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May. 26th, 2009

Weighty Thoughts

On May 4th, two surgical teams met and placed 7 pounds of metal into each of my knees. Yes, that adds up to a 14 pound gain in weight in just a couple hours! Ok, I also lot a lot of blood, but still, let's focus on the added 14 pounds.

Each knee has paraphanelia that replaces the cartilage of each knee with the accompanying titanium "knuckles" that fit so nicely into the basic plastic hollows. The knees are working quite well, in fact are better than most expected them to be at just three weeks post surgery.

But when I was weighed in bed upon leaving the surgical ward, I was shocked and said that the bed weight was wrong. It did not fit my memory of what I weighed just 4 days prior, pre-surgery. I didn't think at that time of the added 14 pounds that I will have to remember for the rest of my life.

Following the surgery, the in-hospital therapy, the release and return home again, I have continued to lose some weight mainly due to not being very hungry. The net at this time is that I have lost 20 pounds in just three weeks. But wait.....I also gained 14 pounds! This makes my mind hurt. I have indeed lost more weight than what was implanted. But now I need to rethink what weight means. IF I compare my body now to what my current weight meant before the surgery, then yes, I have lost weight. But I have also lost 14 more pounds, meaning that the current weight is equal to what I previously weighed minus 14 pounds. Now how do I explain this? Ok, if a person thinks of themselves at the weight of 170 usually, they gain 14 pounds, and now only weight 164, that is a bigger change to the body. It would be like now weighing 150 pounds. But in my thinking my current weight, which is not stated above, well, the weight I saw on the scales this morning......it was a good weight, but I have to remind myself that I am actually less than that! Isn't this confusing?

I am curious as to how long this will take my mind/body to deal with. Will I ever adapt to the change in thinking? Will I always subtract 14 pounds to find my "actual" weight? I suspect that I will. I do know that my clothing will fit differently and that will be interesting as well.

While my knees are still quite swollen, I can tell a real difference in the swelling than what they were like a couple months ago. At one point, I know that my right knee was so swollen that I measured and it was over 2 inches larger around than the left knee. The right knee is still larger, but I actually am seeing some hollows come, which is something I haven't seen in quite a long time!

By the way, if you are encouraged by your doctor to have knee replacement, do it right away, don't wait for 9 months. The recovery thought might actually be easier, but the pain you will be in for those 9 months is not worth it. Not to mention the increasing damage done to each joint over time.

May. 17th, 2009

Home again

Finally! and also way too soon! I am home from the hospital. I can't believe that I only spent a week and a day in there. The people were great, although just as in any large organization, it is hard to sleep once they start working in a new day. At 5:30 would come the vampires to draw blood to run devious tests on. Then meds around 6. And so on so that one could only get snatches of sleep until things quieted down around 8:00. I usually was finally able to get some good sleep around 3 in the am, so the deep sleep just wasn't really happening.

What a joy to finally be told that I could be independent in moving around my room by myself! Hurray! No more waiting for the nurse to come help me to the bathroom. But with that came also the lack of comfort of having someone around to help if there were any problems. Actually, the staff was very reactive and always came within 5 minutes of the light being pushed on.

Oh that first shower and shampoo after the surgery! I didn't imagine that I was going to be able to shower even with my staples in! But wow, it felt so very good. Wore me out totally, but it left a great feeling. What a reviving time!

I came home on Tuesday, following the previous week's surgery. Coming home, now that was an adventure and a half. Jeff came to pick me up and I had a leisurely lunch for I figured he wouldn't want to stop on the way home to eat. Getting into the car brought the most pain I had experienced during the whole time.....trying to bend the left knee enough to get the foot in, oh my goodness! I learned to almost lay down on the bench seat and then slowly lift the legs in. Then we were off to home.

