Monthly Archives: December 2014

Another Christmas done

2014 Christmas is done. Thank goodness.

I really don’t like this holiday anymore. There is no more magic in it for me. For many it is the happiest time of the year and with good reason. Spending time with family, seeing your children’s eyes light up on Christmas morning, the gift giving and receiving, everyone seems to be smiling.

So what the hell is my problem? It’s all me. I stress out about gifts, what to get the kids, how much to spend. What do kids like these days anyway? Will I be judged for giving a cheap or crappy gift? Will my mom yell at grandma again? The anticipation of it all makes me so uneasy.

I get sad around the holidays too. It would be nice to have someone to exchange special, personal gifts with. Someone to kiss when the ball drops on New Years Eve. You get the idea.

With all my mental issues I tend to be a sad sack during these times. I try to stay away from everyone because I feel like I’m bringing their good time down. They don’t need to see me moping. I want everyone to have the best time they can and I can’t be part of it. Not yet at least.

Liberty Hose Company. Can I live up to such an awesome standard?

My beloved fire truck

My beloved fire truck

I joined the Lindenhurst Fire Department in June of 2011. More specifically Liberty Hose company #1. Hose company is a somewhat archaic term, referring to the horse and buggy days but the term is still used for tradition’s sake. Most fire departments are steeped in tradition and pride.

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My company are the ones who go in and actually put water on the fire. Interior attack as it is called. We hit the hydrant, haul the hose through a structure, and extinguish the fire. Hook and ladder companies (the big trucks with the big ladders) do what’s called vent-enter-search. They open the roof and break windows to let smoke and heat out. They are also tasked with victim removal (though any firefighter in any company will remove a victim if need be). Quite an experience being in a room at 500 degrees, smoke obscuring any kind of vision, pumping out 125 gallons per minute through a hose.

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My brother and sister firefighters are a unique bunch. We have a retired corrections officer, a painter, a school teacher, village workers, NYPD ESU officer (retired), a plumber, all walks of life. Young and old. Men and women. All family. There is a bond forged in each of the members as strong as blood (some more so) that is difficult to describe in words. We bicker, get on each others nerves, argue, but on the fireground we will lay our life on the line for another member.

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As members of a fire department, we see the stuff of nightmares. We are there during the worst time of someone’s life. If you call us, it’s not because you are having a good day. Grave bodily injuries, massive property loss, impending death, we come to do everything in our power to alleviate danger and pain. Often at the expense of our own well being. Some of my friends have seen things unimaginable to the general public. I’ve heard harrowing stories that would crush a normal persons mind. I won’t go into details of any of the stories as they are not my stories to tell.

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I personally have not experienced such horrors yet, I often wonder if I could cope. Will I rise to the occasion? I feel like I am untested. Not that I want anything horrible to happen, I just want to live up to the standard set forth by my forebears. I want to know that I earned that shield on my helmet. Most say that I have and I really appreciate it. I strive to be the best I can, trying to set a good example for the newer members but now my job keeps my away from home and the firehouse. I am not the asset I want to be. I feel like a ghost now. I miss having the time to wax the truck, to respond to calls, make drills. I see no solution as yet and it is killing me. I miss all of you so much.

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RIP Cody.

The young racer from the RC track has passed away. He was 21 years old.

I didn’t have much interaction with him but the few times I talked with him he was a very pleasant kid. The others that knew him had no unkind words to describe him. They said he never mentioned the pain he was in, his impending demise, the fact he had no hair from the chemo…he just lived in the moment. Racing with his friends and smiling about it.

Some may question the existence of a God, others may see it as a confirmation of a higher power. All I know is that I hope with all my heart there is a heaven and he is there. Nobody deserves the ordeal he endured.

Rest in peace Cody. You made the A-main I hope we all qualify for.

Anesthesia, Pulling teeth.

Had the neck shot today. So far cortisone shots suck lol.

