What I learned

Boxcar #2

Here is another photo of a tagged boxcar.

***

One of my prescribed medications was recalled a few weeks ago. I called my doctor’s office when I got a notification from the pharmacy I use. The call I made to the doctor seemed to come as a surprise to those medical folks. They decided to research the situation and called me back a couple of days later. My prescription was changed to a different med. Today I had to go in for blood work to see how the new med was affecting me.

I learned that I should never go to the lab on a Monday. The waiting area was packed. So I checked in and then settled into a seat and waited my turn. I looked around the room and saw the normal things, such as most of the people staring at their smart phones as they played games or checked their Facebook or their Twitter feed. There were a few people who were actually talking on their phones loud enough so that the rest of us could hear their end of the (boring) conversation. As always I marveled at the number of people who go out in public dressed in a manner that seems to shout “bad judgement.” And I also once more understood why they say obesity is an epidemic here in the U.S. Judgmental you say? Yes, I agree that I am. I also agree that I am one of the obese.

I sat there for a long time. One of the Phlebotomists seemed to be having problems with the volume of people who were waiting. At one point she came to the door and called “Mary.” Two women stood up and the Phlebotomist asked the nearer what her name was. The woman said “Mary B_____.” “You’re the one I want,” said the Phlebotomist and escorted her into the inner sanctum.

Mary B_____ was drained of her blood and left. The Phlebotomist called and dealt with Fred and John. She then called Mary and the other lady went in for her blood to be drawn. The Phlebotomist came out and called “Michelle” and once again two women stood up. She asked the nearer of the two what her name was and was told “Michelle J_____.” The Phlebotomist turned to the other woman and asked what her name was. “Michelle F_____,” she was told. The Phlebotomist looked at her and said “I’ve called your name twice in the past twenty minutes. I’ll take this lady and then come back for you.”

Let me interject and say that I don’t believe she was telling the truth. I had been setting there for half an hour at that point and had never heard the name Michelle called.

Having disposed of the two Michelles, the Phlebotomist came again to the door and called, “Mary B_____.” Remember Mary B_____? She had come and gone a while back. But when the name was called a young man who appeared to be in his 20’s stood up and strode to the Phlebotomist. She said to him, “You’re Mary B_____?” He admitted that he wasn’t Mary B_____, but he thought that since no Mary had approached her, he might be able to take her place. “No” was her response. I wondered if Mary B_____’s blood was going to be tested for the right things.

Three or four people later a different Phlebotomist came to the door and called my name. Luckily I was the only Norman in the waiting area. I was in, had my blood drawn, and was out of there in under 5 minutes. On second thought perhaps I’ll continue going to the lab on Mondays just for the show.

I had to write about this

Still a summer favorite

Hawaiian style shirts go in and out of favor, except in Hawaii. I saw on television this morning that they are currently stylish. I’ve had this shirt for fifteen years, and have worn it every summer since I bought it. You might say that I’m fond of it.

***

A couple of days ago Cindy went in to have a cortisone injection into the ball-and-socket joint of her hip. She was very nervous about the procedure because one of her “friends” told her a horror story about her experience with that procedure. Among the things she mentioned were a gigantic needle used in the process, a patch of skin being removed at the injection site, and pain so bad that she wanted to jump off the table.

Cindy asked me to go along so that, if allowed, I could hold her hand for comfort at best, and break her out if the worst came about. I kind of imagined holding her down on a butcher table and stuffing my handkerchief in her mouth if the screams got too loud. But the nurse said that I couldn’t go into the room where the procedure would take place and seated me in a waiting area down the hall where other patients and significant others could wait. She took Cindy off to change into a gown and enter the forbidden chamber.

I had brought a book, 1984 by George Orwell, to read in that eventuality. However I couldn’t help overhearing some of the conversation the others were having. Actually, it was more of a monologue being conducted by a middle-aged fellow who looked to me a lot like Barry McGuire after he grew a mustache and shaved his head. The young among you might want to Google Barry McGuire. The bald fellow’s audience consisted of a youngish woman awaiting a procedure, and her paramour who was wearing a cowboy hat. On the television screen that no one was watching was the non-controversial Weather Channel.

