Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Dash of Insanity

Mary on New Years Eve just
prior to surgery.

Wow.  Its been a bit since I last posted.  Things have been, as the title suggests, a bit insane around here.  Not that we don't all have occasional moments of driving ourselves to the brink of madness every now and then, but this is too different from those times.  This is a 5 alarm, which way is up, pass the scotch and the valium, brass tacks nut farm around here.  While it isn't hitting full panic mode yet, the last few weeks have been awful.  I knew when I signed up for marriage and children there would be times of trial and frustration, but this isn't in the Dad's Handbook for The Middle Aged Lunatic.

This started January 12th.  Mary had a surgery performed on her lower back to relieve the pressure on the disks in her lumbar section of her spine.  The procedure seems sound enough, and after querying about this procedure, decided this could really benefit Mary's back pain.  The surgery went well, although some slight complications with the location of the vertebrae, the disks, and scar tissue which had formed around some of the disk areas.  After surgery we met her in her "penthouse" suite at Mercy Hospital, and left her in good hands.  I must say the staff was very helpful, and the doctor explained everything in details we both understood well.  The next day I could tell the initial shock to her back was obvious.  She could barely move, and although she had managed to walk a couple times, felt pretty sore.  The next two days were very much the same, walk, go to the bathroom, lay down, sleep an hour, get up, repeat.  The object was to get her moving so that the stiffness would work out and the back could adjust to the clamps now supporting her spine.  At the end of her stay at the hospital, Mary was moving around fairly well, although she needed a lot of help with about every aspect of her life.

How to "properly" supervise
yard work at the office.

And that is where the insanity started.  As it turned out, I grossly underestimated the amount of help Mary needed, the work load I was carrying, the ability of our daughters to assist, the requirements for Marys care, and my ability remain calm and steady under fire.  PFFFFT!  The first week home, I think Mary and I got 12 hours sleep in 6 days.  My consulting work had taken on new work I had not counted on.  The day job was really taking a toll, especially when I had several disagreements with staff over project loads, survey operations, and hiring a new staff surveyor.  And to boot, the cats crapped under my desk!  The surgery was a success, but Mary needed constant supervision, as she was still quite unsteady just walking to the bathroom.  And speaking of bathroom, the potty runs every 90 minutes in the middle of the night were totally unexpected.  Even bathing had to be supervised, not to mention keeping Marys lower extremities clean from her bathroom visits.  Finally realizing how exhausted Mary and I were, I took last Friday off to get some rest from it all.  As a fellow surveyor told me last week, this is the truest test of a relationship.

This is not exactly my idea of
We visited the doctor tonight, where he examined the incision, answered all of our questions, shared some funny stories about getting lost in Queens (don't ask!) and addressed Mary's prescription needs.  Monday night one of the staples started showing some signs of drainage.  The clamps are holding well, but a byproduct of that is the pressure being taken off the nerves is allowing those compressed nerves to wake up ans swell a bit.  The drainage is fine, fairly normal, no signs of any infection, but to be safe he prescribed an antibiotic.  Her physical progress is better than expected, as she only needs one crutch to walk around with.  The right leg is still fairly weak, however, with time the strength in that leg is expected to return.  She still needs some assistance with bathing, but as her progress increases we gain more confidence.  The pain in her lower back for the most part, is gone.  While not completely eradicated, her ability to move around, to be mobile, and to enjoy life, increases every day.  We are now planning a trip to another NASCAR race, as yet to be determined. We are also looking into a couple overnight trips, just little mom and dad getaways that we discovered last year really helped us feel better about us, each other, and our marriage.

There is still much to be done.  The staples holding the incision together have remained for now due to the unexpected drainage.  The walker, well, Mary offered to do something with it that I think is physically impossible.  In fact - I think if anyone gets near her with a walker, they might be wearing it permanently.  For me, just seeing her live relatively pain free after years of back pain has been a true blessing.  While it was frustrating at the time, the care and love she needed was more than worth the sleepless nights, the fatigued days, the fret and the worry.  We just want to enjoy each other in these later years of life.  Maybe be a bit more active, and a little more patient.  Mary has been a bit humbled by the need for all the care she needed, but she also realized to get better she would have to put her fears aside and let those things happen.  Her goal is to be more mobile and play a bit more active role in the day to day life in our home.  Even though it was a bit insane at times, the sacrifice was small but well worth it. 

