Thursday, April 06, 2017

Adventures in Modern Medicine

Before I get started...
It's been years since I added anything to this blog. In fact, I was a little more than surprised to find it was still here. I guess what they say is true, "In space no one can hear you scream"...wait, what I meant to type was "nothing ever goes away on the Internet." I was initially going to write this on my Facebook page but realized it would be too long. Maybe I will link to this from there. Maybe not.



I had a pain in my side and I felt like shit. I went to a party that night but felt so awful that I left early and went home. I thought I had indigestion or something so my wife went out and got me some medicine for indigestion. It didn't do any good. The next day was Saturday and since I still felt like crap, we went to one of those walk-in clinics. There I was diagnosed with a pulled muscle and advised to take some Ibuprofen and rest. Monday, still felt like crap so went to my regular doctor. She took a chest x-ray and told me I had pneumonia. I went back to work because my boss thought that I was being a pussy. Wednesday, on my way into work I coughed up some blood--not a lot, just a little. I called my doctor's office and explained to her nurse what had happened. Much later that afternoon, the doctor called me back and asked me to come in for a couple more tests. I did.

The next day my office phone rang early. It was the doctor's nurse advising me that they had made an appointment for me to have a CAT scan in an hour. I went to the place, got an injection of some kind of dye, had a CAT scan and went back to work. As I was having lunch with a co-worker my cellphone rang. It was my doctor who told me to get my ass to the Cone Emergency room ASAP. I called my wife who was in the drive-thru at Wendy's getting her lunch. She had to pull out of line and picked me up at my office. Together we went to Cone Hospital. The diagnosis: multiple pulmonary emboli (i.e. blood clots in my lungs). I spent the next 4 days in a hospital room hooked up to an IV with blood thinner. I was advised that people in my condition had died. I did not die but it took 4 office visits to determine what wrong with me and I guess it's a miracle I didn't die.


I had back surgery in 2015. They fused three lumbar vertebrae which solved my immediate problem: my legs would suddenly go numb on me and I would fall down. I expected great things from this surgery and I think, so did my Neurosurgeon but when I didn't get remarkably better, my doctor was puzzled. He ran a bunch of tests on me and  eventually sent me to a neurologist. The neurologist diagnosed me with Peripheral Neuropathy and gave me a bunch of drugs (Neurontin) that made me sleepy as hell but didn't help me walk better and didn't help the pain in my right hip. He eventually sent me to a pain clinic which supplied me with more drugs (Hydrocodone). I had to go to my pain doctor every 30 days to get my prescription renewed and every time I complained about the pain in my right hip. She gave me a stronger dose of Hydrocodone.

Around Christmastime, the pain got a lot worse but the only doctor available was my primary care doctor. He gave me a prescription for Prednisone which helped a little but made me pee 4 to 5 times a night. My wife and I developed a routine. I'd get up in the morning and would sit in my recliner with a ice pack on my right hip and would rub my leg until the pain subsided which took anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. We did this every day for over a month.

At my next appointment with my pain doctor I told her what I was going through and she scheduled and MRI for me. To make a really long and painful story short, the MRI revealed I had a herniated disc! She advised me to see my neurosurgeon which happily, I was scheduled to see the very next week. I had to advise him where to look on the MRI (I had a preliminary report sent to me). His response was...OH MY!

I had surgery in February of this year. The pain is gone but I still can't walk without a walker and I itch! Holy crap, I itch. Everyone says that's good because it means I'm healing.


I'm sitting watching TV when I feel like my foot is going to burst out of my shoe! Swollen feet? What the heck does that mean and how many doctors will it take to figure it out?

Monday, April 09, 2012

What, nobody missed me at all?

For Lent, I decided to give up all of social media but mostly ended up giving up Facebook (more or less). I still glanced at Twitter but to be honest, Twitter has become, for me, what I imagine being telepathic would be like and hearing all the random thoughts of a thousand strangers. Most of those thoughts are inane and irrelevant and more and more about selling you something. Twitter used to be more personal.

I spent time perusing Pinterest; mostly looking for interesting recipes and the occasional cool idea. Pinterest is dominated by women who, like men, are mostly boring and interested in stuff, I don't care about. Pinterest is also becoming the preferred venue for spammers. I quickly figured out that if a stranger follows you, following them back will fill up your feed with crap. I think people must be getting paid for posting stuff to Pinterest now and it won't be long before Pinterest too becomes a great wasteland. Happily, unfollowing someone is as easy as following them.

