Thursday, November 30, 2006

Triple Bypass

The cardiologist said that Walter's heart attack last night was a very mild one.

He also said that Walter has severe cholesterol buildup and blockage in several arteries. They did the heart catheter this morning, prepared to put in a stent if need be. They didn't even bother trying. The blockages are just too severe.

The heart cath doc left me a message today, when I was out and about doing my own doctor stuff and errands. I was frustrated I missed the message, but then, being out taking care of business was good stress relief. Dr. Heart Cath said, --The blockage is in 3-4 different spots and in areas that look most suitable for bypass surgery...the best treatment for what he has. And he really does need to stay and have this done before he goes home, unfortunately.

Sounds like Walter was agitating for having his triple bypass done at home, not in Indiana.

He was pretty dead set on it with us, at least.

That, of course, would be foolish.

If the blockage is that bad, he's a candidate for another heart attack any old time, and the next one could well be fatal.

Say he's in an airplane high in the sky when it happens.

He's dead.

Say he's in a car, driving home through rural Georgia at 2 am when it happens.

He's dead.

Today he had a consult with the surgeon. When he mentioned he wanted the surgery done at home in Florida instead of there, the surgeon said something like, --We'll see, we'll talk about it tomorrow.

To me, that sounds like a good ol' poker-face doc response. Noncommittal.

But to Walter it sounded like, --Hey, you wanna go home? no biggie.

I called Walter and said it was out of the question. No one would take him home, not me or my mom or dad or Horacio or Danny or anybody. No way. What's he gonna do, walk home? He's having the bypass done up there and that's just how it's gonna be.

He said it was his decision and no one else's, and he was coming home for it, and that's how it's gonna be.

So far, I sicced my doc on his doc. The Heart Cath & More Cardiologist beats a surgeon any old day.

Then I called and told on him to kdad. He'll call Walter next. Then kmom.

kmom called me today while I was out on my errands and said she'd be there at the hospital for Walter when he has his surgery, so he won't be alone. When I told him that he seemed to lighten up quite a bit. Smart mom there, huh?

Horacio and his son Danny were here at the kranch when I finally got home. They used to work for us in our little shipping business and both were great workers. Danny was just a kid at the time, but he was worth most any 3 grown men put together.

Apparently they'd been reminiscing about back in the day. Times when Walter swooped up Danny or Horacio and went driving around the country with them, delivering furniture. And they remembered a time when I put together a nice rental car for them when they were stuck somewhere - can't remember where or why! - but it was a Crown Vic, I think. A nice comfy ride with enough room for road stuff inside.

So they'd been plotting away and decided to rent a vehicle and go pick up Walter, the two of them trading off driving, when the time came.

In 1996, when we bought this house and moved in, Horacio and his wife Juanita and Danny's big sister and Danny lived across the street. They welcomed us to the neighborhood. Juanita sent over a rosebud in a vase, a traditional housewarming gift, a bud getting ready to open up - your new life in your new home, about to bloom. That charmed the heck out of me.

Horacio had just gotten home from a two week stay in the hospital for double bypass surgery.

A couple of years ago, Juanita had heart trouble and had a stent put in.

So they have some personal familiarity with heart surgery themselves.

If I were Walter I'd want to come home too. He's concerned about getting follow-up care from heart docs who weren't in on the tests and surgery. But surely that happens all the time. We have great docs down here, they won't do him wrong.

OTOH, he's also worried about getting exposed to my MRSA germs after surgery. Perfectly reasonable.

And me, it half kills me to think about not being there for him when he goes in.

But even if I could get up there's not safe. I had this vision flash before me: I hug him just before they prep him. And drop my germs on him. See, one thing MRSA especially loves? Surgery. Not just any old opening in the skin, surgery is. Nope. Puts that germ way IN the person, there. Inoculates them. Oh, happy happy MRSA, party time.

I was there when Walter had his back surgery, fusing his vertebrae. They went in from the front and pawed his guts aside to get to the back, and put in these little titanium baskets between the two vertebrae. The baskets hold bone splinters inside, making more bone grow, holding the vertebrae in place where the disk failed.

I wasn't there when he had his rotator cuff shoulder surgery. That's because I was in the hospital myself with the foot abscess in 2004. kmom came down here and took care of us both at the same time.

My man. My guy.

They can't do the triple bypass until at least Monday or Tuesday because of the blood thinners they gave him. Luckily, he's in a big private room with a flat screen TV/DVD.

That might hold him until he gets his laptop back.

Heart Attack

Not me. Walter.

Everyone is being almost nonchalant about it. I know that modern medicine is far advanced in some areas. Like this one. But a heart attack is still a heart attack and I don't like it a bit and I wish so very much it hadn't happened.

He's *fine.* He's in a new special cardiac hospital, or cardiac department, in Evansville, Indiana. They're doing a heart catheter this morning. Around 8:30 am we should have some new blood test results, too.

Not long before he came home for Thanksgiving, Walter told me he'd had recurring nausea for a couple of months. This was confusing. I had no idea what might cause that. Sometimes an ulcer or gastritis will. Sometimes postnasal drip from allergies. He didn't think it could be any of that, though.

As it turns out, it's an early forewarning of heart attack.

I feel like such a dummy sometimes.

Last night he called and said he felt bad. That he had pain everywhere. His arms, his fingernails, even his teeth. The only thing I could think of was either a heart attack or some sort of inflammatory process. He hurt in ways I do. Identically, I mean. Wherever there was connective tissue, even weird places like his gums.

He was sure it couldn't be his heart. He'd taken some naproxyn, and it helped for a short time. I said, Take some more. When he lay down he hurt far worse, his pillow and his bed felt like rocks. When he sat up he felt better. That can happen with an inflammatory process too, from the pressure on your sensitive aches. But he wasn't stiff. Stiffness after you lay down, now, that's classic for an RA experience. No stiffness? That threw me.

And the chest pain didn't sound right either. He said it was like something was punching him in the chest. There's only one thing I know of that gets described that way.

I called my dad. Any ideas? Nope. Dad thought he should consider the ER.

I called Walter back. No no no, no hospitals. He was in the middle of nowhere and didn't think there could be a hospital worth going to, where he was.

We talked. And something he said hit me, something I'd missed the first time around: that he only felt this from the chest up. NOT head to toe.

I said, Waallllter! Why do you think this can't be a heart attack?

Oh! because BOTH my arms hurt, and my teeth, and and and...

I told him, Look. Do me a favor. Go google up *heart attack* symptoms, okay? The symptoms can really vary person to person. Just go LOOK for yourself. I'm not a doctor and neither are you. Call me back.

He did. And he'd found many of his symptoms in there, even ones he thought meant it wasn't a heart attack: the nausea, even the teeth and fingernails hurting.

I said, Excuse me for a minute, I'll call you right back.

And hung up and called my dad, and said, I think he's having a heart attack. He's refusing to go to the hospital. Would you please call him and talk to him?

(Daaaaddd! Walter's being BAD and won't go to the doctor! NOT!! FAIR!! Make him GO!)

It worked. It worked. Thank you God, it worked.

Walter called me after Dad talked to him. He did not sound happy. He said, --So. You enlisted your dad, huh?

I said, --Sure. Of COURSE.

I have great respect for people's right to make their own decisions. For me to do something like that in the first place - call my dad and ask him to twist Walter's arm - and then to say, *Of course* about it - is NOT normal behavior for me.

Walter was quiet. Then he said, --I told him yes.

--Did you call 911?


(breathing again breathing when was the last time I could breathe)


And I thanked him. --Walter: Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

He made some noise about we have to stop if I'm going to get all emotional so of course I canned it after that.

The EKG was normal. The blood test, though, was positive for a heart attack.

They moved him from the first ER to the cardiac unit at that other hospital. Where I had a nice long conversation with his nurse, and told her he might be colonized with my MRSA so please be careful and don't catch it...and now Walter will be sure to have a private room for the duration of his stay.


They say he'll probably only be there for one more night. If he needs a stent they'll put one in during the heart cath this morning. He seems to think that he'll be driving again two days from now.

I have my doubts. The nurse said the doc may want him to rest a week or so. That they'll take his job into consideration. Whereupon I said, --Over the road long haul big rig trucker.

NOT that Walter would try to fudge anything like that. He truly wouldn't. Just...double checking.

