January Update (Part 1)

Thank you for all the holiday greetings, y’all! I haven’t MEANT to be gone for so long. It just turned out that way! Let me tell you why….

Mom had her cancer surgery at University of Florida hospital because it was going to be tricky. Her oncologist had recommended several surgeons, most of whom were waaaaay out of the area. The closest one that he felt would be able to handle the surgery for the metastatic stage III Merkel Cell Carcinoma was with the University of Florida hospital on 8th Street in Jacksonville. That was about two hours away from Mom’s house, a distance that was doable for her.

She had her surgery in which her tumor near her ear was removed, her parotid/salivary glands removed on the right side, and neck lymph nodes stripped. Her incision stretched from her forehead, around her ear, down to mid neck, and across. She was very ill after her surgery, retching forcefully repeatedly, although she had nothing in her stomach to expel. She was miserable.

My brother and I were pretty miserable as well, because we had had to leave at 3:30 a.m. to get her to the hospital at 5:30 a.m. on November 10!  We couldn’t sleep, so were at the hospital all bleary-eyed at 5:30 a.m, had to wait to visit her in recovery room until the afternoon, and she finally got a room that night. Brother and I had been chugging Starbucks coffee helpfully sold at the hospital, and we were simultaneously tired and wired. We bid goodnight to Mom, and I drove the two hours into Georgia to drop brother off at Mom’s place, picking up takeout food along the way.  “Look, you’re dead on your feet, you need to stay here tonight!” he insisted. I declined, because I had livestock to feed and a list of folks to call with an update, so off I went.  Daughter had taken off work to care for the four kids while Mom was indisposed, so no worries about that!

Next morning, I fed the livestock before heading the hour north to Mom’s to pick up brother. He’d just finished talking to mom, and said she sounded well. He insisted on my eating breakfast before we left (not that I’m in any danger of wasting away), then we washed dishes and picked up before heading back to the hospital.  We didn’t arrive until @ noon.

We were greeted by a nurse that said “Oh, good! She’s ready to go home. We’re just waiting on the discharge orders.” Um, WHAT?

“She had some pretty major surgery yesterday. Are y’all sure she’s ready to go home?” I asked.

“SHE thinks she’s ready to go home!” said the nurse.

I went into Mom’s room. “Are you SURE about this whole going home thing? You were extremely sick yesterday, and I don’t think you’re ready to go home.”

“Well, they think I’m ready, and I really want to sleep in my own bed where I can get some rest!” she answered. That was November 11.

We picked up the discharge orders and the pain prescriptions, and headed home. I stopped at the Rite Aid pharmacy on the way to fill her pain prescriptions. “We can’t fill the pain medications”, said the pharmacist. “The doctor doesn’t have a DEA number on file.”

“EXCUSE ME? Her ‘doctor’ is a surgeon at University of Florida that just operated on her for cancer YESTERDAY. She has a 14″ inch plus incision plus having a tumor and her salivary glands removed. WHAT DO YOU MEAN SHE CAN’T HAVE PAIN MEDICATION?”

“Sorry, Ma’am, it isn’t us, it’s the government.”

So I had to take Mom home WITHOUT pain meds, then go back to Florida to beg and borrow pain meds from somebody that had had surgery recently. This is the second time now I’ve had to do this. I guess that makes me officially a drug dealer. Hell, I’m a drug dealer that crossed state lines. I promised to return and replace the drugs when she got her prescription filled, because nobody knows now when they have surgery whether they’ll be able to get pain relief from the pharmacy, or whether they’ll have to go to the corner drug dealer. They’re hoarding those pills against a future need.

What’s really pitiful is that hydrocodone ain’t all that as a pain reliever anyway.

When I got back to Georgia, I cut an oxycodone in half for her. She took it and some nausea meds, then went to take a nap. She was up again a couple hours later, and her face was really swollen. “Mom, that’s a lot of swelling. I think we should go back to the hospital.”

“No, they told me that I was going to have some swelling, it will be okay!”.

“Yeah, that’s not some swelling, that’s a LOT of swelling. Let me get you an ice pack. Maybe you need more elevation.”

