Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holy, Holy, Holy

So the hole is the size of a pinhead. Doesn't seem like a big deal, right? Unless, of course, you are one of those crazies who thinks the ideal heart shouldn't allow blood clots to pass to the brain.

Today's procedure...another wristband...another hospital gown...another IV...more great medical staff (they're starting to recognize me). But this time I was sedated. And that's appreciated when and echo-doppler probe is inserted into one's esophagus. I fear I'm becoming a regular at KUMed. And they'll be seeing even more of me. I'll meet with another cardiologist soon. A neurologist too. And they want more of my blood.

I'm going to continue writing my New Year's Resolutions with the mindset that all will be well and fine and these minor inconveniences will cease in the near future. And since the next decade begins in just a couple of days, I'd best get hopping on those.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On the Road Again

I've been remiss on follow-up for the Hot Red Speed saga. She failed me five, count them, FIVE times. Mr. Joy Agent took her under his wing and found that her fuel filter had become nearly impenetrable. Seems they should be changed every 50,000 miles or so -- she's got 137,000 under her [serpentine] belt. Joy Agent loaned me her car while the van was in his care. A secondary part broke during replacement so there were a few extra days spent driving a Toyota Avalon (I have sedan cravings now). When all was said and done, Joy Agent returned to me a freshly washed and vacuumed Hot Red Speed that was, in fact, hotter, redder and a lot speedier than before.

And after a dozen or so starts in varying degrees of, well, weather, I finally started to trust her again.

I trusted her so much, in fact, that I didn't listen to myself when I noticed that it had been a long time since I'd filled her up. She gave me the "Beep. You're down to 1/8 tank" three or four times, but the gauge didn't lower. So I kept driving. Until...

Yes. You know exactly what happened.

Initially, I feared we were back to the drawing board with more car woes. But I first called a friend whose house I'd just left and asked her to grab a gallon of gas and head my way. The van gave a rather hesitant start, but kept chugging then slowly came up to her normal idle. Sheesh. I'm foolish.

But lucky!

Because I have the best friends in the world.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Remarkable Summer Romance of 2008, cont...

Three months after our fabulous beginning, as we sat with our cappuccinos on his porch, Wasabi held my knee, looked me in the eye and told me that he felt we needed some time apart. What we had shared was amazing. It was fiery and nurturing and loving and crazy and sweet. But we were both baby pre-divorcees. Papers had been filed, but there was much left to be done. And we hadn't really lived as single people yet. It had been very easy to fall into the comfort of an affectionate, caring relationship, but through his wisdom, we gently released our clutched hands and chose to maintain a beautiful friendship.

I won't lie. I was heartsick. He had been my first romance after the marriage dissolved...perhaps the first of my life. And it was a wondrous one. He gave me respect, attention, affection and taught me that I deserve all of those things and more. And I knew that he was right. We were too new at single to get wrapped up in something with such potential.

We continued to see each other every month or so, meeting for lunch or a drink or coffee and lots of great conversation. We shared dating disasters and updated the other on our children's lives. Each meeting ended with a sincere hug, a genuine smile and an "I love you." There were times throughout the year that I longed to be back in his arms, and others that I knew the space between us was merited. And when The Poet came into my life, Wasabi was genuinely happy that I had found "the love I truly deserved."

I always felt he and I would be lifelong friends. I thought we'd continue to meet for coffees long into the future. I thought we'd invite each other to our eventual weddings. I thought I'd send his kids graduation cards.

But The Poet came to me with a pre-existing condition. His ex- had cheated on him and his ability to trust was tenuous at best. To keep the peace, Wasabi and I halted any facebook chit chat, as well as our monthly meetings and occasional text messages.

And while I loved The Poet, I was saddened by the loss of an important friendship.

So when The Poet and I ended, I sought forgiveness from Wasabi for abandoning him. And he quickly granted it with the same hug, smile and I love you that we'd rehearsed so many times.

