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Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Spiney hasn’t written in a few months. Mainly because I got tired of blogging about politics. The more I watch the news and read blogs like my friend Wes at The Humble Libertarian the more I feel hopeless and that all politics is dirty. But this week  the non-stop Health Care Reform coverage has really got my goat.

We are in the worst economic conditions since the great depression. No one disagrees with this. Because of the Trillions spent on the Stimulus bill, money spent to buy into GM, Chrysler, The Tarp money spent to shore up Wall Street, etc our country’s deficit is at the highest it has ever been.  This administration has spent more in their first year, than was spent by all administrations up until now, including WWII. Our country is on the verge of bankruptcy and Moody’s Financial has said that our credit rating will be lowered for the first time ever!

For years we have been warned that Social Security and Medicare will be bankrupt in a few years. So now we will add on top of the an estimated $980 billion dollar program. A program that adds 153 new governmental  agencies.  Governmental agencies add no productivity to the economy, they just make work and drain money from the taxpayers, that’s you. This new Healthcare plan also cuts $580 Billion dollars from Medicare. This will effect our senior citizens who are already strapped paying for medical cost. So how does this help them?

We are being told that this new Health Care Plan will reduce our deficit by $120 billion dollars after 10 years, and even more after 20 years. These numbers are estimates by the CBO the Congressional Budget Office. But they are estimates. How can they really predict what is going to happen in 10 and 20 years. No one in the government saw our recent financial collapse coming, even those agencies whose job it was to keep an eye on all of our financial institutions. With that collapse we lost Trillions of dollars, and with the loss in tax income from people without jobs and homes without owners several of our largest states and cities are in financial ruin. California hands out IOU’s to it’s suppliers and constituents.  And it has now come out that 11 states will  not be able to send out State Income Tax Returns. It’s your money but they don’t have it to give back to you. Most say it will take until August until you get your tax return.

The U.S. Government is telling you that they know better how to run Health Care than the business sector. They also said they could run the Postal Service which is in Bankruptcy. They are going to cut out Saturday delivery very soon. They also said they could run Amtrak the federal passenger rail service. Amtrak loses money hand over fist every year. Every year it needs a financial bailout from the government to keep it running.  And compared to the rest of the Western World we have the slowest trains in the world. Plus despite all of your money the Government gives to Amtrak have you ever bought a ticket for one of their trains, very expensive. No wonder people still drive their cars instead of riding the rails.

In this bill they propose to cut payment to Doctors for Medicare patients by 20%.  Doctors are already less than thrilled to treat Medicare patients.  Many now say they will drop out of the program with these cuts. This program will put 30 million more people on the Medicare system with less doctors to treat them. Have you waited in your Doctors waiting room lately, or called for an appointment and told they will see you next week. Or worse yet, have you ever had to sit in the ER. An average wait when I go is at least 2 and as much as 4 hours to be seen, and as much as 9 hours to get out. Think about how much more this will go up when 30 million more people have access.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to agree that the current system doesn’t work. If you happen to have good health insurance it’s the best.  But I’ve been on the other side. I’ve gone broke paying for health care.  Both my Wife and myself have health issues. I have Chronic pain from 4 back surgeries and many doctors visits a year. My wife suffers from chronic and almost constant migraines. Because of her migraines we visit the ER and doctors often. My Wife and I also owned our own business for 15 years. One of our largest monthly expenses was health insurance. In the end in 2005 we were paying over $1200 a month for health insurance. That was just for 2 adults. There needs to be affordable coverage for the neediest among us, and health insurance cost need to be made more affordable and their constant increases kept in check.  This can be done through competition. Right now I am limited to buying health insurance to a few companies within my state of PA. And the big player who sets their prices wherever they want in this state is Capital Blue Cross. It is the same way in almost every state, if not every state. If insurance companies from all over the country could compete in every state the competition would drive the price down, just like it does in every other field.

The Government could have an option for the neediest, and those of us who can afford insurance can buy their insurance through private firms at competitive prices.  The other thing that needs to be done to keep health care cost down is everyone who can afford health care must carry at least catastrophic coverage. That way hospitals won’t have to pickup the cost for those who can not pay. And when they do it gets passed on to all of the rest of us. There are many who say they can’t afford health insurance and want the government to provide it for them. But on the other hand they really choose to buy other things instead of paying for health insurance. They have cool tricked out cars, the latest electronics, and go on expensive vacations. All the time the roll the dice saying that they are healthy and not worried. But then they could have an accident, that’s why they are called accidents, or worse an unexpected disease or major health care. Even simple appendicitis will set you back several thousand.  And how many couples find their selves in an unintended pregnancy.  Again you are talking a few thousand dollars, and that’s if everything goes well.

