Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sometimes, you just feel it...

When your body is telling you that something is just not quite right.

I've had that "feeling" so I took myself to my cardiologist for my annual exam (and to get my medication refilled). I knew he'd tell me I was overdue for a thallium stress test and echo. I knew it. I was right. He said I was overdue and why didn't he have any results for the last one he scheduled???

Because, I had canceled it (I told him that Ron had been sick). The same day his receptionist made it (I didn't tell him that part). I don't like them. I don't mind the treadmill part and I don't mind the echo. I HATE the thallium "picture taking" part. Since I broke the head of my left humerus off when I was 14 (that's your big "upper arm" bone and the head is what rotates around in your shoulder socket; I broke it at the "surgical neck"), I have some limited range of motion. At the time, it was thought that I'd not be able to lift my left arm (straight out in front of me) higher than a casual wave (sort of like John McCain's mobility issues with his shoulders). I am able to comfortably get it nearly straight up in the air - but it takes a couple of tries. When I lie down on my back on the floor, I cannot touch the floor with the fingertips of my left hand when I put my hands over my head, but I can with my right. I have some extreme issues with external rotation of my shoulder (see Figures 2 and 3 on that page; I cannot do the "left" action in Figure 2).

That being said, part of the thallium test involves lying on a table with your LEFT arm over your head for two 20-minute sessions. The machine is also very close to your face. I have anxiety attacks. See where I'm going with this???

The technician is really very nice but there is only so many times I can hear, "Mrs. Williams, if you don't quit moving your left arm, these pictures won't be any good." Never mind that I tell her each time, I'm not moving my arm - it won't go where you want it, and when it gets put there, it won't stay. I have no control over it...  She doesn't appear to believe me.

But, I've been feeling enough "off" that I decided I'd take 1/2 of a dose of Xanax so I could handle the machine being right next to my face and maybe I'd be able to get my arm to go farther and stay longer where she wanted it to stay. I have to say the test went well and I didn't freak out over the machine or the arm issue.

The treadmill and I also seemed to get along better this year, so I was thinking that maybe everything was all in my head, or a figment of my imagination.

Not so... I had an abnormal EKG and it remained abnormal throughout the treadmill session. Oh Joy! Also, my mitral valve prolapse has not gotten any worse (that is good), but I've developed a mild tricuspid regurgitation. Since it's mild, it's probably an OK thing. For now... If it gets worse, or the mitral valve gets worse, I'd be looking at valve replacement surgery.

Right now, I'm looking at a heart cath to make sure there's no serious reason for my abnormal EKG. I had a baseline EKG two years ago (June 2008) so he'll have something to compare to.

My biggest thing - you have to have a driver (I WILL be sedated) and Ron is definitely out. Amy and Keith are so low down on PTO that I wouldn't even ask them to ask for the time off. I think that Keith could take me (would have to be there early one morning) and then maybe Amy could come get me and take me home.

I'm sure it will all work out in the end, but I sure don't know when I have a convenient time to take off for a heart cath. Ron's learning to use his leg (haven't practiced this week at all), we have BIG deadlines at work next week (and the week after), and the rest of the year until mid-December is going to be very, very busy.

The heart tests do show that I'm not at risk for stroke, so that is a good thing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just a thought...

Yesterday, I was watching the news when they showed some coverage of a house fire that started in the family's garage. As they were pushing this destroyed BMW out of the garage, I had a thought...

Ron's ramp is in the garage.
If we had a fire in this end of the house, how would he get out?

Maybe we'll practice more (and longer) on that leg.

But, adrenaline will do wonders for getting you going. I bet (if needed) we could shove that leg on and he could hobble down the front (or back) steps if needed.

Not planning on the need, but you have to keep these things in mind when you have a wheelchair-bound person in the house. How do you handle evacuation emergencies? I don't know and I pray that I never have to find out.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blah days

I've stayed away this week for a multitude of reasons, being extremely busy at work one of them. But, I've just been really down in a funk the past week or so. I don't allow myself to get too down for very long because I really do have a blessed life. But I haven't been able to get a grip on those boot straps (a.k.a. armpit jewelry) this week. I've come home from work, caught up on reading emails, read a few blogs, and stayed away from my own.

