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Friday, January 20, 2017

The Lost Season - When Help Isn't Helping

Sunrise in PEI - The beginning of something new
It was a pretty sucky holiday season. Because of my hip and leg, we really didn't get to enjoy any of the usual treats this holiday. No parade, no checking out the monigotes (we'd call them effigies) and the large community installations that they burn with such joie de vivre here. It was pretty bleak, even though we've tried to make the best of it. It feels like we missed the whole thing. I did make shortbread and caramels, but that does not a Christmas make.

This whole sciatica thing has been a long, painful, but educational process. I'm gobsmacked by how long I've been suffering. Granted, I'm partially to blame, as I ignored some of the warning signs for longer than I should have. All that being said, I've come to a crossroads.

After eleven sessions of physiotherapy I was only marginally better, but, by no means, was the progress satisfactory. Because I was suffering so terribly after treatments they called in the big guns and had the owner of the rehabilitation centre evaluate me. So what was his conclusion? The muscles and/or tendons are so horribly inflamed that they are impinging on my nerve and the treatment and all exercise was only making it worse. He decreed that I need to rest for 15 days, meaning limited activity and lots of stretching...at least as much is comfortable. He's not certain that it's my sciatic nerve that's impinged, but another nearby nerve that mimics sciatic symptoms. Good times.

In summation, what I'd been doing to make myself better was making me worse. Sigh. So here's to hoping that rest will do the trick, even though I did rest for three days in the infancy of my little problem.

Being in pain has given me new insight. The effect is devastating. Not only do you hurt on levels that cannot be understood by those who haven't experienced it, but it's depressing. The thought of being comfortable again is so far distant from reality that it seems like a childhood dream that you can no longer remember in detail. It is soul crushing and spirit killing. There is no room for anything else but the pain and you live in that darkness without hope.

The slightest twinge sends me into a panic, wondering if a full blow episode of agony is coming on. It makes me fearful to even move, lest what little comfort I've found gives way to another bout of throbbing, shocking waves of pain. Even though I know, for a fact, that I'm not suffering as I did in the beginning, it doesn't seem to make any difference; that there is pain, even reduced, is enough to set me to tears and despair.

All that and yet, here I am hoping, once again, that relief might be in sight. I send out huge respect to those of you who are living with chronic pain. I don't know if those around you can even understand the challenges of  your day to day life, but bless you for your courage in going on. I don't know if I'm made of strong enough stuff.

The lesson, for me, in all of this? If your body is telling you that there's something else wrong - something beyond what the doctor has found - listen! Had I been more insistent originally, I might already be out of the woods. I know the road to recovery will be longer than I would like, but at least there is hope.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Zika - the Godzilla that Attacked Tourism

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of all the fear mongering going on out there, and there's a lot of it. Between Daesh (ISIS), the "criminality" of Latinos, the Canadian axis of evil (yeah, that's an actual thing), Russian hackers, coed bathrooms and fake food, one can hardly take a breath anymore.

The Olympics in Rio was another theatre for consternation. Who wouldn't come because of fears of Zika? I can think of about a dozen reasons not to have gone, outside of the latest illness outbreak, but what do I know? Oh, yeah, right. I'm in a "Zika" country. And now there was an article on one of the news channels about where to go to avoid Zika. I know that health is important, but I really feel like we're always being led down this path of paranoia; that the media is making mountains out of mole hills, so to speak.

All of Ecuador has been black balled because of some cases on the coast. It doesn't matter that, where I live, high in the Andes, that mosquitoes aren't actually a problem. We don't have malaria, yellow fever or Zika - it's pretty safe to visit, if those are your concerns. Now, if I was an Olympian, I'd have been more worried about the sewage floating around in the ocean and rivers, about the pollution in the city, the dodgy drinking water and the pesky problem of an impoverished country pouring in billions of dollars when it's population is gripped with unrelenting poverty, or its environment being ravished for natural resources, which poisons the water further and adds to climate change. (You know, that thing that doesn't exist.)

El Cajas, Cuenca Ecuador
Don't get me wrong, the affects of Zika can be daunting, especially for those that are pregnant of with weakened immune systems. But, truly, this is a common sense issue. If you're pregnant or wanting to be pregnant - avoid areas with Zika. If you have a weak immune system - avoid areas with Zika, but if you're healthy adult, you'll most likely be okay. Use bug repellent and cover up at high risk times.Think about all the virus outbreaks that have caused panic around the world: SARS, avian flu, Spanish flu etc. What have you heard of them lately? Not much. Malaria has been around forever and people still travel to places that are hot spots, even though there still isn't a cure for it.
English Bay, Vancouver, Canada - No Zika there
I guess I'm biased. The South American countries that are affected rely heavily on tourism. They can little afford to have that stream of income cut off because of mostly unwarranted fear. I concede that nothing is more important than your health. (Trust me, I'm learning a valuable lesson about that as I type!). Yet, there are things that are worth a very educated risk So do your homework...I'm not a doctor, but Zika isn't high on my worry list, to be sure and then get out there and see this amazing continent!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Manufacturing Icons - Tapping into Pop Culture

