My first colonoscopy.

This morning I had my first colonoscopy. Needless to say I was nervous about it but once it was over, it turns out there really was nothing to be nervous about.

My mother told me that the worst part of a colonoscopy is the preparation. It turns out she was right. The day before my procedure I was to eat no solid foods and consume no dairy products or alcohol. Clear liquids were okay but any red or dark purple fluids were off the list.

Around 11am I took four stool softener pills to begin the bowel purging process. That wasn’t too traumatic. But at 5pm was when the gastric fireworks began. That was when I had to drink a 16 ounce cup of Suprep mixed with a little water. It tastes like grape juice mixed with seawater, not exactly a pleasant flavor. A half hour later I was running for the bathroom to play giddyup with the porcelain pony. A few minutes later I had to go again. And again. And again. Finally, after several hours, the runs eased up.

Then I had to do the Suprep thing all over again three hours before my procedure. My appointment was at 6:30am, so that meant I had to take the second dose no later than 3:30am, and by 4am, the gastric floodgates opened and once again I made repeated trips to the porcelain throne. The runs eased up just in time for my appointment. I swear lost 2 pounds during this preparation.

My mother picked me up this morning as I would be too sedated to drive after my procedure. Once at the clinic, I changed to my gown and a nurse took my vitals and started the IV. The nurse told me that I might wake up feeling bloated from the air and water used during the procedure.

A short time later I was wheeled into the room where my colonoscopy would be done. There another nurse connected a breathing tube to my nose and told me to lie on my left side. Then the doctor entered and the last thing I remembered was feeling lightheaded from the medicine that put me to sleep.

When I woke up, I was back in the preparation area where I was when I first arrived at the clinic. I began wondering if they started the procedure yet, but I was relieved when I realized that it was over. I felt no pain or bloating whatsoever. Then a nurse came to check on me and removed the sensors that monitored my vitals along with the IV needle from my hand. The doctor came by and told me no cancer was found and I have a clean bill of health. After signing the discharge papers I was finally free to go. I won’t have to go through this again for another 5 years.

UPDATE: I went back to work the next day.

A notepad on my nightstand.

When I drift off to sleep, I often get strange ideas for names, quotes, lines of poetry and even melodies. I used to try committing these ideas to memory so I could jot them down in the morning, but by then they are lost forever.

Nowadays I keep a notepad and a pen on my nightstand so I can capture these ideas while I still can. Of course, the hard part is willing myself to grab that pen and write that idea down before it’s too late. It’s tricky writing in a dark room where the only source of light is the alarm clock. Then there’s that uncertainty of whether the pen I use even writes. Trying to write with an empty pen completely defeats the purpose of delaying my sleep this way. Using a Sharpie marker seems to be an ideal solution as it’s easy to see those thick lines in the dark.

But all that effort is well worth it as there will be some rather interesting reading material cometh the dawn.

Confessions of a hit and run driver.

Every time I read about a hit and run accident on the news, I am reminded of the time that I was once a hit and run driver myself.

One evening many years ago, I was leaving the mall on my way to work third shift at a hospital when I stopped at a crossway guarded by a stop sign. Just when I began moving, my car bumped into a pedestrian who was crossing the walkway. Instead of stopping and making sure he was okay, I foolishly drove off to work to avoid being late.

Once I was at work, I began to worry about the pedestrian. I called my answering machine at home to check for any messages and sure enough, there was a message from the police department requesting a call back regarding the incident.

At this point I was terrified, but I knew I needed to call the police department back. So I looked up their number and called them from work to identify myself as the driver responsible for the incident. I don’t remember what happened next, but I think the police contacted the pedestrian and got his number. The police could tell I was very concerned and told me to call the pedestrian at home.

Calling the man I hit with my car was the hardest phone call I ever made in my life. He was understandably upset but decided not to press charges despite suffering a bruise on his leg. I broke down and gave him a tearful apology. He wished me a Merry Christmas and ended the call. I continued sobbing long after I hung up the phone, but I could at least begin to put this nightmare behind me.

Although what I did was stupid, I’m glad I took responsibility for my actions and give everyone closure. Had I avoided making those calls, the events of that fateful night would have haunted my conscience every day for the rest of my life.

My cousin Raminta.

I have wonderful childhood memories of visits from my cousin Raminta, who is an accomplished pianist. Her late father, my Uncle Jurgis, was choir director at a Lithuanian church in Chicago. She, along with my late grandfather Vladas, sang in that choir, which would record several albums of traditional Lithuanian folk songs. I think it’s safe to say she came from a musical family.

