Thursday, April 28, 2016

Illness and Dealing With The System (UPDATED)

I have a Medicare Advantage Plan through Presbyterian Health Care in Albuquerque. Until yesterday, it seemed to be fine. I got care by competent professionals when I needed it, and though the clinic is 35-40 miles away, it's not too inconvenient. Co-pays -- so far -- have been reasonable.

As I've mentioned previously, I'm currently being treated for rheumatoid arthritis and pneumonia. Rheumatoid arthritis can be very painful and debilitating, whereas pneumonia can be lethal, especially for an elder like myownself.

Treatment for RA has consisted of diclofenac twice a day and high-dose prednisone for five days, with a follow up by a rheumatology specialist. That follow up has not happened. I was supposed to receive a call from Rheumatology setting up an appointment, but none came. The prednisone treatment ended April 18, and for the next week or so, the pain I'd previously experienced was more or less controlled. But yesterday, actually the day before, the pain started returning, and it became so bad I could barely stand it. It was at times worse than before I started treatment.

I had been given a five day course of antibiotic treatment for pneumonia, half the time-period of previous treatments. It seemed to control the symptoms, but then not. At all. It did not seem to me that Azithromycin was an effective treatment as I still had a severe cough, chest pain and compression, and difficulty breathing.

So I contacted my primary care physician reporting that I was experiencing returned or persistent symptoms of both RA and pneumonia and requesting advice.

The response I got was... odd. "Were you able to set up an appointment with the Rheumatologist?"

The answer, of course, is No. I replied that I had never received a call from Rheumatology and I had no contact info.

Shortly, I received a text telling me that Rheumatology had called me and left a message for me to call them back to set up an appointment. Apparently I hadn't received the message for some reason. Contact information was provided and I was encouraged to give them a call to set up an appointment.

This I did promptly.

Hm. I spoke to a very nice person who said that in essence there are are no appointments available until November at the earliest. The doctor who I was told to contact is not accepting new patients at all, and the only rheumatologist on staff who is accepting new patients won't have an appointment opening before November. I explained that I'd been informed by my primary care physician that someone had tried to contact me to set up an appointment with the doctor who isn't taking new patients but that I had not gotten the message. "Let me check," she said. A few minutes later, she said there was no record of anyone from rheumatology trying to contact me and no record of an attempt to set an appointment time. Interesting.

I asked if it was possible that someone had tried to contact me but called the wrong number (I get calls periodically from doctors offices and dentists for other people, sometimes because the caller has misdialed) and she that they only have the one number for me, and there is no record of anyone from rheumatology trying to contact me at any time.

I explained that the nurse told me there was, so it was something of a mystery. She said she would look into what happened and get back to me, because it certainly seemed odd to her, too.

I then texted the nurse who had told me that someone had tried to reach me from rheumatology with the information that they have no record of it, and I had checked through my voicemail messages for the last month, and there was no message from rheumatology.

Meanwhile, the pain was becoming excruciating while we've tried to get this resolved. As it happens I have a few prednisone tablets from the first prescription when I was told I was taking them wrong, and I took one last night -- because in a pinch, one tablet will control the pain for about 24 hours. Doctor told me not to take it that way, but I have no other pain relief option when the RA pain comes on the way it has, and as the issue with rheumatology follow up seems to be a mess for the time being, as they try to sort out what happened with my non-appointment, I used what was at hand.

We'll see what happens. At least the pain was controlled overnight, and that is a major relief.

Meanwhile, I still have pneumonia symptoms which I've reported and asked for advice on, but so far, there's been no response to that request. At all.

The system apparently isn't set up to answer two questions in one message or to respond to more than one issue at a time.

I'm learning, I guess. But if I didn't have the prednisone, I would be in serious agony with no relief at all, and the persistence of pneumonia symptoms after treatment ought to be something of a red flag -- but apparently it isn't.

UPDATE: Despite systemic resistance, I was able to set up two appointments to deal with immediate issues. The first, yesterday, followed up on pneumonia symptoms. Turned out my condition was worse -- gee, ya think? -- and I needed and was prescribed a stronger antibiotic along with more prednisone in case the chest pain becomes severe.

