Health Update

I’ve been on my own since Tuesday morning. That’s when Mom headed back home, which was tough for us both. I saw my primary care physician the day before and he said it was time for me to start gaining back normal life. But let me tell you, it is not coming easy. I’m struggling physically and spiritually. But the support of all my family and friends has just made all the difference. I’ve been taken such good care of through prayer support, housework, meals, and more! There have been plenty of tears produced in the last few weeks for bad reasons but the ones that come when I think about how blessed I am are happy ones.

I returned to work on Wednesday but I’m only cleared for partial days. I made it about three hours that day and then four on Thursday and Friday. The problem is my head really starts to swim with any stimulation or activity. I have to go back home and lay down. I’m basically resigning myself to live with this “new normal” for the long term. My stepdad, a retired RN, rightly thinks I’m still recovering from the meningitis. Offers the hope that one day I’ll just wake up and, in going about my day, realize I haven’t been light headed any more. That day can’t come soon enough, even as well as I’ve been doing. I just can’t seem to shake that woozy medicine head feel.

I have been getting a little better every day. I can see improvements, however small. Going to go to church tomorrow and enjoy the Christmas musical, though I’ll not be taking on my usual duties in the sound booth. I’m not all that sure I can commit to full work days come Monday either. If not, I’ll have to contact my doctor again for a work excuse but he is already prepared for it. I’m the one who actually talked him into just putting partial days through yesterday. That was dumb. I have my final follow up with him on the 19th.

I’ve had a trip to Dallas next Saturday planned for a while now but as of today, I don’t know if I’m up to making it. I booked an AM flight to Dallas, going to see my first home Dallas Stars game at 1 pm, then taking the last flight back to Little Rock. Worked out a little more than driving and staying overnight, but it’s much more convenient. I can’t get a refund on the flight if I don’t feel up to it but I can change it. Can always go to a game next spring. I just don’t think I’ll know until it’s time, so we’ll just have to see.

I’m dealing with so much right now in just recovering, but also another issue of adversity that I’ll not go into here. It all threatens to overwhelm me. My heart rate really hasn’t settled down with this distraction. And I know the answer is to take each day at a time. God is my source of strength, peace, and wisdom. I pray for those three things every day. Multiple times a day. It’s just hard when it doesn’t feel like there’s any resolutions. But James 1 stays at the center of my mind, that trials are given to produce endurance of faith. And Psalm 73, that God is my portion when my flesh and heart fail. And so I trust, I wait, I take it a day at a time, and I set my eyes on the Father. It’s all I can do.

Health Update

Pneumonia, Meningitis, and Spinal Fluid Leak

I’m laying in bed as I write this, my head only slightly propped up, my laptop angled on my legs. I’ve pretty much been in a completely flat position since last Wednesday, so this is a little progress.

That little illness I posted about on 11/21? I thought I was getting better that day. Then Tuesday I took a nose dive. Wednesday morning, I decided to go back to the doctor because I woke up and threw up. Fortunately, he was able to see me early. They ran some blood work and I had a chest x-ray. He decided I needed to go to the ER. So I called up a close friend. Larry and Wanda came and got me and took me to St. Vincent’s. The longer I was sitting up, I remember the worse it felt. I was uncontrollably shaking. I got back and the medical staff ran the full gamut of tests. More extensive blood tests, blood cultures, flu swab, strep swab, pneumonia tests, another chest x-ray, and a head and chest CT scan. When they sat me up to take me, tears would just fill my eyes. Wanda stayed with me until my mom got there. I remember my pastor, Allan, coming at some point too. Preliminary tests weren’t causing anything to leap out as to my illness. I was miserable and confused. An internal medicine doctor was called in and she wanted a spinal tap to test for meningitis and they decided to keep me overnight for fluids and observation. So now for the first time in my life, I’ve been hospitalized.

Within the next couple days, I was officially diagnosed with a spot of pneumonia in my lower right lung lobe and viral meningitis. My own opinion, what had me sick since 11/15 was the pneumonia and that had just about cleared up, but then the meningitis took hold. The spinal tap was uncomfortable but not awful. But unfortunately a serious complication arose. It caused a leak of my spinal fluid, so when I was allowed to sit upright again (you have to lay flat for 4 hours after a spinal procedure) I was racked by the most excruciating pain in my head that is imaginable. Thursday morning–Thanksgiving–I threw up twice in my bed. That’s a very humbling experience. A neurologist was brought in and he determined I had the leak and ordered a blood patch. This is where a radiologist draws some of my own blood, goes into the epidural space around the spinal cord, and injects the blood back in. This essentially promotes a scab to seal the hole and is supposed to bring immediate relief.

