The “dog days of summer” — an escape to the mountains.

The dog days of summer are finally starting to wane the slightest bit here in Charlotte.FullSizeRender-2 That is to say that our high temperatures are hitting around 90 F these days instead 98-100 F. Of course when the humidity is above 70 the days remain hot and sultry which is one definition of dog days. You’ve probably guessed that I don’t fare well in hot weather. It may be something about being a mountain woman.

Imagine my delight when my daughter and granddaughter invited me to go with them to Asheville, NC. I didn’t have to think about it so I set about packing my bag.

We left early on Saturday morning for the mountains.IMG_1033 It’s about a two-hour drive. We were there before lunch and began our shopping/eating frenzy in earnest. Here’s my granddaughter waiting patiently for lunch. We took this trip in her honor because she leaves for her first year at university this week.

How do I describe Asheville? It’s a small, diverse city with many good restaurants, especially if you like being able to eat vegetarian. And I do. While I’m not a vegetarian, I eat very little meat. For beer lovers there are a number of local mini-breweries. I must not forget the Biltmore Estate, and most important of all — the air is cooler up there.

For Saturday dinner my daughter had made a reservation at The Sunny Point Cafe. Before and after our meal IMG_1034we traipsed around the backyard garden behind the restaurant where they grow many of the vegetables and herbs used in their dishes. The menu is varied and there are yummy choices for the most discerning diner, vegetarian or not.

If you click the photo to the right you’ll see a welcome-to-our-garden sign. Upper right, that orange thing is one of several bouncy rides for the children. Perhaps those little bits of entertainment help to minimize destruction of the plants. Perhaps, too, they distract big feet like mine from squashing the plants. Yes, I rode it. Yes, my granddaughter took a picture of me.  No, I’m not going to publish it.

I enjoy taking pictures in vegetable and flower gardens. This is a yellow squash that my mom called patty-pan squash.IMG_1042 I have no idea why she called it that but I liked the name because it’s a form of my name. And sometimes people call me Patty, especially Spanish speakers. In Spanish it’s spelled Pati. Okay, in Spanish it sounds more like potty than Patty but I still like it. I think the diminutive sounds affectionate in both languages.

I was surprised at the number of plants being cultivated in a small space.IMG_1044 It’s a well-tended garden with prolifically producing plants. In addition to squash, we saw grape tomatoes,IMG_1050 heirloom tomatoes, zinnias, nasturtium, sunflowers, rosemary, and on and on.

As you can see here, even their Sunny Point sign looked as if it were growing good stuff.IMG_1049

After lunch on Sunday we make one last stroll through downtown. Granddaughter and I spotted these “southern yoga” t-shirts and had to have them. I love the color. Now I have something to wear on St. Patrick’s Day.

This trip was proof that spontaneous is sometimes the way to go.IMG_1055 We had fun spending time together — lots of laughs. No stress. Good food. Happy shopping. Cool temperatures. Does it get any better than that?

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If you can’t stop my pain, you may as well just shoot me!

pills_variety_crop380wI try to be a pragmatic user of medications. I think we have them for a reason and the reason was all mine when I found myself in rehabilitation and unable to perform the most mundane tasks because of intense pain. Having said that, let me add that I thought I possessed a healthy but wary attitude toward all drugs, especially narcotics. I realize now that my perception of pain-killing opioids was informed by my family of origin which was rife with alcoholism and other drug addictions. My father died of complications from his years of drinking excessively. My brother died of an alcohol and drug overdose. Obviously my viewpoint was skewed.

Over the years of my adulthood I have learned to enjoy an occasional glass of wine, and I once took a Vicodin at the emergency room when I had what we believe was a gall bladder event. Triage sent me home with four tablets and told me perhaps I should take only a half since the whole tablet knocked me silly. I ended up throwing out 3 1/2 of them. That experience didn’t do a thing to quell my fear of drugs. In fact, quite the opposite.  Imagine going from that kind of trepidation about taking pain killers to begging for them back in October after my accident. That’s some serious pain.

I don’t remember exactly how long I lay in that hospital bed without any real help for my pain. I know that the therapists came to my room twice a day and laboriously tried to get me to a sitting position but the pain was agonizing and I couldn’t do it. I told them I needed to see a doctor so they sent one to see me. She said she understood I wanted/needed something for pain. I explained that I had to have something if I were going to be able to get up and get well. She left an order. I don’t know what it was but it helped about as much as an aspirin. Even one of my caregivers told me that was not what I needed; that it was not going to help my kind of pain. More time wasted while my muscles continued to atrophy.

Then I got a stroke of good luck. A staff member stopped by one day and asked me how I was doing. I told her I wasn’t making progress because of the pain. She informed me that there was a doctor on staff (I think fairly new there.) who knew all about pain management. She said, “You need to see him. He’s very good.”

I tried not to get my hopes too high but I asked my daytime nurse (CNA) to ask him to see me the next day. In fact I pleaded, “Don’t let him leave tomorrow until he’s seen me.” She promised she wouldn’t. (I have this mental image of her with a lasso around him, dragging him back down the hall. 🙂 )

I don’t think she had to rope him but by golly he showed up and my rehabilitation took a one-eighty turn and I was on my way back. My relief was palpable.

I’ve thought a great deal about what Dr. H (H is for hero.) does that makes him an effective and outstanding doctor. I’ve recently been back at the facility for additional therapy and I saw him in the gym talking to a patient. She was in a wheelchair. He got down in a squat to look her in the face and talk to her. That’s when it all came flooding back to me. That’s what he does. And much more.

He came into my room, introduced himself, looked me in the eyes and we talked. He listened. What I said mattered. He showed no sign of being in a hurry. I was the only patient he had in that moment. This wasn’t one of those 3-5 minute visits. We talked until we said what we needed to communicate to each other. I understood him. He understood me. He made me a partner in my care. That matters a great deal to me. I monitored my medication about as carefully as he did. And guess what? I’m not addicted. That had been a big concern for me.

Dr. H is very young for one so perfectly attuned to his patients needs and concerns. I believe that medical personnel can be taught a great deal about compassion and patient care. But I don’t believe this doctor had to be taught that aspect of caring. He cares about people. He has a good heart. And it shines as he goes about his work. He’s very good indeed, and I’m enormously grateful.