09 November 2018

Pick-em-ups

In my mid-teens my best friend's Dad had a '53 Ford F-100 pickup truck. It was all black and had a 239 cubic inch Flathead V-8 engine and a "three on the tree" standard transmission. It was simple and sorta elegantly classic.
I lusted after it.


We are in Destin. A couple we have met here for several years showed up again last week in their new Chevy Silverado pickup. It's beautiful. It's all bling and chrome.
It is NOT simple, or elegantly classic. What it IS, is HUGE.

My mind went back to friend Steve's Dad's sweet '53 F-100...
Parked next to this Silverado it would look like a compact.
And, I think, in most circumstances it would draw more admirers.
Is bigger ALWAYS better?

31 October 2018

Email

Several months back I made the mistake of completely resetting my computer.
In doing so, I lost many of the tools I use because I didn't record passwords. I was able to recover many of them, but my old Juno email account wanted $$$$ to send me my password, and I had been toying with the idea of letting that account die anyway because they charged an annual fee.
IF you were someone I used to correspond with via email, I have lost your address.
Please establish a new pathway with me by emailing me at Olddad65athotmail.com.
I'll delete this post after a short period of time.

15 September 2018

Getting Home, 2018

We boarded the taxi at Ciampino airport to make our way to our evening quarters near the "Leonardo Da Vinci" airport without first insuring the driver accepted credit cards. She had informed us the ride would take about 45 minutes and would cost us about 80 Euros (!).
Ten minutes into the ride we realized we should first have asked about the payment options.
She wanted cash. We had 20 Euros between us.
"I can take you to an ATM" she said. Sara Jean had never used an ATM. And ME? That's me sitting just behind the driver, pained look on my face, with the cast on my right leg and crutches at my side.
I was proud of my wife when she emerged from the strange location with enough cash in hand to get us to our destination.

The Bed and Breakfast was clean, more than adequate, and the lady running it was wonderful. We paused for a moment to drink a bottle of water, then Big Bubba wanted to show us a place he had eaten at before during an earlier visit to Rome. He called an Uber and we soon found ourselves eating REAL Italian food in the shadow of the Coliseum. We returned to the B&B tired to the bone, chatted for a few minutes, then went to bed knowing we had to be up and headed to the airport by 0400.

Having a broken ankle when flying is amazing.
They bring you a wheelchair. You go to the head of the line for boarding passes; to go through security, and then they load you onto a "lift truck" to get you aboard the airplane.
We felt like Royalty... with a broken leg.
Rome to Copenhagen... Copenhagen to Reykavik.
A three hour layover for our flight home gave us time to get a bite and be entertained, watching Icelanders and tourists scurry around. From Iceland we flew with "WOW" Airlines... never heard of 'em, but the flight was comfortable and the crew was attentive to my special needs. The flight on WOW got us home in 7 hours... exhausted again.

So, wrapping up, what can we share with ya?
When we booked the cruise I was hesitant to buy the travel insurance. $532 seemed pretty steep for something I'd probably not need. My agent cautioned me... "You'll be a long way from home, dealing with many things you can't imagine." I told her to add it to the bill. That 5 hundred dollar expenditure has now saved us almost $25,000. Buy the insurance!

Greece is exotic. The food and people are wonderful. But in Athens, there is graffiti on every available surface. In places there is graffiti on graffiti.
There are almost as many mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles as there are cars. Traffic can be heart-stopping.
When I fell in Santorini and realized I'd need medical care I was naturally concerned. I should not have been... my care there was "top drawer". Only after I thought about it a while did I remember that Hippocrates was Greek.

We want to go back.
But I hate the idea of being trapped on a piece of pipe with attached wings for more than five hours.
We may take a boat next time.
And I'll not hesitate to buy the travel insurance.

