Friday, June 15, 2012


Every now and then, we all stumble on something wonderful and wish everyone knew about it, because there's not much one soul can do...  Then we smile, indulgently, because there's lots one soul can do.

That's the whole point.

The real danger is that -- by everyone knowing about it -- it will be tainted somehow, its small beauty ruined, the way an isolated pristine spot gets trampled once photographed, once told, once revealed, once plotted on the map.

But maybe this little blog is the perfect size -- kind of... well, not very big, getting its greatest share of hits from people looking for "triple-x sex."  And it's odd.

But blessed, in many ways.

So... check this out:  TSP.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Okie-Dokie, Then!

I don't know how to describe yesterday, except to say that, during the night, evidence suggests that I ate a bag of microwave popcorn, one and a half apples, and a "carbsense" peach yogurt.  The evidence comes in the form of popcorn kernels all over the floor, one well-gnawed apple core, one apple sliced neatly in half -- brown but with that still (barely) good nutty apple smell -- smartly speared with a small utility knife, and an upside down carbsense peach yogurt balanced on the pillow I was hugging with wanton abandon.  A spoon smeared with yogurt sat neatly upon my carefully folded glasses.

In further riotous detail -- I woke hypoglycemic.

Back to yesterday, which shall absorb the blame and the shame for all of these disgusting nighttime activities.

I know that I apologized to my President, Mr. Obama, several times, even, on Twitter, for singlehandedly destroying the PCIP budget.

[ASIDE:  Please, MSNBC, among the many programmatic and philosophical changes you need to make, do not force Luke Russert upon us.]

As I was saying, I may have annihilated the Affordable Care Act all by my lonesome, just by the shenanigans of January and February, in our upteenth attempt to rid my body of an osteomyelitis that just won't quit.  Transfer to a Long Term Acute Care Facility was involved, as were superfluous surgeries, and massive failure to understand the machinations of CRPS / RSD.  One of the results of all the money thrown at my problems was the declaration that I had maxed out my PCIP coverage to the tune of.... "catastrophic" levels.  My main comment on that is that the maximum I was told I'd have to spend on my health care (not including, of course, premium costs and deductibles) was roughly $7,000.  Excuse me while I imitate someone doubled over in laughter.

So one of the joyous benefits of having been hit so hard financially in the space of the first two months of the coverage year is that I am exempt from paying any more co-pays for doctor visits, etc.  I am at that glorious 100% coverage realm, up where the air is so thin, one can hardly breathe.

And yet, every doctor's office that I visit demands that $25 or, at one place, that $55, before I can be seen.  Never mind that I've been with each of them for years and never, ever carry a balance.  (JOKE:  I'd rather die first!)  Now, this is the true me:  For a couple of weeks, I was just so tired, I said, "Okie-dokie, then, here you go!" 

Then I had the fire lit under my aching, red, and breaking-down butt.  It turned out that my orthopedic surgeon's office had NOT applied to my PCIP deductible the $2000 I put on my credit card when they called on January 17, 2012, claiming I needed to pay them the in-network deductible or they'd be unable to proceed with the grand screw-up of a surgery scheduled for January 23.  Did you follow that?  I could make it clearer, but I'm so stuffed with food I can barely think.

As I was investigating a weird charge from the LTAC, submitted by a pulmonologist I'd never heard of, nor needed, who also appeared to have no license in this area West of the Lone Alp... I became mired in the pages and pages of online data documenting the obscene, pornographic exchanges of money, it hit me that I could not find that $2000 payment from January.  

I can be quite the dip when it comes to money, so I thought a courtesy call to the orthopod's office was in order before I set my aching, red, broken-down butt afire.  Anyway... no, they had only "needed" about $200 of all that, and had just tucked the rest in between the brown corduroy orthopedic sofa cushions in their snack lounge.  Miss Melissa, after sternly reminding me that she had only known of the error since March, eventually returned the $1700+ to my credit card.

