This is the air I breathe…

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SuperDad told me that he has hazy vision. Despite the knowledge that his vision is still a little wonky (hopefully from the pain medications he is taking), I knew that he was talking about looking out the window this morning. We cannot see far in this smoke-filled air. My drive to work includes a vista of downtown but today there were no buildings to be seen, only gray-white nothingness obscuring the horizon.  During the day there is a yellowish diffused light, more yellow than our 9.6% sunshine during the eclipse but fairly close to the strength of light we had at the height of it.

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Looking up at the sun through smoky skies

For an hour or two after sunrise and the hour or two before sunset, the lighting hue is pinkish-orange.

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“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” reddish-pink sunrise, compliments of the fires all over the Pacific Northwest

Our air quality index last night was a horrifying 303 = Hazardous. Today it was hovering at around 245 = Very Unhealthy.  Everyone who ventures outdoors has a sore throat, and disposable masks are seen on people behind steering wheels or walking; I saw the mailman wearing one when I looked out my window at work.

And yes, I went back to work today. SuperDad continues to improve (his hamstrings are the largest source of pain now, so we’re hopeful that he is nearing the end of needing pain medication) and while my brain is not fully functional, I’ve had 5 nights at home in my own bed and am making headway on those 10 nights of hospital-induced sleep deficit.

 

 

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August

Charles Dickens could sum up the month of August in one phrase, but I owe you more than that.  For now, here is a summary of our most significant events…

Dh told me to cancel all commitments for a weekend and we escaped to the cool WA coast (high of 69 degrees) in the midst of a 100 degree week here at home. Cold ocean waters numb ankle pain and there is nothing quite like sitting in a beach chair, watching the waves and letting the wind whip your mind clear of stress and worries. Sometimes I wish I lived at the beach. There are photos to share in another post.
We paused to pick blueberries on the way home, and I regret that I did not pull out the camera. The bushes were laden with ripe berries and the hardest part was stopping when our bag was full, because there were so many more berries to be picked.

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Dh again told me to cancel all commitments on August 21st but not in so many words and not for an escape to the coast. That morning during the eclipse, he suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage. He never hit his head, never blacked out, but sudden intense pain was not a good thing and even though he didn’t present typical stroke signs like you would see with a brain aneurysm,  he knew where he needed to go. If you ever suddenly find yourself with the worst headache of your entire life, get thee to the ER immediately! In his case, SuperDad had been exercising with a CrossFit maneuver — jumping rope with “double-unders” — and apparently tore a vein in his brain.  The brain bleed was diagnosed by CT scan at the ER, and the staff began making arrangements to transfer him to a neurological ICU; however, there were no open beds in this specialty in our area. Instead, we found ourselves on a Life Flight to Seattle and ten nights at Swedish Medical Center, with 8 of those nights in the Neuro Critical Care Unit. (Fun times. NOT.)  Honestly, I lost count of the number of CT scans, although I’m sure our insurance will be getting a detailed account for billing purposes.  Two angiograms. One MRI. Daily Doppler ultrasounds to track blood flow changes while on vasospasm watch.
When the high danger of repeated incidents passed, we were sent upstairs to a neuro floor (not ICU) for our 2 final nights of the 10-night stay. While there his medications were adjusted so he could go home (no more IV rescue meds for pain control). We were able to return home on the last day of August.

How anyone goes through such an event without incredible support from others — support in really tangible ways, like deliveries of food and clothing, toiletries and prescription medications for the caregiver (me); support in less tangible ways, such as prayer; the downright drudgery support in making sure pets at home are fed and watered, garbage and recycling cans dragged to the curb — I will never be able to understand how anyone possibly do well in recovery and healing without that support on many levels.  I didn’t even consider work, aside from letting people know what was happening; others took care of getting the job done in my absence. Family and friends ensured that we had what we needed, including the 5+ hour ride home. There was no way I was in any shape to drive, not withstanding the fact that we’d ridden in a small plane to Seattle ten days before.

At this point, the headaches have lessened as the blood has been moved away from the hemorrhage site. Thanks to efficient cerebral spinal fluid, his lower back, hips, and hamstrings are tight and painful (blood anywhere it shouldn’t be causes nerves to freak out) but this also tells us we are nearing the end of needing pain medications.  Once he’s off the pain meds, we hope the brain processing and vision issues clear up. (I had this experience while on strong pain medications a few years ago.)  His prognosis is very, very good. If you have to have blood in your brain, this was the very best option: no aneurysm, no clots, no visible damage via scans.

