Saturday, October 30, 2021

Keepin' it positive and testing negative

 Hey Friends,

Well not only the Cayman Island Covid bubble burst, but it's burst and exploded, rapidly spreading Covid-19 across all three of our islands. 

The good news: 

1) Almost 80% of our adult population is vaccinated.

2) We currently only have 4 people admitted to hospital due to Covid

3) We now have lateral flow tests on island (rapid tests)

3) Our borders are set to open (No quarantine) on November 20 to vaccinated adults. This is huge for the island, as we've been closed since March 2020 and tourism is taking a beating!

The bad news, however, is that over a hundred people are testing positive on a daily basis, resulting in hundreds of families who are currently in isolation. Businesses are shutting down temporarily or reducing their hours and schools are becoming scant with staff and students as families are waiting out their isolation at home. It kind of feels inevitable at some point, that we will all test positive, given that our island is so small and we all interact with each other on a daily. 

I had my first brush with a positive today, in fact, when I was notified that the two children I pulled for therapy on Wednesday had both tested positive. Immediately my brain was inundated with flashbacks of Covid positive #1 sucking on his fingers before wrapping himself around my legs in an attempt to receive a second sticker, and Covid positive #2 sneezing on "Room on the Broom" when he temporarily moved his mask down to his chin. Yikes. Within the hour I had convinced myself that I was surely positive as well, although I willed my vaccine to do it's damn job and waited for my lateral flow test to arrive. 

I found a quiet corner in my office to wait for the test to arrive. Most of my colleagues knew what was going on and we jokingly referred to my quiet corner as the "Covid corner." I noticed my lovely coworkers making wide circles around me when they had to pass. I had also brought cookies to the office that day and noted that suddenly no one was eating my "Covid cookies." The stigma is real, people. 😜

I took the test in the staff washroom with another coworker who had worked with Covid positive #2 and it felt strangely like some weird colleague pregnancy test bonding moment. 

"God I hope I'm not positive. I'm not ready for this."

"I don't have the time right now for a positive!"

Thankfully, we were both negative. This time. We lived to see another Covid-negative day, which is challenging as a "front-line worker" who is sneezed, coughed, and spit on (inadvertently) by little unvaccinated people swarming with germs on a regular basis. 


I'm either not pregnant or Covid negative. Either way, it's good news for me!


During this process, I whatsapp'd Evan various messages, explaining the situation.

Me at 10:15am: 2 of my kids tested positive. Just waiting now for my test.

Me at 10:45am: Island is sold of tests. Just waiting for manager to bring me a test from Department of Education

*At 11:00am, I could see that Evan had not read my messages, which is a common occurrence. 

Me at 11:15am: Still waiting for my test. I will need to test for 4 consecutive days, and as long as I'm negative, I'm good to go. 

*Evan has still not read any of my messages

Me at 11:45am: I'm negative...today anyways. 

I kind of forgot about Evan's radio silence on the Whatsapp and carried on with my day after high-fiving my co-worker for narrowly escaping our first brush with Covid. 

Finally around 12:30pm, I could see that Evan had replied, after missing 5 of my Whatsapp messages:

Evan at 12:30pm: You're not a downer at all! 

Huh?

What?

Oh. My. God. Did Evan even read my messages? 

I can only assume that he had read the last message, determined that I was feeling down in the dumps, went to his bank of positive affirmations, and sent one my way!

Firstly, it's kind of nice that Evan has a bank of positive affirmations for me, and I do always appreciate his lovely messages. But honestly...

This is hilarious. What if I had been HIV positive?

Kirstie: Evan I'm HIV positive

Evan: Good! Love your sunny outlook! 

My office and I laughed for hours over this unfortunate miscommunication. 

*Disclaimer: Evan swears that his response was a a joke. But my story is funnier, and I don't really believe him. 

Funny enough, this isn't the first time that I've caught Evan sending pre-recorded positive messages from his "wife bank."

Back in the day, when we owned our first gym in Prince Albert, Evan was working 12 hour days, and we were rarely seeing each other. I figured that the least he could do was send a message or two throughout the day to stay in touch. 

"Why can't you just send me a message...like see how my day's going? Like don't you care?" (Oh man, I sound soooo needy, right?)

Immediately following my whiny request, Evan began sending me a daily message:

"Hope you're having a good day, bud!"

"Have a great day, buddy. Love you!"

"How's the day going, bud?"

I was pleased to see that my attentive husband was responding to my needs, and despite the fact that he was pulling ridiculous hours at the gym, I felt like he really cared.

It took a solid year for me to realize that these daily messages were coming in at the exact time each day. Similiar messages were suspiciously cycled through on a weekly basis as well. 

Finally one day I confronted Ev about his daily check-ins. 

Ev confessed immediately, obviously not thinking that this was a problem at all,  "Well, ya. So I sent myself a notification. Every day at 2pm, my phone reminds me to send you a message." 

"So you aren't actually thinking about me at 2pm?"

"Yes I am thinking of you. My phone notifies me and I think about you."

Hmmm....so you're saying that you ARE thinking about me?

I mean...it's kind of brilliant. 

It totally takes the romance out of the situation, but kinda genius.

I feel like Ev could make mad money if he used his genius to create a "happy wife, happy life" app that automatically sends positive messages to your wife on a daily basis. Just a thought. 

Anyway...that's the update for now.

Cheers to keepin' it positive and testing negative....for now. 




Sunday, September 19, 2021

When the bubble bursts...

 Hey Friends!

Well that summer flew by! It feels like we were just smuggling ourselves across the Canadian border in a limo, and here we are back in Cayman after 3 months away!

