30 October 2009

Halloween on parade

Halloween at ThePinkThing's school. Why yes, I snuck out of work to see the parade...

ThePinkThing as a cheetah (she insists she's a cheetah, not a leopard)


That'll learn me

'Nuff said.

29 October 2009

TheHusband's home!

His flight got in 45 minutes early, and since he had no checked bags, he zipped through the airport. I've decided to leave work and go see him.

(And I finally posted something that wasn't whiny or pathetic!)

28 October 2009

Bonus Illness

Woke up with severe belly pain last night. After trying to pretend it wasn't that bad, I finally had to go to the ER. Not as easy as it sounds with TheHusband still in Rome. I tried calling a friend, but she didn't answer her phone. I finally called the only family I have in the area -- my cousin's in-laws. They are amazingly wonderful people who didn't bat an eyelash when they got a call at 2:45 am. They both came over. Bev stayed at the house so that there was someone here for Allison, and Ben came to the ER with me. It was very comforting for me to know that Allison was safe and that I had someone there for me, too.

It turned out to be a kidney stone. Like I need another painful malady. I mean WTF? I can report that pain from a kidney stone is worse than that from a herniated disc. Not that I really wanted to know that, mind you.

I got home around 6:40 am, all drugged up. I called a coworker at around 8:30 to tell him what happened and that I would make it in for a meeting at 1 pm. Not long after that my boss called and told me to be real, stay home, and take care of myself. So I did. I still feel generally crappy but not as bad as I did earlier. The friend who I couldn't reach last night is sleeping here tonight, just in case. I am hoping that Murphy's Law kicks in. Since I am planning for something bad to happen, nothing will...

I can't wait until TheHusband is home (tomorrow).

27 October 2009

BrainSurgeons and a Bionic Back

So I went to see a BrainSurgeon. Actually, I have seen two different BrainSurgeons and another NeuroDoc in the past few weeks. I guess, since the issue is my spine, that I should really call them SpineSurgeons, but BrainSurgeon is just that much more nerve-wracking. Nerve wracking -- get it? No? Fine, be that way.

Anyway, I initially saw BrainSurgeon1 on Oct 6. He's a good surgeon, and I have referred patients to him for 12 years. In fact, he operated on TheHusband's ruptured disc several years ago. He is extremely personable (yes, yes, he's a surgeon -- shocking, isn't it?). But he didn't listen to me and my concerns. We had a nice conversation -- we talked for about 45 minutes. However, much of that was him talking about using a dynamic stabilization device as part of the fusion procedure. Given that FDA has ordered companies that market these devices to conduct post-market studies in order to evaluate reported serious adverse events, I was understandably leery. But he just barrelled on, when I voiced my concerns. Given my other gait and spine related issues, I really think that these systems are a Bad Idea™. I am sure that no surgeon likes working on other doctors, especially one who is in a related field and Has Opinions. But those opinions should be listened to and acknowledged.

So after that exam, I spoke with a very nice and really smart Hopkins neurosurgery resident that I know. I showed him my MRI, described my symptoms, and asked him who he would let operate on his back if it looked my mine and he felt like I do. He gave me a name, called up BrainSurgeon2, and asked if he would see me. So I had an appointment with a Hopkins neurosurgeon within two weeks of that discussion. To be honest, BrainSurgeon2 works part-time at Hopkins and the rest at another Baltimore hospital. I tromped up there with MRI in hand last Monday. He took a history and did a quick neuro exam (very quick -- he's a neurosurgeon). Then he and I got down to brass tacks. He agreed with BrainSurgeon1 in that I need a spinal fusion (eeek!) as well as decompression of that freaking nerve root that is being compressed. He did not think that a dynamic stabilization device was a good idea (yay!), although he did have some other off-label device uses to suggest (NO!).

He then called up a NeuroDoc to see if he could fit me in soon. Turned out that NeuroDoc and I worked together a few years ago, so I got in 2 days later. Unfortunately, NeuroDoc zapped me with electric shocks and stuck needles in me, making me not like him quite as much as I once had. I swear that this is a test which is much better to perform on others than to have done on oneself. Conclusion: "If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and is near a pond, it is a duck." He had to stick needles in me to come to that conclusion?

Given my sensitivity to medications, drugs to treat neuropathic pain are not an option. I've failed the majority of other conservative treatments (all those NeedleDoc appointments were in vain). So surgery it is. And thankfully I have health insurance (I will not mosey on down that conversational road right now -- I think that I am about as liberal as Eric in that respect).

