Saturday, February 27, 2016

Watching things in the Sky

When I sit in my favorite chair I see out a window toward the northeast. Mostly I see the sky with a large freeway interchange taking up the bottom 25% of the view.

One thing I see quite frequently are helicopters heading to nearby Regions Hospital. Regions is a high level trauma hospital and it is also a burn center for the upper Midwest. It is contiguous with Gillette Children's Hospital, so also it could be children who are air-lifted for care.

 Today I was able to grab my camera quickly enough to get a couple of pictures.

And below is a picture of staff beginning to move a patient from the helicopter.

Often when the helicopters leave they fly a semi-circle towards the building in which I live and it gets a bit noisy for about 30 seconds. One night there were 3 helicopters about 1 AM in the morning and it was indeed noisy. I still wonder what might have happened that three people had to be air-lifted.

Then  I looked up and saw this wonderful set of jet trails.

Other things that happened today was enjoying a bit of brunch with others in the building.

Amazing how much good food got put together. Most were headed for a Block Party at the nearby CHS Stadium and then leaving at 5 PM for a walk up the hill to the Crashed Ice event. Too much walking yet for me.

I came back upstairs and had a nap since I had woke up at 4 AM and by 11 AM I was ready to catch up on sleep a bit.

Then I headed off for some errands. I went to a store to exchange a swim suit for a different size. Then I stopped by the library and picked out some new books. When I was checking them out I found my account shows no record of a library book I still have at home. Well, that will be interesting when I take the book back.

Waiting for the time change next Sunday so the late afternoon will have more daylight. Spring is coming!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Looking for Spring

In the previous post I wrote about having a hip injection. I mentioned insomnia as being a side effect of the cortisone substance and the second night it hit really hard. I woke up at 2:40 AM, and couldn't get back to sleep. The explanation for this that the cortisone causes the adrenal glands to move to the "fight or flight" mode and one's mind becomes overstimulated. At least this time I was expecting this and prepared with books to read and had also adjusted my schedule -- not promising I would do anything for anyone during the coming day. Finally went back to asleep around 6 AM.

Woke up later quite uncomfortable. By then the brief period of a local anesthetic in the hip relieving the pain had ended. And it was way too soon for the pain relief from the cortisone to be present. That doesn't kick in for 10-14 days.

I have also learned when I wake up with what feels like extra pain to grab for my phone. I go to a service provided by the US Arthritis Foundation. One puts in the local zip code and from that the weather for that area is analyzed to provided a pain index. Sorry the picture below is not very good-- lots of light reflections.

Tufts University did a study about 10 years ago to go along with the story many people tell about knowing the weather by the how their joints ache. The hypothesis for the pain is that falling temperatures and fall barometric pressure causes the joints to swell and swollen joints produce more pain. I don't know about the temperature change, but I'm certainly sensitive to the changes in the barometer. Low pressure -- Ouch!!!

So it wasn't my imagination -- Friday was a very high pain day -- and I've lived through a couple of Extreme level days too -- those days are best spent with either good books or good television!

Well, I was rather tired of feeling sorry for myself and so decided I would just take a lot of ibuprofen and go to Como Park, here is St. Paul, and enjoy the flowers in the Conservatory found there. Below is the view of the Conservatory as I walked from the parking lot toward the Conservatory. The picture shows it is still winter, but not too bad.

It's official name is the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory and it's 101 years old. About 10 years the building underwent a major renovation, particularly repairing glass areas so that it wasn't leaking.

By the time I arrived it was about 1:30 in the afternoon. I had eaten a bagel earlier in the morning, so I was hungry. I was also surprised how many cars were in the parking lot for a weekday afternoon, and how many people were in the restaurant having a late lunch.

My late lunch was a cheeseburger, accompanying by waffle French Fries. 

 After I was finished I walked through a service area and found a way to recycle some things that need to leave my home.

After my lunch I walked first to the Fern Room. I've been there many times, but this time the fern got my attention.

The nearby signs explains it is called a Bird's Nest Fern and it comes from the Hawaii Islands. The signs explains that decaying leaves and water is caught by the leaves on the fern and that is how it gets its nutrition.

With just this small walk my back was hurting and sitting down relieves the pain. While sitting on a nearby bench I noticed how the ceiling from the room reflections in the pond in the room.

After a bit of rest I walked to the next room which is the center of the Conservatory.

In the pond I noticed I noticed a plant that was new to me. Perhaps you readers can see the sign says it is European Water Clover.

In the middle is a fountain.

The sculpture was done is 1925 by Harriett Fishmuth.

Nearby I saw some beautiful orchids.

And I liked this one which looks like it has a pansy face.

I next went to the Sunken Garden. The flowers in this room change with the season.

