Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Year in Retrospect

       Your eyes are not deceiving you. This is a blog entry not about my ordeal with Wilson Senior Care ad Oakhaven Nursing Center. I always intended my experience with those entities to be written out in full, glorious detail on Sine Qua Non, but I had no inkling of how difficult the task would be. The plan was to write the story all out during the spring and summer 2015, then move on to bigger, better things. It has not happened that way. I know it is even weirder the entries have been backdated. They will continue to be, as well, as I slowly but surely write them out.
       But we re on the cusp of a new year, and new years are a time for new beginnings. So I am going to move on as well. There is much to talk about these days. A few of yo may remember I was a dedicated blogger from 2003-2012 before my world was turned upside down. It has taken me a while to regain perspective. The fire in my belly did not go out, but it burned in another direction. Some might say a destructive direction. As much as I love to play the argumentative contrarian, I will not dispute the claim. I have not been myself in quite a while. My old personality is reemerging, and it feels...interesting in my new set of circumstances.
       The year began with me under siege. It continued with me pushed off a proverbial cliff into a life I never figured I would live, but one I find strangely comfortable. The studious, cynical hermit reeling from nearly four decades of living around some tragically dark, broken souls, with still some hope the meager idealism I can muster is only sleeping, not mortally wounded. I might have a long way to go with that one.
       If all that rot sound overly dramatic, here it is in plain English. For those of you who remember the late, lamented Eye of Polyphemus blog...i am not the same guy who used to scribble the drivel all over that place. Th last three years took me in some radically different directions/ Sometimes for the better. Many times for the worse. But I am eager to begin writing it all down again like the old days. If there is one thing I have learned in the last several years, it is rolling heavy thoughts over in your mind I no where near as therapeutic as writing them down. It truly is a purging. I appear to have much to purge.
       I have learned much, too. Not only about myself, but about relationships with people. Spending nearly nine years in virtual isolation in my sister's home severely warped what was already a difficult social awkwardness to a crippling emotional state I needed over a year's worth of counseling to recover. I figured many thing were lost forever during those dark times. Not so. There will be plenty of time to talk bout those in the coming days.
        Tomorrow is the first day of 2016. It will be the first year in a long time I will enjoy a fresh start without carrying into it the lingering baggage from the previous year. As I said above, I have returned to largely being on my own again. It has been over a decade since I have been the master of my own fate, free from the cruelties, whether by conceit or malice, of others. It means I am back in my element, folks. I just hope my return is not too little, too late.

"Peace on Earth"

    “Peace on Earth” is a classic animated short about a post-apocalyptic world populated exclusively by animals. It features an old squirrel explaining to his grandchildren how this circumstance came to be. Considering the title of the short, it is probably not a spoiler to reveal humans wiped themselves out in a massive war. There are hints of this early on as the animals homes are clearly army helmets, canteens, and other war materiel. It is a nice, subtle touch.
       The short itself is not so subtle. The imagery terrified me as a kid. Much of my fright had to do with immersion into the Bob Jones theological obsession with the End Ties. “Peace on Earth” features Christian undertones. At one point after man is extinct, the animals discover a Bible an emphasize the “Thou shalt not kill” commandment. It is difficult not to be spooked by “Peace n Earth” as a kid facing a barrage of apocalyptic anxiety.
       “Peace on Earth” was nominated for an Academy Award. It is claimed to have received a Nobel peace Prize nomination as well but journalists and film historians have yet to discover records as proof. The short was remade in 1955 with cold War elements replacing the World War I feel of 'Peace on Earth.” The remake warned of nuclear destruction with heavier christian themes. The remake never resonated quite like the original. “Peace on Earth” is a classic.    

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

     European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is in the holiday spirit as the International Space Station is decorated with a Christmas tree and a stocking for each astronaut.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Christmas Cheer

 I have apparently been good this year.

Cookie jars are for the timid.  I opt for a laundry basket.

The stocking was hung by the closet with care.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Visit From A Friend


        My friend Christy came for a surprise visit today. Christy's daughter, Whitney, was one of my favorite nurses from McCleod Darlington way back in 2013. Whitney is close friends with Chappel, another beloved nurse about whom I have spoken well at Sine Qua Non. Christy's father was a resident of Oakhaven Nursing Center with me. I met her and continued my friendship with Whitney while there. In fact, this is the third Christmas I have celebrated with her family. Christy's father sadly passed away last summer. Our friendship thankfully remains.
       Christy took me along to finish up her Christmas shopping. We also went out to lunch. She came bearing much appreciated gifts as well. I am blessed to have her in my life.   