07 September 2018

When in Rome-

Rehash-
Our cruise of the Greek islands was interrupted when I compound-fractured my right ankle.
Because of this, I spent a week in a hospital in Athens, and got WONDERFUL care there. But we were instantly kicked off the cruise ship when I was injured, halfway through the planned cruise.
Our son, once the dust settled and he realized I was gonna be okay, figured, "I'm in Europe. I'm gonna go see some stuff I've always wanted to see here." So off he went to Malta, then to Zurich where he rented a car and toured the Alps.
Before I broke my ankle our plan was to disembark the boat in Rome, spend a few days in Italy, then fly home from there. My hospital stay used up all the time Sara Jean and I had hoped to spend in Northern Italy. But we still needed to get to Rome to use the flight reservations we had made to use after the cruise ended.

We landed at Rome's Ciampino airport two hours before our son's pending arrival, so with me still hobbling awkwardly on crutches when I wasn't being pushed around in an airport wheelchair, we went to the restaurant to get a bite to eat while we waited on his arrival.

When Big Bubba called to say he had arrived we gave him instructions to meet us in the restaurant and waited. And waited. And waited.
He called again to make sure he had gotten correct directions.
And we waited to see him. And waited.

It turns out, Rome has TWO airports...
Ciampino and Leonardo Da Vinci.
We were separated by an hour's drive.

While we hired a taxi to meet him, Big Bubba went to the Bed and Breakfast he had reserved for us near the Leonardo Da Vinci airport.

And I found out being on crutches makes ALL movement a pain in the butt.

17 August 2018

Dr. George

My Greek Surgeon's name was George Papagiandopolous.
Dr. George was proud of his skills. He asked where we were from, then related that he comes to the U.S. every two years to attend Ortho refresher courses.
"I've been to San Diego, San Antonio, and Chicago", he said proudly.

We were sorta in a pinch. In order to use the reservations we had originally made for getting home from our cruise we needed to depart Athens for Rome on Thursday. Dr. George was concerned about flying with my fresh injury.
His worry was that I'd form an air bubble that would travel through my bloodstream and cause problems. With my EMS experience I knew this to be a valid fear...
Anytime we had embolism patients on board my helicopter, we tried to transport the patient at the lowest safe altitude. 
Doc George came into our room and said he'd allow the flight, but he wanted to be sure we were aware of the risks. He discussed what we should do if I had serious breathing problems in flight, then gave us warfarin (blood thinner) tablets, and four syringes of blood thinning liquid in case the worst happened. To Sara Jean he said in Greek accented but perfectly understandable English-
"If he begins to have difficulty breathing, inject him with one of the syringes and call me IMMEDIATELY, no matter what!"

Then he said "Let's take a group photo!", and gave his camera to one of the technicians to take a photo of he, Sara Jean, one of my Nurses, and me. 
I now wish I had asked him for a copy of that photo!

 The gal from Accounts Receivable came in to discuss payment of our bill.
"You cannot be discharged until your bill is paid in FULL."
Wow. Could I be held prisoner in this Athens hospital?
"How much do we owe?"
"22,000 Euros" she said with a smile.

Zowie.
I called my Credit Card issuer and checked on my available credit. I explained the situation and said, "I need to extend that if possible".
And, thank Goodness, we could.

Thursday morning I was wheeled to the front door. We hailed a cab and I awkwardly "crutched" my way into it. We then drove to the hotel Sara Jean had been staying in while I was recovering. We ate a great meal at the rooftop restaurant which also had a view of the Acropolis, and watched as a Thunderstorm crackled its way over the city dumping quite a bit of rain. The motorscooters and cycles continued to ply the streets as if weather was fine.

The flight Thursday morn to Rome was uneventful, except I was moved everywhere in a wheelchair by an airport employee and we went to the head of the line for everything... tickets, security, and after the flight, baggage claim. I'll have more to say about this in a later post.

We landed at Rome's Ciampino airport two hours before our son's scheduled arrival, so we went to the airport restaurant for lunch while we waited.
And at this point, we begin another adventure.

25 July 2018

Help! Part VII

My two friends from Physical Therapy showed up every day for the rest of my stay at the "Central Clinic of Athens". A guy and a gal, neither was a fluent English speaker, so trying to tell me how to coordinate my movements and use correct posture to keep me from busting my butt was almost laughable.
But practice makes perfect and I got better with the crutches on a daily basis.