“I have my bed elevated on two blocks of wood, plus I’m using three pillows. I’ll take a little ice.”

I got an ice pack for her and wrapped it in a towel. She went back to bed. I went to look at her after she fell asleep. She looked so tiny in that big bed, and her face was so swollen. I didn’t go back to sleep but checked her every few minutes. My brother was exhausted and was sound asleep. She was up again at 2:00 a.m.

“Mom, can I get you anything? Do you need anything for pain or nausea?”

“Oh, no, I can’t swallow.”

“You can’t swallow? We need to go to the hospital immediately.”

“No, no, I’m fine. They said there would be swelling.”

“That’s TOO MUCH swelling. We should have gone two hours ago. We need to go.”

‘Well, maybe we can go in the morning. You need to get some sleep. You shouldn’t still be awake.”

“I’m worried about the swelling. You should get some sleep, too.”

“I can’t breathe when I lay down.”

“Grab your stuff, we’re leaving now!” It was 2 a.m.

She didn’t want to go, but I was done with listening. I woke up my brother, told him Mom was having trouble breathing, and we were heading to the ambulance NOW. I left my phone. He left his dentures and wallet but had a pocket knife in his pants pocket that he didn’t remember was there, and neither one of us knew would be an issue at the emergency room. We left Mom’s purse.  “Why”, you might ask, “did you go to the ambulance? Why didn’t you wait for it to come to you?” Well, she lives out in rural Georgia. We knew where the ambulance was. They didn’t know where we were. I could drive a whole lot faster to them than they could drive to us.

We woke up the ambulance folks. They looked at her and then asked me “WHY did they release her from the hospital the day after surgery like this?”  I just shook my head helplessly. “It must be that better health care we’re getting that Obama keeps talking about.”

“Don’t try to follow us!” they admonished. “Drive carefully!”

“I have to!” I told them. “I have to stop and get gas on the way.”

Off they went. I put $50 worth of gas in the car, then only had a couple bucks left over for large service station coffees for me and my brother. Off we went again.

We couldn’t find the emergency room entrance in the dark. The rest of the hospital was locked. The road that we were on didn’t go around to the emergency room entrance. I jumped some curbs and went across some grass in the parking lot, then parked near where I could see an emergency entrance sign. We walked in. We couldn’t get in that way. The personnel directed us to another door. We had to go through a metal detector, then an officer had to take my brother’s little pocket knife and put it in a safe. By the time we were able to be in-processed, the person that made the tags for the family of patients in the ER had gone to lunch (at  4 a.m.) and we had to wait.

About 5 a.m., the person making the ID tags came back, and we were ID tagged, then led to a little waiting room.

About an hour and a half later, a doctor came in, introduced herself, and asked why we hadn’t gotten her to the hospital sooner. I told her that we lived two hours away, we left as soon as we knew that she was having trouble swallowing (and breathing), and why had the hospital released her one day after surgery like that?

She told us that mom was in critical condition in a coma, and left.  We waited another hour, then I borrowed my brother’s cell phone to call my family to let them know what was going on. We had to go outside to get a signal. We went back inside and waited. And waited. And waited. I got tired of waiting, and stood in the hall looking for a doctor, any doctor, so we could find out what was happening. The same doctor that jumped my shit earlier said “Oh, I didn’t know you were still here. We thought you had gone home.” I informed her that we’d gone outside to contact family members on the phone and couldn’t get reception inside.

“Well, we were looking for you to get permission to do surgery, but we couldn’t find you, so we went ahead.” She sent us to the recovery waiting room. And we waited. And waited. And waited. And waited.

I’d spent all my money on gas. My brother had left his wallet, but had a few dollars in his pocket. He got us some coffee. The surgeon came by and told us that she’d had some blood vessel tearing after the surgery (I think probably from all the nausea and attempted vomiting), and it had created a huge clot under the skin that was impinging upon her esophagus and trachea. About 3 in the afternoon, we got to go back for 5 minutes to see Mom. She was on a ventilator.  We went back and waited some more. Much later, we got to see Mom for five minutes. She was still in a coma. Still on a ventilator.  I still needed to drive my brother two hours north, then one hour south for myself. I hadn’t slept for 48 hours. We hadn’t had any food for longer. It was time to go.

