Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dobby gets his freak on...

Everybody gettin freak-deaky want dance,

Grab your partners tightly by the ass and want dance…

Get ur freak on
(missy elliott & nelly furtado)

Well, if everything is gonna go to hell all at once, I may as well unveil the video that the PETA and ASPCA people are all in a wad about.

You've probably heard the rumors.

I help Dobby get his freak on.
I'm not proud of it.
It's an addiction.
I gotta get in a 12-step.

So The Dobster, Our Little Idiot, has a predilection for what might be called the Extreme BellyRub.  It began when he was but a wee runt, and Fred was really just trying to help his little body catch up with his much larger and more advanced siblings.

Fred says it's really more of an Intestinal Massage.  Sometimes, after a nice dinner of dry kibble and fresh water, Dobby gets what are euphemistically called "the bubbles." He doesn't release these bubbles, doesn't pollute the air -- No, he just kind of sits there and percolates.  Fred, who sometimes has similar issues (not so elegantly resolved, however), felt compelled to ease the bubbling percolations of this tiny runtling, and his intestinal massages became routine.

Now that Dobby is grown... he still clings to the ways of kittenhood and when he is stressed, he will present himself with great aplomb, lie down, and lift his leg.  If your hand doesn't immediately inch toward his formerly bubblicious belly, he will politely issue head butts until you acquiesce.

So this video -- taken mid-rub -- shows the intense other-worldliness that overcomes this cat.  It doesn't come through very clearly, but he is leaning, hard, into my hand.  There is nothing overtly relaxing about it, but this position sends him deep into a zen-like trance.  He looks for all the world like a 90-year-old man straining to get out of his slackassed corduroy barcalounger... or like a clumsy chubby prepubescent boy struggling to complete his last sit-up during the Presidential Challenge in gym class. 

Back when they *had* gym classes...

Most of the time, Dobby is out like a light, within minutes, pink nose in the air, paws relaxed.  He associates the massage with sleep.  But, perhaps more importantly, it is also a stress buster.  Reassurance.  We took Sammy to the vet and he never came back.  Now we've hauled Uncle Kitty Big Ball out in much the same hysterical manner.  He's worried.

Here come the percolating bubbles!

"Rub my belly," he commands.

Who am I to do otherwise?

Update on UKBB, Ketoacidosis Kitty

Oy.  Things were looking up. Now, either the vet is indulging in defensive veterinary medicine, or the little guy is on the skids.

They overloaded him with fluids.  He's in heart failure and on what I guess are kitty pressors, as he isn't maintaining a blood pressure.  He is less responsive.

The vet is worried that he'll die during "transport." "Transport" consists of Fred driving Little Boy to an emergency clinic equipped for intensive care over the remainder of the weekend.  Of course, he'll be driving Ruby, the Honda CRV, which is loaded with veterinary doodads.  (Our airbags are lined with catnip.)

I wish to goodness she had not said that.  Fred went three shades of pale.  Then refused to let me come along to nurse the little guy so that he can concentrate on driving.  If UKBB crashes while he's driving, you know the man is going to pull over, wasting precious time doing silly things like CPR (he's done it before -- while driving -- I was there!).  Were I there, I could do compressions and coo at the cat while he floors it.

"It's too much for you."

Ah, yes, another reason I am aching for a cure... So that I will be ALLOWED to ride in the car.

"It's too much for you.  Harrumph." If he were not so freaking upset?  Upside the head.  WHOMP.

I know that they are following a strict protocol, and we all know my deep respect for protocol, but isn't it past time to bring that blood sugar down?  Wouldn't he respond better if it were somewhere... like... oh, I dunno, BELOW 700?

I think I am upset.  It sure sounds like we have worked really hard to KILL OUR CAT.  We rushed him to a vet who drowned him in fluid, is anxious to transfer him already, and has yet to treat his hyperglycemia. 

I need a scapegoat. 

Oh, and speaking of which... congratulations to Harrison Barnes and those ne'er-do-wells he hangs with.
Down 10 at the half, he carried UNC to a 92-87 rally.  Virginia Tech has to be running on pure adrenaline, which means they're still dangerous, but I can't see Duke losing this one.  Especially if I don't go anywhere near the television or radio.  And I won't even peek at the results online, I swear.


9 PM  Okay.  We just bothered the "emergency" vets as we wanted an update on Uncle Kitty Big Balls.  This ICU weekend setup disappears like Cinderella's coach and glass slippers at 9 am Monday, when the FredMobile will transfer him back to our regular vet's digs.  This is quite the operation.

The little dude is on dopamine, for Christ's sake!  And oxygen.  But at least the insulin drip is FINALLY going, though the vet said they were going to titrate very, very slowly.  His blood sugar has dropped the requisite tiny amount, so all is proceeding as expected.  He may be a little more alert, but maybe not.  What is certain in this guy's mind is that he is not worse.  [Talk about two divergent "report" styles.  Our regular vet was kvetching about how perhaps the 200 ml bolus was too big a bolus... Like I would have a clue.  She's in love with detail and sparkly factoids.  Ask her, "How is my cat doing?" and you will receive a monotonal recitation of his last lab results, complete with an announcement of each value's normal range.  The emergency vet, on the other hand, was all about how the cat seemed to be feeling, even if that topic is an impossible one.  "He seems a little more perky.  But maybe not.  He's not LESS perky.  So that's good." Note:  It's the second vet who is surrounded by shiny, expensive, science-y schtuff.  The first vet is housed, basically, in a barely renovated old bungalow.  Their exam tables have wood trim.]

