Sunday, September 18, 2016

Hearing loss and loss in general


About five years ago, my step father suffered a minor stroke. I rushed to Twin Falls to be with him and my mom. 

The neurologist made Karl do several tests. My mom and the neurologist left to talk. I held Karl's hand, and he mumbled "it's tough to get old."

Karl was very athletic and vibrant. However, almost overnight he got old. He was diagnosed with macular degeneration and then started to wear hearing aids. I still have a picture of Karl showing our son the lighted magnifying that Karl used in a vain attempt to read.

The loss of his hearing plus his eyesight was devastating. It seemed it was it was a 10 year long struggle to the death.

When Karl had his stroke (maybe more), I didn't really comprehend what a stroke meant. When my strokes happened, I realized the horrible affects.

Karl not only had a stroke and perhaps a heart attack, he had to deal with loss of eyesight and hearing.

No wonder was so depressed.

Because of my strokes, I have vision loss. Certainly is not as bad as macular degeneration. Nevertheless the stroke and my vision affected my reading skills in a bad way. I remember Karl loved books. The loss of reading was horrible for him.

My recent ear surgery has left me with hopefully temporary hearing loss.

I now completely understand what Karl went through. The loss of reading, hearing, and eyesight makes me feel like I am in a silent cocoon. 
Trying to watch TV or listening to the radio is difficult. I can only describe it as an old AM radio station with bad reception with no stereo.

I've always loved Karl. The fourth anniversary of his death was September 10. I miss him a lot. I miss him even more now because I'd like to talk to him about the loss that we have both experienced in different ways.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

"Mark van Gogh" and Cholesteatoma



For months I have been plagued with earaches. I saw several PAs and finally my doctor.

The PAs essentially said, "You have a virus but it'll get better." It did not.

I was prescribed an antibiotic to get better. It did not get better.

When I finally saw my doctor he laughed and said, "Wow! Your left ear is a mess!"

Really....

Finally I saw an ear doctor and then an ear specialist/surgeon.

It seems I have "Cholesteatoma is a destructive and expanding growth consisting of keratinizing squamous epithelium in the middle ear and/or mastoid process. Although cholesteatomas are not classified as either tumors or cancers, they can still cause significant problems because of their erosive and expansile properties resulting in the destruction of the bones of the middle ear (ossicles), as well as their possible spread through the base of the skull into the brain. They are also often infected and can result in chronically draining ears." 

I do NOT need any more brain damage!

Here's a short video about it: 


My surgery was yesterday. Technically it was outpatient. However, given my medical history (you know, strokes and seizures), I went to my second home Saint Alphonsus Hospital.

The surgery went well. I'm very relieved. 

Though it is serious, because of my medical history we had to prepare in a different way.

I take Plavix which is a blood thinner. When you have surgery, blood thinners are not good. Therefore, last Sunday morning, I quit taking Plavix and instead started to inject myself with Lovenox twice daily, a different blood thinner.

My abdomen is now a series of colorful bruises! During that week of preparation, I also made sure that my "papers" were organized just in case: passwords, Power of attorneys, living wills, etc. 

When I woke up after the surgery, the first thing that I wanted know "am I OK?" The nurse said, "You are OK. You did not have another stroke." 

I prayed a lot about that. I'm so relieved.

I took a picture of my bandages send to friends. One commented that I am "Mark Van Gogh." Perhaps I need better friends.

Bad ear aches were second nature to me when I was a kid. I used to pray that my eardrum would rupture. I'd wake up and the pain would be gone. What was left was a stained pillow. 

My mom would put a terrycloth towel on my pillow to catch the oozing blood. Last night, my wife did the same. 

My life has come full circle. Earaches from my childhood could've been the cause of this condition that resulted in surgery yesterday.

"The same as it ever was!"






Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Blood thinners and Calgon


On Friday I'm undergoing minor ear surgery. It's not a big deal until you have to take blood thinners like Plavix. I take Plavix. 

Sunday morning, I quit taking Plavix on Dr.'s orders. Lots of doctors! Instead, through Sunday to Friday morning I inject myself twice a day with Lovenox.

The syringes are small.  The needles are about a half inch. 

