!!!! WARNING!!!!

This post contains language of a disturbing nature. Proceed with caution if you are prone to having a queasy stomach, have eaten undercooked eggs recently or are about to operate heavy machinery.

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As many of you know, through years of experience, I have learned to avoid dangerous situations such as bounce houses, ball pits and other venues where small children tend to gather with their cute but nevertheless germ infested hands and faces. This behavior in no way suggests that I have a W.C. Fields type phobia of children, as I adore the little homunculi. Rather it is my personal attempt to stay germ free during the sneezing season.

Unfortunately, my 4-year-old namesake grandson, Bennett Woodrow takes the other approach and abandons all caution to the ill wind in these situations. You remember Bennett Woodrow, he is the one who caused me to be put into my first and only timeout. (See Timeouts,  July 26, 2011 )

Anyway, being full of Christmas candy, fun and frolic after several gatherings with other small, germy people his size, the predictable result came about while riding in Aimee’s car. Bennett, while securely strapped in his travel seat, suddenly, without warning let fly a tsunami of oral projectile madness.

Being on the highway, it took Aimee several minutes to stop and when she finally did, and turned to view the back seat, her worst vomit nightmare was laid out before her.

The car was trashed.

Bennett was covered with his own emetic madness and the iPad he was holding was floating in what appeared to be some very unpleasant smelling oatmeal.

Cleaning up Bennett, was easy enough, he hoses down pretty well, and soon he was racing around again in his brand clean batman shirt looking for new piles of schmutz to adhere to.

With the car being detailed, ( by someone who no doubt deserves a very large tip!)  Aimee turned her attention to the iPad. She cleaned it up as best she could and gave it to Kent to take to the Apple store to see what the geniuses there could do about it.

Arriving at the store, Kent presented the machine to one of the geniuses and explained the problem in precise detail.

Kent: “This iPad is not working.”

Genius: After close examination of the machine, ” There is a lot of schmutz in here.”

Kent: ” That’s what I was thinking.”

I don’t know what happened next, but about an hour later, Kent arrived home with a replacement iPad, which was at once hermetically sealed to prevent any possible cross contamination.

I tell you all this because next week, Bennett and Co. will be coming to Florida to see me, my oranges and my cows. Not necessarily in order of their enthusiasm.

In discussing the planned events for the week with Aimee, she advised that they would be flying into Orlando to see Mickey and company. Then they would rent a car and drive to southwest Florida.

She noted that Bennett was especially anxious to pick oranges and do some  ridin’ and ropin’ with the cows. Adding that, after the car/iPad/projectile incident, it will be a great relief to let him run free on grandpa’s farm.

Oh yeah, I thought to myself.  what schmutz could he possibly get into in a cow pasture?

Well at least the car is a rental.

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The Mystery of the Hair

December 27, 2012

“…Let it fly in the breeze

and get caught in the trees

Give home to the fleas in my hair…”

Hair, 1967

The other day I was in the drug store waiting in line to pay for some items.

While standing there, I noticed on one of those little metal displays, a product that claimed to solve unwanted ear hair problems, before they became issues.
I was going to read further, but it was my turn to pay, so I tendered my money and left the hairy solutions counter for the wolfman behind me to enjoy.
When I got home, I met Donna in the kitchen.
Prepping her, I stated, ” I need to ask you a question. It’s sort of personal.”
“Uh, oh, what is it ?”
” When does ear hair become an issue ?”
“What ?!”
Me: “You know, is it an issue when you can hear the wind rushing through it, like leaves on a tree, …or when your hearing gets impaired, like with that ear wax thing?”
Looking at me like I just grew a third ear, she pronounced, “I would think ear hair, as with nose hair is an issue if you can SEE it!”
I glanced at Mikey and saw his impressive four-inch ears and his copious amounts of hair in and around them. I thought briefly of taking the juvenile route by referring her to Mikey’s stylish Wookie look, but thought better of it.

Instead, I replied, “But, I can’t see it.”

Donna: “Yes, but other people can and that is the point. It is a distraction. Besides it looks unkempt.”
Immediately, I had a flashback to a professor  in college, Dr. Kimelman. Herr Dr. Kimelman was a German professor from Brazil, (yep, that’s right) who taught mathematics. I remember concentrating on his moustache sized, waxed eyebrows and his hairy ears so,  I often did not hear his heavily accented explanations for the law of cosines I was supposed to be learning.

