Archive for January, 2016

CHOICES ——quandaries and dilemmas

January 19, 2016

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One of the basic activities of living is surviving through numerous choice-making situations, some daily and some long-term. Important ones fall into the quandary or dilemma category, being significant enough to generate anxiety in considering the effects of the final choice. I’m dealing with at least one of these now, but won’t be faced with making the final choice until more information is gathered.

More often, one deals with minor choices, usually made quickly and which really don’t have much in the way of negative consequences regardless of the route taken. An example of this is that for those of us living in the Denver Bronco region, we annually receive in the mail prior to the start of the season a coupon book and a key tag, the latter allowing us to purchase either a Big Mac or a Sausage Egg McMuffin for $1, the day after a Bronco’s game. Most weeks, including this one, I’ve chosen not to take advantage of this offer —— I really don’t like either one of these offerings very much. And actually, eating one of them might in fact bring on negative consequences, perhaps I did make the right choice!

Anyway, as I’ve pointed out in previous blogs, most decisions are based on opinions, and hopefully those spring from a productive interpretation of facts germane to the particular situation. Interpretation fundamentally relies on one’s background of education and experience, so it’s to be expected that opinions will vary among individuals. It’s to be hoped that folks will make the effort to establish a rational basis for opinions; unfortunately, too many people merely adopt someone else’s opinion so they can avoid “the work” of doing it themselves. One needs only to look at all the outright lies being put forth as facts and adopted by followers during the political debates, to see how this is true (it’s too bad that The Annenberg Foundation’s factcheck.org website doesn’t have a weekly TV show to reach more people with their non-partisan analysis of campaign claims and assaults).

As a “corollary” to this, the true political conservatives rarely change an opinion regardless of any new information or data to which they’re exposed, an attitude that is at the root of congressional gridlock over the past decade or so.

So, what’s happening in my world to cause unwelcome concern? Naturally you might guess that it probably has something to do with age, and you’d be right! As we get along in years, new things seem to crop up almost randomly, unconnected to anything we’ve faced in the past. I refer to these as “The Tarnish on the Golden Years”, and they certainly cast a pall over much of our daily living. In my particular case, I’ve written before of being afflicted with some form of peripheral neuropathy, with a protein-based disease (MGUS), and other less popular conditions. One which causes me extreme bouts of pain, especially while lying in bed, is a combination of arthritis from top to bottom of the spine accompanied by degeneration of the vertebrae and the areas between (I prefer the term, “deterioration”; “degeneration” has unwelcome connotations).

I sought relief from this intrusion into my contentment by providing a series of MRI’s, X-Rays, and Mylegrams to a neurosurgeon at a locally well-respected neurological clinic. I believe I already wrote about the lack of success from two administrations of epidural injections into the cervical and lumbar spine; the first lasted about three weeks and the second, only two weeks. The surgeon recommended fusion of four cervical vertebrae, a procedure which would be followed by about a year of recovery through varying levels of restrictions of my activity. A date was set for the surgery and other arrangements made for post-operative help in dealing with daily activities; however, it was postponed pending the resolution of the appearance of frequent skips of my heart rhythm in spite of an in-depth cardiological exam indicating that I’m in the lowest risk group for a heart attack. I wasn’t comfortable with having the surgery, regardless of what the various doctors said.

So, the surgery was to be in early January. However, when our extended family gathered for a few days before Christmas, one of my sons’ wives asked me what was being proposed and she became quite animated in questioning the proposed procedure. You see, she works alongside surgeons who are doing cervical fusions, and to her it appeared to possibly be an overly-aggressive plan given that two of the vertebrae were already fusing “on their own”. With my permission, she showed my radiological reports to one of the surgeons, and he agreed but wanted to see the actual films. Those were sent, and the “bottom line” is that while he agreed that one of the vertebra (C3-4) appears to be threatening the spinal cord, and might need surgery, he thinks in fact that no surgery may be necessary without further examination. My family, upon hearing this, urged a second postponement and to seek a further opinion. My sons say they don’t want me to be unable to “play golf with my grandsons or my sons”, evidently wanting to assure themselves that there will be someone around whom they can still beat.

This then goes back to “opinions” ——whose do you trust? Here are two certified surgeons, one a neurosurgeon and the other an orthopedic surgeon, both widely experienced and recognized for dealing successfully with cervical fusions. Each had the same films and patient information, but their conclusions varied widely.

