Wednesday, 5 February 2014

By on February 5th, 2014 in Barbara

07:30 – Barbara went out to dinner with her friend Marcy last night, followed by a concert on the Wake Forest University campus. Frances had forgotten that Barbara was out. She called about 8:30 to give Barbara an update on their mom. Monday, Sankie had been asking her caregiver to call 911 because she was having a heart attack. Yesterday, she was trying to convince her caregiver to call 911 because she was in kidney failure. Neither was true, of course. Sankie seems convinced that there’s something badly wrong with her physically, although the doctors say there’s not. Unfortunately, the problems appear to be purely mental, and they’re not getting any better. Worse, if anything.

Frances and Barbara have been looking at care facilities, and have decided on one called Homestead Hills. It offers three levels of care: assisted living, memory care (Alzheimer’s/dementia), and full nursing care. Frances is going over today to put down a deposit to get Sankie in the queue.

09:32 – Another day, another crisis. Frances called at 7:36 this morning to tell us that Sankie had pressed her LifeLine button, that the EMTs were at her apartment, and that they were getting ready to transport her to Baptist Hospital. Fortunately, Frances got there in time to tell the EMTs to ignore Sankie. She has it in her mind that she goes to Baptist Hospital, when in fact all her doctors are at Forsyth Hospital.

So we had a conversation with Frances, Sankie, and the EMTs sitting in the ambulance in Sankie’s apartment parking lot. Barbara and Frances tried to convince Sankie that she didn’t need to go to the hospital. (Sankie’s complaint, repeatedly, was that she needed “medical attention”.) She refused to go back to her apartment, saying she didn’t “feel safe” there. Barbara and Frances explained to Sankie that if she went to the hospital that they’d probably put her in the 9th floor psych ward, which she hates, and that they’d discharge her to a nursing home and she wouldn’t be coming back to her apartment, ever. She still refused to go back to her apartment and insisted on going to the hospital, saying that she needed “medical attention”. So they transported her to Forsyth. Barbara and Frances are down there now. I have no idea how this is all going to turn out, but I suspect it won’t be good.

Meanwhile, before she left here Barbara had dropped her cell phone, fracturing the screen. So she has my cell phone as a temporary replacement while I get a real replacement ordered for her. Just one more stressful incident that Barbara really didn’t need right now. Barbara and Frances are back in hell, and their mom doesn’t know or care what she’s putting them through. As Barbara said before she left, dealing with Sankie is like dealing with a 2-year-old. I’m afraid it’s not going to get any better.

12:10 – Barbara just called to tell me that the hospital has diagnosed pneumonia, presumably pseudomonas again. Oddly, that’s good news, although pneumonia can kill even young, strong people, let alone a woman who’s nearly 86 and has other health problems. But it also means that Sankie’s severe mental problems lately may well be a result of the infection. Given that Sankie was in the hospital for a week, ending only two days ago, I’d like to know why the other hospital didn’t notice. It’s obvious that this infection has been running for some time now, possibly several weeks. This simply reinforces my opinion of psychiatrists as people with MDs who don’t actually practice medicine.

63 Comments and discussion on "Wednesday, 5 February 2014"

  1. OFD says:

    Sorry to hear it, Bob; it is nightmarish to deal with, especially in how easily and quickly they can get third parties involved who don’t know the specifics before the family can intervene. My mom turned 82 yesterday and is in a care facility; she operates about 50-50 between lucidity and being in some other dimension and refuses to leave her chair, I am told. Crystal-clear on events from sixty years ago but not so much on the last five seconds; sort of like me, increasingly. But I occasionally force myself to get out of my chair.

    Snowing steadily here but I doubt it will amount to much, and 17 degrees so fah.

  2. Dave B. says:

    As Barbara said before she left, dealing with Sankie is like dealing with a 2-year-old.

    As the son of a woman with dementia and the father of a two year old, I have to disagree with Barbara. My daughter is much easier to deal with than my mother.

  3. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    The really scary part for Barbara and Frances is that mental issues run in their mom’s side of the family. Both sides had lots of kids, something like 20 total. Of Barbara’s aunts on her mother’s side, I think all but one have suffered from dementia. Barbara and Frances are afraid that they’ll end up that way. I told Barbara that I didn’t think she had to worry. She takes after her dad big-time, but her sister takes after her mom.

    I just got her replacement phone ordered and called Barbara to find out what’s going on. Barbara’s calmed down a bit. They just brought her mom back from a CT scan and are admitting her to a regular room for now. Her mom is insisting on a private room. As Barbara said, she’s acting like she’s checking into the Hilton.

    I suspect that when they do discharge Sankie, they’ll discharge her to a nursing home, and that’s where she’ll stay. Barbara hasn’t ruled out her going back to Creekside, but as I told her last night there’s no telling how long her lucid spell would last. There’s no reasonable expectation that she’d be able to stay at Creekside for any period of time before she blows up again. She belongs in a mental/nursing facility.

