Saturday, October 12, 2013

It aint purty . . .

It has been a fairly rough two or three weeks for me to be honest. Remember how I mentioned on my last blog that I was apparently so nervous that my leg was shaking so badly that it was bouncing up and down? Yeah, well it turns out that it had nothing to do with my case of the nerves. Over the next few days my leg began to hurt for no apparent reason, but it was a gradual thing that kind of snuck up on me in small stages until it got so bad that it couldn’t be ignored any longer. . .
Toward the end of that service call in Detroit, I received word from my manager that I needed to change any plans that I might have, and to fly directly back to Portland where I had recently installed a system for a huge customer of ours there. When I had been there, the customer really had not been ready, despite their demanding that we get there quickly and on short notice. Well, after I had done all that I could do given their lack of preparedness, I had moved on to other customers while they resolved their problems. Anyway, they had corrected their issues so that our system should have been able to run as designed, but it didn’t, and guess whose job it was to go figure it out and fix it? Throughout that week working to correct several problems with our system, I had the poor luck to get sick, and at the same time, my leg just kept hurting worse and worse. There is nothing quite like trying to troubleshoot a complex system, with a pissed off customer standing right behind you, while running a fever of 102 and just barely able to walk. By the time that I flew back to Austin the following Saturday, my leg was hurting so bad that I had to stop and take a break on the short walk from the airplane gate area to the baggage claim. This was pretty much the point where it couldn’t be ignored any longer or written off as just another sucky artifact of getting older. When I got home I discovered that my left calf was about 15% bigger than my right, and it was a distinctly darker shade as well. What the hell?

Sunday morning my wife started in on me to go to the ER, but I flat out refused. I had been dealing with this for over a week, and while not fun, it didn’t strike me as urgent enough to go to an emergency room. I did think it was a big enough problem to warrant at least trying to get into the “after hours” clinic, so I gave them a call. As soon as I described the symptoms and told her that I fly a lot, she told me not to come to the clinic, but to go directly to the closest Emergency Room. She agreed with my wife’s’ conclusion that it was probably a blood clot in the leg, and the danger was that if part of the blood clot breaks off and moves to the brain or the lungs, it can apparently very quickly turn into a life threatening event. Awesome. One day off in two weeks and I was going to be spending it in the E.R.

When I got to the local E.R. and told the lady behind the counter what the clinic had told me, they threw me to the top of the waiting line, and I essentially walked right past everyone else that was waiting there. That sort of tells you that they thought it was a big deal anyway. Soon, I was wearing one of those stylish paper robes, and laying on a bed while a technician ran the probe for a sonogram up and down my leg. As soon as he realized that I was breaking my neck to see his display, and that I was genuinely curious about what the machine was showing us, he and I started having a nerd conversation about the display and how to interpret it. It didn’t take him long to find a clot/blockage that was about five inches long.
“No way?!” I joked with him as he pointed it out and began tracing its length. “You got that lucky that fast, and found the thing already?”
“Ummm . . .” he started, clearly uncomfortable. “I don’t think I would call this lucky if I were you.”
“Oh believe me, I ‘get’ that part of it; this aint good or lucky, but at least you found it.”
“Awe shit!” I said after thinking for a minute. “Now I gotta go home and tell my wife that she was right. I HATE telling my wife that she is right.” Clearly he was a married man, because he started laughing so hard that the wand started bouncing around so that he had to stop working for a minute.
“Well, the good news is that you won’t have to tell her for a while, because I doubt that you’re going home tonight.”
Once he was done with the sonogram, I ended up back in my original ‘room’, and before too long the nurse was back to talk to me.
“Well, it looks like you’re staying with us for a while, so I’m going to go ahead and insert an IV now, OK?”
“No way. No one said squat about poking holes in me when I got here! Take all of this junk off of me – I’m outta here!” I told her. I waited for a second to see if she would figure out that I was teasing, and since I wasn’t sure, I let her off of the hook. “I’m just teasing – go right ahead.”
“So which arm would you like me to put it in?” She said with a small laugh.
“Damned if I know. To be honest, I’m kinda fond of both of them.”
“Oh, so you’re gonna be one of those patients huh?”
“What?! No, not me! I’m the kind of patient who knows better than to piss off the woman that is about to stick a needle in my arm. How about I shut the hell up now?” I told her with a smile, and then kept my mouth shut while she inserted the needle and taped it to my arm. For the record, she did an outstanding job and I felt very little discomfort. After she got that accomplished, I was left alone for another ten minutes or so before the cutest doctor I have ever seen entered the room. She was a petite woman, probably no taller than five foot, and she had long black hair falling straight down her back. To make a long story just a little bit shorter, she confirmed the blood clot, but decided that it did not require me to stay in the hospital. She gave me a prescription for something that is supposed to get rid of the blood clot over the next three weeks, and told me that I shouldn’t fly for a while. I actually laughed when she said this, but I didn’t tell her why – I would rather drop dead on an airplane than to risk my job by telling them that I wouldn’t be able to travel. The nurse and I both had a laugh when she came back into the room to take the IV right back out of my arm.

