Monday, September 17, 2018

Update on the Eye Issue

This morning I was to have the YAG procedure performed on my right eye. It was an inconvenient date and time as our daughter was visiting us from Los Angeles for a long weekend, and I was looking forward to spending her last day here doing fun things. Thinking the right eye was going to be taken care of on September 12th, I was not anticipating this conflict. See my previous post for more on that.

When I got to the office today for my 10:00 appointment, I explained that my left eye just is not right. So again they sent me upstairs to have an eye exam done, fitting me in around patients who were already scheduled for such activities. Obviously I was screwing up the schedule of not only the surgi-center but the regular office as well. Dr. Pepose said this time there is not any filament or stray cells on my lens. Instead it is my astigmatism in the left eye that is causing the problems.

My vision with both eyes together is 20/20, and I have tried to explain that I am happy with the outcome in terms of what I can read. However, it is the quality of what my left eye sees that is the problem. Everything is slightly blurry. My frustration comes from the fact that I paid (a lot!) for the enhanced intraoccqular lenses to be implanted during the cataract surgery, and also for my astigmatism to be corrected in the left eye. The lenses and correction were not covered by my insurance, so that was all out of pocket. So to be told now that the astigmatism still exists came as a shock to me.

Apparently my astigmatism was corrected to a certain point, which is obvious as I was reading 20/50 with that eye before surgery and it is now 20/30. However it was still not as good as my right eye, which is why I am seeing the difference between the two eyes. My choices are 1) live with it, or 2) have an additional procedure know as Limbal Relaxing Incisions (LRI) done to further correct the astigmatism. The downside is that I may lose a little near vision, but what I do see will be clear. What a choice!

While I have tentatively scheduled the procedure just to secure a spot on the calendar, I'm not really sure what I'm going to do at this point. One decision became clear to me, however. I am definitely not going to have the YAG done on the right eye at this point. I'll be leaving well enough alone on that one for the time being.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

More Eye Issues

eye ball
Yesterday I went back to the eye surgeon to have the same surgery performed on my right eye that had been done on the left last week - the YAG laser procedure. But that is not what ended up happening. After I got checked in and before the nurse put the dilation drops in my right eye, I mentioned that the left eye was still cloudy. In fact, I think my vision was worse in that eye than before I had the laser done. That proclamation resulted in her talking to Dr. Pepose once he came out of the surgical suite he had been in, and he decided he wanted me to have a thorough exam done on my eyes before proceeding.

The bottom line is that they determined I had a filament that was still covering my left eye, and he wanted to go ahead and take care of that first. So the YAG was repeated on the left eye, and the right eye was rescheduled for Monday.

I'm not convinced the left eye is totally cleared up yet. I'm going to see how things look in the morning, and may give the doctor's office a call. At this point I'm not even sure I want to have the right eye done, because I certainly don't want to have it turn out like the left eye.

All of this is pretty disappointing as my vision was better before I had the darn cataracts removed!

Friday, September 7, 2018

More Skin Cancer

skin cancer removal
To add to the list of medical procedures I'm having done this week, yesterday I went to my plastic surgeon to have yet another suspicious spot removed from my forehead. It's one we have been watching for a bit, but as it has not responded to liquid nitrogen (it should blister and then peel, but it does nothing), the dermatologist said to was time to have it removed.

In checking my records I realized that I had not been to the plastic surgeon since September of 2016, so that actually is not too bad for me. Unfortunately this is my 14th skin cancer, if indeed the biopsy comes back positive. I have resigned myself to the fact that this is my life from now on, but I have been taking extra precautions with my skin so hopefully I won't have too many more that will need to be surgically removed.

I did not sleep well last night as the doctor told me to keep my head elevated to lesson the risk of bleeding. It hurts today, but not as much as yesterday. It should feel much better by tomorrow, which is good because I am volunteering at the Michelob Ultra Pickleball Tournament in the morning. It was supposed to be outside at Forest Park, but because rain from the hurricane is headed our way, it has been moved indoors. Unfortunately that means a 45 minute drive for me in the morning, and I have to be there by 7:00 a.m. It is the first sanctioned tournament to be held in St. Louis, so I am eager to see the 4.0 and 5.0 players in action once my volunteer work is finished.

On a more fun note, last weekend was Paint Louis 2018. This was an organized event allowing graffiti artists to legally spray paint the flood wall that runs along the Mississippi River in downtown St. Louis. Hundreds of artists came from mostly around the Midwest, with live hip hop music adding to the party atmosphere. By the time we got down there Monday morning, most of the artists had packed up and left. But there were a few remaining, and it was interesting to talk to them about their work and the process they use in creating art to cover such a large space. Sadly, it won't last for long as other graffiti artists will come along and paint over what is already there. It is a constantly evolving work of art.
Paint Louis 2018

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Eye Yi Yi

creepy eyes
This morning I had the YAG laser capsulotomy performed on my left eye to remove the cells that were forming on the back of the new lens that was inserted following my cataract surgery in June. Essentially it was as if I was looking through a window that had finger prints on it. That is not exactly the result I was hoping for after bucking up for the expensive replacement lenses. My surgeon noticed the problem when I was in for my one month follow up appointment. In fact he said the right lens had some cells on it as well, but that the left eye was more prominent and the cells should be removed.

My insurance company insisted that I wait 3 months post-surgery before they would approve the YAG procedure, which is why I didn't have it done before now. Fortunately for this I could drive myself to and from the appointment. I arrived at the surgical center about 8:50 for a 9:00 appointment. I signed the appropriate paperwork, and at 9:15 was taken in the back to have my eye dilated before returning to the waiting room. Shortly after 10:00 I was again taken back, this time for numbing drops, and then seated before Dr. Pepose in front of what looked like the normal machine they use to examine your eyes. He placed a clamp on my left eye to keep me from blinking, and as I kept my chin and forehead pressed against the machine, he zapped my eye with the laser. In less than five minutes it was all done.

