Monday, August 31, 2009

the summer was sucked away

School started today and the summer is gone... there's actually no real change for me as I've been sick and in town all summer long, and now, I'm still sick, and still in town - just, as I'm getting a little better, I have more things to fill my time.

Coral will be back within 2 1/2 weeks - on the outside. Apparently the FP are actually getting their act together and while they'd misplaced one piece of paper they've since relocated it and have sent it on to Prague - and once it's processed here a visa will be issued in Los Angeles for my child who is currently in Montreal. No worries, it will all work out.

Funding her education is a whole other issue - as my voice and lungs aren't good yet it's not realistic for me to pick up a lot of teaching classes - I start coughing if I'm talking for too long, and then it gets bad and I lose both my voice and the ability to breathe freely. I am finally interviewing this week for the position at my uni, and hoping desperately that it comes through for me, or else you may be seeing me at the likes of Darling Cabaret... but even seedier, as I hawk my wares to get my kid a religious education... kidding family, kidding. However, seriously, it's stressful. It's 2:50 am, I'm still sick, and can't sleep cause of the tension I'm carrying. It's moments like this I get frustrated. And somewhat angry which is a totally wasted emotion, but one I'm experience anyway. And appreciative and grateful too - that's directed at my Mom and Dad. The former frustration that in the past 3 I have received $21 USD in child support and no contribution towards tuition, health care, or plane tickets... and that platry sum wasn't because that's all that could be spared and a genuine effort to give what could be given, it was solely to keep himself out of jail. I am really keeping this reigned in, but I probably shouldn't write when I'm tired and frustrated.

So, I'm gonna stop.

Monday, August 24, 2009

CS Cheese!!!

I ventured out on Sunday, back to Rolf's house for another CS event. It was a cheese competiiton - marinated hermelin. I was a little skeptical, but after testing a number of cheese, I was more than impressed with everyone's creations. It was a great day - good friends, good moods, and good food.

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clumsy melting me

Ok, so when I get sick my other health stuff kicks in and I hurt a lot more than normal, fingers freeze, random body parts start freaking, etc... the result is I'm quite often clumsier than normal.

I could try to attribute my clumsiness to the events of my weekend, but I don't think I can get by using that excuse for everything... some of it was just too weird.

First - I twisted my ankle in the movie theater while walking down the stairs... how - on the step, no. I stumbled on my shoe. My ankle caught in the well of the step and I tottered trying not to fall and distract everyone from the film... and in the process I stepped on my own shoe with the other foot and just made it worse. Fortunately I didn't fall.

Prior to heading to the movie I tried these new curlers I had just picked up - not that I usually curl my hair but I was bored and had nothing else to do after 10 days at home... so I'm getting ready, curlers in my hair, drying my hair, putting on some makeup, etc, and it comes time to take the curlers out. Apparently the curlers just suck apples cause one of them melted. The stupid curler melted in to my hair. I had melted plastic in my hair.

That wasn't the only thing that melted this weekend either. The cord for my laptop was totally fine - plugged in, straight as could be, and I shifted everything just a little bit, pushed what it was resting on just a little bit away from me - and suddenly it fell off. The connection didn't fall off, the cord fell off the little magnet connecting piece leaving my charger in two pieces. I reached to grab it in a definite WTF moment and it was burning hot! So, logically I reach for the little lonely magnetic piece - and that's burning hot too.... and naturally I reach for the plug to take it out off the wall .... go figure, that burned my hand.

That stupid melted charger cost me 3,200 crowns to replace. I have no clue why it melted, but if this new one does too then I'm just gonna save another 1,000 crowns and buy one of those cheap-ass laptops that don't have melting parts!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Health odyssey

Throughout the weekend it was apparent that things are not getting better. I have been on 2 courses of antibiotics, have 2 forms of steroids for my lungs, and have cut out indoor social events as I cannot be around cigarette smoke. Actually, cut out most everything as I can't be around cigarette smoke. More than smoke, I just can't always breathe. It's scary and my lungs hurt. Really hurt, really bad. I start coughing and gasping till there are tears and then I'm fine for a bit and everything looks normal.