The next appointment is Monday for the rheumatioid arthritis. Since there apparently is no rheumatologist who is accepting patients within a reasonable time frame (at least none that I know of), it will be up to me and my primary care physician to find an appropriate treatment for as long as it takes to get in to see a specialist -- which apparently is going to be months.

Prednisone does work. Even, it would appear, in low dose, which I've tried since getting prednisone for chest pain yesterday.

My co-pay for the stronger antibiotic is quite high (close to $100). It may be that the earlier ineffective treatment -- which had a very low co-pay ($4.00 or something like that) was intended to keep my costs reasonable. I don't know. But it didn't work, and at first, the staff at the clinic ignored my repeated requests for relief. Then something happened, perhaps when I called up again yesterday morning, and things changed.

The system may be resistant but apparently it's not entirely non-responsive.

Leo the Incurable Romantic

Leo was my mother's step-father. He died before I was born, and I've never seen a picture of him, so I didn't know him and I have no personal knowledge of what he looked like. But since I've been on this journey of genealogical discovery, I feel like I've learned a great deal about him, enough, perhaps, to have a fairly good idea of what he was like.

I have little doubt that he was an incurable romantic.

He was second-generation American. He and his parents were born in the United States; his grandparents were born in Germany. That surprised me, for I thought he was Welsh or even Irish, but according to the records, he was German. He was born and reared in Indianapolis, and as far as I know he was a friend of my mother's biological father. That's what I was told by my mother, and the records I've found indicate they both worked for Indianapolis's streetcar company, and at least for a time they were neighbors.

Leo was a machinist for the streetcar company, whereas Larry (aka "Riley"), my mother's biological father, worked mostly as a conductor. When he worked. Leo was a member of the Sons of Pythias, and seems to have parlayed that and his own rather sunny personality into a much better life than Larry the Rebel was able to do for himself and his many offspring.

Larry would be killed in a railyard incident in St. Louis just before Christmas of 1916. He left behind a widow and young daughter in St. Louis and another widow and young daughter in Indianapolis. There were a number of other women and children, but those two households were primary at the time of Larry's death. The yard boss in St Louis married Larry's St. Louis widow Marie and adopted her daughter Helen, and they lived in St. Louis for the rest of their lives.

Larry's Indianapolis widow Edna would be married by Leo, and Leo, Edna and her daughter Virginia -- my mother -- would move to California in 1917 to start a new life. Leo never legally adopted my mother, but he treated her as his daughter and she used his last name as her own until she married.

Leo and Edna had no children together of their own.

In California, Leo started out as an auto mechanic for the Ed Reubel Dodge dealership in Santa Maria. He worked his way up to service manager, and he and his little family had a nice little California bungalow a few blocks away from the dealership. The house is still there and it still looks cozy and cheerful though it's now part of a multi-unit compound.

Sometime after 1930, Leo pulled up stakes and bought an auto court and filling station on the Redwood Highway in Willits called "U-Auto-Stop" where he and Edna moved. By this time my mother Virginia was married to her first husband, and shortly she would give birth to a daughter, Patricia, my (half) sister. They continued to live in Santa Maria where my mother's husband, Polk, worked as a mechanic and at other jobs for Ed Reubel.

In 1939, Leo sold the "U-Auto-Stop" and at first, I didn't know what had happened to them. Turns out he and Edna moved to Reno where he became the Secretary-Treasurer of a mining company. After some further search, I found out it was called the Jungo Mine, and it was located outside of Jungo, NV, the site of a very famous gold mine that had been extensively featured in Life Magazine. That mine was called the Jumbo Mine.

I found some ads for the Jungo Mine offering penny shares to all and sundry with extravagant promises of riches to come. Sacks of ore were being taken out of the Jungo Mine, some of them assaying at $12 and $15, so the ad copy said, and this translated to a remarkable return on a penny investment. "Get in now!"

Whether or not this mine actually ever operated, I don't know. There were lots of diggings around Jungo following the Jumbo strike in 1936, but whether any of them proved worthwhile is unknown to me. The ads I found for the Jungo Mine seem to have been placed only in 1940 -- I found none before or after -- and by 1941, Leo and Edna were living in Vallejo, CA.

