Category Archives: Tumbleweeds Tumbling

Carotid Artery Dissection is Healed!

We had two updates, one from the neurologist by telephone and one from the interventional radiologist via another telehealth conference. The MRI results were carefully quantified and reviewed and then forwarded to both of these specialist. The neurologist called and told us that the carotid artery shows up in the MRI as healed, no more pseudoaneurysm and, providing the interventional radiologist agrees, we can declare the carotid artery dissection completely healed and stop the blood thinners.

After this news I found myself feelings like I was in shock. It was a pleasant shock, but still a shock. I was trembling. I was in tears. All these longs months, all the worry, all the fear, all the careful watching. We are done. He is healed. We can start thinking longer term again. It was really hard to wrap my brain around the news. I ended up suppressing all my happy happy thoughts a bit and reminding myself the interventional radiologist must agree first.

And the interventional radiologist agrees with one caveat. It can be difficult to do comparisons between imaging modalities. There has been so much improvement between the last CT and this MRI he can’t quite believe it or trust it. He agrees the MRI does indeed look like the artery is fully healed a huge and very pleasant surprise since he did not think pseudoaneurysm ever would given how big it was. He even had another radiologist (someone whose ability and skills he really trusts) look at it just to make sure and this fellow also agreed the artery has healed.

His recommendation is that my husband continue with the blood thinner (generic form of plavix for a full six months since the last time we saw the pseudoaneurysm just to be on the safe side and follow the standard recommendations for a dissection and then image one last time with CT to really confirm the astonishing healing shown in the MRI. We agreed to this. My husband has six weeks of his blood thinner left so he will finish the bottle and have the hopefully one last CT and then we can call the carotid artery dissection incident finished and done with. Amazingly enough, there is no evidence of any kind of a stroke from the dissection on MRI. So if asked, we can honestly say no it was not a stroke, it was carotid artery dissection with transient symptoms.

I had another happy cry.

Can you see me smiling?

Choose Joy

 

Health Update – Carotid Artery Dissection with Pseudoaneurysm.

A short report that is nice because it contains good news. We are seven months since the diagnosis of a carotid artery dissection. My husband got called in for an MRI. The reason for the doctors being concerned about this is because my husband is at a much higher risk of throwing a clot due to the healing carotid artery dissection with a large pseudoaneurysm because of narrowing at the site of the injury.  You may recall there was a debate about stenting (relatively high risk especially when compared with his clinical symptoms which are none.) The MRI was for testing if the carotid artery dissection caused a stroke of if it is throwing off small clots and causing micro strokes. Micro strokes are tiny strokes that do not show up clinically but accumulate over time and eventually can lead to dementia. They can only be seen using MRI. Our doctor gave us a copy of the report on the MRI and the neurologist’s report and it was overall positive.

The MRI did not show sign of anything beyond a “smooth narrowing” of the artery. Compared to the last report from October with a CT that is an improvement. To be properly cautious, it is hard to compare across modalities however since the clinicians seem to think that’s a positive improvement, we’ll definitely take it. There is still a thrombus/clot where there was before but the MRI seems to show it was smaller (again the cross modality issue makes me hesitant to say it.) Also the MRI works by producing a specific signal when a specific magnetic frequency is used. The signal that came back was for a blood clot and not the later final stage of a healed clot. It apparently takes 4-6 months for this process to start so it is not a surprise nor is it bad news. It just means the healing is not finished. The thrombus certainly is no bigger.

The really good news is the MRI could not detect the stroke damage. Strokes show up as bright spots and the brighter and more solid the spot, the worse the stroke. In my husband’s case there is only one very small, very faint and only slightly brighter spot and no where near where he should have he had caused by the carotid artery dissection. Best of all, no sign of any other micro strokes or secondary damage or anything else. He has two tiny plaques in his arteries, matched on both sides, which are often found even in healthy young men and we already knew about those from the previous CTs. The letter from the neurologist states he has ruled out any progressive neuropathies or vasculopathies (i.e. blood vessels and nerves, brain are as normal as can be for 76 years). The specialist thinks it was just the unlucky seatbelt accident. Further our family doctor told us he can confidently state my husband is now clinically stable if a travel insurance company were to ask. (Due to the past history of carted artery dissection that might still be an issue but we’re not ready to start traveling right now anyway.)

