Friday, February 27, 2015

Afternoon Visitor at the Aerie

I had just refilled the bird feeders this afternoon and was enjoying the large number of visitors that were taking advantage of the sunflower seeds I had provided when there was a whoosh and everyone scattered and disappeared. I spotted a couple of feathers drifting slowly to the ground and surmised there had been an attack on the feeding birds but I couldn't spot the culprit responsible for it.

A short time later, I saw it. A Sharp-shinned Hawk swooped down in the driveway and then perched on a dead limb on the oak tree across the way. It hadn't been successful in its attempt at an afternoon meal and sat smoothing its ruffled feathers long enough for me to get my camera and snap a couple of pictures through the living room window.

A small bird (Goldfinch?) grew restless as the hawk perched near its hiding place and flew off. The hawk gave chase, but to no avail as it was out matched by the smaller bird being already in flight and in a short distance race such as this--and from a standing start--it had little chance of catching up before the smaller bird disappeared into a pine.

So the hawk continued on its way and the feeding birds came back.

Who Watches the Watchers

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Five Weeks

Today marks the fifth week since I had my back surgery. I'm making progress.

Last Thursday the visiting nurse came by for his last visit and on Friday, the visiting physical therapist made her last visit. Since she decreed I could walk with a cane and get up and down steps--slowly, but I could--then, in the eyes of Medicare, I was no longer house bound and she was no longer needed. Besides the few exercises and encouragement she gave me, she said there wasn't much more she could do for me. "But," she said, "be sure to press your physician for some out of house PT when you see him again. It will help build you strength and flex those joints the surgery has you favoring."

She's right. While I've been doing those exercises religiously, there's still a lack of strength in the knees and hips, especially on my right side. All the lack of feeling and tingling I had in the left leg is gone and it feels normal if somewhat weak. The right leg is still lacks some feeling from the thigh down to the toes and there's a good deal of weakness there as well. When going up and down stairs (with the help of a cane) I notice that lack of strength on the right side.

Today, between exercise sessions, I spend time out on the deck in the sunshine (!) walking some laps. Ten laps of about 40 yards each for nearly a quarter mile, and it was tiring! I also went up and down the stairs five times in succession and that too was a chore. I'll do both of those exercises--weather permitting--every day to get my strength and stamina back.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Black Squirrel In the Morning
White Snow In the Afternoon?

This morning I managed to snap a couple of pictures of the black squirrel that hangs around the Aerie. As usual, they were taken through a pretty dirty window and there's some light reflection from inside so the quality is not the best, but still--it's a freakin' black squirrel!

It--and four of it's grey friends--were fattening up on sunflower seeds before this afternoon's forecasted bout of snow. They were also hanging on for dear life against a rather strong breeze out of the southwest. Depending upon who you listen to we could get anywhere from 2 to 5 inches of snow this afternoon and into the night.  As I write this (10 AM) there's nothing much happening in the snow department. The only snow in the air is the stuff blowing off the roof.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Appliance Woes,
With a Happy Ending

A technician showed up at the Aerie today to look at the 8-year old dishwasher that suddenly stopped running yesterday. It worked fine on Tuesday but when Terry went to wash dishes on Thursday she got nothing; nada; zilch.

Anyway, the tech guy (When did they stop being called repairmen?) showed up about 4:50 PM. Guess we were last on his list for the day.

He looked over the dishwasher, entered the make and model numbers into his little computer, pulled off a couple of front panels w-a-y down by the floor and did a couple of preliminary tests.

"It's not getting any power," he says. "Have you checked the circuit breaker?"

Well, since I hadn't yet been cleared to go up and down stairs, Terry had gone down on Thursday to check the breakers and they all looked a-okay to her eye. Now that I have been cleared to go up and down stairs by the physical therapists (whose last visit to this no longer home bound boy was today, BTW) I went down to check again. I had the tech guy in tow.

All the breakers looked okay to me. The sheet that serves as a key to the 30+ breakers said the dishwasher was breaker #27 so we paid special attention to that one. It was fine.

Tech guy switched breaker #27 on and off a couple of times and then went back to looking at the dishwasher. He couldn't find anything wrong at the washer so went back downstairs to the breakers one more time. He left the washer in the "on" position. He flipped a couple more breakers and BINGO! the dishwasher switched on.

Seems the key to the box was mislabeled. The dishwasher wasn't breaker #27 it was breaker #29. And breaker #29 HAD been tripped although it looked like it was a-okay. DOH!

Having cleared that problem up, he checked the wires in the dishwasher (something tripped the circuit breaker!) and put the panels back in place.