OK, I guess I can see why keeping unsightly ear tufts under control is important. I certainly do not want to become anyone’s distraction or  be mistaken for Chewbacca due to explosive ear hair growth.

But why is hair growing  in the hinterland of the ear considered hideous, but not if it adorns the great plains of one’s pate?

Hair continues to vex me.

Physicians and Farmers

September 7, 2012

My friend and physician, Dr. Zorro often says that one of the best parts of his job is playing detective. He likens the process of diagnosis to solving a mystery or a puzzle.

Using years of experience and education with incredible diagnostic tools such as blood analysis, x-ray, MRI etc., he forms an opinion as to what is wrong with the patient. Then he can prescribe a course of treatment. Sometimes it is easier than others as he reminds me, “… after seeing about 10,000 sore throats, you sort of know what to look for.”

On the other hand some diseases mimic many others, so much more careful and indepth analysis is required.

Being a farmer is similar in many aspects.
You have trees that contract diseases, and it is your job to find out what is wrong. Unlike Dr. Zorro, when I ask my “patients” where does it hurt? They remain stoically silent.

I also can not perform blood work or x-rays to aid in analysis. I rely on visual assessment of leaves, fruit and overall presentation of the tree. I can do soil samples and refer to the environmental factors present, such as moisture, seasonal effects and application of sunlight. Then I usually consult with “specialists” and come up with a diagnosis and a treatment plan. It may require a fungicide,  fertilizer or some other chemical or beneficial biological agent.

Chemical companies like pharmaceutical suppliers of human drugs have finely tuned applications and pathways to target the offending pathogen.

Also, the correct dosage must be calculated to insure just the right amount of the drug is applied to solve the problem. Too little and it won’t correct the problem, too much and it might blow up the fruit and cause more damage.
Hippocrates had it correct when he said, “First, do no harm.”

He just needed to include farmers in his admonishment too.

Acid irony.

May 7, 2012

Over the past 15 years or so, I must have grown 50-60 million pounds of oranges. I don’t know how much citric acid was produced by those oranges, but let’s just say , a lot.

So I was somewhat surprised when Dr. Pugil called me with the results of my 24 hour urine collection project.

Recall that was the time a couple of weeks ago when I thought I messed up the envelopes and sent my tax return to the lab and the 24 hours of urine to the IRS. Well, apparently, the post office got it right and the urine got to the lab and the tax return got to Washington.

Or, perhaps the IRS did some DNA analysis in an attempt to track me down!

Regardless, The results showed that my citrates were too low and that was permitting the kidney stones to develop. Well, you could have knocked me over with an orange peel. Apparently, just being around oranges does not provide you with citric acid. I had no idea.
Anyway, now I am sucking lemons, eating oranges and drinking their juice (with or without vodka) with reckless abandon.

Well, the watchful waiting is over. In fact it has been over for quite some time. Early in March it was confirmed that beyond any reasonable doubt I had a case of the shingles and a kidney stone the size of Rhode Island in my left kidney. Actually, it was ONLY 1.2 centimeters, it just felt like Rhode Island, or maybe Texas.

It was determined, by my urologist, Dr. Pugil that an ESWL procedure needed to be performed to break up the stone so it could pass. ESWL or Lithotripsy, is a German invention which uses sonic waves to blast the calcified stone into fragments.

When Dr. Zorro heard that this was being done to me, he said, ” you know breaking rocks up always reminds me of that Three Stooges episode with the stooges in their Sing Sing prison outfits smashing rocks over each other.”

Great, I hope Dr. Pugil did not see the Three Stooges.

Apparent he did not as he blasted my stone 3000 times in 40 minutes with that sonic gun. Shattering it in a 100 pieces so I could “pass” it easily.

So now, I am on the rocky road to recovery. The stone is gone and the shingles are abated.

Just as I was starting to feel good, when I picked up a case of poison ivy.

I think I got it from Mikey.

Et tu, Mikey.

Ok, It has been two weeks now since my heartfelt adventure and my stay in the hospital. The ride back to St. Louis from the beautiful mountains of North Carolina was long, but not unpleasant. Under doctor’s orders not to drive, I was free to look out the window and comment on the passing tableau while Tom and Donna did the driving.