I knew I'd just post doom, despair, and boring crap. I imagine me whining about Ron's health issues are getting pretty old. This week, I didn't have anything good to say about his health so I decided to say nothing at all.

He says he's having more and more trouble seeing. He just had his eyes checked before his May surgery. I told him to call next week to schedule another appointment. It's only time and money, right?

He (gonna get personal here) is having trouble not wetting himself when he is on the way to the toilet. His kidneys don't tell him he has to "go" until he's practically "going" already. This gives him very little time to get from his chair, into the wheelchair, to the bathroom, and onto the toilet. He's started keeping a urinal by his chair and is just dumping it during the day. I told him to call and make an appointment for that next week, too. Maybe he needs a "turn your head and cough" exam. How they do that if someone can't stand up is beyond me, but I guess it needs to be done.

His left knee hurts so badly that getting practice on his new leg is out of the question. He could barely get in and out of the car today because his left knee was so bad. I had to go help him off the toilet tonight because he couldn't stand up on his own. How can he have surgery on that if he can't use the right fake leg yet??? I'm out of answers.

He's about to the point where he can no longer do the insulin injections himself. The pens are so stiff that they're hard to do. I have trouble with some of them and I have two (relatively) good hands.

I'm just really tired of it all. Each new light at the end of the tunnel has just been a flippin train.

I closed my eyes for just a moment - really I did...

And, just look what happened -

My little baby went from this:

To this:

I swear, it was practically overnight.

He celebrated like this one time:

And, then he celebrated like this:

He's had fun doing this:

And, gone through stages like this:

And, this:

And, he's even looked like this:

At one time, he was even much shorter, like this:

He's made me very proud, like this:

But, no matter what stage "this" is, my baby is all grown up now and I can't believe how fast the time has flown. First he was just a "little" guy (9 pounds, 1 ounce; 20 inches long) and, in the blink of an eye, he was grown. I closed my eyes for just a moment, and he grew, and grew, and grew.

Moments frozen in time...

     First words, first steps, first haircut
     Chubby little toddler, getting into everything
     Needing stitches for the very first time 
     Cooking eggs in the microwave when he was four years old
     Cooking popcorn on top of the solid core stove top - without a pan because I told him he couldn't get dishes out to cook by himself any longer. Solution: pour oil directly on the burner, add popcorn kernels, stand back and wait for the popcorn to fly. Age 4.
     Roller blading down the street
     Needing stitches again
     Breaking his left wrist
     Shattering his right wrist - and two surgeries
     Learning to drive - and us living through it. Right turn on red after stop does not mean left turn on red after stop is also OK.

Blink, blink, blink - and now he's a man.

Happy Birthday to my (little) big boy! Keith is 24 today.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Oak Ridge Boys gift

I was very pleased to open my mailbox this afternoon to find an envelope from The Oak Ridge Boys. It contained Joe Bonsall's book, From My Perspective, and an inscription to us from him. "To Ron & Teresa Love & Blessings C U Next Time Joe Bonsall." I haven't read this book yet, so that's what I will be doing this evening. The envelope also contained their CD "The Gospel Collection," which has some really great songs on it. I especially like #2 - Did I Make a Difference. The words of that song are some that everyone should really listen to and apply them to their own lives. Very powerful lyrics...

Got a business card, too. LOL - I was hoping it was a "get in free" card. LOL - a girl can always dream, right?

Ron was really touched about the gift, and that Joe had taken the time to address it to us. Even if someone else did it in his name, it was still something more than just pulling a book and a CD off of a shelf and plopping it into the mail. There was thought in the selection.

Now... if I can just figure a way to get us to the Gaylord Opryland Resort for the December 21 concert... Hmmm...


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reality Sometimes Bites

Well – my vacation is definitely over… Glad I had that relaxing week for the wedding because reality is biting my rear and I’m not a happy camper over it, at all!