"If it does this again, check the circuit breaker and replace it if need be. They do wear out from time to time."

$150 to discover 1) it was a circuit breaker, one of the easiest fixes in the world and 2) the circuit box key is not to be trusted. Now I have to figure out what IS covered by breaker #27.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Almost Four Weeks

Happy Fat Tuesday to y'all!

Terry and I started the day with a breakfast of pancakes with Pennsylvania maple syrup from just down the road a piece and Massachusetts grape jelly from Bruce and Sue. A big glass of cold milk and a big cup of hot coffee....mmmm, heaven!

Being as on Thursday it will be four weeks since my surgery it was time to check in with the surgeon. Terry took me over to the hospital in Sayre to meet with the surgeon and urologist. It's a little over an hour drive over there and with the back brace on, I felt cramped in the Jeep Compass even with the seat all the way back. I was hurting slightly by the time we got there. I brought the walker with me because I refused to use the wheelchairs in the lobby. Might have been a poor choice, but I did get quite a bit of walking in as we went from one end of the building to the other...and back again.

The surgeon is pleased with the progress I've made even if I think I should be further along. Then again, he's had dozens of similar procedures while I've only undergone the one so I guess he should know if I'm progressing satisfactorily.We talked about my progress and why I chose to undergo the surgery in the first place. What trade offs I might have made vis-a-vis pain before surgery and pain three or four months from now. A lot of my choice was what I call prophylactic. I took into account the pain I was experiencing and potential for even more severe pain in the future based upon what the x-rays and MRIs indicated and decided to go under the knife now rather than later in the hopes I can enjoy the next 10-20 years relatively pain free while walking or standing.

I'm down to just using Tylenol as a pain killer. I'll be wearing the back brace and won't be allowed to drive for another month at least. That's when I have another appointment. In general, I left the surgeon's office feeling a little better if still inwardly disappointed with my progress.

(I mentioned the August fishing trip to the surgeon and he said, "Go for it!" He figures I'll be fine by then. It's a little over 6 months after surgery.)

We had some time between meeting with the neurosurgeon and our next appointment in Urology, so Terry and I walked all the way across the building to the cafeteria for lunch. Some excellent sushi (Wegman's California sushi), a delicious slice of pizza with meatballs, and a milk shake for each of us. (I also had a piece of cake (brownie?) with vanilla ice cream. Hey! I did a lot of walking!)

Then it was all the way back across the building to the Urology area. We were two hours early...but got called right away because there had been a cancellation. That's when I learned my appointment was with the nurse who was supposed to take out my catheter. "Sorry, sweetie, they did that back on the 3rd before letting me go home."

Well, that led to a number of discussions about who, when, where, and why. What had already been established and I assume she knew how. All I could tell her was 1-They took it out because I insisted they take it out. (I was NOT going home with a catheter stuck in me!) 2-One of the doctors in the Troy Community Hospital gave the okay. 3-I was urinating regularly although there was some retention and the stream could be stronger.

The nurse took me to a little boys room and handed me a cup to fill and pointed to the bowl saying, "Empty some into the cup and the rest into the john. Get as much out as you can and then we'll see about this retention."

I did as she asked and she checked for how much fluid might still be in my bladder using her little ultrasound gizmo. I still held around 250 ml. She said something about I might have to be catheterized again to which I replied, "Never!" and "Over my dead body!" or words to that effect.

She went off to talk to the doctor and came back saying she had relayed my feelings to him about catheterizing and while he disagreed, he agreed to merely increase my dose of Flomax and do another check up in a month. Sounded good to me! I mean, the swelling and nerve disturbance from the surgery is still evident and could still be causing disruption in that area so let's give time and Flomax a chance to get things back to normal.

By 2:30 PM--what was to have been the midpoint between the two appointments, Terry and I were on our way home. It was still around 20 degrees but felt like T-shirt weather.

Once home we enjoyed a nice dinner of chicken jambalaya that Terry had left cooking in the crockpot while we were out.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Another Snowy Day at the Aerie

It was slightly warmer today than yesterday but we still paid the price with light snow all day long. Mixed in with that light snow were a couple of hours of real heavy stuff that produced near white-out conditions. Terry will have to do some shoveling tomorrow.

We continue to have dozens and dozens of avian visitors (and a few squirrels) coming to the deck feeders each day. Terry has to refill the feeders at least twice and uses about 5 pounds of sunflower seeds a day. I sat at the window today and took some pictures of the company we get.

