Friday, November 27, 2009

The Holiday, the Clammy Damps, and Japlish

From the tabletop diary:
11-26-09 Thurs. (Thanksgiving day for the normal folks)
Oh boy ~ our tails are draggin', as expected. I was looking forward to having tomorrow off but Mary noticed a black spot on the top of my left ear last Sunday while giving me a haircut. The soonest appointment I could get at Doc Weispfenning's was tomorrow @ 13:00.
Dialysis today; ear surgery tomorrow and dialysis all day Saturday.
Next week, surgery on Thurs., Dec. 3rd to install fistula & peritoneal catheter except this week, NW Kidney Center changed my dialysis days to Tues., Thurs., and Saturday – Thursday being the same day I'll be in surgery.
All these appointment are just turning into a train wreck worthy of a Charlie Chaplin movie.
LATER: We went in at 10:30 this morning which would make me think we would get off earlier but some how we still got home around dark. Actually the days are continuing to get shorter and the kidney center had a small army of patients to treat today so disconnecting took a while.
About 12:55 my nurse, Yeong (pronounced “young,” a nice Korean girl), was cleaning the tunnel catheter and changed the dressing when I suddenly went into a low blood pressure incident that turned me cold, sweaty and in danger of passing out. Don't know what happened but it was real unpleasant and took about 15 minutes to recover from after they turned the blood pump down from its usual speed of 300 to about 150. After I came around, I slept the rest of the day, went home and felt wasted until I finally gave up and hit the sack around 9:00 p.m.
11-27-09, Friday
The head floor nurse is Jean, a third-generation Japanese-American woman who is working to re-learn her ancestral language so we have fun practicing what little Japanese we both know on each other. I warned her that my memory of the language goes back to the time we lived on Kyushu as part of the post-war occupation forces. As such, the language I learned was a mixture of pidgin Japanese-English which evolved at that time and in that place. Since it was a tentative combination of two languages developed in a first-contact situation, I speculated that it was probably dead and gone by now but Jean's eyes brightened up and she said, “Oh no – it's still in use! It's called 'Japlish!'”
In some cases words had to be blended to describe things the Japanese had never seen before and therefore had no words for them. Since they used chopsticks there was no word for “knife” or “fork” and the words “ni-fu” and “forku” evolved. Likewise the word for milk became “miruku” in Japlish because the Japanese had no letter “L” in their language and couldn't pronounce it except as an “R” sound.
One phrase Jean had never heard a Japanese use was, “Ah, so,” which has become a rather contemptible American stereotypical phrase and Jean was equally contemptuous and offended by its use, as it tended to be racially demeaning.
I had heard the phrase all my life. It was indeed brought back to the U.S. By the troops in the Pacific theater – but only as a corruption of a phrase I heard as a child as a form of Japlish, perhaps. It was: “Hai, so desuka. Wakarimas.” I took it to mean, “Yes, I see. I understand.” It was an American imitation of a phrase they couldn't fully pronounce and so it became an abbreviation.`

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Little Good News for a Change

It's Thanksgiving Eve, and we have a lot to be thankful for. Rick is thankful to still be alive this year, as are we all thankful that he is alive. Here's the good news: Today he went to see the urologist and the urologist did not see any cancer in Rick's bladder.
Let me say that again: he did not see any cancer in Rick's bladder.
He took a biopsy, and we'll hear about that in a week or so, but right now the word is good.
We'll spend Thanksgiving at the NW Kidney Center, with Rick having dialysis.
Wishing you all a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving, and a blessed Advent.
And that's all I have to say for tonight.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Important Correction!

A while back I told people that you could donate to Rick through the Church of the Holy Spirit in order to get a tax deduction. I have been informed in no uncertain terms that NO, the Church of the Holy Spirit will not accept donations or pass them on.
So - I'm sorry. I was misinformed.
If you wish to send a donation towards defraying Rick's considerable medical bills, please send it to:

Chase Bank
P O Box 510
Vashon WA 98070
Attn: Rick (Mark E.)Tuel fund

or directly to us:
Rick Tuel
P O Box 238
Vashon WA 98070

Now I'm going to go edit the post with the wrong information.

