SERENDIPITOUS PHOTO STORY PROMPT – 2015 #4 – ON MEDICAL ADVICE

SERENDIPITOUS PHOTO STORY PROMPT –
WEDNESDAY – 2015 #4 – MEDICAL ADVICE

I’ve decided to do this once weekly. I will publish it out every Wednesday (because Wednesday is the middle of the week). Yes, that’s the real reason.

Please try to add your own ping back (links). If you aren’t sure how to do it, put your link in a comment. That works too.

Every Wednesday or until I throw in the towel, I’ll publish a picture and write something about it. You can use any of my pictures — or one of your own — as a prompt. If you find my subject interesting, by all means, extrapolate. Any length is acceptable from a couple of sentences, to a chapter from your upcoming novel.

Please link it back to this post (ping back) so other people can find it.

What do I mean by “story” and “pictures”?

Story. Words. Poetry, prose, fact, or fiction. A couple of lines, a fanciful tale.

Pictures. Video if that’s your thing. Scanned pictures from your scrap-book. Weird pictures from the internet. Cartoons. Pictures of your family vacation and how the bear stole your food. Any picture you ever took and would like to talk about.

SIMPLE

It sounds simple. It is simple. Every picture has a story or ought to. There are no rules. Follow my lead, ignore me, follow someone else’s idea. Any picture plus some text. Short or long, truth or fiction. Prose or poetry.

One final thing: If you want to get notices of these posts, you’ll have to subscribe to Serendipity. I’ll try to title relevant posts so you can easily recognize them.

My effort for this week follows.


MEDICAL ADVICE

I’ve had a hard decade and a half. The past 15 years have featured one life-and-death medical emergency after another. Just over a year ago, I went into Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston.

The cardiac surgeon replaced my mitral valve, performed a bypass and a cardio-myectomy, also known as a septal myectomy. For dessert, they installed a pacemaker because my heart has forgotten how to beat without an electronic reminder.

72-Dana-Farber_058

I’m much better. My energy is coming back. I’m five-years post cancer — a big milestone for cancer patients. And my cardiologist says I’m doing great.

A week ago, my PCP demanded I show up and have a physical. Since he was holding my prescriptions hostage, I went.

Complaints aside, I’m a compliant patient. I have too many dangerous medical conditions to mess around with anything. So, I whine and bitch, but I take my medications on schedule and in the correct amounts. I am cautious about anything health-related.

I eat healthy. I don’t have much of a choice. Sugar free. No soft drinks. Don’t eat cake. Don’t have chocolate. I have complicated digestive issues after two bariatric surgeries, so there are a lot of things I can’t digest. I eat very little.

Imagine my dismay when my doctor sent me a letter informing me I have high blood sugar. I am “pre-diabetic.” Under other circumstances, I wouldn’t have been surprised. All 6 of m y father’s siblings were diabetic, so I knew it was a strong possibility it would strike me at some point. Having gotten this far, I thought … Well, maybe I just wasn’t thinking.

I’ve been hypoglycemic my entire life. “Low blood sugar” is not the opposite of “high blood sugar,” aka diabetes. Both conditions mean your body doesn’t properly manage sugar, which is why I eat like a diabetic. After all the shit I’ve been through, I thought I was entitled to — if not a pass — at least a respite. Time off for good behavior.

Somehow, I have to lose at least 10 pounds. It’s going to be an epic summer. I really know how to have fun.

YOU’RE JUST FINE!! GARRY ARMSTRONG

This week, I had my six-month checkup with my primary care doctor. I’ve had the same doctor for 15 years. She has seen me through some rough times. She knows me pretty well, physically and mentally.

I’ve been feeling my age recently and was sure it would be reflected in the examination. My vitals were taken, my prescription list tweaked and I received a pneumonia booster.

The doc chatted with me about how things were going at home, with life in general. I mused about recently celebrating my 73rd birthday and not feeling very celebratory.

I explained how my hearing was getting worse. Almost gone in my right ear. “My hearing aids help,” I volunteered, “But not enough.” I told her I didn’t socialize much anymore because of my hearing problems and found it to be demoralizing, if not outright depressing.