I confess that prior to giving up Facebook for Lent I spent a fair amount of time reading, replying and posting there. I always sent birthday greetings to any Facebook friend having a birthday and regularly shared my particular brand of wit with a number of close Facebook friends. But, Facebook also tended to get me riled up, usually over political things people posted and frankly, I didn't miss that at all. During my 40 days wandering in the desert, my wife kept me apprised of significant Facebook happenings and showed me the occasional picture so I wasn't totally out of touch.

Yesterday, with Lent finally over, I logged into my Facebook account and posted something about singing for an Easter service in a gymnasium. I got a few "likes" and one comment. I was back but I got the distinct feeling that no one missed me at all. Today, one of my close Facebook friends said it best: "you were gone? LOL" Thanks, Joe. I needed that.

Actually, Facebook isn't that interesting to me anymore. It's like moving away and then coming back to visit only to find that the people you left behind have moved on too and you don't have much in common with them now. Social media is just like life, except that when you quit life, you can't come back (unless you're Jesus.)

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Short order: Another Business gives Aycock Street a go

You've heard the old mantra: in real estate, you need to worry about three things, location, location and location. With this in mind I was chagrined to read in today's News & Record about Karla and Daniel Paris opening their new venture, Lulu and Bubba's Sweet Shop, in a location where two previous businesses have gone bust in relatively short order.

In theory, the location--being cheek to jowl with UNCG and the massive apartment complexes on the west side of Aycock Street--would seem like a sure winner. The agent who sold the Parises on the benefits of this spot probably had all kinds of charts and graphs hyping the large population living within half a mile--a population of 20-somethings who love sweet things--and the vehicle count on Aycock Street. But I'm also sure he or she glossed over the two huge drawbacks of the location: zero parking and next-to-zero visibility.

The story in the paper portrays the Parises as wide-eyed innocents with next to no experience running a restaurant who optimistically think that they won't fall victim to the statistics of new businesses. It's the American dream, right?

I wish the Parises, well and I hope to heck they got a deal for that space (percentage rent?) but I doubt it. Long about Christmastime when the rent comes due and with the students gone on break they're going to wonder how they talked themselves into this mess. I feel like I should go over there right now and buy a cinnamon bun but I don't know if I'll be able to find a parking place.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Man versus Technology: The HTC Droid Incredible

I am not new to technology. I have embraced technology wherever it reared its homely head. I own many devices that purport to be the latest innovation in communication technology. In recent years I have developed a fondness for Apple products and now regularly use an Apple desktop, two MacBook Pros and an iPad 2. So why in God's good name did I choose an HTC Droid Incredible over an iPhone when it was time to put my old BlackBerry out to pasture? Good question.

"Oh Lord, won't you buy me an HTC Droid. My friends all own iPhones which I must avoid. I'm kind of impatient and easily annoyed so Lord, don't buy me an HTC Droid." (Thanks, Janice)

Actually, both my sons own Droids and seem to be pretty happy with them but it took me exactly 48 hours to become aware of Droid's fatal flaw: it won't hold a charge for shit. Today, for example, I turned mine on around 8 this morning (fully charged), got one phone call, a couple of notifications, read two emails on it and it's already under 50% power. That doesn't seem right, does it? Apparently, this is a very common problem with this product. I posted a complaint on Facebook yesterday and got feedback from a number of Droid-owning friends who tell the same story. One woman said she bought a charger for home, office and car and still worries about whether she'll have power if one of her kids has to call her. Another friend has dubbed her phone "Incredibly Frustrating."

If you search the Internet (which maybe I should have done earlier) you'll find a whole bunch of sites telling you how you can extend Droid's Incredibly crappy battery life. I tried a couple of their suggestions: turn off GPS and Bluetooth, completely discharge the battery before recharging it, use -- or not use -- your Advanced Task Killer (some disagreement on that) but like those home remedies the Graedons hype on their show People's Pharmacy, none of them seem to work.

I guess in the rush to top iPhone, the HTC marketers trumped the engineers and put out this amazing device that unfortunately can't be amazing for a whole day at a time. It's like Ferrari selling a vehicle that goes 200 miles per hour but gets only 3 miles per gallon and has a ten gallon tank. Either that or their business plan depends on selling lots and lots of chargers.

If you got suckered into buying one of these devices and have to deal with a dead battery before dinnertime as well as the smirks of your iPhone-owning friends, let me know (just don't try to call me, my battery will be dead).

Monday, May 23, 2011

So, Wells Fargo, That's How It's Gonna Be, huh?

With Wachovia signs coming down and Wells Fargo signs going up, I had a vision of the dystopian future that awaits us all.

