Saturday, June 13, 2009

Simon's Cat Man Do

Hat tip to jennbird at Frankie's Hideout.

"Always the setting forth was the same..."

What a beautiful morning. We had a rosy-fingered dawn that followed on the heels of a refreshing shower. Never mind that in a few hours, oppressive humid heat will descend on all of Tête de Hergé, and will force the inhabitants of Marlinspike Hall to seek the cool darkness of our various cellars.

The Odyssey is home to "the rosy-fingered dawn," when Nector "left his couch," and Menelaus "bound his sandals to his comely feet."

When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, looses its tight fist, it is time to light the fire, milk the goats and ewes. It is precious reading; It is Homer's trope:

"[T]he child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn..."

I would prefer to sleep than to witness every sunrise, with its finely tapered digits and gleaming buffed nails that pinch and grab, coerce.

Yes, I would like to rest right through the cusp, there where "the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn made love to Orion..."

When all is said and done, and Ulysses is home, and Penelope's patience rewarded, Minerva both holds back the night and hinders the morning; She plunges Dawn deep down in Oceanus until the couple has had time to trace the outlines of their stories and prepare to part again.

[Do you know W. S. Merwin's poem Odysseus? Lovely.]

It's been hours now. The bones hurt, various appendages swell. The headache won't quit. No fever yet, though, and there is ice cream for breakfast -- sugar and fat free.

Uncle Kitty Big Balls rules the roost, as I predicted he would. He's a gentle tyrant but easily the most obstinate creature I've ever encountered. His world view is fairly simple: he wants what he wants when he wants it.

He has a propensity for Left Shoulder Flops with Triple Twists O'er the Mouth -- getting high points for Degree of Difficulty. That is, he won't stay off of my left wing -- and he loves to cover one's face with a big old mouthful of ragged sheared fur.

We are hoping he will start to gain weight now that his acute ills have mended. He is happy and strong, but still so thin and bony that he is at risk for falling over with a simple butt tap. Roughhousing is however he defines it...

But what a gentle soul! We continue to marvel at his good nature after all this time on the street.

There was a brief and ineffective uprising against him two days ago -- hissing and scratching. The result? Tufts of hair all over the living room and one weeping eye on Marmy.

And world peace.

[Stan Fields: What is the one most important thing our society needs?

Gracie Hart: That would be... harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.

Gracie Hart: And world peace!]

Ach. I have to give in to the discomfort for a bit. Maybe grab a few minutes of sleep. Rest.

"Alas," he cried to himself in his dismay, "what ever will become of
me, and how is it all to end? If I stay here upon the river bed through
the long watches of the night, I am so exhausted that the bitter cold
and damp may make an end of me- for towards sunrise there will be
a keen wind blowing from off the river. If, on the other hand, I climb
the hill side, find shelter in the woods, and sleep in some thicket, I
may escape the cold and have a good night's rest, but some savage
beast may take advantage of me and devour me."

In the end he deemed it best to take to the woods, and he found one
upon some high ground not far from the water. There he crept beneath
two shoots of olive that grew from a single stock- the one an
ungrafted sucker, while the other had been grafted. No wind, however
squally, could break through the cover they afforded, nor could
the sun's rays pierce them, nor the rain get through them, so closely
did they grow into one another. Ulysses crept under these and began
to make himself a bed to lie on, for there was a great litter of dead
leaves lying about- enough to make a covering for two or three men
even in hard winter weather. He was glad enough to see this, so he
laid himself down and heaped the leaves all round him. Then, as one
who lives alone in the country, far from any neighbor, hides a brand
as fire-seed in the ashes to save himself from having to get a light
elsewhere, even so did Ulysses cover himself up with leaves; and
Minerva shed a sweet sleep upon his eyes, closed his eyelids, and
made him lose all memories of his sorrows.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Road Trip

An update for my friends who visit me here (instead of at the Big Bald Guy's Place... oops, I mean the BBG's Community) --

Anyway -- just the gist about The Road Trip. As a testament to my laziness, this is a copy-and-paste from the aforementioned Big Bald Guy's Place.

Oh, ummm, the Church Lady. Let's just say it is a reference to a woman who has decided that Fred might just be... available. She is a very former friend, becoming more former every week. She fairly lusts after him at these purportedly innocent Wednesday Church Suppers. We all know it really is an Eat-Along During Devil Worship.

