Friday, March 25, 2016

Notes from the Home - March 25, 2016

The quest for a new wheelchair is underway. Paulyne, a physical therapist from Amedisys, the home health place Dr. Verson set me up with, and Lance, an assistive technology professional, according to his business card, from NuMotion, got things going last Friday. They spent nearly two hours in the apartment assessing my needs and trying to put them into words the insurance company’s miserly bean counters will find acceptable. While they were here, I felt as though I were in an office. Paulyn and Lance sat across from each other at the table, their laptops open in front of them, and their phones ringing more than a few times.

If all goes well, the new chair will help me to, as Mom so often told me, “Sit up straight!” My left side is weaker than my right, and I list to port as soon as I sit down. I have used books, pillows, a laptop case, and sundry other items to help keep me upright, without much success. It would also be nice if the wheelchair had a gizmo to lift the footplate and raise my legs a little. The chair doesn’t have to recline, but it sure would be nice if it enabled me to change the position of my legs. They do cramp up now and then.

According to Lance, if the insurance people are agreeable to the proposal, those two extravagant features will end up taking about three thousand dollars out of my pocket. I’ll do what I have to do, and pay what I have to pay. But, you’d think in this presidential election year, the insurance company would be willing to fork over at least a few dollars to keep me from leaning to the left.

Yesterday, Russ and I spent an hour in Dr. Verson’s office. The people there were delighted with the completeness of the assessment Lance and Paulyne did. They did the assessment the same way the assessment for my old chair was done at the Cleveland Clinic, with the PT and the person from the company working on it together. Apparently, that’s not the way folks in the Columbus do it – NuMotion is in Tifton, Georgia, which is south of Atlanta, along I-75. “This is great,” the nurse said of the assessment. “Everything is here. Dr. Verson will sign it and we’ll send it out right away. I’ll have to see if we can get NuMotion to give some business cards.”

Now, there is nothing left to do but wait.
*     *     *
Rob, an occupational therapist who also works for Amedisys, came to give my arms a workout Monday morning. He keeps up a good line of chatter and along the way he asked me where I was from. When I told him I grew up in the Pittsburgh area, he had some stories to tell.

When he was in college, Rob became friends with a guy who had played high school baseball for Upper St. Clair. “I went home with him once, and we hung out Gordo. Gordo played ball for their big rival. Who was there big rival?”

“Bethel Park?”

“No, that wasn’t it.”

“Maybe, Mt. Lebanon?”

“Yeah, that’s it,” Rob said. “Gordo was from Mt. Lebanon.”

Rob then told me about another trip to Pittsburgh during his college days.
“I met this girl from Pittsburgh; she went to Carnegie Mellon. I went to see her once when I was up there. Her parents lived on the side of a hill, and you could look out and see all the buildings and the rivers. There was some sort of regatta going on, and we could see all the boats.

“I took her to dinner one night. I think the place was called O’Reilly’s – I’m not sure, I know it was O’ something. Anyway, I got the check. I figured it would be about fifty bucks, but when I looked at it, it was almost eighty dollars. I looked again and realized they had charged me over and over for my iced tea. I must have had eight glasses, and it wasn’t even sweet tea. I had to put sugar in it. Then I noticed an asterisk at the bottom of the check: ‘We charge for refills of everything but water.’

“I told the waitress I was a student, didn’t have much money, and besides, I didn’t know I was being charged every time I asked for more tea. She got the manager. I told him, ‘Look, I’m from Alabama. Down there, we drink tea like water.’ He said, ‘I know what you mean. I’m from Atlanta.’ And he took all the refills off the check.”
*     *     *
Tuesday, Beth sent a picture of the weather conditions in the greater Orofino area.

Good father that I am, I thought it my duty to snap a picture of the weather conditions outside my window.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Notes from the Home - March 14, 2016