She said, --Yes, that's what Walter said. So the doctor will take that into account.


Walter, I expect you may get pretty pissed at me for posting this. Sorry, but -- tough shit.

People. Please send him all the strength you can, okay?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's All Over but the Mopping Up

Remember back in the day, when you'd get a 45 rpm *short version* of a song, as opposed to the *long version* available on the LP record?

JUST in case you hadn't seen enough of this...Yes indeed, that there is my Thanksgiving turkey. A big hulking 20 pounder, no less.

If you see any funny looking bumps, that's a clove of garlic under its skin.

There was a time I said, --Can't have *too much garlic.* It's a contradiction in terms.-- Then one day I finally used too much in something. Can't remember what it was. Anyway, I don't say that any more.

Still eat it by the fistful, though. Posted by Picasa

Then there's that very last pan that hangs around waiting to get scrubbed clean. This one wasn't from turkey but from beef stew.

I'm ever so fond of Alternative Uses of Tools. Now that I don't use *no-stick* pans any more, I can use paint scrapers again. Works great. Total time to clean this pan, start to finish after soaking? Less than 2 minutes.

And just WHY, you may ask, am I bothering all y'all with TURKEY stuff when you've moved on to back-to-work drudgery, or the next holiday and all its attendant duties and fun?

Because these Thanksgiving pix weren't brought to you by me. They were brought to me by you.

I couldn't have done this without all of you who so generously gave of your wallets and your hearts to the *k Scooter Project.*

See, there's no other way I could have cooked Thanksgiving dinner without being able to walk.

Walter watched me bopping happily around the kitchen cooking, and he fondly - and correctly - observed, --You're gonna be sick for a week, you know.-- He was grinning his special Walter grin at me.

--Yup!-- I replied, grinning back.

He was right, of course. All that scooter shopping and then cooking wore me to a nub. And I couldn't be more thrilled.

The one and only drawback is, writing the Longer Playing version of my *Thank You* post is slow going just now. I keep sleeping and sleeping instead.

Soon enough I'll slowly work my way out of my cocoon like my little io moths, and post the long version. When it's ripe.

Until then I didn't want to let one more minute go by without thanking each and every one of you who gave, whether it was funds, or your moral support in blog posts and comments and emails and a phone call, or just your unspoken good wishes. All those things - not just my beautiful new scooter, but the moral support too - have given me a boost of strength and happiness far deeper than you may ever know.

I'm trying really hard not to get all mushy on ya again. Really hard.

So for now, just...thank you.



Sunday, November 26, 2006

They Hatched!

Or whatever you call it when moths emerge from their little pupae. Posted by Picasa

This is what I saw when I checked my container of pupae before I went back to sleep. Two moths, quietly hanging from the twigs sticking out of the cocoon nursery.

Naturally, it rather woke me up.

So I've been taking pix with my Nikon. And below are what I got with the digital, too. Sorry this first one's so indistinct. I was a little leery of disturbing them. But, in the end, they permitted me to actually handle them.

There are two moths in this pic - the left is a male, smaller and lighter; the right is a female. I was hoping the females would be the special reddish brown Florida color variety - and it looks to me like they are.

There was a third male, hanging on the inside of the container.

I had fun and played with them for a while, and now all three are outside. Free.

Female Io Moth

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Male Io Moths

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Nancy's Home!

All this good news. And the best news of all? Nancy is HOME from the hospital! Yes! She escaped and is Free At Last!

They beat her half to death, starved her of proper diabetic food, and drank her blood dry. But I'll let her fill you in on all the gory details. It's a great story.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Got It!

YAY!!! Here it is!

I ended up getting a Pride *Go Go Ultra.* It's a step up from the *Go Go* I was looking at over at Chair Care. I went to another store I learned about from DC: he'd left a comment about a link showing the Go Go at a good price on the net, by *The Easy Mobility Company.* So I clicked. And guess what else that site said? *New Store in S. Florida!* Now THAT was very interesting. The store is called *Scooters and Lifts,* at 8973 Taft Street, Pembroke Pines, FL; phone 1-877-432-3279, or 954-432-7970.

I called. They were open until 5. Walter came home with the hitch and platform installed, and still had enough energy to drive us out to Pembroke. We got there around 4:30.

And the person manning the shop - one of the proprietors, it seems - was very nice, very informative, and quite lacking a little bit of a hard-sell flavor that Rich at Chair Care had.

I really don't like doing business with hard-sell types. They're untrustworthy and rude and make me feel icky instead of warm fuzzies, and usually the tiniest whiff of hard-sell tactics will send me packing. Most people probably wouldn't consider Rich hard-sell. He hides it carefully. But there was enough of that edge to put me on guard. Certainly we didn't want to walk out his door yesterday with a scooter in hand; we'd decided that before we walked in.

I was glad, too. There were some significant errors in what Rich told us. Example: He never mentioned that the Go Go was discontinued by the factory. However, Walter and I took a guess at that, because on our way out the door, Rich said, --Would you like me to hold this for you? It's the last one we have left, not sure I can get another one in.-- That meant what we suspected it did. Folks, that matters. It's a material difference if it's a discontinued item. I do NOT want parts issues to arise. Posted by Picasa

The guy at *Scooters and Lifts*? That's one of the very first things he told us. And he had both models to try to sell, too. He didn't make any kind of issue out of it; just explained it was why the Go Go cost less than the Ultra, because it was being discontinued.

The newer version, *Go Go Ultra,* has a few nice upgrades. First, it comes apart and reassembles even more easily. Second, the heaviest part when it's disassembled is 28 pounds, not 32. In real life, that matters. Third, we could get an upgraded battery pack for an additional $55. Most battery packs in our scooter class hold a charge for *up to* 10 miles. The upgraded pack goes 13-15 miles instead. It may not sound like much, but believe me, that's an important difference. *Range* is a significant spec when you get to actually using the thing. You don't want to run out of juice in the middle of shopping.

Rich at Chair Care didn't tell us about the battery upgrade option, which only fits on the Ultra. He also told us the heaviest part on the Go Go, disassembled, was 24 pounds. It isn't. It's 32. BIG difference. Really big mistake.

He was also mistaken about the Class 1 hitch weight: Uhaul says it pulls 2000 pounds - not 200. See, Rich was pushing us to get a lift, which is much more expensive: $500, and I think that was before installation. We told him a lift was absolutely out of the question financially. He kept talking *lift.* We said *no lift* several more times. Then he threw in a little scare tactic about how the scooter might fall off a cargo carrier on the highway.

Maybe he forgot he was talking to people who'd owned a furniture shipping business. We're not idiots. We know how to tie that sucker on pretty damn good. We tied furniture in the oddest ways sometimes: on top of a highrise elevator, on all sorts of handtrucks, loaded inside the truck in difficult ways; sometimes, yes, on the OUTSIDE of the truck. And driven like that for hundreds to thousands of miles. We never, ever, ever, lost an item. Ever.

After my phone calls the last few weeks, Rich knew all about the Scooter War with BCBS HO M&M; that we're totally broke; that being scooterless is genuinely dangerous for my foot; that my wonderful blog friends got together to get me this scooter; and that we were going to be pretty vocal on the net about this for a while, even after the scooter was purchased, because it's a nasty and wrong health insurance situation that hurts a lot of other people besides just me. He knew I'll try to get a second, heavy-duty scooter for yardwork next year as well, using my new insurance company and a $500 copay. Those scooters cost much more money. A bigger sale down the road, if Rich was interested enough in us as customers.

My point? He had any number of good reasons to work with us on the price. With Rich, I didn't want to ask for a discount; I wanted to see if he would make that offer. He did not.

Prices: Rich at Chair Care was selling the Go Go for $850, and the Ultra for $950.

Scooters & Lifts was selling the Go Go for $749, and the Ultra for $799.

Yup. The better model for $150 less. For $50 less than the discontinued model at Chair Care! Plus...the nice people at Scooters & Lifts throw in a free drink holder too. Another $20 right there. $20 I wouldn't have spent, even though I really, really, really wanted one. This way I got my cupholder, guilt-free, oh happy!

Chair Care pretty much sold only Pride models. Scooters & Lifts had a wide variety of brands, and a much bigger selection overall. We looked around, and I test drove a Phantom, same class, $50 less, some nice features like a headlight. But the Phantom just didn't have the sturdy quality and great pickup of the Pride model. Pride is the biggest, the #1 selling scooter company, and I can see why. Those are good scooters at good prices. Cool.

