Showing posts with label hospital. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hospital. Show all posts

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Poor Little Lu (I broke my dog)

Last night I was playing with Lucy (our beloved little black lab) and picked her up.

She let out a yelp, which Lucy has only ever done once before when I was playing with her roughly.

Well, we left for a little while and came back to find Lucy was not willing to climb up on the couch (which you would think I'd be happy about, but...), and was just not terribly mobile.

I was going to just keep an eye on her, because with dogs half the time this stuff just passes. But the last time she yelped, we wound up with a trip to the vet and learned she has hip dysplacia, a fairly common problem in large-breed thorough-breds (part of why we went for 100% American Mutt when we adopted Scout).

Anyhow, at 2:30 AM I was walking into the emergency vet.

Lucy received a narcotic of some sort and... high animals are a really weird thing to deal with. She's also got some pills for the issue. She's resting next to Jamie on the couch, but we had to get her up there.

Because I'd stayed up late to keep an eye on her, and then missed sleep from about 2:00 - 4:30 AM, I'm a little punchy today.

I am most sad that it was my fault. Very Jack Torrance of me.

Lucy used to bounce all over the place and "delicate" was not a word I would have associated with her physique. But I need to adjust when we're playing, and not do anything as simple as lift her anywhere except onto the bed or into the car. And not take it as a sign that her jumping all over creation is the same thing as her getting picked up.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Fist bump for the common welfare!

Apparently, CNN is endorsing the "fist bump" as a means of preventing us from spreading H1N1. Intriguingly, they point out that greeting each other with terrorist fist bumps will save lives as its less likely to spread contagion than the traditional handshake.

As The League could really do without H1N1, and also really enjoys a good dap, we're taking up the fist-bump as our new greeting.

But not only does the leader of our fair nation endorse the fist bump (although I think when Michele Obama tells you to fist bump, you darn well better fist bump), someone we all like, who may not divide us down party lines, would also like for us to greet in a hipper fashion for better health.

Superman is your friend, H1N1 is not

Monday, September 14, 2009

Vera Lynn, Solomon Kane, K in hospital

Vera, what has become of you...?

Vera Lynn has hit the top of the UK album charts at age 92. Former teenagers may remember Vera Lynn's name from the Pink Floyd album, The Wall.

The RAF is kind of awesome, even when singing

I'm not entirely clear on why Lynn is having a resurgence at the moment, but the Andrews Sisters better start polishing their dance shoes.

Moster-Fightin' Puritan Solomon Kane headed for theaters

Do you like awesome things? I do.

Robert E. Howard was a prolific guy in his short life. You probably know his most famous work, Conan, thanks to the 1980's Arnie movie.

While a lot of Howard's work (Kull, Red Sonja, Thulsa Doom) is sort of cut from similar cloth, Solomon Kane is a puritan with a bible and a gun who doesn't take kindly to supernatural terrors.

While The League is often disappointed in the final products Hollywood churns out as they adapt different characters (I mean, I almost wept through the last 2/3rds of Van Helsing), you have to hope that some of these will wind up okay, just by statistical probability.

Also, Kobayashi is in this movie. Go figure.

I suspect this is going to be really bad, but... what the heck. I want to see what they do the idea.

College Days

Ever wonder what college was like for The League and JAL?

Metaphorically, it was exactly like this...

credit for the clip: co-worker Adam of A&M

Kristen Doing Better

You probably missed it, but Jamie's soon-to-be sister-in-law (finance of The Dug) landed herself in the hospital over the weekend. She had a routine if not-minor surgery, and seems on her way to recovery.

This is good.

K and Dug are getting married in a few weeks at the end of the month (where I am performing a singing solo. They just don't know it yet).

So let's all wish K a swift recovery, so we're not wheeling her up the aisle on a dolly.

K has been around for a number of years now, and is already in the McB family by default, the wedding just making official how everyone has felt for a good long while. So, yes, we want her in top fighting form for the wedding, but we mostly just want her back to doing backflips as soon as possible.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Socialized Medicine

I don't really want to share this. I know how people get, and don't really want to make Jamie a target for unwanted attention, rude comments, whatever...

I'm behind the government looking to offer an insurance option. And, honestly, I am more than okay with it if we wind up with socialized medicine. I know that's not fashionable, or what you're supposed to say as a "good American", or whatever, but thanks to the day-to-day life that Jamie and I live, I simply believe there's too much at stake.

At age 17, Jamie was diagnosed with something called Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). The cause is unknown. It strikes all kinds of people, and it shuts down your kidneys completely. Were it the 1950's when Jamie was diagnosed, she would have been dead long ago.

She's had two transplants. She's been on dialysis twice for a total of about 8 years. That means she gets up 3 days a week, has large needles jammed into her arms, all her blood removed, cleansed with chemicals and returned. She can't work. Travel, diet and lifestyle are deeply restricted. And she does it all without complaint. People who meet her do not begin to guess that she's anything but a 30-something young woman with a cheery attitude.

Currently, she is on Medicare. Almost all people on dialysis, as I gather it, are also on Medicare thanks to being classified as something called "endstage renal failure". Ie: The Government recognizes that you are likely to die, and will die, without the government assisting with the cost (ie: doing what your insurance carrier won't or can't) to keep you alive. Medicare is often criticized and reviled as socialized medicine.

That is not her only coverage. Medicare takes things to a certain point, but she also has coverage extended by my employer. I was almost not offered any coverage by my former employer for Jamie (but that was a deal breaker, so we negotiated). I note this as many smaller, Main Street USA companies, can only afford to offer limited coverage.

Somewhere in the federal government, someone made a decision, again, not to burden insurance companies with the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, that get wrapped up in each dialysis treatment. Somehow that all works itself out.

Many of you may not know this, but in order to insure that the benefits will not disappear or change willy-nilly, I more or less have to work for a very large employer with excellent coverage to get the rest of Jamie's expenses (medicine, co-pays for visits, etc..) covered. And even then, that doesn't include the deductible.

