Dried Up Bones

Some of my friends know that I have been dealing with “body-wide pain” over the last couple months. The medications that I have been prescribed are not what I need. Believe it or not, they are too powerful and of the wrong class/type. There will be future posts on this topic.

We have been experiencing moderate temperatures here in Middle-Tennessee the last few weeks, so we decided to open up the windows and “air the house out”. Opening up the windows also has the nice effect of allowing you to turn the AC unit off (save a little on the electric bill). These moderate temperatures have also brought along lots rain and thunderstorms almost daily (humid…damp conditions). To borrow a quote from an old 80’s band to describe the level of pain I have been experiencing, “This pain goes to eleven.” Effectively I had run out of options for any relief…short of taking enough of the medications to keep myself sedated constantly. That is not living…and that is not how I want to spend my time.

{Squirrel} We (several doctors, my wife and myself) are all coming to the same conclusion…I am getting old (do not laugh Runt) and developing arthritis. I am trying to get a referral to a rheumatologist to confirm this theory and hopefully find a treatment satisfactory to all involved parties.{/Squirrel}

So, I am at the point of utter frustration. I am getting zero relief from the pain medications, heating pad, laying down, sitting up…nothing is working. Heather was laying by my side in our bedroom…praying for answers, solutions, any kind of help for her husband…and then…the answer blew in through the windows. It is damp outside…it is damp inside.

Arthritis you say? A condition typically agitated by the exact weather conditions I just described. Close the windows! Change the atmosphere.

So, I asked Heather if she would close up the windows and turn the AC unit back on in an effort to “dry out the air” inside the house. The results were absolutely amazing. Obviously, my ears allowed me to hear Heather closing all of the windows and then the eventual airflow through the duct work…but my body was also talking to me. The initial result was not relief as you might think…but an absolute opposite effect…the pain became even more intense…an increased ache in my legs, back and chest that persisted over a three to five minute period. I can only describe those three to five minutes as a period of rapid adjustment to the abrupt atmospheric change. My body had just received a gigantic bolus of “good atmosphere”…it just could not process the changes fast enough.

As the air continued to dry out and my body acclimated itself to the atmosphere it knows and loves…the pain slowly dropped back to a point of tolerance. A point where the medications were at least somewhat functional and I was not at the point of crying from pain, frustration, and lack of control. This entire transition took less than thirty minutes to complete.

Now I am asking myself, how many times do I (we) have to experience the same situation? Why must I (we) be so hard-headed? It’s quite simple…control is an illusion. We do not have it…and never have. But we continue to act as if we can fix that which is broken by ourselves. That trouble, pain and such…bring those burdens to the feet of our Savior instead. Pray that He would take those burdens from us and grant relief from the ills of this world. Pray for strength, wisdom, and knowledge…the “answer” to the problem(s). And then just “listen”…He heard you. Sometimes the answers are presented in a subtle manner…sometimes they blow in through the windows like the March winds. Always be sure to give thanks to our Lord for his blessings (all of them…great and small). I know that not all of our prayers are answered so quickly like my testimony above…but we have to remember that God’s time is not our time.

May God Bless You All… Amen.

Only By The Grace Of God (…fourteen years)

Fourteen years ago…sometime around 4:00pm…March 20, 2003…I entered one of Vanderbilt University Hospital’s operating rooms to receive two lungs generously donated by a grieving family. Sometime between nine and twelve hours later (March 21, 2003)…I would be breathing through lungs I wasn’t born with but graciously received from that family’s deceased twenty-two year old son. As I continue to tell people, it’s only by the grace of God that I’m still here. I’ve done nothing special to help out my endurance. In fact, I’d say I’ve done more to shorten my lifespan than extend it. Whatever the reason(s) for God keeping me around…I thank Him. I give thanks even in the face of physical pain and mental anguish. I give thanks for all the memories I’ve “not” missed with wife, children, family and friends. I give thanks for all the blessings, all the wisdom, and most of all…I give thanks for all the forgiveness. Organ transplant is not a cure…it’s just trading one disease for another. Some of those around me understand that statement…others have yet to figure it out.