Really, both stores had good prices. These things generally retail for over $1000. Even the model we saw at Sam's Club for $784 wasn't nearly as good. So maybe we're splitting hairs a bit. But the comfort level we had at Scooters & Lifts was much greater, too. Just the errors Rich made, alone...yuck.

So we bought it.

Here's the total cost: Pride Go Go Ultra Scooter $799, 17 amp battery pack $55, sales tax $51.24, grand total $905.24. If you look on the internet, it would be hard to beat that price unless you waited a couple weeks for free shipping. And I haven't seen much on offer about the battery pack upgrade. That's a BIG peace of mind thing, there.

(Forgive me this, GrannyJ...)

And what did that nice man do when I asked if he had a blue one, instead of red?

The night before Thanksgiving - and it was way past closing time already - he said the only blue one was at a storage place, not on the premises. We did up the papers at the store, and he drove out to get the blue scooter, with us following him in our car. He found it, the guys loaded it on the cargo carrier and tied it down, and we came home. Beaming all the way.

Isn't that great?

Now THAT is a store I'll do business with any day of the week, and send all my friends to, and talk up on my site, and tell all the neighbors about.

oh BOY!

You know what this means?

I can cook Thanksgiving dinner.

Walter just LOVES turkey!

Those Important Details

Here's the dashboard. On the lower right is the speed knob. That's fun. It's on *medium slow* in the pic. Can you see the little figures and an arrow above it? The left figure is a tortoise, for *slow.* The right figure is a rabbit, a hare, for *fast.* Cute, huh?

This class of scooter generally goes 4 to 4.5 miles per hour. The store scooters go around 2 MPH I think. (argghhh!)

Yes. That scooter's blue. GrannyJ was campaigning for R.E.D. She loves red. Luckily, she said she wouldn't shoot me if I got blue. As a compromise she suggested purple. But they don't seem to come in purple.

On the back of the seat hangs a little zippered bag. I love that. I need that. It looks like just the right size for...

The charger. That sucker's a BIG one. Probably for that supercharged 17 amp battery pack!

But I'm too tired to see if it fits, for tonight. Tomorrow I can play with it.
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And we mustn't forget that all-important Cupholder!

kmom, did you see this?

(cupholders being a major decision criterion in purchasing a car.)

For Marvin

No crab legs in there. No onions anymore either. But just so you know? This is how the 50-pound bag of onions I got a couple weeks ago fits on that platform. Posted by Picasa

Scooter Shopping Decision Tree


Just now, the Saturn is - happily - getting a hitch put on the back, to hold an inexpensive cargo carrier for a scooter. No ramp yet - it'll involve a little lifting - but, all in all, a fine thing indeed. Later we can get a ramp put on by an old associate from our furniture shipping days. More on that later.

Today's cost of the hitch and platform: $282.08. Way worth it.

And since car stuff is Walter's purview, this leaves me a short breather to update y'all as best I can for now.

The decisions at hand on the scooter purchase had to to with things like, can the car take any kind of hitch and platform? Should I rent for now? If I buy, should I go local or internet? New or used?

One measure of a scooter is the size of the base, and that would affect the platform question: if the platform we could afford wasn't quite as large as we'd like, then we'd have to get a smaller scooter.

Not all cars can take a hitch. According to Chair Care, Toyota Camry can only take a Class 1 hitch - meaning, only very lightweight things can attach to the frame of that car. Chair Care knows one place in West Palm Beach that will do frame modifications to bring a Camry up to a Class 2 strength, for $350. That's for the frame modifications alone.

Same with the Saturn - it's only good for a Class 1 hitch. Maximum weight of platform and scooter: 200 pounds.

But that's better than NO hitch. And the class of scooter I'm looking at runs around 100 pounds. A hitch and platform weighs less. Total weight will be less than 200 pounds. Excellent.

So we called the local Uhaul, which is where one generally goes to get hitched. ;-) They could install the hitch and sell us a platform, today. They had to scarf one item from another Uhaul dealer, but that only took a couple hours.

It's big enough to accommodate any scooter we can afford. We just need to mind the total weight. So, *lighter* is best for us here.

Now: As Desert Cat found out last Friday - Lord, was it only Friday?!? - rental is expensive; he was given a price of $269/month, and that was probably for a lower-middle range scooter, the same range I'm looking at for purchase.

The high prevalence of renting vs. ownership programs is due to politics. Medicare pays far more to rent, so people aren't outraged that they're buying expensive medical equipment for people often perceived as not really disabled but faking it, lazy, yada yada. It's also highly likely that this results in more profit for any Medicare HMO or other *managed care* system. So health plan contractors would negotiate with Medicare for rental vs. purchase.

We have a very high elderly and disabled population here, meaning Medicare is behind many - or most - health plans. Just now that works in our favor: the market is driven by rentals more than purchases. So buying is far more sensible than renting; relatively speaking, purchase prices are reasonable. The purchase price of the same class scooter that DC was quoted $269/month to rent? Around $750-$1000, locally purchased, with good shopping done.

After my recent experiences, I'm all afire to own, not rent. The only real benefit of rental I can see is that they have to service it for free. Since they have STILL neither serviced nor replaced a scooter delivered defective in July, that does me no good whatsoever. That benefit is not a benefit if I can't use it in a reasonable amount of time.

Also, if I rent, I have very little choice about what scooter I get. If I buy, I can get much closer to what I actually need.

Last but not least: Once I own it, they can't take it away from me.

My BCBS HO M&M plan will quit on December 31, 2006. Oddly enough, I want to change health plans. That means that even if they delivered me a working scooter tomorrow, I'd have to give it up on 12/31 anyway! Then go through the whole process of paperwork with the NEXT company! And quite possibly be scooterless again for at least a few weeks, if not more.

Why didn't I realize that before? Because for 2 years they've either indirectly or directly implied this was a purchase, not a rental. I didn't really get it until very recently, when I asked them on the phone, with great care and precision. And they hemmed and hawed and then said, Rental - and in the tone of *rental (you dummy).*

I feel about purchase the way someone does once they've been through the horror of having a car repossessed. It's why I took my hurricane car insurance payment and paid off my car loan: I'd rather have a car no one can ever take away from me, even scratched and banged up and mildly malfunctioning everywhere, than a beautiful perfect car I may lose.

So: Purchase, not rent.

New or used?

New means you have certain warranties etc. That's good, especially in light of these recent repair issues.

But more than that, I have a strange and special consideration that has to do with my half-bubble life: Anything used - anything at all - is often permeated with *fragrances* that render it completely incompatible with my allergies. That goes especially for anything made with plastic, upholstered, or leather parts.

All someone has to do is park that scooter one time by the same electric socket they have their Glades plug-in plugged in? Put the scooter there to charge it up, for instance? and I can't use it. Ever. I cannot get those smells out. Believe me, I'm an expert. I have tried and tried and it's simply not doable, not by me or anyone else. And if I'm the one trying, I get it all over myself and my clothes and skin and lungs in the process. Not good.

So this goes both toward new vs. used, AND toward internet vs. local store. Used is out, based on smell alone. So is internet. I have to breathe it first. So I must shop in person.

With all the MRSA episodes, I haven't really gone into that aspect of my allergic life yet on my blog. But it's true for anything or anyone that comes inside my filtered-air house. I have to breathe the air coming off that object to see if it's going to put me in the ER. It can't cross my threshold until then.

Now: suppose I could somehow know for sure I could get a *clean* scooter off the internet. They often say *free shipping.* But that refers to UPS Ground type shipping, which will take 10 days or longer at this time of year. Expedited shipping, say overnight or 2nd day, is often around $200 or more - which would eat up any savings I'd get by buying at ebay.

And I needed the scooter yesterday, last week, last month. If I'm going to do this to help protect my foot, I should not wait another 10 days or longer: in that time I'm going to need to walk, and that's what causes more damage. So time is now of the essence.

You see, now I must be very, very careful until the end of my life. I got lucky twice on this foot: once in 2004, the second time just now. Both times came way too close to amputation, or worse.

The newly added permanent scarring damage means it's going to get much harder to be lucky if I get a third strike. And it wants to do it, it wants to go there, this germ in that area is not done with me. I can feel it.

