Moneypit

It’s the 24th of April in Southern Ontario.  I live as far south as Detroit, and it Snowed today.  Wha’Happun?  Did we not get Mother Nature a nice enough present for Earth Day?

I took the car to the Chevy Dealer last week, to have them Deal with the no-start problem.  As I suspected, the charge was almost $600.  Then the service manager said the traction control/ABS brakes thing was a separate problem that would take almost another $500 to cure.  The cats may have to go on a diet when we start eating their food.  I don’t know whether any one of these fixes has taken care of the fainting speedometer, and I haven’t been locked out of the car recently.  My key would sometimes fail to turn in the lock, but that was just because it is the most-used, and most-worn.  They charged me six bucks and cut me a new one.  The wife traded her seldom-used one to the son.

I found another automotive idiosyncrasy the other day.  We stopped at the pharmacy, on the way home from the wife’s doctor, with a list of prescriptions.  As usual, she wasn’t feeling too energetic, so I went in alone, leaving the keys in the ignition.  Just as I was coming back out, in hobbled the wife.  She had remembered a question or two she wished to put to the pharmacist.  She told me she had pushed the door-lock button, as she got out.  I asked her for my keys.  Oh, were they still in the lock?  She has her purse, does she have her keys?  Yes! At least we aren’t locked out.  I walked over to the car and opened the driver’s door, and turned to look at her.  She was still fumbling to get out the remote on her key-ring.  Apparently, if you leave the keys in the ignition and push the lock button, all the doors lock, except the driver’s.  So there sat the car, with the driver’s door unlocked, keys in the ignition, and no-one watching it.  The only thing missing was a large sign on the roof reading, Steal Me.

The day after I posted about taking the daughter to pick up her hearing assistors at the better hearing clinic, I read a short piece in the local paper that said that two employees from the clinic in the next city, which we used, and one from a branch in a city down the highway, were arrested and charged with fraud.  It is Alleged that they overbilled for goods and services and charged for services not rendered to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, the Canadian Ministry of Health and the Federal Long-term Assistive Devices Program.  My guess that they were under investigation was correct.  We’ll never get the stolen money back, and now we’ll have to pay more to have them prosecuted, and possibly jailed.

I’m still reading.  They’re still S**tting.  A story in the local paper is headlined, “In pursuit of riches in the asteroid belt.”  It’s about a plan to capture near-Earth asteroids, and mine them for things like platinum, which is really valuable, as well as water for human space-use, and iron, for building structures in space.  It would be relatively easy and inexpensive to do because these hunks of rock are closer than the moon.  They are Not, however, as implied, in the asteroid belt, which is a couple of hundred million miles away.

Quebec, our beloved Francophone province, has a Quebec Office of the French Language, despite the fact that the poutine they speak is almost incomprehensible to people in France.  When they import French-language movies, made in Paris, they have to have subtitles to be understood.  This warehouse of cultural egotism threw a snit-fit last week.  A hospital in Montreal, where 75% speak English, purchased some soiled linen baskets from a supplier in the USA.  The baskets say, ”Soiled linen”.  The petty language police got up on their Frogs-legs to protest mocking their culture and disrespect for Quebec’s linguistic uniqueness.  Dear Quebec; Get over yourselves!  After the Battle of The Plains of Abraham, two hundred years ago, you were offered the options of being a defeated people, or a productive, co-operative part of this great country.  Please choose one and shut up about it.

Over the years, many people have suggested that those receiving social assistance, welfare, unemployment, etc., should be required to perform some sort of service for the community which supports them.  Various provinces and cities have enacted ordinances which prevent this.  For example, the number of hours put in, divided into the amount of money given to an individual, might result in a figure less than the minimum wage law.  We can’t have that.  That might incite someone to actually get a paying job.  Just keep handing the money over with no strings attached.

Some social engineers have come up with a back-door approach which gets around some of these problems.  The Language-Nazi doesn’t have any great objection to a scheme which will reduce the Unnecessary burden on an already strained economy.  I am steamed, however, about what they’ve decided to call it.  When someone is forced to put in work without direct payment, it will be known as Mandatory Volunteerism.  This joins Military Intelligence, and Government Ethics as one of the most linguistically self-contradictory phrases ever invented.

BrainRants would probably tell you that, this is the Army system, just without the stupid name.  “I want three volunteers!  You, you and you!”  My handicapped daughter lives in geared-to-income housing.  She can’t sweep sidewalks or clear drains, but she is the president of the housing complex she lives in, and puts in lots of hours on her computer, making sure that goods and services are obtained, and payments are made.

 

Saturday The Fourteenth

On Saturday, the fourteenth, we got another call from the Money Mill doctors’ clinic.  The wife’s doctor is moving from family practice to Hematology.  She only works as a G. P. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  She is taking the entire month of April as vacation.  They wanted us to come over on Sunday to see a replacement doctor, the cosmetic surgeon again, as it turned out.  I had already made plans to take the daughter and a friend of hers to the Free Thinkers luncheon on Sunday morning.  I expected to be home about 1 PM.  The wife wanted a phone call when we left.

