Sunday, January 20, 2013

Say What?!?!?!?

My game room is a mess. It's strewn with endless piles of paper: mostly receipts I've printed out for bills I've paid online. Several years ago, when I was still doing most things via snail mail, I began filing all my bills in binders. At the time, I thought it was a great way to stay organized, and perhaps, for a while, it was, but now the binders are out of control, and I need a new system. At work, where I do case management, we went paperless a couple of years ago. That was hard for me at first, because I loved the comfort of being able to pull out a file and look at my notes, but I wasn't given a choice, so I made the plunge. Now I love being paperless at work, and I realized, as I surveyed the mess of papers strewn about my game room, that this is also what I need to do at home.

So I texted Kath: 

"What's a good scanner organizer for receipts etc?"

A little while later I received this response:

"I don't know. Did you ask Alex?"

I usually ask Kath or Mike techie questions of this nature, and Kath knows it, so I thought that was sort of an odd reply, but I responded:

"No but I will"

I then received this reply back:

"I wanted the red bean garbanzo thing for several weeks now"


I replied


To which Kath responded,

"The winter soup you make. It had red beans and garbanzo beans I think. I know I hated the garbanzo beans when I was a kid, but now I realize what they do for the whole thing and I've been craving that soup."

What the???? Then I figured it out, began to smile, and texted her back:

"I'm talking about a MACHINE like you got dad, for RECEIPTS, not RECIPES!"

There was a pause of a couple minutes before she replied:

"Ahhhhhhh...NEAT RECEIPTS! Hahahahahahahahahaha!"

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A small wrinkle...

So I went for my post-op visit this morning, and the cheese grater is off, and to my amazement, I can actually see some things with my left eye, all of which is great, but...there has to be a but...the surgeon prescribed antibiotic eye drops, to be used 4 times a day for 5 days as is standard following eye surgery, but so far, my insurance company is refusing to pay for the antibiotics. Huh? They paid for the frigging surgery, and yesterday they covered the script for pain medication, post surgery, but they don't want to cover post-surgery antibiotics? What kind of sense does that make?

The pharmacist said he'd try to straighten it out, because obviously this isn't right. But he initially said "This could take some time, because we're busy and I don't really know when I'll have time to call them," with the implication, it seemed to me, that it could be tomorrow. I pointed out that the script is for antibiotics, post-eye surgery, that I was actually supposed to have started about 2 hours ago. To his credit, he said, "Ok, I'll call them right now, but obviously I have no control over when they get back to me."

In the meantime, I'm at home, waiting for him to call and tell me it's straightened out and I can come and pick up the drops, but does this make any sense?


It makes perfect sense, when the pharmacy enters the wrong information into the system. I had to go home, log onto my work computer, long onto the HR site, and get contact info for my prescription provider to straighten everything out. The maddening thing is, this has happened to me at this particular Target pharmacy once before. Ugh. But I finally got it all straightened out, and I'm now officially mending.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Shades of Kurt Weill...

I promised to post a pic, and here it is: about 90 minutes post -op, shortly before I took a long, much needed nap!

Last night I got a nice note and good wishes from a new friend, Janine. That meant a lot to me, because she's had this surgery. Her hilarious account of her vitrectomy, posted here, is well worth the read; I promise you'll laugh so hard you'll cry.

The surgery went very well. It was done in an outpatient facility. Anthony drove me there, and stayed with me until it was time for my surgery, when I was taken to a curtained area. There, I answered the usual questions regarding my medical history, allergy history, etc., after which I was instructed to remove everything except my panties and socks (it was cold), and to put on a hospital gown and a cap to cover my hair. I was given a local anesthesia as well as oxygen, and other than some pain at the start of the iv anesthesia, I had no discomfort. When the vitreous was removed from my left eye, I saw (or perhaps had the illusion of seeing) what appeared to be a screen covered with grey squiggles/floaters across my eye; then they were gone. I was under the influence of anesthesia at that point, so I'm not sure what exactly I saw, but I think the surgeon commented on it, or perhaps I imagined all of that. The rest of the time (and it didn't seem to be very long) I was there but not really there; whatever drug I was given was wonderful. Afterward, the surgeon told me he was able to remove all the excess tissue on the fovea in just two swipes, which is why the procedure was so fast.

After the surgery, I was wheeled to a recovery area, where I was given a small bottle of apple juice and some peanut butter crackers. At that point, I hadn't had anything to eat or drink for about 15 hours, so the apple juice and crackers tasted great. In the meantime, a very nice nurse called Katharine to come and pick me up. Before I could be wheeled to her car, Kath had to sign paperwork that she was a "designated responsible adult" who agreed to accept custody of me post op. She got a laugh when she said she wanted a copy of that paperwork! She then drove me to Target to get the script filled for the pain medication: six 50-mg Tramadol tablets, to be taken as needed, with a note that I can request more if I need them. The only wrinkle in the entire procedure was that Target once again managed to mess up filling my script. The result was that instead of taking the 50 minutes they'd initially said it would take, it took almost 2 hours for them to straighten it out, by which time I was getting a headache, my eye was beginning to bother me, and I was really beginning to fade. I was very grateful that Kath was there with me.

