About DW Rhodes

San Francisco Tour Guide : US Navy Veteran : Life Partner of @coffeesister : Author of numerous books that have not yet been written.

I AM SORT OF DISINTEGRATING, JSYK


As a military veteran here in the United States I am among a select group of US citizens who actually get a form of socialized medicine. It’s called “The Veteran’s Administration” and the Veteran’s Hospital here in San Francisco is a pretty good one.

This is the view of the ocean from the cafeteria of the San Francisco VA Hospital. It’s nice, and it helps you forget that you’re slowly disintegrating, bit by bit, as you eat a cheeseburger and gaze at the sea.

Lately I’ve been going out there several times a month, which has sparked “concerned curiosity” from friends, readers and online social media pals as to the state of my health.

I want to make it clear that I really dislike publicly discussing any health issues, especially online. Honestly, I’d rather talk about Donald Trump’s underwear, but there have been so many health questions lately, I’m just going to write about it here and point any inquiring minds this way.

I’m also going to answer any curiosities as to my other half, Dorian, and clear up some misconceptions. Actually, I’m going to start with her.

DORIAN

Dorian, taking my tour last June. Her purple hair is not a part of her medical condition, she just likes having her hair that way. I like it too. The people behind her are random guests. I have no idea who they are, so let’s call them “Betty and Barney Rubble.”

One evening in late 2018 I had to call an ambulance to take her to the ER because she was doubled over in pain, and couldn’t even walk to the door. Once there and after she’d gotten some pain meds in her, I snapped a pic of her lying on the ER bed. About two months ago, which would be well into 2019, she posted that pic on her Facebook and wrote up something about her health struggles.

In reading comments under her post, I realized how many people did not pay attention. In some comments, it seemed they didn’t read the post at all. “Oh, sorry you’re in the hospital, get well soon!” and stuff like that.

She’d been out of the hospital since October. The post was in March. We both get kind of tired of hearing, “Get well soon!” when it comes to her health issues, because she doesn’t have the flu and she’s not going to get well. We’re just keeping her issues in check and trying to hold her back from slipping off into the bright light while she’s still relatively young.

Dorian someday, but let’s not push it.

Photo by Fröken Fokus on Pexels.com

So let’s clear up that “get well soon” business now, in a nutshell.

For the first 20 years of our togetherness, neither one of us had health care. I was entitled to go to the VA (Veteran’s Administration) but didn’t, simply because I was always in good health and never really had a need to do so.

For her, we went without health insurance because we couldn’t afford it. It seemed that any employer we were with offered premiums at a ridiculously high price, out of range of our income. So despite chronic pain and obvious recurring illnesses, she was uninsured and without a diagnoses for years.

Finally we moved to San Francisco in 2010, and she was able to get on a city plan, that eventually opened up Medi-Cal for her. So now she’s covered, and here’s what’s going on…

She has been diagnosed with Chronic Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Endometriosis and a slew of other fun activities, none of which I had to look up to get the spelling right, BECAUSE I’M THAT USED TO LIVING WITH HER CONDITION NOW.

She’s had three rides to the ER in an ambulance (never the same one, BIG CITY) and she’s had three major surgeries within two years. She struggles daily with extreme chronic pain, and even goes to a pain management group once a week, although she occasionally misses a meeting because she’s in too much pain to leave the apartment.

That’s called “irony.”

Walking long distances is difficult for her, and elongated exertion is impossible. When she’s out and about she uses a cane she has named “Chester” for reasons that elude me.

I do all the cleaning and cooking around here because she’s simply not able to, so it’s a good thing I’m a better cook than cleaner. At least we eat well, even if the apartment is messy most of the time. If my skills were reversed we’d live in a spotless palace, but we’d be malnourished little waifs, barely able to crawl to the door. I do the laundry too but that doesn’t take much skill, thank goodness.

I need to stress for friends, associates and distant family of hers, that Dorian WILL NOT GET BETTER. It’s all about managing her condition and keeping with a pain-management routine along with certain exercises (yoga and similar things), with the goal of giving her as much quality of life as possible.

She has a handful of debilitating conditions, including perpetual sarcasm (I actually kind of like that part) but for the time being, she doesn’t have anything like cancer or MS, that has a timeline of life expectancy. She’s not necessarily worse than she was this time last year, but she’s not better either. And so it goes.

The good news is that she’s been officially recognized as a “Disabled Person” by our government, which means she gets all kinds of services now, and possibly some supplemental income, but that’s a bit down the road yet. She has an appointment concerning that issue coming up in the next few weeks.