If you are genuinely concerned for corporations, you may wish to know, many companies aren't so much paying into an insurance collective, as much as covering your costs. They have a risk pool, that basically means they are covering your bills as part of their expenses. It's much easier for large companies and agencies to absorb than small companies. So smaller employers taking me on are taking on what they may not consider to be a good investment. I more or less have to disappear into, say, The State of Texas, and hope I'm not the one with the craziest story. There is no scenario in which Medicare hasn't been a part in many years, but I can only assume that were it not in existence, I'd be enough of a financial burden that companies would be looking to release me to reduce their costs.

I absolutely freak out when I think of how things go wrong with insurers. And a few times they could have.

Hospital financial folks have routinely tried to find ways to get Jamie bumped from having Medicare as her primary insurer, intentionally and otherwise. Jamie has spent work weeks on the phone with the insurance companies sorting her situations. One doctor started Jamie on a treatment that an insurer decided sounded a little "experimental" for their tastes, which, given that it had already started, would have wiped us out completely had a weeks-long letter-writing campaign not ensued (I was looking at our options for a legal annulment to see if that wouldn't help solidify our financial picture).

Through all of this, Jamie has managed to have phenomenal doctors, paid in whole or part by Medicare. I think they probably do okay, financially. I should mention that her quality of treatment had everything to do with the quality of her doctor, which varied wildly, and who, I am sure, had no idea who was paying them.

We know for a fact that Norway, Denmark, France, England, and many other perfectly healthy, educated countries get by just fine with socialized medicine. Pointing to the occasional Canadian who visits the US to expedite their treatment shouldn't really convince anyone the system is a failure, any more than Americans flying to India for cheap surgery indicates that's the only option. The Canadians are not dropping dead in the streets.

And, hey America, take it as a challenge to sort out the the issues that you feel our European and Northern neighbors have not worked out. Does America believe that the Canadians or French have the last word on how this could work? I say boo to this lack of vision.

Secondly, consider the sources who are telling you new policy will kill old people, that it will mean worse care (doctors are generally only spending about five minutes with each patient these days, anyway), etc... Before listening to that Rep or Senator, see how much they took from medical lobbyists in the past year. I'm not saying your local politician is a crook, but the lobbies don't just give away money because its fun.

Thirdly, I understand that Medicare alone has not paid for the system we currently have. But it also isn't NOT helping fund our current system. Nor are you already not basically paying for collective medical care with insurance to begin with (it's just that someone is currently making a profit off you hedging your bets).

The truth is, we don't really know what would happen to health care with a new system, except where we've seen it work with appropriate funding. Yes, there's potential for waste, but there's enormous waste in the current system (any hospital still using paper records should be shut down). No, there's no centralized database, which you're going to wish there was when you have a stroke in Cleveland and somebody wants your medical history before treating you. But those shouldn't be show-stoppers. Those should be problems we can look to be solved by a medley of private and public works.

I issue this challenge: If the Pro-Life folks are truly Pro-Life, that shouldn't end with the usual issues. It's not enough to just insist that if you have to go on living, so does everybody else. Why does the philosophy not also suggest a certain responsibility to want to keep each other alive and healthy while they're here? Maybe giving up a little more to Uncle Sam to pay for this stuff is just putting your money where your mouth is.

There is no doubt in mind that when someone becomes sick who you don't know, people (a) either put it out of mind as much as possible, and (b) occasionally try to find karmic/ magical reasons why that person became sick. Ie: I don't really believe we've ever shaken the superstitious belief that maybe when people get sick, maybe sorta fate/ God/ what-have-you, is sharing some message with the healthy? AKA: They deserve it, so how far out of my way should I go?

Traveling outside the state again reminded me of exactly what an absolutely enormous country we live in. There are hundreds of millions of us. We have enormous potential and power in this population. If we willed it, we could see to it that kids could get insurance, that people who lost their jobs could get coverage/ health care, that people whose workplaces are cutting benefits left and right have an option.

Call it "socialism", fine. It's a label as good as any. But it also doesn't immediately mean we're rolling over to work in Stalin's work camps. We might see a little less lucre in our pockets, and maybe we can't afford that box set of Dawson's Creek this month, but maybe it's a sign we're as worried about the next guy as we like to think we are.

And I do not say this lightly as someone who wakes up and checks his wife for any sign of illness every morning. Like anything else, tomorrow you could wake up with FSGS. Or your spouse or children. And you're going to find out that (a) people don't really care, and (b) this could easily wipe you out completely, and when the money goes, so does the ability to keep someone alive. I consider myself incredibly lucky that the government had the foresight to put Medicare in place, which is socialized medicine by any measure.

Your freedom of life will be limited enough. Your choice of employment will decrease in a way you can't begin to imagine as you start looking at benefits packages before salaries, career futures, etc... And you try very, very hard not to become one of those stories you see on the evening news about some middle-class family in Tennessee struggling to make it after one of them suddenly fell ill.

You'll note I've shut off the comments for this post. I don't do this often, but I'm doing it this time. I consider this an issue of life or death for Jamie. That's where it begins and ends. It is not an abstract discussion about whether Obama is trying to turn the whole country upside down as a damn, dirty liberal. Or whether you believe that the government can't do anything right. This is an actual issue that effects millions of people, being voted upon by government workers who get the rad benefits package that many people go to work for the government to obtain in lieu of salary.

I wish you happiness and health for you and your families. May you never be in need of government subsidized medical care. May you never worry about how you'll pay the hospital bill, or worry that your insurer will drop you because you finally need them. May they never declare your life-saving treatment "too experimental". May the people processing your insurance information get your data inputted correctly, and the minimum wage person handling your claim not screw you so they can go to lunch early.

Anyway, in addition to shutting down comments, I'm going on hiatus for a while. This is a non-political blog, and I don't feel comfortable having talked about any of this.

So here's Ren and Stimpy to take your mind off what a naive moron I am:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lauren in Hospital

After work, Jamie picked me up and we headed straight over to Seton NW to check in on Leaguer Lauren. I am happy to say that she's handling the situation with her usual gusto, and I would expect she'll be back to swing dancing her way across Austin again fairly soon.

