Monday, August 30, 2010

The Catheter is Out! Yay!

This morning we went to urology to have my husband’s catheter removed. 

First the nurse poured about 300 ml of water into his penis and asked him to try to urinate it out.  He got about 60 ml out. Then she told him to walk around for a couple of hours with a urinal and try to get the rest out. Then come back and check in with her.

We walked around for a couple of hours.  He didn’t feel an urge to urinate.  We went back, dreading that she’d want to put the catheter back in.  It doesn’t feel good. The bags are inconvenient and clumsy and a nuisance to clean.  He’s been doing his exercises on our bed because he has to keep his hips above the height of the bag, and this is the only way he can do sit-ups and hip-crossovers.

Instead, the nurse used a sonogram machine to measure the content of his bladder. It was now back up to about 340 ml.  We were sure she was going to want to put that catheter back in. It’s been in and out 3 times in the past few weeks.

Then a young doctor came in and talked about how since my husband is older and has an enlarged prostate, he should have surgery to enlarge the hole in his prostate that urine goes through.  He sounded so enthusiastic and excited.  The more excited he got, the more terrified I felt.  I kept thinking – how do I talk my husband out of this? After last week’s two near fatalities (a bowel obstruction caused by suturing the incision for his hernia, and then the atrial fibrillation during surgery to repair the bowel obstruction), I see surgery as Russian Roulette and I don’t want to play.  Not with my husband’s life at stake!

An older surgeon told my husband that before he could be considered for the prostate surgery, he’d need a bladder elasticity test.  We got that. I’m thrilled to report that his bladder flunked!  He can’t have the surgery.  Yay!  Instead a nurse taught him to catheterize himself if he ever needs to go and can’t.  The nurse and older surgeon both said that this is a solution that he can live with for the rest of his life.  Yay!

No more catheter bags to wash. No more threats of surgery. The docs even say that the likelihood of infection is much lower with self-catheterization than with a permanent one.  And after all that, the nurse put 750 ml into his bladder and he was able to urinate out 250 ml.  She said that so long as he can urinate at least 200 ml, when he feels an urge, then he doesn’t need to catheterize himself. He’s fine. He’s home. He’s free of tubing. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cats in the Crawl Space

Guest blog by Jean Lorrah, .

As I get older, I need the luxury of soaking in a tub of hot water to ease my aches and pains. Unfortunately, when I need to soak the most, my joints are at their most painful and I have trouble getting in and out of a regular bathtub. So I decided to install a walk-in bathtub, and as long as I'm doing that, take the excuse to remodel my 1950's bathroom, get rid of the ugly green fixtures, and add storage. So for the past three days I have had carpenters, electricians, and plumbers in and out of my house all day long. 

Living with me in the house are two cats, Dudley and Splotch. Dudley, the gray, is seven years old, and is my ninja cat. He can disappear in plain sight, blend into any background. He is a zen cat, calm and unafraid. I very occasionally foster stray kittens and find homes for them. Previous to Splotch, Dudley never paid much attention to them. When Splotch arrived, though, Dudley made it very clear that Splotch was his, and not to be given to anyone else--that's how I ended up with two cats.

Splotch, now three, is named for his splotchy coloring--he is obviously supposed to be a tuxedo cat, but instead of solid black or gray, his "jacket" is tiger striped. He has dark patches on his white "shirt," and a white patch in the middle of his back. All of this is topped off by a "chocolate milk mustache" on his white face. 

Splotch will follow Dudley anywhere, even if it's scary. The two cats have learned to work together, especially when it comes to stealing food. When they tore holes in bags of cat food, I put their food in a plastic snap-lid container. It took them no time at all to figure out how to work together to get the lid off, so I have to keep it in the pantry with the door firmly shut. I have to keep the treat container where they can't reach it, too--otherwise Splotch holds it while Dudley pries the lid off, and they serve themselves treats whenever they please!

Dudley and Splotch are indoor cats who only think they want to go outdoors--until they get there. Dudley stays close to the house, eating grass, and Splotch wanders along the foundation until a car passes, whereupon he dashes back onto the porch and pounds on the door to be let in. 

With all the strangers in the house, Splotch is spending most of his time under my desk in the office. Dudley, though, is inspector-general of all the work being done. I have no place to isolate the cats, as the workers keep the garage open, and have to go through the bedroom closet to reach the plumbing for the bathtub.

And there is where the problem occurred. I warned everyone to close the access hatch or closet door when they were not actually working on the plumbing. Stupidly, I assumed they heard me. 

