A chip off the old… umm… lens?

Our nephew Max is beginning to show signs of an interest in a family hobby: photography. My father is a fine photographer, having spent much time and film on both buildings and his family. My sister and I have similar interests, though her photography now leans heavily toward family, mine toward buildings and, more recently, cats. Last night we were having dinner with my parents, Melanie, Lee and the boys. I was taking some photos with our digital camera, and showed Max one of the shots that I’d taken of him on the camera’s screen. He wanted to take a photo, too! I had him sit in my lap on the floor. I held the camera for him, and showed him how to aim it so that he could see what he wanted on the screen. I showed him the button to push on the top; he had to work to push it down hard enough.

Max was content to sit in my lap while taking the first few pictures. However, after a few shots, he wanted to take pictures on his own. This resulted in several closeups: the tree shot, the floor shot, and a couple of photos of the dining room wall from 4″ away, which because of the flash were completely white. More successful, I think, were his second shot of Mommy and his shot of the painting.

I’ll note that Max clearly has a knack for making his subjects feel comfortable, even playful. That’s quite a gift in a photographer!

I think it might be time soon for this new young talent to have a camera of his own, perhaps a used, low-megapixel digital model that will give him a chance to take all the photos he wants — without incurring any film or processing costs.

Boxing Day Greetings

Happy Boxing Day from Houston! We have been here visiting my family since Wednesday, and, thanks to the usual holiday busyness and the presence of two very active young boys (our 1-year-old and 3-year-old nephews), I’m more tired now than I was when we began this vacation.

The big news in Texas this Christmas has been the weather. On Christmas Eve, snow fell off and on in Houston for much of the day and evening. This was the type of snow that couldn’t quite make up its mind whether it wanted to be snow, sleet, tiny hail or nothing at all. It was, however, something frozen that came from the sky and made its way to the ground in a more or less floaty way. And, during the evening, it began to accumulate on cold spots, such as rooftops and parked cars. The weather forecasters said that there might be up to an inch accumulation by Christmas morning!

What did my Connecticut-born-and-raised husband make of all this? He was completely stunned and amused by the strong reactions of the natives to what was to him an inconsequential amount of frozen precipitation. At first, he was unwilling even to grant the snow a designation beyond a “flurry.” Upon leaving my sister’s house after Christmas Eve dinner, and noting the buildup of snow on the roof of the car, he conceded that this could be considered a “dusting” of snow. And, when we arrived back at my parents’ house, he made a small snowball from said snow, and tossed it at the neighbors’ car. We went to sleep hoping that Santa might really bring us a white Christmas.

Sadly and strangely, Houston was too far north to really get in on the snow that fell overnight on Christmas Eve. Parts of the South Texas coast got a real snow, with accumulations of up to a foot. While Texans are inclined to make a big deal over any snow at all, as it is so rare here, this really was enough to be considered a white Christmas. If only the main storm front had extended 50 miles farther north, we would’ve been teaching our nephews how to make snow angels. Maybe next year… (I can hope, can’t I?)

Wishing for biscuits

This morning I was at the preserves-making again. Today’s recipe was Cranberry Cherry Almond Conserve with Orange Liqueur, a variant on a recipe from one of my preserving books. This is the second time in a month that I have made this recipe, as the little bit that I tasted last time was so good that it called for repeating. As I was going about the process of ladling the conserve into jars, I accidentally knocked over a full but uncapped jar. While it did not escape onto the floor, the lovely contents spilled onto the dish towel on which the jars were sitting. Oh, happy accident! As I could not put that 1/2 cup or so of (perhaps contaminated!) conserve back into a jar, I scooped it up into a bowl, and set it aside. And then, when the jars were boiling in the canner, I pulled out a small spoon, took it and the bowl of conserve to the kitchen table, and ate it while I read the NY Times Sunday Magazine.

While I was savoring the conserve, I found myself wishing for biscuits. And I remembered that, shortly after Thanksgiving, our friend Mason asked for the recipe for the biscuits that we served at a Thanksgiving dinner a while back. Since I’m typing out the recipe, I’ll share it with you, as these biscuits are remarkably good with everything from a turkey dinner to homemade jam.

