Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Oliver Twist"

I finished listening to Oliver Twist this past weekend. How I love Charles Dickens! I was always too intimidated to give long classics a chance, until a few years ago. I'm so glad I changed my mind because I've discovered some real gems. I was familiar with the story of Oliver Twist since I've seen movie versions of it before, but it's always nice to read the real thing. I also read Spark Notes' synopsis of each chapter and analysis of each section which is always illuminating. I'm pretty dense and there's a lot I don't pick up on until it's pointed out to me.

I liked Oliver Twist very much, although I didn't enjoy it as much as Great Expectations. In Dickens' stories there are always characters that are really good and pure (like Oliver and Rose), some that are downright vile (like Sikes and Fagin) and others and that fall somewhere in between. It was a great story with a happy ending. I suppose it's unrealistic to have everyone get what they deserve, but it's kind of nice. There's enough sadness and unfairness in the world. I kind of like unrealistically happy endings. :)

I've seen several different adaptations of Oliver Twist, but the one below is my favorite. It was made in 2007 and it's really well done. It's about three hours long, so it's a little more detailed and true to the book than some of the other ones I've seen. I think the different actors that portray the characters do a really good job, too. I'm excited to watch this again now that I've finished listening to the book.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Making the Best of It

I recently had surgery to remove more kidney stones. Kidneys stones: the bane of my existence since becoming paralyzed! However, if that's the worst problem I face, then I will consider myself very lucky since other paralyzed people fare far worse. I had more of the tiny, sand-like stones that are extremely hard to remove, just for the sheer quantity of them as well as their minute size. I actually had to have surgery twice; once in August which was a flop, and then a second time a few weeks later which was thankfully a success.

On Thursday I went to my urologist to get the stents removed from my kidneys (those are the thin, flexible tubes that go from the kidneys, through the ureters, into the bladder and help everything drain post-surgery). I always kind of dread having stents removed. The biggest reasons being because I don't like appointments where I have to get out of my wheelchair (especially onto a narrow table in a tiny exam room at the doctor's office) and because getting a scope inserted into your urethra is never a fun time. Although, what's even more sad is that I've had this done so many times that I'm actually used to it. What has happened to my once normal life if this is no big deal!

I always try to make the best of every situation, so here are a few positives. I absolutely adore my doctor. She feels more like a friend than a doctor. She is young, loves her family has a gentle bedside manner and is really pretty, too! When I had my surgery a few weeks ago, my doc was telling my mom how she and her husband were about to go on a 10-day trip to France. When I saw her on Thursday she had a little gift that she picked up for me in France. I thought it was SO sweet and thoughtful for her to bring me something. Seeing my doctor truly makes a not-fun experience much more bearable and enjoyable. The people that work in the office are always so kind and helpful, too, which I really appreciate.

My doctor said that she wanted me to have injections of gentamicin (an antibiotic) for three days following the stent removal, just as a precaution since getting stents removed can stir up infection from the lingering stones. Giving shots is yet another thing my mom can add to her repertoire of skills she's acquired that she never wanted to have. ;)

A few other things that helped make Thursday a bit more enjoyable were: #1) Listening to Chicago on the drive to and from the doctor. Love Chicago... their songs take me back to childhood! #2) A good book. My mom and I got a fair amount of reading done while we waited at the pharmacy. Otherwise we would've been completely bored. #3) I was in good company. My mom and I were gone for hours when you account for the 90-minute round-trip drive, the two hours spent at the doctor's office and then the hour-long wait at the hospital s pharmacy. (I guess vials of gentamicin for home use are even hard to come by at the hospital's pharmacy.) It was a long day, but at least I was with my BFF!

Just another day in my life!

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Birthday Afghan

Back in this post I wrote about my sister Chandra learning how to crochet. She has a real talent for crocheting and has made some beautiful things in the past year. I've been so impressed with her ability to read and follow patterns. Crocheting is one thing, but being able to read and follow patterns is another.

I decided to ask Chan to crochet me an afghan for my 30th birthday (which was back in June). She said she would, so one afternoon at the end of May we went to Hobby Lobby to look at yarn. I spent over an hour in the yarn aisle trying to decide what color of yarn I wanted for my blanket. The blanket is made of three different styles of squares, so I considered having a multi-colored blanket (a different color for each type of square) but I couldn't decide on three colors that I liked together. In the end I decided to just go with one color for the entire blanket. But settling on which color was easier said than done.

My favorite color is seafoam green, but I worried that a light color might show dirt easily, so after agonizing over my color choice I decided to go with hot turquoise (that's the actual name of the color). It was a surprising choice since my favorite color has always been green (with purple being a close second) but there was just something about the beautiful shade of turquoise that just spoke to me, so hot turquoise it was. I knew I wanted to use the Soft Secret brand of yarn since it is THE softest yarn I've ever felt. I also love that that brand has a sheen to the yarn. Believe it or not, I'm actually not a big fan of yarn since it's awfully of rough, and I absolutely hate all of the little fibers that stick out of the strand, but Soft Secret is one brand of yarn I can handle.

