Sunday, October 28, 2012

a Plateau

I've recently attained another milestone. a Plateau

1. An elevated, comparatively level expanse of land; a tableland.
2. A relatively stable level, period, or state: Mortgage rates declined, then reached a plateau.
intr.v. pla·teaued, pla·teau·ing, pla·teaus
To reach a stable level; level off:

it's been just short two years since VA doctor walked into my room and asked me if I wanted to get back out of that bed and start living a life again. In that two years I made some remarkable strides in regaining strength and movement of all four of my limbs. But last week in a session with my physical therapist we discussed the fact that I had reached a plateau in my progress, and after further assessment she had determined that my goal of "walking again" was unrealistic. And the consult written those two years ago would be closed. She said "it would not be safe for me or my wife if I were given a prosthetic leg and attempted to use it with my current level of skills". She began talking about all the many things that I had accomplished and this time frame, things such as becoming mobile via a motorized wheelchair and a van designed to carry it, receiving a determination that I was fit to go back to work. These are all very important things, especially in light of the fact that my diagnosis still quadriplegic.

It's a little bit hard for me to not be disheartened by this. I have never failed at anything my life and when I told this to my therapist she tried to remind me that I did not fail and that this was not a lack of trying. It was simply that my body have been so devastated by the chemotherapy, it should be considered a miracle that I'm able to move at all much less be discussing why I can't get up to walk away. I really don't feel very miraculous today in fact I feel pretty shitty. I have no intention of giving up fact the opposite is true. You see I believe that if I cannot continue working to get stronger I will get weaker that is something I'm not ready or willing to accept again. I've been a fighter all my life in every sense of the word, and this is just a continuation of a long fight I've been in for a while and if the goal is unrealistic, rather than give up on the goal, I'm just going to set a new goal. 

The thing I need to figure out now is; what is a realistic goal? I still have a Harley Davidson in my garage that calls my name constantly. I think I miss that most of all. Having been a fighter I'm forced to assess the tools that possess. The hands that used to crack walnuts are now barely able to hold the cell phone and dial properly. The fists they used to put my opponents on their butts are unable to clinch anymore. The legs that used to run effortlessly for miles on end are now a stump in a scrawny stick. There is a distinct possibility that after all these years of misusing these tools that my God has made them useless for that purpose anymore. 

As an example,
Last night we were at Hometown buffet for the first time in six years and while I was sitting there enjoying my meal the man at the table next to us begin asking the children seated by him about how much money their mother was making. When the kids asked about it he replied, "if she's making money now, it means I get paid her less". I was stunned but when I saw the look of joy on the children's faces flush out and become pained expressions I got so angry that I actually said to my wife, "I wish I could stand up right now, I'd kick his ass". So maybe that's why I can't stand up. I still have lessons to learn and angers to control. Also last night at Hometown buffet I paid the seniors discount price which means I've had 60 years to learn those lessons and those 60 years I'm still a hardheaded man who would settle first with his fists than to sit idly by and watch somebody get hurt.

So I'll work on this, finding a new goal probably something that includes becoming more Christian in my actions and reactions and less of a knucklehead. Either way I'm not ready to give up.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Around my house

Here are some photos I took in the early morning hours while waiting for my transport rides to the VA for physical therapy. All the pics in this post were taken with my iPhone4


Monday, October 8, 2012

win some and loose some

While I was in the nursing home I managed to get an appointment scheduled with outside physical therapist. Actually I had a lot of help from the Social Worker on staff at La Jolla Nursing center. If you remember, the people at vocational rehabilitation (Voc-Rehab) arbitrarily decided that my handicaps were too severe for me to return to work and told me I needed a doctor to over rule their decision. Well as it turns out, my primary care at the VA says she's not qualified to make that call and wrote a consult for me to get evaluated by a licensed Physical Therapist. And at first glance the guy was confused when I told him what the VA was saying. So he did an assessment where he measured strength and range of motion and asked some questions about my endurance in the wheelchair and pronounced me fit to return to work. Oh yea, he did ask questions about what line of work was I trying to pursue and when I told him "Computer Security" and not dock worked or space shuttle pilot, he was all for it. Not bad for a guy with a current diagnosis of quadriplegia, huh?

