’20 August

First Day of School

I got these off Angela’s instagram. She was very pleased with how it went and is optimistic for the coming semester of Distance Learning. Weird, I know, I really miss their homework.

Rome, Lilly

A Second Opinion

I wonder if I’ve just experienced a joyous near-total turn-around?  The second opinion guy (Dr Ralph Massey recommended by Brigitte and Knut) had a different wound care routine entirely involving a different method to remove the old dressings, a different way to clean the wounds, and a different medication. 

Windy was over, the home care nurse was here, and the three of us meticulously followed the new routine.  Oh my GOODNESS the treatment Didn’t Sting!  How can it be?!  Last night I still hurt but not like before when every night I considered checking myself into the hospital, and this morning, same thing, it hurts but So Much Better I can NOT complain. It seems the hornets and the scorpions that have been plaguing me for weeks have Moved On!

On top of which the second opinion guy said ‘skin graft? No, you don’t need a skin graft.  You’re not going to be a butt model, right, so why have a surgery you don’t need.’  Don’t we love it when doctors tell us what we want to hear!

I went back to the first guy yesterday too, who did the debridement, and he said ‘you have two choices, do another debridement and then do a skin graft or do a skin graft now and it probably won’t all take so you’ll need another one’.  I say No Thank You to Both your stinking choices.

Another reason for thumbs down on the first guy, I’ve had two home care nurses since this started and it turns out both of them asked this first doctor, through their agency, if they could change the treatment plan and both times the doctor replied NO, just NO.

I’ve still got 2-3 months of this new treatment plan in my future. If all goes well I’ll be steadily day by day feeling less pain as the wounds grow skin. I don’t know when I’ll be able to sit down. To my little sister Windy The Nurse goes grateful PRAISE for all she has done to get me through this, through the hornets and the scorpions, through my moans and groans and tears. I’m better now!

I don’t know how to thank everyone who has helped me, I’m mute with gratitude. I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to extend to others all the help and love and companionship that has been extended to me.

So Many Treats!

Marsha made Melon Ball Sangria and left me with a whole pitcher as well as a three-pack of those fabulous strawberries from the strawberry patch up in Sylmar. For two days I’ve been eating bowls and bowls of buzz-me fruit salad.

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Ken and Susie sent this box of delights that I’ll be enjoying for weeks. So yummy, and baked goods freeze beautifully.
Ann came out!
And brought SO many treats, with treats from Marija too. Oh ladies, So Much!

From Ann’s fig tree Marija made fig jam and Ann brought fresh and dried figs. I love figs!

Ann made chocolate-oatmeal cookie bars (all the Monday Ladies have been DYING for Ann’s desserts, and it’s been Months since we’ve been together) and Marija sent crispy and delightful Napolitanke from back home.

I also got some of Brian’s tomatoes, Slivovica (Marija had to write ‘from the store’ because when the family sends Marija home made Slivovica from Croatia (the BEST) I always get a share in one of those 7 Up bottles), and a cool puzzle from Ann that I will instantly begin the first second I can sit down.

It’s like CHRISTMAS up in here!

Ahh The Air

When I open the front door early in the morning and the sweet air of a fresh garden wafts through the house, it is a beautiful thing and I can smile and look forward to the day. Today. Today will be better.

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We can see some of the empty spaces for the plants that didn’t make it. Two of the four lavender had to come out and the two that are left won’t last through the winter. One of the three white roses, dead. Three of the four lantana, gone. The ground cover on the parkway is half dirt. That doesn’t seem Too bad, actually, all things considered. I have to rethink what to put in the beds and what to do about the parkway.

A Happy Drive-by

Family Unicorn Tattoos. Why? Because Lilly wanted to go shopping. Darryl took this picture.

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Darryl, Rome, Angela, Lilly, and Oliver the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. We visited like this, I on my porch and they on the sidewalk. My first live view of their sweet faces since MARCH. Fortunately video calls are available, and a blessing.

I wasn’t wearing glasses so I couldn’t see how these pictures were coming out. Lilly is always such a lively participator, but she wanted to make sure Oliver looked good!

FOUR HOURS or 6 or 8 or 10

Since the debridement on Tuesday I’ve had the dressings changed four times, Wed-Thur-Fri-Sat, and each time no matter how I’ve mixed and matched the pain meds, for Four Hours I can hardly breathe. Huhhh So Bad. Wow, I can Not Wait for this to be over! I ask the nurse every day, will it be better tomorrow? And he replies, soon, I promise it will be better soon. Soon? When is SOON?! I’ll be clapping my hands and dancing a jig when I’m ok in two hours. I can hold my breath for two hours.