The bald fellow’s story went something like this:

  • 400,000 Muslims have been sent into this country to overthrow the government.
  • a “gas chamber” prison that will hold 40,000 people has been built in Terre Haute, Indiana. The people sent there will never come out.
  • There are another 400 such facilities around the country. I think he likes the number four.
  • He knew this because he worked for National Security! He said that he had been all over the world and knew things the public never hears about.

At that point the woman interjected, “I believe it. They don’t want us to know the truth.”

The guy in the cowboy hat asked, “What did you do in National Security?”

The bald guy said that he couldn’t tell him, because of the security implications. He went on to say that he had been in some scrapes; he had been stabbed in the neck twice.

The flabbergasted cowboy wannabe said, “Twice! What? Where?”

The bald fellow said, “I work with computers.”

Cowboy: “What were you doing with computers that got you stabbed?”

Baldy: “That was because I got drunk in a place where I shouldn’t have been. National Security didn’t give us proper support. We had to walk back 17 miles to our base.” I hope that he got the bleeding stopped before that hike.

Then he said to his audience, “People don’t know what goes on in this country.”

At that point the woman interjected, “I believe it. They don’t want us to know the truth.”

Cowboy: “Yeah!”

Baldy: “People don’t know that there is a nuclear reactor in downtown Las Vegas. It is camouflaged as a casino. You can’t walk into it. When you go in the door (Wait.You can walk into it?) you go down an empty 400 (4 again) foot corridor and that takes you into the real casino that is in another building.” So I’ve been in a number of Las Vegas casinos and have never seen a blank corridor, let alone at the entrance to a building. Just saying.

Upon hearing that the cowboy shook his head at the enormity of that coverup. His lady friend was taken away for her procedure. Also, another woman joined us to wait for her procedure.

The bald guy said that he could tell the cowboy things, but that the cowboy would think him psychotic. He had told a few friends, and they thought he was psychotic. Before he could say anything else he was called for his procedure. The cowboy opened a magazine.

The new patient said, to no one in particular, “Why are all of these TVs here set on the Weather Channel?” She picked up the remote and changed the channel to MSNBC, the liberal answer to Fox News.

Normally I enjoy MSNBS, but I wanted to concentrate on Chapter 5 of 1984. That was not to be. The conversation on TV was about Paul Manafort. The woman said with a chortle, “That man is going to jail! He is going down!” Then she went on a fifteen minute rant about President Trump and Attorney General Sessions.

When the cowboy’s friend returned from her procedure, he jumped to his feet, said “Let’s go,” and nearly sprinted down the hallway. The newer woman continued talking about our President until they came to take her to her procedure. I turned off the TV and returned to my book.

Eventually Cindy returned from the ordeal. She was smiling. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see her and the nurse doing the huckabuck as they came down the hallway. The horror stories were not true.

 

Quite the evening

Morning on the deck. looking at our open bedroom window.

I took this picture from our deck around 7:30 this morning. It was quiet and peaceful, just me and the birds and a stalking cat. I scared the cat away. May it never return.

***

Yesterday evening, sometime between 5:30 and 6 a friend, part of Cindy’s expanded family, called Cindy to say that she thought she had broken her arm. She had gone to her daughter’s volleyball practice and since she had been a star volleyball player in high school, she was helping her daughter warm up. Well, she was not as agile and her footwork wasn’t quite as good as when she had been in high school. To make a longish story shorter, she fell backwards and injured her arm. She called Cindy to ask her to come and pick her up to take her to Urgent Care. Cindy was, at the time, cooking dinner for guests and asked me to pick our friend up. So I did.

I drove to the high school where I found our friend in her car in the parking lot. She asked me to drive her car since she had her toddler son in his car seat. I agreed and we set out to Urgent Care. When we got there we unloaded the toddler, assembled his stroller, put him in it and went inside. She was told that it would be at least 1 1/2 hours before she could see a doctor (let’s take the urgent out of Urgent Care) and they did not have the facilities to cast her arm if that was needed. So we went back to the parking lot where we put the toddler back in his car seat, disassembled the stroller, and loaded it into the car. We set off for the emergency room of one of our local hospitals. But first we stopped at our house and left the toddler with Cindy and our dinner guests.