I was hoping to write my blog from the keyboard of my new HP Pavilion 7000 that I got for my birthday. But NOOOO!
That would be too easy. It started like this. On August 12, I decided that I wanted a new laptop for my birthday and went shopping online, first at Amazon and then, just looking for model names, at And wouldn't you know it? HP was having a sale and the computer I wanted was discounted $150.00 below what it cost on Amazon. So on August 13 I made the order. And on August 14 I went to respite care. I had made the decision that we were not going to celebrate my birthday while I was in a nursing home, in my mind it was just a little too creepy. So we put it off until I returned from the care center and on Sunday 30 September   we celebrated my birthday. But when I turned the computer on it said "No boot device detected, install an operating system." Several attempts to restart lead to an error that said "Smart drive detects an eminent hard drive failure, contact HP tech support" and that's what I did. When the rep came on the phone I described the problem and told him that I wanted to return the computer to exchange for a new one that actually WORKED.
But it had been in my possession for more than 21 days and the rep kept repeating
It was like he was chanting his mantra,
over and over, again and again
I told him
I have a policy too ya know.
So on we went for 10 minutes shouting our policies at each other, when I asked to speak to his supervisor. Another few minutes go bye and I'm explaining the problem again to another person, who systematically responds with
it appears this is a corporate mantra at Hewlett Packard and not merely that of the service department. Because I asked to be escalated to that person's supervisor and he knew the mantra also.
And despite my employing the
They all just kept reciting it over and over until it was now my mantra as well.
I was shouting a the top of my voice at my iPhone and all they did was recite the mantra.
And finally I asked "What are you going to do for me?"
He gave me the number to their sales department and told me to call them on the next business day and see if they could waive the policy because he could not. The sales department knows the mantra so well I'm convinced that they wrote it. The lady was very patient but adamant that I was to  blame for waiting so long to open and test the laptop and even insinuated that I might have broken the computer and was trying to get a new one to make up for my error. That sent me into a long drawn out string of profanities, most of which were probably lost on the lady on the receiving end. And after awhile she told me I needed to talk to the service department to resolve the warranty problem I was experiencing. So I went back to the service department, fully schooled on the corporate return policy and started troubleshooting with the techs. They determined that the hard drive was defective and should be replaced (Really?). And all I had to do was give them my credit card number to ensure I would return the defective hard drive and they would put a new one on the truck immediately. This was an affront to all I held dear. I was going to be held up for more money to pay for a computer that didn't work. "Are you serious? Do you know how unfair that is?" I shouted at the tech, and hung up on the call. You see I was home alone and had no way to access a credit card even if I wanted to. But my stupid ego wouldn't let me say that to the guy. Besides, my medical problems are none of their business. About 20 minutes later my son came in and gave me my visa card and I called HP tech support. Problem was, no one made a tack of the progress of troubleshooting the laptop hard drive so I started from scratch with a brand new rep and a half hour later I was being held hostage via my credit card to pay for an old broken harddrive to get a new one sent.

Two days later and the new drive arrives and fortunately there happens to be a certified PC repair tech standing in my living room. And with his assistance we install the new drive physically in the laptop. But unlike the original which should have booted to a startup sequence. So we have to install the OS from a series of recovery discs. The system boots from the CD-ROM and promptly reports that there is no hard drive in the computer. WTF? So  we open the case again and connect the drive to  the secondary controller and try again. This time the CD-ROM finds the drive and goes through a 68 minute ordeal of putting the computer to factory original, and when prompted, I click continue,  the CD ejects, the computer restarts and comes up with an error "No boot device detected."

Another round of calls and explaining to the techs, who for some reason have no idea that they
and more frustrations until they agree to send a box for me to return the laptop  so they can repair it and send it back to me.
In my mind this feels like being forced to pay full price for a refurbished computer all because they
The box was taken to  FedEx by my lovely wife and they told her it would be in Texas at HP in 2 days.

 on top of that, I upgraded my iPhone to the new iOS6 and it died completely. So I'm doing a complete restore of that right now.

