Thursday, December 15, 2016

When a Favorite Starts to Go South

Certain changes in this land are like watching a friend commit suicide. Perhaps we all have our favorite restaurant, where like on Cheers, everyone knows your name...or at least your face and what you drink (in my case a coke). It isn't necessarily because they serve the best food. It is a combination of other things. You fell comfortable there, somewhat protected and cozy. It is the ambiance, the friendliness, the romantic dimness of the lights, the murmering around a bar and the feeling of welcome.

We've had several eateries like that over the years. Once upon the time we were very fond of Hennessy's, a bar restaurant in Aston, Pa. Joe the owner would greet you enthusiastically and with a smile. He knew our preference for a booth. The service tended toward the slow side, but was still attentive, warm and friendly. The food was pretty good, especially the filet mignon. It was only $19, but was more tasty than many I had in the upscale white tablecloth establishments.

We went there quite often, even though there was usually a line to get in and one might have to wait a
bit. We attended their 15 year anniversary celebration, wished them another 15 years of success, but then something changed. Since there prices were a little more than other bar restaurants in the area the downturn in the economy might have hurt them. Perhaps they didn't change the menu enough. The lines shrunk and then disappeared and you didn't have to wait. Joe had changed as well. I wondered if he had lost his interest in the place, he seemed listless and looked sad. We stopped going.

We came back after a period of time and knew it was dying. The wait staff was more interested in talking with themselves than serving. Our waitress came over to take our order and she sat down on the bench next to me. I felt very uncomfortable about that it was not proper restaurant etiquette. Again we stopped going and a few months later the for sale signs went up and the building became dark and deserted.

In the meantime we found a new favorite, Duffer's Pub on Route 1 and Brinton Lake. Duffer's has two other locations, The Tavern and The Mill. The Mill is located about two miles from us, but we really liked The Pub even though it is more of a drive. We like the atmosphere and the high back booths which gave a feeling of privacy. We traveled there quite often.

But suddenly this year something changed and we are not sure why. The change began when the manager's wife became more prominate and we wonder if her influence was behind what is happening. She is somewhat intrusive, stopping by to chat. Her husband used to stop and talk sometimes too, but his was more banner and short. She seems more shrill. She also appears harsher on the staff. In fact, we were use to the staff made mostly of waitresses, but we noticed the turnover had been getting more frequent and now almost all the waitresses we had known have gone. The wait staff now is mostly male and they are less attentive than the females had been, not all of them, but often they linger about joking among themselves rather than serving the clientele.

One of the big startling changes was in the menu, not the offerings, but the prices. All the items jumped up in price. The Caprise Salad had been one of the cheaper salad previously, under $10, suddenly jumped to $13. Why, all that it contains is a sliced tomato, some basil leaves, mozzarella cheese and balsonic vinegar? The Cobb Salad jumped from $10 to $13 and the Salmon platter from $13 to nearly $18. Every item went up. On top of that sandwiches use to come with a side of fries or a couple other choices. Now you must pay an extra dollar if you want those sides and $2 for vertain other sides. I was asked if I wanted my coke refilled, as I usually did. There was no charge for refills, but I was shocked to get the check and find the coke and the refill each cost me $2.50.

The quality of the food did not change accordingly, and in some cases seems to have slipped a notch. We haven't totally stopped going there, but we have greatly reduced our visits. This is with great regret for it had been our favorite place, but it seems on the verge of suicide to us.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Dionogsis and Decisions and the Frailities of This Body

I had an appointment in Thomas Jefferson Hospital at the Neurology Clinic. This is at 909 Market Street. Although I am long experienced in driving in Philadelphia, I felt apprehensive about dealing with the traffic and the parking, as well as what my state of mind might be after my appointment. Iron Faith came through again and supplied me with a driver, Larry Harris. He is a professional, a tour bus driver, thus I was in good hands, and appreciative since he had to spend his morning hanging about Philly for three hours.

My appointment was at 10, but we left good and early, since one never knows the trafic delays that may be lurking on I-95 or elsewhere. There were backups on I-95, but he took us a diffent route and avoided them. He dropped me off in front of the building at 9:00. He then drove off "to find a place to hide" until I called him to pick me up a little past noon
Well, it was still an hour until my appointment and I decided to take a walk. You know, I try to take a walk every morning. It was on one of those walks in late May that eventually led me here. I was breezing along when suddenly, as if someone threw a light switch, my legs felt off and weak and I walked in a funny, slow way.

