Friday, December 19, 2014

My Cataract Adventures - Part 6

The countdown began this week.  On Monday,  I started the three day pre-op regimen of eye drops, two kinds four times a day, and lid care towelettes twice a day.
 Thursday arrived. Nothing to eat or drink after midnight prior to surgery. Check. Use one drop of one of the eye medicines. Check. Wear a button down shirt. Check.

It was dark as we drove for half an hour and crossed the Bowmanville hospital parking lot at about 6:45 a.m. ($8 flat parking fate - not bad) We took the B-wing elevator to the reception area where I waited my turn, then registered. I found the room to be extremely loud...very nice, polite and helpful nurses speaking with super high volume voices and other sounds reverberating off the walls. I looked around realizing that they seemed to think that nobody had functional hearing.

I was sent on my way further down the hallway where I waited in a room full of potential cataract candidates. My name was the first called.  I followed into another space where people were already wheeled out in gurneys. I was not amongst the first surgeries that day. Next came the check and double check of name tags, names and birthdate. A dot was painted on my forehead above my left eye. I appreciated the colour...purple. After some eye drops, some more eye drops (this time feeling like a hot poker stuck into my eye),a blood sugar test and an IV,  a friendly volunteer brought us all warm blankets. Then the quizzing began...artificial limbs, hair pieces, replacement parts, dentures, partial dentures, nuts, bolts, hearing aids, heart attacks, strokes and so on and so on. Glad to say I was able to answer no to all the questions.

I was then invited onto a gurney where I had pillows placed behind my knees. Comfortable. Must do this at home. I received a lovely little green beret to wear over my hair. Then I scootshed to the top of the bed making sure my head was secure in the curved pillow. After being quizzed by several more people about who I was, which eye, which ailments, allergies etc.,  I was off down the hall to one of the surgical rooms. I was told that my doctor was occupying both rooms on this particular day...quite a feat for a woman of her teeny tiny stature. The bright lights in the operating room made my eyes squint. The doctor arrived and asked my name yet again. " Open your eyes and don`t blink,"  she said. Easier said than done.

Before I knew it, my face was covered and my eye was somehow snapped open revealing the bright overhead lights yet again. Many people told me   you won`t remember the surgery“. I think I kind of do. I don`t know at what point I received the relaxing drug, but I recall a kaleidoscope of lights, constantly changing in front of me. It was cool...like those toys we had as kids with all the shapes inside.

I was soon wheeled back out of the room and discovered a plastic cap over my eye and tape in my hair...oh joy.
Apple juice or cranberry?" was the first question I was asked. Apparently, neither was not an option even though I don`t normally consume juice. After being given a series of instructions involving eye drops and my pirate patch, I was escorted into a wheelchair and removed from the premises. Unfortunately, I had to use the washroom where I stared in horror at the sight in the mirror. I looked like a cross between Medusa, Morgan the Pirate and Polkaroo (more on that later). Suddenly, everything was clear.

The whole process, beginning to end lasted about two and a half hours.

Late that same day, I visited the doctor`s office where to their amazement, I was already healing nicely, had no pressure behind my eye, and I now had 20-20 vision. I also managed to save some money...no astigmatism correction needed. My left eye cost me only $285 for some non essential extras not covered by OHIP. The highlight of my day came when the doctor told me I`d need a bit of in-office laser treatment in three months. There would be minor correction because I`m a YOUNGER PATIENT.

My new vision is phenomenal. I can`t believe how vivid and bright everything is. I thought my right eye was pretty good but now that I see the difference, it`s like having a crystal clear window compared to a really smudgy, dirty window. No wonder I didn`t see much.

There are a few problems with my new found excellent left eye vision. First of all, I instantly saw all the dirt in my house...disgusting. Once I get the other eye operated, I`ll probably see twice as much. Secondly, everything`s so bright that I thought the outside Christmas lights were on this afternoon when they weren`t.  Looking in the mirror after all this time is particularly frightening...under eye bags and age spots galore. Oh, but here`s the fun part. I was out walking today and was slightly off balance. Just like a person rowing with one oar on the same side of the boat, I was starting to walk in odd circular directions...not always straight. I actually had to compensate.

Looking forward to having the other eye corrected in January. I`m already feeling like my old self again. Now, if only I could get rid of the bags and the age spots.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Afternoon Tea - The Experience

Sunday finally arrived. Our tea time reservation at the Fairmont Royal York was for 12:30. Because of all the street and train station construction, it was a bit of a challenge negotiating my way across to the hotel. I entered to see this magnificent display.
I arrived quite early, so I decided to check out the shopping underground tunnels. Unfortunately, they were closed, as were all the stores and coffee shops on the lower hotel level. Construction, I was told. I ventured upstairs where I first passed sculptures based on the story "A Christmas Carol", carved entirely from tallow.  As I stood and admired this creation, depicting one of the ghosts, I heard a fellow say to his friend, "Who's that supposed to be, Jesus?"
Although I had dressed in a presentable manner, I decided to forgo the fascinator. I was glad I did when I saw this Christmas tree sporting the exact same hat. That could have been embarassing!
After sipping a martini and gulping a few glasses of water I went to check out the reservation. "Nobody's here yet from that party," I was told, so I hung up my coat and took a few timer photos with the large lobby tree.