The doctor knows Marilyn fields most phone calls because of my hearing. To some degree, my wife is my “handler” in many situations because I’m so hard-of-hearing. I admit here my hearing problems are also the source of unnecessary arguments with Marilyn. She’s a trouper.

I hate the word “deaf.” but that’s probably the reality these days. The doctor shook her head sympathetically as I vented.

The conversation (my jabbering) crisscrossed over the lousy winter, the mediocre (or worse) Red Sox pitching, agitated conversations at home about old movies and too-often-watched repeats.

Frustration with lousy drivers involving a conspiracy to drive me crazy.

Garry with Bonnie and Nan

I’m absolutely convinced there is a conspiracy using high-tech eavesdropping and radio equipment to alert slow drivers I’m about to leave home. Marilyn concurs.

The doctor smiled as I whined. I was sure she could see how my world was turning.

A recheck of my pulse and then another careful monitoring of my heart. The doctor looked up at me with a funny smile, almost like she was flirting with me.

“You have the heart of a 25-year-old”, she beamed. She said I was in terrific physical condition, concluding with a robust: “You’re just fine!”

I groaned and left the doctor’s office.

MY BIBLE BUMP – THE CYST ON MY WRIST, REDUX

I’ve got a bible cyst (also known as a bible bump) on my left wrist. No kidding. It’s not quite as funny as it sounds.

It has been a nuisance for a while. Since the last round of life and death heart surgery, it has moved down the priority list from a serious problem to a minor aggravation. Everything is relative.

It’s been on my wrist for years. It’s annoying. It came and went (typical behavior for cysts) and has made it impossible to wear a watch. Hardly a medical emergency.

This is a ganglion cyst on the inner right wri...

One day, about two years ago, it blew up. Got huge. Too much typing? It hurt when I moved the wrist.

I talked to the doctor about it. He thought I should address the cyst and the arthritis in my hands at the same time.

Before that happened, the cyst deflated — and my heart blew up. It’s two years later. A lot of heart surgery, but I’ve still got the cyst, which still comes and goes. Sometimes it hurts, other times it itches. I live with it. I have bigger things on my plate.

What makes it a Bible Cyst? 

Ganglion cysts, typically located on wrists (though sometimes on knees, fingers or toes) are known as “bible cysts,” alternatively as  “Gideon’s disease.”

Why? Glad you asked. In the good old days, the treatment for ganglion cysts was to give them a hard whack with a heavy book, breaking the cyst and draining it. Since the bible was usually the heaviest book in the house (often the only book), though I’ve heard a full-size dictionary, Oxford or Webster, will do the job just fine. You see the connection, right?

Somehow, getting whacked on the cyst with a heavy book seems a solution I’d rather skip.

Ironically, the old “whack the cyst with the bible” apparently works every bit as well as any modern surgery. Better. Cysts thus whacked rarely return. I suspect the whackee would never tell anyone if it did recur. One bible whacking is probably enough for any wrist.

It gives a new meaning to the expression “bible thumper”!

FIVE PHOTOS, FIVE STORIES – THE CHALLENGE

FIVE PHOTOS, FIVE STORIES CHALLENGE

There is a new challenge called Five Photos, Five Stories.  And I secretly hoped to be asked to participate in it. Looked like it was right up my alley.  Sure enough, Cee at  Cee’s Photography Blog asked me to join!

I have been following Cee and participating in her challenges for a while.  If you aren’t familiar with her and her beautiful work, I invite you to visit her.

The rules of Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive day

2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.

3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

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When you have had a lot of heart surgery or other heart-related issues, you develop a relationship with a cardiologist. You don’t get a choice about this. It’s a package deal. They fix your heart, you show up and let them check you out. Because I also have a pacemaker, they also tune me up.

They turn my pacemaker up, then lower it. They take a readout of everything that has happened to me since the last time I was there. The make adjustments, then tell me how much longer I’ve got before my battery needs changing. I’m battery-operated at least for the next 11 to 12 years. I’m not sure whether I find this information reassuring or icky. Maybe both?

It was, overall, an interesting day. When we drove into Boston around noon, nothing was blooming. Not a bush, a tree, a flower. When we began our drive back 3 hours later, the magnolias and dogwood were blooming, and I was cleared to not see the cardiologist for an entire year.