However, we can now get a blue handicapped parking placard for her! WOW! That’d be great, if we had a car. She was advised to apply for one anyway, so that if someone takes her to run errands, she can use it with their vehicle and they can park right in front of the strip club grocery store for her.

So, PLEASE… don’t say to her, “Get well soon!” unless you know she actually has the flu. Okay, now it’s my turn.

ME

ME, circa 1982 and ME, about 5 years ago
ME, circa 1982 and ME, about 5 years ago. The guy on the left is who I’d like you to remember. The guy on the right has already had way too many cheeseburgers.

I’ll be sixty this coming June, so little things are starting to pop-up that kind of go with the territory, and by that I mean NOT eating healthy over the years (Damn, I love fried chicken), NOT working out (EVER, but I do run in place while in elevators) and smoking (except I quit about 25 years ago.)

Some odd things have developed with me physically over the past couple of years, so here’s where I stand…

My lungs are kind of stressed and are not in the greatest shape. There is no diagnosis yet except for bronchial asthma, but that’s just a part of it. A CT scan found some lung damage, more on the right side than the left. I am easily winded, and extended exertion leaves me gasping for air and nearly unconscious.

I’m not able to smoke anything (cannabis or, well… anything) and I can’t be in the vicinity of smokers. It makes me ill. I even got medical clearance to work limited hours at my job because it requires a lot of exertion and going up/down the stairway of a double/deck bus all day. This is kind of a drawback because I don’t get the hours I’d like, and we barely make rent.

I’m thinking that when I finally have to graduate to a portable oxygen tank and lug it around town, I’m going to strap it to my side, put a doll’s head on it, dress it in boy’s size clothes and tell everyone it’s my conjoined twin, “Danny.” I figure no matter how bleak things look, I might as well make the best of it.

I went to the VA today and they put a heart monitor thingy on me that I have to wear for two weeks. Whenever I feel a palpitation or skipping, I’m to hit a little button so it will mark it for the cardiologist.

When the lady was taping this thingy on me today, I told her that my cardiologist is now going to know every time I watch the new Taylor Swift video, because she makes my heart swell! Then again, so does fried chicken and I can’t have that anymore either.



The main reason the cardiologist ordered up the heart monitor thingy is… are you ready?

I HAVE AN ENLARGED AORTA!

So, the good news is that now I can boast about having the largest aorta on the block. I blame Miss Tay, because I’m not kidding when I said she makes my heart swell. HUSH, LORNA*

For the uninitiated and my stoner friends, here is what an aorta is, thanks to MedicineNet.com

The aorta is the largest artery in the body. The aorta begins at the top of the left ventricle, the heart’s muscular pumping chamber. The heart pumps blood from the left ventricle into the aorta through the aortic

valve.

Also I’d mentioned frequent skipping and weirdness that’s been happening for a while, and I don’t know if that has anything to do with the “enlarged aorta,” because I’m not a cardiologist, I’m a tour guide. Let’s see my cardiologist describe the history and wonder of the California Gold Rush, betcha he can’t, neener neener!

The bad news is, my primary doctor said the other day that I’m “at moderate to higher risk for sudden cardiac event (heart attack, folks). The good news is, it hasn’t happened yet. So here I am.

In a strange bit of synchronicity, Dorian got a little heart monitor thingy taped to her chest two weeks ago, and today is the day she gets to rip it off, fill out a questionnaire and return it in the mail, the same day I got my heart monitor thingy taped to my chest. In two weeks I’m to rip it off, fill out a questionnaire and return it in the mail.

Weird stuff like that happens to us all the time. We even share some ailments now! We’re really soulmates in the truest sense.

So that’s where it all stands. Like Dorian, I don’t have any alarming diagnosis such as cancer or MS, which I’m really happy about, so I’m just going to take my meds, which mostly consist of a lung treatment inhalation therapy, and do everything they tell me, in an attempt to remain a helper and soulmate to my other half for as long as possible.

We’re enjoying life, although we slog through it with a degree of pain and discomfort (way more pain for her), so we just do the best we can, take what comes and try to have a laugh or two along the way.

Dorian, “Chester” and me at the Castro Subway Station in San Francisco.

So now, as much as we appreciate caring, concerned and kind folk from all walks of life, could you please stop asking us about this stuff, and can we talk about something else? Just not Donald Trump’s underwear. Eww.

And with that, have a wonderful day!


*Lorna is my pal, but she shakes her finger at my Taylor Swift obsession, while I shake my finger at her Johnny Depp obsession.