Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ann's Thanksgiving surprise!

Ann had a little surprise for us on Thanksgiving... see what you think!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

weather weenie video

I know you think I'm a weather weenie -- guilty as charged and if you're going to admit to something, this ain't bad to cop to -- so here's the proof looking out our back porch, today.  And our back porch is around 20 miles east of Seattle.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ann joins the circus

6 days into recovery and Ann has decided to run away and join the circus.  Here's her audition video for Cirque du Soleil's new show, "RampArts" -- she'll be appearing under the stage name, "The Dancing Ramp Girl."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sponge Ann Square Pants

OK… think about this for a minute.  What two-word combinations conjure up images that simply cannot be explained?  I don't mean you can't explain them --  I mean you don't have to.  Either you get them or you don't -- no amount of explanation will get you much farther down the road than you were when you first heard them: "home run", "happy hour", "dip stick", "fat chance", "sponge bath"… like that.  And, I don't know about you, but my experience has been that "dip stick", "fat chance" and "sponge bath" all seem to happen in the same sentence, in relative close proximity. 

So when Nurse Discharge was going over the instructions it was kinda like: "… schedule her meds, elevate the legs, ice for twenty minutes -- sound fades out… droning sounds fade in… Charlie Brown sentence compression kicks in… blah blah blah… sponge bath… blah blah blah… WHOA, HIT REWIND!" 

Of course you can't actually say, "Hit rewind" because then everyone knows you'd dropped off around page 9, so you go back in with the "Really, I was paying attention but your instructions weren't clear" clarifier: "Now, just to be clear, with the sponge bath it doesn't have to be done with an actual sponge"  was all I could come up with before we moved on to page 10.  Lame, I admit… but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

Nurse D. pauses like maybe she's clarified this before with some other husband and then "No if you want to soap up your tongue and use that, you can" is what I thought she said -- woulda bet money on it -- but then Ann pipes up and says, "We've got plenty of washcloths, it won't be a problem."  Washcloths?  How'd we jump the track and start plowing up the siding?

Anyway, you say "sponge bath" to a guy and he -- which is to say, "me" -- goes right to the soft music, low lights, some kind of French washy thingie they don't sell here because it's illegal in all Southern States, maybe a grape or two rolling around… you know, a HOLLYWOOD sponge bath.  One that does NOT include any help from your adult daughter the elementary school teacher who has no shortage of helpful lesson plans already mapped out in her head and delivers them like you're sitting in the time-out corner, or the cat whose sole job is, apparently, to provide down-field blocking so you can trip over him while you're running down the hallway with a soapy washcloth in one hand and a rinser cloth in the other as your wife calls out, "Don't forget the other towel".  And not one damn grape anywhere in sight.

Icing, on the other hand, is an entirely different nuance.  Here, everyone's an expert and everyone knows how you should do it and is willing to give you legion of advice, which is very handy because none of them are ever around when you need them.  And let's be clear -- there's really not that much advice to give me about ice -- you wanna be helpful, start filling up them ice bladders and shut up the hell up about how it's easier with an ice machine (I ain't got one, ain't gonna get one, thanks for the helpful tip), how the gel-packs are better because they're re-freezable so I'm reducing my carbon footprint by not using energy to make ice (a: I have two words for you and one of them IS "you" and 2: it only takes the gel-packs around 9 days to refreeze, so that's pretty handy), and finally -- and most importantly (I know this is a run-on sentence, Mrs. Waldrop didn't like them, either), I got six ice bladders, each of which take 22 ice cubes from our refrigerator's ice maker, so do the math and tell me how much ice I'll have left over after each knee icing to make myself a 20oz rum and coke and keep it at a constant temperature of around 47 degrees for no less than 20 minutes.  Myers, if it matters.

In case you want to be especially helpful, Ann has her meds at 2:30am and so far I've been setting the alarm clock on my iPhone, but if you're going to be up, you can call me and make sure I didn't sleep through it -- like I did Saturday morning, which got me kicked off the Christmas list.  Again, Myer's if you're fronting for Santa, Captain Morgan's if you're not.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day Three and The Great Escape

By the time she hit day three of knees replacement, Ann was getting downright cocky with the nurses: "Walk to the water fountain? THAT all you got?  The corridor past the fountain? Put a bell on my walker and I'll back this bad boy around the corner at the end of the hall.  A loop around the entire floor without a cut-through at the nurses station?  This IS supposed to be rehab, right?"

