Follow by Email

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What Does $4,000 Buy You?

An insulin pump that lasts less than two years.

Two years ago this January, I went on an insulin pump to manage my Type I diabetes. I had three choices: Animas, Medtronic, and OmniPod. After doing considerable research on the Internet, and after talking with my diabetes counselor, I chose the Animas One-Touch Ping. It had been working pretty well since then with attentive parts management - changing the battery every month; changing the battery cover and cartridge cap every six months.

But, recently, the pump display had started to dim from bright yellow to dim orange. I jacked up the contrast, without effect. And, in the past couple of days, I'd had trouble keeping my blood sugar anywhere near my upper target. Monday, when I was in Coeur d'Alene for other purposes, I stopped by my endocrinology center and talked with my counselor. The pump, she said, had to be replaced as there was no way to replace the display light. Yesterday morning, I called Animas and they said they'd send out a replacement pump right away. They did.

This afternoon, UPS delivered the new pump (signature required) and, within a half hour, my counselor had walked me through the pump setup. I changed my infusion set, took my sugar (reasonably low after ingesting no carbohydrates today), and ate some of the roast leg of lamb, potatoes, carrots and onions I'd made today. I gave myself a compensatory dose of insulin via the new pump. Two hours later, my blood glucose level was right where it should be.

So, kudos to my counselor for her guidance and to Animas for their prompt response. But you'd think that for $4,000 (paid by insurance, fortunately) you'd get a bit closer to the end of the four-year warranty period.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A New Houseguest

Back when my mother-in-law, Jean, was still living on this property, she was adopted by a pair of black cats, brothers, that came down from a mobile home south and east of our place. One was as sweet as could be; the other was just as nasty. They lived in the woodpile behind the garage until, one snowy day, the sweet brother disappeared. Probably into a coyote. The nasty cat stayed. We called him Black Pete.

He was a shaggy mess, hissing and growling whenever we came near. Getting him into a cat carrier to take him to the vet required leather gloves. Eventually, we got him into the old garage with Jean's cat Tigger, who had taken to spraying in the house. Tigger also sprayed in the garage until May, when he was taken by a coyote. So, Pete had the garage to himself. We'd let him out during the day and close him in at night so the coyotes wouldn't get him. His one endearing quality was as a greeter. Whenever we walked up into the hills from the old house, Pete would meet us on the road and escort us home.

Things changed when we got Pepper after the great cat massacre (when a coyote took three of our cats in the space of a week). Pepper ran Pete up a apple tree; Pete stayed up in that tree through two days of rain. When he finally came down, he was a different cat. Quiet, handleable, eager for human contact, but still very skittish around Pepper. He stayed in the garage, and we fed him every day, putting him back into the garage at night. Recently, we brought him into the old house at night, where it would be warmer. He'd meet us each morning in the kitchen for breakfast. On nice days, we'd let him out to get some sunshine.

Today, we brought Pete up to the house. Popping him into the cat carrier was no problem; no hissing, no growling. I brought up his bed and his food, and we let him out into my office. Karen spent part of the day in there with him while doing some work on her laptop. He spent part of that time on the window sill behind my desk, looking out upon the fog that settled into the valley. Periodically, one of our long-time house cats would stop outside the closed office door and sniff Pete's scent.

After supper, I went up to spend some time with Pete. When I entered the room, he was sitting on my desk eating supper. I sat in my Morris chair, which has broad arms. Pete crossed the desk and sat on the nearer chair arm, letting me scratch him about the head. He started purring, then lowered himself into my lap, rubbing his chin against my face and touching his nose to mine. Eventually, he settled down and would have dropped off to sleep had I not decided to come back downstairs. I gently lifted him off my lap and set him back on the desk.

 We'll probably keep him in the office for a couple of weeks to acclimate him to the house, then slowly reintroduce him to the other two cats and Pepper the Wonder Dog. In time, we hope to have a happy family of six.


Friday, November 9, 2012

First Snow

First snow of the year, more than a dusting, less than a storm that started last night, continuing this morning. Pepper went for his first walk in the snow up here, strolling down the driveway to the old house to pick up the newspaper and feed Pete, the black cat who now lives in the old house, rather than in the old garage. Pepper seemed to enjoy himself, rooting around in the snow with his nose, pausing to watch a small covey of quail rise up from the upper meadow and at deer standing under apple trees hoping for a late autumn buffet. There was a light breeze from the east, and the scent of wood smoke in the air.

Pete was happy to stay indoors, but I worry about his becoming bored. So, while he was eating breakfast, I made him a large silver ball out of aluminum foil - not so large as to intimidate him, not so small that it would get lost under the range. Some day I'd like to bring him up to the new house, but both of our older cats and Pepper really don't like him.

