines -- used to monitor blood gasses and finely monitor blood pressure -- are serious business and generally employed only on very ill people or very fragile patients. I suppose that by virtue of being a boomer I fell into the fragile category, if not the very ill category. 
Sigh. I couldn't get a pic of the A-line because my post-anesthesia dexterity wasn't up to doing left-handed smartphone snaps. Boomers be like that.

I also had a surgical drain tube running from the place that still didn't hurt and around to my left side, where it was pinned to my sexy hospital attire.


The business end of the tube was buried in the surgery site and held in place by the pressure of the stapled skin closure. It's job was to provide an exit path for any blood and fluid which would otherwise build up in the area. You really don't want that stuff to stay in there. In a perfect world the body would reabsorb it over time, but excess fluid (swelling) is incompressible, being a water-based liquid, and it can interfere with circulation, press on nerves causing pain, and press on newly repaired tissue, slowing healing and even causing misalignment of the repairs. Potentially even worse, a big puddle of bloody fluid at the surgical site is a perfect place for bacteria to grow, and hospitals are where they store all the bad bacteria.

On the distal end of the drain tube was a suction/collection bulb.


Gentle suction helps evacuate fluid, and the clear bulb makes it easy to measure the stuff that comes out and assess how much leaking and/or fluid accumulation is happening and how quickly it's slowing down.

After a while, perhaps 90 minutes or so after I woke up, I began having a bit of pain from the surgical site. It wasn't bad, but it was irritating, particularly as I moved around. Betty directed me to the blue button of bliss which was connected to a machine which would administer micro doses of fentanyl into my IV. I hoped the machine was stocked with pharmaceutical grade fentanyl, rather than the ultra potent chineseium street stuff. I crossed my fingers and pressed the button. The pain eased but my level of chemical impairment increased. I resolved not to use the auto-martini button very often.

The transfer from recovery to room happened in late afternoon. As you might imagine, it involved being wheeled through passageways and up elevators. When we got to my room, the door was emblazoned with "MRSA ISOLATION" signs and stickers. The nurse who received me was masked, gloved, and gowned. The nurse who had delivered me was not. What we were dealing with was administrative isolation, rather than real isolation. Which was fine, because I judged that the risk I presented to staff and patients was far less than the risk they presented to me. In one sense my isolation was no more than a bit of theater. On the upside, I got a room to myself. On the downside, well, there was no downside. I would have to wear a mask outside the room, but everyone had to wear anti-wuhandromeda masks anyway, sooo...

The nurses paused for a moment to discuss whether I needed to be lifted from gurney to bed. I interrupted the discussion by sitting up and declaring that I was fit enough to do it myself and that I was highly motivated to be up and around. They were willing to let me try (try? yeah right!) and would only convene a lifting team if I failed. Fair enough.

The hardest part of shifting from gurney to bed was sorting out all the lines, wires, and tubes. Once that was done I had zero difficulty getting up, walking over to the bed, and getting into it. There was only a very small bit of pain involved, but compared to the pain I'd been living with for so long it was less than a trifle.

As I got into the bed I launched my "get the firetruck out of this place" plan.

"I need to pee," I said, "so can I get up and go?"

After a quick huddle the answer was yes.

I got up and peed without difficulty. Well, with only a little difficulty. Lines, wires, tubes. An IV stand to be pushed into the bathroom. Mere encumbrances. Of course I had to pee in a duck (hand held urinal) so they could measure the output, compare it with input, and determine whether my kidneys were functioning properly, which they were.

Back in bed, I asked them to leave the rail down so I could get up and go as needed. When you have an IV running fluid in, you have to pee more often, and I really didn't want to be pushing the call button and waiting around with a full bladder for the nurse to arrive. I also asked if I could get up and walk the halls. I really didn't want to lay in bed, I wanted to get up and move around. As part of my devious escape plan, I understood that demonstrating mobility is one of the keys to getting sprung from medical incarceration.

That answer was yes as well.

A detailed description of the remainder of my stay would be pretty boring. The food was surprisingly good and was more like restaurant fare than hospital slop. I did a lot of walking and no whining. I expected to go home the next morning but had to stay a second night because the drain was still collecting fluid. I was disappointed, but it was just one of those things.