Our deepest thanks to all who have contributed. Thank you.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rick Writes Again

11-19-09 Thursday
This is the last week for awhile that will be simply three days of dialysis. Next week begins dialysis plus one day devoted to a bladder cancer cystoscopy with no time off for Thanksgiving.
The NW Kidney Center has a policy of “no eating” during dialysis but so far as I can see, I am the only one who complies w/this rule. Since dialysis strips everything out of the blood, people get hungry during their four hours in the chair.
Nonetheless, one thing I've noticed since beginning treatment is that everyone is chomping and chewing when I arrive and it goes on all day. For this reason I've dubbed the place, “Di-alice's Restaurant,” where you can't have anything you want.
I admit that I sneak jellybeans in and try to be discreet.
Another problem is that after about 2-1/2 hours of dialysis I start to become cold and by the end, I am shivering like a leaf in a windstorm. My shaking and shivering sets off the dialysis machine to alarm which has to be cleared by an attendant and adds time to the treatment. So – I try to cover myself early on with a blanket and hold onto the blood lines to keep warm and covered up for as long as I can. The coldest spot is the Hickman catheter in my chest so I keep that well covered and insulated.
Yesterday I was informed that I have to keep the Hickman and its blood lines exposed and visible at all times so I'm just god damned bound to freeze and starve and go overtime on treatment.
Tomorrow I'm bringing in hand and body warmers to stuff in my pockets.
Staff tells me I'm still anemic after a month of treatment which may be the reason I can't get warm as I'm minded to eat more protein (just not here at the dialysis center).
My creatinine level is down to 7.5 though so that's good. It's down from 13.5 so practically speaking I'm still functionally a dead person, just less so than before.
* * *
Mary adds: This is Rick's table top diary entry from yesterday. Today he's in the chair being dialyzed, with his hand and body warmers and a heat panel (overhead infrared) turned on. He also put a fleece blanket under himself, as well as over. We'll see how that does for him.
We had a lesson in phosphorous and calcium today. When you're in renal failure, you have to consciously synthesize, control and adjust things in your body to make up for all the many tasks that kidneys perform, like governing the Pth output of the parathyroid gland. Too much Pth starts sucking calcium out of your bones, and at our age that's no joke.
Interesting – I added a dingbat, and now the program inserts a line between every paragraph. Don't know if that will carry over to the blog, which tends to remove all formatting from your text.
We are living with lots of rain and wind this week, blowing in off the Pacific to drench us. We haven't had one of those full-blown cyclones that usually blow in about this time of year. Not yet. So far we have not lost electricity at our house.
Next week, as Rick said, will be a full week – dialysis on Monday, cystoscopy on Wednesday, dialysis on Thursday and Saturday. The cystoscopy will give us an idea of what's going on with the bladder cancer, which has been on the back burner since we started dealing with Rick's renal failure. As Rick says, we cannot see beyond the horizon of next Wednesday. We don't know what that exam will lead to. I of course want to hear the “r” word: remission. But that's just my hope and prayer. We'll see.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Log of the Oatus: Ft. Bragg

Nov. 5, Fri.
After breakfast, two fellows by the name of Allen and John came by from the Albion Ridge Ranch, which I guess must be down around where we thought Felix jumped ship. They too spoke of engines and left saying they would return with more information.
When we left to find Brian and his truck, we discovered roads (or perhaps ruts is more accurate) far too impassible for Oatus's bulk. When we finally located his truck, there was no one home so we followed a path down to the bottom of a ravine and up the other side where we found an abandoned chicken ranch to explore.
Later in the afternoon another of Granny's many friends dropped by to use Everett's truck to haul a load of trash to the dump. Butch was his name and at the moment he is a candle maker by trade.
By way of another trade, we learned of another engine that was being housed at present in an old 1952 Plymouth that was quietly returning to the soil on his property. If we worked fast we might be able to rescue it before it disappeared altogether. We made a date for tomorrow.

Nov. 6, Sat.
Man, the weather has been low and wet lately! For some reason, my own system has been closely approximating the conditions of my sign, which is Air (I'm a Gemini); for some reason all the air in the area is heavily congested. Wheeze~!
Late in the morning Butch came by; we loaded tools, batteries, and Nigel the dog, and sputtered off to visit the old Plymouth.
The land is truly good here; Autumn has nipped into these hills quite nicely. Butch's property is blessed with an old Gravenstein apple orchard and I happily munched on a few while wandering about in the rain.
We were too late to help the old engine (which offered no response at all) so Butch built a fire out back and began melting candle wax in a big cauldron. We drank tea, ate fruit, helped put wicks in 140 quarter-sized candles, and departed with a glow.
Chris and I got back to the Red Shanty just in time to go take a sauna with Everett, Berta, and Unkie, a great relief for us Trucknics! We've been growing progressively smellier for a week now. This is the only way to get clean in Fort Bragg at the moment since the whole town is on water hours. I thought I left this sort of thing behind when I got out of the Navy!
Perhaps the people who operate the sauna also run the local water system. Theirs is the only place in town that has water and the whole town is lined up to bathe on a weekly schedule, at $1.50 a pop! What a sweet deal! Everett, Berta and Unkie's time slot is on Saturday, from 7:30 to 8:00 p.m.; not only did they get us admitted as their guests, they also paid our way!
I think they wanted to be sure that we wouldn't miss out on an opportunity to clean up and in their kind, tactful way, decided to go ahead and foot the bill in case we didn't happen to have the gate fee. Since we have no way of knowing how long we will be their guests, this probably amounted to an investment in their peace of mind and was therefore well worth the money! As I noted earlier, we've been growing progressively smellier for a week now.

