Posted in Family, Fitness, Reviews, Social Issues

2018: The Year I Almost Died

That, actually, is a headline all of us could legitimately use for every year we lived in and didn’t die. The truth is, we don’t know all the small and large things happening around us that brought us just the smallest distance from death, both accidental and intentional, by people’s moves around us. Most of them accidental, of course.

But I am ending 2018 with the knowledge the an employee of my dentist of 20 years let the personal inconvenience I might have caused her in getting to her long weekend on time lead her to lie to me and not inform the dentist that I had stopped by with a serious dental problem that turned out to be a serious dental/sinus infection that could have spilled over to infect my brain by the time their office was open for business 6 days later.

If I hadn’t spent the next three hours wandering around Kearney, MO on foot looking for anyone who could advise me or treat my condition, being turned away from three different dental practices that were themselves booked full, and being told by a CVS minit clinic that they couldn’t help me on a dental issue, even though it involved my teeth cutting and gashing my tongue open, only to land back at the dentists office just before they left for lunch at 1 p.m. (their last appointment of the day turned out to be 2 p.m.) I never would have known that they had never discussed my issue with the dentist.

All of this is so very disjointed. Perhaps I should put a little chronology in place.

Ever since moving to Missouri in 1997 I had been the patient of Dr. W.R. Reed DDS, since he had been the dentist of my wife and her parents from when she lived in Missouri previously.

My kids went to his son-in-law, Dr. Kevin C Allman DDS, who shared the office with him, though not the practice.

Somewhere during the past couple of years, without any announcements being made to us, Dr. Reed took breaks for surgeries, and ultimately retired, and we found ourselves as patients of Dr. Allman.

During that time frame we had moved from living near Kearney to living near North Kansas City, but continued our journeys to Kearney for Dental care and also eye care, which we have and continue to have with Dr. Barry Bowles, O.D., of Kearney Vision Care.

While we have had nothing but good care and service with Kearney Vision Care, our dental care has become more problematic. The four day a week dental schedules have proved trying at times, as has getting any contacts for emergency dental care when teeth have cracked or fallen out. In the past couple of years my wife has dealt with teeth where fillings have fallen out, leaving sharp edges that gouges her cheek and tongue so it was impossible for her to talk because the effort caused her tooth to rip apart her tongue. That required a wait to get into the dentist’s schedule. And it required my struggle with the receptionist to convince them to get her in.

During one of those episodes Dr. Alman had mentioned that a sharp edge could be smoothed off with a piece of fine sand paper. So when I started having issues with sharp edges on a tooth of mine, I started using the fine sand paper from a bicycle tire repair kit to take care of the issue. I certainly didn’t want to wait to get into the dentist’s office.

So we had me taking care of my own sharp edges, which seemed to work. And during this timeframe I continued to have the issues I usually do with biting my cheek or lip, though sometimes I wondered if they weren’t getting more prevalent. Dr. Reed had at times smoothed teeth out to prevent this, and it had seemed to help, but dental checkups are months apart, and a lot can happen in that timeframe.

During the past month, say between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I seem to have an eruption of both sharpened teeth, cheek biting, and a sinus cough that seemed not excessive but incessant, and often interrupted my sleep for hours. I sanded my teeth more and more frequently, and during these weeks ended up with a gash in my tongue that made eating a chore to prevent irritating it. At one point it seemed I was sanding teeth on all sides of my mouth until suddenly things seemed better, except that the gash was there.

This lasted for a few days, and then suddenly, right at Christmas, it wasn’t sharp teeth everywhere, but as-if all my teeth had decided to move and slant inwards so my mouth became too small for my tongue to fit into it. It wasn’t too bad on Christmas, but by the day after I could not swallow or eat anything without my teeth abrading my tongue and irritating the gash near the place where I had smoothed the most serious of the sharp edges. And even though the edge wasn’t sharp, it hurt my tongue like skewers to have it touched anywhere near the gash.

Since my dentist would be closed Friday, and not open again until Wednesday for New Years, I decided to see how I was on Thursday morning.

