Oh my aching back

Lying in the grass, waiting for the show.
Lying in the grass, waiting for the show.

So I threw my back out last week they day after I was in the emergency room for a stomach ache. Three days ago I started waking up every night in a night sweat. Yes, old age is upon me. Meanwhile my cousin texted to say she’s been diagnosed with a genetic disease that could explain a lot of the premature deaths in the family. The disease is called hemochromatisis. Coincidentally it was found during an investigation into stomach pain. No word yet if the two are related.

I tried to just get a doctor to tell me to take some Prilosec and see if my tummy ache would clear up. The urgent care doc sent me to the ER without much investigation. I called my doctor and he said yes, go to the ER. My stomach hurt a lot so I went to the ER. Once the ER heard about my underlying AFib I knew I was in for a long day of tests and so I sent Burt back to work. A cast of thousands took me around for a CAT scan and chest X-ray and I gave up 8 vials of blood. 6 hours later the conclusion was there was no life threatening blood clot, take some Prilosec and go see your regular doctor in a couple of days. Too bad that’s not really easy. I’ve been taking the Prilosec and my tummy still hurts but I am not going to the ER. I’m consulting with my doctor on logistics.

We were going to stay in Seattle and do another job but decided against it. If we’d stayed I’d see a doctor here. Now we are headed to Montana for two weeks, then back to OR for a little bit of work an the eclipse and then down to California for a job before heading to Arizona for Portal Irish Music Week and some more work. I’m thinking of calling doctors in California and making an appointment for September there. Ideas welcome.

Meanwhile the nightsweats are almost welcome. At least I know the cause roots, stem, and seed. The old ovaries are saying good night. Some 55,000 extra eggs in there with no where to go. Menopause is no longer a question but a fact. It’s been 81 days since I’ve seen my ‘friend.’ For the first time in my life I have a supply of products stashed everywhere I might need them (surprising irregularity will get a person organized) and no need for them. Oh, the irony. Regarding the unbelievable quantity of eggs we carry I always find it amazing. These eggs were in me while I was in my mother and they will come with me to the grave. You can’t have them.

The hemochromatosis is an interesting development. I’m planning on more thorough testing when I get to a doctor. The ER visit at least revealed that my liver is functioning properly so there is likely no problem now. I’ll get tested. If more of my relatives get tested we can figure out which branch of the family is carrying this thing and perhaps save some future lives from foreshortening. It’s an odd disease and frequently overlooked. In hemochromatosis the body absorbs and stores too much iron in the organs. Organs targeted vary.  The organs where your body stashes the iron begin to cause trouble and so symptoms vary greatly. My aunt, dead at 56, had congestive heart failure for no known reason. My mom had dementia at an early age. It could be these two sisters actually shared a genetic disorder that manifested in different ways. They both had thyroid problems and that is a common problem as well. Also my mom had terrible arthritis in her hands long before she showed signs of dementia. There’s a lot to think about.

Meanwhile my cousin, sad but lucky, will start treatment. To get rid of iron they take your blood. So, blood letting is inconvenient, tiring, and has a reputation for being a bad idea (see Geo. Washington) but could be worse. She’s young and hopefully this was caught before significant damage occurred.

Also, Mimi has definitely stopped eating regularly. It’s as if the vet visit pushed her to say, “Enough of this crap. I’m ready.” I’m feeding her wet food by the tiny dollop a few times a day. She seems to be rallying. Fingers crossed.

Mimi got a check up.
Mimi got a check up. She says, “Hi.”
Fircrest fire in Seattle
Fircrest fire in Seattle
This caught my eye. I imagine a lot of people tried to put the fire out.
This caught my eye. I imagine a lot of people tried to put the fire out.
Burt's newest assistant.
Burt’s newest assistant.
The new storage area.
The new storage area.
Hospital gurney ride.
Hospital gurney ride.
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The tears fell

Yesterday I cried. I suffered physically and emotionally. I couldn’t walk up hill. My identity was in tatters as I wrestled with exactly what I was doing bushwacking through thorn forest on a forty five degree slope with ball bearings for footing. Why had I agreed to this? To please Burt? To prove something to myself? Because I wanted to see the birds? All of the above.

When do we give up what we could do and put youthful past times aside forever? I used to climb mountains. I ran marathons. I have a black belt in karate. None of that can be done by this body ever again. Could I even just walk up a hill? The exhaustion I feel as I try to walk up hill is all comsuming. My brain hardly can think. Blood leaves the brain first in endurance sports. I think that’s why we can keep pushing our limits but it also makes it a tightrope walk. Every step I wonder where I am going. My emotions get away from me. Why is Burt going so fast? Where are we? I’m going to hurt myself. I sit. Three times yesterday I sat without looking where my butt was aimed. Only one did I land on a cholla. Burt tried to help but he kept pushing the spines in deeper. I couldn’t see back there. I dealt with it. I rested. I ate. I tried again. It got easier.