I had to jump up and down over and over on the radio that kept playing in my head:  "And what about the interest charges you incurred, nimwit?  What about the money you might have grown from that $1700+ had you been able to invest it in the equity that went up over 23% in that same period of time?"  Smashed that damned radio to pieces, I did.

So yesterday, Fred and I sat in the waiting room at ShoulderMan's office, discussing some hilarious scientific literature. [Not kidding!  He was showing me the studies proving that light, among all observable things, changes its behavior if... observed.  Hilarious and mind-boggling stuff that makes me believe in God even more than that rare child cured of persnickety and metastatic brain cancer.  Fred can be a brilliant man, knowing when to pull out the big guns.]  

Now, I already may have pissed one of the receptionists off, I am not sure.  I was trying to be helpful, but how often does "trying to be helpful" really mean "pointing out crap that no one wants to deal with, and thankyouverymuch."  All of these orthopods have installed "kiosks" for check-in purposes.  It scans your IDs, your insurance cards, updates your address and phone, and asks whether you're likely to vote for President Obama or Dickwad Romney.  Oh, and please press HERE if you are not white.

I always complain about these kiosks.  Several reasons:  I am in a wheelchair, and the slant of the screen makes it nearly impossible to read due to glare from the sun -- that sun that may emit particles or waves, but probably isn't a coherent light source, anyway, who knows?  I ask them for a lower kiosk, as well.  Think about it.  I am in a wheelchair.  The kiosk is raised for someone of normal height, standing.  And why am I there?  Because of my freaking shoulders.  There's something so not fun about having one barely working arm that you have to keep raising above your head to enter data that hasn't changed since the week before.

Ah, but none of those bitchifications were involved in my complaint yesterday.  When I rolled up to the kiosk, it had been left by its previous victim in mid-operation.  I silently acknowledged my agreement with the evidence of their frustration, briefly bowing my head, and saying my personal and shortened version of the Serenity Prayer.  There was no way to abort the half-finished session, so I just flew through each screen by pushing some version of "Don't Know" and "Don't Care." The last screen I saw, still dedicated to this long gone patient, offered me EVERY SINGLE BIT OF THEIR PERSONAL INFORMATION.  From social security number to address, phone, personal doctor's name, insurance data -- all of it.  I could have copied it all down, photographed it, or I could have gone slightly bonkers and rolled over to the receptionist to report what I thought a major flaw with their blessed little kiosks.  She said, "Oh, no, that's terrible." 

I shortened the Shortened Serenity Prayer and went back to the kiosk to enter my own data.

Fred and I resumed giggling over the double slit experiment.  ("In 2002, Jónsson's double-slit experiment was voted 'the most beautiful experiment' by readers of Physics World.")  I was waiting for my main man, Leo, ShoulderMan's left hand man, to call me back to the exam rooms, when instead I heard the receptionist's dulcet tones, asking me to report to her area.  Zoom, zoom, zoom, and there I was -- hidden, of course, behind the counter that was so tall someone in a wheelchair would never be noticed without use of an emergency flare.  

She has two things to accomplish.  One, could I please confirm the information I just scanned and entered into the goddamned kiosk.  Two, I owe a $25 copay.  I am already missing Fred and his promise of some mention of Schrodinger's cat.  I carefully repeat the necessary demographics, but balk at paying.  My chapped ass has had enough, already.

"Well," she said, between huge sighs, "I guess I can call and reverify your insurance coverage." 

"Okie-dokie, then!" I crow.

"You can stay right there, so you don't have to go running back and forth."

"Okie-dokie!" (Appreciative of her saving my thumb and forefinger all that effort...)

Twenty minutes later, I am the source of major human traffic flow complictions.  My wheelchair is blocking old men with walkers, little girls struggling with crutches, and various blue-hairs who just shoot me a dirty look before lining up behind me, despite my frequent announcements that I am not in line.

