Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Day 2743

I've completely lost track of what day it is. I woke up this morning thinking it was Saturday, but it's really just Wednesday. Most of the things that imposed a structure on my life are gone. When I was taking care of Dot toward the end of her life there was always something that needed to be done. Practically every minute needed to be accounted for. When work was busy, a host of deadlines imposed their own structure. Even Janet driving off to work every morning made the week seem orderly. Now it doesn't really matter what day it is. Maybe this is what retirement is like.

I'm not sure what comes next for me, but I can tell that Janet doesn't want to sit around the house all day. She can't wait until her doctors give her the OK to drive again. After today's visit to see the surgeon, we're one step closer to that goal. The doctors seem pleased at her progress and one of the drainage tubes was removed. When the drainage in the other tube decreases to 30 milliliters per day, it can be removed as well. The good news is that there is no sign of infection anywhere.

I can't decide whether Dash needs the canine flu immunization. Our vet would probably say yes, but I've read of several instances where dogs who got the shots ended up having seizures afterwards. Since Dash has problems with both epilepsy and idiopathic vestibular disease, I don't want to do anything that would give him another seizure. Dogs who participate in dog shows or go to dog parks frequently have the highest risk of influenza, but there is no guarantee that your dog is completely free from danger  even if you just stay at home. It's a tough choice, since the canine flu is pretty serious. I never get flu shots myself. The one time I did, I actually caught the flu. My solution for avoiding the flu is just to stay away from children.

Canine flu shots aren't the only think I'm having trouble making a decision about. Should I go see the August eclipse or not? When I first started reading about the upcoming eclipse, it was presented as a must see, once in a lifetime event. Lately, the tone of the articles I've been reading is changing. Eclipse day is projected to be a traffic nightmare of epic proportions with millions of people converging on the totality zone without much of a plan. Now, people are being told to bring extra food and even extra gasoline. Expect to be stranded on the highway if you aren't in place several days ahead of time, they say. This doesn't sound like fun at all. Totality is only two minutes long. I'm not sure being stranded on a crowded freeway for hours is worth those two minutes. There's a 40% chance it's going to be cloudy anyway. All this being said, I'd still love to see a total eclipse.

There's still time to decide. I'll ask Dash's vet about the immunization shots and I'll keep checking airfares to the eclipse zone. In the mean time, there are more mundane things that need to be done. I still need to get my passport renewed and the back yard desperately needs new St. Augustine grass. One of my writing clients said they'd have some more assignments soon, but I'm not counting on much work these days. That ship has sailed.

It's weird to have so much time on my hands. When I have lots of time, I have no money and when I have lots of money, I have no time. That's life, I guess. At least Janet is getting better. That's the important thing right now.

Patch is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Day 2742

Another rainy day. The yard is still muddy and I have to clean Dash's paws with a wet rag before he comes inside. The first thing Dash does when he comes inside is jump on the bed. If the rainy season continues much longer, Janet may wish she hadn't picked out a white comforter and pillows for the bed. When you've got large dogs, mud brown usually turns out to be the best color for everything.

I really need to start pestering the landscaper to come out and take care of the yard. He was supposed to come a month ago. Usually we put in new grass in March but there's been way too much going on this Spring. The yard really hasn't been a priority. A friend who uses the same guy told us the landscaper isn't very interested in us since we only call him once a year. Hey, once a year is plenty. He ought to be glad to have our business since he gets to put in the same grass over and over again. I don't know why the grass won't grow. The lawn gets enough water and the soil is good. Maybe there just isn't enough direct sunlight. At any rate, it doesn't really matter how long the grass lasts. Right now the back yard is basically a big mud pit.

I wrote another letter to my sister this afternoon. Letter writing is always a good thing to do on a rainy day. I wish my sister would just read the blog, since I end up repeating most of the things I've already written here. Pen and paper is how she communicates and I doubt that anything is going to change. We're both set in our ways. My Dad was the same way. He was a brilliant scientist, but he never owned a computer. He had no interest in computers at all.

