Friday, May 18, 2018

sciatica + cortisone injection + blood thinner = NOOOOOO

It all ends well because here's the espresso and blood orange crème glacée I had yesterday afternoon after a very slow walk to the Atwater market. If it ends with ice cream, it can't be that tragic.

About two weeks ago an ongoing flirtation I have with sciatica became so severe that I was almost crippled. Couldn't stand, couldn't sit, couldn't lie down. Over-the-counter relief that I can take with my blood thinner and that doesn't give me nausea wasn't even touching the pain. It had to be bad because I finally went to ER (which I will not do unless I feel I'm close to death).

There I was assessed by a doctor who didn't listen. I told him I had mechanical heart valves. I told him I take blood thinners. I need to take them for the valves to function correctly. Without blood thinners, blood will clot around the valves. Blood thinners are a fact of my life. I didn't think I needed to scream that at him. Even busy and efficient as he was, it should have registered because I asked if he would order a certain blood test that is only done to test the level of anticoagulation, thereby saving me a trip to have it done the next day as I was supposed to. (There are some other details that played a role--I had just had a test and was still being bridged with Fragmin, another anticoagulant--but I told him that too. I did.) He was focused on solving the sciatica/pain problem and gave me a cortisone injection in my hip. I didn't see how long the needle was because I was on my side and in such pain that he could have taken a Japanese sword to me. R who was watching said the needle was 5". Even given spousal anxiety and exaggeration, it was probably long. 

He told me that it would take a few days for the cortisone to take full effect. The pain certainly didn't diminish the first two or three days. Nor did I look at the painful area. It was hard enough just to pull down my pants to use the toilet. I couldn't put my socks on. I was tossing my underpants at my foot like that ring on a peg game. I did notice bruising spreading down my thigh and then swelling but I wasn't sure if that was expected. If you're on a blood thinner, you tend to bruise more than most people do. It was only when R helped undress me in the evening that he said my affected buttock was purple. It seemed to me it was significantly ballooned too. I tried to reach a doctor but was not successful. Message on the answering machine never returned. (That's being looked into.) I did not want to return to ER.

Three days later in the morning I could no longer ignore that my knee was swollen and wow! What coloration! I called my ex-boss at the hospital who said to call my cardiologist who told me to get to ER where I was seen very quickly.

I had bled into my leg. Not just subcutaneously but into the muscle. My hemoglobin was still dropping. My blood thinners had to be stopped. I was given a snazzy medication--Beriplex--that reverses a week's worth of Warfarin in 15 minutes. That, however, left me with no blood thinners to protect my heart valves. There's a window of time that that's safe, though as the window gets smaller, the risk increases. I wasn't happy about that.

The one unexpected and pleasant development was that I was hospitalized in the spanking new K pavilion (at the Jewish General) where my old colleagues from my days as a unit coordinator now work. I saw many old friends and re-found the rich backdrop of sound that I hadn't even realized I missed.

I would sit in my room and listen to the layered mix of Carib English, laughter, Arabic, teeth sucking, doctors discussing cases, Quebecois French (or accented English), machines beeping, argumentative--but not arguing--Creole, carts wheeling by, prayer from a patient's room... 

The food improved once I spoke to the dietician about getting fresh fruit and yogurt and preferably vegetarian.

My friend who thought I'd be lonesome for my backyard where, as I kept lamenting, the squirrels were beheading my tulips sent me a bouquet of beheaded tulips. As the note said: If you have crazy friends, then you have all you need.

In with the grab bag of good and bad that life throws, I was reading the French translation of my novel Five Roses which I love! I have a hard time reading my own work once it's in print because I continue to see things I'd like to improve. Reading the novel in French gave me the distance to appreciate it differently. I am so very happy! AND I got the news that I received a grant from the Conseil des arts et lettres du Québec toward the writing of my next novel!

But there I still was in the hospital, albeit in a gilt cage--large, lovely room with en suite bathroom and shower and huge windows onto the sunset--hoping not to have a stroke. Am I being melodramatic? Maybe. But even a small percentage of risk is a risk I shouldn't have had to take.

There was some concern that starting anti-coagulation might start the bleeding again, so that was done conservatively. Small injections to start with. Yesterday I was able to come home again. The swelling had gone down but I'm going to have a bruise for months I'm told. And although I no longer have severe sciatica pain, I do still have pain and will be seeing a physiotherapist.

I don't want to write about the chat I had with the doctor who administered the cortisone. Though I will observe that his quick, cost-efficient assessment and processing of the patient cost the hospital seven days of hospitalization, specialists' visits, nursing care, CT scans--not to mention the week I had to spend there. Sure, it could have been worse but it also didn't have to happen.

