Sunday, March 24, 2019

Pedal Hatred

I was reading a post on one of the dedicated Key West Facebook pages and as is so frequently the way the thing got completely out of hand. I don't do much with Facebook because of that, but from time to time I look in to keep up with friends. When I was in the hospital it was a life saver so I am reluctant to be too distant from the service. But...
Some dude posted a rather negative paragraph about electric bicycles and how they speed down the sidewalks at "30 to 40 mph" which sounded like a horrible exaggeration to me. Well, the shit show started and as far as I know it continues because I stepped away. The comments were so derogatory and angry I was quite shocked by the tone of the whole post. 
Funnily enough it fell to a friend of mine, a mild mannered soul who potters to his voluntary environmental causes on an electric bike to defend the use of these instruments of the devil. Of course the clamor against electric bikes headed into the "report this to the police" stuff from outraged citizens and my buddy patiently explained that under Florida law if electric bikes don't exceed 20 mph they are mere bicycles. That contention set off another firestorm of vituperation of an intensity sufficient to burn the city down. 
The paragraphs got longer and longer which on Facebook is the equivalent of shouting to be heard and not being listened one reads more than three sentences if that. Writing ten column inches on Facebook is the equivalent of pissing into a hurricane, no one notices. And that's what all the posters were doing.
The thing is there is already a solid contingent in Key West that absolutely positively hates bicyclists. And on bad days you can see why. Locals and tourists (who already treat city streets as extensions of Disneyland) do frequently ride with total contempt of rules common courtesy and common sense. I feel that car drivers who hate cyclists are frequently expressing fear in reaction to a near miss, as most people really don't want to kill their cycling neighbors.
Given that cyclists are scofflaws when it comes to stopping for stop signs and red lights it is rather hard to expect car drivers who are bound by these irritations to care very much at all if bicyclists get annoyed by car drivers accidentally failing to in their duties to bicycles, passing too close or opening doors into bicycle lanes and so forth. In Old Town it's almost impossible to give three feet of room when passing an ambling distracted cyclist  blocking traffic.
So when you are driving in Key West's congested narrow lanes and looking for somewhere to park you may be forgiven for bursting a blood vessel when an inconsiderate hoodlum on a bicycle slides wildly by, hopping off the sidewalk, swinging too close while running a  stop sign...and then parks and walks away while you are still figuring what to do with your land yacht. 
Oddly enough the debate I had dropped into quite by accident had taken bicycle hatred to a whole new place and one of the loudest angriest voices was a bicycle promoter in Key West. It turns out everyone wants to see people riding bicycles just they have to be the bicycles advocates describe as acceptable. And apparently in the socially fractured world in which we live electric bikes are the devil's handiwork. 
I find it nuts, frankly. It seems to me the more people riding bicycles, electric or not, the fewer cars we have to contend with and putting people on electric bikes can lead us to hope the pedals may get some use, increasing with time and familiarity to increase the practice of beneficial exercise. The beauty of an electric bike is that it allows you to get to work in good order, not sweating and discombobulated. The  riding home you can cranks the pedals for a bit of stress reduction in pedal assistance...
Electric bike advocates are pushing their machines as true alternatives to cars and I think they are on to something, as bicycles are familiar, friendly (usually) and require no bureaucratic paperwork or enforcement. Compared to a motorcycle that requires a licence and skill to ride as well as insurance and so forth a bicycle is as familiar as any other household appliance. Adding a motor makes it just a bit more useful. Fantastic.  
It is time for the advocates to wake up and support getting people out of their cars instead of worrying about what kind of bikes they are riding. The law is clear and manufacturers know their machines are speed limited. In Florida bicycles have to yield to pedestrians but are permitted on sidewalks. Key West has the state's worst bicycle fatality rate so riding ion the street though permitted seems like a terrible roulette risk to me. Instead of remaining calm and carrying on people seem ready to start fighting over nothing very much.  
 I see an electric bike in my future and sooner possibly rather than later, namely when road work starts on the bridge into Key West. Traffic is expected to be impossibly backed up for the best part of a year. My plan is to park my car outside the city and ride a bike - electrically - into town, side stepping traffic back ups. Smart eh? Not universally appreciated then. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

My Keys, My Rusty

It’s been a crap week.  My wife and I both got sick with severe gastrointestinal “distress” probably picked up at the hospital Monday during the IVC filter shock horror drama. Consequently what was to have been a few serene days off turned into bed rest and incontinence. Gross. 

Allow me therefore to present my consolation, my Rusty. I worried when I was bed ridden he would forget me. 

My wife makes endless fun of me for my worries. We have if anything grown even closer, Rusty and I. 

Throughout my convalescence he has kept a close eye on me. If I fall back on a walk, tired or photographing, he stops and comes back to check up on me. 

In the evening he flops on my chest when I get into bed. When I arrive home in the car he leaps up as if he’s worried I may be struggling without him. 