I  shuffled off yesterday, and a shuffle is the way I walk these days, slow and steady...actually I am not so steady. I was very cautious crossing at the corners, I didn't want to trip and fall over the handicap ramps as my frined Ronald had done a couple weeks back. I didn't need to enter the hospital with a bloody face.

I decided to go look at the entrance of a place I worked at in the early 'seventies, Lincoln Bank. Of course, Lincoln Bank no longer exists, it disappeared decades ago I turned off Walnut, went down a block of 10th Street and turned left onto Samson.  Samson is a narrow street. One change since I lived and worked in Philly was how it was lined with bicycles. 

My old site of employment, back in 1971, was half between 12th and 13th streets. The entry  is still there as well as the parking garage we were located beneath, but I have no idea what is operating there these day.

It went down to 13th street and headed back to Walnut. Gee in this one shop I could have gotten a barguin of a mink coat, $900 reduced from $2,000. It was really an unattractive jacket.

It is the one with the sign pinned on front.

I headed back on Walnut. Everybody going my way was zipping by me.
I remember when I use to be the one passing everybody when I walked these streets. It crossed my mind I was so slow would I be late arriving for my appointment, perhaps this walk had been a mistake. By the way, the man sitting on the sidewalk in the distance was a homeless guy begging for money. I hope this isn't my future fate.

I wasn't late. I was still twenty muntes early, but I entered the building anyway. I had to sign in at the security desk and get a visitor tag before going up to the Neurology Clinic on the second floor. Once there I had to sign in again, electronically.

I took a seat in the large waiting room wondering how long I would 
wait. What a difference was this experience from what I had been used to in Delaware. I was only seated a couple minutes when I heard someone call "Larry". I was so startled I had to ask a lady at that semi-circle of desks if I heard correctly. Yes, I had, except I had no idea where to go. I wandered around the semi-circle and suddenly a lady asked, "Larry Meredith."

I sat on a chair before her and she took the usual info, my ID and insurance cards, asked a few informational questions. Amazingly no one handed my a questionnaire to fill out. She then told me to take a seat in the waiting room and someone would come get me. 
Okay, I thought, so now we wait, but I had barely sat down when a fellow in blue scrubs called me back. He took my vital signs, asked some family history, then led me to another little exam room and said the Doctor would be in shortly.

Yeah, right, I've heard on enough doctor visis and the shortly was like a half hour. But surprise again, as he walked out of the room the Doctor walked in. I should say, the doctors walked in, two Physicians and a Nurse Practitioner. The lead doctor was Goran Rakocevic (pictured left).

These people were exceedingly kind and encouraging. They conducted a physical exam, consisting of a lot hitting me with a hammer. Dr. Rakocevic didn't see the need for further tests, since he had  MRI result, reports from my other doctors and the recent EMG. The diagnosis was pretty clear. 

I have sporadic amyorophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig Disease. (Sporadic simply means I didn't inherit it because I have no family history of the disorder. I got it more or less randomly.) It is a rare disease and not contagious, so you can relax on that note. They do not know what causes it and there is no cure. It is a progressive and eventually fatal affliction. 

What is it? 

Well, amyotrophic means no muscle nourishment.  It doesn't mean the muscles are not getting food, but they are not getting messages from the brain. This results in weakened muscles, then they shrink and later become paralyzed. Lateral is the way the the motor neurons travel along the sides of the spinal cord. When these neurons die they leave behind scar tissue. Scelrosis means scarring or hardening. ALS is a disorder of the motor nerves or motor neutrons. These neurons tell your muscles what to do and without them your muscle become weak. The progression causes problems with daily activities, such as moving about, lifting and carrying, caring for one's self, speaking, chewing, swallowing and eventually breathing. It might also cause muscle craps, twitching under the skin, weight loss, stiffness or poor coordination. Sounds like fun, don't it?

They told me I have loss muscle mass in my hands, arms and legs. When it is gone it is gone. No exercise will build this loss muscle back. I am already having problems handling things with my hands. I drop a lot. I read in a case history of a relatively young woman suffering from it that found she couldn't remove her gas cap. She had to ask a man to undo it for her. I have noticed opening and closing my gas cap has become more difficult.

I will have a team to look after me as I go to the clinic during the month. This will include doctors, nurses, social workers and 
therapists (speech, physical and occupational therapists.) Social workers will aid with issurance, social issues and emotional state.

Average life expectancy can run from 1 year to 10 years on average depending on the speed of the progression. Hopefully mine is a lazy sort and slow. Remember, Steven Hawking got ALS when he was 21 and he is now 74, so he's had it for 53 years. I figure I got a chance to make 100 yet.