We also got permission to try reducing the last of three blood pressure medications he is on back down to the level he was using to control his blood pressure before all this started. (He has been on a double dose of his ace inhibiter since the dissection after using it for many years to lower his blood pressure.) Again, it has to be done carefully with daily monitoring twice a day (morning before taking the pill and evening) but six days into it and my husband’s blood pressure has actually been a bit lower sitting nicely at about 130/80 give or take 5 points with the majority being about 125/75 for the evening check and slightly higher for the morning check before taking the pill.

There we are. Slight improvement, no sign of the bad stuff the MRI was supposed to detect, no need for stenting at this time, no more visits to the doctor until late spring unless something changes. Blood pressure med down to the previous level. At some future point yet to be determined, another imaging check of the artery will be done (likely by ultrasound) and if it is healed my husband can stop taking the generic plavix blood thinner although the neurologist said he should be taking a baby aspirin for the rest of his life.

There is a special Hebrew blessing for when one has had a near miss with death and been delivered from it. I am tempted to ask my husband to arrange now. (It has to be said in a minyan of ten Jews after a Torah reading) but I won’t just yet. Instead, I’ll ask for the continued healing prayer to keep on being said since we are not all the way there yet. (You can hear a woman sing the prayer in Hebrew here.) In English it goes like this:

May the One who blessed our ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah bless and heal Yitzhak son of Dina. May the Holy Blessed One overflow with compassion upon him, to restore him, to heal him, to strengthen him, to enliven him. The One will send him, speedily, a complete healing, healing of the soul and healing of the body along with all the ill, among the people of Israel and all humankind, soon, speedily, without delay, and let us all say:  Amen!

Halfway through Winter

Winter in Manitoba up here near the 51st parallel arrives sometime in late October and early November and slowly disappears by about mid to late April. That being said, it is not unheard of for winter to arrive with October (like it did this year) or hang around well into May. The severity of winter varies just as much. Last year there were extended periods of weeks at a time where our home town was under extreme cold warnings with daytime highs rarely breaking -40C (-40F). This winter’s temperatures have so far been mild with many days with the highs running in the single digit negative zone (30-16F range) with night time values dipping into the high teens (-1F). Snowfall is about midrange normal this year with three blizzards and multiple days of light flurries. The ground is covered with 20 cm (8 inches) of the white stuff in the lowest spots with drifts running well over a metres (yard) deep.

I think of the end of January as being the midpoint of winter for two reasons. First there is almost always a brief spell of relative warmth that lasts a week or two. Temperatures will get up to the freezing mark. There will be some thawing and maybe a bit of freeing rain. This is always followed by most of February dropping into the extreme cold range. It’s like Mother Nature comes up for air, takes a breath, and plunges down into the deep cold again. We are in one of those January warm spells right now.

After spending ten years of winters in the south it has been quite an experience for me to live through a Manitoba winter again. Thus far it has been far less awful than I worried about and far more pleasurable than I expected. The main reason is because being retired, if it is bitterly cold outside I just stay home. I don’t have to layer up and go outside and start a cold vehicle and leave it to warm up which my teeth chatter and I freeze. I don’t have to stand in the wind waiting for a bus to arrive because my husband’s work schedule did not overlap mine that day and it was his turn to take the car. I get to miss the worst part of winter.

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A particularly fine example of sun dogs.

The other thing that has astonished me is that winter is far prettier in a rural area. The snow stays a lovely white instead of filthy slushy brown. The trees are beautifully decorated in ice that twinkles like stars in the sunlight. Wildlife is suddenly visible in ways it has not been before because animal leave tracks everywhere. The trees are bare so you can see wondrous sights like one of Manitoba’s official provincial bird, the great grey owl on a post or red flash of a fox in a field. Sun dogs make sparkling bright lights or even rainbows beside the sun. The sky is so blue it almost hurts the eyes and the night sky is stunning in ways it never is in summer. The sun rises late and sets early so even though I am not a morning person I get to enjoy both.

