Thursday, November 24, 2016

It's Thanksgiving Day...

...and I should have a Thanksgiving story to tell; and I do. It's about our granddaughter that was struck by Acute Flaccid Myelitis and is now paralyzed from the umbilicus down. Or more easily, from the 'belly button' down. A lot has happened since she made that long ambulance ride from a small mountain town in a remote part of the north state. She was in UC Davis Medical Center (Sacramento) for a long time; long enough to stabilize her and to begin her recovery. Not a recovery to normal life, but a recovery that allows her some mobility; a wheelchair to be exact. There is no cure for AFM at this time so the wheelchair will be her legs for a long time.

UCD Med Center was a fantastic place. They cared for her and she responded magnificently. She was always smiling and trying her very best for the trials of physical therapy and all of the painful lab testing; spinal taps and more. In some cases her paralysis was a blessing as she couldn't feel the pain. She had to have 18 days of injections of an anticoagulant that would be painful. I knew this because I had to have 4 days of them when I broke my pelvis recently. They are given to you by pinching a fold of your skin over your stomach and injecting it right there. Lucky girl, she got to smile for those. But of course there were lots of painful things for her to endure. Still, she smiled and persevered. Her goal was always to come home.

About a week ago, UCD Med Center transferred her to Shriner's Hospital for Children. A fantastic hospital that has special programs just for children with spinal cord injuries. It was also 200 feet away from her bed at UCD. Once there, the physical therapy increased dramatically. Luckily, she is very strong from her years of soccer, volleyball and gymnastics. The PT didn't phase her. If you want to know about Shriner's in Sacramento, follow this link.

Yesterday she had an appointment with the wheelchair specialists to fit her with the best chair for her and her needs. It seems that her insurance only covers the most basic of chairs. The insurance company feels that going outside in a chair is a luxury for children. Well, Shriner's doesn't feel that way at all and will cover the cost of the best chair for her; one that goes outside! This was the main reason that UCD transferred her. Another is the care they give before she is allowed home. They will drive all of the way up to her home and do all the measuring of the house so that Dad knows what it will take to remodel for her. He had already started on a portion of it. I should say that their friends have begun the work; he has never left her side since the first day. Shriner's is also going to go to her school and with the help of the staff, they will talk to all of the students and staff about her condition. All of it. They said that there was no reason for her to endure the constant questioning that she would face when she arrived at school once more. If Abby wants to join the team  while they do this, that's fine too. It's all up to her. They are there to be her caretakers and protectors. And they are always available, even after she is home. I know where our year end charitable giving will go.        

I received a text from my son this morning and I want to share it...

Happy Thanksgiving. 🦃 we are taking a break for this Holiday. No PT, no OT, just time with family to reflect on all of our blessings. Thank you all for your support, and prayer. Abby is looking at getting home very soon. Still lots of work ahead, but because of her hard work and strength she has fast tracked her stay at Shriner's. 😊

Abby is enjoying her Thanksgiving with Dad, his fiance ((her most caring 'mom') and her twin brother who has missed her terribly.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

How very strange

Back in the late 1980's, maybe 1988, I was given a large set of plans. There were roll after roll of plan sheets, from structural steel to landscaping. Then there were the large books that contained the specifications for a new hospital to be built in Sacramento. There were half a dozen of those. All were for the Shriners Childrens Hospital. And I was going to construct a detailed bid from all of this. A winning bid, hopefully.

At this time I was an estimator for a large subcontracting firm and we were going to bid on the structural steel fireproofing, all of the plaster and synthetic plaster, all of the lath and structural framing for the lath & plaster. Then there was the interior where we were bidding on the structural steel framing for the drywall as well as the light gauge framing. We had to bid on all of the heavy gauge backing to be installed for the support of all medical equipment. We were bidding on all of the drywall. Of course we included the pricing for the taping and finishing of all the drywall. We had a separate bid to install all of the acoustical ceilings; the framing and the tile. There was a lot of work ahead of me.

So I laid out the plans in order on my plan table and shut the door to my office. I began by reading all of the spec books, highlighting all the important sections. After a few days I put the books aside and began to 'read' the plans. I created spreadsheets using the old Lotus 1,2,3 software. Then I .....