God has a purpose for us all. If you asked me what I think my purpose is…I’d tell you, “To share my testimony. To share how God has continually played a critical part in my life…whether I knew it, didn’t know it, or simply wouldn’t accept it.

Lord, I thank you…but I still ask, “why me?” Certainly there was someone else on this planet more deserving of the gift I received. None of us know the number of our days…but as Heather would tell you…I owe her thirty more years. Strange thing is…I’ve been owing her thirty years since the day I married her. Must be that “new math” or something. Even now, at fourteen years post transplant, the mortality rate still hovers around 50% at 5 years. As far as I know, no one can tell why some organ recipients have longevity…while others don’t. All I can do is written above…give thanks.

Let everyone you know your thoughts and/or wishes concerning organ donation. Please give blood regularly (if you can).

Thank you and may God bless you.

Prayer Requests For Heather (…and me soon most likely)

Heather started complaining of a sore/burning throat a couple days back. She had been sneezing as well, so we were chalking it up to spring allergies (post-nasal drip irritating her throat, etc.). Well, after the “aching body” symptom was added…I asked that she please see our family doctor. Her favorite test, the “strep swab”, revealed a positive result. She’s currently sleeping and I pray she’s able to stay that way for a while. She didn’t get much sleep last night at all.

As for myself, I also had the “strep swab” test done a little later today and received a negative result. Not sure how that happened…but I’m thinking if the test were to be administered again tomorrow the results would be different.

Heather was treated with a pretty hefty dose of Bicillin (via injection) and a steroid injection to help ease the discomfort commonly associated with Step infections. Wouldn’t you know it that I’m allergic to “penicillin” based drugs leaving that course of treatment off the table.

I contacted my docs from the Vanderbilt Adult Lung Transplant Program for some advice to share with our Primary Care folks. Since I’m not “currently” showing an infection, I’m sitting on a script for “Azithromycin” should the day occur and that strep bug decides I’m a lovely target.

I’m asking for prayers that Heather experience a speedy recovery and not suffer. I’ve had strep before…it’s a good get out of work excuse…PERIOD. And, although the odds are against me (given I have almost no immune system), I would also ask for prayers that I never have to get that prescription filled. Hey…you in the back row…don’t laugh…God still does miracles. ūüôā

Thank you to all my prayer friends…of course thank you God.

Discernment Through Prayer

Over the past couple months, some very “interesting” information has been brought to my attention. I sat for a while tonight praying about, “Why is this information being provided to me at this point in my life?” “What purpose could it possible serve?” And of course, I asked…even though I trust the sources who have provided the information…what (or rather who) influenced them to give me this information.

The more I thought about, the more I’ve felt compelled to believe that the information may not be “heaven sent”. Simply put, publishing the knowledge outside of my small group of trusted friends would do nothing but cause lots of harm. I can’t imagine God providing information that would bring more chaos and harm to my already confused life.

(NIV) 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.

That’s the only way I could figure out what to do…and the answer God is providing me, “Do nothing”. Or, “Leave it be,” as a true Southerner might tell you. Take the high road and leave the trash in the garbage can where it belongs.

Thank you Lord for your continued guidance and wisdom. Amen

Unfortunate Circumstances = Improved System

A couple of weeks back, I became the victim of an attack on my database server. For the geeks out there, somehow I had managed to leave a couple user names in MariaDB (the fork of MySQL in use on my NAS) with unlimited access and no password. Some ingenious toilet paper consumer decided to delete every SQL database he/she could using those credentials. Every website, with exception of Grace Baptist Church’s website was lost. How’s that for don’t mess with God? Luckily, at some point in the recent past I had made backups of the Medical, Soapbox and Testimony databases. My plan, that I was currently working on was to consolidate all three (3) of the websites into a single site making it easier for to post my thoughts and not require my readers to chase around the web to find what I might have written. Yeah…let’s have all my readers enjoy a little ADDD (Adult Attention Deficit Disorder) for a day. Ha Ha Ha…I don’t think they’d enjoy it.

