April 2019

Monday 1: The bedrooms got painted, with a heavy dose of roller this morning.

Ah, the best laid plans…. While out for work stuff, I went shopping at Goodwill in South Seattle, and came home with a huge L-shaped desk, which has to go against the wall. Fortunately, Don was still around to help me to get it inside.

Tuesday 2: The three guys from Two Men and a Truck were a welcome sight, as they were here to move all the heavy stuff. It was scary to see the very heavy couch, with a recliner mechanism at both ends, dangling out over the railing as they turned it! I then had to try to continue the momentum, and the countless trips up and down the stairs.

Someone’s settled in already.

Wednesday 3: After yet another day of same same, I’m finally finished! The old apartment is empty and I even vacuumed the carpet. It was enough for Mary to agree that it looked like someone had at least made an effort.

Thursday 4: The new apartment looks a lot like the inside of a bomb shelter, although the main bedroom at least has the bed in it and my new home office in the second bedroom is starting to take shape.

Friday 5: When I’m not working, I try to grab a box and start organising the contents.

And now for a mystery. I came across an SD card, the kind that goes in a camera, and loaded up the pictures on it. Whoa! Those aren’t mine. There are two separate batches of them.

  • Taken with a Fuji camera:
  • Nov 2012 – The Delltones playing.
  • Dec 2012 – An event at Rowland Hassall School.
  • Taken with a Canon camera:
  • Dec 2012 – A Christmas Day community event.
  • Feb 2013 – A car featuring Expression Coffins touring Sydney.
  • Feb 2013 – A bicycle event training session at Sydney Olympic Park.
  • Sep 2013 – A trip to Goulburn.
  • Sep 2013 – A tour of a sporting facility.
  • Oct 2013 – A sporting facility and bowling green in Charlestown.
  • Oct 2013 – A bowling alley.

I have uploaded small versions of all of the pictures here. If they are yours, or you know who they belong to, please contact me at rodney.fiddaman at bigpond.com.

I have requested a decent sized monitor from the IT Department for the home office. Until then, I have a smaller one which might help a little.

Saturday 6: Thanks again to April and Duncan for the energy and assistance in creating order out of chaos in the new apartment. And to April for helping me to get the home office one step further towards productivity. The desk is now all in one piece.

Sunday 7: While I was doing something vaguely enjoyable, like putting up the fairy lights over the balcony, I realised that Buddy’s grass was outside and he was not allowed to go there, which was never a problem upstairs, because there was nowhere to go from the balcony. Yeah, we can fix that by bringing the grass inside.

Meanwhile, the pile of boxes is getting whittled down, one box at a time. One whole row of boxes has been unpacked, so now with the row of chairs there instead of in front of the couch, I can actually sit on the couch.

Buddy continues to try the supervise the rest of the world, and us.

And he flops.

Meanwhile, my left leg varies through the whole range from “I can walk almost normally” to “it feels like a shin splint”. Last night, I was reduced grabbing onto every available piece of wall or other fixed object, just to get around in the apartment. At least I finally made the time to go and get it X-rayed today.

Monday 8: The good news is that I don’t have arthritis in my hip, which means the next step is to start attending physical therapy. Yay.

Tuesday 9: I always knew this would happen but this is the first time I’ve tried to put a fully loaded box into the connex. The bottom platform runs up against the base of the connex.

Now if we can just cut out that shape underneath…

Just to make me feel really good, someone’s taken over my chair.

Wednesday 10: And now to make my life even worse. I started peeing blood again. Some ugly looking clots there. These were just the ones I managed to capture.

With clots that size, it was inevitable that one or more of them would block the flow altogether. They did, and I took myself off the the Emergency Room in the middle of the night. At some point, I managed to free up the flow and let go of 200 of the 300ml in my bladder! The doctor came in later and said something like, “Oooh”.

Despite the apparent minor win, the PA and I decided that inserting a catheter would be the best way to manage the flow, especially overnight.

Thursday 11: Back home and off to work. Yeah, this is going to be an interesting day! Footnote: See the collection ABOVE the entry point to the bag? At that point, it should have flowed INTO the bag. No wonder I was in agony later on.

Some good news at least. The monitor and docking station arrived from the IT guys, This is how I wanted to be able to work – drop the laptop onto the docking station and everything else lights up!