Yesterday the workers finished removing the old plumbing fixtures, cleaned up, and left for the day. I then left for a round of errands. When I got home, Splotch met me at the door. I didn't think anything about it, and went about putting groceries away and making dinner. My mind elsewhere, I didn't think about the cats until I was half-way through dinner--when I suddenly realized they were not in their usual places at my feet. In fact, they were nowhere to be found, and did not come running when I shook the treat can.

No cats to be found, anywhere. The bathroom was securely closed and empty. I checked the bedroom--door open, closet door open, access hatch open. *sigh*

Calling and shaking the treat can at the access hatch had no effect. A neighbor came to help me, and we went all around the house, calling at every opening in the foundation. None of the covers were loose--there was no sign of any place the cats could have gotten out. So we went to the access hatch under the kitchen window--the only one big enough for a human to get through, and opened that. Out came Dudley!

But no Splotch, nor could we hear him anywhere--and he is usually a very vocal cat. I began to second-guess myself. Could he have gotten outside while I was unloading groceries from the car? The fact that he had not followed Dudley out was not a good sign. So we scoured the neighborhood, calling for Splotch, with no luck. No matter whether he was outside or under the house, I was afraid he had gotten into real trouble.

It got dark, and I gave up the search, determined to send one of the workers under the house in the morning. Still, I put food and water beside the hole in the bathroom floor, and left the light on. I watched Dudley, who was completely unconcerned. Obviously he didn't think Splotch was in any trouble--and he loves his young apprentice in mischief. So I tried to take a leaf from Dudley's book and relax for the evening. But after an hour I went to look in the stripped-out bathroom--and there was Splotch!

He must have been lost and scared under the house, for he has shown no interest in going back.

Dudley, on the other hand ....

Today two plumbers came to install the new bathtub. I warned them about the cats, then went with the contractor to buy the new fixtures and cabinets. When I got back, they were just jockeying the tub into place. Splotch greeted me at the door as usual--but again there was no Dudley to be seen. I asked the men if they had seen a gray cat. One said no, no cats at all ... but even as I was going into the bedroom to check the access panel, the other man said, "You mean that cat looking at us out of the hole?"

Sure enough, my ninja cat had gone through the hole in the floor again, and was now poking his head up to watch the proceedings. He clearly liked his observation post, for he didn't want me to pull him out. I eventually managed to grab his harness, though, and keep him out of the way while they closed up the hole in the floor by installing the tub over it.

So--no more cats in the crawlspace! But who knows what my ninja cat will get himself and his apprentice into next?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

He's Home! He's Alive

I wore my Feisty and Non-Compliant t-shirt to the hospital.  The nurse asked when my husband was going home, I said, “Today.”  She looked at me strangely.  “We don’t have orders.”  “He’s going home with doctor approval or Against Medical Advice.”

During the night, my husband had became feisty, too. He refused the Heparin shot. He refused to allow any more drip bags.  By midnight, the last bag was empty, and he convinced the nurse to detach him from the IV pole.  About 8 AM, a nurse removed one of his IVs.  At 10, she removed the other one. 

She showed us how to change and clean the catheter bags. She phoned my husband’s prescriptions to the pharmacy.  She got us a tube of cream for his sore skin. Once you start refusing things, they suddenly become co-operative. They asked if he would accept pills with the same electrolytes he’d been getting in his drips.  He agreed.

A doctor finally came by and told him the results of the sonogram of his arms.  He does have one clot, but it is superficial and can be treated with aspirin.

His surgeon signed his exit papers and told him to go see a specific urologist on Friday for follow up on his urinary retention. My husband called. That doctor isn’t in on Friday, and the woman who answered the phone didn’t know who else to suggest, so my husband called his surgeon and left a message on her answering machine.

We walked out of the hospital where they almost killed him twice (surgical complications) in the past 2 weeks. We came home.  He’s not well.  His hernia repair (the reason he went in) is fine. His intestines are working again. He hasn’t had another atrial fibrillation. He’s puffed up from all the drugs they dripped into him.  His bladder isn’t working.  And to think that the main reason he went for the hernia repair was to improve our sex life.  Now we have to wait until his bladder heals.  He’s home! He’s alive!  These are what counts.  But I admit I’m disappointed that we can’t celebrate his return the way I had imagined.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another Day Older and Deeper In...

The doc said I couldn’t bring my husband home today I broke down crying.  Maybe tomorrow.  They did take out his catheter about 5:30 AM. But 8 hours later he couldn’t urinate. He couldn’t even feel full, and he had built up a liter of urine.  So they put the catheter back in.  We requested a consultation with urology.  By the time I left in the evening, nobody from urology had come by.