  4. Chuck W says:

    Just enough snow here to be a PITA. Probably 6 inches, but added to what was already on the ground, means I am going to have to actually dig the car out to go anywhere. Love this Democrat mayor. Street was plowed even before I got up this morning. The Republican mayor who preceded this one, would not plow the street for love nor money. He would not plow any secondary streets. My street is only 3 blocks long, so it is definitely a secondary.

  5. OFD says:

    The town garage here is just past the Shell station/store on the corner (see new-fangled Google map) and they have their trucks out right away; one just went by again; this is mos def a secondary street but they keep it nice. No complaints.

    If I have to go anywhere I’ll have to brush off the truck and that’s about it.

  6. Ray Thompson says:

    There’s no reasonable expectation that she’d be able to stay at Creekside for any period of time before she blows up again. She belongs in a mental/nursing facility.

    I know what you are dealing with having done this with my aunt. She was a problem even in the nursing home. But the nursing was better equipped to handle such situations.

    One piece of advice which you can take or ignore. When Sankie goes into the nursing do not be afraid to have her put on drugs. They have some pretty good stuff once they get it balanced that will keep the person calm.

    Is drugging someone a good thing? In my aunt’s case yes. Life was much less stressful for her, for us and the staff. Only Barbara, her sister and you can decide if that is a viable option.

    My aunt was in assisted living and left because she ran out of money. But she was close to requiring a nursing home as her mental condition was getting beyond what the assisted living could handle. I never regretted the decision.

  7. OFD says:

    I second what Ray said about the drugs; they have better stuff now and if they’re any good they can fine-tune and calibrate it a lot better, too.

  8. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Thanks. I won’t have anything to do with the decision, other than offering advice and comments. Barbara and Frances are fiercely protective of Sankie. Think mother grizzly bears protecting cubs. They’ll make the decisions, which is as it should be.

    I keep hearing Neil Young in my head: “And once you’re gone you can never come back, when you’re out of the blue and into the black.”

  9. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    As far as the drugs, it’s been a constant battle to get Sankie’s drugs balanced. Her psychiatrist wasn’t able to do it this last time, although he’d succeeded several times in the past. I think Sankie is at the stage that my dad, my mom, and Barbara’s dad all went through: try to fix one thing and you break something else. Trying to fix manic depression, dementia, paranoia, and general depression all at the same time is difficult or impossible.

    I will be really surprised if they manage to improve Sankie’s mental condition noticeably for any reasonable period. She’s in and out now, mostly out, and even when she appears lucid to third parties, people that know her realize that she’s talking nonsense. I think Sankie has started her final downhill slide. I wish there were something to be done, but I don’t think there is. This is going to be very hard for Barbara and Frances. All I can do is try to help Barbara cope with it.

  10. Stu Nicol says:

    That which we noticed with my wife’s mother is that with each physical illness, there was an accompanying mental deterioration. However, while there was almost a 100% physical recovery in most instances, the mental recovery was only partial, essentially incomplete. Consequently, there was a stair-steeping, irrecoverable mental decline.

  11. Chuck W says:

    Never fun when you know things are at the end. My grandparents, all but one, got sick, and within a matter of weeks were gone. Their children have had longer lives, but it has been filled with heartache as the medical field keeps them hanging on as they decline past the state where they can no longer take care of themselves. And that goes on, and on, and on. A generation ago, they passed fairly quickly without being much burden. It is a new era, presenting more problems to deal with, instead of fewer.

    My best to you and Barbara in dealing with this. Actually, it sounds like Sankie is in very good hands. If she were lucid, she surely would be proud.

  12. eristicist says:

    I’m very sorry to hear about Sankie. I hope she gets better or passes painlessly.

    As far as I know, Barbara’s doing the best thing she can — with respect to dementia and other diseases of old age — by remaining active. Obviously there’s the potential for confusing cause and effect here, but an active lifestyle seems to be the single most effective thing to ward off those diseases.

    Hopefully, in a few years, we’ll be able to use different imaging modalities to assess brain health (in terms of impending dementia) long before the onset of symptoms. I’m quite optimistic about using perfusion information for this. Not much of a consolation, but at least if you can monitor something you can develop a better idea of when/how to treat it.

  13. bgrigg says:

    I have much sympathy for the family. Difficult times to endure.

    I am faced with the decision to euthanize my 18 yr old cat. It’s not a matter of deciding if, but when. Since yesterday night she has been staggering and losing her footing, and it’s getting steadily worse. Her body is simply giving out and she’s been getting slower and slower with her movements. She doesn’t understand why she can’t get around like she used to, as she still attempts to play like a kitten whenever presented with a piece of string, but her hips are shot and she’s taking to biting them, in a vain attempt to attack the pain. I think I’m going to give her one more day and make it as peaceful and comfortable as possible before taking her to a vet for the last time. She was a very good mouser in her day, and deserves much respect for that, as well as being a perfectly fine cat. I find that I will actually miss her.