Every now and then, the receptionist says something in a loud voice and I've no idea if she is speaking to me, so I answer, even if at the "okie-dokie" level.  Occasionally, she says, "I'm so sorry!" and it is then obviously incumbent upon me to say, "You've got nothing to be sorry about."  Oh, how weird things get when you cannot see the person with whom you might be having a conversation.

Finally, I hear this:  "Oh, you're gonna hate to hear this, Ms. Profderien!  You are absolutely right. You don't owe us a thing.  You can take a seat now."

You'd have been proud of me.  "[cough::cough]  I don't suppose you could refund the $25 I had to pay last week...?"  And then I rolled my aching, red, broken-down butt to Fred, who was asleep under a book, snoring just the smallest bit.  He woke, thought I had already seen the doctor, and make ready to leave, cheerful at the well-oiled machine that was apparently in force.  I hated to break it to him -- we had yet to really begin.

The chase?  You want me to cut to the chase?  Okay... Leo called me back, told the same joke he always tells, the Nurse Who Really Runs Everything came in and I signed all the consents, and we looked at my blood work.  She kept saying, "Your CRP is *really* high..." After running back and forth to consult with the surgeon, she decided I needed to be the last case of the day next Monday, because odds are that there is more crapalaficious infection to be dealt with, and "the infecteds" are always operated on last in the surgical day.  She sends in the PA who says, "You know the drill," and then seems to fall into a fugue state.  "Bob," I said, "You seem really tired.  Why don't we just move all this along?" Bob seems grateful and says I need to "run" across the street to the hospital to pre-register.

Before I leave, I pick up all the paperwork (including the blood work results) that have fallen on the floor, and stealthily crept under the exam table.  I leave them in a place that's obvious, so that either the next patient can steal my personal data, or the Nurse Who Really Runs Everything can retrieve them, so as to fatten up my anorexic chart (we're on overstuffed Volume 3).

We did not know that hospital pre-registration was going to have to be done yesterday but Fred and I decide to see it as a good thing, meaning that we don't have to come back later this week, and can stay home waiting for the roofing dude to come save the collapsing roof over one of the rear porches overlooking the fruit orchard we share with our Cistercian neighbors.  Believe it or not, the whole thing sort of collapsed 5 days before the 5-year warrranty expired on the last time they came and did not repair it very well.  If there are any charges to come out of this repair, you can bet that we're inviting Abbot Truffatore over for dinner, al fresco, with his seat right under the most prodigious leak.

I pay the $5 for parking so that we can go park at the hospital, which will cost -- you guessed it! -- an additional $5.  Fred threatens to muzzle me as I launch into my "Dear President Obama..." routine.  Why try to save me with an Affordable Care Act and then bankrupt me with health care parking fees?

Anyway, we know this hospital like some people might know the back of their hands.  But right away, something is different.  I am in a cubicle with a polite young man who is reentering all that personal data stuff, when he pauses, actually stops working, and says, "Do you mind if I ask you a question?" 

Oh, what goes through one's mind.  "Yes, I know I still owe you many thousands of dollars.  I'm sorry.  If Google would just have a blow out of an earnings report, you'll be paid that much quicker.  In the mean time, would you accept $20 a month, or maybe a kidney?" 

But what he asks is this:  "Was your experience here back in January and February a good one?"

I think I swallowed my tongue.  "No," I said, "it wasn't." 

"Well, I am sorry about that, and I hope that from this moment on, your stay here this time will be much better."

I am tempted to yell out "WTF?" but don't.

Okay, so I got a Press Ganey thingy to fill out on the hospital, back in March, and filled it out with bloody honesty, but how the heck would he know anything about that?  And he is, no offense, just a data entry clerk.  And wasn't it anonymous?

