Welcome to the Beach House

It was a mad dash getting ready to leave our house for a month during the kitchen remodel. My wife did most of the work emptying the kitchen cabinets, carefully packing at first, followed by filling our living room with food and cooking utensils. We’re ready to be featured in an episode of Cops with viewers at home commenting, “how can people live like that?”

Adios, old kitchen. Goodbye to the mismatched stove and hood, Home Depot cabinets, tile with crumbling grout, and 17-year old microwave. In with the new.

Before leaving for the rented beach house, the Universe punished me for my good fortune. Blood from my lungs. I told the dang doctors in the hospital that I had some blood coming up, but they kept telling me it was from the sinus surgery. Wrong. 15 days in the hospital and I get out for over a week and I have bleeding. Argh. Moments like that test me the most, as just when I think I’m in the clear for a period of time, I find out I’m not.

Hello to two weeks of cipro. Crossing my fingers it does the trick.

I’m writing this post in the house that is close enough to the ocean to hear the waves crashing on the beach. It’s pretty awesome. Today after work the three of us and two dogs walked the couple hundred feet to the sand. Again, awesome.

I did, however, under dress. It’s July, 100 degrees where we normally live, and yet, 45 minutes away here at the beach it’s 65 to 70 – and cold at times. I need to drive home and get some warm clothes, like a jacket to protect me against the wind at the beach, and my Denver Bronco pajamas to keep me warm in the morning. And though it’s overcast most of the time, it’s as good as I dreamed it would be.

Yes, I am still the luckiest guy in the world.

Advertisements

Nose Bleed from Hell

The day after I left the hospital, I woke up from a dead sleep with my nose streaming blood. It bled for over three hours. The first two hours, a steady flow, were the scariest, sending me to the ER at 3:30 in the morning, wife and daughter with iPad in tow. And once again I know why I could never kill anyone. It’s the blood. Not that I’m shy about seeing it, but it gets everywhere. And unless you’re Dexter and wrap up your victim in plastic, you’re going to get caught because of it. We’re still finding brown spots in our house days later.

As I had my hands full during this ER stay and didn’t think to snap a photo, I used a photo from my last visit, which wasn’t that long ago. Argh.

At the ER, the nice, but “unseasoned” doctor first sprayed Afrin in my nose, which is a great trick to know when you need to stop a bleed. But, and here is another important thing to know when you have a bloody nose, if your blood pressure goes up because you’re anxious, the bleeding may continue. And that’s what happened to me, causing an “Afrin fail,” though we didn’t understand the blood pressure connection at that point.

Move on to Plan B and bring on the tampon nose-balloons. Insertion and inflation complete, I bled around them, over them, under them. Until I didn’t. Then the blood built up and drained down the back of my throat. Then they leaked again. Second fail. What’s Plan C?

I had a moment where I wondered if I should invite my wife and daughter back to the room filled with red and white towels because the doctor sounded like he was out of tricks and I had this strange feeling that after all of these years I might be killed by a bloody nose. Irony?

The bleeding went on until I did two things. I made the connection between anxiety and what the volume of blood coming out of my nose and asked for something to relax me. I received an Ativan tablet, which surprised me as they had an IV in me and could have express-trained the dose. I also called my sinus doctor since I thought I needed to take control and do everything I could to fix the situation. To my surprise he called me back, instructing the ER doctor to get my blood pressure down (as in get me to relax), tilt my head forward, and place an ice pack on my nose and forehead.

Hello to more Ativan and a blue bag filled with ice. 30 minutes or so later my nose was down to an annoying faucet-like drip and I was slurring my words. And after three hours at the ER, I let my wife drive me home.

Nine hours after the bloody nose started, I arrived at the sinus doctor. He deflated and removed the balloons, mixed up some glue-like substance that reminded me of the time I epoxied rebar into cement, coated my sinuses with it, and the bleeding stopped. Relief at last.

He sent me home with a prescription for Ativan and the following advice should my nose start bleeding again: shove Afrin-soaked cotton balls up my nose, lean my head forward, squeeze my nostrils, place an icepack on my nose and forehead, and find a quiet place to remain calm. And kiss my ass goodbye.

Okay, not the last part, but you know that’s what I’ll be thinking if it happens again.

