Home Sweet … OH C’MON!!

anger-management-1058x426Have I mentioned I don’t like to travel???

I enjoy the “being there” part and the “being back” part, although that depends on where the “being there” was.  Down the Shore is a good “being there”.  So are places like Punta Cana.  Certainly our latest “being there” in Southern California for two-plus glorious, temps-above-average weeks was way up on the Being There list!

 

My problem is the Coming and Going parts.  Let’s face it.  They are too stress-laden to be enjoyable.  I look at the comings and goings as akin to being forced to into temporary displacement with everything you own – minus all your normal creature comforts – strapped to your back.

The stress is magnified if you travel with a Type A spouse, where packing and the priority-laden questions resemble D-Day invasion planning, where the pace turns frenetic in the 4-5 days prior to H-Hour, and nerves are Type-A frayed.

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I warned you!

Add small children for Volcano Effect!

The “being back” part is almost always good …

Almost always …

Anyways … Our California trip was a blast.  Organized around the wedding of a West Coast nephew to a very lovely girl in the vineyard country of Temecula, California.  More on this in later posts …

Great time, incredible weather, quality family opportunities, plenty to see and do!  And then – inevitably – the Being There runs it course; and it’s time to be back.

More stress …

Our travel West went surprisingly well, including an LAX pickup one native described as, “The smoothest EVER!”  (Sorry about the “native” reference, Pat.  But I’m on a roll …)

No way the trip back East could go that well, right?

  • 0700  Airport commute in the Los Angeles area?  A little slow, but anticipated.
  • Check-in at LAX: Perfect (Southwest Airlines has excellent curbside check-in staff and get the TSA pre-check)
  • Gate Pushback:  On-time
  • Plane change at Midway Airport, Chicago:  Also on-time and smooth
  • Arrival at PHL:  Also on-time and COLD!
  • Parking Shuttle Pick-up:  Stunningly well-timed (like walking-out-of-the-terminal-and-here-we-are well-timed!)
  • Personal auto parked for two weeks outside a Sheraton?  Started like a champ!
  • Ride home:  Piece of cake
  • Walk into the House … IT’S FREEZING FREAKIN’ COLD!!  50° in-house temp!  Not a single burp out of the heater …

How is that possible?!?  Four-year old gas-heated, blown air unit with nary a problem.

Did I mention it was 80° when we left California??

Couple shivering with broken furnace

Ever get home from a Being There wanting to do nothing more than tossing your bags at the bottom of the steps and watching TV before going to bed??  Ever lived with a Type A personality, who was tired, stressed, AND COLD all at the same time?!?  Not fun …

Took me until 1600 hrs the next day to get professional help (the heater kind, not the mental kind) after spending the morning replacing the thermostat, which only partially worked.

And you wonder why I don’t like to travel.

 

Generation CPAP

cpap-benefitsI have finally given in.

After years of pain and discomfort (Carol’s pain and discomfort, not mine) I was finally convinced by my bed co-inhabitant to seek the help SHE needed!  The dreaded CPAP

OK … Sleep Apnea is not really a funny issue, unless you try to make it one.  Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious issue.  For most people it can manifest in a number of ways that most people might assume result from just a poor night’s sleep.  Sleepiness during the day, irritability, morning headaches, even frequent bedtime trips to the bathroom are some of the innocuous signs that something is messing with your sleep.

But it can be much, much more dangerous, as sleep apnea is also capable of triggering strokes and cardiac arrest.  In the worst cases, it can even cause death!

Interestingly enough, my symptoms included one not listed in most information on the condition.  I would constantly be jarred awake by sharp, stabbing pains in my ribs.

Carol has Gary Dornhoefer elbows!

Simmonds style best exemplifies Gary Dornhoefer

Flyers great Gary Dornhoefer

And those occurrences are perhaps the biggest reason to seek treatment.  No one looks forward to the constant … uh … verbal encouragements of one’s wife … Constant, persistent, never-ending encouragements to get something done.  Yet I was remarkably resilient in resisting those provocations!

I was NOT going to be wearing one of those obnoxious, intrusive facemasks and try to sleep while connected by tubes to a loud screeching machine!  Not me …

And so Life and wife have a way of “encouraging” compromises.

The Light came on for me when I noticed an increased difficulty in staying sufficiently alert during the day, despite my daily lunchtime catnap habit.  The Light became a glaring accusation once I found myself nodding off driving home from work.

The first step in resolving a problem is recognizing you have one … or actually listening to the one constantly, persistently trying to convince you that you have one.

