I was going to spend a day or two near Toulouse, reacquainting with an English woman, whose father worked together with mine long ago. Our parents became friends and we used to see each other from time to time, as kids, even after we moved away. When my Mum died, I took on her address book and continued the tradition of exchanging Christmas cards, with people all over the world.
Little by little, there are few remaining. Now my Dad's old friend's wife has "gone ahead" and he has Alzheimer's. Sadly, that's one more thing our families have in common. I still send him cards and have struck up correspondence with his daughter.
Julie didn't live in France when I was there, so we haven't seen one another since we established our "grown-up" lives. We were looking forward to spending some time chatting and reminiscing together. Unfortunately, our new travel dates coincide with the moving company that is to pack up her belongings and move them back to England, where her husband is working at a new job. I'll have a new plan in place to connect with her in the U.K. next year.
Last week, we had a send-off lunch for TAO's granddaughter who has spent the summer with an American family nearby. We invited other family members, friends and the couple who hosted Liza. I chose to have our party on a Sunday, at lunchtime, planning that the youngest family members would
The next morning I had reserved two horses for Liza and my Lovelydaughter to take a trail ride in the hills. LD called to say her car was blocked in by her roommate's vehicle, that wouldn't start, so I donned my boots for a Western style ride. The view of San Francisco Bay from the back of a beautiful, long-maned Mustang named Sally; strolling along the oak-studded ridge, is a perspective few tourists get to experience. It wasn't my original plan for the morning but I'm glad I did it. Back at the barn, which also doubles as a vineyard, I bought Liza a souvenir T-shirt, which carries the image of the farm's livestock brand, very rustic and tastefully done. I returned Liza to her host family and finished the monster clean-up that always follows a party.
TAO had the tail end of a cold. By Tuesday, he was still coughing a bit and wheezing at night. He finished up the dregs of a prescription cough medicine that he'd had since 2009. When I emailed his doctor to renew his prescription she said she'd have to see him in person. Age, lungs, wheezing being serious factors. I had sort of expected that answer. Better safe than sorry, especially before a long journey.
The architects who design Hospitals, Airports and other large public buildings think that a disabled drop-off area and an access ramp for wheelchairs is sufficient. It actually does work for those in wheel-chairs. However, so many people are in the category of walking-wounded; in pain, or just not able to walk with ease, that 100 yards/meters looks like 100 miles to them and then, when they struggle to wherever they're going, they have to STAND in line to register.
TAO signed in then had to walk down long corridors to the furthest station, which was his doctor's. She is great. She listens, asks questions, knows past history. I always go with to translate. The doctor heard some reduced lung function on one side and sent us off to X-Ray. More walking, back the way we came and then over to the main hospital building. Hurrying a bit in the hope of getting back to hear the results before the doctor's lunch break.
We didn't even have to wait five minutes until being ushered in by a technician. Friendly, professional, considerate...we don't take this for granted. We are always praising Kaiser, our HMO. Back to our MD. By the time we walked back to her office, a radiologist had read the images, shared them onto her computer screen and discussed a treatment plan, taking into consideration the what-ifs of a trip to France the next day.
TAO came away with a cortisone vaporizer/inhaler to use twice daily, as a month long treatment to heal his lungs. He has an emergency inhaler, just in case of sudden shortness of breath. There's a course of antibiotics that he can start taking if he gets a fever or other symptoms and a repeat of the cough syrup, in case the cough returns. We sat at home and put each item in a sealed plastic bag with a note to remind TAO what each was for. He started the lung treatment and was good to go the next day.
I heard a saying "People plan and God laughs". That's a very true thought. By the end of the following morning, TAO had serious pain in his back and side and was calling off his trip; Laying in bed rather than driving to the airport for his flight out. We spoke to an advice nurse on the phone and she asked all the questions to establish we didn't have a life threatening emergency, but something that needed to be checked out. We decided to wait until the next day, to see our usual physician. This time I pulled up in front of the hospital and commandeered a wheelchair. After parking a ways away, and hurrying back over, naturally TAO was not where I'd left him. He'd wheeled himself inside the wrong building, so a short search ensued.
Once corralled and trundled over to the right office, the Doc. checked him out...AGAIN! Recurrence of osteoarthritis pain in spine, probably provoked by the prior visit's hiking all over the place. It's been a year and a half since the epidural that made such an improvement in TAO's life. He's been diligent about the exercises he was given to strengthen his core muscles. He does them every day, but he's just simply overdone the walking and the unevenness of his gait has caused a reaction.
We're always pleased when a diagnosis is not something from which one might die, as we've had a sprinkling of those over time. Unfortunately, TAO can no longer take any anti-inflammatory meds, which would be the normal solution. Bed-rest and alternating applications of hot and cold, is old-fashioned and tedious, but at least a possible path to recovery. The plan was to wait and see, for at least four or five days and progress to a course of Prednisone, as the next step, if needed. We discussed planning for another epidural, just to know all our options, and our doctor put in a request for that specialist to give us a call. Everything is so much more complicated now that TAO is on blood-thinners for life. It turns out we'd have to switch him from his Coumadin pills, back to the twice daily shots of Lovanox, which I learned to inject into his stomach, but neither of us were very happy about. Then we'd stop the Lovanox to create a brief window of opportunity in between the risk of excessive bleeding and the alternative of blood clots, either of which could kill him and increase the risk of paralysis.
Thankfully, there's been slow but steady improvement. TAO is newly full of vim and vigor after snoozing through the better part of a week, and he's seen the wisdom of taking things slowly and carefully.
Our tickets are re-booked for later this month. TAO is no longer traveling solo. I am committed to making all future plans inclusive of both of us. I need to wrangle this one in person from now on. I plan on requesting assistance at the airport, which worked well when we flew to St Martins at Christmastime.
Our extra time permitted me to take on a temporary rescue of a 10 year old dog whose owner had to go into a nursing home. Kato also has arthritis and had a visit to the vet. He's overweight and had very long nails. His owner loved him but couldn't go out for walks and fed Kato people-food. At 72 lbs, (about 15 lbs more than he should be for his frame) I had a hard time lifting him into my car and even getting him out was a struggle for both of us. I asked for help whenever I could and was as careful as possible not to mess up my shoulder again. Thank goodness my car is quite low to the ground.
Kato was picked up yesterday by my Collie Rescue Area Coordinator who had been out of town when the call came in that Kato was being relinquished. Lauren's SUV was dauntingly high, but luckily the guys who work for me have grown to love the dogs I bring to the office. Strong arms scooped Kato up and hoisted him onto the back seat. He's a happy passenger, lying quietly on long trips, popping up to look out the window if we slow down. I've caught people smiling and waving at him in morning traffic. Kato is old and creaky but he has charisma, not unlike some humans I could mention:)