Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Brain and I

I'm a little worried about my brain.

I just read this article in December 26th's New York Times: "Finding Alzheimer's Before A Mind Fails" by Denise Grady. In this article, Ms Grady reveals that for years, doctors thought Alziemer's struck it's victims suddenly in old age, when in fact, the disease starts many years before. Some doctors think people with Alzheimer's may have always had it, growing slowly in their brains throughout their lives. There are those that think Alzheimer's is the real culprit behind learning disorders, behavior and memory problems.

My interest in this disease is not unselfish. My great-grandfather, Caspar Fergen became "senile" in his elder years, as did his father before him. His daughter, my grandmother, Kathryn, was also given this diagnosis, which was later re-diagnosed as Alzhiemers. Her son, my father, Vincent, is currently in the throes of the disease. To paraphrase the old saying, "Alzhiemer's doesn't run in my family; it gallops."

The current theory is that Alzheimer's may be a chronic condition in which changes begin in mid- life, or even earlier. Could this be the explanation as to why some things are so difficult for me to learn and remember, while others are aquired easily? Why my memory is so peristantly poor that I have to keep a notebook to keep dates, events and names straight (and even that is insufficient?). Why do I have such bad mobility problems, and no one can seem to agree on what is causing them?

Most scientists believe the only hope of treating Alzheimer's is detecting the disease early and finding treatments to halt it before the brain damage spreads. They would like to intervene even sooner, by identitfying any risk factors, even treating patients preventively if possible.

Unfortunately, the current practice of not diagnosing patients until symptoms develop and become severe is the norm, and by then it is already too late to rescue the brain from damage. There are drugs now being used to slow the progress in some, but do nothing to halt the underlying disease. Experiments are underway to find out if drugs or a vaccine could be used to remove the amyloid plaques that build up in the brains of Alzheimer's patients; the hope is this could stop the progress of the disease.

I'll admit it---this disease is my biggest fear. It killed my grandmother. Failing any upcoming advances in medical science, my father will die from it. And I may die from it--and perhaps my brother. There's something I see in the two of us that I don't see in my other siblings. (Thank God, he doesn't read my blog.)

I know we don't get to pick how we die, but I don't want my Dad's life to end this way. I don't want him to wake up one more morning in a fog of confusion , incontinent, mute and bedridden, completely dependent on others. And yes, I don't want that to happen to me, either. But I may not have much of a choice in the matter.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Boxing Day

Yeah, yeah, I know----it's not that kind of boxing. But come to think of it, it sometimes feels that way when one attempts to brave the stores once more to exchange something. I have a snowsuit I need to exchange for a smaller size (like all good grandmothers, I bought it a little too big), but I don't have the stamina to face the chaos today. Perhaps in a couple of days, when things calm down, and S/O is back from Texas. We've rescheduled our Christmas for Friday, when she comes home. Which I am looking forward to with baited breath---this has been our first Christmas apart, and it's been driving me crazy! But really, how could I miss Baby's First Christmas? Not to mention I had to work.
Note to self: Find a job this year with benefits and major holidays off. I'm sick of working Christmas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

News From The Frozen Tundra

Sorry it's been so long since my last post; there's been a lot of drama surrounding our little baby which has taken a good deal of my time. I've also been babysitting, which is way harder than I remember. Don't get me wrong---I loved it, and I love her. But there's a reason 52 year olds should not have babies...

And then came the ice. Then more ice. Then snow. And more snow. We were stuck in the apartment for 2 days, and no sun for a week, so my SAD went into overdrive.

At least my power stayed on throughout---many around me were not so lucky. Some folks in outlying areas won't have power for another two weeks. That means after Christmas.

I'm going to borrow an idea from my friends at Bitch Phd, and list my Christmas wishes here.
World peace and an end to hunger are a given.

What I Want For Christmas:

1. A REAL job (that means with benefits--unlike the one I have now).

2. A real job for my daughter, preferably with onsite daycare.

3. A major attitude adjustment for grandbaby's daddy.

4. One more day with my Dad, where he remembers.

5. All those people out there to get their power back.

What would you like for Christmas, girls and boys?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Here she is---Molly Alice O'Roark ,

all 9lbs., 8 oz,

and 21 & 1/2 inches of her.

I know it's been a long time since I posted, but it's been a long time to get these pictures.

I heard a saying once that goes something like this;"A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on."

I totally agree.