The doctor also ordered me not to lift anything heavier than ten pounds, which came in handy when it was time to unload the car. I am thinking of getting a tee-shirt that says,         

” I can’t pick up anything heavier than 10 lbs

–Doctor’s Orders.”

Once back in town, I set up an appointment with Dr. Zorro to go over my entire episode. I arrived mid morning for my appointment. For the next two hours, my friend and physician went over with me the hospital report, lab results, the physiology of the human heart and how mine was a little different now. He explained these things in such detail that I was able to understand clearly what all this heart healthy living business actually does.

We went over my medicines and he prescribed diet and lifestyle goals for me  to shoot for.

Finally, Dr. Zorro wrote a letter of introduction to a respected cardiologist for follow-up.

So now, I have a new and better appreciation for how things work in the human body and the true wonders that our scientists and doctors can work to make things better for all of us. I also understand that even though you might have acceptable, even good lab blood test numbers, they could always be better.

I am now a living,  breathing part of this process, where in the past I viewed heart healthy as just a casual occurrence to be observed–like watching TV.

Now it is real and a part of me and I intend to follow this adventure as far as I can.

The visitors and vampires began arriving early. The first was at 4 am. I told her to go away, I had no more blood to give.

They never listen.

By 8 o’clock, when Dr. Oscar came in,  I was ready for anything,  just not to be stuck again. We had a nice chat. He explained the procedure again, its risks and what to expect afterwards. He said there is a 1 in 1000 chance something would go wrong. I started calculating my chances and wanted to ask him if  his  procedure count was around 999, but I did not.

Dr. Oscar left after telling me, I would probably go downstairs  late morning and if all went well, I would be discharged the next day.

About 10:30 Clarence took me down to the prep room where, Emily “prepped” me. Prepping involved giving me a saline IV, shaving the incision area and covering me with nice, warm blankets.

I must admit I never had anything near what they now call a ” Brazilian. ”  But I have to say, I have one now.

After waiting about 40 minutes, I was told, I would have to wait a bit longer as even though they have three cardiac labs, a couple of emergencies were put ahead of me. That was fine with me, emergencies go first.

About 2:30 they wheeled me in to the lab. Strangely, it was an inviting room with adequate  but not overbearing lighting. There were about six nurses moving around with a high degree of efficiency and purpose. They all said hello and asked me what type of music I like. I told them I did not care. The next thing I knew they put on some Pete Seeger. The impressive sound system made the  place seemed like a dance club.

Then Dr. Pei came in and introduced himself as he started to work on my right hip area. Meanwhile, Emily began putting some happy juice into the IV and I was feeling relaxed enough not to notice that Dr. Pei had inserted a catheter up my femoral artery and into my heart. He was now injecting dye and taking pictures faster than a Japanese tourist.

He pointed out the problem area which I could see on the overhead screen. There was a blockage in a secondary artery which provides blood to the heart muscle itself.

“No stent for you,” he said.  “This is too small an area. We will treat it with medicine. You get an A+.”

I got an A plus! 

Well I was feeling pretty happy with that when one of the moving x-ray cameras bumped me in the nose.

“Sorry,” apologized, Dr. Pei.

Everyone then shut down the operation and I was whisked off to recovery where Edwina, the post procedure nurse began applying compression to the incision in my artery so I would not bleed to death. Thanks, Edwina!

About a half hour later, I was taken back to my room and reminded I could not move for 4 hours or risk opening up that artery.

So as I laid there, thinking how much saline solution they pumped into me and how badly I wanted to pee, I did feel relaxed with my A plus and glad that the procedure provided a picture of what was going on. A sense of calm surrounded me as I thought about what would happen next.

However, I could not stand it anymore.  I just had to pee, so I grabbed hold of  my little plastic urinal friend and for the first time in my life, peed laying down. Such relief.

Ok, feeling much better, I was back  thinking about the past 48 hours of my life.

So now where do I go from here?  I had an acute cardiac event and  a studied and reasonable assessment of what the future holds. I am grateful for all the excellent, professional care I received and I have a plan and a code to live by going forward. I am optimistic about the future.

What more could a person ask?  After all, there are simply no guarantees in life.