Do-it-yourself Surgery, Part 1

1941 Ten Mile Creek Homestead

We lived in the Boonies and loved it. Wild as the woodland creatures around us, none of us had much for social skills. We played in the woods and the swift running creek that in most places would be considered a small swift river. Then we decided the off-limits abandoned mill pond would be a better swimming hole.

We didn’t mind that when we waded in, it had 2 feet of water and 2 feet of soft mud. Some areas had only a foot of water and 3 feet of mud. The bottom had sharp rocks and some random bottles thrown in by the former mill workers. At least most were deep enough that we seldom found them.

As we found the bottles, we removed them from the pond. Then one of us got the bright idea to build a raft. We crafted our raft from green alder wood, which was easy to cut down with an ax and shape. We built it on the steep bank that dropped off into the pond. It’s a good thing the bank was so steep. That raft was heavy. We finally managed to get it into the pond and it floated nicely. Well, it floated nicely until someone got on it.

The two youngest boys ended up using the raft the most. With both of them on it, it floated, but was about 2 inches under the surface. Due to the high amount of mud under the water which kept the pond a rich mud color, it appeared that the two boys were standing in shallow water holding a long pole, each.

The first time they tried poling the raft, the poles stuck and stayed in the mud. The boys could hang onto the poles and let the raft float on away from them, or they could let go and leave the poles upright, stuck firmly in the soft gooey mud. They finally figured out just how to pole gently to travel around the small pond.

Before we upgraded the mill pond to swimming hole, we used to rescue stranded salmon fry in drying puddles along the creek and dump them into the pond. They grew quite well and soon the pond was stocked with landlocked salmon and good fishing. The fish would freak us out when they bumped into our legs in the water. We managed to scare each other with tales of monsters lurking under the mud.

Somehow, I managed to step on a broken whiskey bottle in the mud and sliced the bottom of my left foot badly, leaving a large flap of flesh hanging. It was bleeding freely and I sat on a rock beside the pond trying to convince one of the other kids to go up to the house and get Mom.

Since we were not supposed to be in that pond, no one would go up and let her know I was hurt. I ended up having to trudge up the dusty road and tell her myself. The flap of flesh was totally caked in dust and mud by the time I got to the house. I was trying not to step down on the wound, but there is not many ways to walk without touching the bottom of your foot to the ground.

Mom tried cleaning the dirt out of the wound and finally decided it was too dirty to replace the flesh flap into the hole. She sat me down on one of the steps outside so we didn’t mess up anything in the house. Then I had to hold my own foot still while she cut the large flap of flesh loose from my foot. She used her sewing scissors as that was the sharpest instrument she could find. My foot would start jerking as she started snipping away the flap of flesh. It took quite a while as live human flesh isn’t easy to cut through. I was having a very hard time holding my foot still. If I let it jerk, I got reprimanded or smacked. She finally tidied it up fairly well and poured merthiolate into the hole. That stuff burns and certainly took my mind off what we had just did.

Mom made a bandage of sorts to cover the entire bottom of my foot as most of it was involved in the damage. I wore a couple of pairs of socks over it to try to keep more dirt out of it. It took several months to heal and at various times it would get infected and it was back to the merthiolate. I had to clean it daily with peroxide and rubbing alcohol which was one way to make sure I never went back into that pond.


Feeling like a Fool


Have you ever been doing something and knew you should be paying more attention, but since you had done it successfully many times before, you just ignored that little voice of reason niggling in the back of your mind?

Most of the time, it comes to naught, and another disaster or accident is averted through no thought nor action of our own.

For me, today was not one of those days. Today my inattention and taking a shortcut when I definitely know better caught up with me.

Before starting work on my grandson’s small house, I needed to build a new cart for my generator. The flimsy cart I have used for years was cracked and I could no longer bring the generator in the house during the day to be warm enough to start in the evening.

I took the casters off the old cart to reuse on the new one as they were sturdy and still in good condition. I cut a heavy duty piece of ¾ inch plywood to use as a base. Not thinking ahead to what I intended, I cut the whole piece off at once instead of cutting the thin strips I wanted along the sides to keep the generator from sliding off the base if I pulled too firmly on it.