So having received a 2nd opinion that I like better than the 1st one, and having failed conservative therapy, AND having refused a bionic back, I will undergo a single-level lumbar spinal fusion next week. Now all I have to do is convince myself that I won't die under anesthesia, wake up paralyzed, be worse off than I was before the surgery, or wake up during the surgery.

I haven't met the anesthesiologist yet -- I will certainly have some suggestions for him or her... Why do I suspect that I will be a really annoying hospital patient?

And let's not even go into the insanity that will be me when I am stuck at home for a few weeks.

26 October 2009

Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze

Your public health notice for the day. You're welcome.

23 October 2009

A really nice wife

That's me -- a really nice wife.

One of TheHusband's friends was heading to Rome for business, and called TH for advice about 2 weeks ago. TH lived in southern Italy (Brundisi) for a few years in the mid 80's, when he was in the Navy. He, being the adventurous sort, rented a room with a family instead of living in the barracks. They wanted to learn English, and he wanted to get away from his fellow-sailors. It turned out that they never learned much English, but TH ended up speaking Italian fluently. He went back once in the mid 90's (before we met).

So anyway, back to his friend. The friend was really incredibly freaked out about visiting Italy (hello, it's not Yemen, Somalia, or Afghanistan). I was listening vaguely to TH's side of the conversation and finally said "Why don't you just go and meet up with him in Rome? You'll have a nice adventure and calm down HF." So we looked up flights, and he got a reasonably priced fare. He left last night, with a laptop bag and a moderate-sized shoulder bag (God knows, I can't travel that lightly). He should have landed about 4 hours ago. He gets to stay in Rome for a week, returning next Thursday.

See -- I am a nice wife. But he'd better bring me back a nice present, or maybe I won't be quite so nice... :-)

22 October 2009

Happy Birthday...

... to the BEST BROTHER ever! Thanks for being the best brother I could ever want. I only wish that you lived closer than 3000+ miles away.

Enjoy your day. Your yearly musical interlude (TPT singing "Happy Birthday") will come later.

Prehistoric Spam

I wonder if TheHusband actually missed out on $100,000 about 25 years ago...

Why no, he never throws things out. Except the telegram the spam-pen came with...

21 October 2009

What She Said

You know, I really can't add a thing to this article. I only wish that the morons of the world (ahem, Jenny McCarthy) would read it with an open mind and actually learn something. But then again, pigs'd fly first. Instead, credulous people choose to believe in crackpot theories and revile people who work hard to reduce sickness in the world. Oh, and make death threats against them. Why oh why, do people actually listen to Jenny instead of Amy?

Truly -- while people believe that they are exercising their rights to make their own medical decisions and appropriate medical decisions for their children, inadequate immunization brings a great deal of risk to the population as a whole, as well as to each individual person. Herd immunity is a function of a large enough percent of the population being vaccinated -- if that number too low, herd immunity disappears. You need quite a high percentage of population vaccinated to provide herd immunity for the community. For example, measles and pertussis are rather contagious and may require up to 94% of the population to be vaccinated for that vaccine to confer herd immunity.

Herd immunity confers protection to those who either can't receive a vaccine due to health reasons (immunocompromised, cancer, chemotherapy, infants) or people whose vaccines have failed (they don't "take" in everyone). Therefore, when these "concerned parents" choose not to vaccinate their children, they are actually endangering the health of other parents' kids, even if those kids are vaccinated. So while part of me says "fuck you, evil parents who don't vaccinate their kids, your kids'll pay for it", in reality, it is those who are sick and vulnerable that bear the brunt of these people's folly.

19 October 2009

RIF and the pneumatic gun

Just for Jim, from TheHusband's copy of "Rudder"...

The recruit getting his skanky teeth brushed is TheHusband. Note the BC glasses and the gorgeous hair style, courtesy of the US government -- for free! The poor guy getting vaccinated is a random cohort of TH's, name unknown.

15 October 2009

Harriet the Homemaker tackles laundry soap

We bought a new washer and dryer a couple of months ago. In general, I have been very pleased with both. The washer produces clean clothes, and the dryer gives me warm fluffy dry clothes. Our prior washing machine developed a mold problem, which I was never able to get rid of. Apparently mold is not uncommon in front-loading washers, and the way to deal with it is to prevent it. One way is to use HE laundry detergent. These are low sudsing products that are more easily rinsed from the items in the washer, produce pess residue and clog up the lines less. While there is something innately satisfying about a sudsy wash, it isn't the suds that clean the clothes.

Basically, the workhorse component of laundry detergent is a surfactant. Surfactants are molecules that have hydrophilic and hydrophobic ends. The hydrophilic end is attracted to water molecules, and the hydrophobic end tends to stick to non-water molecules – in the case of dirty laundry, that’s the dirt or grease or oil. Nothing really constructive happens until the water is swished around. Agitation of the water allows for many of the surfactant molecules to surround the dirt or oil and lift it away from the clothing into the larger pool of water. The warmer the water, the easier it is for the detergent to work.

