Project Nesso, Chapter 1: Backstory, Tests, Scans, and Drugs

“The basic quality that any great story must have is a story that illustrates the human condition.”  William Shatner (http://www.brainyquote.com)

Somewhere around 2003 it finally dawned on me that getting a headache every day wasn’t normal.  I asked my regular physician about it, and he suggested some common triggers to look for.  Over the next 10 years, most of those triggers would be removed from my environment one way or another – I stopped eating some specific foods, I changed jobs (and therefore my work environment), and so on.  The headaches only worsened.

Then during a 2013 vacation, I realized that my headaches had been progressively starting earlier and earlier in the day, until I found myself waking up with them.  For headaches, “chronic” is defined as having one 15 or more days per month.  I was now getting them every day, all day long.  I decided to get serious about finding out what was going on.

In September of that year, I started with my general physician again, who prescribed a few different drugs to try – Propranolol, Sumatriptan, and Topiramate.  Even after a couple of months, they didn’t seem to have any effect.

About the same time, I found out something new about my family history.  When I was a teen, my grandmother starting having seizures, and the doctors found that she was bleeding from the brain.  She was diagnosed with a stroke.  After her hospital stay, she returned home only to have another seizure.  The doctors looked again and found it was a tumor – not her brain, per se – that was bleeding.  Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy were unfortunately not enough to knock it out completely, and she eventually died.  What I found out in January of 2014 was that in the years leading up to her first seizure, my grandmother suffered from daily headaches.  My grandmother – never one to complain and always serving everyone else before herself – never saw a doctor about the headaches.  She simply endured them.

I became very worried about my own headaches.

My doctor then referred me to a neurologist, who first referred me to an ophthalmologist for an eye exam.  When that didn’t turn up anything out of the ordinary, the neurologist ordered an MRI.   The MRI also turned up nothing – no tumors, growths, hemorrhaging, or signs of a stroke.  That was a huge weight off my chest.  We had just ruled out the “big” bad things.

The neurologist also took me off the initial drugs, and tried a couple of additional ones – Diclofenec and Amitriptylin.  Like before, those had no effect.  He then referred me to an ear-nose-and-throat, or ENT, doctor.  If my brain was fine, perhaps my sinuses or something else in my head was to blame.  My ENT ordered a CT scan and an X-ray.  Again – nothing.

My ENT ordered a series of sleep studies.  Perhaps I suffered from sleep apnea, or some other condition that was preventing me from getting a good night’s sleep.  Yet again – nothing.

By November of 2014, my ENT had decided that there wasn’t anything he could do for me.  At this point, having spent over a year being poked, prodded, scanned and drugged, I called a time-out.  I needed a new approach to this problem.

If I couldn’t find the cause of my headaches, could I identify things that made them better or worse?  Could I gain even a measure of control over them?  2015 would be the year that I would try to do just that.

Floating to Mars

Did you know that we sent a balloon to Mars, and it sent back some beautiful photos?

IMG_3627 Inverted

IMG_3741 Inverted

IMG_3821 Inverted

Just kidding!  I was messing around with one of our stratoballoon pictures earlier this week, and accidentally reversed the colors.  All of the lovely blues turned to these tans and oranges, making our Terran shots look positively Martian.  Here they are again, side by side with the originals:

IMG_3627 Blended

 

IMG_3741 Blended

IMG_3821 Blended

Where Mark gets schooled in Math

Yesterday, Lucy and I were playing war.  We had already gone a few rounds when I announced that I’d like to play more, and then quit.  Lucy pushed back saying she wanted to play until one of us had all of the cards.  I reminded her that war could go on a very long time, and so I wanted to stop after one round.

Lucy: 3 more rounds, then.

Mark: Ok, 2.

Lucy: No, 3.

Mark: 2

Lucy: 3

Mark: Lucy, that’s not negotiating.

Lucy: Yes it is.  You wanted to play 1 round.  I wanted to play INFINITY rounds.  So, 3 is a compromise.

Mark: I-  umm…  Dang.  I really can’t argue with that.

 

We played 3.

Visuals you need

Several times in the past, I’ve posted funny things heard around the Gilbert household, but today is all about the visual.  Like this grumpy bottle of hot sauce at my favorite restaurant.

10 - Angry Hot Sauce

Definitely hasn’t had his hot cup of joe yet.

And then there’s this guy.

20 - Bacon Detector

Who literally screams for breakfast meat if we don’t shut the door.

Next we meet Steve…

30 - Cat Man-Do

…sporting his cat man-do.

Moving along, we find Bob:

40 - Tater Tot SupervillianOrigSmall

A tater tot who went to the dark side.

50 - Tater Tot SupervillianEdited

And became the evil C. Ouch Potato.

The final image is a PSA for why you keep the password to your computer secure, even from your loved ones.  I came home one evening to find this set as my desktop.

60 - Are you not entertained

Eh tutu Brutus?

Linguistic Spaghetti

CJ (to Lucy): You’re the birthday girl, so you wanted the head of Caterpie, right?

 

Lucy: Pretty much if you see me going for weapons, it’s not a good sign  (on obtaining LEGO accoutrements).