The assistant rinsed my eye, and then placed Lotemax drops in my eye. Lotemax is an anti-inflamatory steroid drug, and one of the three drops I had to use in both eyes following cataract surgery. For this, I need to place one drop in the affected eye three times a day for a week.

I asked Dr. Pepose if I could go ahead and schedule the right eye since my deductible and maximum out of pocket expenses have been satisfied for the year, which for us ends on September 30th. He said absolutely, so I will get it done next week. I also told him about the fact that my left eye has a bit of discomfort still. I asked him if he ever wore the hard contact lenses. I got my first pair of those before my sophomore year in high school, and they were extremely painful to get used to. You had to build up a callus on the back of your eyelid, and that is sort of how this feels. He suggested I try taking fish oil pills twice a day, as that has proven to help some patients with dry eyes. Otherwise the option is for me to use prescription eye drops like Restasis. I'd like to avoid that if possible, so I'll give the fish oil a go and pray for the best. My left eye has seemed a little better the past few days, so perhaps I am turning the corner on that problem anyway. Of course, having the laser treatment done may change all that.

In all, I was at the office an hour and twenty minutes. They had warned me to be prepared to be there two hours, so getting out early was a bonus. Hopefully next Wednesday will go just as smooth.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Death by Suicide

One of my nephews died last Monday at the age of 47. While it is tragic enough to lose a person so young, the grief is compounded by the fact that he took his own life, leaving a suicide note behind. Because he grew up in a state far away from me, we were not as close as I would have liked. I cannot begin to fathom what drove him to give up hope, though I have since heard he was experiencing financial difficulties.

As a nation we need to do better at providing mental health options for people in need. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Each year around 45,000 people commit suicide in our country, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Sadly, my nephew will be part of the 2018 statistic.

September is National Suicide Prevention month. Let's all do our part to draw attention to the problem of suicide, let people know that suicide can be prevented, and advocate to do more to prevent people from feeling like suicide is their only option. It's too late for my nephew, but hopefully not too late to help others who are struggling.

poem for my nephew

Friday, August 24, 2018

40 Years of Wedded Bliss

August 19, 1978
We celebrated our 40th anniversary last weekend. Even seeing those words in print does not make it any more believable to me. It doesn't seem possible that those two starry-eyed kids are now looking retirement in the face. It's been quite a ride, and I am so glad that I had Jim in the other seat as we have taken this journey.

When we got married we were fresh out of college. Jim had taken a job in St. Louis, and I stayed in Des Moines for the summer, living with my parents and getting everything ready for the wedding. We had little money and college debt to consider, so flying off to the Caribbean or Hawaii for a honeymoon was out of the question. I reserved a room for us at a nice hotel for our wedding night, but then we headed up to Appleton, Wisconsin to camp and do a float trip on the Apple River for several days. We had purchased a used tent from Iowa State University when they were selling off their old supplies. It was a heavy canvas that had an off-smell and didn't breath at all. Great in August, right? Not so much. But we were young and in love, and we did didn't mind it.

Fast-forward 40 years to when our anniversary falls on the same weekend as the SWT float trip, which was being held this year at Echo Bluff State Park. Camping and floating for your 40th anniversary is every girl's dream - or not. I looked everywhere for a hotel, B&B, AirBNB, VRBO for Jim's partner and his wife to stay in along with us last weekend. There was nothing available. I explained to Jim that there was no way I was camping out in August in southern Missouri. I told him to have nice time, because I wasn't going.

By divine intervention we were bumped to the top of the wait list for a cabin in Echo Bluff. Being part of the design team has its perks. We ended up with a 3 bedroom cabin that was amazing. It was definitely glamping at its finest. We spent Friday and Saturday nights there, and kayaked on the 9 mile river route Saturday. The weather was perfect other than a little rain Friday night. We were in a cabin, so we sure didn't care!

Echo Bluff and the Current River

Rich's Famous Burgers
Heading back to St. Louis Sunday, we stopped at a hamburger joint in Steelville for lunch. The waitress overheard Jim's partner saying he would pick up the tab for our anniversary. She asked us how long we had been married, and I told her 40 years. I imagine she and the table of people across from us were thinking, "Wow, 40 years and her husband took her to get a hamburger in Steelville!" We all laughed about that in the car. And that laughter is what has gotten us through 40 years of whatever life has thrown at us. I'm eager to see what the future holds and to hopefully, like Robert Frost, take the road less traveled.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Aretha Franklin RIP

"I say a little prayer for you...", Aretha. Rest in Peace, and sing with the angels.

Aretha Franklin quote

Monday, July 30, 2018

Filming a Horror Show

Friday our house was used as the set for the filming of an episode of a horror series by Morbid Curiosity. Entitled "The House on Plant", the first part takes place in 1922 and involves a love story, betrayal, murder and ghosts. A couple of 1920's era cars were parked in front of our house to add credence to the timetable, and they were very cool to see. It got even better when the owner asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. You bet I did! The pedals and gear shifts all seemed very confusing to me, but I'm sure they were very advanced at the time the Ford was built. I'm glad I had the opportunity to tool around the neighborhood in it, and I even more appreciate the conveniences and comfort of modern day vehicles.
Ford Cars
One of the actors is a certified drone operator, so he had brought his drone along to do some sweeping aerial views of the house and yard. I have never been that close to someone filming with a drone, so I found that part interesting and am eager to see what footage will end up in the final cut.
There was quite a bit of film shot in front of the house with the cars, as well as on the front porch. I'm not sure what was going on, but our street looked like a parade route with cars traveling up and down it. Normally it is pretty quiet, but for some reason it seemed like Maple was being used as a way to avoid Friday rush hour on Elm. At times some of the crew just had to stop traffic so the shot could be taken without car noise in the background.

