Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Healing Is Coming Along Nicely

Today, marked a milestone for my husband as he continues to heal.  He walked to the top of the hill near our house and back home again.  A forty-five minute walk in the neighborhood was quite an accomplishment for him as his back surgery was just twelve days ago.  As we began the walk, he said his legs felt weak, but he had no pain.  By the time we finished the walk, he said he felt stronger than he had when we first started out.  This evening, we walked around our block twice.  I continue to marvel at how well he is doing.  We had a full day of having the car serviced and dinner out.  He said today he felt the best he has in a very long time.  This is excellent news!

It is so good to have my man back at my side for our daily walks.  Even better, he is no longer suffering and in pain when he walks.  For the most part, our roles have reversed somewhat.  I now walk the dog, and he carries the poop bag.  (Someone has to do it.)   I told Boston there would be a new sheriff in town just before "The Boss" had his surgery.  "The Boss," my name to Boston for his master, is much more lenient when it comes to discipline where the "The Boy" or Boston is concerned.  I think Jim feels a bit guilty that the dog can't run free after all the bunnies that populate the neighborhood, so he will allow Boston to charge after a bunny until he comes to the end of his leash.  A few times, I've been afraid the dog would topple Jim over as he charges off.

I, on the other hand, like a well disciplined dog as a walking companion.  So, the task of getting this dog to heel in a highly distractible environment has been one I have been working on these few weeks.  I am training Boston, rather late in his life, to stay by my side while walking without thinking he is free to run as if he were at the dog park.  I am using a gentle leader collar and treats to accomplish my training goals.  The treats always work.  He is coming along nicely in his training, but he hates the gentle leader.  I have always enjoyed walking my dogs, but Boston has always been a challenge for me, so while Jim's back is healing, Boston and I are learning to walk together.

The first few days after surgery are never great, and Jim had a rough couple of days after surgery.  In the long run though, we are amazed at how quickly he has recovered from back surgery.  That being said, I hope he never ever has to have another surgery such as this again.  It is just too hard on the body.  It is also hard on the caretaker.  We have made it through thus far and are looking forward to many more days of good health ahead of us.

On this past Saturday, Jim was taken to lunch by his dinner crew.  Three former colleagues of his drove up from Pueblo to take him to lunch.  These guys, all retired teachers from the school where Jim was principal, have met for dinner once a month for the past four or five years.  It was great for Jim to have them come to his new stomping grounds to take him out.  Thankfully, I thought to grab my phone and take a photo of these four fine educators gathered on our back deck. They  sometimes laugh and call themselves ROMEOS or Retired Old Men Eating Out.  One thing is for sure, when they get together, the conversation is rich with laughter and discussion of all types of subjects.  They were good medicine for Jim.

All in all, the summer has not been a bad one.  We are both healing and becoming more healthy.  We enjoy our new home and the beautiful setting in which we live.  We love the climate where we live.  In the mornings and evenings, we feel the cool mountain breezes as we walk or sit on the deck and listen to rustling aspen leaves on the trees that give us beautiful shade and privacy.  The last week has been especially cool and lovely as we have had just enough rain in our part of town to really green up the lawn and cool off the evenings.  Our a/c bills are much lower than they were in Pueblo, and so are our water bills.  We are happy for that.  We look forward to August and are not ready to see this summer come to an end.

I am doing much, much better health wise.  I am now taking pancreatic enzymes with every meal.  I no longer have pain.  The enzymes seem to be working.  I am so thankful for that.  Thankfully, I have good insurance.  I say that with true gratitude.  I can't imagine what my bills would be like these past few months of constant medical tests and doctor visits without good insurance.  The medicine I am on would have cost over $1400 without insurance.  I am only talking about my medical bills.  Jim's medical bills are not doubt astronomical also.  Again, thank heavens for our good supplemental insurance plans.  I know this is a hot topic these days and don't wish to create a political discussion with these statements.  I am just grateful that we are able to secure good medical plans for ourselves during our retirement years.  I realize that many in our age group are not able to do so.

