Category Archives: Medical Fascination

Diary of a Hotshot Medical Courier

I am slowly getting back to finding the time to record my life for both of you to read.

I’ll start easy…

Tonight it rained.  Rain is great.  Except when your night job is picking up large boxes containing human specimens and you have to cart them to your car and then to the airport.  Then, rain sucks.

What kind of specimens, you ask?

Well…  The kind of work I do is referred to in the world of logistics as “hot shot courier” service.  Basically, a company or an individual needs something shipped yesterday.  They call one of about fifty companies who are clients of my boss.  My boss’ company is a small operation consisting of herself and four drivers.  She takes the orders from the client company.  Their conversations go something like this.

old car

In olden days, couriers came in packs of four and wore nifty motoring caps.

“Can you get someone out to X location for a pickup by 1600?”  That’s 4 PM.  For some reason in logistics we always use military time.

“Let me check what drivers I have available.”  She then calls me, for instance.  “Do you think you could be to X location in the next 25 minutes?  They have a pickup.  It’s ready now and it’s 3 boxes at 45 lbs. total”

To which I respond “I’m good to go,” as I grab a quick snack and a bottle of water, my binder containing all of my TSA forms and partially filled out airway bills, and double-check that the hand truck is in the back of the car.

I then race to the location, pick up the packages, and call it back in to her so she knows I’ve got them and this can be tracked.  Along the way she will have given me flight information.  Why’s that?  Well, my next step is to race them off to the airport (in this case a HUGE international airport with many cargo facilities) and “tender” the packages, making sure they get on the appropriate flights without a hitch.  The boxes generally contain human blood samples and the like and are almost always packed in dry ice.  That last bit means that the packages cannot be x-rayed so I had to pass a background check establishing me as a “known shipper”.  I also have to be able to quickly convert kilos to pounds as the dry ice is measured one way and the total weight another.  If an animal is already booked for travel on that flight he or she takes priority.  Animals and dry ice cannot both occupy the cargo hold as one isn’t making it out alive.  Hint: it’s not the ice.

Anyway, all of this is both fun and exciting.  I truly enjoy making these deliveries happen.  Sometimes it’s a delivery in reverse of the above where I pick something up at the airport and deliver it to a client.  Sometimes I get to drive long distances like up into Oklahoma or down to San Antonio.  Those jobs pay very well.  I like the mental challenge of placing myself in different places at different times in order to complete the job when needed.  I never realized how good of a logistical planner I was until I started doing this.  But then again, I could see it clearly during my day job when I noticed one day last week that I was simultaneously cognizant of 12 children between the ages of 7 and 8 who were all doing different tasks in different parts of the classroom and who all seemed to need my help at the same time.  I got this.

So the rain…  Yeah, carting these packages around in the rain is not as much fun as you’d think.  The boxes get wet, the paperwork gets wet, I get wet.

But we need the rain so I’m not complaining.

 

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

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They Sold the Farm!

Some of you know that my vision is terrible. Not my “vision” vision but my actual eyesight. 

I was told when I was ten that it would get progressively worse until my mid-twenties and then level off; maybe even get better. 

They lied. I’m almost 40 and it’s still getting worse. Granted it’s not getting worse as quickly as it once was. 

Nevertheless yearly eye exams are not a luxury for me. I have to get in to the optometrist or I can’t see. 

I am currently sitting in the chair. 

This is fun. 

What in the world does that say?

I’ve already been run through the battery of pre-testing options. There’s the puff of air. Still not sure what this one is for. Then there’s the “big E” test. Newsflash: I can’t even really see the “E” at this point without my contacts. 

Some tests are new. A retinal photograph has replaced dilation. This is nice as I really never liked stepping out into the mid-day sun after one of these visits looking like an anime character. 

But they got rid of one of my favorite tests. For almost thirty years I’ve been coming to these visits and looking into a giant box at a picture of a farmhouse. Again, the purpose of this test has never been explained to me. I always assumed it had something to do with focus. Then again it could just be a way to calm me down, not that I’ve ever been agitated at the eye doctor. 

This test is so ridiculous.

Truly the farm was a peaceful place. If you’ve ever had this test you know what I’m talking about. It was in a field. I imagine it was in Iowa. There was a lot of corn. I made up a backstory about the farm. It was owned by an elderly couple who’s children had moved away after industrialization had rendered their role in the agri-business field redundant. This couple now wait at home for someone to visit. Once a year I pop into their lives. I feel like such a voyeur. But I think they understand. They’re just happy for the company. Their rotten kids never bring the grandkids – Kip and Karen – around. Brats. 

