The saga of the ten-year sinus infection, or four trips to the ER

Some of the followers of this blog may have noticed that I haven’t posted for several months and that I have been rather quiet regarding email and Facebook. The reason for that can be seen in the title of this blog. I will delve into the specifics in this post but for those who would just prefer a story I’ll post the story first. Since I’m still not up to writing, this is one I wrote a few years ago.

Charley Sanders

Judge Roberts was not a big man but, dressed in a black robe and seated above the courtroom, he looked imposing. “Mister Sanders, I am confused by your actions. You’re ninety-one years old, served honorably and heroically during the war with two Silver Stars and a battlefield commission. You stayed married to the same woman for over 60 years and cared for her in her final days. Your record is impeccable. Not even a traffic ticket. Baseball coach and boy scout leader. With only an eighth-grade education, you had a successful career as a salesman and business owner. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why you thought you could rob your own bank and make your get-away in a wheelchair. The jury has found you guilty of bank robbery. Do you have anything to say in your defense before I sentence you?”

“No, sir.”

“Mister Sanders, in consideration of your crime–armed robbery is a serious offense–mitigated by the circumstances of your age, health, and clean record, I have decided to impose the minimum sentence allowed by law. Fifteen years. Court is adjourned.” The gavel resounded in the hushed room.

People began to shuffle out of the room. Charley wheeled around and waved to many spectators and spoke to others. He was surprisingly cheerful for someone who would spend the next decade in a prison cell.

Officer Brad Balich, a friend of his granddaughter, approached the defense table. Raymond Kelly, his long time friend and now his attorney, looked at the police officer. “Can I have a few minutes with my client?”

“Sure, Mister Kelly. I’ll be waitin’ right here”

Raymond knew Charley hated to have his wheelchair pushed, claiming he was still strong enough to get where he needed to go. He led the way to an adjacent interview room and closed the door behind Charley. He pulled put a chair and sat facing his friend.

“Charley, you told me when you were first arrested that you would tell me why you did this. The trial is over. Let me hear it.”

“Well, Ray, you know Martha was in a nursing home for over four years. She received mediocre care–one night she fell and couldn’t get up and it was four hours before anyone checked on her. The food was mediocre and usually cold. She shared a room with another lady and got two baths a week. Most of her clothes were stolen. Medical treatment was extra and billed to me. It cost me over $4,000 a month to keep her there and she was treated like a piece of livestock. To me, it was like a prison.

“Our son–you know Fred–has really struggled since that drunk T-boned him. It’s tough for him to operate machinery with his left arm and leg all mangled the way it is. Katherine can use some help, too, since her husband broke his back when that horse throwed him.

“What you don’t know is that I have advanced cancer–non-operable. If I go in a nursing home, what little money I have left will go to the home and the hospital. I won’t be able to leave anything to help out my kids.”

“So… you robbed a bank so you would go to prison?”

“Yep. Now I’ll get free medical care and probably better food. The prison has a decent library. Free clothes. They have internet connections and I’ll be able to stay in contact with my family and my old war buddies. I bought a dad-burned laptop and I’m gonna write the true story of what happened on that God-forsaken island and those other battles. I’ll have plenty of time to write before I die.”

“You old codger. You had this all planned out, didn’t you?”

“Yep. Decided when Martha was in that home that I didn’t want to live like that.”

“And, that’s why you demanded that I not bring up the fact that you shouldn’t be charged with armed robbery since your gun wasn’t loaded.”

“Ray, I’ve hunted my whole life and I was damn good soldier in my day. Do you really think I’d forget to load my gun?”

Back to the blog post

About ten years ago I was diagnosed with a sinus infection and a few months later I entered the VA system with diabetes and neuropathy as a result of Agent Orange exposure. The sinus infections arrived with some regularity (spring and fall) and gradually became more severe. About five years ago an infection traveled into my ear canal and blew out an eardrum. That resulted in my first ever trip to the ER and my being deaf and stoned for a few weeks. Apparently I don’t react well to drugs.

My general practioner at the VA referred me to an Ear/Nose/Throat doc who began treating me twice a year with steroid shots in each nostril – way up each nostril. The ENT referred me to an allergist who ran the prick tests and discovered I’m allergic to cats (we have three) and just about every plant that grows in the Sonoran Desert. He started the series of allergy shots although subsequent sinus infections seemed to gravitate to my lungs and he refused to give me shots when my lungs were infected. So, the shots became somewhat sporadic.

These infections really affect me. First, by reducing my energy level to about 75 percent of normal. I wind up sleeping nine to eleven hours a day and drag my rear end around the rest of the time. Second, they fog up my brain so that my memory and thinking ability is almost nonexistent. It’s frustrating to stop writing in the middle of a sentence because you are unable to figure out what the back half is supposed to say.

Last year I had four sinus infections and the last one, starting in November, refused to go away. The ENT scheduled me for roto-rooter surgery for March 19. I guess the surgery went well and the doc said he pulled a lot of gunk out of my sinus cavities. He told me to ice the bridge of my nose to reduce swelling but the first time I gently put the ice bag on, my nose started to bleed uncontrollably. Thus, the second trip to the ER with blood dripping down my face onto a bloody polo shirt. The ER doc packed my nose with extra packing that extended out from my nostrils a good half an inch. They were complete with strings for easier removal but made me look like I had a tampon up each nostril. That visit was about eight hours.

Then my bladder decided to quit operating. I hear this is fairly common (or at least not rare) after surgery because of the drugs they use during surgery. After a couple days of that, it was back to the ER for the third time. They inserted a catheter, which is not a fun experience and it seems the nurse either wasn’t overly adept at it or had a sadistic bent. After six hours I went home with a bag attached to my lower leg and a larger bag to use when I went to bed.

Naturally, after my sinuses were cleaned out our weather was perfect. 70s and 80s during the days and 40s and 50s during the night. No heat or A/C required, perfect for open doors and windows. But, alas, Palo Verde and Mesquite trees were blooming along with several desert shrubs. This triggered more allergy symptoms although I seem to be keeping them in check with daily nasal rinses and numerous squirts of saline solution. The ENT seems pleased with his work and I will see him again in August.

Not only that but the warm weather triggered the switch from jeans and long-sleeved shirts to shorts and polos. But, with the bag attached to my leg I was hesitant to go outside in shorts. I limited trips as much as possible and even pulling/spraying weeds in the front yard or walking to the mailbox required long pants. And the constant pressure on my prostrate from the catheter was made worse by sitting upright, restricting car trips to only those necessary.

That pressure also made sitting at our dining tables difficult and so all my meals were eaten in my lounge chair where I could recline a bit and relieve the pressure. I was also unable to sit comfortably in front of the computer. Luckily I bought a tablet a few years ago for traveling and was able to check email and Facebook, although I found replying difficult with my fat fingers trying to type on that tiny keyboard.

I’m improving but still not recovered. This post is long enough so I’ll post it and start the second (and hopefully last) episode of my experience with the medical profession.


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