    But not the litter box!

  14. Stu Nicol says:

    OK!!!! ENOUGH!!!! NEW SUBJECT!!!!

    Who just rolled 75!

  15. bgrigg says:

    Fine! How about this story:

    The Vatican’s counter-argument is we’re swayed by gays? Seriously? That’s the best they could do?

  16. rick says:

    It’s 05:55 February 6 right now here in Guangzhou and 66 degrees.

    I feel sorry for Barbara and Frances. They must be going through hell right now.

    My mother died last month. Fortunately, she went very quickly. She turned 81 on December 28. On Monday January 6th she and my wife visited our niece’s two small children and spent an afternoon with them. My wife and mother took them to a playground and walked for a long time. On the evening of the 7th, my step father called me, told me that my mother had just been taken to the hospital. He asked me to go to their house and call him with a list of her medications. He did not have a cell phone, so he asked me to go to their house (ten minutes from ours) and call him at the hospital. He said to call the emergency room and they would find him. I called and they said they’d have him call back. When he didn’t call back after half an hour, I gathered up the contents of the medicine cabinet and took them to the hospital. I tracked them down in the ICU and was able to talk to my mother while the nurse entered the information into the computer. She was completely lucid, although somewhat depressed because they had used a defibrillator on her and she described it as feeling like she had been kicked by a horse in the chest. I spent about an hour with her and then went home because she wanted to sleep.

    The next morning my sisters who live in Seattle and La Center, Wa. (about 30 minutes North of Portland) came to the hospital. My mother was doing much better and they told them that they expected to move her out of intensive care soon and send her home in a few days. My sister called me at about 6:30 that evening and told me that our mother had died a few minutes earlier. It was a surprise to the doctors and a shock to my sisters and step father who were with her when she died.

    I was given the task of informing our sister in Minneapolis, because everybody knew that she would take it very badly, which she did. That conversation was one of the most difficult ones in my life. The next day my brother who lives near Portland and my brother who lives on the Oregon Coast near the California border joined my two sisters, step father and to discuss matters. My mother had insisted that she wanted to be cremated, but she did not say what she wanted done with her ashes. We decided to bury them at Nesica Lodge ( in the Coloumbia Gorge as she and my step father had been long time members of the club and helped build the lodge.

    On January 25, we had a family gathering at my mother’s house. Her husband and six children were there. Seven of nine grand children, her sister, the quilting ladies, the Mah Jong ladies, the book club ladies and other friends and family were also there. Our younger son who lives in Santa Cruz was there, but our older son lives in Beijing and our daughter is a High School exchange student in Ecuador could not attend. My mother was decidedly nonreligious and the idea of a religious ceremony would have horrified her.

    We as a culture handle death poorly. We use euphemisms like “passed on” or just “passed”. My mother did not pass anywhere, she died. It will happen to all of us. I hope that it is as quick and with as little suffering for me as it was for my mother. Every time somebody said “I’m sorry for your loss”, I inwardly cringed. That’s something I expect from an undertaker or a sympathy card. I felt it was much more personal when people said “I’m sorry to hear about your mother”.

    I am grateful that the people at the hospital did not give my message to my step father, so I was able to see my mother the night before she died.

    My wife and her sisters went through much the same thing as Barbara when their parents died. Her father died at 95. He spent the last six months in a foster care facility with dementia. He was not difficult to handle, but it was hard when they visited him and he did not recognize them. Her mother died a few years ago at 93. She spent the last year in a nursing facility. She was coherent until the end, but was sometimes somewhat confused.

    Best to Barbara and Frances.

    Rick, who is currently a long way from Portland.

  17. rick says:

    The Vatican’s counter-argument is we’re swayed by gays? Seriously? That’s the best they could do?

    I couldn’t read the CBC article. It appears to be blocked by the Great Firewall of China and the wi-fi connection where I’m currently staying does not allow for a reliable VPN connection.

    Being gay has nothing to do with whether or not somebody is a pedophile. Priests molested both girls and boys. The homophobes equate pedophilia with being gay. That’s the same mentality that assumes that all black men want to rape white women or that all Jews are part of a vast international conspiracy. I was no more worried about gay friends and relatives molesting my sons when they were little than I was about straight friends and relatives molesting my daughter.

    Pedophiles are out there. If anybody had molested my kids when they were little, they wouldn’t have had to face the justice system. They would have had to face me and I would have had to face the justice system.

    Rick from Portland

  18. SteveF says:

    I seldom even try to offer condolences. I’m not the most empathetic individual in the world (understatement alert!), so anything I say sounds shallow and rote. I’d rather say nothing and be thought heartless than say some meaningless tripe.

