Dan Loses His Mind While his World is Shaken, Rattled, and Rolled (part 6 of 6)

Prelude:  Many people have approached me in the three weeks since my temporary amnesia/aphasia event saying something like “It must have been scary.”  It was scary in 2002.  At that time, with similar symptoms, I had no idea what the future held.  It scared the sh%$ out of me.

Since it happened before, this time wasn’t so scary.   For the first hour in 2017, I had no idea what was happening.  Why would I be scared if I had no idea what was going on!

During the second hour I could sense I was remembering more and speaking a little more clearly.  I was not scared; I was encouraged, especially since I remembered that previously in 2002 I came out the other end just fine.

If it happened again in the coming year, now that would be scary!

So, what do we know with any certainty?   Not much.

Fact #1: On June 27, 2017, I had a temporary episode of amnesia (I didn’t remember squat) and aphasia (gibberish flowed from my mouth).

TIA or TEA are acronyms being thrown around as possible diagnoses.

TIA stands for a transient ischemic attack (ischemic relating to the heart).

Hitch D and H with paddles

Re: TIA.  My echocardiogram and carotid artery tests suggest that my ticker is doing just fine.  No surprise, my parents lived healthy lives into their 90s.  To cover all bases, the neurologist wants me to start taking baby aspirin daily, just in caseAspirin prevents blood clots from forming in the arteries. It can help certain people lower their risk of a heart attack or stroke.

I have no limit on my physical activity; pickleball, ping pong, and working out at the gym top my agenda.

Next week, the neurologist wants me to wear a Holter monitor for 48 hours, which will continuously record my heart’s activity as I go about my daily activities.  I’ll keep you updated.

But a TIA is not the neurologist’s first choice.

It’s the TEA.   TEA stands for transient epileptiform amnesia (which in my case might apply since the neurologist couldn’t rule out some form of epilepsy after reading my EEG (electroencephalogram).  So, there’s no certainty, but it’s the leading choice in the clubhouse.

YH bases

To cover all bases again, I have been put on a low dose (500 mg twice a day) of Keppra to prevent seizures, if some form of epilepsy is what I have.

The bottom line is that the neurologist doesn’t know what caused my temporary amnesia/aphasia.

YH safety net

So, a reasonably wide net has been thrown to cover a host of possibilities.  I get that and am thankful for the caution.

After such an event, by law I am not allowed to drive for three months.   I get that caution, too.  Not driving will be inconvenient but hardly a sacrifice.  I am retired.  Hannah and I regularly play pickleball and go to the gym together.   I have a modest social life (read: limited).

So, for three months, we err on the side of caution despite an uncertain diagnosis and no explanation for a cause.

YH dehydration

I wonder whether dehydration due to caffeine consumption and not drinking enough water (2002) and not drinking enough water (2017) might have triggered the temporary amnesia/aphasia.  The medical professionals never suggest such a connection.  And why this time, when I have been dehydrated many times before?

Without any explanation for the cause of my two events (2002 and 2017), I still wonder.


YH water

Whether dehydration had anything to do with my temporary amnesia/aphasia, I have become a zealot for drinking water daily.  Each morning when I awake, I drink two eight-ounce glasses of water.  Three more follow: mid-morning, before lunch, and with lunch.  Dehydration will not be the cause of any future such event.

I live in a town on the coast of Maine with a great community hospital and in a country with excellent Medicare health coverage for seniors.  I’d recommend York Hospital for its effective loving kindness health care.

YH David and Dan

David Stoloff, my department chair at Eastern, stopped by to check on me.

Since posting of these blogs, I have appreciated many people contacting me and wishing me well.

I heard from a childhood friend who referred to me as Brother Dan in his email of support.

Thank you, Brother Tom.

Dan’s Wednesday Quotes of the Week – #125

Every relationship has its rough patches. But what really matters is how you and your partner interact on a regular basis. Dr. Cortney Warren, a Harvard-trained psychologist, found that the happiest couples don’t avoid conflict — they navigate it by speaking to each other with appreciation and respect.