When I finally got the Tramadol, she drove me home and dropped me off. I immediately got into a pair of comfortable pajamas and made myself a quick late lunch: a bowl of Trader Joe's organic tomato soup with some gorgonzola crackers on the side and a Mexican Coke. I managed to do all of that pretty well, except for one thing: when I first reached into my pantry to get out the soup, I couldn't pick it up. I tried several times, but each time, although I could see the box of soup, I seemed to be grabbing at air. I have Elfa wire shelves in my pantry, and the soup was on one of the lower shelves; after looking more closely, I realized that the reason I couldn't grab the box is that my hand was on the wrong shelf, because right now, my depth perception is screwed up. I've been very careful when walking, but didn't think about the effect when simply reaching for something. 

After finishing my lunch, I took a Tramadol and immediately fell asleep. Apparently I slept very soundly, because although the ringer was on, I slept through all the phone calls from family and friends, but awoke for a call from the Dominican Republic telling me I need a new burglar alarm. Uh-huh.

Alex sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers (see pic, above); Mike & Brooke sent good wishes for a speedy recovery, and Chris & Caitlin came by this evening with one of my favorite meals: tortilla soup, chips, & salsa, which I happily devoured. Chris also scooped Ike's litter for me, because bending over would be very bad for my eye right now.

Tomorrow morning I'll go back to the surgeon for my first post-op visit, at which time he'll remove the patch and examine my eye. The skin above my eye is beginning to itch, and I can't scratch it, so I can't wait. I think he'll also provide a script for an ophthalmic antibiotic and perhaps some steroid eye drops. I'm still on PTO tomorrow, but I'm scheduled to work from home for the rest of the week, beginning Wednesday. If I feel well enough to do that, I will, but I'm not going to push it. 

Right now, I'm feeling very glad that I had the surgery, and very grateful that I have a supportive family and friends to help me through this.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pirates of the Caribbean...NOT!

The first time I went to see a retinal specialist was not a happy experience. For starters, the waiting room smelled like poop (sadly, not because the plumbing was being worked on). Then, when I finally saw the retinal surgeon who had been so highly recommended, I realized he was a septuagenarian, which bothered me; I wanted someone younger, with steadier hands, as a surgeon. Also, he flirted with me, which was annoying and rather bewildering until I realized that, at 60, I was probably his youngest patient by about 20 years. He recommended immediate surgery, and when I demurred, he tsk-tsked, shook his finger at me, and said: "Sooner rather than later, my dear, and by later, I mean no more than 6 months!" 

That was a little over 3 years ago. I have epiretinal membrane, a condition in which scar tissue forms on the macula. The macula is a small oval area in the center of the retina, and in the center of the macula is a cone shaped depression called the fovea. The fovea contains the highest concentration of cone cells, which provide clear central vision. Sometimes, for various reasons, scar tissue forms over the fovea. Most of the time, this is no big deal; an optometrist or ophthalmologist can see it when the eye is dilated, but if it's mild, it doesn't cause a change in vision. However, for some individuals, the tissue grows, eventually wrinkling the macula and distorting central vision. 

That's what happened to me, but I wasn't in any hurry to have the surgery that's the only treatment. It also happened to Spalding Gray, who also wasn't keen on having the surgery (albeit, this was almost 20 years ago). In fact, he wrote a monologue about his search for alternatives to the surgery, that became a movie directed by Stephen Soderbergh, called Gray's Anatomy.  I'd also read, and my ophthalmologist had told me, that sometimes epiretinal membranes spontaneously slough,"although I myself have never actually had a patient to whom that happened," she admitted. 

Still, I had high hopes. 

So I declined surgery, and waited. 

But the membrane didn't spontaneously slough, and the central vision in my left eye got worse, not better. It's a weird disorder, because even though the central vision in my left eye is now so poor that I can no longer read the E at the top of the eye chart, I still have good peripheral vision in that eye, and that, combined with the very good vision that I still have in my right eye, has enabled me to see well enough to drive my car, do my job (reading and writing all day, on two computer monitors), read my Kindle, etc. 

Until recently. The vision in my eyes is now so discrepant that at times I have double vision, and it's easier sometimes to just cover my left eye entirely than to try to figure out what it is I'm looking at. For example, check out the Amsler Grid, below. To use it, cover one of your eyes at a time, and concentrate on the dot in the center. If your eyes are healthy, the lines should all look straight; if they don't, make an appointment for an eye exam. For me, with my right eye, the lines look straight, but with my left eye, they aren't straight at all, and if I look at this with both eyes, there are big blank areas. 

