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Happy Holidays!

by on Dec.27, 2010, under family, health, home & stuff, money, technology

Clearly I need to improve upon my time management – the fact that I’m writing a Christmas-related post 2 days after the holiday notwithstanding, it has been over 6 weeks since my last post.  I know this without checking because my last post was about my kidney stone removal and I had my 6-week follow-up appointment last week.  I’m fully aware of the negative impact this inconsistency may have on what little audience this site has, and I’ll have to live with it.  This blog is more of a personal journal or online diary than any pertinent subject-matter forum.  And I’m happy with it being so, readers or not.  But for those readers still interested, here is how my holiday season has been panning out.

To be honest, the sprint to Christmas has been mostly a blur with a few incidents of note spattered among a long grind of work and preparations (with any gaps remaining filled with sigh-filled collapsing on the couch/bed/floor).  Since I mentioned my kidney stone, I guess I should touch on it.  After readjusting to not having any foreign objects within or protruding from my body, things have been pretty smooth.  I haven’t had pain in my back since the week after all was removed.  I did my follow-up tests of getting another x-ray and collecting my pee in a jug for a day, and the result seems to be that while there is no longer a big bad stag-horn lurking in my gut, there are numerous tiny candidates waiting in the wings if I don’t make some adjustments.  Luckily for me those adjustments are small and non-dietary in nature – I just need to drink more fluids and take a few supplements (my citrate and magnesium levels are apparently low).  So I have another 6 weeks to follow those instructions before redoing the pee test, getting another x-ray, and taking another hour-long drive to see where things stand (if this becomes an on-going thing, I may need to move).  Unfortunately even these small accommodations have proven to be difficult as my pharmacy has been unable to fill one of my prescriptions for over a week.  Supposedly they should be able to work things out today with my doctor – we’ll see.

Speaking of health matters, my wife has since been on her own medical roller coaster – specifically of the dental variety.  After having numerous visits with a dentist who arguably seemed to be doing a variety of unnecessary procedures in her mouth, she ended up needing extensive work done in her mouth – specifically a few root canals, some new crowns, and at least one possible extraction.  And it seems that despite going back to this guy 4 or 5 times in 2 weeks due to increasing amounts of pain, he seemed to miss the fact that she had multiple abscesses around some of the teeth he had been treating (diagnosed by an endodontist not 2 hours after leaving his office with a diagnosis of ‘I don’t see anything that would be causing such pain’).  After a couple weeks of antibiotics, more methodical work on her problem teeth by the endodontist and a more trustworthy dentist, she is gradually getting to a better state (no thanks to our crappy dental coverage – any work from here to May will be out-of-pocket).

As for the holidays, we seem to have been spoiled both by ourselves and others.  For one, my mother has been especially generous this year (I’m guessing only having one house to pay for has left my parents in a more financially solvent position) – she bought us an early Christmas present (and by early I mean when she visited in October) of a 88-key, fully-weighted electronic keyboard.  With that I expected little else from my parents, but then when my mom came to visit again this month, not only did she have a suitcase full of gifts for all, but on an outing intended for me to finish our shopping agenda she buys us an area rug for our living room.  All I can say is thank you and hope that at some point we’ll have the opportunity to return the favor somehow.

While she is visiting, we get side-swiped by a visit by a long-time family friend (hence the last-minute shopping trip previously noted) who also seems to have found his pockets deep and his funds semi-combustible.  While I know we got him and his sister and niece some decent gifts that they will enjoy, I know that dollar for dollar we ended up and the favorable end of things.  But it isn’t really a contest, and if it were I’d settle for losing because I’ve got bigger bills to pay – literally.

Speaking of which, we somewhat spoiled the kids this year (though surprisingly frugally).  Each of them got 6 big presents and stockings stuffed to the brim – all toys and games that were hot on their wishlists – and all for easily less than $100 a piece.  My wife and I had considerably less spoils under the tree (by design), each with only 2 gifts and modestly filled stockings.  And while the $700 new laptop she got trumps the $50 worth of stuff I ended up with, I ended up with just what I wanted and cannot complain in the least.  Besides, I also now get the gift of not hearing any more complaining about computer problems (at least for a while) – and that is a gift that keeps on giving.

