Wednesday, October 22, 2014

2014, A Year of Repairs for an Older Body

We all should know that as we get older, our bodies tend to break down in various ways.  This year I have found that little gem of wisdom is quite true.  This year I have had two parts of my body break down enough that three surgeries were needed to get these two parts in working order.

I knew the first part was running down.  I have known about my cataracts in both eyes for 3 or 4 years.  My vision was getting progressively worse, but it wasn't until this year that I realized I needed to get rid of those cataracts.  I had my cataract surgery on my right eye July 31, and the surgery went well.  The cataract surgery for my left eye was scheduled for August 20.  On August 19, I was in a hospital, but not for cataract surgery.  I was in another hospital with what looked like very painful kidney stones.  Urine was also backed up into my kidneys.  To make a long story short, I had an enlarged prostate gland which was blocking my urinary tract.  Needless to say, the cataract surgery was postponed.

The earliest the urologist could do the prostate surgery was October 1.  I had to use a catheter for four weeks or more in the meantime.  Such fun.  Finally the day for the surgery arrived, and the surgery went well.  Now my plumbing seems to be in working order.

Two weeks later on October 16, I had cataract surgery on my left eye.  I was worried a bit about the other two surgeries since I had never experienced them before, especially the prostate surgery.  I was not worried at all about the second cataract surgery since the first one was still fresh in my mind, except I had forgotten about those burning eye drops. This second cataract went well also, and now I am seeing in HD.

I didn't realize what I had been missing with my impaired eye sight.  I had adjusted to the poor eyesight until this year when I could not adjust anymore.  I had also adjusted to urinating more frequently, but I knew something was really wrong with my plumbing when I had the extreme pain and was urinating every five minutes. I hope I have learned a valuable lesson, especially being a older person.  I have to listen to my body more and not put off checking things out when my body is saying it is not working 100%.  I shouldn't check it off to old age.  I am at the old age starting point now since I turned 65 this year.  My mind is still young ( I was able to write this blog posting, didn't I?), but the body is not young anymore.  I could have other eye problems.  I could have an enlarged prostate again and have another blockage.  Unfortunately, there are a thousand and one other things that can go wrong as well.  I have to be more watchful and take better care of myself, or there are going to be other problems.  Not all of the problems will be fixable, but at least I must get the fixable ones fixed before they are not fixable.  Lesson learned.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cataract Surgery Dates Have Been Set

Wow, cataract surgery is actually going to happen.  The surgery on my right, dominant eye is scheduled for July 31 at 8:50 AM.  That is this coming Thursday!  OMG!  The surgery for my left eye is set for August 20, almost 3 weeks later.  The reason the surgeries are done on different days is that it is harder to tell the cause of an eye surgical problem if the surgeries are done on the same day.

How do I feel about this?  For one, I can't help but feel a little nervous.  There is always a risk with any surgery.  Cataract surgeries are done everyday all over the world, however, and the success rate for these surgeries is extremely high.   My eye surgeon, Dr. John Baldinger, has done over 20,000 cataract surgeries, and he has been practicing for 25 years.  He certainly knows what he is doing.  I think the risk is very low, but it is still there nonetheless.  Wouldn't you be nervous even a little bit?

I am also excited about having the surgeries done.  I have known for the last few years that I had cataracts in my eyes, but they have been really causing me increased vision problems this year.  I have noticed the it is harder to see at night, especially when driving at night.  The cataracts cause glaring from the headlights and taillights of the cars.  Thus my reaction time for reacting to events happening around me has slowed down.  In other words, it is not safe for me to drive at night.  Thus I have stopped driving at night.  I can drive during the day, but I noticed yesterday that when the sun was hitting me from the side where my sunglasses were not blocking the sunlight, my vision was adversely affected.  I was having difficulty seeing in the daylight, too.  I will be very happy to be able to see better.  I won't have perfect vision, but I will be able drive safely and do all my normal activities.  I will no longer need contact lenses as the artificial lenses that will be inserted in my eye will take care of being able to see far away.  I will need reading glasses for seeing up close, but I use them now anyway.  I know if I don't have this surgery, eventually I will go blind.  I certainly don't want that to happen.  Having cataracts is a normal part of aging for most people.  I am thankful that something can be done for this aspect of aging.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cataract Surgery Is Now Approved