Once again, after I was allowed to sit up after the blood patch, I was rocked with unbearable pain. My nurse pretty much had to sedate me with alternating injections of morphine and demerol, which really only dulled the pain. Friday night was easily the worst night of my life and I tear up just thinking about how much pain I was in. Saturday, the neurologist ordered another blood patch, but I didn’t end up getting in due to the lower weekend staff. Late Sunday afternoon, I was taken down. The radiologist took a pressure reading of my spinal fluid. He explained it like this: the fluid helps keep the brain buoyant in the skull and should have a pressure of 10 mmHg. Mine was <5. Because of this, my brain essentially comes to a rest on the base of my skull which results in the pain. He said it was “very unusual” to repeat the patch. He pumped in 15 cc of my blood into the space. It hurts like you wouldn’t believe to have that happen but honestly, it’s nothing compared to the headache itself. Fortunately it doesn’t last long, 10-15 min for the whole procedure.

After 4 hours, I incline just about 10 degrees but it’s as far as I can go. The next morning–Monday now–I work my way up to about 45 degrees. The neurologist came to see me. I described how the pain was gone but there was still a tremendously loud whooshing sound in my ears. It was completely disorienting. Plus the longer I was sitting up, the heavier my head would feel. He reiterated that it was unusual to not have gotten full immediate relief from now two patches and would consider a third but the leak would eventually heal itself. I asked him what it would take to go home. He said if I could get up and walk, I could finish recovery at home.

I waited for my stepdad (a retired RN) to arrive and around 1 pm, I got up. He said I walked about 100 ft. I’ve seen plenty of patients at that “first steps” moment after an illness, including family members, but I really had no idea what the experience was actually like. The best way I can describe is that I felt like I forgot how to use my legs. By 3pm, I was discharged, still extremely woozy from the low spinal fluid pressure, but determined to go home.

I haven’t been able to sit up for more than a few minutes at a time still, but here and there, I can make it to my kitchen table, eat, and then go back to bed. I tried to lounge back in my chair and watch a hockey game on TV last night, but that didn’t work out at all. At this point, it just a matter of time for the leak to finish sealing off and the fluid pressure to return. I’m told once the hole is sealed, the pressure should rise pretty quickly because the  fluid is generated rapidly, promoted by plenty of fluid intake and, of all things, caffeine (which they had been feeding me a steady diet of in pill form every 4 hours).

So this is where I get emotional and somehow thank all the people who have extended their prayer and practical support for me. First and foremost, my parents for coming and sitting with me every day. My mom has essentially moved in with me for as long as it takes. My goal is once I can stand to take a shower by myself (which I haven’t had a proper once since being admitted…ugh), I think I can be back on my own. My brothers, sister, and family for their encouragement and prayers. Larry and Wanda who got me to the ER, brought food, and regularly checked on me. They are family to me. My pastors who I count as close friends. The coworkers I also count as friends who sent texts of encouragement. And my social friends who did the same. I wasn’t always able to respond being in so much pain or sedated. Sometimes my parents replied with updates for me. I know a lot of people were worried and praying.

My church family is also amazing. The prayers and, now that I’m home, the meal support are so greatly appreciated more than words can express. This is truly a “when you do these for one of your brothers, you do them for Me (Jesus)” moment. My neighbor brought over food Monday night! How blessed I am to have this home and such a wonderful lady beside me.

Certainly not least, many of my medical staff were exactly the compassionate caretakers I needed. Foremost is Nico, my day nurse over the weekend. I remember her telling me during those two painful days how much it hurt her to see me hurt. That so many patients abuse pain meds when they don’t really need them but she could tell I was in great need of relief. A couple of night nurses, Shari and Cassie, were awesome too. The tech, David, who did my CT was actually a graduate of my x-ray tech program! Great guy. The neurologist–sadly I can’t remember his name–and the radiologist–Dr. Schultz–who persisted in figuring out how to repair the hole. My personal doctor, Dr. Ford, who sent me to the ER and personally called one day to see how I was doing.

Never in my life have I gone through something like this. From start to today, it’s been 15 days since I felt normal and I don’t know how much longer it will take. When I think about the worst days of pain and despair, I start to tear up again. Or every afternoon when it set in that I would not be going home again and having to spend another dreadful night in the hospital room. So I don’t dwell on it. I know I have a lot of people rooting for me. I know God is for me, and even though I had extreme doubt and question of why in those moments I wasn’t finding relief despite my own desperate supplications and the hundreds of prayers on my behalf, I focused on His blessings, many of whom I just listed. The healing is coming. He gives and He takes away. But my heart will choose to say, “Lord, blessed be Your name.”