I don't think this will surprise you...we have now opened our more mature, post-divorce hearts to one another and are pursuing the rest of the relationship that we suspended that September. Thus far, I feel promise and joy. We first thrived as lovers and later as friends. Now we can combine those experiences into something greater than the sum of the two.

I'll be taking it easy here. You will likely witness many good times, some struggles and hopefully a lot of laughter with us. But I make no promises. I speak of no forevers. Not yet.

Our mantra for this journey is This is not a race. So grab a drink, settle in, and let's all watch where this goes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Ace in the Hole

I'm working on one heck of a "What I Did Over Winter Break" story. This is what I have after just one week...

After my "incident" last Monday, I spent the bulk of Tuesday wrangling follow-up care. Not an easy task, mind you. Being rather a rookie in the world of medicine and doctors and health coverage and whatnot, I was amazed at the hoops through which I was forced to jump. After about five hours on the phone to various sources, I managed an ER follow up appointment at KUMed (my initial visit had been at Shawnee Mission Medical Center) on Wednesday.

The doctor was interested in my story and lack of risk factors. She was looking forward to presenting it the following morning, but was honest in explaining that the upcoming tests that I would be taking would doubtfully provide much for answers. The diagnosed TIA was likely a fluke and my life would probably go on normally with little more than a faint memory of those garbled words and a decent bog post.

The next morning, I returned to give them a few vials of blood and the following Monday I had cardiac tests. They checked my carotid artery for plaque -- none to be found, and then ran an echocardiogram (I was told my arteries are very photogenic) and a bubble study to see if I had a PFO. After the nurse injected saline in my bulbous vein (my arms read like a road map -- "I could stand across the room with a dart and draw blood," one tickled nurse chortled), a whoosh of bubbles crossed from my right atrium to my left. There's a hole in that thar heart! No biggie. Lotsa folks have them (20-30% of adults, it's believed). But it could be a reason as to the TIA, so it was good to have more information than we thought we'd gather.

Tuesday morning, the ER follow up doc called. She'd seen the results of the heart test and was surprised to be gaining ground on finding a reason for my event. She mentioned the PFO, which I knew about, but also said there was a potential atrial septal defect. She scheduled another heart test -- a transesophageal echocardiogram -- to get a better look at the hole(s) in my heart and to see if further treatment is necessitated.

Now, that same morning I woke with an odd achiness in my left arm. I figured I had slept on it wrong and it would come back to life after awhile. But it kept nagging. It felt tingly and occasionally hurt, and now and then I felt a pang just below my left clavicle. Now, I have ignored many pains for many years, but on the day a doctor tells you that there is at least one hole in your heart and to "keep taking that aspirin to prevent clotting," an ache in or around the heart certainly gives you pause. I ignored it the best of my abilities, arguing that I was over thinking and just needed to chill. But it continued to nag at me. The doctor had told me to watch for any interesting symptoms and I knew a whole slew of folks who would ream me if I experienced another mini-stroke that my body warned me was coming.

So after I had successfully tackled much of my to-do list for the day, my arm continued to fuss and I reluctantly listened. At about 4:30 I headed to KUMed's ER and hesitantly told them my story, acknowledging that there was probably nothing wrong, but I had to cover my arse. They agreed, gleefully drew more blood and sent me to a room. Where I waited. For a very, very long time.

And of course, once the doc arrived, I couldn't really describe my symptoms. "It's sorta like icy-hot is running through my veins." "Kinda achy, but kinda not a real pain." "I didn't drop anything today because I didn't use that arm today...but I don't have any decreased strength either." I know he was loving me...not. But he wanted to err on the side of caution, and a neurologist was on staff for the evening, so...more waiting. And then I got to tell the story again. After a bit of internal debate on his part, he ordered an MRI. I was wheeled down to the dark, dank basement where they keep the magnetic fields and radiation tucked away from the masses...and...I waited. But not before a tech delivered the news that an extra test had been ordered and I was looking at about an hour and forty five minutes in a cozy tube.