My summer in Candle Lake was great. I was feeling quite unsettled during my surgery recovery - more so mentally than physically. My surgeon basically advised me to carry on,  expecting that things may decline, given the degenerative nature of my disease and the continued deterioration that he is seeing. The cartilage biopsy was taken, so a decision to undergo another cartilage transplant is available at any time when I feel that I've reached my threshold. But what's my threshold? Who has time for a 6-8 month recovery? I don't have time for that! My mind was swirling with fears, questions, and scenarios. I was laying awake at 3am creating "worst case scenarios," which is an effective method of preventing sleep. But once I arrived at our house in Candle Lake, I felt these worries slip away. I immersed myself in my family and friends. I embraced late morning sleep-ins, late night camp fires, and a few crazy boat parties. When people asked about my knees, instead of delivering the complicated response, I simply said "ya, they're ok," shrugged my shoulders and carried on. I rode my bike, worked out with light weights, did a little surfing, and although I had some pain, I just did as the surgeon suggested, and "carried on." It was like a 2-month legit break from my knee worries. I took a much needed vacation from Osteochondritis Dissecans, which was exactly what I needed.


Reuniting with family and friends felt so good. So so good. I suspected that our future ability to travel would be impacted by covid, yet again (foreshadowing), and I'm so glad that I was able to soak everyone up like a sponge while I had the opportunity. 

I really enjoyed hanging out with my Mom and Dad. Your relationship with your parents naturally changes as you age, but I think the one thing I've realized, especially since we've moved to Cayman, is  that I just want my parents to be happy. Although I don't see my dad completely retiring anytime soon, I can see that he is making choices to reduce his responsibilities at the farm, which is definitely resulting in less stress and a happier dad. I've never seen my dad smile as much as I did this summer, and we really had fun together, attending boat concerts and singing "Gloria." My mom has always been quite content, but she and Lenny made the decision to move last year, and I can see that they've acquired a new group of friends, and are enjoying splitting their time between the city and the lake. It's nice to see my mom live a full and joyful life. We had some wonderful afternoons of trash reality TV and lovely boat floats on the lake with our 80's tunes blaring. 




Seeing my sister and my friends everyday was incredible. After two years apart, we all fell right back into our regular routine, jokingly making fun of each other, engaging in late night boat dance parties (Ev stood on my foot so I couldn't move my knees), and sipping cocktails while floating around on water mats. I also reunited with one of my besties from University, Michelle, this summer. She was a bridesmaid at my wedding, but we had been out of touch for 13 years or so. I wasn't exactly sure how the reunion would go, given that fact that a LOT has changed in 13 years, but Janna, Michelle, and I had an awesome day together, it made me feel like I was 22 again, and it just made me so fricken happy. My friends are so witty, fun, caring, and I just tried to relish every minute of life with with them this summer, especially not knowing when we will see each other again (foreshadowing).









The trip home, however, was definitely one for the books. Firstly, getting a flight to Cayman is a "Hunger Games" type challenge at this moment in time. Because the island is still technically closed, you must apply to return back on a repatriation flight, and there are only 2 of those flights per week departing from Miami. As soon as these flights opened up in June, I had a travel agent jump on it and requested any flight available in the month of August. The only seats open were on August 18. Unfortunately, we found out a few days later that Biloxi, the most interesting cat in the world, would not be given a cabin spot for that flight, and would be placed under the plane in cargo. After consulting our vet, I realized that this was not at all ideal for a 19 year old cat. After all these years and trips together, I couldn't imagine that Biloxi's demise would be that last flight from Miami! I desperately needed to be on the flight in order to get to work on time, but I was able to get Evan and Biloxi on a privately arranged charter from Toronto a week after my flight. 

Despite all my rage I am still just a cat in a cage


Now in order to enter both the US and Cayman, you are required to show a negative PCR (covid test) within 72 hours of travel. That was not an easy feat in Saskatchewan, and I ended up driving to Saskatoon 24 hours before my flight and paying $300 in order to meet the 72 hour requirement, while having results in time for my first flight. As I was packing the rest of my belongings, I was receiving notices on my phone that Tropical Storm Grace was heading to Cayman, with an estimated arrival approximately 3 hours prior to my flight arrival. AGGGGGGGGHHHHHH. I mean...I had some time to come to terms with the fact that this trip was unlikely to be a smooth one (foreshadowing). 

It was not smooth. Due to weather in Dallas, I sat on the tarmac in Calgary for 3 hours, missed my connection in Dallas, and spent about 3 hours in a very angry line attempting to rebook my flight to Miami. 

Aside: Do you really think screaming at the one American Airlines representative working at 1am is helpful?

I slept awkwardly in airport chairs, tried to catch some zzz's with my head bobbling in the middle seat on flights, and finally arrived in Miami a day late. Luckily (unluckily?) my flight to Cayman was cancelled as Tropical Storm Grace was pummelling into Grand Cayman.  Yes, "Grace" was my "saving grace" (you know I wasn't going to miss that one!) 

The next day I obediently arrived at the Cayman Airways terminal in Miami 3 hours prior to my flight, only to find out that our flight had been cancelled again. Although they claimed that it would depart the next day, at this point I had zero faith and pondered looking for jobs in Miami.

I decided to try not to stress, and went for a nice little lunch in a area called Brickell, and immediately ordered an EXTRA LARGE glass of wine when I received an email from Cayman Airways stating that my flight had been cancelled yet again. 

In the end, it took me 4 days to get home, and I was kinda a stress mess/basket case from lack of sleep and anxiety about being stuck in Miami forever. I arrived with a face full of zits, a gastritis flare up,  and a displaced rib. Ironically, Ev's easy breezy charter landed 3 days after my flight, and in the end I would have missed 1 extra day of work if I had just travelled with my little family! (Not to mention saved about 1500CI!) 

Vaccinated travellers are required to quarantine for 5 days (as opposed to 15 for unvaccinated), so because our quarantine times would overlap, I rented a 1 bedroom condo for my quarantine, while Ev and Biloxi stayed at our condo. It wasn't ideal, but it was fine. 

Note: I'm ok with being alone. For like 3 days. Anything greater than 3 days is bad for my mental health and I began recalling all the shitty things I've done in my life like steal booze from my parents and take my dad's car on a joyride in grade 6. Sorry guys!