Well, he's hanging in there.  Fred and I talked finances and decided he's probably the best investment we've got going, so no issues there -- no issues insofar as making the decision.  Actually PAYING THE BILL?  That's gonna be hard.  But somehow, deciding now, above board, openly, even if our faces involuntarily contort into gargoylesque cubist angles as we do so, takes a bit of the financial sting away.

We can always sell Dobby to the circus.  Rent Marmy out to the Cistercians -- they have quite the crowd in the Alzheimer Ward of the Monastery Infirmery and have found that feline visitation calms and soothes.  As soon as La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore drags herself home from her third Faust performance of the day, and as soon as we curry her favor with a spiced mug of tea, with lemon?  We're gonna hit her up for a fundraising performance of Gounod's bubblegum masterpiece.  Whaddaya think?  Will she do it?

We were thinking maybe they could dedicate the take from a couple of matinees...
I have some items that I was planning to sell at some future yard sale -- a big old hammock and stand, various exercise equipment, an old scooter, some small electronics I never use...
We have a car to sell, as well...

What is easy to do but requires more of an iron will -- our standard austerity measures will need to be kicked up a notch.  More soups that stretch three servings into six.  Brewed teas instead of colas.  Meat and fish as flavor accents instead of the main ingredient.  French roast instead of Italian.

For Fred, the issue might be juices and colas -- the man is a juice freak.
For me, well, also colas (of the diet variety), but mostly -- YOGURT!  It's a legitimate "need," in that the antibiotic regimen demands some concessions, but I do consume more than is strictly necessary and insist on a certain brand, etcetera.  I guess you could say I've been milking the situation.

ba dum tsh. [That's my ironic verbal rimshot.  Pretty pitiful...]

And so I give you the rimshot, or the sting, in proper notation:

I doubt there will be any more UKBB updates tonight.  We hope not, anyway.  We're so grateful that Tête de Hergé affords us so many animal experts and just darned good people who wander through our lives doing good, artlessly, effortlessly.

I am -- just between us, you got it? -- having tightness in the chestal area.  Though my heart can develop severe funkitude, that's not what is happening.  It's infinitely more likely that I have a prosaic acid stomach.  There's nothing like stress and no sleep to prepare a soul for a week of medical nonsense.  So my plan, now that I've fed the gang a healthy (if cardboardy) dinner and cleaned the rugs, I'm gonna wash up my own self and lie down. 

Maybe take a hit of insulin in solidarity with Uncle Kitty Big Balls, our best Little Boy.
Maybe grab a Dobby and do some preventive Intestinal Massage.

Then, when The Castafiore comes a-stumblin' over the drawbridge, I will be ready to wheedle a fundraiser out of the girl!  I make a mean flyer and we have some credit remaining at Blinko's from last summer's Manor Fest.

Should you care to contribute to the cause, the good Abbot Truffatore is going to serve as Charity Chair.  Who better than a monastic priest to safeguard our monetary gifts -- and in-kind donations, don't forget the blessèd in-kind donations! Cistercians, those whacky Trappists!  If you'd like to mail in your large check, here's the snail mail address:

The Uncle Kitty Big Balls Medical Fund
c/o Abbot Truffatore
The Club House @ The Monastery
Left at the Lone Alp, Tête de Hergé 98712349

All major credit cards accepted.

Duke beat Va Tech, as predicted and faces off with Carolina tomorrow.  Good night. 

UKBB: Ketoacidosis Kitty

Part of the reason I've been so feline-focused lately is that we're worried about Uncle Kitty Big Balls.  The proverbial doodoo hit the fan last night and he is now safely ensconced at the vet's office, but is, in her words, "critical."

We were suspicious that he was developing diabetes -- something we've experienced before in a cat, and something that I deal with daily.

We're oh-so-informed, you know.

Every few days I would share what I had noticed with Fred, and he would do the same.  Somehow, though, we had a communication breakdown this week -- it could have been all the medical running-around we were doing on my behalf, also the building consensus that whatever else needed doing could just wait until stuff (see previous post on schtuff) settled into the semblance of a routine.

I didn't tell him about the couple of sweet-smelling urine offerings I'd cleaned up;  Neither of us shared our concerns over what we now know was profound lethargy;  Fred had wondered to himself whether there wasn't more... clumped material issuing from the litter boxes.  And so on and so forth -- thirst, weight gain, followed by weight loss, hunger.

Two ships passing in the night -- Fred was going to bed at 4 am, just as I was getting up.  Thank goodness, by then The Fredster was concerned enough about "Little Boy" to chat in those wee hours.

He -- the cat -- had projectile vomited all over the kitchen.  Neither of us could recall any such prior contributions.  After that, the little guy tottered over to the bed, climbed in, and quite literally fell asleep.  His exhaustion was palpable.

We don't mess around when our animals need care.  It's in their contract and it is the least we can do for insisting they share their lives with us.  It's the least we can do for the hours of affection and entertainment.

So, at 4 am, anticipating a diabetes (or pre-diabetes) diagnosis, we made plans to call the vet sometime today and go in with him maybe on Tuesday.

By 6:30, UKBB had moved from the bed to a recently favored rug and his strange little family was keeping an eye on him, as well as their noses.  Dobby and Marmy clearly found his smell "off."

That was what made it all click.  You probably saw this coming in the first paragraph. 


By the time we rushed him to the vet, his blood sugar was off the chart, off the monitor, as high as could be measured.  His eyes were dull, pupils wide, respirations shallow and fast.  He was kind of responsive -- to us, at least -- We who so much wanted a response that we were talking ourselves into seeing one.  He was dehydrated and his temp was low.

