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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Other Side of SANITY

The time is drawing near that I can literally feel FATE breathing hard on the back of my neck. The unthinkable, undo-able, the beyond consideration...has become cold, calculating reality and the intentional design of tomorrow's surgical Tea Party at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

What a flowery bunch of literary BULLSHIT that just was. TRUTH IS I am having my right leg cut off about 6" below my knee and  I feel like I have dropped off the edge of the sanity cliff into the Twilight Zone. And I am just fortunate enough to have dragged K-sue with me. And not only is she not kicking and screaming...she actually seems USED to this MADNESS....what a lucky little sucker I am, eh?!

We have been down this path so frequently in the past that we actually have an unspoken game-plan we use to help us prepare for what may turn out to be a rather lengthy stay in Hospital, nearly an 80 minute drive from our home.

I just re-read what I have just written and my initial reaction is I wish I felt half as confident and together as I make it all sound. Truth is that I'm spinning cartwheels at 10,000 MPH in my brain and my heart feels permanently lodged in the back of my throat. 

In some strange, inexplicable way this surgery that always seemed impossible to me is really going to happen. I will walk through a door to the hospital tomorrow on two legs and will leave one there forever when I depart a few days later. That is if Doc E shoots down my morbid obsessive desire to have the bones preserved so that I can bring them home with me for permanent display. And Yea...I'm pretty much serious about it and I have already been told countless times how freaking sick that idea is. I suppose that in some way or another, that is why I like it. Yet I am seriously doubtful it will actually happen so let's not waste any more minutes on the subject for TIME, it seems is getting short.

And that is no joke, my friends. For some time there has been this invisible Hour-Glass that I am distinctly aware of running short of sand. There has been an unspoken, undefined urgency to everything I do.I am not sure why but it is as if there truly is a real possibility that the curtain, as it were could forever close on this particular story....The Story of MY LIFE.

I am not trying to be morbid here and I am not trolling for sympathy. I think it is perfectly natural and for the most part healthy that one would consider their own mortality when having such a serious operation. Even though it 'tis one of the oldest know surgical procedures performed by MAN...the amputation of a limb no longer able to do it's duty.

All in all I am as prepared as I can be. Physically I have gotten as healthy as I physically can. Emotionally and Psychologically I am ready and fully understand and accept what is going to happen to me tomorrow. And Spiritually I know I am prepared to face Fear Itself and I am not and will Never Ever be Alone.

Thank you Readers of Shell Shock Serenade for letting me blow off a wee bit of emotional steam these last twenty minutes or so as I embrace the Folly of written self-expression in an attempt to whittle away a few minutes time keeping my mind and hands occupied.

So long for a few days and we shall see you all when we meet agin on the other side of SANITY.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Nameless and Faceless By Ishrath Humairah

A-Day (Amputation Day) is this Wednesday November 19, 2014 at Noon. I suppose I am as ready as anyone can be who is making a conscious decision to cut off one of their legs just below the knee. Yea, I'm being Coy and trying to be cute and yes I know it really isn't my style. But what else do you say about this kind of thing?!

There are all the "right" things to say about being positive, having faith in a good outcome and saying this is all for the better. In my case those things are all basically true (at least MOST of the time). But in all honesty it is such a surreal experience to be having. I have been through a great many difficult times and have endured my fair share of chaos and hardship and this amputation surgery in many ways is just another experience.
Vincent Van Gogh
And then it isn't like anything that has ever happened to me either. Sure I put on a brave face but the truth is this frightens me some times when I think about it. I'm OK with that...there is nothing wrong with a healthy dose of fear and this kind of surgery certainly is a big enough deal to justify a few fearful moments now and again. I'd be more concerned if I wasn't afraid.

But this is truly the first step toward a new beginning. We have honestly exhausted all the realistic alternatives....6 surgeries in 15 months is enough. This will be surgery #7 for this ankle that was broken in a fall at home on February 9th, 2013. The nerves are damaged beyond all hope of recovery or repair. Having Neuropathy makes it even less likely that another Fusion Surgery would heal properly. Plus I have had an ongoing infection, more or less for the last year and a half.

