Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Accused and Their Accuser

After supper, which Screaming Mimi picked at and murmured how the white bean soup that came with her salad adorned with chicken was "crap," she was given a dose of two tramadol by the RN. Ah...sweet solitude once again. For a few hours. You'd think a dose like that would knock out a tiny frail dry-skinned old lady for at least a day. But no. By around 10:00 p.m. Screaming Mimi was screaming again.

"HELP! HELP!" You would have thought I was wrapping her oxygen tubing around her dessicated neck. She had been shown the call button. Screaming Mimi was no stranger to hospitals. But she preferred the dramatic route to get her way faster. The staff came running. "I need to go to the bathroom."

Now, the earlier crew had told her that she was not to get up. She was a fall risk. That's why she was admitted, for falling. They told her to use the pad on the bed. This new group offered her a bedpan. "I'm NOT using a bedpan! Where's my walker?"

"It's not here. Nobody brought your walker. You're not supposed to get out of bed."

Screaming Mimi started to get up. That recording went off. "Do not get up. Lie back down. A nurse will be here to help you." They persuaded her to stay put. Told her she was not going to the bathroom. Then they lost their heads. In their empathy, they offered Screaming Mimi a bedside potty. That meant someone had to help her on, and help her off. A production as detailed as this has not been attempted since the invasion of Normandy. Housekeeping was called for the potty. Three staffers tried to get Screaming Mimi up and out of bed. Gently. I could hear them apologizing to her. Faintly. Because mostly all I could hear was Screaming Mimi, screaming.


That's the short version. You know the staff is trained in helping eldsters in and out of the bed. That they do all they can to keep from hurting them, lest a complaint be filed. Screaming Mimi was a champ at plinging the guilty heart-strings. They got her up and on the potty. Then Leslie, the patient care technician, was left to attend to Screaming Mimi. I was on pins and needles. Not just from the stress of listening to Mimi's screaming. Leslie was a pleasant black lady who cheerfully answered the call button, and took her time to put you at ease before taking vitals. I was quite afraid Screaming Mimi might hurl some racial insults her way. Thank goodness, she did not. Attempted murder accusations was about as far as it went. Screaming Mimi was an equal opportunity abuser.

Leslie spent over an hour at Screaming Mimi's bedside, waiting for her to pee. Screaming Mimi told Leslie all about her childhood, how she became a dancer, had a suitor she was in love with and loved her, but had an affair with another woman and did not ask Mimi to marry him. Screaming Mimi married another guy, but she didn't really love him. She spent time in Rome and Paris. Leslie nodded and "uh huh"-ed in all the right places. Let the record show that before Screaming Mimi had eaten supper and been dosed with tramadol, she had asked for books to read. The RN had said she would get Mimi two books, a mystery and a romance. Screaming Mimi said to that, "I WANT FIVE!" So she had a stack of books on her nightstand, and was wearing her glasses from before she fell asleep and subsequently got on the pot. I had heard one patient care technician mention, as she was getting vitals from a drugged-out Mimi, "She looks so cute in those glasses." Like children, I suppose, the cranky elderly look so innocent while they're sleeping.

Finally, her stories told, Screaming Mimi deigned to pee. Leslie was on it in no time. "Oh, you're done. Good job."

"THAT'S WHAT YOU TELL A KID!" spat Screaming Mimi. "My son did that with his boy. EVERYTHING was GOOD JOB, GOOD JOB. FOR NOTHING! DON'T TELL ME GOOD JOB!"

Leslie was calm. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you."


"I was just encouraging you. That's my job, to try to encourage people. I won't say it again. I'm sorry I offended you." Leslie helped Screaming Mimi back into bed, with loud screams of torture ringing around the room. Another patient care technician came in to check on the hubbub, and together they got Screaming Mimi repositioned. Then the other one left.

Leslie stayed a minute. "There. Now you're settled. I'm sorry if we hurt you. I know your skin is irritated. Look! Our glasses are almost alike!"


"Did you just call my glasses CHEAP? I appreciate your honesty. You are something else. So how long have you been married?"

"Fifty-nine years, and I would NEVER do it again! All he cares about is his GODDAM FUCKING FISHING BOAT!"

"You've got a mouth on you!"

"I KNOW! That's what my mother always said. She made me wear a sign around my neck." Screaming Mimi sounded almost proud. Smug.

"I've got to go check on other patients now."

"You'll NEVER come back!"

"We'll be back. And if you need us, just push your red call button here. I'll leave this right beside you on the bed in case you need anything." Leslie popped around the curtain to see if I needed anything. She rolled her eyes and shook her head. But never once did I hear her or any other patient care technician be anything but sweet to Screaming Mimi.

The next morning, Screaming Mimi was having another bout of vitriol over the bedside potty when the phlebotomist came in to take five more vials of my blood. She grinned from our safe side of the curtain. "Sounds like you've got a live one there." Yeah. She didn't even spend the whole night with her.

Screaming Mimi was so belligerent that when the pulmonary specialist came in for morning rounds, and stopped to talk to her, he would not stand for it. She insisted that she had her own doctor, and didn't need to tell him anything. "Then why are you here? I'm going to talk to your neighbor." And just like that, he stepped from her side of the curtain to mine. Dismissed.

The new RN came in to see what Screaming Mimi was up to. She had a different RN than me this time. One who asked her if she could do anything. Turn on the TV, perhaps? "I HATE TV!" I turned mine off and lay staring out the window. About a half hour later, with nobody to berate, nobody to con, Screaming Mimi said to me, in a childish little voice. "I'm sorry about last night."

"Oh, that's all right. I know it's hard to be in pain."