She believes, and I agree, that if you use any of these phrases with your partner, your friends, and/or your family, your relationships will be more successful:

1. “Let me think about that before I respond.”

2. “No.”

3. “I’m not comfortable with that.”

4. “This is who I am, and I’m proud of it.”

5. “Am I like that?”

6. “I will work on that.”

7. “I’m sorry you’re struggling. How can I help?”

8. “This matters to me.”

9. “I will try!”

Click on this link below to read her brief explanations why each of these are phrases emotionally secure people use.


Dan After the Pandemic – KGUA #124

For the June 5, 2023 KGUA Radio Writer’s Hour hosted by Peggy Berryhill and Mark Gross, we are asked to respond to the prompt:

Now when we are told “it’s over” and everything is open, “What Did You Do Last Week or What Are You Doing This Week? I think this will reveal an interesting look of life after the lockdown.

It’s May 2023.  Rarely do I see people wearing masks.  I really haven’t worn one myself for months.  I was one who got the Pfizer vaccines and three boosters as soon as they were available.  Now, I haven’t given the latest Covid booster a second thought. Probably this fall with my flu shot.

So life is back to 2019 standards with the freedom to be social again for me.

Hannah and I play ping pong indoors in a small room with our friends George and Paul.  I go to the Y most days with others huffing and puffing nearby.  Tuesday past Hannah and I picked up our grandsons, Owen and Max, at their Harrington Elementary School where six feet apart is just a distant memory. 

Our weekly pickleball game with Fran and Steve was outdoors here in town (York).  We had Mandy and Lisa over for coffee and muffins on our front deck.  We’re outside with them because it’s a warm Memorial Day Saturday, not for Covid concerns.

I’m off Wednesday to hike in Acadia National Park with my friend Bill, the Canadian.  I don’t think twice about checking in at a crowded lobby at the Bar Harbor Motel or dining at Geddy’s bustling pub in downtown Bar Harbor or having coffee and muffins with many others the following morning in the motel dining area.

Perhaps, I am so carefree since I only got Covid once, and it was a mild case at that.  For me, Covid was an inconvenience, not a disruption, certainly not life-threatening. 

I appreciate how fortunate I am.  In many ways.

Words – 256

Dan and Hannah Hike to Angels Landing at Zion National Park, Utah (April 2023)

Angels Landing is legendary. It is indeed challenging, but it has a too-many-people problem. The Park Service has come up a solution to the overcrowding along this very narrow trail high above the valley floor.

This past January Hannah and I paid $18 each to register for the lottery for the opportunity to climb to Angels Landing in mid-April when we’d be in Zion National Park.  Though I wasn’t selected, Hannah was. 

That meant that the six of us (Hannah and me, our grandsons Owen (10) and Max (8) and their parents Molly and Tip) would have the opportunity to grab on to chains 1500’ above the Virgin River Valley floor to the perch of Angels Landing.

Angels Landing at 7:30 AM on April 18, 2023 as we six prepare to summit

Angels Landing was named a century ago by Frederick Fisher, a Methodist minister, so in awe of the massive sandstone cliff that he thought that only angels could land on it.

Our daughter Molly has some history of hiking to Angels Landing as a child.  In 1992, when she was 12, her parents (one Dan and Hannah) took her and her eight-year old brother Will to Angels Landing (their wise sister Robyn (10) chose not to summit the lofty peak that morning).  We were not voted Parents-of-the-Year that year (though there have been years we’ve been in the top one hundred in York County).

In 2016, Molly and Tip climbed to the summit.  This will be the fourth such conquest for Hannah and me. It’s Owen and Max’s first attempt.

On a chilly high 30s mid-April morning, we six board the first shuttle along the Zion Scenic Drive

Aboard the free shuttle from the Visitor Center to the trailhead for Angels Landing

Arriving early at 7A on a mid-April Wednesday at the Visitor Center at Zion, we six board a shuttle for the twenty-minute ride to the Grotto Shuttle Stop #6.  Though chilly, we will have sunshine and blue skies soon enough.