When we are in an extended depression, with high unemployment that is predicted to last, this is not a good time to add an almost trillion dollar program to the government. One that will admittedly create new tax burdens for business. Businesses that are already hurting and just hanging on.

If this Health Care Bill is so wonderful and such a no brainer why has the deadline been moved almost a year. Why must there be so many special backroom deals cut to exempt a few states from the Medicare cuts in order to get the votes from that senator or congress person. Also why now are they not even willing to take an up and down vote, on the record to pass or fail this bill. Instead they are now looking to use the Deemed function, which I admit I don’t totally understand, but they will basically pass or fail it with one vote Yes or No with no individual record. They don’t want this record because they are all up for election in November.

Why to a feel a need to blog this and why am I concerned. It’s this, we are going to create another huge government bureaucracy. These never work out good. They always end up costing much more than they were ever estimated at. In the beginning all are supposed to be big money savers. I challenge you to find one government program that actually saves us money. And you are talking 1/6 of our economy. We don’t make anything in America anymore we just service things. and Healthcare is one of the biggest. Again I agree we need reform, but this isn’t it. It’s 3000 pages of new laws that those who are pushing it don’t even know what’s in it.  Nancy Pelosi speaker of the house stated this week that we will have to pass the bill to see what’s in it. Now isn’t that something, pushing a bill that you don’t even know what is in it. That’s what scares Spiney. What do you think?

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I woke up to shocking news this morning. My cousin’s 16 year old son, Ian died of the swine flu. He was a strong, healthy 16 year old. I had just talked to him last night via email about playing the drums. He was bummed because he couldn’t play this week because he was sick.

I tried to get a regular seasonal flu shot this week. In fact I’ve tried for the past two weeks. No one has them available. The local Sam’s club had what was a very limited supply this morning. They ran out in 10-15 minutes and throngs were turned away.

Every day we are warned on the TV, radio, net, newspapers of the coming pandemic and we better get our flu shot. Yet there are none to be had. Because of some screw up at the lab they had to destroy a large batch of seasonal flu vaccine. And the manufacturing of the H1N1 is going much slower than they think.

This is coming from the same government that wants to take over the health care industry. They feel they can do it better than the free market. Yet the swine flu and seasonal flu shots are coordinated by the CDC, the Center for Disease Control. If they can’t get this right, and they have seen it coming for at least 2 years, how can they take over the whole health care industry?

This blog entry is dedicated to Ian Hinkle, age 16 of Weatherly, PA.

