Visitors in the Calm before the Storm

Twelfth a series. Click here for the first installment.

Company for the Weekend

In my previous installment I talked about the surprise level of support from my friends in the maker community especially the people from Adafruit industries. But I also had lots of expected support from local friends and family. Carol had been coming after work at least three or four days a week. Karen had come when she could. Judy had actually taken a few hours off work to visit me as I explained earlier.

We are now on Friday, December 9 and for the weekend people schedules were little bit easier and I had even more visitors. My friends Rich and Kathy Logan dropped in to visit Friday evening on their way home from work and they and my sister Carol were there when the people from Adafruit called. It was great to be able to share that moment with them. It was a little bit difficult because I couldn’t talk but a combination of typing messages on the iPhone and using the message board I was able to communicate a little bit.

I showed them my page of instructions on how to take care of me and of course Rich being a computer guy he appreciated the joke that it was a “User’s Manual for Chris Young”. He also recognized that the row and column scanning of the paper message board was reminiscent of my old software VersaScan that I had written for my late friend Christopher Lee. He said “isn’t this sort of a primitive VersaScan?” I replied “Yes it’s VersaScan version 0.0”.

It had been a very busy day for me. It started off with less than satisfying attempts to stay off of the ventilator because I needed lots of suction. I had back pain because I had strained my back trying to shave. We had the infamous “Second Incident” in which a hot nurse took me out of a comfortable position into an uncomfortable one against my will. And the phone call from the people at Adafruit along with visitors from friends had turned a bad day into a better one.

That night however the pain persisted. Normally when I get back pain from not wearing my back brace or from straining my back trying to sit up in the hospital bed I can get rid of the pain with a single dose of Tramadol. However the night of the 9th/morning of the 10th the Tramadol didn’t do the trick. Instead they gave me Fentanyl 50 mg every two hours. Unfortunately it only lasted about ninety minutes. I asked if they could give me 25 mg every hour to spread it out but they weren’t interested in that. Then later the morning of the 10th I went back to Tramadol and that helped a little bit. I ended up in a little bit of pain all day long but it wasn’t as bad as it had been the previous night.

Saturday morning the 10th I had more visitors. Judy dropped by on her way to work her other job as bookkeeper at St. Vincent Depaul parish in Shelbyville. Also Fr. Mike the pastor at St. Gabriel dropped by for a visit as well. I wanted to tell Judy the story about the phone call from Adafruit but it was taking too long to type and with both her and Fr. Mike there it was a bit difficult to carry on a slow conversation. I ended up telling her I would tell her a long story later.

Parish News

Judy went ahead and went to work and now I had an opportunity to chat a little bit by iPhone message with Fr. Mike. I told him that I had been anointed and that it was a good experience. I took the opportunity to asking him a question about some things going on at St. Gabriel. There had been a notice in the bulletin that people were considering reopening St. Gabriel Elementary School.

From the time St. Gabriel opened in the early 1960s up until about six or seven years ago we had operated a preschool through eighth grade parochial elementary school. The financial strain on the parish had been pretty severe but it was an important ministry for much of our population. When the parish was young, the Catholic mindset was that it was absolutely essential that Catholic children attend Catholic school. But for most people it had become less of a priority. People realized it was not a mortal sin to send your kids to public school. The Sunday morning religious education programs often called “CCD programs” were considered an acceptable way for Catholic kids to get the religious portion of their education. The result was our population dwindled and the cost per student rose significantly. So a few years ago we merged our grade school with St. Michael’s grade school now the combined program is held at St. Michael’s facilities.

So when I heard we were considering having a grade school my initial reaction was “I thought we are ready had one. It’s called St. Michael’s and St. Gabriel Elementary School”. We still pay lots of money towards the operation of that school and it is designed to be for our students as much as St. Michael’s. Of course we share the overhead cost and with a larger population it’s easier to keep the cost per student down. Additionally we’ve been renting out our classrooms to an organization called The Excel Center. It is a program to help dropout adults earn their GED. The reduced costs of sharing our elementary program with St. Michael’s plus the income we earn from renting out our facilities to The Excel Center has finally put us on solid financial ground for the first time in decades.

