Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In case you've had an especially bad day. . .

I present the Strontium-90 of cute animal videos.

This is not a title I bestow lightly. Until today, the best-ever cute animal video was that of a porcupine who thought he was a puppy. He's been dethroned by a greedy porcupine. At least they kept it in the species.

Behold: Teddy the Selfish Porcupine!

Man. That is one fretful porpentine.

The Evolution of a Bug.

The scans were clear. I have a flowery turbinate that bears watching, but that apparently can be a normal variation. Next flip-out comes in April, with CTs of my chest and belleh.

I also got the new obturator fitted yesterday. It works. It works wonderfully, in fact. So, in honor of the New Bug, a retrospective:

The obturator on the far left is the first one I had, the surgical one. The speech bulb was added later, and they had to change the position of the wire on its right side, hence the weird plastic outpouching. I broke off the wire on the top right by biting on it.

The obturator in the middle is the interim one. Note the thumb-sized snot channel, meant to drain away what doctors euphemistically call "secretions." You'll notice that it's narrower and longer than the surgical bug, as a result of my head healing and changing shape.

The obturator on the far right is the one I'm currently wearing. It's made of chromium nanowhatsit, some nonferrous material that's only found in conjunction with unobtanium. It's hollow to cut down on weight, and no, that hollow doesn't fill up with crap. I was amazed.

See how the shapes have changed as I've healed? You can't really tell from this picture, but the first Bug is so large I can't close my hand over it, and I wear a size 7 glove. The newest one is so petite and light that it feels like nothing. Plus, since it doesn't cover the backs of my front upper teeth, I can do things like bite into an apple.

Notamus loves the fabric I laid out as a background. He started milk-treading it just after I took this picture. Weirdo.

First obturator, alone. Damn, that was huge.

Second obturator, alone. That loop of metal inside the plastic speech bulb is meant to stabilize things. Look how tiny the obturator part is, and how fat the speech bulb is in contrast to the first one!

It's like I'm watching my own baby grow up, she says, clasping her hands to her breast.

Well. Enough of that. I've got sausage and potatoes and sauerkraut to eat. With my new obturator.

Monday, November 28, 2011

BIG DRAMA today at Bigton's Scanning Centre!

Call out the Marines! Get the helicopters going! Phone the Prezznit!

Or, at least, call the security guys and have them come and scratch their heads.

There was an Opossum (from the Proto-Algonquin aposum, or white beast) in one of the trash bins this morning at Scanning Central. The security guys, the maintenance guys, the housekeeping folks, and the animal control peeps were all alerted. Everybody ran about and waved their hands.

Until one of the valet parking dudes rolled the trash bin (with aposum inside) carefully over to a landscaped bit of ground with plenty of bushes and tipped it over. The white beast made its way (trundle trundle trundle, wide-butt-ily) to the far side of the landscaping and disappeared.

Possums got big teefs.

And so do I. Scans were today; results of scans and possibly an Evolution of the Bug, tomorrow.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Relief. (not that I went anywhere, mind)

It's like I put a quarter in the scumball machine.

No, I will not hide you from the cops who have come to investigate your lousy ass for leaving the scene of an accident in which you hit a pedestrian while cracked off your noodle.

No, that minor forearm injury will not qualify you for disability.

No, you may not leave the critical care unit to smoke one with your buddies.

Yes, I do intend to start this IV on you. You can threaten to hit me all you want; it's still going in.

Yes, we enforce visiting rules. No, conjugal visits are not an option.

Get your child out of the CCU. Now. I have already explained this to you twice. You cannot smuggle a toddler in under your coat and not get found out.

You do indeed have gonorrhea. Sorry. Now roll over and take this shot.

And you do indeed have syphillis. All the shouting in the world won't change that; besides, it's annoying the Clampetts on the other side of the curtain.

You may not see your "clients" in my unit.

Telling me that you'll sue me if I do one thing you don't like is not the way to build a therapeutic relationship. Neither is having your lawyer call me to demand details of your care. There is such a thing as confidentiality.

Yes, I am a fat bitch. Pointing that out neither hurts my fee-fees nor makes me more inclined to be cheerful.

Thank God for little grannies who come in with their unfailingly polite, helpful family ranged around them. Grandma can hold court from her bed as long as she likes, and you guys can stay as long as you like, bandanas and weird droopy-ass pants and all. You may be scary looking, but you're obviously good to her. You're also very nice to me. Thanks for the chicken pot pie.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Had a bad day? Have some ducks and a cop.


H/t to Friend Pens for this!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

One thing about being single

. . .is that you learn how to do things on your own. You get used to doing things on your own, and even begin to like it.

