Tuesday, January 31, 2012

LOFT LIFE: The eyes are the windows of the soul - Part two

Note: Please read Part one first. This is Part two of my cataract surgery experience:

My anesthesiologist, Susan said, “Do you journal?”
“I’m a writer,” I replied.
“Yes,” said she, “but do you journal? If you do, journal about this experience.”
So here it is:
“I don’t want drugs,” I told Susan. She chatted about that with me, and told me I didn’t have to have the valium. There was just a drug that put me out for a few seconds, long enough for the doc to inject my cheek and numb my eye so that he could perform the surgery. That was fine. I was amazed. Most of my anxiety was about the drugs.
“I don’t need Valium, Susan,” I said. “I have you.” She was so calming.
She was informative, compassionate, empathetic and kind. Oh, and believe it or not, this surgical center belongs to the first doc I had left. I guess his surgical staff is different than the office gals. How’s that for irony?
A surgical tech came around. “I sense some anxiety here,” she said.
I confessed.
“It’s a short surgery,” she comforted.
“Oh it’s not the surgery I don’t like,” I said, turning to Susan. “It’s the drugs; it’s you!” I told Susan, who by now knew me well enough to take the humor. She smiled. So did I. I had told her about my terrible experience with Vicodin.
“I hate Vicodin too,” she confessed. We were buddies.
When the light for the surgery came on, Susan was holding my hand. She did this throughout the surgery.
Suddenly, I calmed in that light. It was a corridor of light, like a large open tunnel with no walls. I knew it was just a surgical light, but it felt so much more--like “the light” you expect passing from earth to heaven, one dimension to another. But, there was no fear.
I assure you I was not drugged. I was completely aware of my doctor and my surroundings, but I really didn’t want to concentrate on those. I wanted more of this transformational, heavenly light.
I heard my doc tell the nurse how much more he liked the new product that allowed him to lift out (I believe it was either the cataract or my lens) better than with the old product. “Hey Jude” sounded from the speakers and my doc sang a few bars. He was cheerful, confident. This was assuring. But, it was the light that brought me peace.
I stared straight into it, glued to it, spellbound. All anxiety had left me. I didn’t cough; I didn’t vomit; I didn’t need the potty. All those worries had been unnecessary.
I didn’t even want to speak or ask questions. I didn’t want this light to end.
I had asked Dr. E. if I had a seven or ten minute cataract. When it was over, he said, “Fifteen.”
The light went out. The patch was taped to my eye. I could rest a moment or so across the room. They didn’t give me the crackers, after I had asked if they were whole grain. I did get the orange juice. :)
It had been two hours, start to finish, of painless, positive energy. Prayers for me, Dr. E., the surgery must have been flowing.
I felt God smile.
Thank you Dr. E. and thank you to the surgical staff.
Maybe there is some hope for the health care of the new millennium--at least as long as there are still doctors like Dr. E. out there.