Day 13 in Solitary, July 2012 – Fear of a Derailment

20120715-122116.jpg

My neighbor called me at 11:30 last night. He had a heated argument with our shared neighbor, someone we feel is on the verge of madness, if he’s not already there, or violence based on the tone, language and volume of the arguments. This is the same neighbor who said something to my wife last year, which led to my showdown with him and my request for him never to speak to my wife again. He hasn’t spoken to either of us since, and that’s a good thing.

It’s hard being locked up at moments like this, my wife and daughter alone. An alarm system, security cameras, and two dogs don’t seem like enough against a neighbor showing signs one might associate with insanity. And knowing he has a gun adds to the great unknown and my fear. And once again I want to move. There is something very scary about this guy. Talking to him is the same as shooting yourself in the foot. Pointless and painful.

I may be released Monday or Tuesday. It’s not soon enough for me. I can breathe out of the right side of my nose now. The blood is minimal. My lungs feel good. And even my stomach, which has caused me four moths of problems, may be responding to a new medicine, Prozac. Yes, they put me on it because of my stomach. I’m hoping I get the side benefit of the anti-anxiety part because I have to confess I’m really tired of anxiety. It has little value in my life.

If there is a bright spot to this visit, it’s the view from my room, despite the filthy window. I mentioned the fireworks last week. However, I also have great view of the mountains. And I can see and hear the trains that go by, which is a treat here in LA. I love trains though I would never ride on one because I have a fear of derailment. Part of that is because of the bad drivers here in LA who are always trying to cross the track at the last minute. Some mistime it. Some commit suicide. Everyone pays.

So, here I sit fearing a derailment, not of trains but of my neighbor. And I can’t wait to escape to the rented beach house in two weeks and a month away from our neighborhood. The question is, will a month be enough time away?

Dog on a chain

20120712-215222.jpg

The doctors Rotor Rootered my sinuses yesterday. Their choice of verbs, not mine. And boy what a fun night it led to, my sinuses running red non-stop, completely dammed, making breathing through my mouth my only option.

Yes, last night the bleeding never ended and no one was that concerned. Or not as much as I was. I’m glad I didn’t have the surgery as an outpatient, though I would have probably been given better instructions and advanced warning about the blood faucet. The picture I attached shows about a quarter of the bleeding – at most.

When the doctors rounded this morning they told me the bleeding was normal and weren’t concerned. Timing is everything, and information like that would have been valuable to know yesterday, when I spent an hour on the Internet looking up post-surgery FAQs. Thanks for that, my white-coated friends. Fun with a capital FU. (I take that back. Thanks for not drilling into my avocado-sized brain yesterday.)

Like all hospital visits, this one has delivered its fair share of mental trials, like sleeping with blocked nasal passages and the last-minute catches of incorrect Tobra doses two days in a row – score one for the nurse and one for me. Isn’t delivering correct doses of IV meds a core skill? Come on, people, it’s not like accidentally adding an extra patty to a Big Mac. Get it right before my kidneys burst into flames.

Thanks to the Universe for a book I read recently, Unbroken. It recounts the true story of Louis Zamperini and what he endured during WWII. Big baby that I am, I thought of his hardships in Japanese POW camps and my discomfort became manageable. There will be no feeling sorry for myself here. Period.

10 to 14 days in the hospital? Easy time.

I developed a Bejeweled habit. I sit here for hours shuffling gems around and making colorful rows, then igniting the explosive ones. Bang, pow, pop, everyone clap. Hand to my heart, I’m really embarrassed, especially because I’ve earned a badge in every category. I’m holding my fingers in an “L” shape to my head right now. Usually I spend my time in Hell much better, but I’m tired and this is day 10.

I’ve done some work here, which is a “no no.” I can’t help it. I have projects to manage and to keep moving forward, and doing so makes me feel I have some control over my life despite being locked up and attached to an IV pole most of the day, which makes me a perfect candidate to come back in my next life as a hound dog chained to a backyard tree all day.

Bark, bark, bark, bark. In “dog” that means, “losing one’s freedom to roam bites the big one.”

Hospital Communication Tales

20120708-223156.jpg

There are certain things an attractive, charming, intelligent woman should never say to a dying man locked up and trapped in a room the size of a walk-in closet. At the top of the list is, “if there is anything I can do for you, anything at all, please let me know.”