Angel biscuits are a raised biscuit, meaning that they are leavened with both baking powder and yeast. While yeast rolls, like yeast breads, rise twice before baking (once after making the dough, the second time in the pan prior to baking) these raised biscuits are baked with only a short single rise or no rising time at all.

As I’ve never known anyone outside of my family who makes angel biscuits, I’ve always thought of them as a family recipe. I thought the same thing of the raw cranberry orange relish that is one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving dinner, until I saw the recipe on the back of a bag of cranberries. (Oh, the things we learn as we grow older!) It turns our that there are many recipes for angel biscuits available at Internet recipe sites, so clearly other people have been making them for a while, too.

My fifteen minutes of research suggests that angel biscuits are a traditional Southern recipe. (My mother’s people have been Southerners since they arrived from the British Isles, so that fits.) The name “angel” supposedly comes from their light texture; because the addition of yeast makes them almost foolproof, they are also known as “bride’s biscuits.” (That name, suggestive of brides who moved from their parents’ home directly to their husband’s at such a young age that they had not yet mastered the art of the traditional baking powder biscuit, is amusing to one who married at 37.) While the ingredients are almost identical in all recipes, there are some small variations in their proportions: a little less sugar here, a little more flour there. One recipe has 2 packages of yeast. However, the greatest variations are in preparation; more on those later. First, here is my family’s recipe:

Angel Biscuits

5 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup shortening

1 package yeast

1/4 cup warm water

2 cups buttermilk (room temperature)

Melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Dissolve yeast in warm water, set aside. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening until coarse crumb texture. Add yeast and buttermilk to dry ingredients, mix well. Turn out onto a floured board, and roll out to 1/4″ thick. Cut with a biscuit cutter. Dip in melted butter, fold gently in half. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Makes approx. 3 1/2 dozen. This recipe can be halved, although the amounts of yeast and warm water will stay the same.

So, that’s our recipe, and it produces a lovely, light, slightly yeasty biscuit. Due to the folding, the biscuits have a distinctive appearance. They look a little like a pair of folded wings, and I’ve always I thought that’s why they were called angel biscuits. I have sometimes used a heart-shaped cookie cutter for cutting the biscuits, because the folded heart bears a stronger resemblance to wings. However, I learned today that this is the one aspect of our recipe that is unusual. None of the other recipes I found for angel biscuits involved either dipping the cut dough in melted butter or folding the biscuits in half.

The variations in other recipes fell into several categories:

1) Chilling the dough: After mixing the dough, some recipes say to cover and chill for at least an hour. One recipe states that the dough should be prepared the day before the biscuits are baked. Some recipes state that the dough may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, so that biscuits may be made in small quantities as desired. Imagine! Angel biscuits on a weekday morning! This seems almost too good to be true, but I’m willing to give it a try.

2)Rolling the dough: All of the other (unfolded) recipes I found call for rolling the dough out to 1/2″ thick. Of course, if you fold 1/4″ thick biscuits in half, as per my family’s recipe, well, you do the math.

3) Rising: Some recipes call for immediate baking. Others call for covering the cut biscuits with a dishcloth/waxed paper/plastic wrap and allowing them rise for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. (Two hours? If they’re going to take that long, why not make yeast rolls? That’s taking the “quick” out of quick bread!) Recipes suggest that, after the specified amount of rising time, the biscuit dough should be “puffy” or “almost doubled in size.” Most recipes also call for lightly greasing the baking sheet; it should go without saying that dunking the whole biscuit in melted butter obviates the need for greasing.

4)Baking time and temperature: specified temperatures varied between 400 and 450 degrees, and times varied between 10 and 20 minutes. Obviously, “until browned” means different things to different people.

As I have only used my family recipe, I can’t speak to the results that you’d get from any of the above variations. However, I’m planning to try some of them, especially the refrigerator biscuit version. (I still can’t get over the idea that I could have angel biscuits on a weekday, before going to work!)

