Thursday, December 1, 2016

Daily Vision Changes

Well, I broke another machine. No, I didn't knock anything over because I couldn't see it or anything like that. I'm just one of those people in whose mere presence machines break down. Never get behind me in a check-out line of you're in a hurry: something will happen. This time, it was a machine in the eye surgeon's office. They needed a final exam, which is supposed to lead to a print-out of data on my eye. Both, actually.

The repairman has been called. It probably started working again soon after I left.

In the meantime they switched to a different machine in a different room. I didn't manage to break this one. The biggest problem for me, with both machines, actually, is I'm supposed to hold my eye open for about 15 seconds. I blink about every one to three seconds. Can't help it. I blame it on the antihistamines I take, but allow for the possibility it's an early stage of Shogren's. Another gift from Mom, if so.

I had plenty of time  to do nothing much while they were trying to get the information they needed, so I decided to see for my own "amusement" - or edification - how the cataract is progressing from my side. An unfamiliar room is a great place to compare what is visible or not from each eye. There are two major changes today.

First, bright lights, seen through the cataract, used to be blurs covered with black spots, evenly distributed tiny specks like looking through a thin machined filter. No more black specks. Colors have changed too. Today I see light or shadows in various intensities, and red. The red can vary from pink to reddish brown. Yellow, green, blue: gone. I only know they are there by checking with the good eye.

I haven't decided whether I find this interesting or frightening. Both, I guess, along with relief/hope that in a week all will be changed. Surgery is the 7th.

Oh, and there's a complication. I have - if I got this right - pseudo exfoliation. The term may not be exact, but I correctly translated it back to the surgeon as false shedding. There's a ring around the lens that sheds cells. Over time, it could mean that the implant loosens and falls back inside they eye, requiring another surgery to pull it forward back into place.  He told me to spend some time on the internet finding out more about the condition.

Hey, when does a Doc tell  you that? Usually it's to ignore all the misinformation out there and listen only to the Doc.

Anyway, there are two things to consider, besides a possible future second surgery. One is a choice between scalpel surgery and laser surgery. Lasers cut more exactly and with less movement applied to the eye in the process,  which could help postpone problems. Scalpel surgery -yes, it's still done! - applies more movement and could hasten a problem.

Seems like a no-brainer, eh? But the second thing to consider is there is a difference of $1,500 between the two procedures. And Medicare only covers the cheap one. They don't recognize there may be a good medical reason, not just a comfort reason since the eye heals sooner, for doing the laser surgery.

I opted for digging out the plastic to cover the better option. I took some time to think about it. After all, I'm only going for the simple new lens Medicare pays for and will continue with wearing trifocals. The technology exists for me not to need any corrective exterior lenses after.

Oh, I'm also promising myself that the first indication of blurriness from the other eye, fast as this one has been growing,  I'm heading back to the surgeon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

So... Updates.

Some good, some not so.

Turns out I found the card proving my auto insurance paid for the tow to the tire  store. While I worked the craft show, Steve rode with the truck, found out we needed more than a plug, and ordered a new tire. It, of course, was in the warehouse. They shuttled him home, and finally got the tire in time to pick him up again for back to the store so that he with the car arrived home well after I did. My day out was 7AM to 5:something PM.

Yep. Beat. With another 4-hour shift the next day to follow. Add two days to mostly recover.

We thought we had good news when the tire company we used advertised a buy-3-get-4th-free deal, good through Monday. Turns out they didn't mean our tires. So we didn't get the other three replaced.

Steve's been a bit under the weather with the cold air arriving. It brought a 1/4" rain, along with enough wind to kick the bucket I set out to catch rain water not just over but unfindable until daylight. Maybe a rock in the bottom next time. But the back yard got pooper scooped before the first drops fell, whether I felt like walking any more or not. Welcome as the rain is, the cold air means that by the time he arrived at the center to play cards Monday night, a high point in every week, he was so chilled and achey he came right home again and went to bed. He's there again now instead of Tuesday's cards. And the furnace is finally officially "ON". Blankets and sweats are as well.

He got good news from his Doc. The shadow on his lung hasn't changed a bit since last year, so he's to check in again in another year. It may be scarring from Valley Fever, but if so it's old news, not ongoing. If something else, it's inactive for the last year. That's a relief.