It was worse, so we ran an errand for the kids at 9 a.m., which took longer than intended, and then called the dentist’s office, while on the way (though the receptionist did not know we were driving there as we called, my pain and anxiety over my condition being that severe). We were greeted with an its too bad sort of tone to the greeting that told us they were fully booked. To which we asked if the doctor could be talked to for advising on what to do about the pain. I had already given my name, and the receptionist asked me to give a number I could be reached so they could talk to the doctor when he had a break from a patient. To which I gave my phone number that they had on record, and heard the phone hang up without any pleasantry of ending.

So we continued our drive to the doctor’s office. My wife stopped off in the bathroom on the way in, so she didn’t see receptionist glare at me when I stepped up to the window in the office. When she finally said anything to me it was “why didn’t you call me back?”

“Because you told me you would be calling me back.”

“But you never left me a number.”

“I did, and then you hung up on me.”

“You hung up on me.”

“I gave my entire number and then the phone went dead.”

“No you didn’t.”

“Ah, I see, there was a misunderstanding, I gave my number and was certain you had gotten it, but your phone disconnected before you heard it.”

“Why didn’t you call me back.”

” Why would I call you back when I thought you had the number?”

“But you didn’t give me the number.”

“Yes, I can see this was a misunderstanding.”

“Why didn’t you call back?”

“I couldn’t call back when I thought you had the number.”

“You should have called me back.”

“I admit it was a misunderstanding. Does it matter whose fault it is? Can we just ask the doctor to advise on what to do.”

“We don’t have any openings. You should have called back.”

“Then I will just sit down over here until the doctor has a moment to advise what to do about my condition until he has time to look at me.”

When I went to sit down I was told there was no reason for me to be staying around. That they had no appointments. That I should leave.

When I wailed in pain, to match the volume of the receptionist responding to me, “why are you sending me away when I am in such pain!”

She said I had to leave at once for yelling in an office and upsetting their patients. I knew I couldn’t win that one — they would call the police for not leaving their private property, as they had the right to do. But since my wife had arrived near the end and not said anything. I told them I would leave, but asked her to stay and wait until the doctor could talk to her.

But they wouldn’t let her stay, and the hygienist said should would be afraid to be in the same room with my wife.

So I left while my wife also left and called back. The receptionist talked to her in a condescending tone and told her she would talk to the dentist and get back to her once he had a break from a patient.

Three hours later they hadn’t called either of us. I could detail what I did in those three hours, on foot, trying to find someone to help me. But the important point is that I finally wasted my efforts and had my wife join me back at the dentist’s parking lot. Where the dentist and staff just happened to be leaving for lunch at 1 p.m., and the basically the day, since they were closing early, without having said anything to the doctor, and definitely not calling us back about anything.

Dr. Allman talked to my wife, because I dared not talk to anyone lest they make good on their earlier threat to call the police on me. He told me to come back at 2:45 after his last appointment.

When he did examine me it turned out not to be my teeth that had moved, but my tongue that had gotten so enlarged that the pressure made imprints of my teeth on the edge of the tongue. And he could see the gouge in the lower right of the tongue that had a mirroring inflammation on the left side without an apparent gouge or reason. So he prescribed a pain opiod and an antibiotic even though he wasn’t sure there was an infection.

He had asked me what hurt, and I had told him I couldn’t tell whether it was the tongue or the teeth or the gums at any one point. But I can tell you now that I know that the inflammation and congestion in all my tissues that is was all three and my sinuses as well. My filing of the tooth might have eliminated the source of major irritation, but not before it let something in to infect my systems, and went through all of my tissues and cavities. The tongue became a roadway for something.

And that receptionist’s concern with getting out on time would have allowed me to suffer through 6 more days of buildup, if I was fortunate enough to last that long, or realize that I needed to get to the emergency room before all those overloaded systems in my head dumped over and overloaded the protection for my brain or some other equally vital component.

When I finally got the prescriptions later that evening from the pharmacy, and started to feel the effects spread through my system, by morning the swelling was down far enough in my tongue to not have jabs of pain every time I swallowed or tried to eat something. But it also let me feel the other places in my head where the infection and pressures had penetrated, and still give me moments when I cannot mentally form words, and have problems putting things down to writing.