Max, Hannah, Dan, Tip, and Owen are ready to rock and roll with Angels Landing in the background

Nearly a mile into the hike, looking back to the Virgin River Valley

The first two miles of the 2.5 mile trail to Angels Landing are paved sandstone for much of the 1500’ of elevation gain to the top.  It’s a steady climb but very doable and not dangerous for the average hiker.  Potentially terrifying is the final half mile.

Soon we arrive at the 21 switchbacks in rapid succession of Walter’s Wiggles that gets us to the staging area for the final half mile high above the valley floor. 

Looking down from above to the switchbacks of Walter’s Wiggles with Owen and Max in the foreground

Looking up to Walter’s Wiggles with Molly in the foreground

Arriving early at 8:30 for our 9 AM to noon window that our permit allows us to hike to Angels Landing, we find there is no park ranger to check our permit at the staging area.  So off we go early.

Some of the most challenging chains are at the beginning as Tip follows Owen and Molly follows Max ahead of Hannah and me.  Because the park now limits hikers to Angel’s Landing and the early hour, we have few returning hikers in our way as we head up to the perch.

Angels Landing awaits Owen, Molly, and Max (expand image with your fingers to read the warning sign)

The chains begin!

Hannah shows no fear with the steep canyon behind her

There was always a chain when we needed one

Yes, down and to our right, that’s the canyon staring up at us

Angels Landing comes into view midway along the chains

As the caboose of our six, I only see Owen and Max in the distance who are keeping up quite nicely.  What helps me is my rule of thumb – Never look down.

Tip, Owen, Molly, and Max take a break from the chains with Angels Landing in the background

Yeah, it’s often steep on both sides of the narrow sandstone pathway

Max leads his mother to the top

The chains guide us onward (look carefully in the center of the picture)

The final assault

As it was my fourth time to Angels Landing, I find there are no surprises or trepidation that plagued me during the 2015 climb Hannah and I made.  Often grabbling the chains with both hands, I always had the strength to pull myself up and guide myself along the mountainside.  It truly is a joyous hiking adventure.

The last two hundred yards of the trail are basically level sandstone without any chains.  Ten others are already at the perch of Angels Landing when we arrive.

The pictures below show our triumph. 

The Virgin River Valley from Angels Landing

Hannah and Dan once again atop Angels Landing

Max, Tip, Owen, and Molly jump for joy atop Angels Landing

Returning from Angels Landing just seemed so much easier

From below Angels Landing after our summiting

I don’t know why the Strava app that we use to record our hikes registered 3,387′ of elevation gain when in reality we gained 1500′ of elevation. And no way were we going 25.7 miles per hour at any point. The other numbers are correct though. The Virgin River is in blue. The park road in white.

Dan’s Wednesday Quote of the Week – #124

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions or cures, have chosen to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

Henri Nouwen, 1932-1996

Henri was a Dutch (Hannah has Dutch heritage on her dad’s side; her maiden name is Kraai) Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian whose life was dedicated to pastoral ministry, spirituality, social justice and community. 

This quote sent to Hannah and me by our friend Diane in Arizona. Diane and I taught fourth grade in adjoining classrooms in Phoenix, Arizona back in the day.

Dan and Hannah Hike to the Canyon Overlook at Zion National Park, Utah (April 2023)

After leaving Flagstaff, Arizona, then hiking mid-day at Horseshoe Bend (Click here for that blog), we arrive at the east entrance to Zion National Park in southern Utah.  It’s $35 for a seven-day pass into this very popular national park

Most-visited national parks in 2022

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 12,937,633.
  • Grand Canyon National Park – 4,732,101.
  • Zion National Park – 4,692,417.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park – 4,300,424.
  • Acadia National Park – 3,970,260.
  • Yosemite National Park – 3,667,550.
  • Yellowstone National Park – 3,290,242.