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In other news, our PCT hiker is now in his final section of the trail (the penultimate section for those who have the time to go all the way to the end) and I expect to be able to pick him up next weekend. We saw H-J nearly every day while in the hospital; he is content with work while waiting for his final 2 classes to be offered in the spring. School started on Thursday when The Scout began his senior year (no first day photo because he was here and his parents were in Seattle at the hospital). His head still hurts after 14 months; he’s currently undergoing a series of acupuncture treatments.
Since it is fire season, our air is tinged (and sometimes filled) with smoke and the light is filtered through the haze.  I cannot see the hills in the distance this afternoon; we are enveloped in a white cloud of smoke.
I return to work tomorrow, although I may be splitting my time between the office and home (via my laptop). I’m grateful for that flexibility.

Your long-overdue update, or: “At least I’m not 241 years old.”

This evening marks exactly one year since my youngest son fell 23 feet out of a tree and landed on his back. He still suffers from post concussion syndrome, with an inability to focus and function for very long — or sometimes at all — and the same headache he’s had since he fell is still present.  The Scout turns 18 and therefore will age out of scouting before the end of the month.  His Eagle Scout project was completed last summer; however, he has limited ability to work and there is much “paperwork” (computer work) still to be done to achieve the rank of Eagle.  He has already had so many disappointments over the past twelve months, so many things he’s had to give up and no end in sight with his PCS, that I really want this honor for him to carry forward for the rest of his life.  It would be a bright spot in his craptastic year.  His senior year of high school is yet to come.

Humorous-Juniorous had landed his dream job at one of the university laboratories a few months ago, only to lose it due to immaturity. Showing up on time, asking questions and communicating are important skills to learn. He’s now working at a cafe, because understandably he was not hired by another lab boss — and food, rent, and utilities still need to be paid for on a regular basis.  H-J is coming home this weekend for a short visit and a large extended family get-together, so at least we will get to see him for the first time since Christmas.

In answer to our consistent pestering about applying for a job, The Barefooter announced to us less than 2 weeks ago that he had decided to go hike the Pacific Crest Trail north from southern Oregon. His original plan was to leave last Thursday but then I reminded him of the aforementioned family get-together (based upon a wedding) so he’s now leaving on Sunday.  True to form, The Barefooter is not yet prepared for this venture but committed to going because once he gets an idea, he is tenacious.  I shake my head and bite my tongue often. He tells us that he’s taking 2 months to hike as far north as possible before getting off the trail on September 10th (the day before his 25th birthday) and then switching his studies from horticulture to firefighting.

IMAG0529_1The Engineer and The Author continue with their jobs and the fine work of parenting Little Foot, who is now one-and-a-half years old. SuperDad and I visited them a few weeks ago (I had him playing in the sprinkler and his clothes were drying on the deck when I took this picture) and they will be coming here this weekend for the wedding/extended family extravaganza.  I’ve already told Little Foot‘s mama that if they want to stay and dance after dinner, I’ll take this sweet boy home with me. Grandmothers with bum ankles do not do much dancing but they do enjoy playing and cuddling with babies. No doubt his uncle The Scout will also be ready to go home early.

If you had heard, yet doubted, that Pokémon GO is an exercise app, I can assure you that is correct information. Not only do I see and talk with folks who would otherwise be holed up indoors out in front of the building at work (our site is a Pokémon gym), I am married to a level 35 trainer. SuperDad continues to need additional calories to ensure that he does not lose weight from all of the exercise he gets running, biking, rollerblading, and more. He also does the majority of our shopping and food preparation; basically, SuperDad has been the glue holding us together.  And I need someone to hold me together these days. There’s an unquantifiable toll on a mother’s heart as she can do nothing but watch as her (17yo) baby suffers or her adult children make mistakes. It doesn’t help when the prescription for antidepressants runs out prior to a holiday weekend and the regular pharmacy claims they cannot get it. (In truth, someone higher up has chosen to not obtain it; Rite-Aid pharmacy has come to my rescue with the very medication I need although it requires additional hoops and jumping through them without medication helping my chemically-challenged brain is… well, challenging.) As for the ankle, nothing has changed: it swells with use and weather patterns. I try to exercise in the pool several days a week for strength and balance, and I adjust my activities to match my capabilities.  Some days that translates to sitting on the sofa with my feet up.

As I look back over my writing tonight, I note that it lacks cheeriness and for that I apologize. It’s hard to be cheerful without my usual dosage of antidepressants, especially when anxious over a few of the circumstances described above. The biblical mandate to be anxious for nothing and pray about everything doesn’t always get me through. Tomorrow should be better thanks to the “emergency” dispensation of 3 days worth of pills from the nice pharmacy up the road — enough to tide me over until they can speak with my doctor and get the renewed prescription into their files. And baby snuggles, which always improve my mood and general outlook on life, are a planned part of my weekend.

Happy birthday to the United States of America. May the temper-tantrum toddler days soon be behind us all.

flag at the island house

Let there be light!

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The groundhog saw his shadow today. Frankly, I didn’t need Punxsutawney Phil to tell me anything — the flamingos have been doing a pretty good job of letting us know what’s up around here, and it isn’t the temperature!