Using blood thinners makes people bruise easily. However, injecting myself with Lovenox is a different story! Throughout the week I will inject myself nine times.

This bruise resulted from three injections. On the other side of my abdomen, I have similar bruises.

To make it even better (or worse), when I get out of surgery it seems my head will be wrapped. My son laughed, and said, "Just like a dog, you'll be wearing the cone of shame."

The Saturday Market downtown, Boise State's first home game and Art in the Park. Great timing.

Calgon - or anesthesia - take me away!

Friday, August 19, 2016

College of Western Idaho: Promises Made. Promises Kept. Dunham Is Running for Re-election!

IT IS OFFICIAL! I am running for re-election to the Board of the College of Western Idaho representing Zone 5! I am asking for your vote November 8th! Though I represent Zone 5, I am “elected at large” meaning ALL voters in Canyon and Ada Counties elect trustees.

I have been on the board since the beginning in July of 2007 when we had one vacant building, a hundred acres, no programs, and no personnel. We didn't even have a phone. 

Nevertheless, we had huge dreams and expectations!  In those nine years, CWI has become the hallmark of community college innovation, serving more than 20,000 students every year and helping business and industry to succeed. 

Look what CWI has done so far! https://youtu.be/GWYXZy3-ArY

My job as a trustee is not finished yet. I am seeking another four-year term because I want to complete the accreditation process, finish our strategic planning process, and help develop our campuses in the valley.

I have always been focused on student success, working with our stellar faculty and administration, working for underserved populations, and helping business and industry.  I am keenly aware of taxpayer dollars. I have always been diligent to make sure our budget is cost-effective and conservative. 

On a personal note, in January of 2012, I had two strokes. One was devastating. Throughout those difficult months of intensive therapy, I never missed CWI meeting. This wonderful college and the students I serve gave me incentive to persevere. 

THEIR strength gave me strength.    
   
Mark Dunham’s bottom line? When the voters approved the creation the College of Western Idaho May 22, 2007, there were huge expectations for the college.  I was appointed July 17, 2007, and the initial trustees made many promises. I have run twice before. 

In my 9 years, I have kept my promise to the voters, taxpayers, students, faculty, staff, and businesses to provide “a public, comprehensive community college dedicated to supporting the economic and social well-being of our community.”

From vague promise 9 years ago, today we have: 

  • 20,000+ students served each year
  • 91% positive placement in professional-technical programs
  • 13.9% return on taxpayer investment
  • 5,000+ students have earned degrees and certificates
  • 400+ business and industry partners
  • 28% decrease in student borrowing
Promises Made. Promises Kept. I am not done yet! I need your vote to complete my job!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ghost life


Yesterday, I was deleting a whole bunch of old computer files because I am donating an old laptop.

This laptop was the state of the art when I bought it in 06. I bought it when I cofounded a real estate school and I used it until my stroke in 12.

I couldn't use the laptop after my stroke simply because it was confusing to me. 

Therefore, opening old files was like opening a ghost life.

I had thousands of emails from Envision Real Estate School, Boise State University, Idaho Commerce and Industry, and the Idaho Associated General-Contractors.

For many years, long before Hillary Clinton had a private email server, I used two laptops: Company ones and my HP laptop.

I have a habit of copying important emails from my work laptop and my HP private laptop. "Just in case."

Opening old emails trying to clear sensitive information was like opening a window to a forgotten world.

Real estate matters, strategic confidential emails plotting legislative tactics, often funny yet profane observations about work life between friends and me, sensitive contract negotiations, and every day things like lunch plans and recipes. Thousands....

Glancing through those emails was sad in a way. I remember being so busy and secure in my own thoughts and plans.

Was that really "me?" How could I juggle everything that I did? 

After my stroke, my neurologist said that I am a "ruminator." In my head I was always thinking strategically about work, life, and family. 

The ruminations did not stop after my strokes. Rather, my brain "short-circuited" my plans and hopes.

When I emerged from the brain fog, I had no idea about what I lost. I was just grappling to live day to day.

Recently when I chaired a stroke support group, a caregiver said, "I remember you! You were the 'guy!' You're a legend." 

I was startled. Embarrassing! Even now it doesn't seem that was me.

Opening thousands of emails and glancing into my life on a old laptop, was a stark reminder my "old normal."

