Notes from the Home - September 19, 2014


  For weeks and weeks, I’ve felt like the guy in the old commercial who complained, “My get up and go got up and went.” Mine returned for a couple hours Saturday evening. It was nice to have some energy. Too bad I didn’t handle it very well.
   I’ve forgotten what we had for dinner, but maybe it’s what gave me a boost. After I finished eating, helping with the menus and making two laps of the Covenant Woods’ parking lots, I went back to the apartment and looked for something to do. The overflowing hamper was easy to spot, and off I went to the laundry room. When the washers finished their task, the clothes went into the dryer, and I went back to the apartment to do the dishes.
   Before getting started on the fresh batch of dirty dishes I needed to put away the clean dishes that had been sitting in the drainer for a day or two – or maybe three. There weren’t many. Most of the now dirty dishes had been in the drainer earlier in the day. Among the items still in the drainer, however, was a small frying pan, which I put in the cupboard beneath the sink. In the process of maneuvering the wheelchair, I managed to get the toe of my left shoe under the cupboard’s overhang above the splash board.
   It wasn’t my intention to put my foot there; I didn’t know it was there. And it stayed there when I backed away from the sink, and as my already stiff leg got stiffer. A wiser man would have stopped the wheelchair and worked his foot free. I, being less than wise, attempted to free my foot as the chair was going backwards. The foot didn’t budge, and my arse slid off the wheelchair’s seat and on to the floor.
   There I was, staring at decades of Harris family history. The occasional table six inches from my face once graced the first-floor landing in Nana and Jim’s house on Clearfield Street in Pittsburgh’s Sheraden area. In time, perhaps when Nana and Jim moved to Green Tree, the table made its way to the Harris estate on Myrna Drive, and Mom refinished it. Years later, when Mom and Dad forsook the Steel City for the Alamo City, the table went to live in northeast Ohio. In the spring of 2012, along with me, it came south.
   In Sheraden, a tiffany lamp graced the table. In Bethel Park, Mom covered it with beautiful plants of all descriptions. Here in Columbus, the table has a more prosaic existence. A microwave, a toaster, a coffee maker, and a bottle of fiber pills sit atop it. Underneath, fifteen or twenty crumpled up plastic grocery bags from Publix bide their time until, one-by-one, they are pressed into service as garbage bags.
   Next to the occasional table is a wash stand that Mom also refinished. I’m not sure where it came from; maybe it was Grandma’s. In any event, it occupied a corner of the family room in Bethel Park for many years, before it too went north to Ashtabula. It is now the repository for all the stuff there is no place else for, and all the stuff I’m too lazy to throw away.
   But there was no time to reminisce. The task before me was getting back on the chair, and it soon became evident I couldn’t do it on my own. I called the desk and explained the situation to Shirley, who said she’d try to find someone to help.
   “Everyone is busy,” she told me, via the intercom, ten minutes later. “I’m going to call 911. Is that all right?”
   The embarrassment of having a couple EMTs being seen at my door paled next to the possibility of spending an hour or two on the floor waiting for in-house help. “Go ahead,” I told Shirley. After what seemed to be twenty minutes, but what was probably half that, two EMTs were at my door. Seconds later, I was back in my chair. They took my vitals, asked a few questions, told me I would not receive a bill – they pick up uninjured people who have fallen as a public service – and went. I spent a lot of time Sunday and Monday telling the story of my adventure to the inquiring minds who wanted to know.

   Tuesday, I paid a visit to Dr. Verson. The MRI of my neck, he said, didn’t show anything that would account for my physical deficits. This left him wondering about the spinal tap I had in the spring of 2006. There was something in the spinal fluid that shouldn’t have been there, I told him, and the doctors thought I might have transverse myelitis. That led to three IV steroid injections, which did wonders for my mood, but not a damn thing for my gait. After that the doctors at the Cleveland Clinic referred me to the Clinic’s Mellen Center, which is where the primary-progressive MS diagnosis was made.
   The records Dr.Verson received from the Cleveland Clinic do not include any notes on the spinal tap I had in 2006. He said he would try again to get them. I’m hoping he does. The spinal tap itself was a piece of cake. The next two days were hell – headaches, nausea, and more headaches, and more nausea. I have no desire to go through it again – ever.
   But there was good news: I don’t go back until January. Which means, save for a date with retinal specialist next month, I am medical-appointment free until 2015.

   Wednesday, about five, as we were sitting down to dinner, there was a booming-boom. The residents reacted in one of two ways. Half of them gasped and said, “Oh, my God! What the hell was that?” The others got puzzled looks on their faces and said, “What was what? I didn’t hear anything.” A few minutes later, Russ called and asked if I’d heard the explosion. He said he’d heard it, and Karen, who was still at work, had called him and said she’d heard it. It turned out the noise was caused by a plane breaking the sound barrier.

   And finally, in the Things PJ Never Told Me Department: Pastor John Dennis stood in the pulpit of the Ruthfred Lutheran Church for decades on end. Often during his endless sermons, PJ quoted Martin Luther at length – great length – but he didn’t tell the whole story. Only the other day, I discovered Luther is credited with saying something with more kick than, “Here I stand,” and on a subject livelier than justification through faith. Yes, it was sly, old Marty who first said, “Who loves not women, wine and song remains a fool his whole life long.”
You can look it up.

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