Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mom Diary -- first convo after admission

In an earlier post I talked about my mom's impending Hip Replacement Operation. I spoke to her tonight -- she's in good spirits and has already seen a few friends since her admission to Brome-Mississiquoi-Perkins Hospital this afternoon.

She CAN be funny but she tries too hard sometimes. But when I asked her what she was picking out of her teeth as we were talking, she said, "Bouillon." She ordered tea with her "dinner" but wasn't sure what the hot brown beverage was. Her friend told her, "If you think the tea is bad, wait until you try the coffee." I asked my long-suffering imposed-upon brother, who will be her only family to visit (unless I can get some time off), to bring her some Van Houtte's (a major coffee/tea chain) or some Tim Hortons when he visits tomorrow.

My brother and I have sent her flowers for when she wakes up tomorrow after her 8 am op. When I placed the order (try, they're great!) I made sure that I entered an alternate name. In Quebec for other than social reasons they use a woman's "maiden" name. My mom was married in 1954 and had to get used to using her maiden name again (such as for medical reasons) sometime in the 1980s. She's OK with that, though. As am I. Quebec's programs (especially all-ages daycare) are second to none in Canada.

I guess I'm more worried about her than she is about herself!

May 1 Update: My brother, who is the only child who can visit, told me that Mom won't exactly be UP to taking a phone call this evening: she's flat on her back with numerous tubes and bandages, and can't reach the phone. Here's an image of the flowers we got her for today, anyway.

How to save money on groceries

I knocked this off in a few minutes for our department newsletter, which is usually about Information Technology and rampant nerdism, but the Editor in Chief will accept just about anything, bless her heart:

In these lean times, watching food prices and shopping for the best values is a necessity [she let that pass; I'm the Copy Editor]. Besides developing a grocery list (donotforgettoiletpaper donotforgettoiletpaper donotforgettoiletpaper), or basing your shopping on a weekly meal plan, don’t be shy to clip discount coupons. Try for lots of hygiene, skin care, household cleaning, and baby care items. And enroll with to get, well, free samples of stuff. Don’t miss the in-store manufacturer’s coupons, either---they’re sometimes way better than the ones in the flyer.

And you can actually get money back!

If you have a good memory for shelf prices and examine your receipts, at many major chains (hardware, pharmacy, grocery) you can yelp at the cashier: “Oh, the price on the shelf was $N.NN.” She/he will normally start to argue, and you shrug apologetically at the people behind you in line, but you stand your ground and recite: “I’m claiming my entitlement to a refund and a free product based on the Scanning Code of Practice.” In stores that participate, you can see the big sticker on the entry doors and often on the cash register itself.
If the shelf price is different from the register price, you should get a refund of the REGISTER price and you get the product for FREE. This applies only to the first item if you bought more than one, but you get the sale price for second and subsequent items.

If the price of the item is more than $10.00 the same rules apply but you only get the ten bucks AND the free product.

Case study: I decided to try a major name brand all-natural peanut butter recently, and because the sale price hadn’t made it to the register I got the jar for free and a $4.99 credit on my bill.

But the stuff is runny. I don’t like my peanut butter to actually pour out of the jar, even after thorough stirring and refrigeration. And it tastes funny (punch line to joke about why we don’t eat clowns). So late last week I e-mailed the company through their website, asking about the consistency: “…it pours! It has never had the creamy but firm consistency that I expect. Is it always very liquid?” (I’m such a gourmet.)

I got a response last night from the Associate Director, Consumer Relations: “I'm sorry to learn that you were disappointed with our Peanut Butter having a watery texture. I'm sending you reimbursement, via first class mail, which you should receive in 10-14 business days.”

I didn’t tell them I got the jar for free plus the credit of the sale price. Crafty, am I not? Case closed.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hip replacement for my long-suffering Mother

My mom's birthday (77) is coming up in less than two weeks. On Friday she is undergoing a hip replacement operation that she (and her children) hope will restore some mobility and improve her temper. The hospital she's going to has a good long history of success for this procedure. She'll have a week's recovery there and start physiotherapy the day after the op. Then she'll move to a seniors' residence where she knows quite a few people and where she'll have a private apartment with a kitchen (or she can use the cafeteria), and access to nursing and physio care as well (like she says, she can afford it). Once she's assessed as able to take care of herself she'll move back home.

