Speaking of Annoying Noises

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About four days ago, I was in the basement and heard a chirping beep—just like the sound a smoke alarm makes to alert you to a low battery; you know, the one that makes you scratch your head and say, “Am I hearing things? What was that?” Except in this case the sound was not coming from any of the smoke detectors, at least none that I could find. Eventually I became convinced that it was coming from above the ceiling sheetrock, and further convinced that some contractor had put up sheetrock over a smoke detector. Then I became convinced that it was coming from a big junction box for our ductless mini-split system. Connor was convinced it was coming from another device, but that didn’t sound right to me. It started making increasingly shrill sounds at intervals.

I finally texted Plumber Mike, asking if it could be from the ductless system, and he said, Maybe. He and his assistant came by today to check it out. They searched and searched, going through all the same suspicions I had. But it was not coming from the ductless system, or the other. Finally they found it:

It’s a battery-powered leak detector that used to be attached to one of our old water heaters. At some point it must have gotten kicked off, and someone carelessly put it up on a shelf. A high shelf, well out of sight. Where it sat until its batteries ran low, and its trilling could confound the allegedly wise.

The batteries are out now, and it is in the trash. Sanity, for the moment, is restored.

The Evolution of O2

They came and took away my oxygen concentrator, and also almost a dozen small tanks that were clustered in the other room. In their place, they left a new oxygen concentrator—one that I think puts out a flow closer to the advertised rate—and a Dalek-like machine that sits on top, which refills tanks while I sleep. Now, instead of being limited to the ten smallish tanks that I was allowed per month, I have only two, but I can use them as fast as I can fill them.

This is for going out, of course, especially for dog walks. I’ve learned that my clever Inogen portable concentrator (POC) is fine for going out to the store or whatever, or just knocking about where exertion is low. But when it gets more aerobic, like dog-walking, it just can’t keep up with my needs as well as a small tank in a backpack. I believe this is because the POC gives the O2 in little pulses when I inhale, which is less assistance than a tank on continuous flow. The duration of a tank is shorter, of course, but all I need is 30-40 minutes to walk the dogs, and for that it’s better.

The new machine has a different and no less annoying continuous drone from the old one, and since it’s near where Allysen works all day, I spent that afternoon putting together some sound baffling to try to cut the decibels. That part is still a work in progress.

So, How’s Your O2?

The last two weeks have been all about oxygen. O2. Breathing stuff. Not that important until you’re not getting enough. Two weeks ago is when the first oxygen supplies arrived. (In case you missed it, the reason for my oxygen is spelled out in Pulmonary Fibrosis and Me.) We now have the constant drone and rhythmic ptoosh of a big oxygen concentrator, which sits centrally located in our apartment and sends supplemental oxygen through a network of green tubes laid out through the house: one to the bedroom, one through the bedroom and up through a hole in the closet ceiling to my office, overhead, and one that I just snake around behind me as I move about. I’m on the O2 most of the time, to keep my blood saturation levels up. I can go off for short periods, but if I’m active, my O2 percentage will drop right into the 80s, percentage-wise, which isn’t great. Most people are pretty stable around 97-98, as I used to be. Also, staying on the O2 seems to reduce my coughing. Here’s the big guy.

Also, I bought a secondhand portable concentrator that I can wear in a backpack when I’m out doing things like walking the dogs.

I never knew walking the dogs was such an aerobic activity! I really have to pace myself. But as promised, I have increased my daily exercising—leg lifts, crunches, etc., before getting out of bed. The highlight is forty squats and forty pushups while the coffee is brewing. That’s something to look forward to every morning! (Not really.) Stopping between sets to breathe really hard and wait for the O2 to come back up, that’s the ticket. Here’s my cool ring oximeter.

Sometimes I get sick of the cannula in my nose and I switch over to Darth Jeff mode. I sound just like the guy in the black suit.