Of course, I didn't have the new meds with me. They had been faxed to my pharmacy, but the narcotics for my pain had to be hand delivered. Wallgreens let me down. They didn't have the meds! The kind lady called three other Wallgreens to see if they had enough of the narcotics in stock, but they didn't. That meant that I would have to go back to another pharmacy a half hour away.....by this time I was so worn out that I began to cry. I just couldn't face more bracing myself in the car when going around curves or when braking. I also knew we needed to go home to receive a delivery of a special shower chair. So off we went, home to enter the house for the first time with my new knees.

Getting out of the car wasn't as difficult as getting into it. Then I faced a challenge of crossing the driveway with the gravel using crutches. It was an adventure indeed. I remember carefully placing each crutch tip before putting any weight on it. Once we had crossed the river of gravel and uneven surfaces, the gullies of the back path arrived. To get into my yard, one has to step up and over a threshold at the gate, then down from a step, cross an uneven brick battle field and then attack the three steps to the house. I was concentrating so hard and trying to work out each move in advance. But we made it inside and I sat with great relief. The shower chair arrived and then we were back on the road.

Up at Virginia Mason, I had to get out of the car again to take the prescriptions inside. Thank goodness Wallgreens has drive through windows! Anyway, Jeff and I had a treat while we waited for the meds. By the way, if you see me going in circles now, I'm just taking my new knees out for a spin. lol

To make a long story short, I think it took us about 6 hours to finally settle in after leaving the hospital. Whew!

May. 9th, 2009

A year later

Springs seem to be difficult times for me in regards to my health, although this spring, I chose to schedule my double knee replacement surgery. My doctor recommended back in September that I have my right knee replaced for the osteoarthritis in it had caused all of the cartilage in my knee to wear away and that I had multiple bone spurs as well as wearing of bone on bone occurring. That explained the pain, popping, and hyperflexibility of the leg. Imagine: you are eating food and all of a sudden your teeth scrap against each other in a way you know is not supposed to happen. The jolt ricochets through the body, leaving you momentarily stunned. If that has not happened to you, then think of fingernails on the blackboard. That was similar to the feeling in my right knee usually about 2-3 times a week. The knee cap had slipped to the outer side and the thigh bone was rubbing away the femur. Not a pretty picture.

Yes, I knew that I should have the operation to replace the knee then, but this was September, when a new school year was beginning. I had 9 new students coming into my class for junior high students with Asperger's Syndrome/High Functioning Autism. Plus I had two new paraeducators. All in all, I chose to wait until later in the spring when the classroom would be running on schedule and everyone had some good skills down. That also allowed time for the left knee to use up what little healthy life it had left so that I could schedule a double knee replacement at the same time. Even though there was a lot of pain through the whole winter, and some days I really shouldn't have attempted to go to school, I am glad that I waited. The students and staff are strong and able to handle another person coming in for 7 weeks of school. Ok, it would have been only 6 weeks that I would be out, until the end of the school year. But Mother Nature decided to give me some recovery time during the school year and decided to flood/snow and otherwise make school impossible to the point that we had to add another week of school on to the end of the school year.

So here I am, surgery was Monday, and today is Saturday. I have two new knees and am learning to walk again, especially with the right knee which was deformed. I could have gone home on Thursday, but chose to stay the extra days in intensive rehab for several reasons: 1) I want to be as healthy as possible when I go home. 2) I have my wonderful partner, Jeff, at home taking care of the animals, who I know will be all over me when I do finally get home. 3) I wanted to regain strength so that I could recover faster. and 4) I can rest a bit here without making tons of decisions at home or being distracted. I can concentrate on what makes me healthier.

Oh yes, the low blood situation. Yes, I have been running a pint low on blood. I had donated 3 pints during the month of April to store for this surgery. So they gave me all of those back, plus they recovered platelets from the surgery and gave those back to me. But my marrow was not kicking out enough blood to make up for al that I was losing so they have been keeping a close eye on me. But this morning, I got good news that I don't have to have a 6:00 blood draw tomorrow for my hematocrit came up to 31. Usual levels are between 36 and 41 for women. Also I have stubborn blood and it hasn't wanted to accept the medications that allow for blood thinning to prevent blood clots. Finally, it appears that the blood is giving up and allowing a bit of diffusion. That is good news!