Yes, one of the few RTs I have ever liked said this to me the other day. And I had to do a double take, my first thought complete confusion. Did I miss something? What does that mean? Was there some hidden meaning to it?

That’s the problem with saying something like that to a guy. Or to me. I’m not bright enough to understand an ambiguous statement. Does it mean you’ll get in your car and drive to McDonalds for me, buy me two McGriddles, and hand feed them to me while I recline in the hospital bed?

I’ve obsessed over the statement for two days now. And I’ve kicked myself for not simply asking, “What do you mean by that?” I’m sure it would have been innocent and harmless, as I look like . . . and smell like . . . five days of hospital grime and fevers. But I am a curious person with a vivid imagination set loose by ambiguities.

But that wasn’t the strangest thing said to me this week. It doesn’t come close. Here’s my favorite.

A nurse conducted her assessment – blood pressure, temp, pulse ox. And then she said this: “Turn around please and let me listen to those pretty little lungs.”

Yes.

I can’t make up something like that. Well, I guess I could, but I’m not sure I’d want to because it’s kind of creepy. And that’s what I said to her: “That may be the creepiest thing anyone has ever said to me in the hospital.”

But I said it with a smile on my face. I love odd statements, especially here in the pits of Hell. And when I joked about calling the HR department, she did a double-take. “I’m joking,” I said. “It’s all good, my lungs weren’t offended, but they aren’t feeling very pretty today.”

Awkward silence. Not sure she’ll be saying that to another patient now after I batted it around verbally for five minutes. Too bad. I ruined it for others. Or did I? Or are only my lungs pretty? I’d like to think so.

I’m not sure why I speak to doctors who work the weekend shift. There’s really no point. They’re here to collect the $300 or $400 for entering the room, and only want to make sure you’re still breathing and not lying on the floor in a pool of your body fluids with the word “anything?” written in your own blood on the board that reads “Pain Goal.” (Mine is in the photo.)

So, even if I cut off two of my own fingers and glued them to my head like a devil on Sunday, the weekend doctor would take one look and say, “you may want to mention that to your doctor on Monday.”

That’s it. It’s been a rough two days of not feeling well. And that damn statement? “Anything” with emphasis? What did that mean?

Yes, I have problems. I know.

20120708-223223.jpg

The 4th of July from a Hospital Room

20120705-224937.jpg

In the haze of two days of fevers and chills that came on suddenly Monday and sent me to the Hospital California Tuesday, who knew the universe would throw me a bone and deliver one of the most amazing fireworks displays I’ve ever seen. But that’s exactly what it did and I’m forever grateful for the gift.

I was arguing with a nurse for Tylenol, which I’m still shaking my head about in disbelief. I have a feeling I should have just asked for a morphine drip and compromised with Tylenol. But who knew Tylenol was a such a hard drug to secure in a hospital. I had to answer a series of questions at the time to get it. Last time I checked it wasn’t being used to make meth, and I didn’t bring my portable meth lab with me. But it went something like this.

“You don’t have a fever.”

“I have the chills. That’s why I’m wrapped up in blankets.”

“Your temperature is low, not high.”

“Okay? And that means I can’t have Tylenol?”

“You have to have a fever.”

“I have a headache.”

“Let me check with the doctor.”

Now picture that conversation three times longer and 10 times more frustrating. I wish I were making it up. But when the nurse was off duty this morning, the first thing I did was take her picture out of the plastic wall frame, which is something new here at the Hospital California, and tear it into pieces and despose of it. I couldn’t take her staring at me like a horror-movie painting where the eyes follow you everywhere.

At that time, a bit angry, I got up and looked out the window to my view of East Los Angeles. Fireworks everywhere. Not one location, or two or three or four. Try 20 different locations. Bagdad on the eve of the invasion. I have never seen anything like it.

I’m sure not all of the fireworks shows were sanctioned or legal. Many of them were backyard shows that put to shame anything my family ever did when fireworks were legal. We fired off pop-bottle rockets and roman candles, and ran from black cats ready to blow. Nothing like what I witnessed as apartment complexes gave mini Disney-like shows. And they were beautiful. 180 degrees of exploding lights.