There you have it: all I know about Angel Biscuits. Oh, just one more thing: they don’t keep well, so eat ’em up while they’re fresh. And Mason, if what you really wanted was the recipe for the yeast rolls that my sister made for Thanksgiving in Menlo Park, that’s a different recipe. I don’t have it, as I don’t make those rolls, but I can certainly get it for you.

Another Furlongstone

I feel silly referring to this as a milestone, since it seems like such a small thing, but it is still pretty meaningful to me.

This morning I’ve been able to get down all my pills by mouth. I did chop the largest tablet into quarters, but I was able to get down the next largest tablets whole. They are circular, 9mm in diameter and 5mm thick at their widest point. I swallowed them individually, but both of them went down smoothly, carried by a big swallow of fluid. I am inordinately happy about this.

In addition to meaning that I can actually swallow something so big and hard, it also means that, potentially, I can do away with my pill-crusher. If I can continue to swallow pills like this, then I won’t have to keep doing the tedious process of pulverizing the pills. Since the mild charm of feeling like a medieval apothecary wore off long ago, crushing my pills and mixing them into liquids merely remains as a regular, annoying reminder of how “broken” my body is after the surgery. Oddly enough, being able to take pills feels like a sign of health to me. (How’s that for ironic?)

My pill-swallowing attempts over the last few days have been trending toward success, but there have been a few awkward moments, as when a pill that had refused to go down started to dissolve in my mouth. But the other night I bragged to Kimberly that it seemed like I could feel some of the little throat muscles doing their job, and actually grabbing smaller pills and pushing them down my throat.

In my two most recent visits to Dr. Lu, it seems he has moved into more intensive action on my throat. In addition to using more needles in and around my throat area, he has also used some electrical stimulation, hooking up wires to a pair of needles, and sending a pulsed charge between them. It doesn’t hurt, but I can feel the pulsing. He’s also doing some massage, both of the head and neck, and my arms, legs and feet. So far, it’s not like I come home from a session and I’m suddenly able to swallow something else, but it is true that I’m continuing to improve at a much more rapid pace than before the acupuncture.

This morning’s successes have left me drunk with power. Now I’m thinking that this weekend I may be bold enough to try scrambled eggs.

It’s Out!

No more loose ends! The feeding tube is out.

The folks at Interventional Radiology did not pass up their last opportunity to impress me negatively. Though I showed up early for my appointment, they waited until twenty minutes after my appointment time to call my name. Or actually, “Davis Paul?” in an Asian accent, which I took as the same thing. I was ushered back into the warren of halls and rooms that makes up UW Radiology-land. Finally, I was given a gown, and left in a curtained-off area of a hallway, used as an impromptu procedure “room.”

I sat there for another 20 minutes, until someone from the MRI department came by to put a patient in that area. She was quite surprised to find me, since I apparently didn’t belong in what is supposed to be the MRI holding area. She went off to find where I belonged, then walked me there.

This turned out to be the odd nurses station-cum-curtained holding area that I recognized from previous visits. There, the several people who work out of that space managed to not bump into each other and also find me a chair, so my waiting could continue. This was after I had a conversation with them about whether or not they needed a stretcher for me to lie down on. The nurses I was dealing with seemed not to know. Since there was no stretcher in the area, and I could only imagine what a challenge finding one would pose to their 8K brains, I confidently told them that I was happy with the chair, so that they could skip looking for a stretcher, unless they would need me to be on one for the procedure. The nurse I was looking at seemed overjoyed to be spared more work, and left me alone.