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Animal tracks in fresh snow.

The other thing I have discovered is that my community goes into high social gear in winter. We have had more socials, more dinners, more reasons to be among our neighbours this past month than over the entire summer season. I took up curling to have a reason to get out of the house and get some exercise and discovered I love it. It is a combination of luck and skill and there is few things more satisfying than that perfect two rock knock out or putting your rock “on the button”. I even splurged on myself and bought my very own pink curling broom from Canadian Tire. Twice a week I walk one block to the local curling rink and have a blast playing senior stick curling.

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Winter sunset with lovely clouds.

I decided I would not feel sorry for myself and whine and carry on about the cold. I decided I would be positive. And with that attitude I find I have actually been enjoying this winter. It has passed this approximate halfway point far more quickly than I expected. I still dread February but it begins with curling bonspiels so maybe it will be just as much fun as January has been. Some of my friends in this community have told me they prefer winter. I always thought they were crazy. I can’t say I prefer winter but I can now see why they do.

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Sunshine on frost decorated Trees from my son’s backyard in Neepawa Manitoba

Fixing My KitchenAid Mixer.

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I have allergies of all sorts and my husband is supposed to be on a no added salt diet. This means most processed food is unsafe for us. I make almost everything from scratch to accommodate this. Over the years I have found that doing it all from scratch means better quality at a lower cost, often much lower. There is the time factor, of course, but being retired, I have time. My husband bought me this KitchenAid when he found it on sale many years ago. We paid $399 at the time. I have worked it plenty hard since and purchased most of the attachments that go with it. The hardest chore is kneading my homemade breads which I make weekly. Thus, I was heartbroken when the planetary stopped spinning. It felt almost like an old friend was dead.

Rather than simply toss the machine and run out and buy a new one, I decided to try to fix it. I was delighted to find a number of excellent videos on youtube that explain how to do it. I followed the instructions and took it all apart. After some wiping away of black grease and inspecting everything, I exposed a gear that was obviously stripped. Following the instructions on line, I ordered a new gear and the grease required to repack the mechanism. I had such a ghastly time with my first ever encounter with a retaining ring that I almost gave up and had a good cry. I was finally able to get it off with two carpentry hooks.

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One of my dear friends once told me when you need a tool, buy it. That way, over time, you’ll build up a nicely equipped shop and be able to do more and more. Following his advice I also ordered the special pliers required to deal with retaining ring on the planetary shaft. The hardest part of taking it apart, after struggling with that retaining ring, was wiping away as much of the old black grease as possible. The gear that got stripped had many bits broken off. These little metal bits were embedded in the grease and some of them were sharp. Fortunately, all the other gears looked fine. I went through an entire box of tissues wiping out cruddy old black grease.

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I ordered the part from Amazon and after about three weeks of doing without my wonderful KitchenAid, the parts arrived. I then carefully followed the directions in the videos and put the thing back together with the new part and the new grease. I was relieved that the new grease was clean and white and washed off with wiping, and soap and water. Because it was clear/white it didn’t make much mess even though I ended up smearing it everywhere. I had some issues getting the gears to mesh properly but, with some fiddling and few crude words not be used in front of the grandchildren, eventually it worked. That part was not as easy as the video showed. I also discovered, once again, a job is much easier with the proper tool. It was ridiculously easy to get that retaining ring back in place with the special pliers. Finally, I tested the machine, except for the cover, and it spun perfectly with that old familiar hum.

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Hubby dearest helped me finish up the process. That decorative metal ring around the outside is a three hand job. He finished off the job with me by helping me clean up and he presented me with a case he had to keep all the parts of my newest tool together. My total cost was $49.86 Canadian plus taxes. The new gear was the most expensive part at $24.20. Since I have half a can of grease left I can take $10 off that. I have already used the grease on some other stuff like a super squeaky door. I did not get all new gears. If I had replaced all the new gears, it would have come to half of the cost a whole new machine. According to one video, the machine is designed so one gear goes before the rest precisely so you don’t have to redo everything.