One last word:  Thank you blogging friends, and all my other friends also, for all of your well wishes as Jim and I have faced health challenges this past few months.  Your words of support and concern have meant more than you know.  Forgive me for not reading your blogs as faithfully as I would like.  Hopefully, life will slow down soon, and we will all be back to normal.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My Bionic Man

Thanks to the advancements in modern medicine, my husband now has the spine of a 26 year old.  In other words, he no longer has vertebrae that are rubbing bone on bone and cutting off the nerves that go to his legs.  Thanks to two gifted neurosurgeons, he is no longer feeling any pain in his lower back or his legs, and he is just three days post surgery.  Tonight, as the two of us walked around the halls of the hospital, I was amazed at how well he was walking.  He did not complain of pain, and he was standing more upright than I have seen him stand in a very long time.

Surgery day began very early.  I had to have him at the hospital at 5:30 a.m.  He kept insisting he would just drive himself and I could come by later after my appointment with my doctor in Denver.  Of course, I did not allow this to happen, but I must admit I was tempted when the alarm went off at 4:00 a.m.

At 7:30, he was all prepped and ready to go into surgery, but surgery did not really begin until 8:30.  Since I had to go to Denver for a 10:00 appointment, I left as soon as he was wheeled back to go pick up a dear friend who accompanied me to Denver.  The nurse in the OR called me every hour to update me on what was happening.  I arrived back to the hospital around 12:30.  Jim was still in surgery.  In the end, the surgery lasted between five and five and a half hours.  That is a very long time to be under anesthesia, but he seemed to handle it all very well.

The first night after surgery was spent on a surgical floor in a small room because the hospital was so full, they did not have a room for him in the area where they send back patients.  It was here where he received the visitor that really brought a smile to his face: Daniel the therapy dog.  Daniel actually lives across the street from us with our neighbor Janice.  Daniel is a very special golden retriever that was rescued by his owner, and now, he spends his time serving as a therapy dog.  I nearly cried when I saw Jim stroking Daniel's ears, patting his head, and talking to him.  I know how much he must miss his dear Boston.  Therapy dogs are wonderful.  Janice, thanks for sharing Daniel with us.

Thankfully, on Friday afternoon, Jim was sent down to the floor where the nurses are very familiar with caring for back patients.  He has been doing great as far as the surgery goes.  There have been a few little wrinkles that sometimes happen post surgery as the body adjusts to shock it has gone through.  I am confident all of these wrinkles will be be smoothed out soon.  

This is the fourth major surgery I have gone though with Jim.  He has had both knees replaced, a hip replacement, and now, he had to have a spinal fusion and decompression.  He sets off all kinds of alarms when he goes through airport security.  Having gone through these past surgeries with him, I am amazed at how quickly he has gotten up and around this time.  I think the knees were the worst.  I think he would agree with me, but I'm not sure.  

This man amazes me.  Truly, when his dear friend Woe nicknamed him "Nails," he knew what he was talking about.  "Nails" he is.  He is tough as nails that is for sure.  (Click on the link to read about how he dodged the bullet when he was 95% blocked in his LAD.)

Tonight, I have Boston our dear golden retriever home with me.  He has been kenneled since Wednesday.  He is sleeping at my feet as I write.  I am comforted and feel more settled with him by my side.  I hated coming home to this house from the hospital when I knew that neither of my special guys would be here.  Boston is missing his master.  I am missing him too.  I hope he is able to come home to join us in the next day or two.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Our Getaway - Part One

Summer is rolling on by with great speed it seems.  One often hears, "It's the 4th of July which means the summer is half over."  Towards the end of June, a decision had been made by my husband that was supported by me to go ahead and have major back surgery on July 18.  I had resisted making this decision  because I felt that we had not really had a very fun filled summer.  I have been ill for most of the early part of summer, and Jim has been struggling with back pain, so no matter how much I wanted a carefree summer, it just looked as if this year was not going to be the year where that was going to happen.  I especially wanted a carefree summer after spending last summer trying to sell a house and find a new home in which to live.