But I need to move on. I could grieve about my old life and think about all of those emails.

Or, I could format the hard drive to erase everything. And that's what I did. 

I deleted my phantom life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"Anomic Aphasia and me!"


Yesterday I had a doctors appointment. My wife is out of town and my son was still asleep when I left.

Therefore, I wrote a note for our son to explain. Same handwriting! No misspellings other than a dog's name.

The phrase "wrote a note" would seem to be second nature. 

However, when you have aphasia, simple every day tasks sometimes are an unbearable struggle.

For several years since my strokes, writing a simple note was incredibly difficult.

When I try to write notes, I have to concentrate on every single letter. I used to be a grammar and spelling whiz. Today, my spelling skills are at best mediocre.

That same doctors appointment, I had to fill out work. I had to write down our pharmacy which is "Fred Meyer on Franklin and Orchard."

I had problems remembering the spelling of "Meyer." I could not remember how to spell "orchard." 

Recently, noticed that filling out paperwork or writing notes are getting better if I "speak" what I need to write.

My wife has noticed that when I type my blog or write a note I "speak it" also.

Certainly, I am compensating. Subtly, I seem to be recovering to the point where simple written communication is getting a little better.

Recently, our Idaho Aphasia Support Group heard a presentation about different forms of Aphasia.   

It seems that I have a form of aphasia called "Anomic" with a little bit of "conduction aphasia" for good measure. 

According to Wikipedia, 

"Anomic aphasia is one of the milder forms of aphasia. The term is applied to persons who are left with a persistent inability to supply the words for the very things they want to talk about, particularly the significant nouns and verbs. Their speech is fluent and grammatically correct but it is full of vague words (such as ‘thing’) and circumlocutions (attempts to describe the word they are trying to find). The feeling is often that of having the word on the tip of one’s tongue, which results in their speech having lots of expressions of frustration. 

People with anomic aphasia understand speech well and they can repeat words and sentences.  In most cases they can read adequately. Difficulty finding words is as evident in writing as it is in speech."

That is the textbook definition. It describes me better than most definitions. However, I don't struggle with nouns and verbs. I struggle with prepositions or "connector words." It is rare for me to struggle for "words." I understand financials, but I cannot calculate or ask questions about math because of the conduction part of my aphasia. 

Just like every stroke is different, my aphasia is different.

My aphasia is better than most. I made only one typo: "Lucy" versus "Lusy!" Not bad.

Pretty grateful.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Stroke and Bullshit


Yesterday, I met a new stroke survivor. She wept.

Her stroke was 2 months ago. She cannot speak well. She has aphasia. She has some paralysis.

I met her at a stroke support group. I have often said that “Stroke survivors are an exclusive club that no one ever wants to join.”  

Like it or not, she has joined our club.

Her emotions are incredibly raw. At our group, all of our survivors tried to say “it will get better.” And it will.

Nevertheless, we said it is OK to be pissed off and angry. “People” (in other words, non-stroke individuals) say things like “It’s God’s plan” or “This is your new reality.” The one that I detest the most is "my new normal."

Really? Most survivors – if they can talk at all – respond to be polite:  “Well, excuse me! That advice really helps! Thank you! I never thought about that.”

Inside our broken brains, we are saying “bullshit.”  You have NO idea what we go through every single day.

New survivors are always told “you are a survivor not a victim.” We cannot feel sorry for ourselves for too long.  Our victimhood will only last for a moment. 

Then, the recovery mode kicks us in the ass.

"People" say things like "Your stroke should not define life." Again, that sentiment is great until you live it. Again, "bullshit." 

Also yesterday, I found out that another stroke survivor is now divorced and living with his mother. He is 60 years old. His wife of 40 years could not handle “God’s plan.”

The new survivor implied she cannot deal with this situation. Through her tears, unable to communicate, she hinted “I would rather die.”

I get it. I felt it.

All of us get it.

We tried to comfort her and her husband. For example, she is recovering pretty well for her new 2 month truth. At two month after my strokes, I could not attend a stroke support group. All of us told them “it will get better.

Nevertheless, it is bitter pill to swallow. You can overdose and die, or just keep trying and trying.

Survivor or victim. Depends on the day.