Pneumonia, Meningitis, and Spinal Fluid Leak

Sick and Tired

I’m sitting here eating a wonderfully warm and delicious bowl of chicken and dumplings that I was able to make yesterday. I prayed God would use this blessing He gave me to restore more energy. That’s because I got hit with the single-handed most severe illness I have ever gotten in my life. I’m not even talking hyperbolically. I can never recall a time in my life I was hit this hard.

It started last Tuesday with light headedness and congestion, which I attributed at first to my allergies because I had missed my shot the week prior. But by lunch I was done for and headed home. Wednesday and Thursday saw my condition just get worse. Full body aches, racked with coughing fits, and in and out fever. I’m pretty stubborn about doctors but I went on Thursday, partially because missing three days requires a physician note at work but also because I was continuing to get worse. They did a flu test, which I just knew if I had I’d get all sorts of heck about because I don’t typically get the flu shot. But flu test was negative and he simply told me it was viral and it had to run its course, which would take 7-10 days.

I was able to eat alright but standing for much longer than it takes to pee and that was it for me. That was pretty much my Friday and Saturday. I marathoned the Hunger Games along with all the hours and hours of extras on the discs. My new Macbook Pro came. So that was fun to set up. Sunday, I was able to be upright long enough to cook the aforementioned lunch and even do some house chores. (Wow was my house nasty.)

I want to thank my mom and stepdad for their constantly checking in on me. Means a lot! She kept asking if they should come but I declined them not wanting them to get sick off me. Coworkers who checked in and brought me textbooks so I could maintain my classes. Alex and Joel who brought me food and sick supplies. And of course the other folks who, through not hearing from me for so long, suspected something was up and checked in. I appreciate that more than you know! I have to laugh a little because everyone that brought something I asked to just leave it at the door. I didn’t want to expose them. So I never actually saw anyone. But I couldn’t have done it without y’all.

Still not 100% but Sunday marked the first day I started to feel better, weak as my body is now. Nice thing it is fall break this week so I don’t even have to fuss about work. Hopefully, I’m back to it by Thanksgiving.

Sick and Tired

New Adventures

I got out of town for a couple days. Got to visit some friends in Tyler, TX. I’d actually been plotting for several months to surprise him by setting up the visit with his wife. He was in a motorcycle accident several months ago and had his day in court. I thought he could use a little moral support. And actually he did really well, if the outcome wasn’t the best case scenario. I will say it is very interesting to watch people in a small municipal court. Let’s just say my bud was the most well dressed, mannered, and spoken person there.

But prior to that, together we went 4wheeling at this amazing place that has some 2000 acres just for that purpose. $20 and you can ride and mud and chill until your heart’s content. I’ve ridden an ATV a time or two, but certainly never like anything I did Thursday. And I can unequivocally say I have never been as dirty as I was at the end of the day (thanks largely to my friend dragging both me and his wife into a mud pit). It was great fun and a heck of an experience, one that I think we can all agree was not very typical for me! And that just may be why it was such a blast!




New Adventures

Old Home Made New

In March, when it became clear that the Lord intended for me to stay in Little Rock–and believe me it was not from a lack of trying to find something else–I finally decided I needed to do some much needed renovations to my home.

First up came a project I really have needed to get done since converting to a gas stove, and this is an externally venting hood for my range. Any time I cook meat, it just fills the whole house with haze and smells like it for days. I had no idea who to call so I used USAA’s contractor services and got a company. Price seemed reasonable compared to a friend that had it done a few years back, so I went with it. Pleased with the end result and happy to say there’s no more lingering smoke or smell issues.

IMG_0352Fun story about this project. The original quote was really expensive so I sat down with the estimator and looked for ways to cut back. I told him I would buy my own hood and that I didn’t need an electrician–to the tune of $250 line item–to connect two wires. As I researched hoods, Home Depot had a sale on a nice one with lots of blowing power. If I was going to spend this much on the project, I wanted to make sure I got a good enough fan to do the job. They didn’t have one in store and to order it would cost $69 to have it shipped to the store. It’s some flat fee on all appliances. I said no thanks and went to Best Buy since they price match and don’t charge delivery. They ended up having one open box in store, so I got a $300 hood for about $130. Score!

