Looking up an old friend

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Yesterday’s colonoscopy went well. While I will have to wait for the pathology results from the biopsy, the doctor found heaps of diverticula (not for the squeamish) in my colon. The preliminary diagnosis is diverticulosis and my recent problems put down to diverticulitis flare ups.

From what I understand so far, the general treatment/prevention approach is maintaing my usual high fibre diet unless I have a ‘flare up’. If a flare up occurs then I’ll need to go onto a clear liquid diet until the symptoms subside before moving onto a low fibre diet and then slowly increasing the fibre.  If things don’t improve then there are more extreme dietary and surgical options to consider.

I am blessed to have a good friend who has similar issues and he has been great in sharing how he is balancing his intake as well as praying for a positive outcome.

Most pleasingly of all, given the 48hrs of fasting and cleanser-glugging, the post-procedure report ends with a resounding ‘The quality of the bowel preparation was good‘.  I feel that, at the very least, there should be a certificate or a badge to recognise my bowel-preparing skills, one that I can display next to the one I got in 1974 for cycling proficiency.

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Going into all this, I wasn’t 100% sure on what the procedure or the bowel preparation stuff was going to be like. Despite some intensive Googling, I hadn’t found a decent first person account.  This was fortuitously remedied by our lovely friend Anne who emailed me the following account, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning humour columnist Dave Barry for the Miami Herald, just as I was consuming the first two litres of Glycoprep. 

After reading it, I can unequivocally state three things:

  1. A truer account of bowel preparation you will not find
  2. You’re unlikely to read a funnier account of bowel preparation (I wish I had written this)
  3. Unlike, you should not read about bowel preparation whilst actually doing bowel preparation; I did and it was almost my undoing in more ways than one.

Enjoy.

I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy.
A few days later, in his office, Andy showed me a colour diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis.

Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner.

I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn’t really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, “He’s going to stick a tube 17,000 feet up my clacker!”

I left Andy’s office with some written instructions, and a prescription for a product called ‘Glycoprep’, which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven. I will discuss Glycoprep later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America’s enemies.

I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous.

Then, on the day before the colonoscopy, I began my preparation. In accordance with my instructions, I didn’t eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavour.

Then, in the evening, I took the Glycoprep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one litre plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a litre is about 32 gallons.) Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because Glycoprep tastes – and here I am being kind – like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.

The instructions for Glycoprop, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humour, state that after you drink it, ‘a loose watery bowel movement may result’.

This is like saying that after you jump off the roof, you may experience contact with the ground.

Glycoprop is a nuclear laxative. I don’t want to be too graphic here, but, have you ever seen a space shuttle launch? This is pretty much the Glycoprep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you wish the toilet had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another litre of Glycoprep, at which point, as far as you can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.

After an action packed evening, I finally got to sleep.

The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous. Not only was I worried about the procedure, But I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of Glycoprep spurtage, I was thinking, ‘What if I spurt on Andy?’ How do you apologise to a friend for something like that? Flowers would not be enough.

At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said. Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.

Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle, called a cannula, in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down.. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their Glycoprep.

At first I was ticked off that that I hadn’t thought of this, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn your house down.

When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anaesthetist. I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew that Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I was seriously nervous at this point.

Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anaesthetist began hooking something up to the cannula in my hand.

There was music playing in the room, and I realised that the song was “Dancing Queen” by ABBA. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, “Dancing Queen” had to be the least appropriate.

‘You want me to turn it up?’ said Andy, from somewhere behind me.

‘Ha ha’, I said. And then it was time, the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.

I have no idea. Really. I slept through it. One moment, ABBA was yelling ‘Dancing Queen, feel the beat of the tambourine’, and the next moment I was back in the recovery room, waking up in a very mellow mood.

Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent. I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that IT was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colours. I had never been prouder of an internal organ.

