Thursday, October 31, 2013

Notes from the Home - October31, 2013

   Early Monday morning – five AM early – and with Russ at the wheel, we set out for the Emory Clinic in Atlanta. The primary purpose of this visit was the pre-admission testing for my Friday visit during which the battery and a few other parts of my baclofen pump will be replaced. If that is all that needs done, I’ll be back in Columbus Friday afternoon. Should they discover that the catheters that carry the baclofen from the pump to the spine need attention, I’ll have to spend the night there. The secondary purpose of Monday’s visit was to connect with a neurologist who will track my multiple sclerosis. In order to do both in a single day, it was necessary to be there shortly after seven. The appointment with the neurologist was at 7:30, and I was to do the pre-admission testing at ten.
   Mostly, the medical professionals asked questions and typed my answers into a computer. Mostly, all of the medical professionals asked the same question, which led Russ to wonder what happened when the information was typed in. Are the patient notes of one medical professional off limits to other medical professionals? My vital signs were taken twice in an hour. But other than Russ’ patience, the only thing that was tested was my urine.
   I was made aware of the results Tuesday, when my phone rang as I sat in the dining room, waiting for dinner to be served.
   “Mr. Harris,” the medical professional said. “You have a urinary tract infection, and I need to know your pharmacy’s phone number so I can call in a prescription.”
   I told her about my pharmacy benefits manager.
   “Is that one of those places where you send in for a three-month supply?” she asked.
   “Yes, but they fill smaller prescriptions, too.” I know this because, back in Ashtabula when I had the same problem, the doctor said his office would phone the prescription into the local drug store. But whoever did the calling called my pharmacy benefits manager, and when I went to the drug store, the druggist said he hadn’t received the prescription. I called the doctor, and the doctor said, “Ooops.” Then someone in his office called the prescription to the drug store, and I picked it up later that day. A few days later, two weeks’ worth of antibiotics arrived in a package from my pharmacy benefits manager.
   Back in the dining room: “If we go through your pharmacy benefits manager, when will you get the prescription?” the medical professional asked.
   “Four or five days.”
   “OK,” she said, “go ahead and give me your group number.”
   My prescription card was in my wallet, my wallet was in my apartment and I was in the dining room. I asked the medical professional if I could call her back in five minutes. She said she would call me in fifteen minutes. A half hour later she called, and all seemed to be in order.
   Just after eight the next morning, my phone rang. It was another medical professional, an irate medical professional. She needed the number of my local pharmacy, and she needed it now. Well, now was too soon for me. In my year-and-a-half in Columbus I had never required the services of a local pharmacy. I told the medical professional I’d find a number and call her back. Which I did, and I also reported that the pharmacy did not open until nine.
   At ten, I called the drug store, and yes, the prescription was ready. Then I called Russ to ask if he had time to take me to the drug store. He had the time, but he and Karen were down to one car that day, and he didn’t have it. Fortunately, Dennis, the bus driver, had the time and the means to get me to the drug store.
   As all good stories must, this one has a happy ending. The antibiotic prescribed is one Publix is currently not charging for. The prescription was free. The druggist didn’t even glance at the card issued by my pharmacy benefits manager. And there is an air of mystery. The instruction on the bottle reads: “Take one tablet by mouth twice a day.”  Nowhere on the bottle, nor in the literature that accompanied it, is there any mention of how one is supposed to retrieve that day’s pill after it has been taken by mouth the first time.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Me Gossip?

  The modern world is full of diversions,
   But still nothing beats casting aspersions.
   Down life’s path I so blithely meander
   Deriving pleasure from slinging slander.
   Why yes you have a fine reputation,
   So I think I’ll launch a disputation
   And argue at length that perhaps I ought
   To reconsider and say you’re a sot.
   And that lady says you’re really quite kind,
   But I wonder: Has she lost half her mind?
   Why all the evidence is ever so clear
   That all your goodness is just a veneer.
   And everyone says you help the needy.
   The  truth?  You’re sly, shrewd, and oh so greedy.
   You’re making a ton in the alms racket
   While falling to a lower tax bracket.
   And, oh, they say you’re a wonderful spouse
   I’ll just tell them you’re a two-timing louse.
   Wait! Did someone suggest I’m spreading untruth?
   Well, hasn’t that fellow a single couth?
   Surely he knows you’re my friend close and dear
   And I would not whisper behind your rear.
   ’Tis sad that folks are often so nasty
   And think that I – that I – am a patsy.
   Well, I never said those things that I said
   And the dolts who think so have been misled.
   I am your best friend, a friend good and true
   Would I say such things referring to you?
   Or anyone, anyone, for that matter?
   You know I avoid all gossipy blather.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Notes from the Home - October 26, 2013