Today, for example, I hung wallboard and panelling (not that I like panelling, but I had to match the stuff that was already on the walls). Last weekend, I took down an eight-by-eight-by-two built-out closet that was messin' with the feng shui of the bedroom where I type. Tomorrow I'll bake a couple of pies (home-made crust, thanks) and tape and mud the wallboard in the utility room. I did all of this on my own, except for loading the stuff into the bed of my neighbor's truck today. I'm used to doing stuff on my own. I'm good at it.

Which is how I came to be lying atop a fighting, screaming, thrashing man, holding his wrists with one hand to keep him from punching me and threading an NG tube down his nose with the other hand. I figured I could do it on my own.

After all, I reasoned, with six of Ativan and God only knows how much of Haldol already in his system, he's well sedated. He withdrew to pain thirty seconds before I busted out the KY and the NG tube, so I figured I was good to go.

I was wrong.

As he felt the bed starting to rise, both of his legs went over the bedrail and he started screaming. It was a full-blown, woman-like scream that went on and on and on. Dude could've made a killing in opera, I tell you. I figured that he, like most patients with encephalitis, would stick to the screaming and maybe make a small gesture here and there with one arm.

Again, I was wrong.

He scooted all the way to the end of the bed, got his legs out, and proceeded to try to buck his way out of the situation. Which is why I laid atop a person who had a history of projectile-vomiting blood and punching unsuspecting phlebotomists.

I was very glad to see Figgy, the stocky and strong intensivist, come through the door at a run. Figgy and I managed to get the guy back into the bed and tied down, then ran him down to CT.

It was a long day. I'd give my kingdom (with new wallboard!) for a thousand milligrams of methocarbomol right now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What we talk about on slow days.

Is there an animal which, in its baby form, is not cute?

I assert that there is, though I don't know which one(s) that might be. The Mankiller swears that all baby animals are adorabubbles. We went on a Google search to see what might, in the baby-critter world, be uncute.

Llamas are cute as babies. So are goats. So are Tasmanian devils. Even Chinese Crested puppies are cute, which I was not expecting. Baby parrots are about the furthest thing from cute ever made, but even they, with their oversized beaks and button eyes, have a certain charm. Baby reptiles are cute because something scary in a large form is cute when it's wee.

We are still looking for the baby animal that won't make us squee and want to snuggle it.

The Mankiller and I also discussed the concept of Intrinsic Funniness, which I mentioned here a couple of days ago. Elephants, pennyfarthing bicycles, large moustaches, tweed blazers with leather elbow patches, and half-grown puppies are intrinsically funny. We agreed on those things. Possibly intrinsically funny things (those things which need more study) are mice, any consumable good that has a name like "Ho-Ho" or "Ding-Dong," certain shoes (white bucks and those loafers with tasseled tongues), balloons (opinion is divided between funny and scary), people in drum circles (funny or tiresome?), and bologna. Personally, I incline to the idea that bologna is funny. The Mankiller isn't so sure. She thinks bowling shoes are funny, but I find them overdone. I find pit bulls hilarious, especially when you rub their bellies and make them banjo, and she says they're too politicized.

We agree that although they are the butt of many jokes, the following things are not intrinsically funny: Jews/Poles/Irishmen/Your Best Friend (whatever ethnicity he is), the Wicked Witch of the West, the suburbs (more depressing than funny), anything Scots, garbage disposals, utility companies, and the Works Progress Administration. That last came out of a conversation with Richard the Respiratory Guy, who asked, "What can you never imagine anybody telling a joke about?" I came up with "the WPA;" The Mankiller came up with something I can't talk about on a family blog.

Suggestions? Disputations? We can't spend all day hacking our coworkers' Facebook pages; we need some help.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Best voicemail ever.

"Hi, this is Dr. So-and-so from Littleton Animal Hospital. I have Max's blood test results here, and they all look great. Wonderful. Take care; 'bye."

Max has been on Rimadyl for three months, and it's like we've knocked five years off of his age. He had blood tests run today, and a nail clipping (HORRORS IT'S A PAWDICURE HORRORS), and all is well.

Elsie-Mo got hit by the doggy equivalent of an incoming asteroid. I think it might, *might* just take that much to take Max out. For a dog who's half German Shep and half Huge Enormous What The Hell, he's doing well.

I love my Flying Flapdoodle Snacktracker. It was a good voicemail.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dear Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas,

You have pissed off the wrong fat bitch.