Then, a nurse came in to hook up a new IV line.  At first I thought his old one had worn out.  They seem to do that pretty often. His arms are scabbed worse than a drug addict’s showing where his old IV line have been.  But the nurse didn’t take out the old one.  She hooked up bags of electrolytes to both lines. One in each arm.  I asked if his electrolytes had become low? I know the take blood and check his electrolytes and kidney function at least once a day.  The nurse didn’t know. She was “just following orders.”

I convinced another nurse to look up his electrolytes numbers.  His calcium was a little low. All the others were within normal range.  The nurse told me that the hospital likes to have patient electrolytes at the high end of normal.  But why IV? He can eat. He can drink. He can take pills.

The nurse had a doctor come in and give my husband a scare-tactic speech about why drip is better than pills.  The speech had no substance. The gist of it was that the hospital has data on how quickly magnesium is taken up from a drip, and they don’t have data on how quickly it is taken up from pills.  And a nurse chimed in that some people get soft stools from magnesium.  So? He’s in the normal range. What’s the big deal if maybe the uptake from a pill is a bit slow?

And now, the hospital is no longer apologetic about causing his atrial fibrillation as they were waking up from surgery. Now they are saying he must have a tendency towards it, and he needs the magnesium. Which still doesn’t explain why a drip instead of a pill. And nobody has put a monitor on him for a few weeks to find out if he has a tendency towards afib. The docs are just trying to pretend that the afib was somehow my husband’s fault, and not a terrible side-effect of the drug they gave him.

Meanwhile, I got a letter from Patient Relations assuring me that Maintenance says the toilets with the water level so high that your fingers get wet when you wipe yourself are perfectly sanitary.  I asked the Patient Relations representative to go use one of the toilets in question herself and then decide how sanitary it is.  

Maybe tomorrow. Apparently “urinary retention” is common after abdominal surgery.  I just want him home!  He’s been gone so long that I’ve washed the sheets.  And I can’t get to sleep easily without his smells in the room. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

One Victory, Many Failures

I had sent a note to the President of the hospital where my husband is in the ICU making ecological suggestions.

1) The water level in the public toilets is too high. You get your fingers wet with used toilet water when you wipe yourself.

2) My husband has diarrhea. This is considered a risk to other patients who are on antibiotics. Therefore all people who come into his room have to put on a yellow smock and then throw the smock away when they exit the room.  They also must wash hands when they exit.  (I note here that visiting doctors rarely wash their hands when they exit the room.)  My suggestion was that used yellow smocks could be hung on coat hooks and re-used when people re-enter the room. The smocks are a special weave designed to catch the spores of the bacterial cause of diarrhea. The idea is that the smocks will keep the person’s clothing from picking up the spores, and thus the spores will stay in the room.  I don’t see the need for a new smock every time a person leaves the room and returns.  I have to go out to use the toilet, to get ice for my husband, to find a nurse when he needs one.  Nurses go in and out hourly.  Dozens of smocks worn only for a few minutes fill the trash.

3) My husband likes to sleep in the dark.  He is off telemetry. When the telemetry monitor is in use, it is mostly black with a few numbers showing.  When it is not in use, it has a white picture filling the screen, brightly lit.  I suggested that the monitor be turned off when it is not in use.  I think this should be a hospital wide policy, but for a start, it can be off in my husband’s room.

4) Hospital meals should be nutritious.  The meals my husband has gotten are mostly sweet foods that have been sweetened with artificial sweetener. He has been offered noting whole grain. No fresh fruits or veggies. Just sweet starches, artificially sweetened jello, sherbet, black tea with his choice of real or fake sugar, and a fruit juice cocktail, with high fructose corn syrup.  

The official response is that the high water level in the toilets is sanitary.
They will look into whether the CDC will approve coat hangers for smocks
The monitor in my husband’s room may be turned off — YAY!
And somebody from nutrition will talk with my husband.  We had this same conversation a year ago when I was in the hospital after being hit by a car while biking.  They are willing to put together a tray without artificial sweetener – it just means you can’t have jello.

I tried to get my husband out of the ICU.  He’s no longer in imminent danger of dying.  They can’t find him a room.

I tried to get treatment for his swollen arms.  A woman did come by to check them. She said he could have compresses on his arms if a sonogram shows he doesn’t have blood clots.  I tried to get the sonogram folks to his room.  So far, none have arrived.

