Photos and Words of Patrick Calder

I live in Washington, DC with 1 cat named Pixel, 6 cameras, 3 computers, 158 movies, 286 books, and 1 bowling pin. I own the Design Foundry and pretend to be a graphic designer by day.

exercise / July 7, 2010 / Comment on this

I think we can safely assume that Gawd does not want me to exercise.
We can start with the last time I tried to start eating healthy, and wound up in a hospital on a restricted diet, for ‘unrelated reasons’.
For a couple weeks, I’ve been considering getting back into exercising. Last week I confirmed that I could use the gym in my building. Over the weekend, too much was happening to ever get down there. I was finally ready last night, when I had my little adventure on my way home. I had neither the time nor ambition afterwards to exercise.
Today, I change my clothes. I put on my sneakers. I walk out the door. Then, I realize I forgot my iPod. (I get bored ridiculously easily). I was not 15 feet down the hall, so I turn around and put the key in the door, and nothing happens. Huh? I try again. And again. It’s simply not working. Key goes in, but nothing happens. I check to make sure I’m at the right apartment, even though I’ve been coming to this door for over 12 years. It’s just not working. The front desk worker gives me the spare keys, but they don’t work either.
Gawd does not want me to exercise.
I did get in, eventually. I did go exercise. I am walking funny. You’re telling me I only have to keep doing this for another 60 years?

lovenox / March 17, 2010 / Comment on this

I just threw away $600.

Sort of.

I finally tossed out my leftover Lovenox syringes. After paying $1,200 for the full prescription, (no insurance), I had some difficulty with the idea of throwing away half of them when I didn’t need them. I knew there was no way I’d ever need them. But still.

I even tried donating them, back when they were new, to the public health center. But they never got back to me.

So they sat there for a while… out of sight, out of mind.

$120 per injection. Twice a day. 5 dosages. Gone.

vanity / July 27, 2008 / Comment on this

I guess I have lost weight again. I was a little worried, with the way I’d been eating lately, that I might start putting weight back on. A couple years ago, health problems had caused me to lose weight, which once it stabilized, was a good thing. But now, I haven’t weighed this little since my Junior year of college.
Before: 185-195 lbs.
After: 175 lbs.
Today: 168 lbs.
(According to those charts based on build and height, my ideal midrange weight is 175lbs.)
This random useless trivia has been brought to you by the letter V and the number 32.

clean / December 9, 2007 / Comment on this

Today was a good day.
Last September, when I was checking out of the hospital, the doctors mentioned in passing that whole testing me for everything under the sun, they also saw something in my other lung. They didn’t know what it was. But they were “fairly certain it’s nothing”. Just in case, though, I should have it checked out again in about a year.
So while being able to walk and stand and breath again was all good, I’ve spent the last year wondering if I was just getting better so I could die of lung cancer.
But today I went to the same doctor who took care of me last winter, and he looked at my tests and tells me not only are my lungs clear, but I was in better health than I could have been after last year’s fun.
I feel better.

The Last Day / March 20, 2007 / Comment on this

Thanks to everyone who came out to RFD tonight, for the mini-celebration. I took my last pill over dinner.
Thanks to everyone who helped me and offered kind words or entertainment while I was less-than-optimal.
Thanks to Bryan and Sarah for rides to and from the hospital, and waiting for ridiculous hours.
Thanks to Shannon for bringing me groceries.
Thanks to whoever it was that brought me cat food and cash for the taxi-rides. (Hey… I was probably hopped up on Percocet when you came by).
Thanks to Drew for bringing me said Percocet.
Thanks to Percocet for making it possible for me to change the cat’s litter box.
I don’t know what to say about the illness itself. There was incredible discomfort. But no giant shooting pains like some overly melodramatic movie. Just an inability to do things. Like… walk or shower. But I got to make doctors nervous. Really cool, because so often it’s the other way around.
But it happened, it was found, treated, and went away. And other than an increased likelihood of it happening again, and a big hole in my bank account, it leaves no sign it was here.
The treatment was much worse than the disease. But I survived that just as well, if slightly slower. I learned my body knows more than the doctors do. And nobody really knows shit about how to react to embolisms. But like every other trial in my life, I came through stronger than I started, and even more motivated. And I was able to conquer a little bit of that fear every person living alone has, of being incapacitated and helpless. And anyone with back injuries or severe pain has my unending sympathy. I don’t know if I ever felt greater joy and freedom than when I was once again able to walk around the block.
And now I hope… I plan… I’ll try… to stop talking about it. I feel like it’s the only thing of interest in my life for… ever, now. I don’t want next year’s “year in pictures” to consist of lots and lots of pill bottles and bored looking people.

