Phobias: I’ll Tell You Mine, If You Tell Me Yours!

That hairy tarantula crawling around the ranch the other morning would have, by definition, freaked out anyone who suffers from has arachnophobia, a fear of spiders. While it was basking in the sun behind a tire’s worn treads, I so wanted to put it in my palm and pet it, but before I knew it, someone had scooped it up into a bucket and displaced it into a secluded grassy area, away from me and the lethal parking lot.

And come to think of it, one of the last times I impulsively picked up a feral, furry animal, it bit me. Thankfully, that scraggly rat did not have rabies, or I would have been whisked away to the nearest hospital receiving treatment for rabies which, at the time, included 21 injections, with very long needles, into my 10-year-old abdomen.

I am not afraid of 8-legged creatures, but after reading yesterday’s news, I just might reconsider my position. “Invisible Bugs In Kansas City Are Jumping Out of Trees to Bite People, read the headline of the Wall Street Journal.  Apparently, it is oak tree itch mite season in Kansas City, MO and these microscopic arachnids are pouring out of trees and landing on people, making their lives an itchy living hell. Arachnophobes-beware! Don’t hang out under oak trees in Missouri.

mites

Oak Tree Mite

The next news story, Creepy Clown Craze Sweeps the Globe, peaked my interest.  I do not suffer from a fear of clowns (coulrophobia)…yet, but if I keep reading the news, I may have to ask for a lifetime prescription for Valium.

clowns

While we are on the subject of phobias, here is how I addressed my new-found support group of phobic cohorts:  “Hey everyone. My name is Elizabeth and I’m afraid of inclines.” Inclines? Yes, inclines, also referred to as slopes, ramps, hills, gradients, or ascents. “Welcome, Elizabeth,” they all chanted in a monotone kind of way.

There is a word for my malady. It’s called bathmophobia. For over a decade, this phobia has severely limited my ability to function well in this world. I avoid walking on even the gentlest of slopes. I’ll walk backward up a hill, but no way will I attempt to walk forwards. Sounds weird, right? Well, if you’ve ever seen me walking backward up the jetway to the airport terminal, it looks even weirder.  People stare, make jokes, avoid eye contact and get irritated at my slowness.  Generally, I ignore people by pretending to be pulling a very heavy, wheeled carry-on, or feign looking for the rest of my family who has already escaped to the terminal so as not to be associated with me.

20 years of chronic foot pain can mess you up a bit. Over the years my brain has learned to avoid potentially noxious stimulus. Protecting the area of the body that hurts is a normal response, one which is deleterious if left to linger for an extended amount of time. Muscles, tendons, and fascia tighten, and rigidity sets in. My gait has changed. There is little heel to toe motion.  My calves are tight. I’ve been walking as if I had big blocks of ice on my already very large, size 11 feet-bang, bang, bang. You can hear me coming for miles away. And you wonder why you never see me in a dress!

ice

Up until now, I’ve been half-heartedly facing my bathmophobia. Like everything else in my life, if the consequences are not dire, the task or challenge will most likely remain at the bottom of my never-ending list. Here’s the thing – Gilles and I own horses who have to move to a new pasture soon, a pasture where I will be faced with a 6 percent grade incline. Oh my……

A little bit about Athos: He is more canine than equine. Initially, Athos belonged to Yohan who discontinued riding because of CMT-related fatigue and pain. Then, I started looking after him and he quickly became my primary reason to get up early in the morning to walk and exercise.  Athos, lacking the 2 inches necessary to earn the title of horse, is technically a pony (shhhhh, don’t tell him), but he thinks he’s a Clydesdale, or maybe a Great Dane, depending on the day.  I ride Athos too, but standing 5’9” tall, with daddy longlegs limbs, my ice blocks nearly touch the ground when I get on his back. I can almost break with my frozen heels…..no joke!

athos-spider-legs

 

 

He loves kids, and kids love him. He is particularly fond of my 9-year-old “niece”, Bella, and vice versa.

:bella-and-athos

Athos loves performing.  In fact, he’s clicker trained and knows a lot of tricks, from nodding his head, “Yes” to pushing a ball around the arena to picking up sticks and retrieving. Athos will do almost anything for a carrot!

Watch the video below where Bella and Athos are playing!

video-bella

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRWbpvvf0Mg

 

So, I need to get moving in the upward direction. I have my mind set on conquering the 6% grade hill below (it’s steeper than it looks, folks).  It’s become my Everest, my K2, my Annapurna. If I can do this, I can do almost anything I put my mind to.  I’ll keep you posted.

slope

 

PS: And in the meantime, stay away from 8-legged creatures, clowns, and oak trees!

 

Recovery 101-Put Your “Breast” Foot Forward!

Yohan’s Foot Surgery #15: Put your “Breast” Foot Forward!

 

What else could possibly go wrong? After the pressure sore on the bottom of Yohan’s foot had more or less healed, his big left toe got infected. At this point, he was finally in a plastic brace instead of a big, bulky walking boot. At last week’s follow-up appointment with Dr. Pfeffer, he prescribed a 10-day course of antibiotics. He also commented on how swollen Yo’s foot and leg were. He ordered an ultrasound to rule out any blood clots and recommended the use of an elasticized compression sock. A compression sock? We’ll give it a go, but how in the world are we going to put his puffy, stiff foot/leg in a binding sock? It’s going to be like trying to fit an extra fluffy comforter into a shrunken pillow case. And then I saw these compression socks on-line:

socks

Suddenly, I felt super motivated to buy and try these decorative socks on Yohan. He will just LOVE them!