I was scheduled to get out of quarantine on a Thursday, about 3 hours before Tropical Storm Ida was forecasted to hit us, so I anxiously waited to be released, and managed to manifest at least 4 new zits while I waited. I made it out by 7pm that night and was able to stay with my buddy for a few days prior to Ev's release from his quarantine. In the end, Ida was nothing more than a few breezes of wind (someone posted, "I've had farts stronger than Ida!"), so all was well. 

The whole thing was not easy...but...I would do again in a heartbeat to relive the summer that I experienced! 

Now that we're back into the swing of things, Cayman has been hit with some inevitable news...after 16 months with no community spread, we now have Covid in our community. The government had originally planned to open our borders up on October 14, so we all knew that spread was imminent, I just don't think people were expecting it prior to the opening of our borders. No one really knows how it entered our community with our strict quarantine measures...I would suspect we've had Covid here longer than we thought? We've now been told our reopening plan has been put on "pause," with no definitive timeline for reopening. I'm glad that I got off island when I did because I know that this news is a psychological blow to many who remained on island over the summer, with plans to travel for Christmas. It doesn't look too promising at this point...

The other issue is the fact that Covid is in our school system. They opted to close the entire school upon determining a case, and it's now known that 17 students have tested positive in that particular school. Anyone who attended that school, including specialists, volunteers, etc over the past few weeks has been placed in a 15 day isolation, regardless of a negative test. So...um...we're not taking chances here, but I have a feeling that we may all be in 15 day isolation in the near future if this is the immediate response to a positive case. Yikes!

So I'm trying to remain cool and calm and carry on, but to be honest, it's difficult when it feels like everyone around you is panicking. I think being protected from Covid for 16 months was incredible; however, I also think that living in a bubble for so long has resulted in paralyzing fear and inability to cope. We are going to have to learn to live with Covid, and unfortunately, many people's reactions this week has been to pull their kids out of school, buy all the toilet paper (not even joking), and tell everyone online to pray harder - that combo is not super effective. 

Fortunately, this fear has spurred many to receive vaccines in the last week alone, so I believe our country is  almost 77% vaccinated...our children under 12 are still not eligible, so that, of course, is an issue. I'm hoping that we can carry on with life, accept that there will be restrictions now (we haven't worn masks for 16 months!), and continue on with school, work, happy hours, etc. The thought of entering another lockdown gives me heart palpitations - remember...our "lockdown" was a legit can't leave your house on specific days, beaches closed, helicopters monitoring your neighbouring, cry all day long on your patio kinda lockdown. It was brutal. 

So that's where we're at...our utopian bubble has inevitably burst, and Cayman is mentally struggling to cope with a few dozen cases, while the rest of the world breaks horrifying Covid records. What a world we live in - still dreaming of precedented times. 

Stay safe guys!



Tuesday, July 20, 2021

There's no place like home - except Grandma's

 Hey friends!

Well we've officially been back in Canada for a month now and it's been really great. Really really great. 

I'm not going out on a limb and saying that the knees are really great - the surgery knee is very slowly improving, whereas the "good" knee seems to be teetering between holding it's own and completely giving up on life...but, overall, things are much better. I can now move without crutches. I am "testing" them as per my surgeons orders and am biking, stand up padding, lifting weights, and I'm down to a minimal amount of painkillers - so I've learned to take what I can get when I can get it!

The best part about being home is reuniting with everyone. I'm always very excited to see friends and family every summer, but after missing last summer due to Covid, I feel like I'm really soaking up all the time with those whom I love and have missed so much over the past 2 years. Some things have changed drastically - all the babies have turned into walking, talking humans...and there are now 675 different kinds of alcoholic seltzers to choose from (Whoa!). Some things have not changed at all - my mom's "special" cat still hisses at the sight of me, and none of my friends have aged a bit! (Thank God!) Haha. 

My most meaningful reunions have been with my dear Grandma and Baba. Every summer that I get to spend with these ladies is a gift, and I am well aware of how lucky I am to have these incredible women in my life. When we were unable to return home last summer, one of my greatest fears was losing one of these very special ladies, without one last visit. 

Grandma Ivy and Grandpa Ken's Wedding Day June 17, 1949 

A very young (and beautiful) Baba Jean 

My Grandma Ivy is 90 years old and still resides in the same house that I ate grilled cheese in every day for lunch as a kid. Although Grandma's vision has significantly deteriorated and it can be challenging for her to move easily around her house, Grandma rarely complains. When you enter her house you would think that the Queen herself had made an entrance. Grandma fusses over you, tells you how wonderful you look, thanks you profusely for coming to visit and then scours the cupboards for treats and tea. You leave Grandma's house feeling warm, loved, and like a million bucks. I hope that I've inherited Grandma's positive, cheery outlook on life. I suspect that day-to-day life isn't easy for Grandma, and I know that she misses my Grandpa and the friends and family that she's lost over the years, but she really does exude positivity despite the challenges she faces. When I'm a having a rough day, and feeling negative about my situation, I try to channel Grandma's "be happy with what you've got" attitude. It's always a joy to be around my Grandma.


My Baba Jean is a 93 year old strong Ukrainian woman who has faced some dire medical conditions over the years. She survived a brain tumour, lung cancer, and pneumonia in both lungs. My Baba is a very strong-willed and determined woman! Aside: I was with Baba when the Doctor delivered the diagnosis of a brain tumour about 10 years ago. Baba's response, "Well, so be it." 

This Spring we didn't think that she would pull through as her kidneys had shut down, and she was hospitalized and deemed "end of life" care. The family was called in to say goodbye. I couldn't be there. I sent videos and messages, but Baba was struggling to remain conscious and I felt terrible that I wasn't able to hold her hand and be by her side. It was a Saturday night, and I had said my final goodbyes to Baba over Facetime. A Priest gave Baba her last rites. When I got off the phone, I cried all night, attempting to process what exactly life would look like without my Baba. I expected Baba to pass in the night, and I tried to comfort myself by picturing her reunion with Gido. 