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Thought I’d jump back in here since there has been so much national debate on this in the past few weeks.  Here is my take on the subject. I truly believe there needs to be some changes. I think the many citizens who are interviewed by the media who say there needs to change but I don’t know what are either taking a cop out or not really thinking about it. I believe that both the left and the right have taken extreme stances that will hurt us. The right by wanting to keep the status quo, the left by wanting to change everything about our system. I get so sick of it has to be either Black or White. no one sees the gray, or is it grey I never know which is correct.  Either way. Something needs to be done to curtail the massive increases in cost every year. If you must pay for your own health insurance, or you are a small business like many of us and have to pay for it, you know the cost are incredible and go up at least 20% every year. When Laurie and I owned our studio it was our single highest expense. In March of 2005 we were paying about $11-1200 a month for Blue Cross for just Laurie and I. Our daughter was covered by my ex-wife’s health insurance. On top of that we had sizable co-pays. We usually had to pay 100% up front and then turn the bill in to our insurer. We also had to pay up front for all of our meds, which were many for my back and then we got reimbursed about 70%. And we paid 100% for dental and Eye care. I had many teeth pulled because it was $45 to pull or $1000 to root canal. With both my and my wife’s health issues I feel the cost of health insurance would have driven us out of business by now. We looked elsewhere and because of “Pre-existing conditions”, no one would touch us. So we kept paying Blue Cross and didn’t dare miss a payment. We would get behind on our Studio and Apartment rent in the slow times of the season because the very first thing we paid was health insurance. If we were late, that was it, they cut us off. So yes Health insurance companies can be the boogy man. On the other hand they did pay over $250K for my back & neck operations plus follow ups. They NEVER refused any treatments that the doctors requested. My Wife had health issues and so did I. Between us, we used much more than we ever paid in. They would have loved to drop us!
There are areas where cost could be cut. #1 tort reform. Yes if your doctor did something horrible and harmed you or a loved one, they need to pay for that mistake. But is that worth $100K, $1 million, $20 million, $50 million? Some payouts are ridiculous and the majority of the money goes to the lawyers, not the person who is harmed.  The doctor who operated on my back almost closed down his whole practice wish had several neurosurgeons and other specialist. They employed probably a total of 25 well paid professionals. They were going to move from PA to MD because the cost of malpractice insurance in PA was off the scale due to our lack of any tort reform. They  and many other doctors only stayed after our Governor, Ed Rendell jumped in at the last minute and said the state would pick up 50% of the cost of the malpractice insurance. I’ve been told that putting caps on liabilities would greatly reduce the cost of health care. Another area I see, which I may be wrong on is the cost of all the advertising. Here in PA Blue Cross has an animated spokesman called Blueman. Well as our rates soared I saw Blueman on billboards literally every mile, he was constantly on TV, the Radio, and the newspaper. I felt like a large percentage of my money was going into advertising. and it was ridiculous because here in PA, Blue Cross is virtually a monopoly. I don’t know who there were advertising to. They did manage to crush all of the HMO’s.  So to have a single payer system in my mind in not the answer, because when there is no competition the cost only goes one way,up.
Next there are people who Choose not to have health insurance. I say this because I know some, I’m related to some. They are young and would rather have the extra money in there paycheck than pay for insurance. My Wife has great insurance through her work, but we still pay about $375 a month. After having paid $1200 we think it is a bargain. Yet I hear people complain because they have to pay $20 per paycheck for insurance. The ones I know who Choose not to have it tell the same old story. I’m young, I’ll tough it out, I don’t get sick and if I do, I’ll go to the ER, they Can’t refuse me. And they are right. They can’t and don’t. and those of us who pay for our health insurance we pay for them. If you ever go to the ER for something it is a prelude for what’s to come. You wait and you wait and you wait. The place is filled with humanity from kids with colds to stabbings, to people like my wife in agony with a Migraine. Our average visit to the ER with a migraine was 8-10 hours. We generally waited 2-3 hours before they saw us. Then they put you in a room or the hallway and forget about you for another 2 hours. Then they treat you and you wait and wait to be checked and released. It’s not their fault, they are understaffed and over run with patients. So when everybody has health care there will be even more people there in line. And less doctors because the big incentive of devoting 10 years of your life just to be a doctor won’t be there. Your salary will be capped. Why work hard or see as many patients as you can, you will get a flat rate or some reduced fee that the Government sees fit for you to earn. So we need to limit the amount of people using the ER as their primary care. I guess, I’m no expert there needs to be more low cost or free clinics in the cities and the rural areas. Somewhere where people can go before it’s too late. Or when it’s a minor issue like a cold, flu or fever. That is not what the ER is for. The ER should be for Trauma only. My Wife only went there for her Migraines because her primary wouldn’t dispense morphine. One we convinced him that is the only thing that can kick her migraines, he started doing it. It really reduced our cost and that to our insurance. We used to go to the ER, huge wait, $1800 and a co-pay of $150.  Just today we went to the primary. $230 to insurance, $20 co-pay and 1 hour. The best part, after she suffered all night we called the doctors office at 8:30am. They took us in at 11:00 am. I doubt that will happen under government health care. The only reason we will need to go to the ER anymore is if we are out of town or the middle of the night is our only option. and even that varies. My Wife gets debilitating migraines often. We have been in ER’s in every state we have visited. NJ, VA, MD. VA was the best. We were in Williamsburg. We had a wonderful understanding female physician who was a migraine sufferer herself. We waited very little. She gave my wife her favorite special mix of migraine pain relief and we were out in 3 hours. total cost $800. $1000 less than in PA.  On the other hand we were in NJ. Horrible experience. We told the doctor a man that morphine is all that works. He all but accused my wife of being an addict looking for a fix. Even after we begged him to call her doctor back home. He gave her some under powered placebo and sent us home after being there, on Vacation, all night. It didn’t work at all. We had to come back the next night. By know my Wife’s in a wheelchair, holding her head in her hands, crying in agony. We tell the story, different doctor. He gives he what she needed, and she gets relief. We loose 3 days of a 6 day vacation. We pay for the ER twice. We fought it, but lost and ended up paying about $500 co-pay.  This is an area where cost could be saved and more efficiency. If my Wife’s records were encoded on a card, or in a national health database, a lot of the issues could have been avoided. But we had to fill out all of the paperwork, 2 days in a row, including having her information Faxed from home 2X. What a waste of time and money. So having health records in a transparent portable data base is a no brainer in the year 2009.  Up until last year our Primary care, a wonderful practice was all paper and pen. They just now in 2009 went to computers. In their words, in order to be more efficient and to serve us better. It’s been a learning curve but they are getting better. They are country doctors one step above Mennonites.  So there could be BIG savings here in time and money.