Add USB keyboard and mouse, and good to go.

All the essentials here: drill chargers, highlighter pens and phone charging cable. Oh, and racks to hold plans and drawings.

Somewhere along the day, I realised that the main issue causing the bouts of extreme agony was blood clots blocking the entry to the catheter. At one of my visits, I had acquired a large syringe that I could use to back flush the catheter, which worked some of the time at least.

Friday 12: My boss asked me about the IT stuff, so I took this picture to show him. On the full size picture, 4 times this size, you can make out the numbers on the plan. The little gizmo on the page is a Scale Master. It has a little wheel in the front. Set it to “record” a known distance, then use it to measure distances for cable lengths.

I had an appointment today with the urologist’s assistant, who is qualified to do various medical procedures. By this stage, I was in agony quite regularly, and had figured out that it was the blood clots causing the problem, by blocking the entry to the catheter. We talked about the fact that it wasn’t just the usual bit by bit collection of urine, but the sometimes large bursts of blood that were my main concern, and that I didn’t really want to be waking up in the middle of the night, peeing blood all over the bed. The end result was removing the size 15 catheter (yes the entry was fully blocked) and inserting a size 22! Now that’s another experience I don’t particularly want to repeat.

I came home armed with several irrigation syringes, some sterile water and a small special syringe which I could use to deflate the balloon and remove the catheter if necessary. The irrigation worked for a while, but I stilled needed to do it way too often. On top of that, having such a giant catheter was bloody uncomfortable and it was rather painful just to sit down. Now my legs are starting to object to all the extra standing up!

April has secured an apartment, for which I will collect the keys on May 10th. I drove past for a look, to see where it is in the complex. It faces Gibson Road to the West, which is a much better outlook that the previous one we looked at. I highlighted where her balcony is, and sent it to her.

Saturday 13: The saga just keeps getting better. The bursts of pain were becoming way too frequent, so stuff it, I’ll just remove it. That part went much better than I had expected. Sit on the side of the bathtub facing inwards, deflate the balloon, take a few deep breaths to get psyched up, then breathe in, and blow out while hauling on it. It all happens pretty quickly. Once I could breathe again, I took a good look at the entry. Oh, yeah, there’s the blockage. I even set up the phone to take a video to show how futile my efforts at irrigation had been.

On closer examination, I could see just how badly blocked it had been. Forget about the gunk on the outside, there’s a big black PLUG on the inside. Yep, it was a good decision to get it out of there.

It feels SO nice to be able to walk normally again. And the pulled muscle in my leg has improved to the point that most of the time, I can walk almost normally. Right now, that’s an improvement! And I’m peeing nice red blood instead of the gunky black stuff. Also an improvement.

Monday 15: A lesson today for the “pick it up and toss it into your bag” person (me). Heading out this morning, poked the big slider button to release the laptop from the docking station and dropped it into my bag. I drop it in there pretty much every work day, but until now, it’s been either switched off or in sleep mode. Got home in the middle of the day, took it out of my bag and it was TOASTING! It had continued to run, and generate heat, that whole time, because it was still RUNNING. I was bloody lucky that it wasn’t damaged, and even more bloody lucky that it didn’t set my bag on fire. Note to self: open it and push the power button to put it into sleep mode before doing anything else!

Tuesday 16: “The pulled muscle in my leg has improved to the point that most of the time, I can walk almost normally.” Yeah, let’s call that some of the time. While the original pulled muscle sort of works, sometimes, it seems to go into hibernation whenever I sit down, and twinges badly when I get up again. On top of that, using it has thrown out other muscles in the leg, around the knee and ankle area. I’ve found that I have to do a calf stretch and a hamstring before I can walk at all. Maybe the PT instructor will have some words of wisdom tomorrow, hopefully other than, “You have to rest it.”

Wednesday 17: Actually, she did. She took one look at the areas of the leg being affected and diagnosed the hip joint. She sent me home with a series of exercises, many of which I can do while working at my desk, designed to keep the hip joint lubricated. The whole area feels more stable already.