Vincent Van Gogh

The time is now for a major move and Wednesday at Noon is when it's going to happen. I am ready to face the FEAR and fight for my freedom from this pain and torment. The day of RECKONING is long last. And just in case the worst possible scenario happens I can honestly say that I gave this life my very best and that if it truly is my time to die that I died sober, with my family and friends I love theoretically by my side every step of the way.

I want to thank everyone who has reached out to me and my family through prayer or just let us know that you are thinking about us. Several individuals have helped us get through this difficult time with rides to the doctor's office 90 minutes away and in other ways that we will never EVER forget. My Friends are THE VERY BEST, God Bless ALL of you!

We will see you on the other side of Amputation. And then my focus will be on what type of art-work to have done on my prosthetic Leg...Modern or Impressionist!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Future Beckons.

By Claude Monet
It 'tis a blustery, cold, windy November day and I find myself sitting here shaking off the fever and fatigue of infection, just wishing I had the energy and stamina to go outside and work in the yard. This is quite an odd time period in my life because I feel an unspoken pressure to do things with my "real" right leg for at least ONE LAST TIME. 

I want to walk around the Island (or small Island as we call the abbreviated road loop on the NW side of Iyopawa Island) at least one more time. I want to try and golf as much as I can in case the worst happens and I am no longer able to walk after surgery. Unfortunately I haven't played more then a hole or two at a time in the last 40 days or so because I am just too ill and hurts too dang much.

I don't really know how to feel about all of this or what to think. Nothing in life (at least my 52 years of it) prepares one to make the decision to cut off their own matter how necessary it turns out to be. 

It is a time where I find myself playing a great many mind games and not feeling overly hopeful sometimes for a really positive outcome. The sacrifices and difficulties of the last year have conditioned me to expect adversity and embrace failure. This is not typically the way I usually am...

I feel so poorly that in reality I don't question the's just that I don't want to be in the position where I have to decide in the first place. I don't want to be a part of any of this but the truth is I do not have a choice. I have to move on and this is the situation that I am in so I must find it within myself to push through all the crap in search of a better, healthier life on the other side.

There is a great deal of uncertainty right now and dealing with all the unknown makes it even more difficult because I can't possibly know what to expect. I've never walked into a building in my life and left several days later without a leg. The idea itself is surreal and haunts me just to think about it, not to mention actually prepare oneself for such an experience.

I feel as though I am moving slowly into a rather murky future where each step is an adventure with misfortune and chaos lurking behind every shadow. So be it then...I'll certainly be there to move off into the mist and see what awaits me beyond the shroud of uncertainty and doubt.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Illegitimum Non Carborundum

Keeping one's chin up is probably the toughest yet most critical aspect of facing a really difficult having a leg amputated. 

For a guy who wears his emotions basically on his freaking FOREHEAD and is disposed toward DEPRESSION (My BLACK DOG)in the first place it is extremely important for me to focus on the positive and not let things overwhelm me or get me down.

My strategy for dealing with it is basically part spiritual and part hanging on for dear life...literally CLINGING to life at times.

I have learned that there is no problem too large that GOD can't deal with it. So my job for the most part has been to just get out of the way and LET HIM.

I also rely on an old saying that dates back to an old WWII soldier: General "Vinegar" Joe Stilwell, whois often credited with first saying "Don't Let The Bastards Get You Down (Illegitimum Non Carborundum).

I cannot focus on the negative or those people who are not part of the solution....I won't let them or their opinions affect me or get in the way of my relationship with my CREATOR.

He ultimately keeps the Hell-Hounds away from my backside and gives me the courage, The fearlessness and the ferocity to endure....even the UNENDURABLE.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Getting On My Own Nerves

I'm feeling really restless this evening. Not necessarily jumpy nor dissatisfied....just kind of lost in time with an extra dose of energy I'd say. It is probably not an unusual way of behaving considering life has been so full of distractions, issues and huge life-changing decisions for me to make. I would guess that it is a reasonable reaction considering the circumstances I am facing as of late.