During one of her visits to Florida, Raminta brought along some of her friends who were musicians themselves. There was Michael, her boyfriend who played violin, Patras the flautist and Dirk the singer. One night they gave a concert in my parents’ living room with my neighbors in attendance. It was a magical evening indeed.

There is one moment from this visit that I will always remember. I myself was taking piano lessons and was practicing “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin one afternoon when Michael came along and played the same piece on his violin. I’d never heard “The Entertainer” on violin before and was impressed with how easily Michael was able to play it.

The only problem we had was deciding where everyone would sleep. Our house had three bedrooms and eight people, so my parents had to make modifications as to who slept where. I slept in my sister’s bedroom while some of the visitors slept in mine. After they all left, I was about to fall asleep in my own bed for the first night in days when suddenly I saw something glowing on my nightstand. My heart was racing as I reached for the light, and after the light filled the room, I saw some glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth left behind by one of the visitors.

The last I heard from Raminta was years ago when sent us a copy of her album featuring her piano music accompanied by a singer. There is also some instrumental music for violin and organ respectively. A little bit of everything. I really enjoyed hearing the album and consider it a quality production of the highest order. I still love listening to it.

I see Raminta has her own web site and from reading her list of accomplishments, it looks like she’s been very busy performing and teaching her craft. I’ll have to get in touch with her again and relive those fond memories I now possess.

Remembering Stick Figure Death Theatre.

One of the most memorable web sites I’ve been to is the original Stick Figure Death Theatre. It had just 4 simple animations of stick figures meeting their demises but it launched something of a revolution as dozens of additional sites appeared to further explore ways to kill stick figures. I too was inspired to create my own animations and share them on the web site I had at one time.

Over time, SFDT allowed visitors to upload their own animations where they were viewed and voted on. There were some seriously good animations to watch and you could easily spend hours watching stick figures meet their respective dooms. Soon there was a separate site for uploading non-stick figure animations for those in the mood for something completely different. SFDT seemed to be well on its way.

Then one day, all that disappeared when all there was to see on the main page was a message reading “We’ll be back shortly.” I checked in from time to time to see if SFDT had in fact returned but there was nothing but that same message. “Shortly” stretched to weeks to months to years until recently when SFDT disappeared altogether. Maybe someday it will return to inspire a new generation of animators.

 

Surviving Hurricane Jeanne.

As a longtime resident of South Florida, I’ve been through many hurricanes starting with David in 1979, but none were scarier than Jeanne in 2004. Of course, that was the year when Florida was hit with not one, not two, but three hurricanes. Charley hit the west coast of Florida while Frances and Jeanne struck the east coast near where I live.

When Frances struck, I joined my parents in evacuating to a neighbor’s mother’s condominium in Boca Raton. There we rode out the storm while enduring a blackout and lullabies of howling winds. While we were sitting there in the dark, we heard something heavy fall outside. Spending the night was miserable as there was no air conditioning or working lights. The mess we saw outside the next morning was unbelievable with branches, leaves and a large tree that got knocked down.

But Hurricane Jeanne was the scariest storm I’ve been through. My parents and I stayed at a friend’s house not far from where they live. Not long after the storm arrived, the power went out. I was lying on the couch in the warm, dark living room while listening to continuous coverage of the storm on my radio. At the same time I could look out the unboarded window and see trees bowing and branches making frantic gestures in the roaring wind. I also saw flashing blue lights that I thought was lightning but turned out to be explosions from the power transformer. That remains the scariest sight I have ever seen in any hurricane I’ve been through.

Enough was enough indeed.

Kudos to Twitter.

I found Twitter to be an extremely valuable resource during Hurricane Irma. While the storm was raging outside, I was checking Twitter constantly for nonstop coverage of the hurricane in near real time. I saw photos of conditions in my area and videos of the storm’s wrath. While I did check some of the local news sites, I always found myself going back to Twitter for the rapid, in-depth coverage of Irma.

I myself contributed to the Irma coverage by tweeting weather conditions outside along with photos I took of the stormy chaos. It was then I noticed something about Twitter I hadn’t noticed before. I was taking part in a worldwide network discussing the storm from our individual points of view. I got a response to one of my tweets from an out-of-state user whose mother lives in the city where I stayed and she had been unable to get hold of her. Was there power in my area? Yes, there was, I responded. That seemed to put her mind at ease.

Some of my photographs of the storm have been well-received, and that gave me the rewarding feeling that I’m contributing something to the ongoing discussion and getting noticed for it.

Too bad it took the 9 years I’ve been on Twitter to get this kind of insight.