Anyway, I'm not dwelling on that. I am just going to keep on living as I have, doing the things I like and enjoy my remaining years. It's all in the hands of God anyway. I may need some earthy help, though.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Do Not Let Despair Dampen Your Spirit

There were a number of Christmas songs I especially liked as a boy, and as a man. One of these was “I Heard the Bels on Christmas Day”. It was heard a lot when I was a youth, but doesn’t seem as popular today, although it is as prevalent to our times as it was to the times when it was written.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

The music, at least the most used version, was composed by John Baptiste Calken, an English organist. The lyrics were taken from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ( a distant cousin of mine).

It seems a strange Christmas song, the music somewhat somber and the opening verses not promising much hope and joy.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

This is understandable when you realize the Longfellow’s situation when he penned the words it on Christmas Day, 1863. Longfellow had received a grim telegraph at the beginning of the month concerning his eldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow. 

Charley had defied his father’s wishes and joined the Army fighting the Civil War. He had rose to Second Lieutenant in the Massachusetts 1st Cavalry. That December telegram told Longfellow his son had been gravely wounded at the Battle of Mine Run near Chancellorsville, Virginia. It was not promising. He had been hit in the left shoulder and the bullet had traveled through his back, nicked his spine and exited under his right shoulder.  He just missed being paralyzed and his life was touch and go for a while, but he survived.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

For Henry Longfellow this was despair upon despair. Only a year and a half earlier, Longfellow had lost his wife. Her dress caught fire, either from coming to close to the hearth or by a dropped candle. Longfellow was napping, but immediately awoke 
and tried at first to smother the flames with a rug, and when that didn’t work he threw his own body upon her. She died from her sever injuries the next morning and Longfellow himself suffered a bad burning, bad enough he couldn’t even come to his wife’s funeral. His face was scarred and so he grew the beard we usually associate with his likeness.

So if anyone should succumb to despair on Christmas Day, when we generally are festive and hopeful, it was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

But he didn’t. He listened to the ringing church bells and he penned the final verse.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

We live in a world full of woe and trouble and we constantly face many difficulties and tragedies, but we must remember that God has us in his hand and not let the sufferings of our life dampen our spirit.

This version below might moisten your eyes

Monday, November 14, 2016

Maybe Mother Was Right or Maybe I Was

I began reading well before I began Kindergarten, and I started Kindergarten a few months after turning 4 years old. I read a lot all through my school years, and then for the rest of my life. It bothered my family that I was such a voracious reader and when I was a teenager, my mother said I read too much.

"It is going to wear out your brain," she warned on more than one occasion.

But I didn't listen to my mom and kept on devouring books. I usually had four or five books going during any given week and when no books were handy, I read what was. At breakfast I would read everything on the cereal box.

As I aged I was relatively healthy. The older I got I seemed to have even less problems with such nuisances as colds or the flu. I racked up perfect attendance awards at work regularly. People would ask how I stayed so well I answered:

"The secret to good health is to stay away from doctors."

If I hadn't heeded my mothers advice, I did honor my own and I only went to a doctor if I felt like I was hanging on Death's door. At age 74 I was walking 5 miles or more each morning, rain or snow, in season and out. I exercised at the gym 3 times a week and many evenings found me working out on a rowing machine at home. I had gotten my weight down through this and diet, where I avoid much sugar and ate a lot of fresh fruit. My Physical exams at the doctor were usually very good.

Ah, but there is the rub, "At the doctor".

I had kept doctor visits to a bare minimum most my life, but when I got into my sixties, and especially on Medicare, it seemed I was required to take a yearly physical. I had to check in order to have my blood pressure and my thyroid medication renewed or adjusted. Then a few years ago it  it became a bi-annual exam.  I asked my doctor about this one time and she said it was due to regulations put in by President Obama.  Hmmm, okay, but now it seems I have been scheduled in every 4 months.

And the more exams presumptively to keep me healthy, the more prickly my health has become. My doctor prescribed an antibiotic for some sniffles and it gave me Clostridium difficile or C. Diff, a particularly nasty disease. But I have written several posts about my struggles with this. The main problem is what happened in late May on one of my walks. Suddenly, my legs felt odd, kind of weak, and I had difficulty continuing.

This drove me to the doctors voluntarily and led to several months

now of various specialists and many tests, blood tests, cat scans, ultrasounds, MRIs and most recently, an EMG or electromyogram, which included a series of electrical shocks to my arm and leg, followed by a number of needles being inserted in the same arm and leg. Such fun times!