Below is a  close-ups of one of the flowers in this room. For my readers in other countries, it is called an Amaryllis in English.

I was glad for the benches in this room too to rest the achy back.

I also explored the North Garden. This garden holds plants that make food such as pineapple, pepper, and cacao. I didn't find that this garden had any good things for photo, no flowers, no produce, probably resting -- the area is warm but it is still subject to the limited light during the Minnesota winter.

As I walked out I found the sun shining. And to the left I saw a winter view of a what is called a butterfly garden.
At home I got a good view of the full moon arriving at about 5:30 PM in the afternoon.

And the view to the left shows the sun shining on the afternoon rush hour on the freeways. Doesn't look too busy for I took this picture around 6 PM and the major traffic rush is between 4:00 - 5:30 in this area in the afternoon.

Yes, it this was a better afternoon than laying around and complaining about arthritis pain.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Hip Injection Adventure

During the past year I've started to deal with severe arthritis. On this past Wednesday I had the 2nd injection into my right hip. If one searches the internet there is many mentions of hip injection, but nothing that tells one what to expect, so I thought I would write about this a bit.

For readers in other countries, in the United States if one is over 65 years old, one is eligible for what is called Part A Medicare. This pays for hospital services. Part B Medicare pays for outpatient services. Cost of Part B is subtracted automatically from one's Social Security check. But neither of these insurance programs pay 100% of  costs, and so one needs to buy what is called Supplemental Insurance. I get mine through a large Minnesota system called Health Partners and this is also directly billed towards my Social Security check as well.  And I receive all my health/dental services through Health Partners too.

Health Partners has many, many clinics around the Twin Cities. The one I go to for orthopedic services is less than 2 miles from my apartment. However, for the past 2 years there has been major construction in the freeway I need to use to get there and so I had to do long detours. Most recently I can just get there is less than 5 minutes now.

In the lower part of the photo one may notice a sign that says Gillette Lifetime Services. Gillette Hospital started out as a children's hospital which specialized in care of children with polio. As polio was controlled in the United States, its mission changed. Gillette still cares for children with trauma -- for example, my 2 year old grandson fell down some steps and had brain surgery one night at midnight.

One of the specialties of Gillette is the care of children who for some reason need prostheses. And once a child begins with Gillette for this, they can continue for a long time, if not forever, to have a prosthesis adjusted or changed as the child grows into adulthood. A hospital is not needed for this and so most care is done in a clinic setting.

And yes, I'm aware the word, "Clinic" is used differently in Central Europe at least, than it is in the United States.

A hip injection requires the use of fluoroscope services to ascertain that the needles are entered into the right place. At this clinic, hip injections as well as other services such as shoulder injection, are done in the Same Day Surgery location. I didn't remember that from last time, but then I was in so much pain it is amazing I remembered anything!

I went to a nearby check-in desk to ask where was the Pain Intervention Clinic was. She inquired if I was there for "a shot." I said yes, so then I had to show my ID and insurance card and got checked in for my appointment. Then she said, "Do you need financial assistance?" I replied that I had just showed her all my insurance information, to which she replied she said it was a new question for everyone. This was a change from "Have you been out of the country in the past 21 days?" That all started with the Ebola outbreak in 2014-15.

And since the hip injection is done in Same Day Surgery one is treated as if it is surgery. One can't eat or drink for two hours before the appointment. Since I have more than 40 years experience as a nurse I couldn't help but ask why one couldn't eat or drink before a hip injection because there is no physiological explanation for this direction . There is no general anesthesia. Answer I got back is that "some people throw up."

When one arrives vital signs are checked. One is asked over and over about any allergies to medications. One is asked over and over what is the procedure and on which side. Finally the doctor who does the procedure arrived and asked me to sign a form stating I understood infection is a slight, but possible, outcome of the hip injection. He also placed a mark on my right forearm indicating that was the side for the procedure. Then I sat in a room for about 30 minutes waiting my turn. I was surely glad that I brought a book along to read.

Finally it was my turn. I walked to a procedure room, and hopped up on exam table. I had worn slacks with an elastic band so could just pull them down a bit to expose my right hip bone. The attending staff placed some drapes over my clothing leaving the hip area exposed. Then the skin was cleansed with Betadine or something similar -- I couldn't see. The doctor said "you will feel burning." I did as he injected some anesthesia into the area. Then he said, "you will feel some pressure." That was when the cortisone med was added. Then I was done.

I went back to the room where I left my coat and other possessions. I had to wait for my blood pressure to be taken again. Also I had to wait for the "discharge directions" to be printed and presented to me. I also had to sign a form indicating I had received such directions. These directions speak to what negative outcomes should be reported.

The whole procedure takes about 2 minutes, the paperwork etc takes 30 minutes or more!!!

