Wednesday, January 31, 2007

All's Well

Don't worry. We are fine.

Walter's new cardiologist is fabulous, and he's off running around getting all kinds of tests done. Me, I'm digging.

I'm on a hunt for Flame Lilies. Aka, Gloriosa Rothschildiana.

And since I never know when my small bursts of energy will suddenly expire, I'm not stopping until I'm done.

I'll probably be done today. Oh, such pix I have to show you all! Until I post the motherlode, I'll leave you with a small example of what these things look like as I dig for them.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

*Nigerian 419 Scam* - Takurmoni and Ruhn

Well! Imagine my delight when I awoke to see this in my gmail this morning.

Back in my bankbusting days, we got to do a certain amount of fraud investigation. Criminal bank fraud was reported to the FBI via a *Criminal Referral.* Unfortunately, many in that bureau regard drug cartels, bank robbery and gun running as far more *sexy* professional pursuits.

And financial frauds, especially sophisticated ones, can be difficult to explain to juries. Suppose the FBI investigated the case instead of circular-filing it, then actually took the time to go to court. Say the jury convicted the crooks. Said crooks often ended up with a short-term slap-on-the-wrist stint in a Golf Course Jail.

This state of affairs was frustrating and demotivating.

Thus k's emphasis on simple civil recovery for fraudulent acts. Screw RICO. If you stole my money, it's open to recovery via tort, okay? Should be a no-brainer. Just add the language in with your foreclosure suit.


Since it hadn't been done much in the past, this tactic initially met with general scepticism on the part of k's superiors and attorneys. However, like most such innovations, as soon as it was proved to be successful - meaning the money came in - it was taken up by various and sundry other account officers, and readily approved by Committees. Hooray! Proud of that one, I am.

I really have a great dislike for crime, folks. White-collar crime especially sticks in my craw. Violence too.

I got a Nigerian 419 letter in the mail once. It had a beautiful foreign stamp on it. I called some local FBI or other office, and they kindly talked it over with me, but weren't interested in actually seeing the letter. They said they had more than enough to work with, thank you k.

Now we get them in email. No more pretty stamps.

This one's purportedly from South Africa. They're called *Nigerian 419* scams because that's the name of the Nigerian law passed to combat these crimes. Nigerian scammers were the original creative force behind the concept.

While my 419 email doesn't address it - yet - my banker will quickly require some advance fees to get this money out of his bank and his country. *Advance Fee scam* is another name for the routine.

Want to read more about the real life facts of these scams? Here's a great link.

I especially enjoyed reading that the last name on the email address, Mr. *Khumalo,* is included on the list of names commonly used by our fraudsters.

I didn't enjoy learning how many victims end up dead, by murder or suicide. That's a shame.

But I'll overlook that, and return to the pleasurable pursuit of analyzing my Nigerian 419 email.

Notice the charming lack of sophistication. I've got some 3rd world dummy here. Should be easy for me to manipulate, huh? Not that I'd ever dream of being the *one amongst both of us* to *defraud each other at the end.*

Such fine compliments too! I am indeed a *reliable and competent person.* Certainly Mr. Khumalo/Zuma can rely upon my *unreserved but sincere cooperation devoid of greed.*

Now, don't overlook the criminal nature of the proposal. It's not just *to avoid any possible blackmail or leakage* that he's contacting total strangers to help him. No no no. Mr. Khumalo/Zuma says he removed files on the account to hide it from bank auditors. You don't need to be a South African to understand that it's a crime, anywhere, for any fiduciary to do stuff like that.

Not to mention, I'm supposed to pose as the heir to Mr. Angers. Which, actually, I'm really not. Meaning I'd be committing another act of fraud right there.

But hey. Who does it harm? Isn't this a victimless crime?

Mr. Angers, who unfortunately passed on via plane crash, opened the account *having been fictitious regards the information submitted to this bank.* So it was probably stolen money anyway. Besides, if he didn't provide correct information, his real heirs - which he probably doesn't have - don't deserve it. He has a nasty name too: *Angers.*

The *Federal Treasury via South Africa reserve bank* doesn't need 40% of $9,000,000.

I do.

We better get going here. Our banker's been looking for a reliable Helper for months...but soon he'll find one. The first comer - or maybe one of those bank auditors - could show up any minute. It really is *a matter of urgency.* I better hurry.

Because, hey. *It is worthy to note that people are unreliable these days and even derive joy in telling lies.*

Somewhere, dark in the heart of a remote African village - or maybe Yonkers - our scam artist must have burst into giggles when he wrote that line.

Thandi Khumalo
show details
3:56 am (6 hours ago)

Good day!!I can't imagine how you will feel receiving a sudden business letter from a remote country infar away South Africa and probably from some one you have not closely related with. But allthe same, I believe we do not need to be of blood relatives before we can establish cordial/business relationship. Having said this, I think it is very important at this juncture to introduce myself to you and also disclose to you, how I came in contact with your email address/profile. My name is. Mr. PATRICK ZUMA I am the district (Foreign operations) manager of commercial bank here in South Africa.

I got your email address/profile from the Internet when I was in search for reliable and competent person to handle this matter for our future benefits. So it is my pleasure tosolicit your assistance in a very confidential business proposal. I am contacting you because Ido not want to transact the business with anybody who is known to any staff of this bank oranybody around here to avoid any possible blackmail or leakage at the end of the transaction.


There is an account in this bank, which was opened in 1982 by one Mr. Marc Angers, an Australian National, who worked with South Africa Department of Mining & Natural Resources and since 1990 nobody has operated on this account. I had a very careful study of theaccount files through which I carried an extensive investigation about the holder of the said account and found out that Mr. Marc Angers suddenly died in a plane crash in 1990 thereby abandoning the account, having been fictitious regards the information submitted to this bank at the time of opening the account.