When I returned to the library lounge ten minutes later, everyone had arrived...well, except for me. I took my place at the head of the table and attempted to read the menu. It didn't really matter that I couldn't see because except for the tea, we all received the same food items. Our specified flavour of tea arrived first, then the sandwiches. My teapot had a minor issue which caused me, in my handicapped state to pour tea all over the tablecloth. Oh well, it smelled and tasted a bit...er...agricultural anyhow...no great loss.

Meanwhile, we were all having a wonderful time meeting with each other, chatting and laughing a lot. We nibbled our very filling sandwich triangles. When my friend decided to explore the depths of her teapot, she came up with this rather disturbing discovery...another huge source of amusement.
 Next came the dessert tray, containing a variety of items including scones, macarons, tarts, cake and cream puff swans. Goodies not consumed were packed up in a lovely Fairmont doggy bag.


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As we got ready to leave, I noticed the source of our entertainment. It wasn't a recording at all. Rather there was a guitarist sitting directly behind my chair. Gave new meaning to the words, background music.
  We hated to disperse after such a lovely time, so all of us went to take individual and group photos by the huge lobby tree. What a lovely memory and good times with nice people.
I'd consider doing this again some day. It would have to be in the summer, when the cost is lower and there's the opportunity to tour the hives and herb gardens on the roof of the hotel. I think that opportunity would add a nice dimension to the tea time experience. Oh...and just to add another dimension, I'd seek out a place where I could afford to have two martinis prior to tea time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fruit Cocktail Made Me Who I Am Today

I don't often eat bananas. Although I have no real hate for them, I definitely don't have any urgency to consume the world's most commonly eaten fruit. To me, bananas are a tasteless stem of carbs.  If you give most people a banana, they won't even know how to open it properly. Bananas should be opened on the flat dark dot side, not where the little stem sticks up. I know this. I learned from banana masters of the tropics. In fact, I spent many years trying to impress upon small children that turning the banana the right way around, then opening it, prevents all the pulling, tugging, wiggling and appendage bending  which often results in half a mashed or rotted inedible banana.

When I was a child. I suppose the many varied fruits that we are now fortunate to enjoy weren`t as readily available. I only remember eating bananas, fruit cocktail or peaches. The fruit cocktail was canned in some type of sweet slime as were the peaches. The peaches were either in halves or sliced and labelled as being in heavy syrup. I never could identify any of the fruit in the tins of fruit cocktail. After all, what kind of thing grows in small white cubes? Then there were those mystery marbles. Were they grapes? Were they berries? Did it even matter? Everything in the can tasted the same. The only identifiable shapes in the whole tin were also the most coveted...the cherries. Yum. The cherries actually had a flavour. They looked and tasted red. Unfortunately, they were a challenge to find. If you were very lucky, there might have been three halves in the can. The rest were all fruit cubes and assorted ovoids floating in murky liquid.

For a special treat, mom used to make a flan. It consisted of a delicious baked biscuit shell. She painstakingly lined up the drained fruit cocktail in a pattern in the middle of the flan. First came the cubes, then the marbles, then peach halves or slices from a different can. Finally she`d place a cherry, the most coveted prize in the can in the very centre. She added as many rings of bananas around the outside as necessary to fill up the space, and covered the entire flan with some kind of gelatin. It looked lovely. We sometimes had that when company came and I suppose it was better than no cake.


So what does any of this have to do with me in my adult life? Some things are just difficult to explain to people. This is one of them. I do not enjoy, nor do I eat certain foods. For example, I don`t like fruit salad. Even though it might contain some lovely varieties of berries, pineapple and other types of fruit which I enjoy, the mixture reminds me of fruit cocktail. I don`t want my fruit mushed together. The tastes need to be appreciated and savoured...separately...all except for the bananas. Bananas can be mushed and hidden in other foods. I need the potassium. I don't need to see the source.

I think most of our food preferences are fasshioned from early experiences. I will probably have many more stories to share.  Stay tuned for "Wurst is the Worst". 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Toy Mountain in Song

There are only a handful of people who know this. The information cannot be found on google. I couldn't locate anything on youtube. Perhaps, I'll create my own youtube entry in the new year and put a link on here.

At the end of November, the charitable organization which collects toys for needy children , "Toy Mountain" celebrated an anniversary. It has been in existence for over twenty years. I know this because my children and a few others played a small role in its inception. Let me explain.

I had directed a choir in the early 90's that auditioned for the musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". They made it to the finals, and had it not been for an error in judgement on the part of this choir director, they would most likely have been part of the live Toronto show.