I also realized how much goddamn time I've spent sitting in hospital rooms just like the one she and Steven are sitting in. I've never really wanted to count the total days that I've spent sleeping in those chairs or shuttling between home and the hospital and work, eating on the road or in the greasy spoon that all hospitals seem to have for a cafeteria.

And I don't think Jamie or her mother would want to tally the hours Jamie's spent sitting in a hospital bed.

The truth is, there have been so many trips to the hospital, and so many trips to the ER, and so many procedures and surgeries, I've lost count completely. I can't even ballpark.

That's not to detract from Lauren's stay, which is going swimmingly, save some post-op discomfort, etc... and Steven is doing his part, it seems. You just can't help but walk into a hospital room and not evaluate, assess, etc... and want to give tips on how you can proactively manage the situation, even if nobody wants to hear it.

Lauren was chatty, which is the best sign possible, even if its pretty obvious she isn't hitting on all six cylinders quite yet. We saw pictures of what they saw and what they took out. Its odd to look at the innards of a pal. Its who they are, but it isn't any part of what you think of when you think of them. But modern technology gives us that amazing insight into territory folks didn't see thirty years ago without an operating lab or a cadaver.

I hope Lauren comes home tomorrow, as has been suggested. But mostly I hope she feels better tomorrow and she receives the best in care. Again, Steven is doing his part, as you kind of knew he would.

Juan and Letty came up, and we decamped to The Cheesecake Factory where the old Arbor stood when I was a kid until sometime after college. Letty and Juan are about to move in a week or so, so I'm watching them with great interest as they prepare the next step in preparing for Baby #1.

The Old Models are Busted

Watched with interest as the White House made moves on the auto industry today. The part of me that's been trained to believe that this isn't how things are supposed to work is deeply at war with the part that says "if they want the money, then things must be different". I've not reconciled my opinion on this issue as of now, but don't think it's "wrong", per se. But it also unreconcilable to say that the industry can make it without the money, just as its unrealistic to believe that leaving the powers that be that got us there in the first place are going to know how to do things differently. Or that the car companies weren't going to just go under without assistance.

But that doesn't mean I'm keen to go deeper into debt to resolve the issue. Or that the US should have a department worried about car manufacturing.

As I said... unreconciled.

But I suspect we'll be talking about this for a long, long time.

I generally try to avoid political affiliation, not because I'm deeply private (see: the last 6 years of this blog). Rather, I'm not particularly a fan of buying into a set of ideologies that can't conform to new or unanticipated situations, or unable to change when its clear the old models aren't working. Or trying to apply a single rule to all situations, as if all situations required the same treatment.

It seems it would leave one unprepared for the eventuality of the unanticipated. And its been that kind of political expediency and "common knowledge" application of the rules thats made so much of the bailout efforts so bungled. We aren't supposed to have government involved with dictating business, but if we don't support the business, huge parts of the economy fail. If we became involved, we're nationalizing and becoming something we don't want to be, but if we don't place rules (as has happened with criticism surrounding AIG, etc...), then we're being irresponsible.

It's a no-win. But everyone agrees SOMETHING must be done. Its just that everyone has a different opinion, and everyone is sure that the rules with which they arrived at the party are the right ones.

Its a bit like those scenarios in movies where they have to pause and someone has to declare "gentlemen, we're in uncharted territory...", and then nobody says anything for a beat or two before they cut scene.

I have no idea how any of this works. But I'm willing to see a brand new, previously unthinkable plan at least tried. Because we sort of know the consequences of doing nothing, and/ or doing what we were doing, which wasn't helping. At all.

And, hey, if we never tried new things, we'd all still be going to the barber for a good bleeding every time we got a sniffle.

@#$% Day is OFF

I'm not feeling it.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Follow Up

Well, it's Sunday. Sunday night.

It's been a pretty long four days, and, in saying that, I'm kind of surprised its only been four days. But that's what happens when you have family coming and going, football on the brain, and the transition from the the Fall season into the Holiday Season.

I had a glimpse of life to come, and holidays to come, this weekend. My parents stayed at their new pad in N. Austin, Jason at his house, Cousin Sue at her place and we at ours. It seems the days of Too Many People in One House have drawn to a close. Which, really, has been most of my life, so I'm not really sure what to make of it. In the past, I was always amazed and confused by friends whose families lived in town and sort of didn't bat an eyelash that the Holidays were coming. If you weren't going to spend three or four nights kicked out of your bed and camped out in some corner of the house not your own, while wondering who kept turning up the thermostat (so you'd start sweating), it just wasn't the Holidays.

Anyhow, sadly, the Steans Family And Affiliated Family is now smaller in number. And we've somehow consolidated in Texas, with the locus in Austin. This is going to make things easier in some ways. And just plain odd in others.

No more sitting up with The Admiral and discussing the news until the wee hours. No more Jason abruptly standing up at some late hour and declaring "I'm tired as @#$%." Then going to bed.

No more shuffling into the kitchen and sorting out what sort of coffee was put in the pot (the parents like to poison me with 50% caffeinated), or coming downstairs at the folks' house to find some of their friends were not just up before me, they're over and visiting when I wander in with my hair standing straight up and peering out from behind my coke-bottle lenses.

Or, at Jamie's folks' house... no more realizing everyone has put off eating while you were sleeping. Or wandering out into the kitchen first thing, walking right past everyone and staring out the window into the backyard until your brain decides to actually wake up.

All that said, I'm happy to trade that for popping in to Jamie's folks' or my folks' house with a 30 minute drive instead of 3 hours.

Its just going to change things, and that's okay. Time marches on.

Jill mentioned on her blog that returning to Spring didn't feel like coming home. I think to a certain extent, I get that feeling. I love my parents, and I love their house, but (a) I've lived in Austin for 18, maybe 19 years, instead of the 3 I lived in that house in Spring, and (b) Jamie and I have worked hard to build lives in Austin. We're also heading quickly into our (gasp!) mid-thirties. While our lives are vastly different from those of our parents, we're not still moving from apartment to apartment like people right out of college. Hell, this spring we'll have been married for nine years. NINE.

And I think my folks are ready for the change.

Jamie's parents are in San Marcos now, so this is going to make the Christmas Holidays interesting. Doug and Kristen are coming into town, and will be hopping back and forth between here and the in-laws.