I know that I was in that office for a very long time. And I remember thinking that the Shriners were spending a lot of money on this hospital. More than I had ever seen before. Disclaimer: I had only bid on one hospital before this, a Kaiser 'cookie cutter' hospital that had been much smaller.

After many weeks it was time to bid. There was lots of tension in our office and especially in mine. This was going to be a big part of our volume for the next two years if we secured the job. As an estimator, I kept my job or I could lose it on a bid this big. Then we decided to cut our price substantially to increase the odds in our favor. We called in our price and then we waited.

It turned out that there were 3 bids, quite similar in price and scope and mine was among them. The owners, Shriners, and the architect wanted to interview all 3 of the firms to determine who would build the hospital. On the appointed day, 3 of us, my boss, the senior estimator and I, went to the meeting, armed with facts and figures and fancy pictures of similar sized projects that we had completed. It took us about an hour to answer all of the questions that Shriners had for us. We went back to the office to wait for a phone call. We didn't have to wait long; we received a call that afternoon with the news that we would be building the new Shriners Hospital in Sacramento. I took a deep breath;  I was now a hero and would be until the next big job came along.  But that would be a long time coming, as the estimator of a large project would normally be assigned the job of Project Manager. And on a job of this scale I would be the PM for close to 2 years.

But it was not to be. The branch manager and I were not the best of friends. And he had just received an opportunity to be rid of me without showing any signs of being vindictive. I was to be transferred to a department back in Kansas City, our headquarters. From the new job description they gave me; Strategic Development, I was intrigued, although I was sad to lose the opportunity to be part of the construction team on the hospital. I wouldn't have to move to Kansas City; I would be given an office in a building adjoining to the one I was currently in.

The years went by; the new job was wonderful, as was my new boss. The 'old boss' was let go after a few years and I felt vindicated. Then I retired in 2004. I should have let it go but I always felt a little sad that I hadn't been able to work on that hospital. It had been my last big job and I had been cheated out of something. Then this year comes along and then this month. My granddaughter now has a beautiful room in that very same hospital. She is being treated by the fantastic staff there. I couldn't have ever imagined something like this back in the day. My granddaughter hadn't been born. I know it doesn't make a lot of sense but today I feel a real attachment to the doctors and nurses that work there. They are working in a building that I had a small part in its construction. My granddaughter sleeps in a room that I once measured and counted.

When you work in the construction industry you soon learn that you are there to just build the buildings and then you move on. You may have had an emotional attachment to a building; I know I had plenty, but you learn to forget it and look forward to the next one to build. It's pretty rare that you have a chance to revisit a special one. Considering why I am revisiting this one, I would gladly give up all memories of all the work I have ever done. I would give up anything and everything to have my granddaughter asleep in her own room at home in Susanville. Dreaming of the basketball game she will be playing this afternoon.  

Here's a photo that my son took last night. This is the lobby, looking straight up to the skylights on the roof. There is a lot of sunlight coming down through those skylights during the day. You can see the curved glass railing on each floor.  It's a beautiful place and it's filled with happy people. Everyone smiles. No one is sad here. I think the Shriners spent their money wisely.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Our granddaughter

I last or first posted about our granddaughter on November 4th. A lot has happened since that date. On Tuesday evening she was moved by ambulance to Shriners Childrens Hospital in Sacramento. The trip took all of 90 seconds as the two hospitals are about 200' feet apart. I could go on and on about health care abuses and expenses, but, why bother? I'm not going to change it by myself.

Anyway, back to the important stuff; our granddaughter! No she is not cured and won't be in the foreseeable future. Life is what it is and she is ready to begin it as a young woman who happens to be a paraplegic. In October of this year she was a future gymnastics, soccer and volleyball star. Now? Different goals and she is busy working towards them. She is already very proficient in the use of her wheelchair; nothing slows her down! And she calls to encourage me as I recover from the pelvis fracture.

As I said, there is no cure, and much like polio, when the disease leaves, it leaves a crippled body behind,  In polio, some cases were able to regain a great deal of their strength. It takes lots of work and lots of physical therapy. I think she has a good chance of being one of the lucky ones.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Three Million?

I just read that Der Drumpf has decided to remove 3,000,000 undocumented workers. Well, it is 8 million shy of the undocumented that are supposed to be here. I suppose he had to start somewhere.