The very next morning, I left on a nine hour drive to Quapaw OK for a repair there. I was supposed to have taken care of this guy the week before, but had to put him off to take care of the situation in Portland. Since I’d already screwed him over once, I wasn’t about to call him and say “Sorry, not feeling well, so I aint gonna be there . . . again . . . “
I was fine for the drive there, and for working the next day, but the drive back home got a bit exciting. I had been driving for about six hours, and had just made it through Dallas when I started to black out behind the wheel. Just to add a dramatic touch to it, I was in a construction zone, with concrete walls on my left, and an 18 wheeler on my right. There was no warning and no signs that it was coming. One moment I was fine, and the next moment the whole world was almost entirely gray and my head was falling toward the steering wheel. Fortunately it passed very quickly, and I never was entirely out of it, but it scared the snot outta me. Just as soon as it was possible, I pulled off to the side of the road and sat there until the dizziness passed and my heart stopped thundering in my chest. When I thought that I was up to it, I pulled back on to the freeway and drove the rest of the way home at a more stately pace, scared and nervous the entire time that it might happen again.

The next week, I put that whole “do not fly” concept to the test and headed for New York City. I’m not sure if it is a side effect of the clot, or of the medication that they have me on, but I am super exhausted all of the time, and I keep having fevers that come and go. I was so exhausted the morning that I headed out, that there was no way in hell I was going to fly pretty, and by the time I arrived in New York, all I did was check in to my hotel and go straight to bed.
The next day I had a ten hour work day, and then went straight to bed again.
The day after that I didn’t have the choice to go straight to bed. I worked almost a ten hour day, and then had to drive eight hours to my next customer in Painted Post NY. It shouldn’t have taken that long to make the drive, but when you try to drive through the New York City area during rush hour . . .
The following morning was my 26th wedding anniversary, and I spent it a thousand miles from my wife, working all day in Painted Post, and then driving five hours back to NYC to catch a plane home the next morning.
Friday morning I had to get up at 345AM to catch my flight home, and to say that I was "tired" just doesn’t do the feeling justice. Anyway, when I got back to my home town on Friday afternoon, I figured I would stop and get my wife some roses since I had missed our Anniversary. As cheesy as it sounds, HEB (A Texas Grocery store) really does have a nice little florist section with awesome roses, and so that is where I stopped for them on my drive home. Stumbling bleary eyed through HEB, carrying my vase full of pink roses, I couldn't help but noticing that every single woman that looked my way was grinning from ear to ear. I figure that they were either thinking "I know what you’re up to!" or "I wonder what he did wrong?"

I made my way back out to my classic Mustang with the roses in hand, got the car started, and then was busy trying to get the flowers squared away so that they wouldn't fall over while I was driving, when a woman scared the snot out of me by knocking on the driver’s side window.
"Excuse me. Did you serve in the Army?" she asked when I got the window down. The question caught me by surprise, and given my state of mind, it took me longer than it should have to realize that she had probably just seen the "Army" license plate on the front of my car.
"Yes ma'am, I did"
"Well thank you for your service!" she said, reaching into the car and shaking my hand.
"Thank you, but no need. It was the smartest thing I've ever done!" I told her with a grin.
"Well, I just wanted to tell you thank you for your service, the flowers were a great choice, and I LOVE your car!" 
Considering my really shitty last few weeks, I was more than a little grateful for her words.
So, I am traveling quite a lot, but aint none of it pretty, and aint none of it fun . . .