The last time we had to go to the clinic, they had put up signs saying that you could phone in and put your name on the list and get an approximate serve-time.  That way you could sit at home or get a coffee at Tim Hortons and miss the wait at the clinic.  When you do show up, they give you one of those buzzy, light-flashing flying-saucers you get at The Outback.  We called the wife at one, and she called the clinic, only to find that the phone-ahead was cut off at noon, and all the good times were actually taken by ten.  We got there by two, were almost the last served, just before five.  The diagnosis was that her allergies cause constipation, and the Prescription was for another over-the-counter medication.  She says, if it’s important, they’ll insist that she come in during working hours for a scheduled visit, no more of these three-hour, wasted afternoons, which only cause more inhalant allergies.

The daughter managed to get another hearing test and recommendation, from a different hearing clinic.  Their submission was accepted by ODSP.  I drove her to pick up her new Hearing Assistors today.  The only thing left to do for paper-work is have her doctor sign the prescription sheet, so these nice people can get paid.  See above.  The doctor is on holiday.  The earliest appointment she could get was May 2.  They understand, and say they’ll wait.  Her units are far nicer than the ones the wife and I got.  She gets a business-card sized remote control.  She can turn the volume up and down on each. She can turn either, on or off.  She can switch from front mike, to rear, and with the purchase of an $80 box, she can plug into a stereo or TV, and have it broadcast directly to the units.  Our $2900 units won’t do any of that.  Hers were only $2500.  20/20 hindsight.  If only we’d gone here first.

We have an interesting way of celebrating Friday the Thirteenth, fairly locally.  Some of you may have heard of it.  It started way back in 1981.  As a gag, on a Friday the Thirteenth, 25 local bikers got together, and rode about sixty miles south, to a town on Lake Erie, called Port Dover.  They had a great day and each of them told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on.   The next year there were over a hundred, and after that, it just took off.  It’s like the Canadian equivalent of the Sturgis meet.  Bikers now come from all over to attend.

The town of Port Dover is a little over 6000 population.  This year they had between six and eight thousand bikes.  Some of them had passengers, but the total estimated crowd was between fifty and seventy thousand people.  They close off the road into town, and only bikes get to enter.  Huge crowds of folks show up to mingle and watch.  Cars are parked along roads for miles.  Some farmers make more renting a field or two as parking lots, than they do on crops, the rest of the year.  There can be up to three FTTs a year, but they don’t always happen when the weather’s nice.  Even if they occur in Jan. or Feb., some of the boys still make the run.  Some of them run tricycles, some strap on a sidecar and some of them just fire up the Buick.

The residents of Port Dover have been interviewed over the years.  Aren’t you worried about drugs and drunks and violence?  The answer is always no!  Oh sure, with sixty thousand people in town, something always happens, but not usually from the bikers, who are on their best behavior.  It’s a great financial shot in the arm for the town, and the gawkers often return for a bit of tourism.  In the twenty years I rode a motorcycle, I often thought about taking the ride, but I was cheap and had too strong a work ethic.  It would have been fun, but I just couldn’t see losing a day’s pay.  I had hoped to be able to do it after I retired, but a dumb accident pretty much ruled that out.

What does or does not get printed in the papers can be interesting and amusing.  KayJai lives a thousand miles away, but today I read a story of a guy in her city, who dug up and carted off in his pickup, a tree from the landscaping at a new Canada Post building.  I howled at the line, “with Royal Newfoundland Constabulary in pursuit.”  I can just see the poor tree in the back of the truck.  That must have been like the OJ Simpson, low-speed chase.  She says they don’t hear about the Oktoberfest silliness that happens here, when we get eighty to a hundred thousand visitors.  Something to look forward to, fans.

Socialized Larceny

I mentioned to BrainRants, that one of the drawbacks of socialized medicine is inefficiency.  Most practitioners – doctors, nurses, technicians, are in it for the good of their patients.  Some of them though, and perhaps more of the clerical support, don’t have that commitment.  They know that their job is almost guaranteed by the government, so there is no need for speed or accuracy.  This is one of the reasons for things like long wait times in emergency.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, about having two different clerks take exactly the same information, sometimes the reason for a position disappears, but, the redundant clerk remains, unfireable, sometimes unnoticed.

Another downside of socialized medicine, is the unnecessary and/or excess billing by doctors and clinics.  Higher than necessary and non-valid claims are sent to uncaring, overwhelmed government clerks, too busy to pay close attention, and, in many cases, more interested in Keeping their job, than in Doing their job.

Not that I am suggesting anything illegal or unethical, but, these are just a few of the things I have noticed lately.

I had blood work done for my vision problem.  My doctor’s receptionist called me and told me that I needed to come in to see the doctor about my high cholesterol, which I did.  When the doctor came into the exam room, she didn’t even know why I was there.  The base-line for the tests I took is 5.5.  My result was 5.7, the same as it was a year previous.  I didn’t Need to come in, but it was a billable visit.