Death and Dying and Really Good Drugs / January 26, 2007 / Comment on this

I’ve been thinking the last few days about hospitals and doctors and mortality and all that.
It kind of freaked me out, and surprised me when I realized last night that in my core family of 4 people, 3 of us had unrelated life-threatening conditions in the last six months. My father was in the hospital for continuing health problems, largely based around his lungs. My mother had several embolisms following a surgery. And around the same time, I also had a pulmonary embolism, though — as far as I know — with much less severe results than my mother. (They actually told her that she nearly died, whereas all they gave me was a syringe full of the good stuff and a bottle to pee in.) So I went to sleep last night thinking that my sister must hate us all, for trying to leave her here by herself. That could have been a seriously bad year for her.
It’s not a particularly bad sign for my family’s genetics or anything. My father has abused his body for decades before it truly started to give out. And my mother’s embolisms were a common side-effect of unrelated surgery. And me… they never did tell if they figured out what caused my problem.
But again, nothing to obsess about. We all came through, leaving us pretty much back where we started. Everybody over the age of 20 worries about losing their parents. But as for myself, I still can’t help but think I’m immortal. I just can’t imagine myself having a drop-dead condition… ever.
*knock on wood*
But this is probably what led me to thinking about doctors and hospitals, while I was showering this morning. And I realized what a truly bad track record I have at GWU Hospital. When I went in with a broken ankle, they were positive I had broken it before, and that all they were seeing on the x-ray was the previous fracture. (I hadn’t, and they weren’t). When i last had fluid in my lungs, they were at first sure the chest pains must have been indigestion. They even gave me that green antacid stuff. Until they finally did the CT scan and found the fluid. And this last time, they were getting mad at me for being in too much pain to lie down for the CT scan. Hello! I had a condition so severe apparently that you wouldn’t even let me stand up to pee! Severe pain under reproducible circumstances… I know you learned about this somewhere! And the second trip to the hospital recently was completely useless except to confirm that no, I didn’t have internal bleeding, and that yes, I realllllllly appreciate Percocet. Everyone was worried I would become addicted to the stuff and abuse it. Never even came close. But lord, was it a god-send when I needed to get anything done.
My complete lack of strong reaction or appreciation for drugs recently kind of makes me wonder about alcohol. Certainly one of the big reasons I never had a drink was because more than one person in my family had an overly-strong appreciation for it. But with the non-reaction to the drugs, I wonder whether I would have any particular reaction to the alcohol. But of course, what still keeps me from drinking isn’t the fear of alcoholism, so much as the momentum. I’m willing to drink, but under what conditions will you allow yourself to have that first drink? Who do you trust yourself around? And where? And when?
I do think to much. Did I mention that?

Stupid sick. / November 14, 2006 / Comment on this

It’s stupid. There’s nothing about being sick that isn’t ridiculous or stupid.
I get struck out of nowhere with a condition abnormal for someone in my age and fitness, and the doctor’s can find any cause. And it can’t just be a run of the mill thing. It’s got to be something that could of knocked me dead if not for … nothing in particular. A little blood clot gets stuck… somewhere. No rhyme or reason.
The doctors treat me, and yes the pain is goes away and they give me drugs to keep it that way. Drugs which affect me more strongly than my doctor has ever seen in anyone else. To the point where for three-plus weeks, I can’t stand, walk, carry, or roll over without being in extreme pain. This is all caused by the drugs meant to save my life.
(Incidentally, what moron at the drug store puts the heating pads on the bottom shelf where you have to bend to reach them? Took me 5 minutes to work up the energy and will to grab one, after giving up on a store clerk coming by.)
When my back does mostly stop hurting, it takes another week or two before I can even walk strait, because the rest of my body is recovering from the stress it was under. There’s a 104 year old woman living in my building who could have beat me in any race.
I have to pay for these drugs. And probably much much more, since Medicaid refused to help me with the hospital bills, for reasons only a lifetime bureaucrat could comprehend. So I will spend the next few years mailing the hospital some obscenely large checks. Checks which will make it unlikely that I can afford to get insurance. The lack of which is kind of what got me here in the first place.
And while I loath the thought of taking these drugs through next spring, the thought that’s already gnawing at me is “what happens after I stop the drugs?” No one knows what caused this last time.
I’m not depressed or in shock or whatnot. These aren’t even the worst thoughts I’ve had. But I’ve been trying for a while now to put them into written words. So yeah… now that’s done.