After another 5 or 10 minutes, some doctor-y types showed up, and expressed minor annoyance that I was “hiding” behind the curtain and they couldn’t see me there. I said, “Hey, I just sit where they tell me.” (I wondered where they had expected me to be; it wasn’t like it was a big space, and there was someone else on the other side of the curtain, wedged between me and the nurses desk. One doctor asked me a few questions, then, after a pause to go on the other side of the curtain and help explain to the other patient there what they were about to do to her, returned, opened up the kit, and began. Extraction was dirt-simple. I was told to grit my teeth, and close my eyes, and when I said I was ready, he pulled it out. Poof. Done. (I don’t know why I needed to either grit my teeth or close my eyes, since it didn’t hurt at all, and, on the scale of gross-outs in my life, was pretty low.) I was told the hole might ooze for about a week, so I would want to keep a bandage on it. I got some gauze taped on by the nurse who’d dumped me in MRI, who’d just returned, no doubt from leaving someone else in the wrong place. He jumped to help after the doctor fumbled and got the tape stuck to his gloves. How could one fail to be impressed with such competence? Frankly, I could have taped it better myself.

So, in all, a five-minute procedure I could have done at home took an hour. One assumes there might have been complications for which it would be good to be around medical professionals, but in the event, it did seem like a huge waste of time.

Afterwards I stopped by Otolaryngology and Carol looked at my little lump. This morning it is smaller, and looks even less inflamed, so Carol decided to leave it alone, and told me to call if it starts getting worse.

So, now at last, I’m home, without something rubbery dangling from my chest. Yeah!! I’ll be interested to see how long and how much I ooze, and whether I end up with a dent at the tube site.

36 Hours and counting

It’s less than 36 hours now before my appointment to have the stomach tube pulled!

I’m excited, but I’m also a bit anxious. I don’t have very good memories of my first visit to the Interventional Radiology department, and so, while I’m confident that the extraction procedure is simple and easy, I can’t manage to convince my back-brain. That’s the part that remembers being in pain, and drugged, but not drugged enough to either stop caring about the pain, or miss the seeming disorganization and unpleasantness of the staff. It really doesn’t want to go back to that room, and it’s allied itself with the instinctive resistance one feels to having something long and snaky pulled out of one’s gut. So I am aware of some emotional “static” at the thought of going there Thursday morning.

I’m not, however, worried about being able to nourish myself after the tube is gone. In fact, tonight I had a small baked potato! I couldn’t manage the skin, but the yummy yellow inside got swallowed fine. Perhaps the butter coating helped. Afterwards, I had another bowl of the congee, or rice porridge I made the other night. It was so much like eating that, when I went later to make my IBP it felt like I was just making something to drink, and not a “meal”. Just another sign that I’m moving away from being constantly worried about feeding myself.

I’ve also made some progress with swallowing small pills, but it’s a haphazard process. I haven’t yet figured out a reliable technique. Still, the pills are getting down, if not always on the first, or first few tries.

My swallowing toward the end of last week was being bothered by a sore throat, which I connect to the development of a new abcess, approximately where I emitted a staple a while back. Over the weekend the inflammation went down, and my sore throat went away, but the lump remains, and no staple yet. I’m keeping it under observation, but it does feel just like the staple eruption, and not like any Other Thing. I’m planning on getting it checked out when I’m at the hospital.

Since Saturday I’ve been wearing yet another bit of acupuncture style in my ears. I’ve graduated from magnetic BBs to itsy-bitsy things Dr. Lu called staples. I have one in each ear, inside in a place where I can’t see them, and they are covered with an adhesive covering, so Kimberly can’t see much either. They feel like very tiny lumps smaller than the BBs, and if they are poking into my ear cartilage, it isn’t very much. I can’t feel them, and can only hope they are aligning my chi properly when I press on them while swallowing. I expect they’ll be gone after tomorrow, when I have my next acupuncture session.

I’m taking it as a sign of my further recovery that I’m actually finding a bit of interest in holiday preparations. I put up our outdoor lights, and the electric candles in the upstairs windows. Today I actually packed some packages and endured the line at the Post Office. I even was at the mall this weekend, and, while I didn’t buy any gifts, I also didn’t freak out at the crowds, the stores selling hideous junk to people intending to give it to a loved one, or the cell phone booths that seemed placed every 50 feet. I’ve even had some real ideas for what to get for people this year. And it isn’t even the 15th! (for a few more hours, anyway.)