I told Walter, in a way I'm glad I'm out of time, so I'm not tempted to save a couple hundred bucks by buying on the net. That was a bit hard on my penny-squeezing heart. But certainly for the best.

Next, I also think it's better to buy from a local store, because of any repairs that might be needed. Having a local store to take it back to *may* help get better service - out of interest in the customer who bought it from them, or any service arrangements between factory and dealer, whatever.

This applies to buying from an individual too: say I found a local person selling off a brand new scooter that I could breathe? Still, I'd rather go with a store, because of those ready repair issues.

Last but not least: What class of scooter?

Obviously, one that we can afford.

Enough donations have come in that, put together with some small funds we have on hand, we can afford a lower-middle range scooter, and a platform. This is PERFECT for now. Just perfect.

See, that's what works best for both house and errands anyway. They'll come apart into manageable-weight pieces should my platform have issues. The total scooter weight is compatible with our platform. And, while I considered getting an *el cheapo* at first that I could resell or trade up, it's best not to do that if I can: I get tired, and don't have the energy to address everything in my life as well as I want to as it is. To avoid revisiting the purchase by needing to trade up would be a good thing.

Even if I had enough money for the super fancy scooters - they run about $2000-$2500 just now - still, those things are very big, heavy, and somewhat unwieldy. Too heavy for that platform. Too much to fit inside my smallish car, much less hassle with taking it apart. And, I'd have trouble getting around certain corners inside my house.

So: General decisions made. Purchase not rent; new not used; from a local store rather than the internet or an individual; one that's light enough for our platform; lower-middle range in class.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Brief Scooter Update

Today we spent researching and scooter shopping, and wore ourselves out.

But I think we've found the right one. The maker is *Pride Mobility Products,* and the type is called a Go Go Ultra.


Although I must say, I test rode it, and it really does Go.

Tomorrow, Walter will see about a hitch and platform for the Saturn. It looks doable, but barely. Apparently it'll be a bit complicated, and thus, unfortunately, cost a bit more. But I think we can swing the whole package.

I'm sorry to have so little to tell you just now! I'm falling on my face tired. Tomorrow I'll be rested and Walter's doing the car thing without me - which is how I always prefer that sort of thing! - so it looks like I'll finally have some time to bring everyone up to speed.

Now I'm off to sleep like a rock.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Slow but Steady. And - Beef Not Crab

I wanted so much to put up a post last night, thanking you all and telling you what the Scooter Plan was from here on out. And I was so excited and happy and exhausted, wrung out from crying and smiling and crying and smiling, such a sweet emotional rollercoaster, that all I could do was go to bed.

And then today? Same thing. Except this one included Walter, who got home just in time for a dinner of Meaty Beef Stew and k's Fresh Baked Bread and Caramelized Onion.

This was tiring, sure. I did half the work on the stew last night. Had the bread made into loaves and rising just when he called for me to come pick him up where he leaves the truck. It's a bit of a drive and I ran into traffic...and when we finally made it home? The loaves were exactly right, time to turn on the oven and cook 'em up.

The final simmer on the stew was finished exactly when the bread was ready to eat. Quite warm still. OH, what a great smell in my house!

And that man said, Meat! Home baked bread! And he ate one bite and said, Now THAT is FOOD!

oh happiness!

So we're both very contented here, and ready to get going on some serious scooter shopping tomorrow. And again I wanted to give you all the latest - including another interesting phone call with the insurance company! - but again, I'll just have to crash for now instead.

Walter likes beef. k needs more protein. So here are many pounds of a beautiful roast, all rudely cut up into stew beef instead.

I like chuck too, but it's got so much more fat than I like to eat. I'm not afraid of eating fat, I just don't want to eat it if it's not the kind I'm fond of. To trim the *excess* fat from chuck is more work than I'm up to just now. And the chuck was only a few cents less per pound. Throwing away that much fat, it probably cost the same to buy a roast, and less work too.

This sounds gross, but I like gristly beef. Slow cooked in the presence of moisture, the gristle turns into gelatin. Not fat. Jello. Very tender and very flavorful. And healthy too, good for your hair and fingernails, right?

I cubed all that beef and browned the hell out of it in batches all night, with salt. Then I put three of my enormous chopped onions in the pan and browned that a bit. Put the meat back in, added a giant bay leaf and a teaspoon or so of tumeric. Water to cover it. That's all. Put it away for the night and went to bed.

I took it back out this morning and simmered it. Just before I left to pick up Walter, I added one and a half heads of peeled garlic cloves. If you put them in too soon they disintegrate. This way, Walter can fish out the intact cloves and give them to his loving cook. Who promptly scarfs them down.

Now this is pretty minimalist cooking, right? Not many ingredients. Good for allergic people. When you're allergic to all food it's less risky if you simply use less ingredients.

Not to mention, when you can make it taste kick-ass great with just a few ingredients, you know you did a good job.

The bread we cut when it was still quite warm. Supposedly this isn't as healthy. I have no idea why. And the trade-off is WAY worth it. YUM!

It does leave the cut parts dried out when you do that. However! I see a pronounced need for somewhat dried out or day-old bread coming in my Thanksgiving future...

Can you see how big that pot of stew is? Huge. It was filled to the top before Walter started in on it. The little garlic cloves in there? Mine all mine!

See how dark the liquid is? It got that way just from browning the meat. Deep dark roasted type flavor.
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How's that for a simple peasant dinner for two tired-out people?

My stew bowl is significantly smaller than Walter's. No seconds for me, either. I have very little metabolism. But I did eat 2 heels of bread - my fave - and a half a caramelized onion, too.

That's about twice the size of my usual dinner. Special treat night.

Got a good man I wanted to feed. Wanted to watch him eat that food, too.

Walter LOVES him some meat!

Nancy's Doing Better

I called her at the hospital today. She picked up her own phone, and I'd thought I had to ask for her room number, so we got a little confused at first. We'd never spoken before so we didn't recognize each other's voices. But when I said *k from ksquest* - is this Nancy? - we got it straightened out.

She says she's not in a lot of pain, except when they press on the clots. I said oh I HATE that because then when they know where it hurts? The first thing they do is press it again!

The embolism came from yet another blood clot in her leg. The thing you want to do is NOT have clots travel into your lungs or heart and kill you. So that's a problem. She said if they operate and try to remove them, it just causes more clots. Not good. Instead, they're treating her with heparin. It's an anti-coagulant - aka *blood thinner* - and it's supposed to make the clots stay where they are. Not grow any more, and keep new ones from forming. What it can't do is dissolve existing clots.

I ran one of my favorite *invention* ideas by her - I think lots of what ails us could be fixed with little tiny vacuum cleaners, so why not just suck out that clot with a little tiny crevice tool? - but she seemed to have her doubts.

Her husband 'Pup has the same problem, except his is from deep vein thrombosis. He's much better since losing a lot of weight. At least, between the two of them, they know about dealing with this condition, right?

Nancy was cheerful and spicy and explained that at first they thought it was gall bladder issues. So the doctor ordering the gall bladder tests patted her on the head and said, Now! we're going to inject you with a dye, except it's not really a dye, it's a radioactive thing (as in, But don't you worry your pretty little red head about it!). Arghhh!

I said, Oh, so you're still alive and kickin', good. She said, Well, not kicking just now, with the leg thing. Biting instead. And I told her: Yeah, and you're at the perfect height! (mutual gleeful snorts!)

I didn't like to hear her breathing. She has asthma and she said she was getting two respiratory treatments a day. But I could hear her wheezing and coughing loud and clear. Didn't like that. Asthma and an embolism all at once. So as much as I wanted to keep talking her ears off, I felt like she might want to stop talking and just catch her breath again.

Communicating via internet is great when you can't breathe so well. And indeed, Nancy's cell phone takes email with no extra charges. So feel free to bombard her with all the emails you please! She's at

Her wheelchair is still tied up in paperwork snafus. GRRRR. Maybe this will kick it loose.

She says she may be coming home soon, tomorrow or the next day. It depends on how her treatment goes. And said: God does answer our prayers. But sometimes the answer is *no.*

I gave her firm instructions to get better and come home.

Let's hope that this time, the answer is *Yes.*

First Things First: Please Send Your Prayers/Good Wishes/Healing Energies to Nancy

Nancy, of Nancy's Garden Spot, is in the hospital.

