Bird on a Wire or Maybe a Handrail

Quiet moments in the middle of the night.

Recently, a friend reminded me of the 1990 movie featuring Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn called Bird on a Wire.  bird on a wireIf you haven’t seen the movie, imagine Witness Protection client Gibson going on the run when his identity is discovered (partly through what is supposed to be Wisconsin — including a hilarious chase scene in faux Racine).  Gibson connects with old girlfriend played by Hawn, bullets follow laughter as they make their way to safety.  They don’t save the world but it’s still a fun movie. However, with all the attention being paid to my heart I have been thinking a little about the visual of a bird on a wire.

file photo

file photo

There’s something fascinating about how birds achieve balance on what appear to be the most delicate of  perches in all manner of weather and wind. Whether it’s a wire that they have chosen or a wispy branch they rarely seem off balance.  I’ve seen them light on a branch, realize it’s not heavy enough, and take off right away, but I can’t recall ever seeing a bird fall off it’s perch.


From South Padre Island, in 2013

Humans, on the other hand, are not quite as graceful.  Not even the most graceful and skilled of us.  I’ve seen quite of few of us fall!  Heck — I did it this past summer!  And I admit that I often feel like life is a great balancing challenge.

I have never been very coordinated — as in sports and gymnastics — even though I went to gymnastics class after school for a few years.  I tried and tried but I just never got very good.  I’d never be a tightrope walker, but sometimes I feel more like I’m balancing on a railing like this heron.  It’s not quite as precarious, but one still needs to pay attention!  Womens’ Gymnastics were on TV last weekend (I think it was last weekend)balance beam. Anyway… watching young folks do all those maneuvers on a 4 inch wide beam boggles my mind. I sucked on the beam.  I was pretty good on the parallel bars.  And I hated the rings.

As a Christian I have been conscious of my mortality for decades, my own conversion was a stunning (to me) point in my life.  They say that when a person comes in contact with their own mortality they are forever changed. For me, the events of the past couple weeks take that sensation to a different level.  Being told I have the same kind of condition that causes young, trained athletes to drop dead on the playing field is a wakeup call.  For those to whom it happens they almost always are unaware that they have it.  For myself, I have the advantage of knowing and having good professionals to help me deal with it.

I am a lifelong control freak. During my hospital stay last weekend I became part of a conversation which, perhaps, a patient might not be part of.  I happened to be talking with the nurse when the doctor called in to talk with the nurse and commented to her that the insurance company was objecting to paying for certain meds they were prescribing for me…

Now, not only am I a control freak, I’m also a process guy.  I have always needed to understand how things are going to be done.  What’s  involved?  How longWhy? It’s part of my makeup.  Which explains why I’m the route planner in the family.  And the researcher.  But as for that conversation, I should not have heard that what was going on in the background because my anxiety levels went up through the roof.  I’ve never been great about trusting other people.  My experience of teams and group behavior has not been all that great.  And in a couple cases I have been hurt terribly by the failure of others to perform.  Not lost limb or catastrophic body injury terrible,  but emotionally devastated.The next time I got a chance to speak with the doctor I referenced his conversation with my nurse and we talked for quite a while.  I wanted to understand my options if this combination of meds was refused or if it just didn’t accomplish the end result.  CardiacCatheterization-lgopen-heart-surgery-incision-diagramAs he talked about doing a heart catheterization intended to induce a heart attack that would shrink the problem or open heart surgery where they would cut out tissue from within the heart the seriousness of the condition finally began to sink in.

Clearly, the addressing the problem using meds was a much to be preferred starting off point and the idea that this option might be off the table made me angry, not frightened. And the idea that both of the alternatives were choices that would force me to trust the team of doctors & nurses with my life brought me up shortOpen Heart Surgery(2).  But I realized something while letting all this information sink in. That was that I really did have confidence in the medical team that is caring for me.  For me, that was a huge realization.  Suddenly, instead of perching on a wire, or even a railing for a 4” balance beam — I was walking down a wide sidewalk or a freeway.  What a feeling of peace overcame me.

The reality that I can’t do a lot to change what the cells in my body to beyond being reasonably careful about diet, exercise, and living intelligently — and if anyone can do anything to extend my natural lifespan it will be someone else — well, knowing I am not driving the bus sort of freed me.  Which make absolutely no rational sense for a control freak — but there you have it — I’m not always rational.


As you know, the insurance company finally agreed to the meds,  I went home with a small supply,  I’ll get scripts to last me through the year and we’ll get to work on watching the waistline. I still have to go into the office on Friday for another EKG and a ‘mini’ echocardiogram to monitor the effect of the meds.

In the meantime, we have a few weeks to spend here and I’m pondering ideas for day trips.  I have yet to replace that water line that leaked over the weekend.  And I haven’t yet finished the MiFi changes — I have plenty to do — all I need is the motivation to get around to all of the items on the list.


