Family

A Day at the Beach in Winter


Winter winds blowing in off the Pacific Ocean in Baja El Norte chill to the bone. Doesn’t matter if the weather app says feels like 54˚because the wind cuts right through a layered t-shirt, sweatshirt, and fleece jacket like a sharp bladed knife chilled in the fridge. Sunlight helps, but in the morning hours it isn’t strong enough to make a difference. Humid and cool is still humid and cool and backed by air velocity it is downright chilly.

Knowing friends in Massachusetts are shivering in 12˚ temperatures while buried IMG_3864under three or more feet of snow is of absolutely no use because nothing feels warmer here based on that knowledge alone.  Walking the wee little doggie in the lee of buildings to try to keep the wee little doggie and the wee little doggie’s person warm(er) is becoming a daily occurence when it comes to the morning constitutional.

Remembering a 1989 trip moving from -33˚ Fairbanks to 33˚Anchorage in a day. That was a 60˚temperature variation in just 8 hours. Leaving in a Mouton lamb parka and ending up pumping gas in Anchorage wearing a sweatshirt and a light cloth windbreaker and thinking how warm it was! Cool, cold, warm, and hot are all relative. Still no help when it comes to shivering against the wind coming off of the ocean.

It’s supposed to get into the low 70’s tomorrow. That will be nice, as long as the freaking wind isn’t coming like a fan over cold water.

I do not need a HA to know when I’m shivery.

 

When The Dog One Depends on Goes Missing


My wee little doggie is my best pal. She lets me know when someone is at the door (although we are still working on the fact the big bell is the same thing as a knock on the door) and all sorts of things other people take for granted that they will hear.

Yesterday was a busy day at the casa with the property manager and the maintenance guy here a couple of times. Antonio (maintenance) was here twice dealing with the chiminea problem (smoke backing up into house) and after he left I was missing one wee little doggie.

There were options for why I could not find her: 1 – shut in a dressing room or other room where I could not hear her (it has happened before). 2 – jumping in Antonio’s car (this has happened with a friend, so not unlikely). 3 – got out the door and wandered.  After checking the house twice I checked the immediate vicinity, then sent an email to the property manager to ask the maintenance guy if she was in his car uninvited (it was going to be COLD again). Then the house to house search was on with one of my neighbors who has two dogs.

Twenty breathless minutes later one of my other neighbors with dogs walked down the road with the wee little doggie under her arm. Wee little doggie was cold and scared and had gotten way down the end of one of the little dirt side roads here.

Joy!

I have had problems with her slipping through the wrought iron door before and thought I’d closed it off enough to prevent such IMG_3753an incident. After I got her home I got serious with the tape (until I can install a dog gate or something) and there is no way she’s getting out through that! Hey, it is messy, ,but it works! 😀 I’m not sure my heart can stand another panic-stricken event like that!

2015


Here starts a new year. I admit that since the wretched catastrophe that befell me in May of 2013 I have been more out of the game of blogging than in it. That is what happens with multiple fractures impeding typing with a dose of traumatic head injury on the side.

However, my adventures as a Boomer Hard of Hearing (HoH) person have taken a new turn and perhaps deserve a new look at things.

This morning, whilst walking the wee little doggie near a beach in Baja California a local taxi drove by and a cherub faced manIMG_3719 leaned out the window (bless his hearty nature as it was almost freezing last night and barely 40 by then) with a broad smile on his face and said the same things I have heard Charlie Brown’s mother say in cartoons for years: Waaah, waaaaah, waaaaah, waaaaaah.

Since I was picking up dog poop at the time I wasn’t sure if the message was “Thank you for cleaning up after the dog.” or “Isn’t this a lovely day?” or “I’m so happy to have survived the cold last night.” or possibly “Happy New Year!

In addition to the normal confusion of folks with hearing loss  I am HoH in the land of the Spanish speakers. And my attempts at learning Spanish are pitiful, sad to say.

Before I could just be the sometimes gracefully aging (sometimes not so gracefully aging) woman who looks confused because she cannot hear well. I am aware I might be confused for someone with mild dementia because of my sometimes nonsensical responses to questions I mishear. Now I am the woman who wonders if it is the language, the accent, or the fact she’s still largely deaf as a post that is on point.