I don't like this particular vet very much.  She did not earn points with us when she cared for Sammy last summer, and when we first took in UKBB, she missed several abscesses and just generally seemed careless.  I am sure that opinion is not fair and is colored by our worry, as he was in horrible shape back then (errrr, as opposed to now?).

However, she was spouting textbook-quality plans of action today, and seems to know her way around a diabetic crisis.  We will have to transfer L'il Boy from the vet's office to a veterinary emergency room at 5 pm, as they plan to start frequent tiny fast-acting insulin shots overnight and he will have to be closely monitored.  Right now, they are trying to correct his electrolytes and just get him rehydrated.

The morals of this story, for you cat lovers and "owners" out there, are to share your observations of any aberrant behavior/symptoms and to never put off going to the vet when a concern does finally coalesce.
Also, ketoacidosis can happen like *that* -- very fast.  Get ready to move, to fly like the wind.

I am kind of kicking myself for not giving him a little shot of my insulin -- but I kept thinking, what if we are wrong and this is not related to diabetes... I could kill the little guy...

Anyway... please keep a good thought for Uncle Kitty Big Balls, right now better known as "Little Boy," that formerly homeless vagabond who looks like he should be gnawing on the end of a stogie and raking in the winnings at a mob-run poker game.  He is in critical condition, "may not make it," and deserves another shot at a life of leisure and wild fun.

Take a good look at your pet today... are there any health issues there that you've been putting off addressing?  Don't delay -- our time is not their time and they rely on us to figure all that cross-species schtuff out.         

What a face.  It's a rough weekend for Uncle Kitty Big Balls.

P.S. Virginia Tech doesn't have a prayer and I think Carolina will be seeing Duke in the finals, where Chapel Hill will, once again, show itself vastly inferior to the product out of Durham Town.

P.S.S.  Well, now it is Clemson that didn't get my memo.  They're blowing Carolina out at the half...  In other, infinitely more important news, the vet just called.  UKBB has warmed up to 99.5 from 97, now has a blood pressure of at least 60, whereas it wasn't palpable before.  His labs are not too bad, except for the obvious electrolyte imbalances in potassium and sodium.  He is getting a good amount of sodium from the large bolus and i.v.s they are using, and they will slowly raise the potassium.  He remains lethargic, not reacting much to even being stuck.  His respirations had improved but, for some reason, he is speeding back up again.  HIS BLOOD SUGAR REMAINS OVER 700.  They have yet to address that, and won't, until we move him to the emergency facility at 4:30-5.  I think she sounded more optimistic, as the labs came back better than anticipated.  She actually praised us to high heaven for picking up on what was wrong and not chalking it up to a virus or something.  Sorry, but we are not feeling too happy with ourselves... She said some cats begin their diabetic life by just hitting the wall -- and that's what our guy did.  So fast, just a matter of hours.  Thank goodness we knew a little bit about how things unfold, but we should have been vastly more concerned.  Please learn from our mistake.  Hopefully, UKBB won't pay too high a price for our tired reaction times. 

In the meantime, the basketball gods are going to punish "my" teams, and while I am really sorry for that, what did you expect would happen?

Friday, March 11, 2011


Who told Carolina that they could play?

from IdiomsByKids
A quick summary of schtuff:

My BP decided to become an issue, after a lifelong stint of being too low, by catapulting itself into the rafters.  200/110 last week, 160/110 yesterday at the MDVIP go-to-guy's office.  This making no sense, we deduced that it is the fault of those nasty eye drops... Combigan. 

Clearly, it wouldn't be exactly wise to trip out on i.v. ketamine on Monday with hypertension, particularly as ketamine causes an initial increase in blood pressure -- as part of its hallucinatory charms. 

So I stopped the drops and will put my head together with the EyeGuy next week... and go-to-guy put me on Bystolic.  He also strong-armed me into purchasing a BP kit.  What was sweet, though, was that he had researched prices and such.  That just adds a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to his character!  WhisperWhisperMurmurMurmur... I think they have that at Walmart for $40... WhisperWhisperMurmurMurmur...

Last night it was still high at 188/93 and I cursed the blood pressure gods.  Today, though, ha!  Ha!  I laugh in the pimply red face of hypertension.  Just now:  126/71.  Ta da!

We flew across hill and dale, took a sharp left at the Lone Alp, and arrived early for my appointment with the General Surgeon yesterday morning.  All well and good, except for the note on the door, dated September 2010, announcing that they'd moved their offices -- moved back to the hill, right behind the dale.

We flew, again, this time mumbling and grumbling under our various breaths.  Hot Stuff that we are, we *still* arrived with five minutes to spare. 

But not a half-hour early, as instructed!  [This is a new pet peeve.  Don't schedule an appointment with me and then, when you call to remind moi, say, "Please arrive a half-hour early..."  No!  Make the appointment for the actual time you actually want me to actually be there.]

He has a great staff, and he, himself, was very personable and able to sell me on getting a portacath put in (installed?)!  I loved his claim that "no one has ever regretted it." So, I am to show up at the hospital next Thursday morning, at an ungodly hour, and he will toss that sucker in me, hitch it up to the subclavian, and voilà!  Instant intravenous access.  For some reason, I have to go through pre-registration at the hospital the day before.  Kind of ridiculous for an itty-bitty procedure of this sort.

Okay, so I am touchy.  It's the same hospital where I was gifted with enough trauma and malpractice, mispractice and other-negative-insinuations, including the very CRPS for which I am now constantly seeking relief.  I was told, back in 2005, that "no one will treat you here, not a doctor, not a nurse, not a pharmacist..." That came out of the mouth of an orthopedic surgeon I had consulted, liked, and with whom I had scheduled a shoulder replacement.   (The right side;  The Sentinel Event was subsequent to the replacement on the left.)  Two days before surgery and someone decided to tell him "who I was."

