Saturday, November 18, 2017

It's Back and I Still Don't Like It

It’s a palpable feeling.  A blast of anxiety causes your heart to speed up and your breathing become shallow and too fast.  You can almost feel the adrenaline surge through your body as all of your senses kick into hyper drive.  

Everyone, I mean everyone feels it at some point in their lives. I don’t like the way if feels, it’s an uncomfortable feeling but it’s an important part of our survival mechanism, it’s our bodies way of reacting to the powerful stimuli of the vagaries of life.

For me it’s a very keen, borderline obsessive alertness.  I liken it to a really good German Shorthair on point, everything rigid, all senses hyper aware.  Just like the dog my tail sticks straight up in the air (not a great look for a 63 year old man).  It’s like someone is squeezing the adrenalin out of where ever it comes from and it floods your body and boom, a magnified anxiety and sense of awareness has taken over your very soul.

Sometimes I forget how it feels.  I like that I forget.

As good as our lives have gone lately, as healthy (relatively speaking) as Marty has been it just takes a moment, an event, an instance and the flood of bad memories, the overwhelming anxiety comes back.

Marty threw up the other day and that’s what revived all of those feelings.  

We were eating a peaceful supper (okay, I’m from the country, I call it supper, you call it dinner) when she started doing that heaving thing we all do as a precursor to puking.  And then, of course came the real thing.  As bad as it sounds, at least if you are at the table you have a plate to collect the stuff coming up.

The only good thing about this event is there is no thinking, there is no muddling around thinking wondering what to do.  Marty pukes, we go to the ER, it’s just the way it is because when Marty does that thing there is something wrong that will not get better by ignoring it.  

This was about six p.m. (obviously….it’s supper time).  The ER was really crowded so we had to wait and wait and wait some more.  We finally got back to an ER room about 7:30.  I go into my spiel, trying to explain and convince everyone who comes in that we actually have done this before and we know Marty is sick, we know it’s not a 24 hour virus, it’s something else.  It helped that her blood pressure got too low and that always gets everyone’s attention.

Suffice it to say I pace a lot, I talk a lot, I explain a lot, I ask a lot of questions and I had to explain the real meaning of supper to a doctor and then we discovered Marty had pneumonia.  I was wrong because I would have sworn it was a UTI.  Oh well.

We got up to a room about midnight or so.  With the help of really great nurses and Nykkie, our care giver, we got Marty settled into a room at Providence 3 south.  It was a year, almost to the day, since we had been there last.

Our good doctor, Great and Wise, who normally checks us into the hospital and follows Marty’s care was out of commission due to his own illness.  It was bad timing for us, we really didn’t want to be sick when Great and Wise was broken. 

Since Marty’s strokes I have discovered the value and importance of continuity of care for someone with a chronic illness.  Having to explain our situation to new doctors, listening to them ask familiar questions, having new doctor’s orders issued that are really old orders we have done before, and repetitive tests done remind me of how important that continuity is.  Besides, we miss the comfort and confidence of his face.

We worked our way through the strange doctors; they are well meaning and highly skilled men and women.  Mostly it means we have to be more attentive and aggressive in our advocacy for Marty, and that’s fine, that’s why I make the big bucks.

We only stayed a couple of days and found our way home on a Saturday.  We washed the hospital funk off Marty’s body and out of her hair and were back in familiar confines with the pneumonia well in hand.  I know Marty always loves that first post hospital washing.

As a result of this little foray I am reminded of a couple of things:  there is a real adrenaline rush when Marty gets sick and I don’t like that feeling at all, we have been really lucky this year avoiding any real hospital kind of illnesses and we really value the skills and love of our own Great and Wise. 

And just as an aside, in spite of the recent downtime, I can still catch Marty’s vomit in a bucket and not puke myself.  I still got it baby.

Saturday, August 26, 2017


One day, not too long ago, right after lunch, I rolled my sweet, innocent bride into the living room. I sat down and turned her wheel chair to face me so we could talk, have a chat, have some quality one on one time without the television as a distraction.  I was being purposeful, intentional, really cool.

I gently turned Marty around, she slowly looked up, looking a little sleepy, looked straight at me and said, “Bastard”.

Obviously, well maybe it’s not that obvious to you; I was surprised at the pejorative.    
I was incredulous, I looked at her, registered the word and came back with a brilliant rejoinder, “What”?