Duplication of Tests: With my back operations and follow up I had many thousands of dollars worth of test. X-rays, Cat-Scans, MRI’s, EMG’s, Milograms (sp?), you name it. And some of them several times over such as pre-op, post-op, and further post-op to see the healing.  When It finally became apparent that I could no longer work I filed for disability. By this time we were really financially strapped. They told me I needed medical proof. No problem I had reams of paperwork, large enveloped full of X-rays, File Folders full of test results. None of it was acceptable. It was all pre me applying for SSDI. I had to have all of the test done over. I couldn’t believe it. Thank God my insurance company didn’t balk, nor did my Doctor. I had to have all of the test over again. I had to go through all of the Physical Therapy and Pain Management Doctors to get current paperwork that said I was disabled. We were talking probably $25K worth of costs. Plus my time, Doctors time, Doctors who couldn’t understand why I was back, and over $1500 of co-pay. This was when I was on food stamps at the time. So there is some major waste.  So some common sense rules and regulations would have saved that money. The end result of all of those test were nothing had changed. They still couldn’t cure me, Yes I was still in pain, and Yes several doctors put in writing that they felt I was no longer able to work.  Before all of this there was great waste on the behalf of the insurance companies. I was re injured in Jan 5 2000. Having had previous back surgeries I knew I needed another. The Neurologist agreed, and it was our slow time. Get an operation be rehabilitated long before Senior Season, no brainer. But… the insurance company policy now states all non-invasive treatment must be tried before surgery. In the past, The Doc said I needed surgery, he called the hospital and I was on the table in 3 day. Now I had to go through a battery of tests. months of physical therapy, which only caused further injury and delay. I got my surgery on May 7th. Right before Senior Season. Totally screwed up our business. We were on a roll to have our best year ever. I came home, I was supposed to be off work for 10-12 weeks.  We had other photographers jump in and try to help, but they had their own work to shoot, and they didn’t shoot our style and were as careful as me. Our work suffered, our sales suffered, and I was getting frantic phone calls all the time from my wife. 7 days later I was back shooting. It was hell, but the sales were there. I would shoot, then go behind a tree and throw up because I was in 90 degree sun on a ton of narcotics, and was in incredible pain. It certainly didn’t help my recovery. So Insurance delayed my needed surgery, cost an extra $20-30K in PT and test before the surgery, and I ended up getting the surgery anyway. Plus they screwed up my business and probably my recovery because I had to go right back to work. Doctors, Insurance Companies, and the Government Welfare and Social Security DO NOT understand the needs of the Self Employed. I sure learned that.

Another thing, I know this will be a hot button, but we need to stop giving away the store to illegal aliens.  I’m all for Legal Aliens. But Free health care, Free Education, Welfare to Illegal Immigrants just invites more over our porous borders. My Understanding, and I have not read the whole 1000 page plus of the health care bill is that it guarantees health care coverage to All including Illegal Immigrants. That is just wrong.  I have nothing against legal immigrants. In my travels I see many immigrants as the hardest working people I’ve ever seen. They are here to make a better life for themselves and their families.

More emphasis needs to be placed on Health Care Prevention. We are an unhealthy nation. I will be the first to say, I am overweight. I am 6’0″ and currently 206 lbs. Just got weighed at the doctors office today. I am down from a high of probably 228 or more. I do watch what I eat. I try to walk as much as possible, and I have no vices other than DPP. I never smoked, rarely drank, and now can’t because of my pain meds, and I’m no longer a risk taker. As I go anywhere in my daily travels I see a nation of obese, and morbidly obese people. and what’s scary is many children. My own daughter is pre-diabetic because she drinks tons of caffeinated soda to stay awake for work. She wasn’t generally heavy, in fact in college she was in great shape. Then she went to work as an EMT.  They are a lot who in general are in poor health. They sit around and wait for a call. They have tons of pizza, doughnuts, soda at the House. They do this to stay awake and to grab a quick bite. And they work 16-24 hour shifts where they try to sleep until the alarm goes off. She no longer works there, and has been losing some wait. I lovingly read her the riot act about diabetes being preventable and not something she wants to get.  We are a country of fast food and now worse Energy Drinks. These things are high caloric and filled with caffeine. And they are so prevalent. It kills me to see mothers in the grocery store buying them for their young children.  Many weight, smoking, and drinking related health issues are so preventable. Yet our government creates a catch 22 by basing so much of how it is going to pay for health care on sin taxes. It Needs and Wants people to drink and smoke! I think that there needs to be a carrot and stick approach. People who watch what they eat, exercise, and don’t drink in excess or smoke should be rewarded with lower health care premiums or cash / tax bonuses for being healthy. Those on the other side of the scale should pay a penalty, a higher premium if they choose to live that way.

