albuquerque bound

Soundtrack in my head:  The Ditty Bops, “Breeze Black Night”

My parents bought a house in Albuquerque last year and they moved there this summer.  Fifteen minutes from now I am going to step outside and start my journey there for the holidays.  I’ll be seeing my parents’ house for the first time, and staying there for about a week.

I decided to take an Amtrak train there after realizing that the cheapest airline ticket there was $450 (in September!) and that an Amtrak ticket was half that.  It’s a 25-hour train ride, and I have to take a bus to get to Chicago’s Union Station and I have a four and a half hour layover there, but I think it’s worth it.  I’m a big guy, not only girth-wise but length-wise–I’m 6’2″ and I don’t fold as well as I used to.  I’m continually finding the seats on the bus that allow me to stretch out a bit more.  Flying to and from New York last month was fairly hellish with the cramped feeling.  But last time I took Amtrak to New York I had twice the legroom–my legs could barely touch the seat in front of me. Sleeping next to the window, I opened my eyes and the first thing I saw was a beautiful winter scene of fresh snow in the woods of upstate New York.  I also don’t mind the length of the trip–I can get up and walk around.  You can plant me almost anywhere and as long as I have my journal and a book, I’m as content as a cat.

I’m doubly glad I’m taking Amtrak because the winter weather in Colorado and the Plains seems to be snarling air traffic.  I’ll be going through that way, but Amtrak has assured me there will be no problems.  It is apparently easier to clear a railroad track than an interstate.  Of course, maybe I shouldn’t speak too soon.

‘Tis the season to get one’s stomach pumped.  Or something like that.  My office had a treat day every other day for the entire month.  So much sugar was in the building, it’s a wonder the building didn’t crystallize.

I might or might not be able to post while I’m in Albuquerque, so I wish you dear readers the happiest and diabetic coma-free holidays possible 

trying to get my foot out of the vise

Soundtrack in my head: LTJ Bukem, “Horizons”

After a walk to the Capitol Square bus stop that made me feel too hot on Wednesday and too cold on Thursday (see previous post), yesterday’s walk was quite snowy. It wasn’t a blizzard, but it really was coming down, and I remember feeling grateful for my winter clothes, and feeling like a Yeti-man walking down the street. I stopped at Capitol Centre Foods enroute to the bus stop, only to be greeted with recorded Christmas music bellowing, “It’s the mooosssst wonderful time of the yearrrrrr!” as I walked into the store. I could only chuckle. Welcome, December.

When I got to the bus stop, I noticed that my foot was starting to ache a little bit. The ache turned into a full blown limp by the time I got to my office, and I was thinking, “Uh oh, here we go again.” An attack of gout—which I’ve come to refer to as a “goutbreak.”

But I was prepared. I have this way-too-cool foldable cane that fits easily into my backpack—it’s similar to, but thicker than the tent poles in my pop up tent. It makes me feel like I’m “putting on the Ritz”—just give me a top hat. And I also carry Indomethacin in my backpack—a drug used to treat gout. I wasn’t thrilled about taking it. I’m generally averse to taking drugs in general. But before this condition was properly diagnosed as gout, one of these “goutbreaks” caused me three weeks of serious and sometimes crippling pain. I can’t afford to take three weeks off of work. So take the drug I do, with gratitude. Indomethacin has some fairly strong side effects—it makes me drowsy, somewhat nauseous, and sometimes it just makes feel weird just in general.

Usually, just one or two pills will take care of it, but twice a year, I get a pretty heavy-duty “goutbreak.” I had one in June, and I had a feeling yesterday morning that this would be another nasty one. But after two pills, the pain almost completely subsided, and I walked with the cane mostly as a preventative measure. Sure enough, though, I had to fight drowsiness. At the end of the day, I looked at my computer screen and told a co-worker that I was “feeling a bit looooppeeeee” from the drug.  But I thought that the pain had pretty much subsided.

That is, until about 9 p.m. last night. The gout came back–with reinforcements.  Before I knew it, I felt like I had a vise clamped around my foot with the sole purpose of crushing my bones. My foot was swollen and looked like a gnarled root of a tree with my toes pointing out at awkward angles. And then the gout woke me up out of sleep at 2 a.m. Not a good sign. I tossed and turned throughout the night.

My alarm woke me up at 5:30 a.m. I’d intended to come in to work to put in some overtime, but my response to the alarm was “Uh-huh, yeah, right.” I slept another hour and then I basically dragged myself to the shower. I literally mean drag—I had to sit up in bed, put my feet on the ground, use the dresser to help me up, reeeeach across the room for my cane and my robe, move my left foot, and kind of drag it forward. In the bathroom, I maneuvered myself around with hands on the sink and the radiator.