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Pills and potion

One way or another, I have been sick for the last seven months. Various theories include post-infection problems after nursing our dying calf Willow last year, some form of inflammatory bowel disease or, God forbid, something more serious.

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Things have slowly worsened over the last six months, requiring me to adjust my diet, take all sorts of medications and, in recent weeks, take sick leave from work to try and get things under control. 

Today sees me a third of the way through a 36 hour liquids-only fast and preparing, dear Lord, to drink 3 litres of gastrointestinal tract flushing agent ahead of a colonoscopy tomorrow.

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Strangely enough, I am keen to get this done, know what’s going on and find out what needs to be done going forward.  It will not surprise those who know me that my idea of how the procedure will go is something like the Billy Connolly’s ‘connoll-oscopy’ (not for the faint-hearted or easily-offended).

Last word goes to our friend and local vet Dave who has been through the same procedure and offered me these words of wisdom.

“It’s not the camera up the bum you need to worry about – it’s getting the tripod back out after!”

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Anniversary

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Twenty three years ago, I married a beautiful young woman. Twenty three years later and on the other side of the world, I still can’t quite believe how lucky I am.

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Blessed beyond measure.

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Whanau and friends…and a dead calf

A wonderful evening with three generations of family from four countries plus our neighbours. Wine, coffees, chippies and chocolate under the stars whilst we chatted and laughed the evening away.

We could have stayed around the table on the deck forever, underneath a three-quarter moon and stars – except a stench that has wafted over our place intermittently over the last 36 hours returned with a vengeance.  

As the assembled whanau reeled from the stink, I grabbed a hunting lamp and headed off for to track down the source but a quick search of our place revealed nothing.  My mate Johnny jumped the fence ahead of me and a wander around the adjacent farm revealed a dead and decomposing calf in a tomo* in the paddock nearest our house. 

We’re off to the Helensville Agricultural & Pastoral Show tomorrow but I suspect the afternoon will involve a call to the farmer (away on holiday) and a session with a digger to bury the calf/fill the hole.

*Tomo is Maori for hole or small cave. These are usually formed by underground streams eating away at the dirt above until the top caves in.

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Bottling light

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The February show of WNYC’s Radiolab, called ‘Speed‘, contains three great stories. I am encouraging everyone to listen to the show or at least to the segment called Master of the Universe (about 44:48 minutes into the show).
 
It is about the work of Danish scientist Lene Vestergaard Hau (above) who has not only slowed light from the speed of light to just 17 metres a second and later managed to stop a beam of light altogether but went on to transfer light to matter, then from matter back into light – in a different place. Stop and think about it – that’s catching light, storing it, moving it and then releasing it somewhere else at a later time!
 
To a kid who grew up watching Star Trek and grew up to see communicators, tricoders and tablet computers become reality, turning light to matter then back into light sounds not too far away from what the transporter did!
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A brief thought on true love

My dear friend Chuck just posted his thoughts on Valentine’s Day and I was prompted to write the following comment.

We are called upon to love each, full stop (or period, as you say on your side of the Pacific). That means no exceptions and that’s the hardest thing about our faith; we are called to love all, regardless of who they are and what they have done. Not just our loved ones and the nice people but those we visit through prison ministry, those who cut us off in traffic and those whose theology is different from ours. Most of all, we are called to love those who we most abhor, revile, reject, denounce and exclude. Let’s turn Lent on its head and, rather than giving something up, let this be a time where we all take something on and try to love the unloveable. In doing so, we may just catch a glimpse of Him.

I am blessed to have known all sorts of love in my life.  Of late, I have resolved to try my best to love all I come into contact with. I fail abysmally every day but each new morning I resolve try again. How can I not when I receive the very same grace myself?

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Pre-Christmas catch-up

The stomach virus that has been doing the rounds recently has finally struck Wendy and I but thankfully not the kids.  With us both confined to bed and couch respectively, I thought I’d do a brief catch-up on what’s been going on in the last month or so.