Monday, November 19, 2007


The grandbaby was due last Saturday.
Needless to say, she's not here yet.
If she's anything at all like her mother, she might not be here for another 10 days.
I'm not sure I can take the suspense; but I guess I'll just have to take it as it comes.
It was October 16, 1985, and the baby was 10 days late. I had consented to be induced, tired of waiting for my baby. What I had forgotten was the battle for the American League Pennant was due to be played that night, and our team was playing. The whole town was on fire with baseball fever. When I realized what I had done, I hoped that the baby would be born before the game.
But she had other ideas.
They broke my water right away, something I did not want them to do. But once done, there was no going back. Her father had worked the night before, and spent the day sleeping in a chair by the bed---so much for the labor coach. Yet this time, unlike her sister's birth, the labor was "bearable"--there was no surprise at the pain, and the breathing I had learned in childbirth class was actually of some help. When I finally felt the urge to push, the only word I could manage to say was."Push!", and I whacked my sleeping spouse on the back of the head. "Push what??? ", he fairly shouted, bolting upright out of his chair. Looking at me, he got the idea, and went to get a nurse.
We were taken to the delivery room, and they readied me for the birth. A door opened, and I could hear the faint strains of the ballgame from another room. Suddenly, everyone in the room (including my husband) disappeared; then I heard their voices from that room. "Hello!," I said. "I really feel the urge to push!" "Hold on a minute", said a nurse, "Breathe!" I heard the roar of the crowd from the other room. Dammit! They were watching the game! "HEY!," I shouted "Woman with a BABY HERE!" They came running from the other room; her head was already out. The cord was also wrapped around her neck three times, but I didn't find that out until later.
She was born and declared a girl, which surprised everyone, as we were told to expect a boy. The doctor asked my husband if he would like to cut the baby's cord---husband was not expecting this, and I watched (with some glee) as the blood drained from his face. "Oh no," he said. "Oh HELL no." They showed the baby to me; she was a purpley-gray until she opened her eyes, looked around and stated to scream. Then she slowly began to pinken from her toes to the tip of her round little head, until she was pink all over.
They took her away for awhile---later I learned there was some concern about the cord situation. When I next saw her, she was dressed in KC Royals colors, and a little white cap. My mother brought my eldest up, who was grinning from ear to ear, thrilled to be the big sister. I ended that night eating a large dinner , my baby by my side, and watching game highlights. A pretty good day, all in all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What, me? Handicapped?

I've been a sick puppy most of my life. I mean physically sick, get your minds out of the gutter. I have an autoimmune problem, asthma, allergies---well let's just say the list goes on and on. But never did I consider myself handicapped. I might have been sick a lot, but I was also pretty active for a fat chick---I walked, swam, rode a bike, schlepped whatever needed to be schlepped without complaining.

Then in 2005, I was moving into my girlfriend's apartment , and I fell. Which doesn't sound like such a big deal---but it was. I tore the meniscus in my knee, and partially tore my ACL, which was excruiating. I was not able to get treated right away, due to the lousy health plan I had at the time, so that complicated matters. Finally, I had my knee surgery, and settled back, waiting to recover and get back to normal.

Except I never did fully recover. I never got back to "normal".

As the weeks went by, and my ability to walk did not improve, I went back to the doctor several times, trying to discover what was wrong. Then I lost my job and my piddly little insurance plan went with it, so I went for several painful months with no treatment at all.

Then the gods smiled on me briefly; Jackson County Missouri, where my girlfriend works, decided they would extend their health insurance to domestic partners. And so we were "civilly unioned", and I got some decent health insurance.

I visited another doctor, who sent me to an orthopedic specialist, who determined my MAIN problem had not been my knee, but that I had severe nerve damage in my back. I have been having nerve blocks, which help a little, but not much. I can walk a little, but then the pain becomes too severe, and I have to sit. I also have to use a cane, because I tend to wobble a bit, and the cane keeps me verticle.

I could try back surgery, but the success rate is not that great. Physical therapy helps, but is not a cure. And since bionics are still fictional, they're not an option (yet).

Being in this condition is not only painful, it limits my activity. I cannot go shopping , unless the place has a "crip cart". Which means Wal-Mart, not Saks. I can't go to the Westport Art Fair, or to a bar with friends. I can't stand in line for anything. I can't go for a stroll in the park. And I'm sick of it, sick and lonely. So I could save my money for an operation. Or I could save my money for a scooter.

For a long time, I felt committing to a scooter was like throwing in the towel. If I were wealthy, perhaps I could do both, but I'm not. And the scooter would definately get me out in the world, while the surgery has no such guarantees. Some would think the scooter doesn't really have the sex appeal that two able -bodied legs have, but neither does sitting alone in my room, while my partner goes places without me. So, after a lot of soul-searching, I've decided to explore the idea of adding a van and a scooter to my life. It's not the life I had planned to live. But neither was a life of isolation.

Monday, November 5, 2007

a kitty on my lap...