So what I learned was both interesting and frightening.  My at-home testing revealed that I was experiencing an apnea episode, where breathing is obstructed by the throat’s soft palate,  7-8 times an HOUR!  And that – I was assured – was not nearly as bad as the worst cases, which can occur up to 30 times or more an hour!

The really scary part is that you can actually stop breathing.  Carol would tell me of listening to me stop breathing for seemingly long stretches and then convulsing in fits of guttural hacking.  Of course I challenged her to show me.

25758101Sleep apnea tends to occur in adults who are overweight (check … but only slightly!).  But it can occur in anyone, at any age … even children can develop it.  Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form and the one for which I am being treated.  Central Sleep Apnea is neurological in nature, where the brain fails to send correct signals to the muscles that control breathing.

Although I have no data to back this up, I was also told that a high percentage of men with necks requiring shirt collars sized 17 and up are more susceptible to obstructive sleep apnea.  In addition, a large percentage of unwitting sufferers with partners possessing sharp pointy elbows are more likely to seek treatment, if – for no other reason – than ending that constant, persistent spousal “encouragement”.

Anatomy-of-Obstructive-Sleep-Apnea

What most surprised me was the effectiveness and relative unobtrusive nature of CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) treatments.  The machine I was provided (ResMed AirSense 10 … roughly $190. co-pay from my healthcare planMarried-Sleeping-Concept-300x300) is much quieter than I expected, having heard nightmare about noisy contraptions rivaling window air conditioners in ruling the nighttime environment.  The masks used to provide the CPAP benefit come in three styles ranging from full mouth and nose cover to simple nasal pillows (the ones I use) that nestle snuggly against the nostrils.  No need to be limited to full, intrusive face masks!

After three months of use, I have to admit I am sleeping better; maintaining wakefulness longer; and making fewer trips to the bathroom at night.

Now everyone is happier, and my bruised ribs are finally healing!

 

 

 

 

The Problem with Women in Medicine

B2GjpG6CQAATYc7Now before the Politically Correct legions on the internet break out the Tar & Feathers, I am not suggesting that women are necessarily bad for the American Health System.  On the other hand, recent experiences suggest that women seem to have a YUGE gap in one aspect of practicing medicine in a society where – last time I checked – males comprise roughly half the patient population.

Now this problem likely will not manifest should you be a male below the age of 10 or should you suffer from chronic or debilitative disease.  No, the problem is much more pronounced if you are a relatively healthy male simply in need of temporary care for any number of Life’s more manageable maladies.

The problem?  A significant deficit in Compassion!

Allow me to demonstrate with a few recent examples.

Over a recent stretch of 7-10 days I was afflicted with an annoying – but manageable – sinus infection.  No big deal, right?  But I just could not get rid of it.  So after missing a day of work due to lack of sleep from a nagging, hacking cough, I decided to seek the assistance of the American Health System.

After making an afternoon appointment, I announced to my wife of 31 … oops … 32 years of my desire to make a doctor’s appointment .  Carol – a Neonatal nurse for years and years – helpfully offered to accompany me.  Despite my selfless insistence that her presence was not necessary, I acquiesced to her rather persistent interest in my well-being.

That was Mistake #1 …

Nurse-PractitionersDue to the immediacy of my condition, I was unable to see my regular physician – a male, I might add – but was completely satisfied with being place in the care of a Nurse Practitioner.  When admitted to your typical patient treatment room, we were joined by the NP (whose name will be protected regardless of her crappy bedside manner) followed by her shadowing medical student … also female, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

As I launched into a brief synopsis of my symptoms and answering a few pertinent questions specific to the outbreak, my lovely wife felt compelled to add a rather over-dramatized version of my more audible coughing plus her preliminary diagnosis (“just a cold”), along with a completely unnecessary portrayal of my “needy behavior” during the peak of my critical debilitation.  That’s when the NP turned to Carol and said, “Oh … He has the Man flu!”

home-postThe room broke down into spasms of hilarity.  Well, most of it anyway …

I was hardly amused …  And though I will credit the med student for breaking a noticeable sweat trying to contain her female guffaws, the complete lack of medical decorum was alarming.  So once the laughter died down, I stared down the NP and mentioned that her remark lacked a certain sense of Compassion.  She was almost able to wipe the smile off her face.

Then she turned to female medical student and told her, “Yeah … Don’t do that. It’s not nice … or professional.”  At which point she looked at Carol, who was still doubled over in laughter, and broke out in tee-hees and titters all over again.  By this time said female medical student was losing her battle with Propriety and was turning six shades of red.