Maybe I'm the odd duck in the family. I don't know what I'd do without my computers. Without computers, I'd never have been able to operate a successful business out of my house for all these years. When I first started the company, I was constantly driving from one client to the next. It seemed like I was always in meetings. What a revelation to discover that I didn't really need to see these people at all. The Internet changed everything for me. To this day there are still clients who I have never met in person. I get my assignments via e-mail and I send the completed projects back via e-mail. It works for me.

I'm surprised that Dash has turned out to be a really good therapy dog. Janet and I were a little nervous when she first came home from the hospital, since Dash has a tendency to be wild. He's been very gentle and attentive though. He follows Janet around the house wherever she goes and just sits by her side. So far, there have been no problems at all. I suspect that Dash has wanted both of us home for a long time. For most of his life, Janet has left for work early and come home pretty late. Now Dash has both of us.

Tomorrow I take Janet to visit two different doctors. We're hoping that they are both pleased with her progress. Surgery is always so invasive and recovery is so messy that it is hard to know what to expect. I remember when I first saw my Dad after open heart surgery I was horrified. The cardiologist reassured me that everything was normal but it sure didn't look normal. Dad recovered and so will Janet. There just aren't any shortcuts. I've learned that when a surgeon explains a procedure to you, they usually aren't telling you the entire story. Maybe it's for the best. If I knew everything, I would never have the nerve to have surgery.

It's hard to believe the year is almost half over. This is one year I don't feel like repeating. When Janet recovers, I hope we all stay healthy for a long, long time.

Rascal is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, June 26, 2017

Day 2741

I'm trying to get organized. I made an appointment to take my car in for service. I went up to my doctor and tried to schedule my annual physical. I paid the remaining June bills sitting on my desk and I did some laundry. I don't think it mattered that I postponed some of these things. The first appointment I could get at the Land Rover dealer was three weeks from now and there was an equally lengthy wait at my doctor's office. At least I've taken care of these things now. They're on my calendar and I don't have to think about them anymore.

It didn't seem like Monday. Janet has always been a workaholic and is typically out of the house before I'm even fully awake. We get started much later now. Janet needs to rest and Dash and I have never had any strong desire to get out of bed. We didn't finish our morning routine until almost noon today. I do most of the chores these days, but it's not like I have anything better to do. I'm probably a pretty good person to have around as a nurse. I've got all the time in the world.

I'm still debating whether to go and see the eclipse this August. Janet should be a lot better by then. I'd like to go to Wyoming where crowds are expected to be small. It's much less expensive to go someplace like Kansas City though, where crowds will probably be huge. I started to look at airfares and quickly realized that major airlines are already raising fares to popular destination cities on the days immediately before and after the eclipse. It's probably all computerized. When demand for flights goes up, fares probably immediately go up as well. I don't even want to think about driving. From what I'm reading, the traffic on eclipse day will be like twenty Woodstocks happening at once.

We really like the home nurse. It's comforting to have someone who knows what they're doing reassure us that everything is going OK. The hospital went to great lengths to instill a fear of infections and now just about everything seems like it could be the beginning of an infection. Most of the changes that occur each day are just the body's normal response to surgery. Even though nothing has gone wrong, it's still important to be careful.

I learned how to make banana bread tonight. Sometimes there are left over bananas at the end of the week from my morning smoothies and they get used for banana bread. The whole process seemed pretty straightforward and the bread came out great, but I don't think I'm going to become a baker anytime soon. As soon as Janet recovers, the kitchen is all hers. I have a real aversion to cooking. One of the reason I am thin is that if food is difficult to fix, I just don't eat. Lots of people I know love to cook. I'd probably rather eat something I dislike than cook something I love.

Janet got one of those adult coloring books as a get-well gift. She seems to enjoy it. I don't think I could ever do one of those things. I'd lose interest within five minutes. I don't need an adult coloring book anyway. This blog is my adult coloring book. I'm just filling in the days.