We  need to get a handle on young people and unwed mothers having babies. As I drive around or go to the park the number of extremely young girls with babies is heartbreaking. The future for the girls is bleak, the future for the child is probably worse and yet it continues. We need to address this as a nation. We are a practicing Christian family. When we all lived together we were very active in the church. Our daughter was very active in the youth group. Both her and I played in the praise band, we all belonged to Sunday school I taught the youth group. We did all we could to provide a loving stable home and community for ourselves and our daughter. We were also very involved in her school. But we were also realistic. At age 13 like a light switch our daughter became boy crazy. And she was an early developer and quite attractive. As soon as we saw the signs of her going to be sexually active we made a trip as a family to planned parenthood. We didn’t say here you go, now go out and have sex. But the last thing we all needed was an unplanned pregnancy. We talked and interacted and loved all we could as a family, but we couldn’t be there 24×7. Teenagers even those in good homes, in Sunday School groups, with celibacy pledges don’t think with their heads all the time. We don’t agree with many things that planned parenthood stands for, we are a pro-life family. But they were a good source to avoid teenage pregnancy and STD’s. As a Senior Studio we saw many Good Girls from Good homes who between their session and picking up their final portraits started showing they were pregnant. And I’m  sure there were many abortions we never heard of.

I’m running out of steam here guys and girls.  One other area where  strides can be made is allowing small businesses or like trades such as photographers, mechanics, plumbers etc to band together and purchase health insurance at group rates.  My understanding was PPA couldn’t offer group health insurance because of rules that didn’t allow businesses to band together and insurance companies to work across state lines. That’s just insane. We could have save so much on our premiums if we could have bought as a group with other photographers.

And finally when the Government gets involved it just doesn’t work well. So many of the bureaucrats in Washington have No Idea how to run a business or what it’s like to make a payroll. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Postal Service, and Amtrak all are either bankrupt or heading that way. So what makes anyone thing the can handle something as large as National Healthcare.  It’s not an area they should be involved in.  They can make changes that will help or make independent Insurance Companies and Health Care Providers work more efficiently and justly. They can enforce portability so you don’t lose health insurance if you change or lose your job. They can come up with away to cover pre-existing conditions. But for them to run a National Insurance Company or Program would be a BIG Mistake.  That’s my opinion.  What is yours.  Thanks,  Spiney

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In an interview with C-span over the Memorial Day weekend President Obama stated the obvious America is Broke.

Steve Scully of C-Span asked the President the following:    “SCULLY: You know the numbers, $1.7 trillion debt, a national deficit of $11 trillion. At what point do we run out of money?”  President Obama answered “Well we are there right now.” If this is the case and it is why do we wake up everyday to new proposals for another $30 billion for a bankrupt GM, $10-11 Trillion for National Healthcare. When your broke should you not cut back on spending instead of digging yourself in deeper?  Makes sense to me.  And how will we pay for all this new spending? More taxes for everyone.  Yes even though the President campaigned with a promise that only persons making over $250K a year would see tax increases, and the masses would see tax reductions, we are all in for huge increases in taxes. They have proposed a whole bunch of new taxes to pay for health care.  1st they want to tax food that’s bad for us starting with soda. Most all of us drink soda. I certainly do everyday though for me its been all diet for about 10 years and caffeine free for about 2.  There will be a new tax on every can & bottle of soda.  Then the whopper a VAT or Value Added Tax on everything that is sold.  this is basically a national sales tax on top of the sales tax your state or city already imposes. they are talking around 20-25%.  So if an when this passes in PA which already has a 6% sales tax a $150 I-pod will set you back $189 based on a 20% VAT. There’s change you can believe in.  They also want to tax health care benefits provided by your employer for the first time ever. So there will be less in your paycheck to buy the more expensive things you still need and want. Now this will really help an ailing economy. Let’s see you’ll have less take home pay to buy things with. So you’ll be less inclined to buy things, especially since they now cost at least 20% more. So we buy less, this slows down the economy, the Government gets less tax income, more people lose their jobs because we can’t afford to buy things. Yeah that will work.  But at least your get FREE health care! Wake up people nothing is free.  This Free health care may be the most expensive Free thing you ever got to the point where it bankrupts our country. Think about it, and please respond and tell me what You Think.  Thanks, Spiney