At dusk, the action was moved inside the house. There were shots in the entry foyer and the back stairway to the kitchen. Finally it was time for the bedroom action. And that is where three people were killed - in our bedroom. They wrapped things up with the ghost scenes. Four and a half hours later, everyone was gone from the house.
Morbid Curiosity
The second part of this episode is set in modern times, and that will be filmed in our backyard. They need to perfect some of the stunts that will be used, so it will probably be later in August before that takes place. Because many people will die, I will be sending out a note to my neighbors to let them know what is going on so no one calls the police. The director will let the police know of the filming as well, in case anyone freaks out. Should be fun!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Summer Hummer

In the spring I put out the hummingbird feeder that I purchased last year, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the tiny birds. Weeks went by without a sighting. Friends of mine had been commenting on Facebook that they had yet to see anything at their feeders either, despite following the instructions on how often to change the sugar water solution. I wondered what was going on weather-wise that the birds were not making their way to St. Louis. Finally on July 17th I saw my first one. Now there are several who come to feed, including a much smaller juvenile.

Last Sunday I went to the Missouri Botanical Garden with someone from my Women in Focus group. It was a beautiful morning in St. Louis with a cooler temperature and low humidity. There was a nice breeze as well, which isn't necessarily a photographer's friend. We had a good time while she worked with me on going 100% manual with my camera settings to try and capture a water droplet. I can't say I was totally successful, but I learned some things about my camera so that was worthwhile. All the water lilies were in bloom, and I am a huge fan of those. We wanted to play around with our lens balls a bit, and that certainly resulted in a lot of strangers coming up to us to see what we were doing!

Missouri Botanical Garden
After grabbing lunch we drove over to Horseshoe Lake in Madison County, Illinois. I had never been there before, though I had seen a lot of photos on Facebook that were taken there. It is a nice lake, and many people were there fishing, having picnics or just taking walks along the lake. We even saw a woman walking her dog with a bow and arrow on her back! When we stopped to talk to her, she explains that she fishes with a bow and arrow. The arrow is attached to fishing line, and she reels it back in after each use. I never knew such a thing existed.

Horseshoe Lake
Friday there will be a camera crew at my house filming a show. Morbid Curiosity is a "made for TV series of short Horror/Drama stories" which air locally through Charter Communications. For this particular story they were looking for a Victorian home, and ours fit the bill. The first part of the show  is set in the 1920s, and that is the portion that will be filmed Friday. The second part is present day, and will be filmed in our back yard at a later date. There will be murders, ghosts and mass casualties! It will be very interesting to see the making of a show. And to watch my neighbors' expressions when a "For Sale" sign goes up in my front yard, albeit on a temporary basis. Hopefully all the ghosts will leave when the filming crew does. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Summer Celebrations

As we have rolled into July, I've been able to get out a bit and do my favorite pastime - taking photographs. Jim and I, along with another photographer friend, have gone out several times together in the last year or so to take pictures. Then after a couple of days, we share our favorite photo from the outing with each other. It is always fun to see our different perspectives, even though we were in the same area together. This month we went to the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in north St. Louis County.

Located at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, Columbia Bottom has over 4,000 acres of land to explore by car, bikes or walking. They also have an area to put in boats, and I have seen people coming there to fish as well. The conservation department has planted fields of sunflowers, so that was the draw for us on this trip. Four fields were in bloom, and they have staggered the plantings so that there should be flowers in bloom through August. Though I wish we had arrived earlier than 9:00 as it was already hot and humid, the sunflowers were amazing.

Columbia Bottom Conservation Area
We also attended the Webster Groves 4th of July parade, which is a time-honored tradition for us. We simply have to pack up our chairs and water bottles and walk over two streets to the parade route. After years of practice, we know where to set up our chairs so that we will be in the shade the entire time. Jim set our chairs up early, and we walked over around 9:15. The parade starts at 10:00 and it takes a good half hour to reach our spot. But the time passes quickly talking to the folks around us and people watching. Despite all the political entries in the parade, I thought it was a good one and that people were very respectful.

Webster Groves parade
On Friday, July 6th we had a nice treat. An architectural firm that Jim works with, Fox Architects, was celebrating their 40th anniversary with a party at their office. It happens to be located directly across the street from the St. Louis Arch, the grounds of which have been newly renovated. For the first time in several years they were able to have Fair St. Louis back on the arch grounds now that construction is complete. We had a bird's eye view from the 18th floor of the One Memorial Drive building, high above the crowds and an exceptional spot to watch the fireworks display. It was a great time!

St. Louis Arch

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Cataract Complication

Yesterday was my one month follow-up appointment for the second cataract removal. The technician had me do the normal reading test, and I am seeing 20/20, which is awesome. Then she did the dreaded looking through the lens exam. "Which looks better = 1 or 2? Or are they about the same?" "2 or 3? Or are they about the same?" I had no problems with the right eye test. But the left eye gave me some trouble, and apparently gave the technician trouble too. I guess I was all over the place, and she said the results were not making any sense. She felt like I was trying to see something that wasn't there. She added that since I was reading 20/20, I should not see any improvement when she showed me 1 and then 2. She got frustrated, and so did I. We agreed to disagree.

She then tested the pressure in both eyes, which were at acceptable levels before dilating them both for the doctor to check. Dr. Pepose was pleased with my reading level, and the fact that the dry eyes has subsided quite a bit. But when he looked into my eyes I could tell he saw something that he didn't like. Apparently I have posterior capsule opacity (PCO) in both eyes. The right eye is very minor and he isn't worried about it right now. The left eye, however, he thinks needs to be treated. He asked if I had any problems with the vision in that eye, and I told him that it does seem sometimes like I am looking through a smudge on the lens. I thought it was due to the eye drops, as I still have to put those in the left eye three times a day and they make the vision blurry for a while.