I got the thumbs up. Really. He gave me a thumbs up, said I am looking good, and asked the question we all want to hear: “Have you lost weight? You look thinner!”

I have lost a little bit, and I do look a lot better than I did — which would not be hard.

It was a pretty good day, as this kind of day goes. Traffic was no worse than normal, which means heavy but moving, mostly. We got to the Kenmore Square exit, and it had ceased to exist. The ramp was gone, and the entire area was in tatters. It’s good we used to live around there because they didn’t even have a detour sign up. We went to the Copley Square exit and backtracked through Back Bay and Kenmore, past Fenway Park (how glad we were no game in progress!) and finally, the hospital area.

Without a single wrong turn. Yay, US! Finally, at last, Beth Israel and the worst parking garage ever built. Despite the odds, we found a parking spot — a good one — on the first pass. The lab tech was waiting for me; the doctor was available. And we were out in an hour. Holy moley, it was a miracle.

While we were in Boston, spring arrived in New England. I wish I could have stopped and taken pictures of the blooming trees, but traffic was not cooperative, and the streets of Back Bay and Brookline are not park-and-stop friendly.

The picture was taken from the car window as we left the city via Route 9. Normally a terrible, crowded nightmare of a road that combines narrow lanes, lots of traffic, with limited access … it was pretty good yesterday.

Pretty good. And my battery won’t run out until at least 2026. Imagine that!


I’ll nominate someone to carry on the mission tomorrow. Right now, gotta run!

WEDNESDAY WONDERING

When A Regular Guy Goes Missing, by Rich Paschall

It was just about time for Tiffany’s favorite customer to arrive, so she took a spot at the server’s station. That was located at the end of a long bar.  There, between the bar and the back wall, was an area for water, extra glasses and silverware.  Neatly tucked into an alcove was a computer with a touch screen.  On the modern device, the waitresses could place their orders which would go back to the kitchen or alert the bar tender of something to prepare. They also had a spot to bring dirty dishes for handsome young Hispanic bus boys to take to the back kitchen.  It was not unusual for a waitress to be there, but Tiffany was there for a particular reason.

From the end of the bar, at the server’s station, one could look down the length of the Wild West Restaurant and Sports Bar and see the front door. When Tiffany’s favorite customer arrived promptly at 1 pm, Tiffany planned to direct him to a table that was in her serving area.  If he sat outside that area, she would have to let one of the others wait on Harold. She just did not like that idea.

Tiffany had started working at the restaurant and bar three years earlier.  She was in her earlier 30’s then and had a friendly and energetic way that got her hired by the hard-working managers.  After a while, she became a favorite waitress for many of the regular patrons.  She usually worked through the lunch hour and into the early evening. Sometimes she covered on a later shift where drunken patrons tipped her well.  Despite that, she still preferred the afternoons.

After she was well established at the restaurant, a retired gentlemen from the Midwest became a regular Wednesday and Saturday afternoon customer.  He was very punctual, arriving right at 1 pm each time.  Tiffany knew his order and he was easy to serve.  When Tiffany had left for a few months to try a new, and allegedly exciting place, she found she missed the atmosphere and the friends at the Wild West.  She did not realize how much like family they were until she went away.  The customers were nice, the managers were fair and friendly and the other waitresses were like sisters.  When she got the opportunity, she returned.

Gulf Coast

Harold started coming to the Wild West Restaurant and Sports bar shortly after he had left the cold Midwest climate for sunny retirement on the Gulf Coast of Florida.  He liked the Soup and Sandwich special each Wednesday and Saturday so he quickly made that part of his schedule.  You see, Harold was very well-organized and when he put something on his schedule, you could depend that he would follow through on it. That’s why all of the employees knew Harold was about to walk in the door.

Tiffany had a sweet spot for Harold, as the saying goes.  Even though he did not say a lot, she found him rather endearing.  She looked forward to his dependability as well as his smile.  It just sort of indicated that there was some order in the world.  Despite the lack of conversation, she knew he appreciated these twice weekly visits

When the front door opened at 1 pm, Tiffany was ready with a smile, but the patron was not Harold.  Nevertheless, she politely smiled as a young man took a seat where Tiffany had planned to place Harold.  It was OK, there were other places for Harold that he would like.  A few empty tables had a good view of one of the televisions.  So, she brought the young man water and a menu and returned to the server’s station.  She tried to watch the door diligently, but the lunch crowd kept taking her away from her post.