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You need to photograph those you love no matter how adamant they are against it.  And have Them photograph You .  I just came from a funeral.  A sad event a father and husband cut down in his prime.  He was a very involved Father of twins,  a husband, a Son, a  Brother, an Uncle, a Friend and a prominent member of the community. In his later years I’m sure he was self conscious, because of a medical condition he looked obese, but was not, he had kidney failure and other issues that just made him look that way.  At the funeral his family took the time to make up 2 very nice display collages about 20×24 each with snapshots, professional portraits, newspaper pictures showing how involved he was. You saw him with his children from birth through college. They are both in the 4th year of college and in the middle of mid-terms when their father became ill and hospitalized for 54 days. These display boards showed to all of us what we already knew, how loving and involved he was, and it was all documented there to help us remember, now that he is gone. I was proud to see an image there I did of Him, his Mom, and his Brother with my 1953 Rollieflex and an off camera Metz.  My Wife and I have been together for 19 years now. I have very few pictures of her.  She does not like to be photographed, is never happy with where she is at in her eyes, though I love her much and think she is very beautiful. In the old film days she would look through pictures I took and literally tear them up. Now in this digital age she wants me to delete them.  And While I have many pictures of my daughter, and thousands of strangers, there are very few of me. It’s the old shoemaker has no shoes problem. ( I was a pro photographer for 15 years)  Ladies How many of you are guilty of not wanting yourself photographed.  How many photographers out there have few photos of themselves, especially snapshots.  Well my wife and I had a discussion on the way home.  I told her I would no longer stand for her not wanting to be photographed. It is a very selfish position that robs me of memories, God forbid if anything were to happen.  And I recently bought her a Kodak P&S at an after Christmas sale.  I told her I expect her to start taking snaps of me.  In the end this is all we have.  This poor man had deteriorated so bad during the 54 days that they had to have a closed casket.  Thank God he was a Bank President and had a very nice professional portrait to display on top of his casket.  So please don’t be selfish or inatentive.  Photograph all of your loved ones, especially your spouse, even in the morning before they make themselfs beautiful, and Spouses photograph your photographers so your not left without precious memories. It’s not too late.  Start right now!   Peace be with you,  Spiney-Dave

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Warning this is semi graphic.

My apologies to Lennon & McCartney for the title and anyone who knows me.