Let’s see, how do I count the ways that things have been less than “fun” since I came back to the real world…

 - Ron fell on Saturday before I left, and although he didn’t break anything, he did cause himself some bodily pain and swelling in his “limb.”

 - The week I came back, he fell again – this time, not directly down on his limb but while we were trying to get him into the shower. That whole scenario just isn’t working out. I have got to figure out a better way to transfer him in and out of the shower.

 - Last night, when I came home from work I found him “stranded” in his lift chair. It had broken on the way down and he couldn’t get out. I have had fears about something like this happening, but more on the lines of the power going out. It has a batter back-up available (need to put in a 9-volt battery) so that isn’t an issue. I pulled the paperwork for the chair (which we bought from an individual) and it says on it that the warranty is only good for the original purchaser. I kind of had a feeling this would be the case (ran into that with the wheelchair – although it was new, it was “used” when we purchased it because we were not the original purchaser, and even though it had a factory defect they would not cover the repair). I called the local repair office. Left a message. They didn’t call back.

 - Had to go downstairs for a tornado warning last night. We don’t usually worry too much about the weather (hey – we’re in Kansas and used to this stuff), but last night we decided we’d heed the recommendations and take shelter. 15 minutes later, we’re still on the stairs. If a tornado had actually come through (it was on the ground less than five miles from us), we would have not been in a very safe place. When it was time to come back upstairs, it took another 15 minutes or so of Ron crawling up the stairs on his knees. His very sore knees, I might add. Then, try getting a 250+ pound man into his wheelchair. Alone. With no help. Lovely…

 - Ron’s friend has been at our house for over three four hours trying to fix the darn lift chair. He’s taken it apart at least three four times and when it goes back together, it will go smoothly on the track once or twice – and then start hanging up again. Darn, darn, and darn again. He’s a builder/carpenter, “jack of all trades” kind of guy. He can’t figure out why it’s hanging up like it is.

 - Today’s foray into the orthotics office was successful in that Ron got a new brace for his left leg, which will help mimic the “toe off” action when walking. Insurance won’t pay for it and all the guy would say was, “It’s not cheap, but we’ll file insurance anyway.” It’s carbon fiber. He wouldn’t even begin to tell us what the artificial leg expense is. We got six socks in one thickness, three socks in a 2nd thickness, and three socks in a 3rd thickness. He’s supposed to use however many he needs to pad the socket. Plus, he got two shrinker sock sets (one each in two different sizes) for the “residual limb” and I know those are about $25 each (got one bill setting here to pay for the last one).

That probably doesn’t sound like too much – and it really isn’t, but I wish my reality was a little less on the negative side and a bit more on the positive side.

The week hasn’t been a total negative, though. Last weekend, I wrote an email (out of frustration) to The Oak Ridge Boys International Fan Club. They were at the Kansas State Fair (this past Tuesday) and the handicap accessible seating sucks. If you find out early enough (which I did not), you might be able to get fairly decent seats. If not, you’re watching the concert on monitors, and if I’m going to watch something exclusively on a monitor I don’t really want to take the time (over an hour each way), the expense ($25 per ticket, plus gate entrance fee and parking fee) to do that. Call me selfish, but it just wasn’t happening. And, as many radio stations as there are around here, none of them are allowed to give away handicapped accessible seating in contests. So even if I were to be able to win a concert tickets, it would do me no good. That was on the 11th. Yesterday, I actually got a response from the, which I thought was very nice of them. They asked for our mailing address and they’re going to send Ron a little gift. That was cool. I haven’t told him – it’s going to be a surprise since I wasn’t able to take him to the concert. The Oaks are having a special Christmas concert in Nashville on December 21. We'd like to go, but... not in the cards. It would be awesome, though. You can read about it here.

Also, Ron was able to get up on his temporary leg and walk several feet. He did that twice and then he walked a third time the length of parallel bars up and back. That was awesome. He was shaking by the time he got back to his seat, but he did it. It was so good that it deserves its own posting.

He walked!

