Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Amazing, Disturbing, Yet Worth Celebrating News at UCLA Today

(Note: Many of you don't realize to click on the clickable links! Doing so makes these things make more sense - so be sure to click when you see a phrase underlined and in a different color!)

This is a longer post, but it's because there's almost a month since my last one, but there is lots of fun & interactive stuff to sure to read to the very end to see a smathering of photos from today too. Oh, and feel free to comment...I miss those things, and when i see my blog all comment-less I hear Barbara Streisand & Neil Diamond singing, "You Don't Bring Me Comments Anymore" - it's sick I tell you! " think I could learn how to tellllll you goodbyyyyye...," but no. You have the power to stop this madness, so comment if you enjoyed today's post :)

Before I get to the juicy stuff though, let me "quickly" update you since the last post. Let's see, there were no new ER visits thankfully...oh wait, just one, but it was not stem-cell transplant related! I overdid it and was more fatigued than usual, when I got up off the couch in my UGG boots parallel to the thick-pile floor rug which my foot kind of stuck to as my right ankle rolled outward causing me to fall hard on my right side and hitting my noggin on the way down on the corner of a table. By the way, now I know why they call them UGG boots - ugh, that hurt! The pain from the ankle and the snapping sound is what caused me to fall even harder because in the whirlwind I was more concerned about my ankle then the rest of me and wanted to grab it. Mike saw me fall and exclaimed, "Who cares about your ankle, how's your head?!" Of course, this happened on a Sunday and since I heard a snap, we thought it best to go to the ER to get x-rays. Turns out there was no fracture, just torn ligaments so I received an air cast to protect the ankle from sideways motion and had to stay off of it until I could walk on it without pain. Swollen, painful and bruised I had to lay it up for 48 hours, icing frequently, but I started taking my Vivix again and things started healing rather quickly so that by today I'm able to walk on it for the most part, but can't bend it just yet and cannot drive. It still gets painful if I've been on it too much and I go back to the crutches for that. Thank you Pauli for letting me borrow the crutches!

That was the most exciting thing that happened this month as far as "emergencies" were concerned. That was the end of a very physically active week for me. I said I had overdone it and here's how - I'd been doing well going on walks with family and the dog, and Mike seemed tired and I thought he needed a break. So, waking up early one morning (6 AM) I decided to take the dog on a bike ride before anyone woke up! That way Mike could have a day off from walking or riding the dog. Riding the dog, meaning he takes him on bike rides in the morning usually. Riding the dog is easy with our K-9 Bike Jogger we scored off Amazon. It's the best! I have to look down to see that the dog is still there sometimes because there is no pulling you over on this thing - you just can't even feel it, even when bunnies & squirrels cross your path!

I rode to the bike path, then thought I'd go as far as the bridge because, so far, it was easy peasy which surprised me since I haven't ridden a bike in eons and I'm pretty unconditioned right now. I decided to go to the next milestone, then thought ohhhh Goleta Beach is just a little further, I can do it! I've so desperately wanted to go to the beach and introduce our new dog to the beach too, but being sun sensitive right now prevents me. It was so early though I went for it. As I neared the beach, I started tiring, and realized I'm going to have to get home too, woops! It's 4 miles to the beach and that means 4 miles back. I took a break at the beach and let Headband play. He loved digging in the sand - wish I had a picture. Since it's a leash-on beach, I followed the rules and kept him on the billyclub-style k-9 jogger leash I detached from the bike. Here I was standing, facing the dog, relishing in his delight of digging to China when BOLT, he takes off between my legs to run like a greyhound in a moment of glee. You guessed it (remember I was facing him, his head is down, he's digging to China) and I'm pretty close to him with my legs spread apart bent over a little, so I got flipped! Sand is soft thank goodness! And on top of that I lost multiple layers of skin on my thumb in two places along with a blister. There was not a soul at the beach that early, so off-leash he went for a spell because I wasn't willing to do anymore gymnastics and wanted to keep my remaining dermal layer.

Oh, I failed to mention that at the beginning of our bike ride, we were just heading down the bike path when a man and his two dogs, 1 an australian shepherd, came out from the wooded area off-leash (there are signs, people, that say clearly leashes are required along the bike path). The aussie came charging and circled us so fast that it caused Headband to screech to a halt and jump to the other side of the bike in some supernatural way, causing me to fall over and get a nasty scrape up and bruise on my right shin! Here I am holding my leg on the bike, my dog is tangled and my bike is still keeled over while the guy is yelling for his dog to come and reporting "he's good, he's good, he just wants to play!" I'm wincing and moaning (appropriately so, not putting on a show mind you) and he offers no assistance, no apologies, no "are you ok?" - nada! Can you believe it? I'm learning a lot about human behavior through owning a dog let me tell you, LOL! That was at the beginning of my journey and I kept going! Then the beach incident, then getting home was tough with the hard bike seat and the 8 miles total - at least it's flat! I was just a-prayin' at the end, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! Please Jesus, help me get home...almooooost therrrrre!" So you can see why in the end, I really overdid it.