It took me nearly 90 minutes to get showered, dressed and downstairs, taking breaks at several intervals during the process. My right foot wouldn’t fit into a normal shoe, so I put it into what I call “the funky sandal,” an elephant size shoe I bought a few years ago that people wear while wearing a foot cast or recuperating from foot surgery . I had granola and milk for breakfast because I didn’t want to stand up and prepare anything. I called my supervisor to tell her I wasn’t coming in. She understood—she’d seen me limping yesterday.

Then I popped another Indomethacin to see if that would do the trick. But I knew I needed to see a doctor. I wondered how I’d be able to get there—I could barely walk across the house, much less all the way to a bus stop. And then I saw a housemate, and when he said he’d be gone for most of the day, I asked him if I could borrow his car. He agreed, and that was the final straw that pushed me to the doctor—I figured I should take advantage of the opportunity while I could.

The last time I saw a doctor about this, at the Dean Clinic on Fish Hatchery Road, she prescribed me Prednisone. I never want to get in the habit of taking Prednisone—it also has yucky side effects and reportedly even worse side effects if it is taken over the long term. I called Dean Clinic and it turns out the Fish Hatchery Road Clinic was closed on Saturdays, and an on-call nurse recommended that I visit the urgent care facilities on either the far east or far west ends of the city. I went to the west side clinic on High Point Road. I was a little bit nervous about driving with “the funky sandal” on the acceleration pedal, but I made it to the clinic without incident. The Indomethacin was starting to kick in a little more, anyway.

I expected a roomful of sick people when I walked into the clinic, but it was relatively empty and a pleasant place to wait. It didn’t take me long to get called back to see the doctor. I liked this doctor—she was cheerful and had a good sense of humor. She was not the least impatient when I asked questions. She gave me several treatment options—do nothing, take Prednisone, or take another drug called Colchicine and gave me a choice of which one I wanted. I also got my “funky sandal” replaced with one that is more comfortable and less, um, elephantine. I liked this doctor much better than the one I had at the other clinic. The other one was impatient and condescending and gave me the choice of either Prednisone or Prednisone. I think I’ll see about making this new doctor my primary care physician.

I managed to find out a bit more about gout than I’d been able to find out before. Apparently, something causes uric acid to build up into relatively high amounts in the body and bloodstream. And then sometimes the acid crystallizes, turning them into these little needle-like things which then create joint pain. Scary.  But this was good information, because the more information I have about a condition, the more effectively I can give Light to the area. After talking with her, I had some good ideas about the best places on my body for receiving Light.

A lot of people have the misunderstanding that Mahikari is anti-medicine. I do think modern pharmaceuticals can be quite toxic sometimes. (If you want to have one insider’s view of the how the pharmaceutical industry sometimes works, you should rent the movie “Side Effects,” starring Katherine Heigl of “Grey’s Anatomy”. The movie is written and directed by a former pharmaceutical sales rep, and mostly filmed here in Madison.) But medications are necessary at times, and I have no qualms about taking them if they are really necessary. I chose the Colchicine and have started on that regimen. I like it because it comes in small doses and you take them at two-hour intervals until the pain stops.

The pain hasn’t subsided yet, but I no longer feel like a gnarled tree. And there’s something to said about being forced to slow down and spend a nice day or two indoors, curled up reading a book and writing in my journal…

an eighth grade science experiment

Soundtrack in my head:  Chapterhouse, “Pearl”

Do you remember that eighth grade science class demonstration where the teacher would have two bowls of water–one a bit uncomfortably hot and another numbingly cold?  And then the teacher would have students immerse one hand into each bowl at the exact same time.  The result was trippy–your mind would momentarily be confused as to which hand was hot and which was cold and it felt like each hand was feeling alternately cold and hot at the same time until finally your mind cuts in and says, “Okay, okay.  Left hand hot, right hand cold.  I got it.”

Well, that seems to describe Wisconsin weather in the last forty-eight hours.  Let me tell a tale of two 6:15 a.m. walks to Capitol Square.

Yesterday I had my heavy jacket, but it was open because it had to be about 63 degrees F and really humid.  The lamposts along West Washington Avenue and Caroll Street had their lighted snowflake Christmas decorations, but they looked a bit weird and out of place in the steamy haze.  When I got to the bus stop on the Square, I ended up ripping off my jacket even though I was wearing just a short-sleeved polo shirt.  Waiting at the bus stop in the polo shirt felt perfectly fine to me.  I got to work and three hours was surprised to hear co-workers talk about how cold it was.  I stepped outside around noon for lunch, and yep, the temp had defnitely dropped. 

This morning, I had my heavy jacket, my hat, and a really warm goiter thingy pulled over my face.  It was in the low 20’s and windy out, and as I walked across the frozen tundra, I could not help but think about the flash-freezing images in “The Day After Tomorrow.”  Okay, so I have a bit of a vivid and overative imagination, and so I had to remind myself that this is just winter in Wisconsin. A new career as a popsicle does not seem to be in the cards for the near future.