The account at this moment has no beneficiary since the name Mr. Marc filled, as his next ofkin has no contact information in the form he submitted to the bank. I have secretly removedall the relevant files to the account from the dormant section so that bank auditors will notverify the abandoned money and refer it to Federal Treasury via South Africa reserve bank’.Credit balance of the said account is US$9 Million (Nine million, United States Dollars)

My Dear Friend, the deal here is that the money in this account will be approved and remitted to any foreigner who shows up as next of kin to Mr. Marc provided such person has correctinformation to the account. I have such needed information and will hand it over to you as soonas we commence the transaction. I will source all necessary documents and forward them to youfor direct submission to the bank. With my position as the foreign operations manager, we willquietly remove this money from the bank without hitches.

I don't have any problem in regularizing all necessary documents and transferring of the credit balance of the said account to your yet to nominated overseas bank account, but the problem is sincerity and trust. I have spent months in trying to get an overseas reliable contact. It is worthy to note that people are unreliable these days and even derive joyin telling lies.

On this ground I request your unreserved but sincere cooperation devoid of greed in carrying out this transaction so that no one amongst both of us shall defraud each other at the end. I am prepared to split the fund at 60%---40% for you, provided that mine (60%) will be intact at the end. Please get back to me via the above email account as a matter of urgency or call +0027731358128.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

He's BACK!

Walrilla is back home, and he sounds wonderful. Oh, I'm SO glad I can't stand it!

We gonna have us some scooter races, yet.

And the reason it seemed to take longer than it should for him to check back in with us? You know. As we sat forward on the edges of our chairs? Checking checking checking?

Well...the poor man, he couldn't even do that much. See, the minute he got home from the hospital, he came down with the stomach flu.


If it ain't one thing, it's another.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I Need to Tell You Now That You Must Stay on Antibiotics the Rest of Your Life

I saw Dr C, the Infectious Disease doc, on Friday (the 19th). My first round results from the biopsy came in - but Dr. K, the fancy dermatologist in Miami, didn't bother telling either of us the results had arrived.

So Dr. C called him on the phone. She got the results faxed to her, but Dr. K had already left for the day, so she couldn't find out anything else. I excerpted the gist of the pathologist's report below.

Here's what we know so far: The lingering infection in my right arm's lymphatic system is not MRSA.

Instead, the results are: *probably...granulomatous dermatitis of infectious cause.* Meaning, we don't know much of anything for sure. Not yet.

That's pretty much identical to the previous attempt at testing and culturing the right arm mystery lumps a year ago. Except now, of course, it's in my lymph vessels and lymph nodes, which is more serious.

*Granulomatous* means it looks, once again, like it's probably an infection, and probably mycobacteria. The mycobacteria family means, for example, that it could be leprosy. Or, it could be fungal instead of any mycobacteria at all.

Usually, though, what all this spells is tuberculosis.

We think of TB as a lung thing, the deadly *consumption* of days gone by; but you can get TB in your skin, too. Your joints. Actually, it can infect a person just about anywhere it wants to.
And google tells me that the next most common site, after the lungs, is the lymphatic system.

So Dr. C and I had a long talk. She swung into action with a focus and drive that made me think of doing hurricane preps - how you get a certain tunnel vision, and no matter how tired you are everything falls away from you until the job is done.

I told her: --From the beginning you thought this one wasn't MRSA. I wasn't sure. I thought it was, but didn't feel certain until Dr. K said so. And he was wrong and you were right.

--So, where do we go from here?

She said: --I'm going to have some blood drawn now. Some will be for blood cultures. Also, I want a head-to-toe CAT scan. Then I want to see you again in two weeks.

--I need to tell you now that you must stay on antibiotics the rest of your life, especially in light of the prednisone. Last year, during the eight months on the minocycline, you did better than I've ever seen you. Since that stopped you've had one serious infection after another.

--So now we'll put you on monthly supplies of antibiotics. We'll continue the minocycline and add...How about Cipro? Are you allergic to that? --No, and I've taken it before. --Good. We'll add on the Cipro too then, and see what happens.


I showed her my right hand, where the rheumatoid arthritis (and/or mycobacteria?) is eating my first two fingers. Dr. C is also quite knowledgeable about allergies; she understands cases like mine, where the physical impact of having thousands of extreme allergies is absolutely debilitating. I told her: --I can't decrease the prednisone dose any more. It's not possible for me to function at a lower dose.

She knows I'm not just saying that. She's never tried to push me off it like my RA doc does. I appreciate that. He has some personal thing with steroids, some paranoia. Some docs do, just like with pain meds. (Unfortunately, in my experience, that usually means they do far LESS to mitigate the side effects of the meds in question.) Interestingly, he's also said before that he thinks some of the arthritis is from infection, rather than RA - especially the joints in those two fingers.

I did the CAT scan yesterday, Monday. While I don't know for sure, I think she may be checking to see if I have TB in my organs.

Do I want to be on antibiotics the rest of my life? Of course not.

But that's better than letting these infections keep eating me alive, piece by piece.
Just before I left her office I told her: --Thank you for being my doctor, for taking such good care of me.


The initial analysis of the biopsy was conducted by a board certified dermatopathologist. Here's how the report reads:


"Perivascular and partially periadnexal predominantly lymphohistiocytic infiltrate with rare giant cells.

"Note: Although special stains including acid fast bacteria and GMS show negative results, histopathologic findings most probably represent granulomatous dermatitis of infectious cause. Correlation with tissue cultures is suggested."


"A portion of the tissue is forwarded to Nichols Institute for AFB culture."

The lab who will be culturing it, the Nichols Institute, has an excellent reputation for solving hard questions like this - it's a lab of last resort. We'll see what they can do this time.

Good News, Bad News, Good News

Walter's idiot local cardiologist is history. OH, he is SO FIRED. kdad found a new cardiologist that sounds great, and Walter sees him tomorrow. We got in early on a cancellation.

When he came home from Deaconess in Indiana, he had all sorts of follow-up instructions for cardiotherapy exercise and diet. He also had a lab requisition for some blood tests. The local idiot cardiologist Walter went to didn't discuss much of this - except to say that everyone quits smoking after a heart attack, and then they all start up again.