The final thing to notice about a cortisone injection, including a hip injection, is that is takes 10-14 days to really kick in. I'm waiting for some the radiating pain from my hip joint across my back to disappear.

The staff is always surprised that I'm driving myself to and from. I keep telling them my regular orthopedic doctor said I didn't need a driver for this procedure.

Since my appointment was at 12:30 pm, that meant after 10:30 I couldn't eat or drink anything and now it was 1:45 and I was hungry. So my next stop after this was lunch!! This in itself should convince anyone thinking about a hip injection to understand that it is not at all a traumatic procedure.

After lunch I decided to try a store new to me and see if I could I buy some new luggage for my  Poland trips. I knew the store was having a luggage sale. I've been looking at their website.

Got there and found some lovely new luggage at first a 70% sale and then another 20% on this day. It was a good day to go looking for luggage. First I was shown a black set. I said I wanted something different so I could actually find my luggage when it shows up on the baggage carousel. 95% of the bags are black! So not only did I not have a driver after the procedure, I also went shopping!

Now the final thing to know about a hip injection or any other type of cortisone type injection is that it may cause insomnia. And for me it does. The night of the procedure I slept just fine. In fact, after waking up at 7 or so I went back to bed and slept until about 11 AM I volunteered that afternoon. Then what would be the 2nd night I woke up at 2:40 AM and couldn't go back to sleep. But the good thing is that the insomnia effect wears off in about 48 hours. This is not a bad side effect if one plans for it, and certainly is worth it to get rid of pain -- and I plan ahead for this with a stack of books to read if I can't sleep.

I hope this is a helpful story for anyone who needs a hip injection and wonders what it is all about.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Sad Misadventure

No pictures to go with this post. Today I had a sad misadventure. I took myself out to lunch today. In the next booth I overhead a man proclaiming we must elect a President who understands that the whole world hates America. All I could think about is the fact I have done 32 Global Volunteer programs with the idea of making friends and developing long-term relationships with people in other countries. I also was privileged to be awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and spent 7 months in Hungary. Senator Fulbright pioneered what became the Fulbright Program after World War II because he thought there would be less war if people in different countries knew each other. It is not been my experience that people in other countries hate Americans, but at times they are mystified or disturbed by American policies.

This "hate" rhetoric associated with the political season in the U.S. makes me very sad.

And my blog is being read by people in more than 100 countries. I trust that means there is something here at least interesting and I have never received any comments that indicate a hate for America.

Thanks you all for listening.

And comments would be most welcome. Please let me know your thoughts. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A cell phone adventure

Well, yesterday I sure did a silly thing. I grabbed my phone early in the morning to take a photo of the beautiful colors of the sunrise. After I looked at the pictures, I decided I didn't like them and so tried to delete them. At that point my phone just froze. I thought what would fix it was to take the battery out and then restart the phone. Well, I couldn't figure out how to get back off the phone -- a phone I've had only about 4 months or so.

So I went to T-Mobile. The technician showed the spot on the phone frame to use to take the back off the phone. He took the battery out and then replaced it and couldn't get the phone to start either. He walked over a counter and flipped up the top and inside was a computer as well as many USB cords. He ran my account and then ran diagnostics on the phone. What was wrong -- the battery was at 0%. Boy did I feel stupid.

So I went back to the car and plugged into the car charger I have for my phone. In just a four block drive it went from 0-1% so I knew the only thing wrong was the need to charge the phone.

My short drive was to a favorite restaurant. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and it seems traditional that many give up meat for Lent and so fish becomes a prominent feature on menus.

I had the fish sliders -- sliders being a word applied to small burger shaped sandwich.

This bun is about one-half the size of average burger buns. The sandwich was really good, and I'm of the opinion that eating this rather than a hamburger is not really much of a sacrifice!

Recently I read that Pope Francis said instead of giving up things such as chocolate or computer games, we should give up indifference to the needs of others. That indeed sounds much more difficult and probably much more useful than eating fish sliders instead of beef burger sliders!

Soup and Sort

For those who read my blog and live in different countries, no soup and sort isn't a weird American English idiom. I am sharing about a volunteer event I've in which I participated last winter and now starting again this winter.

I do a number of different volunteer activities for Mano a Mano International. 
Mano a Mano works to improve the life of Bolivians, particularly those who live high in the Andes Mountains.

One activity, and the first activity of Mano a Mano when it began, is the collection of medical supplies that are being discarded or no longer of needed use. The supplies come locally or as far away as North Dakota and South Dakota.

Last winter two volunteers got the idea to start Soup and Sort.  Volunteers interested in helping to sort the donated supplies come to the warehouse around 5 PM.  One volunteer, who is an excellent cook, makes soup and brings it in a slow cooker. So that explains the soup part of this title. This week it was squash soup and very good. My small contribution to this event is to bring some cookies for a quick dessert. This week I decided to "bake" by shopping downstairs at the grocery store.