My private balcony with the view of the Acropolis beckoned. But there was an obstacle-
There was a four-inch elevated sill at the bottom of the sliding door that I had to negotiate in order to get onto the patio.
It's hard to describe the scenario now. I'd been flat on my back for almost a week. My right foot is painfully swollen; traumatically injured. The leg I now must depend on is NOT my dominant leg, and it is weak from a week of inactivity.
The first time I attempted the trip to the patio my 

Physical Therapy friends suggested it. They knew how hard this short journey would be for me. To accomplish the task 
I hobble over to, and open the sliding door. Now comes the hard part... coordinating what really amounts to a "hop" while putting almost no weight on my damaged ankle. The sill is about four inches wide. I'm advised to put my damaged right foot on the sill, then, supporting my weight on my crutches, use the damaged foot as a stabilizer while I use my arms/crutches to lift my left foot onto the sill and balance there. (Shaky!)
From there I place my aching right foot out onto the balcony and repeat the process to finish the trip. It's amazing how hard and scary it was.
But I did it. And each day it got easier and my confidence level improved.

Pain is a funny thing. Different folks experience it differently. When asked, I describe my pain as "more of an irritation" than real pain. At this point I'm still at about a 3 on a scale of ten. The liquid Tylenol continues to control my pain level well, but, trying to sleep, the irritation, coupled with the bulk of my new almost to the knee cast, keeps me from sleeping comfortably.

We had made reservations to fly out of Rome where we would have disembarked the ship had we completed our cruise. The Ortho Surgeon came in to discuss how I'm doing. He speaks nearly perfect English and wants to know where we're from. He brags about coming to the States to attend Ortho refresher courses every two years... San Antonio. Chicago. San Diego.
We like the guy. He's a little loud; confident.
My care in Greece has been wonderful, and I'm hopeful this guy has been good with his hands. He's concerned about me flying. "When do you need to leave?

Oooooh." (Lifts hand to chin and displays a worried look.) He's worried about my still-open wound throwing an embolism as possible gases there expand during our flight. "We'll talk about this later", he says.
We've been planning to fly to Rome at our scheduled time, reunite with Big Bubba, spend the evening, then fly home the next day.
Now we're worried that things might get complicated.



14 July 2018

Help! Part VI

"Painkiller", she announced as she approached the IV pole on my left. Four seconds after the fluid started dripping I could feel the coolness of it as it entered my bloodstream.
I was being fed, hydrated, sedated, through this line. My pain had been minimal. I wondered what medicine they were giving me for pain and the answer was "Paracetamol".
"Huh?" Whazzat?
Later when I could use my laptop I found out it was liquid acetaminophen... Tylenol.
When they asked I would rate my pain at "about a two or three" from a scale of ten. The Tylenol was working just fine.

My first night in the ICU after surgery I actually turned onto my right side comfortably. Pressing my head solidly against the bed I heard the whirring sound of an electric motor.
What the heck is that?
A day later I figured it out on my own... I was lying on an air mattress that automatically inflated and deflated different chambers to prevent bed sores. I was hearing the compressor whirring, doing its job, and doing it VERY well.

After two full days in the ICU I was moved upstairs to a private room. It had a regular hospital bed with IV pole alongside, and a mobile dinner platform from which I could eat regular solid food!
My room was on the sixth floor. The TV mounted to the far wall had about 15 channels, two of which were English, so we could understand what was being said. Local Greek TV carried LOTS of game shows like "Wheel of Fortune". It was fun to watch contestants get excited in Greek. Local news was interesting, but indecipherable. Later at night, a couple American action shows were broadcast in English... with Greek subtitles!
My adjacent bathroom had a toilet, sink, and shower, and against the wall had a desk and chair. Since I was forbidden to walk unassisted, this room went unused except for my sponge baths. Outside a sliding glass door from my bed was a great view of the Acropolis from about a half mile or so. At night those ruins were well lit... absolutely gorgeous!