I'll spare you.  The tenor of his overtly solicitous behavior continued throughout the pre-op check-in process.  The nurse was extremely polite and well-informed.  She knew what CRPS was.  She had an accurate list of my meds.  She listened as I begged for them not to change the marvel of the pharmaceutical arrangement that is helping me so much with the CRPS dystonia.  She did not make me repeat tests that had been done within the last six months.

She passed me along to the nurse anesthetist whom I absolutely HATE.  I am sorry to say that.  Ashamed to say that.  But this woman, every darned time, interrupts me when I bring up the need for stress-dose steroids pre-, intra-, and post- op... and then to please revert me to my normal dose.  She lectures me on the hospital's pristine record with steroids, given that it is one of the region's foremost transplant centers and blah blah blah.  This time, I talked over her, telling her that I was very nearly dead thanks to their own hospitalist not givng me ANY steroid for five days, while I became more and more altered, with systems failing, getting weaker and weaker, and no one sharp enough to check my medic alert tag, or even look at the hospital records from an admission a mere two weeks before.  "Oh, my," she says.  "That should not have happened.  I'm so glad we discovered it in time." 

Scrape me off the ceiling.

I tell her that I discovered it.  It probably would have been my last cogent comment. Vision fading, weakness rising, I asked the nurse who was giving me meds which one of all those white pills was my steroid.  She told me I didn't take steroids.  I believe I began blubbering "Oh, my God, oh my God." To this good nurse's credit, she RAN to get help -- and a syringe full of Solu-Cortef.

Anyway... we got through yesterday, I hyperfocused on the weirdness, and then we got a pizza, for comfort.  It was after 7 pm before Ruby the Honda CRV rolled gently through the labyrinth, among the ramparts and over the moats, drawbridges and cleverly converted battering rams, into the safety of the well-loved place called home.

I have not forgotten young Hannah, to whom I promised to look for inspiration in all this -- but I cannot think much about how mutilated I will be when I come out of anesthesia on Monday.  Later today, I will check on her progress, and again marvel at her strength, and pray to be able to imitate her just a bit, if nothing else.  She is doing well, I know, midst a sucky situation.  She's been fitted for a prosthetic leg and will soon begin learning how to use it -- which I expect will take her a full five minutes.  Keep on keeping on, Miss Hannah.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fly Boys

Poor, dear Buddy remains captionless in his recent dead-eye photo.  He looks absolutely devastated, but then, he always looks absolutely devastated.

When I was in high school, I was extremely bored, extremely obsessed with tennis, and determined to develop a reputation as a bad ass.  The tennis obsession was hard to hide, impossible to discourage, and resulted in being undefeated during my entire three-years on the team.  Of course, I played #6 singles and #3 doubles, so how hard could it have been, right?  We fervently "stacked the deck," but not in my case.  Our number 3 in singles was actually our number one, and our number 5 was actually our number 2 or 3, depending on how hard her week was.

She was, for a while, my best friend.  Her name was Teresa.  I thought she was beautiful, with long straight hair that looked professionally streaked, but wasn't.  She walked with a lilt, sort of took a little bounce when she pushed off the ground with her big toe.  Her face was very plain, but so was mine, so I thought she looked pretty.  Her father took a long time to die of lung cancer.  He was career military, air force, a flight mechanic, and somehow I thought that all meant that they were being taken care of.  Her mom worked a lot.  Her dad lived in a brown plaid recliner -- which would not recline -- with an oxygen tank hung over the back left of that Archie Bunker chair.  It struck me as odd, even knowing how sick he was, that I never saw him in uniform, be that a zip-up flight suit, overalls, blues.  No name tags, no decorations.  Their oven never seemed to be in working order, they did not leave each other notes, and tended to rarely look one another in the eye when conversing, and most conversations ended "okay, okay, okay."