Today I had my evaluation by a cataract surgeon to see if I need my cataracts taken out.  The appointment was at 10:00 this morning in Fairfax near Merrifield, and I had a friend drive me there since my eyes were to be dilated.  They tested my eyes with a couple of machines, and they tested them with a person making the measurements with the normal instruments used by an optometrist.  I told them that the cataracts were making it difficult to drive at night and that I needed to drive at night for some of my math tutoring appointments.  Bottom line, they agreed with me that I needed cataract surgery.  Hooray!

Now, I have to do somethings in preparation for the surgery.  I need to be medically cleared by my medical doctor no later than two weeks before the surgery. Tomorrow I will be taking the two-page form to my doctor and schedule the appointment for this.  I already have a follow up appointment scheduled with my medical doctor for Tuesday afternoon.  I don't know if this appointment can be used for this clearance or not, but hopefully I will find that out tomorrow.  The people at the eye doctor wanted me to schedule an appointment for the cataract surgery today, but I did not want to do that until I know when my medical doctor will be able to medically clear me for the surgery.  The cataract surgeon will perform the operation on my right eye first since that is my dominant eye.  My left eye will be done 3 weeks later.  There is a good chance I will be seeing better that next day.  I certainly hope so.

Of course I will be nervous about this surgery.  Who wouldn't be?  There is no surgery without risks.  My surgeon is an highly rated cataract surgeon, and he has done over 20,000 of these surgeries for 25 years.  I think he knows what he is doing, and I trust him.   I am looking for a great outcome when this is over with.  I have now taken the first step to seeing much better.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Old Age Is Starting to Catch Up with Me

This year I officially became a senior citizen.  I turned 65 this past January.  I am now on Medicare, and I am collecting social security as well.  I am an AARP member, and I get discounts at various establishments.  Yes, some of these milestones and events occurred before I reached 65 as there are various definitions of a senior citizen, but being 65 makes me a senior citizen by any definition.

I am also starting to feel the physical effects of being a senior citizen.  I have minor aches and pains which I deal with by a dose of extra strength aspirin, if needed.  I am trying to eat better with more salads and such.  I am exercising more with fitness walks and doing sets of push-ups.  I need to do more in this area, but exercising is not my favorite activity, I admit.  If I liked it better, I would be in better shape.  I do feel good about myself when I do exercise.  It is just hard for me to get started.  I am noticing one benefit of my doing the push-ups.  The bags that contain my GED materials for the GED classes I teach have become lighter.  How is that for results?  Maybe there is something to this exercising after all.

I am also trying to keep my mind active as I can.  Teaching my GED students certainly keeps my mind active.  I have to be at the top of my game when a student comes to me with a question, especially a math question.  I enjoy helping students understand how to solve a problem.  It is so cool when they do understand.  You see that light bulb turn on, and a smile breaks out on their face.  It is moments like that that keep me in the teaching game.  I play a computer game called 7 Little Words on my Nook tablet everyday, and I read a lot, the "Post" every morning, magazines, and books.  One fear of mine concerning getting older is the fear of getting some form of dementia.  Maybe I should not feel this way, but I am proud of having a somewhat sharp mind.  It is a major part of who I am.  I don't want to lose that aspect of myself, and that is the reason I fear dementia.  By keeping better care of myself both physically and mentally, I hope to keep that dementia devil away as long as I can.