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Fattening Me Up for Christmas

        A local church group likes to fill Christmas lists for residents. In all honesty, my desires are few these days. Dumb pride makes it difficult to accept anything that appears like charity. But I am trying adjust my thinking to view the reluctance to accept charity as a rejection of the person offering, so I cooperated the best I could. The lady who chatted with me a couple weeks ago was incredibly nice. She suggested some really nice items she and her friends would be happy to place under my Christmas tree.
       I just called it chatting, but we actually talked for a good while about the last couple years of my life. She was particularly concerned about my weight struggles. We talked a lot about food and especially snacks. The discussion resulted in me opening a large package of extraordinarily large Debbie cakes.      They have been an obsession of mine for pretty much my entire life. Life has been a bit stingy with them in recent years. Times change for the better, folks.
       The church group also served a large lunch of chicken, vegetables, and banana pudding for desert before handing out gifts.  it was the first full fledged Christmas celebration in years--and it is not even Christmas yet! 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015


       I woke up fairly late into the night. By that time—a little after ten, there about—I was able to eat. I enjoy a ham sandwich and a Shasta. I still felt drained from the day and probably everything leading up to the day, but as a post modern kind of guy, I was compelled to post the news of the feeding tube's removal on social media. After posting on Twitter/Facebook, I passed out again.
       The next morning began as a mercifully normal day. I ate breakfast and cranked up the laptop to check my social media. I was curious what anyone might have to say about the news my feeding tube was gone. The response capturing my attention was from Jackie. I have written abut her before. She worked part-time at Oakhaven. We formed a strong bond which still exists as I write this. At this time, she believed I was going to appeal the discharge agreement, so removing the feeding tube was the last thing she expected me to do. I responded to her comment by telling her Oakhaven was a hostile environment I simply could not live in safely. .
       I check my social media quite obsessively throughout the day. Do not judge. You do, too. I exercised the self-restraint to wait thirty minutes this particular morning. But when I tried to access Facebook, I got a message declaring my attempted connection to the site had been interrupted. I tried two more times in the vain hope my suspicions were not true. I typed Facebook's URL into the Down For Everyone or Just Me website. Yes, Facebook was up for everyone. The last thing to do would be the ultimate proof I was being blocked. I had discovered the deep web by this point, so I opened the tor browser. If you are not aware of Tor, it is software that hides your location via relays so no one can see the websites you visit. I was able to sign onto Facebook with no problem.
       I was already suspicious my internet access was blocked the previous week to prevent me from emailing the consent letter for removing the feeding tube. There was now more evidence to think that was true. But Wilson Senior Care/Oakhaven were now violating my right of free speech by blocking my communication. In layman’s terms...they done screwed up now.
       I stormed out of my room on the hunt for Marlie. A with last time, I encountered Paulette first. She asked if I was looking for her. I was not eager to deal with her, but you take opportunities when they come.
       “I have been blocked from Facebook,” I said.
       We went into her office and I explained everything, down to the motivation for blocking me. Paulette called Brock of all people, but she claimed to not even know what a firewall was. Next, Paulette called in Marlie. At least I got who I was looking for in the first place. I explained everything to her.
       “I have to be careful,” she said. “They got on me for working on your computer last week.”
       So corporate did not want me emailing m consent letter. Big surprise. We brought my laptop into Paulette's office anyway. I tried connecting to Facebook so Marlie could see the message and confirm I was deliberately being blocked. I opted not to demonstrate Tor. I wanted to keep that ace in the hole. It might come in handy later. People who do not understand new technology think it is magic. Let them believe I was a wizard.
