Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Absolutely the last part of that story about almost dying all those times...

I almost died twice in one week. This is part six of that story.


Part 1.

Part 2.
Part 3.

Part 4.
Part 5.
Part 6.
Part 7.
Part 8.

In just moments, after the call came over the little voice-thing the nurse had, chaos reigned in the formerly-peaceful room where I and a pregnant lady had been getting ready to watch me run on a treadmill.

The nurse stepped out into the hall, while I said "What's that all about?" and the pregnant lady shrugged, but before we could talk more than that, the nurse came back in with Jeff The ER Guy and Jeff asked me how I was feeling.

"A little bit worse now," I said, trying to figure out what was happening.

"Yeah, well, the blood tests came back and it looks like you did have a heart attack, so we're not going to put you on the stress test. Open your mouth," and I did, because when someone in a white coat in the hospital tells you to do something, you do it, even if that person just a few hours earlier was telling you that all your problems stemmed from a chili dog. Jeff took something and put it under my tongue and I mumbled:

"What's that?" and he said:

"It's nitroglycerin," which I even in my really tired, really pained, really bewildered state thought was kind of cool because I remembered nitroglycerin from Saturday morning cartoons and I liked the idea that I'd just had an explosive put under my tongue.

In the meanwhile, the nurse was telling me to come over and lie down on the bed that was next to the treadmill where I wouldn't be walking-almost-running in my Crocs, and someone was bringing in Sweetie, too, who entered as I was laying back on the table.

"We're going to go an EKG on you," the nurse said, and Jeff was explaining to Sweetie that the blood tests had shown that an enzyme released during a heart attack and that I'd had a heart attack and they weren't going to stress-test me and Sweetie was asking "Should I be worried?" and nobody was answering her, and during all that, in walked another person, Dr. Jaya.

Dr. Jaya was a short woman who looked to be from India or Pakistan or that region and although she was the smallest person in the room she had an authority that cleared space around her, an authority that seemed well-earned when she took a piece of paper from Jeff or the nurse and looked at it and said

"He's having a heart attack right now."

That shut the room up for a moment as everyone looked at her. Jeff said something or other, probably about chili dogs, but she pointed to something on the paper and said "It may be easier for me to see because I'm a doctor..." a cool, subtle putdown, I thought, maybe, later " ...but look here and here" and they all looked at the scribbles on the paper for a second and then everything exploded again and even more people came into the room.

Dr. Jaya came over to me and introduced herself and began telling me what was going on -- that I was having a heart attack and that they were going to have to do surgery to see why and I'd be getting prepped for surgery and then she began telling me the odds that things would go badly.

I'm not kidding: she gave me a spoken warning label, reciting statistics that the angioplasty I was going to get would have a 1-in-100 shot of this and a 1-in-1000 shot of that, and she had a piece of paper that she asked me to sign, which I had to do quickly because there were now two or three more people in the room, taking off my hospital gown and shaving me in all kinds of different places and putting yet another pulse-ox monitor on my finger, one they had to take off so that I could sign a release that Dr. Jaya had given me.

My legal training almost came through. I didn't actually read the release. Instead, I thought to myself: there's no way anything I sign right now is going to be enforceable, and signed it. I wanted to holler out to Sweetie the names of lawyers I knew to talk to if something went wrong, but Dr. Jaya was talking again, and, unbelieveably, Jeff was talking, too, telling me over and over how difficult it is to spot these things and how it was such an unusual EKG and how the steroids... blah blah blah. I felt like he was going to hand me a please don't file a complaint or sue me card.

Sweetie finally got to come over to me and said "Are you okay? Are you going to be okay?"

I didn't know because I didn't fully understand what was going on. But I said:


And she gave me a kiss and they wheeled me out of the room off towards the angioplasty area, where yet more techs came and talked to me, moving me onto an impossibly thin stretcher or table where there were warm blankets put over me -- the operating room was incredibly cold, they always are-- and the techs began talking to me about what it was I did (by then I was smart enough to say consumer lawyer, not just lawyer) and when I was born and did I have kids and how many, all the while doing more things.

That kind of small talk in an OR is amazing. The techs and nurses and doctors don't miss a beat. The conversation flows naturally even though there's all kinds of little interruptions. The techs will say something like "So, you have any kids, Briane?" and immediately then turn and start spouting medical jargon and then turn back and say "Five, really? That's great I've got" and then someone else says medical stuff and they say medical stuff back and continue without missing a beat "Two, mine are boys, how about you?"