Still! These flowers are still dressing up my entry way from May 10. I know the plant is real because it arrived for Mother’s Day from Cynthia with many fewer blooms. Maybe someone sneaks into my house and changes it out?

And I might get a persimmon or two, it could happen!

How Am I

Right this second at 9am on Thursday I’m standing at the kitchen counter writing this in relative comfort. Still, I can’t sit down.

The surgeon and the anesthetist said everything went great on Tuesday although both of them made me feel they were talking about themselves, you know the type. Not a whiff of warm and fuzzy between them. I slept well Tuesday night but I think the anesthesia was still in force.

Yesterday was on and off up and down on the comfort scale and getting the wounds redressed for the first time was a real Sting Fest that didn’t subside for many hours. But then I did mostly sleep at night so ok, I wonder what today will bring!

What a TREAT, I keep finding bunches of flowers on my front porch. Thank you my friends! I’m sorry if yours was an early arrival and already had its beautiful life.
And FOOD. So much scrumptious food has come my way I can’t thank you all enough. Family and friends are a treasure and a blessing, but you know that.

Let’s Make Something

Angela and Lilly, with some help from the rest of the family, have been creating delightful rooms, one after the other, so much adorable. You have to check out the smallest detail. I mean Cutting Boards! What an excellent accomplishment for these trying times!

Some of the pictures are of rooms still in progress.

What’s Next

Yesterday I walked the few blocks back and forth to various medical appointments in preparation for the debridement (de-BREEd-ment), a same-day surgery under general anesthesia to remove the dead skin around the worst of the burns that I’ll be having on Tuesday. I needed all those pre-op tests and Another covid. All good, thumbs up, ready to roll.

It’s only Friday though, the surgery is on Tuesday, so I’m living in hope that I’ll feel better every day, a hope that has yet to be achieved. Don’t burn your butt…if you do you can’t sit down!

I Can’t Sit Down

I had my first appointment with the skin care specialist (a plastic surgeon recommended by my GP).

He says I have to have a debridement (removal of dead skin), the sooner the better, so I’m doing a pre-op tomorrow, Wednesday, including another covid test.  The surgery will be on the 18th at the Saint John’s Surgery Center and takes one hour, four hours total at the Surgery Center with early arrival and post-general-anesthesia wait time. 

Then 3-4 weeks later he wants to do skin grafts which is especially painful and takes especially long to heal.  He was really selling it(?) but his particular expertise is in plastic surgery.

I’ll go ahead and get the debridement done because the wound care nurse says it has to happen as does Windy and even the internet agrees, and then I’ll get a second opinion on the skin grafts just in case there are alternatives.

So I’ll probably keep getting a very little better until Tuesday the 18th when I’ll get worse again for a week, then some better for 3-4 weeks and then Really worse for a couple months after the skin graft. It’s OK though, I’m resigned, one day at a time and eventually it will all be over!

Happy Birthday KAI

From Cynthia, Kai was three years old on the 6th and is as wonderful a dog as ever there was. They are doing Agility now and Kai is a total natural. He can jump through hoops, over hurdles, through weaving poles, and more. What fun!

I sent him those chewy toys. If you get Mr Bill just right he’ll say ‘OH NOOOO’ which is pretty darn funny.

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Life in a Bear Cave

All day and all night long I’m just trying to get comfortable. Turning, twisting, building little barriers wedges and whatnot. There must be a better way and I’m going to have to learn about it! Drugs are nice but it’s not general anesthesia.

So so SO much thanks to everyone who has helped me. What a blessing. And then there’s this.

Kieran’s CAR

It was Kieran’s 17th birthday in July, and Cynthia sent me a few pictures because she knew it would make me happy. I of course checked with him to make sure it was ok to use them here. Above is Kieran changing the brakes on His car, which doesn’t run yet but will soon!

Here’s summer fun at the lake with his girlfriend of 19 months.

And below Is Kieran with his dog Bodhi, a Mini Australian Shepard, and the jacket that he took from just plain to faaabulous By Himself!

On Every Hospital Wall

I’d say I’m about the same, very much looking forward to being better! My main condition is unrelenting discomfort, not being able to situate myself comfortably. At any given moment it’s not so bad but over time, man-oh-man it does get TEDIOUS. My face looks yellow.

Oh My Goodness

What in the world happened to me?  Wellll.  On Tuesday July 28, 2020 Windy, Cali, and I went out for ‘a three hour tour’.  But no! 