Today he was supposed to get his catheter removed so he can try to urinate on his own.  But, while he was told this by several doctors, nobody placed an official order in his file. So, it didn’t happen.  I tried to get somebody from urology to make it happen. So far, no luck.

I came home so I can get some sleep and fight again another day.  I want to bring him home!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Artificial Sweetener and Total Lack of Cooperation

My husband enjoys a good bowl of jello – the real kind with sugar.  He is repulsed by the flavor of the stuff with artificial sweeteners.  That’s the only kind the hospital has. And there is no way to request the other kind.  Such a minor problem – it’s almost nice to have a minor problem.

They promised to move him out of the ICU to a quieter room. That didn’t happen.  But they did move out the man in the room next door who kept screaming at invisible people. So, his room so his room is quieter.

The evil night nurse who withholds help for my husband by ignoring the Help Light and postponing help when I go to him in person isn’t my husband’s nurse any more.  My husband needed a new suction device.  The nurse who changed his bed accidentally dropped his on the floor and told him not to use it because it was dirty. She said she’d get a clean one.  She, like the rest of the staff at this hospital, seems to have a 5-second attention span. She never came back with a clean suction tip.  My husband pushed the Help button. Nobody came.  I went out and asked for a suction tip.  It was change of shift time. Day nurse who was leaving was talking to evil night nurse who was arriving.  I again asked for the suction tip.  I was told soon. I gave them another 10 minutes. My husband was getting desperate. I went out again. This time day nurse got a suction tip.  As she was about to enter my husband’s room, night nurse told her “leave it on the cabinet. I’ll take it in when I check on him.”  The day nurse sat down and continued to chat with the incoming night nurse.  At this point, I picked up the dirty suction gadget off the floor and gave it to my husband who needed it.  The next day I talked to the nursing supervisor.  Evil night nurse is not my husband’s nurse any more!

Supposedly, my husband will get solid food tomorrow, IFF somebody authorizes it.

He still has the catheter, but he has started a new drug that is supposed to restore bladder function. He has to take it for 2 or 3 days for it to take effect.

He went for a longer walk. He’s stronger.  They took him off telemetry, but he’s still on drip and they still take blood samples regularly.  He’s out of forearm veins that work, so they’re using upper arm veins. It took 3 tries for the nurse to fill one tube.  His arms are still puffed up and red from the allergic reaction to the heart rhythm iv drug.

Today he asked for a book to read.  He didn’t like the one I brought, so tomorrow I’ll bring two others.  He can’t concentrate for long, so I’m bringing two books on his favorite subject: chemistry. Gotta go to bed. I’m exhausted and I need to be at the hospital at 7 AM tomorrow if I want a chance to talk to his doctors. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Full Mama Bear Mode

“I hope you know that I appreciate your efforts.  The thing is that I need results. Please help me get my husband some food.  I’m in full mama bear mode.”

About 9 AM the docs took my husband’s nose to stomach tube off suction to see if goo would come out on its own.  It didn’t.

About 11 AM a doc removed my husband’s nose to stomach tube and said, “You can have food soon.”

About noon, I asked the nurse how to get food for my husband.  The nurse said “Food has not been authorized.” 

“How do I get it authorized?”

“Only the surgical team can do that?”

“How do I contact the surgical team?”

“Would you like me to contact them?”

“Yes! Please!”

About 1 PM, I asked the nurse, “Is food authorized yet?”


“Please contact the surgical team again.”

About 2 PM.  “Is food authorized yet?”


“Please contact the surgical team again.”

“They are in surgery.”

“When do they get out?”

“I don’t know.  Do you want me to call them?”

“Yes, please.”

About 2:10 PM: “They’ll have somebody here to talk with your husband in about an hour.”
“Will that person be authorized to authorize food?”

“I don’t know.”

About 3:30 PM.  “They’re not here. Would you please call again?”

About 4:30 PM.  “They’re not here. Would you please call again?”

About 5:30 PM.  “They’re not here. Would you please call again?”

My husband decided to go for a walk.  Actually, it’s a parade.  He’s the parade master. I push the pole with the drips. A nurse’s aide pushes the telemetry monitor. My husband decides which hallways we’ll traverse.  A leader and two floats.  This was his 3rd walk of the day. He’s getting faster. He walked about 1/3 of a mile.

When we got back about 6 PM, there was a representative from surgery in the nurse’s area, on the phone.  About 6:15, she talked to my husband, listened to his stomach and intestines, asked a few questions like, “Have you passed gas today?”   Hospitals are a weird culture where this kind of question is considered kindly and caring.  Finally she said she would authorize food.  She said it would arrive when other meals for this part of the hospital arrive.

