Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Month Back

21 July 2008

Hard to believe that I’ve already been back nearly one month. Vacation at home as you might guess, didn’t suck. Maybe a couple things not fully related to the trip sucked, but being home didn’t.

One of the chores I had to undertake was taking care of back taxes. The knucklehead accountant I HAD that was based in Phoenix (that supposedly was versed in overseas tax issues but didn’t know her butt from a hole in the ground) ended up costing me a fine sum. First thing on the list of things to take care of was to get tax filings from the last two years reaccomplished by my capable accountant in Illinois and then pay the back taxes and penalties that SHE caused. Whether or not it is actually worth filing a suit against her for the costs of her mistakes, I’m considering. But that is for a later date. Live and learn.

I did schedule and attend the ICND1 course in Schaumburg. My feelings about the class were that it helped to clarify some things that I was still trying to get my hands around when I was studying the book on my own. I’m reviewing the stuff again now and will take the first test in August at Baghdad University – the Army’s education extension here on Camp Victory…not anything downtown!

Another nice thing about being home was being able to get my fingers in the dirt again. We lost the little weeping locust in the front garden. I hear that this was a wicked winter in Chicago with many freezes and thaws and the poor little thing just couldn’t do it after five winters. Had it replaced with a weeping elm so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that it will do alright in this location on the northeast corner. DeKalb/Sycamore winters with the winter snow and winds blowing across the open corn and soybean fields take few prisoners. Time will tell.

I also got to move around some perennials (moving taller stuff to the back due to some plantings being more prolific than I had anticipated) and add to the garden a few more plants. Tried to add stuff for the butterflies and the bees. With the whole bee colony collapse thing going on, they need all the bastions of kindness they can find. Lucky for me, I got the green thumb in the family!

Had a nice quick visit to my sister and Gram in Phoenix too. I know…how crazy am I to go from 105F degree weather in Baghdad to the same in Phoenix? Duh! But I hadn’t visited my Gram when I was last home in October, so I promised her and my sister that I’d make the trip out when I came home this time. I enjoy Phoenix any time of the year anyway. If they’d just get the last section of the 202 loop open now! Deb told me that the last portion of the 202 opens next week…wooo-hoooo!

But all good things must come to an end. The trip back was looking to be a fiasco until I got to Washington on the way to Kuwait. I got out of the limo at O’Hare and didn’t remember that my phone was in the limo until I was in line at the airport for 30 minutes! If that wasn’t bad enough, I ended up with a rude butthole at the United counter who should be working in baggage because he was completely void of customer service skills. Maybe that is United Airlines way of convincing customers to fly American Airlines, KLM/Northwest or anyone but them. I’ve had mostly good experiences on British Air and American, so maybe my carrier of choice needs to be reconsidered for future flights.

Fortunately, I was able to upgrade with miles to Business class on my trip from Washington to Kuwait. That 12 hour flight is best taken in Business or Economy Plus for so many hours. Once in Kuwait I got the passport back from the Embassy in 20 hours (since I arrived after 7pm), got stamped out of country and signed up for a Space R flight out to Baghdad. Never telling how long it will take for a flight to Baghdad since the weather was like when I left…sandstorms and hazy. Temps were supposed to have been 117, but I took a nap in the middle of the day so I couldn’t confirm or deny that it was hot as an oven out. Nothing better to do but sleep when you're in a holding pattern at Ali As Salem.

Got back to Baghdad from Kuwait to enjoy more of the same hot and dusty 115F temps mixed with sandstorms on and off. It has been so hazy some nights that the moon is a dull orange orb in the sky. With my roomy on vacation too, opening the door to the trailer was like walking into an undiscovered catacomb in an Indiana Jones movie! An inch of fine amber desert dust all over everything including the walls and the bed and pillows. I had to vacuum the bed and floors and shake out the pillows and covers before I could even go to bed.

Only thing going on now is my recovery from a staph infection I got two weeks ago! Infections are for some reason fairly common here. I don’t recall being bit by anything, but you never know. It all started when I banged my elbow on the door frame on Friday morning and it swelled up while I slept. Friday night, I banged it lightly again on a door at work. On Saturday while I slept, it blew up like a balloon. Finally by Monday morning after a couple of my coworkers were freaked out by the swelling, I went to the TMC (medical clinic).

The docs ended up draining the fluid from my elbow and put me on Keflex for a staph infection. They believe that I burst one of the bursa's (a fluid sac to cushion the elbow joint) in the elbow and somehow it got infected. It is a form of bursitis due to trauma of whacking my elbow. The infection spread down my arm, but they said the Keflex should take care of the bacterial infection. The doc wanted to see me back on Thursday. They will put me on 3 weeks of antibiotics once they knew that this antibiotic was working for me. They also cultured some of the infection they sucked out with the syringe to determine the family of staph infection it is.

By Thursday morning after being on the Keflex for 72 hours, the elbow was still hot. Some of the swelling went down, but overall, my forearm felt like a sausage in a tight casing. I had my appointment with the docs at the TMC the morning after work. The results were to be in on the cultures they took from the infection when they drained it on Monday.

The good news was that my BP was back down to normal 116/65. The bad news was that when the doc saw me, he was not particularly pleased with the way the arm looked. He could see the swelling and could see that there was still fluid build-up in the forearm. He pulled the culture results and that spoke volumes.

This printout from the labs listed all the meds possible to treat this infection with and next to them R's (resistant) and S's (sensitive). The staph infection I have had an "R" next to Keflex, meaning that my infection is resistant to that antibiotic. My staph infection has been listed as MRSA. But he reassured me that it isn't that bad and they could get it taken care of with a different med. Then he just looked down the list and evaluated which antibiotic with an S would best suit the situation. So now I'm on Clindamycin.

By last Friday night I had only taken three pills and there was a big difference. He said that there should be a marked difference relatively soon and he was right. At dinner, the elbow was still burning up, but by Friday midnight, things were looking and feeling better.

The doctor did warn me that there might be side-effects from this med. He said that I should get back to him if I experience diarrhea. My only comment was that with how some of this chow hall food rips us up normally, how would I notice any gastric disturbances out of the ordinary from the meds? It’s sad when the med tech just shakes his head in agreement!

Now a week later, the elbow is still swollen with a nasty bruise on the tip of the elbow, but the infection seems to be gone. Still it is hard not to bump the elbow with how big it is. And I still don’t know if I got bit by anything but it looks like everything is under control now. I hear over and over again from everyone, “slow down!” As long as I can remember I've always heard that...all the way back to my Great Gram begging me as a kid, “Don’t Run! Don’t Run!” (just before I ran face-first into the pole in the basement and got the knot-from-hell on my forehead at age 6!!)...But I guess that it’s just me and who I am. I like my sister Deb’s take on it,” At least we know you're a Gallas through and through ... always moving at Mach 1!”

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