A Swell(ing) Journey Part XII: Nearing an Answer?

23 12 2008

First of all, I can’t say enough good things about the staff of Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.  My week there, which ended this past Friday, was a very pleasant experience (well, except for the whole needle/camera in my neck artery thing during a venogram).  Dr. Paul and Dr. Gonwa are awesome and continue to collaborate in an effort to alleviate the mystery swelling I have been experiencing for nearly a year.  The staff at the front desk of 3 North, which became my second home for four days, were patient (more on that in a minute), helpful and cheerful and frequently greeted me with a playful, “Are you back here bugging us again?” upon my many return visits.   The clinic is beautiful, and the weather was a balmy 78 degrees for most of the days during my stay.  That was a very welcome contrast to the ice and below-freezing temperatures my wife was enduring back home.  If you have to be in a clinic, you might as well be surrounded by palm trees and the sounds of tropical birds.

But the big question is:  Did they figure out the swelling?

The answer:  I don’t know yet.

Many more tests were done, and all (I do mean ALL) of the “normal” things that might usually cause this swelling were pretty much ruled out, yet again.  Even some of the less normal things were ruled out as well.  It does not appear that I have any sort of blockage in veins or arteries, including the vena cava.  There are no clots.  My heart, lungs, transplanted kidney, liver, pancreas, pinky fingers, etc. are all doing well.  They say it’s been way too long for this to be a continuing reaction to the drug Rapamune, which I discontinued many months ago.  The list of things that is NOT causing this goes on and on.  Other things which now appear unlikely are lymphedema, celiac’s disease, cancer, blah, blah, blah.

So what is it?  They believe I am dealing with one of two things.

1.  It’s possible there is something unusual going on in my lymphatic system, something that would not be very simple to pinpoint with any easy test.

2.  Dr. Gonwa has seen cases in which transplant patients have a weird sort of “reaction” to the transplanted organ.  It is weird in that, the organ is working fine, and it is not being rejected by my body, BUT my body is still not pleased with this intruder and starts to retain water in a sort of mini rebellion against the situation.  My body is saying, “Okay, foreign kidney…the anti-rejection drugs are protecting you, but we still don’t like you.  How about we fill up with fluid?  That should show you, you bastard.”  This is my best attempt to explain this theory.  I’m sure I’m botching it up a bit, and it’s far more eloquent when Dr. Gonwa explains it.

At this point, they think I am dealing with #2.  The best thing about this is that it should be very treatable once we figure out the correct dosage and combination of diuretic drugs.  This process has begun, and I’ve seen some slight improvement, enough to give me hope.  Just today, the dosage of one medication was doubled.  I think we might be on the right track.

As I take a wait and see approach, I think back on my trip and realize how many people I need to thank.  My sister (the kidney donor) and her husband graciously took me in for the week.  How lucky am I to have family living near a Mayo Clinic?  My other sister and her husband made the long trip with me, which made it much more enjoyable.  That “lucky” brother-in-law had the pleasure of chauffeuring me around, including early morning trips to the clinic each day.  I also have to thank my wife, who was suddenly thrust into a week of “single-parenting” a very rambunctious toddler.

And, as I mentioned already, the staff of Mayo deserve major kudos.  Most of the patients who were there seemed to realize they were in a special place and were thankful for that. There were quite a few retired doctors there as patients (I figured this was a good sign).  However, I witnessed two “interesting” patients who were major pains for the staff.  The first one thought she was better than anyone else who was waiting.  She was probably 50 or so, and she made a very loud fuss in her thick New York accent to anyone who would listen about how annoyed she was that she couldn’t have any coffee yet.  She, like most of us, was fasting in case any fasting labs were to be ordered by the doctor. She was desperately trying to make the staff understand that she needed to be seen by the doctor right away so she could have her precious coffee.  I’m guessing this was her first time dealing with some sort of serious health issue. In my mind, I was thinking, “Welcome to the club, lady – and you better get used to fasting in the morning.”

The second patient was a thirty-something woman who was loudly talking, ranting and complaining on her cell phone (in a waiting room full of patients) about some other female in her life who is apparently a “skank” and a “ho” and a “bit*h.”  She was oblivious to those around her, including the many elderly people who were trying to tune her out.  After this phone call, she then set her sites on the front desk staff.  She complained about how long she and her husband (he was in a wheel chair and had a long cast on his leg) had been waiting for his appointment.  The front desk staff person reminded her that it was actually only eight minutes past the appointment time and that they had arrived very early for their appointment.  The woman did not seem to grasp this concept and cussed out the staff person before telling her husband they were going to leave.  I guess he didn’t get to see the doctor that day, because she stormed out with him.   The ironic thing about the actions of these two patients is that the Mayo actually did a pretty good job of keeping the appointments moving without the waits being too excruciating.  This is despite the fact they see about 2,000 patients per day.

For now, it’s time to be patient and hope these medication combinations can fix the problem.  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the joy on my daughter’s face when she realizes that Santa has left a few things under the tree.





The Twelve Questions of Christmas

11 12 2008

It’s that time of year when good cheer is spread everywhere except in packed store aisles where shoppers’ carts recklessly crash into each other while racing around in search of those hard-to-find Christmas gifts.  It follows then, that it must be time for my wife (see hers here) and me to bust out or annual Christmas meme.  Feel free to use it; we’d love to see your answers.