Friday 19: I woke to “not being able to pee” again. Again, took myself off to Emergency, got the bladder thoroughly irrigated, and came home with a size 20 flushable catheter. Given that I’m still armed with syringes, I can do the irrigating myself. Not quite as uncomfortable, but pretty damn close. And because the catheter gets in the way of everything I do, and I have a cystoscopy coming up in a few weeks, probably followed by yet more surgery, I’m not working (again), and going back into the Short Term Disability insurance situation (again). 

I’ve been working on improving the view from the webcam, which now faces the street instead of the back alley. I created an account at webcam.io, which will give me the ability to present a video from the previous day. I also invested in an octopus tripod and a mounting bracket, so that I can position it to exactly where I want looking, which is diagonally across towards 33rd St. To test what it would look like, I set the phone’s camera to selfie mode, held it up behind the blind and clicked. Yep, that’s pretty close!

Some time last year, I bought myself a tiny drone, less than 2″ across, and unearthed it while unpacking. It can record video, so I have actual proof that I did manage to get it to hover, at least once. This of course is in the upstairs apartment.

Monday 22: The issues with the catheter continued. I even have a full drip system rigged up in the bathroom.

Along the way, I have learned a few things:

  • Irrigating a catheter sometimes requires some serious pressure, which can only be applied using a syringe.
  • You also have to push the solution up into the flushing channel, and then leave it there for stuff to start flowing out of the main channel.
  • The drip system sometimes doesn’t have enough pressure to do that.

Meanwhile, someone’s found a new hole to hide in.

I suggested to my boss that it looked like more surgery was imminent and could we start another period of FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993). The response was a letter being sent via UPS terminating my employment.

Tuesday 23: At least my boss had the compassionate approach, by calling me before the letter arrived to let me know its contents. I have exhausted all of my leave and my FMLA entitlements, and if I was unable to work then they couldn’t continue to employ me. OK, scrap any surgery and let’s approach the situation from the other side. I got back to the urology office and managed to secure a letter stating that I was fit for duty, unrestricted. I sent that to my boss and now I wait.

We have now unpacked enough of the boxes for me to able to roll out the rug and put the kitchen table in place. Not sure whether this is its final destination, but it’s somewhere close.

Wednesday 24: For a few weeks now, Julie has been sleeping WAY too much. Over the last few days, I couldn’t even get her to sit up. Today, she had an appointment with ENT at the VA Hospital, which was my excuse to get her moving, although that consisted of picking her up and dropping her into her walker and dragging it backwards out to the car. Getting her INTO the car was too hard, and she collapsed gracefully onto the ground, so I had to call 911 for two wonderful ambos to come and help to get her in there. They recommended that she be transported to a hospital and I assured them that this was my intention. Then, on our arrival, I had to go in and ask for assistance to get her OUT of the car, all of which happened reasonably quickly. As I had hoped, the people in ENT could see that there was something wrong and took her to Emergency. I stayed for a while and went home.

Thursday 25: When I caught up with Julie today, she was still in Emergency but in a different room. The bag on the drip said something about “suspected Wernicke”, which is a reference to a neurological condition associated with very low B-vitamin levels, specifically vitamin B1, often associated with alcohol over-use. While I was there, she had two consults with guys from neurology.

With no word on whether the company is willing to review their decision, I started looking for work again. I messaged three of my contacts; one is a job site supervisor, and the other two are company supervisors. All of them were shocked that I had been treated this way, and all of them offered their support in whatever way they could. One of them offered to talk to his friends in a local company on my behalf. I thought about that and said, “yes please”; his instant response was that he would email the General Manager tomorrow morning. I was almost in tears.

Friday 26: Busy day today. Started with an initial session with Express Professionals in Lynnwood, who got me the Rose City job 3 years ago – mountains of paperwork to get through. When I got to the hospital, I found Julie on level 6, where she has a sweeping view over the local golf course to the docks and Seattle downtown.

She hasn’t seen it yet, but she will eventually. I asked at the nurse station about diagnosis and treatment, and was escorted to the family room, where her treating doctor found me a short time later. We talked about their findings so far, and I added some insights that I thought might be relevant. A little later, the nurses wanted to lift her up to remove the bedpan from under her bum, and she promptly pushed on her legs and lifted her bum all on her own. Couldn’t have done THAT yesterday!