As usual, Kimberly and I will be flying to Houston for Christmas. It will be interesting comparing this visit with our visit at Halloween. I won’t be carrying around a pump this time! I’ll be able to have something to drink on the airplane. And the tube won’t leak, because it’ll be gone!. And I won’t have to go off to hook up my bag, or figure out how to schedule tube feedings around family activities. It’ll be a lot different, and much, much nicer. Oh, and I’ll be able to use that luggage space for presents instead of pump supplies!

That’s it for now. I’ll post an update on the tube extraction on Thursday.

 

Fun with Medical Billing, # I’ve lost count

Hello, family and friends of Paul and Kimberly, and welcome to another episode of Fun with Medical Billing. Perhaps you thought that our show had been cancelled due to a lack of new material; that’s certainly what I thought. As it turns out, that assumption was incorrect. Sadly incorrect. Frustratingly incorrect. And so I’m here to tell you all about it.

But first, a little back story: Our firm’s medical insurance policy comes up for renewal each year on the first of October. In early September, I learned that the folks at Group Health Uncooperative were going to make changes to their insurance plans, and that the plan under which we had been covered would no longer exist. Instead, they had several new plans from which we could choose. Our office manager reviewed plan benefits and premiums with a GH minion, and found that there was a policy that was very similar to the one that we had. And the monthly premiums would be lower! But wait, the out-of-pocket limit (OOPL) would be higher. In network, we would pay $500/year more before reaching the OOPL. For out-of-network providers, such as Dr. Futran and the UWMC team, the OOPL would be $1000/year higher than the old OOPL. (Lower premiums and higher limits are a way of adjusting coverage so that those who need lots of health care pay more than those who don’t. But the politics of health care are not my topic for today.)

For the first nine months of the year, Paul and I had paid for the old medical insurance policy. We paid the higher premiums, and, as you saw in a previous episode, we hit the $4000 out-of-network OOPL before the end of February. What, I wondered, would happen when we switched to the new policy, which had an additional $1000 dollars of OOPL? Given Paul’s CAT scans, doctor appointments, physical therapy and such, he might incur an additional $1000 in payments by the end of the year. (With 60% out-of-network coverage from Group Health, it would take only $2500 of medical charges to reach that point… and it’s amazing how quickly one can rack up that amount.)

I asked our office manager to contact Group Health and discuss this issue with them. She did, and was told that this would not be a problem, as the payments that we had made for the previous “plan year” (October to September) would be applied to this calendar year (January to December). Does that sound a little odd to you? It did to me, too, but that’s what she had been told, and I accepted it. OK, now we’re all caught up.

So, imagine my surprise when, a couple of days ago, we received an Explanation of Benefits form for one of Paul’s physical therapy appointments, and it showed an out-of-network OOPL of $5000. And $100.20 was shown as “your total responsibility”. Better yet, $10 was indicated as a copay, because, oh, I forgot to tell you, the new plan has copays… and copays are not applied to the OOPL.

You will have to imagine for yourselves the words… no, the epithets… no, the flat-out cursing that was heard in our house on top of Queen Anne hill, because this is family programming and I don’t say those words here (here being in cyberspace, at PvTSM, not here where I am physically). Well, I use them only very occasionally, and today is not one of those occasions. However, that day was one of those occasions.

I have yet to contact my friend… what was her name?… Marcie! my friend Marcie at Group Health Uncooperative to discuss this, as I have not yet had a chance to discuss it with our office manager. (I hope that she has the name of the GH minion with whom she discussed this.) And I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what to tell Marcie that I expect, what makes sense, what is “fair.”

For the first 3/4 of the year, we paid higher premiums, and had the lower OOPL. For the last 1/4 of the year, we’ve paid lower premiums. If we are going to have a higher OOPL for the last 1/4 of the year, it seems to me that the increase should be prorated for the percentage of the year in which the new plan has been in effect. Rather than raising Paul’s OOPL by $1000 to $5000, I would be willing to accept their raising it by only 1/4 of that, or $250. Barring that, I want a refund for nine months of the difference between our current premiums and our old premiums: $52.64 x 9 = $473.76.