Nov. 7 Sun.
Today we thought to recuperate some. My raging head cold has opened a branch office in Chris's head and he awoke this morning snuffling, spewing and snorting. We got a fire going and kept to our bunks, attending to our individual afflictions.
Not for long though! Granny came out and enlisted our aid in picking up an old freezer over at somebody's house. We ended up doing it mostly by ourselves and with effort and resolve managed to drag the damned things back to the Shanty in one piece; then it was back to the truck to chase continuing drips in the roof; also the nose.
Because it's Sunday and telephone rates are low, I called my folks to let them know we are in port for repairs. That's the news for today.

Friday, November 13, 2009

An Update, and a Commercial

(There is a diagram of a fistula under the 3 Damp Duck picture which comes forward when I click on it - I don't know why it is layered instead of in the text)
Dear Hearts and Gentle People -
There is a little news, and information for those of you who have asked, “Can I do anything?” Yes, yes you can. Here's how:
Julia Lakey has opened a benevolent fund for Rick at Chase Bank, P O Box 510, Vashon WA 98070. You can donate funds to help Rick deal with his mounting medical expenses.  Just note on your check that it's for the Mark E.(Rick) Tuel fund.
OK, at this point I originally said you could send donations via Church of the Holy Spirit and get a tax deduction. The Church has informed me that I am wrong about that, and donations need to go to the bank fund, not to the church. I apologize for getting it wrong. I did not know that this policy had changed.
You can send Rick a card at PO Box 238, Vashon WA 98070. Big thanks to those of you who have already done so. The cards cheer him up.
Also, if you want to get something cool for your money (and who doesn't?) you can purchase a CD of Three Damp Duck, a trio consisting of JW McClure, Rick, and Mary, at the website JW has set this up, bless his heart, with the intention that all proceeds go to Rick's medical expenses. I will try to attach a photo here so you can see how young and cute we were 30 years ago.
Huge thanks to Water District #19, Rick's employers and colleagues, who have so come through for him, and the Church of the Holy Spirit, which has given prayer, friendship, encouragement, and food. I can't say thanks enough, not without starting to leak, anyway. Thank you. We are being sustained by grace right now, and these people and our other friends and family are conduits of that grace.
Which reminds me: thank you for the medicinal chocolate, Diane. It is sustaining me as I type.
Rick is in class today. He drove all the way to Auburn by himself, and will drive all the way home, God willing, although I did set up a back up plan for him to call if he feels too tired or stressed out, in which case our friend Roy Bumgarner will drive me over there so we can bring Rick home.
The class is on “cement asbestos pipes.” You know that line in Randy Newman's theme song for the Monk television show: “Do you know what's in the water that you drink? Well, I do. It's a-mazing!”
That line could be written by a water guy.
The class is for CEUs (Continuing Education Units) which Rick has to get every three years in order to keep his water district operator certification. Rick has to have that certification in order to work for Water District 19. And here's the good news: he might be able to work for them again, at least on a part-time basis. This thought has given him hope for the first time since the world came crashing down on October 5.
So...would anyone out there like to train Rick on CAD software? Seriously. Contact us.
He continues to have dialysis three days a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at present; because of his class today he'll go in for dialysis tomorrow.
On December 3 he'll have surgery to have a fistula formed in his arm. A what? You say. That doesn't sound so good – no, it doesn't. Here is a description from the website of the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC):
What is an arteriovenous fistula?
An AV fistula requires advance planning because a fistula takes a while after surgery to develop—in rare cases, as long as 24 months. But a properly formed fistula is less likely than other kinds of vascular access to form clots or become infected. Also, properly formed fistulas tend to last many years—longer than any other kind of vascular access.
A surgeon creates an AV fistula by connecting an artery directly to a vein, frequently in the forearm. Connecting the artery to the vein causes more blood to flow into the vein. As a result, the vein grows larger and stronger, making repeated needle insertions for hemodialysis treatments easier. For the surgery, you’ll be given a local anesthetic. In most cases, the procedure can be performed on an outpatient basis.