    There’s also the issue that some people are better off dead — eg, after a wasting and and painful and hopeless illness. And especially if the family is being bankrupted in a futile attempt to keep an old or sick person alive another week. But it’s really not acceptable to say that. And I’m an atheist, so I’m not going to lie and say, “Oh, she’s in a better place now. She’s in the arms of the Lord.” Nope, better to say nothing.

    All that said, it’s a tricky subject when a small child brings up death and asks what happened to Grandma. Worse, “Am I going to die? What happens when I die?” I don’t want to lie and I don’t want to make a three-year-old cry. Tricky.

  19. SteveF says:

    assumes that all black men want to rape white women

    Mexicans, too.

  20. rick says:

    The place we’re staying in Guangzhou has an interesting power strip. The standard plug is a 220 volt three prong plug that looks like the China Standard outlet at

    The power strip can take this kind of plug. I can also plug my 3 prong laptop plug into it. Since my laptop power supply can take from 100 to 250 volts, it doesn’t matter that it is 220 volts. If I plugged a 110 volt appliance into it, it would get fried, so I doubt UL would approve. It does make sense for foreign visitors, as long as they exercise common sense. We deliberately made sure that our gadgets were universal voltage. We left the hair dryer and electric toothbrush at home.

    The wall outlets have both the same three prong configuration and a second two prong outlet which can take a standard two prong US plug. I have my 4 port USB charger plugged into a wall outlet and am charging my phone, tablet and extra phone battery at the same time.

    I have a kit with a set of outlet adapters which should allow me to plug in almost any where. I needed it in Hong Kong. I don’t here.

    Rick from Portland

  21. Bob Phillips says:

    My sister and 2 brothers had to deal with my Mom’s alcoholism most of our adult lives… I was the last one to care for her… MY, My, my!!! I think Gays and Pedophiles should be treated as equals… And if America had 220 volts, consumption would be less at that voltage but I don’t know about the electric bills…

  22. dkreck says:

    And if America had 220 volts, consumption would be less at that voltage but I don’t know about the electric bills…

    Double the voltage halve the amps. Power stays the same. Same amount of watts as P=V x I.

  23. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yeah, but at higher voltage the losses are lower.

  24. Chuck W says:

    Electric bills were pretty steep in Berlin, as was natural gas and water. We considered ourselves pretty frugal, as I have always fitted all of our shower heads with shut-off valves and we never ran water while soaping up—only to rinse,—but both our landlords told us we used significantly more water than most Germans. We even had the toilet with the two flushes: pee and poop, using pee even for poops.

    My only excess is that I never shut down my laptop. I’ll pay for that. It and the cell phone run 24/7 and always will.

    The only bargain in Berlin was Internet: €19.95/mo for all you can eat and no throttling of either up or down. That is a lot cheaper than what they want here for even the slowest Internet.

    Loved 230 volts. NEVER any dimming of lights, no matter what you do—ever. Light switches often popped quite loudly, though; as did plugging in something that was already switched on. No wimpy clicks—loud damned pops like firecrackers. In the city, all electric ran underground, and we never had a single power failure (or even a brown-out dimming) in 10 years there. What is more, you can chain power strips to your hearts content, and never worry about overloading (or warming) wires.

    Down was universally “on” for switches, too. Not sure why, but that seemed more intuitive to both of us—especially when trying to find light switches in the dark. Switches were always rocker type; no sticks poking out into the room.

  25. Bob Phillips says:

    I did mean electric bills in America, Men!!!!!

  26. jim` says:

    I’m with Chuck on this, I’d kill for 220V here in Murika. In India they have these induction cooktops/hotplates which draw 2500 watts — infinitely variable. On High you can boil a cup of water in a about 30 seconds.

  27. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    On balance I’m happy with 110/125VAC. The problem with 220/250VAC is that electrocutions are usually fatal, whereas 110/125VAC electrocutions very seldom are. That’s why nearly all 220/250VAC connections in the US are hard-wired, with the possible exception of clothes dryers.

  28. Ray Thompson says:

    The problem with 220/250VAC is that electrocutions are usually fatal

    On the farm we had a 220V pump on a 30 amp 3 phase circuit. While disconnecting the pump because of an impending flood on the creek, I crossed a couple of those wires. I woke up a couple hours later about 20 feet from the pump with a numb arm. Took almost a week for the tingling to disappear.

    The water was rising fast and we did not have a chance to get the power company to come do the disconnect so I thought I would just pull the wires from the breaker box, tape them liberally, and move the entire pump. Breaker panel was past the point where I needed to disconnect.

    I had done this before with our 110V single phase 30 amp pump in another field that was also in danger of being flooded. Got a small tingle when doing that one so I did not think much about the larger pump. Lesson learned.

    I think I was lucky to be alive.

  29. Lynn McGuire says:

    The water was rising fast and we did not have a chance to get the power company to come do the disconnect so I thought I would just pull the wires from the breaker box, tape them liberally, and move the entire pump.