The next morning, I was told that Baba had regained consciousness in the night and was able to see my Uncle Mark, who had flown in from Vancouver. The following day I was told that despite being taken off of dialysis, her kidneys had begun to work on their own! The next day, I heard that Baba was joking with family members. Apparently, she called my cousin a "cry baby" for sobbing at her bedside. At one point, she told family that she was "ready to go," and when my Aunt encouraged her to go see Gido in heaven if she was ready, Baba replied, "No! I'm ready to go back to Preston Park" (her condo complex!) Doctors remained skeptical, theorizing that it was a final surge of energy before she passed, but my Baba proved them all wrong. She defied every odd and continued to improve, gain strength, and eventually was discharged back to her condo.

I cannot put into words exactly how it feels to say your final goodbye to someone who is so dear to you, and then have the opportunity to feel her arms around you, strong and alive. What a precious gift! 

Baba and I don't mince words, so I straight out asked her, "Why do you think you didn't die?" She didn't really know the answer to that. She said, "Gido was pulling me up and my family was pulling me down. I guess I wasn't ready." I replied, "Well you came as close as one can come to death, is there anything that you really want to do before it is your time?" Baba responded, "I want to spend time with my family, take it day-by-day, and I'd like to get the Denver omelette at Smitty's!" 

Get this woman an omelette!  

It was interesting to discuss my Baba's near death experience with her. She didn't see the light. She wasn't aware that she was dying. She was cognizant of the fact that her family was at her bedside, but she didn't understand why. She felt no pain. She experienced no fear. She had no idea how close she actually was to death. And, you know, in typical Baba fashion, she's back cursing Victor on the Young and The Restless, entertaining her fellow residents with her hilarious tales, and planning a trip to the farm to revisit her new kitchen (We suggested a party at the farm and with a twinkle in her eye, Baba replied, "A resurrection party!" haha). 



Things haven't been particularly easy for me over the last 10 years and I hope (and suspect) that I've inherited Grandma's and Baba's resilience gene. These incredible ladies inspire me to roll with the punches with grace and gratitude.  Resilience is not only about bouncing back from challenges, but also about accepting your new reality (even when it's not preferable), and making the most of it. I'm learning from the best!

Cheers to Grandma Ivy and Baba Jean. I love you ladies so much and I am so so grateful for you. I am so very proud to be your granddaughter. 

Cheers to strong women!




Monday, June 21, 2021

The great "adventure": from liposuction to limos - we have seen it all!

Hey guys!

It's been a while. Go pee, grab a cozy blanket, snag a glass of wine/beer/coffee, and settle in because it's been a VERY eventful month!

Me, Ev, and the most interesting cat in the world left the island May 22 to begin the 4-part "adventure" which included a week in North Carolina, a week in Philly for knee surgery #12, a road trip we jokingly entitled the "refugee tour" to get back into Canada,  and finally a 14 day quarantine at Candle Lake. 

Despite all my rage I am still just a cat in a cage

As soon our flight lifted off the tarmac and I watched our tiny little island quickly disappear out my window, I felt some trepidation. I mean...we've essentially been isolated on a controlled little movie set for 18 months. I was a little nervous about being exposed to the outside world - was it apocalyptic out there?

My question was quickly answered on the flight from Miami to Charlotte when I was seated next to a woman who appeared to have drains emitting fluids from her body. 

"I just had lipo and a Brazilian butt lift," she explained. 

Wow. It looked...painful...as she couldn't really sit for the duration of the flight.

She quickly got out her phone and began showing me all of her before and after surgery pics. NAKED surgery pics. 

"See how my butt was rippled here?"

"Hmmmm"

"Ya now look - no more ripples!"

"Wow!" (I think I just kept saying "wow"...on repeat). 

I mean...that felt like a great initiation to the outside world and definitely instilled some fear for what was to come. 

Because Cayman is essentially closed,  there are very few flights available to leave the island. The only flight that my insurance company could secure was 2 weeks prior to my surgery - and because it's very pricey to live in Philadelphia for 2 weeks, we decided to spend a week in Asheville, North Carolina, where Evan has recently acquired a gym called "Madabolic." We rented a house in the forest, which we soon found out was located on or near a gun range (oops), and I worked remotely, while Ev spent his days at his gym. Initially, I found the first few days quite relaxing...I plugged away at my year-end reports and breathed in some fresh mountain air while watching the birds soar by. However, by day 3, I started to feel pretty lonely and the constant firing of gunshots were putting me on edge. The excitement of wandering Target on crutches and examining the vast array of chip flavours wore off quickly, and I was spending too much time with my thoughts (which is NEVER a good thing when you are preparing for your 12th surgery). 

Don't get me wrong, Asheville is a very beautiful city, tucked into the mountains in western North Carolina. I was immediately struck by the multitude of IPA breweries and a relaxed BC vibe. Although it was super cool to see Ev's gym (I never thought that we would be gym owners again), and we did finish off the trip with a weekend tour of a beautiful winery, as well as a soak in some hot springs, I was definitely ready to just get to Philly and get this damn surgery over with!





When we arrived in Philly, social isolation restrictions at restaurants had just been lifted so we watched workers remove the makeshift outdoor booths that each restaurant had constructed. There was definitely a feeling of relief as we heard waiters greet patrons, "Finally! Welcome back!" 

Overall, my surgery was fine. When they wheeled me into the OR, I was enthusiastically greeted by all my "friends." 

"Hey! It's Kirstie from the Cayman Islands!" 

They pumped the tunes for me as they transferred me to the operating table, taking my musical requests and chatting away as they hooked me up and prepped me for surgery.

Honestly, it's kinda a fun little party vibe and I feel like I'm "ninja-ing out" of a good time when they push the propofol through my IV, rendering me unconscious. 

Everything was fine until I began to mobilize post surgery. I was non weight-bearing and it was immediately apparent that my "good" knee was not good enough to weight bear. That was really scary, and a first for me. I am a self-proclaimed "professional crutcher", and my crutching skills were abysmal, given that my "good" knee collapsed every time I attempted to hop on it. I wasn't able to move independently and Ev had to help lower and lift me from the bed, toilet, and chair. It sucked. 