We're kinda/ sorta decorated for Christmas. I'd managed to get the inside about 80% decorated on Friday while Jamie rested after dialysis (we needed to put ornaments on the tree). Around 12:00ish today, we were just starting to pull exterior decorations down from shelves in the garage when Jamie noticed her fistula was bleeding through her sweatshirt.

Add in about three and hours in the ER (of which, about seven minutes was actual medical attention. The rest was waiting, giving information, and watching "Big" on basic cable), and we were home again by 3:15 and I was trying to get lights strung before the front would go dark by 5:30.

I checked three of our strings of lights before putting up four of them, and, curiously, once up they only half worked. Every single string of lights lit about half-way and then... nada. I tried swapping bulks, etc... but nada. I have no idea what was going on.

Anyway, I decided I just was going to quit and start again next Saturday morning.

The neighborhood will have to wait a little longer for The League's Onslaught of Cheer, '08.

Jamie is totally fine, by the way. What happened requires some a priori knowledge, but really simply: She had a scab on her fistula that fell off. The fistula is a very powerful vein, Jamie's also on blood thinners. Add the two together and you get a mix of Old Faithful and the elevator doors from "The Shining".

We did decorate the tree, and its lovely. We moved it this year, so its no longer out of view from the living room. I'm quite pleased with the change.

I'll get around to the Robot Ladies of Interest column later this week.

Keep it real.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Jamie Doing Pretty Well

Hey, ya'll...

Jamie was in the hospital for a procedure on Friday, as I mentioned. She'd not been feeling real well for a week or so before that.

But, it looks like the procedure did the trick (knock on wood). Jamie's back to her usual hard-drinkin', ass-whoopin' self, and is seemingly running on all cylinders again.

Thanks for the e-mails and whatnot over the weekend. It means a lot to us.

Plus, an extra special thanks to Jamie's folks for their role as support staff.

I can say that after 4 years of us doing this mostly on our own in Arizona, having family around for support, and family & friends offering up any help they can, and Nicole calling, literally, minutes after the procedure to check in... well, its just a lot easier for everyone concerned. So, again... thanks to all.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Jamie home

Jamie is home and resting. She's all hopped up on medically prescribed goofballs, so I honestly can't tell you exactly how she's doing, but I think she's okay.

It's been a long week for me, so I can't begin to guess what its been like for her.

Hopefully we'll be back soon to your usual programming and the same exciting League and Troubles you've come to know and love.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jamie having out-patient procedure tomorrow

So I don't think I'm going to post. Here's her site if you want to send her well wishes.

If this is what greets her in the OR, she has my permission to run.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Friends of Melbotis

A huge thank you to all of you who have inquired about Mel's welfare over the past week or so.

Mel's having some trouble with his stitching, so I'm bringing him back to the vet tomorrow, very early. I asked Jamie if I could not see if they could not do a quick patch job at Build-a-Bear at the mall, but she said the vet would probably do a better job.

I want to send special public thanks to a few folks:

  • The parents, who have been so supportive
  • Jason, who took Lucy off our hands during the days of surgery
  • Nicole, who has helped out a lot with Mel over the past week
  • Steven and Lauren, who came over this weekend for a quiet night in, to visit with Mel and to wrangle Lucy
  • Randy, who generously sent along some delicious looking gourmet dog treats

Mel appreciates it, and we appreciate it.

I do not mean to leave anyone off of the list here. Thanks so much to everyone.

Mel is getting better. Surgery is just tough, especially when you're a dog and have no idea what is going on.

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Post about Mel

You can see a picture of a post-surgery Melbotis at Jason's blog.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mel looks like 10 Miles of Bad Road

Ho boy.

Well, the left half of Mel's face is shaved, as well as the left side of his neck, and some spots around his legs. His face is pretty badly bruised from the surgery, and his eye is sort of blackened, if a dog can get a black eye.

Jamie's got him pretty well tranq'd up, so he's resting, and seems perhaps... too happy when he does wake up. He has to eat tiny little scoops of his dog food which Jamie has turned into meatballs.

I know in a few days he'll be getting back to normal in spirits, but for now he looks a bit like Batman-villain Two Face.

Also, the cone... I have to put the cone on him again. Which I'm not looking forward to. But he should really wear it tonight.

It looks like the surgery went well. Jamie's doing a great job if taking care of Mel.

he just twitched in his sleep and kicked me in the butt.

Anyhow, he's doing okay. He just looks like a dog that just had serious surgery.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mel Report

Hey Leaguers. I know less about today than Jamie, but it sounds like Mel's surgery went well.

Jamie dropped him off at 7:00, and heard back from the vet about 2:45. It sounds like the surgery went as planned. As of 2:45, Mel was awake and resting.

Jamie called again at 5:30, and he'd already been up, gone wee, and was hopped up on goofballs.

She's going to pick him up tomorrow afternoon (we're not really sure when). She has to get some serious pick up instructions.

Jason has Lucy tonight, and maybe tomorrow night, so Mel can rest when he gets home. Jeff the Cat will simply get punted if he interferes.

I want to thank everyone for the well wishes and prayers (thanks, Ma!). Mel seems to be on the road to recovery.


It seems we were misinformed. We can't pick up Mel today. Which means Lucy has been destroying Jason's house today for no good reason.

I'll leave it to Jamie and the commenst section to fill in more details.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Everyone Wish Mel Well

Mel is going off to have his surgery tomorrow morning. Jamie, being the good person she is, is getting in the car and driving him up to Round Rock at 6:45 in the morning.

I am convinced Mel will come through with flying colors. He has had a few surgeries before before, and he has always done well. There's also an 85% chance this will get rid of the problem altogether. So, you know, I think he's going to be fine.

The poor guy is going to have to wear one of this big, plastic cones for a while. I think he wore one for a short time quite a few years back, but I am anticipating he's going to be really, really unhappy for the duration. On the plus side, he will get to eat soft food for a few weeks, which he's not been able to do before. Hopefully he'll think he's getting a treat every meal for a while.