I am very proud of myself. Replacing my machine would have cost me $500-$700 at today’s prices. Many manufacturers deliberately create circumstances so you can’t fix your machine yourself. They do their best to force you throw out the old one at the first sign of trouble and buy a new one. I was delighted to find the KitchenAid people are not among them. My wonderful durable user friendly machine is back in good working order. What’s more, I now know if it dies again, I can probably fix it myself. Today was a good day.

Choose Joy

Good Riddance Annus Horribilis

I sat down and wrote about the top ten things for 2019. It hasn’t been a great year for us. They say retirement comes in three phases. Phase One you are healthy so you travel and do and see things and have a blast. Phase Two something happens health wise and you slow down and enter a period of peaceful quiet living. Phase three, well that’s when you end up in a home so we won’t go there, I hope. 2019 is the year I think we transitioned from Phase One to Phase Two. I still have some hope 2020 will see us back on the road again, but not that much hope.

Here is my top ten blessings for 2019.

  1. One of my children separated from his wife but they reconciled only a few weeks later, much to my intense relief and many thankful prayers.
  2. My beautiful Misty was attacked by two pitbull dogs but she got away relatively unscathed when they turned on each other instead. She also got to swim with dolphins.

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    Misty had great fun with a friend she made at our second campsite. This little guy was actually faster than her. We don’t meet a lot of dogs who can outrun her but this boy sure could. He was also an important part of helping Misty get over being attacked.

  3. A dear friend’s daughter got married. We feel like she was almost a daughter to us and we saw her grow up so it was lovely to know she is married even though we could not make it to the wedding due to my husband’s health issues. She just recently announced she’s expecting this summer to add to the joy. Can you see me smiling?
  4. I discovered I love curling. I decided to keep active during our first winter out in the country and I joined the local senior curling group. I did it just for the exercise and the social contact so it was a real surprise to discover I really like curling. So living through winter after ten years of missing it is turning out to be not so bad.
  5. We came through the horrible storm of Canadian Thanksgiving 2019 unscathed. We were prepped and we were fine even though we had no power, no cell phone service, no land line, and no internet for nearly three days.IMG_8099
  6. We found a buyer for our precious property we could not longer manage. The buyer is going to continue to care for the property as it should be, including retaining the conservation agreement. Plus he will clean up the horrible mess left from the EF4 tornado of 2018.IMG_8189
  7. I discovered I have a lot more fix it talent than I thought after I designed and installed a new pantry space for our tiny house along with a few other projects to prepare for living here over the winter, like the new garage door opener.
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  8. My health has been great. I was really worried about my asthma acting up again since it always was worse in winter but so far I have not had any trouble at all. I credit that in part to our fresh air intake which has made our indoor air so much better.
  9. We got through the terrible flooding and disastrous storms in the south and midwest without harm and we had a nice time in our travels in spite of it.
  10. The stroke my husband had in June due to a carotid artery dissection after a seat belt accident was very minor and he has made an almost complete recovery. Plus he is finally tackling some risk factors and he’s lost 14 pounds and dropped three pant sizes just by switching to a treadmill desk. We were very fortunate.IMG_1709

 

So I say farewell to 2019 with gratitude for the blessings and thanks that it is over. Here’s hoping 2020 is better. 2019 certainly could have been a lot worse. I hope we all have the best year ever in 2020!

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The view from Riding Mountain National Park to our home some forty kilometres west.

Death is so Final.

Argo

This is Argo in his prime. He was a good kitty. He had been abandoned in an apartment when his original humans moved out. It was nearly a month before the landlord arrived to clean up and found this poor frantic dehydrated starving cat. He was adopted by my daughter and her significant other. He had a year and a half of being the darling kitty of a childless couple. We got pictures and updates on every aspect of his life. We tenderly joked that he was their practice baby. They sure loved that cat.

Argo got out in the cold. His human went looking for him immediately but on his way home Argo lost an encounter with an orange Kia. His people did everything they could to save him but after a week (and more than $1000 in vet expenses) it became clear he was suffering and would never recover. They made the hard decision to give him mercy. Argo has moved on to wherever it is good cats go when they die.