Health Update / October 10, 2006 / Comment on this

I realize I haven’t actually provided any substantial update on my condition since the night I got home from my first trip to the hospital. And that one was written under the heavy influence of Percocet.
The first couple days back were as fine as could be expected. The pain in my side was still there, but at least I knew it would go away. Those injections in my stomach freaked me out on a regular schedule, (twice a day). But I had no trouble getting work done around the house, and I could walk around the neighborhood enough to run errands and look for a doctor.
Doctors and medicine in DC are scary. The hospital is probably still totaling up all the money I owe them. And when it came time to find a doctor out in the real work to perform regular blood work for the next six months, well…
They gave me a list of places I could supposedly get the work done. Like everything else done by the hospital once I told them I didn’t have insurance, they seemed to assume I’m destitute. The list of doctors was actually a list of DC’s public health centers. I knew it was a bad sign when the pictures of their facilities on their own website scared me. But after consulting with a lifetime DC resident, I learned that there was really only one of the centers where I was more likely to be treated than shot. And visiting there, I really wasn’t so sure about that. Despite my assurances that I would likely be dead by then from unregulated drug usage, a screener told me that I couldn’t get any treatment without a complete physical, the first appointment for which was two months hence.
I went home, and did something that feels increasingly abnormal in this information age. I asked a neighbor for a recommendation on a local doctor. Quick as that, they gave me a phone number, and I had an appointment scheduled–for the next day–within the hour with no hassle. A doctor who turned out to be a pulmonary specialist, and was very understanding about the money.
Of course, no matter how good the doctor is, it doesn’t guarantee how my body will react. Just days after leaving the hospital, I had a sore backside, that made sitting uncomfortable. The news from the doctor was that my medicine was actually over-effective, and needed reigning in. Despite regulation, my “INR” continued to climb beyond the desired range, and the pain in my lower back followed along the same path. Soon enough I was able only to spend all day on my back. Every attempt to stand meant excruciating pain shooting up my back, and dull pain increasing the longer I was on my feet.
By the time it got to the point where I nearly passed out while trying to stand one morning, I was paranoid enough to be ready to visit the ER again. (It was a weekend, and the doctor was closed). Bryan was more than generous in offering to take me there, and waiting a ridiculous amount of time for me. Despite numerous expensive tests, they found nothing, which came as quite a relief, given that internal bleeding is a side effect of the drugs I’m now on. I left the hospital for the second time, with a prescription for pain killers.
Life since then has revolved around trying to find the best way to accomplish everything in life while horizontal on the couch. Standing up involved a long drawn-out process, and was kept to a minimum, occasionally accompanied by Percocet. As recently as last Thursday, any trip further than the front door involved a taxi cab, and considerable recovery time. And that’s mostly my life for about 2 weeks. Sleeping, working on my laptop. Lots of bad TV and podcasts. And the big excursion once a day to check my mail.
It’s not all bad. If people are to be believed, this was all a great diet regimen, since everyone’s saying i look thinner. Dunno how that could be considering how much ice cream Shannon brought me. *shrug*
I have been slowly getting better. The big aches and pains disappeared fairly quickly once my drugs were balanced. And the lower level stuff has been slowly working it’s way out. Last Friday, I started taking walks. Just a block or two the first day, and then getting longer. Today I was actually able to go to a lunch meeting and run some errands, with only some twinges. Sitting in chairs is still not easy, but it’s getting there.
By next week, I’ll probably (*knock on wood*) be relatively back to normal. I can and probably will still feel the tightness in my side from the original clot, but without pain. And I lose my breath more easily, presumably due to thinner blood. My biggest complaint, though, is the prohibition on fruits and vegetables. (Though given the stories on the news lately….).
I do want to thank Sarah, Bryan, and Shannon for all their help; and everyone else for their offers.
If I knew all this could be caused by spending the day with Vail…. 🙂