I wanted to post some pictures of my new kitty, so I called my daughter , the one with the fancy new digital camera. to come over and take some pictures. However, said pictures have yet to arrive, probably because she has more important things on her mind (like impending motherhood). So I searched the cyber-world and found a picture of a cat that looks very much like her, and that will have to suffice, for now.

These past few weeks have been shaky ones here at Squirrel Manor. The bursitis I was originally diagnosed with turned out to be a mild form of MRSA, which fortunately was handled by an "antibiotic cocktail"---which gave me another sort of infection. Then I came down with good ole fashioned bronchitis for the third time in so many months

Still, this time I take it all in stride, because now I have an affectionate, four month old kitten on my lap, and everything's just different somehow. Just think how much better the world might be if Kim Jong Il had a calico lap kitty. Or Putin, or even Dick Cheney. A lap kitty seems to make the world a little softer, a little more pleasant, dontcha think? Or maybe it just makes me a little more pleasant. And when the real pictures come, I promise to post them all!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Happy Harlot-ween!

Due to Kat's incisive comments on the Maoist Orange Cake blog, I have been forced to wrestle with my "Ghosts of Halloween Past". She wrote about the increasing popularity of sexy costumes for All Hallow's Eve wear, especially among women, and quoted (what I thought) was a hilarious, if controversial, column by Joel Stein on this issue.

Those who know me will no doubt find it slightly hypocritical for me to be discussing this subject. This is, I regret to admit, gentle reader is because I must confess: I too, have been a Halloween Harlot, not once, but several times.

It all started in the mid- '70's: I was invited to a Halloween party, along with my best "fremeny" Char; I heard she was going as a pregnant nun, and so, in an effort to upstage her, I went as what I can best describe as an "S&M Gal", and my date wore a sleeveless T-shirt and a dog collar, and crawled on all fours as I led him into the party. I stole the show, got a big laugh , and so, for a time, a tradition was born.

Since then, I've been a pregnant nun (yeah, I stole it!) slutty nun, dance hall girl, nympho-maniac (pink negligee with a blow-up mattress strapped to my back) , Vampira, Catholic school-girl (okay, I was going as Mary-Catherine Galliger, but several people said I looked hot), The Scarlet Lesbian (don't ask), a One Night Stand (I was a nightstand with a #1 painted on it; hey, it wasn't very sexy, but it was sexual) and even tried to go as a "ho" and have my then-girlfriend as my pimp (I know, racist, sexist, and my girfriend refused to do it).
Why did I do this? I was trying to be funny; I was trying to stand out (when I wore these get-ups, I was the exception, not the rule), and later, I saw it as a chance to be more divinely campy and queer than I dared to be in my regular life.

Now that I'm older, and wiser, and as these sorts of costumes have become more popular, I'm more than a little revolted by this behavior. I see the sexism and objectification at work here. But how can I criticize, when I have been one of the worst offenders? Comments???

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

California Burning

Suddenly, bursitis doesn't seem to be such a bad thing after all; at least my world isn't going up in flames. Yes, a lot of the people displaced have the financial means to recover, but the trees, the landscape, the wildlife will take many, many years to come back (like 40 or 50).

I'm also thinking of those who may be homeless hiding in those hills---what will happen to them? And the migrant workers, watching their livelihood literally "going up in smoke." What will happen to all those people?

Monday, October 22, 2007

I'm Back Baby!

I'm finally out of my pain-killer induced fog, and I slowly am working that stuff out out my system (lots of water please!) and beginning to feel normal (whatever that is) again. In the beginning I do have a dim memory of trying to cheat at little (I think I said something about cold cuts on Alison's blog) but what caught by Ms. Cyndi, and forced to promise to stay off the computer, and not, type, write,draw, do crosswords, or any form of housework (that one was easy). And I am tickled rose by all the comments on my little blog! I am going to re-read them all and post ad nauseum tonight! I only have one request---someone else post something, anything on MOC. Even if it's silly, or crazy, or stupid, or I guarantee you, I'll write something about cleaning baseboards, or allowing paint to dry---I swear I'll do it...


Friday, October 19, 2007


I just found out---I have bursitis! Yesterday, I woke up with my right arm a-hurtin', and a big, red bump on my elbow. The pain got worse, and I got a fever. I went to the doc and he told me I have bursitis, probably caused by (get this!) TOO MUCH COMPUTER USE!!!

I mean, AS IF! Do they think bursitis will keep me down? (Actually it might---I just took some pain pills and may be doped up all weekend. So y'all might not read any ravings from me until Monday)....

So while you're blogging out there, be sure to take care of your elbows!


Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'm Still Here

This is me. Last time I checked, I was still here. But in 2004, I nearly left---not my choice. In 2004, I almost died of a hospital acquired infection, and the thing that upsets me the most is there is a good chance it all could have been avoided, had the hospital followed appropriate protocol.