On Sunday morning I was released and Uncle D and the littles took me home. The littles presented me with get well art!




The art production continues, and I have very colorful refrigerators these days.

Just for fun, here's an image of the stapled incision. The little round spot above the incision is where the drain went in. The tape is just a piece which wasn't ready to come off yet.


I didn't just lay around when I got home. I rested, sure, but I also walked a great deal, at least five miles a day. I knew that my body would tell me if I needed to slow down.

At six days post-op I was prairie hiking. I wasn't lifting (other than the three year old), my legs and heart/lungs were working great, I had almost no surgical pain, and I had ZERO nerve pain!


At 11 days post-op I had the staples out. Ahhhh! It was a beautiful day.


Between then and now I've recovered completely. The winter sucked for various reasons, but winter can be like that. Spring has arrived and I'm quite busy with ranch chores. It feels so good to be outside and moving around without nerve pain.

In addition to ranch chores I'm getting my garden put in in town, and I have a garden art project in the works. I have some olden tires which need to be cleaned and kid-painted so they can become beautiful planters. What can I say? Go Hillbilly early or stay the firetruck in bed!

Also have a public prairie walk scheduled for June 11 on the ranch, part of Nebraska's annual Wildflower Week celebration.

I'd better pull the trigger on this before another seven months go by. It's Friday the Firteenf after all! (had to fix the formatting on that post because, well, you know).

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.




Sunday, May 8, 2022

After the wind, snow





Chokecherry snow

A thunderstorm grumbled into being about 11 p.m. last Sunday evening, spitting a bit of light rain and a few tired bolts of lightning. Night rain drumming on the roof was a welcome, peaceful sound. A joyful sound as well, considering two dry years and an April which delivered scarcely a third of the average precipitation we expect to see during the month of "showers."

Despite the fact that I could sleep late if I so chose, I rose Monday morning at 3 a.m. It's a curious fact that when I must rise early I don't want to, and when I can slothfully sleep late I do not. As it turns out, rising early is a good deal for me. Those quiet pre-dawn hours tend to be the most writing-productive hours of the day.

As I puttered around with writing the rain morphed to snow. Big, fluffy, springtime snowflakes, falling straight down with nearly the velocity of raindrops. Two smiles there -- no wind, and lots of lovely water in each and every flake. The view revealed through my east-facing office window was spectacular. Nature makes the best jewels!


The rain/snow combination we received on Monday was ideal. The initial rain was slow and gentle enough to soak in without running off, and the follow-on wet snow provided something like a "slow release" irrigation, allowing the moisture to soak in over time and preventing the runoff which would have happened with heavy rain. It's hard to imagine a better way to break -- even if only temporarily -- the present dry spell.


This time of the year the snow doesn't last very long. By Wednesday there was barely enough left to make little snowmen.



On Thursday it was sunny and quite warm, a beautiful springtime day. Just after 9 a.m. (IIRC) I was preparing to mow the back yard when the fire-tornado-nuke attack siren went off. That last bit is an interesting concept. Until Russia invaded Ukraine in February I hadn't thought about the siren in the sir raid context for a very long time. Anyway, an up-down-up siren tone means a fire department call out while a steady tone means tornado. The steady tone also means air raid, though I might be the only one who remembers that fact. So far as the tornado alert goes, the city schedule for testing the tornado warning calls for a weekly test at 10 a.m. each Thursday. I guess 9:08 a.m. is pretty close. All of this is to introduce a video of Tommy's reaction to the siren. Possibly because I was right there he did not react as he usually does.


That evening, however, he did.


It's been a very busy week since the snow but I'm starting to get my spring chores organized. Today, which is Mothers' Day, we're going to have a little Ocho de Mayo party featuring traditional Americanized Mexican food and a piñata. Cinco de Mayo was too busy for a party. I think Ocho is close enough. I'll try to get some images to share with you kind readers.

But now the littles are stirring and they're gonna need fuel! 

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.




Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Birthday and blessings





On Friday when the littles and I headed over to my house the air temperature was 86 degrees and there was a stiff south breeze. Well, at 38 gusting 56 I suppose it was more than a breeze. Our mission was to bake and decorate a birthday cake. The kids would RON at my house so we carried sleeping bags and various other overnight essentials. What we did not carry was winter expedition gear, because late April and 86 degrees.

In the morning when it was time to take them home for the birthday party it was cold (35 degrees), windy, and spitting a lovely rain/snow mix. With no coats on hand for the kids my adult-grownupability rating plunged precipitously.

Fortunately we were able to make a couple of my ratty old chorin' hoodies work. You probably had to be there, but I thought the kids were remarkably cute in their substitute standard expedition gear.


##########

Colors.

The little one likes pink and claims it as her fave. Last year her birthday theme was Minnie Mouse and all pink all the time. Over the last few months she's shown a new interest or appreciation for other colors, and in particular for the nuance of shade. When I asked her what kind of a birthday cake she wanted this year she gave a quite sophisticated answer. "A chocolate cake with blue frosting, a unicorn, and clouds." She then sorted through a pile of crayons to find the exact shade of blue she had in mind. I'm clearly dane brammaged when it comes to these kids, but this change and maturation thing just blows me away. It's so cool!

##########

In the dim quiet of the night, when I hear the gentle breathing of the littles in slumber, the enormity of the miracle comes home to me in a way that's impossible to describe. It's such a big thing that my limited ape-lizard brain can't begin to comprehend it, let alone understand it. It just is, this unconditional love thing.


I don't have the proper vocabulary to describe, let alone 'splain. I are not much of a riter, methinks.

##########

On Friday we baked a birthday cake. But that's not all we did.


One of the secrets to a proper life is to play all the play out of the day. Regarding the 285 dollars -- the five year old is fascinated by numbers and has become quite the math whiz. over the last few weeks he's adopted 85 as his favorite number. He decided that the prize for winning the pillow case race would be $285. Why? Five year old. The winner would be the one who crossed the finish first, without falling down. He knew he would win because five year old versus three year old. Duh.


##########

On Saturday morning we decorated the cake, which involved a giant batch of buttercream frosting. The almost four year old watched like a hawk as I added blue food coloring. When it was the exact shade she wanted she called it. "That!"

Once the cake was frosted I asked her what she wanted it to say. She wanted "Happy Birthday" as well as her first and middle name. But first and foremost she wanted it to say "Kalani." Kalani is her imaginary ("Not 'maginary!!!) sister/friend.

It took quite a bit of tube-frosting writing but the result was pretty good. Then came marshmallow clouds, sprinkles, and colored sugar, liberally applied by the kids, and neatly (for certain values of neatly) applied by the kids. Which completely obscured the writing. Except for "Kalani." It was a work of art. 

The kids, of course, gobbled the excess frosting from the mixer bowl. A super sugar charge happened. It lasted a long time, but it was starting to wear off a bit when the time came to blow out the candles.

 
There was a slight delay between ignition and the singing...

And the almost four year old (her birthday was actually Monday) almost faded out. She hung in there, though!


A pile of frosting with a thin base of cake underneath quickly had both the littles running at full bore.


##########

As I think and write and reflect, what a jumble! I feel like I should wrap this post up with a neat little bow, but I'm at a loss here. T.S. Eliot comes to mind. 

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

I am so very blessed.

##########

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.




Monday, April 11, 2022

Sunrise and spring


Or, the rebirth of an old and busted dude...

Okay, I think I can do this now. Gonna try anyway. My muddled mind has forgotten a few things about navigating this space but I shall endeavour to persevere.

It's April 11, so here's the 411 on why I've been absent from this place for lo these many months. In a nutshell I seem to have been run over by a serious bout of depression. Having never had such a thing I'm not entirely sure about my self-diagnosis. The things I've experienced do seem to match up with the appropriate signs and symptoms, so that's good enough for me. It's been a very bleak time, particularly through the winter months.

Here's what I think happened. After Alexzandra died I was focused and busy. Most of what I had went into supporting family and supporting my physical health as I prepared for getting my back fixed. At or around the time I recovered from the latter, It seemed to me that we'd arrived at a tricky place regarding family support. It's a bit hard to explain, but I recognized that there was a danger of doing too much. People are individual human beings. Individual human beings need to work through many things as individuals. Love and support are always needed, yes, but it needs to be applied in a thoughtful fashion. It's not supposed to be easy, and it's not. Which is exactly the way it should be.

