Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Life is Pain (Revisited)

I have been giving this some thought, the last day or two. For previous thoughts on this subject, see here and here.
I think there are different kinds of pain and suffering we can experience. Some of it can be useful and instructive, some is not.

There is no good reason for me or anyone else to suffer from prolonged physical pain. If you are hurting, please, get some relief. Take some drugs to control the pain, find out why it hurts, and correct the physical problems that are causing it. There is no reason for anyone to endure physical pain and discomfort because of some problem that can be healed. If it is a chronic condition, there are ways of dealing with that too.

I have heard that doctors are generally too reluctant to prescribe pain-killers, even when the cause of the problem has been determined and treated. This is wrong-headed and counter-productive. People that have pain should get drugs that relieve their pain. They don't need to suffer in silence to prove how strong they are, or for any other reason.

These days, I have chronic pain to remind me that life is precarious and fragile. I forgot that for a while, and was hurt as a result. I already learned my lesson -- there is no need for any further reminder. So, when I hurt, I take tylenol or ibuprofin, or something to make the pain go away. I have already been sufficiently instructed, and now this superfluous hurting just interferes with normal function. I don't need any more of this particular pain.

Of course, there are other kinds of pain and suffering. Perhaps they are useful, but sometimes I know it is as destructive and counter-productive as other kinds of pain that we can block with analgesics. Perhaps this kind of suffering can be good for the soul, but I think there are practical limits that should not be exceeded. Mental and spiritual suffering can be more painful than the thorn in my side that I deal with all the time right now. Those hurts need salve just as badly. A different prescription is needed.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Rehab progress 12

Chainsaws save me a lot of work. I could never get the work done without the proper tools.

This morning I started the Husqvarna chainsaw and sawed up a half trailer full of timber for firewood. It gives a lot of satisfaction to know that we have enough wood to keep us warm through the winter.

Things did not go so well at the rehab center this morning. I tried to do the full workout, but had to quit because I got dizzy.

Physical work is the road to recovery. The physical therapist, Ben, told me today that people take months to recover. I have been hoping to get better more rapidly, but I guess it is not going to happen. I thought, this condition came upon me so suddenly. One morning I just woke up this way. Maybe I can recover just as abruptly. Well, it seems it will not happen that way.

Apparently it is common for people to regain some function after a year or more. I am considering a long vacation in the mean time, because I certainly do not want to be stuck this way for that long.

Why not a faster recovery? I do not know. I am trying my utmost. I work hard at exercise, but it seems like gains are very slow in coming.

I asked Ben about the problem I have had with losing bowel control. He said it is probably a result of poor muscle strength, and persisting through the physical therapy will help that. At least he knows that it worries me. He was understanding of my concerns, and asserted his continued support. Nice to have people who are supportive and strong, when I am so dependant. Thanks, Ben. Much appreciated.

Rehab progress 11

Things I remember doing with ease, that are so difficult now -- or impossible.

Putting on my own shoes. I did some work with the rehab guys on this. The right foot pushes away the shoe when I try to get my toes to go into the shoe. Then the shoe will skitter away, or tip ever sideways, or the heel of the shoe will fold up so I cannot get my foot in properly without removing my foot and starting over. Richard at UVRMC rehab gave me a long shoe horn to use, and it is quite helpful (in fact, essential to this operation). I use the shoe horn to keep the shoe from tipping over while my foot is trying to worm its toes in. The shoe horn can also be useful when the heel of the shoe collapses -- I can work it into the back, pry up the back of the shoe, eliminating the need to remove the shoe and start all over again.

I look at my heavy boots with the greatest disgust and discouragement. They are simply impossible. I cannot get that right foot in. I have had several prolonged sessions that finally resulted in my abandonment of the boots, after fifteen minutes or a half-hour of cursing and struggles.

Sandals from Cabellas that use velcro closures are a blessing from heaven. I have saved much profanation and sweating, thanks to these easy-to-don sandals.

Some things are beyond my current capacity.

Typing is a good example, too. I used to type at least 50 wpm in comfort. Now I am slow and laborious, and I back-space almost as much as I enter letters. It is daunting. I persist thanks to th help of a good text editor. I have been thinking of trying out the Dragon program again. I tried it out several years ago, and it was not very useful. I spent most of the time saying "delete that" in response to the words it misunderstood. Problem is, I have a problem with speaking right now that is probably just as bad as my degradation in keyboarding speed.

