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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 fearful...it 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, especially the nights. For the last decade of my career at HMI, 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 a 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 envirement 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 yet...my 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 nearly two years now. 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... 


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

SHATTERED (Jars of Clay)




I know I am going to start losing some of the few readers we have here on SSS if I continue to write less then positive, happy blog posts but unfortunately this blog is about the daily life of a single person who just happens to be ME. And that certain person without a doubt has been facing an inordinate amount of big-time adversity as of late. And yesterday there was more adversity piled on top of what was already there.

My wife Kim had her shift at work and the job that went along with it eliminated yesterday after the parent company was sold to another owner. She is now without a job and I am left without the additional insurance that job provided that was going to help immensely in off-setting the costs of my right leg amputation and subsequent prosthetic expenses. I still have medicare but that covers only part of the huge medical bills that have come with my now nearly 2 year long broken leg/ankle and infection ordeal with it's half a dozen operations and nearly a months worth of hospital time.

Obviously it was a blow but in this day and age the job elimination was not wholly unexpected...there were signs. Especially noticeable to me who spent nearly thirty years working in manufacturing in a large factory in Zeeland, MI making Office Furniture. The last third of that in management, so it was obvious to me that changes were potentially on the horizon. And sure enough...the hunch was correct.

Kim and I are choosing to look on this as an opportunity to grow and move her career into a better direction. The company she worked for was quite frankly a joke, treating a large percentage of their employees as less then human. And honestly...I am not exaggerating about this...they were hostile to their people, it was a constantly threatening environment and they were prejudicial to woman and Caucasians. Yea...unfortunately you read that correctly. I just about had Kim convinced to file a formal complaint on those grounds....if she had they would have had a very difficult time laying her off without inviting a major law suit. But as it is, we waited and probably lost the opportunity to at least make them sweat a little.

Oh well, here we go again. Kim already has a temp job lined up for 7a tomorrow morning. It is a 4 week assignment but it keeps the money flowing in as we plan out the strategy for the future. We honestly believe GOD has a plan for all this but in all honesty if would be tough to take much more pain and adversity...The truth of the matter is that we have really gotten our arses kicked around here the last 22 months or so. We've been ruined financially and have been pushed, shoved and beaten to the very farthest edge of human endurance. We can only trust God and we will....we have no trust for people, governments with all of their lies and false pretenses.

I only wish I was young and fit enough to join the military, it would be a hi-light of my life and a huge honor...as it is, that is most certainly one of my life's major regrets....that I never served my country in uniform. I was scheduled to be sworn in to the Army and ship out in the Spring of 1984 (right after my daughter Chelsea was born) but I ended up interviewing for and taking a job in West Michigan and moved there on short notice from Columbus, Ohio, where I had grown up. I know now that it was the best choice for me at the time with a young family but I've had regrets about it ever since. Today I would gladly sacrifice my very life for my county. I believe it would be more then a fair trade to offer an old man up in place of a young person who has their whole life still ahead of them. I would do it in a heartbeat, even with my disabilities and pain if they only would take me and find a way to put me to use.

Alas...it isn't to be...so we put one foot in front of the other and take life One Day At A Time. Both K and I take great comfort from Scripture...today it 'tis 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 that really hit's so very close to home...God Bless Y'all.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Unexpected Adversity...So What the HELL Else is NEW!??



On Monday September the 8th I woke up knowing that this was the day I had been looking toward as the final decision day concerning my lower right leg. I had spent the previous 7 weeks trying to enjoy the remainder of the summer and decide if I should proceed with an amputation or have another lengthy and painful fusion surgery. It was an agreement I made with my physician, Dr G------ during the last appointment I had w/him. It should have been a simple matter of deciding and setting a date/time for whatever surgery I chose.

As is typical with this 2 year long nightmare, it ended up becoming a huge, confusing mess  of misleading promises and poor communication on the doctor's side. So as I sit and type this out today I am no longer going to that surgeon...after agreeing to do the amputation...he decided that he did not feel comfortable doing it. It felt like a betrayal. I have an appointment with another surgeon in the Kalamazoo area, this time at Western Michigan University Hospital on Friday September 26 at 9:45am. Unfortunately my worst nightmare concerning the preparation for this procedure has taken place: I am starting over from scratch.

I have no idea except the old Doctor's word, which has proven worthless to me to go by that this is an appointment to move forward on amputation yet the different nurses and staff involved continuously refer to this as a "second opinion" and an appointment to discuss alternatives to lessening my great pain and discomfort. I am not even sure that this new surgeon will even do an amputation, though that is his specialty. I am quite heartbroken and the discouragement is so great that I do not want to continue on having to forge another relationship or start again with a multitude of tests, etc.

I realize that this must be God's will but I am weary and honestly do not know how much more I can endure without losing my mind.