He explained that PCO manifests itself like that. Two things came to my mind: 1) interesting that my vision is 20/20 even with that, and 2) that is no doubt why I was confusing the technician when she was doing the test on the left eye. As it is blurry in one part of my eye, sometimes the chart looks better than others. At any rate, PCO is when the epithelial cells of the lens, which remain after cataract surgery, grow on the lens capsule. This happens in 20% of all cataract surgeries. Yay me!

Fortunately there is a pretty simple fix with a YAG laser capsulotomy. In the doctor's office, my eyes will be dilated and the cells removed by laser. The procedure will take less than 15 minutes, though I will have to be at the office for an hour and a half. I can drive myself, and there are no restrictions following the surgery. For a week I will need to use eye drops - yippee! I certainly haven't gotten enough of that yet. The biggest complication from the laser surgery is that I might get floaters in that eye. As I already have a big one there, hopefully this won't add to it.

The gal from the office called today, and my insurance company says I have to wait three months following the cataract surgery before they will approve this procedure. And obviously they know so much more about it than one of the top ophthalmologists in the United States. (Insert sarcasm here.) I am scheduled for September 5th. While I don't like having to look through the smudge for another two months, I am eager to see how things will look out of these new eyes once it is all said and done.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Reaching for Retirement

As my husband begins to prepare for retirement, we have been talking a lot about where we want to live. Staying in our house, much as we have loved it for the past 31 years, is not the best option. First of all, at some point the 2 1/2 stories will be too much for us. The upkeep and maintenance are already more that we want to undertake, and the taxes and insurance here are killers. So...if you know you will want to/have to move, where do you go?

While it is possible that we will remain in this state, we are exploring other options. We have eliminated places that are too hot, such as Florida, Arizona, and Texas, as well as states that are just too expensive such as California. We don't want to live any further north than we are now, but we still want to experience some of the four seasons. North Carolina and Tennessee have both made our initial short list.

Lambert St. Louis Airport
Last week we spent 7 days in North Carolina. Uncertain as to whether we would prefer lake or mountain views, I lined up an itinerary that offered some of both. We began in Charlotte for a number of reasons. It has a wonderful international airport, which we always have to fly through when traveling abroad. Why not live there and eliminate one stop on foreign trips?

Charlotte is a large city (population around 800,000) with many of the cultural institutions and activities we have grown to appreciate in our current hometown. With that comes great medical care, which will become more important as we age. We don't want to live right in Charlotte, but instead wanted to look at the six lakes that surround the area. After 2 days, we knew that none of these lakes were what we were looking for in terms of livability. They are located off of narrow, winding roads with no amenities nearby. I don't want to have to drive an hour to buy a loaf of bread, go to a store, or see a doctor.

Our next destination was the town of Lenoir, located northwest of Charlotte at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. On the way we found the two remaining covered bridges in the state of North Carolina.

Pisgah Covered Bridge
Bunker Hill Covered Bridge
In Lenoir, a smaller artsy community, we stayed at the Irish Rose B&B. It was a huge, beautiful old home, and the proprietor made the most amazing breakfast that we have ever had at a B&B. The other guests we met were so interesting to talk to, and a couple from Maryland were on the same journey as us, so it was fun to compare notes. They were even looking at The Coves, a mountain gated community that we had come to see. Alas, with Lenoir being 1.5 hours from Asheville and 1.5 hours from Charlotte, we decided the distance was more that we would like to drive each time we want to fly somewhere. There were other reasons we dismissed this area as well, but the travel time to get to any cultural events or flights was a big one.

Next up was the town of Black Mountain, which had a couple of gated communities we wanted to see. We had an appointment with a realtor, and she took us to several communities but also to a few regular residences that were up for sale. She wanted to give us an idea of what our budget could buy us in the area. I have to say, Black Mountain will probably remain on our short list. It is less than 30 minutes from Asheville, the community is darling, we could purchase a lot with mountain views and build our own home, and we could be on Lake Lure in 30 minutes if we wanted a lake experience for a day or weekend.

Lake Lure, NC
After spending most of the day with the realtor, we drove to Lake Lure. I really wanted this area to work out as it is only about a half hour from Asheville, and the lake has wonderful mountain views so we could have the best of both worlds. Unfortunately the houses are very close together, which we are trying to avoid. Plus there are no shopping or medical facilities in the area. You would have to drive to Asheville for most things, on a winding road with a 35 miles per hour speed limit. It was a pretty and fun place to visit though, so we had a good time playing tourist for a couple of days as we explored the lake and Chimney Rock State Park.

Chimney Rock, NC
We worked our way back to Charlotte on Saturday because we had an early flight home Sunday morning. Though it wasn't exactly on our way, we made a second trip to Black Mountain so that we could see a little bit more of the town on our own. Despite the fact that it was a Saturday during tourist season, it wasn't too overrun with crowds, so that was good to see. If we decide to get more serious about settling in that town, I think we should go there for a couple weeks in the spring or fall and really get a feel for the area.

St. Louis
At the end of the day, while we were a little disappointed that nothing called out to us, it was a good experience and we learned a lot from this trip. We will be better prepared for the next one. We are in no rush, and we want to take the time to make sure this next move won't be the wrong move. We have been in St. Louis for 40 years, so we obviously don't take relocation lightly!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Photographing This and That

Webster Groves Sculpture Garden
One of the projects designed by SWT Design is the Sculpture Garden in Webster Groves. Located at the intersection of W. Kirkham and Gore Avenues, the once derelict area was transformed several years ago into a green oasis complete with multiple sculptures. A volunteer committee worked very hard with the City to develop a plan to light the garden, which culminated in a lighting ceremony Wednesday. Residents gathered to listened to a wonderful jazz group, chat and enjoy the treats offered by The Sweet Divine, winner of the Food Network's Cupcake Wars in 2012. Around 8:40 Mayor Gerry Welch threw the switch, and the area lit up to the applause of a delighted audience. It is such a lovely space!