So I asked Fr. Mike “are we losing the Excel center?” He explained that there had been interest in reopening a grade school of our own and if we did so we would have to discontinue renting to the Excel center. But for the time being it was all just preliminary talks about something that would not happen for years. He was disappointed to report that only two families showed up at the meeting to discuss the possibilities. Naturally he was going to need to see much more demand for this change before he would entertain it. He was going to schedule another meeting which did eventually happen but I never heard the results of it. In fact I’ve not heard any more talk of reopening the school.

It was kind of fun to just talk about parish news and politics and not have to make everything that I discussed be about my own personal health or situation. Just being able to get caught up on the latest news with Fr. Mike was a real relief even though I don’t really care that much about the topic. I’ve never been a fan of private schools and thought that school was a serious drain on our resources but I always respected and tolerated those who did think it was a priority.

At the end of our visit Fr. Mike said a prayer for me and I typed “Amen” on my iPhone.

Important Message

St. Vincent Hospital has a really nice cable TV system with most of your traditional basic cable channels including a couple of ESPN and all the major cable news channels and your typical TNT, TBS, WGN, Discovery, History, SyFy Channel etc. I don’t believe it has some of the more obscure ones like BBC America but for most things it’s sufficient. It’s actually a very sophisticated video over IP cable system in that you aren’t really watching a traditional TV signal but you’re watching a computer screen that is streaming the channels. There is an extensive menu system allows you to watch educational videos about various hospital and health issues. I think there’s even a system you can play online games and there are a few movies on demand but nothing very current.

One of the annoying things about the system is that there are pop-up messages that occur at regular intervals. They want you to watch informational videos that warn you not to try to get out of bed to go to the bathroom without help in case you fall and other such issues. I’ve complained about these pop-up messages before and even wrote them a very nasty letter after a previous stay in the hospital. The problem is that the pop-up messages obscure the screen and you can’t get rid of them unless you push a button on the remote control. I really laid a guilt trip on them in the letter. I said it’s bad enough when I have to lay there in the hospital feeling terrible and helpless. That my only refuge was to watch TV and that would be interrupted by these messages that I could not get rid of because I couldn’t physically push the button on the remote to clear the message.

Perhaps they had listened to my complaints because I did notice a change in this visit. The messages were still as annoying as always but they would occasionally disappear on their own and when they were on the screen, they did not obscure the screen. Unfortunately they caused the screen to be distorted by squashing it vertically to make room for the message at the bottom. When the message would eventually disappear on its own, the screen would remain squashed. So it was still a big annoyance.

There was one very humorous aspect to this. Somewhere along the way I was watching TV and there was a trailer for the new Transformers movie. Of course the giant robots were shooting up the place and destroying buildings and people were running for their lives. Just as the trailer began to start, one of the pop-ups happened to appear on the screen. This is a photo that Carol took of that same pop-up that I managed to see a few days later. I was thinking of downloading that trailer from YouTube and editing the pop-up over it to show you what it was that I saw. But two months later it wasn’t as funny or as important to me as it was the day I had Carol take this photo for me. But just imagine this pop-up message appearing over a movie trailer where it looks like giant killer robots are about to bring about Armageddon.

The Calm Before the Storm

Because I had a rough night the night before with lots of pain, I did not attempt to get off of the ventilator at all on Saturday the 10th. I just wanted to take it easy and relax and spend time with my visitors. The next day, Sunday the 11th, was a much better day physically. I was able to get off of the ventilator for almost the whole day. I didn’t have any pain and slept well all night. I posted the following upbeat message to Facebook reporting that fact. This message was posted at 3:51 PM. However early that evening of the 11th things took a turn for the worst and began a big downhill slide in my morale. It was the beginning of the emotional crash that led me to send the text message that I spoke about at the very beginning of this series of blog posts. In less than 24 hours from that very upbeat and positive post at 3:51 PM on the 11th, until 3:36 PM on the 12th I had deteriorated into an emotional wreck and was asking for prayers by saying “Pray that they listen to the man with no voice.”

The story of that decline in our next installment.

To be continued…