What I learned from my trip to the ER

They say everything happens for a reason, and for the most part, I agree.  The law of physics is responsible for a lot of those things. Where it leaves off, one’s belief system picks up.  Books are written in an effort to explain why bad things happen to good people. I think things happen for a reason, to teach us an important lesson.  Sometimes we ignore the lesson, and life has a way of trying to teach us until we get it.  Some of us will die trying to avoid the lesson.  Drinking and driving, or texting and driving, or not wearing a seat belt are prime examples.  “It will never happen to me” we say.

Sometimes, we are taught a lesson, and our painful lesson can be used to teach others.  For example, back in 1997, I had a car wreck.  I wasn’t going far and I was in the habit of not buckling up until I was down the road.  After all, what could happen going 20 miles an hour going around a curve in the dark on a quiet street in Boone?  A four thousand pound truck coming from the other direction going 20 miles an hour crossed the centerline, so I’m told.  My 2500 lb. car was no match as our front driver side corners met.  Sliding forward, my head hit the windshield, my chest hit the steering wheel, and my hips slid forward with my knee taking the full brunt, dislocating itself but first the femur punched out a chunk of pelvic bone about the size of a silver dollar.  Two weeks in the hospital, a $30,000 medical bill and inevitable arthritis and hip replacement somewhere down the road has taught me and others a valuable lesson.  As my friend Doug says “Buckle up.  Remember what happened to Richard.”

(Warning:  this section has descriptions of bodily excretions.  Skip this unless morbidly curious.) For the last several months, I’ve been experience some symptoms that were directly related to my recent diagnosis of a bulging L-4 and herniated L-5 disc.  Besides achiness in my back, I had on again off again bouts of the squirts.  The medical term would be something more like fecal leakage. I was erroneously advised from my first choice health care provider that I had a mild infection and to take bacteria fighting supplements. I was also told the achy back was also symptomatic of the infection.  I took the recommended supplements and tried to eat better. Friends said I was getting old, or eating too many fatty foods.  Me?  Eat fatty foods?  Okay, GUILTY!!!!

As it turns out, the bulging disc was pressing against the nerve that goes to the sphincter, allowing things to pass through without my awareness until the moisture was obvious.  Fortunately, it was mild and didn’t pose anything but an inconvenience.  I should have sought out a second opinion and was advised to do so but I didn’t.

I do a lot of physical things, like lifting, carrying, etc.  We live on a farm, which means lots of digging, carry 50 lb. bags of feed, wood chips, compost, etc.  At work, part of my instruction involves lifting lawn mowers, sometimes riding mowers to get underneath them to pull off a wheel or install a belt, or lift it into a pickup truck.  This has never, in my 62 years posed a problem for me before, so why should it now.  Despite the fact that I don’t work out as much as I should and that my core and back muscles are not what they once were…Hey, I think I’m starting to see the light.

Lessons I’m learning?

  1. I’m not the spring chicken I once was. I can buy spring chickens and butcher them but at my age, it is okay to ask for help lifting the cooler full of carcasses and ice water.
  2. There is more to life than work. I like seeing stuff get done.  But I also need to take or make the time to exercise and stretch (mind and body), especially now so I can make as close to a full recovery as possible.
  3. Listen to others advice, especially if it is my life partner who happens to be a doctor. The foolish thing is, I resisted because I used up all of my tax sheltered medical savings account and didn’t want to pay the co-payment or deducible out of pocket.  It’s only money I need to tell myself.  There will be more where that came from but I only have one body, and it’s hard to get a replacement or a loner.
  4. Don’t put all your beliefs in one medical provider. I thought my man could walk on water if he wanted to.  I was sure his diagnosis method was foolproof.  I was so confident that I didn’t feel the need to talk to anyone else.  Well, not until the pain was getting so bad that I was getting desperate.
  5. Medical diagnosis can vary. My primary health care provider claimed it was infection, and then possibly a strained muscle.  A nurse practitioner believed it was muscle strain and stretching exercise and ibuprofen would take care of it.  At that point, she didn’t offer and I didn’t ask for insist on an x-ray despite my partners advice.

The very next morning, not only could I not do the exercises, I couldn’t walk without hanging onto something and some drugs to take the edge off so I could get in the car and head to the ER.

I hadn’t had that kind of pain since dislocating my hip. The ER doctor wisely ordered an MRI to get a definitive diagnosis; one bulging disc and another herniated.

  1. Be open to Integrative medicine. No one modality has all the answers, much like no one religion has all the answers.  There is something to be learned from all of them.  So I will continue to seek treatment from my “alternative” medicine peeps, but also give a little more credence to the traditional.  Especially pain pill prescriptions.  I may or may not have to have surgery but my hope is that with treatment and a good exercise program, I will fully recover, as others\ friends have.
  2. Gratitude.  It could have been much worse.  I have friends that have it worse.  When I’m in a hospital, I’m surrounded by those who have it worse.  I’m fortunate to have the medical services available to me, paid for partly by my employer.  It could be a lot worse and often is for others.  I consider myself lucky, even blessed.
  3. Oh yeah, I’m going to start listening to the advice of those closest to me.  I might be able to avoid problems and hopefully never hear the words uttered “I told you so.” (which by the way, she is kind enough to not say to me.)