I decided to do some math, something I'm sure his team has already done. First, I estimated the cost of finding, holding and then deporting the 3 million. I estimated low but then I remembered it was government work and estimated higher. That number was astronomical so I came up with an estimate that was somewhere in the middle, $3,000 per head. That brings the total to $9 billion.

What I didn't figure in, and I'm sure the team didn't either, was the cost to business as sundry members of the manufacturing,  wholesale and retail businesses when some members of the workforce don't show up. The disappearance of these workers will open up job opportunities but I have a feeling that that they will go unfilled. Picking fruit and vegetables in the Southern San Joaquin valley is not for the faint of heart. Even the Drumpf Hotels may lose kitchen and cleaning workers. You only have to think of the nastiest job possible and that's where there will be a sudden rash of job openings.

I was an estimator for a construction company for about 12 years and I quickly learned that you double your price for government work. You won't make any money but you won't go bankrupt. I think it should apply here.


I have been thinking about the election. (who doesn't?) And I wonder about the electorate that put this clown into the Oval Office. When will they realize that they have made a terrible mistake? Or, will they ever? If you look at the histories of the states that fell into the Trump camp, you will see that the majority of those states have been voting against their better interests for many years. And the majority of these states take more in federal aid money than they contribute. Yet they rail against the federal machine, as if it were the fault of that machine that they are poor and ignorant. Not surprising,  the majority of states that were Hillary's, are the states that gave more than the feds gave back to  them. What a shame; we financed our own downfall. And the corrupt, blatantly corrupt. politicians of those poor states were eager to take our money for their own purposes.  

I really don't see them, the poorer states, coming to their senses until the voters that are responsible for this Trump presidency, die off. It's going to be up to the youth to correct this terrible imbalance. It may be wishful thinking, after all, year after year, the youth in these states became clones of their parents. But...the internet in the 90's wasn't the power that it is now.

Something else that I don't hear much about is the power of the popular vote. Clinton won that. Der Dumpf does not want to mention it. In his version of real life, he fires people that are critical of him. He can't fire millions of Americans so he does what he does best when faced with a power greater than his; he ignores them. Yet, there is a strong power there and we need to learn how to use it. The news media is still concentrating on what they think will give them advertizing dollars and so they write about the terrible defeat suffered by the 'left' and not the disadvantage given to the Alt-Right Trump presidency by the fact that the majority of Americans don't like these people and a number of these Americans will do what they can to disrupt them and their plans.

With the official elevation of Steve Bannon to chief White House strategist, the Breitbart group now has a degree of legitimacy. Have you ever read anything written by the Breitbart group? Even conservative Republicans are sometimes shocked by what is seen on the Breitbart website. I believe that the majority of the Trump base will be shocked as well and realize that they have been conned. There is no room for Christianity in Breitbart News and the majority of the Trump base believe they are Christians.

It looks like Trump is reneging on a lot of campaign promises. As expected. But certainly not expected by his base. If there are any media powers in the majority of voters, now is the time to start using the power given to us to harass Der Dumpf at every misstep of his. He hates criticism and it makes him do things that his handlers are supposed to prevent. His handlers can't keep him in a glass bubble and so we will see plenty of missteps.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

I didn't vote for him

And I mean Bernie. When I first heard of his decision to run, I was excited. I've always liked him and I believed in 75% of his platform. Heck, make it 90%. Some time went by and when Trump became the candidate I had to change my mind. I started to see small cracks in that platform and ones that Trump would easily exploit. There was only one word needed to do it...socialism. Heck, I am a socialist. Though I do not belong to the party. I don't belong to any party and haven't for the past 11 years. I do belong to one organization, the IWW. Yes, I'm a Wobbly. Or is it with an IE? Wobblie? I'm old and I forget. It doesn't matter.

Trump would put Bernie through a wringer and it wouldn't be pretty. Sure that's just an opinion. But it is what changed my vote. I thought Hillary had a better chance of handling him and when it came to the debates, she mopped the floor with him! I didn't realize that the debates made no difference to the Trump base. They don't watch debates.

Since my vote was wasted anyway, would it have been better to waste it on Bernie? I don't know...