Enough for today, it feels good to be writing. I know that I have had a hard time concentrating for any length of time, a combination problem of recent surgery/pain meds/and low blood levels. But I might be able to concentrate for longer times now!

Happy day to all and kiss those knees!

Apr. 15th, 2008

Thank goodness for time

Two years ago, on this date, I had what has been the most devastating time of my life. At about 8:45 in the evening, I was sitting at the computer (no surprise) and realized that I was feeling really itchy. I figured I would take my bra off to lessen constrictions. But being the geek that I am, I waited for several more minutes, while the discomfort grew. Finally, I went to the bedroom to remove my bra and any other constricting clothing. I noticed a red patch when I lifted my left arm, so went into the bathroom to see what it was, thinking that the bra must be popping a wire. This happens to underwire bras after a while when the wire works through the material. To my amazement and dismay, I saw a seriously large patch of red hives under my arm. Peering closer, I realized that I could see the hives appearing in front of my eyes. To see an area of skin go from flesh color to bright red and to watch it swell into puffy patches, that is something I never want to see again. I checked my breathing, which was a bit raspy. The hives were spreading over my chest and down my arms, up my throat, and were all the way to my waist by the time I checked there.

Trying to remain calm, I went to the phone to call the 24 hour nursing service that my insurance says will give advice. I had to argue with the nurse that I indeed was eligible for the service, although she said she couldn't find my name or number. I remember saying something to the effect of: "well, how did I get your number if I don't have the right to call you? It is here on the magnet that my insurance sent me." Living alone, I knew I needed to do something quickly for I realized my breathing was becoming labored. I finally hung up on her, as she was debating with herself as to whether she could tell me anything. All I asked was if she thought I should go to the hospital. Finally, I decided that I needed to drive myself the mile to the hospital, for I might not be able to make it much longer. By that time, I figured that if I waited to go next door for a neighbor, it would be about 10 minutes before I got to the hospital. Now, I realize it was crazy to drive myself, with some breathing issues. I knew I was having some kind of allergic reaction. All I could think was to get there as quickly as possible, as the hives continued to grow and spread. I was beginning to panic a bit, but tried to keep as calm as possible because anxiety worsens breathing problems.

Once I entered the ER, I must have seemed quite calm and not in need of immediate help, for I sat for a while while they started paperwork. When I finally had had enough, I wheezed out a request for them to look at my arm. I peeled back my sleeve and when they saw the rapidly moving hives, I was rushed on into the triage room. I remember being weighed, asked some questions, and the oxymeter placed on my finger. All was calm and smooth....until they saw the oxygen levels. Boy, I was placed on a gurney and set up in a room so quickly! They helped me remove my clothing and I saw that I was solid hives from the neck down to my knees. Oh and they itched!

I was given a shot of benedryl, started on a breathing procedure, and was checked on every minute or so. I'm not all that clear about what all happened, but by 12:15, they said I could go home. My body still had all the hives, but they were not growing any now. Amazingly, nobody asked if I had a way to get home or if someone had come with me. So I got dressed, go the prescription for some meds, and was told to go home. Ok, I was worn out and did not go to the pharmacy at that time. Actually, I didn't realize there was a 24 hour pharmacy near my house.

Sunday I stayed still most of the day, worn out. The itching did not stop. My throat was sore by this time, and I was having trouble drinking even water. I don't know if I ate anything, I think I tried to sip some bouillion. Monday, I called work and said I would not be in. I called my doctor at 9, told her what had happened, and began to wheeze again. She told me to get someone to take me to the hospital. My neighbors were gone, so I called work and asked if anyone could come help me. A great person came from work, took me to the hospital, dropped me off at the ER, went back to work, and then later that day came to take me home. I owe her and her husband so much for the comfort they brought during the near future.