By the time that was done, it was nearing midnight and I was well-past hungry. As I emerged from the basement, I had visions of a quick signing of release papers and a short drive home to feed the cat and drag the trash to the curb, but there was more waiting to be done. Eventually the neurologist returned, saying he didn't see anything abnormal on the scans, but he'd have them read by a radiologist. And shortly before 1 a.m., they took the uncomfortable hep-lock out of my arm and I wearily left.

Just after 9 this morning I got a call. The neurologist. Though yesterday's arm fuss was neither here nor there, last week's so-called TIA was not, in fact, a TIA at all. The radiologist saw what indicates the event was a sub-acute stroke, complete with permanent brain damage (on a very small scale). So though yesterday's trip wasn't merited as per my symptoms, it got me in with the neurology department a full three months earlier than my upcoming appointment and uncovered yet another important piece of my puzzling ailment.

For the lessons learned portion of today's post:
  1. You get faster service at the ER if you garble your words.
  2. Bring a book.
  3. Throw a tangerine and a gluten free granola bar in your bag too.
  4. No nose rings for an MRI -- so bring a plastic shunt for the hole, 'cause it's a major drag to get it back in after two hours.
  5. Veiny arms are as good as porn for nurses.
  6. KUMed is hands-down the finest ER in the city.
Best of all, I now may freely throw down the Brain Damage card for any and all foibles on my part. I've got nothin' to complain about. Nothin' I can remember anyway...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth

After much deliberation, I decided that the best way celebrate the end of finals week and earning straight As for a 2nd semester in a row was with a trip to the emergency room.

...because a martini seemed so cliche.

I met Wasabi Monday evening for a celebratory cuppa green tea to cap my semester and toast those hard-earned grades. As the evening wore down, something rather odd happened. I couldn't talk. Why, yes, Jennifer. That is odd... I was actually unable to speak. Thoughts were in my head, yet mush was coming out of my mouth. After the first try, I just laughed, not realizing that something might actually be wrong. I giggled over the silly sounds then tried to form more words. Only garbled consonants came out. Before long, Wasabi began pressing me to let him know I was fine. I tried over and over to say nothing more than, "I can't talk," but it wouldn't come out. After much labor, I finally emitted enough sounds in sequence to convey the thought. He had heard an article about strokes on NPR that morning so after much kicking and mumbling on my part (including the statement, "Dis wih make a great bog...I mean bog...ugh."), he dragged me to the hospital. By the time we arrived, I was able to reasonably communicate. My speech was labored but understandable. And while I desperately wanted someone to tell me that there was no reason for me to be there and that he was overreacting, the response was quite the contrary. Admit nurse: "It was probably a good idea you came." Triage nurse: "This is very concerning. He's going to get to say 'I told you so' more than once." Doctor: "You don't mess around with symptoms like that. It's good that you're here."

So for the finale of my Second Semester Culmination Celebration, I donned a lovely sea foam green gown, participated in voluntary blood-letting, got EKG'd (all the cool kids are doing it) and was exposed to alpha, beta and gamma radiation in my first ever CT scan.

Diagnosis: this was likely a mini-stroke. Doctor's orders: Follow up right away with a neurologist. No more exercise until further notice. And drop everything and get to an ER if there are any similar symptoms.

I feel fine now. I'm in the throes of acquiring the follow-up care that is warranted while getting a first hand lesson in why health care reform is necessary, yet probably won't work (another bog for another day). For now, I'll try to lessen my risk of recurrence by quitting smoking, giving up junk food and (when permitted) starting a fitness regimen.

Wow. That was easy.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


One peeve in this life of mine is the misuse of the word nauseous.
: nau·seous: \ˈn-shəs, ˈn-zē-əs\
Function: adjective
: causing nausea or disgust : nauseating
: affected with nausea or disgust

So if you feel compelled to tell me that you're nauseous, I can only assume that you believe yourself to be disgusting and could very well cause me to become ill. If you're feeling sick to your stomach, you might want to claim to be nauseated.

But the biggest annoyance in my life right now is the undetectable something that ails Hot Red Speed. She's still off and on (and off) and very, very vexing.

