Monday, October 11, 2010

Five Day Hiatus

Hey Gang--

Again, I find myself apologizing for my lack of updates, but truly, I lead a fairly boring life as a reluctant invalid, so it's hard to come up with the proper mix of literary spice to make my scribbling somewhat palatable.

But I'm going to try.

So, what's new on this Monday morning?  Well, the good news, actually, the best news, is that I don't have to go down to the clinic at Vanderbilt today and have my blood tested.  I seem to have thinned out sufficiently enough and managed to maintain it long enough that I only have to go once a week now.  So I'm off the needle hook until Thursday.  Woot!  If you hadn't already guessed, that makes me very happy.

So what else is happening around here?  Well, Reverend Dave came up this past weekend, and it was nice to have him here at the hippie's place with me.  But Scottie wasn't here--he's in a band and they had a gig in North Carolina at the Mullet Festival.  We never got clarification as to whether they were celebrating the haircut or the species of fish, but nevertheless, they needed a classic rock band, so Scottie grabbed his gear went on the road for a couple of days.

On Friday, I didn't do too much.  Sherry came over to help me figure out what I'm doing wrong as far as testing my blood sugar.  I waited until after my first doctor's appointment to start testing myself, but then I could never get a reading.  I followed all of the instructions and such, but I kept getting error messages from the glucose meter thingy.  Sherry is a nurse and has lots of experience with this type of stuff so she came over to help me out.  Well, we must've gone through about a quarter of my supplies, and I've got five new holes in my fingers, but the bottom line is that the blood thinners have done their job so well that the testing strips can't register, no matter how much blood I squeeze out of my finger.  And I don't have a defective meter, either, as Sherry tested herself a few times and came up with consistent results. 

So I have no idea where my blood sugar is, although I'm guessing it's pretty damn low because I've basically gone cold turkey on sugar of any sort and cool turkey on most carbs and processed foods.  But I have my first follow-up with the surgeon and the cardio-pulmonary unit next week, so I'm hoping they can figure out how to test me.

After faltering with that little chore, we called up Carnival Cruise Lines to try and take care of some other business.  Sherry and Steve have booked one of those huge suites at the end of the boat that has a balcony that goes around the corner of the stern and costs a small fortune for the week, which in turn entitles them to some VIP treatment.  One of the perks is that they don't have to wait in the check-in line with the rest of us regular-fare peons.  They have a secret check-in area where they are given one-on-one attention and faster check-in, all in the comfort of a lounge with free drinks, comfy chairs, and fruit trays before they are whisked aboard ahead of the crowds. 

In the past, the VIP passengers where allowed to bring four friends with them upon check-in, which my sisters took advantage of last year.  Well, this year, due to my delicate condition, Sherry offered to bring me and Reverend Dave aboard with her and Steve.  Unfortunately, Carnival changed their rules this year--no more VIP check-in unless you're staying in a full-on luxury suite, no guests, no exceptions.  She played the 'invalid' card on my behalf, but we're waiting to hear back from Guest Services.  Bottom line, I may have to gimp it up a little and request a wheelchair to get the VIP check-in, so that issue is still up in the air.  But I can walk just fine--I just can't stand around for very long and I still can't carry my own luggage or even carry-on bags.

So that issue remains unsettled.  After that, Sherry tried to put $125 on my sail-n-sign account in advance for me, her gift to me from when I was in the hospital--she offered to pay for my first go-round of supplies and prescriptions, and that's what it cost me.  But I paid for it on my own when I got out, so she offered to give me the cash or put it on my room account on the cruise.  So I said to put it on my account.  Unfortunately, Carnival changed their rules on this too.  In the past, anyone could call up the 800-number and add money to anyone else's sail-n-sign account.  And I think all of us have done it at some point in the past.  But not any more.  Now you either have to buy gift certificates or wait until you're onboard and then go visit the purser's desk and they'll do it for you.