Project number two took my attention outside. My house was built in the mid-1980’s. The siding was constructed of masonite, which is some compressed cardboard looking material. The deck, fence, and flower bed edging probably were done at the same time. Frankly, all of it was falling apart. I looked iIMG_0369nto new siding possibilities and all signs pointed to vinyl siding. Started asking folks for ideas of companies, got some quotes, and away we went. I ended up using a guy my pastor recommended. I was pretty nervous about him at first because his bid came in way under the others. But as I continued to talk to him, I learned he is a man of faith and that ought to count for something. For color, I inquired to plenty of friends and most picked the same one I was thinking without knowing which first. That was nice for my OCD indecisiveness. I didn’t think about it initially, but I also ended up with a new/better/lighter garage door which is really nice.

The guys came in early May and it took about a week. Enjoyed chatting with Bobby and Jason, and I simply cannot express how much I appreciate the great work they did. The transformation is incredible. I’m so proud of my house now. Just look at these before and after photos. No words.

IMG_0563

IMG_0566img_0569

I also repainted my front door and shutters. This was all during the NHL playoffs and being a ravenous Dallas Stars fan, I found inspiration and chose “victory green”. Boy, did this color provide a nice pop! I also painted the concrete and electrical boxes around the exterior to match the siding.IMG_0400
Next came project three, which was unexpected. As this work was going on, one of the workers spotted a problem on the front of my roof. A really soft spot where a IMG_0418nail was sticking out. They sealed the hole but when I got up in the attic to say the lay of the land in that area, things turned real bad. This spot had been that way for a long while. Rotten, molded wood covered the whole area.IMG_0378

Fortunately, it had not gotten through to the ceiling. It was more of a seeping leak. Well, I hadn’t taken enough loan out to pay for a roof too, so I called up USAA and made a claim. After a week of stressing–shame on me, by the way–I got the confirmation that it was all deemed storm damage and they sent me a check. I used a family member of my siding guy. And really in the end, this just worked out great because I got a roof that matched my new siding tremendously.

IMG_0564

Got a little lucky in this experience too. I was quoted $3900 but after my deductible, I got $3500. So I asked how to reduce cost to this amount. He said I could go with a 20-year rated shingle instead of 30-year. After asking a few folks, I agreed to that. The day the shingles arrived–which by the way they use a very cool conveyer to lift the packs to the roof–I noticed the packaging said 30. I called my contractor. Didn’t ever know what happened but he told me I get a 30-year roof! Nice! I also had them install a couple of turbines, which is really nice for attic heat.

Moving into June, I came at last to the final project: rebuilding my deck. It was literally crumbling in places. Nails wouldn’t stay in. Beyond power washing. Part of the deck had a 10×10 covered area, but it was built very poorly. Flat roof with shingles. I tore it down and it came apart like paper. For this project, I enlisted the help of our amazing handyman team at my church, the Good Old Boys (or GOBs). They drew up the plans and lumber need. But I was asked to do the tear out myself. Yeah, I’m not all about the physical labor and after trying a couple boards I was kinda despairing how I’d do it. IMG_0503I asked the guys doing the roof if they’d like to earn some extra cash and what they’d charge to rip out and haul off. For a mere $350 the old deck was out. It took weeks for them to haul off the lumber and there was a point I thought they were going to stick me with it. One of the guys asked if he could have it to build some accessibility ramps for his disabled wife. I was happy to donate.

Early on a Saturday, five guys came over and set to work. Now me… hammers run from me in fear. So I was a go-for and duties as assigned guy. The frame was still in good shape. Deck boards got down that day. The old deck extended as a walkway around the side of my house to the front driveway. I opted not to rebuild this part, so I took a day off, bought some sod, and laid it out. While I was at, I got some extra for a large bare area in my front yard. I realized I’d need to add sprinkler heads to the side area, so that was another little expense. But to date, all the grass is thriving!

IMG_0565

The next Friday we–well they–got the rail and steps of the deck done. Let me tell you what champions these guys are. Not a one under 60 and hilarious to boot. I’m so pleased with the results.

IMG_0125

IMG_0540

Unfortunately, I’m pretty tapped out at this point. I really want to rebuild the covered section–correctly this time–and screen it in. Would like to avoid Zika virus, don’t you know. And it’d be nice to let Naomi out without having to keep an eye on her. I asked one company what it would take, because this part was a little much for the GOBs to handle. They came back with an audacious $3500 quote. Yeah, no way. Absurd. So this little rebuild will have to wait. But we’ll see.

I feel like I have a brand new house. Before, it felt like one of the oldest looking ones in the neighborhood, but now I see it and smile. I’ve got a good home. I am blessed. I hope to use it, enjoy it, and maintain it in a God-honoring way.

Old Home Made New

The Making of a Smart Home

Warning: this is a geeky post. No secret I am a tech and gadget enthusiast. In recent years, a new category of tech has been emerging, dubbed the “internet of things”. Think smart devices in the home that can keep you connected.