I just about panicked.  That left far too much room for error.  The nurse volunteered that he could order the meal brought immediately. And it was.  Clear food only.  Soup broth, jello with artificial sweetener, black tea with optional lemon and sugar, fruit juice, sherbet.  My husband looked so adorable eating this food, except the jello.  He savored every mouthful.  He hasn’t eaten in a week.  In a way I hope he gets pickier as he gets used to eating again. I know that hospital food tastes like cardboard and cotton with a little sweetener added.  I like the way he appreciates home cooking. I love eating meals he cooks.  I hope he doesn’t decide that hospital food is his new favorite.

He can’t come home yet.  He’s still on drips and his bladder isn’t working yet – complications from surgery, and other medications he’s been taking.  But they think they can switch his medications to clear that up.  No estimates yet about when he can come home.  But maybe they can move him out of the ICU.  More work for mama bear.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Great Green Gobs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts

Great Green Gobs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts

Great green gobs of greasy grimey gopher guts,
Mutiliated monkey meat,
Chopped up birdie feet!
French fried eyeballs mixed in with baby mush,
I for-got my spoon!
So I'll use a straw...

(From (sung to the tune of Old Gray Mare) 

A song has been lost.  My husband had gas when he defecated the green slime that is typical of his diarrhea mixed with bile (which is a good thing – it means his small intestine is now sending material to his large intestine.)  I sang the green gopher guts song to celebrate and not my husband, not the nurses, nobody in that room had ever heard the song before. I had to look it up online to prove to them that I was not making things up. 

Having gas means my husband is one step closer to coming home. 

I had to laugh when he bragged about that to my mother on the phone. 
I pictured my grandmother on the phone and how she would ask him to talk to her like a lady.  Bubbles, please. Not gas.

My husband passed gas – a high point of the day.

He also had a nasty side effect from the drug they put in his IV line to regulate his heart rate. That drug made his arm swell and turn red. When I pointed this out, all the nurses did was move the line to the IV in his other arm.  I asked if it could be turned off.  No. The doctors ordered it for 24 hours.  When 24 hours came, I asked that it be turned off. No. The doctors have to order it removed.  Finally at about 26 hours it was removed. Both my husband’s arms are red, swollen and painful to the touch.

He was allowed out of his bed today for the first time since he went in Monday.  First he was allowed to walk 3 feet to sit in a chair.  Then he was allowed to walk down the hall with all his drips and his monitor. We had a parade. I pushed the drip pole. The nurse pushed the monitor pole, and my husband walked in the middle.  Technically, the hall is one block long.  It sure feels like 2 blocks and he walked both directions. He’s strong.

Several hospital staffers who saw him asked if he was short of breath.  Huh? Look at him, walking tall, breathing surely.  Or look at his monitor, which shows his heart rate and breath rate and oxygen saturation.  I guess they don’t believe their eyes because at the moment, he does look like an old man, all puffed up with his bloated belly and swollen arms. You can’t see his muscle tone.  Still, his strength is obvious.

Maybe tomorrow they’ll remove the nose tube.  If they do, he’ll get to eat.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

One Bad Surgery Leads to Another

It all started when my husband went in for what was supposed to be a simple hernia repair.
He spent the next 5 days getting sicker and sicker – bladder infection, constipation and then most terrifying of all vomiting every few minutes for several days before he was admitted to the hospital.

In the hospital they discovered he had an obstruction in his small intestine. Last night, a 2nd xray showed that the obstruction was not going away on its own and it was stuck to the incision for the hernia operation, so he had a 2nd surgery to remove the adhesions and unkink his intestines.

The surgeon says this happens about 1/10th of 1 percent of the time.  My husband was just unlucky.

His bad luck continued into the 2nd surgery. He had a bad reaction to the anesthetic that cause atrial fibrillation combined with a severe drop in blood pressure. He had to be shocked back into a normal rhythm and blood pressure.  The shock worked and the cardiologists gave him a 24 hour drip bag of a drug to prevent another afib attack while his body clears out the anesthetic from his system.  The cardiologists also gave him an amnesia drug so he won’t remember the pain of being shocked, but he seemed to remember when I talked to him.

The good news is that the surgeon says the 2nd surgery was successful, and his intestines should start working in 2 or 3 days and he’ll be able to eat and drink again, and then he can come home for a few weeks of resting up. Then he’ll need to start physical therapy to get his strength back.