lighting ceremony
Kirkwood Train Station
Saturday was the opening reception for the Women in Focus show entitled "Transportation". We were selected by the Kirkwood Arts Commission to have our exhibit hanging at the Kirkwood Train Station for the month of June. Built in 1893, the City of Kirkwood purchased the station from Amtrak in 2003 when the company decided it was no longer profitable to have a stop in that location. In a unique move, the City offered to staff the station with volunteers if Amtrak would continue to drop off and pick up passengers in Kirkwood. It has successfully operated as an Amtrak stop ever since. Because wall space is limited in the station, I only submitted one photo for the exhibit. Despite torrential downpours and some hail, we had a pretty nice turnout for the opening.
Rollin' on the River
Forest Park
Saturday evening we picked up some friends and went to Forest Park for the 40th annual Shakespeare in the Park Festival. This year's presentation was "Romeo & Juliet". The event is free, and you bring your own blankets and/or chairs and food and drinks. Or you can choose one of their reserved seats for a charge, and can also purchase food and drinks from their vendors. Due to the rain earlier in the day, the temperature had cooled down to the mid-70s and it was a pleasant evening to sit outside.

While Shakespeare is not my thing, "Romeo & Juliet" is one of his plays that I do enjoy. But of course they had to change it up. The costumes looked like clothing for the 60s - as in 1960, not 1660. And the dialogue just didn't have the same cadence as expected. All of the Shakespeare productions I have seen over the past several years have had the same dramatical editing done to them. I understand artistic license, but I will just say that I am not a fan. While the show was quite good, I found myself wondering, "Shakespeare's Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?"

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Left Eye Cataract Surgery Follow Up

My one week follow up appointment for my second cataract removal was yesterday morning. When I woke up yesterday, my left eye was bothering me a bit. It sort of felt like something between a scratch and having something in my eye. The prescribed eye drops did nothing to alleviate the sensation. As I was heading to the doctor for my appointment, it seemed fortuitous that it began to bug me that morning.

A check of my eyes revealed the eye pressure was 10 in the right eye and 11 in the left, both well within normal ranges. My vision has continued to improve, and in fact I could read the eye chart and the text sheet they handed me better with my left eye than with the right. At home I very rarely have to slip in reading glasses, so that is fantastic.

Dr. Pepose said the left eye looked really good, but in light of my complaint he had the technician run dryness tests on both eyes. As both came back being too dry, he feels that the discomfort in my left eye is due to dryness. It is hard to fathom considering I am putting three drops in each eye three times a day, but there you have it. He suggested that I get an over the counter eye drop called Retaine. He also said that there is an ointment I can use in the eyes each night in case the day drops don't do the trick. Just what I need - more things to put in my eyes!

Retaine eye drops
Stopping at Schnucks, I found that they do not carry Retaine. After looking up the product online to see if I could substitute one of the other 30 brands of eye drops on their shelf, I found that Retaine has a proprietary ingredient that no one else has. Off I went to Walgreens to look for the elusive drops. Even there with the 60 brands of eye drops on the shelf, I had a hard time finding Retaine. After Googling it to see what it looks like, I saw that it comes in a square box with single-serving tubes inside, while I had been looking for a box that would contain a bottle. I finally located the drops, and was dismayed but not all together surprised to find that the price was $26.99 for the 30 drops. Yikes! No wonder a lot of older people don't take care of their eyes - it is so expensive to buy all the different kinds of drops you need! On the plus side since it was the first Tuesday of the month, the clerk asked if I was a senior as I could receive a 20% senior discount. Since their age requirement is 55, I'll take that as a compliment. Here's to senior discounts!

I have used the drops a few times now, in both eyes as directed. The immediate relief in my eyes is great, but about 5 minutes later my left eye feels scratchy again. If the situation doesn't improve in a couple of days, then I'll go pick up some of the ointment to use at night. It seems odd to me that there was no problem until six days post-surgery. Maybe there is just something in the air as the allergens have been high lately. We'll see what happens - bah!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Cataract Removal in Left Eye

left cataract removal
Yesterday morning I had the cataract removed from my left eye. I was a little less anxious since I knew what to expect. They did give me a little more of the sedation drug since I had told them I didn't experience anything the last time, and it certainly didn't relax me for the surgery. I can't say that it did anything for me during the second surgery either, but boy did it affect me after the fact.

The surgery went well, and before I knew it I was being wheeled out with my juice and pretzels to meet Jim. I was quite hungry as I had nothing to eat or drink after dinner Tuesday night, and it was now 11:15 on Wednesday. I remember finishing the pretzels and my drink in the car, and then bam! I was out like a light until Jim pulled into our drive. After he helped me in the house and I ate an English muffin, I crawled into bed and slept for 4 hours! Apparently that sedation drug impacts me after surgery if not during. I can't remember the last time I have napped that long. I was afraid I would not be able to go to sleep that night, but it was no problem.

Today I had to see Dr. Pepose at 7:45 in the morning. Jim drove me as I still had to wear the plastic shield over my eye. I definitely would not want to drive looking through it. The doctor looked at both eyes, and the pressure in my right eye has dropped to 9, which is excellent. The left eye was 20, which is high but not unexpected. Dr. Pepose seemed very pleased with my progress. Like last time, I am on limited activity until he sees me next Tuesday, and I only have to wear the shield when I am sleeping.

designer shades
Having the brightness and clarity in both eyes now is quite remarkable. My eyes are a bit sensitive to the light, but that should calm down in the next couple of days. My uber-expensive, designer (hah!) sunglasses help outside at least. I can't wait to see what my reading level will be next week when I go in. Hopefully the reading glasses will be a thing of the past, or at least only be necessary in low light/small print situations. Speaking of small print, I find it extremely ironic that the writing on eye drops is so minuscule. It is impossible for people with poor eyesight to make out, and once you add the first drop to you eyes, forget about it. While the lids are different colors, it is not helpful if I can't read the sheet that tells me which eye drop to use next.

