Monthly Archives: July 2009

Plans are what you make, life is what you get.

Robert Heinlein once said, “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.” My version works pretty well, too. I started this blog with the best of intentions, planning on posting at least once a week. It’s now been a little over 2 months since my last post. Not the best track record around. In my own defense, my plans took a back seat to life.

I’ve happily started my new job at Cutco. Unbelievably, this company is everything its reputation makes it out to be and more. They’re very family and community oriented. They work hard to take care of their employees (as I’ve recently had ample evidence of – more later). They make good products and they stand behind them. This is a company where, if you’ve worked there for 15 years, you’re a short timer. I’ve been looking most of my adult life for the company I could work for until I retire (hard to find in the computer biz) and now, coming up on my 49th birthday, I’ve found it. Life was good.

So, I spent the next few weeks getting up to speed on my new job, learning the network and systems, etc. Everything was going well. Tami started a new job at about the same time. Coincidentally, it’s my old job with the Disconnects group at Level 3. She even has my old cubicle. Of course, her old boss was being a real jackass about letting her go. He had let the group attrit down to 2 people from 6 while the work load doubled so Tami wasn’t allowed to just start her new job. She had to ‘transition’ out of the old one which turned out to mean working 1/2 days at one job and 1/2 days at the other. This made training for the new job interesting in a Chinese curse kind of way – especially since the person training her was due to take maternity leave real soon. Needless to say, her stress level was kind of high.

Still, she was doing OK and learning the new job. Dennise had her baby so Tami was on her own but she was still doing well. But the stress was getting to her. She has been under ever increasing stress in her old job because of her let-staffing-drop-by-60%-while-workload-doubles-and-keep-performance-requirements-the-same jackass boss. The new job stress just added to it. On top of that, she had hurt her knee a couple of months ago and it wasn’t getting any better. Her feet were swelling (from sitting all day, we thought) and she couldn’t exercise because of her knee and would get out of breath going up stairs. All this just made everything worse.

Finally, her mother had to go in for surgery. As such things go, it wasn’t too serious but her Mom is 62 so there was something else to worry about. Tami and I had scheduled time off work so that we could go stay with her Mom when she got out of the hospital. We planned (there’s that word again) to drive down Thursday evening so we would be there when her Mom went into surgery Friday morning. We would stay the weekend and drive home Sunday evening. Tami’s Aunt would be there as well and would stay for the rest of the week. That’s what we planned.

Here’s what actually happened. Thursday morning, Tami got up and went to take her shower. She came back a minute later saying that she had gotten halfway down the hall and couldn’t catch her breath. I checked her pulse and breathing to make sure it wasn’t a heart attack (I was an EMT is a former life). Nothing dire was apparent so after talking about it, we chalked it up to a particularly bad anxiety attach (she had been having them off and on for the past few months and we attributed them to work related stress). We thought that worry about her Mom had just turned up the pressure. Anyway, we both went to work.

That evening, we drove 5 hours to West Virginia to Tami’s Mom’s house. Tami was still having anxiety attacks. The next day, more of the same. She would be able to walk about 10-15 feet and then would have to stop and get her breath. After the surgery, it seemed a little better which seemed to strengthen the argument that it was stress related. The next morning, Saturday, July 13th she woke up and her breathing was worse than ever. I drove her over to the Fairmont General Hospital Emergency Room. They very quickly admitted her and the Doctor on duty almost immediately tagged her problem as something more serious than an anxiety attack. He didn’t like her breathing, didn’t like her color, didn’t like her pulse rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen level and remarkably made a tentative diagnosis of pulmonary embolism. The reason I say ‘remarkably’ is because pulmonary embolism is hard to diagnose because it often resembles a heart attack or, you guessed it, an anxiety attack. Regardless, one CAT scan later, his prognosis was confirmed and Tami was off to Intensive Care. Plans, meet Life.

The Doctors at Fairmont General were fantastic. They kept us fully apprised of what was going on, the risks involved, planned treatment, prognosis for recovery…everything. The Nursing staff was just as wonderful – always friendly, smiling, professional, caring. My Mother was a nurse so I know something of what the job entails. It’s not an easy job and maintaining a good attitude is difficult sometimes but essential to giving good patient care. Tami’s nurses were among the best I’ve ever dealt with.

