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.

Takeaways:

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 Has A Dream – KGUA #75

Charlotte and Reese

For the January 24, 2022 KGUA Radio Writer’s Hour hosted by Peggy Berryhill and Mark Gross, we are asked to freewrite to the following prompt: I HAD a Dream…

My dream is for our five grandchildren, Brooks, Charlotte, Max, Owen, and Reese.

I have a dream…

That they have an adventurous spirit and taste other parts of the United States beyond Maine and Massachusetts.  To support that dream, Hannah and I will give them the gift of experiences with us in national parks and on the coast of California.

Max

That they have good friends for the good times and the challenging ones. Friends who listen, not solve their problems. So often our answers come from within.

That they learn to play pickleball with their grandparents.

That even when they are too cool for words, they hang out with their grandparents.

That they invite their grandparents out to breakfast on a regular basis.

That they learn to say yes to life and no often enough to set boundaries and maintain their sense of self.

Brooks

That they watch La La Land and West Side Story (both the original and the Spielberg remake) with their grandfather.

That they have a sense of home wherever home may be.

That they have a sense of humor and not take themselves too seriously.

That they know that they are much more than their SAT scores and their athletic achievements.

That they do all they can to enroll at Arizona State University, the Geneseo of the West.

Owen

That they have big smiles.

That they have someone to walk the beach with.

That they, in the end, can say that they gave it their best shot.

And somewhere along the way, that they loved someone or somemany deeply.

Dan and Hannah Return to the Scene of Major Drama – San Ysidro Falls Trail

I am so glad it wasn’t Owen or Max, Molly or Tip, Hannah remembers that early afternoon five years ago when the trail beneath her feet gave way. She ended up on a perch twenty-five feet into the canyon, fifty feet below (See the links below to recapture that 2017 experience.)

A steep cliff on the San Ysidro Trail similar to the one where Hannah fell in 2017

She also remembers the sound of a crack she heard in her head as she landed on the rocky perch.  She thinks it came from the gash to the bone of her leg as the sharp rocks ripped into her leg. I remember after supporting her for a mile and a half back down the trail from where she fell that the paramedics said to Hannah, You can choose whether you go to the emergency room with us or go with your husband, but you are going with us. The wound to the bone was so severe that the ambulance was, in fact, her only option.

Four-mile roundtrip to the falls

Nonetheless, Hannah and I choose the trail to the San Ysidro Falls in Montecito as our first winter hike of 2022.  Due to the Covid pandemic we did not return to the Santa Barbara area in 2021.  As usual, we come back this mid-January fleeing the cold and snow of our home base in Maine. 

San Ysidro Trail at the start looks pretty benign.

A mere twenty minutes from our home away from home condo in Carpinteria, we have no trouble finding parking along East Mountain Road among the multi-million dollar mansions of Montecito.

After “easy pickings” walking the level beaches of Carpinteria, we have a 1000’+ of elevation gain to the falls.  Ever since the rainy February of 2017, the falls have not flowed when we have hiked because of persistent drought.  Also the debris flows of January 2018 that killed 23 local residents have scoured the ravine to recontour the terrain; deadly 15’ diameter boulders littered the ravine.

Guard rails along the trail

The first mile of the trail is a wide fire road with gravel and small rocks here and there on the trail.  Not so pleasant for the feet but not difficult at all for hiking.

At the one mile mark, we head on a single trail that weaves through the forest along the south side of the still, in places, steep cliffs of the ravine.  It doesn’t feel perilous at all, though we hike closer to the mountainside than the cliffs.

Since this area has received a good deal of rain over the last three weeks, we have green grasses and lush leafy bushes flourishing along the trail.  Winter is in fact the rainy season in Santa Barbara, but you’d never know it from our eight winters here when the parched and coughing brown landscape was all we saw.  The recent rains also make us hopeful that this year we’ll see water cascading down the falls.