Where was I?

Oh yes, the farm is gone. All that remains is a hot air balloon and there isn’t enough Valium on earth to get me in that thing.

There’s also the omni-present “better/worse” flipping lens test. Yeah… as I’ve said before, leave the room, doc. I’ll flip it around and find what works. Then I’ll call you back in and you can write it down. 

St. Lucy, patroness of the blind, pray for us!

UPDATE: They just upped my script. -4.25 in both eyes and I get to try daily wears for the first time!

Mr. Euclid

First, thank you to everyone who has continued to offer their prayers for my family following the death of my dad two months ago.  They mean so much more than you know and I pray for each of you daily.

I want to tell you all that Dad’s been quite active lately, at least in my mind.  Over the past month especially he’s been showing up in my dreams.  As I told me wife today, the dreams make absolutely no sense on one level and more sense than anything I can think of on another.

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Artist’s rendering of a shape

Last night I went to bed as normal.  At 4AM I awoke from the following dream.  My father and I were in a very ethereal setting.  I can actually still envision all of this.  It’s almost like we were on a cloud but it wasn’t that hokey.  We were looking at, really examining, an equilateral triangle that was simply floating in the air in front of us.  He was instructing me on the properties of the triangle.  His words made perfect sense to me and I never liked math.  Dad was an actuary with a savant’s knowledge of all things mathematical.  I distinctly remember him saying (in this dream) as he had many times when he tried teaching me geometry in high school “According to Mr. Euclid…” referencing the Greek father of geometry.  What are you getting at, Dad?  Triangles?  Really?  Is it the Trinity?  I already believe in the Blessed Trinity.  Remember?  You taught me the sign of the cross as a four year-old when you taught me my first prayers.  Were you trying to show me something else?  Are you popping into the dreams of other people too or is it just me?  This is so strange.

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Hairy but solid

Another thing that’s going on (and I really don’t think the dreams are related) is that my Restless Leg Syndrome has intensified.  It’s now gotten to where the muscles in both legs cramp up about halfway through the night.  I get out of bed and, like this morning, leg down to see that my toes are curled and I have to physically unbend them.  It’s painful.  But, I’m getting it looked into.  This morning I’m going for an EMG/nerve conduction test.  I’ve had several of these done before.  Read about one of my experiences with it here.  In the meantime, enjoy this picture of my leg.  It may be the cause of great pain right now but at least it still makes my trainer jealous as all get out.  “Your calves seem to eat everything in sight” he told me.  Trainer?  My offer still stands.  I’ll happily trade you my calves for everything above your waist.  Then again he could just be messing with me…

Of Broken Toes and Broken Dreams

“Ever have your spirit crushed, Mr. H.?” asked a student once.

OK, work with me.  It’s called a literary device.  Sure, no student ever said that but it’s possible that one could have.  More to the point I need to set up this next bit.

“Kid,” I said, “I’m a Mets fan.  Every year since 1986.”

See, wasn’t that cute?

In all honesty this past Thursday I had more than my spirit crushed in the form of a few small bones in the toes on my right foot.

At the Catholic high school where I teach I also assist in other ways.  One of those ways is to transform our very large gym (one of two, I might add) into a worship space for about 1200 people who gather once a month for mass.  I arrived early on the day in question.  It was just before 7AM.  I had really high hopes of starting a new workout that day too.  The thing is that my trainer clued me in to the secret of working out pre-breakfast.  Factor in a lengthy commute and my need to be there at an ungodly hour and the workout last out to a few extra minutes of sleep.

Boy am I excited about this workout, though.  After everything I’ve tried I’ve always felt that nothing has worked for me.  I have a vision in mind fueled by a desire for better heath vanity.  I now know that there are no easy fixes, that I should have done this when I was a teenager.  See, back then I had the time.  I had no social life thanks to a lack of friends or a personality, so I could have been pounding my societal aggression in the gym for hours on end.  Instead I was – come to think of it I really can’t account for my teenage years.  Must have blocked them.  I certainly wasn’t drinking, getting high, or dating like the cool kids.  But I squandered those years – years when I could have been setting myself up for success.  It’s hard, damn near impossible, to achieve the kind of success I want at my age.  The people I know who’ve done it can all maintain it.  That’s always easier to do when you reached it in the first place.  But when you’re married with kids and a job, not so easy to get started.