The nausea kicked in about 8 hours later. A rib slipped out of place while I was puking (I'm sure there's a technical term for that), so I was puking whilst experiencing severe knee pain whilst unable to take a deep breath (try crying with a rib out!). It was kinda sorta awful. Eventually it wasn't awful anymore. 

I met with Dr. Carey (cartilage specialist extraordinaire) and his fabulous PA, Sabrina, a few days after surgery. He provided me with more exciting photos for my knee album and explained exactly what he observed in my knee. One of the largest lesions, which produces a deep pain (I describe it as someone turning a screw driver into my knee), is still a candidate for a cartilage transplant. The other lesion, which is located behind the knee cap, producing an electric shock pain sensation, has progressed and can now be described as a "kissing lesion." Although this sounds romantic, it is apparently not a positive thing, is no longer a great candidate for a transplant, and will continue to deteriorate. Dr. Carey did remove a lot of cartilage, which sounds counterproductive when you are preparing for a cartilage transplant, but the hallmark of Osteochondritis dissecans is that the remaining cartilage is shredded, peeling, flapping, etc so it is often the diseased cartilage peeling off like an onion and floating around your joints that causes the majority of the pain. 

The game plan is to wait until September, see if this major clean-up reduces the pain, and decide how to proceed from there. I'm hopeful that this surgery will buy me some time and hopefully decrease the pain to the point where I can function without the heavy meds for a while. I'm also concerned about the "good" knee, which doesn't appear to be so good anymore. I'm hoping that it just needs a break. I make jokes, but in all honesty, I wake up in the middle of the night and worry about it. How can you not? I guess that's a "future Kirstie" problem.

Ev's Philly experience...

vs My philly experience

Luckily I immediately had greater concerns than the future of my knees, as we prepared to cross into Canada. 

For those of you who don't know the current Federal regulations, the border between the US and Canada is closed. Canadian citizens are allowed to enter Canada; however, if you arrive by air you must quarantine in a hotel for 3 days at about $2k per person. Because Covid can only be transmitted across air borders (DUH!), the hotel quarantine is not mandated if you cross the border via land. So given that we were making it rain over the past few weeks, wildly throwing our money all over the US 😂 (you know...for accommodations and Oxycontin), we opted to attempt the land border crossing. 

We flew from Philly to Minneapolis. We attempted to get a flight from Minneapolis to Minot; however, that flight was $1200 and didn't guarantee a spot for the most interesting cat in the world. So we rented a car and drove 8 hours to Minot. Once in Minot we rented a limo to transport us across the border. You read that correctly...a limo. Because we are bougie and wanted to show our friends how successful we've become? No, because that was the only way that we could get across the border other than walking/crutching/crawling. The limo ride was approximately 2 hours. Once we reached the border, the customs agent asked us a few questions (it was apparent that she was OVER it), and my Mom and Lenny picked us up on the Canadian side of the border. We then drove 9 hours to our house at Candle Lake to begin our 14-day quarantine. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy. I was highly medicated for the majority of the trip. Do not inquire about roadside attractions. 


Sweet - PAAARTY in Minot at 8am!


This is how rockstars travel

First stop...Timmies!!!!

At this point I had tested negative 7 times in 3 weeks (and am fully vaccinated). 

The Canadian rules have been...confusing. For example, Mom and Lenny were allowed to pick us up and transport us 9 hours in their vehicle without having to quarantine. It was (hilariously) recommended that we all wear masks and roll down the windows for the entirety of the car ride. 

We were provided with 2 home Covid tests. One to take on day 1 and one to take on day 8. On day 1 we logged into the app and a lovely nurse walked us through the test. I asked her if the tests had an expiry date, and she explained that the sample was only good for 48 hours. However, the agency arranged to pick up our tests 4 days after the sample was taken. I hate to point out the obvious but...um ???? 🙈

Aside: all of these restrictions are being lifted in July, so it looks like we are the "last of the losers" mandated to these unique set of random rules. 

It's been fascinating to travel across the US and into Canada and observe the reaction and rules regarding Covid during this unprecedented time:

My observations:

Charlotte, NC: Wear your mask. 

Asheville, NC: Meh. Wear your mask if you want. I'm kinda cool, might just wear it on my beard like a chinstrap. It's really hard to drink my IPA with a mask on so eff it. 

Philly: Don't even look at me unless you are wearing a mask. She's waking up from surgery...quick, don't let her breathe until we put her mask on!

North Dakota: There was a pandemic?

Canada: Wear a mask but we are so over this that we will talk about how stupid this all is whist angrily but politely wearing our mask, apologizing the entire time. "I'm sorry but this is ridiculous!"

Haha! What an interesting time to be alive!

That's it, folks...that's the story. I'm feeling better, and although I'm still experiencing pain,  I'm getting stronger by the day. Biloxi has been an absolute rockstar and has channeled his inner hockey cat days, easily adapting to every setting we've been in over the course of 4 weeks. It feels great to be home again, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone, enlisting the help of family with my recovery, and catching up after 2 years away. 

Cheers friends!


Check out this gem! Highly medicated and alone with a hungry cat 









Saturday, April 24, 2021

Lean on me: Caregivers need love too!

 They've been quietly watching me from the closet for a few years now, just waiting for that moment when they will be back in my life again. I see the silver metal glisten as I take them in my arms. They make me feel powerless, weak, and self-conscious; however, I know that I am now dependent upon them once again. I need these bastards. 

Sound like an abusive relationship? 

Um...that's because it is..it really f'n is. 

I'm back on the crutches. 

I remember crutching out on our dock at Candle Lake, one of the first summers that I was on crutches. A boat cruised by slowly and I heard a guy say, "Hey, that girl is on crutches!" Funny enough, about a year later, after my 3rd or 4th knee surgery, I crutched out on the same dock and watched the same boat cruise by. The same guy yelled, "Look! She's still on the sticks!" Haha! If that guy could see me now, nearly 9 years later, still on these same damn sticks. 



I had a good run...2 years without crutches is a new record for me, in fact. But it was only a matter of time before things would deteriorate again - such is the progressive nature of the rare Osteochondritis Dissecans with which I am diagnosed. 