“Bastard” she says again, hitting all of the consonants and drawing out the word just enough to make sure I understood.

I’m sitting there looking at this sweet woman, she of the broken brain, the person who now laughs when she should cry, the person when asked a question often looks at me, this lovely woman, my bride of 40+ years and she says it again, “Bastard”.  

And then she smiles, a knowing smile, a smile that says, “Yeah that’s right, I called you a bastard, bastard”.

I asked her what exactly brought that on and she just smiled like she was glad she had purged herself of the word, the feeling, the anger, the laughter.   I don’t know where it came from and neither did she.   More importantly she didn’t care, she sat there, self satisfied and clearly cleansed of something in the past.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can be, have been and will be a bastard.  I don’t mean in the literal sense, my heritage is not like Jon Snows or Gendrys of Game of Thrones, both of my parents claim me, most of the time.  

To be completely honest and lord knows if we are talking about being a bastard I want to be completely honest, on odd occasions I can be a bastard as in a jack ass.  I know it, Marty knows it and my kids know it.  I have at times deserved the term, but not within the days immediately preceding this particular event.

Marty still has some of her anger, some of her emotions stuck in the past.  She doesn’t really register anger or hurt or frustration anymore, unless you really are tuned into her.  I know those feelings can be there because we have talked about them before, I know that there is stuff that happened before the strokes that still create some feelings for her.  Some of those feelings are good, some not so much. 

For the most part Marty has a hard time connecting how she feels about some of those long ago felt emotions, but they are there, kind of unexplained feelings.   It’s kind of like having a bruise and you’re not sure where it came from, you just know it’s sore when you touch it. 

The real lesson here is it’s a good idea to get over some of your petty grievances now, today, right now because you never know when that irritation, that anger will get stuck inside you for the rest of your life. All of us have a very tenuous hold on the here and now and it takes a microscopic something to break and all of the sudden that irritation, that grievance becomes branded into your psyche forever.  

Whatever it was I did either the day before or the decade before Marty doesn’t remember the details, she does remember the feeling, the emotion and that came out as, “bastard”.  Like so many things these days it passed and she mostly thought the whole thing was funny.

Me, I don’t care if she calls me a name.  Fact is I kind of like that she still occasionally gets mad at me, that she occasionally has the fire in her to feel anger even if it is a ten year old fire.  I married a fiery woman, I knew she had a temper when we married 41 years ago, its part of why if fell in the love with her.  It’s part of why I still love her.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Great and Wise Got Broke

Marty’s doctor, Great and Wise, our medical Sherpa, our entrĂ©e to all things medical, our health security blanket is broken, at least temporarily.  We don’t like it not one itty bitty bit.  He’s kind of important to Marty’s health and my sanity.

This man got sick, he will recover, and I am certain it roiled the medical community in little ol Waco.  I know it caught his 1000 or 5000 or so patients by surprise when he posted on face book that he had experienced a heart attack.  

This is the guy who has sat by the bed of so many who were sick and afraid, who has been with people at their very best moments and their very worst.  This is the guy who has held hands with people as they have let go of life and been there when life started for some. 

He’s not supposed to break, ever.  I guess supposed to has nothing to do with real life.
Marty and Great and Wise go way back.  She first came to know him when she was working in conjunction with an indigent care organization in Waco called the Family Practice Center.  Marty was training academic physicians to be better teachers and Great and Wise was learning to be a really great doctor.  She always, always talked about his compassion.

When he set up a local family practice office Marty was looking for a physician with the kind of smarts, compassion and concern that Great and Wish had, the rest is history.  Having G and W as her family doctor when she had her strokes is the single best thing we had going for us.  

I didn’t know at the time what a big deal it was that he was Marty’s doctor, I didn’t realize exactly how important he would be to us, I do now.  I remember when Marty was in Dallas in rehab and she was and medically she was having a difficult time.  The third time she was hospitalized for pneumonia I decided it was time to punt.  I searched through Marty’s phone book and called Great and Wise one Saturday afternoon and asked if he could bring us back to Waco.  The next day we waved to Dallas in our rear view mirror.  He saved my sanity that day.