When we arrived at the emergency room I noticed that they had a large sign on the wall that said “Emergency Room Welcome Center.” I think the Welcome Center part was supposed to take some of the sting out of the Emergency part. There didn’t appear to be many people waiting, so we were encouraged to think that the wait would not be too long.

Sitting beside us was a woman in a wheelchair accompanied by her husband and three adult daughters. Before long another four members of her family arrived. Our little part of the waiting area was getting crowded.

Did I say our wait wouldn’t be long? We sat there, chatting, for about an hour before our friend was taken into an examining room. I decide to stay in the waiting room. No sooner had our friend disappeared behind a door than one of the daughters marched to the desk and asked why our friend had been taken before her mother. The woman at the desk explained that while the mother may have checked in first, they took patients in order of severity of the injury. The daughter scowled and went back to her chair. One of her sisters asked what the counter person had said. The first sister said that she didn’t know. What?

About another hour passed and the woman in the wheelchair was still sitting and waiting. At that point another of the sisters marched to the desk and asked why her mother hadn’t been seen by a doctor yet, after all they had been waiting for two hours. The counter attendant looked at her computer screen and said, “No, you have been here one hour and forty-five minutes and we see people based on the severity of their…” never making eye contact with the daughter. The daughter said, “HOW CAN YOU…” And at that point her father said, “Come over here and sit down!” never looking up from his smart phone.

She grumbled but meekly returned to her chair. Then she started talking to her sisters, loud enough for all of the people in the waiting area to hear, “How can they tell if one injury is worse than another?” One of her sisters who was dressed in pink opined that her sister was just upset due to pregnancy hormones.

Then the pink sister started talking about her upcoming wedding. I tried to tune her out. It was difficult since she was standing directly in front of me. By the way, I had offered her my seat, but she had turned down my offer. At one point I heard her telling her family that she got nervous when she thought about sex and started twirling her hair. At that point I looked at her and thought she looked as if she had been around the block at least a few times, but that’s just between you and me.

Finally they called the mother’s name and told her she could take two people back with her. Pink sister took control of the wheelchair but her father stood up, put away his smart phone, and told pink sister to sit down. He was taking his wife back by himself. And he did. At that point, five of the seven remaining family members left to eat dinner.

I waited around another half hour and finally approached the counter attendant and said that my friend had gone back around an hour ago and… At that point the attendant looked at her computer screen and said, “No, it has only been forty-five minutes…” I broke in said that I just wanted an update on her condition. The woman never regained eye contact with me but said that I could go back and see my friend.

So I did. I got there in time to see her wheeled away for X-rays. When she returned she had a cloth on her forehead because she had passed out from pain when they were moving her arm around for the X-rays. We were sure that there was at least one break.

After a while a nurse came in and confirmed our speculation. It was a broken radius near her elbow. They gave her some pain meds, waited a bit and then started splinting her arm. After that they put her arm in a sling and sent us on our way. That was around 10:15 p.m.

I have to say that for an Emergency Room, nobody who worked there seemed to treat anything as an emergency. There was no hustle, no bustle, no sense of urgency. Maybe they need to rename that part of the hospital.

Another waiting room experience

From the third floor window
From the third floor window

Yesterday I spent part of the day with a friend of Cindy’s who was going to a clinic for a cancer treatment. Cindy and/or her friend’s husband usually go with her, but they were not available for the beginning of her visit. So I volunteered, which isn’t like me, but it seemed like the right thing to do. She is undergoing immunotherapy for lung cancer, and lately she has been having trouble breathing, so she wanted someone with her to make sure her questions were answered. The truth is that Cindy wanted someone there to make sure all of her questions were asked. So there was I, tagging along with the questions in my mind.

When we got to the clinic, the first thing that had to be done was to have some blood taken…her blood, not mine. As we sat there, waiting for the phlebotomist to take our friend back to the drawing room, I was looking at the artwork  the walls. On one wall, though, there was a photographic portrait of a man. I assumed that it was the picture of someone who had made a large donation to the clinic, and perhaps had passed away. I was about to walk over to the picture in order to read the small brass plaque attached to the frame. That is when our friend, who saw where I was looking, said, “That’s my doctor.” I told her that I thought that it was a picture of  dead man, but she assured me that he was alive. Well, it wasn’t quite a shrine, but I did find it a bit self-aggrandizing in that he was honoring himself.