So In a sense I had arrived at a place where there was no need to remain laser focused on physical and external stuff. All that was left to work on was my own inside stuff, and I'd already handled that, hadn't I?

Yeah, not prizackly.

So it's been a hard slog, but I've been slogging. And now with the arrival of spring the slogging is paying off...

I hope this doesn't come across as whiny. I don't want to bum anyone out. I have had and continue to have the greatest life possible. It just so happens that part of my adventure in livin' included a very rough patch, a realization that I'm actually much more vulnerable than I like to believe. Ignoring that fact and hiding my head in the sand is the wrong path to take.

In a lovely twist of the stuff of livin' I clearly recall Alex gently and patiently explaining this to me. I wasn't the best student in those moments, but I did listen a little bit, and her words are ever with me.

##########

On Friday Alex's mom stopped by to see Tommy (or Tommie; it's both). Alex rescued Tommy from a desperate situation. At the time I didn't understand what she was doing. Tommy was in a cage with a half-dozen siblings and life was clearly going to suck for them. My thought was "you can't save them all." Her thought was simply this -- "I can save this one." Which she did, and what a blessing Tommy has been.

Anyway, Tommy instantly recognized Alex's mom and climbed into her lap. He was so happy to see her, and she him. We talked for an hour or so about a lot of little things, all the while wrapped in the spirit of unconditional love, a magical place brought into existence in part by the canine brand of unconditional love.

As she prepared to drive away Alex's mom noticed the contrails of a pair of jets flying very close together, something you rarely see overhead in this part of the world.

I thought it might be a tanking evolution but I couldn't tell for sure. I grabbed my camera and took a few snaps with the digital zoom turned way up.

Judging by what the blurry images revealed I suspect we were looking at a couple of USAF C-40B's doing some form work.

It was pretty cool.

##########

On Saturday the little kids came over to play with Tommy. Tommy has just turned two, and he's a big, strong dog filled with energy and exuberance. A year ago he was far too rough with the littles and they could only take playing with him in brief, small doses. This spring he's become more careful with them and they have lots of fun with only a few relatively gentle knockdowns.

Then we put together a picnic lunch and walked over to City Park, a major trek of three blocks. It was lovely warm outside with the air temperature about 75 degrees. It was overcast and there was a pesky northwest wind blowing in some springtime weather, but we still had a fun time. The nine year old girl who lives across the street showed up and the three kids did a lot of screaming and chasing and energy burning. We shared our picnic and had an awesome time.

As we headed home under the threat of pending rain I showed the kids the seeds inside one of the jillions of honey locust seed pods littering the ground. They were enthralled and decided to collect a bunch of seeds to plant. During the great pre-Easter seed hunt which ensued they collected hundreds of seeds, and dropped/lost many hundreds more. It took us an hour to make the three-block journey home, and the kids arrived with enough seeds to plant in cottage cheese containers. Which we proceeded to do. From a strictly grownup perspective it's a silly thing to do, planting what are essentially weeds. Thank goodness the kids continually beat the strictly grownup out of me. I like livin' in a world where magic is an important component.


As I delivered the kids home the five year old was still fresh and full of energy. The three year old, who will turn four in two weeks, was knackered. She sat on my lap and chewed on the remains of her picnic PBJ in a state of near unconsciousness. What magic! I am so very blessed, and that's a fact.

##########

And now it's time to clean this up and get it posted.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

##########




Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Madcap Recap short update






I'm gonna screw this whole thing up by cutting to the chase before I share part two of the surgical/hospital experience.

As of today I'm 96 days post-surgery and I'm doing much better than well. I blasted through PT and embarked on a reconditioning program, concentrating on strength rebuilding for the back/abdomen/torso and cardio. It's been very successful so far. I saw the surgeon two weeks ago a day after doing a five-mile run.

Being able to do things -- like regular running -- that I haven't been able to do for more than two years is awesome. The surgeon says that coming in fit, prepared, and with the proper attitude was the key to my success. That and continuing to charge ahead into life.