…but Hannah and I have had a $10 senior pass (currently $85) since forever (well, since 2010) and have saved millions.  The senior pass is good for all six of us to enter!

Prior to the mile-long tunnel cut through the mountains of Zion, our son-in-law Tip has found a bonus hike for us all to the Canyon Overlook.  Finding one of the few roadside parking spots this Tuesday afternoon in mid-April 2023, we pile out of the mini-van, and walk along the road to the trailhead.

Immediately, we climb above the road for this one-mile roundtrip hike to the Canyon Overlook.  Owen and Max lead the way along a narrow but never perilous trail along the mountainside.  We are not the only ones as it is school vacation in the Northeast.  Even so, there’s not much to complain about seeing as we are hiking in Utah on a 70F sunshiny spring day. 

The sandstone trail cut into the mountainside (Tip, Molly, Max, Owen, and Hannah)

On towards the Canyon Overlook

Once at the overlook, we have the Zion Valley before us.

Hannah at the Canyon Overlook

Tip, Owen, Molly, and Hannah enjoying our bonus hike to the Canyon Overlook

The mountain above the Canyon Overlook

Often on the trail you’ll find Max and Owen scampering up the nearest sandstone rock formation

This is an excellent warm-up for tomorrow’s climb to Angel’s Landing where we’ll hold on to chains 1500’ above the canyon floor.  Molly and Tip have wisely primed their kids, Owen (10) and Max (8), not to fear the challenge of climbing to that perch.

The perch of Angels Landing that we plan to summit tomorrow

Back in the mini-van, we weave our way through Zion, touristy Springdale at the doorstep to Zion, and then drive 23 miles to Hurricane, Utah (pronounced Her-a-ken) for our VRBO. 

At the far end of the Mountain Time Zone, Hurricane is a small town of 20,000 in southern Utah.  It sits at 3,242’ and is  historically known for growing peaches, pecans and pistachio nuts on small farms.

As for the name, legend has it that one windy day in the 1860s Mormon leader Erastus Snow had a whirlwind blow the top off a buggy he was driving. He reportedly said, Well, that was a Hurricane. We’ll name this the Hurricane Hill.

Dan and His Future as a KGUA Writer – KGUA #123

For the May 22, 2023 KGUA Radio Writer’s Hour hosted by Peggy Berryhill and Mark Gross, we are asked to respond to the prompt:

What’s your vision for the next chapter of KGUA Writers?

Being a KGUA Writer has been one helluva silver lining during the Covid years.   It’s a part of me now.

It’s like my weekly game of ping pong with a good buddy.  It’s like coffee at McDonald’s with old friends.  It’s like wine most evenings with a favorite girl.

It’s something that I count on that brings joy to my days.

Writing for KGUA is like a comfortable pair of Merrell hiking shoes.  It’s like going upstairs to watch Sports Center with a morning cup of coffee and toasted biscuit.  It’s like hitting the country roads on my hybrid 21-speed bike.

Writing for KGUA is part of the rhythm of my life.  

You can probably guess that I don’t want my time as a KGUA writer to end.  Oh, I know most relationships have their time, their duration.  They don’t last forever.  But writing for KGUA is like something that you just want a little bit more of.  Like, one more game of cribbage with my dad.  One more phone call with my mom.

I joined the KGUA family of writers on the ground floor.  Thanks to my buddy Scott who turned me on to KGUA, I have been  KGUA writing since the second freewrite back in the spring of 2020.  Over the past three years, I’ve written 123 times of the 144 possible freewrites.  It’s part of me now like wearing my UC Santa Barbara sweatpants in winter.

Mark has kept the writing fresh with his creative prompts which keeps me fully engaged.  I like the weekly challenge to write and further create my autobiography in 300 words or less.  I’m open to new themes and variations for KGUA Writers.  But I still like the weekly freewrites.

There is still tread on this KGUA Writer. 

Words – 290

My dedication to KGUA knows no bounds.

Re: 805 – the area code for Santa Barbara County