My right knee has deteriorated to the point where in addition to the 3 known lesions in my cartilage, I have developed a new large lesion. Unfortunately, my cartilage that was growing in a lab in Boston expired over Covid (did it go rancid? Moldy? Stinky?), so there is no cartilage readily available for a transplant. I am booked on June 4 in Philadelphia for a cartilage biopsy, as well as an overall "clean-up" of cartilage (This will be my 12th knee surgery, if anyone is counting). At that time, they will know if I'm still a candidate for a transplant. If my lesions have become diffuse, as opposed to localized, then I hit a point where the MACI (Matrix-Induced Autologous Cartilage Implantation) is no longer an option. If that's the case then...well...I don't know what happens next - mermaid tail, I suspect (and secretly hope). 

Unfortunately, because I've been stubbornly limping around with no crutches, my left knee, the "good knee" is now in distress as well. I haven't gone as far as to request an MRI, so I'm just going to assume that it's tired from carrying the load.  Let's go with that for now and hope that the addition of the asshole crutches helps the situation. 

So...you know...here we go again. I am now in significant pain, which has crept up on me over the past few months. I'm trying to manage the pain with the perfect combination of medication that doesn't make me sleepy/stupid/nauseous and incorporating acupuncture, massage, and spinning in my weekly schedule, so that I can still maintain my full-time work schedule with the kiddos. It's not ideal. I typically push through the day and then collapse on my bed at 4:00 for the rest of the evening. My cartilage may have given up on life, but it's important for me to maintain a routine in order to feel like I'm not giving up. It's not easy for me, but I know that it's not easy on Evan either. 

I don't think that a lot of people consider the caregivers of people with chronic illness. If you look at Evan, you will see a fit, upbeat guy who has his shit together. And he does...but I know that this is all very difficult for my bud.

When I was initially diagnosed nearly 9 years ago, it took both Ev and I quite some time to fully process the reality of the situation. We owned a gym at the time, and Evan was throwing himself into his business, working 12 hour days, while I spent the majority of my day on the couch. I was annoyed and frustrated. I didn't think that he really cared about me, and I began to question the sincerity of his "in sickness or health" vows that we took about 7 years prior. One day, however, as Evan made dinner, I heard a strange noise that I had rarely heard before. Evan was crying. When I turned to look at him, he cradled his head in his hands and began sobbing on our kitchen island. 

"What's wrong?" I asked, assuming that something awful had happened. 

"It's just...you're really sick. This isn't going away," he communicated through tears. 

It occurred to me in that moment, that this wasn't just affecting me. This was something that would affect us and our future forever. 

Thankfully, I have a a super teammate in Evan. After 9 years of navigating this disease, although we still have our ups and downs, we do have a rhythm. For example, he knows that pain takes away my appetite, which then leads to gastrointestinal issues...so he starts stocking the cupboards with beige food like potatoes, macaroni, and porridge, and will simply bring me a bowl of macaroni when he knows I haven't eaten in a while. He reminds me to keep moving, even when I feel like I can't, and will open up the hot tub and physically put me in it himself if need be. He knows that if I'm snapping my fingers that indicates that my pain is out of control (it's a weird thing that I do when things are bad bad). When my crutches fall, he picks them up and pretends to fight them until I'm laughing hysterically. He is my number one support, and I cannot thank him enough for being my person. 

But...man I feel bad when I see that look on his face - the look when someone you love is in pain, and there's nothing you can do to help. I know that I'm not the same girl that he married 15 years ago. I'm a little less fun, a little less funny, and a lot less mobile. I know that we all change over time. That's inevitable.  I mean, Ev no longer emits the sweet scent of hockey gloves ;) hehe. I know that he loves me unconditionally (just as I do him), but I can't help but feel sad for him. It's a lot. I don't think that many people consider just how difficult it must be for the spouse of someone who is suffering. 

So...if you know someone who is enduring health issues, please don't forget their caregivers. Check in every once in a while. Be cognizant of the fact that being a caregiver also takes a physical, emotional, and mental toll on your health. Caregiver burnout is a real thing. 

I'll leave you with this riveting dialogue in which I participated allllll week long:

Student: Ms Kirstie why are you on crutches?

Me: I hurt my knee

Student: How did you hurt it?

Me: I have a disease that makes it hurt

Student: How did you hurt it?

Me: I didn't actually hurt it. Something is wrong with it that makes it hurt. 

Student: How did you hurt it?

Me: I was jumping too high

Student: Oh. How high did you jump?

Cheers friends! 



Sunday, April 11, 2021

Biloxi Lindsay: Looking for a partner to spend the next 9 lives with....

 Biloxi, the cat, has been in our family now for 19 years, 3 months. That's a significant amount of time for a cat to live amongst one family of humans. I know that Biloxi loves us. We've basically grown up together! He's put up with our many moves (19 to be exact), and seemed to be quite content when we initially settled in the Cayman Islands, where retirement life is spent watching Evan work, basking on the sunny patio, and maiming any lizard that dares enter his domain. 

However, over the last few years, we can see old age setting in with our dear old man. His orange coat does appear greasier than a bucket of KFC, he's skeletor skinny, and he can no longer jump high enough to clear the couch (cat stairs have been erected everywhere in our house). Despite all this, Biloxi's overall health is decent for a 94 year old. He still eats, drinks water from the dripping faucet, and even plays with his toy mouse when the mood hits him right. The biggest problem, however, is his mood. He's just kinda...miserable. 

Always with the pawparazzi!

When our sweet Dundee passed away in September, we were initially concerned that Biloxi would be lonely. However, he appeared quite happy to be the only pet again, and was extremely cuddly, purring on our lap at any chance he got. But over the last few months, we've noticed that he's drifting back into miseryville, spending the majority of his day screaming his discontent,  for reasons unbeknownst to us. And just to clarify - it is a "scream." It is no longer a meow, but like a "Why the F can't you guys do anything right?" whiskers shaking kind of scream. We just can't seem to please this guy! Whether it's because the faucet isn't dripping at the correct rate, or because I haven't placed the sheet over his little orange head at just the right angle - we just never know exactly how we are failing him! 

