Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Off to BookExpo...and beyond

BEA checklist:
1) Get teeth cleaned at dentist.
2) Do laundry.
3) Get online boarding pass.
4) Dither over what outfits to pack.
5) Print out "Polish Your Pitch" workshop program.
6) Confirm party & dinner dates.
7) 9:15 pm - Plant sunflower & morning glory seeds outside in the dark.

Maybe, just maybe, I'll find time to do some blog posts from BEA. Then again, maybe not...

Showdown at the Kitty Corral

Snowball the trespasser beats a slow-motion retreat from Max the Mauler.

While I was making sales calls for Bella Terra Maps this afternoon, some high drama was playing out next to the house. Next-door neighbor Snowball came over, and as usual, had a faceoff with Max.

We can't figure out whether Snowy is really stupid or just stubborn. Max almost always beats up on him when he comes over, and Jenny almost always barks at him and chases him away. (She didn't today only because she was napping.) Still, he's constantly in our yard, and sometimes even sits on a kitchen windowsill and peers inside.

We have feline rock-paper-scissors going in the neighborhood: Max clobbers Snowy, Snowy clobbers the black cat across the alley, and that cat clobbers Max.

Update: Next day, the Boy Wonder found Snowy in our basement. He beat a hasty retreat out the window we'd left open for Max, who apparently needs to get a lot tougher.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

It Was 20 Years Ago Today

My one and only child was born at 12:26pm on May 23, 1989. He was due on May 13, but--setting a pattern for later life--arrived in his own time, well after I was completely exasperated. (That's him at left, age 5, styled by himself, down to the sticker on his right shin.)

Those last 10 days were the longest in my life. I lay like a beached whale, reading a one-volume collection of Jane Austen, interrupted by phone calls from family and friends to see whether I'd given birth yet. I got so fed up that I started responding, "Yeah, I had the baby and didn't tell you," or "I decided not to have the baby, and just stay pregnant forever."

I went into labor around 6:00am on May 22. It felt like mild menstrual cramps. Wow, I thought, this is going to be easy! How wrong I was. After 30 hours of fruitless and often agonizing labor, I had a caesarean section, and the Boy Wonder was pulled squalling into the world. At 9 lbs, 12 oz, he was 50% bigger than the next-largest baby of the 6 in the nursery at Wayne County General Hospital, in Honesdale, PA (best known as the home of Highlights for Children). Those 10 extra days in utero gave him a roll of fat at the back of his neck as thick as my pinky, huge round cheeks and a crease in his chubby chin. The discharging doctor called him "Moose."

That was the last time the Boy Wonder was fat. As I've often joked over the years, my plump little dumpling stretched out to be a long piece of spaghetti. More like capellini, as he's now 6'4" and 132 lbs. I call him "the human hummingbird," because he has to eat his weight daily to stay alive. Well, almost: 4 meals, plus big snacks. When he was with the Obama campaign, he managed to lose weight while having 2 super-sized Big Macs and a milkshake for lunch, plus an equally big breakfast and dinner.

Now my little baby is an Economics major. Today I was working in the garden, dressed in the Carhartt men's overalls (women's pants are never long enough) I bought as my first maternity outfit. And tonight I'll continue rereading Pride and Prejudice, from the same volume I read in what was truly a lifetime ago.

The Boy Wonder at Obama's acceptance speech in Denver (detail of photo that ran in NYT 8/30/08).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Follow the Apple

A couple of years ago I planted a Stayman Winesap apple tree in my backyard. I since found out that it's self-unfruitful, meaning it needs another variety to pollinate it. Yesterday I bought two Cortland apple trees at Home Depot, instead of a Cortland and a Jonagold, (mis)remembering that they were good pollinators for Stayman. I just did some online research and found out that Cortland and Jonagold are the absolute wrong trees to plant with Stayman, as they won't cross-pollinate. Not that the Stayman has produced any flowers to date. But, ever the eternal optimistic (or deluded) gardener, I want to be ready for next year.