It wasn't far and it wasn't fast - but he was able to get up and walk on his temporary leg.

His "leg" was swollen from his two falls so they had to wrap Ace bandages around it twice to help with the swelling. Here's a picture of him playing with his new foot, but it shows the wraps around his leg.

They left the wrap on for about 15 minutes the first time and closer to 30 minutes the second time. They weren't able to get his leg to go down into the socket liner at all until after the first wrap, and then couldn't get it to go down into the socket until after the second wrap. Once they got him in the socket far enough, they started doing some "tweaking" of the shaft of the leg.

You can see in this picture that his right knee is quite a bit higher than his left knee.

The black band around his left leg is part of a carbon fiber brace that goes down into the shoe, under the toe filler, and then up the side/back of the calf. It mimics the "toe off" motion during walking to give him more stability. That helped immensely. (Help doesn't come cheaply, though.)

He goes back next Friday for more adjustments. As he is up more, his leg will continue to shrink so they gave (I use that term loosely) him a total of 12 sock/sleeves in three different thicknesses and a total of two "shrinker" sets (those I know are $25 each). He's supposed to use the leg a little bit each day (will have to be when I get home) and increase a bit each day. We have to watch for skin issues and break-down, etc.

All in all, it was a good trip.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Dynamic Duo - Moya and Ian - Jamaica Tours Ltd.

Jamaica Tours, Ltd has two of the best and nicest employees known to man.

Our trip to Dunn's River Falls and Dolphin Cove was made all the more enjoyable by our tour guide and our driver. This picture is a bit grainy because of the humidity and the camera got all fogged up when it was taken out of the bag.

We were greeted bright and early at our hotel by this big bear of a man - Ian - and introduced to our tour guide. Ian was an excellent driver and kept us quite entertained on the way to our destination with comments and questions. After the first half of our day, he gave us a couple of different options for lunch and I was very pleased with the suggestion that we selected. The food was great and the waterfall outside of the establishment was beautiful. I just wish I'd had my camera so I could have taken some pictures of it  and now I can't even remember the name of the place. {sigh} Old age...

Our tour guide, Moya, is a tiny little thing (she's got 4 kids!) and Isaiah was immediately drawn to her. He didn't want to leave her side and even said he was going to get his bag and his game to go to her house. It took some convincing on our part that he really did need to come with us because we would miss him - and his "Crampa" would miss him, too. Reluctantly, he said he'd stay with us but Moya could come visit him when ever she wanted to.

Although an English speaking country, Jamaicans also speak Patois. Moya taught us a little bit of Jamaica's version of the language, but I must say that if we were to be tested, we'd all fail miserably. The only thing I remember is "mi a" which means "I am".

As we were about to the end of our return destination (the hotel), Moya told us a story that shall forever ring in my ears. It involved her granny, who was always saying, "Moya, shut'cha mouth" when it was time for Moya to answer a question - in particular, a question relating to getting married. The story goes on to say that granny eventually passed away, so when it was time for Moya to say "I do," there was not voice to say, "Moya, shut'cha mouth!"

All in all, it was a great day with them. I wished they could have been our companions for the entire trip. Ian sent his regards to Ron (which Ron really appreciated, and appreciated the fact that Ian took such good care of us).

So - hats off to Moya and Ian. If you ever find yourself in Montego Bay, Jamaica - and in need of outstanding driver and tour service, give Jamaica Tours, Ltd a call and request the dynamic duo. And - if Moya and Ian ever find themselves visiting the states, I hope they let us know and maybe we can return the "tour guide" favor to them!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fat Ronnie's

Before Ron moved to Wichita and became an electrician, he was in the food business. He managed several fast food restaurants over the years and eventually decided to open his own place.

From 1973 until Christmas 1976, Ron owned and operated a restaurant in Topeka, KS called Fat Ronnie's. He used to close between Christmas and New Year's, and in 1976 decided that he'd had enough. He sold Mexican, Subs, smoked meats, BBQ, deep fried mushrooms (says he had the first deep fried mushrooms in the state - and they were awesome), and fried onion rings.