I know there’s not much about RV’ing lately — but life isn’t monotoned and we don’t get to predict how it’s going to play out.  Thanks for stopping by today, and what say we talk tomorrow.

20 thoughts on “Bird on a Wire or Maybe a Handrail

  1. As soon as I saw the title, I chuckled to myself “Detroit-Racine Ferry” with the mountains in the background…and I remembered our conversation. :). I’m right with you on actual balance…as a matter of fact, I look more like the Aflac duck in yoga class.

    Very perceptive post, Peter. It makes me wonder if the decision makers at the insurance companies ever think of their elders when making financial decisions for the company. With that said, it is what it is…and it becomes a process to bring about the type of result you were able to achieve. Good job on making your resolve bigger than theirs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jim, Yeah — you’re having reminded me of the movie started that whole post! I’m just glad I have good people at bat for me.
      And let’s face it… the only they the insurers really want is to turn a profit for their boss. Pure and simple.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A good reminder post of why, as patients, we need to keep asking questions that help us to really understand what is going on. We can’t just leave medical decisions to doctors or insurance companies!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Margie! Did you ever say a Mouthful!

      We had a horrible experience of medical care in connection with Peg’s dad. I vowed that I would never be the patient without someone to advocate for them — or do it myself — and I tend to question every step along the way… Unfortunately I know little enough about medicine so that even when I think I’ve asked enough questions I sometimes find myself still wondering what’s going on, but it’s infinitely better than had I not asked! and badgered! and insisted. Boy are you ever right.


      1. We don’t really think about how important a patient advocate is until we have something serious to contend with!
        In our family we might only have one advocate who accompanies our patient to a specialist’s office, but afterwards we send out an update of information to the whole family, and even a few friends. And we also talk to our family doctor. This group invariably broadens our knowledge and suggests things we’ve missed.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I like that idea of keeping the whole family informed. We aren’t such a large family so we only have our daughter to keep informed and I do that by phone right ever an event — and she does it for us right after an event as well.
        Unfortunately we don’t get a lot of feedback with such a small group. 🙂


  3. It’s interesting how some doctors are so good at what they do, how they relay that info to you so that you understand and in doing so, open the door for you to relinquish your control to them with confidence. Rick’s second knee doctor was that way. After talking to him for just a short time, we realized the other doctor’s surgery would not have helped Rick.

    The previous one, made us feel like we were just another number in the queue. Had it not been his habit to overbook and run hours late on surgeries Rick would have gone into surgery for an unnecessary procedure, resulting in lots of pain and months of rehab for nothing. That doctor’s habit of overbooking was fortuitous. Rick decided after several hours in pre-op with the place beginning to close for the day..he was not going to stay for the surgery, and left. This allowed us time to find the right doctor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t it like our previous discussion about waitresses. There are people who do their job excellently. And there are people who barely qualify. The differences can be astounding.
      That said, I don’t believe in EVER really relinquishing control. The medical system is designed to provide services — that’s what they do. The choice of whether the service is right for you is a choice only you can and should make. — so yeah — I can see that sometimes a surgeon might not be right for various patients. That’s the case with our S-I-L Mike. He had his 4th surgery on his foot and we all think that the guy who did it was not the right doctor or procedure for what he needed. Yesterday he went in to see a pain management guy and had his first treatment to see if that might help but he could very likely end up having to have that foot amputated. Sigh. All because he would not let to a table saw he was carrying down the stairs.
      I’m so glad that Rick had the sense to realize that his situation was not the one he wanted to be in. Takes real guts to make that decision when you’re sitting in Pre-Op! Kudos to Rick. He’s my new hero! 🙂


      1. LOL! He wasn’t very hero like when he did it, but he didn’t rip their heads off in the process which is saying a lot. I’m not sure if I could have done it. I hope so…and I am glad he did.

        One of my clients/friends is a hyper micromanaging wife of a surgeon. She is cautious to the extreme, wants the very best doctors to work on her, tends to drive docs a bit crazy at times but she does seem to know what she’s taking about and most importantly, she knows her body…when it’s working right and when it’s not and what makes it better and what does not…now add EXTREME to all those. Many times she has dealt with professionals who said there was nothing wrong and she persisted and insisted until lo and behold, they found it. Between this friend and another client who is a nurse anesthetist and is more matter of fact, having a clear understanding of the doctor/patient relationship I have learned that I am the client, I can choose my doctor, and I have learned that it’s up to me to ask questions so I understand.

        The first one helped me find the best doctor for Rick and the second coached me on how to request a different doctor since all of this specialist come from the same office.

        Nobody teaches people these things and I see so many people following the lead of the professionals without understanding why or that they have any choice. Often what happens is that the doctors have such poor ability to break procedures down simply and patients are overwhelmed with a lot of medical terms they don’t understand.