 

CJ: Lucy has homework tonight.
Mark: Is it diabolical homework?
Lucy: Sadly, no.

 

Corey (friend of Katherine): I want to watch a shrimp documentary.

 

Lucy: I just un-huge-ified the video.

 

(Lucy avoids stepping on a slug.)
CJ: Lucy shows mercy to slugs.
Katherine: Yeah, ‘cuz we’re total pacifists.
Lucy: Except for spiders.  Then it’s genocide.

 

Lucy: My hair is a fat booger-butt.

 

CJ (started by a creeper while playing Minecraft): Ahh!  Screeper!
Mark: “Screeper”?
CJ: Keeper!  No wait.  Craper!  (descending into laughter)  It go boom!

Swingset

Spoiler Alert – We finished the swingset last Saturday!

What started out as a large Christmas gift turned into an all-summer project.  You may recall that in "Kitchen Faucet", I included an in-progress picture of "the pit" as a teaser.  Here is the full story.

In the spring, CJ downloaded the instructions for the swingset, and found that the manufacturer recommended a 25’x36′ box, filled with at least 9 inches of mulch or pea-gravel for safety.  We didn’t relish having a 9" or 12" step up to get to the swingset, so we made the decision to dig down, and sink the box into the ground.

Let’s see – 25′ x 36′ x 9" = 25 cubic yards. 

“Moving 25 cubic yards of root-laden, rock-infested dirt shouldn’t be too hard by hand, “ said No One Ever.

I spent one entire Saturday in June trying it, and managed to move less than 1 cubic yard.  We needed a better option.  CJ and I talked about hiring it done, but we were trying to keep costs down.  Then CJ asked, "Could we just rent a Bobcat?"

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Yes.  Yes we could.  Things went a LOT faster after that.

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Of course, being a family project, the entire family had to get in on it.

 

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And we were all geeking out about it.

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Driving the Bobcat never got old.

It took us all Saturday, and part of Sunday, but we got the pit dug.  The following weekend, we started laying out the box that would keep the wood chips in, and the rest of the yard out.  I looked for several weeks for something I could attach to a 2×10 that could be driven into the ground.  My solution was hacky-at-best.  CJ swooped in again to save the day with her find – garden-framing brackets from FrameItAll:

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These brackets mount to the end of a 1×6, and the spikes drive into the ground. 

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The spikes come in two varieties – ground spikes and stacking spikes.  The latter would allow us to stack two boards, one on top of the other.

We started in the back corner, and worked our way around the pit.

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Random math factoid.  Katherine + Power Tools = Fear and Chaos

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We intentionally left out one entire section of the box as a "ramp", thinking ahead to when we would have dozens (if not hundreds) of wheelbarrow-fulls of mulch to drop in.

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Before we could get there, though, we found we needed to put some of the dirt back.  Apparently, we went a little overboard with the Bobcat in taking it out, and there were places that were several inches deeper than we wanted.

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That took us several weekends to complete, mostly because a) it kept raining on the days we were going to work on it, and b) we were really, REALLY getting sick of moving dirt around.  The day we finished it could not come soon enough.

Now it was on to the swingset itself.

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We unboxed it, and found our first step was to pummel the snot out of innocent scraps of wood.

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Ok, the pummeling served to drive the A-frame pieces together so they were snug, but the wood wasn’t fooled for one second.

Then we got to step 2.

Ah yes, step 2.  We need how many bolts?  And we have HOW many bolts?

We found we were missing at least one entire bag of hardware.  So, we assembled what we could, and put in a call to the manufacturer for replacement parts.

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The parts came in a week or so later, and we resumed assembly.

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Only to find that we STILL didn’t have enough parts.  CJ, not wanting to wait another week or more for parts, ran out to Lowe’s and found screws that matched what we were short on.  That allowed us to keep going, and not waste the rest of the day.

CJ and I got the swingset upright, and I tightened everything down.

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The two of us moved the set into position, and discovered to our utter amazement that it was nearly perfectly level right where it was.

Then, of course, we had to try it out.  You know – break it in?

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We added the swings themselves, guestimating how high they would need to be once the mulch was in place.

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Before we could get the mulch in, though, we needed to lay down weed fabric.  It didn’t take very long, but it sucked – literally – because of all of the mosquitos out that night.

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And then came the mulch.

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22 cubic yards of it.

And an army of helpers to move it.

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We put wood down the ramp, and through the middle of the pit to keep the wheelbarrows from tearing up the weed fabric.  Then we raked the mulch into position.  It worked fairly well.

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Once the bulk of the mulch was in, we finished the wall.

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We were storing the extra wood behind the house, where it was shielded from the sun most of the day.  When you put those next to the ones that had been out in the sun for weeks, you can really see the difference.

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We strapped some pool noodles to the cross-beams on the swingset ’cause running into those things with your forehead ends the happy thoughts.

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Ask CJ how she knows.

We filled in the rest of the mulch, and also filled in the outside of the box with dirt to level things out again. 

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The big pieces of this project were now done.

A huge thank you to all the grandparents, John from down the street (not pictured), and my brother for helping bring this massive project to a successful conclusion.

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The girls love it, and every day since we finished have asked "Can I go out and swing?"

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