Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Need A Spoon-full of Sugar

Although I hate to dwell on medical issues they are an inescapable part of my life, so I will include an update here. Just the facts, please, ma'am.

Let's see, where was I? Oh yes, the echocardiogram results of a PFO back in June. After consulting with a cardiac surgeon last week (the head of the department, I might add) it was determined that I could skip the lengthy and involved approval process for PFO closure because of my CF and hypoxia (low oxygen levels). Skip to the head of the class. The only drawback being that I would need one or possibly two additional medical procedures prior to being able to have the PFO repaired.

Medical test number one: TEE or trans-esophageal echocardiogram. Basically the same test I had back in June, but a bit more detailed than the previous echocardiogram. For this one they need to do the ultrasound from within your esophagus, which gives a much better picture of the heart structures. Sedation is used as most people tend to not enjoy having an ultrasound scope inserted down their throat, and because of my history of CF I'd need to have general anesthesia in case of the need for a quick intubation. They'd give me light anesthesia so I'd still be breathing on my own, but were ready to step in should there be any difficulties. Ready, set, probe!

The test was actually quite simple, I had a nice sleep and woke up feeling not too much worse for the wear, only a slight sore throat and fuzzy feeling in my head. I actually found it easier to recover from than the sedation they usually use for such procedures. The results came in yesterday and indeed, it is a PFO with a trace amount of blood shunting from one atrium to the other. Next stop: cardiac cath/pulmonary lab to verify how much of a shunt there is on exercise to see if that is the cause for my hypoxia. If it is, then the PFO will be closed. If not, they won't fix it and we'll need to do a bit more medical detective work.

Apparently the Level III Baird test is so popular there is a 3 month wait time to have it done. A date should be confirmed today and I'll be put on the waiting list in case there are any cancellations. Part of me wants to have it over with and the other part would like to put this off as long as possible.

Cardiac catheterization is a procedure where a small incision is made either in the groin or above another large vein and a catheter introduced up and into the right side of the heart. During the level III baird test, not only is there a cardiac catheterization, but also arterial monitoring of the blood to detect oxygen levels, usually done in the radial (wrist) artery. Neither of these aspects of the test sound like much fun to me, but the icing on the cake is that the patient is required to exercise while all this is going on. I would like to wish the physician and other staff the best of luck in advance for this one.

After the results are in from that I'll have a much better idea of the plan. If there is significant shunting from the right to left atrium causing less blood to pass through the lungs then they will go for the repair. There's a part of me that is wondering if all this is worth it. Using the oxygen isn't that bad... sure, it's inconvenient but I'm much more used to the odd looks people give me. Is it really worth going through all these unpleasant tests without a guarantee that this is the cause of my low oxygen saturation? I suppose it is, but I can't pretend I won't be disappointed if the level III baird doesn't yield some helpful information. Being poked, prodded and probed has to have some benefit, doesn't it?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Shell of my Former Self

While watering the eggplants earlier this week I discovered a very strange looking insect on the underside of one of the leaves. Ok, I admit it: I squealed like a schoolgirl and jumped back. Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I had to check it out. I needed to know if this thing was going to be competing with me for the vegetables.

I have no idea what kind of bug it is, but it appears to be a shell. The owner must have shed it (molted?) and has hopefully moved on. Far, far away.

I wasn't able to find the opening in the shell where he/she emerged from, which is a bit puzzling, but it is hollow and there hasn't been any movement in 3 days. Not that I'm checking or anything.

Those pincers look pretty mean.

Edited to add: Thank you, google! It's actually a cicada, or as we used to call them growing up: a "heat bug". Harmless to humans and also gardens, though they can damage trees when boring holes in which to lay their eggs. Apparently, they are eaten in some countries, the female cicada being the more meaty and tasty. Yum, yum.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Broken Dishes

One of the things I've tried to teach myself this year has been the making of mosaics. I've always liked them and while browsing at Barnes and Noble back in April I found a book on mosaics. Why not give it a shot? I liked that there isn't a big investment required as with some crafts, I didn't want to have to buy a lot of equipment or supplies. After borrowing a neighbor's tile nippers and gathering a few old plates that were used as plant saucers I was ready.

After gaining confidence on small projects I decided to try an old pipe cabinet that had been in our basement for years. Joe picked it up at a yard sale before we got married, so if I ruined it, no huge loss.

I started small, a birdbath here, a clay pot there. It was fun! With
each project I learned what worked and what not to do. Trial and error has always been my best teacher.

I was so happy with how it came out, I painted the cabinet and it brought it up into the house. No more being relegated to the basement! I had an idea I wanted to try for the living room coffee table, something we picked up on Freecycle. Again, no great loss if I ruin it. I sketched out the design I had envisioned and set up a table in the garage. Several trips to the thrift shop to look for old china plates and I had what I needed: several coordinating plates for the central pattern and plain white ones for the filler. Here's the half-way point.