OK, so maybe it was just the drugs talking and the nurses should have known that but I think Ann blew through their sense of humor when she started playing "Flight of the Bumble Bee" on her nurse's call button.  Not sure why this harshed their mellow because they were all in the break room and couldn't hear anything.  Anyhow, the meds were already an hour late so Ann started working on the "Orange Blossom Express".  And apparently there is a "Note to self" section in the chart because the next day, "The Shermanator" arrived.

Sherman is THE physical terrorist (therapist) they run in on you when they want to put you in detention, but all the rooms are full.  And Sherm shows up with a list, which looks uncharacteristically customized for E318.

"She has to be able to do certain exercises before she can home -- these let us know where she is in her recovery and what to expect for her rehab.  It's pretty standard stuff, really." He shows me the list: the ankle pump, leg dangle, knee bend, heel slide, butt scoot and, of course, the stair climb.

I flip the list over and back and say, "I don't see any jumping jacks, one-arm push-ups, or Chinese splits." He doesn't miss a beat, "Oh, you can add anything you want when you get home, as long as she keeps doing those."

With that he swings into action and has Ann doing tricks like a circus dog.  Looks painful as hell and it's all I can do to watch.  She's pumping and lifting and bending and dangling and sliding and I'm exhausted.  Then we get to the butt scoot -- which, as it turns out, isn't as interesting as you might think.

What happens is, you plant your feet on the floor and scoot your butt off the chair, toward your feet.  In the event you understand as little about body mechanics as I do, the net effect is that this causes your knee to bend MORE than it wants to. Way more.  Never mind more than YOU want it to. 

"Sherman, that looks like it hurts like hell."

"Oh, yeah -- it's like your knee is giving birth to a kangaroo."  Interesting.  Would that be anything like ME hitting YOUR thumb with a two-pound sledge hammer while shaving your head with cheese grater?

But the Shermster is ecstatic and has been won over to Ann's side -- "She's gone from 83 degrees to 104 degrees!" Yeah, well, I figured she's be hot about THAT little piece of torture.  He says, "No, her range of motion is great… fabulous… she's blowing my doors off."

Easy boy… back it up there, pilgrim .  I got seniority and then there's our tom-cat and then the kid down the street she keeps buying cookie dough from, not to mention the guy with the cute butt who cleans our windows that the neighbor lady comes over to watch.

Next is the stair climb and I figure we got this one cooked because a) we don't have any stairs plus which I just got through b) installing a twelve foot all-metal ramp to get her over the three steps to our living room.  Rules are rules, though and we need to practice the stairs, just in case.  Just in case what, she moves in with the window cleaning guy?

So, today is the big day and we're got all our prescriptions, had two or three social workers stop by setting up physical therapy, and got our final debriefing from the nurse about what not to do under virtually any circumstance -- which essentially boils down to "Whatever you do, don't fall". 

Then it's time for me to start hauling out clothes, leg braces, ice packs, bandages, leg supports, paper work, plus all the really cool stuff like water jugs, puke trays, stolen towels, ice buckets… like that.  Erica decided if someone could have a harp in their room there was no reason for us to bring Ann flowers when a Christmas tree would look just fetching, so that had to go last (no, I'm not making this up).

And I'm making my first trip in the elevator when a very nice young girl in scrubs (I dunno, 23, 24 years old?) looks at me and says with a smile, "So, today's the big day, eh?"  And I say, "Yeah, The Great Escape."  You know how it is when you invoke something that has a mutual commonality to it, there's an INSTANT bond with the other person?  She nods, enthusiastically -- she gets it, we have a connection. And she says, "Yeah, The Great Escape.  That's the one where James Dean jumps his motorcycle over the fence, right?"  Yup.  And then he races through the streets of Saigon and picks up Linda Blair at the Bates Motel.

We're home, we're on drugs, we may or may not answer the phone, but if you want to deliver food please make it something we don't have to fight the cat for, he's a lot faster than he looks.

Day Two

Dateline Bellevue, WA: After a detailed progress report on the hospital's primary research and development project, the Board of Directors of Oversight Hospital are pleased to announce that at 0945 PST, Ann Acton peed.  In related news, attending physician Dr. Ewebee Copay reports that Ms. Acton, using only a walker, two assistants, and three Volkswagen-sized helium balloons, was able to walk to the nurse's station to analyze the nutritional value of Jello shots in the vacuum packs. Informed of this unexpected turn of events and its obvious implications, President Obama named Ms. Acton to his blue-ribbon panel for hospital reform on primary-color foods saying, "This is extraordinary progress, but we can do better -- we must do better, for the sake of our country, for the sake of our children, and the sake of starving husbands everywhere."