There, now, you are educated, and so am I. We were told that it takes about four months for a fistula to mature, and we have also been told that (a) sometimes the surgery does not succeed and has to be done over, and (b) that Rick has a blood clot in his left arm, formed during his October hospital stay, and no one should come near that arm with a needle.
Even though the illustration on this website shows the fistula near the wrist, the people I've seen at the dialysis center have theirs in their upper arms. Because Rick's kidney failure was sudden and severe, he is now equipped with a tunneled catheter for dialysis, but the medicos are putting on a lot of pressure to get rid of that.
At the same time the fistula surgery is done, he will have a PD catheter inserted into his abdomen. This would enable him to have peritoneal dialysis, which I am not going to try to explain here. I will say that Rick has been making jokes about “having a second dick installed,” and the importance of not mixing up one with the other.
The advantage of peritoneal dialysis would be that he could do it at home, which would be a mercy for us living on the island, financially and physically. We don't know yet if he'll be able to do peritoneal dialysis – he had a hernia operation a few years ago which may affect the possibility of doing it.
OK, this is my first day home in days and I am going to take advantage of it to make a recycling run. Woo hoo.
Thank you all for all your prayers, good wishes, and support both tangible and intangible. I must say that the novelty of the situation has worn off and it is sinking in, I can only speak for myself here, that this is the way it is from now on. Right now we're in a falling-through-the-cracks situation financially, so see those first paragraphs to see how you might help stop up a crack (thank you). Our hope is that once he is on disability and can work part time we'll have something to budget and will be able to carry on more independently than we can now.
And that's about it from here for now.
More of the Oatus Log will be coming in the near future. Hope you are enjoying it.
Blessings, love, hugs.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Part 2: Epoxy, Our Friend

Nov. 3, Wed.
I got up at 09:00, fired up Charlie Corona (our ever-faithful wood stove) and carried a cup of coffee of into the woods to help me explore.
The clouds are not so low this morning and the heavy winds have tapered off somewhat but still it spits rain frequently. At 11:00 we set a Northern course and got underway.
Outside of Manchester, Oatus suffered an Engineering casualty. A quick check-over revealed a few possible culprits but correcting them didn't correct the problem. The gas gauge being non-operational, we sounded the tank with a piece of doweling and got nothing but dry rust on the end of the stick. That amounts to one tankful since Point Reyes Station, or about 70 miles!
After a trip into Manchester with the emergency gas can, we were off again but not for long. Oatus blew its head gasket and we found ourselves with no choice but to tie up at the side of the road about 7 miles south of Elk.
Oatus is missing two head bolts up by the radiator and we are now experiencing the results of such a situation. Chris liberally coated the area with epoxy and we sat back to wait it out.
Another storm blew in after dark and our firewood began running low so I drove off into the storm towards Elk to see what I could find. Upon returning, the winds got the upper hand and began tearing the tar paper off our unfinished roof. Christ went topside with a hammer and a mouthful of nails while I fought with the leaks below decks while trying to create something for dinner.
What a battle! I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Nov. 4, Thurs.
A fair morning – full of sun! Across the road is fenced pasture with a proper enough allotment of sheep to render the scene idyllic. The pasture slopes downward and away to the West for a thousand yards towards the cliffs that fall to the beach. Out to sea, angry black thunderheads are kept at bay by a strong offshore breeze. Aboard Oatus at 07:30, it's a wonderful vision to wake up to, framed by my bunk porthole.
Well, we spent an exceedingly wild and rainy night in a good deal of comfort. Even in Oatus's primitive stage of construction, things seemed reasonably dry and secured (after a few details were attended to).
Chris gave the blown head gasket another coat of epoxy and drove epoxied wooden plugs into the vacant bolt holes; then we changed the starboard front tire that mysteriously developed emphysema during the night.
Then we sat around biting our mental fingernails while waiting for the epoxy to set up.
At 14:00 Oatus sputtered successfully back to life and were were dubiously underway once again.
Oatus is a good old craft but his engineering is definitely secondhand so we decided to head for Fort Bragg for a few days while we hunt engines.
~ But ~ oh boy ~ Felix the black cat put some changes on us when we stopped at Albion to refuel! Prior to pulling out, he disappeared and no amount of calling or whistling could produce him. Finally, the manager of the little store (whose tiny parking lot was filled to capacity by the combined bulk of Oatus and Family Dog) became urgently insistent that we leave.
A last circling of the area yielded no response and, as we moved out, our moods were perfectly matched with the cold, dark weather that seemed to appear rather suddenly.
Towards dusk we rolled wetly into the outskirts of Fort Bragg and pulled over to allow accumulated tailgaters to pass. Such a crowd had gathered that it was apparent we would have quite a wait. Finally, as we prepared to pull out, an elderly woman said from the side of the road, “Aww, I wanted to look at it.”
Unmistakably friendly vibes! A precious asset! We turned the truck around and pulled into the parking lot. Minutes later we were the guests of Everett and Berta Salmi, alias “Paw” and “Granny Hip.”
Berta runs an antique and bottle shop here and Everett and his long-time partner Unkie operate Ft. Bragg's A-1 Septic Tank Service. In the spring, everyone operates the Red Shanty chicken dinner restaurant; in the summer things must really be far out with all three gigs going at once and Granny Hip reading palms and horoscopes at the same time.
After coffee and apple cake and a tour of the truck Granny and Paw determined that we should park Oatus out back and get a good night's sleep and meanwhile try to run down a working engine. Nothing was located today but a fellow named Brian called and told us of a possibility he would be willing to check up on and invited us to park the truck at a place off in the forests, inland a bit. He gave us directions to find the place and we made plans to drop by tomorrow morning.
The day was perfectly complete when I went out to the truck and found Felix comfortably crashed out on Chris's bunk!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Log of the Oatus:

Prologue and Part 1

Our life has become rather dull and repetitive lately; consequently, I'm having a hard time coming up with a column that's about anything but our rather dull and repetitive life. Rick and I thought it might be time to run the log of the H.M.V. Oatus.
Long ago, when we were young and immortal, Rick and his friend Chris Howie were living in Marin County, California. This was about, no, it was exactly, 1970. Chris had grown up in Mill Valley, so he'd been there all his life, and Rick's folks had settled in Larkspur after Rick's dad retired from the Army in the early 60s. Rick and Chris got to know each other through music.
Both Rick and Chris had served in the military – Rick in the Navy, Chris in the Army – and both had been to Vietnam. Rick says now that they got out of the military, and “grubbed out,” growing their hair and trying to erase all traces of the military, and after about a year and a half, decided to leave Marin and head for Canada.
Chris bought a 1946 Dodge flatbed truck for $225. He and Rick then built a camper on the flatbed, out of plywood and salvaged materials, a classic hippie construction of the time.
They built in bunks, and a fold-down table, and a door between the truck cab and the camper that slid open and closed by operating a ship's wheel. Salvaged windows and odd pieces of glass let in the light.
The galley was a tiled shelf at the rear of the camper. A tiny wood stove sat on the shelf to provide heat and a cooking surface. Adjacent to the shelf was a set of stairs that lowered down to the ground by ropes and pulleys. When they had the house on the truck outfitted to their satisfaction, they packed up their gear, Rick's collie, Nigel, and his cat, Felix, and they headed north, intending to emigrate to Canada. Their friends and family saw them off with good wishes and, we realize now, many doubts.
Rick kept journals in his youth, and he kept one on their trip north. Over the years he has done some illustrations that go with the story. That log, and some of those illustrations, are what we wish to share with you here. Part one:
The War of Transition
(I asked Rick why he called it this, and he told me it is the story of their transition from childhood to adulthood and from California to the Northwest, and “there was a war on”)
~ An account of the last voyage of the H.M.V. (Hippie Motor Vehicle) OATUS, from Marin County, California, to King County, Washington, November ~ December, 1970.
Nov. 2, Tues.
Voting day, but Oatus and crew are underway for Seattle, steaming in company with my vintage 1960 Volkswagen, christened “The Family Dog.”*
We got off late but managed to reach Point Reyes Station by 14:00 hours where we refueled and learned of impending tire disaster! We altered our course towards Petaluma for repairs.
We lost one hour and $27.00 before getting underway again. The clouds are low and thick and very wet. Thus we crawled along soaking until we joined up with Highway 1. The Coast Range mountains above Fort Ross gave us a berth for the night, although it was a wet and windy one.
*The Family Dog was a VW Beetle that Rick's parents bought from the factory in Germany. It was called the Family Dog because when they brought it back to California it was issued the California license plate DOG 168.
Next time: Oatus blows a head gasket