Anyway, she likes to bring desserts -- and not your Granny's Impregnated-With-Stuff Molded Jellos -- no, she likes to bring... Chocolate Mousse.

Chocolate Mousse: one of two dishes in my gastronomic experience that resulted in food poisoning. It was a rainy afternoon in Paris, I was drenched and sick with a bad cold, the Important Person with whom I had rendezvous failed to show up... and I needed chocolate. So at the end of a delicious Vietnamese lunch, I ordered up that Vietnamese specialty, the Mousse au chocolat. A little runny, but hey! Two hours later... runny had truly become the descriptor.

I remember being in bed the next morning, trying to hug the wall, ignoring the knocks on the door, wishing I could just die, promising never again to eat Mousse au chocolat.

[Just for the record, the other food that brought me lower than low was a "Garlic White (Stuffed à la Chicago Style) Pizza" that was scarfed down in Berkeley Town, prior to hoofing it with My Boy -- my oft cheating paramour -- to see El Norte at an Oakland discount theatre. It says something about our relationship -- what *exactly*, I am not sure -- that we both ate the garlic pizza! But get this: I got sick; Famous Writer did not. Ah, but I have seen him humbled by bleeding hemorrhoids. That's something.]
################################################################################## ROAD TRIP REPORT:

Youse Guys crack me up! (My friends had been leaving me online advice about dealing with Church Lady)

Okay, let's call Church Lady... The Mousse! Yesterday, Fred had a bunch of unexpected dental surgery, so he emailed The Gang at The Church to say he wouldn't make it to the Famed Wednesday Supper. About 10 pm, the phone rings, and it's The Mousse. Seeing her name on caller ID, I basically threw the phone at The Fredster.

What a conversation, judging from the one side I heard.

He sounded like he had just had a heart bypass or something:

"No, no... {sigh} I'm okay... No, thanks, Mousse, I don't need anything..."

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Don't mind me, the woman running a fever, in 8+/10 pain, going back and forth in my wheelchair, bringing My Darling specialty coffees and scrumptuous soups, various cats, and all the remote controls. Don't mind me, The Gimp! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

((Oh, shut up! So what? Yeah, so... if I *had* shoulders, they *might* have chips on them... Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.))

The poor endlessly suffering boy.

Anyway, I am trying to treat The Mousse as a bit of nothing. As a *speck* on a bit of nothing.

So... our roadtrip! Fred is incredibly accurate. We were to be there at 1 pm, and darned if we didn't pull up at 12:55. They were definitely aware of why I was there -- I felt like a very minor celebrity, emphasis on minor.

But no matter who you are, there is always a huge pile of redundant paper work -- and it always starts with signing away your rights... especially at a teaching facility. "We have the right to allow untrained students to mess around with your one and only body, and furthermore, we have the right to publish and just plain gossip about your case..."

"We also intend to charge you an arm and a leg for the privilege..."

Anyway, I did manage to hurt Fred's feelings -- he started to gather his things to go back with me to the exam room -- and asked, just as a matter of course, "Want me to go back with you?"

-- already standing up, tossing his backpack over his shoulder.

"Nope," said I, and motored off.

I don't know why. It probably wasn't smart, because some doctors will open up more if there is a 3rd, "responsible" party in with the patient. They tend to spend more time explaining... Oh, well. I think I managed to get the drift.

Actual time with the doctor? 8 minutes.

Time the doctor had spent in consultation with my orthopedic surgeon here and the famous Dr. Go-To-Guy? Unknown, but apparently more important -- because at least 3 minutes of the aforementioned 8 minutes were wasted on niceties, and questions like "Are you sure your shoulders hurt more than, say, your hips or knees?" He asked that 3 times. Obviously a crucial question. WTF?!

So... he thinks that the spacer on the left side, which is the second spacer since last December, must be taken out, and soon. He claims that the hand-fashioned antibiotic-laced head of the spacer (the round part at the top of your humerus) is fractured into 3 pieces.