So, here I am…all of my websites are obliterated and I have messages demanding “BitCoins” be sent to some BS web address to get my data back. First, I’m not paying a jerk like that…ever. Second, the loss wasn’t all that bad…the rest of the data on the server is intact and untouched. The only thing that bothered me…what type (if any) junk did this intruder leave behind that might infect future visitors to my website(s). Taking this into account…I decided to wipe the OS off the server (clean sweep) and implement and few changes I’d been wanting to do anyways. So…all this malicious ding-dong managed to do was motivate me to setup the server the way I’ve wanted it working for a couple years now. I just never undertook the job…because as my wife will tell you…it’s taken me 2 or 3 weeks now and I’m STILL not completely done with all of the implementation plans I wish to have working.

Yes…some of the things I’m doing qualify under the OCD label…but the rest…when done “should” provide a much friendlier system with our data centralized rather than scattered across 3 or 4 different computers and/or phones. It’s not really difficult…it’s just time consuming. My poor little server isn’t the most power machine in the world…so when you ask it to move 100’s of GB’s at a time…you should be prepared to go grow some coffee beans.

The World In The Palm Of Your Hand

[Re-Posted from 2016-07-15]

As Heather and I sat on our patio last night, it occurred to me that a large portion of the United States’ population hold in their hands the key to escape oppression, ignorance and poverty. ¬†This “key” is called a smartphone.

These devices have been used recently to create videos of everything from cute cats to the final breaths of shooting victims. ¬†The latter videos have incited a level of violence not seen in our country for several decades (thinking about the late 60’s and civil rights protests). ¬†The owner’s of these devices are obviously well skilled at operating them. They know how to create videos, post comments and organize protests (often disguised as riots).

Many of the device owners have proclaimed they are being oppressed by the police, the “man”, and a variety of other entities. ¬†They complain because they feel they aren’t getting their “fair cut” of the wealth. ¬†They complain about not having an equal opportunity. ¬†My friends…they are wrong. ¬†That same device that empowers them to instigate violence can also be used as an educational tool. ¬†How smartphone owners¬†are able to afford multi-hundred dollar devices remains a mystery to me. ¬†How they are able to keep these devices connected to the Internet continues to remain a mystery to me. ¬†What is not a mystery is the amazing number of free tools that have been made available to everyone. ¬†Not just white people…not just brown people…but for everyone.

If the police are arresting a suspect, you can pretty much expect several smartphones (with cameras) are recording the incident. ¬†These events happen at all times of the day or night. ¬†Then YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and every other social media website will light up with excitement from the 30-second clip. ¬†The whole story is never shown. ¬†Even the so-called “media” buys into the frenzy. ¬†How much more usefulness is that smartphone capable of providing?

images

How about Google for example? ¬†Yes, you can ask Google just about anything you want…and you’ll get your instant response. ¬†But, did you know that Google has been scanning books into a massive online library for years now? ¬†Those books are available to everyone. ¬†Everything from literature to science to history…all available in the palm of your hands.

Another example is MIT (otherwise know as Massachusetts Institute of Technology)…on of America’s most prestigious technical colleges. ¬†They offer an enormous amount of classes, books and other information…free of charge. ¬†All you have to do it go to their website.

And then we have Stanford University. ¬†They offer free classes…yes…free. ¬†They don’t discriminate…there is not affirmative action…there are no hidden quotas. ¬†You just sign up…and you can take classes.