Four days ago, she went in with some disturbing symptoms. They found both a pulmonary embolism, and a blood clot in her leg.

Either one of these conditions can quickly be fatal.

She already has spinal stenosis and is losing her ability to get around. Recently, her neurologist determined she wasn't going to get any better, and she's now *officially* disabled. She lives in constant pain that's not readily treatable. She's working on getting a motorized wheelchair of her own, and has run into some of the same awful delays and paperwork snafus I have.

This is a woman whose beautiful and creative garden has delighted so many of us - and in order to weed that garden, she has to lay completely down on the ground.

Which she does. Cheerfully. She says everyone needs a Crazy Neighbor so she'll be *It.*

She's the one who's been teaching me important things about my diabetes. That's why I said, *Nancy, I'm eating my protein!* in that crab leg post below. Without her, I probably wouldn't have gotten the ambition up to contact my insurance company and have someone come out to teach me how to use my diabetes testing kit.

I know she can get email on her cell phone, but I'm not sure if this racks up her bill into the millions - even us Technically Challenged hear the rumors, at least! - so I'm trying to find out, and let you know. I do know she can't get into the 'sphere where she is.

So please, if you would, send her all the prayers and/or good wishes and/or positive vibes - whatever you like the best - send her all that you can.

This is a wonderfully sweet, smart, brave, funny woman. I hope so much she gets better and makes it home soon.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Coming Home

When the person you love the best is almost always far from home, you make adjustments. When you live this way by planned choice, that helps. Today we can get cheap cell phone accounts and communicate by internet, so it's not as lonely as it might have been in days gone by.

But it's still hard sometimes.

Walter's family is in Europe, so my family is his family here. The holidays used to be hard on him, not the American Thanksgiving, but Christmastime. For years and years he preferred to be out on the road instead of home at Christmas, because that would just remind him of his family so far away.

Thanksgiving, though, he enjoyed without reserve. Nothing wrong with a lot of good food and the reasons we celebrate that day. Plus he really loves turkey.

Me, I'm fine with being by myself most of the time. Thanksgiving included. Sometimes I cook it up, sometimes not at all, sometimes just a bit. When I worked I lived far away from my own family. I loved having a whole day where I had no work and no obligations and no duties. I worked such long hours, often 80-90 hours per week, it was a great treat to do absolutely nothing all day.

These days, when Walter's out on the road for too long, he gets homesick. He tries not to show it but I can tell. He works as hard as he possibly can to keep us going. That means staying out driving for two or three months before he comes home.

We thought he wasn't coming back until Christmas. This was hard because he needed some home time. We couldn't work it out with his employer. He held out, though, and made it through a bad patch.

And then, just last week, he got a run to Lakeland, Florida. That's not so very far away, maybe a five hour drive. The sort of thing I could usually do with no problem even after I got sick.

It would have been so nice just to run up there in the Saturn and visit for a while. He was held over for the weekend too, not delivering his load until Monday. Tomorrow. We could have hung out together for three days.

But he'd read my posts about the foot and realized it wouldn't be a good idea. And nothing I said could change his mind.


Even though his driver manager said Florida was full of empty trucks and no loads out, Walter got dispatched to Ft. Lauderdale.

If all y'all heard me screaming YESSSSSSSS!!!!!!! all the way through Florida and Georgia and North Carolina to New York and Tennessee and Illinois and Wisconsin and Minnesota and Texas and Salt Lake City and Tucson and Prescott and LA and Oregon - hell, probably even Egypt and wherever KeesKennis ran off to in Africa - well, that was why.

It turned out they were deadheading him here - running from Lakeland with no payload - just to put him closer to the action, to where they estimated loads would be turning up. Meaning, see, he didn't have to leave Ft. Lauderdale right away.

I kinda think his manager was giving him a little present for Thanksgiving. Cause he really does a great job, Walter does. Makes his boss happy. And I know that from experience: Walter was the greatest employee I ever had.

He promptly put in for three days off. He'll be here Monday, late afternoon, and stay through Thanksgiving at least. After that, it depends on when he gets dispatched again.

Well well well.

I see a nice stuffed turkey in my future.

Saturday, November 18, 2006



This is significantly bigger than the last crab leg. Almost twice as big.

There must be a good three quarters of a pound of meat in that sucker. Or a half pound anyway.

Sam's didn't have the littler claw legs yesterday.

Think I can eat the whoooole thing?


See? ALL gone!

And a nice caramelized onion for dessert.

These are MRE's, to me. Like instant, no-work type food. Boil some water, stick the crab leg in there for a bit, nuke a little bowl of whipped butter - yes, it must be whipped, the unwhipped butter is only for baking here in k's kitchen - and there's your dinner. (Nancy! I'm eating my protein here!)

Now please don't get me wrong: you can eat any kind of butter type thing you like. Or none at all. Have at it, seriously. I'm just stating what my own preference is. I really dislike food police.

My sole point is this: be happy in your food choices. You can do that and be healthy in those choices, too. For real.

Okay. The onion?
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Since I can't much do the occasional stirring at the stove - not to mention, we don't always like to heat our houses with an hour of stovetop cooking down here - well, recently, I learned how to nuke it instead.

Take that big huge onion, peel, chop (very coarse and sloppy is all you need) and put in a glass bowl with a little salt and olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap or not - I usually do for the first nuke, then remove it. In my microwave it works good by going for 13 minutes, stir, then 8 minutes, stir, then 3 or 4 minutes. Meanwhile, of course, I'm doing other important things. Like eating a crab leg.

That big huge onion melts down to a little tiny bit in the end. It's cute. It doesn't get as brown as it does when I do it on the stovetop. But it's actually even sweeter, and much easier to keep it from burning, using the nuker. Oh, SO tasty!

I really love good food.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Rumors From the Front

The shopping is done. And me, I'm done in. But mightily relieved that's over.

Now: I couldn't get hold of the right people at Health Options yet. In fact, when I tried this morning while waiting for kmom to come, the folks at the main customer service phone couldn't find any record of my grievance in the system.

Now that is very interesting. After it didn't show up in the computer, they even put me on hold and talked to the Authorizations Department. k? Nope. Never heard of her.

I told the nice lady it was OK, I had a direct extension number for the person handling my complaint, and I'm sure she knows where it is in the Auth Dept. I thanked her, said sorry, I should have just called that person first, and hung up. But I'm extremely glad to get this info.

See, sometimes a big contractor's pay is partly based on such performance statistics as *Grievances Filed as % of Member Base.* And incompetence provides deniability. *Oh! gee, just imagine, we under reported grievances by 82%?!? Shoot, we sure do need to get some better data processing types in here! Can't get good help these days for NUTHIN', huh? so sorry, we sure goofed didn't we, heh...*

No time left to call the Right Person till I got home from shopping. She didn't pick up; I left a message asking her to call and let me know where it stood: yes, no, or still processing...and if she'd already left for the day instead, then have a nice weekend...

Next, I called Chair Care. The pres was on the phone. I explained to the nice lady that I'd been trying to get Health Options to cough up a scooter, and since it may be a while still, was wondering if we could do a short-term rental. Even if I had to pay.

And she told me...she'd been on the phone that morning with some very nice man from Health Options, who wanted to know prices and models and things. He was collecting info for my authorization.

Okay. I don't have a *yes* yet. But! If they were determined to say No, they probably wouldn't be doing price checks.

She thinks it was the same nice guy who'd helped me before - I told her his name. He's the one who spent 3 hours on the phone with me two weeks ago, taking my 3rd phone complaint and walking it upstairs to the Higher Authorities as I waited on hold, so he could get me instant feedback. The feedback was: have the patient do a written complaint. That's the one reproduced below, a few posts down.

The Chair Care lady thinks we may hear back as early as Monday.

So I said, well, heck, I can wait a few more days. It'll take that long to sleep off this shopping trip anyway.

I don't count my chickens until they hatch.

But I sure can feel hopeful. And I do.


Scooter War: Battle Plan for Friday, 11/17/06

Some very good questions and feedback from the previous scooter post came up in the comments, so I'm going to add to my program for tomorrow.

First, the shopping needs doing. After that, I'll be wiped out. So I'm not sure how long I'll be awake to get phone calls returned. What I'll try for is to at least make all the outgoing calls I want to do, before I crash for the day.