But this new program…  Having reached the conclusion that I need to be happy with whatever gains I see; I was really eager to jump into this.  I might only lose a few pounds, probably wouldn’t really put on any muscle but I’m OK with that because it’s better than nothing and if I achieve my potential I can’t be disappointed in what my potential actually was.

But it needs to start another day because I was tired that morning.

I walked into the gym to discover a group of kids even more eager than me already rolling out racks of chairs to set up on the gym floor.

“Kids, I love the energy!” I shouted as I put my coffee down.  You’ve got to praise them at every step.  It’s easy with these kids.  I love them like my own.  And like a proud dad I feel the urge to encourage them because they are so awesome.  And I mean that.  “But hang on a bit because we have to roll the floor mats out first.”

Then I proceeded to walk them over to the side of the bleachers where a giant machine on wheels resides.  “This baby here contains enough floor matting material to cover the whole gym so we don’t scuff up the floor with the chairs,” I said as I motioned for them to give me a hand wheeling it into place.  The thing weighs 1,000 pounds fully laden.

Did I mention they’re eager kids?

In their eagerness they pushed the rack really hard before I had a chance to get my foot out of the way.

Ever hear bones break?  It’s not a pleasant sound.

I looked down to see a hard graphite wheel rolling up onto my foot and then… staying there!

“Love you kids but get this thing OFF ME!!!” I shouted.

They pushed and after what seemed like an eternity it rolled off.  The other side.  Taking an additional pounding blow on another toe.

I tried to act tough.  Who complains about broken toes of all things.  I finished helping the kids and even taught a class before seeing the school nurse who instructed me to go home and elevate it.  It was in her office that I first removed my sock.  Oh God, it was so gross…

And because I knew I’d need to see a doctor, it turns out I do indeed have two broken toes and will be wearing a boot for the next month.

On the upside, I’ve been wanting to introduce a Bermuda-themed look into the school dress code for some time.  Think about it.  These kids already love me for my style.  It’s the most amazing thing.  Remember those teenage years I mentioned?  Yeah, they seem not to matter now because the teenagers of today look up to me.  Do you know how gratifying it is to have 500 teenage boys literally trying to copy everything you’re wearing?  I’m apparently a trendsetter.  Let’s see how they dig shorts with my tie and jacket…

But that workout will have to wait.

Just like another Mets World Series win.

I think God’s trying to tell me something.

The Infiltration OR Things Never to Put In One’s Eye

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I couldn’t find a picture of an eyeball in my files so here’s my son doing an impression of me without my glasses (from a few years ago).

I’ll start this ball rolling by stating that I am blind as a bat if bats didn’t use echolocation.  It all started when I was 10 years-old.  My eyes decided they didn’t like me anymore and that I needed to learn the meaning of myopia.  Here’s a hint.  Webster’s defines it as “humiliating slow death”.  When you’re a ten year-old boy and you suddenly can’t see the board at school and then you have to wear glasses…  Well, OK it wasn’t that bad.  I always had style so my glasses were pretty fashionable.  The real downside was that my condition meant my eyes would get worse for a long time before leveling off.  I’m that guy who can’t read the “E” at the top of the chart.

By the time I reached 25 I had grown less fearful of contact lenses and the associated touching of my eyeballs required to wear them.  And since then I’ve pretty much been a contacts guy, wearing my specs occasionally during the day and every single night.  I also have dry eyes.  Could it get any worse?  It just means that I cannot under any circumstances fall asleep or otherwise close my eyes for more than a minute with my contacts in place or they’ll adhere to my corneas.

Guess what happened two nights ago.

If you guessed that I fell asleep then you’re wrong and I’m just as baffled as you as to how I ended up with a corneal abrasion.  Trust me, I’ve done it before.  It’s no joke.  Painful as all get out and you have to use antibiotic drops for a week.

 “It’s really amazing how the eye functions.”

But something happened the other night because when I woke up yesterday morning I would have sworn I had pinkeye.  It was gross.  I decided to chance going to work.  You see, teachers really can’t miss the first few days.  It’s considered bad form or something.  I wasn’t too far off the mark either.  The left eye never turned red and the right eye, given some time, started to feel a little less like a knife was being shoved into it.

To be on the safe side and since it did still hurt a bit this morning, I called the doctor and went in after work.

It turns out that yours truly has not a corneal abrasion but a corneal infiltration.  When the doctor told me that I blanked out for a moment while envisioning a microscopic band of Goths with a  trebuchet advancing toward my eye.  It was funny so I laughed.  The doctor didn’t get it.

