September 2012

Gosh’s life henceforth = Accumulate fluid, have it removed by dialysis. Repeat.


A sharp metallic clack as my knife blade locks into position, the principle of inertia used to get it there after a flick of my thumb and a quick back and forth snap of my wrist gets it moving.  While being able to open my knife one handed saved my life once that is not the case now. I am merely using it to cut the third hospital ID bracelet off my wrist in the last 7 seven days.

Which to say I am back home in no imminent threat of immediate death, albeit with what I am viewing as a constricted future.  My kidneys failed completely and jumping to the car chase I have started on dialysis.

Too many things have happened to try jam it all into one post so I will do a little bit each day but this spoiler is here because I didn’t want to leave anyone hanging as to where it was going to lead.

Kidney disease is classed into 6 stages. I have been lingering in stage 6 of 6 for a while. One symptom is ascites. “Ascites is the accumulation of fluid (usually serous fluid which is a pale yellow and clear fluid) in the abdominal (peritoneal) cavity.”

I can tell you that today I am 5 kg (14 lbs) lighter than I was 7 days ago, the loss all due to having shed my ascites.  All that fluid builds up and has no where to go so it competes with internal cavities like the stomach, bladder, colon and lungs.

Last Saturday I was having a lot of difficulty breathing. I had to sit up because laying down caused me to  pant. Getting the 10 feet (3 m) from the couch I spend a lot of time on to the bathroom was getting me as winded as a 30 meter dash marking (defending)  an attacker used to get me when  I was still playing soccer.

Vidya, my wife, talked to our neighbor  Kelly, who is a nurse who used to work in ICU, and she advised taking me to the hospital.   I agreed to go hoping that maybe they could drain out some of the fluid or get me unto some oxygen equipment.

I don’t like going to the emergency room because you end up laying around doing nothing but paperwork and tests for a tedious of time but not breathing well can get you to do things you might not otherwise have done.

Any way, blah blah blah I get diagnosed by X ray to have pneumonia.

I have previously  described an earlier bout with ascites as being due to a pleural effusion. I had thought this because I received the results of a Cat Scan that  said I had a pleural effusion and ascites. As a pleural effusion is fliud on the lungs I had assumed that was the problem but the ER doc advised me that the pleural effusion I have is not big enough to present clinically and that it was the ascites that was crowding the lungs.  Still a fluid problem, just I had the wrong cavity.

So he prescribed some antibiotics and sent me home. Wouldn’t it have been nice if that had been the end of it?

In nature, when a  member of the herd is weak , through being young, infirm or old, the wolves keep the herd strong by culling them out. When under attack, the herd will circle and protect the young and weak , but if the wolves can get the herd moving then the weak get separated.

“Jivo jivasya jivanam. One living entity is the food or living means for another living entity, by nature’s law. ”

Srila Prabhupada class  Bhagavad-gita 7.1 — Sydney, February 16, 1973

Pneumonia used to be known as the old man’s friend. You would get weak and then instead of a long lingering debilitating illness it would take you relatively quickly.   So pneumonia is essentially like microbial wolves.  This time the herd protected me.

Do you see this box?
It sits beside my bed.
Inside live all the earthly possessions of my child.

Come open it with me and think of him.

Inside you’ll find the soft, hand knit cap
which covered his small head that cold December night.

There, see… the smocked, blue gown
still smelling of iodine and medicine
which clothed his war torn body.
Hold it close and get a sense of him.

The receiving blanket,
pink and blue teddy bears dancing,
They swaddled him up as if to imitate my womb.
How soft it is, do you wonder about the softness of his skin?
Do you smell the scent of him?
It still lives through the scent of all my tears.

A rattle which was never shaken, 3 pairs of unworn socks, cards with
words of sorrow, encouragement and love.
Autopsy reports, birth and death certificates.
The tiny wristband identical to mine.

At least I have the pictures, do you see his
sweet, sweet face.
Oh how I wish I had seen him smile.
Look at what death did to him, the cold, the blue.
No rushing newborn photographer here.

Look at all of this within this one foot box.
There is no nursery here, no musical mobiles, no Dr. Seuss or Big Bird.
You see here only these few precious grains of sand I desperately
caught as the rest went slipping through my fingers.
Look here and think of him.

