Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Paralyzed Face: Part 1

For a Tuesday, it was rather mundane, that is until I went to work. For me, work is at the home of ten wonderful and unique individuals, who by some disaster in DNA or catastrophe of chemistry, score lower on standardized tests than you or I. But a standardized test cannot begin to accurately describe these amazing men and women and their strong desire for human interaction, even though the ability to communicate is greatly diminished.

This particular Tuesday, I found myself at the frustrating intersection --where one of these awesome individuals, who desperately wanted and needed to interact, met his inability to do so. If you are like me and find it annoying when you can’t remember someone’s name or are frustrated when you can’t find the right word, you will understand this man’s deep irritation when he could not communicate to me he was in pain.  He finally elected to show me and begin to pound me violently with his hands around my head and face.

All was fine after that; until it was time for me to go home. It was then I realized that the left side of my face was beginning to sag. It felt like I had a monster shot of Novocain to the entire left side of my face. I have had Novocain a couple of times, but on general principle, I do not use it even for drilling fillings. I enjoy feeling my face, I enjoy smiling, I enjoy being able to feel my tongue move out of the way of my teeth before I clamp down.

Having held steady at twenty-five years old for the past few decades, I am aware of the red flags that should spring up when half a person’s face begins to go numb and sag. It could be a stroke. As I was driving home, I called my mother in law, who is a nurse, I explained my symptoms and said I thought I should go to the hospital. She agreed. This was scary. My mother in law hates hospitals and definitely does not like emergency rooms.  Most of her career as a nurse has been in hospitals, and I suppose that explains her dislike.

After I arrived home, Beloved, her father, and I went to the hospital. When I walked in, the wonderful key-tappers at the front desk asked why I was there. With sagging face, wiping drool from the corner of my mouth, I slurred the words, “The left side of my face is going numb.” I think it sounded like, “The leff shide of mu fashe ish gone numb.” There was that brief moment when I could see the shock in one of the key-tappers eyes just before she said that, yes, indeed it appeared to be numb.

Very soon, I was in a triage room, where a nurse asked some questions and took some vitals. When she took my blood pressure, I was amazed. It was dangerously high. She did not seem bothered by it and told me all the rooms in the Emergency Department were full and I could go wait in the waiting area.

I waited in the waiting area; for six and a half hours. That gave me a while to study the other inmates. There were a couple of homeless gentlemen, who thought it totally acceptable to speak to each other from opposite ends of the holding tank in loud booming voices. Their conversation consisted of one asking the other, “What time is the bus coming?” “Five-forty five” “Five forty five?” “Yep” This conversation occurred every few minutes, usually just as I was settling in for a little shut eye.

On my left hand side was a young woman who had a broken thumb. For her, I felt sorry. She waited, just slightly less time than I did, to be seen, and she was in pain. On my right was a delightful young lady whose chief complaint seemed to be the lousy service she was receiving. (She inserted a few cuss words). Twice during the night, a relative brought her food and beverages, which she consumed with great gusto and general complaints about sitting around the hospital. She also made numerous trips to the ladies room. It brought to mind the wise words of our pediatrician when we were concerned about our daughters being sick. “In general, if they are eating, drinking, peeing, and pooping, they are fine.”

The delightful young woman left shortly before I was called into a room. She complained, “This place makes me sick.” I think it may have been all the fried food she ate.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Do you suffer from Valentine's Day Panic?

Valentine’s Day is the holiday each year I look forward to with the least fondness. I am sure this is from the years in elementary school where teachers had each student write a valentine for every other student in the class. This frustrated me for two reasons.

First, I had, and still have, the world’s worst penmanship. Being a left-handed male has doomed me to smudged and wriggly letters. All through elementary school, I struggled with writing. The mention of an essay sent me into a panic. For those of you who have more youth than age, a bit of clarification. There was no internet, no personal computers, and no printers. The only way I could type was using a typewriter and if I made a mistake, I had to use ‘white-out’ to cover it and type over it. When I did type and with the amount of typo’s I made, I kept a 5-gallon bucket of latex white semi-gloss next to the desk and dipped a small paintbrush into it to fix my errors.

I always paired writing with penmanship. My difficulty in writing legibly caused me panic that generalized to not only forming neat letters, but gave me great anxiety when faced with stitching words together to make sentences and stacking sentences together into paragraphs. There are times when I sit at the computer and type meaningless, random letters, just to see how neat and tidy they appear on the screen. I want to cheer at this technological marvel that takes my words and makes them neat and orderly. There are even times I am filled with such joy at the orderly characters I publish those in my blog.