At 13:30 it was apparent something was wrong.  Time had gone by quickly before Tiffany realized Harold was late. He always came through the door at the exact minute.  Some days she was convinced he waited around outside for a few minutes so he could be precisely on time at 1 pm. This particular Wednesday he was not there at 1, 1:30 or at 2.  Harold did not arrive for lunch.

Tiffany’s disappointment was noticeable to her coworkers.  She liked how nicely Harold fit into the routine, and now he was missing.  Could he have gone to another restaurant?  Could he have scheduled some place new?  Could she have lost her favorite customer?  Questions swirled through her head. What could possibly be the answer? Perhaps he was sick.  Perhaps he had an accident.  Perhaps he was stuck at home and had to make his own lunch.  Whatever was the issue, she hoped Harold was doing well and had good food.

At that very hour Harold was indeed having lunch.  A middle-aged nurse, who looked like she had not slept for a day or two, was hanging a fresh bag to feed Harold intravenously directly with the stomach tube. It was not the sort of meal he was used to on a Wednesday afternoon, but it seems he was in no position to object as the stroke had left him rather speechless.  Today’s meal definitely was not on his schedule.

Note: The next Harold story appears in two weeks.

SUNSHINE, SPRING TRAINING AND SURVIVAL

The missing Harold mystery, Rich Paschall

George and his ever talkative wife Martha had just about enough of the Midwest winter. They were tired of snow,  tired of cold. At close-to-retirement age, they were just plain tired. When another cold night forced them to stay at home rather than visit a favorite neighborhood stop, they realized there was only one thing which could pull them through to warmer weather. Baseball! Right then and there, they began to talk about a trip to sunny Florida for a round of spring training games.

A year before, they had traveled to Florida on a rare road trip to see the Chicago Cubs play. The Cubs lost, of course, but they deemed the trip a success. They had visited a ball park other than Wrigley Field, spent a day at the beach, and wandered through town to do some typical tourist shopping. They had some very hot days, but did not suffer the kind of stifling humidity Lake Michigan can serve up in July. Now, in March, they were ready to go south again.

Always sunny Florida?

Always sunny Florida?

George sat down with spring schedules to see what teams would be playing, so that he could  find the best matches for the days they could go to Florida. Martha researched the ball parks themselves and the surrounding night spots on the internet. When they had chosen a few games they might like to see, they looked at hotels, air fares and rental cars. After a full night of debate and delay, they made their choices.

They would return to the familiar spots of St. Petersburg. From there they could go to Tampa to see the Yankees, then down to Bradenton to catch the Pirates and from there to Sarasota to see the Orioles.

Unlike the famous George and Martha of Broadway play and movie fame, this couple rarely had arguments. In fact, they were in agreement on just about anything that meant parties and good times. When almost all of their arrangements were in place, and they were congratulating themselves on another “road trip extraordinaire”, Martha had one more good idea. Of course, the good idea may have been fueled by the German beer she had been drinking all night, but it was an interesting idea, nonetheless.

“Why don’t we call old Harold for the game in Bradenton or Sarasota?” Martha blurted out as if her head had been hit by a rock and she was stunned silly.

“Harold!” George shouted with glee. “That’s a wonderful idea. The old boy probably needs a road trip anyway. Let’s give lucky old Harold a call.”

While Martha dutifully looked for Harold’s phone number, George wondered why the little tapper of Dortmunder beer had run dry. “I am headed to the basement, ” George called out. “I have to find another one of these big cans of beer. You killed the last one.”

“I did no such thing, George,” Martha lied.

When the twosome finally met back at the kitchen table, each was carrying the object of their search. “Well dial the phone and hand it over, old woman,” George said with a laugh.

“I am not as old as you, wise guy,” Martha said as she handed over the phone. Both began to giggle and laugh like school kids up to no good. The phone rang away as the couple talked on until George finally realized there must have been at least 20 rings. He hung up.