Derrick is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Day 2740

The last of our original neighbors died last week. These were the people who built the houses on our street in the 1940's and 50's. One by one, they've been slowly disappearing for the last thirty years. I'm pretty sure that Ben was the last. When we moved here, we were the youngest couple on the street. Now, we're one of the oldest. It feels like the end of an era. I liked our older neighbors. They all knew each other well and would sometimes have large block parties. It's rare if I ever get to know the newcomers. We'll say hello if I pass them while walking the dogs, but I really don't know who they are. Most arrived from out of state and are much younger than me. Many of the original houses in the neighborhood are being torn down now. There is nothing wrong with these houses. They just aren't big enough or fancy enough for today's buyers. I hope our house doesn't get torn down someday, but it probably will. That's the thing about change. You just can't stop it.

There are still a few things that don't seem to change. There seems to be a tradition of bringing over food when you're sick. Janet's friends have been generous and we've got enough food to feed an army now. Maybe people don't realize how little the two of us eat. Everything is appreciated and will get eaten, but we've got to figure out how to freeze some of the stuff. Dash seems to be telling us to let him help with the stash. He can always tell when there's lots of food in the house. Sorry little buddy. I know you'd like a big plate of lasagna, but you've got a sensitive stomach and are on a strict diet.

It's a good thing that I went to the gym, since I definitely needed to burn off a few extra calories today. Once I finished my workout, I came home and took a long nap. I've been really tired lately, but I was still surprised at how quickly I went to sleep during the middle of the day. I'm getting more sleep now that Dot is gone, but I'm still not getting enough. Maybe someday. I'm really glad that the home nurse comes over once a day. It makes a big difference.

The time is passing quickly. Next Wednesday Janet has her first re-check with the surgeon. If all goes well, some or maybe even all of the drain tubes can come out. I'm sure she will be happy to have this major hurdle behind her. You really can't do much with tubes coming out of your body. Years ago, when Dash was attacked by an aggressive dog in the park, he had to have drainage tubes inserted after surgery. Dash's tubes had to stay in place for almost a month. They weren't nearly as sophisticated as Janet's and every time Dash would shake his head vigorously, blood would fly out of the tubes. The house was a mess.

I'm not very organized about grocery shopping. I had to go back to the store today even though the house is full of food and I just went shopping yesterday. The one thing we really need is always the one thing I forget. Oddly, I'm not that hungry. What I'd really like to do is just go to sleep for a month.

Shiner is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Day 2739

It rained all night. For once, I was glad to see the rain because it cooled down the oppressively high temperatures a bit. Dash didn't approve though. The thunder scared him during the night and he refused to go out and pee the next morning. Eventually, he gave up and got wet, but he is a very stubborn dog. I certainly couldn't have waited that long to pee.

The home nurse came earlier today. She is a retired RN who either wanted to keep working to have something to do, or maybe she needs the money. I am always pleased to see older people who have managed to carve out a niche for themselves. The nurse is very reassuring not only because she is nice, but because she has seen almost everything in her long career. So far, the prognosis looks good. The daily ritual of changing bandages and draining fluid tubes is starting to seem familiar. It's definitely not normal, but it's not as scary anymore either.

I ate a late breakfast after the nurse left and then got started on a long day full of errands. Janet and I have always tried to split the errands and chores as equally as possible. It's only when you become responsible for both sides of the equation that you realize that our life isn't quite as simple as it seems. Normally Janet buys the fresh stuff and I get the things you can buy in bulk. I don't know how two people and one dog manage to eat so much food. I need to remember that I don't really have to go to Central Market on Saturday afternoon. What a zoo. My schedule has always been pretty flexible. I think I'll start buying all the produce at 10:30 on Tuesday morning or something. It's much easier to shop when everybody else is at work.

The weather cleared up by mid-afternoon, so I was able to get Dash outside for a little exercise. He seems to know that Janet is sick and has become very protective. Most of the day, he just sits on the bed with her. He hasn't lost interest in eating though. If I rattle the container where we keep his food, he always comes running to the kitchen.