And I just wanted to say SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT THE DEAL IS but then Dr. Lewis, the cardiac surgeon came in and did tell me what the deal was: He was going to cut into an artery in my leg and stick something up there until he got to my heart and poke around in the arteries in my heart until he found what the problem was and then he was going to fix the problem and did I have any questions?

My main question was where Sweetie was, and did she know about all of this, but I had a billion other questions like why my leg and what's in my heart that you think you'll find and even really? Because I had no idea that heart attacks were caused by something in the arteries? But I didn't ask any of those. I said:

"No, I guess."

And they said that I'd be sedated but not put asleep and that I'd actually be awake during the operation, which I thought was going to be awkward because I'd have to make small talk for however long this lasted. They were getting ready to do stuff to my IV as I thought that and as I tried desperately to think up topics of conversation to kill the next couple of hours with -- I hate small talk-- but before I could even come up with one, I was being wheeled out into the hall.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"They found the blockage and got it out. We're taking you to the room," the man said.

"What time is it?" I asked him.

It was about 6 or 6:30 and the operation was over. I had no recollection of anything after the stuff I just told you about. "Was I asleep?" I asked, and the guy assured me that I was not asleep at all, that I'd been awake but the drugs they give you keep you from remembering anything that happened [insert your joke here] and then we were at a room where I could see Sweetie looking pensively at something until she heard us and stood up and came over and hugged me.

"I'm okay," I said.

And I was. There was more to be done that night -- a nurse would have to come and press down on my thigh for twenty minutes, hard, to make the incision close up, and they'd have to give me warnings about how important it was that I not do anything to make the leg-cut open up again because it was a big artery and I'd die, and they showed me where the blood clot was in my heart and how they got it out, and they said they'd do more tests to find out how the clot got there in the first place, which they've now done and they never figured it out -- I don't have bad arteries or plaque or anything like that -- and I'd have to spend the weekend in the hospital and go back for a second angiogram and a CT scan and more stress tests and that one test that showed I have lazy ventricles and it'd be more than a month before I really got back to work and started feeling better...

... but I was fine that night, really, because it was all over except the shouting. All the rest of what happened after that was just epilogue, epilogue that dragged on too long like the way the Lord Of The Rings would have been better if that whole final part about the Shire had been cut out of the final book, but epilogue nonetheless. The heart attack was over, the blood clot was gone, the nurse had stopped smushing down my leg artery, and I was okay.

I'm getting the boot...

All summer long it's been my Crocs and the Babies!' sandals and even going barefoot -- but it's September now and September, in Wisconsin, heralds the start of winter. (In Wisconsin, Winter starts September 1 and ends never) And the start of winter means that I can't go around with my poor feet uncovered anymore, because it's not going to be long before the streets, sidewalks, yards and probably houses are a mucky slushy freezing icy mess.

So I need some boots, the Babies! need some boots, and you probably need some boots, too, unless you're lucky enough to live in Hawaii, where everything is always wonderful and candy grows on trees (I'm guessing.)

I've been looking around for what to get, as my usual method of picking out boots (grabbing the first pair I see on the rack at a department store) has left me less than satisfied in the past, and I found something called Rocky Boots at a website called "Boots USA" (boots-usa.com.) These boots look tough and sound tough -- they seem to be mostly aimed at police officers and postal workers, and that's all right with me, because those people spend all kinds of time outdoors and on their feet and in bad conditions, and if the boots work for them, they'll work for me the one time I go outside between now and next June. They're waterproof and tough-soled and strong, and beyond that, they look good, too -- not like that pair of SpongeBob moon boots I had to wear all last year. (I told you my system wasn't working anymore.)

The best part? If I get them from Boots USA, I get free shipping, and a "365 Day return" policy, with free RETURN shipping if I don't like them. So I can't possibly go wrong, the way I see it. And, of course, I get to order them online, so I don't even have to head out into the weather to pick them out.

Monday, September 13, 2010

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Seventy.

70. Don't vote.*

*(in any election where you can't identify at least three specific policies your candidate would enact.)

I'll be honest. Number 70, which I'm posting today because tomorrow is the primary for the fall elections (in Wisconsin, at least), was going to be, simply, "don't vote," but I backed away from that to allow for the possibility that someone, somewhere, should vote. That's why I added the asterisk.

But not everyone. And probably not even most people. Because we don't know. We don't necessarily know where a candidate stands on the issues, and even when the candidates tell us where they stand on the issues, we still don't know.

In Wisconsin, we have some people vying for Governor and for Senate; there's a primary tomorrow in both those races. In the Governor's race, the primary is between Scott Walker and Mark Neumann.