The sign was a life-sized replica of himself. His body outline was drawn on plexi-glass and a sign was made from that. His motto was, "If you like the food, tell a friend. If you don't, tell Fat Ronnie." People would write notes on the white butcher paper wrappers (and napkins) telling Ron how much they loved his food. He was a BBQ master! He had a bunch of different condiments that he made - hot mustards, BBQ sauces, Italian dressing - and people clamored for more. The condiments were "self-serve" and were displayed on a 55-gallon barrel in the lobby. The bulk of his business was between midnight and 4:00 AM. When the bars would close, the bar patrons would be hungry and they'd make their way to Fat Ronnie's to have some good food. (I guess you could say that Ron actually had "fourth meal" before Taco Bell did.)

Ron's got so many funny stories to tell about his restaurant. One of them involves a microwave. He'd never used one before and had no idea that over-done bread would get hard as a rock after a few minutes of being out of the microwave. He'd fix up a sub, plop it in the microwave for a couple of minutes - they'd come out and be really hot and soft. By the time the customer got condiments, drinks, etc. the sandwich would be hard as a rock - crispy. It didn't take too many Subs for him to learn how to work it.

There are many recipe sites on the Internet that list what they think is Ron's mushroom recipe and his onion ring recipe. It's quite interesting to read them because Ron's recipe for deep fried mushrooms went something like this... Clean and slice mushrooms. Prepare "fish fry" mix according to instructions on bag. Dump mushrooms into fish fry mix and thoroughly coat. Deep fry until done. Enjoy.

Onion rings? Same recipe - just substitute onions for mushrooms.

The key to the quality of his product was that he always had his frying fat at the right temperature, kept it clean, didn't allow the fat to get old.

The sites do have one thing right... He did serve his onion rings and his mushrooms in a brown paper bag, and he always gave his customers "more" for their money than the competition.

If you do a "Google" search on "Fat Ronnie's Mushroom Recipe" you will get links to several recipe sites. Ron is very flattered to have "his" recipes on the 'net with credit for them going to him. I guess the recipes are actually re-creating the ingredients in the fish fry mix. It was made by General Mills and is probably the same stuff that Long John Silver's uses.

Pretty cool stuff for him.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Announcing my new grandson!

Zachary Keith Williams made his grand entrance into the world on Monday, August 30, 2010. He weighed 6 pounds 7.5 oz and was 20 inches long. He joins his big sister, Kaitlyn, and his big brother, Alexander.

All three of these babies were within ounces of being the same weight and within one-half inch in length. Pretty amazing! (LOL - my kids got bigger each time: 7# 11.5 oz; 8# 10 oz; 9# 1 oz)

I wasn't sure if we were getting a girl or if we were getting a boy. The main importance was that we were praying for a healthy baby.

As you can tell, Zachary was born with a lot of hair! If he's like Kaitlyn and Alexander, he'll need a haircut well before his first birthday!

I was on a plane to Jamaica on the morning of his birth so I had to wait until I could send a text message to my sister to find out ($2.00 for that little bit of info) and then I couldn't see any pictures on Facebook because the computer I was on (in Jamaica) wouldn't let me access my FB account. {sigh} I was having "new baby" withdrawals!!!

He is a tiny little thing - and cute as a button. I can't wait to see him in person - and give hugs and kisses. Need to plant a few of those on Kaity and Alexander, too!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Jamaican Vacation - Part I

Wow - where to start... First, I thought it wasn't going to happen. Ron fell on Saturday before I left and I thought for sure that he'd broken something. He initially said he was trying to get to the sink, but later realized that he had actually been standing at the sink and forgot that he only had one leg. He tried to shift his weight from his left leg to his right leg, and down he went. He landed straight on the bottom of his "residual limb" and broke the incision line open in a couple of places. I doctored it up and checked it all weekend before I left to make sure that it would be OK. He was sore, but he said that he didn't think anything was broken. He's much better now so I'm confident that nothing is damaged deep inside.