My only complaint that I can offer regarding this holiday season (which I feel is a legitimate complaint, albeit to whom I cannot say) is spending most of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day bowing to the porcelain gods.  I don’t know if it was something I ate or a bug that had been going around, but for about 24 hours – with exception to about an hour where I was able to keep it together enough to watch the kids open gifts – I was in no position to be jolly.  After making it through the kids unwrapping things (which was I believe all complete before 9AM), I spent most of the rest of the day in bed occasionally interrupted by kids fighting over their new toys and games.

But now the holiday is behind us, our living room has mostly recovered from the carnage, and our children are gradually coming down from their candy cane-induced sugar high to resume semi-normal behavior (though now it seems being pent up due to snow is re-contributing to their vigor – luckily they have plenty to entertain them).  And tomorrow I’ll return to the slightly less sophomoric environment of the office and back into the swing of all the things that keep me from finding the time to do things like write on my blog.  I’ve considered using my commuting time to dictate posts, but I fear they would end up even more tangential than usual and much more heavily riddled with expletives.

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My Battle with a 3-Point Stag (Part 2): My Temporary Affair with Percocet

by on Nov.14, 2010, under health

For those who actually made it through the first part of this story, I both apologize for the longevity of this story and thank you for your endurance.  For those who checked out already, I have no apologies for you.  Go find something else to view on the internet until I write about something else (it’s my blog, I can write about whatever I want on it).  Anyway, without further ado, here is my week of recovery:

DAY 3:  My doctor had sent me home with prescriptions for Percocet (for pain) and Cipro (to prevent infection).  I was allowed to take between 4 and 8 pain relievers a day as needed, though even in the first day back I don’t think I exceeded 4.  I did find that the pain relievers were necessary as nothing felt very good around hour 6, but one every 6 hours kept me on track pretty well.  My wife did what she could to keep me comfy and the children at bay – even went so far as to pawn them off on my mother-in-law for the afternoon.  But truth be told the afternoon without them was kind of boring.

DAY 4:  This morning proved complex as once again the kids needed to be places around the same time that I needed to be about a half-hour away (the one downside of shopping for a better urologist in a better hospital).  If I could drive myself I probably would have, but once again we ended up in morning traffic and once again my wife had that aura of spontaneous combustion.  Ironically the office had no idea I was coming in, so I had to wait a bit before the doctor could come pull the centimeter wide tube from my back.  If I had brought my Percocet with me, I would have popped another as soon as I could because the spot where the tube was burned like hell for about 15 minutes afterward.  But by the time we made it home, not only did it feel better, I was in significantly less pain in general from that point forward (and no more bag strapped to my leg to drain every few hours).  Tonight, I retired to my own bed again.

DAY 5 – 7:  I’m lumping these days together because there was honestly little to report.  I spent most of the time either watching TV or playing board games with Grasshopper (he is off from pre-school Tuesdays & Thursdays and had an in-service day on Wednesday).  It was a pretty nice few days, though.  He loved the attention and I was happy to spend some one-on-one time with him that didn’t involve being tackled – there were a few close calls, but he was pretty good about it most of the time.

DAY 8:  This is the day that I finally would become free of all foreign objects – I came out of surgery with a tube sticking out of my back, a catheter (you know where), an IV line in my hand, and a stent running from my kidney to my bladder.  I left the hospital with 2 items removed and had the third item removed on Monday.  So only the stent remained.  I had the sobering discussion with my dad the night before about how they remove that now that the tube is gone.  My doctor told me the week before that it would only take about 30 seconds, but that they would be the scariest 30 seconds of my life.  It was not an understatement.  It was toe-curling.  I won’t go into great detail, but there was numbing gel, a scope and a water pump involved.  In the end I was somewhat shocked to see that the stent itself was only about 2 millimeters in diameter.  After about 20 minutes of physical recovery, I was able to sit and eat lunch without feeling like I was going to hurl.  On a positive note, I was able to kick my prescription pain meds and as a result my house arrest.