That's a pretty lame business decision if you ask me.  Not only does it inconvenience passengers and potential passengers, but why wouldn't they want the interest-free use of all that money?  So as much as we've enjoyed Carnival in the past, I think we've all come to the conclusion that we won't be going with them anymore if we can help it.  We all prefer Royal Caribbean or Princess instead, it's just that the combo of price/itinerary/departure port was too good to pass up this time.  Next year, I'm pretty sure we'll be on a Princess cruise.

So all of the stuff Sherry and I set out to do on Friday was a complete bust.  We didn't accomplish a damn thing, although we had a nice visit.  I'm home alone most of the time, so it's always good to see people.  I still can't drive anywhere, so unless people stop by, during the day it's just me and the pugs until Mamasan shows up and hauls me down to get my blood drained.  So it was nice that Sherry stuck around keeping me company as long as she could but then she had to head home--she lives on the other side of town and it was rush hour.     

That evening, Amy and I stayed home and one of her friends came over for a bit.  We didn't do anything but order pizza (thin crust with ham and onion for me) and hang out visiting and telling stories.  A few minutes after she rolled out, Reverend Dave rolled in from Alabama.  We stayed up goofing off for a few hours and talking about and making plans the upcoming cruise.  (Fifteen days till departure!)

On Saturday morning, we got up early and I made a pot of Vanilla Creme Brulee coffee, courtesy of Angy's care package and my new coffee grinder.  It was damn good, too.  After we finished our second cup, Amy suggested that we go do our walk before it got too hot.  So Dave and I got dressed and she got the puglets all harnessed up and ready to go.  We drove over to the local park, and instead of walking along the paved bike path out in the open field, we opted for the Warner Woods Trail, which is a loop of almost three miles, but I figured we'd do the first half mile or so out to the old rock quarry, walk that loop, and then come back.  Instead of open ground, it's a true deep-woods path (well, it looks like deep woods, although there is civilization all around). 

But it was a damn enjoyable hike--it follows the old Natchez Trace for a few hundred yards, then heads off into the woods and such.  We never found the rock quarry that was on the topo map, but just before the trail headed up into the too-strenuous-for-Mikey hills, another smaller trail branched off and led back to a road that led back to the far end of the bike path.  Using one of the magic GPS tracking apps on the iPhone, we learned that our route was .95 miles.  Not quite a full one, but close enough for me, especially when you factor in the bit where you walk to and from the truck to get to the trailhead.

Of course I forgot to take my camera with me, but it was an awesome hike.  I love love love the look and feel of being in the deep dark woods (even if I can hear a train in the distance), and the elevation changes were just right for me--not too steep, but still enough up and down to give me a good workout.  Yeah, I was sweating pretty good when we got back to the parking lot, but I felt good.  (I enjoyed that walk so much that I did it again last night, this time with Scottie, and while we were there, he took that picture at the top of the post--fall is coming to Tennessee!)

I hope to make that trek again a few times this week, and I'll make sure to take my camera with to share a few pics with y'all.  It's truly some stunning scenery. 

Once we got back, Amy had some errands to run and David and I had a lot to do, too.  On his way up to Nashville, he stopped in Columbia to pick up Amy and Scott's old camp trailer from behind their old house (the old house went to auction on Saturday, so the trailer had to go).  So anyhow, we had a two-fold mission on our hands.  We were taking the trailer up to Mamasan's place (she has a HUGE backyard, and more importantly, a double gate that you can get a truck and trailer through, so that's where the camper went.  And of course I had to go through the storage unit and get a few more things.

So while Dave was parking the camper and getting it leveled and situated for long-term storage, I was going through my storage totes and finding stuff I needed.  Mostly stuff for the cruise--dress shoes, a pair of topsiders, a couple of ties, a few more t-shirts, and then a few kitchen things like my wok and my Asian cookbooks.  Oh, and my hanging garment bag, too.  We also had lunch with Mamasan and visited for awhile before making that long 40-mile drive back to Amy's. 