However, to date, no one has figured out what it is I have and I am supposed to see a sub-specialist because the EMG shows something not quite right with my nerves.

In the Neurologist's waiting room was a magazine with an article on the importance of self-diagnosis with mystery diseases. I am now wondering if I have stumbled on what I have and this brings me back to my mother's warning.

Here are my symptoms: An odd-gait, weakness in my arms and legs, unsteady balance, fatigue, problems making decisions, becoming disorganized (organization being one of my past strongpoints) and lapses in memory (memory also being a former strongpoint). These all fit the symptom of Leukoaraiosis or Small Vessel Disease.

What is this exactly? Well, until very recently no one realized such a thing existed. It wasn't until the prevalent use of imaging technology, the Cat Scans and MRIs, that it was discovered and now some believe upward of 60% of older people might be affected. It showed up in these scans as little pinpricks of white scattered about the cerebellum. It was finally determined this was what is called small vessel disease. 

It is basically a lack of oxygen getting into some of the small vessels that run throughout the brain. No one really knows the cause yet. There is some correlation to high blood pressure and diabetes. I don't have diabetes, but I've had high blood pressure most my life and have taken controlling medication for it. My blood pressure readings are very good.

Obviously, the motor skills can be interfered with, thus ataxic gait. I have been having problems with focus and definitely a growing number of memory lapses. (I really need to speed up writing my memoirs before I forget everything. The scary part of this is it can progress to vascular dementia.

What leads me to think this may be my problem? It was because I remembered the term small vessel disease from somewhere in all my medical adventures, and sure enough, there it was in the report by my Neurosurgeon.

"MRI of the brain performed 7/7/2016 demonstrates periventricular white matter disease consistent with small vessel ischemic disease as well as some diffuse atrophy of the brain."

This can be treated with the possibility of complete reversal, but first somebody other than myself needs come up with the diagnosis. You know what is always said, the faster you identify the problem the better the odds of cure. However, my cast of doctors are really dragging their feet. I was told that sub-specialist would call either last Wednesday or Thursday to set an appointment. No call came. I called the Neurologist office inquiring this morning, but as of two o'clock no one has returned my call. 

Or perhaps my mother was right all those years ago and my excessive reading simply wore out my brain.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

In Any Given Second (When Health Care Betrays You)

I knew we could be in big trouble just a few days ago when my wife shrieked in pain as she lifted something. Her thumbs were swallow up like the giant rubber gag ones I had as a kid. Her problem was arthritis. Her thumbs were red and sore.

It was a terrifying realization.

Why so?

I have arthritis as well, had it for years. My hands have become distorted from its ravages. The index finger on my right hand is frozen into a permanent point, except the tip turns down The bottle finger on my left refuses to march in line with the other fingers and I no longer can make a fist with either hand.

As a result I have great difficulty opening jars, writing, using tools and I am constantly dropping things. My hands gradually get worse each day, although medication I take has slowed the progress of the disease and taken away most of the pain.

Because the Rheumatologist helped me so much, I sent my wife to see him expecting the same results.But he couldn't help, other than offer some external salve and send her for X-rays. He did not want to give her further medication because she is on so much all ready. I deeply respect this doctor for this. He cares.

It occurred to me how difficult life could become if we both lost the use of our hands or at least found ourselves highly restricted by frozen joints and extreme pain. This sudden realization of our fragility was further drilled into my mind by recent health issues. My mind flashed back to the evening in August when I could not raise myself up from my bed. I could not do what we could call a sit up. I couldn't get into a sitting position to get off the bed and stand. Instead I rolled onto the floor where I was stuck face down and unable to do a push up. It was the most helpless feeling. We will come back to what caused it later.

I turned 75 this past June. My age didn't bother me. I had all ready planned to outlive my father, who died at age 94; in fact, I began to think in terms of 100. It was May, I was still 74 and feeling fit. Oh, I knew I wasn't as physically strong as in my youth or middle years, for that matter. I struggled unloading 40 pound bags of cat litter and carrying them up or down our steps, but I could still do that. Besides, I was beginning to regain muscle strength through my workouts. I did exercises at home and three times a week I went to the Senior Center Gym and worked out on the equipment. I also walked five miles or more every morning. I had been doing this for years.

It was on one of these morning walks that the "thing" happened in a blink of an eye or tick of the
clock or whatever cliche you wish to use for sudden and fast. I had gone about a third of my route and was walking down the path around the big meadow to the front of the park, when my thighs felt weird and my legs didn't want to do what legs should do. My lower limbs were short of splayed out and boy was my pace slower. I considered pushing beyond my situation, though better of it and simply made it best I could to my car. Later I noticed the same strange, weak sensation also existed in my forearms.