Yeah. Screaming Mimi knew exactly what she was doing. I did not start up a conversation, and left it at that.

Tomorrow, we near the end of the Screaming Mimi saga, and see Val make her grand exit from the hospital.

Friday, May 30, 2014

So Let Me Introduce to You, the One and Only Screaming Mimi

Yes. It was the end of the halcyon day, the salad day, the day of wine and roses.

An ambulance crew wheeled in Screaming Mimi. Not so much as a how-do-you-do to poor ol' Val, captive in her window bed, tethered to a pulse-ox machine on her left, and a wall-mounted oxygen spout by her nose. The crew unceremoniously yanked the dividing curtain, cutting off my view of the door and hallway and life beyond my adjustable bed. My world shrank to a window soon-to-be-shaded, a flat-screen TV mounted on the wall, and a flimsy blue-patterned piece of fabric. Oh, and Hick, who was ensconced in a visitor chair in the corner under the TV.

Hick watched with his shifty eye. I hate it when he does that. He cuts his eyes toward the object of his snooping, without turning his head. As Screaming Mimi was downloaded onto her bed, Hick pantomimed the action. He held his hands about six inches apart. She's tiny. He held up his thumb and finger in the OK sign, with a hole about the size of a drinking straw, and tapped on his forearm. She's frail. He rubbed both palms on his forearms, then shucked the right palm over the left repeatedly, like a hillbilly whittlin' a pointed stick. Her skin is dry. Yeah. The most disturbing part is that I understood him. The next-to-most-disturbing part is that Hick did not realize that if he could see HER, she could see HIM.

It's a good thing Hick has superb pantomime skills, because I could not have heard him if he'd blasted words at me through a bullhorn. Screaming Mimi was in full voice. "STOP! OW! YOU'RE KILLING ME! OWWWWW! GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME!" Sometimes she forwent the words, and simply shrieked. The ambulance crew was quite apologetic. So, too, the hospital staff who were observing, ready to descend upon Screaming Mimi like a Daytona 500 pit crew. My teeth were on edge. I felt sorry for the old bird.

Sometimes, first impressions are incorrect.

I thought the poor dear was in the throes of dementia. That she was disoriented. That she was addled by pain. Until I spent 47.5 hours trapped in a room with her. What I gathered from listening through the curtain was that Mimi was 84 years old, that she was in for observation because she fell, that she had some gnarly bedsores, that she thought she was upper echelon and slumming in the hospital, and that she had a very short temper. The RN and Patient Care Technician made sure Screaming Mimi was settled in her bed. They put it down as low to the floor as it would go. Screaming Mimi had some sort of a LoJack contraption upon her person. Any time she would sit up, a voice would speak out of the blue: "Do not get up. Lay back down. A nurse will be here to assist you."

Far be it from Val to poke fun at a frail woman with dementia. Screaming Mimi's behavior seemed to be more of a manipulating nature. She could remember things just fine when it suited her. Like when she told the RN, "Thank God I'm not at Barnes. That place is a shithole."

Alas, the poor RN was trying to get Screaming Mimi settled, and provide her with an upcoming supper tray. To make her comfortable, and go on about her business of tending to a floor full of patients. This was the most straight-laced of all the RNs I had during my stay. Kind of like a Marcia Brady. Reserved. Like she just wanted things to run smoothly, for nobody to die, and to get off shift so she could heave a sigh of relief.

"Are you in pain? The doctor has left orders for you to have pain medication. Do you need it now?"

"I want morphine and heroin."

"Oh. We can't give you heroin."

"Why not? They let me have it in London."

"Well, we're not regulated that way. No heroin. I'll see what your doctor has prescribed." Marcia Brady made her exit, and sent in Bryce, the patient care technician, to get the supper order.

Screaming Mimi would not choose anything from the menu. She finally asked for chicken salad. Of course she would not specify whether she wanted a salad garnished with chicken, or chicken salad in a sandwich. When asked what to drink, though, she knew exactly what she wanted.

"Would you like something to drink?"

"Yes. Wine."

"Oh, we don't have any wine."

"All right. Chardonnay."

"I'm sorry. You'll have to have something else. We don't serve alcohol."

"Diet Coke. Not because I'm trying to lose weight. I can't stand the taste of that sweet stuff. I used to be a dancer, you know. You never see a fat dancer."

"We'll get you Diet Coke."

One thing for certain. Screaming Mimi LOVED Bryce. Throughout my stay, I never once heard her say a cross word or criticize him. The rest, though, would likely have had their heads mounted on pikes if Screaming Mimi had been more mobile.

Her saga continues tomorrow.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

You Don't Know What You've Got 'Til It's Gone

In the continuing saga of Val's death-defying weekend...

I had arrived at MoBap around 5:30 on Friday night. Hick showed up shortly, having gone by our house on the way to pick up items that I had not asked for and did not need. If only I had known he was going, I would have made several requests. As it was, I spent the night lolling about in a hospital gown and black dress pants.

These were the halcyon days. The salad days. The days of wine and roses. REEEEEEEP! That's the scratch of the phonograph needle on a vinyl LP. Let me correct that. It was the halcyon DAY. The salad DAY. The DAY of wine and roses. The day I had a room to myself. The day before Screaming Mimi arrived. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Loyal Hick left me around 8:00 p.m. I turned on my very own wall-mounted flat screen and began to channel surf. Nothing much was on, but TV kept me company. Every hour, a staff member would walk in and look at me. Sometimes take vitals. My RN Christy left at 7:00 p.m., and was replaced by my RN Chrissy. She only had to wipe one letter off the white board and change it. I didn't notice much difference in them. Both had red hair, though Christy was more put together, and Chrissy was kind of an earth-shoe-wearing free spirit with braids that stopped just short of Pippi Longstocking territory. Chrissy shot a dose of blood-thinner into my belly around 10:00 (research after-the-fact shows that this drug should be injected into a fatty area, of which I have no shortage). Then I was pretty much left to my own devices to snooze or TV watch or gaze into space. My breathing was a little easier. I was given a bedside potty because I was not supposed to move around.