    I think I was lucky to be alive.

    This is why farms are the most dangerous places to live and work. I’ve seen a lot of farmers with missing fingers, etc.

    My mother’s maternal grandfather was killed on his farm in Wharton, Texas in 1945. He was plowing with two mules (no gasoline for his tractor) and one of them kicked him in the stomach. It ripped a vein? artery? loose from his stomach and he was bleeding into his abdomen. My great grandmother went looking for him at lunch time and found him almost dead. She got him to the hospital but he died before they could do surgery.

  30. bgrigg says:

    Ray, you are very lucky to be alive. As little as .1 amps can kill you, if the current manages to pass through the heart. 30 amps is certainly fatal. It isn’t the voltage so much, as the amperage.

    I touched a 110v 15 amp circuit the wrong way just about a week ago, after finding an outlet on a different circuit than logic dictated. (note: never trust logic when a circuit tester is available) As you say nothing more than a little tingle, as the current passed only from thumb to pinkie. Had it gone through the heart, I could easily be dead.

  31. OFD says:

    We had a couple of electrical “incidents” at work inside one of the data centers at my last gig; my colleague and I both, at separate times, had mini-explosions of sparks, flame and smoke shoot out at us when we were tinkering with racked servers and connections; as IT drones we alternated between hacking out shell scripts at our desks and snaking power and network cables under the floors and through the ceilings there. AT & T had the external network and we did all our own internal data center networking, power cables, Cat 5 and fiber-optic, the latter of which was a real PITA; we had diagrams of how to connect each wire to each terminal on the storage drives, stacked six ways from Sunday in all different configurations. Also had my office outlet blow up in my face once; plant electrician came by and scratched his head, new one on him, which did not inspire a lot of confidence.

    Ya gotta be careful around the juice.

  32. SteveF says:

    In our former house, I discovered a GFI outlet that was wired backward. I didn’t think that was possible and have the test/reset buttons still work, but it was.

    I’d rather have 220V in the US. Partly this is for efficiency for electrical motors and such, but mostly it’s for the additional deaths amongst the stupid. The stupid breed so fast that extraordinary measures are needed to keep their numbers down.

  33. Lynn McGuire says:

    As a junior engineer in a power plant, I worked in the electric shop which required us to work on live 120V, 230V and 480V repeatedly. The rule of thumb was always put one hand in your back pocket before touching any potentially live wiring. At least you miss your heart that way. If you need both hands then you need a helper. You need somebody watching you anyway.

  34. Lynn McGuire says:

    The new stop-start systems coming out in all cars by 2016 or so are 36 volt. The theory is that your skin is resistant from 40 V to 48 V so that you cannot get shocked by them unlike a real hybrid. They will have a 36 volt battery and should increase city mileage by 10%, highway by 2-3 %. The additional cost on a vehicle is only $700 or so.

  35. OFD says:

    “The stupid breed so fast that extraordinary measures are needed to keep their numbers down.”

    Indeed. But I’d venture to say we have little to fear on that last point; as the financial house of cards caves in and we hit various energy thresholds/snags/peaks, we’ll see some mass culling of the herds; about three-quarters of the North Murkan population lives in metropoles near the coasts. What do ya think is gonna happen with all those millions when the lights go out and store shelves are empty after three days? Also, the gas pumps won’t be working, so the masses will only be able to go as far as a full tank, assuming roads and bridges haven’t been jammed up or otherwise closed off.

    11 here on the bay and dropping; no wind for a change.

  36. OFD says:

    “If you need both hands then you need a helper. You need somebody watching you anyway.”

    Word. We always made sure to let somebody else know if we were gonna be working alone inside the data centers; they’re loud and if somebody keels over you may not see them at first just walking through. It was not unusual for any of us to be in there for eight or nine hours at a stretch and we’d go into semi-shock coming back out to the offices and daylight streaming in through the windows.

  37. brad says:

    Being an EE by original training, I suppose I am careless with wiring. I rarely flip off the breaker when working on switches or plugs around the house. I just make sure I’m not grounded anywhere. Haven’t had a shock in, well, I don’t remember the last time I had a shock.

    In younger days I had a couple of doozies that taught me to look where I put my fingers. I remember picking up an unplugged chassis, fingers curling up automatically into the bottom, where opposite hands were apparently across a whopping capacitor. That…hurt is the wrong word…scared the hell out of me, for sure.

    Anyhow, sure 220v is more dangerous, but it’s true that light-dimming is not noticeable. That could be compensated with substantially thicker wiring, but I suppose the wiring standards are minimal, to keep building costs down. In the US I also ran across aluminum wiring, which not only has higher resistance, but corrodes nicely in contact with the brass screws in switches and plugs, leading to all sorts of nice arcing-and-sparking. Dangerous stuff.