Two years before, I had an abdominal surgery that left me with a very unattractive surgical hernia. Vain creature that I am, I decided to have the hernia fixed. It was also discovered I had a large ovarian cyst, so I decided to have my remaining ovary yanked along with said cyst.

So on Easter Monday. 2004, I went into the hospital to be all fixed up. Little did I know that that was the beginning of my nightmare.

After surgery, the first thing I noticed was that I was having incredible night sweats. I attributed this to medical menopause; after all, I just lost an ovary. I was using a hormone patch, but I rationalized I was just getting used to it. Unfortunately, a little "bug" was growing in my body. That little bug has a very long name---methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or as it is better known, MRSA. the nights sweats were just an early symptom of a growing problem, although I did not know that---yet.

After about a week at home, my newly flat belly had begun to swell---and hurt. A lot. My early calls to the doctor were brushed off (some pain and swelling are to be expected, he said). So I took my pain meds, and tried to get through it the best I could.

But the pain pills just didn't cut it. I was soon having pain like I'd never had before; worse than pleurisy, worse than a broken bone---worse than a breech birth. I called my doctor, and was told to go to the emergency room." At last", I thought, "I'll be admitted and they'll fix me." But that didn't happen.

Oh the ER doctor wanted to admit me. But the surgical resident, a Dr. Willek (don't ever go to him---residency at St. Luke's in Kansas City) 86'd it. When I asked why, he stated there was"no medical reason for my pain." He recommended I see a psychiatrist.

I went back three more times; I was even admitted once for a few hours. Each time, Dr. Willek sent me home, saying there was no medical reason, or commenting on my mental health. On Saturday, May 1, 2004, I went back one more time. I had a fever of 104 degrees; my belly was distended and purple, and my incision was oozing. I was finally admitted---partly because the surgical rotation had changed, and Dr. Willek was no longer in the ER.

I went right into surgery; my surgical mesh was removed (which later caused the hernia to come back). The infection had rotted a fist-sized area of my abdomen, and that had to be cut out, leaving a large, gaping wound. I was very, very sick. They moved me to a lovely private room, which I was quite happy about until I realized it was an isolation room. I had some kind of infection. Why hadn't they told me?

I called for a nurse, and asked her "What's wrong with me?" She said she couldn't tell me, but she would get someone who could. An hour later, I was visited by the Infection Control nurse, who informed me I had MRSA, and told me all about it.

I was there for about a week, followed by six weeks isolation in my home, my care delivered by a visiting nurse. For those six weeks, I was on I.V. vancomycin, the one antibiotic that works (most of the time) on MRSA. I did not have sick pay to cover this time, and was forced to beg and borrow to meet expenses. My gas was shut off----I couldn't pay the bill. Thank God it was almost summertime, and I wouldn't use my furnace again until October. I could shower at Cyndi's. I later got some financial help from Catholic Charities, so I could have heat and hot water again.

The following year, 18,650 people in the United States died from MRSA. 2,650 more than the number of people who died from AIDS that year. It is estimated that at least every five years these figures will double.

Most cases of MRSA originate in hospitals, followed closely by nursing homes, prisons, and communal living situations (dorms, group homes, shelters). Incidences of MRSA are on the rise in gyms and school settings. Hospital infections are preventible. Improvements in intravenous catheter use, compliance with presurgical best practices, and just old fashioned hygiene procedures can protect patients from infection. But hospitals have little incentive to improve their infection control procedures. Why?

Most states DO NOT require hospitals to release their rates of infection to the public. A hospital could be riddled with MRSA and potential patients would continue to check in, none the wiser. If infection rates were made public, hospitals would be forced to cut their infection rates, lest they lose patients.
Also, it is very difficult to sue a hospital for an infection aquired there. When a patient signs a surgical release and is briefly told about a "risk of infection", they are never told that "infection"= MRSA, and that it can kill or sifigure them,because of course, many wouldn't sign. Signing that waiver gives awy ones rights---I was even told by an attorney, "if you go to the hospital, you have to expect to get sick." WTF???!!!

What can we do? Push for healthcare reform. Work to make hospitals report infection rates in your state. Spread the word about inept, uncaring doctors. Do not accept it's inevitable that you'll get sick if you go to the hospital.

Here's some links that might help:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Today Is Your Birthday! (Dada dada dada da...)

Twenty-two years ago today, Intel introduced the 32 bit 80386 microcomputer chip...

The Kansas City Royals beat the Toronto Blue Jays for the American League championship...,

I had a baby girl and I named her Megan Samantha.

My contribution to making the world a better place.