Nonetheless, opportunities arose from the experience. The children participated in a Santa Claus parade and several live performances prior to receiving an interesting invitation. Someone from a Toronto radio station CISS FM asked for a dozen or so of our singers to come to Toronto. They were to sing backup to two country singers one male and one female and record the song "Toy Mountain". We were sent words and music to practice in advance of the trip into the city. There would be a studio recording made and it was to be the theme song for a new Christmas toy drive called "Toy Mountain".

The day finally came. We travelled by GO train, two adults and a dozen or so young people who were known as, "The Duffin's Bay Chorus". The children were welcomed by personnel and toured the facility. The studio was an amazing experience for kids from the 'burbs. Then they sang. I was stressed because even after all our practice, it took three or four or five takes for their portion of the recording.

We were treated well, given drinks, treats and souvenir radio station mugs along with copies of their work on a cassette tape.
We were all thrilled when we first heard the song on a television promotion for the toy drive. The radio station also played it frequently.

 I have not heard the song used in Toy Mountain ads for many years now. As I said, I couldn't find any evidence of its existence through any search engines.  From time to time, I listen to my copy of the cassette. What a lovely song and beautiful children's voices. The memories, the voices and the song bring tears to my eyes.

When I remembered the name of the female vocalist, a Canadian country singer, Patricia Conroy,  I contacted her on the source of all the world's  essential info...facebook, where she has a fan page. My query was as follows:

I have a rather strange question. About 20 years ago, I directed a children's vocal group that recorded a portion of the song "Toy Mountain" at a Toronto radio station/studio. I believe you were the female singer involved in that. If so, do you know who the male singer was? I'm digging through some memories and found a cassette recording which we were given at the time. Thanks...Hilde

I was thrilled to receive a response in which she confirmed her participation in this recording. Unfortunately, she couldn't recall who the male singer was. Perhaps that too will come back to me one day.

So for now, I'll share some words from the song with you. Perhaps in the future, I can add an audio clip or my youtube effort on here. In the meantime, why not drop off a toy at your nearest participating mall to help build a little toy mountain?

Let's help to build toy mountain,
Let's make the children smile.
Toy mountain makes it possible.
A simple gift, for a child.
Great things are going to happen.
Great things will come to pass.
Look inside you one already has...

`

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My Cataract Adventures - Part 5

The screen in front of me no longer exists. All I see is whiteness and a few coloured rectangles. It's a good thing I learned touch typing in high school. I'm trying my best and although I have a number of  blogs and adventures in the works, I'm currently obsessed with one thing....my vision.

Yesterday, I went to have my eyes measured. As I walked into the office, the receptionist said, "I've had a cancellation."

"Yes," I announced before she could finish her statement. She grinned clearly sensing my desparation.

I am now getting my first and worst eye done next Thursday the 18th, My second on January 6.

Will this mean no more inside out clothes, mismatched socks and senior behaviours? Probably not, but I'm hoping it will make life in general easier and less stressful.

I opted for the laser measurement at an extra $200 per eye. It consisted of putting my chin on a rest and staring at some red dots and flickering lights. Then, there was a bright light that looked like an eyeball. It was no big deal and I was able to avoid blinking most of the time. This was done for each eye and then the printer spewed out the results. Oops...one eye had to be remeasured.

After that, I was given some gooey drops and an ultrasound was used for some further testing. I have a slight astigmatism which will apparently worsen with this surgery. Would I like a procedure to correct this or would I prefer to wear stronger glasses?

Since I currently don't need distance glasses, I decided, "Sure, why not?" OK....another $275 per eye. Oh well, I'm not planning a vacation this year anyhow and eyes are more important.

Finally, came lenses. OHIP used to cover a certain lens but then found cheaper ones. If I want the better lenses formerly covered it will cost.... $85 per eye.  Total for the two eyes...well worth it at $1120, I think...unless my mental math is as off as my vision.

The procedure was explained to me. "Start using the prescriptions on Monday. There'll be no hospital gown so wear a shirt that opens at the front (yayyy, shopping since I don't own one). Call the hospital with your credit card number for lenses with night vision. Phone the family doctor and make sure you have the form filled out before next Thursday. Call the optometrist and make an appointment for a week after surgery (Um...Christmas Day?). Do not take diabetic medication. Do take any other drugs on the day of the procedure. Do not eat or drink after midnight aforementioned drugs excepted".....and so on and so on.

"Wow...lots to remember. Glad I'm not any older". I said. She chuckled. I appreciated it since nobody laughs at my jokes anymore (another sure sign of old age).

"If you're not a candidate for the astigmitism procedure, the doctor will tell you."

"OK...Do I then get a refund or at least some air miles?" I asked...another chuckle.

"Yes", she responded. Handed me a huge envelope full of info to attempt to read before next Thursday and wished me good luck.