The surgeon also said he’ll lose at least 20 lbs from so much time without eating.  This will please him. He’s been trying to lose weight all his life.  I have no idea how he’s kept extra weight on considering all the exercise he does every day. And he does not eat large quantities of food. Maybe this sudden loss will stay off.  He deserves something he’d like for all the horrible experiences he’s been through.

Bottom line: He’s alive. He looks pink.  When I bent down to kiss him, he kissed me back.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Doctors Don’t Take Me Seriously

He’s in pain. He’s urinating every few minutes and it’s bloody.
His belly is puffed up like a balloon, and he’s constipated.
He’s vomiting every few minutes. This has been going on for days.

Finally, after 5 days of calling with more and more problems, the doctor agreed to see my husband. The first thing she said to me was, “He doesn’t look as bad as you described.”  

But she had him admitted to the hospital.  That took 6.5 hours.  When he was finally admitted, the staff decided he needed to be in the ICU.  He was in worse condition than I had described. He was dehydrated.  His kidneys were damaged.  And he had an obstruction in his small intestine.

All of this as a result what was supposed to be a simple out-patient hernia repair.

Several doctors have come by and explained that sometimes the small intestine gets kinked during abdominal surgery.  One of the nurses said he should have been admitted after 2 days with his belly swollen like that.

My husband is on a saline and dextrose drip. He’s got a tube from his nose to his stomach sucking out any fluid that gets in there, like the melted ice chips that are the only things he’s allowed to eat. He’s on antibiotics.  He caught the diarrhea that is going around the hospital.  I have to wear a special yellow gown when I go into his room and I have to take off the gown just inside the door way when I leave. Then I have to wash my hands for 15 seconds before I leave the room.  When I give my husband the phone, I have to put a glove on his hand so he won’t contaminate the handset.  

As I left this evening, they’d just taken an x-ray to let them know if the kink in his small intestines is healing on its own or if he’ll need a second surgery.

And just as I was thinking this is all awful, my husband said something amazing.  He wants to spend more time with me and with his students. He wants to spend more time doing things he enjoys.  He sees that he could have died and he wants to make the rest of his life more enjoyable. 

So, now I’m thrilled at his new outlook and still terrified about tomorrow.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Don't Catheterize My Husband!

I know from experience that catheters are bad. I’ve been catheterized 3 times and gotten 3 bladder infections. The first time was during delivery of my first child. The second time was during my second pregnancy. I was getting my pre-natal care at a medical school training center. There I was with my legs in the stirrups and the woman (pre-doc?  Pre-nurse?) Asked if I was having any trouble with my bladder.  I said I was urinating more often than usual. This is common for pregnant women.  Next thing I knew she’d jammed a catheter into me.  “I didn’t authorize that!” I said.  “You said you were having a problem with your bladder,” she replied.  I was so grateful to be getting the discount-priced medical care that I didn’t rat her out to her supervisor.  The third time was during the surgery when I got my tubes cut. Every time I got a bladder infection.  I’ve learned how to treat bladder infections with peach leaves and cubeb berries. I’ve also learned to refuse catheterization in front of witnesses.

My husband had a hernia that he wanted repaired.  He was not suspicious. The first hint he’d had that he had been catheterized was blood in his urine.  I immediately made him a pot of peach leaf and cubeb berry tea.  He drank it.  He even asked for a 2nd potful, which I made and he drank.  That was yesterday.  He has been unable to sleep. He needs to urinate every few minutes and he says it stings like a bee. The blood stopped fairly quickly. He does not have a fever. The stinging is constant, even when he’s not urinating. He doesn’t have a worse sting at the end of urinating. He has no signs of infection.

The doctor called and asked how he’s doing.  He told her about the urinating pain. She said that would be overwith by tonight and that they needed to get the urine out of his bladder before they could do the surgery. And she said they don’t have enough toilets to let all the patients use them.

This excuse doesn’t work for me.  The surgery was in a hospital. They have bedpans.  And if there is still urine in his bladder all they need to do is push down on the spot and the urine will come out.  There is no need for a catheter.

Later the doctor’s assistant called. Before giving the phone to my husband I told her, “He can’t sleep. He can’t sit. He’s in pain. Yes he’s taking the Percocet. It’s not helping and it’s making him constipated. He needs to urinate every few minutes.”  All she said was, “I’ll tell the doctor. And call if you have any other problems.”

My husband has had good luck with medical procedures before this. As a child he had surgery on his eyes and on his knee.  He had no problems.  When a truck hit him a few years ago, and broke his elbow, he had no problems with either of the surgeries to repair it.  