Before I mention to anyone at Group Health that we’re willing to consider paying anything more for Paul’s health care this year, I want a letter from Group Health stating their policy regarding changes in health plans (and premiums and benefits) during the middle of a calendar year. On the letter, I want the signature of a person who has sufficient rank to do something about this, and the direct line at which I can reach that person. I also want a pony, delivered personally by Santa Claus. However, Santa Claus probably won’t care if I send him a letter stating that my attorney will be in touch if he doesn’t deliver.

Well, folks, the resolution will have to wait, as we’re out of time for tonight. Tune in again next… well, who knows when. That’s part of the hilarity of Fun with Medical Billing. Thanks for watching our show.

Ear BBs and capsules

Today I spoke with Carol at Dr. Futran’s office, and she is starting the process to get me an appointment for pulling the tube! The Interventional Radiology Department, the same gang of louts that installed it, has the responsibility of pulling it out. It should be sometime next week; I expect to hear tomorrow or the next day.

Meanwhile, my swallowing continues. Each day it seems to be getting a little better, so that the amount of coughing and other odd noises is reduced. I’m finding a bit easier to start up in the morning, and it seems like maybe more of my throat is getting involved in the swallowing. Yesterday I timed one of my IBPs, and it was around 18 minutes, start to finish. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m comfortable enough about my diet and my ability to swallow that I’ve actually stopped keeping a daily record of my calories. This is another part of my moving away from being a patient. Normal people don’t have intake records.

My work with Dr. Lu is progressing. I noticed a definite alteration in my state of consciousness during the appointment after my last post. I wasn’t jazzed or accelerated as I had been at Bastyr, but I definitely had a moment where it felt like something shifted, a feeling akin to when I’ve felt before as various drugs kicked in. Though I was a bit spacey, that was actually reassuring, since it made me feel like something was actually happening.

During the next appointment, I actually felt a momentary change in the way my throat felt. For reasons I don’t quite understand, my swallowing problem feels like there is a lump in my throat, on the right-hand side. While this isn’t really what you see on the fluoroscope, that’s how it has felt. On Saturday, as I was lying there, I felt the “lump” shift. It felt somewhat like it was dissolving, or melting, and shifting down, so that a part of my throat that had been blocked felt open. That feeling went away after a few moments, but it was very exciting while it lasted.

At the end of my appointment, I got homework. Dr. Lu painstakingly applied small adhesive dots carrying a tiny magnetic BB to four points on my ear. These points apparently correspond to the throat. My assignment is to periodically squeeze or tap these dots to stimulate these points, while swallowing. This is supposed to help remind my throat muscles of what they are meant to be doing. It may be actually influencing my gradual improvement, and at the very least it gives me something to make me feel like I’m working hard on getting better.

I’ve avoided further investigations into the combination of fish oil and chocolate. I’ve tried swallowing some of my pills, which has worked reasonably well, although I find crushing them still works better. Today I was adventurous and tried swallowing some of the small capsules of CoEnzyme Q-10 that I used to mix with the fish oil. I’m happy to say I got them down, but I wouldn’t say I have a practiced technique. Q-10 is a nutrient that seems to help people with heart failure, and, though optional, I find it does improve my energy levels. It’s nice to be able to take it without putting it through the tube, and without having fishy chocolate.

Another feature of my new eating regime is that I often go several hours between meals, which means I actually get hungry! Last night, I was sitting around in the evening, and I realized I was actually hungry, and I wanted something more solid than another IBP. I made myself a little rice, which I was able to swallow as well. I got the pleasure of actually chewing on it, and though it was a bit tricky, I swallowed it down. Imagine, feeling hungry, going into the kitchen and making some food, and then eating it! What an amazing thing.

Are you with me, Dr. Lu?