LOFT LIFE: The eyes are the windows of the soul - Part one

I was extremely stressed about having cataract surgery.  This began with my initial visit to an ophthalmologist for an exam.
I went there three weeks before my appointment to ask my questions and get them out of the way. They couldn’t answer my questions about fees and costs, but indicated they could find out. So, when I arrived for the appointment, I, in my mind, was merely affirming what I had asked before, and expecting that after three weeks they could answer questions like, “How much does a cataract surgery normally cost?”
I asked, “Can you tell me the normal costs for the surgery?” They answered, “No.” I frowned a bit. Then the two back office people got involved.
“You’re not here for surgery, are you?”
“Well, no.”
“Then you don’t need to know that yet. Please go sit down.”
I was stunned. It seemed like a completely different reception than it had prior to this visit. And, I certainly wouldn’t have wanted me to sit down among the other waiting patients.
I kid you not. It wasn’t, “No, but we can find out;” or “No, but here’s a phone number you can call.” It was, “NO!” 
The exam wasn’t much better. The technician was abrupt and unkind in her attitude. The doctor was all-business and also was not open to even a short inter-active conversation. At the end of the exam, he simply said, “Well, do you want it (surgery) or not?” And when I gulped and said, “Yes,” he handed me a card, told me to make an appointment at his surgical center, and that someone would show me a video and answer my questions then.
I left with knots in my stomach. It felt like a cataract mill. Was this what healthcare will be reduced to in the “new world” of Obamacare, where time isn’t being paid for, so patient care isn’t a priority?
After calling my insurance company, they assured me that this was not a treatment I needed to succumb to, and that I should find another doctor.
I did. 
Dr. E.’s office staff was quite different. They are kind, they remember names, and they go beyond answering questions, to, with patients like me, anticipating what I may want to clarify. They seem to think this is about my best interests. That is comforting.
Even so, my apprehension pre-surgery had reached levels where my husband may have used the words, ‘basket case,’ when referring to me in this time period. I am not sure. I have blocked out most of that month.
I admit it. I was rattled. Really, I like doctors, and usually get along with them very well. I am cooperative, if my questions are answered. In fact, I think some of the questioning is more of a defense mechanism, just to keep some control over my body, my life, when placing myself in the hands of a stranger.
I actually have spent decades of my life promoting doctors and hospitals. So it isn’t a fear of the medical community. They even have a term for when your blood pressure elevates at a doc visit. They call it a “white coat” reaction.
 But, that first ophthalmologist’s office opened my cataract-clouded eyes to the horrifying truth that I am aging, and that old people have less and less say over their care, their choices, and their bodies. One of the psychologists I did some writing for said, “Aging isn’t kid stuff!” 
It’s a downhill slide to losing options. And, though caretakers and practitioners mean well (usually), it is no less stressful for the care-receivers who heretofore have been “in charge” of so many things, people and choices.
I know this isn’t big news to most of you. It is just a fact of life everyone faces eventually--if they live long enough. 
But, I sense that health care is changing for the worse in these areas. It is “hurry up” healthcare these days. There are regulations, and paperwork, warnings, and lawsuits, government mandates,  and, oh so many things to slow things down and take the personal care out of the equation. There is a definite feeling that they must move on to the next patient, and really, they must!
Just listening to the rehearsed speeches, as a doctor goes from room to room, about all of the risks, warnings, and side-effects, is enough to convince that this is no longer a patient-doctor relationship of the Marcus Welby ilk. (Us old people still remember Robert Young’s family doctor character). The doc today has a lot on his mind. He’s lost options also.
So in the face of even reasonable questions, when the day is long, and patients are many, and mandates hang over every doc’s head, they can’t always make reasonable time for reasonable questions. 
After several screenings, tests, a pre-op physical, my surgery was scheduled for December. I was not ready, psychologically, but I had to be ready. It had to be done.
I was apprehensive about the anesthesia, the drugs, having my face frozen, losing consciousness, losing control. 
What if I had to go to the bathroom when the surgery started? What if I coughed. (Some kind acquaintance told me they had a friend who coughed and lost his eye.) What if I vomited?
I had a month to ferment these fears. It wasn’t going to be a very relaxing Thanksgiving season.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

LOFT LIFE: Feng Shui and Ch'i

Let me start right out apologizing to all of the people who will read into the following some “tone” or disdain for the practice of Feng Shui that are not intended.
But, let me also say that I do not practice these philosophies in the manner in which I am sure I would need to do to be approved. I am not sure if Christians will allow me to embrace an ancient Chinese practice with Eastern spiritual implications. (This is the part where I expect to offend almost everyone.)
That said, I have to tell you that in reading a news article about Feng Shui-ing bathrooms, I was intrigued. Not intrigued enough to buy into this with any kind of ritualistic or spiritual commitment, but intrigued enough to take a look at our loft in a new way.
I may not know which things are tall or circular or even life endangering about my bathroom, or my kitchen, living space, bedroom or any other rooms in our loft, and I may not be paying enough attention to the positive or negative (Ch’i) forces or yings and yangs of my decor, but I am now convinced that some changes are in order.
I know what makes me feel good: green things (plants), soft and vibrant colors, order and cleanliness. I know what things make me feel bad: dust, clutter, drab colors, and decor  that never changes.
So, I have begun my own version of Feng Shui-ing my rooms. 
I started with the kitchen. I cleaned the countertops, put away 30 per cent of the clutter (things sitting there to make readiness and convenience, but not beauty). I lit candles. I like good aromas. I put a pretty glass bowl of fresh fruit in place of a line of empty bowls, finished candles and empty cups. Then I threw away the pads under my teapots, got some fresh, clean ones, and put away food containers, again sitting out for convenience. 
In the bathroom, I disinfected the shower curtain, and I threw away products that were older than a year, emptied out the drawers containing old medications, almost finished tubes of creams and gels, and lit another candle. I placed the flowers on the bathroom table in a more attractive place. I closed the lid cover to the toilet (okay, I yielded to one actual Feng Shui suggestion just to see if the negative forces I have been living with in my many bathrooms, will turn more positive).
In the dining room I discarded the pots of dirt that no longer contain plants, and bought new, living plants, which will remain on the wire table until I kill them. I will eventually kill them. I always do. Unless the Feng Shui works, that is. My Ch’i is awaiting the verdict. 
That is all I have done for now. And, yes, Feng Shui or no, I should have been doing these things all along. So I feel better, happier, cleaner, prettier already--well, my loft does.

It’s winter. Rather than yielding to the doldrums winter usually brings, I am trying to change some of the external cues, as well as my internal ones (my spirit, my heart, my thinking), to let in the light, celebrate the season, refresh the environment, and become more aware of the impact my space has on me, on my husband, and my guests. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, let me know about your own Feng Shui efforts. I want to know.