Before I wrote this post, I didn't know anything about either man's position on anything other than the commercials I'd seen on TV, from which I gathered that Walker thought Neumann's vote on a budget item in Congress in the 90s was dumb (even though Walker backed it back then) and that Neumann thought Walker was dishonest for saying the vote was dumb (even though Walker backed it back then.)

So I went to check out the burning issue of the day, jobs.

Scott says, on his website, that he'll create jobs, and says then that "The fastest, most effective way to create new jobs is to cut taxes and implement regulatory and fiscal policies that encourage job growth and economic investment."

On Neumann's site, meanwhile, I learned that Neumann is also for jobs: he's going to create 300,000 new jobs (why stop there? Why not go on to make another million?) and his plan sounds more specific, if by "specific" you mean "uses buzzwords like synergy." (Read the plan and marvel at how the first three paragraphs say the same thing three different ways.) Neumann then adds that as part of his plan, "All businesses will be offered a tax incentive to create new jobs in an amount to be determined based on the taxes to be paid over a 5–10 year period by the new employees and/or infrastructure and buildings built for the new businesses. The Neumann Administration will also completely overhaul rules and regulations relating to businesses."

So both men will implement new rules and regulations about businesses to create jobs. And I know nothing more about them than I did: what rules, exactly, would they implement? Would they be on top of the old rules? How do they square their opposition to government involvement in the economy with new rules and regulations about the economy? If they think government is no good at creating jobs (as both frequently say), why are they running for a spot in government while promising to create jobs?

See what I mean? We know nothing. TV commercials tell us nothing, and then the websites and candidates tell us more nothing, and we're supposed to vote for them based on that?

And even when the candidates tell us something, how can we trust that? John McCain, supposedly a man of integrity until his job was in jeopardy, was accused of flipping his position on immigration when he ran into tough primary opposition. So should voters in Arizona believe McCain's position now, or then? And if they agree that he's changed, then why should they believe him... ever? Voters in Arizona don't know anything about McCain, anymore.

Voting party lines doesn't help, either. The former head of the RNC, who helped orchestrate laws that discriminate against gays, is gay. Worst-President-Ever-George W. Bush was a supposed conservative Republican who used an unprecedented bailout to involve the government in business more than FDR might ever have dreamed. Bill Clinton, noted Democrat, helped eliminate important legal rights for defendants so they could be executed faster. And many Dems failed to support Obama on critical policies over the last two years. Which party are you going to vote for, the one that you think exists, or the one that actually exists?

We don't know. And the press isn't helpful either, because they don't say things like Mr Walker, what, exactly, will your fiscal policies be and which laws presently on the books would you urge the legislature to repeal? and if they did, most people wouldn't listen.

So tomorrow, and in November, and for the rest of your life, don't vote.**(in any election where you can't identify at least three specific policies your candidate would enact.)

Because voting for people you don't know who will implement policies they won't spell out for us in advance isn't helping anything.

And if you want to vote in the future, then before you do, go ask the candidates yourself what their positions are, because reporters won't do it. You may not get answers, but you will get an education in politics, and we might then eventually get better government.

Prior entries:

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

Is this working? You bet --

1001 Ways also helped change the world here!


1001 Ways also helped change the world here!


Claudius wanted to be the first man to reach the stars... but it was murder to get there. Read
Eclipse, the haunting sci-fi book from Briane Pagel. Available at Lulu.com and on your Kindle.


Ask a stupid question about smokers... (Publicus Proventus)

... get a stupid answer. Or get no answer, as Slate did when it ran an article headlined Why do most cigarette smokers tolerate massive state tax increases? Slate's answer? Gosh, we don't know.

To be fair, Slate appears to actually be using the question to begin beating the drum for raising taxes an inordinate amount without any economic harm, so not answering the question its headline posed might be excusable... except that the question was so dumb in the first place, and except that trying to analyze tax policy using smokers as a guide is terribly wrongheaded, and here's why:

Smokers are addicted.

According to the University of Minnesota website, nicotine is 5-10 times more addictive and potent than cocaine and morphine. Everyone knows (from watching New Jack City) what crack addiction does; it's no surprise that smokers will tolerate paying high prices to support their addictions.

(What is surprising is that smokers never seem to vote against anyone who votes to raise taxes on them. Mention that you might increase property taxes by 40% to benefit schools, and 1000 irate property owners storm the castle. Mention that you're going to increase taxes 1,800%, as New York did on smokers, and smokers shrug and light up another one.)

Smoking is addictive; it's highly addictive. And cigarettes are the only product I know of that, used exactly the way the manufacturer suggests, kills you. That's another reason why asking why smokers tolerate tax increases is a dumb question. The real question is why do we let cigarettes be sold at all.

Mr F likes his red blanket. (Life With Unicorns)

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