Here in the State of Tennessee, we have a system called the Regents Online Degree Program (RODP). ¬†I suspect many other states have similar programs. ¬†You can earn a degree by taking classes entirely online. ¬†And…if you are in-fact poverty stricken…you’re in luck…you’ll most likely qualify for a Pell Grant that will pay for all of the expenses. That’s a “grant”…you never pay it back.

With those same devices that are being used to post hate and violence…you can learn. ¬†You can become educated. ¬†Regardless of color, creed, sexual preference, or economic status (given my comment that smartphones are ubiquitous even in the “poverty stricken ghettos”). ¬†Not a single person has a legitimate excuse to complain about being stuck in a crappy situation. ¬†If you have time to surf Facebook…you have time to read a chapter from a textbook. ¬†If you have time to stand on a corner and video the police doing their job…you have time to take a class. ¬†If you’re not content in your current situation…you have the power in the palm of your hand to change it!

What are you going to do?

Finally, after you’ve watched that 30-second video clip…and you’re pissed-off and want to retaliate…use that same smartphone to finish what you just started. ¬†Get the whole story. ¬†Take the time to find all the facts…not just the part someone posted to elicit your emotional outburst. ¬†Educate yourself…in all aspects of life.

Ignorance is not bliss…it’s just ignorance.

Of The Seven Dwarfs…I’m “Sleepy”.

[Re-posted from 2016-01-09]

So Doc & Crew have been trying to find help for the increased migraines/headaches that began over this past summer. ¬†They’ve got me taking Topamax (topiramate) for the last week or so. ¬†The medication is primarily used for seizures but also has a use for controlling migraines. ¬†The drug has an unfortunately long list of side-effects…sleepiness or tired feeling being the one hitting me the hardest. ¬†That’s not exactly what I need right now…but I will admit…the headaches are a little less painful. ¬†The question now is…do I continue like “Sleeping Beauty” or “Sleepy” and lay around unconscious all the time with no headaches or do I say “no thanks” to this drug. ¬†Of course, there’s always the possibility of a lower dose and some happy middle-ground. ¬†I’ll be discussing all these details with my medical team on Monday.

Btw, I’ve migrated just about all of my medical services to the Murfreesboro area. ¬†I only go to Nashville if it’s absolutely necessary. ¬†I’ve made previous Facebook commentary about the current conditions at Vanderbilt. ¬†I recently received a letter from the Adult Lung Transplant Dept. Director stating the facts we already knew: folks quit, understaffed, understaffed, understaffed.

Oh, and for those of you who are curious about the DSA (Donor Specific Antibody) issue that was so “hot” back in May,¬†I haven’t heard a word from anyone at Vandy since September. ¬†I’ve had my local Doc perform¬†blood draws¬†for me. ¬†I contacted Vandy myself¬†to see what labs they would want. ¬† Gotta love ’em.

Until next time…

Family…

[Re-posted from 2016-08-28]

What exactly is “family”? Can you sum up the meaning in simple words like those listed below?

family_synonyms

I’ve had folks tell me that, “Friends are the family that you choose for yourself.” That’s a somewhat cynical (and yet sickly comical) way of looking at “families” when they seem to be full of disorder. This weekend, many “family” issues have been on my mind and my heart. Most of these issues have been lingering for years…unaddressed or ignored in hopes that someday they would be resolved. But the truth of the matter is…they won’t be. I don’t say that as a pessimist, I say that as a realist.

A family, at its core, is constructed of individual humans. And as we all know, we’re all different. To expect harmony in a family (at all times) would be a completely unrealistic expectation. Sure, there are “good times”…ever “great times” experienced by families. But there are also times of conflict, heartache, worry and destruction.

My first family was my mom and dad, brother, and sisters. We experienced all of those adjectives…the good times…and the bad. Sometimes it seemed we were all on the same page…other times we were all on our own planets. And as time went on, and we grew older and started our own families, the conversations changed…the times together became fewer and fewer. Where at one point you knew just about everything each other was doing, sometimes you don’t even know where they are on this planet…and if they’re even still alive.