And that we do! Weaving our way in sight of the falls, we are plumped to see the waterfalls some 100 yards away.  Where in 2017 we were able to hike to the base of the falls, the trail no longer exists to do that any more.

Returning to the trailhead looking out to the Pacific Ocean and the distant Channel Islands.

It’s another five-star day in Paradise.  The falls are tumbling, the sun is casting its glory on us, and Hannah safely returns to the trailhead after four miles of hiking in 2022.

Six blogs of 2017

Dan’s Wednesday Quote of the Week – #56

Many of us, from childhood on, are taught that saying yes is right and saying no is wrong. We learn that acceding to demands allows us to avoid conflict and criticism, please people, earn praise, and prove that we care for the important people in our lives. Yet the right to say no is indelibly intertwined with the ability to make choices.

Madisyn Taylor

Those who are fans of Unity, Byron Katie, and the Stoics of Roman times will love Madisyn’s daily three-paragraph wisdom on living and life. Click here for her DailyOM link. 

Dan is Inspired by… – KGUA #73

   

For the January 10, 2022 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are are asked to freewrite to this prompt:

Who Inspires You?

Throughout the fall, he wins the close ones; he even wins the not-so-close ones.  Though I do my best to keep our ping pong games competitive, he wins many more times than not. 

It’s funny over our eleven years of weekly ping pong since I retired from the University of New England, there have been long stretches where I ruled the roost, other times when he held the upper hand.  And many years we each won about the same number of games each afternoon. 

But it was when he was losing week after week that inspired me.  Routinely after tasting defeat, he was upbeat and looking forward to the very next game with a smile.  No whining, no poor me.  On to the next game.  On to Cincinnati. 

He made me realize the magic of our ping pong was in the joy of playing, the friendship over a couple of hours, and the challenge for each of us to improve.  Winning was nice, but secondary.

So as of late when he started winning routinely, I returned the favor to him by being just as positive and supportive of his good play as he was of mine when I won.  Rather than being Danny Downer, I learned from him that the game wasn’t all about me; it was about us.

George, thanks for the inspiration.

Words –  223

Dan Escapes with Hannah to Carpinteria, California 2022

Escape feels like the right verb for my desire to leave New Jersey as a kid. As has been noted ad nauseum in this blog, I was quite the rule follower. To break that pattern at 21, I fled first west for my senior year at Arizona State, then the next year to California for my first teaching job in Anaheim. Though I lasted but four months as a molder of young minds, the experience planted a seed in my heart for the Golden State.

Carpinteria sunset on the Pacific

A seed I have watered yearly with Hannah since 2014, except in Covid 2021. Now at the robust age of 74, I find my escape is more primal, visceral, and insistent. One, I want to take the biggest bite I can out of Maine winters. Two, I want to be active and alive outdoors in a place where warm is the calling card. California allows me to be in the great outdoors in January and February in ways I can’t, let’s be honest won’t be in the winter cold of the Pine Tree State.

Morning beach walk sunrise in Carpinteria (ten miles south of Santa Barbara)

For an outdoor guy, the Santa Barbara area of California is winter gold.

Each morning Hannah and I get to walk up and down the Carpinteria Beach before breakfast. Staying at a VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) condo literally on the Pacific Ocean, we basically fall out of bed and greet the predawn sunrise just above the lapping waves. The wet sand is easy on our feet and the shore birds wish us a good morning daily just after seven AM.

Dramatic sunrise on Monday past!
Shore birds discuss the pros and cons of the photographer
A heron of sorts on the Carpinteria bluffs with the Santa Ynez Mountains in the distance.

This past Monday, Hannah and I drive twenty miles south to Ventura to walk its promenade, pier, and beach with temps in the mid-60s.

Ventura Promenade with 60-something surfers
Beneath the Ventura Pier

On Tuesday, we drive ten miles under the bluest of sunny blue skies to hike San Ysidro Canyon into the Santa Ynez Mountains. Thursday of this week we hike to the warm pools of the Hot Springs Trail in nearby Montecito.