How's your day going?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Where have you been my blue eyed son?

I've been on a bit of a journey.......
a journey not only of body and mind, but of spirit and soul as well.
2552 Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, Ca. 92037

The pretty lady in that video really does work  at the La Jolla nursing home. She was one of the bright stars in my stay there. And her consummate knowledge of the day-to-day operations and her helpful friendly attitude and charming smile got me through the days.
For those of you have been reading this for a long time you may remember back in 2006 2007 timeframe I had a stay in a nursing home that I considered the most hellish place I've ever been in my life. And I've been in some hellish places. So it was with great deal of trepidation that I went to this respite care. I wasn't sure what to expect but I did know that this time I was not paralyzed and would be able to defend myself verbally and physically if the need arose.

I arrived around 11 AM on August 14, 2012 was assigned to room 25 A. It was a large two bed room a shared with an elderly gentleman who had taken a fall down the stairs while attending his granddaughter's wedding. He, his wife and son were very friendly and we spoke often during my stay there but on the third day they moved him to another room and for the next two days I had this large room to myself. Of course whenever the bureaucracy of the VA is involved things will get messed up and in this instance the mess up was quite serious. Despite all outward appearances I am still a quadriplegic and as such I require special mattress to sleep on that prevents me from getting bedsores and wouldn't you know it, the VA was supposed to provide said mattress but did not, and for two more days we went around in circles trying to get a mattress. The solution was provided by the maintenance man at La Jolla nursing home, he drove to my house and picked up my mattress from my bed and brought it here and installed it on their bed. After spending the first night on the standard mattress I was forced to sleep in my wheelchair because my skin had already started to break down after one night.

Day five of the stay brought a new roommate. He mysteriously showed up sometime after dinner but before I went to bed and he was sound asleep when I finally arrived in the room. The next morning when he awoke I was sitting in my wheelchair and he looked at me with a puzzled look on his face and asked "where am I?"
Having no idea how to answer that question, I pressed the call button for the nurse. But before the nurse arrived, the man-in-the-bed's daughter arrived and explained that her father was there on hospice. For those of you who don't know, hospice means they're no longer trying to keep you alive, the primary goal of hospice is to maintain a level of comfort and dignity as a patient passes on. The gentleman was a 96-year-old Korean War veteran and the few times I got to see him while he was conscious, it was quite obvious that his mind was intact and I think I would've enjoyed knowing him. His daughter was there almost constantly as well as many other members of his family. Four days later he went quietly to his reward, and for the next three days I was alone again in the big room.

I remember taking note of the mileage on my wheelchair when I checked in. It read 197 miles. When I was discharged it read 243 miles, so being the only occupant in the room really didn't matter much to me because I didn't spend much time in the room. I was speeding around the hallways and the courtyard meeting people, watching Netflix, and just in general exploring my new surroundings. I'm a genuinely gregarious person I have never been shy about starting a conversation with perfect strangers this place is full of them. It didn't take me long to discover that I was one of the youngest people in the place, and I was about to turn 60.

I was sitting in the lunchroom at a table next to three men, one of whom always wore a Harley Davidson T-shirt, and when I asked him, "do you ride a Harley or you just wear the T-shirts?"
He replied, "I just wear the T-shirts, I used to have a Harley but that was a long time ago."
I asked, "what model did you ride?"
He replied, "a big one!"
I kinda giggled to myself and thought, who spent $20,000 on a motorcycle and not know what model it was? But instead I said, "so why don't you ride one now?"
He replied, "motorcycles are dangerous – – people get killed on them all the time!" I was floored, and then his table mate said that he had once owned a motorcycle but got rid of it for the exact same reason, "people get killed on motorcycles."
So I asked, "did you guys quit taking showers?" And when they gave me a blank stare, I continued "more people die in the shower every day than are ever killed on motorcycles…" The third gentleman chimed in that he had once owned a motorcycle but because of the danger involved he quit riding it too. So I asked all three of them, "did they make you turn in your testicles to the charge nurse when you checked in here?" Thus endearing myself to them for the rest of our stay.