When you have a chronic medical issue, when you are the brittle patient Marty is there are things you discover you need in a physician.  You really need someone who is available, someone you can contact, someone who directs their clinic to get you in when you need to get in and see the doctor. 
You have to have someone who listens, who takes the time to hear what you have to say and actually hears what you are saying and takes it into consideration in developing a treatment plan.

 And what I never really understood, what seems at first glance inconsequential is you really need continuity of care.  You need a doctor who knows you, who knows all of the ins and outs of what ails you and those things that don’t ail you.  You need a doctor who guides the other docs you have to see, you need a doctor who follows your hospitalization and knows your care routine well enough to know when you need to be in the hospital and when you don’t.  

Great and Wise does all of these things for Marty and for me plus some other great stuff, like creating trust.  Great and Wise insists that his people, the nurses, the front office staff, the back office folks all do the same, all practice the same patient centered caring medicine.  All of them make a hard life better.

I can remember talking to Toni, one of Great and Wise’s past nurses, sitting in the office waiting for the good doctor and telling Toni, “I don’t know if Marty really needs to see Great and Wise, I think this visit is for me.”  She patted me on the back and said that’s okay, that’s the way our office works.  Not once, not one time have I ever felt stupid for calling or going in.  Not once has anyone in his office ever made me feel guilty for worrying about my wife.

I suspect Great and Wise will be getting back to his great and wise self in the next few weeks.  He initially indicated a four to ten week recovery period and then some nonsense about four weeks.   My guess is Mrs. Great and Wise will have something to say about the whole re-entry thing.  

Our goal here is for Marty to be immaculately healthy for the next ten weeks because a sick Marty and a sick Great and Wise is bad for Marty’s Husband.   Our world needs doctors like this man to be a happy, healthy and strong Great and Wise.  

At this point our doctor, our friend, our overall good guy needs to, for once, put himself first and foremost.  He needs to take the time and space to recover.  We want him back, we need him back in our corner, but mostly, mostly we need our friend well.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Her Soul

I suspect we all do it to some extent or another, viewing the past as better than the present, you know, the good old days.  For instance, when I was a kid I don’t remember the sun being so hot.  We would be outside all day long and I just don’t remember feeling the sun beating down on me like it does today.

Now I don’t really think the sun is hotter, I think that’s the simply the way I remember it because time has a funny way of tempering the temperature of our history.

The other day we were visited in our home by the Right Reverend Leslie from First Presbyterian of Waco.   I will always have a special place in my heart for the Right Rev because the first time she ever visited Marty in the hospital she walked in while Marty was alone and started feeding her spaghetti.  That’s not an easy thing to feed someone.   There are things people have done for you that make a lifelong good impression; gently helping my bride eat spaghetti is one of those.

Sorry, I digress.

The Right Rev is talking to me, talking to Marty and I’m talking to her, probably too much, I do that you know.   It’s one of those days where Marty isn’t responding very much and I start thinking, well wishing more than thinking, wishing that the Right Reverend could have known the old Marty, before the strokes robbed us of the old Marty, before the strokes gave us the new Marty.

I’m not sure, but the more I think about it the more I think that’s not a very healthy approach to the here and now.  Yeah, it’s good to have memories, it’s good to know what was, it’s okay to miss part of what was but the simple truth is, the sun was as hot back when I was a kid as it is now and what we have to live with is how the sun feels today, right here and now.

My memories of Marty before are mostly good memories but she wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t perfect, our relationship wasn’t perfect.  We fought, we cried, we felt pain, we felt anger, we hurt each other and for each other.  Yet, yet, the parts of what was are so alluring because somehow, in my revisionist memory, the sun didn’t feel as hot back then.

More importantly longing for what was robs you of what is right now and frankly what is with me, what is with Marty right now, today, is pretty damn good.  Do I wish she was back in charge, do I wish she could stand and grab me and kiss me, do I wish she would make some snide remark that would make me do a spit take, do I wish we could talk about the deeper meaning of King Arthur’s Sword, do I wish we could argue about where to park again?  You bet I do.

But I/we can never allow that longing for what was short change what we have right here and now.
The today Marty, the Marty Right Rev has met and gotten to know is worth knowing.  Marty is a woman who has fought strokes and won.  Marty is a woman who has lost the pieces of her she prized the most and she has survived countless indignities with the core of who she is intact.  Marty is a woman who has experienced the worst in life and kept living, kept living in spite of her body, in spite of what her body did to her.  