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Security Cameras

My little 3-year-old granddaughter noticed us on the security monitors when we walked into a store. “MeeMaw, we’re on television!” she announced. “I know!” I told her. “It’s because we’re STARS.”

“Yes, we ARE stars!” she agreed. “We should have on our sunglasses.” We had to think about whether we truly were stars on the security monitor without having on sunglasses indoors. But then MeeMaw would have to feel around for a shopping cart, and that would not be very star-like behavior. MeeMaw may accidentally grope people or even fall into a shopping cart. Perhaps that would be star-like behavior.  Hmmmmm. Would baby Lila qualify as a star even though she doesn’t have sunglasses? Oh, the weighty questions that MeeMaw must ponder daily.

I only went to the store to get hamburger. Zoe apparently went to the store for everything else. “Can I have this?” she asked, pointing to potato chips. “No!” I answered. “I want THIS and this and this!” she said, pointing to various soft drinks. “NO!” I replied. “No, no, no!”

“Why can’t I have them?” she asked.

“Because I don’t have enough money to buy everything in the store!”

“You have to pay for this stuff, MeeMaw?” she asked.

“That’s right, sweetie. Even very pretty people like you and me have to pay for groceries!”

“Well, that’s not fair!” she declared.

“I know. I’ve been saying that for years, but they still make me pay!” I told her.

“Maybe you should wear your sunglasses!” she told me.

Now why didn’t I ever think of that?

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Why So Quiet?

I am seemingly being uncharacteristically quiet while the government is engaging in lots of skulduggery. Trust me, I am NOT being quiet in person. I just don’t have time to write about it.

The girls (the 3-year-old and 4-month-old granddaughters) have been accompanying me and Mom to her various doctor and surgeon appointments. Everybody in the waiting rooms are always amazed at how patiently and happily the girls wait with us.  We’re waiting on the scheduling of Mom’s next big surgery. This one will include a parotidectomy with possible facial paralysis on one side. Even though Mom’s a retired RN, I’m not sure if she actually heard the surgeon, or whether she blanked it out.  I decided not to inquire or spell it out.  Is that presumptuous of me? She is very fearful of surgery, but she absolutely has no chance of survival without it.  In the meantime, she’s had her burial outfit freshly cleaned and is making her funeral preparations so that we won’t be bothered with it.

In the midst of infant milestones and recurrent cancer, daughter brought home a red doberman pup for the kids because, well, life.

The plates that I have spinning are coming crashing down. I found a sheep that had gotten wedged behind a gate and couldn’t get out that had apparently happened when we were away for a family celebration event over the weekend. Probably died of thirst and/or heat. Absolutely my fault for neglecting to count sheep because I’ve been focused on things like the baby, Mom, the toddler, the pup, daughter’s 18-year-old kitty who is now blind and deaf, the orphaned chicks whose Mommy and siblings were apparently eaten one night, and grandsons, homework, laundry, how to afford groceries for so many (make everything from scratch), etc.  I’m neglecting my 3-year-old granddaughter to the care of inane cartoons far too often. My cleanliness standards have fallen into the slattern category.  Hovel living is the life for me!  What the heck, I can clean next year, right?  Except baby will be crawling around eating the mystery objects on the floor in a couple months. Crap.

Daughter is likewise experiencing crashing plates of her own.  She works eight hours a day, commutes two hours a day, and does two college classes at night with LOTS of homework. If she wasn’t so highly organized, she’d be a total wreck. While she has a  grade of 100% in both classes (yeah, our family tends to be overly competitive), she’s stressed out about bills, homework, and grades. She will not be gladdening the hearts of retailers this Christmas season but, instead, is buying used items for the kids every payday.  She and I both thought she could quickly finish her degree at night while the children were small but, alas, we overestimated my energy and didn’t account for Mom’s cancer recurring. After this term ends, she may not go back. I hate it for her that she’s missing so much time with her youngest, she feels that she needs to finish her degree to increase her earning capacity for her family, but I dunno. I know a lot of folks that have gone back to college to get their degree, or a different degree, in order to boost their earning capacity. All they got was the same old low-paying job that they had before, only now they have to pay back student loans with it along with all their other expenses.