I can only guess that these previous surgeons didn’t catheterize him.  And now I’m on the lookout – no surgeon will catheterize him again unless the surgery is on the bladder itself.  My husband is a complete grouch when he is in pain and hasn’t had his sleep.  When the doc jammed that tube where it didn’t belong, she took away far more than the contents of his bladder. She took away his peace of mind and body.  That is the opposite of good medical care. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This Week in Exercise

Sunday – Iyengar Yoga – learned to press the wall with my back foot during warrior poses.  This helps my balance and allows be a greater stretch between my feet.

Monday – jumped on home trampoline and worked with the wooden wobble board that I borrowed from my chiropractor

Tuesday morning – Iyengar Yoga in the morning – more wall exercises, included sloping blocks against the baseboard to support different arm positions in downward dog. 

Tuesday night – Zumba – NEVER AGAIN!!!!! It’s all deep squats and hip wiggling. It hurts too much to even think about.  I went with a neighbor who LOVED it!  After class one of the students asked if I was coming back.  I told her I’ll stick with yoga, pilates and belly dancing. She was interested in yoga if I could promise her that the teacher knew how to modify poses when she can’t get into them.  That I can promise. I wouldn’t be doing yoga if the teachers couldn’t modify the poses and let me get the stretches without being able to look like the pictures in the books.

Wednesday – We got up early and went to the hospital where my husband had a hernia repair scheduled.  He went in last Friday for the blood tests.  His potassium came back high, so they needed to run it again. They planned to cancel the surgery if his potassium was high again.  While we waited, I did my Egoscue exercises – that took half an hour.  I stood on my head.  I did downward dog. I did hamstring stretches. I did plow. I did push-ups  In all I did about 45 minutes of assorted calisthenics.  Finally, they got the blood test results back. Surgery was on.

The nurse asked what I was going to do during the 2 hours my husband was in surgery. 
 “I’m going to the gym for a swim.” 
 “Didn’t you just do calisthenics?” 
 “I wish I knew how to do those.”  
I recommended the Beginning Egoscue DVD.  Another woman wanted to know what’s the first thing I do when I wake up.  I told her I meditate.  I sent her to and told her to look for mindfulness.  I had no idea how much material there was on that site.  Here’s the place I recommend starting: 

Then I went to the pool and swam about half a mile.  

I'm not going to belly dancing tonight.  I'm staying home with my husband.

Tomorrow, I'm going to my Feldenkrais class.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I Want a Loaner Body

I took a yoga class from a new teacher. At the end of class, the teacher asked if there was anything I’d like.  In retrospect, I think she meant – did I want to do standing exercises or hip openers, or inversions.  But my brain was in a different gear. I was sore from the stretches and feeling like a klutz for all the things I couldn’t do.  So, I said, “Yes, I’d like to borrow a loaner body for this class.”

You might say that if I did the work in a loaner body, that I wouldn’t get the benefits.


There’s plenty of evidence that exercise makes you smart.

which says in part: “ Physical exertion induces the cells in the brain to reinforce old connections between neurons and to forge new connections. This denser neuron network is better able to process and store information, essentially resulting in a smarter brain.

Best of all, exercisers may not need the endurance of an ironman—or even a John Lavery, for that matter—to benefit. For older people in particular, even a moderate program of exercise can boost brain health and cognition.

Much of this research focuses on a protein called BDNF, for "brain-derived neurotrophic factor." This chemical, which helps nerve cells grow and connect, is important for fetal development. But it turns out to be critical in the adult brain, as well.”


which says: “However, the positive effects on your brain are increased the more aerobic exercise you do. Studies show that higher activity levels trigger the release of metabolic 'clean-up crews' in your brain, says Dr Ratey. These produce proteins and enzymes that get rid of the brain-clogging waste products that cause sluggish thinking and generally stop your brain working at its peak. . 

Once you get fit enough to be able to occasionally put in a few sprints ( a fast lap in the pool or 30 seconds of furious cycling on a stationery bike), research shows that the pituitary gland in your brain unleashes human growth hormone ( HGH). T HIS, says Dr Ratey, is the body's master craftsman burning belly fat, layering on muscle fibre and pumping up brain volume. 

Normally HGH stays in the bloodstream for only a few minutes, but research shows that these few sprints can keep the level elevated for up to four hours. “

And here’s evidence that you don’t really have to do the exercise – you can just imagine it.

here’s a key part of the article:

“The control group, who didn’t do anything, saw no gains in strength. The exercise group, who trained three times a week, saw a 28% gain in strength. No big surprises there. But, the group who did not exercise, but rather thought about exercising experienced nearly the same gains in strength as the exercise group (24%). Yes, you read that right!
The group that visualized exercised got nearly the same benefit, in terms of strength-gains, as the group that actually worked-out.”