The scooter company that's been plaguing me is Central Medical Equipment Rentals. They also did my CPAP machine and are supposed to do my diabetes testing supplies. Oh yeah. All eggs in one basket. No alternatives without a grievance, etc. etc.

The scooter they delivered in July - the same model as the Nov. 2004 scooter - is called *Merits Twin Front Wheel.* This one is Serial # 3120374, BTW. I'm reading off its little green tag, which I scarfed in advance of complaints.

The reason I gave up on Central is that they're so incompetent there's simply no point in trying to beat a working scooter out of them. That's what I was trying to do all through July and August. No good. No further chance for redemption. Their incompetence is simply stunning.

And: since I've filed three complaints against them, and will add to that because of the CPAP, and will greatly enjoy exploring what, if any, legal action I can take against them - trying to get a working scooter from Central wouldn't actually even be proper at this point. It's a sort of legal nicety, but for very good reasons: 1. Don't do business with your enemy - a. because enemies, by nature, can't be trusted; b. because it gives the false impression that you think they're okay after all. 2. While I haven't sued them yet, I will try to. And while *my lawyer can talk to your lawyer,* it's improper for the underlying clients to talk either to each other, or to opposing counsel. Best to sever communications now.

The name of the *GOOD Scooter Company* (can you hear the heavenly choir singing?) is Chair Care Plus, of Pompano Beach, FL. I got their name from Lincare, a respiratory equipment supplier Cindi told me about. I called Lincare's Ft. Lauderdale office to ask for the name of a good local scooter company; they said Chair Care Plus. I called them on the phone and got a good impression, asked some questions, so forth. The owner/president of the company was the one who talked to me. I ran errands that day, and went by their office on the way home.

I talked to that owner, and was even more impressed. Since I couldn't get out of the car very well, he came out to talk to me in the parking lot, bringing a scooter to show me. The difference in quality between that scooter and the Merits was stunning. I don't think it was a particularly high-end model, either.

He behaved with me the way I did with my old furniture-shipping customers in so many ways. I told him about Central and he refused to bad-mouth the competition: same as I used to do, he tried to find ways to say, --Well, they have their way of doing things; what we do here is...yada yada. It cracked me up and I said, Hey, they totally suck, okay? It's all right to say so, I already know.

This is just a small business. Yet Chair Care is the company that does all the store scooters on our area! That speaks well for them too.

He told me Chair Care doesn't carry the Merits brand because it has so many manufacturer problems, it wasn't entirely Central's fault. (Well, yes, because then they should NOT CARRY MERITS SCOOTERS.)

Where was I?

Oh. So if it breaks down, it's impossible to get parts. He was trying to repair a Merits for another customer of his, one who'd bought it elsewhere for cash. The fool manufacturer didn't even know its own parts - he finally had to email them a photo of the broken part. Folks, as a businessperson, that is an amazing thing to hear about any company.

I left him with this: Is there any way I can transport a scooter or motor wheelchair with my little Saturn? He thinks not, but will call the Saturn people to see. Also: Is he willing to do an interim rental while my complaint gets messed around at HO? Sure, he said, and went off into a lot of technical HMO stuff until he saw my eyes were glazing over. I didn't mind, because I could see he's more than skilled at dealing with HMO bullshit. That matters, hugely.

So. Tomorrow I'll call him and see if he has any answers for me yet. I've no doubt HO won't do an interim rental, but at least I can tell them he is willing, which was my real point.

Next, I can see if there's any way we can set up a short term rental even if I have to pay for it. Certainly I wouldn't mind a used one for that. This would address that *in the meantime* question of Desert Cat's.

I'll also ask him all about the cost questions you guys brought up. I do know, for instance, that Sam's has some decent looking scooters for less than $1000, and that others often run a couple thousand. Generally, whatever our local Sam's carries is very good to excellent in quality, and for superb prices. But scooters I don't know nuthin' about, so comparing cost-for-quality would be time-consuming. I've seen some on the web for less, but they don't look very sturdy.

Chair Care may also have some used ones for sale. If it comes to that, I think I'd rather try to get a used one from him than someplace else, even like Salvation Army or what have you. He also does a lot of repair work, which we discussed in some detail, so I think I'd trust him as a good *mechanic* you'd get a used car from.

Oh! And one last place to check: GrannyJ has mentioned *Freecycle.* Maybe a scooter is too high-end for that, but hey, it's time I checked into them anyway.

Since I certainly don't want to hang with BCBS HO M&M any more, and I must make a choice of a new provider before December 31, I'll be investigating which plans have good scooter coverage. I may even go straight Medicare and no HMO at all. But that's a whole another ball of wax. For now, the ultimate solution may end up being this: get a good scooter from whoever is my provider as of January 1, 2007.

If I have to pay for a rental until then, so be it - at least, I'll try to find the funds. I can't keep letting my life fall apart while I wait. Transporting it in my car is a whole different issue, and much harder to get any provider to cover. But even if it's just for home use, scootering about to the kitchen etc. means my foot has enough *health* left over to do walking to doc's offices and stores. (Maybe.)

And since I revamped my bricks in the nick of time - little did I know it then! - I can take the home scooter outside and WATER and WEED and all those things that play a big part in keeping me happy. Clean up that back yard. Yes, there's a great deal I can do right now without endangering my foot - IF I have at least a home scooter.

I'll also bite my lip and ask any store and doc's office who can, to bring a chair or scooter to my car when I go there. Must needs. A leg is of far greater value than my pride.

I feel ready for battle again. Sleeping so much today helped. But your supportive comments and suggestions and questions went far more toward making me feel strong enough again. I don't know a way to say this that equals what you guys gave me: so, just, thank you.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I am a Champion Sleeper

I can take on any one of you, any day, any time, any way, and beat you. Hands down. In any kind of sleeping contest you could possibly devise.

Among my small circle of *physical* (as opposed to virtual) acquaintance, I am justly famous for this.

As they say: It ain't braggin' if ya done it.

Today I slept from 5:30 AM to 7:30 PM. And I'm not done yet.

I woke up a couple times, right in time to take my meds, test my sugar, and go back to sleep.

At 7:30, though, I decided to stay conscious till around midnight or so. Then, when I wake up in the morning like *normal* people do, I can call kmom and do that shopping I wasn't up to, today.

Now I see that poor Livey is fixing to put her fist through a wall, hopping mad, and frustrated because when I'm asleep, of course, I don't answer my phone. Good thing too.

I almost called her back the second I woke up. *but Wait!* Livey and I have many twin attributes; one being, we need time to wake up. Lots and lots of it. I didn't want to scare her with my usual lack of coherence before I had my espresso. So I've had to let her suffer another hour and a half.

I read all your comments in the post below, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your support. It's precisely the right balm for the kinds of wounds those phone calls made. You folks made me feel better. Not all humans are like those other ones.

And Walter, reading my blog from wherever he is on the road, read them too, and was comforted. When he can't be here to comfort me himself, I think it weighs on him. He tries not to talk about it, but I know this man and I can tell. In his quiet way he is so glad to see I'm not, actually, alone in this.

He doesn't impress easy, BTW. Over time, he's been a bit surprised at the intelligence, knowledge, courtesy, humor, kindness, honesty, and writing skills of my commenters. He's impressed. I reply - nose in air - Of Course.

k Has a Difficult Day, and Requests Assistance

I sat here this morning looking at the skin peeling off my left leg.

When you have an infection, it gets warm. When you have a very serious infection, it gets hot. This one got so hot it melted the cream antibiotic I was slathering on it. Melted it like butter in a hot fry pan.

An infection that hot burns the outer skin just like a sunburn, but from within.

Now the skin is peeling off - just like a sunburn. Since the entire leg was infected from mid-thigh down, a lot of skin is coming off.

It's a sign of healing. A good thing.

But still a little disconcerting to see.

The infection started 3 1/2 weeks ago, Friday, October 20, 2006. Almost a month has passed.

I'm trying to walk a little bit again. Carefully - it's quite literally dangerous. The now-dormant germs lying around the internal scars would just love a chance to get multiplying again, and that's exactly what too much walking will do. It'll make that perfect environment for them to wake up and multiply and reinfect the foot and leg.

A few days ago, I made my way outside - slowly, agonizingly - from the front porch to the back porch. It was the first time I'd seen the side of my house, or the back yard, since the day the infection set in. Almost a month.

I saw plants I love that died because I couldn't get out and water them once the rains stopped. Other than that?