My wife had some blood tests run.  The clinic at her doctors’ building is open from 5 till 8 PM, five evenings a week plus Saturday and Sunday.  We got a – I don’t want to say *urgent*, perhaps *strenuous* – call on a Saturday afternoon, from a clerk, who informed her that she had anemia, and should come in to the clinic the next day for a prescription for iron medicine.  We waited three hours for her to be seen by A doctor, not Her doctor, then we took the prescription to our pharmacy and had it filled.  Commonly used to drug bills from $300 to over $1000, I was astounded when the pharmacy clerk wanted $1.79.  It was an over-the-counter pill that could have waited for her next visit to her doctor to be recommended, but, that was a billable, urgent-care visit.  The doctor who wrote the unnecessary prescription is a cosmetic surgeon.

It seems a good idea to ascertain the cause of anemia.  It could be an ulcer, or other internal bleeding.  The wife had an appointment booked with her doctor about an ongoing sore throat and cough.  While she was in, she asked about the anemia.  Her doctor checked the results.  Like my case, the base-line is 130, and her result was 127, barely below the warning line.  The results did show that she produces red cells of different sizes, an unusual occurrence, not necessarily dangerous, but definitely worth investigating.  The other doctor didn’t mention a thing about that.

The wife and I both recently got two/each hearing assistors.  We were told that they were $2000/pr.  My retirement benefits would pay a thousand for each of us and the government gets stuck with the balance.  When the wife went to file the paid invoice, she noticed that each $2000 bill, was actually over $2900.  Besides the charges for hearing aids, the government got billed for the hearing tests.  There were $450 dispensing fees.  There is a 30 day check-up, and a 90 day check-up, and then yearly  follow-up visits.  I’d like to think that, at least some of that is included in the $450, but I’ll bet not.  There were even $85 ear-mould charges.  I don’t remember any ear-moulds being taken, especially since these things have a soft ring on the inner end, like a ski-pole bottom.

My daughter was also tested and prescribed hearing assistors at the same time.  Three at one blow, sounds like the little tailor, killing flies, for Mother Goose.  She is disabled, and all her medical bills go through the Ontario Disability Services Plan.  Because of this, we were led to believe that her units would be somewhat less expensive than ours.  After several weeks of not hearing (Oh, funny!  That’s why we went in.) about her units, she called her case-worker.  Perhaps thinking that this was just another, typical government agency, they had recommended a $5000 pair.  She’s tried the wife’s units.  They work just fine.  We don’t need a Porsche, and the ODSP will only pay for a Ford.  I don’t blame them.

I think this hearing company is now under watch, if not investigation.  The daughter now has to go to another hearing clinic and be retested and resubmit.  ODSP will accept no further submissions from this company.  This means that the daughter’s chances are less than they were, and, even if her next request is honored, there will be bureaucratic delay.

Not every crook is a Bernie Madoff.  Many just keep chipping away, small scale.  Many never get caught.  The egotistic greed is disappointing.  Instead of this money buying a cottage or a bass-boat, it could be used to actually help someone who really needs it.

I See That I Can Hear

Just when I thought that I had my medical problems pretty much under control, I got blindsided.  The wife is the youngest of nine children.  The five oldest, each in turn, have had to get hearing aids as they hit the 60/65-year-old range.  Some genetic weakness apparently.  The oldest warned her twenty years ago that her time would come.  The one sister, with the husband who ran his own small specialty plastering business, and who had more money than any two or three of the rest, cheaped out and only got a hearing aid for one ear.  She was born during the depression, but that was a long time ago….Really?  Another sister denied a 40% hearing loss until the audiologist put his hand in front of his mouth and asked what he was saying.  She had unconsciously learned to lip-read to make up for the slow loss.

The wife’s doctor moved from an office two blocks from my disabled daughter, where she could quickly and easily get there in her powered wheelchair, and a mere five minutes down the street from our home.  She moved to the far side of the neighboring city.  Fortunately, highway access is nearby, but it still takes twenty minutes, and now I have to drive the daughter, who used to have a small degree of independence.  The doctor moved in with four other doctors in what is described as a limited clinic.  I think the correct pronunciation is MONEY MILL.

If you just walk in, the first doctor who has an opening will see you.  If you want to see your specific doctor, you make an appointment, and with a set-up like that, appointments can be two to three weeks.  The group of doctors owns an entire one-floor building.  Their offices and examining rooms are at one end.  They have leased space to a captive pharmacy at the other end, and in the middle, is where the real money is made.  They employ a staff who provide massage therapy, osteopathy, physiotherapy.  They do cardiac echograms, and they have a hearing testing booth with hearing assist diagnosis and suggestion.  You can almost hear the cash registers ringing as you walk in.  It’s like a licence to print money.

Once upon a time, manufacturing companies made a product, from the sale of which, they derived a profit.  Now, companies make money.  Banks used to take your cash and lend it out at a profit, from which they paid a portion to you as interest.  Now, banks make money, and you even have to pay them for the privilege of getting your own money back.  Doctors used to heal sick people.  Now doctors make money.  If someone happens to get better in the process, it’s co-incidental.