So, I was watching a documentary on "The Jam", a Mod band from the UK. I'm told that a lot of United Statesers aren't familiar with them, which is a bit sad, but I remember the Jam being the forefathers and lingering part of the alt-rock movement that I thrived on in the 80's. They are practically a religion in the UK, because they bridged the gap between punk and "progressive" rock that came before them.
The Jam
There was a lot of talk about the punk movement including "the Clash", whom I love and "the Sex Pistols", for whom I don't have a passion for, but appreciate what they were rebelling against. This led to a conversation about how the Sex Pistols really had no talent and that was their hook. My husband talked about how their producer didn't care that they didn't have any real musical background and all they really made was noise...angry noise. They were amongst the group of commercially designed bands. (Okay, I know some people don't see it that way, but how else can you explain the popularity of...let's say...such a "raw" style?) That they didn't know what the hell they were doing, nor did it matter, was what sold them. They spoke to a generation of disenfranchised, violent, misunderstood youth. 
The Clash
This thought brought me to the thought that the Sex Pistols were the Spice Girls of their time and the juxtaposition made me laugh. That something so raw and angst ridden could be compared to the manipulated, smooth, perky sounds of what I'd always considered "sugar pop" of a generation of kids I didn't understand...yup, I was already "old" when the Girls came around.
The Sex Pistols weren't the first "corporate" designed band, or, maybe more fairly they got caught up in the machinery that they railed against. That might be why they didn't really last all that long (or perhaps it was the heroin). On the other hand, the Jam had a solid music background and the trio had some serious skills. (Don't get me wrong..."God Save the Queen" is iconic, to be sure!)`
The Sex Pistols...yup, real blood.
So, if you have a chance, check out some of the Jam's music (you might recognize the song "A Town Called Malice") and try to get your head around the idea of the one degree of separation between the (notorious) Sex Pistols and the Spice Girls. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Avast Ye Trolls!

On Facebook today, I came across a post that showed this little blog hit 24,000 two years ago. I was quite pleased. This year I envisioned achieving 40,000 hits. Little could I guess...

Today, my hits are at 45,972, yes, almost double in only two years after having the blog for 6 years. Am I so marvelous? Sadly, no. This is the result of web crawlers. I'm hitting over 200 page views everyday. It started with Russia and spread to the US and now France is in on the deal.

I believe it started when I linked to the last expat interview that I participated in. The hits have come crashing in, but they don't really count. The only thing that might help is that it may move me up the results chain when someone looks for "textured wallpaper" or "the Great Barrier Reef".

I expect I'll hit close to 46,500 by the end of the year, but it feels hollow. So, go away trollers, and let the real people of the world enjoy or ignore my little blog as they see fit.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Christmas Wish

Every Christmas and New Years seem to be a time for reflection. I know this isn't only my tradition and that others take the time to look back at the year and assess.
Up-cycled Christmas Decorations
It was a pretty amazing year, with both highs and lows, as usual. We had the vacation of a lifetime in Australia and finished up with a little bit of laziness in Thailand. We have a new granddaughter and had friends and family visit. We've made new friends, said good-bye to old ones and lost someone dear.


If my little health problem has taught me anything, it's to be grateful for the little things. (Like being able to lay on my back in the night without pain.) It's become clear to me that the truly important things in life are experiences, not things and that a good friend is worth more than their (literal) weight in gold and good health is a privilege not to be overlooked. So laugh, love and go out into the world if you can, that new smart phone can wait.

My wish for you, is that you have amazing experiences, that the ones you love are well and healthy and that life never  ceases to surprise and amaze you. I hope that all my friends and family know how grateful I am for them (no matter how far away we are) and that you have all given me an incredible life. I am grateful for so much, but most especially, Ron; my champion, best friend and incredible husband. What ever would I do without you? To my sisters, you are the ones that have known me forever and had a hand in making me me. (Yes, I'm blaming you! That's the little sister's job.) And to my dearest Janette, who comes to the rescue when it's most needed., I love you all.

To all of you: strangers, friends and my family, a blessed holiday and adventurous 2017. May health and happiness reign.

