If you’re a new reader to this site, this is Chapter II (and hopefully last) of a two-part saga. I suggest you first read the previous post “The saga of the ten-year sinus infection….”
But first comes my latest story.
The man-eating saguaro
“Ladies and gentlemen and young’uns, welcome to Galiuro Ranch, named for the mountain range to my back. My name is Rowdy Mitchell and I own the ranch. It’s been in our family for over a hundred years and my son is itchin’ to take over. ‘Course he has another year left at University of Arizona and I ain’t so beat up that I’m ready to retire.”
The newest crop of dudes had arrived throughout the day and they were now gathered around the fire pit. A few were standing but most were seated on log benches that surrounded the pit.
“I’m sure that Erica gave you a good tour of our facilities. She better have since she was born and raised here. She’s our daughter and will be goin’ to U of A in August. We have nearly a thousand deeded acres and another five thousand in BLM leased grazing land. Plus, we have access to the wilderness area. Tomorrow I’ll lead a horse trip around the ranch for all of those interested. This is rugged country and southeast Arizona is hotter than Hades and we’ll have pack animals with picnic lunch and plenty’a water.
“Now, I want to warn you about the critters and plants we have ‘round here. I’m sure y’all know about rattlesnakes and ya’all need to stay away from them. At least ten feet. We also have coral snakes but they’re rare. Pretty snakes with red, black, and white stripes. Stay away from them ‘cause they’re as dangerous as the rattlers. Mountain lions and bobcats won’t usually bother people but watch yer kids ‘specially if you see kittens since their momma will be nearby and you don’t want to get ‘tween a threatened she-cat and her little ones.
“Most of the lizards are harmless but Gila Monsters can be mean and dangerous. If you see a big, pretty and colorful lizard, get away from it. Tarantulas are big furry spiders but are harmless. We also have Black Widow and Brown Recluse spiders ‘round here so my advice is to avoid all spiders.
“Darn near all of the plant life in the desert is armed against intruders, like yer rose bushes back home. Trees, shrubs, and ‘specially cactus have spines and thorns so don’t touch ‘em until yer sure ya can without gettin’ punctured. The cholla cactus is the worst – there’s one in that planter over yonder – and if you get tangled up with one you can get hundreds of those little needles and let me tell ya they’re painful and a chore to remove.
“Now, I gotta warn ya about our man-eatin’ saguaro. If you go around this little point of land and go up two little arroyos there’s a little cove or bowl. The entrance is only ‘bout ten feet wide but it opens up to about a fifty-yard diameter. There ain’t nothin’ in there ‘cept a few hundred chollas and a big Saguaro. Stay away from that bowl ‘cause that Saguaro is a man eater.
“That’s ‘bout all I have’t say. Any questions?”
A boy of about eight years, dressed in brand new cowboy duds and showing a bit of fear in his face, raised his hand. A few of the adults were smiling and trying to hide their grins behind raised hands.
“What’s yer name son?”
“Where ya from, Donny?”
“P-p-portland, sir. Oregon.”
“Okay, Donny, what’s yer question?”
“W-w-well, sir, about that saguario. How do you know it e-e-ats people?”
“It’s pronounced suh gwahr-oh. We don’t know it’s a man-eater but back afore my kin settled here another man had claimed the land. He only lasted a few years and left in a hurry ‘cause one of his wranglers had been eaten by that Saguaro. After my great great grampa settled here, one of his wranglers went missing and all they found were his clothes layin’ in front of the saguaro. Other people ‘round here have gone missin’ and their clothes always wind up by that cactus. Now, we ain’t sure that the saguaro eats them but they shor ‘nuff disappear. Except their clothes. None of our wranglers is brave enough to go into that little cove to find out. And I ain’t neither. So stay away from that place.”
The following morning the chow hall was about half full when the Blanchard family occupied one end of a large table and scanned the menu.
Ten-year old Jimmy leaned near his brother and whispered, “I think we oughta tell ‘em.”
Bobby, his twin brother, replied with an equally quiet, “Shush.”
“Tell us what?” asked their mother with that stern sound that she meant business.
Jimmy, the meeker of the twins, began to talk and the words flowed out. “Well, we kinda snuck out after everyone was asleep last night and went to the cove and we went in and saw the chollas and that big ol’ saguaro and it’s really tall but it only has two arms and it holds them up like somebody bein’ arrested and we went closer and the arms started to squeal like that wagon wheel did yesterday and the arms started to come down like they were gonna grab us and we ran all the way back to the cabin and crawled under the covers.”
Their father asked, also sternly, “Did you see any clothes on the ground?”
Bobby had the hang-dog look of someone who had been caught. “Yeah. It was pretty dark but we could see piles of something that looked like clothes. Some of ‘em were small like they belonged to kids.”
Wrangler Luke, standing at the coffee bar, turned to his partner Andy. “Boy howdy, looks like the new laser-activated hydraulic system the boss built for that fake saguaro works pretty well.”
“Yep. Let’s go check out the video.”
Back to the saga
Continuation of the ten-year sinus infection
So there I was, my body violated by a catheter and movement hampered by a bag attached to my calf. Sleeping was nearly as bad since rolling over necessitated rearrangement of the tube. The good news was no nocturnal trips to the john. It was ten days before the urologist had a slot open and that appointment was postponed several days. The nurse filled my bladder through the tube, pulled the catheter and stood me in front of a flow meter; no luck. Not a drop.