Leo took a job as a machinist at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard -- where all those Liberty Ships were built to win the War -- and Edna took sick with the cancer that would shortly kill her. She died in October, 1941. Leo continued to work at Mare Island until his own death in 1945.

My mother spoke rather highly of Leo, when she spoke of him at all -- which wasn't often. Except that, when it came to her mother's death, she became hard and unforgiving. Suddenly her attitude toward Leo changed, and she blamed Leo for her mother's death at age 52. According to her, Leo and Edna had adopted Christian Science, and that meant Edna got no medical attention during her illness and according to my mother, she died in agony. There were hints in the story she told me that they had turned to Christian Science because they couldn't afford traditional medical treatment, and the fact that they couldn't afford it was due to Leo's profligacy.

That could be, but my mother didn't say anything to me about Reno or the mine or Vallejo. Her stories of her mother and stepfather stopped in Willits, which is where I thought Edna had died. But it wasn't so.

She lived at least briefly in Vallejo and died at the Solano County Hospital where she was taken when it was too late.

At the time, my mother was living with her husband and daughter on an orchard-ranch in Yolo County owned a Japanese-American family. Her husband, Polk, she said, was working as an oil-jobber, but according to records I found, he was a service station attendant. It's possible he was both. She divorced Polk in 1941 or 42 -- due to his infidelity, she said. She and my sister stayed on the ranch until some time after the Japanese family was sent away to the camps. Then they moved into town, Sacramento, just across the river from the ranch. Polk was also in Sacramento at the time, and he stayed there through the War and afterwards. In fact, he's buried in Sacramento, which surprised the heck out of me as he died in Walnut Creek where he lived with his second wife for thirty years or more working for Chevron, eventually becoming a vice president for sales.

But his new wife Jean was from Sacramento, and after Polk died she moved back to Sacramento where she lived the rest of her life.

This is getting far afield of Leo, however.

Leo's romanticism comes through in the path he follows from Indiana to California, from California to Nevada, and from Nevada back to California -- when it seems that his hopes in the mine were dashed.

In the end, I see his story as a romantic tragedy.

Leaving Indiana in 1917 and making a new life in California with my mother and her mother was in itself a romantic gesture, a supremely romantic gesture, it seems to me.

My mother's mother Edna had come from a rather well-off matriarchy headed by her mother Ida. Ida was a widow-woman who had apparently inherited quite a lot of property from her parents and her husband, land and buildings in the path of Indianapolis's growth during the 19th and early 20th centuries. She lived off the income and proceeds of sales of this property and provided a home for her sisters and son and daughter, and soon would be providing a home for her granddaughter when Edna gave birth to my mother Virginia in 1911. The house where they lived on N. Sherman Drive is still standing, and it seems like a rather modest place, though it's deceptively large. It's next door to a fire station which was built in 1915 on the site of Ida's former home, the place she'd shared with her husband and children. Though I've never seen a picture of that house, my impression is that it was an old two story farm house that was built when that section of Indianapolis was rural. It apparently burned in 1912 or 1913, and Ida sold the lot to the city -- for a fire station. The household moved next door to a house Ida also owned at the time.

These places on N. Sherman Dr were half a block from the Michigan Avenue streetcar line where Larry, my mother's biological father, worked -- when he worked -- as a conductor.

Larry was quite a ladies' man.

He'd been married in 1896 and had three children with his wife Maud, but they were divorced around 1907 and his children were farmed out. His daughter Florence went to live with his brother Frank and Frank's wife Edna, and for all anyone knew, Florence was Frank and Edna's daughter for ever more. Larry's sons, George and David, went to live with Larry's parents where they stayed until they reached majority.

Larry fathered other children, three of whom I found records of. One, Virgil, was born the same year as my mother (1911) to a woman (girl, really; she was 17) who never claimed to be married to Larry. My mother's mother Edna did claim to be married to Larry, though I could find no proof of it. According to what I did find, she claimed to be married to him in January or February of 1910. But she did not live with him as man and wife -- ever, so far as I could find out -- and she did not use his last name until after my mother Virginia's birth.

Larry's other child, Helen, was born to Marie, his wife in St. Louis. I did find records of their marriage, though he married her under what appears to have been an assumed name. My mother always claimed that he was a bigamist, and the scandalous discovery was made at his funeral when his "other family" was revealed. My mother remembered attending his funeral, and she recalled feeling sorry for his daughter Helen who was then two years old (my mother was five.)