Friday, December 16, 2016

More Pain in the Ass and Wallet

Me, up and mobile, here's to better days!
The sciatica saga continues. What seemed to be a hopeful turn has ended in disappointment. While the intramuscular injections of relaxants offered relief from the truly mind boggling pain, they didn't last. Off I went to get x-rays (radiografía en español). So I have a compacted lumbar disc that is pinching my sciatic nerve. (This means the two vertebrae have little cushioning between them and are using my nerve in lieu of my squished "jelly doughnut" of a disc.) This is also know as degenerative disc disease, something that sounds frightening and irreversible. Apparently, this is not the case. Physiotherapy has a 90% efficacy rate for treating the issue. (Fingers crossed.) I kind of feel like I've aged five years over the last several weeks. Pain does truly bizarre things to my head. (I'm a lot wimpier than I thought, to be sure.) I think the meds are also messing with my brain chemistry, so I'm excited to get off them ASAP.

I'm actually quite surprised at the cost of medical treatment here. (In a good way.) As a Canadian, the whole concept of paying to see a doctor is a bit odd, but we're no strangers to coughing over for "alternate" treatments like massage therapy, chiropractic work, physio etc.

This is how it's broken down so far (in US dollars):
     * Massage therapy: $40 for two one hour sessions (an introductory rate)
     * Impromptu visit to Physiotherapist: $15 (including compression, electro-stimulation, 
            massage and assigned stretches.

     * Chiropractor: $25 initial consult and $15 an adjustment thereafter = $70
          (I have one more appointment, so add another $15)

     * Doctor: 5 visits $90, including 12 injections and x-ray consult, prescriptions etc
     * X-rays: 2 for $25
     * Physiotherapy: 10 sessions at $6.50 each (this is a partially government funded
           Association) = $65


What I haven't included is the medications. I've blown through 27 muscle relaxants, uncountable amounts of ibuprofen and acetaminophen, plus some minorly scary opioid pills to manage the pain. I'm now looking forward to 5 B-Complex injections in the glutes for anti-inflammatory and analgesic purposes. This also give me "pep" and can help correct nerve damage (if any). Be warmed photos of the needles to follow. The B shots were the most expensive of the medications prescribed (strangely) @ $22.70 for the 5. I figure I'm up to around $40 for pain management. The biggest surprise is that you can't book appointments for a lot of this stuff, you go, wait in line and get treated on a first come first serve basis. I can call my Doctor to see if he's in the office, but besides that everything is pretty casual. (This excludes the North American's working down here, but the Ecuadorians seem patently uninterested in arranging set times for appointments. If you've been here long enough, this likely isn't a surprise.)
Not too scary, right?
The needle 1 inch+ of metal for deep muscle access

The B-complex mix
Locked and loaded
So, all in we're looking at around $360 US (or $482 Canadian based on the current exchange - thanks US Reserve for increasing interest rates!) We've opted for "self-insured" medical, meaning that we put money aside every month for just this sort of thing. This is our first "major" expenditure, outside of Ron having some dental work done when we were first here. I've found an excellent source of information for the government insured medical care system, which is similar to how Canada runs. From the blog, it seems inexpensive and fairly easy to navigate. I have heard the odd story about complications and challenges with a laissez-faire approach to appointments etc, but this IS Ecuador. Thanks Bob and Linda for the excellent information. See Bob and Linda in Ecuador for more info about IESS and do some research as this is only one couples' experience with the system.

It may seem steep, as a Canadian, for medical care, but if I take into account the supplementary treatments that are only partially included, I think I'm actually well ahead of the game. The down side is I can't claim it on my taxes. So that's the state of things. I won't know until after Christmas how the treatments are working, but I'm hoping to feel some minor relief before then, again, fingers crossed! 

PS, the vitamin injection was stingy once the liquid was being injected - the needle prick wasn't bad at all - thank you Nurse Ron!





Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ecuadorian Construction Phase Two

You might recall that early this year I posted about our neighbours putting an addition onto their house. (See Ecuadorian Construction, posted way back at the end of January.)


It was all very Peyton Place with the other neighbours shutting down the construction midway through. There were rapid conversations, cell phone photos taken and then...crickets. Nothing happened. The garage was left mostly open to the elements, the lower floor construction stalled and we were left staring at raw cement and re-bar. 
Fast forward (almost a year...can you imagine?) and construction has restarted. The open space over the garage is getting a roof. The production seems more complicated than necessary, as the framing for a space half a metre deep and maybe four metres wide has taken multiple days, using hand tools, no plumb lines or compasses to measure the angles and slipshod wood that might have fallen off the back of a truck.
Three days later, the metal roof is on and the small window has been removed. They seemed to be unconcerned about having a gaping hole in the side of their house, but finally put up a sheet yesterday. (I can't help but wonder if something "snuck" in).
That's a bed nestled up against the opening - cozy!


We're just at over a week and counting and we watch in fascination. I'm not quite sure how long the rest of the construction is going to take, but we wait with baited breath.