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Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's Official - I'm Whining

This burn thing is getting me down.  I almost decided not to publish a post about it today because when I had my dressings changed this morning, it was necessary to bind yet another finger on my right hand.  You should see me typing.  
My burns are more painful every day, and there are still blisters popping up on flesh I thought was only slightly burned.  Now, my right leg is bandaged from the top of my foot to my panty line.  I have an appointment at a wound clinic tomorrow.  It occurred to me that this is just not a burn, it is a chemical burn.  The chemicals in the citronella candle surely added to the damage.
And the pain pills are not working.  They are serving only to make me nauseated.  Great.  Pain and nausea, a nurse’s nightmare when treating patients.  I guess the best I can say is that the nausea medicine makes me sleepy, and in my naps, I escape the pain for a while.
I feel as though I am burning from the inside out.  My right middle finger was not blistered or even very red on Wednesday, but since then, a large painful blister has appeared.  Places where my burns were drained are producing recurring blisters.
Could I whine any more?
But, as Sara Shepard is reported to have said, "Its not bragging if its true." Maybe it’s not whining if it really hurts.
(I’m as sick of this as you are).
Dozing off.....
© cj Schlottman
August 28,2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Still Smoking - Blisters on Blisters

This is a continuation of "Smoked Ham."  If you are new to my site, please click here to read that post first.

This morning, when I emerged from my drug-induced sleep, the dressing on my thigh had worked its way down to my knee.   So, I cut it off and took a look at my burns.  Not pretty.  Where the blisters had been yesterday, there were new ones, some of them weeping clear fluid, others ballooned out like little jellyfish.  By the time I changed into a skirt and top, most of the blisters had popped, and when I arrived at Urgent Care for my follow-up, my skirt was scattered with moist circles on the right side.
Yesterday, when I was there, I was quite the freak show.  Before I left, several nurses had come into the  exam room to see my burns.  I didn’t care.  The really freaky thing happened when a medical student came in the room and asked me if I would be willing to answer four questions to see if I qualified to participate in an study about alcohol use in patients who present themselves at walk-in clinics.  She promised me a $20 gift card from Kroger if I completed the survey!   
No shit.  The questions were about eating and exercise habits, alcohol and tobacco use.  When I answered “yes” to the one that asked if I drank, I qualified for the study.  
So, while I was waiting for John to get his stuff together to dress my burns, I answered a series of questions about my use of alcohol.  Some of the best ones involved whether or not I had been in jail in the last year, or if I were awaiting sentencing for a felony conviction.  I did not make this up.  Had I missed work or had family problems because of alcohol use?  And so it went.  By the time the young woman was finished interrogating me, I was ready to grab a bottle of rubbing alcohol out of the cabinet and take a giant swig.
Today, after John had taken a look at my burns, he started clucking his tongue and went to get another nurse who specializes in wound care.  She took a photo of the carnage and texted it to the Wound Center.
Then the doctor - not Dr. Patel from yesterday - but Dr. Longacre, who is the grand poo-bah of the facility, came in and drained all the blisters which had popped up since I arrived.  This is getting ugly.  Again, John did his best to dress my wounds and secure them in a manner that would, well, stay put. He even wrapped an Ace bandage around my leg.
I was sent home with instructions to do nothing except rest and to come back on Saturday for a dressing change.  They also gave me an appointment for Monday at the Wound Center.  
But, with all the burn cream smeared onto my leg, nothing would stay up.  By the time I arrived home the dressing was sagging down my leg.
That’s when I became (tah-dah) a genius.  I’m thinking about calling a patent lawyer, so any of you out there who might be tempted to steal my intellectual property, remember that every word on any of my blogs is copy-written!!
I cut the feet out of a pair of panty hose and pulled them on.  Drooping dressing problem solved.  (The fact that I actually had a pair of panty hose in my house is a topic for another post).  I do owe you an explanation for that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Smoked Ham