       Paulette called Chrystal next. She was on the road somewhere. She put Chrystal on speaker phone. I tried to explain everything as I had to everyone else, but she interrupted me.
       “Look in the bottom right hand corner. There are some bars there. Make sure you're on the right network,' she said.
       I wanted to bang my head against the desk. Why did these people think I was so incredibly stupid? “Chrystal, I just bypassed your firewall to access a site you've blocked me from from thirty minutes after I posted this is a hostile environment. Give me some credit for brains”
       She was silent for a couple beats. “Can you still access Twitter?”
    This was an interesting question. I do not often make post directly to Facebook. I post on Twitter and those publish on Facebook as status updates. I could go on twitter all day long and still talk about being blocked from Facebook, so if the plan was to keep me from posting, all they really succeeded in doing was keeping me from reading the potential comments. Or I could be reading too much into it. Who knows? These dingalings were no good at the cloak and dagger shtick.
       “No, you haven't gotten to that yet,' I said.
       Chrystal let out a deep sigh. “Let me see what I can find out.”
    After Chrystal hung up, Paulette, Marlie, and I all hung out a moment to deflate. They could tell I was getting fired up/” Marlie then noticed someone—probably Laura—was accessing my laptop through Team Viewer.
       “Laura has access to my laptop? How often have you been looking at my stuff?” I typed “What re you doing?' into the chat box, and whoever as on the other end signed off with no response. It seemed like a good idea at thai point t go back to my room to cool down and wait for Chrystal. Marlie followed me back.
       “So have they really gone and blocked me for saying Oakhaven is a hostile environment?' I asked.
       "Of course, they did. They don't want to be sued. I don't want to be sued! I haven't had a raise in six years!” she said.
        'Who is more likely to sue you than I am/”
       My question went unanswered. Th first thing I did upon settling back in was delete Team Viewer. Laura was not going to pull that stunt again.  It was about an hour before Victoria came to see me. I was sure this was going to be a fascinating conversation. 
        “I know this will sound like a heck of a coincidence--'
       “Oh, I'm sure it will,” I interrupted.
       “--but sometime in the last 24-48 hours, you posted a pornographic image to Facebook, so the network blocked it.”
       I was floored. I even tried to read Victoria's demeanor to see if she believed a claim so stupid.
       “I have not posted anything pornographic on Facebook. Facebook does not even allow pornography to be posted!' I said.
       "It doesn't have to be actual pornography. It can be something from a site that has been flagged,” Victoria said. “They have lifted the block to give you the opportunity to delete the photo.”
       There was no photo from the last 24-48 hours that could be misconstrued as pornographic. Red flagged sites could not be accessed in the first place. But those two points were irrelevant because I had enjoyed free rein on the internet from the beginning. Nothing was ever off limits. So was this code for me to delete my response to Jackie? I was not certain, but I was going to stand my ground.
       “Would you mind asking the Puritans which photo is the offending culprit?”
       “Okay. I'll ask.”
       While Victoria was gone, I took the opportunity to compose myself and then compose an email to Michelle explaining everything that was happening. I had enough time to write one to Dr. Hiatt explaining things, too. He had been amused by the ongoing soap opera. Victoria returned shortly thereafter with news they had no idea which was the offending photo. Just that it was posted in the last 24-48 hours. So if I would be so kind as to delete it, that would be great.
       “So corporate is morally offended by a photo even though they don't know which photo it is?” I had to laugh. “Well, I am not deleting anything. I have already contacted Michelle about all this. Did you know I caught Laura spying on me with Team Viewer?”
       “Every employee computer has Team viewer,” Victoria said.
       “I am not an employee. It does not matter. Team Viewer I had no problem deleting.”
        It amazed me how, when I assumed Wilson Senior Care/Oakhaven could not get any more blatant with their unethical behavior, they managed to stoop even lower. While under increased regulatory scrutiny, no less. The irony of attempting to halt a Facebook post declaring them to be hostile appeared lost on them.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Crossing the Rubicon