Anyhoo, it is great to have this experience behind me. It was inevitable that I would get cataracts since both my parents and at least one of my siblings had them, so hopefully I will have a lot of years ahead to enjoy my enhanced vision.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Memorial Day Weekend 2018

It was a hot and humid weekend here in the Midwest. I guess that was a boon for the swimming pools, but it was hard on the rest of us. We did some work around the house on Saturday, and then Sunday morning Jim went out for a motorcycle ride. My friend picked me up at 7:00 in the morning, and we made the trek down to Eminence, Missouri to see if we could find the wild horses again. There are some new colts, including one that is only a couple weeks old.

Regular or Unleaded?
We did not find wild horses at either of the two fields we had visited in April, though we did see many domestic horses. Riders were everywhere, including at the gas station where we stopped to buy cold drinks and use the restroom. It is a big equestrian area of the state.

We came to the conclusion that we would not see any of the wild herds due to the heat and the fact that the area was teaming with tourists floating on the river. Determined to make the most of it, we photographed flowers, an old car, and other items that struck our fancy. We had lunch in town, and then tried to go to Rocky Falls Shut-In, where we could not get anywhere near the parking lot. It was packed!
Eminence, Missouri
We decided to head for home, and just as we rounded the curve at the entrance to Echo Bluff State Park, we spied part of the Echo Bluff horse herd. The two mares and the newest baby were munching on grass along the side of the road. We couldn't believe our eyes! We pulled over to take pictures, and those darn horses decided to stand in the middle of Highway 19 and eat who knows what off the pavement. We were so frightened that they were going to get hit as there are blind curves in both directions. My friend was waving at approaching vehicles to get them to slow down, and we stayed until the horses decided to stroll up the entrance of the park. Only then did we resume our trip back to St. Louis.

Eminence wild horses
Monday I met up with a few members of our female photography group at a local coffee shop. The gal who started our group moved to Las Vegas last fall, and she was back in town for a visit. Then later in the afternoon, Jim and I drove to Jefferson Barracks Cemetery to see all the flags that had been placed on the military graves by local Boy Scouts. It was an opportunity for us to pause in remembrance of those who died keeping America the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Cataract Surgery Update

This morning was my one week follow up appointment, and this time I actually saw the surgeon who did the procedure. The last appointment was with a doctor I had never met before. My eye pressure dropped from 21 to 16, which is great news. Anything under 20 is good. The left eye measured 13. I can easily read the 20/32 line on the eye chart, but certain letters on the line below that are not crystal clear, specifically the "C" and the "O", which look alike to me.

The bottom line is that I am still slipping on reading glasses more often than I hoped to, though there still should be some continued improvement in the vision in the right eye. Taking all of that into consideration, I opted to go with the enhanced lens in my left eye next week. It makes sense to have a matching set. Dr. Pepose will correct my astigmatism in that eye at the same time. Interestingly, the enhanced lens will be ordered to the specifications to fix the astigmatism in my eye.

eye shield
Overall, everything is looking good with my right eye. I no longer need to wear the plastic shield at night, and I can resume all activities except for swimming. Even pickleball - color me happy! I can also wear eye makeup again, though I will only do that when I'm going out since I still have to put drops in three times a day. Of course next Wednesday I begin the whole process over again, but for a week I'm footloose and fancy free.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Postmortem on the Cataract Surgery

While it might seem odd to have the word postmortem in my blog title, since the usual definition means an examination following death, people have come to use postmortem to refer to any examination or discussion that takes place after an event. As my natural lens has been removed and tossed away, I think postmortem works in this context.

My first cataract surgery took place on Wednesday. Beginning on Monday, I had three eye drops to put into my eye, three times a day, including one of each in the eye before heading out for surgery. There was to be no food or drink after I went to bed Tuesday night. We were told to arrive at the surgical center at 7:30, where I completed enough paperwork to apply to a PhD program. As I was instructed to bring nothing with me except for my ID and insurance card, I didn't even have my reading glasses with me for assistance. But I could clearly see the young woman in the waiting area scarfing down a bag of potato chips. My stomach gave a disgruntled rumble.

About 15 minutes after arrival I was taken back to a surgical waiting area where I was told to lie down on a gurney. You get to leave on your street clothes, so that's a bonus. Two other beds were already occupied with patients, which gave me some sense of my wait time. My vitals were taken and I had to give my height and weight (ugh!) for the anesthesia, I presume. Multiple eye drops were placed in the right eye in preparation for surgery.

I was nice and toasty under a warm-from-the-dryer blanket when the anesthesiologist came to talk to me. I'll admit that I did not realize ahead of time that anesthesia would be administered. When I had my LASIK done 14 years ago, I was given a "happy pill" while sitting in a recliner in a dimmed room to relax me before walking into the surgical room. When the technician talked to me at my last appointment, all she said is that I would be given "better stuff" than what I had gotten previously. I assumed (my bad) that it would be a stronger pill.

About 8:20 the nurse came to administer the anesthesia. It was in liquid form, shot under my tongue with a needle-less syringe, where I was told to hold it for 60 seconds before swallowing. As the first thing I had to drink in 11 hours, let's just say it didn't taste like Kool-Aid and leave it at that. At no time did I ever feel the effects of whatever they gave me - before, during or after surgery - so I'm not sure exactly what it was supposed to do for me. It certainly didn't relax me like the LASIK pill did.

It was 8:42 when the nurse wheeled me into the surgical room. That was not a moment too soon as the man who was waiting in the bed next to me was just starting to tell the nurse about the online video he had watched on cataract surgery. Some things I just don't want to know ahead of time. More numbing drops were placed in my eye, and then a white plastic sheeting was placed over my face. They told me that they were blowing oxygen under it so I could breathe. A hole was cut in the sheet over the right eye, and a clamp was placed on the eye so that I couldn't blink.