DAY 9 – 10:  These are the last days of freedom before I go back to my 9 to 5.  My wife has been making up for her week of caretaking by sequestering herself upstairs to do all the writing work she has fallen behind on.  So it is pretty much me and the kids.  I am doing my best to keep them entertained (much of the time on their own with me just mediating fights).  As a result, I have needed to resort to other drugs such as coffee and ibuprofen to maintain my sanity.  I’m sure the Percocet would be more effective, but that would tie me back to not leaving the house (which I cannot abide).

In the end, the surgery itself was hasher than I expected and the follow-up procedures sucked, but my recovery was much more comfortable than I anticipated.  Hopefully if I ever have to repeat the experience, it will be a long, long time from now (35 more years seems a logical expectation).  In the meantime, this journey is not completely over.  I have a follow-up in 6 weeks to review x-rays I have to get and the results of a 24-hour urinalysis I have to send out (I would never have guessed there were pee-by-mail services).  I’m sure the follow-up will come with a list of dietary recommendations that I will have to consider (though a lot of what I’ve read seems to suggest specific foods only play a small part in the puzzle).  I doubt I’ll be put on any on-going medications, but my dad will probably continue to try to talk me into taking celery and cherry extract pills (they seem to work wonders for his gout).  The only sure thing is that I will soon be generally back into my normal routine (which naturally involves some level of chaos).

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My Battle with a 3-Point Stag (Part 1)

by on Nov.13, 2010, under health

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I was afflicted with a sizable kidney stone – over an inch in diameter with 3 horns protruding to be precise.  Well a week before yesterday I went under the knife to have it removed and have spent the following week recovering (both from the initial surgery and the various follow-up procedures).  I had figured that this post would come much sooner after the initial ordeal with follow-up posts throughout the week.  How I managed to avoid even touching a computer in that time I have no idea.  But I’m back in the saddle now, so I will now regale you with my account of my percutaneous nephrolithotripsy:

DAY1:

7:30 AM:  I’m supposed to be at the hospital already to check in for my procedure, but due to the process of dragging the kids out of bed and over to the in-laws and the unexpected traffic volume 1 1/2 hours before rush hour, we are still in the car.  My wife, who perceives lateness as the penultimate sin, is verging on a conniption.  I, meanwhile, am secretly contemplating my own mortality and playing out the worst-case scenarios in my head.  I know better that the likelihood of any serious complications is between negligible and non-existent, but I can’t help but consider the possibility that the goodbyes I gave the kids that morning were the last they’d hear.  Knowing my wife’s anxiety-management capacity, I have managed not to let on an iota of this concern.  After all, I know better (or so I keep telling myself).

9:00 AM:  I’m now checked in and waiting in a bed in what is ironically one of the least comfortable hospital gowns I’ve ever experienced.  The irony is the fact that it is actually a very high-tech gown composed of various absorption pads and containing numerous ports to which a set of hoses can connect in order to perfectly aerate and temperature-regulate the wearer.  But without the hoses actually connected, the garb simply continuously reflected my body heat at me causing me to sweat heavily and stick to it.  It at least made for a semi-interesting conversation topic to have with my wife and my sister-in-law who were my pre-surgical company.  Once they come to cart me off to interventional radiology, I feel somewhat like I’m in one of those medical dramas with the camera angle at the patient’s perspective as they are wheeling him around (only if it where medical drama footage, it would be pretty boring footage).

9:30 AM:  I’m now lying on my stomach on an impressive piece of radiology equipment (seemingly a highly agile ultra-sound/x-ray machine), slowly drifting into conscious sedation while watching penguins on a 60-inch flat screen and listening to modern rock on internet radio broadcast in surround sound. As they prepared to start things up, I played name that tune with the cute, young  – I mean professional and capable P.A.s and technicians.  I was doing pretty well until they started stabbing me in the back – literally.  I didn’t precisely feel pain as they pushed a guide wire and then a wider tube through my back, between my ribs, avoiding my spleen, lung and large intestine to eventually end in my left kidney, but I felt a lot of pressure and discomfort that amounted in me nearly being sick.  I vaguely recall that they chose conscious sedation so that I could follow breathing instructions during certain steps of the procedure, but if I had it to do again, I’d say put me out and manage my breath for me if necessary.