That is where I am at the moment with this. I will continue to post updates but nearly a week has gone by with out my commenting on the decision I made and since many friends and family members were thinking about and praying for me...I felt compelled to communicate what the situation was at the moment. Thank you my friends for your love and continuous thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Descending Toward Despair....When The Rain Came.


The day was pleasant and it had been awhile since we had a really nice one around here. I was fully enjoying the opportunity to get outside and feel alive again...Suddenly, a strong line of Thunder-Storms followed by heavy rain showers moved in and washed away the once, nice and enjoyable day. Much like a rain front moving through...Depression can descend suddenly...often appearing from nowhere turning a bright, sun-shiny "emotional" day into a cool, wet and grey one reminiscent of today's weather.

I have been experiencing these type of sudden downturns in my mood more frequently in recent days. Certainly this is understandable since I am planning on having my right leg amputated as soon as practical after my doctor's appointment Monday morning. Still this is not a typical pattern for me and these "lows" are dangerously low at times. Despondent isn't too strong of a word in describing them.

In a way I was prepared for this and my faith has been more then adequate in combating these sudden swings for the the most part. But still they suck, he he he. All one can do is hold on and hang tough cause they too shall pass....and they always have.

Quite frankly I would be more concerned if I felt nothing at all out of the ordinary with all of this happening soon, basically just over the horizon.

The key here for me is simple:

Do not isolate, stay connected with the people who care about me and keep communicating well how I am feeling and what I am thinking, especially with Kimmi. I can visit some pretty darn dark places in my head so I just have to be sure I don't settle down and reside there for any length of time. 

Again...it is my connection to the Lord that keeps me moving forward and focusing on the things that are important. If I stay connected with HIM everything else seems to fall into place and I can proceed through this adversity and focus on those I love and what is important.  One Day At A Time!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

COUNTDOWN To...The DECISION


Jeez, I wish I knew the answer to the question that I am now asked more then any other..."Have you decided if you are going to amputate your leg or have another surgery?" Er....the answer changes...frequently in my mind, it sort of depends on how I'm feeling...I suppose. 


The answer most logical to me is that I should move forward with the amputation and get on with my life. It really is what I want to do....most of the time. And that last thought there at the end is the true stumbling block to making this an easy decision...."most of the time"


Because once in a great while I still have doubts about going through with it. Shoot, wouldn't you?! Hell yea anybody would and I think that is a most natural and NORMAL way to feel.


Who, I wonder...ever thinks they will have to face such a question as this one. There is no way to possibly prepare for it. It was completely unexpected....even when I knew that it must be coming because of the circumstance.


The impact of this illness and the aftermath, the sheer trauma involved in having to CHOOSE to cut of your right leg is tragic and mind numbing in it's difficulty and the legacy it will most definitely leave.


Am I fearful, it is asked? Yes...I am often afraid and frankly I feel no shame in feeling that way. My life has turned toward the surreal...full time. 


This experience has shaken me to the very core of my existence....straight through to my SOUL. It has shaken my faith, it has me questioning the love and friendship of those closest to me and brought out of me the old Ogre....MISTRUST. I often find that I do not trust anyone once again...no one can really understand this unless they've been there. But I know the mistrust is dangerous and it isolates a person when they need their friends & family the most.


But what can one man do but persevere...just keep pushing through the gale to find the port in the storm with it's calmer seas. So that is what one must do during these days of trial, uncertainty and such unbearable pain.


Until the next time...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Stones of Remembrance


'Tis a cliche I know but life, and this most certainly applies to my life...can be an adventure...as any life that is well lived should be, me thinks. Lately I have been reflecting back on said life....the ups...the downs and all that is in-between. In doing so it occurs to me that there are certain transition points or phases to it. These most often happen on their own accord and in my case it was usually is serious change and often trauma and/or a crisis that instigates and defines these phases.

The best example is when I found sobriety in June of 2006 and then followed that up several years later by becoming a Christian in the winter of 2011. What I have noticed now, much to my joy is that when I experience one of these "Remembrance or Sign-Points" in my life today it seems to be marked by a particular passage of scripture instead of just a major crisis. 

The first and most obvious example to me is how Luke 9:23-25 played such a significant role in my journey toward accepting Christ into my life.

(And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?) Luke 9:23-25
More recently...Joshua 1:9 has played an equally significant part in my transition toward accepting my eventual leg amputation and subsequent life as an amputee. It has made a huge difference in connecting the events happening to me today to the overall Will of God and how I can not only have the courage and perseverance to live through this current adversity but to grow and actually thrive as a Follower of Christ as well.