Can’t believe they knocked me out for a 5 minute procedure. Not that I’m complaining, it was rather pain free. If you’ve never had general anesthesia before let me try to describe it. After the standard vital signs and too many questions, and an IV stuck in the back of your hand, they wheel you into the room where the magic happens. The anesthetist tells you something to the effect of “You may start to feel drowsy.” Then you are in the recovery room. It’s so quick, as soon as he finishes the word drowsy, you’re done.

This was my third experience with this. The first time was for an MRI. I really don’t like the machine. Claustrophobia is no issue, it’s the fact that I’m being messed with on a molecular level. Never the less, dude finished the word sleepy and I woke up at home with a new screwdriver and a bill from Applebee’s. Apparently, according to my friend who drove me, I HAD to stop by Sears to buy a screwdriver, then I was hungry. No recollection whatsoever. Have to wonder what I talked about…did I mention something I shouldn’t?

Second time was for knee surgery. I woke up rambling to the doctor. As I regained coherent thought, I found myself saying random words that made perfect sense a minute ago. “So purple monkey sticky punch. You know? Spark plug dough has a dinner. If I want to be a red banner I will.”   Doctor just nodded like he understood what I was saying.

So anyway, now I feel like I just got beat up by a purple monkey sticky punch.

 

Bonus points if you’ve heard the title of this blog before.

Occipital Neuralgia, neurontin, and the joy of disability

So, I’ve been out of work on disability since November 5th. I was getting severe headaches on the left side of my head for a couple months with the pain getting worse by the week. On the 4th I drove into work and couldn’t get out of the car. Bossman saw me sitting there and asked if I was ok. Nope, not ok. I told him I had to go home, don’t even bother paying me for the day. I had enough and decided to finally go to the doctor. Aleve and the like weren’t cutting it anymore. I told the doc about my head and to also check out my right shoulder as I have had trouble with it for the last decade so he sent me for an MRI on both body parts. Now, I hate the MRI machine. It’s not the claustrophobia, the technology of it bothers me. Something about all the protons in my body being manipulated freaks me out. After a general anesthesia the MRI was done.

Turns out I have a herniated disc in my neck between C3 and C4 and is pinching the nerve on the right side, which is weird because the pain is on my left. More on that later. Also my shoulder has three separate tears, I think the rotator cuff is one of them.

I’ve been to three different doctors now. Orthopedic doesn’t want to do anything until I have an EMG test done to make sure all the nerves are working properly before he operates on my shoulder. Ok, fair enough. Have to see the neurologist for that.

I also have to see a neurosurgeon for the neck issues. When I told him about the pain being on the left side of my head he was a bit puzzled. Turns out I also have occipital neuralgia, which is a set of nerves that run under the scalp to the eye being squeezed, irritated or whatever. He doesn’t know what is causing it so he wants to start off with a cortisone shot in my spine to see if that alleviates the pain. Start from the inside and work our way out is what he told me.

The pain isn’t consistent, today is not so bad. Yesterday was a nightmare. The helplessness can be overwhelming. There was nothing I could do to escape, no comfortable position, no respite. I think the oxycodone a friend gave me is helping. Normally I don’t like drugs, including antibiotics and such, but I really really don’t like the opioids and the Neurontin the neuro prescribed for me makes me twitchy and clumsy. Had to make an exception for the oxycodone, I can’t deal with this everyday after all!

So here I am, home waiting for the next appointment. I can get stir crazy pretty fast, I actually spent an entire day talking to the dogs like Captain Jean Luc Picard. lol

It’s not all bad though, I caught up on the laundry, I go to the RC track when I’m not hurting too much. It’s nice to see all my track rat friends again. Dishes are all clean and I even swept the living room. I do miss the guys at work though. Not the commute or the fact I work in the city but my coworkers are a good bunch of folks.

What I miss most is my beloved fire department. Because I’m out on medical I am not allowed to any dept functions. They had the Santa ride on Saturday, that’s when one of the members dresses up like Santa Clause and rides the truck around the neighborhood with lights and sirens handing out candy canes to the kids. My company went out of their way to stop here at my house. Of course I was on the bowl when they showed up, lol. But there they were, 3 fire trucks outside and 15 firefighters piled in my house. It’s a brotherhood few experience and it’s one of the most wonderful feelings one can have. I’d follow any one of them to the depths of hell (to put it out of course) and I know they’d do the same for me.