Lately, I have been fishing around for blog ideas.  I get weary of writing about my personal life, and besides, I have a personal journal for that.  I often feel as though I am whining for all the world to hear.  
I could write about the stock market and how I’m going broke, but there’s no way that wouldn’t be understood as major whining. 
I could write about how my dog, Belle, had a fluid-filled cyst on her neck, and I had to take her to the vet and get it drained.  More whining.
I could write about how my neighbors started a construction project at their house without bothering to tell me that, for nearly two weeks, I would wake to the sound of heavy earth-moving equipment at 7:00 AM, even on Saturdays.  Whining?  Oh, yeah.
I could write about the two nurses at work who get on my nerves, but, well........
I could write about last Friday, when I had both of my knees injected with cortisone to hopefully make them feel better, stop waking me up at night.  Sounds like whining to me.
I could write about the scorching heat and what a tough summer it has been and how my yard looks like shit and my little rust garden is all wilted.  Yep, more whining.
But it might not be whining if I tell the story of how I set myself on fire last night.
That is not a typo, and no, it’s not a pitiful cry for attention. No one could make this shit up.  I set myself on fire last night.
Last night, when I returned from dinner with friends, I took a glass of tea and sat on the deck while my dogs ran around and did their business.  Being a mosquito magnet, I always light a citronella candle to stave them off, and last night was not different.
What is different is that, eyeing a spider hovering over the table, I flicked on the grill lighter, leaned over and tried to zap him with it.  I had taken a few shots when I smelled smoke.  Looking down, I saw my thin cotton skirt afire.  Even though I had swept the deck the day before, there were pine cone spikes scattered all over the surface, I decided (in a millisecond), that “drop and roll” might be worse than grabbing the hose and dousing myself. 
The hose was on, as I had forgotten to turn it off at the faucet, so I grabbed it and put myself out - not without some difficulty.  Wet, and in horrible pain, I stripped out of the skirt and began showering my body with cold water.  My right leg was unbelievably painful, and I must have been in shock, because the first thing I did was call work to see if we were covered for today.  No shit.  I called work before drawing a cold bath and soaking in it.  
I lay in the tub, at intervals, crying and screaming.  (Envision Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”).  I dunked my head under the water and realized that the hair on the right side of my head was singed and shedding.  More crying and screaming.  I am hoarse today from all the ululating.
I emptied the tub, washed the hair down the drain, refilled it and soaked some more.  The pain did not let up.  My right little finger had 2 big blisters on it, the ring finger had a juicy one, too.  There were also two big ones on my right foot.  My right thigh, from knee to buttocks, was a brilliant scarlet but not blistered - or so I thought.
Remembering that I had some pain pills from my knee injection last week, I hauled my scarlet ass out of the tub and swallowed two of them.  I gingerly dried myself off and slipped into the softest pair of pajamas I own.  Still the pain, Oh-My-God, the pain.  
Since I only have one ice bag, I filled it and a few zip-top plastic bags with ice, positioned myself on my left side in the bed and tried to keep the burns cool.  It was several hours and two pain pills later before I fell asleep.  The sleep was deep and dark and I was grateful for it.  
I woke early when the dogs asked to go out, and once more feeling as though someone had a blow-torch aimed at my right thigh, took some more medicine and went back to sleep.  
When I woke several hours later, the pain was merely a little sting.  I got up the nerve to look at my leg in the mirror and was horrified to see one blister as big as my hand and one only slightly smaller.  
It was time to think about getting medical treatment, but first, I called Nancy, my best nurse/friend, and she came over to give her opinion.
“Don’t you think you should see somebody about this?”
“I probably should, but I think it will be okay.”
She jumped on her Blackberry and phoned her husband, who once set himself on fire, for advice.  
“You have to go to Urgent Care.”
I quickly agreed, realizing that burns that don’t hurt are the worst kind.  It means the nerves are damaged.
Well, shit a blue brick.