  38. Ray Thompson says:

    This is why farms are the most dangerous places to live and work. I’ve seen a lot of farmers with missing fingers, etc.

    Trust me, I know. Came close to amputating fingers on more than on occasion. Large scar on one finger to emphasis the point. I have been kicked multiple times, once in the head that laid me out for several minutes. Fell off a moving bulldozer (D2) that lurched when it went over a rise, had to climb back on using the moving tracks. Rolled a tractor but was able to jump free. Been shocked multiple times with wiring problems in the barn wiring which was not even close to code. Stepped on nails many a time so a tetanus shot was mandatory when it was due.

    Fell off a barn roof and caught my armpit on deer antlers on the side of the barn. Missed the nerves and the artery but I hung there for several minutes until I got lifted off by my uncle. A couple dozen stitches including several internal stitches.

    Cuts, bruises and scraps were part of the job. Slips, falls, rope burns, pulled muscles etc were common. Frostbite was a very real concern in the winter when you had to work outdoors for extended periods. Sitting on a tractor, or dozer, was the worst as you did not move enough muscles.

    Had to start the dozer one morning when it was about -1. This dozer had no electrical at all. Starting was done with a small starting motor that had to be hand pulled to start. Took the better part of an hour to get that motor started. Let it run for an hour to try and warm up the main diesel engine. It didn’t. Took another two hours of cranking the diesel with the starter motor. Finally some ether (which you really should not do with a diesel) got a few puffs from the diesel. Over the next 15 minutes the diesel finally settled down and was running. We did not turn diesel engine off for a week opting to just let it idle at night. Starting that engine was when I came real close to frost bite as you had to hold the clutch lever up to keep the diesel engine engaged with the starting motor.

    Equipment getting stuck in the mud was common. Pulling some out resulted in snapped cables that would whip back at you with considerable force. Got hit in the arm one time. It did not do any damage but wow did it hurt.

    Got run over by a drop fertilizer spreader that damn near broke my back because I was doubled over when I got run over. Pulled every muscle in my back. I was sore for days. Could hardly move after the incident and spent three days immobile in bed.

    Surprisingly I never got any broken bones. Just lots of scars on my body from the, sometimes serious, cuts and scrapes.

  39. Ray Thompson says:

    Ray, you are very lucky to be alive. As little as .1 amps can kill you

    Damn straight. I think this current just went through my arm. I suspect, but cannot confirm, that I had touched the wire with my hand while my arm around my shoulder touched the grounded connection cabinet. I was wearing thick rubber boots and that probably saved my ass.

  40. OFD says:

    Damn, Ray; you done had your nine lives and then some! Doing a gig for Uncle on top of all that, too! You must be here for a special reason or sumthin; me, likewise, but most of my close calls were of my own doing, prior to helping out Uncle.

  41. Ray Thompson says:

    Damn, Ray; you done had your nine lives and then some!

    The worst accident had nothing to do with the farm.

    I was riding my small Honda Motorcycle home from a hay hauling job. I used hay hooks, custom made, long and heavy with extremely sharp points. Riding along when I saw two cars coming, one in each lane. I went off the side of the road to avoid doing a bug imitation on a windshield.

    But where I went off the road an irrigation ditch came out. Down I went. One of the hay hooks scraped across my chest at a 45 degree angle. About a four inch rip in the flesh between my breasts where you could see scrapes in the bone.

    I immediately put my hand over the tear and stopped the bleeding after several minutes. I was below the level of the roadway so I was really not easily seen. After about 30 minutes I was able to wrestle my small (and relatively light) motorcycle back up on to the road surface. Hurt like hell as it pulled on my chest muscle where the injury was located.

    I made it home by driving with one hand, screw the clutch as I just shifted using the throttle and foot operated shift lever. It was a slow five mile trip, left hand on my chest, right hand on the throttle.

    I was so afraid my abusive aunt and uncle would get mad and make me get rid of my motorcycle that I took matters into my own hand. I washed the wound out with water and splashed in some alcohol (big mistake) as that alcohol almost made me pass out from the pain.

    I then took several strips of scotch tape, pulled the wound closed using the tape to hold the wound closed. Every day I would change the tape and did this for a week. Tough working on a farm trying to hide such a wound. Fortunately the cut did not get much of the muscle so it was not too bad covering up my agony.

    After a week I just left the tape off. The wound healed without any problems. If you look close you can just barely make out the scar. I really should have had stitches, probably would have taken about 30 to close the would properly. What helped was that the tear was extremely clean and not jagged as the hay hooks were extremely sharp pointed. I almost think that stitches may have left a bigger scar. For one thing it was about 40 minutes to a doctor, it was a Saturday so no doctor was available thus it would have been emergency room which was an hour away.

    I was fortunate the hooks did not grab a different part of my body. The offending cars did not stop so I was on my own. Another location and I could have bleed out in the irrigation ditch and not been found until someone smelled my rotting corpse.