Okay, folks. {Sigh. BIG sigh.} I *assumed* that he must have seen this on one of the x-rays that I brought him. I had not looked at them, because... I can't read x-rays! But when we got home, I took out all the films and eyeballed them. Know what? There was only ONE sent of that shoulder since the 2nd spacer got put in -- on April 27, 2009. And it was very clear, very clean: There were no "pieces" of spacer, or fractures. None, as in NOT THREE.

Anyway, it is exceedingly painful, as you kind people understand, and he thinks it needs to come out. Pronto.

When he finally turned to the issue of infection, I was again pretty surprised.

"I spoke with Dr. ShoulderMan and Dr. Go-To-Guy, extensively. I think we are dealing with a very common bacteria by which your immune system is being compromised. It usually is considered a culture *contaminant* -- propionibacterium acnes. It is notorious for infecting shoulder prostheses."

I was excited at that point, but posed a question. Turns out he doesn't like to be interrupted. Tough titties, I say! He even employed one of those weird-out moves: The Two-Handed Hand Hold Pat-Pat and Dip. Ha! Foiled again...

"What leads you to think it is P. Acnes as opposed to all the other possibilities, Super Smart Guy?"

"Well, Former Prof, it takes a very long time to grow in cultures. At least 19-21 days, in fact. Hospitals only keep cultures 5-7 days. So your cultures weren't given enough time to grow."

I didn't want to burst his Super Smart Guy Bubble... but I was being treated by one of the region's best infectious disease doctors... and he had ordered the hospital lab to KEEP my cultures, week after week. Once I know he kept a set of them incubated a month. NOTHING grew -- not P. Acnes, not a contaminant, not nothin'!

I figured he hadn't read the ID doctor's notes yet, and, come to think of it, the ID guy was the one doc with whom he did not chat on the phone in advance of my arrival.

Seeing that this was his Big Finish, I just kept silent.

"If it is P. acnes, how do we treat it?" I wondered, out loud (keeping silent).

"Well, Former Prof, it is actually an easy one to treat!" He never said what antibiotics are typically effective, so I let that go, too. I mean, give the guy a break -- he just had three hundred pages or so of notes to go through.

By the time we got home, I was in horrible pain, and had developed some Serious Attitude about driving all that time just to spend 8 minutes with someone who already had his mind made up before I got there.

I have heard rumors about some exciting new technologies out in the larger world -- things like computers and telephones, oh -- and teleconferences! Gawd! I can't think of a situation that better lent itself to teleconferencing than this one! His physical exam consisted of a few half-hearted palpations of my shoulder, evincing nothing but bared teeth and growls.

Anyway, sleep was denied Tuesday night, so I did what everyone here would do -- I got online to learn about P. acnes bacteria. I have never had acne or been treated with antibiotics for acne -- Super Smart Guy said that we all have the bacteria on our skin and in our mouths. It is now believed to be very common in shoulder hardware -- why the shoulder and not the hip, for example? No one knows. Also -- infection by it is almost exclusively limited to males!

Unfortunately, the antibiotics used to treat it? I've already been on them -- by i.v. -- for extended periods of time.

I know it sounds like I am refusing to accept the first answer anyone has dared to propose... but it makes NO SENSE.
[Don't forget the most disturbing detail of my situation -- these infections are recurring -- or never really going away in the first place. Even after being given what seems like appropriate antibiotic therapy, the infection remains/returns.]

In all of the studies and case reports, the longest time it took for P. acnes to grow in the culture dish was 11 days. There was no mention of 19-21 days! Most results came back in 5-7.

None of the studies/case reports dealt with patients whose samples refused to grow anything!

In summation (and please! put on your logic hats and tell me whether this makes sense to you.):

We're taking out this second antibiotic-laced spacer. He says it has broken into at least 3 pieces and is tearing up the joint space.

At the time of removal, he wants my surgeon to "reconstruct" the joint, and, I presume, to put in a different shaped spacer.

Take more [anaerobic] cultures, keep them at least 21 days.

As soon as something grows out -- determine antibiotic sensitivities, etcetera.

His money is on P. acnes.

The drugs that normally work? Penicillen and penicillen derivatives, cefepime.... ***vancomycin*** (yes, my eyes are rolling back in my head. yes, i just finished 6 weeks of i.v. vanco last sunday night).