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The local wild turkeys tempted fate by obligingly coming within range to assist with our seasonal cost reduction exercise.

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While I am rarely on top form at 0500hrs, I was blessed one morning to witness the most wonderful sunrise – a rare moment of beauty, peace and tranquility in a crazy couple of weeks.

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Through the keen ears of friends, we learned of an old but remarkably well-kept Honda CRX for sale at a price we could afford.  While not quite what we had originally planned to get, it has proven to be popular with the girls’ young male friends and pretty reliable once we’d worked out the quirks.

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Two weeks ago, we spent three evenings in a row at Robyn and Maisie’s prize-givings and Ariella graduation from her polytechnic.  Immensely moved to see our girls embrace their education and grasp opportunities in a way I never did.

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After a good few months of discussion, research, planning and preparations, we have launched a farm stay bed & breakfast business.  As well as building a website and Facebook page, we have erected signage at the gate…

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…and on the main road…

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…received our first batch of rack card brochures from the printers…

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and had a good friend and accomplished snapper help us with the publicity photography…

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…just in time to take a wedding booking for January and welcome our first guest yesterday evening. In between all that, we have found time to enjoy the almost daily spectacle and glory of stunning sunsets…

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…knock up some portable yards to help muster our sheep and heifer… 

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…search all possible hiding places for Christmas presents…

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…spent time making some wonderful rainbow decorations…

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…and put up the Christmas tree and arrange the nativity.

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At the going down of the sun

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They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon ~ For The Fallen

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First born

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning here in Aotearoa. Birds sing and flutter under powder blue skies and scattered puffs of cloud, our animals graze contentedly and the cats and dog lounge in the sun.  This week has been a landmark week for us, with the very first birth of an animal on the smallholding since we moved in.

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I arrived home on Tuesday to much excitement in the household and the news that our Dorper ewe was having contractions.  Wendy and the girls mounted watch from our bedroom and the deck overlooking the home paddock.  As the light faded and night fell, I ventured into the paddock with a lamp to check the ewe. After managing to get in the right position, I could see the lamb’s head appearing but with no front legs showing, I was concerned that things might get complicated. After phoning for advice we continued to watch & wait and, twenty minutes later, the ewe dropped her small lamb just as my farmer mate Johnny turned up to provide guidance.

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Having been born a little premature and with a swollen tongue from the birth, the lamb was struggling to breath and made no effort to stand up.  The ewe began kicking it quite violently (to encourage it to move and stand), so we decided to remove it from the paddock briefly and help it catch its breath and find its feet.

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Surrounded by the family and Alex the WWOOFer, the lamb slowly picked up. After much oohing and aahing and drinking of red wine (well, one needs to celebrate such things, right), we took the lamb back to the paddock and, after a cautious attempts, successfully reintroduced it to the ewe. 

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Since then, Arthur (so named for Wendy’s Dad as the lamb was born on his 92nd birthday) has progressed nicely, feeds well and is great fun to watch.

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From my limited experience, the ewe and ram seem to be attentive, protective and nurturing parents and together they make a handsome threesome.  I pulled the lamb away this morning to check a weeping eye and Robyn grabbed a few quick shots before we treated it and put it back.

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Once again, I am thankful that we’re blessed by the experiences we have and the wonders we witness around us in this beautiful place.

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Clipping our shavers

The day-old chicks that we bought seven weeks ago have grown nicely into decently sized Brown Shaver pullets.  Having finished the grass cutting and shelter belt trimming, Wendy press-ganged our WWOOFer Alex and I into helping clip the hens’ wings.

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Wing clipping is not as complicated or nasty as it sounds and simply involves snipping the ends of the primary feathers on one wing with a pair of scissors. This is enough to temporarily inhibit anything other than the shortest of flights which, in turn, helps to keep our free range birds fairly close to home. Once clipped, we moved them into the smaller of the two chicken coops in the home paddock, where they can acclimatise to their new surroundings and the other chooks.

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