That's right!  I'm THAT GIRL!

How ludicrous that he would threaten me with the big black ball when it was his colleague's malpractice at the heart of everything.  Talk about misplaced emotion and severely impaired thinking.

So anyway... yeah, I may peer half-blind from my gurney next week and see the same anesthesiologist who screamed at me that he and his department had been discomfited by my complaints about being nearly killed and successfully debilitated by his hospitals' various minions.

I'm thinking I might spit in his general direction.  Or something classy.

So, if you are keeping score:  Monday is Ketamine Day!  Tuesday is Recover from Ketamine Day!  Wednesday is go hang at the hospital and bleed into little tubes day!  Thursday is Put-In-The-Port Day!  And... I think I have a couple of appointments elsewhere... that I prob'ly ought to cancel.  Fred and Ruby, at least, would appreciate that.

Ach.  Oh, and today I am supposed to start another month-long love affair with antibiotics.  But that rx is sitting over at the pharmacy waiting for Fred to pick it up.  And Fred is pooped.  So... I say:  Tomorrow is soon enough. 

I am making Executive Decisions to beat the band.

I am full of hope.

I figure, until proven otherwise, I am a person who is at one with possibility and potential, all coming together at a certain point that can be graphed as Monday Afternoon, when their various forces and energies shall gift me with an orgasmic... CURE. 

Or something.

Maybe the hallucination of a cure?
Maybe a significant reduction in pain?
Maybe not?

Hell, it's a luxurious option just to be able to rest and cavort within Possibility and Potential all weekend.

"On Monday evening, darling, when I am cured, let's try that new Thai restaurant we noticed five years ago!"
"Sweet cheeks?  Tuesday morning, while I enjoy a significant reduction in pain, as established by the Visual Analog Score, I would love to give you an intensely rejuvenating back massage, the way I used to when my hands actually followed instructions from my brain.  Where did I stash that gallon of Patchouli?"
"Yo!  Fredster!  Reserve a court for Wednesday and I'll show you my best cross court volleys... And would you PUH-LEEZE put that damn wheelchair in the freaking attic?"

It is heresy to say, I know, but my excitement rivals -- oh, hell, it outshines by far -- this weekend's ACC tournament.  Who told Carolina that they could play?

[Talk about confusion -- Somehow, my computer keeps sending me to the 2009 ACC Tourney website.  Had me feeling positively daft...] [Also... I am so old school... my brain rejects VATech, BC, and Miami as even being part of the ACC.  I still barely allow for GATech and Florida State...] [Oh, let's be honest!  The only teams that really matter are from the superior northern Carolina, as Clemson, Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia are just meaningless examples of linguistic linguini, mere placeholders.  It's all about Duke, Carolina, N.C.State, and, well... Wake Forest.  Or maybe just Duke, Carolina, and N.C. State.  Errrr, actually, between you and me?  It's all Duke and Carolina.  I mean think about it.  That match up has it all -- public versus private, and a rich history of four corners and three-pointers.]  [Waving to Jim Valvano -- ah, those were the days!  The Cardiac Pack...] [Okay, I'm done now...]

It's Duke and Maryland at 7 tonight, with Florida State and Va Tech to follow.  Virginia, Wake, State, Ga Tech, and Miami are all already out...

2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami

Katsushita Hokusai painted the Tsunami wave off Kanagawa in 1829-1833

Absolutely astounding, the pictures coming out of Japan after yesterday's 8.9 quake and subsequent Mother of a Tsunami.

A relatively new project is showcasing its abilities in the midst of this crisis:  Google Crisis Response -- 2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami.  On one page, you've access to most every news vehicle imaginable, from statements by Japan's Prime Minister and his cabinet to train and utility information.

There is even an embeddable tool (can also be added as a Google Gadget)called a Person Finder.  Let me show you:

There is video from CitizenTube (YouTube's News and Politics arm) and a link to NOAA's National Weather Service Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Of course, there is interest in the path of the tsunami and the coastal areas of Hawaii and California/Oregon but I am finding the news about that to be very ragged and contradictory.  So... just don't go to the beach, pass on these waves... you can check out the action of those rips tomorrow...  (Most reports say the impact on Hawaii has been minimal.  Even "insignificant.")

Small criticism:  The "Useful Map" link is nonfunctional at the moment.

The last thing I saw on the scrolling actual time news thingy was that oil has now dropped below $100, which, frankly, made me snicker.  So *that* is what it takes!

So blessings to the Japanese people as they emerge from this disaster, blessings to the disaster workers, and may much generosity come from the hearts holding purse strings.  The number of dead in Japan is going to be shocking.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

arbitrary and capricious

"As if one crime of such nature, done by a single man, acting individually, can be expiated by a similar crime done by all men, acting collectively."
-Lewis Lawes, warden of Sing Sing prison in NY in the 1920s and 30s

Illinois Death Penalty Abolished: Pat Quinn Signs Death Penalty Ban, Clears Death Row

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — After two decades of debate about the risk of executing an innocent person, Illinois abolished the death penalty Wednesday, a decision that was certain to fuel renewed calls for other states to do the same.

Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat who has long supported capital punishment, looked drained moments after signing the historic legislation. Lawmakers sent him the measure back in January, but Quinn went through two months of intense personal deliberation before acting. He called it the most difficult decision he has made as governor.