I started wondering if I should just go see the dr right away. I didn't. I waited til Monday as I wanted to find someplace that would take my insurance.

It turns out that there is no place that actually takes my insurance.

Before I fully understood that, though, I made my way to the university hospital. There is an area where foreigners need to check in, so I did that. The way it works here, is you give them a deposit before you go to the doctor. They give you the papers they need and you go back when you're all done and either get a refund or pay the difference. The deposit is 1,000 crowns. I took care of the finance stuff and then tried to follow her instructions to the actual doctor's office (it's a HUGE complex!). I failed and was literally walking in circles. Somehow I ended up on the wrong floor in the wrong building surrounded by doors and corridors and words I didn't understand. I found someone in hospital uniform, showed her my paperwork and she led me in the right direction.

After a wait I was examined by a young doctor who called in another doctor. They sent me straight down to the emergency clinic where I waited again... Once they cleared the ambulances and stretchers I was given a bed, an EKG, blood tests, and x-rays and told to sit again... I did for a few hours (or so it seemed). More ambulances, more emergencies. The wheezing and raspy breathing continued - and the security and administration staff kept tossing off pitying looks.

A young guy in a uniform came out of the clinic, pointed at me, smiled and snapped his fingers. The doctor followed as I rose to follow and explained to me I needed to get in to the ambulance and this guy would take me where I needed to go. I hadn't coughed during our brief exposure and so I think he had the impression that I was fine - he pointed where I should sit, I did, and he left for a bit.

When he returned he started off at a nice slow pace... I was seated immediately behind him on the other side of the plexi glass, in such a way that he could see my profile in his rear view mirror. For the first 2 minutes everything was fine. Then I started coughing. Hard. I grabbed the medical mask one of the ER doctors had put on me and pulled it back up over my face. And then I was coughing more and more fiercely and couldn't catch my breathe. Sometimes I can' stand up, but I was already sitting and felt like I was going to fall, when I realized he was taking corners like a madman and I wasn't buckled in - I really was sliding around on the edge of my chair. As I reached out to brace myself he slammed on the brakes, ran around the ambulance, threw the door open and helped me out. (I found out later my chart was marked as being potentially life-threatening... that explains why he freaked out.. silently, but it was still a freak out.)

Once I had both my feet on the ground he grabbed my hard by my upper arm and started pulling - really pulling, not just guiding or leading, but pulling me in to the building - we rushed through (still coughing, still pulling) the lobby and a corridor to find the right elevator. He slammed the button, the doors opened, and we both stepped on. My coughing stopped, the doors closed and he let go. I looked up and met some very concerned eyes - I pulled the medical mask down to smile and let him know I was ok. I realized we were standing as far apart from each other as possible given the confined space. The floors clicked past and as the doors started to open he grabbed me again... I made it about 5 meters before another coughing fit and then he wasn't just pulling, he was dragging me down the hall, around the corner, and down another hall where he started yelling for the nurses. I couldn't breath, my eyes were teary and I couldn't see but I could hear that everyone was yelling at each other. I regained my composure and walked forward to see the driver holding my file and the staff refusing to take it. The nurses were looking at me shaking their heads and yelling at the driver. I started coughing again, my eyes teared up the yelling continued, and then I cried. Not much, but enough - one of the nurses saw and she came over, took my by the shoulder and showed me to a room.

I thought she was leading me to the exam room, but no. Apparently I was in the pneumonia clinic and they weren't admitting me - she put me in the doctor break room and then left.

After a while another doctor came in apologizing that there wasn't a doctor to see in the clinic. She was there to examine but didn't want to do it in their lunch room, so she brought me in to the doctor's computer labs... there were about 10 computers, a kettle, a machine to view xrays, a fridge and some other equipment. She sat me down in the big comfy chair and had me strip to the waist. There was another doctor in the room.

All in all in was a really odd experience. And this is getting rather lengthy - the quick summary (ha!)

I was seen by 2 specialists and in the emergency room, had an ambulance ride, blood tests and xrays and the total cost was just under $100 - the cost of my medication (3 piils and an inhaler) just under $200. Total cost.