So, in the event you didn't check CNN today, we (and by "we" I mean "Ann") made HUGE-O progress.  She walked well before she was expected to, did so before physical therapy, and basically blew the doors off the staff, several of whom stopped by to congratulate her on extraordinary progress for a double knee procedure.  She's determined, tough, focused and scared the hell out of me -- I keep watching her thinking, "Could I do that?" Answer, not without a LOT more drugs, less ice in the rum and a significantly higher proof rate, say… 151 and in the higher latitudes.

But if you really want to be the BMOC, show up with someone who is having a double and everyone else looks like bed-wettin' commies -- the staff even smirks at them in group.  I didn't say YOU had to be the one having the double to swagger into group, nod at the wife and roll your eyes at the future former Mr. Macho grunting through only one side of exercises, thinking he was hot stuff until the Babe With The Double showed up.

"Class, we have a new comer to the group. Her name is Ann, she had a double procedure yesterday, has already gone to the bathroom all by herself, walked down the hall in her walker THIS morning and then did The Grand Central Station double dutch rope-jumping trick before coming down here; she is the only patient in the hospital going through a double right now and while I know these exercises are difficult and extremely painful, if any of you one-knee slackers bails on their reps today, President Obama has personally authorized Ms. Acton to bitch-slap you back into your rooms.  Are there any questions?"

After the introductions a 75-year old gal says to Ann, "You're having TWO done at the same time? This hurts so bad that if I ever need the other one done, I'm going to drink more vodka, take hands full of Vicodin and learn how to limp, instead."  And I think that about sums up why Ann isn't doing this more than once.

So, just before dinner the entire Acton clan (all three of us) are gathered around the bed (OK, two people cannot gather AROUND a bed occupied by a third, but when the obits say "He died surrounded by his family", don't you ever wonder if he was trying to get away at the time?).  Anyhow, we're chatting away when Erica casually fobs off, "Hey, a six-foot harp just went by."

You know, you reach a point in your life when you start questioning your own first-hand experience: Was the light red? Did I lock the back door?  Have my pants been unzipped ALL day?  But when your adult daughter drops a six-foot harp on you, discretion requires you go through all the permutations before you take a turn down "What the Hell Lane?"

This is a good time to mention that when Erica was eight-years old she charged into our bedroom at 2am, threw her cat overhand onto the bed and screamed, "There's a bird in my room, there's a bird in my room." To this day, I contend that was the night my atrial fibrillation began.  Bird in my room… harp in the hallway.  You'll excuse me if I remain seated.

So, I'm thinking, "what could she possibly have REALLY said?" Harp… umm, carp -- could be… carp kinda sounds like harp if you're not expecting either.  I wasn’t expecting a bird and that rhymes with stuff you don't want to see at 2am.

But a six-foot harp or a six-foot carp seem equally unlikely, so either Overlake's nuclear medicine department is leaking into a local stream or Erica's fourth graders have driven her to hallucinogens.  And about that time my wife says, "blah blah blah left over muffin blah blah blah" which the male brain interprets as "Squirrel" and I started chasing the muffin, forgetting all about the harp-carp.

About 20 minutes later, from down the hall, we hear harp music.  There is harp music… it's special music (I wouldn't be surprised if it has its own Olympics), it ain't like other music… you ain't ever gonna hear a harp doing "Smoke on the Water" so when you hear harp music it sticks with you like Lawrence Welk doing a cover of Musac tunes.  And trust me when I tell you it ain't nothing like carp music. 

OK, so we got a harp in the house.  Why do we have a harp in the house and whose house is it in?  I'm dispatched from East 318 and upon investigation, discover said aforementioned harp in East 315 doing a set in a private room.  And let me tell you when you stuff a concert harp into a private hospital room, you have just enough room to go outside and change your mind.  I was going to ask when the jugglers were showing up but just as I was forming the words, the harpist moved into a medley of Michael Bolton and I was starting to feel suicidal. 

By the time I got back to the room, Ann was strapping on her leg braces again and I thought she was going to make a break for it… turns out she was just showing off again, going for another spin around the floor with her tattooed boy-toy med-tech.

Tomorrow is Day Three and I hope something happens to break the tedium. 

Day One

Ann's doing fine, though she is frankly going through a bloody fortune in perfectly good margarita ice which could otherwise be put to better use for all concerned.  Ice is ice and cold is cold and ice on the knees or margaritas in the belly seem an even match to me, though admittedly a doctorate in law does not give me the right to prescribe drugs and so much the worse for society.  Trust me, if lawyers could prescribe drugs, everyone would like them a lot more.