It appears that she has had or will have visits from Speech Therapy, an Eye Specialist, Physical Therapy and possibly others. Like me, they want to get her up and walking again, and I’m impressed with the quality of care she’s receiving.

After that, I had to get back to Everett for a dentist appointment,  promptly got stuck in traffic, and arrived late. I was surprised to find that my insurance has not yet been cut off, so I was able to get the filling done after all.

Back at home, I got around to taking a picture of the rogues gallery adjacent to our front door.

I did manage to find her broken glasses from when she landed on the ground on Wednesday, and managed to get the scratched lens back in, so she now has her own glasses.

Saturday 27: Julie is in really good hands at the VA Hospital. After the initial diagnosis, she has been pumped full of Vitamin B1, followed by Sodium, Potassium and Magnesium. In addition to Neurology, I’ve seen Speech Therapy with her, and heard that Physical Therapy will be in soon. I have already told her that she won’t be going home until she can walk the length of the hallway, because I can’t continue to carry her.

We managed to escape to outside the building for a few minutes. Wow, what a rigmarole that was, just getting it set up, rigging the IV pump, taping the bag to the pole on the wheelchair, figuring where to put the catheter, figuring which way to turn her around… And then the same in reverse to get her back into bed.

Sunday 28: Julie is now able to pull on the side rail of the bed and help to turn herself over. A member of the Speech Therapy called in and left a Pocket Talker, designed to boost Julie’s hearing. And it works.

Nancy called in after church and stayed for a while. She and I had a conference with the doctor about where we’re at. While Julie’s weak legs are probably from just not using them for nearly 2 weeks, the main problems appear to be neurological, although they still don’t know for certain exactly what’s wrong. The good news is that the MRI of her brain showed nothing abnormal.

Monday 29: Next step was a lumbar puncture. I for one never want to go through one of those. It didn’t help that they had a trainee doctor doing the procedure, at least to start with. When the much more experienced doctor still couldn’t find the spot, they elected to sit her up in a vertical position, leaning on a pillow on the tray, and it went straight in. As I was helping to hold her in position, I got to turn around briefly and see the spinal fluid dripping slowly out of the needle. Before that, however, I managed to get an unobstructed view of the various positioning markers, and lots of iodine, on her back.

Tuesday 30: As I needed to get to an appointment with an employment agency back in Everett early this afternoon, I went in early, very early, I’m talking arriving around 05:30. I got to the room, peeled off shoes and jeans, put on the jammies I had brought with me, and crawled into bed with her for nearly an hour. The results from the spinal tap have so far not shown any abnormalities, although the doctor did say that some of them take a while to finish.

Each day, I make a point of getting Julie out of the room and out into the sunshine for a little while. I figure that after sitting in a bed all day, she deserves a smoke. Just one. Because she has not yet been cleared to stand on her own to transfer from the bed to a wheelchair, despite having done exactly that on Saturday (ah yes, that was on the weekend, before all the other departments stuck their noses in), she has to be transferred via the electric lift, which involves rigging her into a special sling, attaching the loops on the sling onto the arms of the lift, lifting her up high enough, then moving her across to a position over the wheelchair, then lowering her into it. Today’s transfer went that way and we went for a walk, with her still wearing the sling in the wheelchair. We got back to the room and no nursing staff were available for “a while”, so I proceeded to attach the sling to the lift the same way as we had done to get her INTO the wheelchair, to get her OUT of the wheelchair! The look on the faces of the two nurses when they returned to find her in the bed, albeit still in the sling, was simply precious. “You did that?” Well shit, it’s not that bloody hard. You guys don’t have dibs on the process after all. Simply put the same coloured loops onto the lift arms and make it work! I wish I’d taken a picture. Maybe tomorrow.

And even better, I am expecting to get an interview with a company IN EVERETT less than 8 miles from home, for a job assembling electronic parts. Follow the directions, read the plans, solder the bits in. The recruiter said she thought I would be a perfect fit.

Yesterday, the bracket arrived, enabling me to put it together with an octopus base and point the Webcam to where I have wanted it since we moved into the new apartment. Last night, I positioned it to “about right”, and today I am very happy with the pictures and videos I’m capturing, like this one.

Here’s what it looks like. From the inside, with the vertical blinds pushed out of the way.

And from the outside. The camera is in the bottom right corner.