The wife finally decided to book an appointment to have her hearing tested.  Since the big Costco store is on the edge of town as we come back, we picked up the daughter, so that we could do some shopping on the way home.  The daughter is probably subject to the same genetic hearing problem as the wife.  Her turn would normally come in about twenty years but, about eight years ago, she had a terrible double-ear infection.  They gave her Cipro, you know, the stuff that stops anthrax.  Normally it’s a five-day dosage.  She was so bad that she got ten.  As the wife left to get her test, the daughter commented that she wished she could have her hearing checked also.  The wife popped into the exam room for a few seconds and then came out and waved the daughter down the hall.  Apparently they had some free time in the schedule.  Because of the infection, the wife and daughter’s results were almost identical.

The wife remained with the tech and the daughter came back to the waiting room to give me the results.  I was happy that they now had quantifiable results and said; at least I didn’t have to go through this, when the wife stuck her head out of the door and crooked her finger at me.  Sure enough, there was enough time for me to get tested too.  I worked in a reasonably noisy plant the last twenty years.  The government mandated that the company had to have us checked each year.  I knew that I had a slight loss, but agreed with the tester, who put it down as much to normal aging, as plant noise.

Within twenty minutes I was being fitted for new electronic hearing aids, excuse me, Hearing Assistors!  They were cheap at $2000/pair.  Apparently the government will pay for half, and they had already checked to ensure that my retirement benefits would cover the balance.  KaChing!  How can you say no, to something free.

These things are somewhat like a Bluetooth.  They hang over and behind each ear.  They don’t fill the ear like (especially the old) hearing aids, a tiny tube runs into the ear with a soft rubber ring on the end, something like a ski-pole bottom.  The normal sounds go through the openings and this programmable unit just adds the ranges that you are missing.

A man is convinced that his wife is going deaf.  To prove it, from the living room he asks, “What’s for supper?”  No answer, so he moves to the hall and repeats the question.  Still no answer.  He’s more convinced than ever and moves into the kitchen and asks once more, “What’s for supper?”  His wife turns around and says, “For the third time, stew!”

My wife’s hearing loss is in the mid-range, where my normal voice is.  My hearing loss is in the upper range, where her voice is.  We weren’t ignoring each other; we just couldn’t hear each other.  There goes my excuse for not doing some of the things she asks.  I can hardly wait to see what my next technological improvement will be, a motorized walker perhaps.  Maybe I can get John Erickson to help me mount a .50 cal. to deal with handicapped parking spot violators.

Alas! In Medical Wonderland

The tale of my eyesight, and lack thereof, has morphed through more iterations than a TV pilot.  It has gone from being a potential tragedy, to an ongoing drama.  Now fortunately, it seems to have decided to become a bit of a mystery/comedy.

The MRI that I had, showed nothing, so I had to go ahead with the lumbar puncture.  The women who have delivered children with an epidural are now saying, Yeah!  Go ahead with it, you wimp.  Not ever having suspected that I would need one, I have not paid a lot of attention to them.  All I knew was that a lot of people thought they were painful.

I was told that I should be at the hospital by 11:30.  Since there is always paperwork, I got the wife and I there by 11:20, figuring that they’ll probably be late anyway.  I was told by the doctor’s office, to go to Day surgery registration, so that is where I presented myself.  The receptionist there felt that I was in the wrong place, and sent me to Radiology reception.  The Radiology receptionist called Day surgery and politely told her that she was an idiot, and that she was sending me back up.  Back at Day surgery, I got registered, got my chart and my fancy wristbands, one red because of allergy, and was sent back up the hall to Day surgery reception.  Now I’ll get something done, I thought.  Silly optimist.

Reception told me to take a seat and wait.  After about ten minutes, I got called…. and was escorted to Day surgery administration, where I sat in front of another clerk, with another computer and was asked the same questions that I had already answered over at registration, and were on my chart.  Apparently my procedure wasn’t scheduled till 1:00 PM.  I had to suffer the vampire thing again so that they could do some last-minute blood checks but, the bulk of the extra hour and a half was to allow for bureaucratic inefficiency.  At least I went to the operating room on time.

Two female techs got me up on the table, with a pillow under my ample tummy to open a gap between the bones.  One of them placed cabalistic runes on my back with a Sharpie, and then the doctor came in.  She told me that she was going to give me a freezing shot.  She said, “This will sting and burn for ten to fifteen….”  MINUTES??!!  No! Seconds, you wuss.  Suck it up.  It did sting and burn, but not badly, and only for 3 to 4 seconds.  With the internal scar tissue from my shoulder implant, I had a problem getting my left arm up on the table to straighten the spine.

She told me not to move suddenly.  No problem for ten or fifteen minutes, but twice she just touched the sciatic nerve, and I got a lightning bolt through my butt and scrotum and down to my left knee.  I didn’t actually jump, but there was a sudden breath sucked in.  She took the pressure of the fluid.  I asked, and was reassured that it was normal, as was the look of the fluid, nice and clear.  Then she wanted to draw some off for bacterial and/or viral culture.  She got the first, larger amount easily, but the second, smaller amount just didn’t seem to want to seep out.  They finally tipped the top of the table up to produce a head.  I was worried they might start shaking me up and down.  I dealt with the whole procedure with relaxation and humor, and the gals told me that I did both them and me a favour, no short or long-term problems, no pain.  Well, just a little bit.