After the blood draw, they had our friend deliver her own vials to the lab which was on another floor. While she did that, I took today’s picture from the third floor lobby. I have to say that those windows had not a speck of dirt on them.

Upon her return from the lab, we repaired to the main waiting area. At first there were only a couple of people there with us, and we spent the time chatting. But then other patients started arriving and taking seats, until almost all of them were filled. There are always observations to be made in waiting rooms, so I started observing.

The most interesting conversation that we overheard was between to gentlemen. Let me assure you that we were not eavesdropping. They were speaking quite loudly. They started by comparing treatments. They were also undergoing immunotherapy with the same drug with which our friend was being treated. A woman turned to look at them and said, “He’s getting that drug too,” and nodded her head at her husband.

“Is he having any problems with it?” asked one of the men.

I thought, “He’s sitting right there. Why don’t you ask him?”

After being told that her husband had no bad side effects, the man who asked said that he had developed a rash, but didn’t want to take any steroids to treat it. Then he went on to tell the room at large that his kidney cancer couldn’t be cured and that the doctor was just trying to keep him alive a little while longer. The second man chimed in and told us all that his lung cancer had metastasized and had traveled to his brain, and they were also just keeping him alive a bit longer.

I was inclined to say to them, “Could you speak a little louder. That woman in the corner is hard of hearing and may not have heard you raining down gloom and depression on these seriously ill people.” But I held my tongue. Who has a pissing contest over who has the worse cancer and will die first?

Shortly after that our friend and I were taken into the back to see a nurse practitioner. Her vital signs were taken, and it was noted that the oxygen level in her blood was low. A nurse brought in an oxygen tank for our friend to us while she was there. The nurse practitioner told us that the lab results were good. After hearing of our friend’s trouble breathing he felt that it was probably caused by the immunotherapy which was irritating her lungs. He canceled the treatment for that day, and instead ordered an IV steroid, a prescription for oral steroids, a lung X-ray, and oxygen for her use at home. In the course of ll that, he had answered all of the questions that I had been tasked to ask. Quite satisfactory.

From there, we went into another area where there about  dozen people attached to IV drips of various kinds. The first thing that I noticed was that none of them were reading while they sat there having drugs go into their veins. If it were me, I would have been working on my reading challenge. But thankfully, it wasn’t me. Most of the people had looks o there faces similar to what you see at the slot machines in Las Vegas.

Cindy arrived as our friend was being hooked up to her steroid drip. We answered all of Cindy’s questions to her satisfaction. I was relieved. As we sat there talking, I told Cindy sotto voce that I had been gathering tidbits for my blog. She chuckled and told our friend non sotto voce that she would let her know when I posted about the visit. That caught the attention of one of the doom sayers from the waiting room. He gave us a wall-eyed stare that went on so long that I thought he might have won the contest. But after a few minutes he finally closed his eyes. I asked Cindy if she had seen him blink while his eyes were open. Like me, she had not.

At that point our friend’s husband arrived, so Cindy and I left before anything else of interest happened.

Update on mom

St. Francis
St. Francis

I took this picture at the hospital on Saturday. I took it with my cell phone and used the software that came with it to remove the color. This will be my submission to Monochrome Madness (http://leannecolephotography.com/) this week.

***

 I forgot to mention in my post yesterday that shortly before I left the hospital that mom pointed at the upper portion of one of the room walls and said, “It looks to me like that wall is on fire.” I said that I didn’t see the fire, and asked if she knew that the wall wasn’t on fire. She told me that she knew that it wasn’t, but that she thought she saw flames.

She was drowsy but wouldn’t take a nap while I was there. I convinced her to close her eyes, but she wouldn’t close them for more than a few heartbeats. She told me that I should leave before it got too late. I told her that I wanted to wait until the shift changed and I could meet the new nurse. Her eyes closed, and so did mine because I was also drowsy. But my eyes jerked open when I heard her moan. She moaned again and then opened her eyes.

“You moaned,” I said.

“No I didn’t,” she said.

“Yes you did,” I said.