Nancy went to play bridge, and I dressed and presented myself at the neighborhood Urgent Care Center.  
“Why didn’t you seek help for this last night,” my kind nurse, John, asked.  
“I really didn’t think it was this bad.”
The doctor came into the room.  He was a gentle man whose name is Dr Patel. John pulled up the sheet which was draped over my leg, and I there was an audible intake of breath from the doctor.
“Well, now.  You have yourself quite a burn there.  How did this happen?”  So, for the third time, I explained my injury.  It was beginning to be funny, at least to me, so I quipped that I had invented a new way to smoke a ham.  He was not amused, but John couldn’t suppress a little chuckle.
About an hour later, after the MD had lanced the blisters, my right leg and hand smeared with Silvadene Cream and swathed in gauze bandages, I left for home, stopping by the drug store for a bottle of antibiotics.

And here I sit, not quite comfortable but not needing pain medicine, trying to keep my dressing from falling down my leg, writing this post and feeling a little but like a fool.
I go back tomorrow for a dressing change.

© cj Schlottman

Thursday, August 11, 2011

And it Keeps on Turning

August 11, 2011 - Thursday

This is a continuation of sorts.  To start at the beginning, click here.

I worked on Tuesday and Wednesday, long days filled with admitting and losing patients.  I have been too exhausted to write after work, even though this piece should have been written last night.
The call came soon after I got home Tuesday night, while I was sitting on the deck having a drink and watching the dogs play.  
“Mama?  I just wanted to let you know I am in the hospital again, on the psych floor.  I had suicidal thoughts last night, and I thought I should come to the hospital.  Don’t worry.  I am okay.”
Okay?  Really
This is three hospitalizations in one week, but Parrish just wants me to know he is all right.  He would not describe his feelings, just said that he felt like killing himself so he went to hospital.  As usual, I asked him to have his doctor call me and tell me what he thinks.  Parrish said he would, but the call never came.
He said he would be there for a few days for observation, that he had a new doctor because he as tired of his old one changing his meds all the time.  I asked how he was feeling at that moment.
“I don’t know how I feel.  I’m tired of the goddamned illness, but as you know, Mama, it is a progressive condition, and I will never get better, only worse.”
Try to be me for a minute, sitting down at last after a 13 hour day that left me little time for anything but going to the bathroom a couple of times.  I’ve taken a long pull off my drink, have a cigarette going, my feet up on the other chair, relaxed or almost so. 

And the fucking phone rings. 

And it’s Parrish with more bad news, delivering it in his usual passive-agressive manner.  What in the name of God am I supposed to do with this news?  My muscles, which have begun to relax, tense up, and my neck begins to ache.  Good job, P, you have achieved your goal.  I am officially depressed and anxious and furious all at the same time.  Good for you.  The stock market is in the toilet and I am hemorrhaging money, and now I get to worry about you, too.
We talk for a few minutes, or rather, he talks and I listen.  He is too far away from me.  I am all he has in the world.  It’s no wonder he wants to kill himself, he feels so isolated in the dump where he lives........
I praise him for having the good judgement to go to hospital, encourage him to stay as long as he needs to be there, ask for a phone call from his doctor.  Rather than tell him how distressed and worried I am, I stress how proud I am of his willingness to get the help he needs.  
Disappointment in his voice, he tells me he will call me on Wednesday night.  
The call did not come last night, and I was relieved.  Yes, relieved.  I was too exhausted to deal with more of his blather, knowing he was trying to get me to fly down to Miami or suggest that he come back home, or at least to Atlanta. 
(Update.  He has pushed his move to Atlanta back a month to October). 
There is nothing else to say.  I’m out of words, out of sorts and nearly out of patience.  
Later - 4:30 PM
Before I could publish this post, I ran out of time and had to go to the doctor - routine; I’m healthy.  
I was waiting in the exam room at around 1:30, and my fucking cell phone rang.
“Mama?  First of all, I am out of the hospital, but I have some bad news.  You better sit down.”
“I’m already seated.  What is it, son?”
“I have hepatitis C.”
Long pause.
“Well, we already knew that.  You told me several years ago that you have Hep C.  I told you to stay away from alcohol and drugs and to follow your doctor’s instructions.”
Long pause
A disappointed, “I didn’t realize I had told you.”
“What did the doctor recommend?”
“He said to stay away from booze and street drugs and I would be okay.”
It is no small wonder that I get up every morning and look to the sky and say, “It isn't my turn.”

