"We usually discover this at autopsy," said the doctor in the ICU.
Bunions & Blood Clots
The day after my birthday, August 11, I had my right big toe operated on for a bunion. The doctor knocked off the big bump on the side of my foot and straightened the toe by loosening a tendon and inserting two screws. "Keep the foot elevated for a couple of weeks," the doctor said, which I did. My calf sat on a foot rest, which inhibited the flow of blood in my leg, which led to a clot in my leg, part of which broke off and sat over the artery to my lung, which led to my being in the emergency room.
Before that, my recovery seemed to be going well. In mid-September, Shelby and I took our niece Claire to the Peaks of Otter in the foothills in western Virginia. I even climbed a mountain peak. I had to take a shuffling pull-my-right-foot-up-to-the-left technique because my foot was in a boot, but I did it.
The next weekend my upper chest was hurting slightly. I had had bronchitis the year before, and it seemed symptomatic of that. I went to my physician and got some antibiotics. Three days later I was no better and I was coughing up a little bit of blood. I thought maybe my sinuses were dry, and bleeding a bit, but this seemed different.
I went back to the doc's: chest X-ray, CT scan. You know something is up when the nurse who told you to wait out front is pushing a wheelchair toward you two minutes later and there's no one else around. Right across the hall we went to the emergency room where the doctor told me I had a PE, that's pulmonary embolism. Five days in the hospital, on blood thinners, then they send you home with a prescription for more blood thinners. "Don't you want to check the clot again?" "No, we know it works, see ya."
What a way to end the summer. We had to cancel our planned excursion to Maine, and I, a trip to the Mexican Yucatan to see Mayan sites, but... I'm alive!
I also had pain in my right side, which turned out to be fluid near the base of the lung, a spot that hadn't gotten blood flow. That has mostly subsided and I'm walking every day and doing deep breathing, trying to get my full lung function and stamina back. It just takes time. They usually throw in "at your age..." too. (Or as my 12-year-old nephew says, "You're old." Little sh...)
Friends & Family
Throughout the year we've done a lot of aunt and uncle soccer game attendance: indoor, outdoor, and futsal (indoor soccer on a basketball court). Both nephews, Mitch and Tyler, are playing soccer as is their younger sister Claire.
Claire also comes over to help Aunt Shelby with cooking as does Mitch, age 14, who has taken an interest in cooking and eating healthier. This is gratifying to Shelby who has done a lot with her blog, Diabetic Foodie, to promote better eating. She's done so well that Astra Zeneca invited her to a meeting for diabetes advocates and a nonprofit known as DiabetesSisters asked her to head up a chapter in Richmond. She's also hoping to teach a class at the YMCA and had to take a CPR/First Aid class to qualify. If no one in your family has taken such a class in the last five years, I highly recommend it.
In May, I flew to Las Vegas to help an old friend, Corey Jensen, who was just getting out of the hospital and almost died from kidney failure. He had ignored his diabetes. Don't do that! Pay attention to your body. He was on dialysis three times a week and finally passed in October.
So the year has had its ups and downs. But we are thankful because so much has gone right for us.
Travel & Leisure
In February, we went to Hawaii and stopped to see my son, Alex, in Seattle. On the way back, we laid over in Los Angeles and saw my niece Emily and her fiancé Noah.
We returned to the Pacific Northwest with nephew Mitch in July. Mitch spent much of his time with Alex at iFly, a vertical wind tunnel where Alex works. Mitch ducked in between classes and got very proficient at that indoor skydiving thing. Alex seems to have found his happy place, instructing people in flying, and on days off: skydiving, paragliding, hiking, snowboarding, and skiing backcountry. We also got a chance to go down to Bend, Oregon to see nephew Lance perform with his band. I told him that singing Bill Withers is walking on sacred ground, and he killed it. So neat.
In April, I went down to Costa Rica to hang out with Roger Chewning, a kite flying buddy who has a place there. I helped him with the repainting. I also attended the annual Mayan conference in Davidson, NC and we went to see a Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball game for Shelby's birthday.
We've seen several shows: Lion King, Maks and Val of Dancing with the Stars fame, the Banff film festival, and Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) of cooking renown.
In August, just before my birthday and my foot surgery, I snuck down to Mexico for a few days to tour Palenque and other Mayan sites with Ed Barnhart. Ed mapped much of Palenque's outer buildings (like 1400 of them). It's pretty cool to be there with "the dude" himself.Fall saw more soccer, Thanksgiving in Clarksville at the home of Shelby's parents, Shelby and Mitch to Blacksburg to watch the Hokies (Virginia Tech) destroy UVA in football, and me to Providence to visit with Katie and her husband Jon.
In December, we attended the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, NC to watch Shelby's beloved Hokies take on Arkansas. What a strange game, Tech got the ball and promptly fumbled – score Arkansas, and so it went for the whole first half, which ended 24-0. There was a woman at the concert during the FanFest who was wearing a hand-painted shirt that said "My Hogs are #80 and #31." She looked too young to be their mother so I had to ask: nephews, #80 a wide receiver and #31 a red shirt freshman. I wished her luck - but not good luck.
In the second half, things started to turn around for us when #80 fumbled after a catch and we recovered. Virginia Tech scored 35 unanswered points, making it one of the greatest comebacks in bowl history. One of the Arkansas players was so frustrated near the end of the game he got ejected for spitting in a Hokie player's face. Guess who? #80. I felt bad for the proud aunt I met earlier. It was a crazy game that ended a crazy year.
Lastly, my favorite memory of 2016 was when I was wrapping presents. Claire was helping me by tearing off pieces of tape and holding the paper. I had two oval bumper stickers from Peaks of Otter that she sounded out and said "POO." I told her that was right and they were the perfect gifts for stupid boys. I asked her if she knew two stupid boys. Her face scrunched up in concentration for a moment and then lit up in a huge smile. "Mitch and Tyler!" she declared. Smart kid, she'll go far.
Rick (and Shelby)
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