It took quite a while to crochet and block 81 individual squares, so my birthday present was a long time in coming. (Blocking is where you stretch the squares by pinning them down flat, spraying them with a spray bottle and letting them dry so that they are a more uniform shape.) After all of that was done, Chandra had to weave in the tail of each square and then stitch nine of  the squares together to make nine long rows. Then the nine rows were stitched together, and a border was crocheted around the entire thing. The final step was blocking the entire blanket to make sure it was nice and square. I have no idea how many hours Chandra spent working on this afghan, but it was definitely a labor of love and I appreciate the dozens of hours she spent working on it. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry. She enjoyed making it, though, and is looking forward to starting a new project.

Here are some pictures of the finished afghan. Chandra took it all over the house and photographed it in different lights trying to capture it's true color. The pictures don't do it justice, though, as Chan was never was able to quite capture the afghan's true color, but you get the general idea.
Now that I've seen the finished product I know I made the right color choice, and I'm so glad I decided to just go with one color instead of three.

Monday, September 15, 2014

New Bed

About a year and a half ago Larry, the man that services my bed and wheelchair, informed my mom and me that the manufacturer of my special air bed was no longer making new replacement parts for the model of air mattress that I use. At that point I knew my bed’s days were numbered, but I had a few spare parts in reserve, so I was able to squeeze an extra year and a half of life out of my bed. I knew that it was truly the end of the road for my bed at the end of July when it was clear that there was another leak in one of the mattress' components. I knew it was time to start looking for a new one.

Unfortunately, what insurances will and won’t cover has really changed for the worse in the past decade since I got my bed after my accident. Long story short, the only mattress my insurance (all three of them) will cover is either a $300 foam mattress or a $300 gel overlay (to go on a regular mattress). Neither option is sufficient for someone who can’t move and can’t shift their weight around. My doctor wrote the mandatory letter of medical necessity explaining why it’s so crucial for someone completely paralyzed to have a special mattress... NOT that it did any good. The insurance company said that I didn’t qualify for anything more than the $300 foam mattress or gel overlay. 

The only way someone qualifies for the kind of mattress like I had previously is if they already have multiple bedsores. Why not try to PREVENT pressure sores in the first place?! It’s healthier for the patient and much more cost-effective for the insurance company in the long run. But that’s unfortunately not the way the health care system works these days. (And just for the record, if you did have bedsores and did qualify for a special air mattress, the insurance company will only pay for it while you have bedsores. Once they have healed up they will come take the air mattress away and you’ll be stuck with the $300 foam mattress. Don’t worry… chances are your bedsores will be back in no time. :/ It's really ludicrous, but that's sadly the way things are.)

So, since the insurance was really no help, we decided to find an air mattress and pay out of pocket. My mom started researching air mattresses on the Internet. It’s really hard to know exactly what different mattresses are actually going to feel like, since it’s not like I can go to a furniture store and test them out. Buying blindly just based off of a short description and small picture really doesn't set your mind at ease! However, my mom found a local vendor here in the St. Louis area that sold the mattress we found online that we thought would work well for my situation. My mom talked to them on the phone and she found out that this company would also deliver the mattress, set it up and service it in the future if/when we should have any problems with it. This company also sold the mattress we liked for almost a third of the price that another local vendor quoted us, which was great. AND it’s also under warranty for five years. My mom and I both felt good about all of this so we decided to order it.

Thankfully my old mattress hung in there until my new one arrived. I couldn't utilize all the bells and whistles that I once could, but it still inflated enough to keep me comfortable. A nice man came and set up my new mattress last Thursday and explained some of the features to my mom and me. The new mattress definitely feels different than the previous one, so it’s taken some getting used to. There are some things I like better about this new mattress and some things I like better about the old one, but I think it will suit my needs just fine. I'd feared that I would be stuck with a mattress I hated, so I'm relieved that that's not the case.

Here's a picture of what the new air mattress (SelectAir Max made by MOXI) looks like. It fit perfectly on the bed frame that I used with my other air mattress.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

People Helping People

Arnold Harvey has been working for Waste Management as a waste collection driver for the past 25 years. He drives a night route and services different areas of Washington, D.C. In 2007, Arnold started noticing a growing number of people––particularly families––sleeping on the streets. Arnold organized a collection among his waste management coworkers to gather food and clothing for the homeless. As customers on his route began to hear about his efforts, they began donating items to the cause, too. Arnold began arming himself with "love bags" filled with homemade sandwiches, food, toiletries and blankets to give to the homeless. 
Arnold, along with his wife Theresa, decided to start a small, nonprofit organization called God's Connection Transition (GCT). The Harveys partner with several grocery stores and local shops and they've convinced them to donate their surplus supplies to their organization. During the week Arnold and his wife distribute items to local churches, homeless shelters and community centers. They also rent a warehouse that they've turned into a small grocery store where people who need assistance can come and "shop" and get groceries free of charge. Through these efforts, the Harveys provide donated food and supplies to roughly 5000 families each month. 
Imagine what the world would be like if people acted a little more like Arnold Harvey! If we all do a little, we accomplish A LOT!
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