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The Scout had his MRI last week and we’re still waiting for the results. (SuperDad has put a call in to the doctor.)  Honestly, I’ll be surprised if it tells us anything at all. I have to keep reminding myself that he had a really horrid fall and it’s going to take more time to recover. It was encouraging last week to hear his teachers tell of seeing “more of him” lately, that more often now when he is in class he is managing to have that light on behind his eyes instead of a glazed-over look.

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After a weekend of low stress and winter camping — where he felt relatively good and hardly needed extra rest time at all — he figured out that the anxiety over trying to accomplish all of his schoolwork is stressing his system. So on Monday when he went to school, The Scout met with his guidance counselor (the same one who helped us get the 504 Accommodation Plan set in place) and requested that he be allowed to drop two of his classes — Spanish 2 and Calculus. Bless her, she worked to make that happen. He has been able to attend school every day this week because he has some built-in “down time” where he can catch up on assignments or take a break in a quiet alcove or even take a nap in the nurse’s office.

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Having my teenager engage in conversation with us is a blessing that I cannot take for granted. When the pain in his head (which he describes as “a hot iron pressing against my skull”) subsides enough to let him be his normal cheerful self, with a sense of humor and light in his eyes, I know how lucky we are.

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Riding into the Sunset

Two weeks ago we loaded up men and beast (and me) and drove several hours for a weekend celebration of my dear mother-in-law’s 80th birthday.

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I drive myself about our own city, but for trips beyond that I ride in the back seat with my foot elevated.

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This explains the presence of a rearview mirror and The Barefooter’s glasses.

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The photos here aren’t of great quality but the sunset sky was amazing that evening.

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Tomorrow my dh and I are taking a day trip to visit Little Foot and his parents. This Oma needs some baby hugs!

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Check out more Pink Saturday pictures at How Sweet the Sound.

Icy Feathered Hope

We’ve been in a deep freeze. Weather changes are coming, I can feel it in my hardware.
The Resident Teen also suffers, but there is no rhyme or known reason for when his setbacks occur.   dscn1517-cropped-macro-4x6

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
by Emily Dickinson
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A parent, apparently

Last Tuesday afternoon found us at the neurology department for a follow-up visit for The Scout. We didn’t know it at the time, but he was starting a week of misery despite taking it easy for two weeks over the school winter holiday.
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“Concussion recovery is not linear” …yada yada yada. I get it. But let’s look for something more, shall we? Because at this point, it’s been SIX MONTHS. (This is why I came along, to light a few proverbial fires.) We left with promises of an MRI and a back X-ray.
Yesterday I took The Scout in for his physical (a requirement for these new exams) and we were able to get the X-rays while we were at the clinic. It’s slightly entertaining to see the faces of medical professionals when they hear that this teenager fell 23 feet onto his back. He landed inches away from a rock poking up out of the ground (we live near jagged basalt formations) and not far from broken tree stumps. He’s a walking miracle, and I am infinitely grateful.  By the time we slogged through the snowy roads and settled in again at home, SuperDad had been called with the results from the radiologist. (That was fast!)

So, those X-ray results: at some point in the past — six months ago? Ten years ago? No one knows — this boy had a broken back. It’s fairly high up, where he hasn’t had any distinct pain (?!?) and not where he says he landed, but it’s definitely a break that healed over.  My jaw might have dropped.
It’s a clue without being an answer.  His lower back gets stiff when he’s sat for too long and when he first gets up in the morning, but he hasn’t had back pain since July. Crazy.

Now we await the insurance approval and MRI appointment. In the meantime, the medication prescribed by neurology for nighttime has been doubled (let’s try it, why not?) and we’ve been trying a triple-whammy for bad days: Tylenol plus ibuprofen plus aspirin. Sometimes we sneak a little caffeine in there (hey, it works for my headaches).

There’s no rhyme or reason, no pattern for his bad days vs. good days. Activity can be a link but it’s not causal. Sometimes he’s in pain, sometimes it’s just an inability to concentrate or focus, and sometimes he’s fine.

This week has been a much better week for The Scout. He woke up early and hopped in the shower on Monday morning before 6:00 a.m. Unfortunately, school was canceled on Monday due to our weather situation (a rarity here) so he didn’t get to take advantage of a truly good day for his recovering body.  He went to class today, and even went to karate this evening; he can’t do much there, but at least he can keep up on his kata.

Not to let the teenager get all the medical attention, I went to the dentist this morning. In an effort to stave off periodontal disease, I underwent a deep cleaning on the right side of my mouth. Since it is painful process (hello, below-the-gum-line scouring), Novocaine is given…and given. Apparently I don’t numb easily. The hygienist lost count after 9 pokes, but we’re pretty sure it was around 13 injections. I’m a bit sore this evening. Lucky me, I get to go back in a few weeks for the left side of my mouth. (That will also be a work day, with the fun of answering the phone while swollen like a chipmunk .)