     Signs of spring are springing up everywhere in these parts. The landscaping folks have filled the flowerbeds with petunias and other spring plants. On our way to see Dr. Verson, Friday, while Russ watched the road, I kept my eyes on the trees that are beginning to bloom, and there were more than just a few. What kind of trees were they? Heck if I know. I’m no arborist. But I do know the tree outside my window is a dogwood, and it appears ready to burst forth in all its springtime glory any day now.
     “The sun feels good this morning, doesn’t it,” I said to Russ, as he pushed me through Publix parking lot, Sunday morning.
     “Yes, it does,” he said.
     “But soon, the sun won’t feel so good.”
     “Oh, it won’t start getting really hot until next month.,” Russ said.  “Don’t rush things.”
     I nodded and smiled, as if to say, “Yes, Russ, you’re right.” Then, with more than a little help from Russ, I got in the car and we returned to Covenant Woods. He pushed me back to my apartment, went back out and got the groceries, put them away, and took my wall clock down, set it to Eastern Daylight Time, and popped in a fresh battery.
     I waited until he left before setting out to satisfy my need to always be right. On a quick visit to Yahoo Weather, I saw that Tuesday’s predicted high is eighty-seven. That is “really hot,” at least to my Yankee sensibilities. And Tuesday is the Ides of March, no less.
*     *     *
     My appointment with Dr. Verson went well. We talked about the difficulty I am having doing even some very simple things. Transferring from the wheelchair to the bed is getting dicey. My uncooperative legs and questionable balance make hitting the sack just that. I get the wheelchair as close to the bed as possible while leaving enough room for my feet. Then I stand up as best I can, put my left hand on the bed to brace myself, and keep my right hand on the wheelchair armrest to make falling back into the chair a little less likely. Then I do my best to fall forward onto the bed. The challenge is to do it without missing the bed or getting my feet and legs tangled up with the wheelchair. Getting them untangled without me ending up on the floor is always a struggle.
     We also talked about my need for a new wheelchair. We had discussed it when I saw him in December. The order Columbus Home Medical Equipment got from him, however, was for a scooter. I called Dr. Verson’s office several times to explain that I need a chair. It would take all my remaining strength and coordination, and a heaping helping of good luck for me to get on a scooter. Each time I called, the person who answered said they would pass the message along, and someone would call me back. They never did.
     After Dr. Verson put his hands on my knees and told me to lift my legs, checked my arms for strength and coordination, and asked me to close my eyes and touch my nose, first with the index finger of my right hand, then with the index finger of my left, we were led to a small waiting area. We had not waited long when a nurse came in and told me that Amedisys, a home health outfit would be contacting me. That afternoon, Anne from Amedisys called to ask if I would be home Saturday. I told her, “Sure.”
     When Anne arrived Saturday, she was full of questions – the usual questions: When were you diagnosed with MS? Are you in pain today? Do you have bladder issues? How often do you have a bowel movement? When was the last time you had a bowel movement? Can you walk at all? From there the questions turned to the difficulties I am experiencing now. I told her what I had told Dr. Verson.
     When she ran out of questions, Anne asked me to get on the bed. Nothing makes an already difficult process nigh on impossible quicker than knowing you are being watched and that your effort is being critiqued. I didn’t see her stifle a laugh as she watched me, but I bet she did just before she grabbed me by the pants and helped me on to the bed. Anne then asked me to move my legs – lift them, spread them apart, things like that. I could not do most what she asked me to do, and what I could do, I did feebly. Although, I honestly think I did extremely well when I was asked to wiggle my toes.
     After I got off the bed – which I managed to do on my own – Anne told me they will have the Hughston Clinic, an orthopedic place here in Columbus, determine what I need in a wheelchair. That was a relief. My left side is very weak, and I am constantly leaning to the left. Anything that can be done to keep me sitting up straight will be greatly appreciated.
     Then Anne said she would return Sunday, the following day. When she got here, she told me to get on the bed. Then she started on my legs. She pushed, pulled, stretched, and made my legs do things they have not done for years. After that, she had me go to the sink and pull myself into the standing position. That was not too bad. I pull myself up several times a day in the course of doing what has to be done. The hard part came when Anne told me to stand up straight, to stand with my chest out. When our time was up, she told me she will be back on Thursday. I am going to have to get in shape by then.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Notes from the Home - March 9, 2016