The worst thing for both Mel and Lucy will be that, because Mel's surgery is in his mouth, we're going to have to hide all the toys for a while. Mel and Lucy both love their toys, and associate them with playing and being good dogs. In fact, whenever you come back from even a run to Taco Cabana, Mel runs around with a toy in his mouth and cries. At night he walks around with a nylon bone in his mouth like a cigar, or one of his vaguely people-shaped toys that he moves from place to place around the downstairs.

Anyway, no toys for the dogs for a few weeks. And while some small aprt of me is looking forward to not having the clutter, I know that the dogs are going to be deeply unhappy without anything to play with.

So everyone wish Mel well. We'll give a report again tomorrow night.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mel V. Cancer

The day after Christmas, Jamie noticed Mel had a pretty substantial growth in his mouth. As Mel's gotten older, he's grown these weird little lumps under his skin. We got the first few removed over two surgeries (three?). Essentially the growth in his mouth was a similar lump, only in his gums.

They had scraped a similar lump in April and had it sent off for testing. It came back benign, and we didn't really think too much about it any more.

On Friday, the results from Mel's December surgery came back. Our vet called me on my cell about 3:00. After a lot of explanation of words that really didn't mean a whole lot to me, the bottom line was that they'd found cancer cells in the growth. Mel, my pal, has cancer.

As hard as it was to hear, I also knew it was now my responsibility to share the information with Jamie. And so I asked about our options. Mel is not yet 10, and he's still as frisky as he's really ever been, so letting him just be an old dog and try to just keep comfortable until it gets bad isn't an option.

Apparently there's now dog radiation and dog chemo. For people, who understand what's going on, that's the path you go. For dogs who only know you're taking them to get sick over and over every time they get in the car. There's also a dog oncologist in Round Rock (of course), and so we had options, anyway.

I did my bit of steeling myself on the way home. We were headed out to dinner with Steven and Lauren, and while I wanted Jamie to know, I also didn't want to tell her over the phone. So while Jamie was getting dressed and made-up to go out, I had to drop the bomb.

Jamie is, despite outward appearances, the toughest person I know. She's never given up on anyone or anything, and certainly knows that before you shed too many tears about bad medical news, you grit your teeth and start figuring out your options.

What made it easier to share, of course, was seeing Mel when I walked in the door. As usual, he was sitting on the couch, ears pitched forward, tail spinning wildly and happy as a clam.

"You aren't sick."
"Look at you."
"We've got a long way to go before we write you off, pal."

And so on the way to dinner we discussed our options, and talked about the fact that Mel was okay right now. So what we have to do, we decided, is just make sure he's a happy boy.

Saturday we took Mel and Lucy to the dog park, where Mel ran around just as happy as ever, playing king of the dog park while keeping that nice safety zone close by, with Lucy playing the little tag-along sister.

He is not sick. He is fine. He can play and chase the ball and goof with other dogs, and when he comes back to check in with you, his eyes are still that same bright brown, his tongue still pink, his ears still perked and eager.

On Monday Jamie went to see the vet and got the name of the Oncologist and Surgeon team. Yesterday Mel went to the oncologist for a CAT scan and to get checked out.

They think they can get it with surgery. He's going in next week for a consultation. He has no idea what's going on, but he's still Mel.

"Do you have any idea what's going on?"
"They say you're sick. You've got the cancer, pal."
"The heck you say."
"Yeah. On your gum."
"Oh. Yeah. That figures."
"It's not supposed to metastasize. They think they can get it with some surgery."
"So it's gonna get cleared up. But it's going to take some tough days ahead."
"Okay. Jamie will take care of me?"
"You know she will."
"Okay, then."
"We're gonna have you around for a long while yet."
"And then where will I go?"
"A place full of couches and tennis balls, other dogs to play with and an endless sea of Milk Bones."
"Will you be there?"
"I'll catch up sooner or later."

Monday, January 14, 2008

It Ain't Grey's Anatomy

Apparently Glenn Beck has never been to the ER.

I'm not dismissing the man's health issues, his misery or his concerns. And as much as I don't really think his show is... good... I will be curious to see what happens based upon his recent escapades at the hospital.

You can read Beck's account here.

You can read the story here.

But, from the description I see here, his visit is either par for the course for the average trip to the ER, or maybe marginally worse.

I'm not sure if Beck's surprise comes from his expectations of a clean and happy ER based upon years of TV shows filled with caring doctors who weep whenever someone has a boo-boo. Or, not to be a jerk, but it could also be that Beck has been living in a celebrity cloud long enough that he is shocked to find out about the sort of service the average person expects, even when in dire pain. In either case, the only thing in the story that surprised me was that they found dirty bandages in the shower. Which might just mean that they didn't get to clean the room between patients because they were running patients through so quickly.

The League doles out advice: By the way... if you start to think you need to go to the ER because you're in pain, go... Waiting at home just adds to wait time you're going to get when you get to the ER. We've done 8+ hours of just sitting in a waiting room before seeing so much as a nurse. There were reports of hospitals in Mesa with 16-24 hour waits in the ER.

Sitting for hours in the cheapest chairs the hospital could buy while you wait to get a room and talk to someone about your pain is not where you want to be when your eyes are bleeding out or whatever.

There's really nothing like the ER to remind you that you are not a special snowflake in need of special attention. No matter what you came in with, if you didn't come passed out in an ambulance or with a piece of metal in your head, 50% of the people sitting around you are as bad off as you are (or worse), and they've been waiting longer than you.

Here's what I want to stress, and where I think Glenn Beck is off-base: The people who work in hospitals have the hardest job in the world. I'm including them with combat soldiers.

No matter what these people are making, its not enough.

When you or I go off to work, we sit at a desk in front of a computer, or put on a tie and depose people all day. These people put on clothes specifically designed to be cheap and washable because they will be covered in blood, vomit, and other bodily fluids before they finish their 12-hour shift.

When I screw up at work, a project slips a day. When these people get a new client, which is every few minutes, their client could potentially die on them. And I've spent enough time in hospitals and ERs to tell you, most people walk out of the ER after they've been seen. But sometimes people, despite herculean effort, do not walk back out again. If things are taking a little while for you to get your shot of morphine, Mr. Beck, it could be because the guy on the other side of the curtain was in cardiac arrest and heading into the light.