Daytona is only three weeks away, and RIDING season shouldn't be too far off after that....THANK GOODNESS!!  I miss my Melissa.

The 2011 Road King Classic with the 103 cubic inch engine.

Peace and Love Everybody!

A footnote:  For all you BEARS fans out there...DAD!  My sincerest apologies.  Maybe next year, eh?? 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Year for The Same Old

A few original ornaments
from our first year
Its been awhile since my last installment of things Harley and such.  Holidays are supposedly a pretty busy time, and this year was another shining example of our hectic schedules.  I just wish for once that folks would sit down and read the Good Book and realize Christmas ain't about who you can run over at the mall.  Its not about expanding your credit card debt our your waistline.  Its just amazing that the time of year when we all should be at our best, we fail miserably.  Not just as a country, or a people, but as a species in general.  Sometimes I wonder if the gene pool needs a bit of cleaning out, because there is more inexcusable behavior our there than I care for.  Thankfully, the holidays are behind us, and maybe we can all return to our regularly scheduled insanity.

After a big snowstorm two
days before Christmas
This year has been hard.  Jesse decided to go to Arizona before Christmas.  Not that I can blame her.  The weather in Iowa can be downright bitter in wintertime.  Cold weather snow, and ice are all products of living in Iowa, and it can really wear on you.  Unfortunately planning was not good and she realized quite rapidly sometimes that living with Mom and Dad isn't that bad compared to being in a strange city with no room, no food, and no shower.  As my mother reminds me all the time - its a "learning experience" and this is one of those times she will count her blessings a bit differently next time.  The "real world" can be foreboding unless you have a real plan in place, as in this case.  Thankfully, Uncle wasn't too far off, and was able to lend a hand and give her a place to stay for a week or so. 

Melissa in September
Melissa has been put to sleep for the winter.  Oil changed, polished a bit, battery tender at the ready.  I took one last ride after returning from Michigan, but that was so cold, I think I am still trying to warm up.  Planning new rides for 2011 is already taking shape some.  A trip or two to Michigan, perhaps a trip to Kansas, and Sturgis may be in the offiing.  Whether these come to fruition is another story, but at least for now I can plan and dream.  Sturgis is supposedly a rite of passage for any "true" biker, although whether I am one of those is a bit doubtful.  My goal would be Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, and Devils Tower - not sleeping amongst 700,000 biker maniacs. Thats just not my speed.  I love to ride, see the scenery, be out amongst the mountains, but in all that something draws me to Sturgis.  Another biker goal is to ride to the Mackinac Bridge.  Its well within reach, but logistically will be a bit more difficult.  Lots of goals and planning to do - and its the first week of January!

Our Christmas Tree All lit
Ready for Santa!

My wife Mary will undergo a small procedure on her back of a different nature on January 12th.  A new procedure known as ILIF may be able to alleviate the pain she is experiencing in her lumbar area.  Scans show at least two disks may need this procedure.  Its pretty simple actually.  A metal brace is put in between the two vertabrae, and a fragment of bone is put in creating a fuse.  The brace will help the spinal column to lift off the disk area, lessening the pressure on the nerves and reducing the pain.  Its quite new and has shown some good results in other patients.  If this can work, it may help her to become more mobile and allowing her to be more active.  Back pain is never fun, but the last few years its gotten progressively worse.  In the last four years she has needed epidural treatments and medication to control the pain, but those procedures are failing to control the pain.  The last resort is a full fusion of the back, and that is a long and drawn out surgery.  Recovery times extending into the 6 and 8 months, whereas this ILIF procedure should see a full recovery in the matter of a few weeks. 

For all of you - Have a safe and prosperous New Year!

Peace and Love!
My Family Christmas 2010