A week later I went back to the Neurologist for a follow-up visit.  I found him pleasantly bemused.  He told me that, with the symptoms I was exhibiting when I first went in, he was ready to throw me in the trunk of his car and drive me an hour up the highway to the University Medical Hospital, for, either optic or brain surgery.  Having looked at the results of all the tests, he is bewildered.  He is happy, but apologised for not having a positive diagnosis.  I do not have a brain tumor.  I have not had a stroke.  I do not have cerebral bleeding, an aneurism or blocked brain drainage ducts.  Neither the bacterial or viral cultures showed anything.  I am truly a conundrum to the poor doctor.  To be honest and fair, I am to my wife and family, and the rest of society, also.

He advised me that, should this occur again, I should immediately contact him or go to Emergency for a spinal tap while the problem is happening.  He offered two possible answers, but was not happy with either.  The “Flu” I had, might have been caused by a meningococcal bacterium, which could have caused a meningitis-like inflammation.  The other thing he mentioned was “benign intra-cranial hypertension.”  I asked if that was caused by thinking too hard.  This is almost always suffered by young women who put on a lot of weight at the beginning of a pregnancy.  I didn’t fit any of those slots, so that possibility is unlikely.

He showed the wife and I the brain slices from the MRI, on his computer.  He stated that my brain is normal, and my wife snorted.  He said, whenever he states that the man’s brain is normal, the wife ALWAYS laughs.  My eyesight is back to almost normal.  This saga seems to be concluding with no unhappy ending, so it’s my turn to laugh.  Onward and upward!  Excelsior!

 

Being Social…With Somebody Else’s Money

I don’t care if many Americans think they’ll wind up living in Putin’s garage if they accept socialized medical care; I thank God for the fact that it’s available to me, here in Ontario.  My medical Odyssey to restore normal sight in my left eye continues.  At a suggestion from BrainRants, I’ve been reading the biography of the sci-fi author, Robert Heinlein.  Bob was never a healthy guy, and a couple of times in his life he had some serious medical problems.  One time he was unable to work for over six months.  With the fact that he had a very intelligent, well educated and highly trained wife, and also that he could market, albeit at reduced rates, material he had written before he fell ill, he was able to survive the crisis.  Somebody like me, with a grade twelve education, only hands-on training and a disabled wife would wind up out of our mortgaged house, living on a hot air vent in front of a restaurant and eating out of the dumpster in the back.

Of course I never get to see the bills for the service I’ve received, and will receive, but I’ll bet I could buy a car, or a good chunk of my house with what’s been spent, just to eliminate non-causes.  The Ontario government used to pay for an eye exam every year.  I was born in 1944, to a father who was released from the Armed Forces for medical reasons, so I’m 2 to 22 years ahead of the Baby Boomers, who are aging even as we speak.  An eye exam every year to prevent expensive consequences would seem to be a good idea, but the politicians decided that every two years would be enough.  Several years ago I went in for my bi-annual check-up and the doctor found a thickening on the right retina.  Once we found that, I get to go back at the doctors direction.  For a couple of years it was every six months.  He’s had me taking some vitamins with an extra chemical which is supposed to prevent or slow further growth.  Seems to be working!  Then I dropped back to a yearly check-up.

When the problem with the left eye showed up, my visit was covered as part of an ongoing preventive maintenance program.  Add to that minor fee, a visit to an emergency ward and a CAT-scan  Then I got to visit an Ophthalmologist, and later that week, a technician in her office, who administered a field of vision test.  I went to my GP for a light physical and a requisition for blood and urine testing.  She justified her existence by giving me a prescription for a silver-based cream for a slight burn I got New Years Day.  Huge tube I won’t go through in five years, but it’s got two repeats.  I got to see a Neurologist the other day.  I was his first appointment at 8:00 A.M.  “Come in a half-hour early to fill in forms.”  We finished that by ten to eight.  He wandered in at 8:02 and saw me about 8:25.  Nice guy, he eliminated the obvious stuff by hand in twenty minutes, but then came more tests.

I have worked in metal-working plants, but not for many years.  Could it be a piece of metal in my eye?  Probably not, but he wanted me to have a cranial MRI, and if there were metal in the eye, an MRI could cause further damage.  Off I went with, what I thought was just a requisition for a facial X-ray, but which apparently included the MRI.  His office is in a building adjoining the hospital.  It is possible to get from him to the X-ray lab without going outside but, as he said, it’s like a rabbits warren.  If you don’t know your way through you could easily get lost.  The wife and I wended our merry way around and in, and down to X-ray, only to meet him coming back, after giving some ASAP instructions about my care.  I got to have two mug-shots, one this way, one that way.  These were X-rays, so, unless you can identify me by my dental records, they’re useless.