Weird thing about in-home oxygen supplies: It apparently has never occurred to any of these companies that people might need to split their O2 feed into different rooms. They’ll give you the hoses and connectors and cannulas that you need, but when you ask about a splitter valve, they wonder what language you’re speaking. Well, okay, I thought, you can get anything on Amazon, right? Um… After much searching online, I did eventually find a link to a really overpriced two-way plastic valve that works (the gray one on top of the machine). A week later I realized I needed more, and eventually I found the brass gizmo with the yellow knobs. I had to MacGyver a connector between them, because no one seems to make an O2 connector that’s female on both ends. It’s not rocket science, people! Lots of folks are out there looking for the same solutions as I was, but you can’t get it off the shelf. Victory to those who can think outside the box. I feel like I’m controlling a submarine here.

But how am I doing? you ask. Well, some days I feel kind of discouraged. Most days I soldier on. You’re not taking me without a fight, dammit. I’ve got stuff to do!

36th Anniversary!

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A few days ago, Allysen and I celebrated our thirty-sixth wedding anniversary. Here we are having dinner on the sidewalk patio of the Town Tavern, right here in Arlington.

Pulmonary Fibrosis and Me

Time for some sobering talk. A number of months ago, I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), which is a scarring and thickening of the tissue around the lungs’ alveoli, cause unknown. The main symptom is shortness of breath, with cough. It occurs mainly in older people, and it only ever gets worse, not better. Some people live with it for a long time; others, not so long. It’s a disease that can kill you, and I’d never even heard of it until I got it. The only “cure” is a lung transplant.

I wasn’t too worried at first, because my shortness of breath was fairly mild, and I seemed to be stable. In the last couple of months, though, my shortness of breath has gotten a little worse, and I am now taking one of the two medications that are available to try to slow the process. They have side effects, of course. I have an excellent pulmonologist, and also an appointment with a clinic at one of the leading Boston hospitals that specializes in IPF and other interstitial lung diseases. This is all to the good, but doesn’t change the fact that I have gone from being pretty dang healthy to having a life-threatening illness. That’ll sober you up…

I am upping my exercise routine to keep my lungs and body in general in the best shape possible. For that to work, I need supplemental oxygen, and that’s supposed to be arriving tomorrow. I will soon be walking the dogs with a little tank slung over my back. Yay. In the meantime, I take breaks between sets of pushups and squats, etc., and pant and wait for the numbers to go back up on my pulse oximeter.

My secret hope for a silver lining is that once I have more O2 flowing in my brain, maybe some of the creative writing blocks that have been troubling me will give way in the face of oxygen. I can hope. Meanwhile, prayers and healing thoughts would be much appreciated. I hope this will be a long story to tell, but only the future knows for sure.

 

Sherrick Shindig 2022

I have always had a gratifyingly warm relationship with my relatives on my mother’s side of the family, the Sherricks. What with the older generation passing and folks scattering to the ends of the U.S.A., I don’t see any of them very often anymore. Fortunately, my cousins periodically organize a reunion, a.k.a. Sherrick Shindig, at some different location, typically not where anyone lives. This year is the first time in ten years I’ve been able to attend, and we are gathered at a lakeside house in Tennessee, which is a state none of us lives in. We’re having a great time. Swimming, boating, relaxing, talking…

That’s after calming down from the last six miles of the drive here (Allysen and I driving the Winnebago mothership). The road in to this location could very well serve as a roller coaster track for Cedar Point. Up, down, twist right, twist left, twist and climb, twist and drop. The mountain roads of Puerto Rico got nothing on this road. But we made it!

Here are a few pics.

My cousins Kianna and Lois, and me:

My cousin Bruce, with Allysen:

My cousin Stewart and his grandson Luke:

Some of the Sherricks gathered around:

Can you find me in this picture?

This is where we’re all staying:

A good time for all!

A Day at the Beach with the Carvers

We wanted to do something fun this weekend, and we had not yet tried taking the dogs with us in the Mothership (campervan). So we decided this was the time. We threw together some things for a day trip—mainly just food and dog supplies—and hit the road.