Meanwhile, a relative that has a SIL that flies in and out of some strange places called to let us know his observations about Ebola gleaned from first-hand observation and with talking with other people whose work take them in and out of there as well.  His conclusions are that (a) our government is lying to us (b) their governments are lying to everybody (c) a lot more people are dead and dying than the “official” count, and (d) they (federal government) have to know the truth and are deliberately trying to kill people because nobody can be that damn incompetent.  His advice to family members? Stockpile food, clean water, etc. because in the event that this thing becomes widespread in any particular area, well, you know things could get ugly as towns set up their own quarantine zones.

Another relative that is a RN at a hospital in another state says that they haven’t really had much in the way of training and just the usual for protective gear, no matter what the CDC says about readiness. They aren’t ready now and will never be ready for Ebola. They don’t have the staff, gear, or isolation facilities.  Only a complete idiot or Obama appointee (but I repeat myself) would think otherwise. Even the larger hospitals have cut their budgets in anticipation of Obamacare. The wards are understaffed. If you want a family member cared for in the hospital, you stay with them, and I fear it will only continue to worsen.

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Why Is It That…..

Why is it that, when babies learn to roll over, it seems to be in the wee hours?   It seems to really aggravate Lila to be suddenly on the other surface from where she started such that she must immediately have a hissy fit demanding SOMEBODY to come fix this situation RIGHT NOW. And while you’re fixing it, bring food.

There are actually women busily freezing their eggs instead of incubating them because they want to get ahead in their careers before they reproduce, and plan to extend their childbearing years into their 50s, 60s, and beyond. Bitch, please.

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Hospital Day with Lila and Zoe

Today was Biopsy Day for Mom up in Georgia, so Zoe, Lila and I were shoehorned into the front cab of my ol’ red F150 truck. Old red Ford trucks were not built with car seats for children and infants in mind. We were driving along in the quiet predawn when Zoe suddenly started screaming loudly. It was the sort of screech that I would let out if a giant tarantula started tap dancing on my nose, or a snake decided to take up habitation in my pants leg. I nearly hit the roof of the truck. I jumped, started looking around wildly for cobras or zombies, and yelled “What? WHAT IS IT?”

Zoe sobbed “There’s a FWY in the TRUCK!”

What?  Breathebreathebreathe. Count to 10. Count to 25.  Count down from 100 using serial sevens. Reflect that this is a test used to detect mental impairment and what does it say about my marbles or lack of them that I can’t do serial sevens while driving down the road in the dark while a preschooler is screaming and scaring the baby? (Ha ha, I lied. I can’t do them in the daylight when there’s no noise outside, either. Or maybe I just won’t.) Wonder if this is a reflective question like I learned about in psychology years ago. Remember that I really don’t remember crap about most of my college classes and that they were, for the most part, a waste of money and time that I will never get back again. Get depressed all over again. Ask about the fly.

“Uh, I don’t see any fly! Where is it?”

It’s right THERE, MeeMaw! It’s on the window, and it’s going to get me or baby Lila!”

A small mosquito was buzzing haplessly against the windshield.

“Uh, this is the fly?” I asked, pointing at it.

“YES!” she sobbed.

“Okay, MeeMaw will kill him for you!” I told her, and squished the mosquito on the INSIDE of my windshield. Yeah, that left a mark, but she stopped being totally freaked out about it. On the other hand, if the Supreme Being is in Mosquito form, I’m in deep shit.

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Suckered Again!

Little Lila was chewing her fists, screaming and crying. She had fallen asleep on her own about an hour earlier after ingesting 8 ounces of milk, so I was skeptical about any hunger she might be experiencing.  “No way, kid. If I give you more food, you’re going to urp all over me.”

