Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mick McKellar Update--Day 219

We made it! I drove the full 400 miles to Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester, MN today. My legs were screaming at me a bit at the end of the nine-hour car ride, but it was a nice day (after the thick fog burned off). We had patchy, dense fog from home until after we were well past Ashland, WI. Once the sun came out, the fog was history, and what started as a cool and damp morning ended as a sunny and warm afternoon.

I have a check up at Mayo Clinic tomorrow: blood tests, pulmonary function tests, and consultations with a pharmacy technician, my BMT coordinator, my doctor, and a surgeon (about the gall bladder episode). It will be a very full day...after which we hope to rest a few hours and head home early Friday morning.

Medically, I seem to be doing well. Despite an ongoing problem with pedal edema (involving my lower legs as well) and the ever-present fatigue thing, I feel I am doing very well indeed. My last set of blood tests (at Portage Health) were not reported to me by my local doctor or his staff, so I  hope to find out the results here tomorrow.

Marian and I walked down to Canadian Honker for dinner and found the senior portions, not only adequate, but more than enough. My only regret for the evening is that I must refrain from eating anything after 7:00 PM until after my blood tests tomorrow morning. I am allowed some water, coffee, tea, or diet soda tonight...but that's it. After midnight, I am allowed only sips of water (to take pills, etc.).

GOL North (in February)
Oh yes, this time, we are at the Gift of Life Transplant House North --705 Second St. SW -- right across the street from the South house (where we stayed the last two times). This is the original house and we have one of the original rooms (room B). It is older and a bit smaller than our room at the south house, but it is very comfortable and it has a charm only an older home can provide.

Well, I just wanted to let everyone know where we are. I hope to have more details and information about my condition and ongoing recovery tomorrow evening. God willing and the creek don't rise, I shall have time to post a bit more information and perhaps a photo or two from this trip. We didn't take photos of all the color this morning, as it was shrouded in dense, white fog. There were a few enticing, fog-shrouded shots along the way, but I was too focused on getting here to stop and record the images. We saw live deer on the road only once, a small group (about five of them) just past Twin Lakes.

I am hoping my doctor will prescribe something for my swollen and painful legs, ankles, and feet. I have not been walking as much as I need to -- and when I do walk, I must look like a drunken man, weaving down the sidewalk. One older fellow tonight (as we were walking back from dinner), said to me: "Looks like it's time for a cane!" I grimaced as pleasantly as I could and lumbered on at Marian's side...concentrating on putting one swollen, heavy leg in front of the other, propelling my carcass down the sidewalk. I feels like I'm walking on tingling water balloons instead of feet. What a concept!

Enough for now. Twilight arrives earlier than expected these days, especially in the central daylight time zone. Thanks for all your prayers and good thoughts.

God bless and good evening,


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mick McKellar Update--Day +202

I hardly noticed as I passed day 200 since my transplant. After my recent bout with my recalcitrant gall bladder, my numbers have rebounded slowly to where they were before the attack. We are praying for further improvement. I will, of course, have more information after we visit with the doctors at Mayo Clinic on September 29th.

Turn on the heat...oops!

Wednesday morning was very chilly and I (reluctantly) gave the old thermostat a twist and turned on the heat. About a half hour later, I turned the heat off again. However, the blower on the furnace continued to run and run and run. Finally, because it was still running on Friday morning, we called for service. Jokingly, I told Marian I was going to grab my rubber mallet and "adjust" the furnace. When the repair person arrived, he opened the front panel and rapped the switch with his screwdriver. The blower stopped. Unfortunately, it would not start again...even after a good cleaning. So...we had the switch replaced. Ouch!

I suppose I should not complain too much, as we had the furnace installed in 1985 or 1986 and it was not required servicing (except cleaning) since. Still, the repair cost was a blow -- especially after replacing our television less than a week earlier. (The old set, only 15 years old, died a quick and unexpected death last week.)


Today's services and radio/television coverage has focused on the events of 9/11/2001. As with most of my friends, I remembered watching the disaster unfold on television. I was working for Michigan Technological University then (before they terminated my position in 2004), in the Information Technology department. Later that night, I was moved to write two poems. One addresses the spirits of the lost, the other the depth of insecurity I felt as a result of the attacks.

To honor the memory of the lost and commemorate the day, here are my poems from September 11, 2001.

God bless and good evening,


Warm Rain - Broken Dreams

We hear you walking on our massive grave.
We feel the warm rain falling from your eyes.
We hear the steady beat of hearts so brave -
A counterpoint, to hundred million cries
Of horror, disbelief, and anger dark,
Rising from the depth where vengeance lies.
A prayer of sorrow sung to music stark,
A scream of terror rising to the skies,
Our broken bodies sing, of spirits fled
Away, among the clouds where eagle flies.
And as our names are numbered with the dead,
And as we fly where courage never dies,
The warm and loving rain of hope still streams,
Upon the broken soil of shattered dreams.