I was moderately pissed off before now, when I discovered that you reimburse my prosthodontist one-hundred and fifteen percent of Medicare reimbursement, or approximately a thousand bucks for each prosthetic. You don't allow appeals, and you've ignored letters from my surgeon and the prosthodontist.

Now I'm *really* pissed, because this is what I found out today:

The lowest reimbursement for an oral prosthetic offered by any of the insurance companies with which Dr. Elf deals is fifty percent.

BCBS in other states covers between 60% and 90% of prosthetic costs. Even BCBS Oklahoma.

BCBS Texas covers close to all of the cost for limb prostheses.

BCBS TX, you are in deep, deep shit. See, when all this started, with me running up bills that I will never, ever be able to pay off (even at the competitive rates offered by the pleasant people at the credit card company, when they found out all these charges were for medical expenses), I was determined to blow into your offices like a bulldozer and make something change. If it didn't change for me, I reasoned, I could change it for the next poor bastard who lost part of a palate to cancer.

Now, a year on, I've lost energy for the bulldozer approach. Instead, I've decided to take the poppy-seed-under-the-prosthetic approach. A poppy seed doesn't do much, at first, but then it becomes annoying. As it digs into the mucosa left behind by a palatectomy, it gets painful. After a few hours, you're dealing with outright pain, runny eyes, a swollen set of sinuses, and--worst of all--the tissue around the poppy seed has become irritated enough that you have to use commando tactics to get it dislodged.

My finding out about differing reimbursement rates coincided with your sending me the same polite form letter you sent me a year ago: "Since we have not been successful in reaching you by phone" (even though the first letter had my diagnosis, Subtotal Palatectomy, right there in the header) "we invite you to call us to help us resolve any issues you have in your care. . . ."

Oh, Blue Cross, *never* ask me what you can do to make my life better. I'll tell you. I'll give you printouts, even, with diagrams and charts with circles and X-es on the back.

Strangely, darling BCBSTX, something very interesting has started to happen in the media, as well: Bigton's local paper has started doing an expose series on practices within Giganto Research and Development's operations. This follows a comparable expose done by Local Paper's sister paper north of here. Given that Giganto Inc owns Sunnydale, and that Giganto is the subscriber to your insurance, and that I am a paying member of BCBSTX's insurance pool, wouldn't it be interesting to have things like your reimbursement rates made public? I mean, things like oral prosthetics aren't even covered in your brochures' fine print. It might be nice, what with oral cancer rates on the rise, for the general public to know exactly what you cover and what it means for the people who pay for your service if you don't cover something they need.

Don't get me wrong, Blue Cross: I'm grateful that you covered the majority of the cost of my surgeries and follow-up. Without you, I'd be declaring bankruptcy. Still, it seems a little unfair that you'd cover the prosthetics necessary for a person to, say, walk, yet not cover the prosthetics necessary for her to maintain her own airway. If I needed an AFO or a hook-hand, you'd be at the plate. Now that I need something that lets me talk and not choke when I drink, you're bowing out.

And that sucks. More specifically, it's sucks for you. I may not be able to keep bulldozing, but I can sustain the level of annoyance required to feel like a poppy seed forever.

It is ON, bitches.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Odds and Ends after a few days off

A couple of mornings ago, a big, BIG owl launched itself from the mulberry tree in the back yard and went flying off west. I think it was a Great Horned Owl; I'd heard its call enough times to recognize it when I Googled it. The sunrise colored it cream and pink and erased any bars on its wings. It returns to the mulberry tree late at night after it hunts and spends the early-morning hours calling.

A Cooper's hawk nearly got a dove yesterday in the neighbor's back yard. I heard screaming and ran to the kitchen window, just in time to see a dove fight its way out of the hawk's talons and see the hawk soar up, screeching. I hope the dove's okay. The same hawk has made at least one sortie against The Boys while they're in their Kitty-Coop; I've found her feathers hanging off the wire mesh ceiling of the coop. At least it's not a red-tailed hawk; Cooper's are big enough to hurt an eight-pound cat, but the red-tails we grow around here could kill one of the boys, easy.

The low last night was about 35 degrees F. Max came in this morning puffed up, feeling ten years younger, and doing his hurpling puppy-dance, so I gave him an egg yolk and a tiny amount of bacon grease in his kibble. One thing about having a sense of smell about a billion times better than ours: it means you don't need much bacon grease to have a good time.

One of the sweet hippies across the street and I got to talking. Turns out he let everything die in his garden this summer. That made me feel much better about not watering the yard-long beans or worrying about the tomatoes after the tree fell on them. Strangely, both his globe basil and mine have come back from the drought and horrible temperatures and are leafing out as good as new. Note to self: make spicy-globe basil my new groundcover.