By Cybele Eckles Ryan in loving memory of her son Lucas.

Born with Polycystic Kidney Disease on 12/20/94

Details to follow (too tired to write)





The religious path I follow revolves around chanting God’s names.  The idea being that while the word “water” is different from the substance of water itself, in God’s case He is non-different from His names and that by chanting them you can have association with Him.

This is actually a fairly common thread in most religions, though not necessarily expressed in this way.  While the names chanted vary from religion to religion  the practice itself is widespread. How, when and why it is chanted manifests differently according to one’s belief.  Fortunately it is a practice that costs nothing and is available everywhere.

“2) O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of names, like Krsna and Govinda. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are not even hard and fast rules for chanting these names. …”

Sri Sri Siksastakam

In my case, the religion I follow recommends chanting 16 rounds of  names a day in the form of the Mahamantra

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

We have a strand of 108 beads, you chant one mantra on a bead then move onto the next bead, repeat.  That is 1,728 mantras or or 27, 648 names, in case you don’t have your calculator handy.  This takes more than an hour even if you chant pretty fast and stay in focus.

I confess that for large chunks of my life I have not strictly followed this. Whether it is because I felt too busy or alienated or whatever. I have never developed to the spontaneous level of chanting for the joy of chanting itself, and have mostly only done it out duty when I have.  Though when I do chant regularly it has a very calming effect.

I am on a pretty good streak lately though and have been for a while but it is more a case of  insomnia, not attraction.  As my physical condition worsens, I find myself waking up in the middle of the night and unable to fall back to sleep. I practically always try that first, and when success eludes me, I grab my bead bag.

Proper custom is to get up early, take a bath, then sit properly while chanting. I cut the corner there though and simply stay in bed, under warm covers and go for it.  At least I have the early part down.  I am trying to see the insomnia as my guru reaching out to help me. By the time I get through the rounds I am able to sleep again.

Prior to beginning chanting, I say prayers of respect for my guru, Srila Prabhupada.  They are brief and I try to picture him in my mind as I say them.  That image usually flickers away at the speed of a an image in a music video and my mind races off to all the distractions it has to offer while I try to chant with attention.

Tonight  it persisted and seemed as if it were trying to attract my attention.  I drew a little pleasure from that. While spiritual life is non – empirical, it can also be experiential, which is to say it can be felt even if non-measurable.  I took it as a little glimpse.

Then the concept of Madhuban, an eco village I am working on a team with in designing and hope to help manifest before I leave this body floated through my mind.  I am at a crucial decision making process in my medical care and at times have doubts if I can find the strength  to endure what I am going to have to endure to stay in this meat sack I am trapped in now.

I took this as meaning Srila Prabhupada was asking that I stay and work on it.   Of course, I also thought maybe this was my mind’s trick of rationalizing staying in this body and was simply fear of death cloaking itself in a warm costume.

But then, laying there in the pitch dark and with my eyes closed, I started seeing on one side, say 20%, of one eye a strobe-like light about 10 flickers per second.  This went on for about 30 seconds, an experience I have never had before.  It was like an affirmation that Srila Prabhupada really was there and trying to communicate.

The sensation could be described as imagine you fell asleep in your car.  You faintly hear someone trying to wake you but only dimly. Then they tap on the glass window and that penetrates.  The light was like that rap on the glass from Srila Prabhupada. Or at least that is the way I feel about it now as I sit here writing this.

(to the tune of Rain Drops Keep Falling On My head)

My heart was sinking as I shuffled through the brown dry husks under the 40  foot (12 m) spread Chinese chestnut tree. Not a chestnut to be seen, I had come too late. I didn’t have too much time to lament as here came a security guard on a golf cart checking me out.

I had gone into Wheeling a couple of hours before a doctor’s appointment to get blood work done so the results would be ready  for the doctor and had some time to fill. Near the hospital was the grounds of what used to a Catholic school for girls for over 100 years, Mt DeChantal, now closed.  On the grounds are several grand old Chinese chestnuts I have gathered nuts from in the past so I decided to go check it out, September being  the time they start to fall.

I look forward to this time of year as I relish the chestnuts.  The ones you buy in the market are imported from Europe and and are inferior in quality to what the Chinese chestnuts produce, but I never see the local ones sold other than occasionally at a farmer’s market, so gathering them myself is essential if I want to have them.