Breakfast was toast with real butter, a boiled egg, juice, and tea or coffee. Simply being able to finally chew my food seemed wonderful. Lunch was normally soup, some sort of meat or chicken, more toast, and a couple slices of some sort of white cheese.
AND... a glass of wine. The first day Sara Jean watched me eat lunch, to my server she feigned regret that she too wasn't served wine. My attendant went immediately and got her a glass!

Every morning my foot felt better by a tiny fraction.
The third day a guy and gal came in and said, "We're from therapy. We teach you to use these..." and showed me the crutches that come halfway up your arms, ending around the elbow.
They assisted me in walking about ten feet, then turned me around. I wobbled.
Getting back into bed, I felt tired.
This is gonna be a long journey.

21 June 2018

Help! Part V

"Mr. David! Mr. David!"
A hand on my left shoulder gently shakes me.
I wake and through bleery eyes look at the big clock on the wall. It is 0530 hours. I've been asleep four and a half hours.
"We must clean you for surgery."

Off go the bedclothes. Off go my shirt, cargo shorts, and underwear.
Administering my "cleaning" are a man and woman that were working around the ICU when I first arrived.
I'm a modest guy. This is the first time I have been naked in the presence of a female involuntarily.
I am embarrassed. (I'll soon learn to get over it.)

They apparently have NO washcloths in all of Europe. They use a damp sponge with mild soap to cleanse my body, then wipe me down with a clean towel. I'm embarrassed to be nude, but being clean is still quite pleasant. When I am King of the world, I'll have nubile young women to bathe me all the time!

They bring in a gurney and I struggle to shift my body over onto it. I am wheeled to the O.R..
There are eight or so technicians bustling, (and I DO mean bustling. All were working efficiently, and obviously had specific jobs they were intent on doing.)
One of them produces a magic marker and, on my right leg, scribes an arrow point toward my ankle, the total length of my right thigh. I know WHY they do this, but still wonder about the intelligence of a professional that needs this kind of guidance to properly do this surgery.

A technician appears over my head with an oxygen mask. He informs me, "This is only oxygen", and puts the mask over my mouth and nose. Another technician on my right side, puts a syringe in my IV port. From previous colonoscopies I assume it is Propofol.
The next thing I hear is, "Mr. David! Mr. David! Wake up. It's over."
Amazing.

I feel no pain.
I am back in the ICU.
The big clock on the wall says it is 1100 hours.

Yes, I am relieved.



06 June 2018

Help! Part IV

My leg is throbbing, but I'm grateful I feel almost no pain... just discomfort.
I can see the "Azamara Journey" at anchor in the distance, but I'm not going there.
I'm awaiting some sort of boat to take me to another landing on the Island where an ambulance will meet me and take me to get the medical care I need.

One of the Tinders shows up and I am assisted aboard, Sara Jean at my side.
We motor close to shore for about 15 minutes, then I'm again assisted off the boat by the boat and ambulance crew. The ambulance crew seats me in a chair and literally lifts me into the ambulance, then secures the chair to the ambulance floor.

We start the uphill climb in the ambulance.
Similar to the stairs at Fira, only on a scale large enough for cars and trucks, the roadway zigzags back and forth up the cliff. From the landing to the top of the hill seems to take forever, although the total time lapsed was probably five minutes or so.
We arrive at the Clinic in Thira, Santorini, and I'm lifted out of the ambulance and wheeled in for a pretty thorough lookover after they have cleaned the wound...
X-rays of my leg from several angles. Blood samples. Chest X-ray.
Two Doctors here both speak decent English, thank God. 

This is just the beginning of what we can only call WONDERFUL medical care we received in Greece.

Big Bubba shows up at the Clinic with our luggage. When he went back to the ship they told him to pack all our bags and disembark. Our cabin attendant assisted him in this task. How he handled four fairly LARGE bags is beyond me!