The urologist entered the scene and gave me two options: a full-time (but hopefully temporary) catheter or a self-cath routine (the preferred method since it reduces the chances for a urinary tract infection.) I opted for the latter and, after a lesson on the proper procedure, was loaded up with disposable catheters, surgical lubricant, and Neosporin.
I gotta tell ya, that ain’t the funnest thing I’ve ever done. Imagine if you will, inserting a plastic tube up your urethra, through your prostate, and into your bladder. My first attempts were brutal, probably caused by uncertainty (or outright fear) but once I was able to refine the technique and get past the mental problem, there was only pressure, which intensifies in the prostate.
The first day I self-tapped three times and the last one included a good amount of blood; I figured I’d call the VA the next morning about that but I didn’t get the chance. The next morning I woke about five and staggered into the kitchen to start the coffee. My brain was out of sorts making me forgot what I was doing and I leaned against the countertop. That’s where I passed out – onto a ceramic tile floor. My dear bride managed to get me erect and I promptly passed out again. And again, this time hitting the glass-topped breakfast table with my elbow. She finally got me into a chair where I had less chance of being hurt if I fell again.
The three cats came to investigate the first time and seemed to be anxious about me being on the floor. The third time, when I hit the table, was noisy and the cats scattered, not to be seen until we returned from the ER.
A call to our son, who luckily was awake, and he was there in a few minutes. Another call to TFD and three trucks rolled up a few minutes later. So we had the three of us and nine firefighters and EMTs in our breakfast nook. My BP had collapsed to about 50 over something and I was dehydrated. I drank a few gallons of water while one ENT wrapped the bloody abrasion, which was about three inches in diameter, on my elbow.
To save several hundred dollars in ambulance fees, my son drove me to the VA and stayed until my wife could shower and drive out. After a quick triage I was given a room and since I hadn’t cathed yet that morning, another permanent catheter (called a Foley) for the bladder and an IV for rehydration. To make sure I was stable, I wasn’t released until about two PM – not a fun way to spend eight hours. Somewhere in that time span the blood and urine tests came back and I had a urinary tract infection.
Finally back home where I had to live with the Foley for a few months. A few days later (actually I noticed it in the ER but sloughed it off as being bed bound all day) my upper thigh began to ache, enough to cause serious limping when I walked. My first thought, being of that certain age, was a broken hip until I realized I wouldn’t be able to walk with a broken hip. I figure when I collapsed those three times, I pulled a muscle in my groin. It healed on its own after a few weeks.
With the meds for the UTI, I totally lost my appetite and wound up surviving on Ensure for a few weeks. On the brighter side, as our local news anchors tend to say after reporting on a massive wreck on I-10 with multiple injuries and deaths, I dropped twenty pounds in a week. My belly was flat and my face, legs, and arms all thinned out.
One of the most irritating things about using the Foley was that the weather had changed from warm to hot – shorts weather. I wore shorts around the house but to go anywhere, even to the mail box, required pants to conceal the bag from prying eyes.
I went back to see the urologist at the end of that period and still couldn’t pee. He highly recommended that I go back to the self-cath routine, which I was somewhat hesitant to do after my first attempt. He convinced me and I began to cath every time I had the urge to pee. Five or six times a day. It didn’t take long for me to perfect the technique and now the anticipation is worse than the procedure. The entire procedure is less than two minutes but the sanitary requirements (washing before and after) extend that to eight to ten minutes.
Each time before I cathed, I would attempt to go on my own and after a few weeks the plumbing began to work. A few weeks later I returned to the urologist for the procedure where he runs a TV camera and a flood light into the bladder. The nurse and I had developed a rapport – she’s a Norwegian from North Dakota, as is my wife, with a great sense of humor.When she started to insert the local I asked her if she was using a garden hose, which resulted in a good laugh from both her and the Doc.
He ran the camera and light into the bladder and turned the tube 180 degrees to find out what he expected – my prostate is slightly enlarged and partially blocking the urethra where it exits the bladder and enters the prostate. This allows some urine through but squeezes and closes up the urethra before the bladder is empty. He essentially said this is common in us old guys.
I will see him in October for another flow test and if I haven’t improved significantly we will discuss surgery. If I do have the surgery he said he will provide a pillow since the pressure coming out will be so strong it will force me backward and knock me on my butt. So I asked, “Ya mean I’ll be able to stand in front of one tree and pee on the one behind it?” Got another laugh.
Well here it is, six or eight weeks later and I’m still not able to void completely. At first I was leaving about 200 cc in my bladder and now I’m leaving about 100 cc (the rest comes out by the catheter). But, I seem to have plateaued at that level. The doc said I need to let my bladder rest, so I still cath three to four times a day and let my bladder suffer the rest of the time.
Somewhere in that time span, probably about eight weeks after my collapsing episode, my right elbow (the same one that I bruised) blew up like a balloon. I figured it was bursitis that developed after the drugs for the UTI finally wore off. It is now healed and looks normal with no more fluid under the skin.
Then about a month ago I noticed my vision was becoming foggy so I called the VA optometry department and the nurse asked if I slept under a fan. Yes. If I rinsed my mouth after using the asthma inhaler? No. I killed the fan and began rinsing after using the inhaler. I also began using eye drops to moisten my eyes. My vision has partially returned to normal (about 90% in my right eye and 70% in my left eye).
The best news is that my brain is functioning better and was able to write a story (the yarn at the start of the post) and I have three more in the thinking stage.. Hopefully all of the little problems have solved thenselves and I can concetrate on healing my bladder.
Now it’s off to visit with the old warriors from 3rd Marine Recon.