Monday, August 8, 2011

And the Merry-Go-Round Starts up Again

August 8, 2011 - Monday
What next?  Last Wednesday, Parrish called to tell me he had been mugged the night before, and that he had spent the night in hospital, having scans and blood work and all that.  He said the mugger hit him in the back of the head and took his wallet and the $5 in it.  He said his head hurt, but he assured me, “Mama, I just want you to know I’m all right.”
It could be true.  It could be a ploy for attention.  He made no mention of the hassle he would endure to get another wallet and a duplicate ID and transportation pass.  He could have been drug shopping at the ER.
On Saturday morning, he called to tell me he was in Westchester Hospital with pancreatitis.  He said he had extreme pain just under his left ribcage, “right where my pancreas is.”  He told me they were doing scans and more lab work and that his liver enzymes were “through the roof.”  He said his pain was almost unbearable, and that he was getting pain medicine.  “And I swear, Mama, I have not been drinking or doing drugs.”
Yesterday, he phoned to say he had gallstones, and he didn’t know whether or not they were going to take out his gallbladder.  He again reassured me that he was fine, and for me not to worry.  I asked him to have is doctor call me, and he said he would.
Later in the day, he phoned to say he would be discharged this morning, that his enzymes had miraculously come back down and the pain was going away.
I have no idea where the truth lies, and that is one of the reasons it’s so hard to deal with Parrish.  I can’t count the number of times he has cried “wolf” over the years.  I used to rush to his side only to find out that he was okay.  He probably thought I would hear the word “pancreatitis” and jump on the next plane to Miami.  I did go down last year when he had a real spider bite that could have killed him.
I did not hear from his doctor.  I never do when Parrish gets into one of these situations.  It seems that when I ask to speak to the doctor, Parrish magically improves.
Can you way passive-aggressive?
With his history of alcoholic cirrhosis, he is at greater risk for developing pancreatitis as well as pancreatic cancer - a particularly debilitating and painful way to die.  It is my guess that he already has chronic pancreatitis.  (I do not believe that he is not drinking or drugging).  This disease can lead to an entire menu of abdominal problems.
I have often thought that I would outlive my son.  It’s just about the most terrifying feeling in the world.  He is already lost to me to drugs, alcohol and mental illness, but dead is something altogether different.  I force myself not to think about it, but when he landed in hospital with “pancreatitis,” it bubbled to the surface.  
It just occurred to me that I continuously grieve the loss of Parrish.  Thank God I am still in the denial stage, else I would be more a raving maniac than I am.

© cj Schlottman

(Later in the day............discharge diagnosis: chronic pancreatitis).