 Looking back on the past year, I see stress added to stress in our lives.  We sold a house and bought a new one.  We moved from one town to another.  Jim had surgery on his parathyroid.  I have had health problems and been hospitalized.  There have been family stresses and great concerns.  No one could deny that we needed a vacation from life, but a long vacation just was not going to happen this year.  So, we went on a short getaway.  That was a good thing and probably the best thing to do also.  Sometimes long vacations can be stressful.  Short ones can be just right.

We started our mini-vacation on Saturday the 29th of June.  We drove the six or so hours to Grand Junction, Colorado to visit my mom.  It had been nearly a year since we had been over to see her.  That is way too long of a time to go between visits when one's mother is 97 years old.

Mother and me
July 2013
Yep, this woman that is standing next to me is my 97 year old mother. Have you seen those commercials that ask, "Who is the oldest person you know?"  My answer is: my mother.  Amazingly, she still is able to care for herself, is very healthy, and has the same personality, humor, and awareness of the world around her she has always had.  Last year, she again only saw her doctor once for her yearly exam.  I'm not so sure I got her genes!  

When she saw the above photo on facebook, she said she wished I would have let her get her makeup on before I had the photo taken so her age spots wouldn't show.  And, yes, in case you are wondering, she is on facebook.  

It is hard to have her live so far away from all of us.  It is especially hard for my siblings and me as we get older to make that drive over the mountains of Colorado during the winter.  Thankfully, she has a good support system in place where she is.  Truly, I believe that aging in place the best kind of scenario for folks as they grow older.  I am grateful that so far, my mother has been able to have this experience.  

On the morning of July 3rd, my husband I left my mother's to drive to our vacation getaway spot in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.  Glenwood is a favorite destination spot for the two of us, and we frequently extend a visit to my mother's by spend a night or two in Glenwood.  Probably the most famous attraction in Glenwood is the huge hot springs pool there.  With the aches and pains that Jim was feeling in his back, it was an easy sell to convince him that we needed to spend a few days soaking in the hot springs.  

I knew the 4th of July weekend would mean that we would not have an easy time finding a room for the holiday weekend since we had not booked months in advance.  Also, we had our dog with us, so that meant a room was even harder to find.  We tried all our favorite places, but they were either booked, or they would not allow pets.  We then found a reasonably priced room for the 3rd and 4th and booked it before we left on our trip.  When we got to the place, as sometimes happens, we just could not see ourselves staying there and being comfortable and happy.  So, we started driving around to see if we could get into another place.  We decided if we couldn't, we would drive the four or five hours it would take us to get home.  That is how much we did not like the place!  

One of our favorite place recommended another place up the road from them.  It was the Starlight Inn.  (Click on the link to see the place.  I recommend it if you are ever in Glenwood.) They called ahead for us and told us a room was available.  We took it.  Actually, we really liked this place and will stay here again.  Our room was small, but it was clean, comfortable, and worked well for us.  Boston was happy.  We were happy.  The host was so friendly and accommodating.  We could walk to breakfast every morning to a great German restaurant.  We could walk to the pool.  We could walk downtown.  And, there was a great little neighborhood behind the Inn that worked well for walking the dog.  

I love Glenwood.  I love the historical old buildings and all the history of this place.  I've never stayed at the Hotel Colorado, but supposedly it is haunted.  My son and his family spent New Year's Eve there one year and watched the fireworks from an upper window while the kids speculated on whether or not they would see the ghosts.
Entrance to Hotel Colorado
As I walked down to take these photos, I excused myself because I was standing in the path of a woman walking by.  She said, "Oh it is so nice to see someone with a camera.  I have only seen phones snapping photos during my trip."