"If the system can't be guaranteed, 100-percent error-free, then we shouldn't have the system," Quinn said. "It cannot stand."

Illinois becomes the 16th state in the nation without a death penalty more than a decade after former Gov. George Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions out of fear that the justice system could make a deadly mistake.

Quinn also commuted the sentences of all 15 men remaining on death row. They will now serve life in prison with no hope of parole.  [article continued HERE]

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wednesday Morning Blahs

What a long night. I would sleep maybe 40 minutes at a stretch, then get up (and getting up ain't easy), wander around a while, get back in bed (again, not easy), lather, rinse, repeat.

There is a lot on my mind but none of it is new, none of it is particularly remarkable.

There is pain, unremarkable pain. There is spasticity, funky jumpy spasticity. There is something that doesn't qualify as pain -- not discomfort, no, it's more mobile than your ordinary "oh my..." It shoots by; It pivots, twists, turns; It burns.

Visual trickery drags my mood down low -- When I wake and turn on the light, the lamp goes in and out of focus, is confusing, has no depth. That's what is happening more and more -- a loss of light, a loss of depth. I did not realize how much we depend on depth in the not-so-simple activity of identifying the things around us, the familiar things we don't have to mull much over... usually. In the last few days, I have not been able to identify the following: an overhead fan, a foot, a pillow.

I am having great fun, however, with the many misreadings I make of novels, blogs, instructions, and even traffic signage.  (Not to worry, I am not driving.)  Sometimes it is fun to just go with the misperception -- very revealing, too, as all is supplied by one's own errant brain. 

Not today, though.
It's raining, a little on the cool side. It is early, even for me, and my eyes are so messed up that subjecting them to close reading seems cruel and pointless.
Besides, someone needs to use this Flip Video thingy. 
Hmm, let's see.  I'm not dressed, Fred is still abed, and I don't hear any Domestic Staff bustling around.  It's just me and the cats.  Hmmmmmm.

How are the cats these days, you ask?  (And aren't you the Sweet One!)  In the ongoing battle with our environment here in this wing of Marlinspike Hall, we are making a concerted effort to wean The Extant Felines {{waving to Sam-I-Am, my Heaven-based liege lord}} from their habit of scratching furniture.  In our wisdom, we decided this would best be achieved by eliminating even the whiff of boredom from their daily fare.

Since, absent Sammy, they are a familial unit, there's not too much rivalry among them, it's mostly a matter of not letting them succomb to ennui. Marmy Fluffy Butt and Uncle Kitty Big Balls (a.k.a. Little Boy) are siblings. Marmy rules, but only because she went through the fiery initiation of surviving on the street for eight months, the last weeks with a hell of a big belly on her tiny frame -- a belly full of kittens. We don't know what she went through out there, but it wasn't sweetness and light. So what Marmy wants, Marmy gets.

She has done the proverbial 180 since Sammy died. Suddenly, I was her greatest find since kibble. There are nights when it is *precisely* Miss Marmy Fluffy Butt's doing that I fail to sleep, for she must be attached to me, on top of me, head-butting me, murmuring her *ack*-*ack*s and staring, with great intent, deep into my burning red eyes.

                                              Ms. Marmy Fluffy Butt, Sister to Uncle Kitty Big Balls, Mother to Dobby

We have a relationship based on Attention Paid to Marmy, Marmy's Grooming, BellyRubs of Marmy, and, most of all, Whispered Expressions of Admiration for Marmy.  She does not much like boys of any sort, lacks -- completely -- maternal instincts, and is about as blatantly manipulative as they come.

She's a hard girl to love, and her delight at having Master SamWise disappear from her competitive world did nothing to endear her.  Of all the group, she is the most strange, estranged, separate.  But then she will go and do something silly, and most all her hardness is forgiven.  Lately, that has been her wild trips on slippery new floors, trips begun back in Fred's work room, full speed achieved while weaving her way through our tiny wing's living quarters, dodging tables, leaping over rugs, sliding under the odd davenport, sling-shotting her way around tight corners, and slamming on the brakes about 15 feet from the book case packed with old, soft paperbacks...  Chin in the air, paws prancing, a red glint peeking out the corner of an eye, she accepts your admiration, your glee at her uninjured state, then she goes all cartoon on you again, and reverses direction...

We are not sure she realizes that she is mother to Dobby. It doesn't matter.  He is, in any event, acceptable to her as a playmate from time to time.  She has been known to slap him silly for no discernable reason, behavior that makes her a frequent object of his contemplation.  He is a forgiving little soul, is Dobby.

He was the runt of the litter.  Marmy, in fact, had just up and quit the birthing process with Dobby's arrival in the queue.  Fred delivered him -- she took no interest.  We were convinced he'd never make it, as his contrary nature showed itself from the very beginning.  He would bypass a teat in favor of climbing as high as possible and often ended up perched on her confused head while his sisters and brothers gorged on milk.  Like most runts, he could be found either excluded and alone, or surrounded and smushed at the bottom of a pile-o'-kittens.  He was the one who promptly fell off the bed, thought the litter box a fine place to sleep... oh, and he was the one who was fascinated by the great big cat, Sammy.  Very David and Goliath.  A weeks old kitten purring at the hissing, wild-eyed (terrified) grown boy.

[Sammy was so afraid of Marmy and her kittens that we had to CARRY him past them in order to get him to the litter box.]

So, of course, Dobby and Sam-I-Am became best buddies, and spent most of their time together, sleeping and playing.  It was wonderful to witness how Sammy grew into himself at long last with the help of this weird little star-faced runt.