Mom isn't scared of surgery -- she had a bunion and hammer toe repaired a few years ago (she also ended up at that residence after a day at home when she realized she couldn't manage). And she's used to pain, I guess...

The hip disability (osteoarthritis, of course) is compounded by long-term rheumatoid arthritis, which she contracted at about 30 years of age. Her knuckles are "drifting" (the deformity caused by swelling and inflammation in the hands) so she can't bowl any more (five-pin); her right knee (where the first symptoms started) has only about 15 degrees of movement; both elbows and her lower back are also affected. Since she's lived in her house I don't think she's ever walked the 200m round trip to the mailbox. And on shopping trips she can only walk about 50m before she has to sit down and rest. Another complication is that one of the drugs that suppresses her RA symptoms affects her lung capacity. She gets breathless walking around the kitchen sometimes. She was an avid golfer but hasn't played in a few years. And she has awful pain in her lower back.

And she doesn't manage stress well, which complicates a lot of things, such as sleeping, eating, and thinking. She admits she looks for stuff to worry about!

When she first started getting tests for the op, she was asked if she had anyone to help her at home. She said, well yes, I have three grown children! One is out of province and works full time, one is closer to home but works full time on an irregular shift (60-hour weeks), and one is not available at all. So she's done the sensible thing and booked herself a room, thank dog.

I know a quite few people who've had this done: two male co-workers, one under 40 years old and one was about 24; a friend, aged 48 at the time, and whose mother has had both hips done; another co-worker in her early 60s who was thinking of scheduling her second.

One thing, though -- I'll try to stop envisioning the procedure I once accidentally saw on The Operation: the surgeon was using a good-sized carpenter's hammer and chisel to remove the old hip...probably a reciprocating saw too...ugh!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stuff that works for me

Part of being diabetic is skin care, especially on the feet and legs, where ulcers can develop. Wound healing on the feet is especially problematic---at the five-day diabetes education clinic my doctor enrolled me in when I was first diagnosed (my god, January 1995?!) an operating room nurse who had joined the program told us that people with diabetes with gangrenous ulcers on their feet or legs made up six or seven out of every 10 amputations done at the hospital. Inspecting your feet daily, washing carefully in warm water, drying carefully between your toes, and NOT moisturizing between your toes where skin can get and stay damp (the bacteria spa!) are all recommended.

Despite all the "beauty" advice my mother has given me ("Oh, you'd look so nice with streaks in your hair; why don't you wear green eyeshadow; Dove is the best soap to use everyday, the doctor said so"), I STILL don't listen to her. I've always liked my greying hair, only wash it once a week or so, and get it cut two or three times a year at the local beauty school for a cheap and careful blunt cut. Dove bath bars actually make my skin dryer, and I've actually needed a prescription lotion for dry patches on my arms until I stopped using Dove. I don't wear makeup at all (well, a little lipstick once in a while). I was a faithful Mary Kay user for a number of years, but got tired of contacting the representative --- and of the cost, though I do have to say I LOVED their products.

But now I go with Olay. Daily moisturizer with sunscreen (SPF15), daily facial cleaning cloths (my oily skin has never been clearer, though I don't like tossing one in the garbage every day) or the Regenerist facial cleanser and body wash (their Ribbons product makes me slip in the shower though, so I can't recommend everything they make), and bath bars, along with a few other things I might splurge on and use sparingly. Olay is skin-effective and cost-effective --- for ME. And their Quench hand moisturizer is amazing on my hands when I don't wear gloves, which is most of the winter. I'm not real vain. I can't find their compact powder foundation anymore, but I have at least a year's supply.

I also got some free Aveeno products (which my mother also swears by now --- "The Doctor Says...") that are nice but not as addicting. But I'll try to use everything up before I buy more.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Evening the score

The hot water faucet in my bathtub has ceased to be. It was bound to, sooner or later. I've been here over 10 years and only did a superficial redecoration when I moved in (though I did replace the vanity and installed PVC pipes, laid stick-on floor tiles, wall paper, low-flow shower head, a low-flow toilet and supply line, and got the window replaced). It really needs a gut and complete overhaul to be welcoming to guests (I'm used to it).