Did I make a choice? No, on the basis of a suggestion from a physician friend of mine, and corroborated by a local surgeon I’ve known for years, I’m headed next week to Ft. Collins, Colorado, to get a third look and possible treatment at a major spine treatment center associated with the University of Colorado Medical School. Oh, by the way, the initial neurosurgeon informed me that I should find another doctor, he no longer wants to do the procedure given that my family members have raised too many issues which essentially question his professional expertise, and could cause major problems for him if the surgery is unsatisfactory. At this point, I much prefer the other doctor’s suggestion of “no surgery”, anyway!

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So much for Health topics. In another area of my life, as Chairperson for the Big Horn Basin Foundation Board (the non-profit educational arm of the Wyoming Dinosaur Center) I’m pleased to announce that beginning tomorrow, our new website will be available online. www.bhbfonline.org  should get you there; if not, just Google the foundation’s name. All of our programs are described, from one-day Kids Digs and Dig For A Day, through Summer 5-day institutes for high schoolers, to Roads Scholars (Elderhostel) week long sessions throughout the summer and fall. We also have a few “intergenerational sessions” for grandparents and grandchildren, but there may be a waiting list if all the places are taken early. We can also arrange free “skype” sessions to classrooms and provide virtual tours by our Director.

The Dinosaur Center was included last fall as one of the 10 best dinosaur museums in the world along with those in Paris, Chicago, Atlanta, Sydney, and others; and as the best in the United States. And this in a town of 3000!

So far, we’ve been blessed with a relatively mild winter; all but one snowstorm were powder, easily pushed off the sidewalks. Historically, the last week of December and first two weeks of January are the coldest, with temperatures plunging sometimes to -30 F, at night. Not this year; we had a few -6 or -7, but daytime highs are lurking in the high 30’s and 40’s. I think it’s because I bought an expensive down-filled Eddie Bauer coat, in preparation for the cold that’s never come. Ubiquitous deer roam the town, and two nights ago as I was heading out the back door a very large, well-conditioned four point buck was posing in the shadows. He sauntered off as I headed down the back walk.

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Assuming I’m still vertical, and can find a pain medication that my body tolerates, I’m planning on some minor travel.

18th hole, St. Andrews "Auld Course"

18th hole, St. Andrews “Auld Course”

In February, we are to be graced with a new grandchild in the Texas arm of the family, and I’ll go there for a couple of days, a week or so after the new arrival.

In March, I’ve once again been invited to work as a volunteer in the Founder’s Cup LPGA tournament, in North Phoenix. I really enjoyed my first experience with a ladies’ event, last year. I’ll probably do some visiting with a variety of friends and relatives, on the way there and back. My nephew is now at Mesa Verde National Park, and I’d like to get an in-depth look at that park.

April has no plans yet.

May has the Wells Fargo Championship Tournament again in Charlotte, offering me the bonus of seeing my grandsons, wife, and sons while volunteering for this charitable event.

And I’ve applied to renew my passport that expires in August, in case I’m able to use some of those frequent flier miles.

All of this, of course, is contingent upon what I find out about the need for surgery. And post-surgery restrictions. I’m quite concerned about pain medication; I seem to have various allergic reactions to any we’ve tried so far, including the opiates. In order to see if some of my reactions might be associated with a beta blocker, a new-to-me med to harness the skipping heart beats, I’m not on any pain meds until after meeting next week for follow-up with the cardiologist. If that seems okay, then it must be the pain meds creating the problems. Right now, I HURT!

Finally, I’m quite upset with the unveiling of major pockets of bigotry, intolerance, and just plain hatred spurred on through the political campaigns. What is most alarming is not so much the candidates, most of whom are bad, but the huge number of people supporting them. Has that been lying there under cover for years, and only emerged with the florescence of social media and the ability to remain anonymous?
I guess that I was right when I met with President Truman in the mid-60’s—-When He asked me what I had learned in living in Africa while in the Peace Corps, I told him “ I saw some things that are wrong with this country”. He said, “You’re in a helluva shape if you think there’s anything wrong with this country”, to which I replied, “It’s not the country, it’s some of the people in it.”

Always Be Happy    To Our Youth