Is my title claim to this blog dramatic? Yes, Is it hyperbole? No. Is the likelihood of my actually dying a stretch? No. Was the percentage that high? Probably not, but it definitely was a plausible possibility. And the pain and misery that would have occurred in any of the cases is definitely sure, and definitely was preventable.

I shouldn’t have had to risk the threat of being hauled off by the police to get my dentist to take a look at an urgent case on his steps that took him less than 15 minutes — less time than the receptionist took trying to avoid doing something about it. The real tragedy, beyond the one I described, is that she actually took more time trying to save time by allowing me more pain (I have yet to describe my 3 hours running around Kearney, or what else ensued during my day), than she would have by offering me the minimal service I should have been able to expect.

All this to say, I need to go to that dentist again. But I cannot stay with him. I cannot use a dentist who will allow his staff to mistreat a patient so, and to accept care from people who I cannot trust to treat me in a safe and humane way.

Posted in Fitness

Fitness Update: long weekends and slow weeks

It is hard to detail, especially on a post, what made up my week, fitness wise.  I did a lot of physical activity, but little of it organized in the workout categories that I wanted.  I also had long days on the weekend — going from work to home, and then by the time I got my homestuff done the night was short, and so I get into the week, and rather than work to the full schedule I intended, I get up late, rest, lazy, get my stuff done by the end of the day, but a later end.

It is a cycle that has to be cut short. By intent, by discipline. Which I will exercise soon, and flop, and then again, until the cycle gets better.  I’ve proven in August that I can get the activities back, even if for short times, so now I can go longer.


Posted in Fitness, Uncategorized

Fitness Update: Bacon to lower cholesterol

I can remember the first cholesterol screening I had — at least the one I was aware of receiving and given the numbers for.

It was back in my 20s and I was working for The Corning Leader.  My number was like 106 and the news editor Mark got a high number on his screening.  He asked me what you do to get such a good number.

I rattled off my usual  breakfast of the time, bacon, eggs, etc.,  “I can’t eat all that”. He said.

“Mark” I said, those are the things you are NOT supposed to eat, and I eat them, and still have low cholesterol.”

When discussing fitness, there is always the nature/nurture process going on.  One can go all the “right” nurture things but the nature just isn’t the one to respond. One can also glide along on the nature thing, giving oneself credit for them as if they were items you have nurtured.

I think about that recently as I look at my stage of life, and the ups and downs of my fitness activities, and how I still manage to glide through so many things.  I can’t take credit for my nature portion, but I can learn the most about myself, and what things nurture me best, not what nurtures the “average” person.

Fat and greens seem to be a fairly important diet item for me, along with protein.  Those grains and carbs, well, they come along for the ride, but don’t need to be sought, apparently.

Posted in Fitness

Fitness update: no pattern

Well this week was a mixed medley of various outings.

There were runs and jogs with cooling walks. There was biking with long brakes for reading. The Viking came about because I realized my legs are cramping from the unbalanced use are the muscles caused by only running and not biking. Doing more activity DID help them.

But none of them were programmed/planned for length or intensity.

One of the runs was a very enjoyable in the rain on/off wetness before the sun type.

So how well does randomness work in a fitness program. Can it be maintained as a planned routine.

Okay, enough time for the humor. But randomness can play some part in a routine, but random is hard to maintain as a consistent feature — because it is no longer random.


Posted in Fitness

Fitness Update: An actual jog

This week’s fitness update is a lot about surviving the heat.

I am not sure if they were record highs, but it was a hot week. Yet that didn’t change the hours that I worked outside.

I worked the tickets venue twice and the treasures venue once. And amazingly, the hotter of the two tickets days was the more bearable.  The humidity had dropped slightly, and there were natural breezes that made it actually pleasant to be outside in them  (in the shade, at least).

I also got in a bit of swimming, trying to remember if I got any biking, but did get in a couple of good, short jogs. I might finally be getting over a certain exhaustion that had turned my jogging into more of a fast walk. I am getting a jogging pace that I can maintain indefinitely that is actually a jog again.