Now about the sort part of this title.Supplies come in all mixed up.
We literally dump a box of materials out on a table and begin to sort what's inside by several categories.

For example, diapers, underpants, and feminine hygiene pads all go into box 3. Once a box is filled, it is taped shut and the number marked on all four sides.

Filled boxes are loaded onto a pallet.

The next piece of processing is done one of the highly skilled volunteers counts the boxes and notes the categories of boxes in the group.  Then a whole pallet of boxes is wrapped in plastic, weighed, and then marked with a number. This helps greatly when it comes time to load containers. One knows what is loaded into which container and what the weight is of the loaded supplies.

Mano a Mano also received wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches.

The same skilled volunteer makes sure to count how many objects are in each of these cardboard boxes, and again, the box is marked with a number and weight. When it comes time to load the containers for shipping, the pallets are loaded first to form a foundation. Then someone climbs up on the loaded pallets and begins to place the wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers into additional layers and in the spaces between the pallets.

Another of my volunteer activities for Mano a Mano is digitizing records. I've been through about 1200 paper records now and find people have given donations from $5.00 to thousands of dollars. Also the internet makes it possible to send donations from other countries. I've found records for donors, for example, from Germany, France, and Canada.

This above is my hint for any reader who is able to send a bit of donation. A $1.00 donation provides the shipping cost to send supplies valued at about $13.00. It is not often one gets that much return on an investment. See if  you are interested to learn more and also there you will find a link for donations.

I've been to Bolivia. These supplies are going to places where people have nothing. These are populations that live on basically $1.00 per day. Mano a Mano has now built 155 clinics in places where never before that had there been a health clinic. And all of these clinics continue to function. The model used by Mano a Mano is that a village asks for help. This is not well meaning Americans coming into Bolivia telling the Bolivians what they need or should do.

In 2014 when I was in a Bolivian village I watched a father walking his little son to the clinic. The little one was obviously sick with some kind of respiratory infection. He just looked miserable. I asked what the father would have to do had the clinic not been there for his son. Answer: He would have to walk 20 kilometers out to the highway. Then wait for a trucker who might be willing to pick them up and then drive 3 hours into a larger city where there would be a clinic. And then of course they would have to make the return trip too. This all could might take two days, a hardship in itself.

That is what a difference a primary care health clinic makes in a village up in the Andes Mountains.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

There's an App for that!

People often think Minnesota is a terrible place to live because of snow in the winter time. Well, I'd rather live in a place that knows what to do with it than one of the places that is rather totally unprepared to deal with snow.

This has been an easy winter actually. However, a snow storm moved further north than expected this week and we had a very messy Tuesday. I took the photo below around 4 PM in the afternoon before the snow had even ended. My balcony overlooks Robert Street. This is one of many streets classified as a snow emergency route which is plowed 24/7 until the snow ends and the street is cleared.  Streets such as this are continually plowed so there that vehicles such as ambulances and fire trucks can move through the city.

Clearing streets in an old city is more difficult than in the suburbs. The houses in the suburbs all have garages and so it is easy to clear a street for plowing. In the city there are many apartment houses that were built before everyone had cars. In these areas there is no where to park except on the street. For four years I lived in an apartment complex that was 21st century, but there is only one parking spot in the garage per apartment. So if there were two people in an unit with cars, one person had to leave the car on the street -- again a problem for snow plowing.

So to get around this a snow emergency is declared. In St. Paul a snow emergency begins at 9 PM at night. From that time until about 6 AM the next morning the east side of north-south streets are plowed. Plowing continues too on the snow emergency routes. The next day the east-west streets are plowed as well as the west half of the north-south streets. To help residents and visitors know where it is OK to park, the streets that are half-plowed at night have signs, on the correct side of the street, that say "Night plow route."

A snow emergency is announced every way possible -- e-mail, radio and TV announcements, phone messages-- to make everyone aware of need to move their cars from areas that are due to be snow plowed. And now for first time, beginning this week, there's an app for that.

To get information one puts an address into the map part of the app. Then the streets pop up and one can see what streets are OK for parking, outlined in green, and what streets are yet to be plowed. The map below shows the center city about 12 hours after the snow has stopped. One can see they are all outlined in green so parking is legal -- and since it's the center of city -- also if one pays for the parking place.

And the photo below was taken about 24 hours after the one at the very beginning of this story.

Wow! It is 5 PM and the sun is still shining. Spring will soon be coming. The building in the 9:00 position is Regions Hospital. The multi-lane roads is the intersection of I-94E and I-35E.

Addendum: Turns out this was the 5th largest February snowfall in the Twin Cities area.