It was ironic, in a way, because one week earlier I was in for my trip-yearly physical and had one of the best results I ever had. I was a pretty healthy individual.

I had a couple doctors appointment coming up, Rheumatologist and Urologist. I decided to see what they might say before calling my Primary. They said everything was copacetic with me, so I called me Primary and went in to see him.

Now I had some spring allergy sniffles, get them every year, so when I saw the Doc I mentioned this first. He immediately sent out a prescription for an antibiotic.

I know I cover some of this before, but I am pretty angry about this. Health Care is supposed to care for your health, not inflict disease upon you. A week after taking the antibiotic I was septic with Clostridium Difficile, or C. Diff for short, a really nasty affliction that I was told almost killed me.

I am stuck now with this monster inside me, which may break out at any time and for which there is no cure or prevention. I had two hospital stays totally 9 days and a third bout without hospitalization. It is infectious, so the family have to be cautious not to join me in this misery. It interrupted the diagnosis of whatever effected my legs and arms. It has made my son and his wife somewhat fearful to allow me close to my grandson. The medication I am taking causes some change in my taste, so even what foods I can eat often taste bad.

Of course, it brings my mortality to mind. What if's haunt me. I still have no answer for my leg and arm weakness, even after numerous tests and seeing an alphabet soup of specialists. It is now 5 months and I have no answer. So you think, what if it is the beginning of a debilitating condition. How will we survive if both my wife and I have inabilities to do normal daily routines?

I have been afflicted by my doctor and have lost trust in him and the medical industry in general. Plus we, despite insurance, have had our saving deflated and our credit cards inflated by medical bills. (My wife had a knee replacement earlier in the year.

 I put my faith in God, but He knows I have little for the medical profession.

If you want to read how doctor's can prove a danger, like giant germs, read:

My Day as Angelina Jolie & The Saga Continues by Slugmama

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What is Hopefully My Final Escape

Yippee ki yay, I'm back on the bedpan again!

But by the fourth day I was no longer suffering that old C. Diff diarrhea. I was actually feeling much better and this was the day they let me bathe myself.

More importantly to me, was at the 7:00 AM staff change. My night nurse brought in the new day shift nurse as they did at every shift change. It was a man, the one and only male nurse I was to have at Christiana Hospital after a long line of female nurses. I immediately perked up, not because I had something for male nurses, but because when I had been in Wilmington Hospital I had but one male nurse as well and he came on duty the morning of my last day there.  Could history repeat and this be my day of discharge from Christiana? I took this as a promising omen.

I began my morning with a series of doctors paying me a visit, Manny, Moe and Jack; or was it Moe, Larry and Curly? No, one
was a lady from the Infectious Disease Center because yes, I had an infectious disease, one they told me was very much so. Anyone coming into my room first had to don a gown and gloves as a precaution. She explained to me that I could get the C. Diff again going forward, it was a stubborn disease and it would forever be a part of my life, like some sneaky criminal lurking in the shadows of my bowels. There was no real cure either and nothing I could do or eat that would prevent it if it choose to strike again. All this because my Primary Physician had put me on an antibiotic for sniffles. Curse you, Cefdiner!  (That's the antibiotic, not my doctor.)

Not long after she left, Dr. Wetherill popped in. He was the attending physician for the hospital. Because of the similarity in the names,  I kept wanting to call him Mr. Weatherbee, the principal from the Archie Comics. Actually, he even looked a bit like Mr. Weatherbee. He told me they were considering discharging me either today or on Saturday. He asked me how I felt about it.

I told him I would love to go home today.

Did I feel strong enough to go home?

Yes, I felt strong enough.

He left with a "We'll consider it."

Consider it well, in fact, put on your Nikes and just do it. 

I called my wife and told her I might be coming home and I'd call her when I knew anything for sure.

Sometime around noon the nurse came in and told me I was being discharged in about a half hour. He took out my IV, which entailed more ripping off of tape and hair. He noted who ever put it on was a bit of a sadist. It used to be a sign of virility for a man to have hairy arms and chest and I guess I was a viral man, but boy it hurt to have tape ripping off that hair. If I want a wax job, I'll go to a salon.