Mick McKellar
September 2001

Death of Sleep

It seems to me an age ago I slept.
I closed my eyes, and snuggled warm and free
Of worry, or of eyes that often wept
For heroes, now entombed in dark debris.
At times, I feel I live a world away
From twisted metal, powdered stone, and pain.
But, then the ghastly images take sway -
Review the awful memories again.
The vast and placid lands that are my home,
Once offered all the safety I could need;
But now, I know the enemy can come
To steal away that peace with lightning speed!
And as we ponder war in our great pain,
Sometimes, I think I'll never sleep again.

Mick McKellar
September 2001

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Mick McKellar Update--Day +194

I did better this time, it has only been nine days since my last posting.

Mayo Clinic set my next appointment for a follow up visit: September 29, 2011. Once again we will leave on a Wednesday (the 28th) and hope to return on the following Friday (the 30th). The doctors at Mayo Clinic seemed pleased with the numbers generated by my weekly blood tests, even though my last hemoglobin count was down 8.7 g/dL (normal for men is: 13.8 to 18.0 g/dL). My other numbers are generally good, some even near normal.

There appear to be no lingering effects from my latest hospital adventure: The Old Man and the Gall Stone. I will see a surgeon in Rochester regarding recommendations on removing a recalcitrant gall bladder when I visit next. At least, I managed to stay five days in a hospital and not bring home any infections or diseases I didn't bring in with me.

Folks ask me how I am doing...

In general, I feel quite well, although my energy level depletes quickly and there appears to be no reserve. I find that afternoon naps, when I can arrange to get them, are quite helpful. I am having no pain other than that which comes from using muscles too long on hiatus. Three times in the last week, I raked apples from under our trees -- I raked them and Marian collected them with a snow shovel and a little red wagon (Radio Flyer) for dumping in a special composting area. The pain in my shoulders and upper back reminded me of how long it had been since I did any raking.

I mowed it all myself...
I managed to mow the entire yard yesterday, and took some photographs to commemorate the occasion. It was cloudy and cool in the morning...perfect weather for a person suffering from medication-induced photophobia. Unlike the latest edition vampires, I do not sparkle in the sun...I just turn red and feel really rotten for hours after exposure. At least three of my medications warn against prolonged exposure to any sunlight, natural or artificial. There are no tanning booths in my near future. Maybe I will join the Pale Force.

The intrepid walker also managed two days of two-mile walks (accomplished in the late evening, just before the sun goes down and there are plenty of shadows in which to hide). Unless there is construction or grass mowing or other dust-producing activity, I can even walk without the benefit of the Darth mask.

Good news and bad news...

First the molasses: After all my complaining, BCBSM may have discovered errors in billing and payment, as well as miscommunication between BCBS of Minnesota and BCBS of Michigan causing these extraordinary additional billings from Mayo Clinic. We may not owe as much as we were told. Our last payment nearly broke the bank...

Now the sulphur: Two times the technology troubles in a single week. First, we sent our Nikon Coolpix camera in to Nikon for repair only to be told that the view screen was somehow cracked and bleeding...and the damage is not covered under warranty. They want more than $105 to repair a camera that cost me about $85 to purchase. Not going to happen. I found a nice Kodak Easy Share at Wal~Mart for around $70. Nice price, but it still hurts.

I still have not determined how the view screen cracked itself while sitting quietly on my desktop between uses. Odd, that...

Second, our ancient (about 15 years old), 27-inch, combination space heater and television quietly expired -- right in the middle of Marian's favorite soap opera. We bit the bloody bullet and bought a 26" LED LCD HDTV from Vizio at Wal~Mart (last one in stock). It is the largest flat screen that will fit in our old entertainment center, but certainly big enough for our tiny living room. Another ouchy just hit our account. I am hoping it will partially pay for itself in energy savings and reduced eyestrain.

Writing the great American memoir...

Several folks have indicated that I should publish my journal as a book, and share my experiences along the leukemia/blood and marrow transplant journey. I think it is a grand idea, and will work on it as my chemo-brain allows. Editing and formatting a book requires energy and concentration at levels I cannot yet maintain for long. However, I feel I am getting stronger and will keep everyone posted on my progress.

Of course, I still have to find a publisher willing to take a chance on an "unpublished" author. If you know anyone interested in publishing the story of my 100 days plus, the journey of a leukemia survivor and his transplant experience, please let me know. It would be a real motivator to know that a publisher was interested.

Well, it's getting on toward time for my next barrage of pills and a quick supper. Thanks you all for the prayers and good thoughts.

God bless and good evening,