Our good friends, Rachel and Michael, recently had to put their sweet old dog to sleep, leaving the other dog (whom they lovingly refer to as "Wobbly Dog," due to a neurological condition) sad and depressed. They decided to foster a beautiful blonde female dog and within hours the two dogs fell hopelessly in love, ending Wobbly Dog's depressed state. This got me thinking...perhaps Biloxi's last wish in his golden years is to find love? It's worth a shot. 

So I sat down with my dear old friend Bilox, and we created a dating profile:

Biloxi Lindsay - age 19 years; 4 months (That's approximately 94 in cat years)

Hair - Orange with a greasy sheen

Weight - light enough to blow over in a strong wind

What part of "Right Meow" don't you understand?


Summary:

I'm really a simple cat. My very complicated humans have moved me all around the world, and all that I'm really seeking is some stability. After years of adventure and unpredictability, including the London Heathrow catnip quarantine incident of 2002 and the fox chase of 2008, I require routine. If you try to F@#$ up my routine, I will let you know. I don't ask for much, really. 

Likes:

1) The seafood Tower - my food must be arranged in a tower-like structure. It must be comprised of some type of seafood pate, but if I determine that I do not want a particular seafood that day (you can't ask a cat to eat tuna everyday!),  the correct seafood must be quickly identified and served immediately (in the tower structure). If my tower falls or touches the edge of my dish, I will scream. I would enjoy a partner who will scream along with me, whilst appreciating the finer things in life. 

I enjoy the finer things in life....

2) The Faucet Drip - I refuse to drink water from a water dish or pet waterfall device. That is for the domesticated. I drink my water out of a dripping faucet. The water must drip at a rate of 2 drips per second. No more, no less. If the rate is not correct, I will scream. I am looking for a partner who appreciates my need for precision.  

3) Au Naturel Fur - I no longer groom myself. That is for mere mortals. My humans groom me with coconut products and fancy brushes. If they try to remove a piece of seafood tower from my whiskers or attempt to remove a knot from my tail, I will scream. I am looking for a partner who will appreciate my low maintenance lifestyle. 

4) Looking out the window - I do enjoy sitting at the window and looking over my domain. The neighbourhood cats often approach my window, hoping to bask in my excellence. When they come too close to the window, I scream. I'm looking for a partner who respects that I rule the empire.

5) Cuddling under the covers - I really enjoy cuddling with my human under the covers. She lifts her sheets and allows me at least 3 minutes to establish if entering the sheet fort is preferred. If she lowers the sheet fort down on my head before I have determined that it is safe to do so, I will scream. I'm looking for a partner who will appreciate that perfection takes time. 

My humans are exhausting. 

6) Direct communication - I'm not about subtleties. If I am pissed off, I will let you know - literally, by pissing. I can't imagine a more direct form of communicating my discontent. My humans initially thought that perhaps I had a medical condition, causing me to pee outside of my litter box. After spending $500 on medical tests, they determined that was not the case (which I already knew). I was actually pissed off, and the screaming no longer appeared to be effective.  I'm looking for a partner who will appreciate my directness. 

Dislikes:

 I really do not dislike anything. As you can see, I'm quite an easy-going and loveable kind of guy. 

Although it's taken an excessive amount of time, it appears as though my humans are semi-trained. I'm looking for a partner who will not interfere with this training process that I have so meticulously put in place. 

Applicants can come to my window between the hours of 3:00pm and 3:07pm (Seafood tower screaming commences at 3:08pm). 



Saturday, March 6, 2021

It's a dog eat chicken world

 Hey guys!

I know that I was just on here a few weeks ago, but I've been plagued by chicken incidences over the past few weeks that just must be shared...


Firstly, if you haven't heard... Cayman is overrun with wild chickens.  It always surprises me when a new visitor arrives and begins taking pictures of the chickens outside the airport like they've just discovered Brad Pitt on Hollywood Boulevard. The chickens go to the supermarket. The chickens go to the beach. The chickens even eat the chicken scraps outside of KFC! Chickens! Chickens! Everywhere Chickens! (I see a future Dr. Seuss-type book in my future). 

The origin of the mass chicken invasion is not for certain, but I have heard that when hurricane Ivan devastated the island in 2004, all penned chickens escaped and just carried on producing their own large colony? I'm not sure, but that sounds like a reasonable explanation. 

For the most part, we just ignore the chickens. Some people feed them. I've seen areas alongside the road where tens of chickens sit waiting in the morning for an unsuspecting vehicle to make a seed drop off. In the schools, we mostly spend our time addressing the chickens like this: "Insert child's name here, stop chasing the chickens!" 

I don't think many people use the chickens for food, as they are basically garbage disposals, but I do know of people who capture them, pen them, feed them, and create a little chicken farm in their yard. As far as predators go, other than dogs (who definitely will eat the chickens - foreshadowing!!!!), the chickens are quite high up on the Cayman food chain. I've even seen stray cats live harmoniously with the chickens! It is quite a unique experience living amongst chickens. 

Sometimes, however, the chickens cause issues...

Take for example, a beautiful Monday afternoon. It was about 2:45 in the afternoon and school was winding down for the day. I could see the students heading out to the bus stop, which is located directly in front of my therapy door. I made the monumental error that one should never ever make when working in a school or hospital setting. I thought to myself, "Well that was a reasonably smooth day." Ugh. That's the equivalent of shouting "shutout!" at the goalie with a minute left in 1-0 hockey game. Fatal error. 

Suddenly I heard a loud "THUMP" against my classroom door. Followed by another "THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!" 

Then the screaming began. 

Kids scream all the time. You develop a special sense to determine if the scream is a "This is me flirting with a boy" or "I just saw a frog" or "Call the police... this is assault" type scream. This was definitely the latter. 

So...against all common sense I opened my classroom door.