My wife is the manager but Rusty is the cheerleader. He is a morale boost everyday. Oh and there’s a family of chickens out in the middle of nowhere. How they got by the side of the road I don’t know but they are thriving and look plump and content. Cheers to them and I raise my hand every time I pass by.  This time I stopped and photographed the paterfamilias. 

I suppose one should be embarrassed by the emotional connection to a mere dog. I feel okay about it. I’m married and I have human friends I value so I can say my dog fills a unique part of a life that is reasonably rounded. 

I love giving him freedom and a great life. Walks, varied food, no fences and a space on the furniture. He never seems to take any of it for granted and he’s as grateful to me as I am for him.  

He is as handsome in real life as he is photogenic. I am constantly fending off compliments aimed at the little tyke! 

I also find it interesting that he develops clear antipathies for people and/or their dogs. If he holds back I respect that and walk away. He is smart. 

Rusty survived a tough start and he deserves all happiness. In a single week of my life that sucked he has given back more than I can say. All I can do is thank him in a way he can’t even understand and post his pictures here. 

So forgive me for waxing lyrical about a hound. Especially if you don’t like dogs. People who don’t like dogs like my dogs. Rusty doesn’t steal food even if left on a coffee table. He lays down and you will forget he’s there. 

He will beg but it’s up to you to teach him you aren’t giving in. He gets more treats than he needs away from our table, but he will try to stare you down. If you give in you are lost. Don’t feed him from the table! 

Scratch him between the eyes or rub his tummy  to make him happy. 

I thank him for being my coach, taking me on walks, exercising my legs, getting me out of bed to see the sunrise in places most people never see. Normal people are obsessed with beaches and palms. I’m not that way so my Keys look a lot like mangroves and my dog.  My world. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Saintly Brunch

My wife set it up with Wayne and Chuck and we dutifully turned up on Eaton Street at the appointed hour.  As will become apparent the brunch site at the Saint Hotel is close by the Tropic Cinema which was how my wife found out they offered brunch in the first place. A trip to the movies and the wide eyed shopper observes her options. 

So last Sunday she got her chance and we all went brunching together. The Saint Hotel is exotic:

Hemingway makes his mark everywhere in Key West, the rugged masculine writer:

I am a sucker for historical photographs:

And sausages and colcannon and a vegetable omelette:

The coffee was sweet enough it didn't need sugar or milk. A good sign for me:

St Patrick's Day merited  corned beef and cabbage which I like any day (and more colcannon):

Wayne Layne and Chuck:

There were the usual bits and bobs, salmon and fruit:

I'd have liked more sweets but the muffins had to do. Mass market sniffed on of our friends.

Possibly but they picked up the tab which was really sweet of them so I have no complaints. We lounged in lovely surroundings and I ate too many muffins and drank too much coffee.

No idea how much it cost but the views were excellent and dinner and lunch are available to non guests.

The pool is limited to hotel guests.

I was startled by the lighting in the loo; but I am a country bumpkin.

And there is the Tropic as we came out...

There is even - be still my beating heart - parking! With valets too. How un-Key West.

It was a gloomy drizzle filled day in the real world.

Already I missed the eccentric warmth of The Saint.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Medical Snafu

I write this post with one request in mind: please no Monday morning quarterbacking, second guessing or unsolicited medical advice. I am well and without going into prurient details in a public space my groin feels much better since the IVC filter was removed. I write this post as part of the series about my long drawn out recovery. Shit happens in the world of medicine and it happened to me on Monday. Of all the operations I’ve had Monday’s simple filter extraction was easily the worst and the most painful. I was awake for the entire three hours I was on the operating table and I could feel everything. 

The Inferior Vena Cava filter looks like a shiny umbrella frame without the cloth. It is inserted in the groin to catch blood clots that may form in the legs of bedridden, non ambulatory patients. It saves lives by preventing those clots from traveling from the legs to the heart lungs and brain and paralyzing or killing you. They have been around for almost 20 years and the early models were fixed like mesh strainers and had a tendency to break and formed their own danger to the patient. That’s why you see lots of advertisements from bottom feeding lawyers looking for clients. Modern IVC filters fold like umbrellas and are slotted into a tube and extracted through a cut in the neck. Very simple and very clean.  Takes an hour from start to finish, at most. 

My appointment at Jackson South was at nine for surgery at ten. My paperwork went wrong in some manner and then they discovered I had been told mistakenly I did not need to fast as I was not going to be unconscious. That pushed me back to 2pm when the surgeon found out I had breakfasted. Even being awake I might vomit from the effect of the drugs that were supposed to make me drowsy. (I did copiously in recovery) and if I aspirated on the operating table it would be a problem. Score one for Dr Toro he called that right. 