When the light was maneuvered overhead, the doctor told me to stare at the light. There were three glowing orbs, and he said I could look at any of the three. Then he began the surgery. I can't say that I felt any pain, only pressure. But I was braced for the pain as I have a weak (or is it strong?) tolerance for anesthesia. Often during my skin cancer removals I will have to stop the doctor as I can feel him cutting. During dental procedures I usually need an extra shot. And I felt them removing the most recent breast biopsy. Ouch! But this time there was no pain, thank goodness. I just wanted it to be over with, as it is rather scary to think about what the doctor is doing.

rocking the pirate look
The procedure took about 15 minutes, then the draping was removed, more drops put in my eye, and I got a sexy eye shield to wear. I was wheeled to a the recovery ward, where I was rewarded with orange juice and pretzels before being helped into a wheelchair for dismissal. Jim brought the car around to the front, and we were off.

For the first day I was to leave the shield on, raising it only to add eye drops. I could watch t.v. but there was to be no reading or computer time. I had minimal discomfort in the eye, only a headache which a couple of Tylenol fixed. Yesterday Jim had to drive me back to Pepose Vision for my first follow up. They said the eye was healing nicely, though my pressure is a smidge high. Fortunately it was not so high as to necessitate additional eye drops. The shield now only has to be worn at night and if I take a nap. But I have to use these eye drops for 42 days! And that is just for this eye.

For the first week, there is no lifting over 20 pounds, no strenuous exercise (no pickleball!) and no bending over. You don't realize how often you do that until you are told you can't. I'm getting really creative in how I get things that are down low. My hair looks like crap as I always bend over to fluff it each morning. I also cannot wear eye makeup, which is a big deal to me. I feel naked without my eyes done.

It will be worth it in the end though. I can already see better with the right eye than I see with the left, and my vision should continue to improve in the surgical eye. The one thing that I've noticed the most is that the surgical eye sees everything much brighter. It is so obvious since the left eye has not been done yet. Although people had told me that would be the case, I wasn't expecting it to be very drastic for me since my cataracts were still in the early stages of development. It's amazing, for sure.

On Tuesday I will drive myself to the last follow up appointment for this eye, and hopefully get the news that I can resume all my activities. Especially pickleball. At least until May 30th when I get the second eye done, and start the process all over again.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Easy Come, Easy Go

We had relatives in town for the past couple of days. While the guys headed downtown to a Cardinals game Monday night, the ladies were able to dine al fresco at a local Mexican restaurant. Tuesday's weather was perfect, and I tried to take them to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Everyone had the same idea, and we couldn't even get into the parking lot. Thinking I would show them the Old Cathedral, and the new Arch grounds next to it, I drove downtown. But I was forgetting that there was an 12:25 ballgame. Cathedral parking was $15, and there were no spots in the lot at any rate. I was finally able to maneuver our way out of the downtown gridlock, and I took them to Forest Park instead.

Boathouse at Forest Park
Though it was a long shot, I thought we might try to eat lunch at the Boathouse. It has just reopened for the season, and is under new management. I dropped them off to see how long it would be to get a table outside, and then miraculously a parking spot opened up. Taking that as a good sign, I quickly pulled into the spot. After a 30 minute wait, we had a delightful lunch by the lake.

Following lunch we spent some time at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium, which is where Jim finally caught up with us as he had a meeting he could not reschedule. From there we grabbed some steaks at a local butcher, and the evening was spent sitting outside on the deck enjoying the nice weather. Our company headed out to their next destination early Wednesday.

Today I ran to the Missouri Botanical Garden for a couple of hours, arriving just as they opened. The temperature was still moderate this morning, but the next few days are supposed to hit around 90 degrees. I figured this would be the last opportunity to see the tulips, azaleas and other spring flowers before the heat takes care of them. So much for spring...
Missouri Botanical Garden

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Shine on, St. Louis!

St. Louis Arch
The redevelopment of the Arch grounds has been going on for quite some time - years, in fact. It was supposed to be completed by the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Arch, which was to be celebrated October 28, 2015. Oops...But great progress has been made, and the area looks really good right now. Pedestrian access is much improved, with people able to enter the park without having to cross multiple lanes of traffic. The museum is not yet open, with the latest prediction stating that it will be ready for visitors "in the summer of 2018".

Jim and I went downtown Saturday morning to check things out. We began at Citygarden, a lovely small park that opened in 2009. With its water features, it is packed with families in the summer looking for a spot to cool off during the intense heat that is prevalent here.

statue depicting Harry Kiener
Next we walked to Kiener Plaza. Dedicated in 1962, the park was named after Harry Kiener, a local amateur boxer, wrestler and swimmer who also was part of the U.S. track team at the Olympics held in St. Louis in 1904. The plaza recently underwent extensive renovations, and reopened in May of 2017. The new design is wildly successful, and includes a children's playground. There must have been 75 people taking part in a yoga class Saturday morning.

From there we headed to the Arch, stopping to admire the wonderful gardens that serve as the front yard to the old courthouse. It was great to see so many people out and about in the city, especially considering that it is not yet summer and no Cardinals game was being played. St. Louis gets such a bad rap in the media due to the way the crime statistics are tabulated. It makes me happy to see people enjoying the beautiful amenities our city has to offer. Shine on, St. Louis!

St. Louis City

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Spring Beauty

Tuesday I played in a pickleball tournament at a local recreation center. My partner Tish and I had never played in a tournament together and, in fact, don't even play at the same locations very often. It is a huge benefit to have the same partner in tournaments as you get used to how the other person plays and can get in sync with each other. Nevertheless, we decided to give it a shot. I did at least meet her Sunday afternoon at the center where the tournament was being held so that I could get a feel for the playing surface. They have a sport court as their gym floor, and it is quite different from the wooden floors I am used to playing on. I really liked it as there is no glare and with a softer surface, it is easier on the feet and legs. But the ball definitely plays different on that kind of surface.