Aside from the ruthlessly snide anti-Man remarks and goofy sick voices (I know I don’t really sound like that!), I was half expecting them to drag out the contraction demonstration belt in which so many women seem to take perverse pleasure in!

I felt lonely and minimalized.

Flash back roughly 23 years ago … After siring three sons, it was time for me to do my part to belay Carol’s stress over future pregnancies by doing the only manly thing I could, sacrificing my own mechanism of fertility to the wonders of Modern Medicine!

As I walked into my urologist’s office, accompanied by the ever “sympathetic” Carol, I was met with so many smiling (female) faces that I immediately relaxed as my stress over the impending procedure melted away.

Then the jokes started.

imagesI will spare you the offensive images and suggestions that were rained upon my delicate mental state.  But the psychological impact was demoralizing … even if I managed a nervous laugh here and there.

I was so unsettled I decided to take the issue up with my urologist … pre-sterilization.  But when I mentioned that his female office staff could use a few reminders on Compassion and Empathy, Dr. HedgeClippers looked at me and said, “I can’t say anything.  They scare me!”

It’s tough being a Man in a Woman’s world …

 

 

 

 

The Irish Catholic Hajj Lived

The trek towards Middle America is daunting in an Econoline van, 700 miles and 11 hours long.  Yet the draw for a 17-strong contingent of Philadelphia area products from the Roman Catholic Church and school systems is irresistible, as witnessed by a core group that has made the South Bend trek to University of Notre Dame football games 17 times now.  

The underside of an obscure card table, inscribed with the names of past participants documents the participants from year-to-year.  Those making the Hajj for the first time dutifully add (R) to their names to signify their rookie status.  We also made habit of marveling at the precision organization, courtesy of Major General (Honarary) Edward Brady (Father Judge ’74), and execution.  Staying out of the way – unless called upon – for fear of ruining the mojo.

The group was not nearly as rowdy as might have been – and probably was – years ago.  Then again most of use are on the downhill side of 50 or below sea-level of 60!  It does seem to mute the wackiness.  The one exception being the call to “Huddle up!!” by Staff Sargeant (Hon) Lenny, a call to imbibe shots of intestinal fortitude.

You learn to celebrate Life more managably as you grow older.

Friday was for a tour of the Notre Dame campus, steeped in history not limited to football.  As a Philly guy, never quite bitten as badly by the ND bug, hearing the story of John Cardinal O’Hara (former Philadelphia Cardinal of the Archdiocese and President of Notre Dame) next to his marble crypt is one example.  The Battle of Gettysburg story of Reverend William Corey, steadying New York’s Irish Brigade in the hours before their date with Destiny at Little Round Top and the wheat field, is quite another.

As for the football experience, the pageantry and loyal following the Fighting Irish inspire is evident at every venue.  For me, the excitement generated by the Notre Dame Band of the Fighting Irish, on Friday particularly with the horn section warming up the crowd inside The Rotunda was simply spectacular!


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Saturday, the focus was FOOTBALL … not to be overshadowed by perhaps the nicest stretch of weather shining down on the Best Tailgating Experience ever!  (OK … Honestly the guy with the satellite dish and 40+ inch screen might have an edge here.)  It’s difficult to imagine a better day.

The Miami of Ohio – Notre Dame game was anticlimactic, given the obvious talent gap and the Irish’s ability to step on Miami’ s throat in the 1st Quarter (Final: ND 52 – Miami 17).  But the highlight truly is that there’s much, much more to enjoy at the Notre Dame Football experience than just a lopsided victory!

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View of our rental’s backyard in the vicinity of the University of Notre Dame

The Irish American Hajj

Sixteen men, one determined young lady, two Econoline vans (bench seats), 700 miles, 11 hours … A journey meant for the die-hard fans of The Golden Dome, The Fighting Irish, Knute Rockne, The Four Horsemen, and other Legends of the Gridiron ….

An American Hajj (Commitment)

A two-decade tradition expanded to include wannabes and hangers-on.  The planning intricate, resourceful, learned … Leadership the envy of military staffers ….

We depart at zero-dark-thirty for the University of Notre Dame with kisses from the women folk left behind. (Admittedly some of which are not all that worried about more spacious beds, cooking for one, and quiet evenings curled up with Netflix.)  The assault vehicles are loaded; GPS devices homed in; coffeed up and leisurely fed by one weekend widow, we are Oscar Mike!