I tottered into the ER, where they took one look at me and took me right to triage. There they barely even took my pulse before rushing me to a bed. (Later I learned that my pulse was at 236 beats per minute.) I had IV's attached, and all kinds of tests, but I can't remember much, for while I could talk fairly coherently, I thought, I was so worn out and out of it.... Anyway, I woke up several times during the day, usually when someone came in to talk to me. I think I sounded bright, but who knows. By 2, they said I could go home. Well, I must have been pretty good at talking, but I was so weak! I fell twice while getting dressed, scaring the poor lady in the next bed. No, I am pretty sure I didn't give her the heart attack, she had had one earlier that day. She was ready to call for the nurses, but I said I was fine. ((Ok, I ended up with some doozy of bruises and sore muscles.)) After I was dressed, I just walked out of the hospital. My friend was there to take me home.

That was the beginning of three weeks where I was too weak to be able to go to work. The hives would not go away, I was too weak to drive myself to my doctor's, and was too proud/stubborn to ask any of my friends to drive me there. I'll gloss over the three weeks, but let me say this: I didn't eat much, because I had difficulty swallowing. I found I had lost 20 pounds at the end of the three weeks.

Many many tests followed as we attempted to figure out what I had reacted to. Oh, and I was left with hypergraphic skin. Meaning that just a simple touch or whisper of a scratch on my skin left a huge red welt. I was unable to wear underclothes for the time I was at home . I do remember my boyfriend one weekend playing tic/tac/toe on my back with his finger, and being amazed at how quickly the responses came on the skin.

The outcome of this all? I had anaphalactoid shock, etiology unknown. I am not allergic to anything more than I was before. I suspect that latex may have had an influence. Anyway, I still have hypergraphic skin, which results in hives at different times of the year. I'm finally, two years later, back to where my strength was before this incident. I have energy again.

I survived. I am a winner! And I hope never to experience this again!

Feb. 15th, 2008

At My Fingertips

"Google has confirmed that it has seen 50 times more searches from the iPhone than from any other mobile handset." Jonny Evans, MacWorld

The information of the world is LITERALLY at the tip of our fingertips. In so many science fiction stories, there is the hero/ine tapping on their computer to find out information. And now, this is real life. I don't have an iPhone, yet. That will come later in the future, when prices come down, or inflation makes wages go up to the point the phone is feasible for most people. With the issues with drivers text messaging while driving, this can only make matters worse on the roads. Unless the technology of cars driving themselves improves, and I have read that there are such cars now. Ah, 2020, what shall we see in you, thou year of science fiction future?

When I was young, I remember how rich I felt, how greedy, to touch the backs of our set of encyclopedias. How exciting it was to be able to open the book of a selected letter, and behold the wealth of information. Afternoons were spent just perusing one volume! There were times when I told myself I should read each volume in it's entirety. I attempted, and did well for the first hundred pages of several letters. But then it was too much and the call of another entertainment would lure me away.

Encyclopedias were sold door to door by salesmen. I can remember mom answering the door, and there would be a man dressed up in a suit, lifting his hat as he introduced himself to my mother. Of course, this handsome man who came to the door in the middle of the day was a welcome relief from household duties. and I picture my mom wiping her hands on the dishtowel that had been slung over her shoulder, before inviting the man in. He would, with great flourish, spread some of the thicker volumes on the table, presenting them in such a way as to intrigue the audience, which by then would include my older brother as well as myself. Now I think back on it, and the salesman who had our neighborhood really knew his business, for he would find something of interest to my brother and something for me very easily. That kept us involved in looking and flipping pages, while he and mom admired the way the books kept us entertained. Oh the way the light played across the gold gilt on the edges of the pages! How attractive the set was bound with textured fronts and the letters so elegantly placed in their golden splendor on the backs!

Our first set of encyclopedias were hand-me-downs from some neighbors up the street whose children were gone and married. Each book was so tattered, with hanging fabric at the tops where careless people had hooked their index fingers at the top of the page positioned just so to enable the finger to pull on the binding and tip the book out from the set so that it could be pulled away. Our sets were often so crowded by other books that each member of the set seemed to be protesting the removal from it's kin.