Tish & me
On Tuesday we arrived early at the center to warm up. It was not a huge tournament, and we ended up playing six games. One was against a team ranked lower than us, and two were against teams ranked higher than us, so those three games did not end up counting in the standings. We beat all three teams that were at our level, so we ended up getting gold medals. One of these other teams had taken gold at the last two tournaments held at this center, so that made us feel particularly good about our play. It was a fun time!

Though my legs were quite tired from all the pickleball the day before, yesterday I went to the Missouri Botanical Garden to see what was in bloom. Things change so rapidly there this time of year that you almost need to go once a week to check it out. I took my crystal ball along as I wanted to play around with it. I hadn't been in the garden more than 15 minutes when a couple of Asian women stopped to see what I was doing. They asked if they could take some shots through the ball, and they had a blast working with it.

crystal ball photography
Along the way several children came over to see what I was doing, and it was fun to show them how the thing you are looking at appears upside down in the ball. But then another strange thing happened. Two Mideastern women dressed in traditional abayas and hijabs stopped me along one of the paths. They did not speak English, and one was gesturing with her phone. Assuming that she was wanting me to take their picture together, I reached for the phone. The woman quickly pulled it back, and they both began to speak and move their hands. I finally realized that one of the women wanted a picture of herself with me, which the other woman took with the phone. That reminded me of the time Jim and I went to Redwoods National Forest with Andy when he was about 11 months old. A huge bus filled with Asian tourists pulled into the parking lot where we were standing. One of them ran over, snatched Andy out of my arms, and proceeded to hold him in their group photo. It happened so fast that we were stunned, and he was screaming his head off!

Missouri Botanical Garden
The garden was quite busy, especially as I counted three school groups wandering through. It was a pretty day, party cloudy with the temperature around 70. I think everyone was so tired of winter that they welcomed a day outside with the beautiful flowers, trees and shrubs. Before I go next time, maybe I should consult my crystal ball to see how crowded it will be. Ha!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Wild Horses Couldn't Drag Me Away

wild horses of Shannon County
Friday afternoon, while a bit cloudy, was warm enough for us to eat lunch outside at the Creekside Grill in Echo Bluff State Park. But it began to rain shortly after we checked into our cabin at Riverside, which was actually located quite a distance from the motel - far enough that we drove to get to it. And the five cabins were, oddly enough, on a gravel rode stuck in amongst cabins owned by other establishments. We had been advised that we were the only ones using the Riverside cabins Friday night.

Riverside cabins
We threw our stuff into the cabin, and then sat out on our patio to watch the river flow by. It was very peaceful - then. As it was raining more heavily, we drove back to the motel shortly before 7:00 to meet up with the other photographers who were participating in the workshop. There were only four of us, plus the instructor, which was great. The instructor went over settings on our cameras that would be most conducive to photographing moving horses, as well as safety instructions to being around these wild animals. Then we were advised to meet in the parking lot at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday.

But some excitement was in store before our 5:30 wakeup alarm. Around 9:00 the storm began in earnest, with high winds, lightning, thunder and torrential rains. We had no cell service in the area, and particularly none at the cabin. The motel's wifi didn't even work there. Next the tornado sirens went off, so I quickly put on the television to find a weather report. There were tornado cells to the southwest of Eminence, tracking to the northeast.  In other words, heading our way. Additionally, flash flood warnings had been issued for our town. As we were contemplating where exactly we should go to be safe, the satellite went out! We had no basement, of course, and no bathtub to climb into. We were in a small cabin, after all. We didn't know if it was safe to leave in our car, or if the town of 600 some people even had a storm shelter.

I relaxed a little when the tornado sirens ended, though in the pitch black I had no idea how quickly the nearby river was rising. But the sirens went off a second time, and I could only hope that the owners of the resort or the town sheriff would check on us if the river threatened to carry the cabin away. Needless to say, very little sleep was to be had that night between the stress and continued booms of thunder, and we were both awake before 5:00. At that point it was still too dark to see how much the river had risen during the night, but it wasn't coming in under the back door of the cabin so that was encouraging.

We gathered with our group a little before 6:00, and while the day was pretty gray the rain had fizzled out to a light mist. We loaded up in two cars and went to the first field to see if any horses were around. There was no chance of sunrise shots with the herd of three that we found, and the lighting conditions made taking pictures a bit of a challenge. As the day progressed the light improved somewhat. We spent an hour or so at this location before driving to a second field where around a dozen horses were hanging out.

small herd of wild horses
I should mention that the instructor has a way of communicating the the lead mare of each of the herds. She would enter the field by herself at first, and once she established that the leader was okay with us being there, we could follow her into the space. It was quite something to see. The second herd less skittish than the first, so we spent quite a bit of time with them both in the field and then in the woods nearby.

We went for a late breakfast, then headed to our respective rooms to rest up a bit. We were pleased to see the river was nowhere near our cabin, and we settled in to look at our morning pictures as we were to each bring several to the instructor's room at 2:00. When the group reconvened we reviewed photos, and were given suggestions on other things to try when we went back out at 5:00 to try for some sunset photos. While the sun did peek out for a bit late that afternoon, there was no sunset. All the rains from the last 24 hours did create a pop up pond in the field, though, and that made for some great reflection photos.

larger herd of wild horses
Saturday night we had dinner together at the Mexican restaurant across the street from the motel, and turned in early as we were all exhausted. Sunday morning we met at 6:00 for one last photo shoot. Again, there was no sun and in fact we had some rain during the morning. The temperature was only 37 - what a contrast from Saturday morning when it was 60 as we started out early in the morning! But we found both herds again, and got some great pictures. Then we had one last breakfast as a group before everyone took off for home.

I think Jim summed it up best when he said to everyone, "Best Christmas present I have ever given my wife!"

crystal ball horse photo