I've seen kids with lite-brights shoved up their noses, people who had bugs stuck in their ears, people so constipated a doctor was going to have to go in manually, people who were in kidney failure and didn't know it carrying gallons of extra fluid around, knees completely shattered from a bad touch-football play, people with broken limbs, folks with mysterious stomach ailments that have lasted weeks and only now become unmanageable... And I do not work in the ER. I am an observer.

And these people do this every single working day. Every day.

On the regular hospital floor, its a bit different, but there it's often even more life or death. People check into the cardiac floor because their lives are at stake, not because they need some vacation time. These are people with dignity being asked to wear a flimsy robe and sit still for days while they're poked and prodded. Some of them have other ailments. Some are in pain.

Here's the other thing.... if you're not feeling well, and they keep asking you if you need more pain meds, and you keep saying "sure", they will give them to you right up to the point where you might slip into a coma. After all, they have no idea how much pain you're really in except by what you tell them.

If the employees seem a bit callous, you have to understand the wall they set up between themselves and their patients. I think that's more than understandable for people who live around misery every day of their professional lives. Ask a cop, soldier or even a person involved in criminal law if it doesn't all get sort of detached after a while... Glenn Beck can walk into a hospital and walk out again, in relative certainty he need not visit again for years. Doctors, nurses, techs, administrators, janitors... the people who keep the hospital working are the same folks who see thousands of Glenn Becks in a year, and will see just as many next year.

I can't say how much asking questions, and not expecting nurses to treat you like a customer, helps. They aren't working on tips or commission. You are not always right. Be nice. Say "please" and "thank you". If you think something is wrong, ask. But ask politely. These people are dealing with people in eight other rooms, each as sick or sicker than you. And before you start buzzing the nurse for a cup of juice for the tenth time, think about how you'd want other patients to be if you were in need of immediate help and/ or croaking.

I think this is also worth calling out: as scary as it is, medicine is not an exact science. No two people are alike, nor are the ways in which their particular ailment will be managed.

Glenn Beck may be an individual snowflake regarding body chemistry, and it may be true that his system did not know how to manage the meds he was given in order to help him. When you enter the hospital, they are making the best decisions they can based upon the best info available as it relates to the most people. Any time you take a pill, it can have unknown side-effects or known side-effects.

I don't think I'm telling anyone anything that you don't already know.

What I find ridiculous is that it took Beck having a bad few days of health to take notice that people can't be cured with a pill or that their problem won't be resolved in an hour, as if they were dropping clothes off at the dry-cleaner. Further, he's asking each and every hospital worker to care as much about his woes as he does, and, Leaguers... that isn't going to happen. Hospital staff do care or they wouldn't be there. The pay isn't good enough to put up with the day-to-day insanity of healthcare work if they didn't care (and I've personally talked to one young nurse who confessed he couldn't take it any more and was quitting after years of schooling).

I find it a bit unrealistic that Beck identifies the necessary emotional detachment required to work in stressful conditions day-after-day as a sign of a failing healthcare system. There's probably some grain of truth in that insofar as there are not enough hospitals and too many people going into ERs who could just as easily head to the local minor emergency center. And, yeah, the ER nurse didn't do everything exactly to Mr. Beck's satisfaction. The ER's are overcrowded, but it doesn't sound like Beck was seen any faster or slower than when you see other folks fast-tracked. The delays he experienced weren't done out of spite, they were part of procedure so each person is seen and given full attention. Further, "doctor's orders" isn't just a term from the movies. It's what nurses and techs must wait in before doing anything. It's procedural, and not always lightning fast. 40 minutes is fast.

The League doles out more advice:
If you're as jacked up as Beck claims he was (and I believe he was that bad), call an ambulance. Beck has a lot of money and no doubt decent insurance. If you can get into an ER under your own power, the ER staff are going to make their own decisions. They aren't always the right ones.

But what Beck experienced was "Fast Tracking". That's the coveted position of the ER visitor. They saw he was messed up. They got him back second. He doesn't know how long the person who was seen before him was there, he doesn't know which nurse or doctor that person was going to see. Most often you do NOT go from triage into the back. That's what they do with you when they actually care ow you're doing.

If his wife had to hoist him, its because neither of them asked for a wheel-chair or help. Which is... not a great choice and doesn't tell anyone you're in the level of pain Beck was in.

They have these charts at the hospital with a pain scale of 0-10. They even have little descriptions and/ or faces for you to match your level of pain. I'm not sure "I'd lost all hope and wanted to die" is exactly how they put a 10 on the chart, but it also doesn't sound like they avoided trying to help beck outright. It sounds like he got the same treatment I see everyone else getting.

For an interesting response to Beck's rant, check out this nursing forum.

Of course a lot of what the nurses have to say about orders, side-effects of meds, etc... is going to get ignored by Beck, lest he admit he just had a bad experience as a side-effect of surgery and medication and not get a new cause to rant about.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Howdy, Leaguers.

Well, this week has been quite busy for The League. The new job has thrown me in head first, but by accident. I was supposed to shadow a producer, but unfortunately her mother took ill, and now I'm filling in for that producer. So I've been dropped in the deep end.

Aside from a constant low level feeling of confusion, and an additional creeping sleepiness that pops up like clockwork at 3:00 each day, I'm liking the new job quite a bit. They are making an effort to make sure I'm properly trained, despite the missing producer, and everyone I talk to takes time to answer my questions. I'm honestly a bit thrown off by not working in a crazy public sector setting and all that that implies.

Last night I had not yet even arrived home when I was informed that Lucy had puked twice. It seems that the allergic reaction from the weekend had some latent effects of the GI-tract variety, and so it was that I made a mid-week return trip to the Doggy ER. They're theorizing that Lucy's troubles were a further portion of her allergic reaction to whatever it was she got into this weekend. I'm happy to say she seems much, much better this evening.