Then I was told to go on down the hall to MRI and fill in information forms for them for when they were supposed to call with an appointment date in a couple of days.  While we were working on the forms, a female tech came out a couple of times to the waiting room and called for Bob Jones(?).  No response. A minute or two later she came back out and called my name and gathered up the form we had filled in, quickly checked it over and asked if I wanted to have my MRI done right that moment.  Since Bob Jones hadn’t shown up, I could have his spot.  The instruction sheet says you have to lie motionless for an hour, but the tech said that it’s more like a half-hour, especially since we were only checking my head.  I wondered about my artificial shoulder.  It’s a cobalt ball and a titanium shank.  The cobalt is definitely non-magnetic, but the titanium shank sets off airport and bar screeners.  She said not to worry, I SHOULD be OK.  Her great confidence soothed me.  They give you a chicken-button for things like claustrophobia.  If I had any problems, all I had to do was push it.  Stick ear-plugs in and spend 30 minutes in a torpedo tube, listening to a varied series of loud noises.  At least that’s done with.

I still have to go back and see the Neurologist at least once more.  If none of these tests find anything, I will have to do the spinal tap thing.  If it shows nothing, we’re back to reaction from the flu.  He said, if that were the case, he had some medication that he could give me that should ease the inflammation.  I think the Neurologist is now the primary caregiver on this case.  I might not have to go back to the “eye-doctor”.  I am so glad that I don’t have to pay, personally, for all this care.  It comes from the taxes that I, and everyone else, pay.

Ah, I See…Or Maybe not!

I’ve always taken my own good health for granted.  The poor wife has so many little medical problems.  A doctor at the clinic said to her one day, “You’ve got a lot of things wrong with you!  Nothing that will kill you, but a lot of small stuff.”  She has fibromyalgia.  It makes her sore and tired, and makes exercising difficult.  She has arthritis, especially in the knees, which makes exercising difficult.  She gets bladder inflammations, which means we can’t go over to the hot pool for low impact exercise….are you beginning so see a pattern here?  Extra weight gained puts pressure on the knees, which causes less exercise, which causes depression, which causes weight gain, and around and around we go.

My daughter is also semi-handicapped and I drive her to out-of-town specialists and treatment clinics.  At 67, though, I WAS in amazingly good shape, good genes, good diet and a physical job.  I didn’t get sick.  All that changed late in November.  I got The Flu!  There was the Christmas/New Years preparation stuff to get through, but, I’m retired, I could afford to take some time off for an unexpected illness.  Weeks passed, and I slowly recovered.  At one point, for a couple of days, if I extended myself too much physically, I would feel as if I were passing out.  I would grey-out, starting from the outer edge of my left eye, and proceeding till I had narrow tunnel-vision in the right.  If I stopped and sat, or leaned over, and took a couple of deep breaths, it would go away, in reverse, always with the left eye the last to clear.

I finally got to the point where I felt that I was back to normal, except…  I was driving one day and I looked at a snowbank,and there seemed to be a yellowish/green spotlight, about a foot in diameter, shining on it.  When I got home, I realized that my left eye had that circular spot in the vision where everything was blurry.  I tried to read the digital clock on the stove, and found that there was a small blind spot in the center of it.  What to do?  What to do?  It didn’t occur to me to go to Emergency, because it didn’t feel like an emergency.  My Optometrist was closed till after New Years, so I waited till then to phone.

As BrainRants commented the other day, hurry up and wait.  No pain, no actual blindness, the best they could do was a Feb. 2 appointment, but they put me at the top of the cancellation list.  On Monday, Jan. 10 they called to say they had a spot at 3:45 on Tue., Jan. 11, which, of course, I took eagerly.  The Optometrist scanned the inside of my left eye and found leakage, like a little blister.  No wonder I had this blurry spot.  Suddenly this was a priority!  By now it’s after 5:00 P.M.  Go to the Emergency ward at the local hospital which has the better Opthalmalogical equipment and wait five or six hours for them to confirm his opinion and call an Opthalmologist.  Either she would come back to the hospital, if it were serious enough, or put me on her ASAP to-see list.

Only one person in front of me in admitting, and it still took almost three hours for a nurse/practitioner to check my eyes.  Sure enough, it’s serious enough to DO something about.  Do I have a brain tumor or something else in my head causing pressure and leakage, or is this just a continuing effect of a nasty case of flu?  I got to go to Nuclear Medicine (sounds scary by itself) and have a CAT-scan of my head done.  The on-duty radiologist took just enough time to come back and say no anomalies, that my son had to make the decision to leave for work an hour early, because we still have the car, and he will have to go to work and come home in the morning, by bus.

The Opthalmologist agreed to see me at 9:00 A.M. the next day  She found inflammation in both optic nerves and the leakage in the left eye.  It’s PROBABLY just a left-over from the flu.  It SHOULD go away by itself or with the help of some medication, but, we’d like to be sure it’s not from another cause.  I got a cross-referral to a neurologist.  His office will call with their earliest appointment.  This is Spinal  Tap.  He’ll use the horse needle to take fluid from my lower back and check the pressure.  I also had to call my own doctor to go in for blood-pressure check and a prescription sheet for blood work at the clinic to check for diabetes, cholesterol etc.  I just did that a couple of months ago.  I wonder if those results are current enough?