I watched, for a long time, waiting for it to end. But it went on and on. And finally I had go back to the bed. And every time I got up there were fireworks in the sky. Over two hours of it, though it got more scattered late into the night. Huge props to East LA. They know how to celebrate Independence Day!

Earlier, my wife and daughter came to visit with patriotic red velvet cupcakes in hand. They had poppers with them and tried to convince me not fire them off in the room. Fear not, I said, pulling the string, I’m an expert. Bang, a spark, the smell of gunpowder. A nice change from the normal chemical smell. No nurse came running. It takes more than that. Trust me, I know.

And later during the fireworks show, I fired another one off, though it was equally disappointing, as it spit out a wad of confetti and not the expected wide spray of it. Party Poopers would be a better name.

That was my 4th of July. And though I was spent it in a tiny hospital room, it was awesome – except the nurse part. Not so awesome. And I’ll be bringing my own Tylenol to the party next time – thank you very much.

More kitchen appliance shopping – death of a salesman 2012

I ordered all of our new kitchen appliances on the Internet.

And though I’m thrilled to be finished with this dentist-visit-like step in the kitchen remodeling process, I feel bad about it.

I passed on the three retailers I mentioned in the previous post. It’s hard to buy something from a store when you’re not approached by anyone. I do, however, give Sears some props because when I tweeted about it they were concerned and wanted to know more about the experience. And Lowes tweeted too.

But that’s not why I feel bad.

Here’s a sample kitchen we like. It’s a lot of fun trying to pick the right shade of green. Almost as fun as sticking your hand in a running garbage disposal.

Our contractor gave us a tip on a family owned appliance business here in the valley. I called the store and spoke to a very helpful and knowledgeable salesperson. Tom, we’ll call him for this post. He gave me a good price on the appliances I wanted and was responsive by phone and email. I did the math and they were around $400 more than what the appliances would cost me on the Internet, figuring in no tax, but higher shipping costs.

My wife and I discussed it and decided it was worth it to buy locally and have better peace of mind should one of the appliances break down.

After looking at tile and more granite (don’t ask), and quartz, we went to the appliance store and met Tom. Again, super nice. And I had my credit card out and ready to go. But the stove I picked out didn’t have the hood style we liked and back in my wallet went the AMEX card. We drove home to research generic range covers and new stoves, telling Tom we would be back the next day to purchase the appliances.

I spent more hours Saturday night looking at stoves and reading reviews, which by the way was a killer, going back again – how many stoves and stove reviews can one wade through? Food for thought: angry people always take the time to leave negative reviews. And they always tell people not to buy anything from the brand they’re upset with. I soldiered past these.

Sample number 2 with green and white.

Up early Sunday morning, I continued reading and researching, wading through comments to sort out key points, like if a stove had a fan noise problem, or the dials melted (some do), or if the LED displays petered out over time. My OCD comes in quite handy at these moments.

Finally, I upgraded the stove, which made my wife happy because it’s all silver, no black, has a griddle feature, which made my daughter thrilled for the future pancakes she’ll try to flip but miss, turning them into taco shells.

This is the most I’ve ever spent on an appliance. It better cook like a charm and come with a personal chef to make me my McGriddles each morning.

I looked up the price of everything on the Internet. The local store doesn’t match internet prices. And the difference was at least $900, with 2/3 of that tax. I thought about calling the local store and seeing if they would match them, but I didn’t, as they told me the day before they didn’t match online-only prices. So, I ordered them off the Internet. And I felt very bad, but was thankful the Internet wasn’t around when I was a salesperson, which leads me to a question that may seem anti-American.

How are brick and mortar retailers supposed to compete with no-tax internet retailers?

It doesn’t seem fair that I can order a Whirlpool refrigerator from ABT and save sales tax, but if I order it online from Sears I pay tax for my state. I understand the early argument about wanting the internet to succeed in its infancy. But it seems well established now. I also understand why sales people stand around in these stores. They’re tired of spending time with customers who are milking them for research, then purchasing the items off of the internet – ask Best Buy how this is working out for them.

We’ve now moved to the “picking out countertops and backsplashes” stage. It’s even more painful, but in a different way. There are a lot of moving pieces. And I now understand why people resort to white subway tile backsplashes – simple, easy choice, and less chance of a mistake.

I wish it were that simple for us, but we like making things in life more difficult than they have to be. And we’re really good at it.