When I got home, it had been an hour and 15 minutes. Mike asked, "where did you go?" When I told him he was surprised and said he's never gone that far! Ha...I really am over-ambitious; I just can't help myself! I didn't stretch that much either, but afterward had a Physique shake which rebuilds muscle after strenuous exercise. It's what I used when I was running and it works great - I had no sore muscles after this experience (and none when I began running for the first time and was running a half hour every other day, amazing huh?) If you are into running, biking, or other forms of regular workouts, you'd love Physique too. Sidenote: My Shaklee business has been running on its own even through the transplant and recovery and now that I'm that I'm getting stronger I'm able to do a little more work on it, just a little. I love that you can still earn an income despite being laid up with a great company like Shaklee. It keeps getting better too so if this economy has you down, let me know if you'd like a part or full-time opportunity to be in business for yourself, an award-winning business that pays, doesn't lay you off when you get laid up with a major illness or other major life event, and has quality products that really make a difference in the health and lives of others, as well as taking better care of our world just contact me through my website.

It took me two days to recover from the beach bike ride and that's when I rolled my ankle. I think fatigue played a factor. Funny thing is at the ER the nurses and doctor looked at my ankle and then remarked, "oooh I see where you got it here too when you fell," referring to the bruising and scabs on my lower shin from the bike accident. I had to tell them, "No, it's been a busy week."

I know, you were hoping for a "quick" update before the juicy details of today. I'm getting there, but thought you'd enjoy that fun little story. Ok, so with my ankle laid up all week it was impossible to get anything done. Also Mike had major deadlines at work this week and worked late and so we were slightly behind. I caught up on the basics on Thursday, but packing for the trip and preparing for a get-away weekend seemed impossible. My friends Carisa and Glen are on a road trip and offered their house to us for the weekend, even letting us bring our dog! Thanks guys! So that meant packing for one more kid and giving him a nice dog bath on top of our regular packing, laundry, food prep, loading the car, etc, etc. We managed to get it all done making us quite late for our 1:15 blood draw appt - missed it by an hour, but was pretty much on time for the doctor appointment which follows it by 1 hour.

Here's the funny part! I called the office when we left Santa Barbara because it was noon and we were stuck in the worst Montecito construction traffic! Knowing I'd be late, and not wanting to lie about the reason (that's always tempting) I just told her we were stuck in traffic and it looks like we'll miss the blood draw appt. The nurse then asks, "Oh, where is it so we can know for our other patients who might be stuck in the same traffic." Oh nooooo! She's going to know we just left our house at noon in Santa Barbara on a Friday when it takes 1 1/2 hours to get to UCLA with no traffic! I replied sheepishly, "Oh no, we're too far away for it to affect your patients." She really wanted to know..."Well, where are you right now?" Ohhhh noooo, face turning red, I admitted VERY sheepishly, "Ssssanta Barbarbara." LOL...Then out of embarassment, I had to explain in detail how I sprained my ankle causing us to be behind and getting a late start and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...oh yes, and the traffic! Oh man, I felt caught, but I didn't lie :) Just humiliating and the best part is it all turned out just perfectly. The doctor had cancellations today and we had an easy time just going right in lickety-split.

Ok, ok, ok, NOW the juicy part! The doctor had a couple interns come in with him to meet me and I always get to hear his glowing reports in the hall before they arrive. He reports to them, "Come in here. You have to meet her. It's truly remarkable where she was and where she is now." He explains to them my complete liver and kidney failure and brain involvement where I was in a coma for at least a week, how my bilirubin was like 28 or something off the charts, and how I've bounced back from this near death experience. But here's the interesting part. He shared with them and tells me how he is so amazed at how bad off I was. He shared with me that when he would come to the ICU to check on me and manage my care, the ICU doctors would stop him and advise him to give up, to do no more for me and let me die! They had no hope and thought it best to just end it by not intervening anymore! Can you believe that? That's the disturbing part. The amazing part is that this devout orthodox Jewish man, my amazing Dr. Gary Schiller, boldy retorted, "I will do everything I can and let God decide." I know that God would have His say either way, but I am so thankful to have had the best doctor who also had the wisdom to know how to make those kinds of decisions.