There was a man's man there. He is 80 years old, a former Navy war veteran who served during the Korean conflict and made quite the impression on me.

 His name is Francis LaSalle, he was born the 17th of 17 children in a town in New Jersey back in the day. He's a bright, intelligent, insightful gentlemen who kept me in stitches with his stories of the Old Navy and his life with 16 older siblings. After leaving the Navy he became a long haul truck driver and delivered automobiles to the 11 Western states of America. On the off chance that you're reading this Francis, know that I miss you and I will come visit you.

let me introduce you to some of the people that made a lasting impression on me, during my stay there.

First my favorite nurses,

This is Donya. A wonderful young RN who always appeared with a smile and a friendly attitude whenever I needed some assistance.

And this is Kathy my nurse during the second half of my stay.

A little explanation, remember I told you that I was in a large room by myself, room 25A? Long about day 10 I was asked to move to another room to make way for two females who needed to check in. Being the friendly guy I am I said no the first time. But they asked really nicely a day later, so I said "OK" and moved to room 65 B. During my stay in room 25 A, Donya was my nurse. However when they moved me to the other wing, I fell under the care of station three and was cared for by Kathy.

This little angel was my CNA during my stay in room 65. Her name is Jelly, and she is a consummate professional with a work ethic seldom found in people her age.

and this wonderful woman was my CNA during my stay in room 25. Her name is Elena, and her helpful, friendly, caring attitude gave me a sense of ease whenever she was present. And even after I moved to room 65 Elena would come over to make sure that all my needs were taken care of.

This is Claudia, the night receptionist who talked computers with me.

This is the activities director, a very pleasant friendly lady, who always smiled and was very courteous when I asked her "why don't you have AC/DC or Motley Crue,  play here?"

They did provide some very nice entertainment in the form of local musicians who would come in and play guitars and piano and sing quite lovely. But the music was from a generation that I was not part of, so I stayed respectful and quietly went to find other things to do...

With 2 notable exceptions.
The first was when this young lady showed up to  play for us at a "Wine and Cheese Tasting" event...

Her Name is Jasmine Commerce and she is a wonderfully talented professional singer song writer who shows up monthly to entertain the people in the home. I had drank two glasses of wine, My first alcohol in over ten years, and while she was singing "HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN" she invited us to sing along. And when I reached down and belted out the last verse louder than her amplified voice, all eyes were upon yours truly. Fortunately I did not drink a third glass of wine or I would have been up on the table singing.

The other occasion was billed as
a candlelight dinner.
With Mr. entertainment,

Joe Fererri

There was another person who befriended me by going above and beyond her duties assigned and made sure my transports to and from my VA appointments were arranged and scheduled without me asking her.

Lesset Ramos
We spent quite a few hours talking while she did her duties as a Unit Clerk. Her boyfriend is a former Marine and that gave us plenty to talk about. I asked her if she had ever heard of Chesty Puller and she said "who?" I said  he's The real American Badass. Ask your boyfriend if he knows him, because if he doesn't then he was never a marine. She texted, "Do you know who Chesty Puller is?"
His reply "A PURE BAD ASS"
She told me she's going in BDUs as Chesty for Halloween.
I'm waiting for pictures Lesset.

And last but certainly not least was the Head of Admissions, Mrs Piper Hatch

There isn't a nicer person in the whole of La Jolla than Piper. She showed me photos of her kids, her horses, her huge Ford Pickup truck and even had her husband bring her Great Dane to visit me.

Here are some shots I took in the courtyard, a place where I would sit and enjoy the sunshine or a quiet evening breeze.

Thank you for stopping bye and a special thanks to Karen and Nana Dianna and of course Ubermouth who all sent email to me asking if I was still above the sod. Bless you ladies one and all. And thank you to the folks at La Jolla Nursing and Rehab Center, including those not mentioned here and even the ex-Army guy who runs the place. Thanks for putting up with me. I'll see y'all about this time next year if you're willing.