Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Norman Rockwell Ending to 2009?

Norman Rockwell painting it was not, but not as bad as 2008. This year I felt that I had more positive experiences while other situations got bad or worse.

I'll get the worse out of the way first. It was tough trying to be Mr. Polite while my step father was allowed to be present for my sister's wedding. Although I was very happy for my sister and new addition to our family, it was hard not to cause a scene and step out of the illusion called "best behavior." Things are settling down in that area as long as my mom follows my sister's guidelines on getting her new start in life, living independently free from manipulation.

Another bad aspect of 2009 was the announcement that my good friend from work was diagnosed with stage IV A metastatic bone cancer. Everybody I've ever seen or heard does not escape this stage of cancer. He's still working (for his own reasons) and so I get to see him decline in every stage of the disease. He has confided in me regarding his treatment, thoughts, concerns, all the while keeping a unemotional expression on my face. He appreciates this since he needs someone he can talk to who doesn't cry or get teary eyed when he talks about his condition. He's lost 35 lbs, and can no longer walk upright without the assistance of a cane. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about him and wonder about his well being. I've gotten to know his wife too. This is something that makes it worse because now I have a face to his wife and child (6). He and I also talk about almost everything, really enjoy each others company, yet I know that there will come a day when he will be gone, and I will have forgotten something cool to share with him.

Now he's just received news that's the worst imaginable. I'm not at liberty to discuss but if you use your imagination, I'm sure you'll be able to figure it out. What bugs me the most is that he's a firm non believer. He's grown up all his life around Christian and Catholic private schools all his life. Although he's very knowledgeable about scripture, he still chooses to not believe. There's no changing his mind, especially with the news of his illness. I hope with every one's prayers and knowledge of prayers being given, he'll give his life over before he passes.

Another friend lost his hearing due to a work related accident. After being plagued with bad luck between loosing his brother to brain cancer, and having his wife battle issues with allergic airborne reactions, he has irreversable severe tinnitus (hyperacusis)which would keep him up at night due to the insane ringing in his ears. Another long time musician, he is no longer able to play guitar let alone listen to any kind of music at all. He's having to try (or about to try) various forms of white noise and pink noise treatments in order to help retrain his brain to get used to the ringing so that he can get used to the ringing. Again, feeling like I have nothing to offer as far as comforting words since I can't even imagine what he's going through. And like with my other friend, I feel that a lack of words is even worse than empty words.

And now onto the positives. After a long time waiting for new x-ray equipment, I finally went digital this year. This means no more chemical processing of images, it's all done on the computer, my friend. It's made my life so much easier now. We are still doing the same amount of workload at half the time, thanks to the direct capture machine. You place your hand on a sensor and within 2 seconds, the image appears on my computer monitor. The image is then sent to a database where all physicians and radiologists can view in almost the same amount of time it takes to make the image.

Times when I've dreaded summer, turned out that this one was really nice. After loosing about 25 lbs, it was fun to get out and do things with my family. We got to stay a few weeks at the beach and share that time with friends who came down and spent a day or two with us. I was sort of sad that summer left. Usually I can't wait until summer is over, just to escape the heat.

My hand pain disappeared for some odd reason this fall. With the new fingers I decided to join another band and only keep it at one. I'll probably start up with Worship band in 2010.

This winter, I got to experience snow again. I have not been around a snow storm since I was a kid. We took a week and traveled up north, met up with some friends and stayed a week at their second home in Lake Tahoe. The girls got to see snow fall which they can't remember the last time since they were very young then. I really miss the snow, although I don't think I'd be able to deal with it when I had to be at work a certain time. The highest temperatures it's been has been around 65, usually it's been about mid 70's to low 80's but then drops to about 40 degrees at night. This week it's been about 36 degrees for the low.

So I've just finished Christmas and ended the year with my band playing at an outdoor festival, full of Christmas lights, ice skating, and hot chocolate. It was a fun show. I'm now left with a good feeling and so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to reflect on my dwindling 2009 year.