  42. OFD says:

    Very nice. Jeezum. Also lucky the hay hooks hadn’t evidently been contaminated with manure or something worse. You are clearly being kept around for a reason. Or, hell, maybe not; it could be like the old British tommies’ song during “The Great War”; “We’re here because we’re here…etc.,”

    My close calls in civvie life were two head-0n collisions; one out in Kalifornia and one in Boston, neither of which was in any way my fault. Not a scratch from either one but multiple vehicles totaled.

  43. Lynn McGuire says:

    Motorcycles have their own category of nightmare accidents. I was jumping hills on a 200cc bike at dusk and did not notice that the telephone pole off to the right had a guy wire. I hit the guy wire with my chest in 3rd gear (maybe 30 – 35 mph). Woke up with the motorcycle laying on top of me, still running, and gasoline dripping in my face. Still have the scars of braided wire on my right bicep but the chest scars have faded over the years. A few inches higher and the guy wire would have hit my neck.

  44. jim` says:

    Never knew the origin of that song, OFD. Thanks!

    I lacerated the hell out of my hand on a broken glass while washing dishes a few years ago. Went to Doc in the Box and they wanted $1500+ for stitches. Whole waiting room was full of drug-seekers, too, so I said to hell with it and a friend and I taped it togeter then splinted the hand with painter’s tape and some babmboo skewers. Healed up beautifully, and like Ray’s laceration, stitches would have resulted in an uglier scar.

  45. Ray Thompson says:

    Also lucky the hay hooks hadn’t evidently been contaminated with manure or something worse.

    After spending the day being shoved into, and pulled out of, about a thousand bales of hay the hooks were probably cleaner than my shirt they tore through to get to my chest.

    The hooks were custom made for me using 1/2 steel rather than the normal 1/4 steel. They were also “J” shaped rather than the stirrup style that you could purchase at your local ranch supply. I wanted the heft as that made it easier to jam into dense hay bales. The “J” was also more glove friendly. I also had them made four inches longer than regular hooks as this allowed me to more easily grab bales that were tossed up to me when I was on top of the trailer.

    I don’t know what kind of steel that guy used to make them but it was a very hard steel and rust was not ever an issue. I sharpened the tips to a very fine point when I first got them and the constant rubbing on alfalfa hay and oat hay kept the tips even sharper.

  46. Ray Thompson says:

    A few inches higher and the guy wire would have hit my neck.

    Crap, that is scary.

    On our off time myself and a couple of friends would chase each other on some of the back roads, all dirt of course. One time I thought I was being clever and took a barely visible side road. Found out why when I rounded a curve and the bridge was gone. Off I went. The bridge was only four or five feet above the water and the water was about the same depth. Not good for a running engine.

    I pulled the bike out, removed the plug, dried the plug, put it back in, and the bike ran. Got it home and swapped out all the fluids including the gas. Ran fine for the next two years that I owned it and used it on the farm and trips to various haying jobs.

  47. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I love soldiers’ songs. My favorite is still “Fuck ’em All”

    which has literally hundreds of filthy verses, but in a near-tie is Mademoiselle from Armentières, which has hundreds of equally filthy verses.

    It’s funny how you never see the great masses of ordinary grunts on any list of the world’s greatest lyricists through the centuries.

  48. OFD says:

    I still remember the various filthy cadence calls from boot camp out on those goddamned sweltering drill pads. “If I die on the Russian front…bury me in a Russian….”


    Freeze our asses off at O-Dark-Thirty falling out for calisthenics and then training classes and by noon it would be in the high 90s and nasty humidity, lovely east/central Texas. More calisthenics in the afternoon, finishing up by running around the drill pad; guys would be vomiting but that was OK; you can throw up but you just gotta keep on running.

    And we used to actually feel sympathy for the “Fat Boy Flight,” poor overweight bastards stuck in endless exercises and dieting *before* they could start the regular boot camp; and the “Motivation Flight,” the wise guys and discipline problems, put into punishment status, sometimes on their very last day of boot camp, and when they were let out they had to start the boot camp all over again from scratch. We knew of one dumbass who flipped off a DI from the rear window of a bus leaving there on the last day and the DI stopped the bus, pulled that kid off and he was back to Day One.

  49. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    This is your rifle, this is your gun …

  50. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    re: Mademoiselle from Armentières

    When Mary Chervenak was running around the world with Blue Planet Run, I nearly suffered Mary’s Fist of Death. (I Missed it by That Much…)

    Here, the never-before-published extract from that redacted post:

    Mademoiselle from Armentières, parlez vous
    Mademoiselle from Armentières, parlez vous
    Mademoiselle from Armentières, she hasn’t been fucked in forty years,
    Inky-dinky parlez vous.

    Mademoiselle from Armentières, parlez vous
    Mademoiselle from Armentières, parlez vous
    She never could hold the love of man
    ‘Cause she took her baths in a talcum can,
    Inky-dinky parlez vous.