So there you have it. If we buy into this, another surgery looms large, then about 3 weeks of waiting, followed by 6 weeks of [ineffective] i.v. antibiotics. Gee, I wonder if my WBCs and CRPs will still be way elevated, will I still be dripping with sweat from fevers, weak, bitchy and exhausted? Will my picture still figure next to the definition of "left shift"?

Do I do this -- another roughly 9-10 weeks of it -- or do I head for Baltimore?

Suddenly, I don't want to have to make the decision. I want my docs here to understand my doubts and concerns, and respond to them. I am sure that 10 weeks is not a long time to anyone else... I need to take a Patience Pill.

So... here is to patience! Wish I had some.

Thank you so much for following this ridiculous saga.


Just as a so-it-goes notice: I woke up this morning. [No, wait, there is more!] I woke up this morning, at the end of a 1 hour 15 minute nap, to find that I am developing a wicked chest cold to accompany this never-ending headache. Marmy and I sound much alike: *ack*-*ack*-*ack*-ing to beat the band. What say I get this out of my system before the next intubation, eh wot?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

One fell poop

My life is all over the place, in pieces, disparate -- but my ass is firmly in the bed. My legs are acting up and if they aren't elevated, well, it ain't pretty. And it hurts.

Given that we have to hit the road tomorrow and Tuesday, I am trying to get them in as good a shape as possible. By Tuesday night, they will be frozen blue-black tree trunks.

Tomorrow, we have the Infectious Disease folk at 11 am, and then we get to tour the metro area of Tête de Hergé in order to pick up all my medical records in preparation for Tuesday's trip to see this Super Guru Specialist Dude.

Doesn't it seem like I ought to be dreaming about that whole process and not milky-blue glass chakras?

Supposedly, Super Guru Specialist Dude is seeing me at 1 pm Tuesday. It has yet to be writ in stone, though. I am not sure what the issue is -- I think it is as simple as entering my information into the Medical School's computer. Also, I guess she is still trying to work out the insurance issues. I was to have received a few phone calls of verification that never came.


I am pleased to report that Uncle Kitty Big Balls (Sorry, but we are still waiting for his name to show up. I have suggested "Stumpy," "Gimp," and "Ragamuffin," and all three have been shot down. *Derisively*, I might add. So, really, he remains "Little Boy," "Pickle Head," and, most appropriately, "Stinky Boy.") -- that UKBB is happy, eating, sleeping, pooping, and playing. He looks like he has been through hell, and since he has been through hell, we think he looks just fine.

Every so often, he will land on that back leg, wince, and pull up short. The next thing you know, he goes flying by, in hot pursuit of Dobby -- who is thrilled to have another cat who loves speed and butt whacks.

Oops. Ignore the "butt whacks." It's a private thing.

Little Boy, like his sister Marmy, can create stink bombs that ought to part of a national military arsenal. I mean, Marlinspike Hall is nothing if not spacious and airy, you dig? And still... one fell poop by Little Boy and all creatures, great and small, start running for the drawbridge, praying that it is already in position over the moat.

I continue to feel guilt at my well-practiced inactivity. I did mop one of the kitchen floors -- twice, even -- and have done some laundry. Day before yesterday, I managed to rotate the mattress in our bedroom, and change the sheets and pillow cases. I feed and water the animals twice a day. I do the dishes.

But who are we kidding? That adds up to "not much," and the fact that after each task I had to rest and take pain meds sort of detracts from my usual panache.

I have a feeling that we still ought to be gearing up for a trip to Baltimore. But one thing at a time, yes? The thought of having to go has begun to panic me. How am I going to manage this alone -- because Fred will not be able to come along.

Dr. Go-To-Guy opines that we should direct our questions to the Infectious Disease Department there, rather than the Orthopedic Surgery Department. It makes sense when you study the breakdown of research interests within eact one. It makes even more sense when you consider that we will have taken the ortho approach already, given the upcoming visit with Super Guru Specialist Dude.

Dr. Go-To-Guy was no help, however, in helping me figure out what to do in the immediate sense. I think we are back to the point of everyone waiting for me to call up, saying -- "Okay, I am at the point where I cannot stand it anymore." Then ShoulderMan will go forward, even if he is still operating in the dark.