My second family. I built that. Or at least had a 50% participation rate in the construction. Wife, son and a daughter. Many changes during those building years. Lots of good memories…lots of bad ones. All things change…and so did this family. Wife is no more. The children are now adults.

And now I have my third family. Wife, two grown children, an adopted cat, a Basset hound…and a host of “friends” that are the best family a person could ever ask for and never have the right to deserve.

Along the way, another family, a holy one has been watching over me. A heavenly “father” has seen that I should survive all of this mess down here on Earth. At times I thank him…and others I question his sanity (and my own).

The quote about the “friends being the family you choose for yourself”? There’s more truth in that statement than I wouldn’t want to admit. I have an abundance of cousins, nieces and nephews, in-laws, aunts and uncles…but I also have some “friends” that are more faithful, honest and reliable than the people who share my bloodline. Please don’t think I’m discounting all of my family…but I find it truly fascinating how someone you “meet” can be a better family member than those who share your last name (or family tree).

Sympathy is the last thing I “ever” have asked for in my life. I don’t want it…nor do I need it. What I would like is “understanding”. Understanding of who I am, how I think, and what I wish to experience with the time I have left on this planet. Every day and night, I thank God for “my wife and children, my family and my friends”. I thank God for “forgiveness and the promise of everlasting life through his son Jesus Christ.” Each day I say, “thank you Lord for all the blessings in my life…they are clear and abundant.” I thank God, “for allowing me to see the sun rise another day.” And finally I ask God, “to give me the strength and wisdom to face what is in front of me today.”

Recently, I’m not sure what to think about what has been put “in front of me”. I have a brother, who I love dearly, destroying his life…daily. I have a person I’ve called “sister” who has disowned me for reasons I don’t even know. I have children who I love with all of my heart and soul…who are absent from my life. I have a wife, who I gladly give all that have and all that I am…even though my gift isn’t what I wish it could be.

Friends…and family…my heart aches. I want to fix everything. That’s what skill God gave me. He gave me the gift to fix things…but how do I fix the things for which I have no control? These things that pain me are powerful. I’m the mechanic without a single tool in sight. The writer with no ink. I have prayers, hope and the lessons I try to learn from others…but I don’t feel I’m making any headway. The wheels are spinning but I’m not going anywhere? Is that how you would say it? Well, the problem is…I am going somewhere. Certainly, we all are going “somewhere”. It’s just some of us are on a train that “statistically” will reach the end of the track faster than most others. And so, I sit here at 5:30am on a Sunday morning….laying out my heart, soul, thoughts and emotions for the entire world to see. Maybe this post belongs in a “journal” and not on a “blog”. But as I said in the beginning, this project was intended as a place to share my experiences in the hopes that some “good” will come from these writings.

Family. Something I’ve wanted all my life. Something I’ve never quite figured out how to “hold on to”.

I know that several things will occur when this post is published. Some people will get even more pissed-off at me. Some will suggest that, “I’m venting.” Others will offer their “sympathy and prayers”…that God might see me through these trials (I thank you in advance). Some will be confused. Some will be oblivious.

Maybe the best that I can hope for is that “lines of communication” will be established. That by sharing…what burdens me will be known…and not hidden. Maybe a little light will be cast into the dark corners where the giant elephants sit. And maybe…just maybe…God will offer his blessings to me one more time…and give me the help I need to “fix” that which is broken.

Family. Something I’ve wanted all my life.
Family. Something I need in my life.

P.S.: Please forgive my typos and grammar…and if this was handwritten…please forgive the tear stains on the paper.