      The legal team presumably examined the letter of consent on Monday and found it satisfactory. Victoria and Keisha came to my room that afternoon with a hard copy ready for me to sign. These folks wasted no time. Or they never red the thing because they had no intention of ever allowing Dr. Cooler to see it before pulling the tube. This doubt is why I wrote 'presumably' read above. There was only so much back and forth that could be effectively done with the powers that be considering how little they cared about following the rules in the first place.
       I read over it. You never could tell if they would try to alter this or add something else. It turned out to be the genuine article as I had written it. Well, wonders never cease. I signed, and so did Victoria with Keisha witnessing both signatures. So Wilson Senior Care/Oakhaven were one step closer to booting me out the door like they wanted. Oakhaven did not waste any time scheduling an appointment with Dr. Cooler to have the feeding tube removed. I was to have it removed Wednesday morning.
       I had been so caught up in the drama surrounding my exit from hostile territory I never spent much time thinking about what removing the feeding tube would entail. I do not mean the probable continued weight loss. It was steadily falling still, but there were not palatable options for keeping it in. I did not want to go to another nursing home and I definitely should not stay at Oakhaven. I mean I had never thought what it was going to be like when the feeding tube was literally removed. It would have to be given such a hard yank Dr. Cooler insisted on doing it himself rather than allow a nurse from Oakhaven to pull it out. It sounded like it was going to hurt.
       The anticipated pain nagged at me for two days until I wound up back in Dr. Cooler's office. Jackie was back this time without a CNA. I guess a witness was no longer necessary. Dr. Cooler finally came in and asked if I was ready for real this time. I told there was a consent letter I had written.. He looked through the envelope, but I assume it was not there as he asked about me writing my own letter. He left the examining room to call Oakhaven. Now I was in a strange position. Oakhaven probably had not included the consent letter. Maybe they did not want him to know Oakhaven and I were at odds. I do not know. But the idea it was not including in the paperwork bugged me enough to consider calling the feeding tube's removal off until the consent letter was included. The need to assert myself again over these shenanigans bubbled up inside me.
        Then the bubbles burst.
      I was beyond sick of dealing with these people. We had been sparring for two months now. While I ultimately won every round free and clear, I was worn down by the unethical behavior and general animosity I was facing. Maybe the stress of fretting over the pain of the feeding tube removal was the straw that broke the camel's back. I do not not even in hindsight, but I knew then I wanted this all to be over with quickly. So when Dr. Cooler returned, I did not ask him about his conversation with(presumably) Victoria about the consent letter. He asked if I wanted the feeding tube removed. I told him yes.
       I lifted my shirt up enough to expose my belly. My feeding tube was situated between the top of my belly and my clavicle. I laid down and prepared for the worst. Dr. Cooler stood on my right. His nurse stood on my left with a handful of thick gauze. She looked like she was ready to pounce at a split second's notice. Dr. cooler covered the area around the tube with a thin, sterile pad. He got both a firm grip on the tube and my abdomen. He asked if I was ready. I took a deep breath, and gave the go ahead.
       The removal was not really that bad. It happens quickly. The sensation is mostly a pulling sensation, as you would expect. Th friction is bothersome, and it ends with a literal pp as the stopperr folds onto itself while exiting the hole. I grunted a bit, but by the time any verbal acknowledgment of pain could be made, it was already over. The skin tore a bit. The nurse applying pressure with the gauze hurt more than anything else. All physical discomfort eased off quickly.
       I had the feeding tube for two years. With it, I rose from a death's doorstep weight of 68 lbs to a high of 112 lbs. (I was down to 105 lbs at this point.) So a long, tough journey ended because my caregivers did not want to follow the rules. Well, I never seemed to have much luck depending on other people for anything no matter how important. In this case, important meant their sole purpose—providing for my healthcare. As usual, my bad luck was in full swing.
       I did not have the inclination to think about that. After being bandaged up, I found myself unusually shaken. It was probably just a rapid come down from the excitement of it all. Or maybe it was anxiety issues all coming to a head. When I got back to Oakhaven, Keisha asked if I wanted an Ativan. I was prohibited from eating or drinking for four hours, but evidently a pill and a couple swigs of water would not hurt anything. I envisioned myself like one of those cartoon characters who gets stabbed and appears to be uninjured until he drink something and it pours out the wound. As it turned out, I did...well, leak for days afterward, but nothing bad happened with the pills and water. I passed out peacefully for the evening. The next day was when crap hit the fan in the worst way since this whole mess began.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Because the Pen is Mightier Than the Sword