My battery powered skilsaw has a faulty sticking blade guard and I usually pay better attention, but wanting this job done before the kids came out to help on the house, I rushed through cutting the strip of wood into smaller strips of wood.

The saw kicked back and feathered across the inside of three fingers of my left hand. Oh, shit. Instant mess.

My hand closed into a fist immediately to shield my eyes from what I knew would not be a pretty sight. The fact that no blood sprayed out and the entire finger was still on each space it was supposed to occupy did help a bit. No nausea indicated I had not hit bone.

As the cold air hit me when I stepped out the door, I immediately had to use the outhouse. Logistics of undoing jeans, pulling them down, wiping, pulling them back up, fastening them are better left unsaid.

I walked over to my daughter’s house and asked her if she had any band aids.

“Mom, what did you do now and do we need to get to town?”

I told her, “No, we didn’t need to go to town, I just needed to do some cleaning, looking and repairing, but I think band aids will do it, maybe some peroxide and some Bag Balm would be good, too.”

She found the band aids in the knife drawer (handy, that) while Paul got the peroxide. I opened my hand up and it looked nasty. I wiped it fairly clean around the affected areas and sprayed it down with peroxide. No pain from that, so it probably isn’t all that deep. I wiped up the mess and it was welling more blood out, but one good thing about minus 2 degree weather, it slows bleeding quite well.

Kara opened band aids, I glopped some Bag Balm on all three fingers, even though two are barely through surface skin, and put the band aids on. Two of the fingers only get one each, the index finger gets three band aids as it continues to look a bit icky and wells out more blood.

To keep from bending the finger too much until it closes up better, we duct tape the index finger to the middle finger on my left hand which makes wearing gloves out of the question. Now, through the decision of the 4 year old great grandson, I have glow in the dark Batman duct tape wrapped fingers.

We went back over to the cabin, I tacked the narrow strip down and finished cutting the strips I needed. Paul put the casters on the cart and we came down to put the generator on it.

It works perfectly.

When we finished for the day, I came home, made a cayenne capsule to help keep it from bleeding again and kept ice packs on it as I had done off and on all afternoon. A zip bag of snow makes a wonderful ice pack.