Our second set was a more modern set, new to our family and from the World Book Encyclopedia salesman. Yes, he finally won out after 3-4 years of visits. Oh and the bonus volume that would come once a year! How we kids fought over that to peruse what was deemed important enough in the past year to make it to the honored collection! ((The World Book Salesman was not the only encyclopedia salesman around.))

Oh the deliberations in elementary and junior high as we argued and defended the set of encyclopedias of our choice! World Books were seen as the everyman book. Encyclopedia Britanica was seen as a snooty choice, one that had words in strange spellings and unusual emphasis. I know there were more, but don't remember their names.

When I was beginning teaching, I remember the novelty of seeing volumes of encyclopedias showing up in grocery stores on end caps....'buy this product and get a volume of this encyclopedia!" "Buy the whole set of dishes to get the entire encyclopedia!" How smart the salesmen who by then were holding back on the volumes, only selling one type a month. Of course the caring housewife would want an entire set for the children, and a new set of dishes for the family. Affordable as well, since it was a once a month expenditure, instead of buying the entire set at once.

Today, I seldom see sets of any books. Yes, children and sometimes adults work on reading all by their favorite author, but sets are no longer the "big" thing, the way one's intellectual set was shown to the world. Today, one can go online at the library to find the information that is contained in the physical encyclopedias that gather dust on the shelves. But I wonder, do people still spend long afternoons flipping through the online encyclopedias, marveling at the oddities and wonders found within? Do they find the occasional forgotten treasure of a half done paper or a page of intriguing notes?

I challenge you to find a set of books and look through them. The older the set the better, for the history of the actual set is intriguing as well. Feel the weight and heft of the volume. See how it longs to remain with it's kin. Look at the breadth of information contained in the set, and realize that it is not the same as seeing it online.

Treat yourself to a set of books.

Feb. 1st, 2008

Ok, already!

Yes, it has been a bit of time since the last entry. Life sometimes becomes so intricate that something has to be left by the wayside. So guess what one of the tasks is that I left behind? Oh and posting here as well. lol

The end of the semester happened today. Now that is not such a big thing for most people. But for teachers, they have to have an end to the subject they have been teaching for 18 weeks. Exams need to be written and administered to make sure we have data to show how students are learning. At this time of the year, when so many colds and flus are keeping kids away from classes, it is a struggle to make sure everyone has taken the exams. If there are culminating projects like in Shop class or as in my Social Studies class, well, time has to be given for the students to complete the project, and time for the teacher to encourage and prod those students who are not on time, and finally to cajole the remaining students to hand in something. Then the grading begins. All of the grades must be in the books within a week. Ok, that doesn't sound so bad, but if you are an English teacher, you might have over a hundred papers to grade, plus vocabulary tests, etc. Oh and for every teacher, don't forget that the next day of school begins the new semester with new classes, new subjects, and different configurations of students.

I don't know what it is like in other businesses, but teaching is unique in many ways in the deadlines that are set in stone. Everything magically begins the first day of school, changes in the afternoon off at semester, and then ends on the last day of school. But wait.....why are there cars at the school until 6 or later at semester change? Why are there cars at school off and on through out the summer? And for days after the school year ends? Oh, it would be easier if the teachers were to stop teaching several days before the end of the school year. Then they would have fewer papers to grade, time to put away any materials not being used, and time to prepare for the next semester. That isn't the way it is for my school. Thank goodness!

I love my job! But sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming. Yes, over the 30 years of teaching, the paperwork has grown humongously! Computers help, but bring in many more emails and they also put enticing information at the tips of the fingers. For a teacher, lesson planning can take forever with all the resources on the web. It takes a lot of work to incorporate the use of the internet, scanners, digital cameras, smart boards, and word processing into lessons. But so rewarding!

I am teaching 11 subjects in 6 classes total this next semester. It will be challenging, but exciting. Would you believe that we are already planning for next fall? Whew, lots of work goes into preparing for the first day of school and the tone of the new year.

With that, it is time to go sleep a bit while I can. Nite all! And write a teacher to thank them!