I carried her around for awhile. She fussed and tried to latch onto my neck under the mistaken impression that there must be nipple around here SOMEWHERE. I detached vampire baby before she could leave a hickey. Not that I was worried about SwampMan getting the wrong idea about how I was spending my day. SwampMan knows that if the Most Attractive Man in the World came by the house and told me that their dream was to satisfy my every desire, I’d say “GREAT! Bounce the baby. The diapers and wipies are over there, the 3-year-old wants apple cider frequently and it’s in the garage refrigerator, and the boys will be home from school in one hour and they’ll want freshly-baked cookies and help with their homework. Take the laundry off the line, fold it, and put it away, then do another load in your spare time. Oh, and the recipe for the pizza dough is on the computer, and that probably should be done before the cookies. I’m going to take a 2-hour nap.” Yeah, baby. That’s my extreme fantasy. Yes, yes, YES!  *sigh*

I started worrying, though, that perhaps I was not correctly remembering when her last feeding was. Maybe it just SEEMED like I’d just fed her. Maybe it was longer. Maybe I should make another bottle just in case.

So, my favorite shirt is now in the laundry covered with baby urp. Never, ever play poker with a baby. Their bluff is very convincing.

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The Local Liquor Store Needs to Deliver

Chocolate cupcake crumbs and white icing as well as pink and yellow Play-Doh (or is that Play-D’OH!) are now crushed happily into the carpet. (Yes, you CAN eat off my carpet. Please do so. Immediately.)

I need to stop in at the local liquor store and explain why they really need to deliver.  Perhaps I’ll bring pictures to bolster my plea. Meanwhile, I’ll explain patiently that tea parties for imaginary friends are best held in the kitchen. Oh, my bad. Apparently the tea party was held in the kitchen, and a certain someone or something unknown tracked the party crumbs into other areas of the house.  Curse you, messy bad people!  Or maybe it was Minnie Mouse.

Now, back to denying that my name is “MeeMaw”, and claiming to be a personage named “Fred”.

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An Exercise Ball Instead of an Office Chair

My computer desk used to have an ordinary office chair. Not a fancy leather-covered office chair with arms (although I have one of those somewhere in an outbuilding) but a regular inexpensive cloth-covered typist chair with back support and hydraulic height adjustment and no arms. I had the leather executive-type chair for awhile, but it was uncomfortable to do a lot of typing in. I suppose at heart I’m just one of those humble little worker bees and not the queen.  *thinking it over* Well. I’m a humble little worker bee unless you forget your proper place, drone. *sting*  THEN I’m the queen.

But I digress.

When my inexpensive chair breathed its last in the middle of the night (nothing ever breaks when replacements are readily available), instead of going out and dusting spiderwebs off my executive-type chair and serving eviction notices to whatever venomous eight leggers dwelled therein and thereon, I just rolled an exercise ball in to take its place. It isn’t like it was getting used for exercise!  And it was temporary, after all, until I replaced it with a new typist chair.

Except I didn’t replace it.  I decided I liked bouncing in place as I read the news. Granted, rolling around the room without actually getting up is a little more challenging than when in the chair, but I can manage somewhat in my uncoordinated fashion. I have new problems with my chair now. My “chair” ball disappears as soon as I get up to get a drink from the fridge, or to stir a pot. “All RIGHT, you little heathens!” I yell at the grandkids. “The ball belongs at the computer. THE COMPUTER! That ball is MY TOY!”

“But MeeeMaw! It’s OUR TURN! You need to share!”

“Let me let you in on a little secret of the universe, kiddies….Sharing is for chumps!  Um, don’t tell Mommy I said that.”   But I have one or more grandchildren draped across the ball as soon as I vacate it, illustrating another secret of the universe. Superior numbers and determination can eventually wear down superior strength.

Daughter, of course, thought I’d completely lost whatever marbles I’d ever possessed. “Seriously, you actually sit on that thing at the computer?” she asked. “Yep! And it’s the best thing ever for bouncing fussy babies!” She was skeptical, but after trying it for a week, she was won over.

“I really missed that ball when I took the kids home this weekend. I was trying to bounce the baby in the rocking chair. It didn’t work.”

So, now I’m posting from my exercise ball. My little #3 granddaughter is gnawing happily on her toys from her boppy chair next to me. I can offer new chewy toys with one hand while typing with the other.  Maybe I need to rig up a cane pole, a piece of elastic, and a carabiner to jiggle toys overhead. Hmmm.