There I go, off on a tangent.

Can’t wait for all this to be done. I just pray that I get cleared for full duty in the end.

The Worksman lives

20141105_123813 In addition to racing RC cars, I love riding bicycles. I have 4 of them, all different and unique in their own way. Now I realize the comedy of a fat man riding a bicycle but who cares? We fat people are punch lines anyway, but I digress.

My favorite bike right now is a heavy steel Worksman. Its upright riding position and sweptback “northroad” bars make for an extremely comfortable ride. I recently decided to upgrade it with a new Brooks sprung saddle, 5 speed Sturmey-Archer internal gear hub with drum brakes. I now have more invested in parts than I paid for the bike itself!

The shop I got it from had two of them kicking about and when I asked how much they go for the owner told me to take them. “Just get them out of here.” he replied. The shop is in Brooklyn and it is unfashionable to have a steel American made bike and these two bikes had been sitting for three years. I gave the owner $50 for the both of them as I have a real problem getting things for free. Gave one to an older (mid 70’s!) friend of mine from the fire dept and kept the other one. It came with a 3 speed coaster brake (hate coaster brakes), anemic front drum brake, and a comically large poofy seat. I got the bright idea to put some better bits on it and do it myself. Yeah…

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The seat was pretty easy, bolt it on and go. Aside from a slight issue getting the clamp around the seatpost it went relatively smooth. On to the hubs. Front hub fit beautifully in the forks. Oh yeah, this is going to be awesome. I totally jinxed myself. The rear hub was about 3 centimeters too wide for the frame. goddamitsomuch…I sat staring at the bike giving it the stink-eye hoping it would somehow change its shape on its own. If a ’58 Plymouth named Christine can do it, why can’t my bike? Needless to say I had to come up with something on my own. I tried bending the frame bare handed to no avail. I had a 2×4 wedged in trying to pry the rear of the frame apart (just for an FYI, the horizontal tubes are called the chainstays and the tubes that go up to the seat are called…wait for it…seatstays). I ended up rigging up a Rube Goldberg contraption to get the spread I needed. Ahh..now it fits.

I you noticed, I have only referred to hubs. Just hubs. Hubs are part of the wheel. They are held in the middle of the wheel by 36 spokes. 36 spokes in a very specific pattern called lacing. I didn’t know this pattern.

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Taking the old wheels apart was easy enough, remove the tires and that rubber strip. Unscrew all the little spoke nipples (ha) and everything just kinda falls apart. On to hurdle number 2. Being that the new hubs are larger, I needed different spokes. What length spokes? I had no idea. About ish or so, give or take a bit. I tried soliciting help from a bike forum but they just told me I was lazy, use a spoke length calculator. Ok said I, how hard can it be? Looked up said calculator and sat staring at it like a child trying to figure out calculus. Aspect ratio of the over-center actual diameter of the flange…….buh? So I can’t do this completely on my own. I made the trek to my favorite bike shop in Brooklyn (I live no where near Brooklyn BTW) and asked the mechanic for help. He said no problem, I’ll whip you up two sets in 20 minutes. He has a nifty gadget that cuts and threads spokes instantly. Woot! Now we’re cooking with butter! New spokes in hand I went back home with visions of me riding again by nightfall. That was November 11th.

Cue the calculus child again. 1 rim, check. 1 hub, check. 36 little metal sticks, check. 72 holes to fill…hmm. First attempt was a lesson in frustration. It was like trying to manipulate a spiny sea urchin. Fast forward a week and front was all laced up. Now I’m a pro! Rear hub…hates me. The wrong length! goddammitsomuch #2 Fast forward again and $72 later I have the rear done.

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Anyway, after that debacle, the rest of the project finally came together tonight. Bike looks way cooler now and has actual brakes. Took it for a quick ride down the block…the Worksman lives.