Deep into my Google search, I found this tidbit on a website about old apple varieties:
During the American Revolution, captured Hessian soldiers held near Winchester VA planted an orchard with Fameuse (aka Snow) apples.

My curiosity piqued, I did a search for Hessian soldiers Virginia, and found some fascinating--and appalling--stuff.

In a Wikipedia article on Winchester:
Hessian soldiers were known for walking to the high ridge north and west of town and purchasing and eating apple pies from the Quakers. Thus, this ridge west of town became affectionately known as Apple Pie Ridge and the Ridge Road built before 1709 leading north from town was renamed Apple Pie Ridge Road.
In the New York Times there is a March 31, 1912, article with the innocuous headline Virginia Mountains Shelter Colony of Lost Hessians.

And then there's the subhead:
Descendants of Hirelings in Revolutionary War Who After Their Release Took Refuge in Gloomy Hills Near Charlottesville, Live There in Rude Huts, A Law to Themselves and a Forgotten Band.
Those would be the same hills that visitors ooh and aah over when I take them for drives around C'ville.

The article tells how, after the Revolution, Hessian soldiers who had been imprisoned in Charlottesville (which named Barracks Road and Hessian Hills after them) took off and settled in the nearby Ragged Mountains, "a small range of black, gloomy hills." The Times's anonymous reporter then wrote, apparently forgetting that Hessians were, um, Saxons:
As we have recently learned, the Blue Ridge mountaineers are a fearless, lawless folk of the purest Anglo-Saxon blood. They have a native intelligence and furnish the best kind of material for a civilization to be built upon. A good citizen can be made out of a Blue Ridge dweller when put in the right environment....

The Hessians are quite different. They have little if any understanding of modern morality. Marriage is a luxury, which has seldom lingered at their doors.

There is hardly a cabin in these mountains which does not harbor an idiot, the result of atrocious family relations.
Wow! It gets even better:
When neighbourly quarrels arise they usually fight it out with sticks and stones and their big bony fists. Firearms are reserved for the wild turkeys and quail.

The Hessian women do most of the heavy work. The men cut a little wood and train the coon dogs. If the women become unruly they are whipped by their husbands.
The reporter supposedly heard a woman being beaten by her husband. Next day the reporter asked her brother what he was going to do about it. The supposed reply?
"Well, I reckon I can't do much. Fact is, I was a beatin' my own wife last night."
In the Good Old Days at the Newspaper of Record, I guess reporters weren't required to actually report and cite sources if unsubstantiated opinions and vaudeville jokes would do just as well.

P.S. Now I'm on the lookout for Delicious, Lodi, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious or Fuji apple trees.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

I'm Psychologically Distoibed!

Glenda Jackson in Marat/Sade.

Today I went for a 10th(!) opinion on my right arm, to Dr M. As a welcome change, she was polite, kind & respectful. Unfortunately, she didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, nor give me any great hope for the future. She wanted me to see the partner of Dr Schmuck, who's in the same building, for "pain treatment" (e.g., physical therapy and drugs, which haven't been effective this go-round). I told her I wouldn't set foot in that office, nor have one dime of my money go into his pocket. So she referred me to someone else, whose name I've filed away.

Dr M looked at the results of Dr C's EMG nerve tests (i.e., "torture") and, just as he did, told me that the median nerve was doing better. I told her my response to him: "Sez you. If the nerve is 'better' why does my arm hurt more, and why are my fingers more numb?"

"These things take time," said Dr M, echoing Dr C & several others. She repeated that nerve tissue heals @ 1mm/day. My arm is a good 24" (610mm) from shoulder to middle fingertip. I finally did the math: I have to wait 610 days after last June's surgery, i.e., till February 1, 2010, to see whether the median nerve has regenerated. But if it hasn't healed by then, it'll be too dead to repair. So I'll be stuck with a sore arm and perpetually numb fingers.