10:?? AM:  After a difficult transition back to a gurney, I have to wait back in the first room for my Urologist to be ready in the OR to perform the surgery.  For that, they put me under …

?:?? PM:  I wake up in a recovery room waiting to be moved to the room I’ll be staying in for the night.  They tell me the procedure went exceptionally well, but I’m still a bit too groggy to fully take in the information.  A while later they wheel me to my room and my wife is there waiting.  They carefully transfer me into the bed – a task I am in no position to assist with – as my wife apologizes for not coming back to the first room between the radiology procedure and my surgery as they didn’t know I was back there.  I personally would barely have remembered if she did make it back in that stretch and was not really in any position to care about who was where.  She stayed with me through a few visits from the doctor, the nurse, and the patience technician as well as through my dinner of clear liquids before calling it a night and going home to attend to the rest of the family.  I attempt to watch some TV, but my head is not in it so I take a nap.

DAY 2:

6:00 AM:  After a fitful night’s sleep trying to move as little as possible while also trying not to be uncomfortable from not moving at all, I’m awoken in order to have things checked out.  I do my best to roll over so they can change the dressing and bed pad as well as listen to my breathing.  It is surprising how hard it can be to roll 75 degrees in a posable bed between the pain itself and the pain meds that kept me from being all that mobile.  After that I settled in until the doctor came by later in the morning to recheck my back, re-redress the wound, and sign off on removing the catheter some time that morning.  Once that was done, I went back to sleep for what time I had left to be comfortably still.

10:00 AM:  After some more clear liquids for breakfast, the nurse finally came by to remove my catheter.  It was a bittersweet moment – while I generally prefer nothing be inserted into said orifice if at all avoidable, it was already there and saving me the hassle of going anywhere to handle such needs.  But out it came and in its place I got a nifty urinal jug to fill as I saw fit.  Thus far I had gone through at least 2 bags of IV fluids and filled the two bags attached to me with nearly the same amount of fluid.  So with both the catheter out and the IV off and little to speak of coursing through my digestive system, I was doubtful I’d have much with which to fill the jug.

11:00 AM:  I finally manage to get myself out of bed – it seemed that getting in a sitting position was the worst of it.  Once I was upright, moving around was pretty manageable.  That said, I decided to camp out in the chair next to the bed and take another nap.

2:00 PM:  After a half-eaten solid lunch and several trips to the bathroom, I still haven’t produced anything for the jug.  The bag attached to the hole in my back, however, was filling up nicely.  So much for the direct route.  My wife had come back and was worried that there was something wrong and I’d have to get the catheter back in and stay longer (the latter I could live with, the former not so much).  Eventually they decided that my not peeing was just due to the limited production so far and the amount that went out the bag accounted for most of it.  So they let me go home (though my wife had serious hesitations about it).

10:00 PM:  After making it home and settling in with the family and managing not to get jumped on or tackled for the duration of the afternoon and evening, I called it a day myself.  In order to avoid potential of added injury, my daughter agreed to let me sleep in her bed as long as I needed to (we live in a twin and my bedroom is on the third floor up a windy, narrow staircase).  So I traded my smaller leg-strap kidney bag for a bigger bag to hang by the bed and turned in for the night (what better way to sleep).

[To be continued …]

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Pots a-Bubbling

by on Nov.01, 2010, under family, health

October seems to have ended up very eventful with November proving to be no less so.  I’ve been very busy at work (sorry to my handful of readers), there have been a number of activities at home including a birthday for Grasshopper (he’s 4 now), a number of events for the kids including Y classes and Daisy troop events for Cricket, and a new addition to the family, and between voting, jury duty and a scheduled surgery there are plenty of events on the horizon.