Oh - he did take the time to look at Walter's blood test request and throw it away, calling it Unnecessary. I'm curious to find out what that request was for, especially considering what happened afterwards. Were there liver and kidney functions to check? A cholesterol test? The idiot said cholesterol testing was only necessary once a year.

Huh? Even for a recent triple bypass patient on statins? Who has a history of really bad cholesterol readings?

Yup. Until we forced the issue, the idiot hadn't done a single EKG or liver and kidney functions or cholesterol test or anything but an ultrasound and chest x-ray since Walter got home. This despite:
--Walter's worsened chest pain, requiring two trips to the ER - yeah, he went again
--The known and dangerous side effects of Vytorin, one of which Walter got in a very bad way
--An emergency page to the on-call cardiologist - which was returned immediately, on New Year's Day
--An emergency message to the idiot cardiologist on 1/2 - which was never returned
--The requirements of Walter's health insurance company, which wants lots and lots of cholesterol tests and blood pressure checks and all that stuff that kinda sounds like it would be a good idea after a triple bypass.

The Vytorin reaction, which took place over New Year's weekend, had Walter sick to death. I awoke from a nap to find him curled up in a fetal ball of pain, even after taking a significant amount of pain meds. Which is NOT a *Walter* thing to do, partly because those things make him puke.

This terrible, painful muscle reaction can indicate liver damage. Per our own google info, and then the instructions of the on-call doc, Walter's off the Vytorin now.

After never hearing back from the emergency message we left the idiot on Tuesday, 1/2, Walter had a previously scheduled follow-up appointment on 1/5. So he saw the idiot in person. The idiot finally ordered some blood tests, although they were unfortunately far after the fact, because that urgent phone call wasn't returned.

Those tests revealed A Problem, so a new test was ordered.

The Problem? We heard in a phone message that the results came in as *elevated liver,* an unspecific term from the idiot medical assistant who left the message. Who also said she *can't* fax the follow-up blood test request form to the lab (bull! - you just use a different kind of form) so we were supposed to drive a fair distance to pick the form up IN PERSON, then take it to the lab.

We're both a bit feeble here, so this meant the new test would be delayed until one of us is well enough to drive out to pick up the form, and Walter's well enough to actually go to the lab.

Well, since I was out and about doing my own Doctor Day on Friday, the 19th, I drove out and picked the damn thing up.

For what it's worth.

See, I looked at it and I saw it had only one request on it: Fractionated Alkaline Phosphatase.

It would have been nice to have the results ready for the new cardiologist to see tomorrow. But, considering how sick Walter's been and how much it would take out of him to do this test, it didn't seem worth the extra trip.

Extra trip? Maybe not. But probably. Because I think there's a good chance the new doc will want to have some other things looked at, too. Like, maybe, Walter's cholesterol level.

So...the good news? The new cardiologist.

And!!! Walter's short term disability insurance was FINALLY approved, and they expedited the check, which should arrive by tomorrow. We hope.

After no paycheck since 11/19/ do YOU spell *relief*?

Oh...and, BTW, Mr. Idiot Doctor...Walter's still not smoking. Of course, only time will tell for sure. But it looks to me like he's quit for real, after being a smoker for 33 years.

Now THAT is some seriously good news.

Monday, January 15, 2007

MRSA Maims Again

No, not me. This post is not about me at all. Bear with it for a bit, because it'll seem like it is. It's for a reason.

With everything that's been going on - a heart attack and triple bypass for Walter, another lingering MRSA infection laying me low - I haven't been posting near as much as I like. Much of the material logjammed in Picasa and my gmail drafts has to do with showing all of you what a difference my new scooter has made in my life.

I have pictures from my first trip to the garden center at Home Depot; pictures of how the carrier works; pictures of the beat-up store scooters I was using to shop - that is, when I could walk from the parking lot into the store to actually get one - unless I found out after walking in that there were none available.

There's been another level of improvement in the foot, too. It was holding steady on a pain plateau since around a month after the terrible infection in October. Judging from past experience, I was pretty sure it wasn't going to get much better any more. This meant permanently less mobility, and worse permanent pain - the kind that gets to be untreatable.

But then, this last month, it did improve some more. Enough that I don't need to go up another step in the Fentanyl pain patches. The longer I can hold steady, the longer I'll keep the pain under control. And I have no doubt whatsoever that being able to use the scooter, and stay off the damaged foot, is what allowed further healing to take place.

I'm a little less feverish now, and Walter is slowly getting better too. I finally have enough healthy heart food stocked up so he's a little more independent in his meals, something we were both aiming for.

So...the last few days, I've been able to work out in the yard a bit. A lot of you already know how very much this means to me.

These few days, the reason I'm posting less is because I've been having so much fun, instead of just hanging around being a bit dreary and sick. That's always nice, huh?

Since the left leg infection set in last October, I only went into the back yard one time, with my neighbor helping me walk. It had a terrible spooky aspect to it, with everything I'd been working on just lying in place, where it was when I dropped it and ran to the doctor, my tools and plants and little stacks of work left in situ, and weeds growing around them. A ghost town sort of feel.

This Friday I took my second look back there. I could do this, you see, because of the scooter. And I went back there and saw it was much the same, of course - but suddenly I knew I could deal with it. I'm ready. And I'm capable of going back to my landscaping, despite stricter new limits on my physical activity, for one reason only: that scooter. It keeps me off my bad foot and means the risk of new infections is greatly reduced.

I'm trying to impress upon all of you how very much this seemingly simple thing has improved my life.

The pain is better. I can help my husband, who at age 51 just had a heart attack he should not have survived, who needs some care while recovering from surgery. I can make it to the doctor without fainting from trying to walk. Go to the store and get fresh produce. I can start getting some exercise again, which we all need, and I need especially now that I have diabetes. See, diabetes makes it much harder to heal from infections like MRSA or other kinds of cellulitis.