Jan. 16th, 2008

Sleep

Sleep.

Something that can take such a bite out of the day! What could we accomplish if we did not need to sleep? Read more books? Take more walks? Clean our houses? Play more computer games? While a way the hours doing nothing beneficial? Would any of that be bad?

I understand our bodies and minds need sleep. I love a good deep sleep. But I often find I resent the need to fall asleep when I am busy with a project or deep within the pages of a book. How I wish at those times that I could just continue! But without the sleep escape of sleep, I won't be at my best the next day, easier to snap when I could just smile and walk away.

I so enjoy snuggling down under the covers, feeling the warmth and weight of the covers on a cold evening. The wonder of the stories that come in my dreams, the adventures I have. So why is it so hard to succumb to the call of sleep?

Is it early resistance to the orders of parents? I knew that there was a lot of fun occurring when I was not around. Things were different in the morning, so something had to have happened.

Is it the interruption of a fun activity? Here I am typing away, and yawning is interfering, eyes tearing through the yawns.

Is it that I just don't like to be dictated to by my body?

Sleep..........the ultimate ending and beginning.

Jan. 14th, 2008

Second Life

I spend some time each day in a world called Second Life (secondlife.com.) Within this down-loadable program that some describe as a game, others as a life, one builds everything one needs. I happen to own some land there and some oceans as well. People pay real money to live in the lands, to have a home be it in a tree, on a mushroom, in a castle, or in a hobbit house. I met this evening with my High Council, for we live in a high fantasy-themed land. The High Council consists of some of my best friends in Second Life, as well as being very intelligent people who have extreme talents. Some are builders, some scripters, some texturists, and some are idea people. I tend to be one of the latter having very little spare time to actually build. I so appreciate these people who are so valuable to me for their thoughts, wisdom, ideas, and creativity. Oh I can't forget their humor as well!

Jan. 11th, 2008

cats

Cats are such an interesting animal. Some are standoffish, yet come to be with a person at the oddest times. My calico cat loves to lay at my feet, or draped across them, when I am in the recliner. But the dog is jealous, I swear, and always wants outside or inside right after the calico gets situated. Now the Abyssinian, she will crawl into my lap whenever I am at the computer. This is especially nice early in the morning, when she greets me, purring and looking me in the face, with an almost smug look on her face. The only problem is when she begins to kneed with her claws extended on my legs, for that ruins pants and kills the skin. We are working on that, with me holding her paw if she begins to kneed, and she looks at me, twitches her tail, and then calms down, or revs up, whatever.

Every time I head to the bathroom, the calico comes bouncing in to jump into the bathtub and peek at me from around the doors. I sometimes wiggle an obliging finger, and after the excitement builds, she will bat me with very soft paws. The Abyssinian loves to come and cuddle in bed with me at night, laying next to me with her head over my arm as I read. As soon as I turn off the light, she is gone, even when I don't move. She also is sure to wake me if I am more than 10 minutes late in sleeping. She comes in and lays on me, purring and chirping, until I get up.

The dog, a golden retriever, is friendly with his cats. In the evenings, he will go out and round up the cats if I tell him to, so that we can go to bed. Yes, I tell him to go get his kitties, and he heads to the door, returning within 5 minutes with a cat beside him. So intelligent!

Jan. 10th, 2008

Pain

Judging the intensity of my pain is a problem. When I hurt, I don't remember just how I felt when I didn't hurt. And when I have pain, I am foggy, so am not thinking clearly. The doctor will ask how the pain is on a scale of 1-10. Gees, that is a hard question!

Anyway, the pain is better, slowly. Just want to remind everyone to get lots of fiber! Research indicates that 60% of the people at age 60 have diverticulosis, which is bulging areas in their colon. All it takes is a misplaced piece of material and some bacteria to blossom into diverticulitis, an inflammation of the colon. That can explode into something worse, even to the point of needing to have some of the colon removed. Ok, I am fine, not nearly to that point. But wow! Eat that fiber!

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