I hit my cardiologist today, combining my semi-annual visit with the official OK for the cataract surgery. Tomorrow Solar panels go up, Thursday we head back to the surgeon for all the last info before surgery the next week. It can't come soon enough! As quickly as it came on, it's thickening more with a vengeance. That eye now can distinguish only extremes of light and dark. I can wave my own hand in front of that eye now, and already not only can't tell fingers, I can't see the hand moving.

It's annoying!

I can still watch TV, read, and pooper scoop with one eye, so I'm putting up with it, however grudgingly. However, without being able to detect even motion on that side, Steve is now our official driver. Thursday will be fun. He gets about 20 miles in full morning city rush hour. This from the guy who hates traffic, rush hours, and city driving. Give him a country lane to a fishing hole every time!

That's my guy!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Yet Another Thanksgiving Disaster

Why does it always have to happen on Thanksgiving Day? After all these years, you'd think I'd know, if there's going to be any kind of a disaster, that's when. There have been so many. Sewers back up, pipes freeze, weather is at its winter worst, power goes out so dinner can't cook.... Name it, that's when it picks to happen.

Today it was a flat tire. Not a real disaster, you'd think. Just pop on the spare, fix it when stores open again. It's not as if Steve and I were going anywhere. Today. Tomorrow and Saturday are a whole different thing. No, not idiot Black Friday. I need to help out our club at the all-Sun City clubs craft fair. We display and sell whatever it is that our club does. I have three shifts scheduled behind the tables selling, and one driving a golf cart to give rides to folks who had to park far away and want to have enough energy to stick around and spend money. You know, Cousin Julie needs a necklace and Aunt Margaret needs a towel with a crocheted top to hang over the whatever she's going to hang it over, and Fred needs a new lawn sign. We have a lot of cool clubs.

I've changed a lot of flats in my day. Taught my boys how to do it. Developed my own process that includes jumping on the lug wrench to loosen lug nuts I haven't the arm strength to turn. While I haven't changed my own tire since the knees went bad, I actually had hopes of being able to kneel down enough to set the jack. I even pulled out the fattest old quilt in the house to go under the knees, with cushions on standby if needed. Failing all that, there are some nice able-bodied neighbors.

All I had to do was pull out the jack and the spare. As a bonus in the process of digging my way down to the spare tire well, I even got rid of oatmeal that had been kicking around since some time last summer when Steve took it carp fishing (he can explain it to you) and the box leaked. Anyway, I get all the junk cleared, lift off the floor piece, and....

WHO THE HELL SELLS A NEW CAR THESE DAYS WITH NO SPARE, NOT EVEN A "TOY" TIRE, AND NO JACK OR LUG WRENCH?

Hyundai, apparently. I bought it new in 2013, and in 90,000+ miles have never needed to change a tire. Never ever considered that standard equipment wasn't. Oh, there was a cute little grey styrofoam filler in the spare tire space. Holding the floorboard up, I guess. That's all the help it was.

I contacted the one other club member whose home phone number I actually have, and secured a ride for tomorrow. It is, of course, for three hours earlier than I need to get there, so I need to find a way to kill time that won't be too uncomfortable. They will have those standard metal folding chairs that nobody can sit in for more than a half hour without squirming, or outside picnic tables or concrete benches, but outside won't be warm until mid afternoon. No place to put the feet up or the head down.

Joy.

Meanwhile, Steve will be - with luck - locating a service that can come out, remove the tire, take him and it back to their shop to repair or replace the tire, and bring both back and reinstall the tire. Yes, I know they'll find an excuse why they can't fix it and try to sell him a set of four. Won't happen. I'll accept one if absolutely necessary. I used to have a mechanic I could trust to do the minimum necessary and do it well. He's about 1800 miles away. So Steve and I have had the chat about how to be hard nosed and just where the balance needs to fall between ideal and possible.

With any luck, the car will be ready for him to pick me up and bring me home when I'm done.

Aren't I an optimist?

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Willful Ignorance

One of my biggest annoyances from this last election cycle was everybody who'd say, "I don't know much about politics, but..." and proceed to spout off about what they thought was going on and how they "excused" their vote.