A Trip to Greece – week 6

Week 6

We slept in until 7 a.m. Wow. I went downstairs and B.S.’d with the maid, JoAnna. Smiths called from Florida (neighbor lady I walked with while they were here) and offered to pay her expenses to come to Florida to care for his Mother. She is going. Her brother lives in Toronto.
I brought breakfast up for Doris. Then after breakfast, I walked into Glyfada. The store I wanted wasn’t open yet so I walked an extra block, I still wasn’t open so I went to an enormous toy store. I killed half an hour there. The store I wanted finally opened and I didn’t have enough money. I didn’t know they had video tapes we can play at home. So, I walked back to the hotel, told Doris what I had found. She wanted one also, so Dimitris took us down and back. He is very sick today, even more so than yesterday. I certainly hope we don’t catch it. JoAnna that runs the gift shop in the hotel is sick with it too. I think it is strep throat.
We spent the afternoon sorting and packing our bags. I’m glad we started early and that I stuffed a large duffle bag in my carry-on which is all I brought over. I bought cheap T-shirts as I needed them and a spare pair of jeans. The duffle bag is stuffed with my new wardrobe and gifts for everyone at home. I’ve kept track of every purchase and have a list made up of items, price and exchange rate for Customs for each of us.
I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. We were in the lobby by 6:30 a.m., ready to go. I can’t exactly say bright eyed and bushy tailed, because we ain’t.
Dimitris was on time and we got checked in with our luggage checked through to Anchorage. Their idea of a wheelchair all the way and ours differ vastly. Airport Security is far better than when we arrived. Today is Election Day. There are more police and armed military personnel with automatic weapons than I have ever seen. There is a military man every few feet in a grid pattern all over the terminal and no one can park near the terminal. We went through two security checks, then had to identify each piece of our luggage piled along the tarmac to the plane before they would load it on the plane and we got on.
Dimitris was feeling better today and apologized for Friday. It was just such a frustrating day all the way around and he was so sick.
The trip to Zurich on Swissair left a lot to be desired. My part was okay, but the oxygen situation wasn’t. They only had a full lower face mask and we couldn’t adjust the flow which was practically nonexistent. The food was good though. We flew extremely high across the Ionian Sea, Italy and whatever other country we might have edged over on our way to Zurich. It was raining in Zurich so we couldn’t see much.
Back to good old SAS to Copenhagen. This is the nicest airline I’ve ever dealt with. Everyone bends over backward to be of assistance. What wonderful staff and policy.
The sun is shining in Copenhagen, even. Gee, everything’s nice here. We weren’t here long enough to see anything though. We came over Frankfurt, Germany from Zurich to Copenhagen. What wasn’t cloud covered looked flat. No wonder everyone from there likes Alaska.
It is 8 hours 45 minutes from Copenhagen to Anchorage. They gave us a full row of 5 seats again just for Doris, me and the oxygen bottle. The hydrator stem broke off in the water bottle on the gauge. I put a piece of plastic tube on instead and it worked.
Another meal, very good, several cartoons, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” later and we are still 3 ½ hours from Anchorage. Doris is extremely tired which isn’t good for her. A very nice Oriental man joined us in our row so he could see the screen better. He doesn’t speak English and persists in taking pictures with his flash of the overhead projection screen of our progress on the map. He has used several rolls of film and no way to let him know they will all be blank.
Customs was impressed by my lists. They even laughed about my boxes of oregano and coffee. My carry-on bag full of assorted rocks and fragments of artifacts I found on the beach amused them. There had been a robbery in one of the museums in Athens just before we left and I had worried about all those fragments. Some had carvings on them and letters from old ruins. I think my bag weighed about 65 pounds, mostly rocks. All the beaches were rocks. No sand. The rocks all look like they were run through a tumbler and are lovely. My souvenirs for myself were inexpensive.
The connections are good and we finally land in Fairbanks. Joe is so happy to see Doris. He truly did not think he would ever see her alive, again. Neither of them were sure she would even survive the trip over. She has some other health issues and still isn’t ever going to run a marathon, but she is alive and perky, closer to her old self.
Doris not only survived a few more years, she got to see a Governor elected that represented the political party started by her and her husband. Her final cause of death was listed as cancer on her death certificate, her doctor here did not want to ever say she was cured, but her x-rays never showed anything in her lungs again but the small encapsulated dark spot she had for years. Joe told me she actually had a heart attack during an asthma attack.