Near 4:00 a.m., I had a bout of hand-tingling and shortness of breath. I pushed the call button and was quickly attended by the patient care technician. She used the little black phone dealybobber pinned to her collar to call Chrissy the RN. Chrissy used the pulse-ox thingy on the wall, and said my oxygen was at 97%, so she was not concerned about me getting air. Then she used her collar phone to call the attending, who said to hook me up to a continuous pulse-ox machine. That meant the sensor thingy got taped to the badfinger on my left hand, tethering me to a machine. Oh, and when my oxygen went below 88 percent, an alarm went off, which served to wake me from a delicious sleep two times.

Saturday morning, still basking in my halcyon/salad/wine rose day, I was greeted at 5:00 a.m. by the phlebotomist. She might have been my favorite staffer of all. In she came in her dark blue scrubs, peeping to see if I was awake. "I just need to take some blood." She was a sprite of a thing, hair pulled back in a ponytail like a college softball player, and a voice like Suzanne Pleshette after a month-long bout of chain-smoking. She glanced at my left arm, then made a beeline for the right.

"I have a really good vein there. But I already have this thing in my left arm." BloodSucker looked at it. Swung her ponytail. And commenced to binding a length of rubber tubing around my upper arm. "Oh. Maybe you can't use that. I guess maybe it's for putting things IN, not taking things OUT."

"Right. Do you mind if I lay this stuff here?" Nope. Val's lap is one big blood-tube-holding bin. I must say, BloodSucker did not cause a bit of pain, even when she said, "Big stick." I felt nary a twinge. It was over before I knew it.

My thyroid pill came at 6:00, then breakfast at 8:30. I had two pancakes, a link of turkey sausage, a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar, a tiny tub of grape juice, and some red grapes. It was what I had ordered the night before, but I did not feel much like eating. I downed one pancake, the sausage, the grape juice, and half of the oatmeal. I admit that I took the grape container and set them aside for later. Not knowing at the time that Hick would eat them out from under my nose.

At 10:00, cardiology came with a wheelchair to take me for a something-or-other test that was like an ultrasound of my heart. It involved a lot of deep breaths. Which I was not very good at. The technician was perhaps from Malaysia or Mexico. They're the same place, right? Not like that island, England. She had an accent, but I could tell when she said, "Breath in, then." Her term for exhale I do not remember, nor did I recognize, but after breathing out the first time she said it, I caught on. When she wheeled me back to my room, she made me carry her fat red notebook like she had on the way there. As she foisted it upon my lap, a paper fell out. She went in front to get it, and that's when I saw it...

Let me back up. As this lady was talking to me, I kept hearing a funny sound. A smashing, crunching, crispy sound. She made small talk about how much fluid accumulation I had. Probably not her business, but you know, maybe different cultures discuss these things as a matter of course. She had been unhappy with the main locking door not letting us in and out of that section of the hospital. The door would not stay propped for her to push me through. So she told me to reach out and hold it. I'm surprised she didn't just tell me to get up and walk through, or have me whip out a bobby pin to pick the lock when it wouldn't let us back out. Again, she seemed to have worked in a place with a lot less gewgaws and doodads than this hospital had. She did not take herself so seriously. In fact, she was not happy with her collar phone thingy not calling the people she asked for, because it could not understand her accent. But getting back to that crispy she bent over to pick up that paper, I saw that she held in her hand several squares of chopped-up apple. SHE WAS EATING THEM AS SHE PUSHED ME DOWN THE HALL. Seriously. She must have had some major one-arm strength to do that. I'm sure snacking on raw food while wheeling patients all willy-nilly is probably against hospital rules. Anyway, she got me back to my room and hooked up to the oxygen and the pulse-ox monitor again.

By now it was time for lunch, which was pork loin, diced potato, green beans, and a strawberry shortcake. With grape juice. I did a little better this time, as I was breathing a little easier. Hick arrived to watch me eat. Genius came in shortly after. We talked a while. Genius had eaten, and would not accompany Hick to the cafeteria. Only Hick would come to the hospital at lunch time without having eaten first. So he had my grapes. Genius made his exit. I had time to wash up. Then the halcyon/salad/wine rose day was shattered by the arrival of Screaming Mimi at 3:30 p.m.

A screamier screamer I have never heard that Screaming Mimi. A mere slip of a woman, 84 years old, seemingly in the throws of dementia. OR WAS SHE?

More on Screaming Mimi tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Val Thevictorian's Wild Ride

When we last gathered, you at the feet of Val Thevictorian, eagerly yearning for tales of her recent near-death experience, Val was awaiting transport to a city hospital from her Backroads ER facility.

My chariot arrived at 3:30 p.m. I was strapped onto a hydraulic metal contraption with a gossamer covering some might loosely refer to as a "mattress." The strapping looked like seatbelts or come-a-longs. I had an oxygen tank at my feet, to which my nasal cannula was attached. You all know what a nasal cannula is, don't you? It's that clear rubbery plastic thing with two prongs that sticks in your nose to spray oxygen. I was happy to have it.