Dobby and Sam-I-Am

Dobby definitely rules the roost without knowing it.  His needs are easy to meet, his desires mostly reasonable. 

He still spends several hours each evening looking for Sammy, going from room to room, calling.  We try our best to distract him but lately it has started to piss me off.  I don't want to think about a dead cat every evening.  I don't want to repeatedly comfort this little manipulative elf, not when it drags me down to do it.  Anyway...

We haven't filmed it yet -- but we will.  One of Dobby's massage sessions.  They are... um... weird.  Fred started it when he was but a gaseous kitten and now The Dobster insists upon it several times a day.  What?  Well, I guess you could call it an intestinal rub, a very deep tissue massage.  He promptly assumes the position, a sort of intense in-folding, living origami.  It looks, frankly, like a sexual torture session, except that there is no genital contact, no sexual overtone, undertone, nada.  Just a strange, wild-eyed look upon a feline's face while his body contorts with painful pleasure.

If you can keep your hand from cramping, at about the 5-minute mark, the little guy usually falls asleep.

Uncle Kitty Big Balls, Dobby's uncle, has made a remarkable recovery from the sorry state he was in at the beginning of his stay here at Marlinspike Hall.  Mostly bald with weeping sores, severely underweight, abscessed -- he lost most of one foot and just generally had a tough time.

I had refused to allow his adoption at the time we took his preggers sister Marmy in -- he looked rough and mean.  Plus he didn't like me.  He loved Fred.  Didn't like me one bit. 

Convinced he would do well as a sort of "neighborhood cat," I chose to ignore his obvious love affair with Fred.  You could hear Fred crooning to him as they sat by the moat late at night in the warm summer months.  Then he disappeared.  The cat, not Fred.  Without discussing it, we each concluded that he must have been hit by a car...

Last April, I was hanging out in the ICU, being lazy, letting a ventilator do the hard work of breathing, when Fred charged into the unit and announced that he had something vitally important to discuss with me.

"He wants to turn off the machines and let me die...  Hmm.  Wait a minute.  I thought I was doing better!
Oh, God, he's having an affair..."

No, it was the cat.  "He's back!  It's a miracle!  I am going to trap him and take him to the vet.  I want to adopt him.  I know it is extra work, extra vet costs.  I will take care of him... I'll pay the difference... blahblahblah." 

What did I care?  I was on a freaking respirator.

So Uncle Kitty Big Balls began his own private medical odyssey while I eventually got back to my stunning baseline, and we both came "home" on the same day -- me from the fancy-schmancy medical center, and he from the vet.

He's a gentle soul, it turns out, and so content just being warm, dry, and fed.  If you add affection and the familial predilection for the tummy rub, he's ecstatic with joy.

He went, however, from underfed and sickly-looking to overfed and excessively corpular.  Robust.  I call him El Gordo when Fred is not around.  He clearly has plans for avoiding any future episodes of hunger.  Because he sincerely seems hungry and because feeding three cats is enough of a headache already without individualizing one of those diets... we aren't putting him on a diet.  Per se.

I found the perfect thing:  The PetSafe SlimCat Food Distributor Ball, Blue.  $5.65 at Amazon.  What could be better than a food-based exercise program?

So I introduced this new bit of higher education to the Extant Felines this morning... and this is what, ummm, "happened":  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Numa Numa en pointe

Uploaded by snip2449 on Jun 30, 2007.  This user has two uploads on record.  The other one features the same Numa Numa dancer as Sugar Plum in Nutcracker, that lesser work  (Sugar Plum Variation, Grand Pas De Deux, Coda).

For info on things Numa Numa, click HERE.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

the momentous visit to the famed clinic at the renowned institute

I meant to try and blog the details of Thursday's momentous visit to the famed clinic at the renowned institute... but I had my well-known reaction of collapsing afterward.  Indeed, Fred and I were still good for nothing yesterday, and it is early in this day yet.  He's gotten up and gone back to bed several times already.

We were invested body and soul in that visit.

Wednesday night, having trouble relaxing, finding sleep impossible, I went on the prowl for an old online friend from four or five years ago.  Matt has CRPS and is a brainiac, as he understands the intricacies of neurochemistry, pharmacology, physiology and all that schtuff -- plus he has that admirable attribute of being a calm fellow. 

Calm, but even so, obsessive. To his attractive equanimity, I was a pressure-valve release.  He could laugh as I intuited my way through hard science and discussed politics and cats in the same breath as dystonia and neurogenic skin ulcers. 

I went off into my own obsession as the infection in my bones insisted on Star Status, Center Stage, requiring that I be RingMaster of that Three Ring Circus.  Plus, my Hawaiian-shirted neurologist continued to harp on the necessity of not getting involved with online CRPS "communities." He worries that people in so much pain will simply suck the life and hope out of each other...   I've seen that happen, and worse.  I cringe when a "RSDer" decides to reveal all to some poor newcomer to the disease, coloring what might be opportunities as wastes of time and introducing the concept of "The Monster."   One day, I'll try to put together something cogent about "CRPS, The Monster."

Although he wears sandals in December, my neurologist is right.  What sense does it make, when pain and disability are busy limiting the scope of your life, to align yourself with people in the same plight, or worse?  It's like desiring to see farther and clearer by adding a filter of smeared vaseline to your lenses...

Odd that an optical analogy presents itself to my mind.

I was truly suffering with my eyes, also, on Wednesday night.  The new drops, Combigan, are kicking my booty.  Who knew (apparently, lots of people, just not moi) that eyedrops could wreck a person so?  Within minutes of using them, my energy level drops from Pathetic to Abysmal, and I want nothing more than to assume the fetal position for a few hours, in between spurts of horizontal vertigo that have me attempting to latch on to air. 