Returning on the San Ysidro Trail with the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands in the distance
Cooling her jets in the warm waters of the Hot Springs Trail

On Friday of this week, we play ping pong across the street from our condo. Abel, a local Carpinteria legend, notices we are playing with an inferior one-star ball. He gives us an up-graded three-star ball and are game improves dramatically.

Hannah balances our new, high quality, orange, three star ping pong ball

Each late afternoon, Hannah and I jump on our Cruiser one-speed, fat tire bicycles to pedal on the wet sand beach at our doorstep or along the bluffs to the Harbor Seals Rookery.

My Beach Cruiser
Harbor Seals of Carpinteria. Babies are usually born in February and March

Today, Saturday we will bike four miles south for the Rincon Classic Surf Competition.

Next Monday, we play pickleball with Santa Barbara friends, Claudia and Bill, in Montecito just below the coastal mountains.

Maine I love you, I truly do, but…California steals my heart two months each winter.

544A PT, 844A ET on 1.15.22

Dan’s Wednesday Quote of the Week – #55

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact

of attitude on my life.

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.

It is more important than the past, than education,

than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice

Everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace that day.

I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me

And 90% how I react to it.

Charles Swindoll (b. 1934), evangelical Christian pastor, author, educator, and radio preacher.

Dan and Hannah – Plane Talk with Jet Blue – Part 3 of 3

It seems having a 94% chance is one good bet.  Though 2500 flights were cancelled, 45,000 flew.  Only 6% canceled. We always had good odds despite Covid and the weather.  And today we are winners!

Molly and our grandson Owen take us to Logan Airport at 6 AM on a 17F Saturday morning.  The day before 8” of snow fell in York.

Before dawn on Friday, January 7
Later on Friday, just before we drove to Molly’s place

From there things went like clockwork.

Our Los Angeles flight is on time this Saturday morning (January 8)!
Our big blue beautiful transportation to Paradise

Our JetBlue left on time at 950 AM ET and we arrived by 130 PM PT.  Now about the flight.  I was never so happy to have a middle seat as I was when we made our flight to Los Angeles.  Though It’s 6+ hours in the air from Boston to LAX, In the Heights (Lin Manuel Miranda) and a rewatchable Mama Mia (ABBA) made the trip fly.  You see what I did there, yes?

And let me say something about experience with Enterprise.  They attended to us immediately, got us on our way in ten minutes, diez minutos! As we headed north on The 405 and The 101 to Carpinteria 90 miles away.

The Saturday sunset on the afternoon we arrived (January 8).

Our VRBO hosts met us at 405 PM and we got in an evening beach walk before sunset at 505 PM.

Thank you, Jet Blue, Molly, and Owen.

Sunday sunset (January 9)
Monday morning sunrise (January 10)
Minutes later Monday morning walking the beach in Carpinteria

Dan, A Season of Light, A Season of Darkness – KGUA #72

To welcome in the New Year on January 3, 2022 KGUA Radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite to this prompt:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.  Chas. Dickens

A Season of Light, A Season of Darkness

Hey, I got my health at 74, that definitely makes it a season of light.

On the other hand, Covid uncertainty and vaccination hostility darken my mood.

Happy and healthy grandchildren, Owen, Max, Brooks, Charlotte, and Reese, add life-affirming light to my days.

The need to debate and dominate over listening and conversation casts a shadow on the landscape.

Friends from Santa Barbara to Kittery Point shine their light for me.

Opportunity to freewrite weekly for KGUA Radio Writers gives meaning to my mornings, an outlet for me to tell my story.

Friendship over brewskis after pickleball and ping pong makes me a happy boy.

Satisfying relationships our own children –  with Molly and Tip over wine, opening presents with Robyn, and morning coffee and biscuits with Will and Laurel.

Light shines when I “let go” of my need to control the uncontrollable.  For example, currently there has been much uncertainty for the past week about our JetBlue flight to California today.  Travel delays might happen due to weather (8-12″ of snow in Boston yesterday) or Covid issues, ours or the flight crew.  I am working with the belief that when the time is right (not when we are scheduled), we will get to California.  (See below for further explanation.)