I came home and walked very slowly to the community garden Pointe-Verte where everyone else's gardens have tiny plants and stakes in place and my plot is a mess of baby maple trees, but it hurts too much for me to stay bent or to do anything just yet. I sat in one of the Adirondack chairs under the trees and had a snooze.

And an ice cream.

Then followed this gent in argyle socks across the bridge back to the Pointe and home. While I was in the hospital, the leaves came out and spring finally happened.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

little awakenings

Slowly/lentement growth is unfurling in Montreal. The ash tree outside my window is bursting with fat furry buds.

A neighbour's plant snaked its way under her fence and our patio stones to find a sunny spot against R's artisanal parging.

In the garden the garlic cloves I planted last fall have sprouted. Yay!

And of course, rhubarb!

One of the reasons we decided to move to this neigbhourhood was the trees. It was August when we were looking for a place and the rest of the city was dry and hot. Even the grass and the trees on the mountain were yellowing. We came to the Pointe that was *so* green there was moss on the trees. I've since witnessed that the only time there isn't moss is during the cold-freeze of winter. So this is another sign of spring...

Monday, April 16, 2018

inner-city ice rain

A night of ice rain--thankfully not too heavy, though it looks treacherous enough from a ground floor back window. Trees slick with ice. Not yet sure about heading out for a walk this afternoon, though I didn't miss a walk one single day all winter, no matter the snow or how the wind blew.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

hanging wombs / Quebec City

I don't know what associations you have with Quebec City.

Maybe you plan to join the half million people expected to come hear Neil Young on the Plains of Abraham this summer.

Or you like old buildings and good food. You're a military buff interested in the fortifications. Or history. In 1759? The Battle of the Plains of Abraham when the English beat the French. That's why the dominant language in Canada is English, not French. It all happened in Quebec City.

My associations are more personal since R and his family were born here. Walking up and down the streets with him leads to stories.

Over there... that building used to be a Kresge's where he sat with his high school buddies at the diner counter, hoping to see the women who worked at the brothel across the street. And up the street there... was where you came to have the best smoked meat.

There is a lot of up and down since the city climbs between the port and the military fortress that overlooks the St. Lawrence River. You can wend your way up the streets slowly, take the funicular or one of the many stairways. R was aghast that the funicular now costs $3. It always used to be free.

Even at the top of a long flight of stairs, the streets continue to climb.

Another reason to come to Quebec City: cardiovascular workout.

Down that street there lived an aunt R hadn't seen since he was a boy, but hey, maybe we should knock on her door. This was a few years ago. She answered wearing a cardigan over her slip. Throughout our visit she didn't notice she wasn't wearing a skirt. I wondered that she was so absent-minded not to have realized she hadn't finished dressing that morning, but since then I've retired from my out-of-the-house job and I don't get fully dressed till I go out in the late afternoon. If someone were to knock unannounced, I might well answer the door in my long johns.

I wish I could apologize to Tante Geneviève for questioning her wits--especially since she was quick to recognize R. She exclaimed, reached out arthritic hands and pulled him into the house where we had to sidle through corridors piled high with newspapers. There was nowhere to sit.

Back to 2018... We walked downhill to a less chichi part of town where one of R's uncles used to live. This uncle had one leg shorter than the other, which seems to be the only identifying factor recorded in family memory. But, R added, that didn't stop him from having kids.

That's such a nonsensical sentence and so unlike anything he would normally say that I understand he is ventriloquizing one of his mother's tales about family.

And believe me, there were some doozies... her nineteen pregnancies; her father who appeared in Quebec City at forty years old, no one ever knew where he came from; a horse galloping down a hill so fast that he crashed into her mother's kitchen window, hooves in the pot of soup; the aunt whose "womb hung to her knees" but she wouldn't go to the doctor to have it fixed, even though she was 80 years old and wasn't likely to have more children, because it was a mortal sin.

The street where the uncle lived hugs the base of the stone cliff where the Battle of the Plains of Abraham was fought. Rocks crumble down the cliff and the river is close. It's an unlikely (unwise?) place to build a house, yet R's uncle did. Every spring his house suffered an avalanche of scree or there was the chance of a flood. He could have moved, he wasn't poor, but he was attached to his house.

It was either this uncle or the one-leg-shorter uncle who was in the hospital when R's mother was on the bus on her way to work. The bus was passing the hospital (that was on a hill of course) and she had a vision of her brother. She demanded the driver let her off. She had to get into that hospital where her brother lay dying! She ran into the room breathless, he sat up in bed and said her name--first word he'd pronounced all week--and fell back onto his pillow. Dead.