I have found that my body as well as my mind and spirit adjust to my way of life and living and when that way has been rather chaotic for the most gets difficult to shut it all down when things get calmer or slow their roll a bit. I have noticed that I do tend to be on the alert for the difficult and the unexpected...basically because being blind-sided by life has become the norm around here lately. Bad news and adversity are expected not the other way around.

It is a life style that wears a guy out because I never try and let my guard down....EVER. It's sad because there is no joy in living such a life yet I do look at all of this as a temporary condition based on the circumstances of my health and upcoming medical procedures.

I also find that I do not do as well as I used to with idle time because I have found that I begin to over-think and obsess about having my leg amputated and it scares me. I wonder if I can handle it...I begin to doubt my decision and second-guess myself. This is where my FAITH becomes critical and I rely on GOD exclusively because I have yet to find anything that even comes close to bringing me the serenity, comfort and peace that HE does.

But I am human and I will have doubts. I become fearful and stop trusting HIM...when I do is when the anxiety and FEAR begins to dominate and if left to itself...take over.

I suppose what I am trying to do in this post is to put into words that chaotic, internal restlessness that is kicking my ass daily & preventing me from relaxing or having any kind of normalcy in my day to day life. My hope is that by understanding what is happening to me I may be better able to counter it somehow and become a nicer and more reasonable person to be around. Because right now my INTENSITY dominates everything and I am not easy to live with, I assure you that K-Sue and the rest of my family & friends will verify that. Hell I am getting on my own nerves...those few that are actually left and functioning, hardy-har-har!

So we shall see if sitting down to write about all of this makes a difference. Anyway...have a wonderful night, Y'all!

Photo: Kathy Tomson

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Earlier today I was talking to K-Sue about how stressed I was getting at times. I described myself managing all of our daily chaos (challenges) as feeling like I was constantly keeping a half-dozen or more balls in the air at any one time...much like a juggler. So in addition to being a recovering addict/alcoholic, a frantic husband and a I'm a freaking Chaos Juggler....Hey, It can be pretty cool if you can continually do it well but it really creates it's own kind of tension and pressure as well.

There are times that I have to just stop and howl at myself because this life that I am leading today is so much crazier and out of control then at any other time in my long and very eventful lifetime. And now I'm not even HIGH or DRUNK, HoHoHo! It really is a matter of just surviving each and every day at this point. My quality of life is truly irrelevant at this point because quite frankly there is no QUALITY in this life right now. is just about survival until a better time and a more reasonable place come around.

It truly does feel just like juggling...only there is more, so much more at stake if I drop the proverbial ball(s).

We will continue to toss those suckers up in the air and do our darnedest to keep the flying high above the ground until the time comes when we might trade in all the CHAOS for even a wee bit 'O serenity. Until then....

I just wanted to add in a little prayer moment for one of my Brother C's only son. He had a very traumatic experience today, basically witnessing the was a true human tragedy and it is a very difficult thing to process and live with. We are thinking about and praying for he and his folks tonight....God Bless you all!

Friday, October 3, 2014


It will be a Wednesday in November at HIGH NOON, that if all goes as planned...I will become a completely different kind of HUMAN BEING. At least physically....

Most readers here at Shell Shock Serenade know how difficult the last couple years have been because of the injury, infection and subsequent deterioration of the ankle and several other bones in my lower right leg. After 5 surgeries, countless multi-MONTH series of oral & IV anti-biotic and several expert opinions/diagnosis that there really was no chance of another operation healing these issues the way it should....I've decided that amputation was the only true chance at getting my life back.

Last week I met Dr Christian Ertl, an Amputee Specialist with Western Michigan University Medical School, I knew I had the doctor that I felt comfortable proceeding with the amputation of my lower right leg, 6" below the knee. His Grandfather, Dr Janos Ertl (1880-1951) created the procedure:The Ertl Reconstruction working with veterans of WWI. I won't even try to explain it or the difference between this procedure and a standard amputation but I feel most comfortable going in this direction.