This is just the first snow, and nothing much to be concerned about. I've already mounted dedicated snow tires on my car and Karen's truck, and today I brought up Yak Trax so I don't fall on my butt when snow turns to ice. Later today, I'll bring up the snowshoes. Some day soon, I'll be using them on our walks.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Dressed for Safety

It's hunting season here in the Inland Northwest, and the frequency of gunshots has been increasing, particularly toward the top of our property, where our fenceline adjoins fallow land. Pepper's a roaming dog, enjoying nothing more than a multi-hour romp on our place, even after an hour walk on the lead. Following a neighbor's suggestion, I bought Pepper a blaze-orange safety vest at Cabela's. While the orange clashes with his markings, I still think he looks pretty good.

After a 20-minute ride to set up and adjust to my new indoor (garage) bike trainer, I took Pepper on a walk to our eastern fence line and back home again. Near the fence line, beneath a pine tree, I found this mud-daubed nest. Perhaps it's time to start collecting some of the natural bits and pieces on our land.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Since starting this blog, I've avoided politics. I will in the future, probably, but today's the right time to think about politics during my past four decades.

I was too young to vote in the 1968 election, but it was my first immersion into politics (other than passing out literature in my mid-teens for New Jersey Democrats Frank Thompson and Pete Williams, both later swept up in the ABSCAM scandal and helping Sam Alito win our student government presidency - bad move if one believes in the butterfly effect). I was one of the legion of college students canvassing New Brunswick and environs for the right to vote for 18-year-olds. We won.

1972 found me in the newsroom of the Burlington County Times, eating pizza and waiting for the results of the Nixon-McGovern race. Nixon won, and the rest of us lost. In January, I spent a very cold day on the National Mall in Washington photographing protests against Nixon for my paper. I still have shots of the "mythical creature for peace" and the middle-aged woman screaming at some young protesters.

Two years later, I was in Richmond, Virginia, for four years in the capital of the Confederacy. I remember nothing about Governor Mills Godwin or for whom I voted for any office. Except for Carter in 1976, to some extent influenced by a co-worker from Georgia (as the joke went, every state has two senators, except Georgia, which has Nunn). I think, perhaps, I was gobsmacked by the prospect of rampant Republicanism for the first time - even though I had voted for Republican Sen. Clifford Case while living in Jersey.

1980, my sixth year of working for the Army, the year I met my wife. The year Reagan won. I was living in Maryland, enjoying being back in Democratic country. Carter, of course, got creamed. But I voted for the two successful senators, splitting my ballot for Paul Sarbanes and Charles Mathias, one of the then-standout moderate Republicans.  Four years later, I again voted for Sarbanes and Mathias and again lost in the presidential race. In my last Maryland election, 1988, I helped bring in Barbara Mikulski and, again, lost in the presidential contest, backing the Duke against Poppy Bush.

I began calling Wyoming home in 1989, and voted there for the first time in 1990. Wyoming is a curious state, small enough to know the politicians personally, conservative enough to know that Democrats were eastern-moderate Republicans. I voted for the young guy from Arkansas for president, Gov. Mike Sullivan (D), whom I knew well and liked a lot, and Al Simpson (R), the brother of my immediate supervisor, Pete Simpson, and a stand-up guy in his own right. But, I just couldn't bring myself to vote for the late Craig Thomas, whom I also knew. Let's leave it there. I never did vote for him or his imbicilic successor, Barbara Cubin; for the first time in my life I registered Republican to try to eliminate her in the primary, but no such luck. I continued to vote for Big Al until his retirement in 1997, despite his shameful performance in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing. All politics is local, especially when you know and personally like a candidate. I voted for Mike Sullivan for Senate, then watched him fly off to be Bill Clinton's ambassador to Ireland. Dave Freudenthal, the last governor for whom I voted in Wyoming turned out to be an ego-driven disappointment, but better than the personality-purged Jim Geringer.

In 2007, I moved briefly to Washington State. As the results from my first Inland Northwest election came in, I was lying in a hospital bed in Coeur d'Alene in the early stages of recovery from sepsis, the result of complications from exploratory surgery. Karen tells me I was on so much pain medication I kept asking her about the election returns. But, I do remember watching an Obama commercial pairing scenes of economic hardship in America to the music of Paul Simon's "American Tune." I was overcome by emotion - and pain medication - as Barack Obama was elected president. I felt validation for the first bumper sticker I'd ever affixed to my car, as well as for the mail-in ballot I'd sent in prior to my hospitalization.

During the next four years, Karen and I became habitues of MSNBC and network news, tracking the president's progress along with the nation's. Yes, we told ourselves, we were better off than we were in 2008. I was alive, though at the cost of outrageous medical insurance premiums. Now, living in Idaho, we, again, voted for President Obama, and again made a contribution to his campaign, and yesterday we watched election returns from our new home. We still felt better off than we were four years ago. And, today, we feel a sense of calm that eased the tension of the past year. Good luck, Barack. Goodbye, Mitt.

Karen waxes nostalgic for the Democratic hero of her youth - Frank Church. Idaho also produced Cecil Andrus, a pioneer in environmental protection. I fear we'll never see their like again in the Gem State.

Four years from now seems like a lifetime away..