She recalled the funeral taking place in Indianapolis, but it didn't. It was in St. Louis on the 23rd of December, 1916, and Larry was buried in Friedens Cemetery in Bellfontaine Neighbors just north of St. Louis.

I suspect my mother simply didn't remember the train trip of several hours from Indianapolis to St. Louis to attend his funeral.

My mother said she had few memories of her father, but I suspect she had none. Not only was he a ladies man, he was a somewhat notorious petty criminal, accused of numerous robberies and burglaries from the time he was a young teenager. In March of 1912, he was chased through the streets of downtown Indianapolis by a "merchant policeman" who was firing his gun at the fleeing Larry -- who he accused of burglarizing a drugstore.

Larry was apprehended by regular police -- who knew him -- and taken to the stationhouse where he denied everything. The proprietor of the drugstore averred that nothing had been taken from the premises. Larry was arraigned and the case was bound over to the grand jury but I found no disposition. He may have gone to trial, but maybe not.

Larry's father David was a prominent Civil War veteran who held a number of patronage positions in Indiana state government. He was the legislative parliamentarian, later the state land clerk, and he served in a number of other capacities. He had six sons, three of whom became prominent in Indiana in their own right. Larry, the second youngest, on the other hand, became notorious.

It seems that Larry's father got him out of one scrape with the law after another, but the 1912 incident may have been the last straw. By sometime in 1913, Larry had moved to St. Louis where his older brother Harold had long lived and worked as a printer and Linotype operator for the St. Louis Globe Dispatch. (As a side-note, David, the pater familias, had published a newspaper in Lebanon, Indiana, before moving to Indianapolis and taking up positions with the state government.)

After Larry died in St. Louis, Leo -- his friend in Indianapolis -- took it upon himself to "make an honest woman" out of Edna and to take care of and protect Edna's daughter Virgina. They moved to California to start a new life -- a project which appears to have gone very well.

The family's life was very different and better in California than it could possibly have been in Indiana. Indianapolis was rough and gritty and dirty, and whether she wanted to be or not, Edna was caught up in scandal brought on by Larry's misbehavior.

Given the "moral" standards of the era, Edna was sullied, and there was nothing she could do about it -- though she tried. Leaving was her best option, and the fact that Leo was there and ready, willing, and able to take the risk of building a new life in California with Edna and Virginia was a godsend.

It's too bad that Leo's romantic vision culminated with his mining adventure in Nevada -- which apparently came to nothing and left him broke, his wife ill, and his stepdaughter hating him.

It's a very common story in some ways, but on another plane, it may be unique to this particular group of people at this particular time in American history. I knew little about it because it all took place before I was born, and my mother was not necessarily forthcoming. She harbored great resentment -- indeed hatred -- towards Leo, blaming him and his incurable romantic vision for her mother's death. She could not and did not forgive him. I have little doubt he carried his own sense of guilt and failure to his own death a few years later (I believe he died of a heart attack -- or perhaps of a broken heart).

I didn't know Leo or Edna -- let alone Larry. I've never even seen a picture of any of them. But they had an influence on my life through my mother. Finding out about them -- who they were, where they came from, what they did -- is an adventure for me, something I could not have done to this extent prior to the advent of the internet.

Now that I've found living cousins I'm learning a whole lot about my father's family I never knew before, too. It's all quite a wonder.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Jackson-Tubman Thing

This is kind of interesting. The South is apparently rising again (again?) over news that the portrait of Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill will be replaced with Harriet Tubman sometime in the next four-five years. Supposedly, this is an insult to Jackson, and by extension to the South and all it stands for -- whatever that may be. Southern white men -- especially -- are incensed. Poor things.

Jackson is seen as a heroic figure by many of them, and it is precisely for the kinds of things his critics have condemned him for since forever: he was a racist, a slave owner-trader, a Indian killer in acts that amount to genocide, and he was a prime advocate of Indian Removal. He is considered by most observers to be responsible for the Trail of Tears on which so many Native Americans were ignominiously sent West -- too many of them to their deaths.