It has become too much of an onus, too much to ask of a patient. The only reason I have any expertise is because this is my body. But it shouldn't be up to me to determine when surgery ought to happen. There have been MANY times in the last 2-3 weeks when I was ready to lop off my arm. Then again, there have been hundreds of times when the idea of a DIY amputation of my legs has seemed like the best idea ever.

There is a task I dread doing, should I be sent on to Johns Hopkins. I had a sort of friend... that is the most honest expression... I had a sort of friend who shared one of my "conditions" and who repeatedly sought out a certain Hopkins surgeon. He's no longer there and did not leave for any reason other than dealing with a thriving career. She had as many as four or five surgeries per visit to Baltimore. Anyway, last year her story did not end well, but it did end. I had been a frequent vociferous voice of opposition to the excess of surgeries that never seemed to solve any problems. There was no joy in being right. There was no joy in the many painful months she spent at home, in pain, feeling useless, biding time until the next round of surgeries. Taking enough meds to have killed herself many times over.
If it was prescribed, Virginia felt obliged to take it, and take it often.

God, did I bitch at her.

Anyway, one of things Virginia did was research how to stay in Baltimore "on the cheap" -- so I need to go back over her emails and get the many details she graciously provided.

I wish I had been a friend to her instead of constantly taking her moral inventory. What a snotty bitch. I thought it was a *role* I was playing, as I watched other serve as "sympathizers." It was no role; Her life was no fiction, no drama. I had no right.

Dreaming Chakras

It just now occurred to me that the novel I am reading may have something to do with it: The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld. Freud and Jung figure prominently among the characters. Rubenfeld also includes G. Stanley Hall, Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, and Sandor Ferenczi.

In 1909, Freud, Ferenczi, and Jung truly did travel to the United States, to a bustling New York City that was enthralled by the idea and actuality of skyscrapers, bossed by Tammany Hall, and obsessed by the idea of modernity, before continuing to Massachusetts.

Clark University, of which G. Stanley Hall was president, was honoring Freud with a doctorate and an invitation to deliver a week's worth of lectures on psychoanalysis -- for which Freud was pulling down a hefty $714.60. Jung was also to lecture. Ferenczi, a close friend to Freud and disciple of psychoanalysis, seemed to be along for the ride, thrilling to America.

After insuring his life for 20,000 marks--$4,764--Freud took a train to Bremen to join Jung and Ferenczi the day before boarding their ship. Hosting a farewell lunch, Freud ordered wine. Jung, a teetotaler, didn't want wine, but at Freud's insistence he agreed to have some. Curiously, after Jung capitulated and drank,Freud fainted.

(Jesus wept.)

While the three were in the city, Brill served as the primary tour guide. Jones came from England, via Canada, to join the group.

The first place Brill took his illustrious friends? Coney Island.

After the success of his lectures, and the receipt of his first, and only, academic honor, Freud spent 8 more days in the U.S., "...and most of it was downhill. He was in constant pain not only from his prostatic condition but also from intestinal disorders, which he blamed on American cooking. He felt that his hosts were not sympathetic enough toward his illness. He disliked not being understood when he spoke in German, resented the lack of Old World manners, disapproved of the inhibitions and prudery he perceived in most Americans. Forever after, Freud rarely had a kind word for the U.S. He told Jones, 'America is a mistake; a gigantic mistake, it is true, but none the less a mistake.' He told Hanns Sachs, who later taught psychology in Harvard Medical School, 'America is the most grandiose experiment the world has seen, but, I am afraid, it is not going to be a success.'"

Rubenfeld couches his fiction in Freud's dislike of America and in a series of murders --which, of course, require the careful application of the new analysis.

A victim survives the murderous attack, but loses her ability to speak, as well as her memory for the event. Certain that the young woman is an hysteric (and was, prior to the attack, of course), Freud endeavors to cure her, so that she will be able to provide police with a description of her assailant.

I'm only about a third of the way into the book.

The book has to be behind it, don't you think? Behind the dream, my incredible dream?

I didn't think it possible to dream so intricately within a 45 minute period, a time marked by severe discomfort and a measure of indigestion from a surprise dinner of Chinese food -- one dish of which was coated with a questionable garlic sauce.

