Monday, August 15, 2016



It has been quite a while since I lasted posted anything to this blog.  It is partly because of my fall on 8/9/10 and partly because of Hurricane Sandy, but mostly because writing is hard work and having lost the momentum it was just easy not to be motivated and restart. However, if I take the time to think about it the “itch” has continued to surfaced from time to time over the last 6 years and has become all but impossible to ignore recently.  Because I’m interpreting the events of last Tuesday, August 9, 2016, to be more than a very big coincidence I decided to restart the blog with “this” story about the last couple months.
If you don’t know this already, my wife and I do a good bit of sailing. We got hooked on sailing with an old Hobiecat 16 almost 20 years ago. Since than, being on the water and under sail has been a big part of our lives. On 8/9/2010 I made a small mistake, one that came very close to being the end of me,, and one that everyone, including me, thought was the end of our sailing days. After my fall, hospitalization, more than a few surgeries, many hours of PT/OT and countless prayers I was able to transition back –over time- into a normal, with some small modification, life.  
On October 29, 2012 hurricane Sandy came ashore on the NJ coast. We live at ground 0, right where the eye of the storm made landfall on the mainland. Houses all around us were devastated. We lost both our cars to the flood and had 18" of water in the ground floor of our house. Watermarks on the outside of the house show that the flood waters peaked between 3 and 4' on the outside of our house. Somehow, with Gods great help, the storm damage, insurance company snafu’s, repair work, car replacements and the associated overwhelming financial needs all eventually worked out. In order to stay afloat financially couple times we sold off just about everything that we could. It’s remarkable what you can sell of Craigslist.  I even tried a couple of times to sell the sailboat to fill the obvious huge $ gap between what was coming in and what was going out. But regardless of how low I was willing to go on the price we were prevented, somehow, from doing so. Eventually, when the time was right, like “the birds of the air”, all the needs became met.  Life returned to a new normal.
This past winter a false spring in March gave me the chance to get an early start of prepping the boat and an early launch, and then winter returned. The ready and waiting sailboat rode out the late cold and snowstorms floating at her dock. After the thaw I began making plans for an extended sail, and then one of our three daughters needed her mom’s help with a new and first baby. It was a delight to be delayed for grandchild #10.
My bride finished up Nanny duty in the first week of June. She was well worn out and needed a week or so to refresh her batteries from seven or eight weeks of spending three – five days each week in NYC.
As she rested up we began making plans to cast off on the high tide June 11 or 12.  We were dead set on getting out for a couple weeks.
           * All the while I occasionally felt the nudge to return to writing. I didn't pay attention*
On June 10, 2016, walking out the front door to check the mail, I twisted my ankle and broke a bone in my left foot. My right arm is very well plated and screwed together and my right elbow frozen, remnants of the 8/9/10 fall so I cannot use crutches. In order to give me some mobility the doctor put me in a walking boot. "This should take 6 weeks or so to heal." He said.  I set my sights on a new "cast off" date. HA!
At my first follow up visit with the Ortho Doc. 2 weeks later. Fast healing, all is good, I’m making plans to sail. So I get sloppy about always wearing the boot.
Second follow up, not so good. Instead of great progress the X-ray shows regress. The break looks bigger, to us, than it did on the first x-ray.
Now I get very serious with the boot.
Thursday morning, 7/26/ 2016 my sister calls. Our dad has had a seizure of some sort and is being taken by ambulance to the emergency room.  We later learn that the seizure was a massive stroke. I have an appointment for my foot with my Orth Doc the same day at 1 pm.
For months I have been trying to plan and to get out for a long sailing trip.  Despite trying my best to pull it off, “something” keeps getting in the way. These somethings are not necessarily bad things; In fact some of them are really good and wonderful things. But that doesn’t change the fact that I no matter how much I plan, we just can’t start the trip. For five weeks I have been kicking myself for turning my ankle and breaking my foot now the thought begins to emerge, “OK, so my foot is to have kept me home for this morning?”  Had I not broken my foot, or had it healed as expected we would have been out to sea, we might have been a hundred miles away. It could have taken us days to get back to help mom and Dad, if I had sailed.