American Goldfinch

Pine Siskin, House Finch, Red Poll, Pine Siskin

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Tufted Titmouse

House Finch

Blue Jay

Dark-eyed Junco

Black-capped Chickadee

White-breasted Nuthatch

House Finches

Common Redpolls
They are in and out all day long from around 7 AM until 5 PM. There's usually a half dozen or more mourning doves that visit also, but they didn't stick around to pose for me today.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Three Weeks...

On the morning of January 19th I underwent back surgery. My lumbar spine was all screwed up with bone spurs, compressed or nonexistent discs, one vertebra that was 1.8 cm out of position, bone and muscle scar tissue from previous surgeries and a mess of other crap that was pinching and irritating nerves whenever I stood or sat upright for more than 10 or 15 minutes. Oddly enough, when I was slouched in a chair or working my ass off in the yard, the back didn’t really bother me. 

The neurosurgeon was going to go in and scrape out the bone spurs, chip away other protrusions, replace the discs, put the L4 back where it belongs and then screw and pin the whole mess (L2 to L5) together. The whole process, he estimated would take 5 to 5 ½ hours.

It took 8 ½ hours as my bone and scar tissue was unexpectedly thick and tough. I spent all of the next day in a complete fog and do not remember a thing until the evening of the day after surgery. Terry says she listened to me singing along with the oldies of the ‘50s and ‘60s while I was in recovery but I’ll have to take her word for it.

I spent much of the next week in a daze of oxycodone as well. I had no desire to be moved anywhere until I was assured that the lack of feeling in my right leg (from hip to toes) was temporary. I’ve been told that this a result of irritating the nerve both from the surgeon’s working on the nearby bone and scar tissue and from stretching the nerve with the insertion of new discs between the vertebrae. Even so, three weeks later, there’s been some improvement but there’s still some tingling and pins-and-needles that is disturbing. They say time will tell if there’s any permanent damage.

I got off the oxy (they called it oxy-fast) as soon as I could since I suffered every side effect they list for the stuff. Hallucinations? Check. I saw colored lights moving across the walls and ceiling like in a disco and bugs crawling on the tile floor that weren’t there. Creepy crawlies under the skin? Check. (Still itching!) Irrational and incoherent thought? Check. I ordered milk and mashed potatoes for one meal and usually couldn’t remember what room I was in as I transposed the numbers every time. I called Terry one night to talk thinking it was 5 PM and then 10 PM. It was midnight and 3 AM. The night I stopped taking the oxy I broke out in the sweats that soaked my bed and had the doctor checking by blood sugar and anything else he could think of.

They did move me from the hospital in Sayre to the Troy facility for a couple of days of physical rehab before sending me home. I didn’t want to go home, but they talked to Terry and she said she could handle me so that was it. Besides, there wasn’t a whole lot they could do for me at that point besides walking up and down the hall. (One luxury I don’t have at the Aerie is a long hallway to walk. Back when I was rehabbing my knees, I would walk laps on the deck, but that’s now ice covered and it’s 15 degrees out!)

I’ve had a couple of visits from the visiting nurse from home healthcare services with another from the physical therapists who did a quick evaluation and home inspection before leaving me with a half dozen exercises to do to strengthen my legs and work on my balance. I was supposed to see my primary care physician on Monday but the ice and freezing rain put a halt to that. We did get to see him on Wednesday and he told me that one of the side effects of the prescription pain killer is generalized itching. I guess I’ll have to trust to the hydrocortisone to relieve that itch until I’m off the pain killer.

I’ve a scheduled appointment with the neurosurgeon on Tuesday the 17th by which time the incision area should be pretty well healed up. I expect he’ll want to do an x-ray or some other scan to see how the bones, muscles and nerves are doing.

I‘ve been home now since Wednesday, February 4th and am slowly going stir crazy. I can’t drive. I walk with a walker. I wear a back brace to prevent any sudden twists or bends when standing or sitting. I’ve been doing crossword puzzles, sodoku puzzles and reading. A lot. Oh, and sleeping too. I’ve been sleeping 12 hours or so a day. Sitting up for two hours is a chore.

One source of amusement—besides the internet—is watching the birds and squirrels on the deck. Our friendly black squirrel has visited a couple of times but he gets outnumbered by the grey squirrels sometimes four or five to one. I’ve had flocks of goldfinches, pine siskins, redpolls, white breasted nuthatches, tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, house finches, dark-eyed juncos, mourning doves, blue jays and even a red-bellied woodpecker visiting the deck feeders. The only thing keeping the birds at bay are the squirrels. They don’t like to share.