     I got my dinner to go Sunday. As I waited for Styrofoam containers filled with soup, salad roast beef, mashed potatoes, beets and black eyed peas, I had a chance to talk to Ruth, who was also waiting for her meal. Ruth is an always smiling, spry eighty-six-year old, who loves to joke and banter. Once she gets going it is easy to forget she has memory issues.
     That wasn’t the case Sunday. The first thing she said was, “My grandson and his wife had a baby boy this morning.” She told me about her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren, and we joked with the servers while the cooks were filling our orders. And four times in the five minutes we waited, Ruth said, “Did I tell you my grandson and his wife had a baby boy this morning?”
*     *     *
     Back in the 1950s and 60s, Mom, Dad, and countless teachers constantly told me I was out of line. I don’t know about that, but I was off line for three days recently. One afternoon, the secure Wi-Fi Covenant Woods began offering its residents six weeks ago went out. The problem, whatever it was, didn’t affect the entire complex, just the hallway where my apartment is. As far as I know, only Mildred, who lives across the hall, and I noticed. A few days later, a knock on the door interrupted my afternoon beauty rest. It was Johnny, the maintenance supervisor, who came by to tell me the Wi-Fi was back.
     Life without constant access to the Internet was a learning experience. I learned that I spend far too much time on-line doing nothing much. And I learned that life without immediate access to the Internet is not so bad. It is just too easy to waste time checking and rechecking my email and Facebook. The email stops, though too frequent, are quick: I don’t get much. Facebook, Huffington Post and a couple other sites are killers. I scroll, scroll, scroll away the hours looking for interesting posts. Not that I spend much time reading them when I find them – usually nothing more than the headline and a paragraph or two. Then on I go looking for more.
     I have resolved to spend less time wondering around the Internet. The vast majority of the resolutions I have made in the last nearly sixty-eight years have come to naught. Time will tell.
     It is now a week later, and I must report, it is easier to resolve to do something than it is to do it.
*     *     *
     In the summer of 1974, I moved to Ashtabula County, Ohio and remained there, except for a brief time in San Antonio, until the spring of 2012. During those thirty-eight years, I undoubtedly purchased something from Griffiths Furniture. What it was, or when I bought it, is a mystery to me.
     It is good to know, however, that Griffiths has not forgotten me. In among the other junk mail a few days ago was a card touting Griffiths’ upcoming customer appreciation sale. Yes, Thomas Harris or Current Resident here on Woodruff Farm Road in Columbus, Georgia, 31907, is invited to go to Griffiths on Wednesday, March 9, and get the “largest discount we have ever offered on all furniture and appliances.” And they are offering free delivery.

*     *     *
     Saw Dr. Miller, the primary care guy, for my annual checkup last week. After he poked, prodded and declared that I am in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in, he handed me a sheet of paper and told Russ to take me to the check-out window. The woman on the other side of the window, who looked to be in her late twenties or early thirties, glanced at the papers and asked me how long I have had MS.
     “I was diagnosed in October ’06.”
     “They told me last week, I have MS.”
     That short conversation took me back to the MS Walk at Mentor High School in the fall of 2007. Nancy and I stayed inside and manned a table brimming with literature from various organizations. During the two hours we were at the table, three or four women of the same age as the lady at the check-out window and who also had MS stopped by.
     There is one thing in my MS experience that I am thankful for: MS didn’t begin interfering with my life until after Russ and Beth were out of school and building lives of their own. In 2006, when I was diagnosed, Russ was 28 and Beth was 22. My left leg began acting funny in the late ’80s or early ’90s. It was a very occasional thing, and it never lasted long. Usually, sitting down for fifteen or twenty minutes got things back to reasonably normal. Until 2005, when the problem became more pronounced, I was sure there was nothing much wrong.
     When the kids were growing up, I did all the things fathers are supposed do with the kids: played ball with them, took them to Lake Shore Park to swim and sled, raked leaves so Beth could jump into the pile, and took Russ to see the Indians play ball.
     MS is a bitch at any age, but I feel so sorry for who must contend with it when they are young adults and probably have active, young children running about. There must be way, way, way too days when those young MSers, even those with relapsing-remitting forms of the disease, have to say, “Not today. Mommy doesn’t feel good.”
*     *     *
     To complete the checkup, I needed to pee in a cup and let a nurse take blood from me. Because of some confusion in scheduling, I went back to the Columbus Clinic yesterday to git ’er done. Actually, Dr. Miller gave me a cup to pee in when I saw him last week. I am unable to pee on command these days, and the cup made it possible for me to pee in it in the comfort of my own home before Russ arrived to take me to the Clinic.
     This afternoon, a nurse from Dr. Miller’s office called to tell me about the results. My cholesterol is just a bit high, she said, and I should really start watching what I eat. I consulted the Internet and got a list of foods that help lower cholesterol. I don’t have a problem with any of them. This should be a snap.
     Then I got a list of foods to avoid. YIKES!!! Butter, ice cream, cheese, cookies, pastries, muffins. On the bright side, liver is on that list, and I won’t have a problem giving it up. But does it count as giving it up if I never ate in the first place? 
     One evening two years ago when liver in one form or another was an entrĂ©e on the Covenant Woods’ dinner menu, I overheard Catherine telling Lucy, the food service manager, that the liver that night was better than sex. I told them, if I had heard anyone say that when I was an impressionable lad, I’d still be a virgin.

To Bed, Perchance to Sleep

According to an article on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's website, a person with MS is up to three times more likely to exper...