Thursday, November 10, 2011

Close Call

The last few weeks have been quite a ride.  My husband developed shortness of breath on October 18th.  He saw his doctor on the 19th, had an EKG and a chest x-ray (negative) and was scheduled for other tests in mid-November.  I kept asking him to go to the ER.  The shortness of breath got worse and worse, until we finally went to the ER on 10/26.  We found out that he had several large pulmonary emboli, and that the right chamber of his heart was greatly enlarged because it was working so hard to get blood into his lungs past the clots.

My husband had emergency open-heart surgery that day to remove the clots.  He spent the next 8 days in the Cardiovascular Unit (CVU) at the hospital.  Halloween this year is a blur to me.  He came home on November 3rd, and he is recuperating.  I have been fortunate to be able to take a good amount of time off to be with him.

My husband has to take Coumadin (and a big bunch of other drugs) for at least 6 months.  A visiting nurse comes twice a week to check his PT/INR level, to try to keep the dose of Coumadin regulated.  That's proved difficult, and he developed nosebleeds from the blood thinners.  We ended up taking off for the ER on Monday night (11/7) just after 11 PM.  We were there until almost 3 AM.  An incompetent ER doctor (he reminded me of all of the goofball interns on the medical shows we watch) left us in a cubicle for a couple of hours because he wanted to see if he bled anymore.  He did.  Then the idiot used Silver Nitrate to cauterize the bleeding blood vessels without numbing the area first.  My poor husband, who was less that 2 weeks out of open heart surgery, just about jumped off of the table.

The next morning, the bleeding started again.  We obviously were not going back to the ER.  We kept an appointment at the hospital with the surgeon that afternoon. His office sent us on to an ear/nose/throat specialist, who cauterized the blood vessels WITH the benefit of local anesthesia.  Unfortunately, the bleeding started AGAIN that night. We went back to the ENT the next morning (Wednesday), and he did some additional cauterization.  So far, so good (knock on wood).  It's Thursday night, and there has been no further bleeding of any significance. 

The visiting nurse came today, and the numbers are improving.  We actually got to spend the entire day at home today, and I got some cleaning done.  Life is returning to a more normal pattern, although there will be many doctor's appointments, as well as visits from the nurse and the physical therapist.  My husband still needs oxygen at night, and he won't be able to drive for at least a few more weeks.  He has to ride in the back seat for now, away from any possible deployment of an airbag.  He won't be able to lift more than five pounds for a couple of months, so I'll be busy taking care of the dogs, doing laundry, etc.  (That's OK!)

This week has felt like a bizarre road rally/scavenger hunt.  We found ourselves running to one place to pick up a clue which will send you on to the next place.  All the while we were hoping to make it to the prize.  Looks like we finally found it! 

Oh...and the cause of all of this?  The flight home from Italy led to a deep vein thrombosis in my husband's leg which, over the next few weeks, caused the clots in the lungs.  At the time of the heart surgery, a filter was installed which will prevent clots from the legs from ever reaching my husband's lungs again.           

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ciao Italia

Returned home from a tour of Italy on 10/6/11. It was a marvelous trip! Here are a few pics:

Saturday, May 28, 2011



Serenity, I mean. I began the year striving for it. I had some success for awhile, but I haven't done so well lately.

Work is hellish these days. Change is a daily event. No one (management most of all) knows what they are doing. There have been many unnecessary promotions ( and a very few necessary ones), leading to hordes of confused, overpaid supervisory staff. Our upper level administration is making changes merely for the sake of making changes, with no thought for outcomes. Thing is, I've been there so long and I've been through so many changes that it's making me cranky. A lot of the other veterans are feeling it, too.

There are two problems with government jobs: bad supervisors and golden handcuffs. There is a consistent tendency to promote people with good job skills and good work ethics who have no business being supervisors. Then the golden handcuffs kick in (medical benefits, pension) to keep unhappy workers there in spite of the bad boss.

To be honest, though, it's not just the changes at work that are getting to me. Several years ago I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor. The tumor secretes a hormone that affects my dopamine levels and can also affect estrogen levels. I have to take a medication that is a dopamine agonist to balance out the hormone levels and, hopefully, shrink the tumor. I've been taking it for 5 years now. It greatly reduces the levels of the unwanted hormone, and it has kept the tumor from growing. The tumor has not reduced in size.