What must never be forgotten is that Marty’s core, her soul, the real Marty, the essence of the woman I knew and now know is still there.  It’s quieter, it’s more reserved, it’s suffered from catastrophic illness, but her core, her soul, that which is quintessentially Marty is still there.

It all goes back to something Marty told me, almost daily; be in the here and now, accept and embrace what is and don’t worry too much about what was or what will be.  

This is easy to say and hard to do on a daily basis.  While I relish the idea that the sun was not as hot on 12 year old shoulders as it is on 63 year old shoulders, while I need and want to remember that feeling of the 12 year old boy, I am where I am now, I am with my bride today, not yesterday and she is pretty damn fine today, who cares about the sun anyway.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Oral Dude

We, and when I say we I mean Marty, started the process of implants a couple of weeks ago.  And, when I say implants I don’t mean the soft squishy silicon kind, I mean the dental kind.

We have had a good run of health lately and it is past time to revisit the dental issue Marty has experienced most of her life.  I don’t like dental stuff, the very thought of it gives me the heebie jeebies, and when I say heeby jeeby I mean massive, light headed, creeps.

I’m not sure why I have such an aversion to the tooth and gum, but I do.  I have sat beside Marty and held her hand in a lot of medical situations in the past years but when it comes to removing teeth, I have to excuse myself lest the dental hygienist has to break out the smelling salts and that looks bad for an old man.

We have been mulling this whole ordeal for about two years.  We first visited the implant guy some many months ago and Marty said nope, nada and I just didn’t have the conviction to put her and our bank account through that assault on her mouth.  

Over the ensuing months Marty lost more teeth and more were becoming less viable.  Even Marty agreed it was time to do something and implants seemed the best option for my bride.  Marty is a fidgeter with everything and I can’t imagine dentures would ever stay in her mouth….so implants were the best solution.

The implant thing is a multi-stage process.   You have to get molded for a temporary prosthesis you will wear for months, you get teeth extracted, titanium posts inserted into the bones in your mouth and then the temporary set of teeth fitted and screwed into your mouth.  Exciting huh?  

Getting the mold done was a big nothing.  The big stage, removing teeth and screwing metal into her gums took about five hour.  Marty was not sedated except the Xanax I gave her a couple of hours before she hit the chair.  

I moved Marty into the chair and stayed until they brought the 21st century torture devices and left poor Marty to the good graces of the nurses and the oral dude.  I’m told they numbed her mouth really well and she sat there with people pulling teeth, cutting her gums, hammering and screwing posts in her for five hours.  In case it’s not clear, my wife is one tough chick.

All went as planned and we got Marty home about 4:30 and of course took her to bed, got her some ice packs, some pain meds and soup.  I’m a firm believer in pain meds, reasonably used, and they make Marty real sleepy which is clearly the way to do oral surgery.  Sleep through the recovery to the extent that you can.

The next day my bride was bruised and swollen, she looked like she had been through a street fight and lost.  We went to the dentist for them to check the temporary teeth they had screwed into her upper gums and all was good.  Marty, for her part, due to the pain meds was way high by this time.  

All was fine.  Marty’s pain was manageable, she was more than a little high from the meds (she’s a cheap drunk anymore), and the temporary teeth were doing fine.  Marty was bruised, battered and drugged, other than that, peachy keen.
The bruising got worse, the pain got better, and slowly, as the bruising turned from purple to yellow and moved around her mouth and to her left eye, the eating got better and she could have something besides soup.

Today, the yellow marks on her face are gone, the teeth look dandy and eating is just fine as long as we stay away from really chewy hard foods which we would do anyway.  We went back to the oral surgeon, he checked and she is doing well.  The oral dude recommended we start using a water pick, which should be a huge mess every time we use it, but okay, we shall do that too.

Every time we go through one of these “procedures” I am reminded of how far we have come in Marty’s recovery and what a tough, resilient person my bride is.  Do what she had done to me and I’m out for a month.  

Not Marty, she just deals with each and every new assault to her body and she quietly and simply does the next thing.  She doesn’t complain, she doesn’t moan, she doesn’t pitch or make life hard for those who care for her the most and want to help her.  

She is one tough mama and now she has a really cool set of temporary teeth just waiting for the new ones like an impending Christmas present. 
God gave me the right woman.