I was subsequently required to return to the hospital 3 times during the week - more exams, more bloodwork, more frustration. The costs remain comparatively low, the aggravation high... nurses and receptionists tend to yell. I'm tired of it. The preliminary diagnosis - faryngitis and most likely some form of pneumonia - the continued testing is to determine what type of pneumonia as it hasn't been responsive to the first 2 antibiotics. It's responding now. I can breathe. I'm not great but I'm not dying either. I go back on Thursday.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Surströmming - the Swedish meal

Today was the day... the day of Surströmming, the Swedish delicacy, the stinky fish. There is a little youtube clip I believe was already posted as a preview... as a general overview for those who haven't watched it - some English men make their way to Sweden determined to try this little fish. Three men go, two men only catch a most distant whiff and drop out, and one man eats the tiniest little bit. Ultimately he throws up.


You have to open this stuff under water so the smell can slowly bubble up and be released rather than overpower you at once and cause you to drop the can and run away.

You serve it with buttered flat bread, boiled potatos, sour cream and red onion. I don't particulary enjoy onions but I piled them on. You have to debone the pickeled fish - and I am not very good at that, so I had the merest morsel of fish flesh. It was more than enough. Think two long thin slices of prosciutto - I had about that much food wrapped up in my bread and could manage only 2 or 3 bites before I had to give up.

I did not capture the horrified faces of my tablemates as I was too busy focusing on chew and swallow Jen, just chew and swallow. Fabio however, the man sitting next to me, HE ate three!! The Swedish people at the table didn't even eat one - combined!!!

In spite of the offputting taste and scent - it still wasn't as bad as I expected. NOT that it was good, it wasn't good, but it wasn't ghastly either. To be honest, more than the taste, I think it was the texture that really did me in.

The evening was awesome! Another incredible CS event hosted by one of the most open and generous men I've met here - thanks again Rolf!

Here is a quick collage, just to give you a flavor, err, idea, of the evening. (click on the collage to make it bigger)

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

all new folk remedies

Since I've had this version of the walking plague I've had a lot of friend suggest different folk remedies for me, and not being fully coherent I wasn't thinking while I was listening and forgot to write that stuff down.

I remember there were a number involving ginger, garlic, and other herbs, some that had me bathing or soaking or steaming or ingesting... and a number sounded totally odd to me - which makes sense as my most well-aquainted folk remedy is along the lines of chicken noodle soup... or feed a fever, starve a cold... stuff like that. No old-world, tried and true, great-grandma's grandma used it when she was sick in the dead of winter, scraping away at the frozen tundra, gave birth, and gathered 60 potatoes to feed the army that night sort of thing.

If I can remember, or track down, those amazing remedies I will post them

Except for one that I just experimented with. There was a guy from the BBQ this past weekend, a real good guy in fact, he went downstairs and negotiated with the police when they arrived, and he also offered me this suggestion.

Honey and garlic. Chop the garlic up as fine as you want and then put it in the honey and then eat it.

So I did. Two large cloves of garlic finely chopped (that's an awful lot of garlic!!) and 2 packets of honey I happened to have lying around. Sweet, crunchy, and with a bit of a kick at the end.

I don't know how it will help my condition, will take another bit in a while (it was oddly appealing taste and texture, fascinating actually and I will experience it again) but regardless of the cold stuff - I think the mosquitos may leave me alone tonight :)

I can...

Yeah, I can breath just about as well as I can juggle whales.

I've been sick for weeks now, and am really really tired of it. I'm now on my second round of antibiotics and this whole cold/illness/flu related lung infection thing is really cutting in to my quality of life. And my social life. And my income. I can't teach if I can't talk, and I've lost my voice a few times this summer.

And along those lines - I think I need to actively start looking for a job, another job with actual pay and regular hours, as my boss at my uni job was interviewing a super spiffy suit today, in Czech, and they laughed a few times. My boss laughed. More than once. I can't even get a smile. Unless it's ironic. I'm so screwed and am not getting the position I was sort of hoping for as I'm rather dependent upon it. Which means I need to make myself NOT dependent upon it by securing actual employment. Preferably in a form that doesn't require 6 locations in a 12 hours span, but I will take on-sight teaching if need be. Because I can.