I did read an interesting piece this morning. If the dumpf goes through with his plan to find all the Muslims in the country and register them, then I will register myself. Apparently, muslim without a capital M simply means a believer in God. Mathew, Mark, Luke and John were muslims. So was Jesus. There's no reason for me not to register as a muslim. I even have a Koran at home. (I'm about halfway through it and haven't found any terrorists yet) I'm also a Presbyterian muslim. Now if millions of us muslims will register, the registry will become bloated and useless. Let the dumpf chew on that for awhile.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Mr. Blow is correct

If you have had a chance to read Mr. Blow's column on the bigoted President, I can only hope that you agree with most of what he wrote. I know I did.

I voted for President Obama twice.  Occasionally, I was disappointed in his decisions. But, since I was not able to know all of the factors that went into those decisions, I moved on. I know that a lot of his decisions were made for him by the obstinacy of Congress. He was a black President and they were not going to allow him any victory, no matter how small. Did I just use the 'race card'?  You bet I did. In my travels around the country I found racism alive and well. It still is. And we just saw it in action during the last election. Despite the Republican's attempts to slander him, history will show that Mr. Obama was one of this country's finest Presidents.

Now, for Mr. Trump. He is mentally ill and unfit for the office of the Presidency.  He is unable to tell the truth. The whole country had a chance to see him lie and lie again. He is a racist. His own words convict him of that. I could go on but I just realized that what I would say has been said by many others and nothing changed. Just read Mr. Blow's column again. He is writing about Mr. Trump. And he will never be my President.  Is that sedition? So be it...

This I believe

I have no words. But, what I read this morning in Charles Blow's column gave me the words I needed.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Trying Times

And it's not political at all. Just after my last post we received word that our youngest grandchild, 13 year old Abigayle, was being transported from Susanville to UC Davis Medical Center by ambulance, a 250 mile trip. Along with a lot of other symptoms, she had lost all feeling below her waist. To be exact; her belly button. My son was in the ambulance with her and had messaged us as they passed through town.

Of course we were frantic. I had a broken pelvis and I couldn't travel to Sacramento. Neither could my caregiver, her grandmother. And now communication became sporadic. My son had little time to sit  down and compose a letter, so we waited anxiously for news.

Finally, we learned that she was in ICU and the many medical teams at this hospital had swung into action for her care. They had installed a Port for the many injections she needed and they had also installed a PICC line to begin plasmapheresis, a procedure that removes antibodies in patients with autoimmune conditions. Another two days went by and it was very difficult to see photos of her trying to smile while under the influence of morphine for pain. They also had a possible diagnosis for her,  Acute flaccid myelitis, formerly described as "acute flaccid paralysis with anterior myelitis" or "polio-like syndrome", is an acute neurologic illness in children with focal limb weakness of unknown etiology.  This is now known as AFM and it is becoming far too common. There have been many new cases on the West coast. Samples of her spinal fluid and blood were sent to the State health department.

Finally, on Tuesday of this week, her grandmother and aunt made the trip down the valley to see her. And her condition was turning around! She was allowed to go outside.She was still in ICU so she had to wear a mask while outside. And an ICU nurse accompanied them, pushing the Super Wheelchair. This chair had a miniature ICU unit built into the back of it. When they first pushed through the door to outside, Abigayle burst into tears. The nurse bent down and asked "Are you crying because you're happy?" Abby shook her head up and down emphatically. With the patient having a smile on her face they took off on what was a one mile trek. Later that night Abigayle reported that she thought she had moved a toe. Progress!

On Wednesday she was given permission to eat a hamburger, which she did as soon as her dad returned from a quest to find the best burger around; not one from the hospital cafeteria. Now that her dad was slightly relaxed, we started to see more messages and more photos. She was (and is) still being given plasmapheresis every 4 hours. This procedure is painless and takes about 2 hours, so you can see that that there isn't much 'free time'. Since it is painless, she reads or watches TV.

Then, on Thursday, she called me! I know that she is 13 years old but she is the youngest and last of the grandchildren, an honor she shares with her twin brother. And since she is, I will always consider her my 'baby'. Due to family strife when she was an infant, I got to be the sole caretaker for her and her brother for about 2 weeks. Dad would come and help after work. So there is more than the usual bond between us.

Now she is on a waiting list to move to a regular room. And she has begun Physical Therapy. Wonderful progress is being made, though the diagnosis of AFM is not a final one and labs up and down the coast are trying to understand just what this disease is and what caused it. Meanwhile, we are simply happy as she gains strength each day.