But now the gasket has bit the dust and I can't turn it off or on. So I've developed a method to take a sponge bath in the tub that probably uses about the same amount of water I'm losing every day until I figure out how to fix the stupid thing (compression faucet, probably 33 years old, and installed by the same semi-professional who did the original ham-handed reno when Mrs. Berry finally moved out after 56 or so years).

So, I fill up two plastic pans with warm water from the sink, stand in the tub, wash all over with a fluffy sock (easier to handle than a washcloth) and my usual Olay soap, and use one pan to rinse the back and one to rinse the front. I wash my face in the sink, and I'll wash my hair in the kitchen because it has a nice spray faucet on a hose.

But that frickin' drip is keeping me awake at night!

UPDATE: I'm always looking for uses for the water I'm collecting from the leaky faucet. So far I'm emptying it into a mop bucket for cleaning, saving some for watering indoor plants, and, best of all, using it to launder items that need hand washing. Two tubs (a day's worth of drips) washes and rinses two light sweaters or blouses or a miniload of unmentionables (bras, panties, camis).

Monday, April 13, 2009

Uses for sari fabric

Sari fabrics (from those long, graceful, and complicated dresses that Hindu and other women wear, when they're not wearing the salwar kameez, the tunic/trouser/scarf combo) go out of fashion as fast as the seasons change. Luckily, their wearers donate many of these 6-yard lengths to Value Village, where they usually sell for under 10 CAD. I regularly browse their selection (ever changing) but have held off buying even the most beautiful (in my opinion) because I just haven't made use of the lengths I bought 3 years ago.

A former co-worker and I were discussing how he could decorate his pool area. I suggested some saris, so I bought a few I'd been looking over, took them to work, and he picked the ones he wanted. He and his partner draped them around a canvas gazebo and enjoyed them swaying in the breeze all summer. That's one.

Two of the ones I was left with I planned on using as temporary drapes. They're still in the drawer, though. And the third, the most elaborate (and heaviest) I thought I'd make into a shirt or blouse, with black body and gold collar and cuffs. That's two.
My latest idea (of course still unexecuted) is yoga bags. The mesh ones I've seen have skimpy straps and fit too tightly. Kind of karmic, I figure.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's been a year

As people say. And it's only April 8. I've been looking for more info and images of the stress echo (cardio) test I took late last month but I haven't found any yet, unlike the plethora (great word) of info I found on the January tests. After two consecutive "atypical" ECGs from St. Mike's hospital in November and negative/positive test results from the five-hour cardiac perfusion and treadmill tests in late January (at a clinic that my cardiologist says has ancient and unreliable equipment, though I'm sure they use fresh radio-isotopes), and a further ECG in the cardiologist's office a few weeks ago, I was told that the angiogram is the "gold standard" for determining heart function. As a post-menopausal diabetic (aged mumblemumble-two) the typical tests aren't very informative. The angiogram has a "tiny" (one in 500 is tiny??) risk of injury. So I picked the stress echo. (Pardon me a moment while I donate some more money in appreciation to TEGH for their great efficiency. OK, done.)

On the morning of, I skipped my coffee and ate a light breakfast as ordered, wore jeans and runners, walked to the hospital (about 20 minutes), arrived about 15 minutes early and got admitted immediately. I undressed from the waist up. I got sticky sensors all over the place. About three techs at a time. The tech did my echo cardiogram in about 1o minutes. Then I got on the treadmill and marched increasingly uphill for about 10 minutes until I said I wanted off. Then I was flung back on the gurney for the second echo while my heart rate and blood pressure were still high. My cardio was there the whole time and I got results by 9:05 am. I was having fresh coffee (but not from the hospital's cafeteria, blech) five minutes later. I found out I should have bused or cabbed to the hospital, but what does one do when transit takes just about as long as it took to walk? And as a diabetic, I need all the exercise I can get?

Anyways, immediate test results: the chances are 80 percent that I DON'T have cardiomyopathy. Yet (I'm too young?). Cardio advised daily low-dose aspirin. I've been doing that for about 4 years now. Also statins. The scariest part. I said let's wait until we see my next cholesterol levels. I don't have to see him for a year now. I'll try to stop eating cookies for lunch and dinner.