My car woes have become nauseous.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's a Start...

Take a wild guess as to what happened when I got to my car on Wednesday after class.

Yes. Or rather, No. It didn't start.

And while on Monday when my car wouldn't work I tried to be grateful that it was not cold AND rainy, the Wednesday Cold (yes, it deserved to be capitalized) was a formidable foe and I was too chilled to find a reason to be gracious.

But Lab Partner Laura was still on campus and was able to attempt the (failed) jump and then kept me warm in her car while I called my mechanic who sent a tow (at his expense) who had a nice cozy cab on his truck and got me back to my little city, where Fab Miss K picked me up and brought me to Casa del Mar. Bonus: no tears.

But what on earth was plaguing Hot Red Speed? The boys at my shop were stymied. Wouldn't start yesterday, but then was fine today. And they couldn't get it to fail again. They fussed with it all day today hoping it wouldn't start so they could run more tests.

And then Joy Agent 007 called me. Mr. Joy Agent is a mechanic and she was generously offering his services. I gave her the story, she passed it to him and he said, "Pish, posh! That's not a fuel pump (what the shop was tending toward). That's water in the gas line!" And it all made sense. Two cold days. Once the car was at the shop it would start. Couldn't recreate the failure in a warm building.

So as all good Howrey girls have done for many years, I called Dad to confirm Mr. Joy Agent's theory. He gave it a big thumb's up. And I retrieved my car. I gave her a dose of fuel system cleaner and a tank of premium. She'll sleep warmly in the garage tonight and will hopefully gleefully take me to spinning early tomorrow, and a bit later, the kids to school.

Today had been filled thoughts of worst-case-scenarios of vanlessness or car payments or financial indebtedness to loved ones. I'm not quite done holding my breath as to the conclusion of my auto drama, but I'm certainly optimistic and hoping the prayer that the Shaman said over Hot Red Speed will hold.

And sitting in my warm home with the electric blanket preheating my bed, I can find lots of reasons to be gracious. Thanks.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Break Down

Just days ago while singing the praises of my overly charmed life, I pondered what was worth mentioning and what I could edit. One particular cut comes to mind. Hot Red Speed. I had written that I was blessed to have a car that starts each morning. With all of the other wondrous things for which I was thankful, that and another something or two were deleted and I went on my merry way.

It should come as no surprise to you that the minivan took that omission very personally. So on Monday as I left school, well, I didn't leave school. She cranked just as always, but couldn't quite make it over the hump. I tried three or four times and then sat for a minute or two in my rather chilly auto, hoping just a little patience and a quiet plea would do the job. No luck. So just as all good Howrey girls have done for many years, I called Dad. He's always good for a troubleshooting trick or two. He suggested that I find some starter fluid and spray it into the air filter. I really wanted to get home and I take Dad's car advice pretty seriously, so I headed back into school to see if Lab Partner Laura was still studying and could give me a lift to the hardware store about 1/4 mile away. She'd already left so I trekked through as many campus buildings that I could until I had to brave the outdoors and College Blvd. to purchase said starter fluid. I made it there, and then back to the car, only to realize that many of the tools that previously resided in the van had made their way into the garage or the house, namely the socket set needed to open the air filter casing. A few more pensive moments and then finally back into school where I figured I'd look up a tow service and find my way home. But when I got to the Science Resource Center, I thought to ask if security offered get-your-car-started help. Alas, they do! A call was made and help was sent. I was hoping for a socket set, but he only had a jump. I didn't think I needed it, but we tried anyway. No go. So back to the SRC and I googled then called a tow. Only 15 minutes later, it arrived, the driver played along with my starter fluid theory (it didn't work), and then he loaded up Hot Red Speed for a ride back to my neck o' the woods.

And while the gentleman from the towing company was doing his job, I fell apart. Bawling, sobbing, gasping, weeping. Crazy stuff! I had called Dad back, letting him know what was up but could barely talk. And I was ashamed. Why on earth do I have a right to be crying over a broken down car? So many live with such greater burdens. I could see I was being ridiculous and scolded myself (and perhaps that made me cry harder) and my father, in a moment of wisdom and sympathy said to me, "Everything breaks down eventually."