Oh well, life is full of frustrations.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rehab progress 10

Today I attended church meetings all day.

The ward leadership called off Sunday School because the pump quit on the plumbing system, and there was no water. I drove my car to the church with no incident, but I felt very shaky today, so I asked Tom Fuhriman to drive down to Fairview to make the bank deposit.

My friends are all very patient with me. I feel like I am not doing things very well -- I am too slow and clumsy. But most are too kind to notice.

One teenage girl came into the clerks office today to ask for a report. She told me my slow speech was noticeable. I have tried to do better, but my words come out sounding slurry and thick, as if from a drunken man. Perhaps appropriate.

I have related my difficulty with balance, but it seems like such a fundamental and simple thing to so many. To me, keeping my balance has grown to huge priority. I am concentrating every minute to be careful not to let myself fall.

I saw a little baby that was just learning to walk a while back. The baby was wearing a thick padded diaper on its bottom, and the babe had very short legs, so he was pretty close to the ground. He would toddle along, as I watched, fall on his well-padded bottom, then bounce right back up and resume his walk. I observed his slow progress, and thought how alike and how different we are. The baby is just learning to walk. He is very unsteady, like me. He has ample padding in case of a fall, where I have not. The baby is not so ponderously heavy or tall, ,either. If I fall to the ground, it is a long ways down. I am liable to hurt my body from the great force, like a tall tree falling. The baby is built closer to the ground.

I wish I had it so easy.

Fall Colors on the Wasatch Plateau

Fall colors on the mountain are as fine as I have ever seen.

Driving up the canyon -- this week would be a good time. Next storm that comes through will knock down a lot of the spectacular colors. If you owe yourself a good time, take a drive up to the mountains to see them. Recommended!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rehab progress 9

Fear of falling.

I have never suffered much from it -- before now.

I was reminiscing about good old days, hiking in the remote California Sierra Mountains. The area we used to hike was accessed along the Kern River canyon. It was a very deep canyon, and the trail descended through the tall pines as it neared the bottom. We used to stand at the edge, enjoying the canyon breezes whistling through the tall trees, on the way down from Red's Meadow.

I cannot think of teetering on the edge now, without a thrill of fear. My balance is mostly hypothetical these days, and I walk a dangerous path, even when the ground is level and there are no obstructions.

Everything imaginable conspires to trip me up. I cannot shuffle along with any confidence. Every step portends another wrenching fall. Thankfully, there is usually something nearby to grab for. I rescue in the nick of time, so often that it becomes routine. Passerbys look at me and wonder if I am all right. Of course I am not. I walk like a drunken man. The least thing upsets my precarious balance.

Today, I went with friends to collect firewood for the winter season. It is usually a fun expedition. Today it was a rather mixed proposition. Put together a man who can barely hold himself, trying to operate a power saw, in the forest where branches loom everywhere. I fell down more times than I care to count. Fortunately, I did not injure myself seriously.

Maybe I need to rethink this kind of thing, leave it for people who are more comfortable working so hard.

Ultimate Cruelty in Spam

As ever, and like so many others, I continue to be inundated with unsolicited bulk email. The cruel irony is that so much of it has suddenly become so strikingly and almost laughably inappropriate.

Most of the trash I get is filtered out at my SpamCop account (which is very helpful, btw. Check out SpamCop if you have similar problems.)

I review the held mail from time to time, mostly to see what is there, also to check if there is anything good or useful that is being filtered. The vast majority of spam offers me something like Viagra or Cialis, or offers to increase the endowment of sexual power or size or stamina, or something similarly stupid. What is particularly stupid and cruel to me, in a very personal way, is that I cannot function in the most basic ways that these false remedies could never aid or repair. Anyway, I suppose I am at the bottom of the list of socially or sexually attractive potential right now. No one in their right mind would want me now, and no phony quack medicine or pill will ever fix that -- it is simply impossible. It is almost the furthest thing from my mind.

What is most ironic is my own lack of desire for anything similar. I long ago stopped wishing for sexual desires to be fulfilled. It no longer appeals to me. Some after-effect from the anti-depressant drugs I took so much of for so long, perhaps. Or perhaps I have simply grown too old to wish or dream about sexual fulfilment any longer.

In any case, most of the spam so directed misses the mark with such strikingly incongruous appeals to my almost non-existent sexual drive. It would be truly funny, if it were not such a problem for others as well.