My quandary: Should I have surgery that might fail & leave me worse off, or wait another painful year & maybe miss the chance to fix the nerve?

Last week I left a message for Dr C, asking for a referral to a neurosurgeon "who isn't arrogant & condescending" like Dr B. His office manager called back with contact info for Dr X. After I got home from seeing Dr M, I Googled Dr X. And--what's this?--he's not a neurosurgeon, he's a neurologist and...PSYCHIATRIST.

Official diagnosis: I'm psychologically distoibed!

Official reaction: Nothing makes me crazier than being told--always by a MALE doctor--that I should see a shrink.

Darling Husband agrees that if he were the one seeking help, he'd have been treated with a lot less condescension, and offered surgery rather than palliatives and psychotherapy. I feel a Third Wave of feminism raging within me.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Never-Ending Story 2: Arm-ageddon

So yesterday I went to see neurosurgeon "Dr B" (actually Dr L, but he was B in The Circle Game and so he shall remain), for the first time since November.

Within 30 seconds, the truth was revealed to me in a blinding flash: Most surgeons are arrogant boors.

I told Dr B that I'd been passed along from one crony to another in his medical center, with no resolution.

"Why do you think that is?" he shot back.

"Because they don't have any answers, so they send me along to the next guy?"

"Why do you think that is?" he said again.

"Um...because they can't figure it out?"

"Did you ever think that maybe it's because your case is very complicated, and there are no easy answers?"

He had the same patronizing tone as Dr Schmuck. What the hell is it with these guys?

"So you're saying that nothing can be done?"

"No, I'm not saying that. Surgery can be done, but I'm not waving any magic lollipops. So if you're in horrible pain afterwards, don't say I made you any promises. And don't call me begging for more pain medicine, because I won't prescribe any."

(Note: Back in November, Dr B insisted that I take Elavil, "whether you want to or not!" I lasted all of a day on it.)

Let us draw a discreet veil over the rest of Dr B's speechifying, which brought me to tears yet again.

In summary:
  1. My fingers are unlikely to regain feeling without surgery.
  2. The pain in my arm is unlikely to go away without surgery.
  3. Odds are 50-50: surgery may make my arm feel a lot better, or a lot worse.
  4. I don't want to give my money to doctors who are mean to me.
  5. I don't want mean doctors poking around inside my body.
  6. I shouldn't have to see my shrink after every doctor appointment.
  7. I hope that Dr M (I see her next week) is nicer and has some bright ideas.
Meanwhile, Darling Husband and I are running away from home for the day. The aptly named Fairplay is on our itinerary.

Still Shattered, or The Never-Ending Story

The glasses I was wearing on May 1, 2006.

Today marks the 3rd anniversary of the day Gomez the thoroughbred failed to kill me. We had only been in the ring for 10 minutes when I nudged him to go from a walk to a trot. Instead he went ballistic, and the next thing I knew I was in a helicopter in excruciating pain, with my eyes bloodied shut. Later I was told that he'd thrown me into the steel-pipe perimeter fence.

My injuries:
  1. Broken right humerus and split humeral head
  2. 2 broken left floater ribs
  3. Broken nose
  4. Broken palate
  5. Broken right palatinate bone
  6. Broken right maxillary sinus
  7. Broken right brow bone
  8. Smashed-up front teeth, 3 top & 1 bottom
  9. Nerve trauma to head
  10. Severe concussion
In the ER at Swedish Hospital I got stitches in my forehead and upper lip (my teeth had gone through it), then spent a week in the multi-trauma unit. (Best memory: a card on my meal tray with "Happy Cinco de Mayo from your Swedish volunteers!") While there, I was given the choice of having a titanium plate put in my arm, or wearing a brace for 6-8 weeks. I chose the brace. Why have needless surgery?

The next month I had 3 root canals on my top front teeth, 2 of which died and turned a lovely shade of gray.