A Trip to Greece – week 5

Week 5

The strange person was a man. He stripped entirely and dove in the pool. The hotel kicked him out, we missed the whole to-do.
Yesterday was a slow day. Neighbor lady and I walked all over Glyfada. Doris did some shopping in the hotel gift shop.
I got up today about 5 a.m. and helped neighbor lady and her husband pack their bags downstairs, then visited with them until they left, I will miss them. As they were leaving, 75 or so English kids and chaperones came in. Oh joy, just what we needed. School kids on Spring Break.
This afternoon, Doris and I went to Sounion and Posiedon’s Temple. It’s a nice drive along the coast, beautiful scenery, kind of like Eastern Oregon moved to the coast. Dimitris is a good driver, not crazy like most of the others. We should have taken the small oxygen bottle with us, but Doris did well. Pistachios, almonds, figs, olives and grapes grow along here.
My jaw isn’t getting better.
I went to the doctors’ with Doris this morning. We saw the Parthenon from the hills on the way back to the hotel.
I walked to town after breakfast before the day gets too hot. It was certainly hot yesterday afternoon. I found some honey for Doris to take home. The kind the cab driver said was best. I walked a block past the hair salon and around that block waiting for the farther grocery store to open. I was still looking for the brand of honey served at the hotel. Since I couldn’t find it, I bought the other. I’ve checked all the stores in walking distance. Two different vehicles offered me rides, then again, I don’t know that’s what they were offering…..I ignored them and kept walking.
One kept driving beside me so I picked up a nice handy rock. He left. It’s a very pretty piece of marble. It’s laying around everywhere, very lovely stuff.
My jaw still aches. I hope I can last until I get home, to get it taken care of. It aches all along the lower jawbone, under my tongue and even my upper jaw, now. At least it’s not steady. I don’t think I could stand that.
Getting lunch is quite a feat now, with this flock of hungry kids here. Kind of like running the gauntlet with a tray of food without spilling anything.
The patients are thinning down to just a few now. Not all are still getting shots but couldn’t change their flight reservations.
When Joe called last night, he had sad news. Their dog “Lucky” had died in his sleep.
When he called tonight, he said El wants a Greek fisherman’s shirt, net or something. I’ve only seen them in regular T-shirts. I haven’t seen anything like that in any of the stores, either. None of the hats various people wanted, either.
Another early morning. I didn’t get to go this morning. I think I will sleep a week when I get home. The bunch of kids yelled and screamed most of the night. Then a baby started crying. Lovely night.
Doris had a blood test today. The doctor thinks she has had enough, so tomorrow will probably be her last shot.
Two of the other patients haven’t left yet. They were here for lunch today. They’ll leave Friday.
We are supposed to go to Piraeus, tomorrow. That should be nice. But I’m sure getting tired of people, people and more people. Feels like the sheer volume of people is crushing me.
I just changed Doris’s bottle to the small extra bottle. She had wanted to save it to take with us on trips. It would have been handy for that.
After changing the bottle, I went back downstairs and visited with the other two patients, then Doris came down for a while, too. After Doris went back upstairs, the three of us walked downtown and got a paper.
I went back downstairs after our dinner and got the new oxygen bottle that was delivered a bit ago and hooked it up. Now we still have part of the little bottle to travel on. There is supposed to be Greek dancers downstairs at 9 p.m. I Might go take pictures.
I did. It was only 20 minutes so the video taped almost the whole thing. It was neat and I enjoyed it.
About quarter after 4 this morning it sounded like someone decided to rearrange the furniture on this floor. Doors slamming, scootings and crashes. Very hard to sleep through.
Doris doesn’t go until 8:30 or 9 a.m. today so we slept in until 7. Wow.
We went to Piraeus. It’s the largest seaport in the Mediterranean. Ships from all over the world, including Russia. There were yachts and sailboats everywhere, a lovely harbor. We even saw where Dimitris’ mother lives.
She has a lovely view from there. There is only a street between her and the seawall of the yacht harbor, plus there is a grocery store on the ground floor under her. All in all, a very nice trip.