They didn't have a lovely calligraphic version of Royal Canadian Air Force's John Magee's sonnet, "High Flight," beautifully framed and subtly spotlighted.  Some kids learn Bible verses by heart as their earliest accomplishment in Rote.  Not I, though I tended to stop, sometimes suddenly, sometimes joyfully, half way through the fifth line.  When my father built his "dream" house, with his "dream" study, the poem was hung behind his ominous desk, and carefully offset by fine photos, finely framed in matching dark woods, of all the "birds" he'd ever flown.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of --Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

I've wondered sometimes, as I have become a decrepit piece o' crap, myself, if it wasn't so much that the butt ugly chair would not recline as it was that Teresa's Dad's arms and legs had become either too weak or too mavericky to make the darned thing obey.  I have what used to be a lovely leather recliner, bought at the suggestion of MDVIP Go-To-Guy, back when my right leg started to go really, really bad.  The cats loved it, and I was stupid enough to think I could train them quickly and well enough not to want to arch their tight little backs and stretch those claws luxuriously into that leather.  I used the cats as my Frustration Referent because I was too embarrassed to admit that my legs couldn't push the chair into position.  Structurally, there's not a thing wrong with the chair, and I even bought a cheap (but cute!) matching ottoman to make up for my physical inability to make it metamorphose... but I am embarrassed by how it looks.

He was something of a dedocated dick, as some men are, but he was her father, and so Teresa lived a life of hard work, kept her head down, helped her Mom, cared for her younger siblings, and somehow managed to keep everyone's hands and minds off of her tennis.

I would pick her up, a quick beep on the ominous horn of my 1965 baby blue pristine Cadillac, and she'd come bouncing down the front concrete steps, neat as a pin in one of her three tennis outfits.  She had two white, classic tennis dresses that she reserved for competition and a pair of white shorts to practice in -- like most everyone, really, except that she alternated the same two tee shirts, one orange, one blue, both plain, advertising nothing.  She wore Tretorn tennis shoes with incredibly white anklets.  She was the first person I knew who was completely sold on Yonex rackets.  Her racket made my shots sit up, begging to be clobbered.  In her hands?  She was the Queen of Spin, deadly at the net.  And yet she had one of the flattest serves ever, with a toss so high that I was sometimes tempted to jog around the court a few times while we all waited for the ball to descend enough so that she could flatly whack it.

That was the only element of our doubles play that got under *my* skin.  The return of her serve tended to be aimed at my mouth or perfectly down the alley as I cowered near the ground, protecting my plain face.

Now... as for what might have irritated Teresa about my doubles game?  Well, choking comes to mind.  Not an occasional choke for those occasional tight moments.  No, choking like not holding service -- not even once -- during an entire match.

It came in the form of a frozen back and a spastic arm.  My lower back refused anything remotely like an arch;  My toss began at hip level, entirely powered by a jerking wrist.  It was the ugliest thing ever.

And she'd never turn around.  She never came to talk it over.  She never had any suggestions (not by then, not at match time... in practice, sure, but always something like: "So why can't you do that when we play X and X?").

My coach would disappear to the other end of the courts.  She never talked to me about it either.

The one time I got my Dad to come watch me compete, I started my period during the match, lost one of my contacts (even then I was "legally blind"), and, yes, choked.  He left before I won.

My greatest familial experience with tennis came with Brother Grader Boob, home from college, where he was quite the racquetball phenom, bearing, in fact, the titles of both singles and doubles champ for his area. He competed both indoors and out, but preferred three-wall outdoor sport.  There seemed to be infinite variations to the game, something that tennis is sorely lacking.  Even messing around with "wall ball" avec Brother Boob was a riot.

So he would play half-court, using his short racquet, and a standard fuzzy tennis ball.  I'd play the way I usually played.  Of course.  We messed a bit with the rules, something about number of bounces, something about service lines, but not much.  It was so much fun, particularly when the courts over at the country club were full and Suzy Q and Buffy were forced to join the rest of us slugs at the beautiful downtown courts in the park.