Wait what?!  New family member??  Yes.  We adopted a kitten from a work colleague who had a litter to offload.  Penelope is about 10 weeks old and has been part of the household now for about a week.  After a half-hour car ride to my office, a brief period of ogling by various ladies who sit nearby, and then another half-hour ride to her new home, she was sufficiently traumatized such that she spent 2 days hiding under the couch.  But since then she has come out of her shell and has become much more playful and exploratory.  We took the pet plunge because we had promised Cricket back at the beginning of the summer that we would consider it.  Since she seemed ready for it and open to being partially responsible for it, we took the opportunity when one came up.  Ironically, Cricket has been a bit timid with her due to an early scratching, and conversely Grasshopper (the human Tonka truck) has been incredibly gentle and affectionate with her.  On a similarly ironic note, despite my wife’s mild allergy towards cats and my concerted and successful effort in acclimating the kitten to its new home, most evenings after the kids are in bed, Penelope opts to cuddle with my wife on the couch (often resulting in her putting Penelope aside several times due to sneezing fits).

Yes, I did mention surgery.  On Friday I go under the knife (or more precisely the big needle).  I will be undergoing a procedure called Percutaneous Nephrostolithotomy to remove a kidney stone that is approximately 1.2 inches in diameter with 2 or 3 stag horns protruding from it.  The procedure will involve putting a 1 cm tube through a hole in my back in order to pulverize and extract the stone (so no souvenir necklace is likely).  I’ll be in the hospital for one day (possibly 2, but not likely) and then on bed rest for a week.  After that I’m sure I’ll be getting a list of instructions on what sorts of dietary changes I may need to make to avoid reformation.  My dad, who has gout issues, seems pretty confident that my stones are based on the same chemical build-up as his flare-ups, thus he has been giving me advice on homeopathic treatments I should consider.  Though in truth there is only about a 5% chance that they share a common cause.

So in preparation of all these events, it seems I will be spending my lunch hour today at the drivers license office so that I have a valid, unexpired license in time to vote, attend my jury summons, and in general not face the complications of handing over 3 other pieces of paper each time I need to show my license.  My wife seems of the mindset that I cannot accomplish this in the confines of an hour on a weekday, but I am optimistic.  And hopefully I will find time in the following weeks to write more about the events on the near horizon.

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End of the Line

by on Aug.27, 2010, under family, health

I wish I could say that I was sitting comfortably and at ease as I write this.  But that is, for the time being, not possible.  I currently feel generally like I’ve been kicked where it hurts, and the feeling is likely not going to go away for a while.

See, this morning I took action on a decision my wife and I have made regarding the growth of our family – namely that it is done growing.  So after having talked to my doctor and then a urologist, this morning I went under the knife (more like a needle, a scalpel, and a cauterizing gun).  The procedure was pretty simple (note the use of the word simple, not easy) – in less than an hour I was in and out and on my way home.  Unfortunately within that hour I had to be cleaned, shorn, injected with Novocaine, and have things pushed, pulled, and poked around (parts of which were performed by a nurse so burly that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see prison tattoos on her arms).  Of course, as the doctor is going through these steps he is also chatting with me about things like work, computers, etc.  While I appreciated the distraction, it is hard to concentrate on talking about what my company does while someone is trying to shift things into position by hand.

The good part of the aftermath is that my wife was kind enough to have the kids at her mom’s house for the day.  The last thing I need right now is Grasshopper being the Kamikaze ninja that he often seems to pretend to be all over me as I try to sit and relax on the couch.  The down side is that it is almost too quiet around here – I have a feeling the day will tend to drag out as a result.  Though I’m not really willing to sacrifice my safety and comfort in the name of making the time more interesting with the kids around.  I’m sure I’ll manage to keep myself occupied.

Another down side is that this is not the only medical concern I have to deal with right now.  I potentially have at least two more procedures to endure in the near future related to other issues.   For one, I seem to have a tooth that needs to be pulled and replaced with an implant (neither of which I’m looking forward to).  Secondly, I have a kidney stone that is about an inch in diameter that will need to be surgically removed (at least I won’t have to pass it).  If I were an optimist, perhaps I would feel good in the fact that I’ll have an excuse to use up some vacation days before the end of the year (though not really in forms that could be considered enjoyable).

So, barring any unforeseen complications with today’s events, I am highly unlikely to have to worry about having any more children.  While there is no doubt that I love the two I have, two is a fine number to have (and I’m not really up for another infant – I’m done with diapers).  In a world growing as rapidly as it is, I’ll stick with breaking even in my own contributions to it.  And now I can just sit back and enjoy what I have (aside from some temporary discomfort).

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