I had a needle taped to my left inner elbow, though Hick insisted it was NOT a needle, but made of plastic. Like he would know, what with it taped down, showing only the green plastic cylinder end suitable for shooting drugs into. I had not the breath to bandy words with Dr. Hick concerning my arm plumbing. Hick chose to follow the ambulance (ambulance chaser!) so he would have a way home from the hospital.

My attendants warned me that the ride would not be smooth. I might best compare it to riding over cobblestones on steel wheels while laying on an iron platform. No shock absorbing going on. At all. My bed was locked into the floor of the ambulance. I had to brace myself with my good right arm against the side to keep from sloshing back and forth on turns and lane changes. I had a lovely view out the back door. A lovely view of tailgaters who had once again found Val Thevictorian, and like nothing better than to rattle her cage. The cage being this ambulance, which had an alarm every time a car got too close to one corner of the bumper or the other. My ride was a cacophony of corner-cutters. Though I wistfully looked for my Hick the entire ride, I did not see him. Little did I know he had run by the homestead to grab a couple of things he thought I might need. None of which I did. None of which included pajama pants or sweatpants.

After an hour and a half of lesser gasping, and intermittent vitals checks, I arrived at my destination. I would not recommend riding in an ambulance down I-270 during rush hour on a Friday evening. I had to resort to closing my eyes, as the morphine and Ativan seemed to have worn off. Thank goodness the Lasix had flowed out of my body by the time the ambulance arrived.

My attendants hauled me out of the back of the truck, into the bright sunlight, blinking like a bloated white critter exposed by an overturned rotting board. They whisked me into MoBap to an elevator bank, up to the sixth floor, around a roundabout, and into a cramped double room. How they unloaded me in those close quarters I still cannot quite fathom.

The RN checked me in, I was ensconced in the window bed, vitaled, and offered a supper tray. That was great news, because all I had at the Backroads ER all day was a quarter of a turkey sandwich and two sips of hot Diet Coke. And THAT was an afterthought, at 2:30 p.m., when a nurse checked on me and asked how I was doing, and I replied that I was getting a little hungry. Apparently, folks at the Backroads ER are expected to fast from 7:45 a.m. until they are pawned off on a different hospital.

We will leave me here tonight, in my MoBap bed, snug as a clotted bug in a tight rug, with visions of deep breaths dancing in my head.

Little did I know what lay in store...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

And Now, the Beginning of the Rest of the Story

You might recall that Val had been uncomfortable with her (non)broken back for a few days. An injury which prevented her from taking a deep breath. The back unbroke itself after about three days, but the inability to breathe remained. I thought I must have picked up a bug at work. After all, I had felt like I was coming down with something a week ago Friday, and started to feel unwell in the Walmart line. The next day I took The Pony for shoeing, what with his upcoming summer adventure at Smart Camp on the horizon. I was a bit huffy and puffy that Saturday, but still thought I had a touch of the grippe. Sunday I (non)broke my back. Then I muddled through the week. I actually thought I was feeling better Thursday morning. But by Thursday night, I had decided to go into work Friday, ask for a substitute, and call my doctor. Then I decided I would just go to urgent care, to avoid the long walk into the building, up the elevator, and down the hall to my doctor's office. My mom offered to drive me.

Friday morning, May 23, I was extremely huffy. I could hardly finish my shower. I told Hick, "We're going to drop The Pony off at school, and then you're taking me to the ER." Only I said it about three words at a time, because I was gasping for breath. I sounded like Stevie Kenarban on Malcolm in the Middle. Hick wanted to meet my mom and have her take The Pony to school so we could go straight to the ER, but I said I needed to put my awards list in a teacher's mailbox. Next time, I will listen to Hick. I walked down that hall slower than a Galapagos turtle with narcolepsy. I hoisted myself into T-Hoe, and Hick took off for the hospital. We were there by 7:45 a.m.

Being Hick, he did not drop me at the ER door, but parked so we could walk in. I did not think I was going to make it. A man in scrubs stood at the admit counter, and three women workers were behind. "What are you here for?"

I leaned over the counter, trying to get my breath. "Shortness...of...breath." I think that qualifies as irony.

I gave my name, and the scrub guy said, "You can sit down now, Ma'am." I thought he meant in the waiting area. Then he said, "I have a wheelchair right behind you." Good thing. He whisked me down the hall, around some corners, and into an exam room. I climbed up on the bed, and a swarm of workers started working on me. One manned the computer, firing off questions. Another got an IV line going. Young Dr. Bailey, the attending, I suppose, asked me to lean forward while he listened to all lobes of my lungs. In the midst of the controlled chaos, one of the workers said, "Wow. You really ARE out of breath." Like I needed to hear that. I guess I was just really impressive in the presentation of my symptoms.

I got a portable chest X-ray. I got a shot of morphine, a shot of anti-nausea something-or-other, and a shot of Lasix. That's the stuff that makes you pee like a racehorse. The name comes from "lasts six hours." And it did. I asked about the morphine, because I thought it slows the heart rate, and I could hardly get any air in. But one of the ambulance guys later told me it's a vasodilator, so it actually relaxes the blood vessels and makes the movement of oxygen easier.

THEN I was told that I needed a CAT scan of my lungs. The radiology tech came in to explain it in detail. I like that. I like to be prepared. What I don't like is closed-in spaces and feeling trapped. So when she told me that I would have to be STILL and not move and take the exact same breath three times while a machine took pictures after dye was shot into me, or else the test would be ruined and it couldn't be done again for 48 hours...I became a bit apprehensive. I knew I had to have the test. But I felt like I couldn't have the test. I would freak out. Even though she said it would take 10 minutes tops. I was in tears. I heard them in the hall, nurse versus radiology tech. "She thinks she's going it the tube. The MRI. If she sees it's not the tube, it's the donut, she'll probably feel better."