This or that candidate would give them this, primarily because they thought/wished/needed them to. No checking on actual factual history or patterns of behavior. That candidate was awful because somebody else said so and that was good enough for them. Either way, either candidate, it all amounted to willful ignorance.

If I haven't made it clear yet, I have absolutely no patience for that. I don't give a shit how busy you are. It's your civic responsibility not only to vote but to make informed choices.

I recently had somebody slither up to me after I mentioned something about Minneapolis and start spouting about those awful radical Somalis who were congregating there and conspiring gawd-only-knows-how. Well, I used to work with a whole lot of those Somali immigrants. We had occasions to chat about customs, religious practices, how families were typically run. There was a corner set aside for prayers and cubbys to tuck prayer rugs into in order to keep them clean and handy. There was a foot washing facility in the unisex restroom (since there was only room for one restroom in the waiting area).

My only comment to her in response to her offensive comments was to inform her I had worked with many Somalis and had found them to be really good family people. She couldn't get away from me fast enough. I doubt she's any less willfully ignorant today than before. I'm willing to bet that if she bothered to vote her choices were made from fear of "those others".

I demonstrate twice a month with a group of folks (Grandmothers for Peace), holding up a variety of signs against war. Any war. We sit, we talk, we wave at the folks who honk their agreement as they pass. We discussed the upcoming election. More than one of them proudly announced their choice to vote for a third or fourth party candidate because they believed that was the best route to ending wars.

I was raised to be too polite to challenge them with, "How in hell can a candidate with absolutely no chance of winning be able to effect one iota of the change you/we want? Are you too stupid, or too willfully ignorant, to realize that the only way to make a positive difference is to vote for one of the top candidates, one with an actual chance, whose position is closest to what you want even if it's not absolutely perfect? Once in office, they can be lobbied with everything you've got to work on getting your goals met?"

I didn't go demonstrate today. Only part of it was due to an early medical appointment. (Yes, on a Saturday: eye sonogram.) Or even how much I needed a nap afterwords.Mostly I wanted to chew out a bunch of them, asking how they liked all the hawks being put into cabinet positions for the upcoming administrationjust because they, and so many like them, were too willfully ignorant, or just plain willful, to understand that failing to vote for the lesser of what they think are two evils is the same as a vote for the greater evil?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Cataract II: Seeing - Sort Of - The Expert

"How many fingers am I holding up?"

"I'm not sure. Where's your hand?"

We were about a third of the way through the actual exam. This doesn't count the hour filling out paperwork, the wait with Steve well past appointment time because they were busy, or the actual connection with the Doc at the end to check my dilated eyes and start scheduling a variety of pre-op, surgical, and post-op appointments. (I'm going to be very busy, starting tomorrow.)

But the midpoint of the exam was with the staff, rechecking eye pressure, vision, and whatever else they needed first, then showing me a video explaining what the surgery can and can't do, what Medicare will and won't pay for, and eventually directing me to the corner where they were hiding the restroom. All through the first two major parts of the visit, I caught repeated comments from the staff about how impatient several of the patients were as they were running so late.

I decided not to be one of those. I found the staff very helpful and informative, from answering my questions to apologizing to Steve for how long they were keeping me. Who needed to add to their challenges for the day?

The video reassured me that nearly the entire procedure is performed by lasers so I can maybe not freak out over the prospect of watching scalpels digging into my eye.

For the record, in the how-many-fingers exam, once she started moving her hand out of the deep shadow it had been in and waved it back and forth a couple times, I was able to tell her, "Five."

Information I got back was that I have a type 4 or stage 4, or whatever their jargon is, kind of cataract. There was something about a hard rim as well. At least I think I got that last part right. He translated that as being fully mature. A bit of a surprise for something that was just being hinted at a year ago. And a bit of a worry once he announced another one is starting in the other eye. I can't tell  it's there yet, but it's definitely a strong incentive to fix the first ASAP. Although he also said something about granules and I  didn't manage to get my act together soon enough after that to ask if the cataract surgery will fix those and/or what their prognosis is.