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MeeMaw’s Exercise Program

If it weren’t for me, my MeeMaw would just waste her time and sleep all night long instead of rocking the night away! It’s 12 a.m. and I wanna rock!Lila 14 weeks

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Milestones and Illnesses

My little Lila suddenly went from her arms aimlessly waving about and occasionally batting a toy or grasping one put into her reach to looking at a toy and deliberately reaching out, grabbing it, and tasting it.  I think teeth will be coming soon, because she has gnawed on tail of tiger, snout of crocodile, and trunk of elephant so far after breakfast today. It is incredible to me how one day babies cannot seem to coordinate hand, arm, and eye and the very next day, everything works together down to coordinating feet to help hold objects. I feel privileged to have been able to witness this miracle first hand one more time.

Yesterday, I took out Zoe’s favorite activity, stickers, so that she would be able to make a sticker bug wonderland with queen bugs and princess bugs and draw them flower castles and flower food on a piece of poster board.  She struggled through this activity. “Are we done yet, MeeMaw?” she would ask me plaintively throughout the activity. “Gracious, no, child!” I would exclaim brightly. “We have lots of caterpillars to peel and stick!”  Zoe is the sticker queen. Whenever she gets stickers, I have found stickers on my tables, chairs, floors, cabinets, etc. Now I keep them in a Top Secret Location (guarded by dragons and fire breathing spiders) to be brought out to play whenever baby is sleeping, the laundry and floors are clean, dinner is started, and MeeMaw has extra time to spend with this delightful child.

“What’s the matter, Zoe? Are you hungry?” I asked in concern.

“I don’t fink so!” she told me.

“Would you like a peanut butter jelly sandwich?”

“Well, maybe I could eat one!”  So, she had a PBJ and Koolaid.  She complained that she needed a blanket because it was so cold in the house.  The house temperature was in the 80s because no A/C.

We were going to walk out to the bus to meet her brothers getting off at the bus stop, but she couldn’t find her shoes. She started crying.  “Well, where are they?” I asked.

“I fink I left them in Mommy’s car!” she sobbed.

“You know what? That’s okay! We’ll get them tonight!” I promised. I turned on Netflix, and she chose to watch “My Little Pony” as her brothers came in.  I spent an hour with the boys doing their homework, and asked her if she wanted chocolate milk. She came stumbling into the kitchen rubbing her eyes.  I touched her arm, and it was *very* hot. “I don’t feel thirsty!” she told me. “I’m still cold.”

I took her temperature orally and couldn’t convince her to hold the bulb to the digital thermometer under her tongue. Thermometer quickly went up above 102.  Hunh. Maybe that one wasn’t working correctly. I found the new one, and took her temperature again. This one quickly went above 103.

“You know what? It’s time for your bath!” I told her. She cried.  After her bath, her temperature was *only* 102.7.  Time to call Mommy and let her know we needed some liquid Tylenol. But Mommy was already coming up the driveway.

We conferred over the symptoms. She wasn’t coughing, sneezing, or showing any respiratory symptoms, but she was now extremely pale and sleepy.  She had eaten lunch and it hadn’t reappeared. She had eaten breakfast.  No intestinal symptoms. Maybe West Nile Virus?

Mommy went to the store and got her some children anti-febrile medication. After taking it, her temperature went down to a little over 100, and she fell into a deep sleep on my chair.  I had Lila in another room from Zoe. “Whatever it is, I certainly hope Lila doesn’t get it!” said Mommy. “Their pediatrician has instructed that if she has a temperature above 100.4, we’re to take her directly to Wolfson Children’s Hospital.”

“This morning, they played together like they always do, with Zoe kissing her and giving her toys.” I told Mommy. “And Lila has slept longer than usual today.”

Zoe awoke with just a slight fever today, ate a few bites of breakfast, drank juice, then told me she was sleepy and wanted to go sleep in her bed. Lila woke, played, ate, and fell back asleep. Everybody is quiet. The house is quiet. And instead of catching up on sleep, making cupcakes before the boys get home, or doing other productive things, I’m running back and forth feeling children for fever as they sleep, washing hands in between.

You know who will probably get sick? Yep, me.

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