Young Dr. Bailey came in. "I understand you're nervous about the CAT scan. I can give you something."

WELL WHY DIDN'T YOU SAY SO? I was definitely on board for that. So I got a shot of Ativan. As I told Hick later, "I think that's the stuff they shoot into wild and crazy people on PCP, and it stops them in their tracks." Anyway, that did the trick. I had my CAT scan. Once in the room, I saw the donut, I laid down flat, closed my eyes, the dye shot into me, the donut apparently sucked me in then spit me out, and it was over. Whew! Good thing I didn't ruin that test, because that's where they found the multiple bilateral pulmonary embolisms. Then I got a shot in the stomach, like a common rabies candidate. It was Lovenox, and it had nothing to do with love.

Young Dr. Bailey came in and gave me the talk. "You have multiple bilateral pulmonary embolisms. This is serious. We don't have the doctors here at this hospital to treat such a serious conditions. We recommend that something this serious be treated at a hospital in the city. They have teams of doctors who can treat serious conditions like pulmonary embolisms. This is serious, and we will get you a bed at a city hospital. For something this serious, we will send you there by ambulance. We have a telemetry doctor who can discuss this serious illness with you on a computer screen. He will explain how serious these symptoms are, and what they will do for you there."

Hick asked which hospitals we had a choice of, and picked MoBap. I hate that name when they use it on commercials, but after spending three days there, they can call it whatever they want. Hick was a bit concerned when Young Dr. Bailey left the room. "I think this is serious. He must have used that word eight times."

So...the next order of business was to hurry up and wait for an ambulance to drive me to the city, about an hour and twenty minute trip. First, though, my team had to treat a heart attack man who came in just after I was stabilized, and got a quick ride in the helicopter. Then there was the lady who failed her stress test, and was also waiting for an ambulance ride to the city. Did you know that no more than two ambulances can be out of our county at one time? It's true. That's why somebody in my serious condition waited from 10:45 until 3:30 to be transported. Funny how they can't treat me there, but they can let me lay around and wait for a ride. As Hick said around about 2:30, "I could have driven you there and back by now."

A regular person might have grown anxious, might have seen her life flash before her eyes in such a situation. But not Val. Val was embroiled in the drama, right down to the flapping, palpitating, oxygen-starved chambers of her heart. All Val could think about, to while away the hours, was...


More of the saga tomorrow. You have been warned.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Go Back On the Internet...

...Val is sprung from the hospital that held her captive for three days!

If you thought the saga of her (non)broken back was never-ending, wait until you get a load of this tale of death-defying pulmonary-embolism survival. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll crawl on your belly like a serpent. Or you'll just click the "close" button.

I'm baaaaack! Thank you all for your words of encouragement. They gave a lift to my spirits when Genius logged on to my blog from his phone as I reclined in my hospital bed. So much to tell, so little breath to gasp while typing feverishly at my upstairs Shiba keyboard. I'll get the story out, whether you want to read it or not.

Here's the short version, in case you want to skip the next five or six days of cat unbagging. I have multiple blood clots in both lungs, and I'm on blood thinners and limited activity for a brief time. My dark basement lair will have to wait. This setup is not conducive to witty regaling, what with hearing Hick's too-loud TV in my left ear, and The Pony's surround-sound hubbub in my right. Plus, it's LIGHT in the living room.

More tomorrow. And the next day. And the next...

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Tale of Val's Misfortune and Genius's Solitude

This is Genius, mom is in the hospital for a couple days, and she will catch up when she returns with tales of her new long, white beard she grew while waiting for transport.

I, on the other hand, shall be living on my own and partying like t'were 1699.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Val is NOT Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie nor Clyde, John Dillinger, or Al Capone

The Pony now has a bank account. Not that he's moving out, or paying bills, or ordering things online. He needs a way to access cash while he's gone this summer to Missouri Scholars Academy. On their website, they recommend traveler's checks. Seriously. Can you see 300 sixteen-year-olds using traveler's checks when they want to buy something. I, myself, cannot? So he's got a debit card. It only works on his account. His account only has enough money to see him through the Academy. Not taking any chances here.

The thing about a sixteen-year-old getting a debit card is that a sixteen-year-old is a minor. As such, the sixteen-year-old needs an adult linked to his account. That means that the sixteen-year-old's account pops up whenever the adult goes to use her own card at an ATM.

The Pony is a student of the world. He is quite observant, with a steel-trap mind. Many a time he's watched me drive up to our bank's ATM and withdraw cash. It's so easy for him, what with sitting directly behind me like a chauffeured passenger. All he has to do is glance out his window and take it in. Because Val is sometimes a practitioner of overkill, I took it upon myself to show The Pony how to use his new debit card last Saturday. The best-laid plans of Val herself often go awry.

I had my mom in the real passenger seat, the shotgun seat, and The Pony in his chosen perch behind me. "Look. I'll show you what to do when you need to use your card at the ATM. See? It's touch screen. Put in your pin, say you don't want a receipt, choose your transaction type, push the amount...look, both our accounts come up on mine now. See here? Mine is the one ending in XXXX. And yours is here, the one ending in YYYY. WAIT! I didn't want to do that! I barely touched it! Now it's taking that money out of your account! I'll have to drive around front and go in and deposit it back in. But we don't have a deposit slip. We'll have to use a counter deposit slip. WAIT! We don't have your account number. Oh. It will be on that receipt here from when we just put in your science fair winner's check. But I don't have my glasses. You'll have to come in with me and fill out the counter deposit slip. That's okay. It'll be a good learning experience for you. Don't worry. When you use YOUR card at an ATM, the only account that pops up will be yours. You won't have to worry about picking which one the money comes out of. Now, lets go get this straightened out."