In fact, my mother tells me that her email account receives many solicitations that offer to increase the size of her male member - note that she is fully female, has never been so equipped, has never wanted to be, and is almost 80 years old. Surely not the target audience for such advertising!

Rehab progresss 8

I am trying to reconcile with the fact that I may not ever recover fully from this stroke.

It is a sobering reality to face.

So many things are closed to me now. I walk as in a dream world, one that has a terrible, nightmarish quality. I cannot do the normal things that so many others do routinely. I will have to be satisfied with whatever is left to me. That is what I am facing. It is not something I feel good cheer about.

While I was in the hospital, a few weeks ago, it came to me with rather sudden impact. The life I have pursued is over. It is done. I will need to find other things to occupy my time, because the opportunities are closed to me. It seems almost as if I have already died, but am forced to go on in this almost-dead body, trying in vain to learn old tricks that everyone else has mastered so long ago in their life.

Yesterday, I read an article in the news about the recruiting program for the Rocky Mountain Research Station. They are actively recruiting young college grads, especially among the Hispanic population. Of course, no mention was made of those in the older population. They have little use for people like me. Perhaps no one has. Maybe I can work up to wiping tables and sweeping floors at the burger joint. I am not quite up to it right now.

At my physical therapy session, I try to walk a row of cones set up in a sort of obstacle course. I have to lift each leg as I pass a cone. It is a ridiculously simple exercise, but I cannot navigate the course easily. Someone has to stand by me to catch me if I fall. I fail to improve much in my performance, time after time, though I am straining to the utmost to do better. Lack of progress is very discouraging.

I bow in defeat. The world was not made for people like me. We only survive thanks to the good grace and forbearance of others. I depend on their charity.

I will do what I can.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


One of the things I think about all the time.

I had a very bad time of it today. Ended up losing bowel control while we were at the store, with very unpleasant consequences. My dad was with me, and he was very patient and understanding, but I told him, if the rest of my life is like today, I don't want it. He did not offer an argument.

My parents are both at a stage in their life where most things are uncomfortable. I don't know how they stand it -- there is little better to look forward to. I have tried to avoid thinking about where the future is taking us, but there is no way of knowing for sure. Except we know it holds more pain and discomfort.

I myself have reached the point where every breath brings a measure of discomfort. It seems like this condition is lasting forever. I feel very impatient waiting for improvement. Whatever it is, it seems very slow in coming.

I think each day about the burden of life. It is a challenging thought. My little brother ended his life by his own hand, and it was the cause of measureless grief with all of us who loved and cared about him. I would not want to end things in that way.

In particular, it seems unfair to those who remain. At the very least, I am seeking a clean escape that will not leave a big mess behind for others to clean up. So far, short of throwing myself into a live volcano, or something similarly impractical or unavailable, I have not found an acceptable way out. I have to go on, since there is no good alternative.

I hope, too, when it comes time for me to meet with those who have gone before, that I can at least offer a good report of my life. That would be the most satisfying end of things for me. Short of that, I guess I will continue drawing breath as long as I am able. I hope all do the same.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rehab progress 7

I drove my car to church on Sunday. What a rush! (Literally.)

Driving seen through a different perspective. I found it to be rather a frightful experience.

I drove from Indianola down to the bank in Fairview after we had finished the finance work. I have had a problem with driving too slow -- Deana, the woman who I tested with, made that observation during my driving test. My right foot wants to relax gradually, so I slowly let up on the accelerator pedal. Resulting in too slow for circumstances. Slow drivers may cause as many traffic problems as speeders in places like Provo, so I tried to keep my speed up.

Out on the open highway, I tried to accommodate the speed limit by using my cruise control. I set my speed for the posted limit, trying not to obstruct traffic. It looked very scary to me. Everything seems to rush by too fast. All I could see was a lot of sagebrush, and a few cows here and there. It should not have been so frightful an experience. But it seemed very foreign and threatening, for some reason. Perhaps I just need some practice, to get used to it all.

In the mean time, if you should come upon me from behind, tooling down the road too slowly, please understand and have some patience. We'll get there eventually.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rehab progress 6

I stood at the top of the stairs today and realized that they scare me. I have acquired a fear of falling down. At the first, after I had this debilitating experience, I laughed when the physical therapist warned me, "Don't fall down!" After a couple of discomforting injuries resulting from falling down, I now see that it is nothing to laugh off. I can't afford to fall down and hurt myself any more. A sobering thought. And the risk of a fall is very high, for me. I teeter and wobble continuously, like a drunken man. Many times, I have been saved from falling down only because there was something solid for me to support myself with. I have asked those who would try to catch me, just please get yourself out of the way. I really do not want to hurt my friends by falling on them.