   Outside enjoying the sunshine and cool temperatures Wednesday afternoon, I came upon Annie, who was parking the Covenant Woods’ car after playing chauffer for one of the residents. As we were talking, she noticed a fellow pushing a walker and heading off around the building. She yelled to get his attention, but he didn’t hear her.
   “Are you going that way?” she asked, pointing toward the man.
   “I am.”
   “Can you check on him as you go past?”
   I said I would, but as I set out, I was pretty sure it was nothing more than a case of Annie being overly concerned. The old codger looked to be stepping out smartly, so I moved slowly, staying well behind him. But the gap narrowed when he started up the little hill toward the C Building. He stopped a couple times to catch his breath, and we exchanged pleasantries. When we got to the top of the hill, he realized he wasn’t where he wanted to be. He was looking for the B Building.
   “Well, it’s just down there around the corner,” he said.
   “Not exactly,” I said. “You’re not even halfway there yet.”
   A new resident, unfamiliar with the layout, but brimming with the pride and can-do spirit of a retired military man, he was determined to get to the B Building, which he knew was “just down there.”
   “Let’s go in here,” I said.
   “That’s not the B Building. I live in the B Building.”
   “You can get to the B Building if you go inside here.”
   “I can?”
   “And it is a shorter walk.”
   That convinced him, and he followed me to the door, which I couldn’t open. I have often wondered if the key that gets me into the B Building would also get me into the C Building. It won’t. I pressed the call button and started knocking. The man must have been ready to get inside; he knocked with more gusto than I did. Malinda, one of the cleaning women, heard us not so gently rapping at the C Building door and let us in. The man followed me up the hall until he spotted the dining room.
   “I’m going to sit for a few minutes,” he said, plopping down on a bench.
   “Do you know where you are now?”
   “That’s the mess hall over there and the main lobby is just down that hallway. You go on. I’ll be fine.”
   I did, and he was.
   Back in the Covenant Woods’ parking lots, I was accosted by Randy, who was anxious to share the news that he’d be off for the rest of the week.
   “I’m going down to my cousin’s place and do some hunting, fishing and beer drinking,” Randy said. “Wait. Let me rephrase that: I’m going to do some beer drinking, and then some more beer drinking, and then some hunting and fishing if there’s any time left.
   “When I get up in a tree stand, I need three arms,” he said.  “One to shoot with, one to drink with and to use when I piss. Most of the time I don’t even take a rifle up with me. I go up with two pistols and a cooler full of beer. One time I was up in a tree with a cooler of beer and my .40 on this hip and my .45 over here. Then all the squirrels started chattering and running around the base of the tree. You know how squirrels are in the fall. Then four of them started climbing the tree. I pulled out the pistols and started shooting at them. I was firing away like mad, but I didn’t hit a damn one of them. I scared them though. They didn’t bother me after that.”
   “Ralph had a bad day. I think we’re losing him,” Isabelle said the other day.
   She has said that several times these last few weeks. There have been a few days when she has told us that Ralph seemed to be doing better, but most days he’s been “about the same,” or “not so good.” On the “not so good” days, Isabelle is sometimes a little weepy, which has drawn the attention of a few of the other women. They seem to think Isabelle isn’t strong enough, that Ralph is ninety and his death inevitable. I heard one woman say, “She’s disgusting.”
   Maybe I’m a sappy, weak-kneed, sniveling wimp, but I don’t get it. I think Isabelle is holding up extremely well. And I can’t imagine watching the life slowly fade from the person with whom you’ve shared your life for sixty-six year and not shedding a tear now and then.
   Eleanor went to the eye doctor a week ago. He dilated her eyes and gave her a prescription, which turned out to be a bad combination. After picking up the prescription, Eleanor missed a step on her way out of the drug store, fell and shattered her hip. She was in the hospital for a few days and is now in a rehab facility, where she will remain for two or three months. The hip is so badly shattered the doctors have to wait for it to start healing naturally before they can do anything, or so I’ve been told. And Eleanor is diabetic, which puts limits on what the medical people can do. As Grandma said, “It’s hell getting old.”
   Poor Al, the doctor put him on a regimen of antibiotics and told him he couldn’t drink while he was taking the medication. He was willing to play along until this morning when he read all information that came with the medication.
   “The doctors probably never read that stuff,” he said. “How could they? If they did, they’d never tell you to take it. They all say, ‘May cause dizziness, nausea or constipation.’ Hell, I’m dizzy, nauseous and constipated all the damn time. It’s got me so upset. I’ve been worrying about it all morning. I’m going to go upstairs, smoke a cigar, have a glass of wine, a beer and have toke.”