While chores and 50% off after Christmas sales await me, I'm left with the question, was this my Norman Rockwell year? I guess if I count my blessing of what I have, whether that be known or unknown, I could be close. Hopefully closer in 2010. I won't be free and clear of certain obstacles but at least closer.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Back On Stage Again: Grovestock 2009

After a little more than a year of total guitar abstinence, I've joined up with some of the best musicians from my church to form the band, The Relics. Originally, I sat in with the band a few months ago just to fill in some wholes in the 3 piece instrument 70's "Guitar Hero" band. It worked out well. I've since played twice with this band and it really fits.

We play all those songs from the early 70's from Led Zepplin, Deep Purple, Bad Company, Cream/Derek And The Dominoes/Clapton, to Fleetwood Mac, ZZ Top, in addition to one hit wonder bands like Mountain (Mississippi Queen), Free (All Right Now) and Golden Earring (Radar Love). It's so much fun playing these old songs. I mentioned Guitar Hero because if it weren't for that video game (which uses many of these old songs in the game) then we'd have a very narrow fan base. Even teens end up in our audience. Anyway, we played at a fundraiser last week. Here's some pics and a video clip from that show. Unfortunately, I only have stills of the guitar dual on "Highway Star". Mike Barnes and I do a dueling harmony "car out of control" guitar solo that was a blast to play.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thinking About Hanging Up Stew's Clues.

Really nothing to say anymore. This blog is starting to be viewed by people who really have no business being here. Although, that's the risk I took when I started this blog. World Wide Web is all eyes on, no passwords for this blog, despite my blog name.

I'm not that comfortable anymore knowing certain people are aware of my every thought, opinion, ideas.

I apologize to my European following (weird, huh?) and the small group of x-ray techs who found my frustrations humorous. Premier Guitar magazine who picked up on my guitar designs and listed me as an up and coming guitar builder. That was nice.

As of December 31st, 2009, this blog will be done, dissolved, eliminated. All pictures will be removed and all that will be left is a "Page No Longer Exists" prompt. I may post an exit comment before then but I just wanted to give all of you a heads up. I mean, all I did was gripe anyway.

I did enjoy updating my title image every month. Shag is an awesome artist.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Magical X-rays Make For A Huge Swine Flu Season.

Despite the lack of another knee-jerk reaction towards an pandemic of the Swine flu, this flu season will most likely be huge due to the lack of education or most likely, the lack of applying education. Patients in our facility refuse to wear blue masks.

I work in a hospital where daily I'm seeing Mexicans carrying masks. Not wearing, carrying them. All day long these miracle masks help prevent the spread of the H1N1 (Swine Flu) virus. I see them tucked in back jean pockets, top shirt pockets and small children chasing their masks around waiting rooms. Kids like to pretend they are mini parachutes. The parents nearby totally oblivious to the problem.

As offended as many may be by this comment, it is just a fact that I only see dark skinned immigrant appearing people walking around with masks. Sure I'll occasionally see a white person (who knows, could be German or Australian) wearing a mask (yes, actually wearing). But those individuals are clearly patients currently under chemotherapy.

Two recent incidents in my department. I took their Chest X-ray and after excusing them from the exam room, the patient proceeded to remove their mask as they walked out the door and to return back to their doctor's office. Another removed her mask in order for her to cough outside of her mask. Nice.

We've had numerous deaths in our hospital due to the Swine flu. Even pregnant women have been delivering babies who have confirmed Swine flu already. As much as I hate to say it, they are mostly Mexican or Hispanic.

In addition to not wearing their masks, they also do not cover their mouths when they cough. But that's not just a Mexican issue, it's apparent with all races. I've never seen so many people walking around, adults mind you, coughing straight into the air, no head turned to the ground, no cough into the shoulder, not even a hesitated raise of the hands as if to not catch the cough in time. I find myself holding my breath after "drafting" behind some patient in the halls only to have them cough full force straight ahead of them.

Try this experiment sometime; around 2 hours until sundown, sit across from somebody who's back is turned towards sunlight. In just normal conversation, you can see fine mist droplets flying from the person's mouth 4 feet across from you. A cough or sneeze carries those droplets at least 2-3 times further than the normal speaking distance.