The State of Colorado flag flies over
Hotel Colorado

As I said, I love Glenwood.  I love it in the summer and the winter.  We once spent New Year's Eve here and watched the fireworks on the mountain while we sat in the hot springs with snow flakes falling on your faces.  It was great fun.  This year, we had hoped to watch the fireworks from the pool on the 4th of July.  Unfortunately, that was not to be.  Fireworks were banned due to fire danger.  This was a wise and prudent decision.  

There are actually two pools on this site.  The one pool is smaller and much warmer.  One can sprawl on the steps and soak away aches and pains in this warm, healing mineral water.  I find I can no longer tolerate walking in this smaller, warmer pool.  It is just too warm for me.  Jim loves it though.  I sit on the steps soaking and watching the people while he walks in the water.  We generally go to the pool in the evening when it is cooler outside because the hot water and sun combination no longer works for us.

When we tire of the small pool, and wish to cool off, we walk over to the larger, deeper pool and walk or float in the water. The water in this pool is also warm and comfortable even in the winter, but cooler than the other pool.   I was feeling a bit playful while we were there and surprised Jim's by hopping up onto his back so he could carry me through the water.  It is amazing how we can do such things in the water.  It would be a disaster for both of us if I jumped on his back on dry land!  He said I didn't weigh anything.  He is such a nice guy.  

As Jim and I spent time in the larger pool, I recalled that the first time I swam in this pool was during our senior trip when I was a senior in high school fifty years ago this year.  I reminisced about the trip as we walked up to where the section was where people were swimming and diving off the diving board.  I remembered that I had a new swim cap that had flowers on it.  Do you remember those?  They were so uncomfortable!  Back in those days, we were not allowed to swim in the pool in Glenwood without wearing a cap.  Two piece bathing suits were not allowed either.  

Internet photo
While we were on our senior trip many years ago, we ate lunch at the Hotel Denver which can be seen in the photo below located behind the old Denver and Rio Grande Depot.  The Denver and Rio Grande Depot itself also holds many memories for me.  I have traveled through by this depot by train at different times throughout my younger years.  My father, former Superintendent for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad for the Western Slope, purchased the antique oak desk that was used by the station master of this depot when the railroad sold the building.  The desk is now in my mother's home.  It is a magnificent piece of furniture of historical significance.  Unfortunately, I have never photographed it.  I will have to do so on my next trip home.

Denver & Rio Grande Depot
Hotel Denver
Glenwood Springs, Colorado

We spent two nights in Glenwood.  Both evenings we spent several hours in the hot springs.  We slept very well on those nights.  Glenwood Springs again rewarded us with a relaxing and memorable getaway.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

After A Long Break From The Computer...

I feel like a student who missed a week of school and is now behind on my homework.
I hate that feeling!

We went on a little vacation.  We were gone from home for nearly a week.  I took my laptop with me, but I didn't turn it on for eight days.  Eight days without turning on my computer is unheard of.
We went to visit my mom for part of our vacation.  She does not have a wireless connection at her house.  I did have my personal hot spot through my iPhone.  I used it to check my email,  facebook, and read the newspaper on my husband's iPad while we were at my mother's house.  The personal hot spot is pretty nifty, but it drains the phone battery and isn't completely reliable. 

Now, because all I did for eight days was quickly read emails on my phone or iPad, I have over 1200 unread emails to deal with.  How does this happen????  I find it difficult to keep up with email anyway.  I don't get a lot of unsolicited email, so I have no idea where all these emails come from.  I must confess that I had a lot of unopened email before I went on vacation.  I tend to quickly gaze at email on my phone and never seem to delete it from my phone and computer.  I must change my ways!  

While I was away, I didn't read any blogs.  I missed out on all your news.  I guess I will just be out of the loop when it comes to what has been going on in my blogging friends' lives because I know I'll never get eight days of blog reading done.  I did miss you while I was gone.  

Our getaway was much needed and refreshing.  Stay tuned, I will post some photos soon.  

In the meantime, I'm catching up with all of you and trying to clean out my inbox on my email.