I had to ask him if the ICU doctors REALLY said such a thing, and he said, "OH yes! It's really a myth, you know when you hear a guy say, 'they kept my grandma alive against our will?' Well, those are exceptions to the rule in ICU...most ICU doctor's philosophy is to just end it as quickly as possible, get it over with." Now looking back, I see why he wanted to keep me out of the ICU and why when I was there, he was trying to get me out as soon as he could! When I told Mike all of this news in the car on the way out, Mike asked, "Then why did ICU want to keep you so badly?" If you were reading my blog back then and recall, I was better enough to get back to the Bone Marrow Transplant floor, and wanting to be released, my doctor (Schiller) wanted me back there, but the ICU doc was arguing with me about it, almost to the point of tears (the doctor not me!) pleading with me to stay with, "what can they do for you up there that's so great that we can't do here?" It was really weird! Upon that display, I was like, get me out of here!!! She even came up to my floor in the middle of the night to "check" on me and the nurse put her in her place. Go back down to your den woman! (My thoughts.)

Anyway, since I was in a coma I had no idea how really close to death I was. I asked Mike tonight at dinner if he thought I was going to die. He said, "I just knew you weren't, like God told me. Without that I couldn't have gotten through it." Everyone thought I was going to die. Even Dr. Schiller wasn't so sure, telling Mike, "I've done all I can, now it's up to God."

On a lighter note, after our long journey today, and getting to our guest house, I had the most delightful visit with Amy, Carisa's Muslim sister who lives upstairs with her husband Igbal and 2 girls. They have a playdate every Friday so there were a few kids Adam and Trevor enjoyed playing with while the moms and I had a great time interacting over the amazing Indian and Bangladeshian food that the ladies had made. I love cooking ethnic food but haven't adventured into this area, so this foodie learned a lot today from some extraordinarily beautiful women in their gorgeous traditional clothing. One woman made "Chaklay" (not sure how to spell it), but it's really cool rice flour, chile powder, salt, pepper dough you put through this "Chaklay" maker that is a brass cylinder with disks (kind of like a pasta maker would have), then you fry it up real crispy. It is like a snack food you would get in a bag, but homemade and quite addicting. I wish I'd taken a photo of the maker and the dish. I love how you can get the real food that people eat in their homeland from what they cook very simply in their own home. You just can't find that in any ethnic restaurant--it's very special.

I rested from 7-8 pm and then Mike, the boys and I headed out to eat at our favorite Torrance eatery, Hanks Pizza, Deli & Restaurant. This place has been around since I was a kid and beyond that! I have been going here since I was Adam's age, maybe younger. And in all these years I've only ever ordered 1 thing...Hank's Vegetarian Pizza - it is the BEST pizza ever! What sets it apart is the eggplant and artichoke on it and the crust and the sauce and the cheese....heavenly! Well, tonight folks, because I'm living(!) I went big and we ordered the cannoli too! Now I understand, "Leave the gun, take the cannoli." Mmm mmm! Boy, I had no idea! Can you believe this was Mike's and my very first cannoli? I only learned what cannoli's were after watching Mario Batalli make this delicacy in Chefography (a new favorite show of mine). It didn't stop there folks, no! We were celebrating living again, so we went for it and got a slice of cheesecake, albeit small and split into four (I told a jokingly frowning Adam, this is a cheesecake petit-four!) But the owner graciously decked it out with fresh blackberries and blueberries just like the old was fabulous! Nothing has changed about this place, the food, the people, the atmosphere, the classic Italian music and Frank Sinatra tunes, even the prices!!! Great prices! If you are in the Torrance area you must stop in at Hank's Pizza for a wonderful dining experience.
Now you've gotten all the juicy details from dog gymnasticsc to near death to amazing cannoli's, and can rest until the next episode in my funtastic recovery adventures! I look forward to our next visit, in person or otherwise! Until then, grace and peace be with you... Krista

P.S. Do not fear death, unless you don't know the Lord Jesus Christ...but if you do, you have NOTHING to fear. Is Jesus pulling on your heart strings today? Email me if you'd like to talk about it with someone who cares at kristaenglish at gmail dot com

Job 14:5

Man's days are determined;
you have decreed the number of his months
and have set limits he cannot exceed.

Psalm 39:3-5

3 My heart grew hot within me,
and as I meditated, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:

4 "Show me, O LORD, my life's end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.

5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man's life is but a breath.

Trevor has dubbed this painting, "The Evil Chef" because of his long dubious mustache.

The photo of Headband wearing sunglasses was taken while he was sleeping in the car on the way to UCLA - only angle I could get.

This is the cutest pizza box you ever saw! If one could collect pizza boxes (the smell prevents), this would be the start of it.

Adam & Trevor at the fountain that I used to visit after I'd eaten when I was their age! So glad this tradition remains :)