       "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”      Joshua 1:9      

Scripture.....These "Holy Stepping Stones" have guided me through the torrents of pain/uncertainty and the insidious searing red hot coals of emotional and spiritual chaos. They are now beacons on a dark night, ports of safety in the storm which has become my life of late. Spiritual food I not only now crave but demand for continuous life as a Follower of Christ. Their memory often will mark forever a moment of clarity leading to profound change in me or my life. At times they "only" represent but a brief moment of enlightenment, a twinkle in the Eye of LIFE ITSELF. 
                                                                                                                                   
 

Living all out....today is the goal....as good and as hard as I possibly can. And the reason for such a desire to live "hard", to fulfill the cup to it's most FULL? To Honor and GLORIFY the one who brought me here of course. This direction is as clear in my life today as any has ever been. There is NO grey area...no ambiguity or false pretense. 

I no longer accept mediocrity or half measures....and why should I. It is a fact of my life that I got sick and it turns out that this is no ordinary little illness....in fact I will lose a portion of my right leg below the knee, at the very least. So what have I got to lose by living to the utmost of my ability, full out with no hesitation to show with certainty why I am here, today, tomorrow and always....and that is to live for HIM.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Intensity of a Hopeful HEART


I have lived life pretty much to the fullest these last 52 years. I've had a vast and broad variety of experiences. From the routine & mundane to the outrageous, exciting and bizarre. I've gone from being shot at in a bar on the Short North End of my home-town, Columbus, Ohio to having the distinct privilege of being named the Godfather of my niece Katie, truly a special honor plus every other type of experience in between. 

But I'd have to say these past 19 months or so take the cake for their sheer madness and emotional upheaval. And honestly that isn't a totally negative thing...trust me.


Speaking of TRUST, that is an area of my life where the trials and tribulations of recent months have created an amazing change in me in a rather short period of time. Until 5 weeks or so ago I would have to say that I was trapped deeply beneath an avalanche of DEPRESSION related emotion and my attitude and outlook were bordering on suicidal. I was losing HOPE that anything good would result from the catastrophic experience of breaking my leg, having it infected with the infection spreading to bone then blood, getting the ankle fused then having the bone refuse to grow together resulting in the failure of a total non-union surgical result. In addition to the physical pain and difficulty, the endless & crushing medical expenses basically destroyed Kim and I financially. It was and is the single worst series of experiences in my entire life...I never dared to think that we could ever even begin to recover physically, emotionally,  psychologically or spiritually.


Then something deep inside me changed. I don't recall the exact moment and there was no flash of lightening or explosion but the change was sudden and PROFOUND: I suddenly and without hesitation trusted that GOD had a plan for me and that my sole responsibility in this was to soldier on as positively as I possibly could. Hope became a reality again and I started to believe with all my heart that anything was truly possible and that I needed to FIGHT On with all my might...for God was leading the way. Yes, it sounds cliche but frankly my friends...that is exactly how it felt inside.


I have not had a suicidal thought or inclination since that moment. And though nothing about this life, this experience and the very serious life-altering decisions that I must still make within the next 4 weeks is simple or easy...it is now obviously POSSIBLE. And I will then move on with my life to live to it's very fullest, first and foremost to honor and glorify GOD, The CREATOR of it all.


Many people continue to ask if I have made the decision to have the right leg removed 6" below the knee or to try another, more intensive and robust Infection Treatment/Fusion Surgery. The honest truth is that if I had to decide today...I would opt for the amputation and get on with my life. Recovery time is a fraction of what the Hardware Removal Surgery, Infection Treatment and finally the second Fusion Surgery would be...about 6 to 12 months (with a working Prosthetic Rt Leg after 2 months) as compared to 18 to 36 MONTHS!


I am not getting any younger and time is beginning to pass me by...I want to LIVE...not just TREAD WATER anymore while I wait for some thing good to happen (which NEVER did!).

Before I sign off here I want to thank EVERYONE involved in my life in any way, shape or form. I would not be here today, moving toward the future without all of the various kinds of support that I have received. I am profoundly GRATEFUL...God Bless all of YOU!

Photo by Kathy Tomson 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

This UPDATE is for YOU!!


I  just realized that I should have been recording the days since my original injury because it would have been so much more interesting and dramatic to open these blog entries by writing: "Ankle Fusion/Potential Amputation Update, Day 423..."

Leave it to me of course to assume that simply having the potential to lose my right leg due to injury somehow is not INTERESTING ENOUGH, HaHa.


For those of you who have asked how it's going and want to know if I have made a decision...This Update is for YOU!


All things considered....I am doing pretty darn well. I accept what is happening to me and for the most part I do not sit around feeling sorry for myself. I have found the Amputation Coalition Organization and they have been extremely helpful in providing information and resources to help me make my decision. They even are setting up some meetings with amputees who will share their experience, strength and hope about their amputation. I am in a very good place this early in the game.


I have not made a final decision but honestly, all things considered I am definitely leaning toward removing the leg....6" below the knee.


So that is really all there is to the story at the moment. I have put on a great deal of weight in the last 20 months but I am fearful of changing my diet because I am having so much trouble eating and I am so sick most of the time.


I just really want to get this new stage in my life and start to live again. At the moment, with the knowledge and information available to me right now, amputation seems like by far the best way to make that dream come true...