Of course, coloring all that wordy perception is the simple complication of hypoglycemia.  My relationship with blood sugar is perplexing, and is the only thing that I totally rely on my doctor to decipher -- because it stopped making sense to me years ago.  I don't technically have diabetes, but I have diabetes.  As in, my blood sugars are high due to corticosteroids, and then pushed higher by infection.  Not even insulin will bring it down some days -- prednisone and pus-y bones can do that.  However, when I take a round of antibiotics that knock the infection/inflammation back a bit, I have to remember to also cut back on the long-acting insulin formulation that I take twice a day -- or I might drift off in a deadly haze of plummeting blood sugars.

And drift off I have, several times now.  Thanks to violent shivering, I do manage to claw my way back to consciousness, and -- eventually -- to the realization that I need glucose, NOW.  An additional personal oddity?  In this state, I usually launch into some complicated preparation that will require a good hour of studious cooking before a single bite is at hand.  Yes, I will walk by a ready stash of hard candy, ignore the thirsty, stylized come-ons of the orange juice in the fridge, and proceed to whip up a batch of, say, onion bahji -- the traditional hypoglycemic rescue food. 

All of which to say that I was a bleeping mess come Thursday -- thoroughly dispirited, hypoglycemic, eyes inflamed and, honestly, pretty dim, too.  (I don't know how, exactly, but a blood pressure that rang in at a robust 200/110 probably contributed to my feeling a tad strange.)

Despite having spent a good portion of the past three years hanging out in waiting rooms and infusion centers overlooking the same street we were seeking, we got lost.  Fred needed to curse and bang the wheel, so that brief foray into uncharted territory was good for him.  Not so much for me, perhaps, although we had no clue at that moment that my various inner pressures nearing meltdown numbers... be they high, be they low!

It turns out that my cocky conclusion of having been to this clinic before was wrong.  That is a good "wrong," for a change.  My experience at the prior joint, back in 2004, while not horrendous, was not something I was anxious to repeat.

The famed clinic is actually located on the esteemed ground floor of the world-renowned hospital, whose purpose is specializing in "medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury or brain injury."  As you enter the main building, you pass a statue, bronze, I think.  It's of a young man in a wheelchair, testing the heft of a javelin that he holds in his right hand, while his left steadies the rim of a wheel.

That sculpture bothered me.  While trying to find a picture of it to share here, I encountered others who seemed to share my discomfiture.  One person, trying really hard to name the problem, posited that there was too much of a disconnect in a modern athlete as occupant of a clearly modern and sleek chair -- for the rendition to be in bronze.  I give that critic an "A" for effort!

The problem with the damn thing is having to face it straight away, first thing, on your first entry to the joint, on your first day, you know?

Me, I have issues with the whole "exceptional people" commandment that drives many attitudes about disabled people, sick people, "disadvantaged" people, whatever the hell... And when I confess that, I can read the internal memos as they're being written up and posted.

Notice:  This woman is a lazy ingrate.

Imagine, though, that you come here knowing nothing, unprepared.  Do you think:  "Wow!  Though paraplegic, I can still become a worldclass track and field athelete!  Cool wheels!" Or do you think:  "What the fuck doe this have to do with me?  And who dressed that gimp?"

Representation is fraught with issues, is all I'm saying.

So we are directed to take a right, then a left.  As we turn into the waiting area for the Pain Clinic, we pass their Multiple Sclerosis Clinic.  There's a clinic for everything -- Seating and Wheelchair Clinic, Brain Injury Rehab, Spinal Injury Rehab, Swallowing Disorders Clinic, Urology Services.

Most everyone, except the outpatients, sports a smile and oozes that kind of kindness peculiar to hardwon equanimity.  The inpatients are almost cocky in their competence, popping wheelies and doing handstands, breaking into song and dance with the slightest provocation.  We outpatients, though, we know we have to go back out there, out past the Javelin Dude, beyond all that cozy exceptionalism back into "Meh"-Land.

I have it so easy.

There was a harried woman ahead of me in the line to sign in -- she sported that well-known short haircut of the busy woman.  Once upon a time a stylish bob, now stringy and tired, the tips of her blunt cut swing down to cover her cheeks as she corrects an address and provides a new identification number for her son's insurance.  He is tall and rangy, a stick figure painstakingly shackled to the full frame of his high tech chair, controlled by breaths puffed into a straw.  The angle of his head to his neck, and all that to the line of his shoulders make him look like an incomplete assembly.  Like maybe there are some pieces missing that are stashed in his backpack.  But no one stopped to reattach his head to his neck or to correct the impossible angle of his left knee, wrongly twisting away from the descending bones of his lower leg.  And why do these creatures always seem to be staring at the ceiling, and drooling?

They called his name before his Mom was done fixing all the forms, which had the effect of making her spill the contents of her fanny-pack, her hands shaking, as she tried to make off with the Sign In pen, to the consternation of the Sign In Nazi.  Her son blew a righteous puff and sped past her to the waiting nurse and the inner sanctum of The Clinic, Mom eventually bobbing and weaving in his wake.

I thought of all that went into just getting there.  Of how carefully she had organized her fanny-pack, of how painstakingly she had cleaned him, changed him, shaved and dressed him, done his respiratory toilet, all the while murmuring lists, questions, and magic words for the doctors who would breeze in, breeze out.  I thought of how tired she must be.  I did not dare think of him in terms of words, at all.  When I tried, I got a great big noisy nothing.