To my horror, a stray dog was swinging a rooster around by it's neck directly against my classroom door. 

"Miss! Do something!" cried the children - some of who were sobbing with terror.  

I erratically waved my arms around and yelled something unintelligible until the dog dropped the rooster over a short fence into a grassy area and ran away. 

"Miss...is it dead?" asked the children. 

I looked over at the rooster, and horrified to see that it was still breathing, I very calmly stated, "No. He's just sleeping." 

I went to go find someone who could put the poor rooster out of it's misery, but in the Caribbean, it's a dog eat chicken world. Sympathy for a dying rooster is zip, zilch, zero, so I had no takers to um...help the rooster cross the rainbow bridge.

But...when I returned to the scene of the crime, other than blood and feathers on my classroom door, the rooster had disappeared! To this day, I imagine that he stood up proudly, shook off the concussion, and clucked his way back to his family on the farm. One can dream. 

Fast forward to a few weeks later...

I was out East providing speech therapy to one of my schools. During one of my sessions, my young student uttered "uh oh" during our story reading ("Uh Oh" is generally bad. bad bad). I looked down and observed wetness spreading down his pants. I'm no rookie, and could see that we were in the middle of a pants peeing emergency, so I quickly led the little boy down the hall to the bathroom. Usually the student will determine that he/she is peeing and then attempt to hold it until they reach the washroom. This little boy, however, was past the point of no return, and the pee was now puddling at his feet (and my own) as we rimped to the bathroom (rimping is run/limping, which is the only fast movement I'm currently capable of). 

I quickly got the student into the stall of the boys washroom and looked down at my feet. They were covered in pee. I grabbed some paper towels and cleaning supplies and attempted to minimize the damage. I could hear my little bud hitting the bathroom stall door with his hands.

"Are you ok in there?" I asked. 

No response....as the hitting became louder. 

I soon realized that he was unable to open the latch to get out of the stall, and he was so upset that he couldn't communicate this to me. 

I decided to go in.

I got down on my belly (wearing a cute little work dress) and army crawled under the bathroom stall in the boys bathroom. It did occur to me that I had hit a new low, both figuratively and literally, but I also knew that I had a Ritz staycation to look forward to in a mere 48 hours, so as I crawled through the icky boys bathroom germs, I imagined the bliss of sipping bubbles on my Ritz balcony at sunset. I could do this. I could do this. 

I managed to get my little friend out of the stall, clean up the unfortunate accident in the pants, and carry on. 

At this point it was noon. I had pee on my shoes. I had boys bathroom germs all over my dress. I looked a hot mess. I considered calling it and heading home. But I only had 3 more students to see at a school 20 minutes away, so I decided to suck it up and finish the day. It couldn't get worse...right? Haha...famous last words. 

Other than reeking of urine, my afternoon carried on without incident...until I heard the chickens. 

The chirp chirp chirping of tiny baby chicks was deafening as I walked my students back to class, that I just had to turn the corner and investigate the source of the cacophony. Again...another fatal decision. 

In a culvert, about a foot deep was an entire chicken family - mama hen and her 8 baby chicks. It was apparent that the culvert was too deep for the chicks to jump out of, and mama refused to leave them, so the family clucked around urgently - they were trapped. 

Shit.

I tried to walk away. I went back to my office and attempted to do some paperwork, but I could still hear the urgent squawking of the trapped chicken family. I couldn't, in good conscience,  just let this family starve to death. This was surely the culvert of death if no one intervened. I messaged a few friends with chicken wrangling experience and they suggested that I carry the chicks out. 

I knew that mama would be upset, so I tried to communicate with her that I was there to help. In my shrill nervous voice, I assured her, "I'm just here to help your family. I won't hurt anyone!"

As soon as I picked up the first baby chick, Mama hen jumped in the air, shoulder height, and began flapping her wings in my face. Yep...I definitely saw that coming. I managed to drop the chick out of the culvert, safely on the grass, and the chick immediately turned around and jumped back into the culvert of death. Lord Jesus, I'm not the praying type but please...I smell like pee, I have chicken feathers in my hair...please just let me save these damn chickens. 

Just then a classroom window opened up. 

"Girrrrrl. What are you doing?" implored the Teacher in her Jamaican accent, as the entire class watched in disbelief behind her. 

"I'm trying to save this chicken family!" I shouted, now covered in sweat, piss, and chicken feathers.

The Teacher shook her head, bewildered with my actions, and closed the window. 

I continued, unsuccessfully, placing chicks outside the culvert, only to watch them jump back. "No! No! No!" I yelled, completely frustrated with my lack of progress and the blatant defiance of the chicks. 

Suddenly a superhero, in the form of a year 6 student, appeared to save the day.  

This boy was a true chicken wrangler! 

"Miss, we have to get the hen out so when we place the chicks on the grass, they will go towards mom. Once our hands touch the babies, the mom can no longer smell them, so we have to put them where mom can hear them."

This kid knew his chickens!

In a few minutes, this incredible student helped me reign mama hen over in the grass. In addition, the lovely reception Teacher and a few of her students came out to assist with the chicken rescue as well! Hallelujah! We saved the chicken family!

You know....I realize that sympathy for chickens in the Caribbean culture is well...low...but this student demonstrated kindness, empathy, and his problem solving skills. I intend to gift him with some type of chicken saving medal!

Now I have a hard and fast rule here in Cayman...I do not drink alcohol on school nights - weekends and holidays only (thank God for frequent school holidays!) However, as soon as I walked in the door, around 5pm that evening, reeking of piss, covered in boy bathroom germs, with greasy feathers in my hair, I tracked directly to my fridge, and tightly seized a bottle of wine. It was all I could do to rip open that cork off with my bare teeth! Evan observed my state of unruliness and without question, immediately handed me my favourite "bad day" wine glass which bears a nautical symbol and the words "Ship Happens."

That day wasn't egg-zactly what I had hoped for, and I do suspect fowl play, but as I sipped my wine and took in a chick flick, I realized that it would provide egg-citing material for an egg-cellent blog. 

OK OK. I'm done!