It gets interesting because Ms. Ché, a Cherokee Nation citizen, thought there was more to the story than we were being told. No matter the tales of Jackson's evil that she'd been hearing all her life, she thought there must be something redeeming in him and that his acts -- deplorable as they were -- weren't as one-dimensional as they had been made out to be.

We'd been to Nashville a few times together, and I found I didn't like it much at all. Nashville struck me as not just the South but the Bad South, some of the worst aspects of Southern Tradition were alive and well, and there was very little "Good South" to mitigate it.

Ms. Ché , on the other hand, was quite taken with the place and the people, and she's been back several times on her own. The last time she was there, she decided to go out to Andrew Jackson's plantation, The Hermitage, and see for herself just what this man done on his own land, and try to get a sense of his spirit.

She toured the mansion and rode what they call a slave wagon (a cotton transport wagon) around the grounds. She heard the stories they tell there of his life and times -- both good and bad. She researched on her own too. She came back home and said, "You know, I think they've got Jackson wrong. He wasn't quite the monster he's made out to be."

I was kind of stunned at her point of view. What about the Trail of Tears and all the suffering he caused her own people? She said, "He wasn't directly involved in that at all. It came after he left the White House."

I said that if it hadn't been for Jackson, Indian Removal probably wouldn't have become national policy. She disagreed. She said it probably would have --  and it might have come sooner and more brutally than it did if it hadn't been for Jackson's interventions.

Whoa! Talk about historical revisionism!

Where did she get these ideas? Her point of view was that Jackson was very conflicted about the Indian Question, and he had a lot of respect for Indians at a time when white folks were expected to hate them and kill them whenever they could. He may have believed that the only solution to the Indian Problem was for them to leave for the West, but he might not have believed that if the popular sentiment among white folks at the time hadn't been so racist, greedy and bloodthirsty. He himself, she said, was not like that.

He wasn't? No, she said, not really. He'd let himself become seen as a heroic Indian fighter and Indian hater, and he felt guilty about it and about what he had done. He would much rather have found an accommodation with the tribes than try to force them out of their ancestral lands. But it wasn't possible, for one thing because the white-trash rabble that coveted Indian lands wouldn't allow it. Nothing less than annihilation was satisfactory to them.

She talked about Rachel, his wife. The plantation slaves. The Indians. She said so much of the Black Legend of Jackson is false. The truth is much more complicated.

She said she knew she was supposed to harbor resentment and hatred toward Jackson, but she didn't feel that way about him. For one thing, she didn't believe such feelings were healthy. But for another, she insisted he wasn't the monster his critics made him out to be. He'd been falsely portrayed for many a long year.

Hm. Well, I can't say I'm convinced. I tend to think that Jackson represented and represents some of the worst and most destructive aspects of White America. He was sort of the epitome of White racism, resentment, violence and greed, living off the backs of his slaves and the theft of Indian land. He may or may not have had redeeming qualities, I wouldn't know, but too many people suffered too much due to his actions, beliefs and policies for him to be considered anything but a monstrous figure in American history -- at least to my eye.

When news came that the Treasury Department had decided to replace Jackson with Tubman on the $20 bill, I thought it was symbolic but fine. I didn't see it as denigration or denunciation of Jackson but as one way to honor Tubman. Jackson, ultimately, would not be affected by this move at all. He would still be honored by those who considered him a hero, denounced by his critics. That would not change by putting someone else's portrait on the $20 bill.

Ms. Ché saw the move as an unnecessary aggravation at a time when domestic animosity and factionalism has reached a fever pitch in this country. She has no problem with honoring Tubman, just that doing it this way at this time may be unwise.

It won't be done for at least four years, and by that time who knows how the national conscience and consciousness will have changed? This is far from the most important issue we face or will face, but knowing how sensitive some people have become about every perceived slight, and how resentful and violent some become, it's certainly conceivable that the Outrage!!!!™ this move precipitates could lead to yet more civil unrest among the under-appreciated white folks of this country.

On the other hand, there has been far too much bending over backwards to mollify the South for far too long and far too much tolerance for the violence that ensues.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ché the Pneumoniac

Yes, I have pneumonia again. Third time. I wanted not to think it was true, but symptoms were too similar to previous episodes, and I was not getting better. So, got doctored for "persistent cough" and sure enough, pneumonia.