As you can see, I have much light in my life.  Privilege plays its role, attitude steers the ship, and relationships shine their light on me day in and day out.

Words –  223

The Daily Word (Unity) from December 30, 2021 articulates beautifully about what I am trying to say about “letting go.”

trying to control events can feel exhausting.

…I accept circumstances as they are.

…I still work toward desired outcomes, but now my energy is cooperative, not combative.  I release my need for specific outcomes, instead desiring the highest and best for all involved. 

I find ease in accepting what is and surrendering to what could be.

Sure, developing such a belief is not walk in the park. It continues to take lots of practice. 

Let Ryan Holliday citing Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher, in the Daily Stoic for January 1st, have the last word. Remember that the Stoics of Roman times valued discipline, justice, courage, and wisdom. They were not a sad, impassionate and resigned.

The single most important practice in Stoic philosophy is differentiating between what we can change and what we can’t.

If we can focus on making clear what parts of our days are within our control and what parts are not, we will be happier.

Dan and Hannah – Plane Talk from JetBlue Part 2 of 3

Tuesday, January 4, 2022 update – Ever since the presidential election of 2016, I rarely watch the news.  By news, I usually mean cable news.  And by cable news, I mean CNN and MSNBC.  As faithful readers of this blog can probably guess I never watch Fox News.  One, cable news is too depressing, highlighting all that is wrong in America.  Two, news is news because it’s unusual, unexpected.  When I consume too much quote news, I think what they are reporting is the norm.

That’s a long intro about the news headline of 2700 flights being canceled this past Sunday.  Monday of this week 2500 flights were canceled.  Sounds like a lot?  It’s certainly one too many if you were scheduled for one of those flights.

But…there is always a but.  Do you have any idea how many flights happen on an average day across the United States?  I didn’t so I googled it.  45,000!  So, doing the math that means that 6% of flights have been canceled during this epidemic of flight cancelations.  That percentage is never addressed on the news. Just the 2700 canceled flights to grab people’s attention and scare them.

These numbers are similar to the odds Hannah and I were given when our four-year-old daughter Robyn was diagnosed with leukemia (cancer of the blood).  The doctors at the Floating Hospital in Boston (1985) said that with chemotherapy and radiation, she had a 90% chance of survival.  Not bad at all! I’ll take that 94% of flights get in the air any day.

Later in the morning, we learn from our friend Norm that his flight to Florida was canceled.  And get this, he didn’t know till 3 AM of the morning of their flight. Clearly that means the uncertainty about flying out will linger until the very last minute for us.

Wednesday – We’ve heard nothing from JetBlue about cancelations, but we did learn that they don’t like us as customers. It’s true. We are Blue Basic customers and that means we purchased tickets at the cheapest rate.

We got a stern, quite frankly unfriendly email that emphasized these points. (1) You must check all bags and cannot put any in the overhead compartment; and if you even think to try to slip a fast one by us at the gate and try to check your bags there for free, we’ll charge you $65 per bag, (2) You will be the very last to board, (3) You can’t pick your seat, (4) You will get no refund if you want to change your tickets. In fact, we’ll charge you $100 for the change.

To me this email was all reassuring. I took it that we are going to fly out on Saturday.

Six AM Friday morning as the snow begins to fall

6 AM Friday morning (the day before we are scheduled to depart) – The snow has begun. No word about a canceled flight. Once we shovel the predicted 8-14″ of snow (a little more than the overnight prediction of 4″) off our driveway, we’ll drive an hour south to our daughter Molly’s place for the night. And if the stars align, she’ll drive us tomorrow morning to Logan Airport in Boston for our mid-morning non-stop flight to Los Angeles.

It’s been so long in planning to return to California (nearly two years!), it seems unbelievable that we’ll be there so soon, Saturday or shortly thereafter.

Stay tuned.