Right now I'm doing weight training three days a week and cardio four days a week and that's a good fit. I'm also doing some rather esoteric stuff to address healthspan going forward, modalities to improve quality of life. So I'm doing heat-shock/cold-shock, meditation, and and a keto-ish diet. It's all making a big difference.

I'm also completely blasted with other life stuff. Family, work, and ranch stuff disappears lots of hours from each day. That's a good thing, but I've put the blog on the back burner while I got my feet back under me, and that's not such a good thing. I'm seeing a pathway to adding blogging time back in and I think it'll work. Time will tell I guess.


I had six weeks of influenza. Which influenza? Doesn't matter, because in my case the treatment was the same regardless of the causal virus. The name just doesn't matter.

I was quite ill and had all of the symptoms. Symptomatically I can make a case for having had each of the three candidates. I hydrated, ingested proper nutrition, took appropriate otc meds, and continued to work and work out. It was tough but I pushed through and never came close to being ill enough to require any actual medical care. During this time I knew of several people who were hospitalized for weeks and spent time on a ventilator in ICU. They were all younger than me but also had significant co-morbidities. They all pulled through but each emerged a physical wreck.

I'm a sample of one but it seems clear to me that being fit was a key to my happy outcome. Sometimes I wonder why I chose to begin the road to fitness in 2018. I had no inkling that the wuhandromeda would happen. It doesn't matter why, of course, I'm just fortunate I chose the path I did.

I'm not gonna live forever, at least not in this physical realm, but I am gonna live as well as I can for as long as I can and I think that's the correct path for me.


The other evening I was playing with the three year old and the five year old. The game they were playing with me was incredibly fun and fascinating. They way they morph the game from one thing to the next to the next is such a neat thing to observe and be a part of. They know what the rules and objectives are, and they flow from one thing to the next seamlessly and in concert. It's as if they read each others minds. I can hardly tell what the game is, but I participate. At one point the three year old said, "you fell out of the car and you're dead." So I flopped over and closed my eyes. Then she started puffing breaths in my face and pushing on my chest; two breaths, two compressions. She was mimicking CPR, and doing it right! Now where did a three year old learn CPR? At another point the five year old buried me in stuffed animals, then decided it wasn't fair that I had all the stuffed animals. Little humans are so amazing and fascinating!


I'm so blessed and fortunate that I get to live a life. So many people seem to choose an existence of being perpetually butthurt and victimized. I'm not fundamentally different than anyone else. We're all humans, and none of us are better or worse than our fellows. I could choose to have a horrible existence too, and that pathway calls to me the way it does to each of us. So why do I and others reject it, and why do so many not?

It's a puzzle. I doubt I'll ever solve it. It helps me to understand in a meaningful way how blessed I am, and the combination helps to keep me centered. Which is a good thing.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.



 
 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Madcap recap of two madcap months





An October blooming sunflower is a precious gift and makes me smile. There are reasons.

As do these guys, who sent me this image on September 10.

Hello, kind readers. I'm still here. I've been spinning in a metaphorical whirlwind since last I posted. The conjunction of family, fitness, pain, ranch work, widget work, and moving house has been a madcap mashup.

My muse is ever present, but my writer has atrophied a bit. After working on this post in fits and starts for weeks, and after re-reading some of the dreck I've written, I realize I need to rein in the mea culpas. Too much of that is unhealthy. And oh by the way, why is mea culpa not in the blooger dictionary? Pretty sure I know. New world order and all that.

In this part of the world we've being blessed with a frightfully gorgeous early autumn. It's been sunny, warm, and calm. We still haven't had a freeze yet. The days are lovely with a bright, warming sun, and while air temps that approach "a bit too warm" in the afternoon the air cools gently as the sun begins to sink. The cool evening and overnight temperatures haven't been cold yet. So far the livin' is fat and wonderful.

For reasons I'll get into in a bit I've been able to write at home in my office as the sun comes up in the morning. Clever ape-lizards will realize that at this time of the year sunrise comes well after going to work time. It's very nice to enjoy the morning light streaming through the big east window. With the window cracked I get October morning sounds and smells and visits from Tommy the Rocket Dog.