This is  annoying as all heck because I've had both pneumonia vaccines. What in tarnation is the point if I get pneumonia anyway? And where did it come from this time?

It's a mystery, but this is my suspicion: When I went to the doctor for RA symptoms, I got a flu shot because I didn't get one last fall. The nurse who administered the injection had a severe cough. A few days later I developed flu-like symptoms, but I attributed them at the time to side effects from the RA medication I was taking.

After I finished the high dose course of RA medication, I figured the flu-mimic symptoms would go away. They didn't. It became more and more obvious that I had somehow acquired pneumonia again.

How? My suspicion is that I had flu after the flu shot -- either from the nurse or from the vaccine itself. I had no treatment for flu, of course, because it didn't really register with me that that's what I had. The flu led directly to a pulmonary infection that became the pneumonia I'm being treated for now.

If it is viral pneumonia, the antibiotics are not going to work, but so far they seem to be working, so we'll see what happens over the longer term.

For the record, RA symptoms have been largely under control since the five-day high-dosage prednisone treatment -- which ended on 4/18. Not a cure, no. But at least it's less debilitating.

What a drag it is getting old...

Friday, April 22, 2016

Elections Fraud

This seems to have become a nearly routine issue in American elections. They are not "free and fair" by any stretch of the imagination -- at least in some areas, at least some of the time.

Reports have been coming in of potentially millions of voters disenfranchised in New York, for example. Ridiculous levels of SNAFU afflicted the primary election in Arizona, and similar problems restricted voting in several other states.

There is a remarkable consistency about these problems: polls don't open on time, there are too few polling places, too few voting machines at the polling places that are open, not enough ballots, voters are not found on the rolls, party registration has been changed if they are found on the rolls, extremely long waits to cast ballots, purges of eligible voters, etc.

Neither major party seems to have more than a casual interest in correcting this situation, and anything they would -- eventually -- sponsor to correct it would likely institutionalize disenfranchisement rather than ameliorate it.

So. What's going on? We've had some rather spectacular elections irregularities at least since the 2000 presidential election that was lawlessly decided by the Supreme Court in an act of unprecedented arrogance.

Now it seems that elections fraud has become endemic to the system and like a virus is spreading far and wide. Of course, when "elections fraud" is mentioned, it's generally interpreted to mean that somehow voters are committing fraud, and that must be stopped with all due prejudice. This means access to the franchise is further and further restricted by law, to the point where millions are effectively disenfranchised with little or no practical recourse.

The only problem is that voters are not committing fraud in more than single digit numbers. The idea that they are is a myth.

On the other hand, over and over again, elections clerks and their sponsors and supervisors have acted directly and indirectly to make voting as difficult as possible or actually impossible for millions, seemingly more and more voters affected at every election.

The only remedy is in the courts, and the courts are loathe to interfere, consequently the problems are not corrected. They grow worse.

Something tells me this is by design. Ultimately the public will lose faith in elections altogether, and who knows, maybe officials will be selected by boards of experts.

We've been down this path before, and it looks like we're headed this way again. Disenfranchisement was a key element in early American elections, and it came back with a vengeance in the early days of the Progressive era. The whole point was/is to restrict voting to those who are considered "worthy." And to restrict it to as few of them as possible. And to restrict voting to as few issues as possible.


I see no way out of this dilemma in the short term. Over the long term? Oh, a revolution may be in order.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Problem With the Sanders Campaign Sanders.

I don't know how else to say this, but he's an old man who comes across too often as if he were the crazy uncle in the attic. Sorry, he just does.

By and large, he advocates for policies and programs that would have been ideal in 1980 -- or 1950 -- but now they seem inadequate and anachronistic. We can't go back to some halcyon past when things were or could have been better.

The mess we're in is the result of cumulative decisions by policy-makers and their sponsors over the last several decades. Both major parties have been complicit. Bernie has not been able to stem the tide. Sometimes he hasn't tried.

Comes now his campaign which has been resonating strongly, particularly among the young, and it almost seems like something out of the mythological past. Things could have been so much better if only...

If only, yes. The problem is that "if only" notes what's been lost, not what can be -- will be? -- made manifest in the future. In other words, as I see it, Bernie's campaign is a lament, not a manifesto.