    Mademoiselle from Armentières, parlez vous
    Mademoiselle from Armentières, parlez vous
    She had four chins, her knees would knock,
    And her face would stop a cuckoo clock,
    Inky-dinky parlez vous.

  51. OFD says:

    Here is the cleaned-up version as this might be, haha, a family blog:

  52. SteveF says:

    Damn, Ray; you done had your nine lives and then some! … You must be here for a special reason or sumthin

    Maybe you’ve got it all wrong there. If it’s true that only the good die young, then Ray might be, oh, I don’t know, Nancy Pelosi’s evil twin or something. No, wait, maybe I got that mixed up. If you’re the evil twin of the devil’s nanny, is that like multiplying two negatives or subtracting from a negative?

  53. OFD says:

    I dunno; I warn’t very good at that math stuff; I do remember vaguely sumthin about double negatives in both math and the English language, however.

    I note that I saw sumthin the other day about Plastic-Face stridently hollerin’ that she warn’t leavin’ and was staying for the duration. Hanging on like the Castro brothers, she is.

  54. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Here is the cleaned-up version as this might be, haha, a family blog:

    Okay, I admit it. I made up those lyrics. We all know that real soldiers would never use foul language.

    Speaking of WWI, OFD, you once asked for recommendations for WWI documentaries. I recommended Black Adder Goes Forth as the best I’d seen on the subject. Did you ever get around to watching it?

  55. OFD says:

    Not yet; the last one I saw was “Oh What A Lovely War,” which was brilliant. Not sure I’m gonna dig the Black Adder series…but will give it a shot.

  56. Ray Thompson says:

    Ray might be, oh, I don’t know, Nancy Pelosi’s evil twin or something.

    Busted. Now where did I put that Botox syringe?

  57. Ray Thompson says:

    We all know that real soldiers would never use foul language.

    Might not be too far off actually. When I went through basic indoctrination (some call it training), the DI’s swore almost every other word. Especially when they were about 0.0005 mm from your face. I have heard that they are no longer allowed to swear. Might offend the youngen’s who have been protected by mommy all their life.

  58. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I’ve heard they’re not even allowed to say anything that might offend the sensibilities of the recruits.

  59. OFD says:

    When I was in there they had just got told not to physically beat the shit out of us anymore and so advised us: “Your mommies and daddies cried to Congress and now we can’t hit you anymore.” This was a result of some recruits somewhere, I forget where, dying accidentally in boot camp, probably running around in really bad heat, and it made the papers.

    So they found some other ingenious ways to torment us, and I would venture to say that there was not one of us who didn’t wish they could still just hit us.

  60. SteveF says:

    I went through Army basic training in 1981. Girls women were just starting to be integrated into regular basic training. IIRC, the group two or four weeks behind us was one of the first mixed male-female basic training companies.

    Our company had the traditional marching and PT cadences: … Lined a hundred whores up against the wall, Bet a hundred dollars he could fuck ’em all. Fucked ninety-eight till his balls turned blue; Backed off, jacked off, fucked the other two. Some of our drill instructors, all male, told us that they were ordered to cut all of that right out when they took their next, mixed, group.

    There were also comments about how basic training was being watered down because female recruits couldn’t cut it, but that’s another issue. (And at that, our basic training was watered down because it was peacetime, and shorter and easier BCT is cheaper BCT.)

  61. Miles_Teg says:

    SteveF said:

    “I’d rather have 220V in the US. Partly this is for efficiency for electrical motors and such, but mostly it’s for the additional deaths amongst the stupid.”

    We have 240V but still plenty of stupid, including your Adelaide correspondent, who nearly electrocuted himself at age 10 playing with the insides of a 240-12V model train transformer that was plugged in to the wall and switched on.

  62. Chuck W says:

    One thing I learned from Dr. DIL, was that wounds cannot be stitched after about an hour or two. You gotta get to them pretty darned quickly. I cut myself on the way to work one day, and the first-aid officer at my destination cleaned me up. I left it until late afternoon, then went to the hospital, and they said it was too late to stitch. They used some powerful tape that was like velcro and dug into my skin and held it together. Couldn’t take the pain of that after 2 days, and removed it. That must have been all it needed, because the scar is so light that only I can tell where it was.

    My mother’s maternal grandfather was killed on his farm in Wharton, Texas in 1945. He was plowing with two mules (no gasoline for his tractor) and one of them kicked him in the stomach. It ripped a vein? artery? loose from his stomach and he was bleeding into his abdomen.

    This is common in impact crashes, too. The plumbing in our bodies can be pulled apart by sudden impacts. Learned in one of my video sessions from a surgeon that that is how Princess Di died. Tubes pulled out of her heart by the crash impact. You have to be IN the hospital when that happens, otherwise you are dead in seconds to minutes, according to the surgeon testifying.

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