For reasons I don’t really get, Argo’s death has hit me very hard. Maybe it is because we also got word this week that my mother-in-law finally lost her long hard battle with dementia and mental illness and passed on at the age of ninety seven. One of my friends who is a recent immigrant from China told me that when someone dies at ninety seven that is a cause for celebration not mourning. I kind of see it. My mother-in-law’s brain had been gone for a long time so her finally passing means death is a friend not an enemy. Now that she has passed everyone else is celebrating her life as if she were a perfect saintly mother and wife, which she certainly was not. When I die, no doubt people will celebrate me as if I were a saint too, even though I am far from it.

Our town has many feral cats. Several people in the town put food out for them. Folks try to find good homes for the ones they can catch. Locals take the babies first because if you can catch a feral cat as a baby you can handle it and get it used to people. Older feral cats cannot normally be tamed. Sometimes an adult cat will approach one of us in the cold desperate for help and then you know they are someone’s pet who was lost or abandoned. The truly feral ones just die. Each winter the feral cat population is dramatically reduced by our bitter cold. There is a lone female feral cat who has taken up residence in our neighbour’s gazebo who has resisted every attempt to catch her and get her in where it is warm. We are all afraid she is going to die soon as temperatures are going to -26C each night now. I watch those feral cats with their frozen off ear tips and they scarred faces and I think how few of them had even one single day as good as Argo had for that year and a half. Life is certainly not fair. Why does there have to be pain and suffering in the world? Does the great joy of good times in life really make up for that?

I do hope my daughter and her man take in another cat. There are so many cats that need a loving home and they have big hearts and they gave Argo so much after a really rotten start to his life. Argo is so happy and so fully cat in his memorial picture. They could give another cat the wonderful gift they gave Argo.

I think the real reason Argo’s death has left me awake all this past night is because of how close death came to taking my husband from me last June. I can’t help but think every time he hugs me or I snuggle up for a cuddle in bed “He’s still warm. He’s still with me.” I look in the mirror and I see the wrinkles and the marks of aging. Death is stalking me now too. So perhaps poor Argo’s unfortunate passing has served as a reminder I’d rather not have, the reminder of the mortality that is looking me in the face every single day that remains.

God has much to answer for. I have just enough faith to believe that at some point He will, at some point I will understand why.  In the meantime there is nothing to do but embrace the joy that comes with being alive while I can.

Rest in peace kitty. You actually were a perfect little furry saint. We don’t have to make things up about how truly wonderful you were, for a cat.

Then we cross the Rainbow Bridge together….. – GLOBAL SAFARI

My Panty is Finished! Update #3

 

I couldn’t be happier with how this has worked out. I just have to say thank you again for a brilliant idea to these folks. Their idea allowed me to use an empty space driving me crazy in a tiny (480sqm) house where empty space is worse than a waste. Now if you have been following along you’ll have seen how I started the project and a progress report when things got really going. I am actually using the space now as designed and I only have a few minor additions to finish it.

We live in a rural area with a 250km drive to a big city with all those discount shopping places and access to bulk stuff. My little pantry has solved many issues for me. I designed the shelves to be short and shallow for stuff I need to access often and that I need to keep track of as far as quantities go. I can now tell at a glance exactly how much I have of things like my rice crackers. I also had no broom closet before so I designed one into the pantry space and it sure is nice to get the vacuum out of my husband’s workspace.

So what is left? I intend to install a grow light on the empty shelf with the removable shelf space and start seedlings in this spring. I plan have a go at growing some greens and sprouts in the meantime. The trap door needs another coat of paint and maybe a layer of some kind of flooring. Stick on tiles might work well. I haven’t decided on that yet. I was going to put in a pneumatic hinge lift but the door is so light and easy to move I’m not sure I should be bother. That might be more nuisance than it’s worth.

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The absolute worst part of this was painting it. The space is so narrow it was impossible to paint both sides at once. Also all those shelves and supports had to be done with a brush and it was painstakingly slow. The painting took a lot longer than the carpentry and was a lot less satisfying. Fortunately Hubby Dearest doesn’t mind painting and he did several hours of it for me.

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I have only one regret. This was supposed to be my winter project and it’s only November. Hm….maybe I could do something with that disorganized disaster that passes for my work bench in the basement.