weak… week / September 17, 2006 / Comment on this

I just stabbed myself in the stomach for the first time at home. These tiny little needles, that cost ohhhhhh so fucking much money.
See, earlier this week, while out with friends, my shoulder and side started to bother me. Not particularly bad, but uncomfortable. For all I knew, I could have slept on it wrong, as I often wake up in contorted positions with my cat curled up in the empty space. But, no. Not really. It got worse throughout the day. And by the next time I went to take a shower, it hurt too much to just stand there leaning on the wall. But I spent a long time resting in as neutral a position as I could find, and my body felt better. I actually slept comfortably that night, and was sure the worst had passed. Until. I woke up with my arm across my side and stabbing pain beneath it. I tried the whole comfort thing again, but my body reallllllllly wasn’t falling for it this time. By the time a scheduled meeting came around, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the walk 6 blocks over to it, I decided that was the sign for me to go to the hospital.
In that gotta-see-the-car-crash-bodies kind-of way, I like that I can walk into a hospital and tell them I’m having debilitating chest pains, and they had me a clip board and ask me to sit about three hours in the waiting room. My one real comfort was that there was not even a discussion about the lack of health insurance; an argument I’d been building up steam for.
This was also the first place where I really experienced a feeling that would stick with me the entire time I was in the hospital. The only symptom of my soon-to-be-diagnosed problem was a pain in my side, (the shoulder pain disappeared). But if I slouched down just a bit while sitting, I didn’t feel a thing. So in full couch-potato mode, I’m as normal as I ever am. But I can almost hear the meter running, ringing up ungodly charges and bills. All while, if I’m smart, I don’t feel a thing, I’m really suffering from a serious condition. It’s a hard conflict to wrap your head around.
But you know, I do get past the double doors into the ER proper, where they run the standard battery of tests… x-rays and blood tests and such. And of course, as with any chest problem, they want to run a CT scan. (Yup… there goes another $3,000). But you know… chest problems usually mean, at least for me, that I cannot lie down flat. I really tried. And the CT tech was unbelievably patient. But I just curled up into a little fetal ball of pain every time I tried. And the initial painkiller they gave me was just enough to shave off the irrational part of the pain. So now I was perfectly conscious and able to force myself to feel giant stabbing forces in my side. Okay… maybe not “able”. But then they came in with the reallllllly big tube, with all the glowy lights and pink sparkles in it. And the nurse wasn’t even halfway done injecting it into my IV yet, when it started to wash over me. I entire body felt like it was being slowly drenched in a vat of TV static. White noise just washed through my brain, and all I could do was put my hands over my face and wait for my head to melt. I can’t really say too much about the rest of that night, because it was mostly experienced through occasional blurry glimpses of just one eye at a time. But I do remember feeling nothing at all by the time we got around to the CT scan again. And I kind of floated around the first floor for a few hours before they wheeled me upstairs and put me to bed.
By the time they woke me up to finish off the paper work now that I was no longer stoned, they reminded me I had a pulmonary embolism—a blood clot in my left lung.
And then they jabbed me in the stomach with my first needle. Which really doesn’t hurt anywhere near as much as you’d think. Although it does still freak me the fuck out every time it happens. But that was really the highlight of the rest of my week. I spent the next three days reading, watching CNN, and sleeping. Phone call from a relative every 2 hours. Blood pressure/temperature/pulse-ox every 4 hours. Needle in the gut every 12. Pill every 24.
But as I said, I’m sitting in bed, feeling mostly in perfect health, knowing I could have died. And every day, they doctors tell me I will go home. Until they disappear after their shift, and I’m still there. Without knowing how long my sentence was for, I couldn’t make long term plans, for clothes, or entertainment, or work. I barely got my cat fed.
And that was it. A surreal, distant environment and situation, with no tangible control or end. Surreal enough to change every day. It started off hotel quiet, with just the occasional obligatory stranger walking down the hall. That turned into a day of Law and Order, listening to my neighbor beg for pain pills at 3 AM. And finishing it off last night with groups of incredibly cheerful yuppies being supportive of each-other.
(Just one angel, visited me on the third day with gifts of chocolate and magazines.)
But this morning, they sprang me. It just sort of nonchalantly happened. One minute I’m being poked and prodded, and almost literally the next, I’m free to go. (Except, of course, since I was stoned off my ass when they brought me in, I didn’t know where I actually was). And all of the sudden, surreality shifts again. And I can’t help suddenly noticing how disturbingly real the outside world is. And it’s dirty. And the people aren’t very bright. And I’m incredibly conscious of every tainted breath I take with my faulty lungs. And while the pains in my side are still around, just waiting for me to turn the wrong way, I feel immensely better than the day I checked in. But since I’ve only been sitting on my ass for the last 3 or 4 days, I don’t know if even the exertion of getting my prescriptions filled will wear me down so much I won’t be able to make it home. (Admittedly, many of these thoughts dissipated quickly when I got a bill of over $1,300 for 1 week’s worth of drugs. I am sooooooo incredibly screwed).
But I’m home again. And Pixel is content. My life is now so incredibly fucked up and in trouble, but I’m tired beyond belief and a bit staggered by all this. So for just these few minutes, I’m smiling and walking around bare-foot.