So I smile back, I wave, and I hope that I have not committed to robbing a bank. “Le gustaría robar un banco ?” (Please forgive any blatant linguist errors as I am using google translate.) It is this sort of deaf nod that can get people with hearing loss in trouble deep.

My replacement hearing aid (HA) should be here within a month. But even then it is unlikely I will wear a HA to walk the dog since I am almost always alone when that happens. The dog has other ways of letting me know what is happening other than talking to me.

Internally I now giggle a little. I can now be the gringa who doesn’t understand Spanish and forgiven for that by the locals far more than Americans ever forgive non-English speakers. Although, I must admit that when I just don’t respond at all it must be frustrating for them as it is when I am in the US and don’t respond at all because I don’t hear the warning or question.

Today I will hope the words I didn’t really hear were “Feliz Año Nuevo.”  Happy New Year.

And a Happy New Year to all of you from one of me. 😀

The Little Red Sweater


The story outline:  Once upon a time, in a Town Common far, far away in a little New England town, a woman with a riot of curling silver hair that bobbed around her face like kazillion little metal Slinkies, sat on a bench, knitting a little red sweater. Two joggers, one a man wearing a nice tracksuit, and the other a woman in an old t-shirt and shorts, trotted up the cracked sidewalk together. The man looked down at the knitting woman and burst into tears. The woman leaned down beside the woman and spoke to her.

Emily Pigeon stuck her little pink tongue between her teeth as she muttered under her breath, “Perl one, Perl two, Perl three. Knit one!” Making a dog sweater for her sweet little Mitzi was turning out to be more trouble than it was worth. She’d never used double-sided little needles before and she was seriously considering trashing the lot and buying a dog sweater at the pet store.

James Kravetz was content with his run so far. He’d been able to keep up with his new jogging partner all the way, despite being out of shape. It was more than he could have hoped for and he smiled with joy. Looking right and left he saw an older woman knitting a little red sweater. For some reason the color red reminded him of so much – his heart attack three months ago, the fear he might die, and the fear he might never run again. Suddenly, he burst into tears of joy.

Babs McCarthy’s co-worker James was running her into the ground. She didn’t want to complain, but who thought some guy who almost died three months ago would be going strong after five miles? All of a sudden, James burst into tears. Thankful for the respite, she stopped near an older woman sitting on a bench, knitting a small, red dog sweater. The little red sweater reminded her of her Yorkie Sweetie. She leaned down and said, “I wish I was as talented as you are. I’d love a sweater like that for my dog, Sweetie.”

Unfortunately, Emily was very hard of hearing, and said, “What did you say, dear?”

One incident – three points of view.

 

The Dreaded Adverb


I stand in the gazebo in the middle of the Townsend Common and peer into the shadows of massive deciduous trees. The towering oaks and maples create a deep well of shadow. Hidden in the shadow are dark green picnic tables, freshly painted for the summer season.IMG_1880

Feathering out from each side of the shadows are graceful dark wood park benches with black wrought iron trim. The benches are cast in artful design around the gazebo. They surround it in a seemingly haphazard manner. Perhaps they are at the best places for hearing. Perhaps a whimsical designer arranged them. They’ve been in the same places for the last year.

The church to the east begins a muffled peal. Well, to me it is muffled, but the dog startles a bit. Loud. It must be loud. I don’t have my hearing aid in to walk the dog. I look at the clock faces on the front and side of the bell-tower and realize they display different times. How many peals will there be? Nine. Ten.  I check the time on my smart phone. Noon. Exactly. Neither of the clock faces reads twelve o’clock.

Brass colored folding chairs for the Thursday night concert lean against the wall or slump on the floor, tossed hither and yon by recent stormy weather. I envision how, tomorrow, they’ll be arranged in ordered fashion for the band, unlike the graceful litter of  wooden benches.

IMG_1886Here and there, black light poles erupt from the ground. They match the bold black metal fencing that marches around the edges of the Common. Half-barrels full of flowers line Main Street – ten of them – filled with a riot of brilliant magenta petunias. Several more of the half-barrels are next to the sidewalks in the Common itself, filled with a softer pink flower reminiscent of roses.

