Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Hugs to Larry, the BEST Husband, Dad and Grandpa. You make us laugh and keep us motivated to be the best we can be.

Judy, Scot, Robyn, Mitch, Jess, Laura, Kent, Mackenzie and Alexandra

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Blog


I wish I had found the above cartoon to post earlier. It captures
one's true feelings following back surgery.

More signs that I am getting better

1 - I can tie my own shoes.

2 - I can pretty much shower and soap myself.

3 - I can sit much longer, up to 60 minutes at a time.

4 - I started wearing regular clothes rather than sweats.

5 - I can get in and out of the car OK.

6 - I have been off any pain pills for one week.

7 - If abandoned, I can wipe my own butt.

8 - I am making great progress (5 pages/day) writing a book.

9 - I spent 4 hours standing and sitting at our Christmas party.

10 - I am sleeping at night about the same as pre-surgery,
and the post-surgery dreaming has tapered off.

The only down side is a 3-4 pound weight gain; this seems to
be manifested in a slight swelling in the ankle area.


p.s. You did click on the link didn't you ?
It is another sign that I am getting better !

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bad Weather - I Couldn't Go Out Anyway

I am getting stronger and staying upright longer.

A week ago I cut back from 2 to 1 Tylenol per day. This week I stopped the final Tylenol. This is the first time in two years that I have not taken at least one pain pill every day.

It is clear that I can now sit for periods up to one hour without feeling any pain. Then when I lay down, I seem to recover in 10-15 minutes.

I do have some imbalance in my hip muscles, likely caused by favoring my back when I walked before surgery.

Walking around the house is getting mighty boring, but we don't care to travel in this lousy weather and holiday shopping traffic.

My current project is to figure out how to publish all my past blogs into a single document. Any ideas?


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Real Cost of Back Surgery

While I still have not received any formal statements, the 'bills' are piling up.

First there was the new car. Both our older cars had in excess of 150,000 miles, and Judy needed something reliable to transport me around. The local dealer was begging for you to take them off his hands and if your credit is good, you can still get a loan.

Next are the home 'improvements'. Beds, toilets, showers and chairs all have to be modified. This was not a big deal or cost for us because my previous hip surgeries had taught us what worked.

Next there is the cost for having someone do the 'heavy' lifting, the climbing and most routine home maintenance. It is easy to see why people move into a housing arrangement where all of that is taken care of by someone else. The frustrating part for me is that I would gladly pay a teenager to do some of these odd jobs, but there are none to be found.

The first snow pointed out what the wife has been hinting for years--that we need an electric start snow blower. Sure enough, the first snowfall came and Judy was not strong enough to pull-start our old snow blower. When our macho neighbor couldn't get it going either, I knew the time had come. My other neighbor, who recently had extensive heart surgery, was way ahead of me. He bought his wife a Toro last fall, and when we saw how it operated, we bought one the next day. (It turns out our old snow blower, which I had acquired for $25 some 5 years ago, had a cracked head. I ended up selling it, cracked head and all, for $25 on Craigslist in one day. I had previously made a private sale of my third car on Craigslist, so I highly recommend that method of cleaning out the junk from your house and garage.)

But the really big cost is for a full-time nurse, cook, housemaid and all around gofer. If you don't have a mate who can perform these tasks, you can't have the surgery. These bills from my mate are piling up, and she says I will never be able to pay them off.

So go ahead and have the back surgery if you need it. Between Medicare and private insurance coverage, your out-of-pocket expenses won't be too bad. But be ready for those 'incidental' costs. They are the costs that keep going and going and going!


Monday, December 8, 2008

Top 10 Reasons I'm Getting Better

1 - Today is day 42 following surgery; I feel good.

2 - I find myself standing much more.

3 - I find myself walking much more.

4 - My right hip is sore, probably from lack of walking.

5 - My back is still sore, probably from lack of walking.

6 - I cannot move quickly as yet without causing back pain.

7 - I find myself reading more.

8 - Judy has given me responsibility to take my own pills.

9 - I can get in and out of the car by myself.

10 - Today while Judy was out shoveling snow, I actually felt a little remorse for laying around on my back!


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Standing Beats Sitting

It is amazing how much more productive I have become since I raised my two computers, as shown in the above photos.

My doctor's staff made the suggestion a couple days ago. I had tried both of the lap trays shown, but I used them as they were designed--for my lap while I was laying down.