By August my arm hadn't healed, and my thumb and first two fingers were floppy. So I had a 6" steel plate installed, inspiring the late, lamented Miss Snark to run a Get Humerus Poetry Contest (see Well and Truly Screwed). My hand still didn't work after that, so in November my arm was sliced open again to release the median nerve.

When I went to see "Casino Royale" that Thanksgiving weekend, I discovered that violence made me nauseous and panicked. So did sirens, helicopters, ambulances, squealing tires, TV sports, news reports, combat photos...

I started getting therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.

In August 2007 I had to have more surgery on one of the top teeth, plus root canal on the bottom front tooth, which also turned gray. In October I had surgery to fix the dent in the side of my nose and remove bone spurs from my sinus. (The dent caved back in.)

In January 2, 2008, I had a bonus lipoma (fatty tumor) the size of a half-baseball, which had been discovered in the ER, removed from deep under my right shoulder blade. My middle finger and inner sides of the index and ring fingers had gone numb and the base of my thumb had atrophied, then the steel plate in my arm started giving me trouble. So on Friday, June 13, my arm was sliced open yet again to remove the steel plate, plus carpal tunnel release was done in hopes of returning feeling to my digits.

My fingers stayed numb as ever, but my arm started feeling better immediately. Then in late September it suddenly got much worse. The doctor who did the 2nd & 3rd arm surgeries gave up on me. Thus began The Circle Game of trying to find someone who could actually fix the arm, instead of just giving me drugs to mask the pain.

In March, while in Charlottesville for the VaBook Festival, I went to see my former osteopath, the wonderful Mark Dean of Osteopathic Pain Management. He suggested that I might have a traumatic neuroma (why didn't the neurologist and neurosurgeon I'd been seeing in Denver think of that?). When I returned home, my D.O. here sent me to another D.O., "Dr Schmuck," for diagnostic ultrasound.

No neuroma, announced Dr Schmuck, but the lipoma is growing back in the same place, under the scapula by the infraspinatus muscle. No need to have it removed, though, nor for any surgery on the arm.

Oh joy! what?

I soon found out. Last week my fingers abruptly got more numb after I'd been swimming for just 5 minutes. The area around the original break in my arm also turned dark, like a bruise--a symptom that no doctor had been able to figure out. I made an appointment to see Dr Schmuck the next day.

I felt like crap when I showed up: I hadn't slept well because of my hurting arm, my dog had awakened me twice in the night and I was spaced out from a new pain med I'd taken (never again!). Schmuck questioned the necessity of having the first lipoma out, even though my surgeon called it a "big-ass tumor" and you could see the lump through my shirt from across the street. Then without even touching my arm (an osteopath is supposed to do physical examination & manipulation), Schmuck crisply told me that my problem is "brachial plexopathy" and that the only solution is to see his buddy Dr T, 45 minutes from my home, for an injection of corticosteroid and anesthetic.

"What's that going to do to me?" I asked.

Whereupon Schmuck berated me for "choosing to see the glass half-empty instead of half-full," and for having a bad attitude, and for being a "cantankerous New Yorker."

"You fell off a horse," he scoffed. "I have patients with head injuries who can't add two and two, or who are missing limbs."

Which made me feel SO much better. Who am I to complain about pain and dysfunction after 3 years, 8 surgeries, PTSD and depression? I shouldn't have been wasting Schmuck's precious time with my little problems.

Just kidding! Actually, my tart reply was, "I didn't fall off a horse, I was thrown with great force. And I know what it's like to have a head injury."

Whereupon he berated me some more, and as he walked me out said that I had to have hope.

In tears, I snapped, "If I didn't have hope all this time I would've just taken a bottle of Percocet and killed myself!"

That elicited shocked expressions from some of the patients in the waiting room, but nothing from the charming and empathic Dr Schmuck. I vowed never to darken his door again. what?

Time to make another appointment with "Dr B" the neurosurgeon. And for backup, one with Dr M, arm specialist to Denver's sports stars.