None of these people are going to change, nobody is going to stop them and we will end up having the biggest flu season anyone has seen in awhile. Nothing will be done until numerous people will begin to die in the thousands. Nothing preventative outside of this year's flu shot is currently being done to prevent this from becoming a bigger problem.

I'm not sure what the problem is. Is it staff that do not speak Spanish in order to inform the patient not to remove the mask while in the facility and just merely hand them the mask without instruction? Or is this just pure ignorance as to how the mask provides a barrier for the spread of germs and spores.

Who knew covering your cough, limiting yourself around crowds, and washing your hands frequently could be so difficult to follow.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Doctors Quick To Blame X-ray Techs, Again.

Okay, you knew it was coming. I've been sitting idle on this blog for quite some time. Now I'm finally moved to voice my opinion, a rant if you will. In the past few months I think I've let my Radiology followers down with guitar postings and more personal life reflections. So here it is.

I work in a facility that has an Urgent Care. For some reason, these doctors have complete confidence in their nursing staff to triage patients for x-rays. Double overlapping orders like "Right Finger" and "Right Hand", "Left Wrist" and "Left Hand". Basically really have no clue as to what will show the area of interest. We get orders all the time requesting "Shoulder, Elbow, Wrist, Hand". That translates to 3 images for the shoulder, 4 images for the elbow, 4 images to the wrist, and 3 images to the hand. That's a grand total of 14 shots of radiation to the body. Little do they know, they've just missed anything that might be broken in the humerus (between shoulder and elbow) and the forearm (between elbow and wrist). But don't ever bring that up because that might get thrown in there too if the ordering nurse is second guessing herself. We hardly ever get just a humerus and forearm ordered. This would show the entire humeral shaft, show a portion of the shoulder and two views of the elbow. Then the forearm order will overlap studies by providing views of the elbow while still visualizing the wrist and entire forearm. If anything, the ordering nurse should resort to this if he or she is doubtful as to what's visualized.

When x-raying a body part, there is a certain amount, criteria if you will, regarding the total area to be visualized. Outside of that perimeter may be considered as irresponsible use of radiation. The larger the beam, the more amount of radiation being used. Because of billing reasons, we are required to stay within the boundaries of which to image a body part. Outside of those boundaries are considered fraud, seeing more on an image than what's considered standard (translation if more than half of another body part is shown on an image then you took two exams for the price of one.)

Anyway, the point of all this information leads me to my next point. Doctors like to use words like "they" when describing something when things go wrong. When "they" is used when describing a wrong order, the patient interprets "they" as "x-ray", the people who took the pictures, never the idiot nurse who's not aware of anatomy. I performed a wrist exam on this elderly man a few days ago. I did the 4 required views and sent the patient back to the Urgent Care. About a half hour later, this patient returns with their wife for a forearm exam. I kindly mentioned, "oh, so you're back for more x-rays"? She replies, "the doctor said that you should have included more of the arm" and points to the middle of the forearm. Rather than go into a whole blame game with the patient, who really doesn't want to hear excuses but to just find out what's wrong and go home, I calmly mentioned that we are required to only x-ray so much and that it's not up to the x-ray tech to determine how much of an area, mentioned also about the exam is like a prescription, I can only do what's ordered. I'm fast so they were in and out quickly, all that really mattered to them anyhow.

But I can see how people can get things twisted around with a word like "they". I'm sure the provider said, "oh, they were supposed to get more above the wrist" could have implied that the nurse ordering the initial exam forgot to order a forearm with the wrist. Now you can see where the problem is.