Al at the Battle of Song Be

 The following story appeared in the Hartford Courant, May 13, 1965. The Lt. Col. Alton E. Park mentioned in the story is the Al I mention frequently in Notes from the Home.

 Battle Story
 How Brave Died in Viet Nam
   SONG BE, South Viet Nam (AP) – They found the sergeant dead at dawn Tuesday, spreadeagled against a bloodied pantry door in the US Army advisory group’s mess hall. His upraised right hand clutched a penknife.
   He was Sgt. Horace E. Young of Fayetteville, N.C., one of five Americans killed in the Viet Cong attack on this provincial capital 74 miles north of Saigon.
   In his last defiant act he may have taken a Viet Cong with him. Bloodstains led to the jungles outside the defense perimeter. Young bled to death in the dark.
   Saved Many
   The camp medic, Sgt. William D. Benning of Cincinnati, Ohio, died while trying to save a dozen wounded men from both their wounds and the Viet Cong. A Red suicide squad crept up on Benning while he worked in the mess hall and lobbed grenades.
   Benning died instantly.
   So did two others lying on makeshift beds in the mess hall – Lt. Henry A. Deutsch of Greenville, S.C., and Spec. 4 Amos C. Watson of Wilson, N.C.
   The fifth to die was Sgt. Johnie K. Culbreath of Callison, S.C.
   Hearing the grenades exploding, Culbreath leaped from his foxhole near the western edge of the American camp.
   Shot Through Door
   “They’re going for the wounded,” he shouted and ran toward the mess hall.
   The guerrillas inside shot him through the door.
   The senior officer in the camp, Lt. Col. Alton E, Park of Columbus, Ga., escaped with a series of wounds. He was injured early in the attack when a 75 mm shell smashed a wall to pieces.
   A three-year veteran of the Vietnamese war, Park was carried to the mess hall. There he suffered more wounds when the Viet Cong tossed in their grenades.
   That was not the end of Park’s misery. Before being driven from the mess hall, which they occupied for about 20 minutes, the raiders searched Park’s pockets and then shot him in the back.

   Not Mortal Wound
   But the bullet touched no vital organ.
   Two veterans manned a machine gun which commanded the western slopes of the camp. They were Sgt. Maj. Robert Frandes and Sgt. Charles Crockett, both of Fayetteville, N.C.
   They were hit repeatedly with grenade and mortar fragments, but kept shooting into the Viet Cong troops.
   By dawn Frandes and Crockett were ankle deep in spent shells and were aching and misty-eyed with pain and loss of blood. Their commander, Maj. Mitchell Sakey of Boston, Mass., told them, “If you guys hadn’t held there, we all would be lost.”
   Criticizes Allies
   Sakey, a short, stocky Special Forces officer, had words of praise for his men and blame for some of his allies.
   “The popular force (militia) company on our left flank bugged out after the first exchange of fire and that let the Viet Cong through,” he said.
   “If they had held there would be no dead Americans here today.”
   Other Americans said this company was the one that turned tail and left four America advisors to their fate in a district near Song Be Several months ago. Three of the Americans were killed and one was captured.
   But there were plenty of brave Vietnamese in the battle for Song Be.
   Pressed Into Action
   Sakey said 60 rangers on the south flank beat off a Viet Cong battalion.
   “The Viet Cong thought they could run through us here without trouble,” he said.
   “Well, we gave them trouble.”
   But he was taking no chances of a further attack. He was eager to press all hands into service. When two newsmen decided to stay Wednesday night, Sakey had no hesitation in asking them to assist in the defense.
   “Take this carbine and 500 rounds of ammo and protect the mortarman,” he said.
   A US Army doctor also grabbed a rifle.
   “What about the Geneva convention?” the doctor was asked.
   “This is preventive medicine,” he replied. “I shoot them before they shoot me.”


Alisha, the activities director, asked me to play Reader's Digest editor and condense an article on spring health tips she'd found ...