Concrete walkways crisscross the Common with a long St. Andrews Cross from corner to corner and a short path east to west across the middle. Today it is me, the dog, and ten thousand starving mosquitos. The dog and I descend the stairs of the gazebo, walk back to the car, and breathe a sigh of relief when the mosquitos are outside and we are inside.

Death to Adverbs – stripping adverbs from writing.

The benefits and drawbacks of being hard of hearing


Benefits

1. When my daughter and one of the grandkids are having a conversation and need a little privacy I can look away from them and they have privacy – all I hear is the murmur of voices.

2. If they need even more privacy because the conversation is, um, energetic, I can take my hearing aid out.

3. When my grandson is playing games on the iPod that are annoyingly loud, I can take my hearing aid out.

4. The younger generation loves texting. I love texting! Win-win!

5. I do not need to hear to crochet. 🙂

Drawbacks

1. Talking to me from the next room makes communication impossible.

2. Yelling down the stairs is similarly pointless.

3. Talking to me when the TV is on, the X-Box is being used, and someone is listening to music on the iPod means your chance of success is very poor.

4. I am often baffled by what that potential noise is. I refer to this (mentally) as the Name That Noise Game. Yesterday night I leaned out the door, looking around to see if we were having another rainstorm. It was the shower upstairs.

5. The sounds of chewing. Do you hearing people actually get used to that?  Hearing aid out.

How to Kill Your Kid


Snappy title.  Not a murder mystery.  Consider it a medical mystery. One you may find important in your life.

Meet “Katie.”  She looks fine when you meet her. Underneath that big smile and wise-cracking exterior beats a heart with too many nerve centers so it can beat a syncopated rhythm or start going lickety-split in, well, a heartbeat. And then there’s the problem with the valves. She needs a valve job sometime in the near future. Because of these problems she has other problems – like excruciating headaches.  But there is no label saying, “I’m fragile” anywhere to be seen.

When you shake her hand you might think she’s being ladylike, but the reality is that her weak grip is a manifestation of the peripheral neuropathy that’s slowly eating away at her arms, legs, hands, and feet.  She can exercise morning, noon and night, but will never gain muscle mass.  She will however, be sore and exhausted. If you watch her hands you may see her fingers tremble.  She’s not nervous, that’s the neuropathy.

She watches her kids play, but rarely  joins them. She can’t run. She can break an ankle by tripping over a tree root or stepping down off a curb the wrong way.  In fact, she broke an ankle the first time when she was in grade school.  The last time it was so bad she had three surgeries to fix it.  It is still not fixed.  But you probably don’t notice it because she walks without complaint, although slowly. She always wears pretty flip-flops – because her feet don’t fit in shoes because of the deformation that still needs to be surgically fixed. But you are unlikely to be staring at her feet while you ae paying attention to her laugh and smile.

Katie is sick – a lot.  She’ll be out and around with a massive migraine to take her kids to sports and you won’t know. But we do. That’s the problem. To the family, Katie being sick is normal. To Katie being sick is normal. Life revolves around heart palpitations, headaches, surgeries. walkers, crutches, visits to the doctor, blood draws, CT scans, MRIs, X-rays, and visits to the hospital.

If someone else had seen Katie turning bright red all over they might have thought it was something other than having the heating pad on too high. There were signs – a hard time breathing. (Was it the asthma? Get an inhaler.  Is that better?) Hot and sweaty and red – but it went away – and then came back.  (Cold? Flu? Actually, neither.) Take a good look, because a tidal wave of misery can be coming.

Finally, Katie, who is sick of doctors and hospitals, went to the hospital. Thank God she did. There a miracle happened. An ER doctor didn’t brush her off as a chronically ill complainer. He had a hunch why she was sick. He had her transferred to a state of the art medical center where they realized that Katie was close to death.

No one has answers for how Katie got both bacteria and fungus in her blood. Was it from one of her surgeries?  There have been several recently.  Was it from the cellulitis she got from a flu shot?  The cellulitus from the foot surgery?  From the Port? (the port had to be removed). After a CT scan found the tumor in her upper spine and she started losing body function there was a surgery to remove it, but it couldn’t be removed. So they took out spinal bone instead to stop spinal cord compression.