Each of our flights from Wichita to Atlanta and then on to Jamaica were uneventful, except for the fatigue factor. We left for the airport at 4:45 AM and arrived in Jamaica at 2:30 PM (they're on Eastern Standard Time, so while we're on DST we were in the same time zone). Amy and Rex were on their way out of the hotel to go shopping when Amy saw some luggage that looked like mine. The closer she looked, she realized she also saw luggage that looked like Isaiah's so she knew we were there. They followed the bellman up to our room. After hugs and kisses, we all decided to go into Montego Bay (on the Hip Strip) to do some shopping.

The Hip Strip was pretty cool. Lots of shops - a lot of them carrying the same items but with different prices. We had been warned to not tell them our names or they'd be carved into something that we would be expected to pay for and to not let anyone put bracelets or necklaces on us. One guy ran up behind me and grabbed Isaiah by the arm. Keith very nearly decked the guy until he realized he wasn't trying to take Isaiah but was trying to put something on his wrist. He wanted to "sell" us these bracelets for $10 each but "special price" just for us at $5 each. I wasn't letting him get one on my wrist, even though he was frantically trying to. I told him that I wasn't buying it, Keith said he wasn't buying it, but by that time Isaiah had run into the store to Amy to show her the bracelet he got. So, Keith pulled out $3 and handed it to the guy. We kept telling him that we didn't have any other cash and that was all he was getting. Since Isaiah was nowhere to be seen, he took it and left.

I spent the majority of my money (on that trip) at the store where our taxi driver recommended. It was duty-free and tax-free (saved us 17% in taxes) and the proprietor let me use his cell phone to call Ron and check in with him. Hip Strip was the safest place for us to shop as it's patrolled by police and there are very few panhandlers. We just happened to have one catch us before we could get away.

We didn't go on any other shopping trips but we did take three excursions. The first one was Tuesday and it was a catamaran tour with snorkeling and a visit to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville (which just happened to be on the Hip Strip). I was very faithful in my application of sunscreen (SPF 55) and still ended up looking like a lobster.

I put lotion and sunscreen on every day after that - many times - and ended up having to get some "after" lotion that had lidocaine in it.

The snorkeling was a lot of fun. Amy had wanted me to take Isaiah but he was fighting the whole process so much that I said I wasn't a strong enough swimmer to take care of both of us. I had to give him back to her and Rex. By the time it was all over with, I was too tired to make it back to the boat under my own power (I had drifted quite a way off) and had to have help. LOL - it was quite funny trying to climb the ladder but I made it under my own power. When I get my underwater camera pictures developed, I'll post a snorkeling message.

The next day was the beach wedding (I'll post pictures of it in a separate post) and it was beautiful - once it quit raining! It was nice all morning and then five minutes before it was supposed to start, the skies opened up and it just poured. And poured. And poured some more. But, it was still very nice and we got some great pictures.

Thursday, we left the resort quite early to travel to Dunn's River Falls for the morning and then we went to Dolphin Cove in the afternoon. They're in Ocho Rios and took about 90 minutes to get there. We had an excellent driver and tour guide. (Moya and Ian - and they deserve their own posting! They were that good.)

I was quite proud of myself. I managed to climb all the way to the top (with very little assistance and only one fall) under my own power. It is done "daisy chain" style and each person helps the person behind and/or ahead. It was truly a team effort. It took quite a while to climb (maybe close to two hours) and we stopped a lot during the climb for pictures and to just rest. It was beautiful.

This picture was taken about half-way up. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I imagined it would be.

Friday, we decided to do the catamaran and snorkeling tour again. Amy's friends didn't come down until Tuesday so they missed the first trip. Rex had worked on swimming with Isaiah on Wednesday, so by Friday he was really doing a great job. Tuesday, he wouldn't even put the mask on; Friday, he was snorkeling like a pro.

I was so proud of him!

Saturday, we hung out at the resort the whole day. They brought in vendors so we were able to complete our souvenir shopping without leaving. That saved us time plus about $30 in taxi fees.

More to come...