The biggest senior citizen problem I am dealing with right now is my vision.  I have cataracts.  I have had them for quite a while, but this year they are causing real problems with my vision.  I can no longer drive at night.  The cataracts are causing glaring by the headlights and taillights of the cars.  It is impairing my night vision to such an extent that I don't think it is safe for me to drive at night.  In less than two weeks I will have an evaluation appointment with a cataract surgeon, and hopefully I will have cataract surgery and will then be able to see much better.  When I made the eye appointment, they told me not to wear my contacts for two weeks prior to the appointment.  Contact lenses change the shape of the eyeball, and they want my eyeballs to be in their normal shape.  That means everything is a little blurry for me.  I can drive okay without my contacts, but it certainly is not optimal.  Because of this, I am taking the train to Lynchburg tomorrow, and my ex-wife Jill will be doing the driving to Williamsburg on Monday (Yes, I said my ex-wife.  I am very lucky that we are still good friends.).  I will come back home on the train the following Saturday.  I am certainly looking forward to seeing better.

Being a senior citizen will have its ups and downs, just like any other part of being alive.  Certainly it is a lot better than the alternative.  They say these are the golden years.  I hope these coming years are golden for me.  We will just have to see.    

Friday, July 4, 2014


Yesterday on WTOP radio I heard Chris Core give one of his "Commentary & Analysis" broadcasts.  This particular broadcast was on DC Home Rule.  Why should I be concerned about DC Home Rule?  I don't live in the District of Columbia although sometimes I think about living in an urban area like DC.  I do live in Northern Virginia, which is next to DC.  I am concerned about DC Home Rule because DC Home Rule is an undemocratic form of government.  We should not have an undemocratic form of government in the United States, especially for the capital of the United States.  How can this be?  Let me explain.

In the Constitution of the United States, the District of Columbia is setup as a separate entity.  It is not a state.  It does not have representatives in Congress like states do.  DC has one, non-voting member in the House, and it has no members in the Senate.  States have two Senators each in the Senate, and they have voting members in the House, the number of which are based on population.  All members of Congress are elected by their respective states and DC.

Congress has oversight on DC's budget and laws.  Although DC has a city council which makes laws and budgets for DC, Congress has approval and can make changes to DC's budgets and laws.  The trouble with this is the members of Congress who make these decisions about DC are in no way beholden to the residents of DC.  DC residents do not vote for any of the members of Congress except for one, non-voting member.  Thus DC residents cannot vote out any member of Congress that makes these decisions about DC.  They can't do anything about any member of Congress they disagree with, unlike what a person like me ,or anyone else who lives in a state, can do.  We can vote the bums out.  DC residents can't do that.  Whatever Congress decides about DC, DC residents must live with.

An example of this was in Chris Core's "Commentary & Analysis".  Congressman Andy Harris of Maryland disagrees with DC's recently passed marijuana law.  Whether Mr. Harris is right or not is besides the point.  Yes, currently Congress does have the right to comment on and change DC laws.  However, Mr. Harris cannot make changes to local laws made by cities, town, or counties.  Only local leaders of those jurisdictions can make these changes.  It is not right that Congress can change DC's local laws.  Mr. Harris and other members of Congress are not elected by the residents of DC.  They do not truly represent the residents of DC.  Thus this is an undemocratic process, and it must be changed.

What changes should be made?  I am not a lawyer, nor am I a politician (some may say that is a good thing, especially these days).  Should DC be made a state?  Maybe, or maybe not.  Should there be voting members of Congress from DC in both the House and Senate?  Yes!  Should the DC council have final say on DC's budget and laws?  Yes, on tax money that comes from the people of DC.  The federal government does provide some money to DC just because DC is the capital of the US, so Congress does have a say on the amount and purpose.

There may be some other changes that need to be made, and none of these changes will be easy to make since everything becomes political no matter what the situation. Otherwise these changes would have been made a long time ago.  At least they should have been made a long time ago.  Frankly, it is shameful that we have people in this country who are not properly represented in Congress.  Congress has no business interfering in local rules and laws.  They don't do it anywhere else.  Congress, myob!  Congress, mine your own business!