Missed Opportunity…

[Re-posted from 2016-07-14]

On May 24th, I posted litany of ¬†complaints about situations I was dealing with at the time. ¬†I made a mistake. ¬†That list didn’t belong on Facebook, it belonged on a roll of toilet paper. ¬†It was literally a shit list. ¬†Instead of posting about all of the blessings I have that enabled that gripe list…I simply threw out my trash for everyone to see. ¬†It’s not that I care if anyone sees my trash…I often share with others “everything” (good and bad) that’s going on in my life…I posted that list as if it was important. ¬†I posted that list as if all the good in the world had vaporized only to be replaced by a shit-list of complaints. ¬†How quickly I forget all that I have…all that I’ve learned…all that I’ve been blessed with…just to complain about a few petty items.

I missed an opportunity…an opportunity to share how even in the face of hardship and perceived failure…God was STILL sending blessings my way. ¬†For that…I apologize.

1.) Just spilled my huge glass of milk all over the place.  [How many people would love to have a gallon of milk in their fridge?]

2.) Was involved in a “hit and run” (the teenager who hit me left the scene instead of waiting for the police as I suggested) today. Just car damage. The officer tracked her down using the picture I took of her as she fled the scene. Yeah…this was while I was heading to my therapist’s office. ¬†[Not only do I have one, but two very recent model cars that are in great mechanical condition. Additionally, I’m blessed to have health insurance that pays for mental health help.]

3.) The kitchen sink was clogged up last night. Had to disassemble the plumbing to remove “plastic” stuff stuck in the drain. Nothing like Drano and sewage water to make you feel all “clean and healthy”. [I have a beautiful home…with running water…dishes to eat from…and frozen popsicles to enjoy during this current heat.]

4.) The garbage disposal seals are now broken and leaking. Will be purchasing and installing that now. ¬†[I have so much food that I’m able to put part of it into the sewage system and garbage can.]

5.) Got an X-ray of my left hand today…hoping to figure out why it’s been bothering me since March. ¬†[I have health insurance that allows me to see a doctor in the first place. ¬†I have doctors that see me immediately (I’m not on a wait list that gets shredded).]

6.) Darn soldering iron broke…right when I had something to repair. [I’m blessed with skills and knowledge that have provided a comfortable life for me over the years and I have equipment (toys) that benefit my hobbies.]

7.) Kindle I fixed for a friend “let it’s smoke out”. You do know that electronics run on smoke…right? ¬†[I have friends! And they’re loving, kind and understanding…regardless of my faults and mistakes.]

8.) Had my annual studies on the 9th (13yrs. on the lungs back in March). The results require me to have a face-to-face with the transplant docs on the 31st. More on that one later… ¬†[A young man died and his family chose to let me have his lungs and a 2nd chance at life.]

9.) Drilling a pilot hole while putting up a few more plant hangers outside. Drill bit breaks off in the post. ¬†[A wonderful father and husband died recently…his generosity (even in death) is why that structure stands to begin with.]

The comments in (blue) are the items I should have told everyone about. ¬†I hope the next time I have the desire to bitch-and-complain about how crappy things are going…I can refer to this post and remember that I’m blessed way beyond what I deserve.

Can You Hear The Jackhammers And Power-saws?

[Re-posted from 2016-06-01]

So, I was listening to some old George Jones tunes the other night…reminiscing about my mom. ¬†She loved the Possum…and even a die-hard rock-n-roller like me can respect the genius of some of his lyrics. ¬†Though the song has nothing to do with the way I’m about to use his lyrics…I think he was on to something…but just wasn’t aware at the time. ¬†For example…

“I’m still around…’cause I’m not ready yet.” – George Jones / I’m Not Ready Yet (1980)

But here’s what I think ‘Ole George forgot to add after the word “yet” — “…God still has me under construction”.

That’s how I feel right now. ¬†I’m still around…’cause I’m not ready yet…God still has me under construction. ¬†And when God has finally finish molding me, and used me for his purpose on this planet…I’ll get to go home.

Yes, you can now tell all of your friends, “Uh, I think Mr. Bill has lost his last marble.” ¬†But of course, folks have known that fact for a VERY long time.

God bless you all!