NEED TO KNOW (NCIS, 2012) AND MY PACEMAKER

EPISODE: Need to Know (2012) – SHORT SYNOPSIS:

Alan Katzenbach, a lawyer, waits for Gibbs with his client, a chief petty officer named Leland Wiley. Wiley was busted for drugs and wants to trade his info — which he says is about national security. It concerns Agah Bayar, the arms dealer. Gibbs is interested. Wiley comes over to talk, but grabs his heart and drops to the ground.

ncis-need-to-know

Gibbs comes for the update from Ducky. Turns out, Wiley had top security clearance and his workstation is locked down. They haven’t been able to connect him to Bayar yet.

Abby calls Gibbs to the lab. She tells him Wiley’s pacemaker was linked into a computer to monitor it. Someone hacked in and jacked his heart rate up to 400 beats per minute.

“Somebody murdered Wiley by remote control,” she says.


What does this have to do with me?

Well, glad you asked. This episode so intrigued the heart surgery team at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston (where I had all that heart surgery last March), that they decided to find out if it really could be done. One of the people that performed the experiment was my surgeon.

They did it. My surgeon did point out as far as they could tell, to actually hack a pacemaker you had to be no more than a couple of feet from it. Nonetheless, they made the manufacturer change the programming.

In theory, nobody can hack my pacemaker.

I find this comforting. Garry finds it disturbing and I suppose I can see where he’s coming from. He doesn’t like thinking about the mechanical and electronic stuff that keeps me alive. It would creep me out too, but I’m a bit of a geek.

RBB-pacemaker

I find the technology sufficiently interesting to overcome its inherent creepiness. It is creepy. However, it doesn’t matter. No matter how I feel about it, I’ve got this thing in my chest. It keeps my heart beating. If my heart beat on its own, I wouldn’t need the pacemaker.

Every time I go for a pacemaker checkup, they use a little machine and briefly stop the pacemaker to see if my heart will beat without it. My heart stops beating. Talk about creepy. It is a very unpleasant — and indescribable — sensation. Anyone with a pacemaker knows what I mean.

The blue tooth remote functions still work. They are (in theory) more secure than they were a couple of years ago, before the NCIS episode aired and the guys got curious about it. Remote functionality is important. After all, I might need a tune-up. Blue tooth lets my doctor access my pacemaker from … how far? I don’t actually know. A considerable distance, whatever that is.

Garry — again — doesn’t want to know about it. I pointed out if someone murders me, this is potentially important evidence. He would still rather not think about it.

So there we are. Too creepy?

I can feel my pacemaker. It sits on my left shoulder. The outline is visible. I can feel the wires, the connections through my skin. I find it impossible to ignore. I might as well find it interesting. It’s part of me, after all.

PAIN AND GAIN? NO SUBSTITUTE FOR USING YOUR BRAIN

Rabbi Ben Hei says, “According to the pain is the gain.”

— Pirkei Avot 5:21 (second century)


NO PAINS, NO GAINS.

If little labour, little are our gains:
Man’s fate is according to his pains.

Hesperides 752 (1650)


Industry need not wish, as Poor Richard says, and he that lives upon hope will die fasting. There are no gains, without pains …

— as reprinted in Benjamin Franklin’s The Way to Wealth (1758)


Jane Fonda didn’t invent it. Neither did that guy at the gym you think is god.

The concept has been lying around waiting to become popular slang for almost 2000 years. It didn’t refer to matters physical, either. It referred to your soul, to charity, to work in general. It was never intended to be taken literally.

Just because words rhyme, doesn’t make them a concept, doesn’t mean they relate to each other. Or that it’s a concept that applies to your aching body rather than your dark, mean-spirited soul.

fitness-myths-no-pain-no-gain

Pain is a body’s way of warning us something is wrong. Ignore it at your own risk. Acknowledging there are minor pains we all typically ignore because we know what they are, know they aren’t important, there are plenty of others you ignore at your peril.

How about the pain in your chest that signals heart trouble? How about that pain in your breast that says “don’t ignore that lump?” Or the shooting pain down one leg when you knock your spine out of alignment? How about the searing one when you dislocate a shoulder? Or the one, accompanied by an ugly snap which says “Hey, you just tore your Achilles tendon!”

Before you go ignoring a pain, make sure you know what that pain is trying to tell you. Try not to replace thinking with a motto.

I hate clichés. They are the latest fad in the long advance of stupidity.


Daily Post: Pains and Gains

 

LITTLE WIRES – A DRAMA-FREE SOLUTION

selfie in gray teeYesterday, out popped two little wires that have been working their way through the healing scar of my pacemaker.