Mid-Summer Thoughts

More than half the summer break is over, and it is similar to getting older.  Both make one think more clearly about what one really wants to accomplish in life and this summer.  I have my long, long list of to-do items, most of which I will never start.

Naturally, this time of year, I think a lot about gardening.  We’ve expanded the garden beds here at Trout Lily.  The upper garden which is about a 16x 30 has many new raised beds, with some mulch in the walkways.  More mulch is needed.  We have harvested the garlic (over 260 bulbs),  broccoli, strawberries, some cabbage, some kale, some yellow squash, black raspberries, red raspberries and blueberries.  The red zinnias and other flowers look on with curiosity to see if we will get spinach, tomatoes, and eggplant.

The garden to the side, three or the four planned beds were completede have lettuce, beets, and collards growing.  One bed is dedicated to asparagus for the first year, and another partially to pollinator attracting flowers. The lower garden has some squash, peppers, basil, tomatoes, potatoes (now suffering from blight), corn, gourds, onions, and yes, more flowers.  Don’t ask me what kind.

The pigs, Barbi and Que watch on enviously.  Oh, how they would like to get in there and do some damage.

If we plan to really make this food grow effectively, we need to get a handle on soil science.  Thankfully, Danielle’s sister just published a book on the subject.  If we knew how to effectively test and amend the soil, maybe we can minimize the number of problems with blights and weak looking plants, and the pests.  It seems like the next logical step.

While we have made huge improvements and additions, there is always some new method or information that will make it fun and challenging. For example, we just got the spring fixed so in stead of leaking out, the water from the sitern now goes to a bathtub for the horse’s fresh water but the over flow goes into a pipe, down to a hose and to the garden or water trough at the lower garden.  I want to change out the overflow to a higher diameter tubing for greater flow and pressure when we need it.

As for the school gardens, I am seriously considering changing what we grow.  It seems silly to grow things when no one is there to take care of it regularly, despite our best intentions.  I’m leaning more twards an early greens type garden, and then plant things that grow like crazy and are harvested in the fall, like gourds.

Concepts and Lessons in a summer neglected school garden.

Reflections on our School Gardens

In some form or fashion, I have tried to integrate gardening into my teaching Career and Technology to my 7th and 8th graders at 6 of the 8 schools I have taught in the last 19 years.  For one thing, the kids love it.  Even though the gardens are small, the kids love the dirt, the worms, the food, and more. We do composting, water barrels for irrigation, vermiculture, seed saving, plant propagation, and more.   I know that it is important.  One student told me once, “My dad thinks it’s really cool that we do gardening.  He says in the near future we will all need to be growing some of our own food.”  For the sake of personal economy, health and the psychological benefits, it is a skill all kids should be exposed to.

The gardens I have now, thanks to LettuceLearn, Shannon Carrol, Debbie Bauer and doing pretty well. At Parkway, we moved four large beds to a place with better drainage and sun, so those are new. In two of the now smaller 8 beds, we have raspberries and asparagus.  Older established beds in the front of school are looking pretty good, and have a healthy stand of sunflowers to catch your eye.  The median strip is now part pollinator garden, flower garden and even has a few struggling milkweed in there.  There is room to expand the gardens out front if money and resources show up. There are basically 8 raised beds at Parkway.  A cool thin about Parkway is the greenhouse there called a “SunCatcher.”  This is our ace in the hole for starting seeds early in the year.

I started raised bed gardens at Bethel almost 18 years ago.  Most have been replaced, and new ones added.  Debbie does a good job of over seeing the project in the summer, and food harvested is given to the needy. We have about 12 raised beds divided into three different areas of school.  She recently harvested garlic and more.

At Mabel, we have developed about 6 raised beds, compost piles.  this year we planted raspberries in one bed, asparagus in another.  Pace Cooper, our award winning science teacher and his kids take care of the beds inside the fenced in playground area. We recently harvested 43 beautiful garlic bulbs.

I’m beginning to clarify my thoughts on school gardens.  We have the problem of two months or more with limited oversight in some locations, and secondly, there are no kids there to help or benefit.

So I’ll put this out there and see what suggestions you can offer.

Goals: Teach kids about:

  1. Starting plants from seeds, and even transplanting.
  2. Types of plants, e.g., annuals, perennials, hybrids, GMO’s and heirloom, and what can be saved for next year.
  3. Planting from seeds, transplants, bulbs, cuttings, tubers and more.
  4. Building a garden with soil, amendments, and lumber.
  5. Harvesting produce that is useful.
  6. Entrepreneurship
  7. Keeping our world, and pollinators healthy.
To do that, and minimize waste and maximize student engagement, I want to start planting things that don’t need much care in the summer.
Here is my list:
  • Gourds (to be dried, made into bird houses and sold) Great art project too, as well as teaching the concepts of drilling and painting. Maybe pumpkins.
  • Garlic (bulbs planted in the fall, to be sold as a fund-raiser
  • perennials like berries, asparagus and fruit trees, and grapes.
  • Lettuce and greens to be planted and harvested when kids are in school
  • Flowers.  Flowers are cool. Especially sunflowers.
I think we can teach all the concepts with those few manageable plants. Your feedback is welcome.