“I can not imagine that Harold is not home at this hour. He was never out late.” It was true, of course. In all his life Harold was rarely out at night, and since he retired and moved to Florida, he was always home by dark.

“He’s probably sleeping, you nit wit,” Martha declared. “Let’s give him another try tomorrow.” And so they did. In fact, they called for several days in a row and at different times of day, but Harold never answered. When the day of the trip arrived, Harold was not part of the plan.

Undeterred by their lack of success at lining up Harold for a game, they resolved to try him again once they landed at the Florida airport. They departed from Chicago’s Midway airport. Unbelievably, it was once the busiest airport in the country, but that was before the jet age. Now the crowded airport just seemed like the busiest airport. St. Petersburg airport, on the other hand, was in stark contrast, even for spring training. The crowd was small and the rental car line was short. The couple got their car, got to their hotel, and got on the phone. Still, there was no Harold.

“I hope the old guy is OK,” Martha said, finally voicing more than a bit of concern.

“Sure, Harold is just fine,” George insisted. “He is probably at some nice restaurant right now being fussed over by some cute waitresses. Don’t worry.”

At that very moment Harold was being fussed over by some weary nurses at the Intensive Care Unit of the county hospital. This trip, the retired planner from the Midwest was going to miss the endlessly talkative George and Martha.

Note:  The next Harold story appears in 3 short weeks.

THE COMMITTEE

My cousin called. It’s nice hear from her, good to remember I have some living family remaining. There used to be a lot more of us. When we were all a good deal younger, we used to see each other sometimes at family events. Anyway, we got to talking about insomnia. It’s part of the “older person” package of goodies. I commented my problem is the committee. Its endless meetings. Just when I want to sleep, the meetings begin.

First up, the Scheduling Committee. Dental, doctor, and veterinary appointments. Vacation dates. Taxes. When the snow melts, we’ll have to get someone to take a look at the siding and the roof. See what needs repair.

Enter the Maintenance Committee. They get to worry about the aging heating system. The once new, now not-so-new refrigerator, range, freezer. Water heater. Doors, windows. And let’s not forget the well. Exhausted, I drift off for a while, but I’m awake and alert in time for the Family Concerns Committee.

Indian corn in kitchen window

The Family Concerns Group obsesses over health issues. Is Garry just tired, or is there some lurking disease? Is my shortness of breath because I’m old and out of shape, or something more sinister? Next up, worry about the kids and the granddaughter’s college education. And the dogs. Can’t forget the dogs.

I don’t even want to discuss the obsessive number crunching of Ways and Means. Complain, complain, complain. They just want to know where I’m going to get the money for everything. Shut up, already. I have no idea how I get from month to month and I’d just as soon not examine it too closely!

Wait! Another committee? Oh, right. Now it is time for the meeting of the Ecological and International Affairs Committee, an umbrella group that focuses on the economy. War. Global warming — which admittedly seems less an immediate threat right now than usual.

Melting ice caps. Disappearing polar bears. Besieged elephants, lions, tigers, rhinoceroses, and wolves. Where are the birds? Have they have survived this terrible month of bitter cold, snow, and ice? And the swans? I worry about swans. And geese. And ducks. Let’s not forget bats. We no longer have bats. They are all dead from an accidentally imported bat plague.

Bees. We are running out of hives. If we have no bees, there won’t be food. Which might be good for the planet. Fewer people equals less pollution. By the time the committees adjourn, the sun is up and I’m exhausted. Aren’t you? How are your committees? Had any good meetings lately?

What’s on tonight’s agenda?


Think Global, Act Local — “Think global, act local.” Write a post connecting a global issue to a personal one.

MISSING MONDAY – RICH PASCHALL

In Need of a Plan, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Bill rolled over to take a look at the alarm clock. It was almost 8:30 so he decided to spring into action. He never set the alarm clock. He saw no need. He was retired and had always longed for the time when the alarm clock was not to be used to alarm him out of his sleep. Some days he got up by 7:30 am, other days it was 10. It depended largely on how late he stayed up reading or watching television.

Since he needed to make a call at 9 am, the affable retiree rushed about the house in a rather disorderly fashion, leaving a bit of a mess in his wake. That did not bother him as there would be plenty of time later to clean up the place. Now he was making coffee and giving just the slightest thought as to what he would buy today at the supermarket.