       It is often difficult to tell with my frequent bad luck whether a calamity is the universe screwing around with me or a deliberate action by someone or something a bit more tangible. I am not certain even now who the culprit is for the following. I will just lay out events as they occurred, and you can make up your own mind. As noted, my bad luck frolics on a long leash, but keeping in mind the actions of Wilson Senior Car/Oakhaven, you never can tell.
       I drafted my consent letter to have the feeding tube removed the afternoon after Michelle and Dale left. I will not post it as I have most other important documents and correspondence used during this whole affair because it was repetitious of what has already been written here. I can include it if someone wishes, but the letter explained I would like to continue receiving tube feedings, but the hostile environment at Wilson Senior care/Oakhaven makes my continued medical treatment under their care impossible. I also stipulated three doctors I would allow to remove the feeding tube, but no one else. I tried to cover all my bases while still being general enough to leave my options open for any legal action I might take in the future while not raising any red flags from the legal team. If these were the same lawyers who believed a reference to Humpty Dumpty was code for death threat against Brock, their interpretation skills could go either way. Maybe I should have thrown a line about magic bens in it.
       It was all typed up and ready to be emailed a solid hour and a half before management goes home. I figured if I emailed it right then, Victoria would catch it before she went home.. at worst, she would have it the first thing in the morning. But guess what? The Wi Fi went down across the entire facility. Not only could I not access the internet, but staff could not access resident files. There was no way to log in residents' treatments. Staff had to write them out by hand until the tech department who fix the network the next morning. The tech department came through the next morning for everyone—except me. I was back in the Dark Ages before the internet.
       I know as well as anyone else technology can be buggy. It was entirely possible my access to Wi Fi was not restored along with the rest. I was own a separate network for residents and visitors. But the message I kept getting from diagnostics was networks were available, but I had no access. Since I was sitting on a consent email no one wanted me to sen off, internet access dying off for seemingly only me sent up a red flag. Fortunately, I had another card to play instead of accusing the powers that be of impeding my internet access. The discharge agreement stipulated no diminishing of services was allowed. Since internet usage was named as one of the remedies in DHEC settlement, reasonable steps had to be taken to restore my internet access.
       Paulette was the first management type I could find. She was not most reliable soul on her best days and she was still passive aggressive towards me after Brock and Kendra turned her into the main focus of the investigation at the heart of the whole mess. But I fille her in to see what she could do as I looked for Marlie. She was tech savvy and more reliable than just about anyone else of the management types. I found Marlie in her office, explained things, and she offered to help. On the way back to my room, Victoria popped her head out of Brock's office.
        “I'm still waiting for that consent leter, Jamie,” she said.
       “I conveniently don't have internet access when I need to send off an email you don't actually want. Have some patience,” I said.
       Marlie was as perplexed by the diagnostic messages as I was. The network was available, but I could not access it. The password was correct. It was still correct after being typed in a half dozen times. It definitely looked as though I was being deliberately blocked, ut neither Marlie nor I verbalized the suspicion. She called Laura, the head tech geek, to ask for her help. Paulette said she was gong to call Laura, too, but since Laura acted as though she heard of the problem...yes. Score one for Paulette's consistency. Regardless, Laura would not be able to help until the next day. The next day happened to be a Friday.
       You may recall a Wilson Senior Care/Oakhaven habit of dropping bd news on a Friday right before five and hoping any fallout will dissipate before monday rolled around. I was not having any of that. I went straight to Victoria's, who was in Brock's office at the time, and told her emailing the consent letter depended solely on Laura. No movement on the feeding tube was going to happen until the consent letter was sent off, inspected, and signed by all parties. She told me Laura had her hands full, but would gt to me as soon as possible. A much needed comic relief moment occurred at that moment when brock came into her office, saw I was there, and backed out without saying a word. I have never determined whether avoiding me was a corporate dictate or her personal choice, but it amused me. I opted to delay her return to her office by chatting up Victoria.
       “You know the letter is not that bad. It calls Oakhaven a hostile environment, but broadly enough it could mean I am afraid of the unpredictable dementia residents,” I said.
       “I appreciate that,” Victoria said. She did not really appreciate it.
       With that, I let Brock go back into her office. Laura did not show up until late afternoon. Events were lining up for the bad news of a no internet all weekend. I was gaining suspicion there was going to be an absolute, no time to waste imperative to remove the feeding tube on Monday morning, but I kept it to myself. I fought off the first effort. I could do it again. I made one big blunder. Laura took the laptop to another part of Oakhaven to work on it. It was assumed—she was the female version of Jimmy Fallon's IT Guy character—that no one else could breathe her air while Laura worked. I do not know my my suspicious nature did not demand I observe, but I stayed behind. I even unlocked the laptop by typing in the password. I kick myself over letting her have access without me there.
       Victoria brought the laptop back about fiteen minutes later. She told me laura determined the problem was the Wi Fi, not my laptop, and it would eventually fix itself. With pixie dust and unicorn farts, no doubt. Victoria told me I could connect to the overall network, but practically everything is firewalled...including Gmail.
       “Like I can't gt around a firewall,” I boasted, but declined.
       Victoria never mentioned the consent letter I could not email. Like I said, she wa not eager to offer any solutions. Marlie, however, was. We went into he ofice with my laptop. I opened up the Word document of the letter and she transcribed it. I accessed my Gmail account from her computer and sent it off. I told Victoria what we had done as she was leaving for home. She could not fake enthusiasm any worse than she did.
       Like divine intervention, my internet access was restored Saturday morning. In an odd move, Jonathan came by shortly before lunch to tell me laura would hook me up the main, massively firealled network if I wanted. I told him my internet access was back, thanks. He did not seem relieved or surprised my internet access was back. It was all too peculiar. There is no way laura would randomly offer to come to work and hook me up on a Saturday. I certainly have some awful luck, but so many things say Wilson Senior Care/Oakhaven were trying to stop me from writing my own consent for removing the feeding tube.