Sunburn and Cystic Fibrosis / April 7, 2002 / Comment on this

The sun has finally come back. It brings a different air to the day. When the businesses all close, and the nightlife starts to grow, and the sun hasn’t set yet, life seems a lot less hectic and much more fun. Warm weather, humidity, and sunburns are surely just a step away.

If you don’t have something new to say, step away from the microphone.

I met a beautiful girl last night.It was unexpected luck, since I was in the hospital. My manhood was still intact when I met her, despite the rainbow colored hospital gown I was wearing. Her’s matched. We shared maladies made fun of the doctors.
I was shocked though, when the doctor came up to talk with her, and asked her about her cystic fibrosis & diabetes. Being the typical ignorant American I am, I knew next to nothing about the disease. Simply that it is rather serious and genetically inherited. In my mind, it was much like Down Syndrome and Multiple Sclorosis.
So how could this perfectly normal girl, beautiful, intelligent, funny… have such a disease?
Unfortunatly she was released about the time they told me I should get a CAT-scan. She offered me a fruit rollup and said goodbye.
After being poked, prodded, and spit up on, I was released, and went back to my apartment to look up the deifinition of Cystic Fibrosis.
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a chronic, progressive condition that primarily affects the body’s respiratory and digestive systems. It is due to a gene defect that causes the body to produce abnormally thick mucous.
Approximately 30,000 children and young adults in the U.S. have CF. One in 31 Americans carries an abnormal copy of the CF gene but isn’t sick with the disease. You must have two abnormal copies of the gene, one from your mother and one from your father, to have cystic fibrosis.

— WebMD

Hardly the brain melter I was expecting. Makes for a difficult life, no doubt. Which only makes me think that much more about that girl.
If you see a beautiful woman on the GWU campus, with gauze covering the syringe mark on her arm, tell her she made my night more enjoyable, and made me slightly less uninformed. (And ask her if she’s free for dinner on Friday… she looks great in a hospital gown.)

If merriam-webster ever decides to start charging for access to their web site, I’m all there, man.

The only problem / August 20, 2001 / Comment on this

The only problem with drinking all this water that’s supposed to be so good for you is that you constantly need to pee.

Yes I went to / July 19, 2001 / Comment on this

Yes I went to the doctor today. It all resulted in a thinner wallet, a new gel splint, and appointments for Physical Therapy (cause god knows the weekend I spent sitting on my ass left me forgetting how to walk).

Ive been sitting on / July 16, 2001 / Comment on this

Ive been sitting on my ass too long. Didn’t even have a real weekend, stuck in the apartment the whole time with my fractured ankle.I may lead a quiet life normally, but this is fuckin ridiculous.