I called my wife again and the phone rang and rang until the voice mail came on. I hung up and tried again. It took 4 tries before my wife answered. She sounded weary and said she had been trying to unclog the vacuum. She sounded so upset I didn't even think to ask her to bring me fresh clothes. I fished through a paper bag on my counter and put on what I had worn into the hospital, shorts and a T-shirt, but still better than the open-backed gown.

I didn't want a repeat of when we left Wilmington Hospital and she  had to wait in the heat because they couldn't find a wheelchair to bring me down. I told her when the wheelchair came I wanted her to go down with me and then get the car. However, things did not go so smoothly this time either.

When the nurse came in to go over my discharge instruction and have me sign the release paper, I asked if he would order the Vancomycin (oh yum, I get to drink that poison four times a day even when I get home) from the pharmacy so we could pick it up on the way out. He did so. He came back and said it would take an hour to prepare, we could wait in the room where we had TV or we could go down and wait in the hallway outside the pharmacy. We choose to stay in the room.

My wife does not have much patience with waiting. The hour seemed to never end and she was getting more and more annoyed, but then the nurse came in and said the hour had passed and he was ordering up a wheelchair.

My escort appeared right behind him, a young lady named Poon. The three of us set off for my exit. Poon then rolled me into the pharmacy and Lois left us to get the car.

Poon assisted in my buying the bottle, which cost $124 because it was not covered by any insurance, and then she rolled me out to the large window fronting the pick up area. 

There we waited and waited, but then a man came up and told her he would watch me. He was the traffic director for the pickup place. Since it was a nice day, he rolled me outside and there we waited and waited.

And waited.

It was like the Philadelphia Airport, car after can pulled in to pick up the recently discharged, but no sign of our red Fit. We waited there, although the guy went off to aid some other people occasionally, while I grow more and more panicked.

I know she walks slow, but even at her pace she should have reached Parking Lot B long ago and it was not a long drive from there to here. Where was she? Christiana Care is a large complex with multi-lanes throughout the parking lot, perhaps she was lost. Or what if she went to the wrong exit?

I asked the guy if there were other entry/exits. At first he said no, but after a bit of prodding it seemed there were at least four: the heart division, but that was just down the driveway in our sight and she would have had to drive past where we were to get there. There was the Emergency Room, where we had originally entered, but I really didn't think she would go there. Then their were two other smaller points.

What if she went to one of those? How would I contact her if she was sitting at pint B and I was at Point A? For that matter, how would I contact her if she were lost in the parking lots? The guy asked about a cell phone. First of all, I thought mine had gone home with her after they admitted me. Second, I didn't think she ever set up her phone when we got new ones a couple months previously, and if she had and had it in her purse, I wasn't sure she would answer it.

It was growing later and I pictured myself sitting alone in my wheelchair as the sun set. I was really wondering how we would ever hook up again when suddenly she came around the bend into the pickup area.

She was pretty frazzled.

We left and I again told her to pull over and let me drive.

She was very upset and blamed the problem on construction they were doing at the hospital. She couldn't turn up the drive she wanted and then she did get lost in the confusion of lots, eventually ending up out on the main road heading toward I-95. She turned around and still had trouble finding the proper lane to the pickup point. 

I kidded about it being like the mazes they use to feature in the children's books, like "Highlight's" and "Jack and Jill" when we were kids.

She didn't really see the humor in it.

I didn't care. I was heading home again, hopefully for good this time. I had no desire to return back to either hospital.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Vindication nearly 50 Years Later: Bob Dylan --Poet

That is Bob Dylan in 1967

In 2016 Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature and thus remains as ground breaking and controversial as ever.

I, however, feel somewhat vindicated by his getting this honor.


Because in those mid-sixties years I was a ghostwriter, penning college papers for students at St. Joseph and LaSalle Universities in Philadelphia. I myself was attending Temple University as a Sociology major.

In that year, 1967, I was hired to write some speeches for Joe Rubio, who was attending St. Joseph University. One of the speeches I wrote for him was called, "Bob Dylan -- Poet". This was something of a risk, because generally the student had to give their speech before the class and then be subjected to a question and answer period about his or her piece. I spent a lot of time coaching Joe about Dylan, who he knew almost nothing about. Joe's singers of choice were the Four Seasons and Neil Diamond. So, I feared him having to field questions on his speech about Bob Dylan.

I also had no idea how his professor would react to his material. Maybe she hated Dylan, hated folk
music, and thus would have a prejudice against the whole thing. However, we had luck with us. Because of time restrictions, Joe never had to give his speech, he just had to hand in the typed manuscript. He received an "A" and she, his teacher, noted she agreed that Dylan was a poet.

(On the right is me in 1967.)