The spiders have already started returning and are in the process of building new webs to capture insects flying toward our living room windows. I was at Home Depot this afternoon, but completely forgot to look for some kind of spray to keep them away. We must have thousands of small spiders in our yard. I don't know where they come from, but they seem to love our windows.

I've still got one more website to update, but if things go smoothly tomorrow I'll probably have time to go to the gym. I'm not wild about exercise, but I need something to replace the marathon walks I used to take when Dot and Dash were healthy. I really miss those days. We keep getting cards from all the vets who treated Dot during her long life. It means a lot to know that she touched so many lives. Janet and I can't bring Dot back, but we can remember what she taught us about dealing with adversity.

Rio is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, June 23, 2017

Day 2738

Janet's home nurse didn't show up this morning. We thought we could just change the bandages ourselves, but quickly realized we were out of our depth. I couldn't even figure out how to open the bottle of sterile saline solution. The instructions the hospital left us with made such a huge deal out of germs and cleanliness that it left me wondering if my hands were still clean if I turned off the faucet after washing them. And what about cutting a bandage in half with a pair of scissors? Where do you draw the line?

It wasn't surprising to learn that the problem with the home nurse involved paperwork. Someone had failed to send the proper authorization forms to the right person. Basically very little happens in healthcare unless the provider knows they are going to get paid. The doctors and nurses are excellent. It's insurance that always screws things up. Janet called her regular doctor to see if they could help arrange something and by the end of the day we were back in business. I used to think the whole concept of concierge doctors was a waste of money, but Janet's doctor has made me a believer. You basically pay more to get treated decently, but if you need help, don't want to wait forever to get an appointment, and are having trouble navigating the insurance maze, the cost is well worth it. I've been going to the same doctor for a long time, but I'm thinking of switching to Janet's doctor. These guys have been amazing.

It was so hot today that Dash didn't want to walk at all. On the theory that dogs know more about the weather than I do, I didn't try to make him go outside. You hear so many stories about dogs getting heatstroke in the Summer that I've become very cautious about taking walks during a heat wave. You've got to remember that dogs can't sweat and can become overheated quite quickly.

I did get out and about myself, but I've got a good air conditioner in my car. I went out for breakfast, even though it was almost lunch time by the time all the home nurse confusion got straightened out. Today's errands included picking up more medical supplies at CVS and getting some tasty things for dinner that didn't require cooking.

I wonder how nurses deal with the stress. There are so many things that can go wrong. Patients often don't follow directions, and what works for one person sometimes doesn't work for the next. This isn't something I'd like to do for a living. I have a tremendous respect for doctors and nurses, but I don't think modern medicine would work at all if the body didn't have an amazing ability to heal itself. A healthy diet and a strong immune system are probably more important than any pill.

I had to update some more mobile websites today and grew increasingly frustrated at the need to use both my laptop and desktop computers to make the updates. What would have been a thirty minute job before my design application stopped supporting my desktop computer ended up taking two hours. I hate to spend a ton of money updating software on my desktop just so I can continue to use this application, but I may have to. It is taking way too much time to go back and forth between the two computers.

I guess tomorrow is Saturday although all days seem the same now. There are lots of errands to run and I can tell it's going to be a busy day already. I always forget how much Janet does to keep the house running smoothly until I try doing it myself for a while. Hopefully this new routine will become easier for both of us with a little practice.

Boo is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Day 2737

Janet is home again. They definitely don't keep you very long in the hospital anymore. As much as I hate hospitals, I'll have to admit that I was very impressed with the doctors and staff at Baylor. Not only were they very well trained and professional, they were nice. This isn't always the case at hospitals. So far, everything appears to be going smoothly. Janet's doctors are pleased with her progress and the nurses reassured me that all the tubes and bandages she went home with are completely normal.

Once of the head nurses gave me a short course in wound care this afternoon. For the first week or so there are drains that must be emptied several times a day. The fluid that collects in the reservoirs is supposed to diminish each day, and when it stops the tubes are removed. You have to keep a log and measure the amount of fluid you remove each time, making sure to keep everything completely clean during the entire process. There have never been this many antibacterial products in our home before. I'm sure they are necessary. The doctors didn't mince words about the dangers of infections. Most of the complications resulting from surgery don't happen during the surgery itself. They are usually caused by infections that happen later.