They might never have gotten that far if Katie died from the effects of the infections in her blood. The list of complications from that is long and scary. The surgical risks were scary too. Life for Katie is a roller coaster high point to a screaming low after another.That’s why people who are used to seeing someone with chronic illness can miss things. And those missed things can be fatal.

The lesson I learned was that if a symptom in anyone else would concern me – the next stop is the hospital where they can draw blood, do MRIs on the spot, CT scans, and x-rays. Over the years it became too easy to see all problems as a chronic illness problem rather than a life-endangering acute crisis issue. See your primary care for routine medical care.

A lot of my readers have chronic illness. It is easy to feel like that super-low you’ve been facing for a few days is just another crappy day. Then again, it might be something like Katie is facing.  Want to take the chance?

I told Katie that the next time I see something that would scare me in anyone else I am taking her to the hospital – period.

I’m HoH – almost deaf – but I can see. I knew she was sick and I knew the symptoms were out of the norm.

I want you to look at yourself in the mirror – especially if you have chronic illness – and ask yourself if this is different from what is usually going on. Then look at your loved ones with health problems and resolve that if they were anyone else and you had the power to get them medical care – that you do whatever is necessary to get them that care.

Katie’s saga continues.  We’re fortunate it does, although it is a painful continuation.

Take care of yourselves. Don’t brush off pain in the chest and difficulty breathing even if you think it is the “same-old, same-old” whatever it is that gives you grief. If you start having strange symptoms like turning red all over and dripping sweat for no reason at all – get medical care, for goodness sake!

Be well. Stay well.

Why? Really – why?


Maybe my friend David of Deaf In Prison can tell me. Why on Earth does someone start talking to someone and then turn and walk away. What?!  The mouth is on the front of the body, not the back. Is there some switch I don’t know about that moves a mouth from the front to between the shoulder blades?

Okay, I know I’m not the only patient at the surgeon’s office. I get that. Personnel who look familiar to me may not remember me since they are not a primary care office. But, really! What is it with hearies who will say something, before I am close enough to hear, before I’m sure it’s me they’re talking to, and then turn around and walk away and I know they’re still talking. The person could be singing the Torts Law song, “Chicken bone, chicken bone, choking on a chicken bone” from law school torts class, asking me how my New Year was, or telling me something important.

Exasperation ‘R Us

When I was close enough to guess I’d be heard I said, “I’m still deaf.” She turned and looked over her shoulder and I continued. “I was deaf the first time I met you. I have been deaf every time I’ve seen you since then, and I’m deaf today. You have to look at me when you talk to me.” I don’t know what she thought about what I said, but she did face me and did communicate appropriately with me. She’s really a very sweet young lady and I’m sure she just forgot, but I swear I want clothing designed that says – in large type “I’m still deaf.”  Maybe flashing off an on – in red letters – with spangles.

I will give her this, she was as sweet and kind as could be just as she always is and I do like her, I’d just like her better if she could remember I am functionally deaf in noisy situations – like doctor’s offices. (sighing)

The doctor – he’s no problem, he’s got a good voice and is a good communicator.

At the desk for scheduling surgery I’m back to “I’m still deaf.  You have to talk to me. I can’t hear you. Look at me when you talk to me. The piece of paper in front of you isn’t listening, I am.” 

Meanwhile, my daughter who is across the room, near the door, is able to have a conversation with the woman regarding scheduling.  I almost got up and suggested they make the arrangements without me. Not that my daughter tries to undermine me – she wants me to be fully engaged, it’s just that I can’t figure out how the hell these people do it.

Really, hearie friends. Do you routinely talk to someone through your back?  How does that work for you? Is there a way I can get in on this phenomenon?

The Joy of Bunk Beds


When my daughter brought me home to her place, I ended up sharing a room with my 7-year-old grandson.  I’ve got the bottom bunk. Overhead are thick, firm, wooden slats. I don’t believe anyone realized how useful they would be. I’ve been able use them as therapy bars. First I could use my left hand/arm to help whilst my right arm/shoulder was a shattered disaster. Now I’m using them to help lever myself and the knee around. When we do the shoulder again, and when the right foot is eventually fixed I suspect I’ll be appreciating the joys of bunk beds again.