I remember an incident in high school that emphasized just how fragile an eggshell our bodies really are. I was a member of the wrestling team at Mira Costa High. When we would start wrestling practice, a whole gang of little guys would jump me, just in fun. They liked to see how many of the little guys I could carry before I collapsed.'

One day I got to the gym early for practice. As usual, a half-dozen of the little guys jumped on me. I toppled over, but this time with unforseen consequence. Robert Ansite, one of the littlest guys, ended up under the pile, and was seriously hurt. When I fell on him, his leg was fractured and his pelvic bone broken. Coach Fernandez showed up moments later, and immediately called for an ambulance. Poor Robert, I never meant to cause any hurt. I have felt bad about injuring him every time I am reminded.

The human body is relatively fragile, and we go to great lengths to protect ourselves from injury. In my case, many of the automatic protective mechanisms are disabled, so I need to pay more attention. Sometimes my guard strays a bit, and I get a little reminder that not everything is as it used to be.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rehab progress 5

Yesterday I visited with Deana at UVRMC rehab clinic to qualify my driving skills and capability.

She was most concerned with determining whether I can operate an automobile safely, without undue risk to myself or to others. I told her I would not be attempting this if I was not ready. She said she believed me.

After some preliminary testing to determine my state of readiness, we ventured out into the traffic of Provo and Orem with me at the controls. I passed with an acceptable performance, and am now certified as to my worthiness to drive a car safely. It was an important milestone for me, because I have been depending on others for transportation.

In this remote rural corner of north Sanpete, driving is more important than most others can even begin to imagine. I have had to be a passenger, or stay home. Everyone has been very kind and patient, and extended every courtesy and understanding. But it could never be the same as driving myself.

Even if I choose to continue as a passenger, it still seems different than being without other option. At least now I have a choice. Not everyone under similar circumstances is so fortunate.

My gratitude to the rehab folks at UVRMC. They have helped me along the way, especially when I could see no hope in the situation. I have worked especially with Shane, Richard, Alan, Deana. and Karen, the ever-helpful secretary. Others have helped too, and I am grateful to all. I only hope all their customers get such good service.

Great job, folks! My sincere thanks for all your help.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rehab progress 4

I am working daily at the most rudimentary exercises. It seems like child's play compared to what I could do before, but I do strain to the utmost to accomplish so little today. It is frustrating in the extreme to be making such slow progress. I feel trapped in a recalcitrant and cranky body.

My brain seems to range far ahead. I think of what I want to say a long time before I can speak it. It is like being constrained to slow motion, while recording everything at full speed. I feel so stupid when I try to speak. I am really not trying to attract any sympathy, but I am afraid I look so pathetic, people feel like I need it.

Please be encouraging, but not overly sympathetic. I need time and support to recover myself, not more weeping and wailing. Those I can take care of myself, thank you very much.

Life is painful

I have turned into a drug junkie. I watch the clock until the time comes to take that next pill. Drugs are beautiful. They make my intolerable life bearable.

I worry a little about becoming dependant on Tylenol or Ibuprofen, but for right now, it means I don't have to bear an unbearable burden of hurt.

Thanks for the drugs.

Rehab progress 3

I have concluded business at UVMC for the present. We discovered another rehab facility in Mt Pleasant, closer to Hideaway Valley. The PT trainer is Ben Robinson. He is helping me with further workouts.

I am at a plateau of sorts, it seems. Progress toward restoring normal function seems to have slowed considerably -- I can still do some of the things I used to be able to do, but I get so tired very quickly, and then I have to rest.

Perhaps this easy fatigue is a result of the stroke, or perhaps something else. Whatever the case, it slows me down to a snail's pace. Patience is something I have to develop -- both with myself, and the people I work with. The other day, I told the attendant at the physical therapy session that the treadmill workout was too easy. She said I needed to work up to higher performance levels -- and she was right. After I finished the hour-long workout, I was so tired I could barely make it out to the car, I was so tired. And the fatigue added up more later on. I was working too hard, too soon.

I understand the intellectual idea of incremental workouts, but it is difficult to be patient with myself enough to implement. I need to give my body some time.