Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Notes from the Home - May 20, 2014

   I stopped to talk to John one morning. He is getting ready to move. He will be joining Lorene, his wife, who two months ago moved to a memory-care facility in Canton, Georgia, which is north of Atlanta.
   “We wanted to find a place where we could live together in sort of semi-independent situation. Like we did here,” John said. “There isn’t any place around Columbus that has that option. But it worked out OK. Our daughter lives in Canton. Both our sons live here in Columbus.”
   I often see Anne in the morning when she is out walking her two Jack Russell terriers. Her husband has Alzheimer’s and lives in another facility here in Columbus. She visits him every weekend, and it is often a trying experience.
   “I finally got a break this weekend,” she told me about a month ago when she spent several days with her daughter and her family.
Not every weekend with her husband is an ordeal, however. Monday she said, “It was such a nice weekend with him. So relaxing.”

   I have been using a urinary catheter for nearly eight years and have never given it much thought. Well, maybe a little thought at first. In 2006, when the people at the Cleveland Clinic were trying to determine what was wrong with me, the doctors would frequently ask if I had trouble getting things started when I urinated and, once having urinated, did I feel as though the job wasn’t quite done.
   My answer to both questions was “yes,” for which I won a visit to the urologist. There, a nurse encouraged me to drink heartily and let her know when I needed to visit the restroom. When my bladder called, the nurse gave me a plastic urinal and pointed me toward the restroom. After pissing around, I returned and handed the urinal to the nurse. She made a note of how much was in it and then rubbed some sort of computer thingy around my abdomen until she found my bladder. Looking at the readout on her handheld computer, she yelped, “Oh my God! You’re bladder must be the size of a basketball,” and sent me to the catheter training facility.
   Nancy, my significant other at the time, was with me. While we waited for the nurse who would instruct me in proper catheter use, Nancy called my attention to the construction workers on the building next door. “They’ll be watching you,” she said. This must have been an issue with some patients. When the nurse arrived, the first thing she said was, “The windows are reflective. We can see them, but they can’t see us.”
   She went on to explain that using a catheter before going to bed would increase my chances of sleeping through the night. Also, using a catheter to empty my bladder once or twice during the day would reduce my chances of getting a urinary tract infection. Following a short video, she handed me a catheter, a urinal, some tissue paper and a tube of personal lubricant. “OK,” she said, “try it.”
   I did. And with Nancy, who is an RN, and the Cleveland Clinic nurse watching me, it was a trying experiences. I mean, a gentleman isn’t supposed to try to do such things in front of ladies, even the ladies are medical professionals.
   “This is much easier for men than it is for women,” the Cleveland Clinic nurse said and quickly added the anatomical reason why. Too Much Information. Way too much. That bit of urologist humor gave me a visual a gentleman shouldn’t have while in the company of two lovely ladies, especially when said gentleman is already engaged in an activity not suitable for mixed company, or any company for that matter.
   But I persevered and soon discovered that using a catheter in the privacy of my own bathroom is no big deal. As with most things that are not big deals, I did it every day and never gave it any thought. Sunday night, however, I thought, “I wonder who figured out that if you ran a tube down your, uh . . . your you know . . . it would cause you to . . . well, you know.”
   According to the website urotoday.com, catheters were used as long ago as 3000 BC. It didn’t say who had the bright idea, but it does say the earliest catheters were pieces of straw or rolled up palm leaves. Ouch!

   Wandering around cyberspace the other day, I came upon a short video of David Sedaris. The video was part of an interview Mr. Sedaris did for a film titled Do I Sound Gay? The subject was the “gay voice,” and Mr. Sedaris talked about calling a dentist’s office for an appointment. The woman he spoke with kept calling him ma’am even after he gave her his name. “How many women do you know named David?” he asked the interviewer.
   I have the same problem with my MS voice. In fact, earlier the same day, the woman who answered the phone at Medical and Health Resources called me ma’am several times. She switched to sir after the second time she asked me my name, and I told her “Thomas” for the second time. She wasn’t completely convinced, however. I’m sure she’ll look at me long and hard when I show up for my appointment Wednesday.
   That wasn’t the first time a stranger on the telephone line mistook me for Thomasina. They’ve been doing it for seven or eight years. No one has told me I have a sexy voice, but no one has told me I sound oh, so virile, either. A month or two after I moved down here, the Emory Clinic gave me a call.
   “This call is for Thomas Harris,” the woman said.
   “This is he.”
   “No, I said, ‘this call is for Thomas Harris,’” she said.
   “This is he.”
   “Oh, you’re his wife . . .” and she went on to tell Mrs. Harris what Thomas would need when he went for his appointment.
   In another possibly MS-related development, I have convulsed with laughter more than a few times over the last several months. It’s not a terrible thing, but it is damned inconvenient. I’ll be trading barbs with another smartass and something he or she says, or the comeback I’m about to launch, strikes me as so funny I can’t say a word. It takes me four or five tries to get anything but guffaws out of my mouth. People laugh at me laughing, and the zinger I hoped to unleash loses it zing before I can get it out.
   Thinking I had read or heard something about this, I did a search for convulsive laughter and people with MS. OMG I might have PBA. Folks with Psuedobulbar Affect cry or laugh uncontrollably. They might laugh or cry for extended periods of time for no reason. Or their hardy laugh might be too hardy for whatever caused the person to laugh in the first place.
   According to the article PBA might be related to depression, which is depressing, and fifty percent of the people diagnosed MS, ALS and similar neurologic disorders have PBA. So, the odds are even that I have PBA. Of course, the odds are also even that I’m just weird. 
   I think I know where those who know me best will come down on that issue.

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