A number of you contributed financially to the scooter fund, when the herd of horses was unleashed by my wonderful blogdad Desert Cat, together with Pretty Lady and Livey. Almost every single contributor was a fellow blogger - there was only one stranger in the whole lot. You all know who you are.

Others sent messages of prayers and good thoughts and whatever particular healing energies they use in their lives. And I feel these things. I feel them strongly and they help me keep fighting.

One person who sent both - sent funds and sent kindness - is one of the best among us. He's always impressed me as one of the most genuine, decent, kind, giving, sweet, smart bloggers we have. He works very hard and has a lot of fun too, and he's a fabulous dad and husband. No, I've never met him in person. But I know that I'm an unusually good judge of character. And about the only *bad* thing I could ever think of to say about Walrilla is that he's so busy with his work and family and fun that he doesn't get to post as much as he'd like to, either.

He spends a lot of time thinking and caring for others. This is a great hulking fearsome-looking teddy bear of a man. I'd advise anyone with a lick of sense to behave themselves around him, and not go doing bad things to innocent people. Besides that? You'll see him having fun at a Renaissance festival, or caring for his daughter - a wonderful girl with special needs of her own.

Walrilla, too, has that scary combination of cellulitis and diabetes. Others among you do as well: Mickysolo, Nancy's husband 'Pup. Some of you have *just* diabetes but no MRSA yet - Cindi, Nancy. Others have chronic MRSA and stop by to say *Hi, we're here,* and check in from time to time.

More yet, too many to list, have a variety of chronic health problems that go from bad to terrible - Livey's up there with some record-setting ones, herself. And Walrilla - being the thoughtful and protective man that he is - has spent some time caring for that woman. I love Livey and it makes me feel much calmer about her safety, knowing she has that man in her corner.

One reason I started this blog was because of the health issues we have, so many of us, and because MRSA is a threat that's rapidly rising in its damage to us. It likes to kill, but it loves to maim. It can take a life or a limb so fast that everyone around is shattered and stunned by this inexplicable event, such a simple thing - just an infection - that appeared out of nowhere and crashed their lives to bits.

It can also linger forever. It leaves dormant germ colonies in you. Or it makes an infection site that all the medical knowhow we have just can't clear up. That's the point: it's resistant to antibiotics. Once you're infected, it's very hard to kill it and get better. Even then it leaves a lot of damage behind. Flesh-eating bacteria is its direct cousin.

Walrilla had one of those cellulitis infections in his leg, one that lingered for months. He posted some pix several months back and said that despite how awful it looked, it was improving. It wasn't until the scooter episode, around Thanksgiving, that he said in a comment here that it had gotten worse again, and moved up his leg. That surprised and scared me.

If you live with this thing in your life, yours or someone you love, you know this fear, this endless quiet calm terror in the back of your mind. It's always there. Will this be the time I lose a limb? Or worse?

Walrilla just had his leg amputated below the knee. His wife has posted on his blog that he's in the hospital and they are taking care of him, but he's in terrible pain.

I can't stop crying and I'm consumed with rage that they aren't giving him adequate pain treatment and I cannot bear the knowledge that this happened to one of the best we have among us. I have a terrible fear that it means they don't take it seriously enough: that special and awful MRSA pain, does it mean they left too much infected tissue intact? If anything worse happens to him I don't think I can bear it. My God, his family! His daughter, his wife. My God.

You, all of you, who stepped in to help me: you all contributed to saving my own leg and my own life. It isn't, you see, just a scooter after all. If you didn't quite understand that fully before, surely you do now.

Please, please, go over there and send Walrilla all the love and prayers and encouragement you can. He did it for me. Please, now do it for him.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

:-O !!! Now I KNOW He's Not Well!





It was EMPTY!!!!

Excuse me. I need a moment.


Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So eat your beans at every meal!

