In several of my past blogs, I’ve made reference to Shakespeare’s phrase, “Sweet are the uses of adversity” which I’m told lies among the pages of his Richard III. This was a fancy way of saying “If you have lemons, then make lemonade”, and is useful in almost any setting except possibly playing golf. I doubt if he ever played the game although it was in existence at that time; Mary Queen of Scots was noted to be an avid golfer, and the game was so popular that James III banned it because his archers were spending too much time at it instead of practicing their archery.

Anyway, I’ve tried to keep these two phrases in the forefront as I’ve not had what one would consider to be a good couple of months. Let’s begin with my back issues.

Readers may recall that I was to receive epidural injections into the cervical and lumbar areas of my spine, to relieve the constant pain generated by spinal deterioration from age along with its cousin, arthritis up and down the length including one spur trying to poke its way to the spinal cord. Well, the first attempt lasted about three weeks, so it was recommended to repeat the process; justified due to a second try having a more lasting effect in a number of individuals. Alas, these only lasted two weeks and a return visit to the neurosurgeon indicated that fusing of the cervical vertebrae and one of the lumbar vertebrae would be the next step.

The initial description of the proposed surgery had an anterior (front) entry into the neck, fusing the offending vertebrae on that side; then, two days later, do a posterior (rear of neck) repeat to the back side of the vertebrae. A lengthy recovery period was pictured including several days in the hospital followed by maybe a week or so in a rehab facility; then home and arrangements for someone to help out around the house as I would not be able to drive until pain medicine was no longer part of the diet.

We decided to consider all of this for a few weeks before making a commitment; in the meantime I readied myself for a drive across country from my home in Wyoming to North Carolina, to visit my wife and grandsons’ family and watch the boys play in several athletic events. I was driving my new car, one with which I am highly satisfied as to comfort and mpg. I was transporting some large objects, the biggest being a piece of driftwood we had collected years ago on the Greybull River and which my wife thought would look nice in the small landscaped area around her townhouse. Although not looking forward to the drive, a departure from my past excitement in preparing for a long trip, I was able to visit a number of old friends both on the way to Charlotte and returning home.

Before I left on the trip, I received an email seeking volunteers to work in a golf tournament in Davidson, a short drive from Charlotte and within the dates I would be visiting. This invitation had the added bonus of my being able to deduct my travel costs for charitable purposes; most of those big events raise lots of money for good causes. Anyway, I included the tournament in my plans, and headed out, having a reasonably pleasant and uneventful trip for four days including a stop in Atlanta to play golf with a longtime friend from my Peace Corps days in the early 60’s.

Arriving on the Sunday before the tournament, I checked in and picked up my credentials and “uniform”, a logoed knit shirt and a cap, and returned to Charlotte and my wife’s place. The next day I headed back for my first day of work at the tourney, and was assigned to keep the practice chipping green area clear of golf balls as the players practiced before beginning play on Wednesday. And this is where the next major problem began. I spent 7 hours in the hot sun, actively clearing the area and raking the sand bunkers. That night, around midnight, my heart began having some unwelcome issues jumping around and pausing uncharacteristically between series of beats. When this had happened on other occasions, it stemmed from dehydration, so I downed some electrolytes and got it settled down. In the morning, I went to the Emergency Room at a hospital and was checked over several hours. The verdict was yes, I had become dehydrated as shown by a very low potassium level; the good news was no heart attack and my enzymes were fine. I was released with instructions to return in a couple of days to report on my condition.

I won’t dwell on the next nine days of the visit, particularly not mentioning my bad golf game toward the end of the stay; however, I did have another brief episode that seemed related to reflux in the esophagus/stomach juncture. A return visit to the ER gave the same results as before, along with instructions to see a cardiologist. I watched one grandson play a baseball game and his brother play two football and two basketball games. My wife and I had several nice walks and meals out. I can’t say I would like living in the Eastern Time Zone; it seems everyone stays up until midnight and doesn’t get started until late the next morning. I was physically worn out most of the time from lack of sleep.

Finally, I departed for home and the first day drove from Charlotte to St. Louis, where I reconnected with wonderful folks from many years ago. One of the highlights of that visit in addition to renewal of friendships were some conversations around the meanings of faith and religion in one’s life, certainly something that those of us getting along in years pay a bit more attention to. As a result, I’m looking forward to reading a book, “Convictions”, by Marcus Borg, which was highly recommended.

The next day was easy, a late breakfast with my friends followed by an easy drive across Missouri to Lawrence, Kansas, to stay once again with friends on their “farm” (weekend retreat) overnight. I planned to leave early the next morning so I could reach Colorado before evening in order to watch the Bronco game on TV. And another event reared its head.

My friend’s farm is in highly wooded area and, in the morning darkness as I was backing my car, I heard a thump. Although I have a backup camera and screen, and knew there were trees somewhere behind, I couldn’t see anything because my backup lights were reflecting off the morning mist thus “blotting out” the viewing screen. Thinking little of it, I left for the half hour drive into town to get gas and continue on my trip. Well, when I reached the lighted gas station I discovered that the thump represented an uncooperative tree knocking the rear window out of my CR-V.

So, returning to the farm and spending some hours fitting a piece of cardboard to the opening and anchored with duct tape, I finally got on the way. I reached my Ft. Collins destination in time to check in to the hotel and turn on the game.

The next day was to be the last, with a brief stopover in Casper to see some folks attending an education conference and to make arrangements to have my rear window replaced. As I drove, I activated my Bluetooth phone and called my insurance agent. She contacted the glass insurance folks who called me, and we arranged for me to have the glass replaced the next morning, requiring me to stay overnight at a hotel. I stopped at the glass place, and was told to be there at 9 a.m. the next day. I spent the rest of the day visiting with colleagues from former educational activities and I went to bed early. The next morning, I reported at 9 a.m. and discovered that the glass company hadn’t realized that the glass had to be ordered from Honda, so they couldn’t fix it until they could get it several days hence. In other words, I wouldn’t have had to spend $$$ at a hotel, I could have made it home the night before. Waiting until the following week was no problem as I already had an appointment with the Neurosurgeon scheduled, in Casper. I left for home and decided to spend most of the next day resting.

The saga continues. I went about my usual activities, laundry, yard, golf, etc. until Sunday morning, when the erratic heartbeat returned as I began eating breakfast, and I spent several hours in the local ER. Same results, even after two EKG’s. No heart attack. My primary care physician appointment scheduled for Wednesday had been postponed until Monday due to a death in her family, so it wasn’t until Monday when I could schedule a visit to the cardiologist. That was done, it was to be on the same day as the neurosurgeon appointment and the replacement of the rear window in my car. Along with it, an additional medical session was arranged, this time with an ENT to look at some lingering discomfort in my mandibular area to see if it might be associated with the cervical vertebrae problem or might possibly be something nasty on its own. My dentist thinks there’s something there that’s not a dental problem, maybe even a tumor or lymphatic issue.

So, here I am with an appointment for a nuclear echocardiogram Tuesday a.m., followed by a session with the ENT. Next week, a follow up with the cardiologist, to see if I’m okay for the neck surgery. Same with the ENT. The neurosurgeon has decided that the posterior surgery is not necessary, only the anterior. The lumbar would be sometime later after the other has healed. No golf for at least six months, no driving while on pain meds. Next neuro on the 27th, surgery tentatively scheduled for Nov. 9.

After all these setbacks, my question is, “Where’s the damned lemonade?”

To be continued

Always Be Happy     To Our Youth

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