I also try to use eco-friendly cleaning products. I've been using environmentally-friendly HE liquid laundry detergents for several years now (although by the time I started, it was too late for the other washer), but they are pretty expensive and still leave a residue. The new washer has a delay option, in which I can put the clothes inside and the detergent in the little drawer. But the company strongly recommends powder detergent for the delayed option -- to prevent staining.

Anyway, in an effort to use a reasonably eco-friendly and low sudsing powder laundry detergent appropriate for front-loaders, yesterday I made my own. I scouted out a few recipes online and tried out a relatively simple one:

1 bar Ivory soap, grated
½ cup Borax
½ cup washing soda (NOT baking soda)

Stir the ingredients together and use 1-2 tablespoons per load. This makes about 20-25 tablespoons, and probably costs about 8¢ per load.

I learned some valuable lessons from the experience.
  1. Take care when grating the soap. It is very easy to grate one's fingertips. (ouchy, ouchy)
  2. Don't stick said grated fingertips in one's mouth. Ivory soap tastes pretty nasty.
  3. Dry out the bar of soap for a week before grating it. Apparently, it makes the grating process much easier.
  4. Do not accept assistance from a 6 year old. The process goes much less smoothly.

Even so, the towels came out clean and fresh this morning. I'll let you know how it works on a 6 year old's marker-stained and paint-encrusted clothing.

10 October 2009

The Lost Luggage Office

I know this isn't a new story, but each time I see it, I am amused:

The next freaking time an airline ruins my bag, I will sing a video and post it on Youtube. That ought to make the airline sit up and notice (and run in fear from my tone-deaf singing voice...).

08 October 2009

Shuffle off this mortal coil

Considering that I have always been terrified of drowning (which makes it especially hard for me to deal with ThePinkThing's marginal swimming skills), I'm jiggy with this. Anyway, it's all Jim's idea and Nathan's fault.

How will I die?
Your Result: You will die in your sleep.

A peaceful departure into the next life. You are blessed with the good fortune of passing from sleep into eternity. Do not fear sleep. To dream into the next life is a rare gift.

You will die of boredom.
You will die while saving someone's life.
You will die from a terminal illness.
You will die in a car accident.
You will die while having sex.
You will be murdered.
You will die in a nuclear holocaust.
How will I die?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

07 October 2009

Missing child?

I am working from home today, and I got a phone call from ThePinkThing's school about an hour ago.

(ring, ring)
Neurondoc: Hello?
School Secretary: Hello, I am calling from X Elementary School. Is this ThePinkThing's mother?
ND: Yes.
SS: We have her here in the main office. She was supposed to walk home today?
ND: Walk home? No, she doesn't walk home.
SS: Well, we got a phone call from her father earlier today to say that she'd be a "walker" today.
ND: That's not right. She should be at her aftercare program. Are you sure it is ThePinkThing there? (First and last name said slowly and loudly, just in case)
SS: Yes, it is TPT sitting here.
ND: She shouldn't be there. And I guess the buses have left by now.
SS: Yes.
ND: I am a bit confused -- why did you think my daughter would be walking home today? (Mind you, we live almost a mile from the school, and TPT wouldn't be able to find her way home by herself)
SS: I got a call from someone, and I swear he said (insert TPT's first and last names) would be walking home from school.
ND: Okay, I'll be there to get her in a few minutes. What would you have done if I was at work?
SS: We would have taken her to her aftercare program.

(Pick up TPT, who's in the office looking not scared, but a bit bemused. The secretary is trying to figure who was the real kid who was supposed to walk home. As we are getting into my car, my phone rings -- it's TheHusband)

ND: Hello?
TH (in an urgent tone): Where's TPT? Aftercare just called and said she wasn't on the bus.
ND: Ah. She's here in my car. Apparently there was some sort of screw-up at the office and she was told she'd be a "walker" today.
TH: Phew. Okay.

TPT is now at her aftercare program, where her arrival caused a bit of a stir. Several of her friends wanted to know why she was supposed to walk home, why I was bringing her late, where she'd been... I just want to know how pissed the other dad is -- the one who called the office to tell them to have his kid walk home. I bet he'll have a cow on the phone. I certainly would (and sort of did).

This kind of situation highlights all of my worries about having TPT go from one place to another without my (or TH's) direct supervision. And I used the opportunity to reinforce that she shouldn't ever get into a car with a stranger, and who is actually approved to take her home.