In addition to that, I'm tyring to adjust to a work schedule again, and, honestly, that schedule is a bit deeper to keep than waking up between 9:00 and 10:30 for a big day of watching daytime TV and looking online for job postings. So I'm going to bed a bit earlier and trying to get adjusted. Look for normal blogging to resume in the not-too-distant-future.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Well, Leaguers, we had ourselves a less than stellar Friday night and Saturday. As some of you may recall Jamie was having some trouble with migraines. Well, she's been on a pretty good preventative. Some might say... too good. She and her neurologist agreed that the preventative had been working (more or less) for so long, they couldn't be sure if the preventative was actually helping or if she wasn't having trouble anymore. So, they decided she should cut back on her preventative to see what was going on.

Long story short, we spent last night at the lovely new hospital about three miles from the house in their all-new emergency room. And, man, it was actually a pretty nice set-up. If you could ignore their "Nurse Call" alarm that sounded more than a little bit like a Disney Princess toy. Over. And over. And over.

Quote of the evening? By a young woman (who was wearing nothing but a bra for some reason) to her nurse: "The doctor said I had an er- er- ruptured ovarian cyst. I didn't even know I HAD an ovarian cyst!"

This somehow beats:
"Were you punched in the throat?"
"I dunno. I think I got hit like a thousand times! Huh huh huh huh huh!"
I have no idea what happened, but I saw the guy, and SOMEBODY beat the tar out of him. He was still managing to keep it sunny side up despite the black eye and whatnot. Good for him.

I've always been confused as to why more hospitals aren't networked or don't maintain a database of patient info at their fingertips. We may have gotten into the ER at 7:30, but Jamie was admitted much later. Well, Leaguers, there's nothing like trying to help a nurse input literally pages of fields when a nurse is a "hunt and peck" typist. Not to mention when the programmers insisted on a hard-coded list of options rather than allowing for blank fields in some key locations. Especially at 2:00 AM. Especially when the nurse is insisting she can't do anything until all the data is loaded. And then the lab tech accidentally fires a vial of Jamie's blood into the air and suddenly there's little drops of Jamie everywhere, inclduing the tech's otherwise sparkling white outfit.

Good times.

Most hospital cafeterias sell some incredibly unhealthy options for both their staff and for patient's families. Cheeseburgers, chicken fingers, etc... Not so at this place. Probably because the budget for this brand-spankin' new (albeit completely empty) cafeteria is much higher than is required to feed the handful of patients and staff actually in the hospital, it appears the cafeteria staff are going all Colonel Kurtz and fancy themselves gourmets. I had a lovely lunch of salmon with a mushroom-butter spread, whipped potatos with a hint of bacon, and fresh steamed asparagus. This meal would have run me $17 at minimum most places. At the hospital it ran me $7.00, with a large drink.

Anyhow, Jamie is doing fine (aside from some oddly high levels of potassium) and she's home again after being admitted over night and through most of the day. At least this hospital provides a half-way decent bed option for folks who want to spend the night. Just no pillows or blankets. Those you must steal from the elderly patients who cannot defend themselves.

In non-hospital related news, the house showed twice today. Which meant I also managed to get locked out. It's a long story, but it involves me, my house key being inside the house and an overzealous realtor. I was waiting to hear back from our realtor, Pat, whom I was hoping would be able to let me in with the key from our lockbox and in order to kill some time I went and wandered around some stores.

I found a little kid's Batman digital camera on sale for $19. It can fit neatly in your pocket, has built in memory, is compatible with decent memory cards, can shoot video and came with photo editing software and video recording software. $19. Some kid in a sweatshop in Thailand just made me a real bargain.

Lucy would like to steal your soul now, please!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


If you've been keeping up with "League of Melbotis" or "Adventures of Steanso", you are probably familiar with Jeff Wilson. You may know him as CrackBass.

Last evening, while leaving a concert outside of Austin, Jeff and several others (including, I believe, Sigmund and Kim Bloom) were struck by a motorist. Jeff is in critical condition in the intensive care unit at one of Austin's finest hospitals. Sigmund received several injuries, and I believe Kim has a broken leg and is under observation for possible internal injuries.

At this time, I don't have many details. Jeff is not conscious. My brother, Jason, left Houston at 8:00 this morning to get back to Austin.

Jeff has many, many friends, including folks on this website. As I understand it, there has been a stream of visitors from all over Austin to see Jeff and lend his wife, Mandy, a hand.

I'm asking that you guys keep Jeff and the others in this accident in your thoughts and prayers over the next few days.

And for the love of God, please remember Jeff, Sigmund and Kim when you decide to get behind the wheel after you've had a drink.


Steanso has updated his blog.

More after the jump.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

living la vida loca

(editor's note: this is not written to illicit sympathy. Rather, Jamie and I sort of just had a bad day, and I thought I'd share.)


Last night Jamie and I spoke on the phone before I got home about how all we were going to do was watch TV and and read.

When I walked in the door, Jamie was already working on some fajita ingredients. "Do you hear that?" she asked. There was a loud hissing sound coming from outside the sink window. Not a snake hissing, like compressed air escaping.

Sure enough, when I stepped outside the sound was coming from the direction of the air conditioner. Immediately we called an air conditioning repair service, hoping that, at best, we could make it through the night and the air wouldn't fail until the temperatures fell outside.

The first company informed me that they weren't even taking on any new customers, thanks to the busy, busy season. Luckily the next company was able to send out a repair person (the next morning). With Jamie scheduled for dialysis in the morning and myself scheduled for meetings in the morning, we had to put off the repair until any time between 10 and 1.

So... about twenty minutes after dinner and dishes, I was reading a book when I realized "gee, it's getting pretty warm in here..." The blower was still on, but the air was no longer cool.

It was getting pretty warm pretty fast, and as we're often a little overly cautious with Jamie, I started calling hotels to find Jamie a place to sleep. My gameplan was to get her a hotel near her dialysis location (where she has to be at 5:15 MWF), and then I'd get up with her, shower at the house, feed the dogs (who would spend the night outside), and go to work as early as possible. Jamie would be able to wait for the air conditioner guy for a while, and when I was done with my meetings, we'd tag team, and I would send her back to the hotel.