Tommy is a dog who seems to enjoy livin', and in the crisp coolness of an early October morning he dashes all over the big back yard and lives it up.

##########

Strap in, this is gonna get stupid!

##########

The last several months have been rather tough physically and mentally. I continued to work hard at increasing my level of fitness and I continued to make good progress. As I worked on overall fitness my body continued to make what accommodations it could insofar as compressed nerves and radiculopathy were concerned.

It was a hard slog, and a painful one. I was making progress, but it hurt a lot. The hurt sucked, but there was nothing I could do to make it not hurt, and quitting or taking it easy was the wrong thing to do. If I wanted to put myself mentally and physically in a place where I could best survive going forward, I just had to embrace the suck and drive on. I couldn't allow myself to focus on the pain. The pain had to be okay, and it was. Particularly when I could wrap it in the concept of weakness leaving the body. As I learned in the savage sand and surf of Pensacola many years ago, I can always do much more than I think I can. So I did.

Somewhere in the future was the possibility of a surgical fix. In theory, cleaning arthritic bone spurs out of vertebral nerve canals and cutting bone away from bulging discs would relieve pressure on impinged nerves, thus relieving nerve pain or radiculopathy.

It was a tantalizing and terrifying prospect. Surgery might, and probably would, help. But I wouldn't know for sure unless and until, and there are a lot of people out there gimping around after failed back surgery. Enough that "Failed Back Surgery" is an actual medical diagnosis.

Couple the above with the fact that the surgical fix carrot has been repeatedly dangled in front of my eyes then snatched away via bureaucratic fiat. That's been a big component of the mental slog. It's hard not to hope too much, and when hopes are dashed it's hard not to get down and whiny. Hard, but not too hard.

Suck it up and drive on.

So as summer began to fade I was driving on, becoming more and more fit while my body continued to try to fix the unfixable. I could see that if I continued on my present path I would be able to survive and even thrive. The pain sucked but my body was doing good work in making it tolerable and I knew I could live with it.

I knew I could live with it because experience over time has consistently proven that God will do for me what I cannot do for myself and will give me the strength do do for myself what I can do for myself, regardless how hard and frightening it may be. I have only to ask. The humility of asking God for help leads directly to Grace.

In my world God employs an angelic assistant, one who isn't shy about bumping me in the proper direction. She orients me toward the path of Grace and wraps me in a warm blanket of love any acceptance. In that state of Grace I can truly love and be loved, and this gift has transformed me.
Dotted gayfeather

In retrospect my life has been very strange and very wonderful. I wandered in the desert from age 18 to age 40, having many adventures and getting my ass handed to me many times.
Life is shit and flowers, in approximately these proportions. Which is as it should be.
 
Because real appreciation for a lovely clotted sky comes from fighting through the shit. 

In my fourth decade I found the proper star to follow and got headed in the proper direction, but I was still deep in the desert and the journey was long. Which it was supposed to be. 
One of the late blooming asters. Breathtaking.

Beautiful weedy sunflower.

It was only in my sixth decade when I left the desert behind. Some, perhaps many or even most, might imagine that four decades in the desert were four decades squandered, but that's not the case at all. It was four decades of growth, livin' a life of hard knocks, trial and error over time. Exploration, building experience, and learning. A full and round and beautiful life. When I finally stepped out of the sand and onto fertile soil I was ready to embrace the important stuff.

In livin' this life I believe my path has been the proper one. I can't be sure of course, but I feel if my journey had been more conventional and mundane I'd be unable to live and love and embrace life upon this very high plane where I now exist. I did the work. I continue to do the work. My pay is infinitely more precious than money could ever be. Something about this song resonates with me. Of course any ape-lizard who seriously considers life as a livin' thing will find resonance with similar well crafted songs. Still, I enjoy the song. The smile it puts on my face reflects the smile in my heart.

 
I guess most ape-lizards can twist song lyrics to match up with their personal experience. Was that young sailorman lost for decades? I think so. Have I wakened? Perhaps a bit. Am I waking when it's all over? No. I'm waking but it's not nearly over.