Everything was exactly as I'd left it when the ID doc's office called me back on my cell phone that Friday and said, Come in, NOW.

My wheelbarrow had some things in it and there were filled yard bags, stacked here and there, just where I'd left them. Tools outside. They'd gotten rained on.

It was like returning to the deserted scene of a tornado or car crash or something, weeks later, when no one's been there or touched anything or cleaned up the mess. Chilling. Traumatizing. The shock and the memory and the fear hit me like a kick in the gut. I couldn't breathe.

I went back inside and went to sleep again. That tiny venture left me drained and exhausted for three days.

I hardly ever get the fever and chills any more. But I'm still sleeping around 18 hours a day, partly from allergies. The pain in the foot is still intense. The shin bone is tender, and the ankle too. But the foot itself, internally scarred from the abscess in 2004, is by far the most affected by pain.

If I walk just a few steps, the pain ramps up, and lasts for hours or days.

And I still don't have a working scooter, even for home use. All I can do is sit around with my feet elevated, letting the things I need done go undone, letting my life slowly fall apart around me.

Yesterday, for the very first time, a certain realization hit me full force: If I'd had a working scooter - instead of the defective one delivered in July and never replaced - the infection would probably not have happened. The incompetence of the equipment company and the HMO is the primary cause of this terrible new infection, more permanent damage and permanently increased pain, and almost the loss of my leg.

After the infection, with a working transportable scooter, I wouldn't have been stuck here for a month, unable to go anywhere or do anything. I would not have fainted at the pain doctor's office from the strain of walking 150 feet. I would not have felt the intense pain I do every time I walk from my office chair to the kitchen or bathroom or front door.

My written complaint to the Medicare HMO about the scooter issue was finally addressed, over a week after submission. The person calling me from the complaint department had no idea I was complaining about the durable medical equipment company as well, including allegations of fraud. Even though this was included in the complaint she was supposedly reading, right in front of her.

I told her, very specifically, the name of the *good* company I wanted to provide a working scooter. They even have a provider number for BCBS. They don't have one for the particular BCBS plan I'm on.

This is because the incompetent frauds my plan uses? Well, it's the only equipment company they use.

So going *out of network* takes an act of Congress.

The complaint lady now says my primary doctors' office needs to do yet another authorization request for the scooter, specifically naming the *Good Scooter Company.* Now, she says, it's out of her hands, and in the Authorization Department. She seems to think the chances of approval are quite poor.

All right. I can't say yet that I've been turned down. But I also no longer want to wait, and was hoping to get some muscle to call that authorization department, to just encourage them to do the Right Thing.

So today, I embarked upon a series of telephone calls that left me feeling so depressed and victimized I broke down and cried.

I called the Medicare Fraud Line. Not interested. WHAT? See, the frauds billed through a Medicare HMO so Medicare itself doesn't care. I said, Could you please check to see if they're a direct Medicare supplier? (Because then Medicare maybe would care.)

But she cut me off in the middle of my sentence and hung up the phone on me.

Next, I called various agencies off a list left with me by a social worker who'd come to visit. I called one after the other: agencies to help disabled people, agencies for poor people, legal aid, the State of Florida. A whole page of phone numbers.

I did leave a couple messages. So I can't say that every single one was of no help. Not yet.

Just every single one I talked to.

The ones I did speak with?: --Not our jurisdiction...we only do spina bifida...we only appeal denial of services...that's federal not state...

You see, I fall through the cracks because it's a Medicare HMO. The state HMO helpers say it's federal. But the feds, Medicare, won't help because it's an HMO instead of direct Medicare.

Two of our local TV stations have these *help* programs. One, WSVN-TV (Fox), you can call and complain about a company or so forth screwing you, and they'll maybe pick your case out of all the many others and try to get it resolved. *Help Me Howard,* it's called. Ol' Howard's a lawyer. I left a message.

The other one is *Magnum's Force.* Diane Magnum is one of the news anchors, married to some famous race car driver. She and WPLG-TV (ABC) started this charity-type program where they help poor people who just need a decent wheelchair, or the roof fixed, so forth. They put you on the news, all public and - please excuse me, but it's true - syrupy and sappy.

The thought of either calling attention to my situation in public in any way, or even talking to any charity for something like this - a truly necessary medical service for which I paid years and years and years of both Medicare and insurance premiums - makes me cringe with humiliation. I left a message.

I also called a malpractice attorney. They referred me on to the Biggest Baddest Nastiest Malpractice Lawyers in Broward County. Why? Because one particular doctor's screwups in 2004 meant the foot scarred far more than it ever needed to. The result has been years of pain and fear and new infections and permanent inability to walk the way I could have without the screwups. I will not walk much, or be free of intense pain, ever again till the day I die.

In 2004, I let it slide. I was far too sick for far too long to want to do anything, and frankly, I really dislike fights. People make mistakes; we aren't perfect. Even the string of serious and stupid mistakes this particular doctor made...well, he's human too.

But in the back of my mind has always been the knowledge that if someone doesn't blow the whistle on this doctor, he may well kill an innocent child at some point. Not filing against him has left me with a burden of guilt. Put that together with his direct contribution to me almost losing the entire leg this time? No more. No more. I won't let him go any more.

I'll call those lawyers when I'm calmed down. Maybe the meter has run and the statute of limitations has passed. Maybe not. They can tell me if there's anything we can do.

And if I can't find anyone at the federal level who cares about those incompetent medical equipment frauds? I bet I can at some of these: the Better Business Bureau, the State of Florida Consumer Help Line, Florida Department of Professional Regulation...

The State of Florida has famously terrible DCF and Medicaid services, but their *regular* consumer-type help is excellent. In fact, it was a Florida HMO complaint taker who - after explaining she couldn't help, it was Federal - actually put me on hold to research some things for me. She was even fast. She said that even before I'm actually denied the *good* scooter company by my HMO, I have this right: if my health is endangered by the problem forming the basis of my complaint, they must respond in 72 hours. It's already been 10 days. Got 'em.

Now that is consumer service. Nothing actually *required* her to do that. She did it because it was the right thing to do.

She also asked what Medicare said about the fraud. I told her: not interested, because it was a Medicare HMO, not a direct supplier to Medicare. Ah. Jurisdiction, she understands. So. Did I tell the HMO about the fraud? --Sure, many times. I even verified the supplier was fraudulently billing for a working scooter. --Good! What did the HMO say? --Nothing. Not interested. They just don't care at all. In fact they seem to wish I wouldn't mention it.

I'll get back to *work* on all this after I go to Sam's and Penn Dutch and Walmart. I'm sure my tiny amount of shopping will do me in for the day. So what. I'll sleep and wake up and start again.

It helps that this time kmom will drive me. We are very independent people, and asking my mother for this help was an emotionally awful thing to do. She'll drop me at the doors of the stores so I don't have to walk from the parking lot to the store scooter and kill my foot again.

Because doing that is what led to this most recent infection in the first place. Walking when it's not safe to do so. Walking, because I've never had a wheelchair or scooter for my car, and the scooter at home has been broken for a year, and they incorrectly said I'd have to pay $500 to fix it. And then did nothing to replace the defective one delivered this July, despite hours of calls and two formal telephone complaints with the HMO.

My complicity in this was in not standing up for myself better. But I think you can see, I did try. Oh, I tried and tried. Now I have to tap into my own vein of ruthlessness and not stop until this is completed. They aren't just hurting me here, they're hurting others too, that's how it works. Then they make it so hard to remedy, the vast majority of people truly damaged by these incompetent HMO's and fraudulent suppliers just give up. They break down in tears and depression like I did today and simply can't face it any more.

I have it in me to take it to the wall. I used to do this sort of thing as part of my profession. I can do it for myself today. I'm exhausted and weak but I'm not entirely bedridden. I can talk on the phone and surf and email and write complaints.

The name of the incompetent HMO is Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Options Medicare and More. The name of the incompetent frauds, the equipment company, is Central Medical Equipment Rentals. I'll be surfing up any info I can on Central Medical. If anyone out there knows anything about either of these outfits that might help me, or has any suggestions where else I might turn for redress and to stop the frauds, let me know. Those people need to be put out of business.