“Maybe I was humming along with the music they were playing,” she responded.

Perhaps she was hallucinating music again and was humming along. My mom has no musical talent and could never carry a tune. In fact she was the only person I knew who could whistle and hum simultaneously with no melodious sound. I guess hearing her moan and hearing her hum would be similar.

The old and new nurse came in for the changing of the guard. Mom was convinced that the nurse who had been on duty was a hospital administrator, and was surprised when she said she was leaving for the day. I left soon afterwards.

A few hours after I returned home, I got a call from my sister. She had arrived back at the hospital minutes after I had left. Mom had told her about my visit and had passed on all of the news/gossip that I had told her. My sister told me that a while later, however, my mom once again saw the flames on the wall and believed that they were real. She started screaming “Fire” and became hysterical. You can imagine how the other patients in that hallway reacted when they heard my mother’s screams.

After they got mom calmed down, my sister stayed a while longer before going home. Evidently there were no more episodes that night.

The next day, Sunday, I got a call from my mom in the early afternoon. She had been discharged and was back home. It seems that the IV antibiotics had helped enough, and she had answered the doctor’s questions well enough, that they had sent her home with my sister. Mom said that she now guessed that she had been wrong about the little people visiting the house. But then she went on to tell me that she still thought they had taken over the hospital. She said that it was so bad there that people were quitting. She asked if I hadn’t been in the room when one of the people quit. I told her no; that person had been the nurse whose shift had ended, and that she was just going home. “Oh,” said my mother. Still, she was happy to be home. I was wondering if they had discharged her too soon.

She called me again later Sunday night. She sounded better, and made no mention of little people, loud music, or fire. Perhaps the antibiotics were still making an improvement,

I’ve had one call from mom so far today. She sounded OK. She wanted clarification on one bit of news/gossip I had passed on to her. No, I had not told her that Barbara had gotten married when she moved to Louisiana. Then I talked to my sister.

She said that mom had been better since she got home, but that she thought that she was still seeing things but didn’t want to talk about them. Perhaps she thought she would have to go back to the hospital if she mentioned them. Then my sister said something that I had been thinking. She said that without her hearing aids, mom couldn’t hear anything, and yet she heard the songs that the little people sang. I said that she couldn’t see well enough to read anymore, but she could see the little people without any problems. We hope that the oral antibiotics that she takes now will help clear up some of the confusion.

Little people

A barn...really?
Another barn…really?

Someday I’ll count the number of barns that I’ve photographed. I’ve been taking pictures of them for decades. If I could remember where I took each picture I would put together a book of them for myself. I took this picture on Friday, somewhere in Montgomery County.

***

My mother is seeing little people. She also hears them, and sometimes talks to them. No one else sees or hears them. Since we aren’t seeing or hearing the little people, we call them hallucinations. When she first told me on the telephone what she was seeing and hearing, I thought it was kind of funny. Then I talked to my sister and heard some of the desperation (she wouldn’t use that term, she is too stoic) in her voice, I decided that it wasn’t all that funny. After driving up and spending time with my mother yesterday, I know that it isn’t funny. However, I’m going to share with you some of the things she has told me over the past two days, and if you feel like chuckling or laughing, go ahead. I would not be offended because I saw the initial  humor.

It started on Friday when my mother called me and told me that they had visitors. It was a group of little people who were part of an acting troupe, she supposed, and they were dressed like cowboys. She told me that there wasn’t enough food to feed them all. She also said that my sister was ignoring them, even when they spoke to her. Mom went on to say that she had read something about them in the newspaper, that one little woman didn’t have papers to allow her to stay in the country, and that they were putting on shows to earn money. She told me that they sang pretty songs. She thought it was very odd that they would stand on the floor and then float up to the ceiling. One of them, a male, had a very good singing voice and appeared to be their leader. Mom said that their leader was bi-racial and talked about what was right and what was wrong. She said that he was correct. That was when I asked to talk to my sister.

My sister, She Who Must Not Be Named, said that mom had been seeing the little people since the night before. She had told me before that mom had been hallucinating occasionally, but she had not mentioned little people before. I advised my sister to have mom see a doctor as soon as possible.