Tomorrow morning is my third appointment with my acupuncturist, Dr. Lu. (His MD is from China, so technically, I don’t think he is a “Dr.” in this country, but that’s what he calls himself. Being a fan of Steely Dan, I couldn’t pass up the lyrical allusion.)

Dr. Lu is a nice, fairly young man. His office is a 5 minute drive from my house, just on the other side of the Aurora Bridge (that’s the one the troll lives under.) He seems to know what he is doing, although I haven’t had any dramatic improvements following the first two treatments. Unlike the people at Bastyr, he uses points in the ears, as well as the hands, feet and throat. Since Dr. Lu teaches at Bastyr, and there was a chart of ear points on the wall there, I assume this says something about the complexity of ear points and the ability of the student who was working on me, and isn’t some doctrinal dispute within acupunture. But what do I know?

Other differences with Dr. Lu include the fact that he keeps me toasty warm, covering me with a blanket and sometimes shining a heat lamp on my bare feet. And, while at Bastyr I had the sounds of cars on 45th Street to listen to while I lay there, Dr. Lu plays some nice, innocuous classical music. Both times I have left his office feeling both relaxed and “well” in a way I usually don’t, and not stimulated or buzzing as I was after my first treatment at Bastyr.

The impatient Westerner in me is wondering how long I should wait for more dramatic results. I do understand that this is intended to be a gradual means of treatment, and Lu did say he thought it might take 10-12 sessions. However, I’m empirical, and since my senses are not trained to perceive my chi flowing more smoothly, I’d like something else to change, so I know something is happening.

In fact, the only dramatic change in my condition over the last few days has been the re-emergence of swelling around my jaw. This had pretty much gone away, and stayed away for a while, during which time I’d stopped doing massages to push lymph around, and hadn’t stretched my chest or anything. I think it’s getting better after a couple of days of periodically doing lymph massage, but it’s annoying. I’ll be talking to Lu about it, also, since he is working on things circulating around my body. Maybe he did something.

In other news, yesterday I finally took all my meds in by mouth. This includes the capsules of fish oil that I take for the omega-3 in them. Previously, I’ve been draining the gelatin capsules through a pin hole, and injecting it through the tube. Last night, I tried mixing it with my Instant Breakfast drink.

Let’s just say there is a reason why there aren’t more recipes involving fish and chocolate. The two flavors don’t mix well, and sadly, the chocolate didn’t have the power to hide the fish oil’s flavor. Tonight, I think I’ll try downing the fish oil by itself, and having the chocolate later. Ah, such fun we have here at the Swallowing Lab!

I did have a more successful outcome this morning, when I tried swallowing my smallest pill whole. It appeared to go down OK, though it was a little hard to tell at first. It’s small enough to get “lost” in the regions of my mouth where I don’t have good feeling, or to be stuck without my quite noticing, a mere 8mm long by 4mm across at its widest point. Tomorrow I’ll try the next largest, 10mm long by 5mm wide. (I notice that one is scored, so I could cut it in half if necessary. I’ll try it whole first.) Then I’ll work my way upwards in size. (Of course, the fish oil capsules are the largest thing to swallow.)

Undaunted by such minor adjustments, I today placed the call to Futran’s office about getting the tube taken out. I had to leave a message, so I don’t know what’s involved. I seem to recall being told that the actual removal procedure is very simple, like just yanking the tube out. Just why this wouldn’t leave a hole leaking gastric juices into my abdomen is beyond me, though. Perhaps some clever surgical trick causes the hole to seal up automatically? Or maybe, to a surgeon like Dr. Futran, the stiching involved isn’t enough to be worth mentioning? I also don’t know if they’ll make me jump through hoops like another barium swallow first. I really hope not. I should think the fact that I’m doing fine after nearly two weeks should be enough.

I will be happy if I have the tube out by Christmas. I will be very, very happy if I’m able to eat some more-solid foods by then. With enough attention from Futran and Lu, and my own work in the Swallowing Lab, I have my hopes. But, one way or another, I’m saying right now: no figgy pudding.