Time frame Saturday evening until Sunday evening, early January.  Evening started with a wonderful visit from my sister and her husband and most importantly my Daughter who I don’t see enough of.  My other-in-law whom I live with spent the previous 24 hours frantically cleaning her house in anticipation of guest. The house got cleaned post Christmas this year because this is the 1st year we didn’t have a large family Christmas in this large Victorian home. Many happy Christmases have been had here with large gatherings, lots of children of all ages, and way too many gifts. But then unexpectedly the man of the house died. He was hospitalized for 45 days from just after Thanksgiving thru Christmas and into January of the next year. The holidays in this house haven’t been the same ever since. There were attempts, but they were pushed trying to be happy and it just wasn’t the same.  Then this year another tragedy struck. A family member became very ill. Instead of celebrating Christmas at the big house we all gathered at his families house and had a nice Christmas gathering. He gave a meal prayer that God willing we would all do it again next year. That left a real lump in your throat. Anyway that was a long way of telling you why the house didn’t get straightened up until after New Years, and why This Family gathering was important.  Spiney did his part by helping to clean his little piles of existence around the La-z-boy, and doing whatever the ladies asked.  Most days I need to be told what to do or I’ll do nothing. Not because I’m lazy, but depression and pain make you want to take the path of least resistance. If you’ve seen the Cymbalta commercials, that’s what it is really like.  Mom being an incredible cook, cooked us a wonderful dinner of stuffed pork chops, real mashed potatoes, stewed apples, and vegetable dish that Spiney didn’t partake in.  Being in my mental state I was nervous. When in depression you like what is familiar.  Anything that disturbs your groove, even though it may be a very positive thing, makes you nervous.  I was nervous as to what I would say. Would I have enough to say for more than 10 minutes of niceties?  When the majority of your days are spent with you, a cat, a rabbit, and the TV your conversation skills aren’t honed.  Except for those in your head.  They are very well exercised. You run the coulda, woulda, shouldas through your head all day.  Sometimes they even get a chance to come out.  And sometimes you have to yell “Shut Up” to get them to quiet. A noisy head is no fun.  It doesn’t allow for great productivity.  Well all that came to rest when my guest finally arrived.  They offered up conversation, as did the other two ladies of the house, my Wife and Mother-in-law.  So that gave me a springboard to jump in.  There was a time you couldn’t shut me up.  I was once class clown, life of party, foot in mouth guy, and once had very long, very meaningful conversations with my daughter. These conversations kept us both sane during her teens, and really bonded us.  I know she misses them and can’t understand where that went.  I miss them too. I have god days and bad.  Unfortunately the good are spread pretty thin and you got to be there when they happen.  Sometimes they are weeks or even months apart.  and when they come, I feel like I can do anything.  Anyway we had a great dinner. I did disturb my sister when I kept disappearing during the visit and meal. My medications make me thirsty so I drink a lot. I drink diet Sierra Mist Free because it’s  decaffeinated.  The 2nd part of the equation is drinking makes me pee a lot, but the pain killers I take 24×7 make it very hard to go. So I have two speeds in that department.  I either can’t go, or I go every half hour or less.  I take Flomax for that, which again is always advertised on TV.  I could be doing TV pharmaceutical commercials. So I kept going to the bathroom and this upset my sister for some reason.  My wife, mom, and cat are very used to it. If my sister reads this and gets upset that I call my Mother-in-law my Mom it is not out of disrespect to our much loved, deceased mother. It’s because she treats me very much like a son, she is a mother figure in my life, and it’s easier to write mom, than mother-in-law all the time.  We then exchanged belated Christmas gifts with my Sister and Brother-in-law before they had to leave.  I know my sister wants a closer relationship too.  Both our parents are dead, our older brother is estranged, many of our aunts and uncles have passed on also.  She feels I’m all the family she has, even though she has three sons, two that are married, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way.  So she has family.  I wish we did more together too.  But again she doesn’t understand that while I look normal, my days are far from normal.  I bid her and her husband goodbye.  Then My Wife and I exchanged gifts with our daughter.  That was nice.  I think we surprised her. She’s our one and only so we did the best we could do.  We wanted to give the gift or more time together doing things we all like, such as concerts and plays.  But our schedules and the distance between us, about 1 hour, make it difficult. So we have that on the back burner in case we can work it out.  We then sat down to watch a movie. Since the Spineys don’t get out much we invested a windfall last year in a 42″ LCD TV.  This Christmas we followed up with surround sound.  This is our entertainment since we don’t get to the movies and such.  So we broke out “Mama Mia”  My Wife and I had seen the play in NYC and loved it.  This was the first time for our daughter and Mom to see it.  The first time actually for all of us to see the movie.  It was fun and uplifting.  The only bad part was feeling bad for Pierce Brosnan. They should have used a vocal dub.  Everyone else could sing pretty well, especially Meryl Streep, but not poor Pierce.  During the movie I was in a good bit of pain because I had been up quite awhile without rest. I sat with an ice pack on my shoulder, then my aching knee, and also used the massage of the La-z-boy throne. I had to change position constantly to redistribute the pain.  I also disturbed the others with my constant trips to the bathroom.  I got up probably 5 times during the movie.  At the end of the movie we checked out some of the bonus footage, because we all wanted a little more.  Then knowing I had to get up to travel the next day, and being co-dependant I kept asking my daughter if she had to go.  I was worried about her driving home, I was selfishly thinking about going to bed, and I was in unfamiliar territory.  At one time this was very familiar territory. When we all lived together My Wife, Daughter, and myself would often have all night movie, music, TV, or cleaning jags. We were all night owls who had gobs of energy at night and loved to sleep in late the next day.  We lived in a 2nd floor apartment with no neighbors. We would break out 100’s of 45’s from when I was a DJ and have our own little listening and dance parties till the wee hours.  Music, Family, conversation, and 13 rabbits we a big part of our life then.  That was before the 2 big operations and subsequent downturn of my pain. Plus our daughter grew up, moved out, went out on her own, had a life changing epiphany, we moved away and closed our business. A lot changed in a few years. But when we are together I think we all realize that we miss being a family.  I know my wife and I do, and we sense it in our daughter. And I will state here, I have changed the most. I’m in pain, I’m depressed, I’m alone a lot, and I’m not real fun to be around anymore.  So back to day.  Our daughter stayed a bit more, we had a bit of desert and we all bid adieu.