And speaking about that left big toe, which curves to the left, it has always had a mind of its own, like my cactus. The other cacti follow the rules and grow straight, while the rebel cactus first has to create drama by sprouting way to the left before moving upwards.  Breaking the bad news, Dr. Pfeffer calmly voiced his opinion, “You might want to think about a second surgery to straighten that toe before it causes too many problems. With CMT, it’s not uncommon to undergo several surgeries on each foot to fix everything.” Honestly, if my thoughts had become words, they would have sounded like this: “A second surgery on the left? Let me think about that…… NO!” And then, for effect, I might have added, “Have you taken that internet insanity test I wrote about in my previous blog post?” But there were no words to be heard because we just sat there in silence and moved on quickly to the next topic.

rebel-cactusbunion_cartoon

Rebel Cactus                                                     Rebel Big Toe

The best news of the day was that Yohan could now try walking without brace and/or boot. There were no more restrictions on movement. He was not only allowed to start physical therapy but was also given the green light to walk, point, stretch, twist, turn and do the loopty-loo. Dr. Pfeffer’s parting sentiments were, “Yohan, I could not be happier with the outcome of your surgery. Your foot is perfect! You can start walking!” We left feeling pretty darn optimistic.

But the following day, we got a reality check at the Los Altos Farmer’s Market. I think the universe was telling us to slow down…..way down. For the first time all summer, Yohan decided to join me, my friend Eva and her 9-year-old daughter, Bella, to buy our fruits, vegetables, and dinner. Although Yohan walked with a limp as he got used to his new foot, he was doing extremely well, until he fainted. Yes, he passed out cold, but not before Eva stepped in to save his life.

Here is a summary of events: His sweaty palm grabbed ahold of me as he started to lose consciousness. As his eyes became unfocused and rolled up into his head, I knew I would not be strong enough to keep him upright. Every other day, I lift my 2 and 3-pound weights to keep my upper arms from sagging, but there was no way I would be able to hold up this 150-pound kid who was falling to the ground in slo-mo.

That’s when our superhero, Eva the 6-foot Diva jumped in and saved the day. Somehow, Yohan got flipped around, facing Eva, allowing her to control his descent.  With her 38 G sized breasts, she provided inflatable side airbags to cushion his fall and prevent any chance of concussion. When Yohan’s smartphone went crashing to the ground, I knew he was out like a light. I was a little worried Yohan would suffocate between her large billowy boobs, but he was not even purple when she gently sat him on the ground.

My hero, Eva

 

 

My fellow Los Altans were so accommodating. Before we knew it, Yohan was sitting on a chair, drinking a coke and talking with a nurse. His first question was, “Where is my phone?” Second question: “What happened?” As we explained the chain of events, sparing no detail, Yohan’s cheeks reddened slightly. He was quite relieved to have no recollection of falling.  At least that’s what he said.

While this whole scene unraveled, I made sure not to lose my place in the long line of people waiting for corn and potatoes. And as soon as they gave me my order, I too jumped into Eva’s motherly arms with Bella. What? I needed a hug! That was extremely scary!

As calmness settled back in, we chalked this episode up to a lack of food, too much stimulation and pain. He simply tried doing too much, too soon and ended up having an unforgettable experience that we will never, ever let him forget. As my friend Donna would say, “Eva, thanks for the mamories!”

 

 

 

Surgery is Imminent

Yohan’s Surgery #1 – Surgery is Imminent
June 20, 2016
The Eve of Surgery

 

His toes are curled, especially the pinky toe which begs attention by standing just that much higher to make wearing any shoe a challenge. His crescent arches make walking a balancing act. His calves are as tight as the string of a bow and his ankles are turning out as the supporting tendons lose their grip. Thick, but hard earned callouses are just a bonus for winning the CMT lottery.

CMT is usually passed down from one generation to the next. It is inherited. Yet, neither my husband nor I have it. Yohan is the first person in our families to have CMT. His CMT is caused by a spontaneous genetic mutation. A mutation that can be passed on to his children, his children’s children, and so on and so forth.

Yohan will have reconstructive foot surgery tomorrow morning at 7:00 am, a surgery which has been planned for a year and scheduled for 3 months.

CMT foot

A few weeks ago, in a moment of sheer fear and anxiety, I clumsily suggested that we might want to get a second opinion on the necessity of surgery, a surgery that was only 3 weeks away.

In shocked disbelief, Yohan blurted out, “Are you expletive kidding me? After choosing to put my life on hold for a year after graduation? After all the in-depth discussions and conversations we’ve had?   No way. I’m resolute in my decision. Now let’s get this over with and put it behind us.”

Enough said. My worry asked the question and the voice of reason responded: the surgery is a go. The reality is that Yohan can no longer run, walk with confidence or stand without pain. It’s time. It’s time for an upgrade that only the hands and skills of a competent orthopedic surgeon like Dr. Pfeffer can offer. After tomorrow’s surgery and a 6-month healing process, Yohan’s calves will relax, his pinky toe will align, his arch will flatten and his tendons will be strengthened. Tomorrow brings the promise of less pain and more stability.

Any surgery is risky. And the recovery for this particular surgery is long and tedious.  But the possibilities of a new tomorrow are endless. So, when anxiety rears its ugly head, I am guided by Yohan’s words: Plan for tomorrow, then live in the now. Our brightest future lies in the sound decisions of today.