Sorry 'bout the strangeness of this passage. I'm expositing the inner self as best I can while bangin' on the keyboard like a chimpanzee. The inner self is far too complex to nail down in mere language. As I reread this it looks like a blurred, two dimensional representation of a sharply rich four dimensional life. As I said, strange. Perhaps it works. Perhaps not. Perhaps I'll leave it as it is and press publish. Perhaps not. 

##########

Once again, where was I?

Oh yeah.

It all came together in a rush. It was a bit of a surprise. Approval for surgery arrived in late August and the knife was scheduled to drop on September 10.

I had a few pre-surgery hoops to jump through which were kind of interesting. I had to fill out the usual questionnaire and be quizzed on my responses. Blood work was done as well as an EKG. My EKG was Abby Normal because with a resting heart rate of 50 I was, by definition suffering from Sinus Bradycardia. This caused a slight flurry of activity and a quick check by the house cardiologist, who took one look at me and said to the nurse, "Look at him. Look at those legs." Turning to me he asked, "Runner?"

"¡Sí doctor, muchísimo! "

So much for that.

I was required to have a magic influenza (koronabologna) test as well as a MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus) test. The last was easy, a simple nasal swab. The first was more than a bit psychotic, in keeping with the ongoing worldwide psychosis. The power-crazy bureaucrats in the public health district had been assigned official license to run the testing program and their setup placed testing stations in tiny, isolated villages on a limited, floating, ever-changing schedule. I was supposed to be tested in the microscopic town of Harrisburg in Banner County, thirty miles from Kimball, and I was to call ahead on the scheduled day to make sure the schedule hadn't changed. Which of course it did, twice. Bureaucrats have many important shopping conference trips on their calendars! As it turned out I never did get the official testing station test for magic influenza. But the test was (at least allegedly) a federally mandated requirement for any surgery. No test, no surgery. What was I to do?

Fortunately there was a loophole. The surgical team were careful to phrase their instructions in such a way as to let me know that the hospital could actually do the test if the public health parasites couldn't make it happen. So on the morning of surgery I simply had to arrive an hour early. They could do the test during surgical prep, and even if it was positive they could still do the surgery so long as I wasn't symptomatic.

Also interestingly, the MRSA test came back positive. I'm a bit skeptical for various reasons, but the positive result didn't prevent the surgery, it just modified the prep slightly and guaranteed a private room as I was technically placed in MRSA isolation. Technically because to my trained eye, my "isolation" was paperwork isolation with no actual isolation practiced. Which was quite nice for me. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

As for me and my personal MRSA Positive preparations, I had only to swab antibiotic ointment into my nose thrice daily for the five days prior to surgery.

The current catechism, you see, holds that "MRSA lives in the nose!" Which is a misapprehension of reality, as are masks and social distancing and media/government directed fear are when it comes to the magic influenza. The most educated human populace in the history of the planet has produced the stupidest ape-lizards of all time. Stupid in the ape-lizard realm is, after all, a choice. But I digress once again, as usual... 

As I mentioned above, surgery was scheduled For September 10. That was an interesting day for me because it was the thirteenth-month mark of Alexzandra's death. Funny how the mind works when it comes to marking such days. As I thought about it the conjunction of death date and the number 13 came to mind. Could the combination of potential bad luck signs have any impact or even meaning in the real world? My concerned thinking was quickly displaced by a warm glow and bubbling mirth. My angel made it clear that we were going to be okay, and the thirteenth-month mark was the perfect time to fix my spine.

Showtime on the 10th was 0530, so we wanted to be wheels in the well at zero-four to provide a time cushion for the hour drive. Early is much better than late when it comes to surgery following a two-and-a-half year wait!

My driver was Uncle D, my brother-in-law and husband to Alex's sister Auntie S. Now Uncle D and Auntie S are busy, busy people. They are also my family. I'll not go into detail because there are a few rancid trolls monitoring this place who love to cause problems and leave turds scattered around. I'll leave them scant information to throw poop at. They are a bother, but no more than that. Enough said.

The drive went fine and we arrived early enough that there was no magic flu hysteria going on at the entrances. No one was masked, and no one was practicing social distancing. It was before official opening time, you see.