Man of God's child is pulling up and cruising the house with the help of convenient, ten-month-old-child-height handholds. He has blond hair like his father and dark eyes like his mother and already looks to turn out taller than either one of them. He smiles and reaches out to me when I say hi, even though I've been the one to examine the various rashes he's gotten so far and set his parents' minds at rest.

I put together an elliptical trainer today. The reviews on Amazon said it would take me about two hours, and it did, from the time I cut the first strap on the shipping carton to the time I tested it out. Then I fixed a couple of wonky drawers in the pantry and eyeballed what it would take to demolish the built-in closet in this office. All of this has left me with the smug feeling of accomplishment that presages an email from a Fulbright scholar taking me to task for my grammar. Bring it, boys! *I* can put together an *elliptical*.

One last wildlife note: I went out this morning, way early, before sunrise, to take some things out to the recycling bin. It's one of those heavy-duty plastic things on wheels that stands about three and a half feet high. I opened it and--there in the glow of the streetlights--saw a pair of eyes looking back at me. So I closed it again, abruptly, and wheeled it to where the light was better. Inside was an adolescent raccoon, looking very apologetic and perhaps a bit ashamed at having caroused on black-bean cans and empty beer bottles all night. He scrabbled pleadingly on the inside wall of the bin, so I laid it down on its side and let him get out before I dumped cardboard into it.

Raccoons are, I have decided, intrinsically funny, like elephants. Or turnips, or pennyfarthing bicycles, Jell-O, forgetful professors, sex, any number of bodily functions (come to that), peacocks, getting caught in the rain, religious authorities, people in hats, or umbrellas.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

I'm tired of this body. Can I trade it in?

First it was six months of constant sinus infections. Then it was cancer, and not even a cool kind of cancer with pretty ribbons. Oral cancer comes with a maroon-and-white ribbon, which is not a good color combination for me. In between all that, I screwed up my neck and threw out a knee, then the other knee. Then I got an abscess. In my groin.

Of all the things I've subjected myself since I started writing this blog, getting a doctor to take a gander at the egg-sized, painful lump in my right groin was the most humiliating. Lying in an exam chair, with my right leg out at an angle, pointing to the problem while modestly covered by several sterile drapes is not going to go into my personal-best album.

The doctor, who was wearing a pink button-down shirt and a bow tie, was pleased. He called it a classic presentation, and pointed out the various identifiers of an abscess to the nurse standing next to him. I was busy trying to be someplace else, at least mentally, and didn't pay attention until he hit the thing with freezing spray and incised it.

I'll spare you guys the details. Suffice it to say that the nurse said admiringly, "This ought to be on YouTube." The bow-tied doctor took cultures, irrigated the area with sterile saline, gave me aftercare instructions and a prescription for Bactrim DS, and left the room. The nurse dressed my groin with sterile gauze and antibiotic ointment and a cubic yard of tape. I went to the pharmacy for drugs and then came home, figuring that that would be it.

Until yesterday morning, when the kindly doctor called me himself to tell me that he'd decided, on the basis of the cultures, to add another antibiotic to the regimen. I'm now on both Bactrim DS and Augmentin, eight hundred and seventy-freaking-five milligrams of the latter, both twice a day.

Turns out that it's nothing I did: I quizzed him quite thoroughly on that. It seems that there are bacteria that live normally on your skin and keep it healthy (that I knew) and are quite peaceful in their proper places. When they get inside your skin, though--and this can be through a small abrasion or cut or just by chance--they turn into the sorts of bacteria you don't want anywhere. That's what made me end up with a kiwi-fruit-shaped mass of crap in Area 51: normal skin flora and fauna.

I'll say this for Doctor Bow-Tie: he's human. He told me the story of his own abscess, which he got while a resident, and how it was a tossup whether to have a fellow resident deal with it or go to an outside doctor. He praised my wisdom in not tackling the thing myself, given the proximity of various blood vessels and lymph nodes, some of which were already badly swollen and tender. Apparently he sees several of these a week: who knew the human body was such a soup of potential horror?

The most painful part of the whole ordeal was calling in to work. I was told, solemnly, not to work the day after, to monitor my temp every four hours, and to call the doctor's office if I developed a fever or chills. Trying to tell your boss that you've had an alien removed from the house next door to The Queen of All She Surveys is not easy. Telling a blog audience of a couple thousand is cake by comparison.

So, People: watch yourselves. No amount of personal cleanliness, good diet, or virtuous living can save you from the horror that is quad antibiotic coverage. A one-to-ten solution of bleach to water might help, but I'm not going to bathe in that.