But the wondering of when will be the last massive effort? When will I say, “Burt you have to go without me?” It makes me cry.

 

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Yellowstone and Beta Blocker on Board

Wolf watching in the banks of Slough Creek
Wolf watching in the banks of Slough Creek. This crowd flipped around 180 degrees when a griz was spotted on the opposite hill.

So my doctor Jay has a sharp physician’s assistance named Chris. For decades Jay has been my doctor but he’s so darn popular and doesn’t do my girl parts and we decided it would be easier to see his PA instead. OMG. Chris was great. So great she managed to get me to do something Jay and three cardiologist have tried but failed. She convinced me to give a beta blocker a try and see if it lessened my afib symptoms. Who knows I might like it and it could save my life. I am in my 3rd day. I’ve resisted because betablockers are notorious for causing lethargy. I am feeling stoned. I also have a governor on my heart rate and can’t move quickly. Yet. The pharmacist and drug literature says it should pass in about a month. Stay tuned. Now’s the time to schedule a tennis match if you want to take advantage of my sloth like footwork.

Despite me languidity yesterady I managed to fly fish and enjoy Yellowstone with Burt and Sue and Jay and play music and tour Gardiner with Zondra. My phone says I walked 5 miles over the course of the day. I did also happen to fall asleep just 100′ from a herd of bison in grizzly habitat while my friends fished on. Refreshing and startling little nap.

I am taking the new drug day by day. I hate the idea of being on a beta blocker for the rest of my life but I like the idea of surviving long term. I hope to have more fish to catch and wolves to see.

Burt's tiny binos
Burt’s tiny binos
I fell asleep right here. Bison and Grizzly could not keep me from some zzzzzz.
I fell asleep right here. Bison and Grizzly could not keep me from some zzzzzz.
Lamar River in Yellowstone
Lamar River in Yellowstone. It was a little cloudy for optimal fishing.
This is not a merkin. This is a Bison beard.
This is not a merkin. This is a Bison beard.
I look pretty dashing with a beard.
I look pretty dashing with a beard. or Amish.
Black bear cub
Black bear cub. Yes it’s tiny. DO NOT APPROACH WILDLIFE.
The Roosevelt Arch. First entrance to the world's first national park.
The Roosevelt Arch. First entrance to the world’s first national park.
Masonry at the Roosevelt Arch.
Masonry at the Roosevelt Arch.
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Big Day in Sierra Vista

South Fork of Cave Creek
South Fork of Cave Creek

Last night both Gypsy Carpenters were insomniacs. Burt finally got up at 2:45 and headed to coffee and work. I took a pill just as he gave up. This morning we moved the gNash to a new job site. Our current project’s clients just arrived today to move into their home. We thought we’d get out of their hair and so moved to another site just a few hundred yards away. The Mother-in-Law cottage is not quite done so Burt will have to commute for a couple of weeks to finish the trim and install doors and cabinetry.

After we moved Olvis and we piled in the Dodge for a drive to Sierra Vista. We were going to finally get the test results from my month long heart monitoring and visit Home Depot for the (hopefully) final shop of the current job. Word from the doctor was the same. The monitor caught some minor atrial shenanigans. Some Premature Atrial Contractions most likely but nothing dramatic. The plan is to continue on living life with no restrictions. If I experience another bout of intense and prolonged wackiness then we will discuss further diagnostic options. One option is to install a 3 year heart monitor under my skin. The other is to put me on the table and try and induce an event in the lab. Neither sound enjoyable. Procrastination is my new best friend. We’ll just skip this for now. Maybe, as Burt says, I’m cured. So I have an appointment for June 17,  2016 for follow-up.

One of the things keeping me up at night was a follow-up letter I was asked to write to the Forest Service about my experience as a volunteer. I loved my job duties but until now I have refrained from complaining about the Forest Service culture.  I was not too impressed with how the USFS works in this part of the woods. Ha ha. I was voicing my concerns to the people from the organization that has actively tried to keep my position filled. They wanted something in writing so they could try and improve the circumstances at the VIS for volunteers and paid staff. Here’s what I wrote:

I wanted to thank you for the opportunity to volunteer at the Cave Creek Visitor Information Center this summer and fall. I love the Chricahuas and it was a pleasure to share my enthusiasm for the area with our visitors.
I enjoyed all of my interactions with the public and didn’t mind the mundane cleaning chores. I do have some ambivalence about working with the Forest Service in general. As a volunteer in a visitor center I was the public’s representative of our government and your organization. After a nearly 20 year career as a former federal regulator I take this responsibility seriously. The lack of coordination between the various offices of the Coronado National Forest and Region 3 of the USFS and the visitor center made it impossible to always give out accurate information. Since I live in Portal I am frequently asked for USFS news by local citizens, too, not just visitors. This was an uncomfortable situation for me.