I pulled myself together (for the most part) and took in the cozy ride to my mechanic where the Fab Miss K (I'm trying out a new name for Study Buddy Kristen) awaited with a ride back to Casa del Mar. The haze began to lift and I could see how delightful everything in my life really is. Lab Partner Laura (who had already headed home when I looked for her) was willing to come back to school to get me home. Dad offered a spare car if the problem was bigger than my bankbook. Wasabi and Martin were both ready to jump in and help wherever needed. Concert Katrina was on top of the crisis as well.

Now, I don't like to drag my loved ones into my misery. Historically, I've been pretty dead-set on handling the mishaps life hands me on my own. But in the last year, I've lessened my need for complete independence (though it's still very very hard to ask for help). And back to that whole falling to pieces thing...I think I was weeping because I had lost control. These days, nearly every minute and every dollar are allocated weeks in advance. To lose an afternoon and who-knows-how-much-money was backbreaking. Or so I thought at the moment.

While chatting with Wasabi, I expressed that I hoped Hot Red Speed wouldn't betray me like gluten had. And I got my wish. A bad battery. That's it. No biggie. A day in the shop. A few more dollars than had I figured it out myself. And another reminder that I have the best friends in the universe.

And that includes you, Hot Red Speed. Thank you for being there for me.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Seasons Change

Uggghh.....the holiday season is here. Incessant chirpy songs, bargain driven shoppers taking down their neighbors for a discount dvd player and misguided religious folk celebrating a birthday at the wrong time of the miserable.

Wait! That's the old Jen. So I'm exorcising my inner grinch this year. Fifteen years of intense distaste for Xmas is plenty. It's time to cheer up!

I have no reason to be crabby. My life is absolutely completely perfectly exquisite. There is nothing in my world that is not exactly what it should be. I have set myself up for an amazing rest-of-my-life. My children and I are healthy and thriving. I live in a comfortable, safe home. I have open access to higher education. My friends and family are the best available on the market today. I am loved.

Much of this holiday fuss appears to be based on greed and commerce in these United States, however I will enjoy it this go-round. I will enjoy it because my children anticipate it. I will enjoy it because my friends relish in it. I will enjoy it because it can bring out the best in people.

Though I doubt I'll win the Miss December pageant, (okay, Ms. December), this time will be better than its predecessors. I will not grumble at those who wish me a Merry Christmas. I will smile at the bell ringers, I will understand that though some act foolishly, most are sincere in their sentiment and truly thrill in giving to those they love.

The holiday at Casa del Mar won't be the visually impressive shiny box filled room that my kids might desire, but my wish is that this new-found spirit will instead overflow our home with a love for sharing that I can only hope is contagious. Hmmm...I think a warm and fuzzy feeling just tapped me on the shoulder. This might even be fun!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Woman's Got To Do...

It has been a non-stop day since long before the sun rose. And I will not do any more that is on my to-do list tonight. Except scribble the word "blog" and then gleefully cross through it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Term Limits

Nearing the end of the semester...sheesh. Fall is a lot longer than summer! And the intensity toward the end of this term seems to be much greater. More than anything, I think the cumulative chem final is looming over any true relaxing I might wish to do over the course of the next twelve days.

But it really has been a great semester. One rather frustrating class, an easy, albeit uninteresting online one and then of course, chemistry. Can't believe I let that one slip past me in high school and my first go-round of college. It's so cool! And to be honest, I don't think you'll hear me judge any portion of my educational experience negatively. I am so excited for what I'm doing and where I'm going on a daily basis that the ick that accompanies any part of this amazing journey is swallowed up (much like a phagocyte might attack bacteria) by my awe of the fabulous possibilities that I see on the horizon.

But for now, phenomenal or not, I'm pretty tired. And am looking forward to the liquid lunch that will most certainly follow my final final on the 14th. You're invited.