When we returned to the hotel yesterday afternoon, there was a message to call Mrs. Giannopoulos at Swissair before 4 p.m. It was only 3:15 p.m. so I called and was put on hold for 20 minutes. I hung up and went upstairs and immediately called again. I was told she had gone home for the day. I left a message to call us. She did, this morning. We had to have THEIR Dr. Tryfonopoulos at Skoufa #66 in downtown Athens approve oxygen for Doris on our flight leaving here to go home.
That doctor was only in from 10 a.m. until noon. It was after 10 when we left the hotel. We had to go to the airport to get the health certificate from Swissair, to Dr. Alivizatos to fill it out as attending physician first. After we left his office, we found the paper wasn’t all filled in so my artistic abilities were good for something. Luckily, my pen was the same color. We got to the other doctor’s office at 5 minutes to noon. He was very pleasant and said he was coming to Alaska next summer.
Dimitris is sort of pissed off as though it is all our fault. He and Doris yelled at each other from the hotel to the airport, then not so loudly on the way to Dr. Alivizatos. Then very quiet back to the hotel. Now we don’t get to go to Corinth,
Tomorrow all villagers are going to their villages to vote in the countrywide elections on Sunday. I think it may be dangerous to be out and about then. There have been bombings almost every day since we got here, Politics. They take them very seriously. Opposing sides stand on opposite street corners screaming back and forth at each other. So far, they have only blown up each other’s headquarters late at night after everyone has gone home and empty cars. Not people or planes. That makes me feel a little better. We are very close to Turkey, Israel, Iraq, Iran, etc. Greece and Turkey don’t get along at all. Of course Turkey has invaded in the past, so…….
There are only four of the bunch of cancer patients and companions left here now in the hotel. The last four of us leave on Sunday. Now the place is filling with families and school kids on Spring Break, mostly from England. It’s certainly not as nice and quiet as it was before April 1st which was the start of tourist season.
Since I have been shopping for one meal a day since we got here, they now consider me a local and after giving me a heart attack when they ring me up, they laugh and hit another key and my total is half. Even the T-shirt shop and other gift shops do the same.
The Gypsy kids are practicing all this last week, also. Never have anything in your pockets and just stand still and let the little whirl wind of small children swirl around you, fingers like butterfly wings going over every pocket. I stand still with my hands over my head and laugh. They are laughing too. I kept some coins in one hand and as they start to leave for their next target, I drop the coins and walk on. They laugh, scramble for coins and never bother me again.
The drivers are insane, for the most part. If it is a two lane highway, they drive it as three. Stop signs are suggestions. If two drivers are arguing and pull up on either side of your car, you roll down windows so they can continue arguing across and through your car. Once in a while, if one makes a good point, you join in.
Our driver asks how I like Greece and I tell him it is nice, the scenery is lovely, the ancient artifacts intriguing and too many people, they make me feel claustrophobic. He thinks I use the wrong word, how can I feel that way, out in the open surrounded by friendly people that jostle, shove, smile, ask how you are and are so helpful. That is the point. There are so many people. There are over three million people in this small bowl of land below the surrounding hills that encircle Athens, Glyfada, Piraeus and a couple of other small (?) communities that all run together. The area is just about the same size as the area Fairbanks fills with the immediate outlying areas. I feel like there are too many people to breathe and that I am being crushed by their sheer numbers. The entire State of Alaska has less than one million people and I feel the same in Anchorage. Too many people.
Swissair called to let us know we are confirmed. I told them they cost us a trip to Corinth and caused unnecessary stress on Doris. He apologized. I told him “Not good enough. Why weren’t we told on April 3rd when we talked to you about confirmation of our reservation?” No comment.