My main source of information about the status of campground closures and road construction was Facebook. USFS staff only contacted me directly once to inform me about a campground opening and it was already 12 hours after I had learned about it on Facebook. Despite a few attempts on my part to remind staff that I had email at all times, staff seemed to not be able to recall my email or to add me to local email mailing lists. I am not the only volunteer that found communications infrequent and often too late. Meanwhile my requests for much needed supplies (hand soap for the public restrooms) remained unfulfilled the last 6 weeks I worked there. Recently I was in the awkward position of hearing from one USFS source that the USFS would never open Idlewild Campground and two days later hearing from another USFS source that Idlewild was under repair and would be open for camping next spring. Imagine my consternation when people here ask me what is going on. I have to respond that the USFS doesn’t know. I suspect two different organizations are responsible for the road repairs, campground repairs and campground management decisions and that this has led to confusion amongst staff.

My last day on the job was Saturday, October 31, 2015. I had offered to work into the late fall but was told that through October was sufficient. I was told more volunteers would be found to replace me by the end of October. I have not heard, nor has the community, if the USFS has found staff to keep the VIC open through fall. Meanwhile, I have left the job. I considered staying on and just opening the VIC until somebody told me to stop but with the communication issues and the failure to heat the building (I inquired but nobody would turn on the heat) I decided to only work the dates I was assigned. I have not heard anything from USFS on what to do with my keys. I had expected someone would contact me before I left. Perhaps they lost my email. Again.

As an aside, I have been informed that the Friends of Cave Creek Canyon Organization has offered to supply the VIC with a new computer and pay for the installation of Wi-Fi. This offer was made at least a year ago but, according to my sources at FOCCC, the USFS has not figured out how to manage this simple donation. Wi-Fi would greatly enhance communication between the USFS and the public. VIC staff could find road reports, weather predictions, and get emails about real time USFS decisions.

What do you think?

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Mother-in-law Cottage

The gable for the back bedroom.
The gable for the back bedroom.

I’m struggling to keep up these days as a carpenter’s assistant. I’m not strong enough, quick enough, or smart enough. I feel like I might be retiring soon.

After three weeks of convoluted emails and phone calls I was hooked up to a 30 day cardiac event monitor on Saturday. I am to wear this beeper sized device with two electrodes for a month. We hope to see what is making me collapse on the tennis court. It can record irregular rhythms that it detects or that I detect and tell it to record.

The thing recorded an event in the wee hours of Sunday morning and woke me from a very vivid dream. I was in the process of doing the bird-of-paradise yoga pose in front of an audience. This was at the behest of a medical technician trying to make my heart do the funny thing it does. The heart monitor alarm went off just as my arms were bound behind my back and I was shifting my weight to my left foot and preparing to stand up. BEEP BEEP BEEP. But here’s the weird thing. I’m not sure if I was having a cardiac event or only dreaming I was having a cardiac event. It took several rounds of beeping for me to rouse myself from sleep. Eventually I discovered one of the wires had become disconnected. Did this trigger the alarm? Better go download the data.

Burt and I trudged to the house and I called the hotline. It was 1:30 AM. We downloaded the data. There was data so that means there might have been an event. The woman with the slight German accent reminded me if the monitor goes off from a monitor detected event the alarm will sound until I call them and download the data. If I trigger a recording manually no alarm will sound. So much for sleep.

Then Sunday came. I recorded an event manually. As evening drew I saw that the machine indicated two events for the day but I had only intentionally recorded one. I decided to download the data since the machine can only hold three recordings. Long story short, it was malfunctioning. The recorder would not download the data. A new machine is on it’s way. Yesterday I had another massive event (while playing tennis). Alas, it went unrecorded. I should have my new machine today.

All of this to say wearing a heart monitor is enough to make a person meltdown or have a cardiac event. All activities and clothing must take the device into account. My mind is filled with recurring thoughts. Thoughts that do not make for an easy demeanor. Is it working? was that a blip? Am I still attached? Is it going to jam? No wonder I want to retire.

On the positive side I am practicing fiddle and mandolin regularly.

Me doing what I can do.
Me doing what I can do.
Flatish roofs are fun to work on.
Flatish roofs are fun to work on.
Measure and cut.
Measure and cut.
The window and door out the back bedroom.
The window and door out the back bedroom.
Back bedroom and its tiny covered porch.
Back bedroom and its tiny covered porch.
Side view of front room and original construction.
Side view of front room and original construction.
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