Tami’s prognosis was actually pretty good…once we got her in the hospital. The scary part was that the doctors told us that if we hadn’t brought her in when we did she probably would have been dead within a few days. In fact, the only reason she made it as long as she did is because (we found this out in the ER as well) she was severely anemic. This limited the size of the clots and kept them from killing her outright. This kind of revelation has a tendency to make you forget to breath for a few minutes.

This is where hind-sight kicked in and we realized that pain in her knee was the initial blood clot that started all this. The swollen ankles were a side effect of the clot. The infuriating thing here is that Tami went to our family doctor about her knee and was sent to the local hospital (which shall remain nameless) for a sonogram to see what the problem was. The tech looked right at the clot and never saw it. Fairmont General found it almost immediately. For the record, I will never willing set foot in that nameless hospital again. They’re the closest to our home but they’ve managed to screw up diagnoses and treatment for every member of my family. The took hours to even see one of my sons when I took him to the Emergency room on a Friday night for what we found out was a cracked collar bone (the ER wasn’t even remotely busy that night – we were the only ones there). They mis-read a cardiac stress test on me when they thought they saw something. This resulted in my having to travel to another hospital 3 hours away to get a Cardiac Catheterization done which showed absolutely nothing wrong. They did the same thing with an echocardiogram on my youngest son when he had to get a checkup for Cross Country and Soccer. We ended up taking him to 2 other hospitals. The first one did another echocardiogram and found nothing so they sent us the another hospital. This last one put him on a treadmill for a stress test. End result was that the only person who had ever done better on that test was a professional fire fighter who ran triathlons. I was willing to overlook the botched tests on me and my youngest since the only consequences were more tests (better safe than sorry) – irritating but OK. But when some incompetent imbecile miss-reads results and it almost costs someone their life they’ve gone too far. I don’t blame the Doctor that read the results or our Family Doctor. I blame the brain-dead tech who gave them bad results and the hospital that employs him or her.

Once we got over the shock though we started looking ahead at her recovery. Short term, that meant at least a week in the hospital followed by another couple of weeks at home. This is where we are now. Tami’s out of the hospital, we’ve driven the 5 hours home and she’s following doctor’s orders – resting a lot, light exercise (the only kind she’s capable of right now), monitoring her blood pressure, taking her meds…the list goes on.

Medium term it means getting her blood checked – a lot – to make sure it’s not too thin and making some minor dietary changes. Interestingly enough, we don’t really eat that badly, nutritionally speaking. We’re just too sedentary and our portion size is too big. Which means continuing with the exercise and increasing it as we can. It also means that when she goes back to work next week she can’t sit chained to her desk all day. She has to get up occasionally and walk around for a few minutes.

Long term…WOW. Long term means being thankful to God and appreciating that you actually have a long term to think about. And plan for. It means making the most of each day. It means actually improving out health, not just talking about it.

As for me, I’ve gone back to work. About the time Tami was being moved from Intensive Care to a regular room, I was driving home to get the boys, clear the decks with my new job and cancel about a half-dozen appointments with Doctors, Optometrists, Dentists and Orthodontists (the only one I couldn’t reschedule). We all had checkups scheduled – ironic, ain’t it? I went to work that Monday to clear things up so that I could be away for a few days. My boss (and her boss and his boss) all made a point of letting me know that I was to take as much time as I needed to take care of my family – no muss, no fuss. My job would still be there when I got back. I was speechless. When I got back to work for real this past Tuesday I asked my boss how I needed to handle the fact that I had used up all my available vacation time with this plus a day I didn’t have coming to me. She told me, “You still have your vacation. They wouldn’t do that to you.” Again, I was speechless.

I know that eventually I’ll find something about Cutco that I don’t like – nothing’s perfect – but everything I’ve ever heard about them and now my own experience tell me that I’m working for a wonderful group of people. Tami’s on the mend and the future is bright. We’re all (reasonably) healthy and getting more so. What can I say. Life is good.