It took me four hotels to find a room. And checking into a hotel (without vibrating beds) the same night you call is an expensive proposition.

We ended up at a very nice Holiday Inn just South and West of the house. I watched the Mercury on TV, read a few pages and went to sleep.

At 2:00 in the morning Jamie was yelling for me from the bathroom with the complaint that "I need to throw up and I can't. And I can't breathe."

For those of you who haven't had a silent heart-attack, these symptoms may indicate that Jamie was doing some wicked after-hours partying. As far as I know, that wasn't the case. She was more than a little weirded out, and for maybe the first time in our adventures, she requested EMS help.

The front desk was pretty helpful, and within, literally, five or ten minutes four burly firemen/ emergency responders were standing in our hotel room. Now, I've spent a lot of time in ER's, and the stuff you see on TV is mostly horse-hockey. These guys, however, had the coolest system of testing and report-out that I've seen, with two guys checking things on the wife, one guy doing all the questioning, and one guy overseeing the operation to check for mistakes.

For good or ill, in that five minutes between placing the call and the burly firemen showing up, Jamie threw-up. A lot. Her fajita dinner came back for all to see.

We immediately theorized that a recent chnage in her meds was probably the culprit, but once you set the wheels of Emergency Medical Services in motion, it's best to just them do their thing.

In the middle of all the medical fiddle-faddle, I sort of had a 2:15AM out of body experience. There were four strange men in my hotel room, the room that I really shouldn't have been in, and one of them was wearing his baggy fire fighter pants.

Because Jamie had a heart-attack in 98 or so, her EKG's are always a little off. We had to promise the firemen that we would be headed to the ER, so off we went.

The ER had some folks waiting around who had obviously been there for a while, so I was beginning to wonder exactly how long we would be stuck watching re-runs of "Cheaters" on late night TV. One gentleman who had a hurty elbow was yelling at the nurses that he had been there for a long time.

Note to people who go to the ER: Hurty elbows will not get you seen quickly. Today we learned that a possible silent heart attack gets you the Gold Member Treatment. Jamie was seen almost immediately, and we got a room within half an hour. Unfortunately, the room was in the "Crash" area, where you're almost guaranteed to see a dead person or two before the end of the visit.

And, sure enough, I was sitting there for all of five minutes before some poor soul under a sheet was wheeled by.

Meanwhile, the guy in the next room was "crashing", which understandably draws the attention away from the non-crashing patients. Such as Jamie, who was feeling much better at this point, and me, who was trying to immerse myself in my "JLA: Greatest Stories Vol. 1".

Here's another important life-lesson, Leaguers... yes, you went to the ER because you felt poorly. But when someone just died and someone else is working on it, it is NOT the time to cause a scene because your discharge paperwork is taking a few extra minutes.

One charmer in our ER, who was decidedly not ill enough to actually be in the ER, started walking down the hallway shouting about "Where's my nurse? They said they was coming back in five minutes, and it's been fifteen!" When a nurse tried to explain that they were having a critical situation, she, being well trained as an American to expect instant gratifcation at the expense of everyone else, began shouting about how she "didn't care". And how she was "going outside for a smoke and they needed to come find" her.

When it was expalined that a patient had just died, and could she please lower her voice for the families that were around, she suggested "get him a body bag" loud enough for the entire ER to hear. At this point security was called, which made her grab her items and head for the exit. I'm not really sure what happened after that.

You don't often see ER staff that angry, but, man, yeah... they were all pissed after that. But they LOVED us, for not screaming in the hallway.

Jamie was released at 4:45, so we dashed to get her to dialysis. I drove back to the hotel, slept for a few hours, picked her up, and went to drop her off and grab the free breakfast at the hotel. Apparently, the breakfast wasn't free, we learned, when we were handed a bill.

Returning to the room, the phone immediately rang and the front desk called.
"Did you call for emergency services."
"And what was this regarding?"
"My wife wasn't feeling well, but she's been to the ER and stuff, and she's okay now."
" just called for Emergency Services."
"No, I called at 2:00 this morning."
"I have emergency services on the line, and you just called for assistance. I have them on the line."
"No. I called at 2:00 this morning."
"Let me put them on."
"Sir, do you need assistance?"
"No, we're okay. Your people already came out here at 2:00."
There was sort of a bit of dicussion going on at the front desk that I could hear on the line. "We have the wrong room."
"Okay then," I said. "I'm going to hang up. Thanks."

By 9:50 I went to sit in the house and wait for the air conditioner repairman (from 10 - 1, if you're checking facts). So, anyway, I waited. And waited and waited. It was pretty hot, but I brought in a fan and sat pretty still and watched "The Roaring Twenties."

At 1:15 the company cut me off at the pass and called to let me know my repairman was en route. He showed up about twenty minutes later, sweaty and disheleveled, and honestly, looking pretty tired. He got cracking, located a freon leak (that hissing), told me he was going to gauge me, I agreed, and he went to work.

Being the smart guy I am, I went out to his truck with a glass of water, neglecting to put on shoes in the 110 degree heat, burned my feat, handed off the water and went to clean up the plotch of cat barf Jeff the Cat had deposited in by the bedroom door.

Jamie called and announced "My car won't start. I tried to go get some lunch, but my car won't start."
"Of course it won't," I replied.

The gentleman was done fairly quickly, ran through the bill with me, I paid, and changed my air filter (helpful league tip: don't use the solid, nice 3M air filters. Apparently they're too good and make your air conditioners work overtime, shortening the life of your air conditioner).

I drove back to the hotel, started Jamie's car on the first try, retrieved Jamie and checked out. And they didn't even bill us for a second night when they well could have.

Anyway, I'm a little pooped. And poor.

Jamie's feeling better and, in fact, is playing with Lucy right now. We have AC, and things are, for better or worse, back to normal.

But in the past several weeks, Jamie's car has had some minor problems, my tires and radiator needed to be replaced, Lucy was in the doggie ER, Mel had some very minor problems from his surgery, Jamie's been in and out of teh ER three times, and the AC died on the house. I'm just waiting to be diagnosed with a brain cloud.

At this point, you sort of have to be optimistic. I figure we're due for things to balance out.