Actually, right now that's my mantra... I can... I can breathe. I can pay my bills. I can get through this next additional delay before Coral returns...

Oh yeah - still, no visa. She'll be outside of Schengen for another month. She was due here on Friday (it's Wednesday, so in 2 days) but will stay in the US for another 10 days and then go to Canada for about 2 1/2 weeks, thereby finishing up her 3 months removal from the Schengen zone. Darn, I miss my kid.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My first non-Mom family visit!


Hey, it's me and my cousin, Will. He's here, traveling with another friend, visiting a former classmate of his who happens to be Czech and lives here in Prague. I took the three of them to a BBQ yesterday, and hopefully, will have another little visit with them later today. Kinda cool to be able to introduce someone to everyone here as my family... it's the rare day when anyone has family in the same region of the world (Central Europe).
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For more pictures from the same party... you can follow this link RIGHT HERE!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

mmmmmmm...... Surströmming

So I've been invited to partake in a dinner surrounding the tasting of a Swedish delicacy... Surströmming. I hadn't heard of it until the opportunity arose... and after watching this short clip I'm fascinated...

check it out!

By the way - Surströmming is a fermented fish. Yummy, right ?

access to immediate medical care

In the past few weeks I have been seen by two healthcare professionals for two different reasons.

The first was my bum ankle which you can read about down below, and the second was this cold, which I've apparently had for a while longer than I truly realized. The preceding post is about the state of my health, this one is about my experience with medical care.

When I bought my insurance earlier this year it appears that I was not given an accurate understanding of the easy of getting in to see a health care provider who accepts my policy... bummer. I put off scheduling an appointment as I couldn't find my policy info until Friday - and by Friday I was frantic. When I did find it I started making calls... and the Drs who would accept my policy were not available... so I find a private physician very close to my home. Private means they do not accept insurance.

I called and they said come at 1 - GREAT! Then, it turns out I couldn't get there by one, so I called back.. they offered to let me come when I was free, so we set it for 3.

When I showed up at 3 there was a man sitting in the waiting room. I walked past and picked up the forms. As I was experiencing some serious fits of coughing I sat as far away from the man as possible. I was having a hard time breathing and it took me a while to fill out the forms -the man stood up and went to the receptionist's desk, just a few steps in to the next room.

When I had finished I again tried to keep my distance from the man as I know I sounded terrible and didn't want to make this stranger think about me getting him sick(er). Turns out the guy who had been out in the waiting room was the doctor. He'd been waiting for me.

We went straight back to his office - sat at his desk and reviewed my medical history - he briefly looked at my throat and listened to my lungs through my coughing - this time with a stethoscope - and then we sat back down at his desk... he gave me a diagnosis and my prescriptions, handed my paperwork back for me to take to the receptionist and that was it.

I went out to the receptionist, paid, as he had requested she handed me his card with his email and mobile number on it in case I had any questions or further issues - and told me the pharmacy was downstairs....

The cost of my visit was 1,250 crowns. At todays' conversion rate that is $69USD. The last time I was in the US and had to pay the full cost of a doctor's visit it was $150 to see the Nurse Practitioner. I should have been able to see an insurance doctor and pay about 30 crowns... that would have been ideal, but it couldn't happen within my given set of circumstances on Friday afternoon.

So, I went downstairs to the pharmacy where, again, I had to pay the full costs of my medications. I needed an antibiotic and a steroid spray. A ten day supply of antibitics costs about $40 USD and the steroid spray about $4USD. I handed over my prescription, they took it, retrieved the boxes immediately and handed them back. There wasn't any wait time while they prepared labels and bottles and such... in fact, the antibiotics are packed in boxes - 5 days in each box - and each pill is in a separate blister... which is a good thing in my opinion as this stuff smells like hell and opening a bottle with that stench built up inside would definitely turn any person's stomach!

Anyway - the point being here - I was able to get in on an immediate basis without any wait time, and while I payed an astronomical amount on the Czech scale, relative to the US I got first class treatment at less than half the cost.