The ten-day forecast is, Doctors!, Doctors! and more Doctors!  Tuesday morning I drove the wife 15 miles to the next city for a visit with a weight-loss specialist.  Late Tuesday afternoon I saw my Optometrist.  He looked fuzzy.  I spent five hours Tuesday night in an Emergency ward.  Wednesday morning I visited the Opthalmologist.  Thursday afternoon we drive back to the weight doctor for a half hour of physio and home exercise sheets, and then an appointment with the dietician.  Friday morning I go back to the (I’m going to write “eye doctor”, ’cause Opthalmologist takes too long to type and I’m not sure I’m spelling it correctly.  I have to be sure to run the spell check on this before I post it.) for a field test, which checks what the range of sight is in both eyes.  Friday afternoon I go to my doctor for a physical and clinic sheet.  Monday I drive my wife an hour down the big highway to her Rheumatolgist.  Tuesday I drive my daughter an hour up the big highway for pain maintenance medication IV treatment.  Wednesday the wife and I go to our massage therapist/osteopath, and sometime soon, I’m going to have to fit in blood work at the clinic, and an appointment with that Neurologist, when he calls.

I can’t even blame any or all of this on getting old, but let’s face it, **it happens when you do.  I look back to when I had to drag my sorry ass to work, as the good old days.  I’m optimistic that this will all pass with no serious lasting effects.  Already this vision thing is cutting down on my reading, doing crosswords and computer time.  I don’t think they make Braille keyboards.

Canadians and Americans: Similar Differences

Whewww….finally back to blogging.  Two weeks of flu, followed by a week and  a  half  of  Christmas/New  Years/shopping/wrapping/baking/cooking/ visitors/cleaning.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be, because they are ADHD-driven, but I am still impressed by those among my favorite bloggers who managed to pump out a post a day or better.

I will have to make an appointment with my Optometrist soon.  What I took at first as merely a symptom of the flu continues to linger.  I fear I may have blown an artery in the retina of my left eye.  I now have an ongoing circular area in my vision, not a blind spot, but the other day when I looked at a snowbank, there was a yellowish circle on it.   I have normal-for-me low blood pressure, so maybe there’s another cause, hopefully treatable.  Enough about me, why are Canadians and Americans the same, only different?

America was settled largely by middle-class merchants and religious protesters.  From the beginning the average was weighted toward individuality.  When the good land and good weather eventually ran out,  Great Britain settled the northern half of the continent with the excess population of farmers and sheep-herders.  These were the order-obeying drones, accompanied by just enough second-and-third son lesser nobility to keep them in line and remit the taxes.  The United States revolted and fought its way to independence.  A hundred years later, Canada got hers by asking nicely.

Before globalization the two nations came from the same founding countries, but different social influences, both pre-existing and later experienced, have created two neighboring countries with the same language and ethnic heritage, but often interestingly different outlooks on the same situation.  America has drones, and Canada has free-thinkers, but the bell curves don’t come down in the same place.

The American population, over the years, has become polarized on just about every issue.  There are just Democrats and Republicans, and never the twain shall meet.  Even people who voted for the likes of Ralph Nader or H. Ross Perot couldn’t take them seriously.   The Canadian Parliament has a multi-party goulash, not quite as bad as the on-going Italian fiasco, including Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats, a single Green Party rep. and the Bloc Quebecois party, whose publicly declared mission is to secede from Canada (and still we politely let them run, and sit in government) but whose real agenda is to get more money and political power by blackmail.

Two things happened recently which pointed out the divergent results to a common problem.  First, Coca-Cola offered a plan by which they would donate money to help save habitat for polar bears.  They would imprint special white-on-white cans, showing polar bears on a snow/ice background.  For every can sold, they would donate five cents.  In the US, it was like the Boston Tea Party all over again.  Bitch, bitch, bitch!  We don’t like it! Stop the campaign!  Give us back our red cans!  When they’re white, we can’t find the Coke on the shelf!  They look like Diet Coke!  They look like generic cola!  Even, it doesn’t taste the same!  Thousands of letters and emails convinced Coca-Cola US to terminate the campaign.  The same day I saw the announcement of the cancellation in the US, I was watching some Canadian TV and saw an ad which stated that the same scheme which had just been halted south of the border, was doing so well in Canada, that Coca-Cola.ca was expanding it by two million cans, probably to get rid of the ones they couldn’t sell in the States.

The other business announcement which had me shaking my head at American management in the Canadian market was one from McDonalds, which said that they intended to take away the coffee-selling crown from Canada’s own Tim Hortons donut and coffee shop chain.  Control of Tim’s was bought about ten years ago by Wendy’s, headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, an exurb of Columbus.  I never thought that the two were a good fit, but Wendy’s used it as an excuse to start putting up Tim Hortons in Ohio and Michigan.  That’s why Edward Scissorhands Hotspur can get a Tim’s across from The Greene in Dayton.  Wendy’s finally realized what I felt all along and sold control back to the Canadian corporation  On my last trip to Detroit I looked up Tim Hortons in the phone book and found TWO in the metro Detroit area.  Better than the time before when there was zero, but here in Canada, I could pass two Tim’s on the way to the community mailbox.  A recent news item in the paper listed a robbery at a Tim’s “on Victoria St.”  A quick mental review placed at least three along the ten mile stretch.  You have to be a bit more specific.  There are probably five to ten Tim Hortons for every McDonalds in Canada.  I sit in the middle of a half a million population zone.  After years of dithering because they only put up a shop for every two hundred thousand people, the American chain, Krispy Kreme built an outlet locally.  Just over a year later Tim Hortons built one, literally across the street.  Just another year later, the backup at the Tim’s drive-thru is out to the street, and the Krispy Kreme is gone and a family restaurant takes its place.