It looks like January is the month for appointments around here.
Maybe I’ll even finally get my colonoscopy, but I’m not holding my breath about that one — the office still hasn’t called me back. Perhaps I’ll have the opportunity to be done with antibiotic oral rinses before cleaning out the other end of the digestive cycle.  Getting older is not for wimps.

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a treat. Related to none of the above, here’s a cute picture of Little Foot on Christmas Eve.

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My Town Monday: Historic Reflections

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On  Thursday evening, my friend ~A~ invited me to join her at a small concert in a privately owned historic home. We met there after work, shedding warm coats and settling into a row of dining room chairs to enjoy the dulcet sounds of oboe and piano and a soprano.

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This was my view straight ahead, with the large reddish-orange star hanging from the eaves on the front porch and the lights from indoors reflected in the window.

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The home was built in 1909 and has been beautifully preserved. The current owners pointed out the recurring theme of the Maltese crosses, the original lighting fixtures and told us that the beautiful woodwork had never been painted over (unlike some fixer-upper historic era homes).

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It was such a lovely evening that I did not notice that my ankle was badly swollen until I was leaving to go home. I’d brought my cane with me to help me manage the many stairs from street level to the house, and it was definitely needed for the trek back down to the car.

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At home I attempted to massage out the swelling while sharing with my husband how beautifully perfect the evening had been; a few hours later, I was using his foam roller to release tension in my calves and feet — an the effort to achieve sleep. In the morning I headed off to my regular water exercise class but once that was over, I was done for the day. A full day of work plus the evening concert on Thursday caused me to be overdrawn on my Pain & Abilities account. It’s been over a year since my surgery and apparently this is my “new normal.” The things I was able to do just 13 months ago are no longer possible. I know this — I’ve experienced it before — and yet I continue to forget or else stubbornly try to do things. I can attend a concert in the evening or have a busy day, but I cannot do both without paying the consequences in overdraft fees for that Pain & Abilities account.  After my class at the YMCA on Friday morning, my kind husband assisted me into stranded turtle position (ankle on pillow on overturned laundry basket) and massaged out some of the swelling. I spent the afternoon looking out the window at the falling snow, much as I did one year ago.

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One year later

dislocated left ankle, one of these things is not like the other

Both legs are stretched out straight, and both feet should be pointed in same direction… but one of these things is NOT like the other…

Today is my “breakiversary” — one year ago, I broke my ankle so severely that people gasp when they see the x-ray of the repair.

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The trimalleolar fracture has healed but the metal remains.

Most of the time, I do not need a cane — I keep it in the car for walking on uneven surfaces and for days when I am sore and tired. I can go up and down stairs if there is a sturdy railing.  I do still take the cane with me to the YMCA pool; locker room floors and poolside walking make me nervous. The fear of slipping and falling is stronger than my confidence level.

I’m doing better with pain control these days. I’m wearing compression socks or stockings  which really do help. I’ve learned to rest and elevate in advance of activities, not just after the fact. I’ve discovered that I can have a couple of busy days in a row before I have to take significant time off my feet. I can power through the pain when necessary but the price is twofold: I will have trouble concentrating and thinking clearly, so everything takes longer, and I will pay for it with increased need for subsequent rest. I no longer spend much time with my leg elevated above my heart (unless the ankle is really swollen) but I still prop it up on a spare chair and a pillow at the dining room table and I do spend quite a bit of time at home either on the chaise lounge portion of the sofa or on my bed.

One year ago today I went from mobile to immobilized. What I live with now may be my not-so-happily-ever-after or perhaps it could slowly get a little bit better. But I can walk — and that is more than I was promised one year ago.

What is it? Wednesday — the race course

I almost forgot to post tonight, so I’m getting this in just “under the wire”… or under the flags…

wiiwLast Wednesday I posted this picture. Carolyn had a good guess with a farmers’ market marker, but it takes a cross-country parent to recognize those flags! Melissa knew it was part of a course, although it wasn’t the finish line — just a marked section on a hillside. Here is the full photograph:

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The Scout ran his first meet of the season last Wednesday. He’s had a late start due to his fall on July 3rd and subsequent concussion. His head started hurting 2/3 of the way through the 5k last Wednesday, although he did well on Saturday at his second meet. Unfortunately, he had to come home early from school today with a headache that got worse as the morning went on, so he did not race in today’s meet. After taking a 3-hour nap, he and SuperDad went down to watch and cheer on the team, however, because that’s what they do.

My understanding is that there really isn’t anything you can do to hurry up the healing from a concussion, but he’s got an appointment with the doctor in 2 weeks to discuss his progress and setbacks.