Our destination was a challenging hike to Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica mountains above Malibu.  It was obvious within the first 15 minutes ‘we’ (meaning I) weren’t going to make it to the top so we decided to divert to a picnic area 2+ miles away.  What was I thinking?  That’s 5 miles round trip in the crippling heat on a rocky and only lightly groomed trail without even a stick of shade.  I said to myself, it’s ok, I’ll just turn around when I want.  But I got too far and couldn’t get back.

What comes next I have zero memory of happening and am using Windy’s and Cali’s recounting.  We had turned back but it was too late.  I went down, dead weight, unconscious.  I landed on scorching rocks and was there long enough to generate second degree burns covering my back and butt and some of my leg and arm.  While this was happening Windy had made it to the trailhead, fallen on some rocks and broken her hand.  So there was Cali with two broken-down old ladies.  She Picked Me Up.  Picked Me Up.  WHAT?  She picked me up and carried me, to stick my head under a bit of shade and left me on the ground to go for help.

At the trailhead the other hikers jumped in to assist, they revived Windy although I was still unconscious.  Someone supplied a shade cover and someone called 911.  A chopper team did an aerial rescue taking me, still unconscious, wrapped in ice blankets and ice packs, to Los Robles, the nearest hospital, with a triage diagnosis of Exertional Heat Stroke.  (“Exertional Heat Stroke is a medical emergency defined as life-threatening hyperthermia (core body temperature ≥ 105°F]) and central nervous system dysfunction. Exertional Heat Stroke is one of the top three causes of sudden death in athletes.”)

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I have survived thanks to Cali, kind strangers, the 911 helicopter team, and the ER at Los Robles.  I woke up in the ER still wrapped in ice blankets and groin and armpit ice packs and I could tell the gang there was both surprised and relieved and also maybe amused and pleased when I started complaining.  My first conscious words…I’m SO Cold…Why is it so wet in here…My back hurts.  Hey everybody, she’s not dead!

Now that the life-and-death crisis had passed, the question was what damage did all that time being unconscious and the Exertional Heat Stroke do to my vital organs.

They were especially concerned about my heart and scheduled a Coronary Angiography (another paper says Cardiac Catheterization) for Wednesday.  The procedure is meant to discover narrowed or blocked blood vessels.  When it was over the Cardiologist come out and announced “You have a beautiful heart”.  I loved that expression so much I’ve said it 100 times already.  I have beautiful heart!  So that means I’m going home, right?  Wrong. 

Another one of the battery of labs they do in the hospital revealed an elevation in creatine kinase, an indication of a possible Rhabdomyolysis condition.  (“Rhabdomyolysis may be caused by injury or any other condition that damages skeletal muscle. This muscle tissue breakdown results in the release of a protein (myoglobin) into the blood. Myoglobin can damage the kidneys.”)  So sorry, they said, you’ll have to stay Thursday night and see if this elevation goes down with another day on IV fluids.

The next day, now it’s Friday, tick tick, all is well, time to go home.  Yes, Thank You!  Lona, Trevor, and Beth picked me up and Trevor drove my car home.  They left me with food and good will and soon it will all be just a story.

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It seemed a good idea at the time!

What’s left for me to do:  exhaustive and exhausting wound care.  Those burns I got from the hot rocks are very large patches of 2nd degree and some bits of 3rd degree burns.  I’ve been getting wound care treatments twice a day at the hospital and now I have a home health care nurse who will come once a day to clean the wounds and change the dressings.  How civilized!  What’s not left for me, for a while anyway, is a covid test because they did one in the hospital: Negative!

What happened to Windy:  she and Cali drove my car from the trail head to the hospital and then Windy checked in to the hospital too!  She was in another wing but everyone around seemed to know they had the two sisters from the trail.  Her injury was not too severe and she went home Wednesday.  She’s bruised and battered from the fall and will see her own doctor for a referral for her hand.

What happened to Cali:  she’s fine although still a little sore from hauling that huge dead weight (that being me!) and what an incredible adrenaline rush to put on a 17 year old.  It’s her Hero Story for sure.

What happened to my stuff:  when I first became aware, I had no clothes.  The Chopper team had cut them all from my body!  My favorite pants!  My favorite shirt!  Oh well, when Jeff came to pick up Windy on Wednesday he brought me one of her outfits.  I had been having a few hours of massive stress about my bag – my phone, insurance, credit cards, driver’s license, SO much hassle.  But sweet Cali had gathered up everything and brought it to me on Wednesday along with the clothes.  Still missing, my glasses.  On Thursday afternoon a lovely woman was standing in my hospital room door with my glasses!  She was on the helicopter rescue team and had put them in her pocket and just forgot.  She went far out of her way to find me, glad I wasn’t dead, and glad for the amazing save she had made.

So that’s it for now.  I am not going to challenge the sun again.  You win sun.  I surrender!

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