At this point I wanted to crawl right into bed, but we had to clean up the house to the spotless condition it was in earlier that day because everyone worked so hard on it.  Then we retired. Part of our nightly ritual is after we brush and such, and take my nighttime regiment of about 7 medicines I get a massage from my wife with a handheld percussion massager. This is every night to break up the pain. It usually last about 5 minutes though it could go one forever as far as I’m concerned.  It’s a concert of a little to the left, a skinch to the right, yes yes right there, that’s where it hurts.  Then onto another hurting spot, or instructions back to THE spot as my wife falls asleep.  And I have to have pity on her because she needs to get up the next day, I usually don’t.  But this day We both do, to travel to her Fathers for a belated Christmas gathering.  One last thing before we retire.  I get an Ice pack which is a semi frozen blue gell in a plastic pack, wrapped in a light towel.  I get one for each of us.  My Wife uses it to fight back her constant headaches, and I use it for my shoulder, neck, and back pain.  In fact I will go through about 3-4 throughout the night. We keep them in a small refrigerator freezer on the 2nd floor, just for this purpose. We now have 9 on hand at all time.

This is getting really long and I’m tired. Thanks for sticking with me.  It’s 1:45am so as they say on TV to be continued….

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Well spiney is a little raged right now.  I already wrote this whole entry once this morning.  I was down to my final thoughts when I hit some key stroke that wiped everything out. Repeated attempts at undo and ctrl-z you name it were futile, it was gone. So do I push on or wait till the light of day and a good nights sleep. Damn it’s already after 5am.

For those that are unfamiliar with the TV show Monk it is a comedy centered on a police detective Adrian Monk, a man who is OCD. His main obsession is cleanliness, and avoidance of germs.  He’s always using a hand wipe after touching something or someone. When it is flu season, or I’m around people with a contagious bug, I got into full blown Monk Mode.

Spiney has to take about 17 pills a day in order to keep my pain at a bearable level.  The one thing in this world I really fear and loathe is nausea. I can’t stand it and have very little tolerance for it. So I do all I can to avoid it like the plague. If I’m nauseous then I can’t take my pills. When that happens my pain level increases plus I get the added bonus of withdrawal from not taking my pain killers. Withdrawal symptoms are usually headaches, dizziness, and nausea.  So it is a viscous cycle.

Last week my Mother-in-law whom I live with came home with a stomach virus. To keep this entry PG we will leave it at stomach virus.  Just as she was getting over it, about a 2-3 day period, My Wife came home from work on Friday with the same bug.  So she got to spend her weekend off sick in bed or the bathroom. And she only gets every other weekend off, so she was really looking forward to it.  Well this much sickness in one home put me into my Howard Hughes mode. Again for those who haven’t seen “The Aviator” The late billionaire and inventor Howard Hughes was a big time germaphobe.

I needed to tend to my sick girls. Get them this, bring them that, and all with the minimum of contact.  Also if you really don’t want the bug you have to wipe down or not touch everything they touched. So out comes the Clorox wipes and several strategically placed dispensers of hand sanitizers. My hands are really dried out and chapped from 5 days of continuous hand washing and sanitizing.

Then there are the other things. 3am runs to the 24 hour supermarket for Ginger Ale for upset stomachs, Sherbet, and Saltine Crackers.  The staples of the sick room.  Oh I almost forgot, the Jumbo pack or double roll toilet tissue, ultra-soft. Also you always carry your own pen for when the checkout person who is hacking and sneezing needs you to sign the receipt with their flea bag pen. Or worse you use cash and they try to give you change with the hand they just coughed into. Finally you get rewarded by sleeping on the La-Z-Boy because sleeping in the same bed with someone who has the bug or flu is just like putting out a welcome mat for Mr. Virus.  The first night Mrs. Spiney could have cared less, she was too sick.  The second night she felt better and needed companionship.  She got the consolation prize, Tommy the cat who is great comfort and knows you need him when your sick or sad. Luckily we are told most illnesses are not trans specie contagious.  Now we are at the third night and she really wants old reliable Spiney by her side, but not too fast. The bed needs to be stripped and the linens boiled before I’m going back there.

But you do all you can do for them because you love them and hate to see them hurt.  Just like they stood by you through 2 major back operations, and at least a hundred Doctor visits.  Or they held your hand or rubbed your back when it feels like your spine is trying to push through your skin like something out of Alien.  My Wife and I taught our Daughter a lesson about all of this.  Everyone will be there for you when your fabulous and life’s a party.  But the ones who are there for you when your heads in the toilet puking, they are the keepers.  As far as we know she has found but 2 of those people outside her family, or a nurse who is paid to be there. And they are both keepers.  So thank everyone who ever took your temperature, emptied your puke bucket, got you an ice-pack, rubbed a boo boo, or just held your hand when you felt like shit. And do the same for them, just make sure you wash and sanitize that hand ASAP.

Love,  Spiney

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