Today after school, I told The Pony I needed to go to the bank.

"Can you not take MY money this time?"

I swear. One little mistake, and I'm going to hear about it forever. That Pony has a memory like an elephant.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Val is Considering the Installation of a Moat Around Her Castle

Hey! Have you heard? I hurt my back on Sunday laughing at my mom. I may have been remiss in filling everyone in on that bit of news. I’ll try to do better next injury.

On my planned day off Monday, when I was laying around in the La-Z-Boy with my (non)broken back, trying to catch a breath, I was greeted by an intruder. Not so much greeted as startled.

There I was, nearly dozing off, or slipping in and out of consciousness after returning home from dropping The Pony off at school, when I was startled awake or into consciousness by a loud car. I saw it going up the gravel road, a red sports car leaving a trail of dust. And right behind it was a white pickup truck. The strange thing about the white pickup truck was that it turned into my driveway and proceeded to the house.

I was in no state to be answering the door. I had on my comfortable sweatpants with a hole on the left waist area (like mother, like daughter), and a pinstriped shirt that may or may not have been free of stains. And black socks. Besides, my aching back did not want to hoist itself out of the La-Z-Boy and cripple over to the door. I sat, mesmerized by the possibilities.

It could be someone lost and asking for directions, in which case I owed them nothing. This is a private enclave. Nobody should be in here unless they have the permission of a resident, in which case that’s their direction-giver.

It could be the package Genius was expecting. Except that UPS has a big brown truck, and FedEx has that white contraption that tears a trench in the yard because they won’t turn around on the gravel or the concrete carport behind the garage.

It could be a ne’er-do-well bent on robbing me blind. I would deal with that if I heard a door forced open.

It could be a salesman. Too bad, so sad. Signs say no soliciting. And no trespassing. I gave the World Book guy an earful one summer at 8:30 a.m. A salesman could knock on my door until the cows come home, and I would not get up to answer.

I was about ready to drag myself to the door to see what in tarnation was going on, but then the intruder saved me the trouble. Walked right across my front porch, past the living room picture window, past the porch pew, around the corner toward the doghouses. He was a big man. Burly. With long curly hair and a beard like that portly fellow on LOST, only blond. He did not glance left or right. Clomped right on past, as if on a mission. He made a return trip about two minutes later.

I can only surmise that he might have been the electric meter reader, though I thought that was all automatic now. Besides, he was not carrying a club to beat dogs off his shins, nor a gadget to scan meters, nor an ID tag around his neck. He DID favor the bright neon green plastic work vest favored by certain utility companies. His truck was not marked, but had a yellow light on top that could flash if needed.
If this was part of the universe’s conspiracy to spy on Val Thevictorian…I must say, the quality of spies is not all it’s cracked up to be. He was no 007, that’s for sure.

At least I remained untouched in my fortress, guarded by two non-barking dogs who did not give one whit about my safety in my weakened state.

I was a reclining duck, you know.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Dorsal Region Mocks Me

I'm sure you all dropped by, ever hopeful, to find that I was miraculously healed, and writing about something more entertaining than my (non)broken back. Who are you people, Charlie Brown hoping to kick a football held by Lucy Van Pelt? This leopard is not about to change her spots.

I am running on four hours sleep. Here, let me reveal the details. They have nothing to do with a pea under the mattress.

5:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m
A sound slumber in the basement recliner, awaking to a dream phone ringing. Which turned out to be the real phone, The Pony on the other end, saying his dad wanted him to call and see if I was all right, because I had not been feeling well when he left. The fleeting moments of pain-free-ness quickly turned to tear-evoking back spasms.

11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
I nodded off under my fleece blanket, all warm and toasty watching TV, again in the downstairs recliner. I woke up because it was time to go to bed. Which was one of the slowest trips up 13 stairs upon which I had ever embarked.

4:00 a.m. to 4:50 a.m.
Funny how I could not fall asleep at 1:30 in my flannel-sheeted queen-size. I tried laying on my side, in order to slip that dislocated spasm-generator back into place. Funny how my back quit hurting, but my neck started up. Oh, and not funny how every time Hick flopped over, I sailed up and down like a jolly good fellow in a blanket toss. I hadn't been that jolted since Hick drove me through the fields of my grandma's Christmas tree farm in his old pickup while I was in early labor with Genius, who was born at 9:24 the next morning.

Yes, that's ten minutes short. But I'd rather think of myself getting four hours sleep than three hours and fifty minutes of sleep.

I made it through work without any major sleepage incidents. The back held up. Seriously. This is public school with seven days left, testing over, only fun projects left to do. It's not like I was on the Boys' Town Wagon Train Train Ride.

The main thorn in my side was the little dude at the register in Save A Lot on the way home. We went to pick up The Pony's new glasses, and I stopped at the lesser Save A Lot for some hamburger to add to the four-cheese tortellini that The Pony wanted for supper. While I was there, I tossed in some frozen garlic toast, and three individual packs of Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies because The Pony asked for them. With my back still tender, I piled my items in the upper child seat area of the cart, so as to invoke no bending and lifting.

The cashier slid my foodstuffs over the scanner and tossed them in the waiting cart. There were only five items, people. How hard is it to attend to them properly? Apparently, the difficulty level is on par with herding a clowder of cats from Independence to Oregon City. He flung my purchases into the waiting child seat, which was more ready for a child, what with the flat red plastic seat flap down, not up against the handle. Two of the Soft Batch treats slammed to the tile floor at 98 meters per second squared.