So in December, after having researched docs, I went to see a much younger, board certified, vitreo-retinal surgeon. He was wearing a Santa hat (I'm not kidding - this was shortly before Christmas). After he reviewed the scans of both of my eyes, he told me in no uncertain terms that I need to have a vitrectomy (removal of the vitreous fluid) and membranectomy (removal of layers of unhealthy tissue from the retina) on my left eye ASAP, which, with the holidays, meant January. He said because I'd waited so long and there's now so much tissue covering the fovea, he couldn't promise that the vision in that eye will be restored, only that it won't continue to deteriorate. I think he was being cautious, but I'm fine with that. 

So how does Captain Jack Sparrow fit into all of this? Discussing recovery, the surgeon mentioned that I'll have to wear a patch over my eye for a couple of days and nights, "to protect your eye, in case you bump it". I have a good imagination, and I love Johnny Depp, so I immediately pictured a sexy, black velvet eye patch, of the type that Jack Sparrow (or someone he fancied), might wear.

Ha! That's not it at all. I've looked into this, and we're talking Industrial Eye Patch: an eye patch so big and sturdy, that it'll protect the whole left side of my head, should it come to that, which apparently is prudent, because I'll have no depth perception, and might easily walk hard into a cupboard door, or tumble down a flight of stairs, but by God, if I do, my eye will be protected! Think cheese grater or colander, placed over a kitchen sponge and taped to my face with clear packing tape...attractive, I know!

Which is part of the reason I'll be working from home for all of next week.

I promise to post pics...eventually. But I don't delude myself that Captain Jack Sparrow would fancy me.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Things I Did Today - 06 January 2013

1. I took down the tree, and dragged it out to the curb. It was a lot easier taking it down than putting it up, but I have to admit I'll miss it. It was still so fresh and fragrant! I swear this tree was fresher when I was taking it down on January 6 than most of the trees we ever purchased at lots in Chicago.
2. I organized the cords of lights, so all of them are wound up neatly in a box for next Christmas, and I repacked all the ornaments.
3. In the living room, I rolled up the dhurries and put them away, and rolled out the sisal again.
4. I made a quick trip to IKEA, where I picked up some Skubbs drawer organizers.
5. I organized the drawers in the chest in the front hall, using some of the Skubbs.
6. I made a quick trip to Trader Joe's. I went there for the first time on Friday, and I think I'm becoming addicted to the goat cheese pizza.

New Year's Resolutions and Henry Ford...

It's January 5, and I've been thinking of things I want to do, mostly goals I want to achieve, this coming year. They're not exactly New Year's resolutions, but New Year's is as good a time as any to think about making positive changes, so every year recently, in late December and early January, I've found myself doing this. The idea of making New Year's resolutions, once popular, has fallen into disrepute, but I agree with Henry Ford, who supposedly said: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."

Last year, one of the things on my list was simply the vague notion that I wanted to get in better shape. I didn't even start to work on that goal until March, but in December, I completed my first half-marathon. There's power, at least for me, in writing things down. This started accidentally, because one hot July afternoon several years ago, I sat down and wrote out a list of things I needed to have done around the house. I think I was having some intermittent garage door problems, and decided to make a list of various other things that needed to be done. Along with the mundane, I included some major projects, e.g., having the pool removed. The list was a journal entry, and after writing it, I wrote a lot of other entries and forgot about it, but a couple of years later, browsing through that journal, I came across that list again and to my surprise, I realized that I'd taken care of almost everything on it, including having the pool removed. 

This was interesting to me, because I hadn't consciously thought about it; in fact, I'd completely forgotten that I'd written it. It got me thinking that maybe, writing a list of things one wants to do can be more powerful than we realize. Since then, I've made a number of similar lists. When I do it, I always do it the same way I wrote that first list: I write things down off the top of my head, whether or not they seem realistic: for example, when I wrote that I wanted to have the pool removed, I didn't have the money to do it, but that didn't stop me from putting it on the list.

Yesterday I read an article in the NYTimes on Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert's research on looking ahead, called "The End of History Illusion", which suggests that all of us consistently underestimate the changes ahead of us. I don't know how my idea of making lists of things to be done melds with that, but I guess in 10 years I might find out.

In the meantime, it's time for me to stop writing this post and start making a new list.

Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

What I Did Today - 02 January 2013

I can't believe it's 2013. I haven't written in so long, and I miss it, so, for my own pleasure, I'm going to start writing again, but I'm starting small. So here's what I did today:

1. Drove to FW, to work (of course).
2. Went to the grocery store after work, then came home and unpacked everything and tidied up the kitchen. I washed a couple of beautiful Bartlett pears and some gorgeous tomatoes, and put them out on the counter to finish ripening and put everything else away.
3. Fed Ike.
4. Suited up and went out into the cold evening intending to walk 3 miles, but the cold was so invigorating that I ended up walking 5.3 miles, at a respectable pace, and I felt terrific when I finished.
5. Had a hot shower (I really love hot showers) and shampooed my hair.
6. Did a load of laundry.