Some hours later my sister called me to tell me that mom had been admitted to the hospital. The initial diagnosis was a urinary track infection (UTI). Mom was getting IV antibiotics, and they had drawn a lot of blood for analysis. She gave me mom’s room number, the phone number for the nurse’s station, and the privacy code in case I called the hospital for an update. I told her that I would be up to see mom on the following day.

When I arrived the next day I found mom sitting in the chair next to her bed. She didn’t recognize me. I put that down to her terrible eyesight, not the fact that it had been too long since I last saw her. She complained that she was only supposed to be in the chair for an hour before getting back in bed, but that she had been sitting there for four hours. She told me to go find her nurse. Instead, I pushed the call button.

The nurse aide responded quickly. Mom told her the story of sitting in the chair for four hours, and she said she couldn’t rest because people kept coming in to talk to her, and that she wanted to go home, and that if the doctor didn’t discharge her she would get up and walk out, and that she was cold, and… The nurse said, “My goodness. I’ve not seen you this angry. You were so sweet earlier.” I commented that it was sign that mom was feeling more herself. The nurse aide gave me a hate filled look. I’m a bad son.

When the nurse aide left, mom told me again about the little people had done at the house on Friday. Then she started looking around the room and told me what the little people were doing there. I could tell from her line of sight that they were around ankle height. She asked me if I could see them and I said no. That didn’t seem to bother her. Then she asked me if I felt them, because they evidently were crawling on me. I said no. She told me that she thought that the little people had taken over the hospital and were doing a lot of construction work. They were also playing a lot of religious music. I decided to not go along with her, or to argue with her, but to tell her that I didn’t see or hear the little people when she mentioned them.

After a few hours I left to drive home. There will be an update tomorrow.

Bits & Pieces from last week

B&W version of July 012 photo
B&W version of July 2012 photo

I forgot to add a photo to today’s post, so I’m adding this after the fact. I used a color version of this picture back in July 23rd of 2012. I didn’t feel like going out and searching for a fresh photo today. Just call me lazy.

***

A few parts of Cindy’s stay in the hospital and follow-up were not as serious as the two-parter I posted earlier this week. I probably found some things more amusing than she did, she was in a lot of pain, and I have a much broader take on what is humorous than she does…or most what people do for that matter. If you don’t even grin, I’ll understand.

I was paying attention in the waiting area of the emergency room (hoping for something amusing, one of my favorite “wait here” pastimes) while Cindy kept moving, trying to find a comfortable position. It wasn’t to be. Despite the actual ER being SRO, there were only two teen-aged girls and two twenty or thirty something guys in there. There was nothing special going on with them. One of the girls seldom raised her eyes from her cell phone while the other nattered on about boys. The guys were talking about high school sports. The only break in the inaction came when a woman came out of the ER carrying a pair of size 13, lime green tennis shoes. I know they were size 13 because one of the guys said, “My God. What size shoe does he wear?” She told him. She didn’t say why she was carrying them around.

Then there was the day that Flo, Cindy’s mom, called and told Cindy she needed for Cindy to go buy her some “Ward Bond.” She means, of course, Gold Bond, but you will never convince her of that. Cindy said, “Mom, I can’t go, I’m in the hospital.” Flo must have known that, because she had called the hospital room rather than Cindy’s cell phone. Flo called again yesterday asking for Ward Bond, and for Cindy to come over and cut her hair. Trina had arranged for the nursing home beautician to do Flo’s hair, but I guess Flo prefers to have Cindy do it. By the way, she is still waiting for Ward.

I wasn’t at the hospital when Cindy was released. She had sent me home because she had friends there who wanted to ferry her home. Cindy tells me that she was given no follow-up instructions, such as if she can shower, does she need to change her dressings, little things like that. The hospitaler (Really, that is a title? I thought they were crusaders.) just told her not to lift more than 20 lbs. for 2 weeks (which we already knew), and that she shouldn’t wash dishes because the motion in her midsection could pop stitches. Where did she get off telling Cindy not to perform domestic duties? I mean, REALLY!

They didn’t bring a wheelchair to take Cindy to the entrance. When Cindy tried to get the attention of the nurses, they thought she was waving goodbye, and they waved back.

So ended Cindy’s stay at the hospital. And so ends my tale.