Because they can't see through this one, I have to get a procedure that's essentially an ultrasound of they eyeball so they can look for any other abnormalities, like, say, retinal detachment, as well as measuring the eye for the new lens fit. They called the Doc who does that, catching him in his car heading home as it was so late. He agreed to see me Saturday.

Tomorrow I have to call his office staff to assure them he OKed the appointment, call my cardiologist to see if we can push up my appointment so I have an EKG for them, or get one elsewhere within a week, and head to my Primary Doc for an already scheduled appointment. See? Busy.

Once the tests are in, there's a final appointment with the surgeon to go over everything, and then get my new lens Dec. 7.  I go back the next day for post-op check, then again after two weeks. It's kinda vague as to exactly I get examined for the new Rx for my glasses after that. Weeks. Months.

One thing sure is that I will still need glasses. Not just for the other eye, but because Medicare will only approve the simplest, cheapest version of an implant. While there are ones out there that correst for far, middle, and near distance vision, and can even fix astigmatisms, Medicare will pay to fix only one of those. Your choice. For the rest you pay yourself or get glasses. I'm opting for good distance vision. It's what I'm used to.

Oh, and don't forget the page full of possible bad side effects. And the lack of guarantee, which can even include the growth of a second cataract at the very rear behind the part they replaced. They can maybe fix that by punching a hole through with a laser, though.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Cataract!

Did you know cataracts are black? I didn't. I grew up watching the neighbor's old, old dog wandering up the middle of the street with white film over its eyes. Somebody explained it it was in the street because it was blind, and it was blind because those white things were cataracts. Nobody ever contradicted that piece of "knowledge".

Not till today.

I just got home from my annual eye exam. It's the one that insurance actually covers, along with a tiny fee towards new glasses. I try these days to be a bit more religious about getting it done because they need to be checked to see if my pre-diabetes is having any effect on them. The first exam after the diagnosis revealed something called a "Nevis", easy enough to remember since I went to school in that small town in rural Minnesota from first through third grade, way back when postage stamps climbed from two to three cents and Mom was complaining on and on about it as we were leaving the post office once. Anyway, the next annual exam showed that it disappeared, and has never returned. The spot, not the town.

Well, unless it's in my left eye. They have a harder time seeing in than I do seeing out right now, so many things are possible.

I knew something was starting to happen just before last year's exam. For a few weeks I was positive I couldn't be getting my glasses lenses clear enough. I kept wiping them and wiping them, but they just never got clear. Not that my nearsighted eyes could see what was on them without wearing them, but....

Still, some days were better than others, which is why I figured it was just me. Or a dirty spot on the hanky. Or the new cleaner I bought just wasn't up to the task. I mentioned it at the eye exam, but that was one of the clear days, and nothing was said about it. I just got one of those looks like I was wearing three heads or something, like you get when nobody else experiences what you do.

I was given new glasses with a tiny correction, hated them immediately, and tucked them away somewhere. You know, in that "safe place" that turns out to be a hole in the space time continuum. The same spot my mother's ring and several important receipts have landed in over the years. As far as the glasses go, I'm much happier with my old titanium frames anyway. But I really miss that ring.

As time passed,  the blur got worse. And occasionally a bit better. Still, one eye sufficed for watching TV, driving, and most importantly of all, reading.

Early this week it worsened enough to drive me in for my annual exam, delayed for lots of unimportant reasons. That eye can see vague forms, light and shadow, washed out colors. Details are gone. I know that my display cabinets hold a plethora of very detailed pottery, since I see them clearly right-eyed. Left-eyed they are a brown blur in a couple of fuzzy tones. The window is bright - during the day - but the blinds, houses across the street, and passing vehicles don't exist. I can tell there are five bright spots in the chandelier over the table, but they look like they are coated with a thin black gauze. It moves slightly with major head movements, but otherwise the details stay the same in front of the lights.

Can you tell I've been studying what I can/can't see?

The exam proved  it was definitely a cataract. Not only did it drive his machines bonkers when they tried to get their various readings on my eyes before the Rx check, but when he shined his bright little light into that eye he was unable to see in. It was like a brick wall. I jokingly asked whether they were stacked horizontally or vertically, and he replied they were more like round cobblestones. Interesting. From my perspective, his bright little light simply vanished to black when he aimed it into the eye. That part really surprised me, since I can see out a bit still. The right eye he had just used it in still was having the afterimage dancing around on a squiggly line from its turn.