I won't even mention Hillary's campaign, as it's too dreary. "No you can't have nice things -- ever!" is hardly an inspirational message, no?

It's my hope that the Sanders campaign will be a catalyst for that missing manifesto for the future, but I don't think the necessary political, economic and social adjustments will come through the ballot box.

We're way past that.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Jungo Mine

While researching my mother's paternal issues, I came across census information that her mother and  stepfather were living in Reno in 1940. Her stepfather, Leo, was listed as a mining company official; her mother was listed as a bookkeeper. Her stepfather's income was only $600, a very small amount even for those days, and her mother Edna's income was reported as zero.

This was interesting for Leo and Edna had owned and operated an apparently successful auto court and filling station in Willits, CA, for years, but they sold it in 1939. I had known about the filling station and auto court from an early age because my mother had told me about it. But I had never heard anything about a mine in Nevada.

My impression is that Leo had sold the auto court to buy into the mine.

He was listed as secretary-treasurer which indicated to me that he had an ownership stake, but I didn't know what mine, or any other details about the operation. Or even if there was an operation. Something told me this may not have been a legitimate company, but I didn't know.

I don't remember quite how it happened but I came across information that the mine was called the Jungo Mine and it was some distance outside Jungo, NV. There was another mine in or near Jungo, a very famous mine, the Jumbo Mine, and even in my research, it was easy to confuse the two. The Jumbo Mine had produced quite a lot of gold, but I could find nothing except advertisements about the Jungo Mine. They were mostly from 1940. And they seemed to deliberately confuse Jungo and Jumbo.

The ads offered penny shares in the Jungo Mine, and in one of them, a man is mentioned who was probably my mother's stepfather. He took prospective investors on tours. Leo seemed to have quite a gift for dealing with people.

The Jungo Mine seems to disappear after about 1940. In 1941, my mother's mother became ill with the cancer that would kill her. She and Leo moved back to California where Leo found work as a machinist at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo. Either they didn't have enough money for Edna's cancer treatment or they chose Christian Science treatment for other reasons, but Edna's condition rapidly worsened.

She died in Vallejo in October of 1941. She was only 52. Leo stayed at the shipyard throughout the War and died of heart failure in 1945 at 65.

My mother never forgave him for Edna's death, though I'm not convinced that there was much that could be done in those days by medicine or religion.

But I'd never known about the mining venture in Nevada. It gives me a much fuller picture of who Leo was.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

On Mortality -- Have I Lived Too Long Already?

I've found out quite a lot about my relations and ancestors over the last couple of years, one thing being that I don't descend from a particularly long-lived line. Not at all.

Some examples:

Sister (b. Apr 1933- d. Jan 1993) (59)
Brother (b. Aug 1935- d. Oct 1972) (32)
Mother (b. Nov 1911- d. Feb 1987) (75)
Father (b. Jul 1901- d. Jan 1969) (67)

Maternal Grandfather (b. Sep 1878- d. Dec 1916) (38)
Maternal Grandmother (b. Jul 1889- d. Oct 1941) (52)

Paternal Grandfather (b. Apr 1869- d. Sep 1941) (72)
Paternal Grandmother (b. Sep 1875- d. Jan 1940) (64)

Average age at death for this group: 57 (point) something.

Lots of aunts and uncles died relatively young (one in infancy, others at 14, 40, 54, 62, 64, 69.)

One aunt lived to age 90, so there is that.

When I was young, I was convinced I wouldn't live past 30; strangely, when I reached 30 and was still going strong, I thought Death was stalking me at every turn. Quite a few friends passed on in the '80s and '90s, so many that few of the people I was close to when I was younger are left alive today.

I'm quite a survivor compared to them.

Interestingly in the first group above, my mother is the longest lived, though not all that long-lived in
the overall sense. She suffered from emphysema after a lifetime of smoking, and she died from its complications.

My father died from an untreated melanoma. According to those who knew him at the end, he had lost interest in living and refused to have the cancer treated when it might have made a difference.

He was younger at his death than I am now.

My sister died of an embolism after knee surgery following injury at the prison where she worked. She was knocked to the floor and smashed both knees against a table-leg during a prisoner take down, injuries requiring the surgery from which she wouldn't recover. She suffered from lupus for the last 20 years or so of her life, and she was sometimes in extreme pain because of it. She was 59 when she died.