Below is the speech I wrote:


John Ciardi has stated that Bob Dylan is not a poet, because “he doesn’t understand poetry and neither do those who listen to him”.  It seems John Ciardi should know.  He is poetry editor of the Saturday Review and has published a dozen poetry volumes, including translations of Dante’s Devine Comedy.  He should know, but I don’t think he does.
I must be an upstart!
I don’t think I am.  It’s true; I am only a neophyte poet.  I can’t quote you many lines from any poems either.  I'm really terrible at memorization.  
I sound as if I am really giving support to Mr. Chiarti.
I would be, but I have a couple names on my side too.  Old forms of poetry did not just spring forth with the full support of the public.  It had to establish itself slowly.  I now call my first witness to the stand, Mr. William Wordsworth.
“The revolutionary poet must himself create the taste by which he is judged.  He will be recognized by the public only when the public has recognized itself in the work of the poet.”
Therefore, it can be argued that Bob Dylan’s lyrics are poetry, because his audience recognizes it as such.  It is not Mr. Dylan’s fault that Mr. Ciardi has not found himself in those lines yet.
I present to you the testimony of Elizabeth Drew, author of Poetry.
“(Poetry’s) uses of words are finer and richer and more powerful than those of prose, and it has played a larger part in the whole literary tradition.”
There is no moon, June, spoon lyrics to Dylan’s compositions.  His best lyric is striking in its imagery.  
“Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind/ Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves/ The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach/ Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow.”
is from “Mr. Tambourine Man”,
“With your sheets like metal and your belt like lace? And your deck of cards missing the Jack and the ace/ And your basement clothes and your hollow face.”
is from “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”, and look at this verse from “Chimes of Freedom”.
“Tolling for the deaf ‘n’ blind, tolling for the mute/  Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute,/ For the misdemeanor outlaw chased an’ cheated by pursuit/ An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.”
Those words are sharper than those of prose.  Those words are imagery.  And these are not isolated lyrics.  This is the usual run.  But this is just the lyricism.  What of Miss Drew’s second point?  Does Bob Dylan add to the overall literary scene?
Bob Dylan has had a profound effect on young poets.  You can see his influence in the lesser magazines that fringe the art world, underground magazines such as the Psychedelphia Period, and in such art magazines as Evergreen Review and Avant Gard.  It is true there are serious failings in these magazines as far as the general public is concerned, but these are magazines of experimentation, new form, and freedom of expression, and future poets will develop out of them.  We can also see Dylan’s influence on songwriting.  Paul Simon and John Lennon both admit to the influence of Dylan.  John Phillips, Jeremy Clyde and Steve Gillette owe much to him.  Music critics from local newspapers to conductor Leonard Bernstein admit that the Beatles and Bob Dylan have revolutionized pop music and turned it into an art form.
Wordsworth speaks again:
“A poet is a man speaking to men.”
We must admit that Bob Dylan is a man speaking to men about themselves.  Despite John Ciardi’s angry opinion, we must accept Bob Dylan as a poet and his words as poems.  It is not necessary to like the man, or even to like his poems.  We are not forced to agree with them, or with him.  But we should agree that they are poems.  They have imagery.  They speak of man to men.  They are richer and more powerful than prose.  They are far too great to be called merely pop song lyrics and be ranked with Bill Haley’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll”. They have contributed to the field of music and influenced other young poets.  And they have been accepted as poetry by a vast audience.  Remember Wordsworth:
“The revolutionary poet must himself create the taste by which he is judged.”
Mr. Dylan has done that, is doing that, and will continue to do that I’m sure.
“You must leave now, take what you need,
You think will last, But whatever you wish 
to keep, you better grab it fast.”
Those lines open Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”.  It closes my little argument. Grab Bob Dylan and listen.  He is a poet.  He puts his poems to music, but that was what the original poems did.  And he sings them.  But he is a poet. Minor?  Perhaps.  Major?  Who knows?  Poet?  Yes.