This brings me back to that Wednesday in November because Wednesday November 19,2014 at 12 noon is when my amputation is scheduled at Bronson Methodist hospital. I will save for another post the details and how I am feeling/coping with momentous decision I've just made. This is how I wanted to announce my plans. More later...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

It Feels REAL Now!

Yesterday, Friday September 26 I went to a doctors appointment and made a decision that will dramatically change my life forever. Yes my dear friends and readers....I gave Dr Hertl the go ahead to schedule the amputation of my right leg approximately 6" or so below the knee. He must coordinate the procedure with my ankle surgeon to remove the hardware and was going to get back to me with a date. After some thought about it last night, I've decided to call the office Monday and request they schedule it no earlier then late October. I need some time to do some planning, organizing and tying off some loose ends before undergoing this very intense and time consuming process.

Because Kim was job eliminated a couple weeks ago, we no longer have her insurance, leaving me with only Medicare coverage. She can purchase coverage but it is so incredibly expensive that it is not really realistic. We are somewhat mystified by the cost because her old insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan informed us that her former company was required to provide Cobra Insurance at no more the 2% above the original cost. They want a 400% increase per month so we need to get some answers Monday morning. Either way, the surgery is not Optional, it has to be done one way or another so we will proceed regardless of what we find out. I am not thrilled about the prospect of going into major debt again but I trust that God has a plan and I need to follow HIM.

This is just one item on my mind of many we must figure out. I want to get the house/yard winterized, leaves done, lawn furniture stored, etc before the snow fly's. My father is currently in the hospital because of an infection so we have that concern as well. It would be nice if Kim get find a full time permanent position instead of the Temp Job she is working now but we are grateful she has work. 

As I said, I am not thrilled about racking up tens of thousands of dollars of more medical debt but this amputation/surgery is not a CHOICE, I have to do something because the ankle and surrounding bone is deteriorating and basically falling apart. It feels like the pain increases DAILY and I know it is weakening by the minute so there is no doubt I am ready to move forward.

It is hard to describe how I really feel about this at any given moment because it fluctuates. I will admit that I am is a big-time, MAJOR operation lasting nearly 6 hours. Follow that with 5 or so days in the hospital plus two weeks of In-Patient Therapy just for starters and it gets real frightening. It is going to be a tough, long and grueling Rehab but it is the only chance I have of getting a somewhat "normal" life back. 

But I have done the research and homework so I am prepared for it. My Surgeon is one of the best in this field in the country and the procedure that he performs to remove the leg bears his last name: The Ertl Reconstruction Procedure. It was created by his Grandfather in WWI working with Combat Amputees from the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). So he comes highly recommended and I feel very comfortable with him.

I also met the Prosthetist I will be working with and feel quite good about him and his company: HANGER as well.

I will post more later about what this all means to me after a bit of time passes and I can get my head around all of it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Chelsea Bleu

Then out spoke brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate: 
"To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late; 
And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, 
For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods, 

One verse from: Horatius by Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859)

My dearest daughter Chelsea....this is a blog post written just for you. I'm sure you are wondering: "WTF" because of the Horatius quote above thinking "What in the world does that have to do with me and my father."

The answer is it has little to do with you and everything to do with yuor Dad at this critical juncture in his life. But deep down I suspect you already know that and having known me all your life I also believe that nothing that I would write would throw you for a loop  because you truly do "know me" and what makes me...ME.

When one is experiencing a life altering experience to the degree I have been living it the last two years it often leads to many hours of reflection, questioning and thinking about the things that a person cares about the most.

I have been thinking and reflecting a great deal about you, my first born and my little, blue eyed girl. 

You have brought me many things in my life Kiddo...a wee bit of it was difficult & trying of course. But mostly you have brought your father joy, much love and my 3 grandchildren of course...who as you are well aware...I adore and cherish, as I do you.

This is a letter of gratitude, thanksgiving and ultimately LOVE. Please know deep in your heart that in the past, in the present and in the future I have and will always LOVE and adore you.