At 8:10 on Saturday morning the phone rang. Anxious to ensure that the ringing phone didn't wake up my sleeping wife, I did something I almost never do: I answered it. Caller ID told me its was Wells Fargo so when an automated message wanted me to confirm I was me by pressing "1", I complied. In the twinkling of an eye I was transported half way around the globe to some call center in China. I'm guessing, Shanghai. The Wells Fargo representative obviously didn't get his English training in Oxford or anywhere that people actually speak English. I eventually figured out that he was calling about a late payment of $12. OK, I said, I'll pay it online as soon as I hang up.

This is where it got strange and annoying.

He protested that if I paid online it wouldn't be processed until Monday (not true). He wanted me to pay him or, allow him to draft my checking account (unfortunately also with Wells Fargo). I guess this process generates income for the call center. Anyway, this is where I lost my signature cool. I said I would pay online, told him not to call me again and slammed the phone down.

I went to the Well Fargo site, paid off the credit card entirely and fired off a angry message to Customer Service. Later in the day I got a friendly " we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you." message from someone code named Jessica M.

Being still pissed off I wrote back that in future instances when they needed to get in touch with me I preferred email and that I NEVER wanted to get a call from one of their "offshore call centers" again.

I must have pissed them off because the message I got in reply said
"If a cease and desist calls is placed on your account it will automatically be closed. Is that still your request?"

So this was how it was going to be. They would be nice to you--until they weren't. Oh, and this message was not from little Jessica M, it was from Wells Fargo Card Services.

I wrote back accusing them of intentionally misconstruing my message. The tone of their next message softened somewhat and I decided not to push my luck by replying further. My finances are so intimately entwined with Wells Fargo that pissing them off is not smart no matter how angry I am.

So what have we learned:

1) Big banks don't take shit

2) The miracle of fiber optics allows big banks to find the cheapest call center labor on Earth

3) English is optional

4) Don't answer your phone, ever

5) Never use that VISA card again


Monday, May 09, 2011

Avian Neighbors from Hell

We had a new family move in with us last month. Right from the start we knew they were going to be trouble--they are European after all. They were up at the crack of dawn making all sorts of noise. We'd bang on the wall to get them to shut up and they'd stay quiet for maybe 15 minutes and then they'd start in again. They'd carry on late at night too.

Things have gotten a lot worse now that they've had kids. Their kids are always hungry and seem to be crying to eat every 15 minutes or so. I know they're running their parents ragged which would suit me just fine (they deserve it) but they're annoying the heck out of us too. Maybe if they were better looking I'd have a little more sympathy for them but they're not. The mom and dad look freakishly alike and to be honest, from a distance I can't tell them apart. I'm guessing their kids are ugly too but I've never seen, only heard them.

My wife encourages me to have patience with them but I know they're bugging her as much as me. She thinks they'll be moving on pretty soon but I don't know. Those kids can't even walk yet, let alone fly.

I'm not sure if this is the same family of starlings that bored a hole in my siding last year (the hole which cost us $$ to have repaired) but the hole they bored this year put them inside the wall just above our bed and for a while we worried that they would come through the drywall. Happily they didn't.

I probably should have called Terminex as soon as I heard them--I'm sure they would have taken care of the situation. But these were birds, not bats or mice. I like birds and feed them. Had I known they were starlings, however, I might have felt differently. Everything I've read online tells me that starlings are a nuisance bird that will keep coming back and are not easily discouraged. As kind-hearted as I normally am toward animals (despite what my wife may tell you), the first sign of bird re-occupation next year and I'm calling an exterminator.

In the meantime, until the babies leave home we'll be learning more about the lifecycle of the European Staring.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Cult of the Record Bar 5 years hence

Five years ago I wrote a blog "Cult of the Record Bar." It's still there if you'd care to read it. It was a piece about remembering a time of relative innocence when I was younger, listened to a lot of music and managed a record store--a job envied by countless thousands. This was also the time I got the 1500+ vinyl records that I dutifully pack and take with me when I move. These LPs represent pretty much the only interesting inheritance I will leave to my children to fight over.

Anyway, the Blog somehow shows up on the first page of Google when people search for "the Record Bar." I started getting comments--just a few at first but then lots of them as people with Record Bar connections told their friends about it. A few years later when I was getting interested in Facebook, I created a Cult of the Record Bar Group Page in Facebook. As of today there are 674 members of the group. OK, that's not a big number but I fully expect it to grow since everything I read tells me that the fastest growing group of new Facebook users are old-timers like me.

The other day the Cult page was honored when the Record Bar's former owners Barrie and Arlene Bergman joined the group and posted greetings on the wall. I have to admit I got a little giddy. I've been validated!

Many thanks to all the RB formers who wrote on the wall and posted pictures from days-gone-by. There will never again be such a thing as a record store and pretty soon video stores and maybe even book stores will go the way of the dodo as the world moves online. Look us up someday, we're in the Book ;-)