1. Folk-Rock: The Bob Dylan Story by Sy and Barbara Ribakove 1966
2. Poetry by Elizabeth Drew 1959
3. Bob Dylan Song Book by Bob Dylan 1966
4. The American Folk Scene Edited by David A. DeTurk and A. Poulin, Jr. The section on “Woody and his Children” 1967
5. McCall’s “A Middle-Aged Mother Visits the Teen Scene” by Helen Eustis August 1966
6. The Saturday Evening Post “Bob Dylan: ‘Well, What Have We here?’” by Jules Siegel July 30, 1966
7. Glamour “Bob Dylan: Poet” Summer 1966
8. The Village Voice “New Thing Called Dylan” by Jack Newfield Thursday, September 2, 1965
9. Evergreen Review Various Poetry 1966-1968 Editions
10. Avant Gard Various Poetry 1968 Editions
11. Psychadelphia Period Various Poetry 1967-1968 Editions

Drawings of Bob Dylan by Larry E., 1966

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Deja Vu All Over Again

 I had arrived home from my Endoscopy and I felt pretty well. My Home Health Nurse, Leo, showed up in the afternoon and ran the usual check of my vitals. He looked at me and said,
"do you know you have a 101 fever?"

No, I didn't. He took out his phone and called the doctor. He got done talking then told me I was to immediately go to the emergency ward. They thought something had happened during my procedure, like a tear or infection.

So we headed down I-95, my wife driving, but this time we passed Wilmington. I had decided I wanted to go to Christiana Hospital instead. Wilmington and Christiana Hospitals are all part of Christiana Care, but the big complex at Christiana is the mother ship.

We came around and up in front of the emergency ward. I was struggling a bit, but there was no one coming to help. Some people were standing around, but none moved to do anything. This was ticking Lois off and she was none to quiet about it. I went on in and she left to park the car.

I went to the check in window, but the lady there told me to go over to a window to my right. A guy came over and took my info. he told me to go through a gate into the back just as Lois arrived.  We did as he said and I was ushered into a little exam room where further questions were asked and then we were sent into the main waiting room.

There we sat doing what the room was for -- waiting. Lois has no
patience for waiting. She was complaining, in no uncertain terms, and finally got up and went to inquire. Of course, this did little good, but finally my name was called and I was once again in a little curtained exam room, where it was decided to admit me. They wheeled me off in a wheelchair and Lois took some of my things and left for home.

Different hospital, I was now entrapped in Christiana Hospital instead of Wilmington Hospital, but other than the location everything else was familiar. The bed was the same padded prison with the same alarms and the same discomforts. Like before the phone was out of my reach and the window was too distant to look out at the grounds. The TV was the same with its difficult to use control screen. There was a different set of nurses and aids and technicians, but they did the same procedures. One of them put an IV in my left arm, but they did not put a second one in my other arm this time. I guess we can count that as different. Each morning the vampire came by to draw vials of blood, although this one did have a sense of humor. I was injected in the stomach twice a day as before and fed that evil Vancomycin four times a day.

And the raging diarrhea was back, I was having my second bout with Clostridium difficile, or C. Diff as they called it for convenience sake. So I was wearing only the very exposing thin gown with the open back and riding the bedpan once more.

By the third day, once again, the diarrhea had lessened and they were allowing me to walk over to a commode chair when my bowels moved. It was all routine to me now. 

One thing was definitely different and welcome. This nurse asked if I would like to bathe. Oh, yes, indeed I would. I had spent 5 days in Wilmington Hospital without any such thing as a bath or shower. Now I pictured a scene from Seinfeld (the whole world can be defined by Seinfeld scenes). George was visiting his mother in the hospital and behind him was a curtain hiding the other occupant of the room. Suddenly a beautiful nurse appeared saying she had come to give the patient a spong bath. You saw just the dark silhouettes behind the curtain.

This is what I pictured in my mind: A beautiful nurse comes in with a washpan and strips off my gown to wash me with a sponge. Ah, the kind of fantasy I had when a teenager. Of course, the reality was not quite living up to the imagination. A nurse, who was perfectly fine looking, did come in with a washpan, but she continued into the bathroom. She then pushed a chair into there and came and got me out of bed. 

I waddled into the bathroom and the washpan of hot water and a washcloth were in the sink before the chair. I was left alone then to wash myself. There was the hot water and soft washcloth and body wash and lotion on the counter. I stripped and did that warm wash ever feel good. There was even a glass holding a fresh toothbrush, toothpaste and mouth wash for me, which I made use of and then I dried off and slipped on a clean, fresh gown that was hung on the back of the door.

I called out I was finished, but got no answer, so I walked out to the bed myself. My room was empty of anyone else, but as soon as I sat on the bed alarms rang out and the nurse quickly appeared.

Each shift change the nurse that had been in charge would come in to introduce the next head nurse. On the fourth morning, at 7:00 AM when this occurred I was introduced to a male nurse, the only male nurse I had that week. I took this as a good omen. I had one male nurse during my imprisonment at Wilmington Hospital and he was the one on duty with I was released.  Could it happen again?

To Be Continued...