The Clinic shows me the X-rays and tells me what I already know... I am seriously injured and will need surgery. Surgery is scheduled for 0700 hours the next morning.
They make reservations on Aegean Airlines on the next flight out for the three of us.
We get hugs and "Good Luck" wishes in English with heavy Greek accent from Doctors and technicians as we leave for the airport.

At the airport I am transferred into a regular wheelchair. My entire family gets priority treatment through security. A "High Lift" truck arrives and I am loaded aboard. The size of a small room, it lifts me and my wheelchair to the back door of the Airbus 320. The three of us are the last people to board the airplane and we occupy the last row of seats on the starboard side.

The flight to Athens takes 45 minutes. Another High Lift truck awaits us there. We are the last to disembark the airplane, and are once again given priority handling to pick up our bags.
I'm beginning to realize I might want to break a leg before I ever fly in another airliner...
Other than the "looks" I get from other passengers as we go "to the head of the line", this priority handling business is pretty neat!

I'm again lifted and secured in an ambulance and we motor half an hour to the "Central Clinic of Athens". The hospital is clean and bright. I'm taken to the ICU where they transfer me to a bed and establish an IV port on the backside of my hand through which to administer drugs.
Sara Jean and Big Bubba are allowed to come in individually to hug me, then depart for a hotel nearby.

They administer painkiller and, I'm certain, something to help me sleep.
It is 0100 hours.
And... I sleep better than I would have imagined.

To be continued.






24 May 2018

Help! Part III

"Are you okay?"
Some of these questions are asked by passersby who obviously don't speak English as a primary language.
I'm holding a napkin one of them offered against the wound. That napkin, and my right tennis shoe are rapidly filling with dark, burgundy-wine colored blood.
"No... I have no doubt I have broken my ankle."

One of the donkey teams passes by; the leader of the pack shouting at the animals to motivate them further down the cliff.
"Are you okay sir?", in heavily Greek accented English. I reply that I'm hurt.
"We will send someone to help", he says.

Another team of donkeys passes. A couple in that team stops, dismounts, and insists Sara Jean and I mount their animals. I'm worried about this...
One good leg. Probably, (almost certainly), in a mild state of shock. How safe can I be on this animal? How ironic would it be to mount up trying to head to safety, only to fall off the donkey's back and crash to the hard walkway below and further hurt myself?

We have sent Big Bubba ahead for help. I make the decision to mount up, and hope to meet litter carriers on their way up to fetch me. At least this donkey ride may help cut the rescue time somewhat.
The guy and his wife that originally rented the donkeys help Sara Jean and I climb aboard. I'm pleasantly surprised I can get on the animal's back. SJ has never ridden a horse, or a donkey, and she's no doubt more worried than me about this downhill trek.
My newfound rescuer stays alongside me, continually asking, "Do you feel faint? If you get light-headed you LET ME KNOW!" He's smart enough to know what a risk we're taking.
Sara Jean continues to make sounds like she's not at all happy to be aboard an animal that is just as unhappy to be headed downhill, away from its stable, food, and water.

We go downhill, turn, go downhill, turn, go downhill, turn...
I'm hanging on for dear life to a saddle that has no horn like I'm accustomed to on a horse. On this saddle there is a hole big enough to put both hands into to hold on. My strength is suspect.
I'm doin' the best I can.

Downhill, turn. Downhill, turn.
Finally we reach the water's edge. Thank Goodness there's a wall wide enough for me to dismount the animal. An argument ensues between the donkey leader and the folks that originally rented the animals... he wants to be paid again for his trouble. They refuse, telling him they already paid for the ride and they are NOT gonna pay again. Much shouting goes on for awhile, but my new American friends stand fast.
With help from two strong guys, I hop to a chair and sit down, just glad to be off the cliff.
A man introduces himself as "An agent of the boat". He says he'll help us to get the help we need.
Our luggage is still on the ship. We assume our son is headed back from the boat, having informed them of our situation. The "boat agent" informs us we are NOT going back to the ship; we are to be transported to a clinic in Santorini, then airlifted to a hospital in Athens.
Bummer.
Our wonderful cruise is over. They're throwing us off the ship.
(To be continued.)