Hah! First of all, it took two hours longer than we expected to get ready (although part of that was going online and picking out a destination). We chose one of the loveliest beaches we know—Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester—propelled by the discovery that April 30 was the last day that dogs were allowed on the beach before summer rules kicked in. That settled, I needed to implement an untested arrangement of harnesses and cushions to let the dogs ride safely strapped into the third and fourth seats of the campervan. (Mixed results on that one.)

Finally, though, we really did hit the road. Ten minutes in, Allysen realized she’d forgotten her glasses. Should we turn around? No, not that important. Five minutes more, and I realized I’d forgotten my wallet. Should we turn around? Yes. So we circled back, and I got my wallet. Also, Allysen’s glasses. Also, I shut the garage door that someone had left standing wide open. Back on the road.

Without further delay, we drove to Wingaersheek Beach. It was late in the day, uncrowded and gorgeous. There were some dogs there, off leash, so we let our guys run, too. Captain Jack had a ball, racing around, swimming in the tide waters, playing (peacefully!) with other dogs. He did steal one dog’s ball, but he gave it up and I threw it back to its owner. Even shy McDuff reveled in trotting free of the leash, though she never strayed far from us. By the end, they were exhausted. Or no, wait—that’s in the other universe. In this universe, they were ready and raring for more, and continued that way for the rest of the day. (Jack, you will recall, is an 11-year-old  cancer survivor.) When we got home, they absolutely had to be bathed, so we did that. By midnight, when they should have been totally zonked, they were still jumping around, Jack squeaking a toy in his mouth, looking for someone to play with. Who are these dogs, and where does that energy come from? Zero-point energy from the quantum flux?

Unanswerable questions. But that’s how we do a trip to the beach at the Star Rigger Ranch.

Department of Unnecessary Signs Department

After checking out of the campground, I crossed over the canal and parked at a park for a few hours. Wrote a couple of pages and did a bit of rollerblading—and ow, did I feel wobbly on the skates for the first time in a year. I did not fall, but I definitely felt that this sign on the path was totally unnecessary!

Writing Retreat Wrapped

It was all too short, but very productive. I made some good progress on stubborn chapters that had been bothering me for months. It was maybe a blessing in disguise that internet service at the campsite was crap, so I wasn’t tempted to kick back and watch a movie. Home now, but here are a few pix, looking back:

Four modalities of travel represented here: Walking, biking, barge and tug on the canal, and railroad bridge lifted clear for canal traffic.

Here’s the same barge not long after, going under the Bourne Bridge, which is one of two highway bridges onto Cape Cod.

Mission Unlikely: Writer’s Block

On another topic, I have sailed forth in the Mothership on a three-day mission to challenge writer’s block on its own turf. No, its turf isn’t here on the edge of Cape Cod; it’s in my head. But here I’m hoping for a more level playing field. No more worrying about tax returns, troublesome batteries in the cars, or any of that. Just me and creative difficulties, mano a mano. We’re going to start with “productive conversations” at the writing desk and see how that goes. If it comes to blows… well, let’s just hope it doesn’t.

Some people say writer’s block isn’t real. They only say that because they’ve never experienced it. Someday I may talk about various factors that lie behind my struggles to write over the last couple of years, but I think not today.

By the way, the photo above is an illustration of a misguided effort to protect the space around the entryway from predicted rain. The rain started around midnight. I poked my head out after a bit to see how things were. I found the awning sagging about a foot down in the middle, full of rainwater. I hastily lowered the corners to release the dam. SPLOOOOSH! Throughout the night, the unexpectedly gusty wind periodically whanged the awning up and down and sideways, soothing the sleeper inside. I wasn’t sure I was still going to have an awning by the time I was up today. But amazingly, it was okay. It is now rolled back in.

Below is a trio of Guardians of the Canal that I spotted while on a brief bike ride yesterday.

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