Started out, these things were pretty few and far between, and what was there could not talk to each other in order to make a truly compatible “smart home”. Apple has taken some steps to integrate various devices in their HomeKit. Imagine just being able to tell your iPhone or Apple Watch something like “Hey Siri, goodnight” which results in your doors locking, garage door closing, lights turning off, and air turning down.IMG_0218

I have a few examples in my home. My first device was a Nest thermostat. It boats abilities such as sensing when you are away and home, which you can set different air temps for, but also making an automatic schedule based on your activity. And of course, you can control it from anywhere. Using Nest has greatly increased my energy efficiency. I used levelized billing and found a $10 decrease in the months after installing. That’s pretty significant.

IMG_0216My next purchase was a video doorbell called Ring. It’s wired in just like a regular doorbell. But now I can see and hear activity outside the front of my house. It will activate on motion based on zones I set up, and also I can answer the door from anywhere with video and audio. So I can see when my frequent Amazon packages are delivered and ward off those pesky solicitors. I even answered the door while I was in California last fall!

IMG_0219

Now I’ve connected up some smart light bulbs called Hue lights. They are led bulbs, lightstrips, and lamps all connected by a hub on your wifi network. Using an app on your phone, you can set all sorts of colorful scenes. I got a starter kit and one light strip just for fun. Installed the bulbs in my living room ceiling fan and the lightstrip behind my TV. IMG_0161Then one more bulb for my bedroom lamp. The goal was to be able to turn lights on if I wouldn’t be home until after dark. But beyond that, I’ve made some pretty fun scenes like sunrise and sunset for a gentle way to start and end the day, superhero for when I’m watching one of my favorite comic book shows, and Dallas Stars victory green for when I’m watching the game. I even have the lights blink when we score a goal! (Albeit it didn’t turn out near as fun because there is a good 3-4 minute delay.)

IMG_0209With the Hue lights, I can speak to my watch or phone and say “Living Room On” or “Set Sunset” and bam. Or “Set goodnight” to turn off the living room and turn on my lamp. Completely unnecessary but definitely fun. (One morning I tried to use the app to turn on my bedroom, before realizing only the lamp was a Hue bulb. So I had to get out of bed to turn on the lights with the wall switch like an animal.)

There’s an app called IFTTT–which stands for If This Then That–that tries to integrate these products that can’t, for now, talk to each other themselves. So for instance, I can make a recipe that says “If the Dallas Stars score a goal [monitored by my ESPN account], then blink my Hue lights”.  Or “If motion is detected on my Ring Doorbell, then turn my light blue.” Or even “If there is a tornado warning, flash my lights red (Star Trek style)”.

Many other things exist, like smart outlets that can be turned on and off remotely. WeMo is the most popular and reputable brand in that category. There’s smart door locks that can detect when you are nearby and unlock, but I’m not quite there yet on trusting something like that. Maybe a couple more generations. I’d really like a smart garage door opener that can detect when I’m close and open, then automatically check that it’s closed at a certain time. But I’m waiting for Apple HomeKit compatibility; there’s none yet.

All that to say, ever the climb when one’s hobby is tech, I’m looking to make a couple upgrades. I’d like to change to a different company for my thermostat. Not because there is anything wrong with Nest, but in order to integrate more tightly through Apple’s ecosystem. Nests are $250 new. I’ll part with mine for $125. Yes I’m now hocking my wares on my blog. I can help you install. And I promise it will end up paying for itself. Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with my unit.

Likewise, I know a lot of people are interested in my video doorbell. Sound like something you’d like to try out? Well, I’ve been in contact with the company and am going to be helping them test in-development units, so I now have mine to sell. They are $200 new; I’ll sell mine for $100. And again, help you install. (The recording subscription is $30/year.) Can’t tell you the peace of mind this adds to my home’s security.

What a revolutionary time to live! It’s the early days for this to be sure, and many products aren’t without their early adoption risks. But that’s part of the fun to me, really! Helping to mature products like Nest and Ring. If you’d be interested in adding the Nest and/or Ring to your home, hit me up with any questions.

The Making of a Smart Home

Doing Something Great in God’s Name

I don’t get on Facebook often, I really just maintain my own account in order to manage my church’s page. But when I popped on today, a post caught my eye at the top. My friend Micah Farish did an amazing thing for his wife. And God gets the glory for it! I’m not going to say more than that, but he told me today that there’s a link on the popular internet news site Daily Mail, and he’s been contacted by Insider Edition and Good Morning America!

Doing Something Great in God’s Name