The surgery reception area was just being opened for business. Check in was a breeze and I was soon whisked back to the pre-surgery prep area. Uncle D was allowed to come back with me.

In the prep area I had to change into the ass-revealing gown with nothing on underneath. The nurse quickly swabbed my nose for the phantom menace test and sent it off to the hospital lab to see if I was infected or not.

At this point I quietly wondered if I had any wuhandromeda viruses hanging around in my nasal passages. I had no symptoms of viral illness, but I had had a two-week bout of serious influenza several months previously. Was that illness caused by influenza A or B, or was it in fact the dreaded macarona? I'd certainly been exposed to and worked side by side with people who had been diagnosed with the phantom menace. Was I a modern day typhoid Larry, as described relentlessly by the hysteria-selling media?

As I waited for the nurse to gather supplies for starting an IV I reflected on the worldwide state of wuhandromeda. Given my medical background and formal medical education I knew the truth; disease, including viral illness, just doesn't work the way it's presently being marketed. It would be interesting to see what my test results were, but I knew that any result would be objectively meaningless in reality. Being observant and possessed of a working mind I also noted that despite the masks, the medical staff were well aware of the non-secret truth as well. They were being forced to play a silly game, but they knew it was a silly game and treated it as such. This was comforting to me, because it proved that in this place at least, actual medical science would be practiced, and no one would go out of their way to make me a mortal casualty of the fight against the phantom menace.

The hospital commissars were a different story, of course, relentlessly running mandatory party meetings and orating memorized passages from their little red wuhandromeda books. But no commissar is going to be out of bed at 0530, and none but the most junior are out and about before 10 a.m. So these early morning hours were a lovely time of near-normalcy in the hospital. I felt very comfortable as very competent and professional medical personnel prepared me for surgery. The meaningless test came back negative. Which meant, well, nothing.

The nurse was quite an attractive woman. I noticed this because I'm a dude, I'm a sailor, and I'm not dead. She was quite engaging and fun to talk to. She took my vitals and asked me if I was taking any beta blockers, having noticed that my resting heart rate was 50. "no beta blockers," I said, "and that's normal for me. I'm a runner."

"I am too," she replied, and we chatted about running while she deftly started my IV. As she scurried in and out of the little prep cubical she must have shared the novelty of having an old dude patient who was a runner and very fit.

"So you're a runner," said the OR nurse who came in to explain his part of the coming procedure. "I'm running a half-marathon tomorrow."

"I'm not that much of a runner," I said. "I'm more of a plodder. I just try to keep my legs strong and challenge my heart. I do a lot of HIIT (high intensity interval training) and step running." This generated a lot of pleasant back and forth as three, four, and then five of us gabbed about exercise and fitness.

"My god," exclaimed the fetching nurse as she attempted to place the TED hose (to prevent blood clots during/after surgery) on my legs, "your calves are enormous! I need to get the extra-extra large."

While the TED hose fitting and jock talk was in full session the gas-passer (anesthesiologist) came in to brief me on anesthesia. My medical background came up when I told him I was a former SAR Paramedic/Swimmer. It turned out he was a former navy helo driver who flew SH-60's from small boys (Destroyers/Frigates) during the late 1980's and into the 1990's. So we chased down a sea story rabbit hole. It was fun and interesting after a fashion; two old sailors wowing the pretty young nurses with tales of our heroic and adventurous exploits upon the briny. Great fun! While we were gabbing the Seahawk Anesthesiologist injected several syringes of colorful medicines into my IV and I felt a wave of relaxation wash over me.

The fetching nurse (Alicia) packed my few belongings in a belonging bag and promised to have the bag delivered to my room. Then they wheeled me out of the prep bay.

In the OR I felt warm and relaxed. There was a bit of conversation but I don't recall the details. The Seahawk Anesthesiologist placed a mask over my face. "Just breathe normally," he said, so I did. I detected the faint odor of anesthesia gas.

Then I woke up in the recovery room.

##########

I hadn't planned to do this but at the moment it seems to be a good idea to break off, publish this part, and come back with a part two later. Hopefully in a reasonably timely manner.

In the meanwhile,

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.