That meant Val of the (non)broken back club had to bend over and retrieve them. It was not a pretty sight.

The words Val had for the cashier as she exited the establishment were not a pretty sound.

Monday, May 19, 2014

When You Have an Unbroken Back, You Have Everything

I took a day off from work today. Because 21 snow days is not enough.

I still have three days remaining of my allotted contract sick leave and personal days that will simply disappear on the last day of school like a burst soap bubble. Such a hardship to have accumulated the maximum.

This day had been planned for almost a week. It seems Val is scarily psychic about her days off. Who knew I would be laid up with a broken back on this very date? Okay. So my back has not been officially diagnosed as broken. The internet tells me it is a rib that popped out of its little socket, and now the surrounding muscles are rebelling, and perhaps keeping it from slipping right back where it belongs.

I saw a cohort on the school parking lot this morning when I dropped off The Pony. She had the same malady last week, and looked like death warmed over for three days. The difference is, she acquired her injury from working out. Mine was working out. She laughed and told me she knew I was miserable, and that she hoped I would get over it quickly. Too bad laughing did not cause her a relapse. I asked how she got through it, and she replied, "Muscle relaxers and a trip to the chiropractor." Since I have neither, I will be toughing it out. She did recommend ice, which I applied around noon, and obtained some relief.

From school, I went by my mom's house to drop off The Pony's laptop. Mom was picking him up from school today, then Hick was getting him after work for an informational meeting in preparation for his Missouri Scholars Academy attendance this summer. I didn't get out to visit with Mom. I still had to make a trip to Walmart for a few items. Saving my energy was important. Of course Mom made me laugh, and that set off a renewed spasm of agony.

Thank goodness Walmart had a cart for me to lean on like a walker. Or so I thought. It seems that the Walmart floor-sweepers are not as conscientious as they might be, or that hooligans run amok on the makeup aisle. Believe me, I was not shopping for makeup, but merely taking what I believed to be a shortcut. One lady was blocking the aisle. She kind of huffed and hauled her cart over to the side. I'm pretty sure she's one of those drivers who take her half out of the middle as well.

So there I was, wheeling my walker cart up the makeup aisle, when IT SLAMMED TO A STOP LIKE I HAD COLLIDED WITH A BRICK WALL! Oh, my aching back. That set off a new spasm. It was all I could do not to scream. I didn't want that blocker woman to think I was challenging her to a fight. I pulled my cart back in an effort to lose whatever had acted like a tire wedge on my left front wheel. You won't believe what stopped me in my tracks and caused me such agony.


That definitely added insult to my injury. I need to stay home, wrap myself in roll of carded cotton, lay down on a mountain of memory foam, and heal. But I am needed at school, what with the end finally in sight, and the students having a whiff of freedom cross their nostrils every fifty minutes. Two days in a row out from under my iron-fisted thumb is not a pleasant scenario.

I really hope Hick does not put a pea under my mattress to test me tonight.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

My Mom is Quite Generous With Her Gift

I'm down in my back. That's how my mom would say it. That means my back is hurtin' for certain. It also means I am getting old. I blame my mom. Not for me getting old, of course, though she did have a hand in it right from the beginning. No, I mean she is the reason I am down in my back.

I called Mom this morning before she left for church. As is her way (and not at all my own, of course) she got to telling me a story. I cranked Hick's La-Z-Boy back to get comfortable. I'm sure this is hard to believe, but Mom's stories sometimes take the scenic route.

"I went by the credit union to pay my Christmas Club, and that friend of Genius was working. I know you told me about him the last time you went. How you were surprised he had that job when he's going to school to be an engineer. He was actually at the other teller window, but he came over to mine and started to talk." Let the record show that those teller windows are covered with bulletproof glass, and have a small metal scoop at the bottom for feeding in transactions and receiving receipts. Not that it's in the high crime area of Backroads. We don't have one.

"You're Genius's grandma, aren't you? The next time you see Genius, tell him I said 'Hi'."

"So I told him, 'I'm surprised you're working here. I know you're going to college. What are you majoring in?' And he said, 'Accounting.' Then I asked if he was working full time, and he said no, that he was just working two days a week until college was out, and then he'd probably work more. Is he not going to college with Genius when he gets out of junior college? I thought he had the same plan for a degree."

"I thought so too. I'll ask Genius. He doesn't really keep up with his high school friends anymore."

"So I said to him, 'I'm surprised to see you in here. I thought they were looking for a girl.' And he said, 'Yeah, I think they were.' Was that the wrong thing to say?"

"Well...he is one of the most chauvinistic of Genius's friends. He used to tell his girlfriend, 'Shut up, woman, and go make me a sammich.' He was teasing. But not completely."

"Oh. You know how I can't keep my mouth shut. I kept talking to him, and he was being friendly, and then he said, ''s time for my lunch break. I have to go.' I guess I talk too much. Did I tell you about buying the donuts?"

"Yes, Mom. I know you got free donuts. Maybe that was THAT guy's way of telling you it was time for his lunch."

"I told a man at church that story, and how I felt guilty about getting free donuts, and he said he might just try that, because he would LOVE to get free donuts."

"Sorry, Mom. It's time for my breakfast now."

"Okay. You have a nice...wait a minute. I know what you're doing!"

"Uh huh. I'll talk to you tonight. I'm sure you've got a lot of people to talk to at church."