Posted in Fitness, Uncategorized

Fitness Update: When the dog breaks a toe

Well, I have had fitness obstacles from having broken bones in both hands that meant a cast on one and splint on the other for a couple of months. But I have never had my fitness held up by an injury from the dog.

Rocky broke a toe on his right rear foot. That means that I don’t give him his  mile bike ride in the morning. So instead I have been taking a jog (often more of a walk) or a bike ride of my own during or around that time.

I am getting time in, but tempo and distance aren’t as great as previously.  I need to plan a specific regimen if I want to get back into racing again. But the key is to keep something going, instead of a stoppage to nothing.

Posted in Fitness, Uncategorized

Fitness Update: Leg not-exactly-cramps

This week was the trip to LibertyCon, which meant a hiatus in regular scheduled activities.

But it didn’t mean a lack of fitness attempts.  I swam once, did a lot of walking, and while my sleep schedule was off kilter, managed to keep getting sleep and naps in between events to keep the energy and alertness going.

But the sitting, especially during driving, seems to have created, or resurfaced, a certain sort of uneasiness along a section of the left leg, from top to bottom. Standing up and moving helps it decrease, but it doesn’t always go away.

It is seldom, though sometimes, pain, more often uneasiness. When mentioned people first assume I am talking about cramps, and while I have cramps at various times, this isn’t cramps.

So I am not sure what it is.  Stretching, which I haven’t done as rigorously as I previously did, also helps. But if it doesn’t go away, I think another trip to the chiropractor, whom I haven’t seen in awhile, is in order.

Posted in Fitness

Fitness Update: Heat

We have  been having some hot weather here is the Kansas City area, not enough yet to make us think the rest of the summer will be hot, but enough to expect this to be one of several spells of heat we are likely to get.

In non-fitness posts I have mentioned starting gardening again this year, and our unique corn growing method. I’m not going to discuss the growing method here. I’m going to make an observation about corn, and then, make it fit into fitness.

My dad told me that corn grew to maturity in a certain number of “degree days”. Corn grows when the temperature gets to a certain point, I think around 60, and then grows until the temperature is too hot, after 90. The number of growinh days where the temperature stay in that range are the degree days, and a certain number of them is required for maturity.

So a day can be either too hot or  too cold for the corn to grow. On a hot Illinois day, when it creeps to night, you might walk into a corn field and hear it crackling from the growth. All the pent up energy collected during the day, when it was too hot to grow, is being made up during the night, when it is finally cool enough.

My fitness for people note is that heat, or cold, should affect our ability to make the gains, or the performance we expect from workouts. I have noticed that I need to wear a sweat band virtually any time I am outside doing anything anymore. The performance of my body does well keeping up with the heat, but it does so by a VERY efficient and prodigious use of my eccrine glands to perspire.

Make sure you adjust appropriately for the temperature, and that you don’t get stressed when system like the eccrine glands are doing their duty to regulate your body’s temperature. Getting nervous about this natural and beneficial process makes you both physically and psychologically more stressed and less productive.

So I have, for example, been taking jogs, interspersed with short runs and walks, that keep me working out but put the heat level where I want it. It determines my pace of the day. And thus endurance is better.


Posted in Fitness, Uncategorized

Fitness Update: Bicycle anecdote

Since I don’t bicycle to work on a regular basis anymore, I don’t have that part of my usual fitness regimen to keep me active.

But I did get the encouragement from talking to one of y Madrigal singer friends, who has apparently taken up a similar fitness regimen — or like me possibly also a practical economic regimen — of riding a bicycle to work.

While giving him a lift from rehearsal home yesterday (carpooling is always a good economic and environmental idea), we got to talking about his latest bicycle leg bruise, which brought up the whole topic of cycling.

What came of it is how hard it is to get started. You have so little relative stamina at that point. But if you just keep going, soon you find out that you are climbing long hills without stopping that a short while ago would have had you walking and stopping several times.

We also discussed the benefit and handicap of computer and mobile app route makers. Google Maps sometimes gives really good, and sometimes really poor, advice on what routes to take.

But overall, the encouragement was to keep at it, and to keep learning about the better ways of doing it.