Saturday night was bonfire night, and we had to help Amy get the place ready.  Cyndi and Tim were coming up, along with my niece Diana and her boyfriend, plus a couple of other friends.  Amy made BBQ chicken in the crockpot, while David and I headed off to Kroger to get a fruit tray and some shrimp cocktail.  Oh, and more beer, too.  I told myself I was going to have ONE beer that night, but I ended up not having any.  It was diet Dr. Pepper all night, until just before bed--then I had a glass of red wine (I swear that stuff is a miracle drug!).

But we had a great time sitting around the bonfire and goofing off with family and friends.  Of course, I was a wreck, because just before the party started, not even thinking, I accidentally tried to pick up a case of water out of habit, and it damn near killed me.  I'm not supposed to pick up anything over ten pounds, and after that little episode, I felt like absolute shiat for the next 24 hours.  My lungs and arteries may be healed, but my sternum and chest is still ultra-sensitive and I was miserable after that.  Bad Mikey--quit trying to pick stuff up!!!

Luckily, I have some Percocet on hand, and that helped a little.  But still, I felt like I set my recovery process back three days or more.  Ugh.  After that, Amy and David wouldn't let me lift a damn thing.  Even when they brought me a drink of water, it was only half full.  And when I went walking last night, it was much harder on me.  It felt like the route was shorter than the day before, but it was much tougher to walk it.  Lesson learned.

Cyndi and Tim also brought me a bunch of stuff up from their place, again, mostly stuff for the cruise--my blue blazer, some dress shirts, a few of my nicer casual shirts, and my humidor (Oh hell yeah I'm gonna smoke my pipe and cigars on the cruise!  Well, I'm gonna try to at least...)  They also brought me my mail that's been piling up since I was in the hospital.  Still no final paycheck from the Evil Empire, but I *did* get the bill from Vanderbilt.

Anyone want to guess what the total was for eight days and nights, plus two surgeries, Intensive Care, physical and respiratory therapy, and other such niceties at one of America's premiere medical facilities cost?

Anyone... anyone???

Yeah, it was over $135,000.  And that's not even including the bill from the surgeon, the radiologist, the anesthesiologist, or any of the other -ologists who got their mitts on me. 

Yep, 135K.  Ouchie. 

But it's not as bad as it seems.  First of all, due to the generosity and kindness of others, $65,000 of it has already been wiped away.  I'm down to owing just $67,000 and change.  And they're working with me on that, too.  Still a huge chunk, that I'll probably spend the next twenty years paying off, but it's a manageable amount, and as far as I'm concerned, worth every penny!  (Oh, and every time I go to the lab to get my blood tested, add another $32 to the running total!)

My guess was a cool quarter million when I got released, and once I get the bill from the surgeon and such, it might just get there after everything is said and done.  But I'll worry about that once I get better and get back to work.  In the meantime, if anyone has any couch change they feel like donating, by all means, the PayPal tin cup is open for business...

I guess in hindsight, I probably should've stayed in the pit and kept my benefits, huh?  Funny how life works out.  But that's probably a post for another time... 

Anyhow, even though I felt like crap that night, I still had a good time at the bonfire.  And even though Scottie wasn't around, Amy still had a house full of guests once the party wound down--several folks opted not to drive, so we had quite the slumber party.

Sunday was fairly mellow--once everyone took off and headed home, we just made some coffee and relaxed in front of the TV most of the day.  I was still feeling a little off-kilter, so I spent the afternoon in bed.  After my evening walk in the park, Amy had more BBQ chicken on hand, plus some side salads and such for dinner.  And since I'd never seen the movie 'UP', we watched that instead of the Sunday night football game.  Yeah, I enjoyed it, and no, it didn't make me cry.

But that's how I've spent my last few days--not too bad and uninteresting, I hope.  I've also been making a few drafts here and there with some of my old poker stories, but that's still a ways off before I have one worth sharing.  But at least I'm working on them.  I'm also to the point where I can hold up my arm long enough to play the guitar, so I'm going to start practicing with Scottie every day (and working on chords and such during the day when I'm home alone).  At least it's something to keep me busy.  I swear, I've come to the end of the internet and I've run out of sites to browse during the day. 

In the meantime, I'm just gonna go walking in the woods.  I seem to enjoy that.


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