I'm not sure what my brother's cause of death was. But I've learned enough about his condition to understand that he was in pretty bad shape physically for most of his short life. He couldn't stand or walk on his own until he was nine or ten years old, and he likely suffered from seizures and paralysis for most if not all of his life. I suspect that's what ultimately led to his death. He was 32.

My mother's father was killed in a rail-yard incident when he was 38.

Her mother died of stomach cancer -- which wasn't treated or wasn't treated properly -- when she was 52.

My father's parents both died of heart failure. His father at age 72 (pretty good, eh?). His mother at age 64.

This is not a record of long life among my immediate relatives, and I'm now actually older than all of them except my mother and paternal grandfather.

So. Have I lived too long already?

I'm not completely incapacitated (yay!) but I see so many things I wanted or intended to accomplish that I probably will never be able to do. It's dispiriting to say the least. Ms. Ché is concerned for fear that I might become paralyzed myself. That seems unlikely as long as this RA condition is controlled, but you never know.

I haven't heard anything from the specialist I'm being assigned to by my family practice physician. The medications I'm taking (diclophenac 50mg and prednisone 20mg) are partially effective against pain and inflammation. I take diclophenac twice a day, and it seems to be between 0% and 15% effective (down from 70-80% effective initially.) When the pain becomes too much -- like it wakes me from a sound sleep or comes on suddenly in several joints -- I take one prednisone tablet which can be effecrive for 24 to 36 hours if I'm lucky. The prescribed dosage is three a day, but I'm told not to take it for more than five days running,  I'm limiting my intake as much as I can consistent with being relatively pain free most of the time. In fact, it's just 24 hours since I took a prednisone, and the pain is coming back in  my hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders -- and soon, knees.

So I'll take another one to control the pain and contact my doctor next week to see whether I'm taking too much.

As for having lived too long already... I may bring that up too....

[Note: I worked on this post for almost a week. It's become more and more difficult for me to sit and type for any length of time.]

Sunday, April 3, 2016

RA -- So what is this thing anyway?

It's morning on the third of April, and I've been up for a couple of hours now. I woke up in pain, mostly hands, wrists and shoulders, but overall I was very stiff and could not move easily. It had been just about 12 hours since I took anti-inflammatory medication which is supposed to control the pain, though sometimes it doesn't. I thought this morning might be a bad one.

I managed to get through the first part of my morning routine  slowly and carefully, adapting my motions to whatever triggered more pain, and then I had to sit still for a while. I took more anti-inflammatory medication, right on schedule, and that helped lower the amount and duration of pain, but it took 20 minutes or so to begin to be effective.

Then it was time for a cup of coffee, reheating some from last night. I could barely hold the cup. Barely pour the coffee. This after waiting for the anti-inflammatory medication to work --  which it was doing though I was still stiff, still in pain.

Gradually, the stiffness dissipated and the pain lessened sufficiently for me to start typing.

This is pretty much my routine every morning. The mornings are the worst.

They say that the anti-bodies are released in quantity -- and attack the joints, muscles and organs -- while one is sleeping, and that is the reason why mornings can be so difficult for people with rheumatoid arthritis and similar auto-immune conditions.

It can take hours, sometimes all day, to get past the initial problems of just getting up in the morning.

The medication I take is partially effective in controlling the pain and inflammation. I rate it on a percentage basis, 10%-70%. Its effectiveness varies throughout the day and night. Sometimes relief is almost complete, other times it seems like the medication isn't working at all. I am never entirely free of pain. One wrong move, and I get a sharp reminder in my finger, wrist, arm, shoulder that I have a condition and must adapt my movements to that condition, or pay a heavy price in pain for moving the wrong way or too far in the right way.

That means every action has to be thought through in advance.

And I'm learning how many things I can't do anymore or can only do with great difficulty. Opening a can, lifting a 5 gallon water bottle, putting on a long-sleeve shirt, tying shoes, brushing teeth... the list goes on.

Learning, yes. Appreciating what I still can do, too.

I look out the window, and the sky is still blue, the birds still sing, and my heart can and does still soar with joy.