I'm careful and methodical, even though my hands aren't as steady as they once were. It's going to be a miracle if we make it through the entire week without spilling some of the fluid that is removed several times a day. Everybody calls it a pink fluid but they're not fooling me. It's blood.

Dash is being very good. He was our only real worry, since he's probably the dirtiest thing in the house. He has slept on our bed the entire time he has been a party of our family, so he's not going to change now. I make sure he doesn't get too near Janet when he's active and excited. Dinner time and food seem to excite him the most, so it is pretty easy to lure him to the kitchen and out of harm's way. Basically Dash is a very lazy dog. If he's on the bed, he's usually sleeping.

I spent most of the morning getting the bed ready. There were new sheets, new pillows, new pillow shams, a new comforter, and unfortunately a new mattress cover. The old mattress cover slid over the mattress like a fitted sheet. This new one had a zipper and you had to slide the entire mattress inside it and then zip it up. Our mattress is very heavy and this was not an easy job. I almost gave up at one point, but I finally got the thing on. I didn't think anything was wrong with the old mattress cover, but Janet reminded me that dogs have peed on it several times. Basically sterilizing a house with dogs is an exercise in futility. All things considered though, I think we've done pretty well.

Things will be quite different for a few weeks and then should gradually return to normal. I don't think we'll need the home nurse for very long. Changing dressings and emptying the tubes is actually easier than we'd thought it would be. There will be follow up visits with the surgeons and an oncologist. I think there's a physical therapist too. In many ways this all seems very similar to what Dot and Dash went through a few years ago.

Kirby is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Day 2736

I spent most of the day at the hospital. Our dogs have had every conceivable type of surgery over the years, but none of this really prepares you for surgery in a large metropolitan hospital. There are mountains of forms to sign. You can easily get lost in the labyrinth of hallways leading to your destination. It can all be fairly intimidating. I noticed that Janet's blood pressure was higher than normal when they looked at her vital signs in the pre-op staging area. The nurse just laughed. "Everyone's blood pressure is high in this room," she said.

While we were waiting, I met the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, a nurse-patient liaison, and more operating room nurses than I can remember. There was actually a second surgeon, but he was busy in another operation, and didn't introduce himself. Everyone was extremely professional and did their best to put us at ease.

There is no way to be relaxed about major surgery though. Janet was scared and I was just hoping that my innate fear of doctors and hospitals wasn't showing. I didn't want to make things worse. The only comfort was that Janet had done her homework and found a superb surgeon. Everybody said that this guy was the very best. When the anesthesiologist came to prepare her for the operating room, I went home to feed and walk Dash while waiting for the call that everything was OK.

The surgery went quicker than I thought it would. The first surgeon called about an hour an a half after I got home and the second surgeon called an hour after that to say everything was completed. Surgeons are not very talkative, but both seemed pleased with the results and said there were no complications.

When I went to visit Janet this evening after she got out of the recovery room, she was all hooked up to tubes and looked very tired. She was hungry though and said she wished they had brought her a ham sandwich instead of Jello and chicken broth. There was probably good reason that the doctors didn't want her to eat solid food right away. It was hard enough to get her to drink a glass of water through a straw. Janet wanted me to text her family and friends and let them know she was OK. This took forever, since I'm terrible at texting. I don't see how anyone can do this quickly. I can barely see the tiny keyboard.

If all goes well tonight, Janet will be released from the hospital later tomorrow. There will be a nurse that comes to the house for a while and then I will take over most of the post-op care. Dot prepared me well for being a caregiver, so I think everything will be fine.

It's been a long day. Actually, it's been a very long year. I often wish that life would return to normal, but lately I've come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as normal. When you get to know people well, you realize that nobody's life is all that normal. We are all dealing with things we never expected.

Barley is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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