Two more weeks slowly pass we head out to the Ortho Doc’s office for my third visit, now at 7 weeks from breaking my left foot.  The x-ray shows some healing; it is starting to look good again. I am disappointed to hear "Keep the boot on for another couple weeks and make a new appointment".
After leaving the doctors we get a call from our daughter, the new mother, the baby has a virus and has been banned from daycare for a week. Our daughter has some important meetings that no one else can cover. We are happy to help. I'm thinking to myself. “Wow, are we ever going to start this trip?”” But then if my foot wasn't broke we wouldn't have been here for Mom and Dad and now to help with the baby too”, so my foot break is starting to = a good thing. Little did I know.

On August 3rd I mentioned to my wife that "the boot" must be really worn out. I'm having some tenderness in my left calf where the top strap hits my leg. Not that I haven't been exploiting the term walking boot at all.

The visit with the Ortho Doc on Aug. 9th goes well, lots of healing. I am delivered from “the boot”, I am given a small, by comparison, ankle brace. In my mind’s eye I can see the coming Friday high tide and us sailing out the cut for a few days.  Just before we are done with the doctor, my wife mentions my casual complaint about my calf. Very quickly the doctor turns around and stoops down to inspect my left calf. Then he tells us that he wants me to go “right over to the hospital and have an ultrasound, right away”. His expression had quickly turned from satisfaction to obvious concern. He says I could have and he does not want to take any chance. Around the block to the hospital we go. His referral scrip says STAT across the top.
While waiting at the hospital, for what seems a very long time, I hate waiting, I am working hard to not get a bad attitude about the hospital and what, at that moment I am interpreting as, their apparent lack of efficiency.  The truth be told, I have been fighting against a bad attitude with regards to the delays to my plans, sailing in particular for quite some time. “First it’s the foot, now looking for a possible blood clot, will I ever be able to cast off?” Eventually I am called back for my ultrasound after what seems to me a lifetime of waiting, but in reality is not long at all.  While the ultrasound technician does the test I'm watching the monitor thinking that the dark mass in the center of the image are clear veins. In my thoughts I am comparing the ultrasound on my leg with the sonar on my boat and trying to think of something clever to say about it when the test is finished. Technicians normally will not tell a patient what they see or find, leaving the diagnoses up to a doctor, but I hope with a little levity I can get her to tell me how well I am. When she finishes she says "I'm sorry to have to tell you this but you do have a clot. And it's a big one it goes from your groin to behind your knee. I need to take you to emergence right now. Don’t get up. I’m going to get a wheel chair”.   The date is August 9, 2016. Exactly 6 years from the fall that almost killed me.
While lying on the table, having a quiet conversation in my head, I pray " now what". Again the idea of writing returns. It seems an odd answer that at that moment, after just hearing that I have a big blood clot in my left leg that I would think the answer is “to write”. Frankly, I would rather think or hear, go sail.
I mentioned to the technician, then tell the triage nurses at emergence, and then to everyone who comes to check on me in emergence, that I already have a Greenfield filter, a left over from the clot in my leg caused by my fall in 2010.  After a round of blood tests the ER doctor gives me some blood thinner pills, a prescription for more and instructed me to follow up with my own doctor. Then they send me home with instructions to treat my left leg like it is made of glass for the time being.
I learned the next day, from my Doctor that the old Greenfield filter is now, because of its age, quite useless. It should have been removed years ago. Nobody is saying much about how ugly this event could have turned out. Dad's recent stroke had caused us to have already done some research on clots and what they often lead to. 
I don't normally go around trying to ascribe "meaning" to every little thing but this chain of seemingly unrelated events, all lining up for "the good" is hard to overlook. The fact that this all comes to a climax on the    anniversary of my fall is the frosting on the cake. One nurse in emergency, when she heard about the fall six years past said "with your bad luck you should just stay in bed" I told her that I think I must have very good luck, after all I’m still alive. I neglected to mention I don't believe in luck at all.
Dad's recovery has been Amazing. His speech is restored. He has regained the ability to walk and to care for himself, possibly better than before the stroke.  He is being discharged to home on 8/13.
As for that nagging thought about writing; the old saying goes, every journey begins with a single step, in this case with a few typed words.