Beans, beans, they're good for your heart
The more you eat, the more you fart
The more you fart, the better you feel
Beans, beans, oh what a thrill!

~~~~Popular Songs of Unknown Origin

Some of the ever so many variations on this fine song. I'm not sure which, precisely, was sung in Blazing Saddles. I asked Walter if he ever saw that movie. He's pretty sure he did, long ago when he first came to America, but his English wasn't nearly as good then as it is now. A couple days after that, I learned the movie has just been listed in the National Film Preservation Board, USA 2006 National Film Registry. I'm not much of a movie buff but I hear this is a high honor.

With Walter home for so long recovering from his surgery, maybe he'll set me up with audio or podcasts or some such before he goes back to work. I hope so. Then, if someone asks very nicely and maybe donates a huge tip for it, I might even sing that bean song for y'all. This can only work if you happen to enjoy hearing people with crunchy bad voices sing. You know. People who are ineligible for singing Real Music. Because they can't actually Sing.

Walter grew up in a Commie country that no longer exists. He made his escape in 1985 and came to America by accident, as a political refugee. He only applied for America because it's so hard to get here, he figured he'd be tied up in bureaucratic red tape for years and years. He really wanted to stay right where he was, with a cousin's family in Vienna, Austria, but international law says you can't permanently stay in the country where you land as a refugee.

At any other time, it would have been a very good tactic. Woulda worked.

Little did he know that Ronald Reagan had just decided to temporarily open our doors to some *regular folks* from Communist regimes, to counter accusations that the only ones we'd accept were renowned scientists or famous anti-Communist authors or world-class ballet dancers. Instead of being happily ensconced for five years with relatives, only 40 miles from his home town of Bratislava, he ended up in America in record time - about five months. Of the six languages he admitted to speaking at the time - actually, it's around a dozen or more - English was not one of them.

Not that you'd call Walter *regular folk.* One thing they did for him in the old country was to educate the bejesus out of the man. At the age of 9 he was scooped up and sent to a Special School for gifted children. They were taught by high ranking university professors and whatnot. At the end, when most of the kids were 18, they were awarded baccalaureate degrees. But Walter's a *fall baby,* born on 9/11. So at 17 years old, he graduated from college with a double major in Linguistics and History, and minors in World Literature and Geography.

Later he got a law degree, a JD, in night school. But what good is a law degree that was based upon a constitution that no longer exists? A fine joke there! The only benefit of his law doctorate, here and now, is this: when he gets too snotty with me I can call him Dr. Walter.

Since childhood, he was a bit persnickety about his manners, too. At the age of one and a half he insisted on having a knife, fork and spoon at every meal. He doesn't like to touch his food to eat it. Doesn't like to get messy, him.

You can imagine the impact of falling in love with a woman who enthusiastically made mud pies at the age of one and a half, and is still quite contented getting extremely dirty working in the yard and home improving, and only insists on using eating utensils when her food isn't too hot to eat, but IS too hot to touch with her fingers. Or when she must behave herself in public.

Walter never did learn to play in the dirt. Luckily, despite all those serious scholarly endeavors and high falutin' table manners, he retained a fine sense of humor, including some taste for parody. And despite the table manners, gas doesn't scare him one bit. Nope. It's fair game for humor.

Which, considering his newfound need for Heart Food, is probably a very good thing indeed. Because beans are way high on the Good Heart Food list.

But along with such wonderful attributes as being dirt-cheap, with low calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium, very high fiber, moderate carbs, surprisingly high protein, lots of potassium and iron and some calcium too, one does get that famous side effect.

The k Bean Cooking Experiment started off, naturally enough, with chili.

I retrieved a 4 liter canister of pinto beans that's been hanging about in my canister cabinet for a couple years, the tail end of a 50 pound bag of pinto beans I bought at Sam's. Luckily for us, being both pinto beans and in a tightly sealed container means they were still perfectly fine. The worst that can happen to longer-stored beans is, they may need several more hours of cooking to soften up.

I like the *boil a couple minutes, then let sit* method. Throw away the soak water, rinse the beans, fill 'er up again, and simmer. That many beans requires the Big Giant Stock Pot.

After simmering them several hours at a time over a few days - between serious bouts of fever napping - it was time to add in a pot of darkly browned beef. This was formerly a very lean roast, which I disrespected by cubing it up for chili. Don't cry, people. It's just meat. It was only a few cents per pound more than chuck over at Sam's, and while I'm very good at de-fatting meats, my cardiac patient needs an extremely low-fat diet. No way was I going to even try to use chuck.

Toss in copious amounts of onion and chili powder and nice cholesterol-reducing garlics and some tomatoes, and a very small amount of salt, and voila. Some fine chili con carne.

Yay! Beans #1 is done.

That was the only beans dish I KNOW he loves. The rest of the Experiment will be...playing it by ear.

See, Walter has all sorts of notions on the Proper Way to cook stuff - meaning how he grew up eating it in Europe - and he came from a seriously foodie family, and knows an amazing amount about cooking, but hates to do it. And he can't always explain what it is he's accustomed to eating.

Of course, if my preps differ from his unexpressed expectations, I get to hear: --You guys don't know how to cook beans right!!!, which often results in an extended bout of high-minded, arm-waving, soapbox standing Patriotic and Marital insults. Define Right and Wrong vs. Personal Tastes!!!, and where which food originally came from, all that.

So my next endeavor was a sort of Baked Beans. Navy beans, barbecue sauce, molasses, brown sugar, mustard powder, and fresh ginger put through a garlic press. The broth was made from a whole smoked turkey, with the white meat added back in.

It was really great.

Unfortunately, after all that, I found out Walter regards anything remotely like Pork and Beans as *Desperation Food for Starving Truckers Who Can't Get At REAL Food Today Cause the Truck's Too Big To Get In Their Parking Lot.* Which situation is an unhappy one, and one that occurs too often for comfort. HA! Now don't you think I should have known that by now?

Okay. That one's MY beans.

And now I also requested serious INPUT. --Walter! This is for YOU! I love to cook and I want to make what YOU are happy eating but since I don't have ESP you must TELL me things!

He said he's not sure how to describe what he likes in either beans or their preparation, but he'll try.

So. I invested some $6 in the following selection of raw beans, in 14 or 16 oz (1 pound) bags:

Great Northern Beans
Navy Beans
Blackeye Peas
Small Red Beans (these are the New Orleans Red Beans and Rice type)

and three kinds I've never heard of:

Pink Beans - same size as the Small Red Beans
Central American Red Beans - these are little bitty ones, quite cute. And pricey! $1.22!!!
Mayocoba Beans - Look similar to Great Northern Beans, but tan colored

I laid the bags out on a chair and asked Walter to look at them and pick which kind he'd like us to try next.

He went for the Great Northerns.

Now keeping in mind that I'm beset with fever, and inclined to screw things up as a result of being braindead, I promptly washed and sorted the Navy Beans instead.

Realizing my error just after I started the soaking process, I figured I could do a Comparative Bean Analysis by preparing both at once.

Plus, then I could pretend I did it on purpose.

Further Walter Input was this: More water and vegetables, like a soup instead of just beans. Think minestrone.


Beans, water, celery, onions, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes. Close to the end, add pressed garlic, parsley, ground bay leaf. For the stock and meat, more of the smoked turkey business.

This time I used a pack of smoked turkey wings for the great northern beans, and some smoked turkey lunchmeat for the navies. The lunchmeat was an error due to brain malfunction - no matter how lean, it has too much sodium for him. Okay. Put it in soup to dilute the salt. Better than tossing it out, right? heh!

The great northern beans were a smash hit. The navies less so: they needed something. More salt. Longer cooking - not soft enough, even though I cooked both kinds side by side. This morning I decided to toss in some leftover pork roast, which has rosemary and garlic seasoning. I may add some oregano too, since he WAS talking minestrone.

Ahhh. Tired but happy.

And to top it off - I didn't forget the Beano.



I GOT it!

Today was my one-month return visit to the Great Skin Doc down in Miami.

Yesterday I talked to Dr. C, my ID (Infectious Disease) doc. I told her I was scheduled for this followup Tuesday but ran out of antibiotics Sunday night. I did not 'fess up that I'd stayed on the Minocycline for the full month. I did 'fess up that I went to the ER over New Year's and they gave me Clindamycin. She said, --That's not so good on MRSA any more. I'll call in some Minocycline for you.

So, at least I had antibiotics by late Monday afternoon. By which time the lymph nodes were already growing again, growing by leaps and bounds.

I told Dr. C: --I want so very much to get a biopsy. I would love to get this thing cultured so we can find out for sure what it really is and maybe even do a sensitivity test on it, see which antibiotics kill it the best. He refused to do it last time, but I'll try very hard to get him to do it this time. Is there anything else you can think of for him to do? Anything else that might help?

She said, --A biopsy would be very good. A very good thing.


That was my assignment for today: get that biopsy. Git 'er done. Get it get it get it.

Sometimes I still get to put on my Master Negotiator hat.

When I arrived I discovered that my new Medicare insurance plan - which had faxed in a referral and EVERYTHING - didn't allow me to see docs in Dade County as opposed to Broward.

Now, this one is the nice saleslady's fault. The Great Skin Doc was one of the docs I carefully vetted with her before I switched plans.

OTOH: this woman is very good and very adept. Intelligent. Forthright.

She instantly figured out what happened, and apologized. She tried to clear it as a one-time special with her boss, to give us a little breathing room to do whatever repairs to the plan we need to do, but that didn't fly.

So she thought for a bit, discussed, called back, and said: Here's what we can do. We can make the new insurance effective 2/1/07 instead of 1/1/07 and put you back on Health Options for January. That way you can still see this guy today, and we'll have time to set things up better.

Okay. I like it. Another minor flurry of faxes and phone calls and we're done.

It did mean I had to pay a $25 copay for today. The new plan is $0 copay for anyone in the plan, which means almost all the same docs I already have. Generic meds are free too, if you get them through their mail order pharmacy. Otherwise they're maximum $5 for generics, and not much more for call brands. Cheap plan. I'll be spending a good $150 a month less than with Health Options M&M. That's a lot of money just now.

Also, January is refill month on a lot of my prescriptions. This way I can get 90-day supplies and make HO M&M pay for 'em, with very low copays on my part. That'll give me time to learn the new mail order bit, plus a tiny taste of monetary revenge against the Scooter Stealers for a chaser.

This minor scene from HMO Hell took about an hour and a half to complete. Since the one who caused it apologized, then diligently - and successfully - worked to solve it, I didn't really mind.

As long as it was resolved before the doc went home for the day...

Which, finally, it was.

I scootered into the exam room. This time there was only one student doc. A beautiful, tiny, very good Asian lady. Down to earth, and impressive at the same time. She looks to become a superb doctor.

She displayed the added quality of being TOTALLY unafraid of me.

Oh, I liked that.

We had a nice long talk. I told her all about my various MRSA woes, the disseminated cold sore thing, the maybe mycobacteria that never cultured, the tenosynovitis in the right hand that maybe was inspired by the myco but also never cultured. They tried to grow it and nothing grew, either time.

Okay. She clearly likes all this stuff, likes her specialty. She checks out many of my scars, the purple bruising and staining, asks good observant questions. When she ran her hand down the long string of big red lumps on my forearm she carefully, but unobtrusively, watched my face. I'm wearing my Master Negotiator hat, remember. So my face records none of what she's making me feel. I am more poker-faced than this Asian lady today. And she's good.

--Doesn't this hurt?

--Sure. Very much.

--On a scale of one to ten?...

I close my eyes and allow the feelings into my brain.


She stopped and thought.

Then she left.

And soon the Great Doc came in, trailing the student doc behind him.

--How's it look?

I hold up my arm. It looks pretty rabid. Walter drew a couple outlines on it Sunday night, when it wasn't even red but just really lumpy, and now the red is a good half inch past the lines. When I scrubbed this morning I worked hard to leave those pen lines intact.

--Oh, that doesn't look better.



He strokes his chin like he has a goatee. Flips through my chart.

I wait in perfect self-contained silence.

--I hear you want a culture? Didn't we do a culture before? Two of them?

--Yeah, but they were for TOTALLY different things. One was the cold sore thing, the other came back as some sort of myco, but it was from a totally different kind of lump. Not red, not warm, not tender. Little bitty pea-size things. Completely different.

he's looking at me...looking in my chart...

--Same arm. Both cultures.

--Yup. Problem arm, there. All kinds of different stuff going on.

I shut up again and sit perfectly still.

he does NOT want to do this biopsy. Danger danger danger. He's right to be cautious but not having good data is more dangerous than poking me.

--What happened with the Minocycline you were on?