We didn't bother dilating my eyes since that will need to be done by the surgeon anyway before proceeding further. Any surgery will likely change my prescription once again, so I have to return afterwards to re-do that part with the first Doc. None of this stopped the staff at the counter from trying to interest me in a pair of new glasses before I left, of course.

Must be on commission.

I walked out with a set of referrals to pick from for further exam, and presumably surgery. One is a bit more of a drive than the others, but considering I likely got some help in growing this left side cataract from my two million miles behind the wheel, the drive doesn't scare me. Besides, the Doc in question is this Doc's very own Doc. I figure what better referral can there be?

And they'll see me tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Spoiler Alert

So you thought you could make your point by voting for somebody who had no chance of winning because you couldn't bring yourself to vote for the "lessser of two evils"? Setting aside for the moment the idea that Hillary was anywhere near as evil as the press and her opponents have pushed us to believe, please remember this one simple fact: failure to vote against the GREATER of two evils by going for the most likely candidate to beat them ENSURES that the greater evil wins!

You saw it in Florida in the 2000 election. 19,000 people voted for Ralph Nader because they liked him more than Gore and really hated the thought of Bush winning the Presidency. They were called spoilers. Rightly so. I don't give a shit how irate Nader gets at the word. The margin between the top two candidates was in the low hundreds of votes. Had these people voted effectively, their least favored candidate would not have gotten into the white house. They spoiled the election, for themselves, for the country. We're still dealing with the consequences of an unjust war, with ISIS getting all the ammunition it needs to sway people to their cause.

Don't forget Gore won the popular vote in 2000. It just didn't count.

Watching election returns, there were many states in which Hillary lagged behind Trump by a smaller margin than the number of votes cast for the closest "third party" candidate. (I use quotations marks because we all saw a much larger number than three candidates on our presidential ballot.)

This time Hillary won the popular vote. It just didn't count this time either.

Now I'm not telling people not to vote for their true top choice in the election. I'm simply reminding you that the way the rules are written right now, it's just a very stupid thing to do. You'll never convince me that a voter for a Green Party candidate who has no possible chance of winning would prefer sending the election to the guy who doesn't even believe in global warming.

Never.

But that's what you did. You have just ensured that this planet will become less and less survivable for more and more species. Including ours.

While it may be too late, not just for this election but for the long term, there is an alternative. It was designed and proposed by a mathematician as a way to get the highest number of people nearest to their top choice of outcome. It's called "Ranked Choice Voting." Minneapolis has been doing it in its local elections.

While it seems complicated, I'll try to make it a simple as possible. Let's limit the options to three choices for one position. It works for any number, but three is easier to explain. Everybody voting ranks the choices as 1, 2, and 3. Nobody "throws their vote away", as is commonly complained about now. At the end of the first counting, if any one choice gets a majority of the votes, aka 50% + 1, the election is over.

But let's say the top vote getter only gets 42% of the vote. That means that 58% didn't like that choice. Only a minority get what they want. So now we go to the bottom choice on the list. Let's say it got 16%. Those ballots are reexamined for their stated second choice, and those votes are put in one of the remaining two piles. One of those piles is sure to have more votes than the other, and that choice wins. The most people are the most satisfied with the result. Whatever it is.

In a real-world political election, supposing the choices are limited to Republican, Democratic, and Green, a lot of people who really prefer Green will be afraid of wasting their vote and vote the closest major party in its platform, Democratic. This way their first choice can now be Green. No wasted votes, no spoilers. Green may even show up in the top two if people feel free to really vote their minds. Note: it could work the same way if Republicans had initially split off the Tea Party which was way to their right. Any first choice with no presumed chance of winning would be backed up by the next closest choice.

The final result would be, depending on your point of view, either the majority's most liked or least disliked. The majority would be happier with the result. If they couldn't say, "Hoooray, my favorite won", they could still say, "Hooray, at least it wasn't _______".

Now, if only we could quit screwing up the system by getting rid of the Electoral College....