Ann slept most of the day, waking up every now and then to inquire about the time; I'd check my watch and tell her and then she'd look puzzled as hell and pass out again. I didn't notice until the third or fourth rotation of "What time is it?" that the clock on the wall she could see hadn't been set back from Day Light Savings and was an hour ahead.  And when I finally figured out what was going on, I was too far in to confess I hadn't looked at the clock on the wall when I told her what time it was, so I did the honorable thing and just kept lying to her.  It was kinda like our own little time travel experiment -- we're both in the same dimension but at different times. Still, I gotta bust a move tomorrow morning and change the clock before she sobers up.

Turns out they have a copy of the Geneva Convention at the hospital and decided to put her in solitary confinement and not walk her around today.  Frankly, much relief on my part given her level of anesthesia -- all I could see in my head was a clip of Buster Keaton hanging off the hands of that clock.  She did get nauseous once and told the nurse she didn't want to do a Linda Blair.  This was nothing short of brilliant given her condition.  The nurse -- apparently all of 12-years-old -- looked at both of us and said, "Who is that?"  How do you explain Linda Blair to someone who isn't as old as your belt?

 Tomorrow is physical therapy at 9AM followed by group therapy at 1PM.  OK, I get physical therapy: "Alright, now sit up, bend your knees, and stop screaming." But group therapy -- what could possibly be going there?

"Hello, my name is Ann, and I'm a knee abuser."
"Hi, Ann"
"I've been a knee abuser for years and am here to break the cycle of abuse."
"Welcome, Ann."
"I'm here because I know time takes time and patience takes patience and what I really want to do is spend the rest of my life gardening so I'll have a beautiful place to bury the body of the scum sucking rat-face liar that talked me into this surgery."
"Right on, girl friend -- if you're making a list, here's ours, too."
"Thank you -- fear is the opposite of faith and I have faith we can track these people down and...

OK, maybe it won't go exactly like that, but I'm just saying that no good can come to any group making decisions while wearing Percocet prescriptions folded into party hats.

I'll see if I can't sneak something out to you during the day - I know many of you have money on how long I am going to last as the primary care-giver and I don't want to skew the odds of the pool by holding back information.

Here We Go!

OK, kids... get out your prayer rugs and worry beads, Ann goes in tomorrow morning (the 9th) for 1.5 knee replacements (math wasn't my strong suit, but I keep wondering how many times 1.5 goes into 2 and what's left over). We check into the hospital at 5:30AM -- yes, I thought that was a misprint too -- and Doctor Copay floats in around 7:30AM for some pre-game tailgating.

Apparently the most important thing for the team to agree on during the pre-game is which knee is the "1" and which is the ".5", with a tie vote going to the insurance company rep who will be checking regularly to see if our premiums are still current and thus whether Ann's stitches will be close together or far apart (Lesson: read the fine print in your policy, it's all important).

Three or four hours later, depending on who you ask and whether they had a mop in their hand when you asked, Ann is wheeled into recovery whether they're finished or not -- and they start playing Michael Flatley Irish clogging music so she'll be all jacked up when they FORCE HER TO START WALKING IN THE AFTERNOON... OF TOMORROW!  No, that's not a misprint either and I'll be spending some time tonight browsing the Geneva Convention as I'm certain you couldn't treat prisoners of war like that.

It's not entirely clear when she will get to her room but there is an even chance she'll be sharing Suite Gitmo with three other women who have also run afoul of the Geneva Convention.  The good news is that with four dopey women on meds, there's an even chance I can fill some prescription orders for you out of their dixie cups so please get your requests in early as she's only going to be there through Saturday morning. 

On a more personal note I would like to mention a fondness for lasagna, pizza, Stella Artois, and hot dogs -- none of which I can have now because I'm on a diet but I thought you should know how we used to roll around here and that you could send the occasional porterhouse instead.

Aside from being elected to the position of Primary Caregiver, I have also been nominated as Event Historian and will be tasked with bringing you up-to-the-moment breaking news -- along with selected videos and still shots.  This looks like a documentary to me, but then I thought I'd be doing shampoo commercials in my retirement.


On November 8th, Ann had a full knee replacement on her left knee and a partial on her right. I'm back filling my blog with the update reports I sent out while she was in the hospital, entitled -- surprise -- Here We Go, Day One, Day Two and Day Three and the Great Escape.