--At first it helped. Then after three weeks it started getting worse again. I had to take my husband to the ER, he just had a triple bypass, and it was New Year's weekend so I figured it'd be hard to get an appointment so I went to the ER for myself too. They gave me Clindamycin. When I took that with the last of the Minocycline it improved again. When I ran out of Minocycline and took only Clindamycin it got worse again. Then yesterday I ran out of Clindamycin. And the lymph nodes grew and grew. I got more Minocycline from Dr. C and started it up around 6 PM yesterday. I feel it working some but I'm still sick as a dog. I'm not sure it's all that effective any more. So if we could culture the germ up and see exactly what it is and maybe do a sensitivity test...

--How did we know it was MRSA a month ago? Or did we?

--We did NOT know. I haven't had any of these cultured for two years now. All my culture results are old. I mean, it could be anything, really. Anything at all.

say yes say yes say yes PLEASE say yes...

--Okay. All right. We'll do a culture. I think we pretty much have to at this point.


He's done. The real work is performed by the students, that's why they're there. To practice. He confers with the student doc briefly...okay, a six millimeter punch then split it in two...mutter mutter...and he leaves.

I tell her I have fibromyalgia and she instantly knows. --Oh, okay, we'll put in lots of extra Lidocaine.

The nurse and the student are conferring. I stay quiet, let them work. They're filling out the papers for the culture: --okay, what do we want done? *rule out*...okay, rule out MRSA, rule out...student doc rattles off several other things, the nurse throws one in too...student doc tosses in some obscure dermatological lymph node thingie I have NO idea what the hell they're talking about and could NOT care less just now, I am walking on air dizzy sick with fever and happiness and relief and the pride of success.

Ha! Looks like they're having fun. Good. Everyone should enjoy their work. IMO.

All right. Tool tray. Lots of rubbing alcohol. She jabs me with the Lidocaine a good ten times or so.

--I'm sorry, I must be hurting you.

--Nah, I mean sure, but it's okay, I really appreciate the numbing stuff. Some people hate the needles worse. Not me.

--You don't show it.

I grin at her. --I got rheumatoid arthritis when I was eight. I've had a lot of time to practice.

Usually I watch but it's in an awkward place, I'm reclining in this exam chair with my right arm next to me at a right angle. Hurts my bad shoulder. When I know she's done cutting I slowly turn my head and look. Blood everywhere, a big ol' mess.

She says, Yup. Got a hole there now. You've confirmed it.

She grins at me. I suddenly think: We could be friends, she and I. I almost never think that.

I tell her I like to watch. She's a little surprised. As she stitched me up I told her about the time in the hospital, watching Dr. M open up and debride my huge foot abscess in my hospital bed, no operating rooms available, no general anesthetic. How I found out much later that he was worried he'd have to amputate with the patient watching. She's efficient, not slow, but goes more for precision than flashy stitching speed. Good work.

Two fancy stitches. Take them out in two weeks.

See the Great Doc in three weeks.


I know who gets to take my stitches out.

And just before driving away I call Dr. C's medical assistant *D,* who I also really like, and leave a message about my good news. Wake up Walter with it too.

The insurance snafu delay means I hit our infamous rush hour traffic, but I don't care. A couple accidents, a couple traffic cop stops, loads of road debris flying around, a couple kids throwing big rocks off the overpasses. Same oId same old. I made it safely home.

And into bed.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Shooting the Moon? Try a Bulletproof Bra

I wasn't gonna go there. I really wasn't.

Shooting the Moon is a popular sport in certain circles, and I really do hate to be a killjoy.

If you're not familiar with the vernacular, Shooting the Moon is what you call it when someone shoots a gun into the air in celebration. They do this a lot in places like Iraq.

And Louisiana. And Florida.

The problem is, the bullet comes back down to earth.


Now, DC or LL or this math whiz guy G I lived with in New Orleans can probably give you the mathematical explanation of the velocity of the bullet as it returns to earth.

Me, I always forget the details. All I need to know is, if it bonks you on the head you're a goner.

When I lived in New Orleans, we've have a death here and there on the 4th of July and on New Year's Eve. Once they actually tracked the shooter down, and told him he'd killed a little girl by accident. This tore him up something fierce, and he dedicated the rest of his life to traveling around giving talks about how dangerous it is to shoot off your gun in the air.

One New Year's, I was standing on the balcony of the house I lived in with G. This was a huge old New Orleans "double," a fine historic house, about 3000 square feet on each side. It had high ceilings on the first and second floors, and those large breezy balconies they used to use to keep such houses cool in summer.

From a certain spot you could stand on that second floor balcony and watch the city fireworks going off. I felt fairly safe since it was a wide balcony and I stayed under its roof.

G was adamant about NEVER setting foot outside, in any fashion, while there was a chance of bullets. He knew all about different death cases and that trajectory equation and, well, just plain hated the very idea of Shooting the Moon. HATED it.

But I really did think the balcony was a safe area. And I finally talked him into coming out for just a minute to watch this one really great series of fireworks.

He came out. Whereupon, he promptly got shot.

The bullet that fell out of the air came down quite straight. It hit his leg just below the knee, and slid down his blue jeans and landed in his shoe.

It was very hot, that bullet.

The poor man was jumping around saying FUCK i've been SHOT trying to get safely back inside as quick as he could, at the same time this hot bullet was burning his foot, and his blue jeans were smoking and threatening to burst into flame any second.


As you can imagine, I felt pretty embarrassed and ashamed of myself and guilty.

Fortunately, the bullet didn't break the skin. He had a monster bruise, all long and swollen and black and blue, and the skin was a little burned. The jeans were pretty much ruined - depending on your taste in displaying evidence of your New Year's Eve adventures. But he was okay. Well, he was pretty mad. But physically okay.

He kept the bullet. It don't remember what caliber it was, except that it was a Really Big One.

So. Just think if he'd had the foresight to wear a Bulletproof Bra.
Woman's Bra Strap Protects Her From New Year's Eve Bullet
The Associated Press
Published: Jan 7, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - One woman discovered on New Year's Eve that her bra could do more than lift and support when a falling bullet was halted by the strap on her left shoulder.

Debbie Bingham, 46, an Atlanta resident visiting family in St. Petersburg, said her gold-colored bra slowed the falling bullet during the holiday celebrations.

Her injuries may have been much more severe had it not been for her bra strap, said George Kajtsa, spokesman for the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Bingham says she was outside with her daughter and son, ringing in the New Year and viewing the local fireworks display, when she felt a sharp pain in her left shoulder at 11:40 p.m.

Bingham's daughter, Solanda Bingham, 30, noticed blood seeping through her mother's white shirt.

"We were sitting at the picnic table and listening to music, and my mom said, 'Ow,' " the daughter said.