The table took a bit over a week to finish, but I'm very happy with the results. It brightens up the living room, which has mostly darker colors in it. The grout has been sealed, so it should be fairly indestructible. Boys, you can now put your feet up without my shooting you dirty looks! Enjoy.

Friday, July 9, 2010


I can't even recall the last rain we had, surely back in June, and all 4 of my rain barrels are bone dry. The garden beds are parched, only the things that were planted or moved in the past year have been watered. The vegetables are faithfully watered every day, but everything else is on its own. Crispy is how I would describe the lawn, but experience has taught me that no matter how dead it appears in July and August, as soon as the weather cools and we get some rain it will green up again. Our climate just isn't meant for the lush, green lawns our ancestors in the UK had.

The cucumber plant is hitting its stride, flowers and tiny hairy cukes appear every day. I love the tendrils that grasp the nylon lattice.

The learning curve has been steep for me with the veggies: I've learned that zucchini plants have both male and female flowers, the females being the ones that produce a zucchini. Both types are only open for a matter of hours, and if there is no male flower to pollinate the female, then the zucchini will shrivel up and fall off. Who knew?

There are a few bunches of both sungold orange and red cherry tomatoes in addition to some big beef, whose photo is on the left. The cherries are so sweet I can eat them right off the plant, warmed from the sun. They are also especially good with a nice sharp cheddar cheese on crackers or in a salad. I'm glad the plants are enjoying the heat and relentless sun, someone should!

Charlotte used to love to make the "rounds" with me, checking out what was growing in the yard, safely tucked in my arms. She'd settle right in and purr the entire time, observing her domain from on high. Gomer, on the other hand, prefers to nap in the coolness of the early morning shade on our new deck. Joe's chair is getting a healthy dose of cat hair. Why should the outdoor furniture be exempt?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence and Happiness

As we celebrate our nation's history with fireworks and thoughts of independence I've been thinking a lot about personal independence. Not in the pry-the-gun-from-my-cold-dead-hands, freedom-of-speech-no-matter-the-cost type, but freedom of dependence. It might be freedom from dependence from a drug, alcohol, cigarettes, a bad habit or a person who does you harm. Or, in my case, I'm referring to the ability to be able to take care of myself and produce the things I and my family need. The freedom from dependence on others. Self-sufficiency.

Of course, there is no such thing as being completely independent. I'm no electrician, plumber or carpenter. I can't fix my own car nor can I build a computer. I suppose if I was able to live a simpler life and didn't rely on such amenities as indoor plumbing, electricity and a cell phone I might just be able to do most things myself. I'm not willing to go that far, but it does give me a great deal of joy to be able to do what I can. It's one of the simplest pleasures life has to offer and there is personal satisfaction in knowing that something is homemade.

One of the blogs I routinely read posted about this the other day. Until the 1950s we, as a society, were much more self-sufficient. Of course, things have changed since then: women no longer are at home, in charge of the house and feeding the family. It has become the norm for both adults in a household to be wage-earners. This has left home management unmanned and so for convenience/time/necessity we have turned to purchasing many of the items that 60 years ago were self-produced. It's rare to find someone who cooks from scratch, sews, grows their vegetables, does their own yard and housework. In the past few generation we've lost some of the skills needed to be able to do these things; how long until we're unable because nobody knows how? Interesting to think about. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but we've become dependent upon companies and business to produce and take care of the things that 3 generations ago we did ourselves.

My circumstances are far from usual- early retirement/disability at 32. I've had to figure out what I'm capable of doing and what makes my life happy and fulfilling. Who knew it would be the simplest things of all? Cooking and baking for my family. Taking care of the house and yard. Growing a little bit of what we eat. Making my own less environmentally harmful cleaners. Being able to knit and sew, make jams and give homemade gifts. I have found this is my own personal formula for happiness, and no doubt there as many other formulas as there are people on the planet. We're all different and I'm sure there are many who could no sooner imagine being happy doing what I do than flying to the moon. Perhaps another person's formula would be the ability to be independent from exactly those things that give me the most happiness. That's what makes our country great and what personal freedom and independence are all about.

Happy Independence Day.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Garden Update July 1

This is the first time I've tried growing dahlias. These are smaller than the 'dinner plate' variety, about 6" in diameter and they are lovely! I'll definitely be planting these again next year.

The tomatoes are growing several inches a day now with plenty of buds. Mmmm, there's nothing like a garden-fresh tomato!

I ate the first few green beans yesterday, there weren't enough for a meal, so I figured I'd just sample to make sure they were ok. And they were.

The peppers and eggplant are enjoying the heat we've had this past week and the sugar snap peas, cukes and zucchini are all beginning to take off. We might even have a strawberry or two if the birds don't beat us to it!