It's not absolutely clear whether it's the ongoing effects of the tumor or the side effects of the medication (probably both), but a lot of people with my particular type of tumor have a lot of headaches, get anxious (sometimes including palpitations), and become irritable. And a lot of our doctors brush it off. That's because the tumor, when treated, is very manageable. When not treated, it can become very serious. There are only a few medications available to treat it, and the one I take has the fewest side effects. Stopping the medication is not an option and would not make me feel better. This tiny tumor (only 6mm) can cause great mayhem.

I don't mind telling people that I have a pituitary tumor, but I don't discuss the emotional impact it has. The only way that I know that the tumor is part of the problem is from online forums for people with the same issues. That's not exactly a scientific way to pin things down, it's just helpful to me personally. I don't like to blame my irritability on the tumor. Or on pending menopause. Or on the traumas of the past (we all have them). In the end, I have to acknowledge that I can't change any of those things, and I have to continue to try to find a path to serenity in spite of them. Like I said, it's not working out so well right now. But I'm not going to give up, it's a worthy pursuit.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


My mother and I have always thought that my father's side of the family might carry a hint of Asian ancestry. I have done genetic testing with 2 different companies, and I was disappointed when both companies reported my ancestry as 100% European. Of course, these results were provided based on comparison of my genetic material to databases that continues to grow and to be refined. I was pleasantly surprised when one of the companies recently updated my results to tell me that I am 95.76% Western European (Orcadian) and 4.24% South Asian (Pathan /Pashtun, Southeast Indian, North Indian).

I still don't think this tells the whole story of my ancestry. My father's parents were both Ukrainian, so I would expect to see some Eastern European ancestry in the mix. I have reason to think that my great, great, great grandmother (maternal) was of Dutch ancestry, but I still don't know a lot about her. I'll keep searching!

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Darned Hallmark Hall of Fame sucked me in and made me cry. The story was about a WWII widow who finally learns the fate of her husband. He had been declared to be MIA during the war.

I guess this was especially poignant to me because that was my parents' generation. World War II changed so much for that generation, even for those who didn't lose a loved one to the war. I guess our current wars will do the same for many.

We visited my mom today. She was admitted to the hospital last night with hip and leg pain due to a fall. So far, there does not seem to be a fracture (waiting for CT scan results). Her memory issues add another dimension to the whole thing because she keeps forgetting that she isn't supposed to get up and walk around. They're watching her closely while she's in the hospital. She currently lives (very happily) in an assisted living residence, but I suspect the time is approaching when she will need closer supervision.

I suspect that arthritis is playing a role in her discomfort. I wonder if there are some circulation problems causing her to have weak spells and to lose her balance. She'll probably need a wheelchair until the pain diminishes, but I don't think she'll remember to stay in it. Mom isn't disagreeable or combative, she just doesn't remember what she's supposed to do. Oh well, one step at a time. For the moment, her injuries do not appear to be serious, and that is good news.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Democracy Took a Hit Today

I have been watching the breaking news about the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and several other people in Tucson today, and I am moved to tears. I am sad for the young woman (40 is young to me) and her family, and I am sad for the constant chipping away at freedom that has been going on in the US for several years now. It seems to me that the beginning of the new intolerance dovetails with the beginning of the first G.W. Bush administration.

I now live in a state with a conservative narcissist/hedonist for governor. I live in a country where the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman and others incite violence against anyone who disagrees with their warped view of the world.

I know that there have always been crazy, rigid, unbalanced people in the world. The problem is that it's becoming mainstream to be one of those unhinged people. If the Republican Party really wants to be a respectable, conservative alternative in government, they have to disavow this wrathful, hateful element. There must be some sensible Republicans out there who would like to return their party to sanity. Let the crazies leave. If you can only keep your party alive by courting the unbalanced and fomenting hatred, well, there's something wrong.

We don't yet know what inspired this shooting, but it seems likely that Representative Giffords was targeted. The shooter might not have been a tea-partier, and might never have heard Sharron Angle's comments about using "2nd amendment remedies" to take over government. It doesn't matter. The culture of violence inspired by the tea party extremists and the right wing shock jocks has to end.