I enjoy exercise.  I like the concentration on coordinating my body. I like the sensations of stretching and strengthening.  I don’t like the pain that my injured body experiences when I try to do what used to be easy.  So, if I can get the benefits and pleasure of the exercise without pain – by using a loaner body – that would solve my problems.

I think it might solve problems for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons.  Your body can’t run a marathon, but you want to? Borrow a body that can.  Your body can’t drive because you broke your arm – borrow a body that can.  Your body can’t even get out of bed because you are sick or disabled – borrow a body that is heathy and moves.

I don’t see any downside.  How about a body swap.  The healthy person can take time to read while you exercise their body.  They get their body exercised while they do something else.  It seems like win-win to me.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Only Six-Pack in the Room

I talked with my Tuesday yoga teacher about my hips. They still hurt. They still have limited range of motion. I’m still limping. It’s been a year since the accident.  She suggested I try her Wednesday night belly dancing class.  I took belly dancing for a semester in college. I remember it as enjoyable exercise.

Unlike yoga, belly dance is public.  During yoga class, I rarely look at the others students, unless the teacher asks a student to demonstrate a pose and variations.  When, during class, the teacher gives instructions for uses of props and modifications (“put a pad under your left hip”, “if you can’t reach your toes, loop a strap around your foot”) I never look to see who is using props. Yoga is internally focused.  Yoga is not meant to be a public performance. Nobody ever goes to a night club to watch people stretch into yoga positions.

Belly dancing students all line up in front of the mirror. Belly dancing students watch each other, hoping to pick up tips and techniques. Belly dancing students expose their midriffs and tie a scarf at their hips to draw attention to the movements. Belly dancing students hear comments like, “Nothing should move above the waist in this step, but if you are well endowed, you can’t help it.”  

I was the oldest student in the room, by at least 30 years. My neck is stiff and can’t do that graceful move where the head looks like it has become dissociated from the body. On me, it just looks like I’m doing some sort of odd neck exercise.

I can move my shoulders as well as the youngest of the students, even the one that is still recovering from surgery can do simple belly dancing raises and shakes.  My right hip has an easier time than the left one with the lower body maneuvers.  Something that almost never happens for me any more in an exercise class – my left hip felt sore and tired about 15 minutes into the class.

Then we started working our midriffs. Lift the ribs to the left. Lift them to the right. Shift them forward. Shift them back. Rotate through all four positions, clockwise, then counter-clockwise.  And there in the mirror – all those smooth bellied children with their elastic skin. There in the mirror – looking at the whole class gyrating – I had the only six-pack. 

It may look a bit silly on what is supposed to be a sexy dance, but if you look at it as exercise, those muscles let me do what many of the seductive younger women could not. And that was the reason I went – exercise. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wobble Pillow

I’ve been sitting on a wobble pillow for about a year now.  Sitting still hurts, but sitting on a wobble pillow is comfortable. It’s exercising and sitting at the same time, while I get other work done.

My chiropractor suggested I stand on the thing.  He says it will be good for my balance. Balance comes from strength. Strength comes from exercise.  And I must have some weak muscles or I wouldn’t be in such pain.  That last statement seems like guesswork.  But a new form of exercise, using equipment I already have – what’s not to like?

First, I don’t like the texture of the plastic wobble pillow against the bottoms of my feet.  So, I put a towel around it.

Second, I don’t like the risk of falling.  The video of the woman, that comes with the wobble pillow, shows her just stepping up onto it in the middle of the room.  That woman must have way better balance than I have!  So, I moved the pillow over by the bannister.

Third, I wobble.  The video claims that if you have good balance, you can stand still on the wobble pillow.  I don’t fall. I’d have said I have good balance.  The wobble pillow says otherwise.

I thought I was getting stronger. I have mastered standing on one foot with my eyes closed for 20 seconds - not necessarily on the first try on any given day – but I can do it.

So, now I have another new exercise.  Stand on my wobble pillow.  I’ll know I’m really good when I can do it with my eyes closed.

Here's one for sale on Amazon. As usual, if you use this link, my friends at will get credit.
  GoFit Core Disk and Training DVD

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wonderful Tale from Yogi Sarveshwarananda Giri

Yogi Sarveshwarananda Giri has retold a beautiful Zen parable.  It is joyful, and insightful.  I LOVE this story and the way he tells it.