1. What’s the best Christmas gift you have ever received?  What’s the worst?

It’s difficult to pinpoint the best. I probably answered differently last year, but I’ll go with the electric train set I received as a child.  It was circling the Christmas tree when I woke up.

The worst I received was while working at Goodwill.  I “won” a freaking canned ham in a raffle there.  It was disgusting to look at.  I didn’t venture a taste.

2. What is your favorite Christmas movie moment?

This one:

3. What is your favorite version of a Christmas song?

I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Frank Sinatra.  My late father, who was a prisoner of war during WWII, once told me this was his favorite Christmas song (not necessarily the Sinatra version) because of his time during the war. That always stuck with me.

4. Describe an ornament that has special significance to you.

My ravishing wife gave this one to me.  The sign says, “I burn 4 U.”

5. Have you had any traumatic Christmas-related experiences?

Just the one with the aforementioned canned ham.  I swear that thing was alive.

6. What is your happiest Christmas memory?

This year, just a few days ago, when my 3-year-old daughter sat in Santa’s lap for the first time and had the biggest smile on her face.  She asked for a “Pink girl tractor” to drive. I also remember, as a small child, lying under our Christmas tree and watching the cool patterns the blinking lights made on our ceiling.

7. Favorite Christmas picture:

This one from many years ago because it shows a bunch of my family.  Most importantly, though, it shows my nephew being a HUGE baby when everyone else is having a blast.  What a tool.  See his blog here.

8. What’s on your grown up wish list (other than world peace, of course)?

Just to keep getting to be around this beauty:

9. What Christmas TV special do you look forward to all year?

The Year Without a Santa Claus because of the Heat Miser and Snow Miser.  I’m looking forward to their new special, called A Miser Brothers Christmas on ABC Family.

10. What famous person would you most like to encounter under the mistletoe?

I’ll go with Brooke Burke.

11. What’s the best thing to do in the snow?

I always thought it was cool to build a sort of igloo out of it, dig a couple of tunnels and then make my poor cat go in it with me.  I don’t have a pic of him in an igloo, but here he is in a happier place, resting on top of one of my other nephews.


12. Favorite Christmas Quote:

I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. – Charles Dickens.







The Birthday Hijack

7 12 2008

I’m hijacking my husband Matt’s blog to announce that today is his birthday.  It’s also the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but I think we all know which event has more historical significance.

Please wish him a happy birthday.  You can send other messages too if you would like.  Consider this an open forum post.  I’m going to do so right now:  Matt, please don’t keep your writing talent and keen sense of wit all to yourself.  Post more often.  There, I said it (with love, of course).

Love,

Allison and the Imp





I’ve Always Suspected the Sporks

2 12 2008

Cheap tacos are wonderful things.  Yesterday, I had the pleasure of gorging on these very entities at a Taco Bell-like place with some family members.  Due to my attempts to live past the age of 50, I have to keep this sort of eating establishment in the “not as frequent as I would like” category of my life.  (Other things that fall into this category are:  Deep dish pizza, doughnuts, Apple Jacks, bacon and egg sandwiches and ogling beautiful women…all of these are equally dangerous if not kept in moderation).  However, there are times when I need my fix of the aforementioned cheesy, spicy, beefy edibles.

It was great lunching with family, and the food was similar to that of Taco Bell’s.  However, one important ingredient was missing:  The Taco Bell sauce packets with their witty little sayings.   If you’ve ever had a Taco Bell bag in your greasy little hands, and you’re not afraid to add a little extra kick to your tacos, then you know what I’m talking about.  If you have not had this pleasure, see the picture below for an example of the sauce packets that “say something” to you.

It’s admirable that Taco Bell has added some humor into the fast food landscape.  However, I often wish they had even more sayings on their packets.  I also think they should get a little saucier, so to speak.  It is time to get this off my chest.  Here are 20 phrases that I would love to see printed on a Taco Bell sauce packet, even though I know it will never happen.

  1. Not suitable for bra-stuffing, but I’m willing if you are.
  2. (This would go on the “Fire” level packets only.)  You know I’m going to rip you a new one, right?
  3. Hey lard-ass, stop eating here 4 times per week!
  4. Warning:  Do not attach to a packet of firecrackers (unless you want to see something awesome!)
  5. The guy next to you touched me in an inappropriate manner.
  6. For the love of all that is sacred, don’t open me with your teeth!
  7. I have to cover my piercings to work here.  Guess where they are!
  8. You’re adding hot sauce to a Volcano Taco…seriously?
  9. You may not want to know specifics about our secret sauce.
  10. I’m thinking outside the box right now, and it’s naughty.
  11. What was with that movie, WaterWorld? You have to be kidding me.
  12. Glove compartment in July?  Bad idea.
  13. I’m just not that into you.
  14. Your parents are cousins, aren’t they?
  15. How much sauce could a sloth slurp if a sloth could slurp sauce?
  16. You brought her HERE for a date?  Nice going, big spender.
  17. Whoa back up, buddy.  Ever heard of Listerine?
  18. Haha!  5 chili cheese burritos and a DIET Pepsi.  Yeah, that makes sense!
  19. Stand back – I’m packing heat, and I WILL use it.
  20. Hey wussy, you look like more of a ketchup person.

I’m going to have to end this blog now, as I suddenly have a Nacho Chicken Gordita craving.

What would you like to see on a packet of sauce?








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