The family member I knew best was R's sister. Let's call her Anne. She had Down Syndrome which is a form of intellectual deficiency caused by an extra chromosome. It affects people differently. Anne never learned to read but she could print the alphabet. She lived by herself, did her own grocery shopping, had supervised jobs, a series of boyfriend, could count money and had a passion for numbers. For Anne $12.99 was never $13. It's just as well she didn't not live to see the discontinuation of pennies.

This was her favourite store, though she wasn't allowed to go there anymore because she'd been caught shoplifting so often--which she announced proudly, even smugly, maybe thinking of all the times she hadn't been caught.

Toward the end of their lives, R's mother, Tante Geneviève and Anne were moved to residences when it was decided they were no longer safe to live by themselves.

Anne was at the top in a corner room with two windows. Maybe the mansard roof looks a little too "mad sister in the attic"?

She did escape a few times, trying to find her favourite store--or any store where she could make a heist.

We walked, had a few good meals, visited the Inuit collection and the Giacometti exhibit at the museum which is partly housed in the old jail.

Here Robert is demonstrating how small the prisoners' cells were.

The imagiNation literary festival was on as well, and I enjoyed a lively talk on writing female VS male characters and setting fiction in Montreal between Saleema Nawaz Webster and Anna Leventhal with Julia Caron.
And yes, this little getaway was this past weekend--the first weekend in April--and there was snow. Picture taken on the Plains of Abraham where the snow is as high as the clouds.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

writing Montreal / Hasidic girls

A thoughtful look between worlds--secular and Hasidic--from the perspective of schoolgirls in Montreal.
I worked with the author, Sivan Slapak, a couple of years ago in the Quebec Writers' Federation Mentorship Program and appreciated how sensitively she bridged cultures. I remember her telling me about teaching in a Hasidic school and am really pleased to see this essay.

Read it!

Monday, April 2, 2018

in passing / en passant

Walked a lot this past long weekend. Saw sights/sites in passing...

Boy hugging Dad on motorcycle with baguette.

A brand of bleach as graffiti?

Why not. Freud would have a heyday.

I'm sorta hoping the word was random, not evidence of deep-seated trauma about having to change and wash sheets twice a day.

Bibi does get hearts to dot his/her i's.

Here's me caught in passing.

I very much like that my hairdresser never asks what we're going to do about my colour. I left a hairdresser 10 yrs ago who asked. We're not going to do anything about my colour.

This afternoon I was wowed by a dance documentary about Louise Lecavalier. 58 yrs old and she moves in ways most of us would never guess was possible. Here's the trailer--watch it for what she does with her body.
Here she talks about dancing with David Bowie in 1988.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

early spring / Montreal

I haven't been blogging much because I'm writing. There's only so long I can tolerate a computer screen. Computer screens, even the most ergonomic, are evil. I'm not worried about plasticine-headed aliens in UFOs abducting me, but I can feel the neurological tendrils of computer energy going through my eyeballs via the optic nerve into my brain and touching whatever in my grey matter gets electrified to give me migraines.

Deliberate fiction (novel writing) takes precedence over accidental fiction (blog), right? Right.

I took a day off today to go walking with R. We took the subway to a point 12 k at a diagonal from here and walked home.

Popular cafés were swamped with people milling on the sidewalk, sitting wherever they could outside, waiting in line. Very Montreal. This spot still has its winter igloo up.

We walked over the mountain which my Alpie genes oblige me to specify that I mean the Montreal mountain. It's... I'm checking here... 233 metres or 764 feet high. More than a hill but no Alp. Higher elevation meant there was still snow, though it was corn snow, granular and wet, only a couple of degrees away from being slush.

Down the mountain, across downtown, down, down, down toward the Lachine Canal and the proliferation of condo projects. Is that going to be penthouse up top? An open-air pool? The billboards promise all kinds of delights. A couple of weeks ago one said (in  French): Being able to walk to work, that's true luxury! I guess sales weren't going as expected though, because the message was changed to: Luxury is being able to choose. Laminate as opposed to granite?

Home again where we've been moving rooms around. Furniture is pushed about, walls need to be painted, patches on the floor re-varnished. Cabinets had to be taken off walls and everything inside will hopefully not be broken.

In the meantime we can have tequila in a champagne glass and listen to Manu Chao.

R assures me he has a plan for putting the cabinets back up on the wall without help.

Bye for now!