April 1, 2000

You are invited to share these pictures of Bianca at the party for her on her last day of work

and of Dolly in her picture taken at the Seeing Eye.

I will skip the picture of Mike after the guy hit him in the face at the bus stop.


Spring 2000

Spring (late winter, but winter has been like spring recently) 3/9/2000
(built from a letter to sister Betty, who resides in the woods far north in Minnesota and seems to be doing fairly well.)

Time has been busy here. Gigi has gone off to The Seeing Eye again for her sixth (or is it seventh) dog. I am in physical therapy recovering from a broken finger. And Suzanne Whalen and her cat are staying here as she recovers from a damaged leg and back. And now for details.

Bianca dog, who remains here at the house as a pet, has been slowing down for months and refused to work on a couple of occasions, standing on the porch and refusing to step out into the rain, has been retired. (See Plaque) After making application, Gigi was accepted rather quickly into the March class and left March 4th (see below for punch line), getting her new dog this past Monday as I write.

The new dog is named Dolly and is a very small black lab. Very small means 45 pounds (vs Bianca's 65) and shorter than Bianca. She is also getting an offset handle to help deal with her tendency to steer her dog instead of doing street crossing straight. They will be home in late March.

I was riding my bike home Saturday, 2/12, being less than attentive due to thinking about a work situation and caught the right handlebar in a tall hedge growing up beside a fence. If I had been a bit more alert, I might have steered out of the problem or gotten my foot down, but what actually happened was that the wheel was turned into the hedge, the bike stopped abruptly and I was thrown left and down to the sidewalk, with severe and painful scrapes to the elbow and knee. It looked bad enough that several people got out of cars to ask if I was okay. I said yes and hobbled for a while then rode home.

But I either did a karate chop to the sidewalk or the left handle bar end came down on my finger, because as time passed, it was obvious I had broken blood vessels under the skin (it turned black) and it continued to hurt. I already had a doctor's appointment for early Thursday, 2/16, and when he saw it, declared it probably broken, and sent me for X-rays, where it was declared broken by 11 am. Somehow, the doctor's office got me a 4 pm HMO approved appointment with a hand specialist (Dr. Ogunro, www.handspecialist.com) at the price of going way out south (the doctor's office is in Desoto, the nearest intersection is in Dallas.) He saw me (at 6 finally) and scheduled outpatient surgery for 1 pm the next day, telling me very little, but saying I would be blissed out and he would be working under a local. On that basis, I drove down to the surgery.

Still in the pre-op room at 3:45 pm, Gigi showed up, having taken a taxi from work. No matter what the doctor said, the surgical center was not going to let me go on my own and a cab driver was not a responsible adult nor was just having my wife at home acceptable (unless I stayed a full 6 hours, which was not acceptable and surgery would be rescheduled.) The anesthesiologist said, when he showed up, that is was not to be a local, but I would be out, out, out. I was. I have vague memories of blundering into the cab after surgery and Gigi got me home.

I now have ten little titanium screws in the first bone of my left little finger, two rows of five with wire between them, to hold the spiral crack shut, a two inch long scar and a finger that is just now beginning to bend after three physical therapy sessions. (see image of hand if you want ugly details. Taken with cheap little computer top camera I am playing with.)

Meanwhile ... Gigi and Suzanne Whalen went to Baltimore for a meeting of the national board of NAGDU (National Association of Guide Dog Users) of which they are Secretary and President. While parking her dog, allowing it to walk around her out of harness as required, Suzanne shifted position enough to plunge into an open manhole (she found the cover later), damaging her right ankle badly and further wrenching her back hurt in an auto accident last fall. Dragging herself out and hobbling back to the meeting site, she was determined to come home for treatment, but American Airlines refused to put her on the plane and sent her to the emergency room, where she was declared damaged but not broken, bound up and sent off in a wheelchair, to come home the next day with Gigi.

Suzanne lives up two flights of steep stairs and her dog needs to go out a couple of times a day, so we invited her to stay here. She did battle with NylCare, finally got to see a doctor and even later to start physical therapy (today, 3/9, actually.) She will be off work (which she is dedicated to, a 2nd grade bilingual teacher) for up to 8 weeks. Since her dog, Caddo, is rather young (she got him last summer), it was decided to send him back to the Eye so instructors could keep him in tune with his job so (here's the punch line from above) Gigi took him back in harness with her on the plane!! (Under strict rules not to work him as he suits Suzanne who is nearly a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier than G. Besides, he was sedated.) And Suzanne is staying here, with a newly built wheelchair ramp over the front steps.


Also staying here is Bantha, her cat, whose hair is about the size of a volley ball, but whose body is about 1/3rd that size (6 pounds, she says.) She acquired Bantha last spring while waiting until summer (I said she was dedicated to the kids) to get her new dog after the previous one died from a rather rare and awful disease. The cat was a great surprise to all who have known her for years, but she dotes on it. The cat was staying at Cats In The Cradle (www.catsinthecradle.com) for the trip and remained there with Suzanne's injury. I suggested the cat might stay here while G was at the Eye because it would 1) make Suzanne happier, 2) reduce the expense of the injury, and 3) give me a chance to have a cat around, which I have not had since the last of the two from my first marriage died. It is nice having the light weight, easily purring, ball of fluff around. It sleeps with me some times.

Further punch lines: Suzanne's orthopod dropped out of NylCare after her appointment, but before she should get into PT. The PT people do not work directly with NylCare. So she had to take all the data back to her HMO physician, who then did the referral.
One of our phone lines went wonky (it turned out to be a phone off the hook, ironically, the only one not connected by a disconnect switch for changing lines and easy disconnect. We have nine phones and three computer connections in our 7 room house.) Suzanne called SW Bell for a repair and when they came by and "didn't see a car in the drive, so no one is at home" left a note on the door without knocking or ringing the bell. Suzanne sharply informed the service rep that there is almost never a car in the drive at this house and she was home confined to a wheel chair when they came by.

Have a good spring.

Mike Firth face on with cheap computer camera

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