“How’d that happen?” I asked as he was writing out a script for the same antibiotic drops I already mentioned.  Apparently they’re multipurpose.

“Could be any number of things,” he responded.  “All I know is that something ‘got in there‘ that shouldn’t have been and this is how the eye reacts.  It’s really amazing how the eye functions,” he went on as if to justify his degree in optometry.

I could have cared less.  For in my mind I knew what it was that intruded in my ocular safe zone.

Have you ever had something really embarrassing happen to you that maybe you were the cause of but it was so funny you had to share it even though it meant you would bring ridicule upon yourself?  No?  OK, have you ever written a blog and needed a funny story?  Work with me people!

Last Thursday night our home’s plumbing system essentially exploded.  The ultimate cause, as we found out the next morning thanks to a $200 plumber visit, was a clogged sewer line.  But in the moment my wife and I had to deal with a lot of things happening all at once in our peaceful home.  Two toilets backed up simultaneously as well as a shower, the main AC unit, and the washer.  What a mess.  We got it cleaned up as best we could before sending the kids to Granny’s for the night, washing ourselves up, and settling into bed.

It’s that “washing ourselves up” part that plays a big role here.  You see, I stood at my sink, exhausted, disgusted from having just been in contact with raw sewage, and did I mention exhausted?  Yeah, I was tired as hell.  I took my contacts out after thoroughly washing my face and hands.  All was fine.  I placed the contact case on the counter (which I had bleached).  Took the right contact out, poured solution in.  Took the left contact.  As I attempted to place it in the case, I knocked the whole uncovered case off the sink.  The case hit the floor, the right contact hit the toilet.  It landed on the edge, not falling in.  OK, don’t even judge me.  I hate you right now.  You would have done the same.

Having run out of contacts, I knew I couldn’t afford to lose this pair.

Also I was tired as hell.  Haven’t you been paying attention?

I picked the contact up, washed it in solution in the palm of my hand, and placed it in the case.

All was right with the world.

And at that moment this afternoon in the doctor’s office when he said “something got in there…” I knew what that something was.

Oh dear Lord…  I think my eyeball came in contact with human shit.

I, of course, could never reveal this to the doctor – though I’m revealing it to the world right now.

“Wonder what it could’ve been, doc…” I said, trailing my voice off just enough to indicate that I might have actually known.

Look, I’m a dad. I’ve been puked on in the face. This, by comparison, is no big deal. 

I drove home a little sick to my stomach.  The past is done.  It cannot be undone.  I can never go back in time to a moment when my eyeball hadn’t touched minute traces of feces.

On my drive home, though, I thought of something.

At least I know the OCD germ-warriors in my life aren’t joking.  AND, I’ll have one hell of a story to tell.

The One’s With a “3” on Them

After the fun and excitement of last week’s dental fiasco (the root canal that wasn’t, that crown that shouldn’t have been) I got the joy of an early morning dental visit again yesterday morning.  First, no one should be allowed to schedule a visit to the dentist before noon.  It’s just wrong.

The problem this time?  Well, the tooth right below last week’s crown has been bothering me.  If we’re keeping score that’s a lower right molar.

He looked in my mouth after taking an X-Ray and confirmed that there was an abscess.  The normal course of action is to treat it with an antibiotic and a painkiller.  In this case he prescribed Tylenol with Codeine.  Those are the happy little pills with a number “3” on them.  Not sure why.

Here we are almost 48 hours later and guess what?  The pain has not subsided.  Four to five hours after popping two of these bad boys (I guess that makes it Tylenol #6?) the sharp, shooting pain of tooth decay picks up in my jaw right where it left off.

Last night it was so bad it woke me up at 1:15 AM.  Lucky me.  On leaving my bed and heading to the couch (because that’s where all sick people belong) I flipped on the TV to watch an hour long program on the Smithsonian Channel called Aerial America.  It’s a stunning panoramic flyover of a particular state narrated by a man who sounds as excited to be telling you about it as the people who call Iowa home.

I learned so much about Iowa.

Wonder what state they’ll cover tonight because I know this is not going away any time soon.

You Mean You’re Not Really Harvey?

True story. 

I’m at s tire shop right now. Apparently new tires are expensive. 

Anyway a worker steps into the waiting area and calls for a customer. 

“Harvey?”

So Harvey’s not my real name. 

But I turned around all the same. 

Perhaps I’ve become too connected to this nom de plume.