It brings this tired and trampled old SOUL much peace and serenity to know you are there for your Daddy. Your efforts to stay in touch and connected are more appreciated NOW then you will ever know.  For me....knowing all of this in my heart is a priceless emotional, psychological and spiritual commodity. It cannot and will not ever be taken for granted or mishandled by me. It is a cherished gift, as all of you are to me, not only during these tough, trying and incredibly difficult days but forevermore. 

Thank you, Chels. Please know that Dad loves you more and more each day. God Bless you and your wonderful brood....I very much hope to see you all very soon. Love D


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Turning Toward the CHAOS

It is Sunday night and for some reason....Sunday's are particularly difficult for me...they always have been, especially the nights. For the last decade of my career at Herman Miller, Inc., I oversaw a 3rd shift production operation so I would spend the entire day Sunday just waiting to go to a job that was in fact killing me and that I had come to despise. I can't begin to explain the entire situation but like many corporations at that time, we were downsizing and struggling to come to terms with an economy that was not friendly for the Office Furniture Industry and unbeknownst to us headed toward catastrophe. The pressure and stress of work during that period of my career was unbearable and destructive to one's well-being and ultimately, self-esteem.

 Our plant and Operations in general suffered from not just poor leadership but actually from no leadership at all. It was a fear based situation....plain and simple.Everyone from the top down was just trying to protect their own ass and survive, often at the expense of others. It was a hellish work environment made worse by the fact that I personally was working ungodly hours, for thankless management and could not ever get any reasonable amount of proper sleep. Ultimately this reality was made more impossible by the fact that I received no real support on the home front. In hindsight it seems obvious now that my absence from home was actually welcomed, even though it was obviously hurting me & beginning to unravel my health and spirit. The truth is though I wasn't aware of it marriage of some 14 years was over.

I'm not sure why I chose to share that tonight. I really have not spoken much about that time or specific situation...the memory of it all is still so impossibly painful and hard to understand/accept. I guess my strange mood this evening may have something to do with all that is happening in regards to my leg injury and illness from an unknown infection that has been strangling the very spirit and life out of me for the last two years. What makes it even more difficult is that even though people act sympathetic and care...after all this time I think they are sick of hearing about it and just want it and me to go away from them if I can't seem to get any better. That is my perception anyway...

Coping and living with long term illness and pain is a lonely business. Ultimately it is just you in the end who must fight their way through the adversity. I know I'm struggling more at this point in time because I have an appointment coming on Friday morning with a brand new surgeon and I am seemingly starting all over again with all the hassle, frustration and ass-load of testing/questions and  insensitive opinions that go along with beginning the medical process again with someone new. All of this has been complicated further by the fact that a week ago tomorrow, my wife Kim had her job and the shift she worked on eliminated do to consolidation/downsizing. 

She has actually bounced back nicely and has a good position with great permanent job potential through a temp service. What really troubles me is that through all of these major medical changes, she has always been right there by my side, supporting me and more importantly being a critical consultant when I am faced with hard choices to make. I am facing the amputation of my right leg so naturally I am going to face some tough decisions and hard choices. Because she is working a new job there is no way she can take the time off work to ride to Kalamazoo with me to that appointment. It feels like I am going into battle without ammo for my rifle....I feel vulnerable. 

Others had offered to accompany me but I don't really want anyone else to go on this trip, they are useless as far as the decision making process is concerned. I appreciate the thought and offer but this is a place for K-Sue, especially in our situation where we trust and completely understand one another fully. She is really bothered by this and wants to just take the time off but it would be employment suicide after less then a full week with the company.

The only thing that has sustained me through this terrible ordeal is being able to level with her about how I am feeling an what I am thinking. I have tried this with others I trust and whose judgement I value only to find that through no fault of their own, they can't really understand and often misinterpret my meaning leading to a misunderstanding. I had it happen today actually and then I just get distracted and feel bad about those things when in reality I really need to be working toward a resolution and focusing on the task at hand.

So this is one battle I will have face alone...just me and God. Frankly there has been some much adversity  and trials by fire lately that it is difficult at times to see God's hand in all of this. But I understand that I must trust and move toward the chaos...for there is no turning back now. Ultimately all of this is his will so I have to persevere. And  so that is just what I intend to do...