The problem is that our Urgent Care nurses have been given the thumbs up to check patients in, ask them where it hurts, and then send them off to x-ray, BEFORE THEY HAVE BEEN SEEN BY THE DOCTOR! So we get lumbar spine orders when it's clearly a case of constipation. Orders for shoulder/elbow/hand x-rays for numbness and an hour later the patient returns with a Cervical spine order (don't get me started on the oblique orders for MVA patients). Or even better, an elbow and wrist order with comments stating, "show entire radius and ulna" only to call the doctor and be told, "I can't find the proper order, can't you just open the beam up and show me the whole forearm?" Yet time after time after time, WE the tech are portrayed as the idiot, the staff to point the blame to when something goes wrong. In some ways it's very similar to high school clicks, one group views they are the most important to the hospital. But let's face it providers would be BLIND without x-ray.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Fergussons

I've been spending my time searching for old photo albums. One of my finds was this picture taken in Canada in 1973. This image produced an explosion of memories about my grandparents.

My grandfather passed away in 1998 from complications due to lung cancer. He once told me that he had smoked since he was 16 and didn't stop until he was in his 70's. My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in the late 90's. She may have had it before 1999 but my grandfather kept it pretty well hidden from the rest of the family. Mind you, that generation learned to keep immediate family issues hush. When my grandfather died, we found out pretty fast about grandma's condition and placed her in an assisted care facility. It was when their house was being sold that my mom obtained personal belongings from my grandmother. This is the first time I've ever seen these albums. It's brought laughter and a lot of sadness to realize they are not here with us anymore.

One album in particular caught my attention. A simple trip to Canada in 1973. My grandfather was born in Albany Canada and later moved to the US. They meant everything to each other. Married in 1970 (my grandfather divorced from a previous marriage, and my grandmother a widow) they appeared to be inseparable. He was the only grandfather I knew. My own grandfather died a year before I was born, taken by leukemia in his late 40's.

My grandfather always spoke his mind with the usual catch phrase at the end, "are ya with me?" He may have seemed like he was annoyed by my lack of planning, but you knew he was telling you because he cared.

My grandmother was very simple, almost unaware of what's going on in the world. She definitely was from the "man takes care of everything" generation. With her big silver wig, sharp features and those cool Ray-Ban "cat eye" sunglasses (back in the 60's and early 70's), she was always dressed to the 9's for every occasion.

I have cousins, grandchildren from my grandfather's previous marriage. They all lived in Seattle, Washington at the time. When I was 12 or 13, my grandparents invited me to fly up and visit. I never grew up with any brothers or sisters so visiting my cousins was like the best thing ever. I loved being with my cousins, they were never thought of as step family. Some of my best vacation memories are with my cousins.

During the flight, I remember grandpa putting on the disposable earphones (you'd plug into your armrest and there was a dial to select preset stations), turning the station to his favorite Lawrence Welk music. Grandpa stuck his nose in the air, swaying back and forth in his seat while snapping his fingers to the beat. Of course I couldn't hear the music, but I could tell what he was listening to. I used to get stuck watching The Lawrence Welk Show whenever I'd spend the night at their house. I'd usually just lay on the floor and pet their golden labrador, Candy.

They had a place down in Corona Del Mar, a beach getaway. I'd spend the weekend with them every so often. Around 5:00 PM, we'd leave to go to a place called The Quiet Woman. Grandpa would joke around and say, "Okay Dave, let's go to the Headless Woman. Grandma would quickly correct grandpa and say, "The QUIET Woman Alec,...the QUIET Woman". I've shared that story with my own daughters and every once in awhile I'll take Pacific Coast Highway through Corona Del Mar on my way to Laguna Beach, and point out The Quiet Woman to everybody. Of course everybody in the car responds, "The Quiet Woman Alec, The Quiet Woman".

A favorite dish that was served on weekend visits at the beach house would be barbecued swordfish. It was sooooo good. In fact, after finding these pictures of my grandparents, I decided to extend grandpa's summer tradition of occasionally serving swordfish to my family and friends. I know I'll think of my grandparents every time I grill it up. I miss them very much. I miss grandpa's wisdom. There have been so many times I wanted to call him up and ask his opinion or advice regarding something. I miss watching him build things in his garage at the beach; clocks, airplanes, and other around the house repairs. At the time, you never picture life without them...are ya with me?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2009 StewMade "70's Appliance Guitar" Avocado Burst.

I was trying to capture all the 70's "ugly" in this guitar. But it turned out to be a little more tasteful than I expected.