The first time this happened, it was one wire poking through next to the much bigger scar down the middle of my sternum. I pulled it out with a pair of tweezers. Quite a long piece. Very thin. Sharp. The moment I pulled it out, it stopped bothering me. The hole closed instantly and healed up in hours. Crisis averted.

Then everyone yelled at me for doing something stupid. I tried to explain the wire was loose and came out far easier than an eyebrow hair. I didn’t have to tug, just guide it out. It wasn’t attached to anything. Just a stray wire left behind by surgeons.

Now, I had to make a choice about the new pair of wires. These were very close to the pacemaker. For obvious reasons, I didn’t want to find myself with my heart in my hand.

On the other hand, I didn’t feel like making an appointment with a surgeon — requiring Garry to defer his trip to New York — then driving 140 miles, round trip. All of this so a surgeon can take a pair of tweezers (just like mine) and pull out the wires.

Or worse, decide to open me up just to see what’s going on. I’ve had enough of that, so no, thanks.

Screw it, says I.

I picked up my trusty tweezers, grabbed the wire and gently removed it. No pressure. It was less than a quarter of an inch long. The second piece was even smaller.

My pacemaker is still in place. My heart continues to beat. Those spiky, itchy, annoying little wires are gone.

Call me stupid if you want, but I can’t bring myself to make an epic drama out of a tiny piece of wire.

I JUST WANT TO FEEL BETTER – A MANIFESTO

I visited my favorite doctor last week. She is the only one of my original set of doctors I have kept. Despite her not being covered by my current insurance. She is irreplaceable. Unlike the rest of my doctors, she “gets me.” For me to start over and try to establish this kind of relationship with a new doctor? I’m not sure I’ve got that many years left to me. Or if there is another doctor like her anywhere.

I hadn’t seen her since before all the heart surgery in March, so we had a bit of catching up to. We talked about me, her, life, getting older, Garry, drugs and how some things — like marijuana — just don’t do what they did when we were young.

And the importance of feeling better.

The garden in front of the clinic where my favorite doctor works

The garden in front of the clinic where my favorite doctor works

Anyone who has been sick for a long time knows what I mean when I say “I just want to feel better.” There comes a moment in time when whatever is wrong with you has dragged on and on. It feels like an eternity, like forever. You can’t remember what it was like to feel good. You’ve done everything you are supposed to do and still, you feel like crap. Whether it’s cancer, recovering from surgery, anxiety, bipolarity, the pain of chronic illness — or any combination of the above plus whatever I didn’t mention — one day, you just want to feel better.

You really don’t care how.

Whatever it takes, whatever drugs, surgery, therapy, whatever. Just — make me feel better. I want a day without pain, without anxiety, without nausea. I want to feel normal or at least close. Whatever normal is. Because I am not sure I remember.

The problem is, doctors don’t see medical value in feeling better.

Feeling lousy isn’t a medical condition. And feeling better is not a definable goal for medical professionals. The doctor keeps telling you you’re fine … and you don’t feel fine. You are tired, in pain, crabby, unable to sleep. Nauseated. Exasperated. Fed up with everything.

Just two doctors — out of so many in my world — believe feeling better is a legitimate goal. One is my cardiologist and the other is my shrink. Technically, she is my psycho-pharmacologist, but shrink is easier to say. Her self-assigned task in this world is to help me feel better.

“After all you’ve gone through,” she says, “It’s what I can do for you. I can help you feel more like you used to feel before all of that horrible stuff happened.”

That she understands the concept  is nothing short of a miracle. So I’m going to keep her. Despite insurance.

I JUST WANT TO FEEL BETTER – A PERSONAL MANIFESTO – Weekly Writing Challenge

READING THE BOOK OF ALL-ANSWERS

Not Lemonade – When life gives you lemons… make something else. Tell us about a time you used an object or resolved a tricky situation in an unorthodox way.


The implications of this prompt are so far-reaching it boggles my mind. You mean there is an orthodox method for doing … everything? Is this written somewhere? I mean … you know … is there a book? Or maybe even a checklist? Does this require church membership and/or attendance?

In all my years on earth, I never heard about this and it perturbs me. Something so important, knowing that all things can be resolved by following some structured, orthodox rules … well … where were these rules when I needed them?

It reminds me of all the times in my life when I have found myself in one of those messes life tends to dump on me from time to time. No work, no money, no hope and oh, yeah, I’m dying. And there I am, without a clue as to what I’m supposed to do about all of it. Finding myself thinking and rethinking ways to save my home, my brain, my life … then eventually, sometimes through sheer serendipity (there’s that word again), discovering a way out.

magic-book-burning-247

Never once did it occur to me I had done something unorthodox. Clever maybe. But unorthodox? As far as I could tell, what I mainly did was not give up.