Except for times when I’m bed-ridden (such as for these few days) I am usually here just for a few hours of sleep.  “The boy” (which is the term I use to identify my grandson to the dog) is the one who uses the room during the daylight hours when he is here. “The boy” and I both have hearing deficits, mine are merely catastrophically worse than his (thank heavens). He tends to have a big voice (as do I) so most of the time I can hear him better than most – sometimes way too well.  And “the boy” is also McKinley (Baby Dog’s) favorite rough and tumble playmate. Every dog should have a wonderful boy to roll around the floor with, to play tug of war with, and to romp and play with until totally exhausted. They usually collapse at the same time. Life is good.

The eldest girl is more of a momentary angel gliding through Kinley’s life giving tummy rubs, soft kisses, and tummy rubs. The younger girl is presently doing her imitation of the grinch.  This too will change. Fortunately, in a small home with an amazing number of people here (the VNA personnel were amazed as adults and children popped into existence at the top of the stairs), there is always a kind word and pat for McKinley.  And I never miss knowing someone is at the door here because of McKinley’s “announcing” visitors – although it would be good if she’d announce just a wee bit less.

When You are Unconscious it Doesn’t Matter


Today I had a day surgery. Last night it poured freezing rain and it was still a frozen mess while my son-in-law drove me off to meet my fate. He’s a good driver, BTW.

When we got there I was bemused about the name of the unit.  Surgery Day Care – it has a certain cachet to it, don’t you think?  We have day care for kids and day care for dementia patients – now there is day care for surgery patients. Who knew?

Really, though, it was just plain old Day Surgery.  Maybe the person who designated the name was fond of the sayings of Yoda.  Day care surgery you will have. Healed you will be.

Beings as this was the place I had the bad experience with the other day I was pleased to find out that I had a mixed bag of experiences.  The anesthesiologist (aka the ‘gas passer’) didn’t know sign, but he knew Deaf and HoH and said I could call him by his first name, which was cool. He also was concerned about the ototoxicity of Tylenol and said he’d be careful. He always looked right at me and he had a great voice.

My prep nurse was awesome – again, didn’t sign, but was easy to teach to talk to me rather than around me. The ER nurse was a loss whether he was wearing a mask or not. Fortunately, Andrew (the anesthesiologist) really ran the communication part of the show.

My surgeon forgot about my hearing loss. We do the “I can’t hear you” thing almost every time we meet, but it is not like he’s my primary care, so I tend to be forgiving towards the ortho who is doing his best to put my various body parts back together with toothpicks and glue.  He tries hard and he’s honest with me – which is a huge issue for me. Just tell me how it is and will be.

I went out like a light in seconds – then it is really pretty unimportant what I don’t hear.  They had my knee marked (cut THIS one) so the appropriate knee was incised in various places to fix the tear(s) and get a light in to get a look around. I don’t know how many incisions since the knee is wrapped and then wrapped again in a huge ace wrap.

To add a thrill to the day my daughter could not come get me as planned as one of the kids came down with something closely resembling either flu or food poisoning. I texted one of my best friends to come get me and his car had a flat on the way. Why the dickens he drove on it until it looked like a black rubber Christmas wreath neither of us are quite sure about.  He changed it in the parking lot rather than where he realized he had a flat. Apparently it made sense at the time.

Nonetheless, he and I communicated by text – and when he’s with me he has a fantastic voice so no problems there.  He and my brother have the only voices I can recognize over the phone.

I insisted on walking out of the hospital since the surgeon told me I could.  The nurse and my pal sorta shook their heads and walked with me – yes it hurt, yes I’m glad I did it, and really, at that time I wasn’t using my ear. Walking on my ear would be rather difficult.  Instead, I was limping down a hall looking determined and testing my stability.

Got home to two nurses from VNA (Visiting Nurses Association) who were here to work with my daughter.  Amazingly enough, both of them were totally great for a deaf or HoH person.  My fav had a pocket full of homemade dog biscuits and the picky Baby Dog ate two of them.  Score.  Baby Dog was absolutely insane with joy when I got back, which is as it should be. While recovering I was dreaming about petting her – so the shared joy is mutual.

So, I had a successful operation on the torn bits of the knee, was able to communicate easily with a few folks and with determination with others. The operation was done under a general anesthetic so they could have been whispering in Swahili while listening to We Are The Champions by Queen and I wouldn’t know the difference.