There is no serious competition for Tim’s from Second Cup or Country Style, both coffee/donut shops like Tim’s.  If you like tree-hugger pastries, there are a few Williams coffee pubs, and enough Canucks are rich/preppy enough to keep the occasional Starbucks going.  There’s one inside my favorite bookstore, but Canadians WANT their Timmy’s.  For the last five years, during the first week of December,  McDonalds has been giving away a free small coffee to anyone who come in and asks.  If you want a medium or large, the charge is, free, plus the difference for the size.  The lines at Tim’s haven’t gotten any shorter except when they open a new shop two blocks down the street.  I don’t think McDonalds stands a chance on this, but what do I know?  I’m not an American market researcher.

The First Rule of Blogging

The first rule of blogging is that there are no rules about blogging.  Blogs don’t have to be long, or short, or funny, or serious, or, as I recently discovered, about what you were going to make one about.

I’ve been assembling one in my mind for several days.  It was going to be all about man’s inhumanity to man, and how, even in the holiday period, people still seem to go out of their way to screw someone else over for lazy or selfish reasons.  Then I got THE FLU.  Now I understand what SavortheFolly was talking about on her site, hot flashes, cold spells, weak, can’t concentrate…..

I originally started this blog over a week ago and got as far as concentrate, above and then did or didn’t do something, and lost the 800/900 words that followed.  I couldn’t post that little bit without the hook and punchline, and I couldn’t figure out how to get it back.  Not terribly technically savvy at the best of times, the flu just made things exponentially worse.  I did learn that the first rule of blogging is really, “Learn to run the platform, so that s**t like that doesn’t happen again.”

I mentioned to the wife that I was unusually weak, and couldn’t concentrate enough to do the Inhumanity one, and she said, just do one about getting the flu.  A spark of genius, but I was in no condition for it to be mine.

First of all, the wife is in charge of getting colds and flu at our house.  She already suffers from fibromyalgia, which can render her weak and sore.  If some guy in Hong Kong sneezes, she’s in bed for two weeks.  I don’t get sick!  If she passes something on to me, I have a little k’choo, and twelve hours later I’m as normal as I ever am.  I lost two consecutive days of work, forty years ago.  She’s never seen me SICK since.

I can’t talk logic to an emotional wife.  It’s just the flu.  I don’t normally get it this bad, but I’ll be over it in two weeks.  Yeah, right!  She drags me off to the clinic, where she finds that she has a bacterial cold, for which the doctor gives her medication.  I, on the other hand, have a case of viral flu, for which they can and will do nothing.  Take a week off and call us if you die.

My dad used to say, about bad infections like this, that there would be a couple of days when you were afraid that you were going to die, followed by a couple more, where you were afraid you wouldn’t.  This is now officially a zombie blog, because I’m pretty sure I died and came back to life.

I have a much more accurately empathetic understanding of what the wife goes through 4 or 5 times a winter.  I couldn’t believe the lethargy and sleepiness.  If the house was on fire and I didn’t have to reach too far for a phone, I’d have to call someone to come and drag me out of my chair and rescue me.  Just getting up to go pee was a five-minute project.

The aches and pains meant that I wasn’t sleeping well, at a time when I needed more sleep than usual to combat the infection.  When I needed to sleep, I NEEDED TO SLEEP.  I could be reading a newspaper, or trying to have a conversation with someone, and suddenly just have to lie on the couch for a nap.  I would be wrestling Morpheus and dead to the world before my head hit the cushion.  Could be twenty minutes, could be two or three hours.

One of the strange symptoms of this flu was hypersensitivity on parts of my body.  One of my cats reached over to touch my side, to get my attention.  No claws, just petting me as I might pet him, and I thought that he had beat me with a leather belt.

I’d gained about ten pounds since I retired two years ago.  The only plus I see to this flu attack, is that I have no interest in food and too little strength to chase down even a couple of pieces of toast.  I could stand to lose some more, and what I’ve lost will probably come back, but two weeks of flu have lost me ten pounds of weight.

As I told the wife, it’s been another week and I feel better.  Like the guy in the  Benylin TV ad, I’m not better, but I feel better.  I’ve finally woke up both the hamsters in my head and got them facing in the same direction on that little wheel.  This morning I had two coherent thoughts in a row.

What a whiny little personal rant this has been.  If you don’t get colds and flu, you are now congratulating yourself.  If you do get them this bad, at least you are reassured that others also get them as bad, support in discomfort.

Thanx for reading, and I hope to have something a little more intellectual and less depressing in a couple more days.