Eventually the paperwork got sorted and we went to pre-op. I’ll tell you this: everyone was incredible at Jackson South. They were kind and thoughtful respectful and shared a few jokes with me. I would go back any time for medical work. They treated me well. 

It had been stressful waiting and it gave me too much time to think. Paula my nurse was wonderful keeping me relaxed and talking me through my nerves. I disliked the idea of being cut in the neck while awake but she said it had to come up going up through my body because if they tried to pull it out backwards it would open and jam. Brr I thought to myself. And you can’t knock me out? Not necessary she said. It would take longer for recovery than for the operation. In retrospect that was ironic. I was in recovery for five hours. We didn’t leave the hospital till ten that night it ended up being a thirteen hour day. 

I got my IV inserted into the back of my hand. I had drunk a lot to make my veins easy to find, I know that trick by now and where once I had a dread of needles not anymore. I had to get rid of the water as I waited for my operation so I ended up wandering the halls to and from the loo numerous times as I waited. Another reason I’m delighted the filter is  gone. It seemed to make me need to go often and I think it pressed on my full bladder in a way that made it hard to hold back. When I had to go I HAD TO GO! Awful stuff. 

The next photos are post op, just so you know. I was wheeled into the operating room and my head was turned to the side and half my face covered so I could only see out of my left eye. I must have been naked I guess but I felt nothing of that. I never saw DrToro during the three hour operation but I heard him and as restrained as he was I knew when he was getting frustrated. Opening my neck hurt. I felt a thump and a sting as they applied a local anesthetic and that pain drifted away as they started giving me lesser painkillers to dull my consciousness. That didn’t work and I could feel the wire winding through my torso like a train following my arteries to my groin. It was creepy but it didn’t hurt.  It took some effort but they got the filter into the tube to general sighs of relief. Then the return journey began. Which is when everything started to go wrong.   

The filter got hung up. I heard the surgeon say it’s in a wall and I can’t get it over. This went on for ages. They started on the dilaudid which sent me to la-la land but only briefly. I kept waking up. He was tugging the wire and I had the distinct sensation I was being stabbed in the chest. There was a thump followed by a jolt of electricity and a stinging sensation as he struggled to move the filter.  It was lodged tight. This went on for a while. I got more dilaudid. I was groaning in pain. 

Eventually they opened a hole at the top of my thigh and inserted a balloon to grab the stuck filter from below. Paula had told me the longest extraction they had lasted two hours and eventually that patient was sent to ICU for a full on operation to get the filter removed. I was facing that prospect and I prayed the balloon would work. Finally it did and the filter came out untrammeled. It came out so easily I could feel it sliding across my chest in the artery but I had to ask what happened when all action ceased. It’s out they told me. Cheer I said. Clap lets be happy. They indulged the patient. At my insistence the doctor went and spoke to my wife who was in tears in the waiting room. After one hour had passed she knew something was wrong. After two hours she figured I was in trouble. When Dr Toro came in looking somber she thought I was dead. He was just tired after the worst extraction he had ever handled. He said the filter was wrapped in a vein which complicated things. 

They had to clean up gallons of my blood all over the floor,  I had been bleeding for three hours after all. I was rolled into recovery where the loss of blood left me feeling freezing cold. I huddled under five blankets (three photos up taken by my wife) and started projectile vomiting my breakfast coffee and bagels some into the bucket some on my long suffering wife and some on the floor. My excellent nurse Lehaney kept ice on my wounds and chased my vomit like the pro she is and monitored me closely for five hours. Like all the other nurses and staff she was wonderfully compassionate and caring and minimized my embarrassment at the mess I was making.

Carlos rolled me out of the silent darkened hospital to the warm Miami night.  Drizzle was in the air but I was so glad to be leaving it all behind.  I was spent through stress, loss of blood, and vomiting. 

I could walk a bit and when my wife stopped at Publix to get dinner - I had an irrational but understandable craving for a moist meal of cereal- I walked slowly to the bathroom using my cane and without the filter I had plenty of time and no urgent sudden need to urinate. It felt fantastic!  You have no idea. 

The picture above is of handicapped driver at he hotel being an asshole blocking van accessibility. Everyone has the capacity to become an asshole in Miami. Anyway I feel tons better now the filter is out and I am over my drugs. I think the filter was put in badly in the first place because it always felt odd and caused me pain and numbness in a place no man wants to feel those sensations. It was like I had a urinary infection or something and all that nastiness went away the minute the filter was removed. 

Kudos of course to my ever patient wife who drove me up and back and took care of all the administrative stuff. She was very smart to schedule this nightmare during her week off in spring break. Not a great way to spend vacation time but it was one less thing to worry about as we came home 24 hours later than expected. Our friends took care of Rusty who was delighted to see me and shared my recovery next to me on the bed. Never did I expect this routine operation to force me to take my first night back off sick. But it did! I hope you learned something from my experience: not least that we are all capable of dealing with more crap than we think we are.