A Trip to Greece 1990 – week 4

The fourth week:

I didn’t get to go today so took the two oxygen bottles that Dimitris brought and did some postcards. I had already done our laundry before we went downstairs.
Yesterday was Greek Independence Day. Since it was Sunday, we didn’t have to get up early. Daylight Saving Time started also. That’s about everything that happened.
Today I got to ride along to the doctor’s. We’re going down to the Acropolis later today. It looked pretty smoggy in that direction as we went along the hills, on our way in. Still quite dark but getting light. Full daylight on the trip back.
After lunch, Dimitris took Doris and I on a tour of the sea front on the way to downtown Athens and the Acropolis. We saw Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Zeus. Syntanga Square, the Palace and Guards, the Old University, the original New Olympic Stadium, the Parthenon on the Acropolis and Lycabettus Hill. Several other neat things but the people and vehicles were so thick, it’s no wonder the drivers don’t want to go downtown. I hope I got some good pictures with the camcorder and the still camera.
I went looking for the bookstore but it was closed. I want to get a couple of Greek cookbooks by Vefa Alexiadou (in English).
Now we’re sitting on the beds, watching TV, waiting for Joe to call and getting worried because it is so late. Okay, he just called.
Another early morning. Both of us would have enjoyed sleeping a few more hours. That bed felt mighty comfy this morning.
I can’t believe the stupidity or death wish of some of these patients. They know they shouldn’t drink, smoke or exert themselves and must follow the diet. Yet they ignore all that just as soon as they start feeling better. One fellow with lung cancer and tubes draining them still smokes. Real Intelligent.
After breakfast, Dimitris took a wheelchair outside for us and I took Doris for a spin on the beach. She even got up and walked to the sea to dip her hand in the water.
The large estate compound between the hotel and the sea has a crew doing repairs to the driveway. The family is not in residence so the gates are left open and the crew allowed us to walk through and look over the grounds that we can see from our hotel room which looks directly down into the compound. They are very wealthy so worry about the children and other family members being abducted, hence the ugly fence and wire with glass over the top. The crew are dragging out a simple repair of some potholes and has about 20 people working to repair them. One determined person could have done the work that has been done in 2 weeks in one day.
I’m getting brave or stupid, I’ve got an appointment at the beauty shop for a perm. So here I sit, a bit more trimmed than I’d planned, but everyone is very friendly and a different person handles each stage of hair care. Then calls everyone over to touch the baby hair. None have touched adult hair so fine textured. It won’t be long until I see what the results are. It is supposed to be a loose wave perm.
Well, I got a heck of a shock this morning. I looked in the mirror. It’ll take some getting used to. Everyone says it looks good, but…….
I went to the doctor with Doris this morning. Before she went in for her turn the doctor had a seizure and passed out. He was attacked a while back and left for dead in his home. He has seizures ever since. Poor man. After a while, he was able to continue and went ahead and gave injections.
Neighbor lady and I walked downtown. I bought some odds and ends, then helped her pack some of her bags to go home.
Doris gets another blood test today. I hope it continues to go down. We won’t know until tomorrow.
After breakfast, the neighbor lady and I walked to town. Since we were a bit early, we went to the beach closest to our hotel. Some old guy was swimming, then he walked up to the outdoor shower head and back to the surf. The next thing we knew, he was naked, rinsing out his suit in the surf and putting it back on. This is the family beach. The next beach is a topless beach and the one beyond is a nude beach. The cars pull onto the edge of the sand here, everyone jumps out, changes into their swimsuits right there and then go swim. I don’t want to know what goes on at the other two beaches. I have seen more naked people at the family beach, but they are just changing clothes the locals say, no problem.
We fixed a teeny birthday surprise for the neighbor lady’s husband. He is a fine man with a terribly painful cancer of the bones. We bought a couple slices of cream cake and a candle. I made a birthday card – Happy Birthday from Grease Greece with a pat of butter in a zipper bag, (grease) and a deck of cards for him.
Doris woke up at 4 a.m. with a bad headache and not feeling good. I doubt if we will go to Sounion and Posiedon’s Temple today. I sure hope her blood count is down.
It is 2.6 today. They said she only needs one more shot but since we’ll be here a week longer, she can take more.
Okay, real important stuff, TV trivia. April 13th is Blame Someone Else Day. Finally a holiday I can identify with.
I don’t know why Dimitris didn’t come by about our trip. It’s probably just as well since Doris didn’t feel good this morning. I was really looking forward to getting out, I even stayed in the hotel instead of walking with the neighbor lady as I didn’t know when he would want to go.
The chiropractor adjusted Doris’s neck and upper back. She feels much better even breathes easier now.
The hotel handyman is a Greek replica of Bill Murray in “Caddyshack”. Looks similar and acts like the type that would blow up a golf course to kill a gopher.
Neighbor lady and I walked some, this evening. We went past a place with fish displayed in the parking lot to select and take inside to have cooked for your dinner.
There is a strange person staying here, today. It dresses sort of punk female, but even after it partially stripped and went swimming in the hotel pool, the bar man was undecided. He was clearing tables when we came back from our walk. The person had exotic gold glitter eye design that swooped up beyond each eye, rather pretty and wearing odd silk clothing.
My toothache is accelerating. Doris gave me some amoxicillin to take. It’s not a cavity, I don’t have any.

A Trip to Greece, 1990

March 1, 1990 The first week
Joe and Doris call and ask about coming to visit. They have something they want to ask me. I am used to them having me babysit their house and dogs whenever they want to be away from the house for a while. I tell them they are welcome any time.
When they arrive, Doris is not looking as good as usual and moving very slowly. The ground still is covered in snow and Joe helps her walk to the house from their Mercedes. It’s not often I have such a nice vehicle in my yard.
They start by asking if I would accompany Doris to Greece for some medical treatment. She has just returned from Mayo Clinic and the prognosis is not good. She has been told she will not live to see Spring.
I am dumbfounded. I also don’t have a passport. Joe assures me that will not be a problem and I find that sure enough, it isn’t. I have my passport before we leave.
March 8th
When we meet at the airport, I am saddened to see that Doris looks far worse than she did just 7 days before. She has lost more weight and is very weak. She has always been a slender elegant woman but now she is still elegant but oh so tiny and is confined to a wheelchair with an oxygen tank.
To be continued.