There is something about roast chestnuts that when you eat them your body almost shouts, “This is good nutritious food!”  so thinking I had missed the season was a real downer.

After the school closed a corporate entity bought the grounds so I had had to drive past No Trespassing signs to get to the trees.  It is moot to think what I would have done had there been nuts to gather but the guard was polite and I explained why I was there and left without incident.

I went over to Wheeling Park where there are also a couple of trees, but same situation, though I did find 6 nuts still left on the ground.  Deer, squirrels, turkeys and other critters eat chestnuts so they don’t stay on the ground for long once they drop.

We have been planting chestnuts here in New Vrindaban but they are years from yielding so foraging away from campus is still my best option, plus there is less critter competition in urban environments then in the country.

My wife was going swimming in Moundsville that afternoon so I rode along with her on the long shot  some trees down there on the old prison grounds were still happening.

I pulled up and parked next to them and with cautious optimism got out to look and was rewarded by an abundance of nuts laying in the ground. As a matter of fact, I had parked under one tree and as I was gathering nuts  occasionally one could be heard bouncing off the roof of the car.

Apparently there is a variation on ripening times amongst trees. On those trees a lot of the husks are still hanging on the trees,  many nuts having been released and dropped already, and still in the process of dropping more. This made it easier to gather them as the more crowded the ground with husks, the harder it is to use my nut pickerupper.

When I got home I checked out a chestnut tree at Bahulaban and they were still tight husked  and hadn’t dropped any nuts yet, so my initial fear that I had misjudged the season was mainly unfounded.

Dinner was roast chestnuts, green beans from the garden, with sweet corn from the Farmer’s market.  The butter on the sweet corn was bought at the Amish auction, hand made,  local and full of flavor lacking in store bought butter.   I felt like I was living large.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI is now a bit greener.

The 85-year-old pontiff was presented with his first electric car Wednesday, a customized white Renault Kangoo for jaunts around the gardens of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

Benedict has been dubbed the “green pope” for his environmental concerns, which have been a hallmark of his papacy. He has written of the need to protect God’s creation in his encyclicals, and raised the issue on his foreign trips and in his annual peace messages.

Under his watch, the Vatican has installed photovoltaic cells on its main auditorium and joined a reforestation project to offset its carbon dioxide emissions.

But now the pope has his own ozone-preserving electric car, which he used on Wednesday to travel from the helipad at Castel Gandolfo through the gardens back to his palazzo. He was returning to his retreat in the Alban Hills south of Rome after presiding over his weekly general audience in the Vatican.

Earlier this year, Italian automaker NWG donated an electric car to the Vatican, but it was for the press office to use. Renault on Wednesday also turned over the keys to a blue version of the Kangoo for the Vatican gendarmes to tool around Vatican City.

Though Benedict’s Renault is white and carries the papal seal on its doors, it isn’t a popemobile. Mercedes-Benz, which makes the customized popemobile with bullet-proof windows for the pope to use on trips outside the Vatican, has been studying a hybrid, energy-saving model.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the pope’s Kangoo isn’t customized with such security features since it’s designed for use inside Vatican territory at Castel Gandolfo.

In Italy, prices for the boxy Kangoo start at €15,900 ($20,000), according to Renault’s website.

My wife oversees the Deity flower garden which produces flowers for garlands and vases.  As the end of the frost free season is approaching, the clock is winding down on how much longer marigolds will produce. To extend the season we bought 108 chrysanthemums. They can take a frost and keep producing.

We will try to extend the marigolds as long as possible by covering some with floating row cover  to fend off the early frosts  but the mums will go later into the season.

I found a local guy  who is a school teacher and grows mums as a sideline. He sold them to me for 2/3s the cost of what I could have bought them at a big box store.

The other thing is that he assured me they are hardy mums. When you buy them at a big box there is no such assurance. With hardy mums there is a chance they will over winter given proper care and then come back next year.

I also tried an experiment growing on some late planted calendulas (pot  marigolds).

They are also frost hardy and can extend the growing season.  Late year I tried growing some but planted them at the same time as other flowers in the spring. By the time fall rolled around they were played out. This year I planted them the 1st of July an d they are coming into full bloom now, which works out much better.

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