I’ve done a lot of stuff other people thought was stupid, brave, or weird. They condemned me, admired me, envied me, and hated or loved me according to their natures. Never once did anyone imply there had been an alternative solution had I but followed the path of orthodoxy. Typically, most everyone was surprised I found a solution at all. I was usually as surprised as they were.

If you don’t believe in coincidence, my life won’t make sense to you. Not that it makes sense to me.

Here’s how it goes. There’s this guy. He knows a guy, who knows about a procedure. Which leads to a doctor, who has a lot of influence at a major hospital and finds my case interesting. So he invents a surgery, gets the hospital to do the whole thing for no money because naturally I have no medical insurance and am destitute. Donates not only his services but those of two other surgical teams … and I get fixed. I don’t die. I live so I can have yet another crisis. So far, so good.

I don’t know when I have used an unorthodox solution because I don’t know what an orthodox solution might be. If someone will send me the book, I promise I’ll get around to reading it, eventually. Maybe I’ll review it on Serendipity. Something this important shouldn’t be a secret!

 

NO PRANCING FOR ME

I went to the doctor today. I made a list of the things I needed to talk about, among them trying to get some Prednisone or something to make me able to actually enjoy my vacation in Maine in October. I just want a week off of the whole pain and misery thing. I checked with my cardiologist and he seemed to think a week of Prednisone would be fine, at least for my heart.

I know Prednisone is evil and will — with prolonged use — melt my bones. But really, I’m not asking for a long-term run. Just a week. One lousy week of living without pain.

Dr. Marc Jacobs filterHe said (really, no kidding, he said this), “I don’t want you prancing around like a 20-year old, hiking all over Maine.”

Prancing? Like a 20-year-old? When I was 20, I was wrapped in plaster from my rib cage to my knees following a spinal fusion and laminectomy. I can’t remember ever doing any prancing even when I was a kid. But hey, he doesn’t know me yet. If we had a longer relationship, he would realize what an absurd statement that is.

Not only am I not doing any prancing, but we’re sharing our vacation with our best friends. He will be one month past knee replacement surgery. She’s almost as arthritic as me and she is way past prancing. Garry is in better shape, but he’s not bouncing around either.

I pointed out I was unlikely to take up bungee jumping or mountain climbing, but the doc was convinced I would do something stupid and potentially damaging to what we humorously call my body.

“You’re 67 years old. You’re recovering from massive and extremely serious surgery. That’s reality. You aren’t healed yet.”

“When,” I asked, “Is yet?”

“Six months.”

“Six months,” I repeated. And I sighed.

I should be used to it. Maybe I am, but I don’t like it. Not at all. I just wanted a week off. One week, so I could walk, take pictures. Enjoy myself and not be in pain. Go out, find a moose unaware, take great wildlife pictures. In the wild, not in a zoo. But no. I have to be sensible. Bah.

I’ll deal with it. But I really wanted that week. One week without the pain. I guess it is too much to ask.

WHICH NUMBER IS AGE?

Age Old Question — “Age is just a number,” says the well-worn adage. But is it a number you care about, or one you tend (or try) to ignore?


Are you serious or just young? Because no one over 65 would posit a question like this without also laughing hysterically, possibly falling down and breaking a hip.

Photo: Debbie Stone

Photo: Debbie Stone

Age it isn’t a number, per se. But it’s a number which will tell you when you can stop pulling the plow and collect your pension. Otherwise, it’s more like an ache in your back, a bag full of medications, and more doctor appointments on the calendar than parties.

It’s being tired, but never sleeping soundly but getting to stay up as late as you want and sleeping in. Every day, if you choose.

It’s discovering you can’t do “that” — whatever that is — anymore. Your brain is fine, but your body persists in arguing about everything and worst of all, winning most of the battles. It’s finally having plenty of time, but being always short of money. Lots of time to travel, but not much motivation to tackle airports and long car trips. It’s also discovering the joys of being home. Of having a home.

It’s realizing you’re smarter, wiser, more experienced than the kids and grandkids, but they don’t want to know about it. So you get to watch them make exactly the same mistakes you made. If they are of a creative bent, you can watch them make a whole bunch of unique (and sometimes weird) mistakes you never imagined and which, if they weren’t so destructive (or it were some other kids about whom you didn’t care) you’d find hilarious.

And with an inevitability like day following night, after using their creativity to shoot themselves in both feet … they will ask to borrow money. (Note: Loans to children and grand-children are not loans. They are permanent grants-in-aid.) Or perhaps move into your guest room. Or leave their dog/cat/guinea pigs with you “just until they get their lives sorted out.”

Life does not prepare you for getting older. Nothing prepares you for getting older. No matter how smart you are, it always takes you by surprise.

The best part of oldness? Not caring what the younger ones think. And, if you are lucky, you get to say (or just think) “Ha! You’ll see! Your time will come.” If they are lucky.