My dreams are notorious for their boring and literal nature. If I have spent the day correcting papers, by night I dream of working through essays with a trusty red pen. Even interesting opportunities for rich dreaming are made facile by my mind -- the day I first read Saussure and discussed the arbitrary nature of signs, I simply re-experienced a long walk down Shattuck Avenue, seeing once again the lone cast-off black patent leather Mary Jane shoe sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, pristine. Thoughts of a [one-legged?] goth with style. Worry for that goth. Was she alright?

Wow. Where in the world did that come from? The mind, the mind! What a wonder. Even one like mine, in decline, my mind! The arbitrary nature of signs has been the fundamental nagging element since the dream was dreamed.

Strange, isn't it, that I am psychically caught up in these early years of the 20tho century?

Fred served up a surprise dinner and you'd have thought we hadn't had proper food in weeks, the way we devoured it. We ate in that awful way -- with the television blaring, sitting up in bed, surrounded by cats. And not ten minutes afterward, I was asleep.

In the dream, I resided in a large house that may have been a museum -- it was empty except for a central area that contained only one piece. A piece of art? No... it was a beautiful thing but the sense was that it had utility. And was very important. I was its guardian.

My brother-unit TW arrived. There were moments of long silence, and we walked and talked on a rolling green lawn that stretched out from the back glass walls of the house/museum. From the outside, you could see that the house/museum was built of distressed white brick.

We spent a long while standing in the dark, out on the lush green (it sort of glowed), looking in at the lights and airy space inside the house. Always, though, our eyes were drawn to the careful kaleidoscope of color of the... beautiful thing.

I don't know what to call it. There was a moment there at the end when I knew precisely what it was -- in the dream. But, awake and remembering, I cannot see how it could actually be what it was.

We went back in and stood in front of the beautiful thing.

Suddenly, it was reduced to a single item, a lovely, gleaming glass bowl, full of highlights of various blues with swirling creams. I held it up, told TW that I was entrusting it to him "for keeping, for keeping safe."

"She will need it," I declared, adding: "It is worth 5.5 million dollars."

Don't ask me, I don't know -- who *she* is, why $5.5 million?

And I handed the bowl to him. He reached out to take it, but instead came away with what looked like a large coat button. The button, like the bowl, was swirling blue-cream glass, but broken. In half.

He looked at it, quizzically. "It's a chakra," I said.

"It's a broken chakra, and we have to have it fixed."

At that point, TW delivered a speech, the content of which is fading.

That's a lie. It's not fading, I just don't want to remember it.

It was about feeling unworthy, and sad at having missed so many occasions of import in *her* life.

Uncomfortable listening to him, I shushed him by saying that he had been chosen to safeguard this gift, this broken chakra, worth so much. He obviously mattered, he obviously was a part of a whole.

Transformed back into the bowl alone, TW and I carried the glass swirl of a beautiful thing out the back, down across the long, long lawn, and out onto what looked like a busy old-timey English village -- consult your own subconscious for that visual!

We took the first road to the right, which dipped down into a sudden, unexpected forest. Suddenly, we stood before a wonderfully stereotypical cottage -- right out of Hansel and Gretel. A very nice, and obviously fairy-tale wise, elderly woman invited us in.

Somehow, we knew she was An Expert. In Chakra? In beautiful things? In brother-unit feelings of abandonment and worthlessness? I kept waiting for her to fall fully into her role of wise and wizened matron, hoping, to be honest, that she might serve tea.

The bowl turned back into a broken glass button. I handed it to her, and she smiled, then did magic.

The button became whole, vibrant, shiny, milky-blue, smooth.
It grew, with a sound like a ((pop)) -- but was only briefly in its prior incarnation as a bowl -- it kept going, morphing.

I think it had a copper wire "skeleton," the structure that resulted. From the copper wires were hung many bright sterling silver beads and filigree -- delicate wire work, again in silver, but some in gold. Metallic lace. I have the impression of woven baskets supported by all of that airy interlacing wire.

Impression, because when I focus my eyes, they are no longer woven baskets, but rather an expanded set of those magical glass bowls -- now golden swirls along with cream and blue, a deep but distant teal.

Without any of us discussing how it could be so, we agreed that it was the most beautiful bassinet we had each ever seen...

and that *she* would love it.