The only thing Bill tried to be punctual at all week was the Monday call to his neighbor, Harold, who lived just a few doors down. The way Bill saw it, old Harold probably relied on the weekly call.

The Midwest planner from down the block seemed to know no one and had little contact with the world. Bill was convinced he was doing Harold a big favor. He did not know exactly how Harold felt about the weekly sojourn to the giant Publix supermarket, however. It must have been a Monday highlight for the newly retired neighbor and new friend.

A very quiet neighborhood

The quiet neighborhood

A quick glance out the window revealed a perfect Florida morning. Bill loved this area of Florida. In honesty, he settled there because the property values were quite depressed in Sarasota County after the big recession, and he got a good deal in a good neighborhood of old timers, like himself.

Now it was time to help out an old guy who needed a friend, so he called Harold on his AARP phone and waited for his tentative voice to respond. Bill was quite amused as he thought of the same surprised tone Harold had each Monday morning when he answered the phone.

Much to the amazement of Bill, there was no response. He let the phone ring a long time before giving up. “I wonder what the old guy is up to this morning,” Bill thought. So he decided to wander down the street and ring Harold’s doorbell.

As he went up the steps to the front door, a voice called out. “You ain’t gonna find no body at home, young man,” Harold’s next door neighbor called out as Bill chuckled to himself. Not too many people referred to him as “young man.” In fact, no one did. He turned around and walked in the direction of a woman who did seem to be a lot older than Bill or Harold.

Mabel Crockett was well into her eighties but still rather spry. She kept up on the neighbors by frequently finding an excuse to do things around the outside of the house. It was unnecessary as there was an Association to deal with maintenance and yard work, but she liked checking up on things.

“So where is old Harold this morning?” Bill asked in a cheery tone.

“They carted him off pretty early, I reckon,” Mabel said in a deep southern drawl.

“What?” an astounded Bill exclaimed.
“Well I ain’t one to meddle in other folks’ affairs,” she lied, “but I seen that Sunday paper still settin’ there on that landing he calls a porch, so I just took a walk over there. In the back I could see he was, uh, just layin’ there on the ground in that screened in patio. So I went on home, dialed 911, and it’s a good thing.”

“Good thing?” Bill questioned.

“Why, he was still breathin’ when they loaded him into that big ol’ ambulance. Leastwise, I think he was still breathing. The young feller drivin’ that big vehicle said he still seemed kinda fresh.”

“Fresh?  That seems a strange way to put it,” Bill said with a rather incredulous tone.

“Well, I guess it was because he couldn’t a been layin’ there too long. Anyways, they said they was taking him over to the general hospital. Right over here a piece,” she said pointing to the south.

“Oh my,” Bill responded with a great deal of concern. He said good-bye to the old woman and rushed to his car.

72-StPete-Pelican_2When he arrived at the general hospital, he went right to the emergency room and inquired about Harold. His questions only got questions in return. “What time did he arrive? What was the problem? Did he come by ambulance or did someone bring him?” Finally, the lady without the answers invited him to take a seat and someone would come out shortly. By “shortly” she must have meant an hour.

After the long wait, a nurse with a clipboard in hand appeared. “Are you here about the elderly gentlemen who had a stroke?”

“Stroke!” Bill exclaimed as he got all choked up about someone he barely knew.

“Yes,” she said calmly. “Are you the next of kin?”

“No.”

“A relative perhaps?”

“No.”

“Do you know who is next of kin or related somehow?”

“No.”

“Do you know who his doctor is?”

The series of questions went on until Bill finally explained that he was just a neighbor. In fact, Bill did not even know Harold’s last name.  The nurse looked disappointed but thanked Bill anyway and went back to her station. Bill followed.

“Excuse me, nurse, will I be able to see him?” Bill inquired.

“No, only immediate family,” she explained.

“But we don’t know if he has immediate family,” Bill said with a sense of urgency.

“I’m sorry,” she said as if she has had to say that a thousand times before.

As he left the hospital Bill realized that the master planner from the Midwest had no plan for this. Although Bill rarely planned anything, he decided he better go home and make one.

Note:  The next “Harold story” appears in two weeks.