Friday, August 5, 2011

Live From Best Buy

This post is coming to you from the service bay at Best Buy, where I am having a new Sirius/XM radio installed in my car.  
There is a totally polite and knowledgable young man doing the installation.  He is short and somewhat slight, has black curly hair, a stud in his lower lip and one in his tongue.  A radio hangs from a lanyard around his neck, and he sports a black button earring in his left lobe. He is wearing drab gray shorts and shirt and black Adidas sport shoes with 3 white stripes on the sides.  His socks are white and short.
I like him.
He wants to know if I like Country Music, and I say “Yes,” so there is popular Country blaring from two speakers mounted on the wall above the racks of parts and gadgets.  It is just loud enough to be good.
I like it. (I like most music).
Now.  To the back story.  Why do I need a new satellite radio?  Fair question.  Let me explain.
I drive a 1997 Lincoln Town Car which was my husband, Clint’s.  I call it The Land Yacht.  It never went many places, mostly just to the Idle Hour Golf and Country Club.  So, when he passed away, it had only 63,000 miles on it, and I hated the Honda Odyssey I was forced to buy because it would accommodate his wheelchair.  It is a long step down from owning a series of GMC Yukons to driving a freaking minivan.  I hated it from the beginning, never could figure out why the front of the car ran off in a curve, making it impossible to judge distances.  I’m rambling.
So, I decided to keep the Lincoln and sell the van.  
Remember that my car is 13 years old.  When I took it to a trusted mechanic to have it evaluated, he beamingly reported that it needed only two things - spark plugs and tires!  The engine is in perfect condition.  (He also wanted to know if I were interested in selling it).  I had the plugs and tires installed and had it painted.  It had stood un-garaged for several years and needed to be shined up.
Engine in good shape notwithstanding, my car has a few little things wrong.  Recently, the washer on the driver’s side door wore out, and the door would not close properly.  So, I went and bought the washers - or whatever they are called - and my step-son fixed the door.  Trouble was, the door was extremely hard to close and open.  Back to AutoZone I went for different size washers, and he put one of them in.  Better.  Just a little difficult to open and close - needed to be broken in.
To the radio.  It clearly was not factory installed.  No XM radio in 1997.  I bought it at Best Buy, and they installed it.  It was mounted onto the windshield with a suction cup device and everything was just wonderful.  Eventually, the suction cup lost it’s suckage, and I bought another mounting device a couple of months ago.  It worked great - for a while.  Then it began losing suction fairly frequently.  I blamed it on these sweltering days of temperatures in the upper 90’s and all the way up to 104ยบ.
So, periodically, I have been forced to re-stick it to the windshield.  The problem got worse but I persevered, determined not to spend any more money on it.  I am in saving mode, like every other regular person in the world.
Two weeks ago, I parked my car at the hospital pharmacy and went inside to pick up a prescription.  I slammed the door hard, as usual, to make sure the latch caught.
Returning to the car, I noticed that the mount had disconnected itself once more from the windshield and that the whole business, radio and all, was dangling down by the door.
Exasperated and hotter than the hinges of hell, I got into the car, cranked it for some air conditioning, reached down and swiped radio and mount toward me.  I leaned out, took the heavy door (Old cars are made out of real metal), and gave it a hefty tug.  No go.  I reached out again and gave it another, more enthusiastic pull.  No go.  
Aside:  My rear end is throbbing from sitting in this hard plastic chair, and the back seat of my car is still lying on the floor.  I still like the kid.
I looked down into the door jamb to see if something were blocking it.  You see where this is going?  There it was, my radio, cracked bigger than hell.  After all, I had slammed it into the door twice.
I took a deep breath and chanted my mantra for dumb accidents: “It’s not cancer.  It’s not child abuse.  It’s not poverty or homelessness.  It’s a fucking thing, just a thing.”
Having adjusted my attitude, I drove off, leaving the radio hanging down beside the door, resigned to the fact that I would have to buy another if I were to continue listening to “Classic Vinyl.”  (So much for saving money).  
A few yards down the street, the radio began to play!  No shit, it started playing.  I pulled into a parking place and went through the drill of remounting it. And it played just fine until day-before-yesterday.  I had all my favorite channels programmed in, so I could play them when I wanted.  The face of the radio, however, looked as though it were on LSD.  It looked kind of cool, as a matter of fact, reminded me of the 70’s.
The new one will not be mounted to the windshield but rather to the dashboard.  By the time I pay for the radio and all the stuff to get it installed where I can’t slam it in the door, and have it programmed so it will read the signal off the satellite instead going through the radio tuner, I will have invested $231.46, compared to the $30.00 or so I would have paid for a new mounting kit.

Yes, Ma’am, Miz cj, you sure know how to pinch those pennies.

(Total time in hard plastic chair: 1 hour, 50 minutes.  I may not be thrifty, but I know how to use my time wisely).
© cj Schlottman
Friday, August 5, 2011