The daughter said she looked over, saw the blood and shouted, "My mother's been shot My mother's been shot!"

The bullet was halfway inside Bingham's bra, the other half barely breaking the skin, Bingham later told WTSP-TV.

Someone had fired a gun into the air, and Bingham was struck as the .45-caliber bullet fell back to earth. Kajtsa described the wound as a "big scratch with bruising."

Bingham was taken to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where she was given five stitches. The bullet was lodged in the bra strap and was cut out by doctors.

As for Bingham, she said she is just thankful for her bra.

"It was a very cheap bra. It wasn't very expensive, and I'd love to have a couple more of those bras," she told WTSP.
Find this article at:

The Return of Hogzilla

I don't know if all y'all followed the doings of the first Hogzilla, caught in Georgia a while back. But the good news is - they caught another one! And this one got some documentation as to its vitals.

I just LOVES me some Hogzilla.
Another Hogzilla Caught Near Atlanta
By Associated Press
Sat Jan 6, 0:04 AM

FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. - A giant wild hog boasted to be bigger than the near-mythical "Hogzilla" caught in southern Georgia a few years ago has been killed in a suburban Atlanta neighborhood.

The hog hung snout down from a tree Friday in William Coursey's front yard, not far from where the avid hunter said he shot the beast. He said he hauled it to a truck weight station, which recorded the hairy hog at 1,100 pounds.

The Department of Natural Resources did not know whether the hog was a record for the state.

"We don't keep records on hogs," said Melissa Cummings of the DNR's public affairs department.

But Coursey believes his behemoth surpasses the famed super swine shot and killed in 2004 that weighed in at half a ton on the farm's scales. A team of National Geographic experts later confirmed "Hogzilla" didn't quite live up to the 1,000-pound, 12-foot hype, saying the beast was probably 7 1/2 to 8 feet long, and weighed about 800 pounds.

The news of Coursey's kill got people are talking about the enormous beasts that roam the state.

"Nobody keeps official records," said Daryl Kirby, an editor with Georgia Outdoor News. "But it's one heck of a hog."
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Moving Along

We're doing okay here, but ran into a few setbacks recently.

Two days after we went to the ER, I woke from a nap to find Walter curled up in a ball of muscle pain. A fetal ball. This was after he took 6 painkillers in 3 hours.

That is NOT a Walter thing to do. They usually make him throw up.

All those serious pain meds didn't even touch the pain.

Apparently that muscle pain is a *rare but serious* side effect of Vytorin and some similar meds. Vytorin is a combination of something called ezetimibe, and simvastatin.

I know nothing of these meds, it's all new to me. But we googled the Vytorin side effect of muscle pain and it was pretty serious stuff. OTOH they said NOT to stop taking it unless the doc said so. Only stop if you get an allergic reaction, blurred vision, or discolored urine.

Of course, this kind of thing generally happens late Friday afternoon or Saturday. This happened late on the Friday of the New Year's weekend.

At the same time, I'm getting sicker again from this blasted MRSA in my right arm lymphatics. Fevery. Weak. Sleeping a lot. Braindead.

We were the blind leading the blind.

After he's done so very well recovering from the surgery, it was heartbreaking to have this happen. And scary.

So we talked, and he stopped the Vytorin, doc advice or no. Slowly, he improved. Monday morning, first thing, we called in to the cardiac doc's service. The doc on call returned the call right away, *whew.* And she said to stop the Vytorin, and call Walter's regular cardiologist back on Tuesday to get ready for blood tests and things. Walter already had an appointment set for Friday but maybe the doc wanted him in earlier.

So we called and left a message with the doc's medical assistant (MA), whose recording assured all and sundry that she checked her messages throughout the day...but, that call was never returned.

On Friday the doc said Walter needed blood tests right away. It'll be hard to get good results now, since several days elapsed since he stopped the Vytorin.

He didn't explain to the doc that he'd left an urgent message that was never returned. He'd already thrashed it out with the stupid MA. She said, oh, she'd been out of town.

So apparently she didn't arrange to have anyone else checking her messages.


Then she said she never heard any message from us.

Could be a liar, too.

Walter's not happy with this cardiologist. Me neither. The extraordinarily high quality of care he got at Deaconess in southern Indiana kind of highlights the difference down here. This cardiac practice is pretty well regarded, locally. But you see, we have way many elderly and disabled and sick people running around, and perhaps after a while the health care workers just get desensitized.

When we were at the Holy Cross ER together, we noticed something. An elderly, shaky, slow black lady was in the ER too, not sure what for. But she had only one cane and needed two. When they called her to the triage office, she got up from her chair painfully slowly, cripping along around an inch an hour...and the assistant who'd called her just stood and watched her.

Instead, you see, of getting her a wheelchair. There were a good eight or ten unused wheelchairs lined up not twenty feet away.

I was on my scooter with the laptop on, trying to pick a new Medicare health plan before the 12/31/06 deadline, and Walter noticed the old lady and pointed her out to me. He said, --In Indiana there'd be five people JUMPING to bring this lady a wheelchair. I stopped surfing and watched too. I didn't know what to do about it. I didn't want to embarrass the old lady by objecting, but this was hard to watch. She finally made it to a wall, where she used her free hand to hold herself steady walking the rest of the way, while she braced herself up with her cane in her other hand.

Walter talked to the same assistant himself later on and said, --She's a perfectly nice person. It just didn't occur to her to get a chair for this sick old lady.

The old lady came back to sit in the waiting room some more. I knew she'd be called in again for the paperwork part. So I had a little time to think this thing over.

When that happened, a different assistant did the same thing: stood there and watched as Auntie got painfully up from the chair...cripped her way forward...and I said to the assistant, --Would you like me to get her a wheelchair?

Whereupon said assistant said, Oh, I can do that, that's okay! And finally the old lady sank into a wheelchair, with a look on her face not of embarrassment or of gratitude - just pure unadulterated relief.

Was the assistant embarrassed at her own lack of compassion?

Sure didn't look like it.

We need to find Walter a cardiac practice that doesn't have this same attitude. Your patients' welfare should effing MATTER to you. That's why you're in business, folks. And down here, health care is a very, very big business indeed.

Here we see a case where the competition that's supposed to keep private enterprise at its best is not working. It's just as private enterprise down here as it is in Indiana. These aren't government-run facilities. In fact, one reason I prefer Holy Cross, a Catholic facility, is that they're far more kind and patient-friendly than most of the other local ER's.

This kind of stuff is just WRONG.