They wanted urine so they could do a toxicology screen but I was not able to pee enough.  I had purposely not taken any Lasix that morning, not wanting to have to go to the bathroom while we were out!  Despite my good faith offering, the nurse gave me a calculating glare.  I told her I'd try again when I was leaving... but I forgot.  I don't think it will matter as I was not there trying to score a script -- No, I was there trying to score some Special K, and intravenously, too!

I lie -- the nurses were all wonderful, and very kind.  They make the visit as easy as is possible, even those aspects involving paperwork and insurance contact.  Never have I experienced such confident, blithe assertions that there would be "no problems with the insurance, just leave it to us!" My jaw kept hitting the floor...

Asked whether I needed help putting on a gown, I allowed as to how that wouldn't be necessary because I wouldn't be disrobing.

Not even a flicker of annoyance on their part!  They knew then that my vital signs were not cooperating and that my smile involved not just ill-suppressed joy but also gritted teeth.  Plus, the purplish-black legs were a dead giveaway.

Suddenly afraid that by refusing the gown I would be labelled, I offered to do it if the doctor really insisted... but in lieu of his insistence, I got the doctor himself, not bothered and going straight to work.  My records had been faxed, my Go-To Guy had authored a personal plea, and I made sure to reach for his hand and establish a firm character.  Unfortunately, I also yelled "ow!"

It only took about 20 minutes for him to size me up, even less for me to figure him out.  There were two nurses present, one his assistant, the other from the infusion center where the ketamine is meted out.  As usual, worries centered on the unresolved bone/joint infections and my overall crappiness.  I felt my hope dying and tried to fix a polite expression on my face and think of nothing much...

Then he was saying, "Let's give it a shot."

Blink.  Blink.  Blink?

Excuse me.  Excuse me?

"The only thing is... you have to be realistic." So he did his Five Minutes On Realistic... and I sat there grinning like a fool.

I missed almost everything he said and had to ask the nurses to stay when he left and fill me in!  They were extraordinary, offering tips for my first experience with subanesthetic ketamine.  Normally, the doctor "consents" patients in the clinic before they come for the infusions.  He had refused to do that with me, requiring that an i.v. catheter be successfully placed before he'd go through that process.  In fact, most of his concern seemed to be about i.v. access, to the extent that he insisted I get a permanent port if I decided to continue after the first infusion.  ("If"!)  He would go into more detail about dose and scheduling options if I actually have some pain relief from the first infusion.  ("If"!)

You see, I have not entertained even a moment's doubt that this was going to work. 

That's right -- I can write about geeks and disabled people missing parts, demeaning this, demeaning that, but don't get between me and a chance.

In my opinion, this is the very first chance I've had to beat CRPS.  The first in almost 10 years of incessant pain and ever-increasing disability.  Ten years of profound depression, loss of career and colleagues, the amazing and magical disappearance of both family and friends, the suffocation of any and all vestiges of intimacy... well, you get the Pathetic Picture.  If you don't get it, I refer you to almost any week's worth of posts in this blog.

There followed some nit-picky detail work, including a trip to the pharmacy and some scouting of the area to smooth out the wrinkles of our next visit.

I was giddy with happiness;  Fred was shocked, taken aback.  He did not think they would admit me to the program.  Not to worry, though, I wore him down with the persistence of my joy!

Back in the day -- you know, code for when I used illegal drugs but still managed to excel in almost every endeavor -- I did not much mess with strong hallucinogens.  Fred has been evil, enjoying my anxious wriggling as he regales me with tales of giant insects patrolling the walls, mandibles clicking...

Yesterday, just as I was regaining my balance and telling myself I'd probably not hallucinate at all, not one bit, nary a millisecond... When I hit upon a woman's facebook page wherein she shares her experiences with this treatment.  At the hands of the same doctor, at the same rehab hospital.

Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!  It involved her becoming an avenging angel styled after a character from the movie Avatar, green bubbles, and vomiting.  Lots of vomiting.

Please pray for my sorry hallucinating ass come next Monday, March 14!  Pray, especially, that if I am doomed to become some movie personnage, that I not dip into my cache of Mad Max obsessions.  Aunty Entity might just claw her way out as soon as we hit the 100 milligram mark of that special, special K. Or Mighty Wez...

Honey Badger Don't Care!

I'm in love with Randall's Animals.
Somewhere near the bottom of his channel page, he notes:

Comedy keeps the heart sweet.

-Mark Twain

The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger (original narration by Randall)

And Randall says:

There is no other animal in the kingdom of all animals, as fearless as the crazyass Honey Badger. Nasty as hell, it eats practically whatever it wants. Randall is disgusted. To learn more about the Honey Badger, please visit:

Sometimes it's so tame as to be lame around here, Manor Life being on the predictable side, so I've added a new hobby and armchair destination: Zoo Webcams.   Today I spent time on the Penguin Cam at the National Aviary.  That's in Pittsburgh, you know.

African penguins, also known as jackass penguins, are native to South Africa and live in a climate similar to Pittsburgh: cold in the winter, warm in the summer. The Aviary's exhibit currently features a colony of 10 penguins: Patrick, Stanley, Elvis, Simon, Sidney, Preston, Dottie, Rainbow, Demi, and Owen. They share their exhibit with two Cape shelducks.

I also like the San Diego Zoo's Ape Cam.  Right now?  It's pitch dark but there seem to be an abundance of glowing eyes scattered about.

Be sure to dress appropriately for the climate you'll be visiting.  Some of the falcon cams, in particular, are freakish in how they share the sensation of cold.

And on that note, I'm now going to plug into yet another little bit of technology and let the music take my mind.