Will my primary doctor back me up on any of this? I don't know. I was supposed to see him this Friday, and wanted to talk about it then. I had to call to cancel, though. I have no way to get from the parking lot to his office, way down a long outdoor corridor on the second floor.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Brains Vs. Brawn: Ladies Haul Ass

I just checked in on Livey, and saw the most hilarious pix on how she hauled her wood.

She used to have this POS truck. She used it for pulling down trees and plowing snow off her roof and chasing bears, but she sold it. She still had a lot of wood to haul and stack before the winter snows set in. What to do?

Well. She tried a wheelbarrow.

It worked okay. But since she had like 1800 cord of wood to haul, and the wheelbarrow doesn't hold that much, and required a disproportionate amount of physical labor, and she's been getting tired and sore - she thought some more.

She has an ATV.

She has a couple sled-type things you can attach to the back of the ATV, and slide stuff.

So she attached one of the sleds and tried that. Much better!

As projects tend to do, it kind of grew. Eventually, she had both sleds attached to the ATV, and then - she figured out a way to attach the wheelbarrow too.


Maybe it looks silly, but hey, it works. She's almost done.

This sounds exACTly like something I would do.

As a matter of sounds exactly like something I DID do.

I've been trying to figure out how to do a sort of hurricane retrospective. Wilma was a year ago October 24, and Katrina two months before that. GrannyJ said she'd like to see some links for the hurricane posts. But when I realized it was like half of my archives, I just couldn't figure out how to put it together - except to say: for Wilma, begin reading October, 2005; for Katrina, start at August 24, 2005. Some great pix in there for Katrina, when I was driving my car through the eyewall of the hurricane - and shooting pix through the windshield the whole way.

After Wilma I went on a Plant Rescue spree. We had all these plants downed and stacked by the side of the road, mixed in with the hurricane trash. I mean, these were continuous debris piles lining both sides of all streets, around 5' high and 5' deep. They were there for weeks and weeks. Many contained plants that could easily be rooted - plumeria, bromeliads, *air plants,* Peruvian cereus - that's a cactus that looks like saguaro but isn't.

Day after day after day I collected plants and wood and all sorts of things in the Saturn, and hauled them home. I kept on until one day I just dropped from exhaustion. Fortunately, this was right around when most of the good stuff was already hauled off by The Claw.

One of my last big plant rescues was right down my street, just a block away. Really a half-block, by city standards. My neighbors had a huge amount of this Peruvian cereus downed, and wanted me to take it and plant it if I could. Hey. Twist my arm.

I thought it was some kind of euphorbia, not a true cactus. I was wrong. Not only is it a true cactus, blogdad Desert Cat has one like it in his yard. We had some simultaneous blooms this spring.

The biggest piece turned out to be 16' long - I measured it. I thought it was 12-15 feet and weighing 100 pounds, but it was 16 feet and around 150-200 pounds. A very fine find indeed. to haul it home?

Answer: Story and pix below!

PS - The original text post is November 23, 2005. Since I didn't know how to post pix very well at the time, each pic was a different post. So if you want to see the original text and pics, visit the archives for November, 2005, and go to November 23. After that are the pix - keep paging down just like reading a continuous post.

The One I Got; The One That Got Away

The one that got away was a picture.

A couple days ago, setting out on errands, I saw a car turning into my neighborhood dragging something behind it. This car was maybe a little SUV - excuse please, I have a missing part where most people's Car Knowledge goes.

Anyway, it had no trailer hitch. Instead there were a couple of light chains hooked up to its bumper. On the other end of the chains - with no trailer, no container, no packing, just its own unadorned self - was a very nice big stump.

Someone had scarfed the stump and was dragging it home. Bumping its butt on the street as it went.

I found this sight quite funny.

Me, I didn't have my camera ready. I got it out and turned around and tried to chase the thing down, but they ditched me. I passed by the retired Police Chief, an excellent observant witness, and stopped. I know, absolutely, that he wouldn't have missed it if it went by. Did you see them? I asked hopefully. Did they come this way? Nope.

No pic.

It did, however, give me an Idea.

The initial intense Plant Retrieval phase of Operation Plant Rescue (Wilma) is nearing an end. The best vegetation debris has been removed, and my back yard is crammed full. There did remain one last important bit.

This consisted of several 10-15 foot lengths of "cactus" down the street at Tom and Norman's house. They were good enough to give them to me, if I could retrieve them. They thought I could cut them up into smaller pieces. Small enough to handle.

Ha! Think again.

As much as I can, I'm leaving plants big. We all lost enough big stuff.

So yesterday morning, I carted home several shorter lengths, and one quite long one. The shorter ones I strapped to my upright 2-wheel dolly - aka hand truck - and walked them home. The long one I ended up balancing on my bun and walking it home, too.

Buns are useful.

I think I read a bit much National Geographic as a child. I grew up with great admiration for those ladies native to interesting foreign lands, where they balance big loads of water or food or wood on their heads. Such excellent posture they have.

In finishing school, all they use to teach posture and balance and grace is a book on the head. Cheap dumb pointless substitute. Why in the world would anyone need to transport a book on one's head? Are modern "civilized" ladies so weak they can't carry a book in their arms like a normal person?


On the way home, gracefully balancing my load on my head and walking with fine posture, I happened to pass a nice English couple walking their dog. With true British phlegm, they politely nodded Hello and carefully ignored my fifteen foot long head cactus.

I said, Okay. I know this looks silly. It's all right, I don't mind.

They laughed and visibly relaxed and asked, How do you root it?

Well, you just stick it in the ground and up it goes. It looks like saguaro cactus but I think it's some kind of Euphorbia. It's really easy to grow. In a couple of months I'll have a big Plant Sale, come on down!

No sense passing up a little marketing opportunity.

Today, I had one last piece to retrieve, the biggest, fanciest, prettiest one of all.

It's 12-15 feet long, has several nice branches, and probably weighs at least 100 pounds. Too much for even MY powerful bun.

I thought and thought. I thought about that stump, bumping along behind a car. And decided.

A couple of houses down I saw just what I needed sitting in a debris pile. This was a large child's pool, hard plastic, with sections cut out of each end. In the furniture shipping trade we called this sort of thing a "slide." I scarfed it and took it down to Tom and Norman's.

I put the top end of the cactus in the tub, the bottom end in the back of the Saturn, and bungied the tub to the car.

And wouldn't you know it - right then, a cop cruised by. I sat in the driver's seat not moving, looking as innocent as I could. I really don't want to get a ticket that describes illegal cactus-hauling activities in a child's pool bungied to the car.

Sheesh. I'd find myself on an Oddly Enough news page. With like an $18,000 fine, and a judge cracking up at me. Putting me out on the street wearing a cardboard sign that says, I UNSAFELY DRAG HUGE CACTUS DOWN STREET BEHIND SATURN IN CHILD'S WADING POOL!!!

I'm particularly vulnerable since I have a medium truck driver's license and they expect us to know better. I duck down a little lower.

hee hee! He's gone. I peep in the rear-view mirror. I see he's really only hiding by the fire station. He left the car's behind sticking out like a cat hiding under a rug, tail out, thinking he's invisible. I figure he's probably hitting up the firemen for donuts and won't bother me till after breakfast.

I start the car. Will the bungies hold? Will the tub slide?


I tool down the street at 1 mile per hour. It's working so well I ratchet it up to 2. Whee!

I'm trying really, really hard not to giggle out loud. My neighbors think I'm strange enough as it is.

Uh-oh. Turning into the driveway is a bit more complicated. These plants like to break in half when you bend them. I stop the car, move the Supercan out of the way, and push the tub through the curve so I can drive pretty much straight in, without the car turning the tub.

It works!

I proudly view my accomplishment. I take pics. I declare Break Time. So here I am.

I got it.

Another exceptional Plant Rescue, completed.

Buffy Walks Away... Tom and Norman's Buffy the Cat looks like my Babycat's brother. Baby brother. Buffy's only 15. Baby's 21.

Buffy's in the middle of this pic, walking away. He detected Nefarious Human Activities That Could Endanger One's Tail, and wisely relocated himself.

...And Settles in to Watch the Show
From a safe distance, that is.

Assemble Your Ingredients
Tub on left. Plant on right. Posted by Picasa

Render Spines Less Deadly
Just because it's not a true cactus doesn't mean it can't bite.

Mix With Care

Fold In Gently
Or, as the case may be, drag to the street.

Prepare for Car
Posted by Picasa

Bungie Up
Be sure to hide from cops!