        In Rick’s case, his ex was a nurse and did all the arrangements for him, choosing the good guys. As much as he disliked her, he always felt she was an excellent nurse and felt confident enough in her choices not to question. Having always had excellent care he put more credit in the credentials than he should have and went with the flow…which as we found out later, happened to be going in the wrong direction.

        I am really sad to hear SIL is in such poor shape. Good that he is getting pain management. Has he seen a DIFFERENT doctor at all? He is looking at some awful possibilities.


      2. ROFL!!!!!

        Not ripping heads off is a good thing; though at least he was in hospital where they could have received prompt first aid!

        Yeah — see, that ‘knowing your body’ thing is a good thing. I seem to find medical staff surprised that I can verbalize what is, or has been happening. I think so many people either don’t tell their medical caretakers what’s going on or don’t know. As a result I seem to find people taken aback when I go through the litany of what’s what.

        Then again, like this heart thing, I really have been asymptomatic and it was my turn to be a little confused because they were finding things that had no place in my experience — so it was a good experience for me to go through — seeing the other side.

        I think we have the same situ in terms of all of the same specialists coming from the same office even though MKE is a much larger metropolitan area.

        Not only do medical people not teach people the importance of understanding, of choice, and of personal preference they have some vested interest in the public not knowing their rights. After all, and I say this with no animosity, they were taught to provide a service. They are there to do what they were trained to do. It’s a waste of their time to do nothing more than talk to people — they don’t get paid for doing that. They get paid for doing something. (slight exaggeration for effect — of course they get their consultation fee, but specialists have a vested interest in going further than an exam).

        I’m not sure I would be as outspoken if it were not for our experience with Peg’s dad. Being with him for those 12 weeks and watching his decline and the inability of medicine to address the issues at the heart of his problem really struck home. Now I would never go into hospital without someone there to ask and question and doubt. That is so important because like our politicians the doctors live in a kind of artificial world — specially in a teaching hospital.

        Yeah — Mike has seen several doctors. The problem in his case is that there are very few instances of multiple foot fractures like he experienced and there simply aren’t many surgeons capable of dealing with that many fractures in so many small bones in such a small space. He’s got a lot of hardware in that foot and in this cold weather, and being a guy who’s on his feet so much it’s just a bad case scenario.

        We are optimistic that the pain management guy may be better —this is someone Kathryn found through her work for an anesthesiologists billing company. She asked around and the doctors she deals with actually found this guy for her. We’re optimistic about what he can do, but the question is really whether this is just a stop-gap until an inevitable. We’re all thinking positive; but know that we’re up against unfavorable odd.

        So, we’re just along for the ride. 🙂



  4. Oh man – between reading your post and the comments, I’m not even sure what I want to say. I’m fortunate to have a Lawyer husband with professional relationships granting access to top doctors. Don’t know about the U.S. but in Canada a family doctor or clinic has to refer patients to specialists. My family/friends tell our family physician which specialist we want to see. My point being – most people don’t realize they have a choice or say in their care. Far too many people are afraid to speak up or seek a second opinion.

    A thought on SIL – this might sound absurd, but has anyone suggested leeches? Draconian as it sounds, leeches for pain management has merit. 🙂


    1. Ponder,

      Our current healthcare plan DOES allow us to select our own caregiver for which we are incredibly thankful. And I have rejected a few doctors in the past, as recently as 2 months ago. You are right in which you say — 100% right!

      I’m sure that Katy and Mike have NOT considered leeches. I’m sure I can say with assurance that’s not something they would have ever thought about. Wonder where a practitioner might be found who uses them? Hmmmmm….

      I’m sure Katy will see your comment, perhaps we’ll have a conversation. Somehow I’m not sure if Michael would consider it — as much as we love him he can be a stubborn guy — which isn’t always a bad thing.

      Thanks for your concern. I’m always touched when people care enough to think something through and offer ideas.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. A few years ago a friend was having horrible complications from Diabetes. Doctors were talking about amputating his leg above the knee. I can’t recall how leeches appeared one day on that leg – I do know those bloodsuckers increased circulation and saved his leg. 🙂


      2. I don’t know…. the problem is with pain most probably related to all the hardware inside his foot and the fact that the bones aren’t stable and appear not to be able to be MADE STABLE.

        Not so much a circulation issue as a hard-pokey-object-irritating-angry-flesh problem.


        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah — It’s kind of hard grasping just how badly he messed his foot up. The last was the 4th surgery. The first doctor told him straight up that this sort of multiple break is rarely recovered from — just too many small bones and too hard to effect a repair — and add that to the fact that M isn’t the kind to sit still and let something heal …. well, at the very outset the doctor had already talked about amputation because of the unlikely ability to give him a pain free foot to walk on. Difficult thing to live with day by day for sure.


      4. Difficult yes – catastrophic, no.Quality of life far out weighs one less foot. Prosthetics have come a long way since the old peg leg (no pun intended). Hopefully he finds relief before it comes to that, I can’t imagine what he’s going through.:)

        Liked by 1 person

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