My mom has a gift. The gift of gab. In sharing her gift with me this morning, she also gave me something else. A strained muscle in my back. Or a rib out of place, if that's possible. I was leaning sideways on the armrest of the La-Z-Boy, and when she said how that boy told her it was time for his lunch, I snorted. And chuckled. Kind of at the same time, so you might say I snuckled. That's the exact moment I felt a stabbing sensation behind my liver.

The pain goes around the side, and is sensitive to touch. It's kind of a bad pain. I can't get a deep breath. Sneezing and coughing are agony. It's not gallstone bad, or childbirth bad, or broken-bone bad, or migraine bad. But it's bad.

I don't think I ever hurt myself laughing when I was younger. For anyone who thought Val was a spring chicken, born's the anecdotal evidence she was not.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

We So Brawny

It may come as a surprise to you that the Thevictorian family is quite strong. Muscular. Burly. I will stop short of claiming that we can each rip a telephone book in half. Though we probably could if it was a Backroads telephone book and not a New York City telephone book. And for those of you who are asking, "What in tarnation is a telephone book?" I say, "Go to bed, you wily whippersnappers! You're too young to be up this late."

Yes, we Thevictorians are musclebound. We don't know our own strength. We could beat Popeye in an arm-wresting contest. AFTER he had downed a can of spinach! We'd make Paul Bunyan appear to be a wormy pantywaist in need of a good dose of cod liver oil. BamBam Rubble would have looked like a mewling newborn kitten next to our strapping lads.

You know how it is. You become comfortable with your abilities, and think nothing of them. You go about your daily life on automatic pilot. Until a precipitating event jolts you back to reality.

My culinary prowess, discussed far and wide, from one corner of Backroads to another to another to another...seems to have been my undoing. Perhaps you've heard that Val does not so much "cook" as she warms foods in the microwave, or heats them in the oven. My repertoire has been hacked in half.

Thursday morning, I packed up the lunches and reached for the microwave handle to warm my two mini sausage biscuits. Imagine my surprise when it popped out like a pump handle on the upswing. With a loud CRACK, to boot! Huh. My long black plastic microwave door handle, shaped like a bow, attached at top and bottom...was now only attached at the top. Val is nothing if not resourceful. And hungry for mini sausage biscuits in the morning. I grasped the top attachment area of the microwave handle. Pinched it between thumb and forefinger. I could still get the door open.

Fortified by my mini sausage biscuits, I shot off a text to Hick so he would know that the microwave door handle was broken. He texted back, "Okay." Like he had a say in the matter, giving me permission after the fact. I hate it when he does that.

After a late night at the board meeting for a student recognition ceremony, the Thevictorian family once again convened at home. Hick stopped on his way back to pick up some epoxy. He took out the top and bottom screws, slathered that handle in glue, then reattached it. "There. We will order a new one anyway, because we're probably going to need it down the line." I don't know about your definition of down the line, but I somehow expected it to be longer than ten hours.

Friday morning, when I reached for the microwave handle to warm up my mini sausage biscuits, the entire assembly came off in my hand. So close. But yet so far. I had mini sausage biscuits waiting. So I stuck my fingernails up under the bottom of the door, and pried it open. Nothing comes between Val and her mini sausage biscuits. Oh, and I made sure to send a text to Hick. "Good job. Now the whole handle broke off." As you might imagine, Hick replied. "Okay."

Friday night, Hick headed to his basement workshop. I heard him rummaging, but was not invested enough to check on his progress. It was still twelve hours until I needed mini sausage biscuits. The Pony ran upstairs for some ice water, and came back with news from the microwave front. "You won't have to worry about the microwave anymore! Dad put TWO handles on the door!"

Of course this news set off an alarm bell in the back of my head. A microwave door should not need two handles. When I went upstairs, this is what I found.

I don't mean to brag, but I think I'm the only woman in Backroads with drawer knobs for her microwave handle(s).

Friday, May 16, 2014

Paging Doctor Genius!

I have reached a temporary solution to my internet problems. I shall only use the desktop in my dark basement lair. My desktop has a name you know, it’s D E S K Y. No. That’s not true. Desky is the name of Genius’s desktop. It was his idea to name all of our electronics. Yes. The odd duck does not fall far from the nest. My desktop is New Delly. That’s because it’s a Dell, and when I got it, it was new. My laptop upstairs is named Shiba. Short for Toshiba. That’s the one that’s sick. She has come down with the .dll flu. Something has gone corrupt with her XPCOM file. Not only is Firefox unoperational, but so are my blogs, even when I try Internet Explorer as the browser. No gmail, no Blogger. I can’t even open my Sprint connect card thingy.

Downstairs, however, I can open the connect card. Just as long as I turn on the laptop and hang that connector in the window upstairs, the internet connection runs.

Yes, New Delly is hale and hearty. Robust. He’s the workhorse. The Percheron, the Clydesdale, the Belgian. Shiba, however, is listless. Languid. Anemic. She’s the swaybacked old nag with an appointment at the glue factory on Monday.

Whereas New Delly is a Charles Atlas, a Jack LaLane, an Izzy Mandelbaum capable of out-powerlifting Jerry Seinfeld…Shiba is the 98-pound weakling getting sand kicked in her face, standing on the sidelines in a back brace and headgear, holding an inhaler and an epi-pen, a mini pack of tissues strapped to her wrist, wearing a T-shirt that says, “I Brake For Peanuts.”

The invalid will rest on her perch on a wooden TV tray in the front living room window until Dr. Genius has time to do a workup. The patient may require surgery, may require a transplant, and will probably benefit from a good wiping.

The doctor is in, but I fear the patient will not be seen until morning rounds.