The second frustration of my elementary school Valentine’s Day memories is that I always seemed to have been left off another student’s list. Every year another student or two would seem to neglect to give me a little card with a heart, or superhero, and a shining example of their perfect penmanship. I am sure that some of those cards were simply overlooked as students checked names off those unending lists, or some that were dropped from paper bags as they were carried into school. I have a deep-seated suspicion that some were deliberately and malevolently unsent. As a child, I found this deeply and profoundly troubling and hurtful. However, now that I am an adult I see things differently and wish those former classmates no ill will. I used to think that deliberately leaving my valentine unsent was the beginning of a downward spiral eventually leading to a lifelong incarceration in a federal penitentiary. I now realize that those children probably grew up to be normal, healthy adults, with wonderfully fulfilling careers as convenience store cashiers or TSA agents.

It has been a few years since elementary school and the number of people on my Valentine’s list has shrunk. I buy a card for my wife and some small tokens of affection for my daughters. Those small tokens usually involve sugar and cocoa. The act of buying a cardhowever, still stirs a sense of panic , but I no longer fret over my penmanship. My wife seems to be able to recognize my scrawl; at least enough to know it was I who signed her card.

I would give cards to my daughters, but they make fun of my handwriting. I once wrote a note asking them to switch the laundry and they assumed I wanted them to send it to Switzerland. I did not want my shirts in Europe, I wanted them in the dryer. It is for this reason I have scratched them off my Valentine’s card list.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My second annual Super Bowl prediction.

It is time for my Super Bowl prediction. This is my second annual prediction; last year’s being the first annual. Last year I did not do so well with the prediction thing, but this year I have fine-tuned my equations, sharpened my data collection techniques, and have amassed large amounts of data to be analyzed and processed.

Who am I trying to kid? I do not think I have watched either of these teams play a single game this last season. In truth, I had to Google to find out that Eli Manning is the quarterback for the Giants and Tom Brady is throwing the ball for the Patriots.

It is the names of these two men that are most important. Forget all the other hoopla about interceptions, completion percentages, and number of times sacked. Football fans want a quarterback for whom they can cheer. Imagine a few thousand people cheering for Tom Brady. As they shout his name it begins to sound like thousands of hippies from the 1970’s starting to meditate. “Tommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm”. The gentle humming fills the stadium as the fans and players start to center on their happy place and become one with the universe. That is, until a 300-pound linebacker sacks Mr. Brady, making him one with the astro-turf. Fortunately, for the astro-turf, Mr. Brady has a last name; that being Brady. It is a good last name for a crowd to chant, with a mixture of sharp vowels, hard consonants, and easily adapted to a militaristic singsong marching cadence that will inspire a trip to the end zone.

Mr. Manning, on the other hand, is not so fortunate. His last name, I fear, will deteriorate into the kind of hubbub and din that one would expect at a cocktail party; a large, boisterous, rambunctious cocktail party, but still without any ability to inspire.  His first name is only slightly better. Eli has sharp vowels and the possibility of becoming a terrifying war chant. My suspicion, however, is that the “L” sound in his name will get lost as the crowds chant. This is a particularly reasonable expectation considering the large amounts of Super Bowl grog quaffed by the chanters. Losing the lone consonant in Eli’s name, will reduce the chant to the sound of schoolchildren returning from a field trip, singing “Old McDonald” on that long bus ride home. But, they get stuck part way into the chorus and keep singing, “E-I, E-I” never quite reaching the “ohhhhh”.

Another deciding factor is each team’s upbringing, or more specifically, their home fields and the impact it has on the team psyche. The Giants share their stadium with the New York Jets, who are known for breaking out into dance and singing at the Giants, “Once you’re a Jet,/ You’re a Jet all the way/from your first cigarette/To your last dying day.” This poor behavior and the obvious friction is not good for the Giants. Additionally, their stadium is known as the MetLife stadium. Met Life is most famous for two things, blimps and paying people to die.

The Patriots have a stadium all to themselves, the Gillette stadium, which is, as everyone knows, “The best a man can get.”

A lawyer and an actor/TV producer own the Giants. This makes them only slightly more trustworthy than a politician. The Kraft family owns the Patriots. This brings to mind bowls and bowls of Kraft macaroni and cheese, which millions of family’s across the country put in their supper bowls. It is only a small step for this family to fill out a Super Bowl.

Therefore, my expert insight and analysis predicts that the winner of this year’s Super Bowl will be the New England Patriots.