Frankly, I don't think I have been strong enough to stand for any length of time until the past week or so. One can see some uneveness in my walking and standing, mostly due to an apparent muscle weakness in my right hip area. From now on when I write an email, I will not have to close with my usual phrase ...'my 30 minute sitting time is up.'

Another innovation in my recovery procedures was the purchase of a remote control for the lamp next to my living room 'bed'. We had tried various timers, but I never could reach them at 3 am. I saw the holiday season for Clap ON-OFF, laughed at it, and then realized they now sold a remote verson. So for $21 I gained one more degree of freedom.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Doctor Roth 3, Piper 1

Today was the one month followup appointment. This was the first time that Dr. Roth (and his PA, Nonie) have seen me since discharge from Beaumont Hospital 35 days ago. The score above represents my recovery time: the doc says I have two more months to go (for a total of 3), and I have completed one month--hence 3 to 1.

The items we discussed, somewhat in order of importance, are as follows:

1 - I am healing OK; the X-rays he took today confirm that diagnosis.

2 - When I asked how bad my back was, he answered, 'pretty bad'. But in the next breath he assured us my back was fixed as well as someone whose back had not started out as bad as mine.

3 - Two more months of same-old, same-old; no bending, twisting, or lifting; 30 minutes sitting time every two hours; do all the walking that I can tolerate. The next appointment in Feb 12.

4 - I can return to pre-surgery level of all pills--which I had done--as well as drop all iron supplements.

5 - I should experiment how I am wearing the back brace. Try it upside down as well as remove the front panel.

6 - Hold off on a scheduled prostate biopsy until six months.

7 - My current level of pain pills--2 Tylenol a day--is good (acetaminophen). No NSAIDs (ibuprofen) like Motrin.

8 - Try working on computer and reading while standing by raising work areas about 12".

9 - When I return in two months, he will allow me 'a little driving'.

10 - Question not asked: What will I eventually be able to do.

11 - Butt wiping time frame not given; it will happen when it happens.

12 - On why he doesn't use bone loss prevention stuff like Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva: it interferes with the fusion process.

13 - Implied in all the above conversations: continue to wear the 'choke collar'.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas Modified But Not Forgotten

So where is A.C. Gilbert when you need him? You may recall Gilbert as the inventor of the Erector Set (1913) and many other toys. However, it was his unofficial title as 'the man who saved Christmas' that I wish to call upon here.

In the summer of 1918, with the U.S. in the full grip of W.W. I, a War Board with nearly dictatorial powers and little Congressional review, declared that all U.S. manufacturers should redirect their efforts into producing war materiel. The fact that most toys were already made in Germany meant that alternatives were not available. Gilbert and other U.S. toy manufacturers gathered up samples of their toys and paid a visit to these men. In no time the men were down on the floor playing with the toys, and once Gilbert said they could take the toys home, the toy industry got an exemption, toys were produced for Christmas and hence the above title.

Now my predicament is not nearly so critical, but the effect could be similar. With our living room effectively turned into a hospital room and with our inability to get access to all the Christmas boxes filled with decorations, our home will have to forgo its traditional role as the family gathering location. Judy and I formally acknowledged this concession to my healing a couple days ago; wouldn't you know that simultaneously one of the children stepped forward to volunteer their home and decorating time.

This whole issue might have passed unnoticed had not I received an out-of-the-blue email yesterday informing me of an article written in my hometown Indianapolis Star about my Mother ( ). The article's subject was holiday traditions, how they are fading and how my Mother was a keeper of traditions. I always knew this, but somehow when others say so, it drives the point home. Now baton has been passed (27 years ago). At first my sister and now I have taken the responsibility to carry on this Christmas holiday tradition.

I will eventually heal and concessions will be made to tradition, but Christmas will be saved in 2008 in the Piper household.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Corner of the World

Five weeks down, how many more to go?

What you see above is our living room, modified for my lifestyle. What you don't see is the 46" TV at the opposite end of the room. Now having the TV is a mixed blessing--I can hear it OK but I can't see it (while I am laying down) without pulling down my bifocals on my nose. So the thing that hurts most is my nose!

I am still on the same schedule: 30 minutes siting every 120 minutes with maybe 10 minutes of walking thrown in. I sleep about 6-7 hours each night plus about 1-2 during the day. My pain pills for the last couple weeks continue to be two Tylenol a day. I did twist my back while sitting about a week ago, and I was sore and non-mobile for the next day or so.

I see the doctor in two days for my one month checkup. I know what he is going to say, but I will save that for another blog when I can report the full details.