Written June 1, 2023. At Kansas City, Missouri.
Yesterday a good friend reminded me that I had not written a final post from our seven weeks in England. As you will see, my mind has been on other things. Before I explain further here is a brief recap of our May 10th return to the United States:
Our final night in Manchester was spent at the Radisson Blu Hotel located in Manchester’s International Airport. It was pleasant enough, but we were desperately eager to be on a plane heading west. We ditched tourism that night in favor of room service. When the time arrived to check-in for our flight we received notification that online check-in was not available to us. This created some anxiety.
It turned out that this was nothing more than a requirement that we present our international travel documents in person. However, not knowing this at the time, we arrived especially early the next morning at the Virgin Atlantic desk. To our relief check-in went smoothly, and then on impulse I asked if there was any possibility to secure an upgrade to first class seats. The answer was YES! “How much?” I asked. The sum was quite reasonable to these travel weary souls. I forked over my credit card. As first-class passengers we were entitled to relax in the Virgin Atlantic Airway lounge prior to takeoff, food and drinks included.
The only remaining stress was the timing between our arrival at JFK airport in New York and the departure flight for Kansas City. According to the flight itineraries we had less than an hour to make it through customs and board the final flight home. We were told it was a virtual impossibility and we were likely going to be spending the night in New York.
The flight across the Atlantic was elegant and we were pampered by the delightful attendants. Real food, real China, real cutlery, and best of all real booze. Could it get any better than that?
YES! Our flight landed an hour ahead of schedule! What was more, as holders of Global Entry passes, we were able to casually walk by the near endless serpentine line of humanity at passport control and thanks to facial recognition we virtually walked straight through to the terminal to pick up our bags and re-deposit them on the other side of Customs. We made it to our next flight with time to spare.
As we approached Kansas City black storm clouds loomed in the distance. There was the staccato strobe of lightning strikes that were cloud to cloud and cloud to ground. The pilot aborted his first approach to the runway and circled a few times before attempting a second landing. On his second approach he got closer to the ground, but a sudden gust caused the plane to bank sharply. The pilot hit the gas, put the plane’s nose skyward, and retracted the landing gear.
The third time was the charm… sort of. It was again a rough approach. As the plane touched down it was again struck by the gusting winds and bounced two or three times hard on the tarmac, skidding sideways before finally being secure on the ground. Among the passengers there was a communal “gasp” followed by the silence of relief and then applause. More good luck, we were almost home.
It was at least four days before my sleep cycle was restored, just in time for the crush of reality and the next “adventure” to begin.
Between May 16th and 30th I had appointments with a dermatologist, an audiologist, an ophthalmologist, and my general practice physician. These were all routine checkups along with my annual physical. Each of these appointments went well, but it looks like hearing aids may be in my future. I now have proof that I do not intentionally and selectively ignore my wife.
At Christine’s insistence we made time for family pictures.
I have not yet mentioned the two most important medical appointments: On May 17th I spent the better part of two hours meeting with staff at the University of Kansas Medical Center for my final pre-surgery work-up. One after the other I met with personnel from anesthesiology, pharmacology, and surgery. The big event is tomorrow, (June 2nd). I will report at 5:45 a.m. for Deep Brain Stimulation surgery (DBS). Neurosurgeon, Jennifer Chang, MD, will bore a small hole (about the size of coin) through the left upper area of my skull. My head will be immobilized while she inserts a tiny electrical implant into the thalamus of my brain.
She will then run wires under my skin and down to my chest where in two weeks she will surgically implant a controller (neurostimulator), attaching it to the wires.
Much of the first procedure, lasting between 4 and 6 hours, will be done while I am awake.
It is hoped that this procedure on the left hemisphere of my brain will reduce or eliminate the life-long tremors that I experience in my right hand and arm. These tremors have become progressively worse with age and are now significantly impacting my quality of life. Later in the year I will decide whether to undergo the procedure on the right side of my brain.
I did not come to the decision to undergo this procedure easily. I announced it to my wife in an open letter published as I was hiking in Spain last year. Here is a link to that letter:
I previously wrote in greater detail the specifics about the DBS surgical procedure. Here is a link to that post:
I greatly appreciate the kind words and the expressions of thoughts and prayers that I have received in anticipation of tomorrow. A candle has even been lit by a dear friend and her mother on my behalf in a small church in Germany.
The likelihood of the “unthinkable” occurring is less than 1%. However, this is major surgery and unlike my arm, which is an arm, or my leg, which is a leg, my brain is the essence of me. Christine and I have had “the talk”, and we will likely have it again tonight. My life of 71 years has been a blessing and borrowing from the lyrics of the song, “My Way”:
“My friends, I’ll say it clear. I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain. I’ve lived a life that’s full, I traveled each and every highway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way. Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption. I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway. And more, much more than this… I did it my way.”
Peace Everyone. Pete