Anyway, I choked through our entire state doubles match.  I drop-served, so as to at least get the ball into play.  We lost.  You can probably guess by exactly how much, if I tell you that we played beautifully when receiving.  But between her flat, here-I-come serve and my oh-hell drop-serves, well...

Teresa ended up with a tennis scholarship -- one of those female things, a drop in a bucket, added to an offer to work slave hours at the library, all glommed onto the heft of a loan.  It was a good school, and I hope she did well there, had maybe some fun, too.  It was a shore-side state university, a lovely place to be, a very different place from where she'd been.

Ha!  You'd never guess where this post was meant to go.  I referred to little Buddy's "dead-eye" photo, which made me think, of course, of "Dead-Eye" Jones, my English teacher.  She had an artificial eye, she was big, pretended to be mean, and I loved to imitate her.  Until the day, that day that happens to every bad high school jokester, the day the person you are aping appears behind you without you having the least clue.

As in my favorite crucifixion song goes:  "[She] never said a mumblin' word."

She did not need to.  She owned me for the rest of high school.  And she never turned me in for playing tennis during fifth period when I was supposed to be in French.  She laughed big long belly laughs when we barracaded a classroom against an unloved substitute who kept stomping her little foot in anger, yelling "Open that door, open that door, right now!" She never called my folks about the pimply airman I french-kissed while waiting for the fifth period bell to ring.  She gave me good advice on the last day of school.  "Everything you think shows on your face.  Be careful with that."

Then, I wanted to write about tennis, it being French Open time and all.

I didn't mean to write about Teresa, and looking back at what I did write... I wish I really had.

We did not have a fight or officially even end our friendship.  It died a natural death, in my opinion.  In my stepmother's opinion, it was an impossibility to begin with, due to different social strata.

My stepmother.  Now that'd be a post.  She'd have been a perfect Brahmin.  Teresa was not untouchable, except, well, really, yes, she was.  Her clothes may have been clean, neat, and mended, but nothing matched in that breathless, thrown-together matchy way.  She didn't accept invitations to our home.  She was ugly. (As for me and my beauty?  The first time I plucked my unibrow, she said, swirling a scotch and soda, "Oh, profderien, that was your one good feature.")

Teresa and I were both barely hanging on, and we hung on through tennis.  We knew we could always find each other on a court somewhere, and that town had three options -- on base, at the country club, or in the lovely, lovely park.  She hung on through some very tough things, as did I.  Thanks to life and tennis, we learned to let them go, and in so doing, we lost each other.

Teresa and her bleeping slo-mo flat-as-a-pancake serve and a slowly suffocating father.  Me and my social anxiety, my various shames.

We'll call this the Father's Day-French Open combo post.

But I still want some suggestions for Buddy's Caption.  If it tugs at your heartstrings at all, Fred is determined that Buddy is feeling ill, or at least, "blue."  He is basing this conclusion on the fact that Buddy has decided to sleep on the living room rug rather than in the ether of his cat tree condo.  Some dude who passes himself off as the Cat Whisperer on Animal Planet claims that this is a bad sign.  Cats should want to be as high as possible and when they go low... well, uh-oh.

My point of view?  Buddy runs around like a crazed rabbit, plays fetch with abandon, chows down with gusto, drinks, pees and poops as if these were the most natural things in the world.  He comes to me for head pats and gentle finger chews.

Give the lad a caption, would 'ya?

Oh, and Happy Father's Day, and congratulations, Rafa!

In terms of what's actually happening -- surgery is Monday, June 18.  Today is another surgical pre-op, with one more later this week.  I'm stressed.  My hips were x-rayed and the one that is killing me looks okay, but the one that I put up with is in dire need of replacement.  Ha. Ha. Ha.  A former fracture of my sternum (from CPR) has decided to torture me again.  Why, no one knows.  I look the wrong way and bones break.  Breathing is interesting.  My kidney labs might look screwed up to the uninitiated, but really they are fine, I am just dreadfully dehydrated from daily fevers.