Coping: Losing Your Senses, Gracefully

I apologize, once again, for the short column that we put up  Friday morning. 2.5 hours on an operating table is, well, a bit less than inspiring – and because the eye patch was still on from the removal of my failed implant (after 25 years, just to be fair) it was Elaine doing the rewrite of Mr. Scribbles.

This morning, however, things are much better. The doc figured Friday that the “bad eye” was doing much, much better than expected. That’s what you call it when 20 hours after surgery you can do 20-80 with a “pin hole.”

So the beginning of the good news for us was that the surgery should get this eye back into the 20-20 corrected area – but that is still two months off. Even then, implant plus glasses, but any port in a storm (or any pinot noir, too).

The further good news was that the right eye, which was down to 20-100 to 20-200 (when things are that pissy, does it matter?) will likely be into the 20-30 to even 20-20 (with glasses) when fitted with a new type of contact lens. There has been all kinds of progress in and one of the nice things about aging is being around to enjoy the fruits of almost 70 years of science, since I was “a gleam in Pappy’s eye.” 

Elaine has been the perfect seeing eyes, I have gotten more used to her driving – a hard thing for a Type A control freak – and I am learning to live within my new-found, but temporary limitations.

All of this gets me to (yet another) aspect of “Urban Survival” that no one talks about: Namely the idea of surviving when one, or more, of your senses shuts down. 

Prepping for Senseless

If you want to do some testing of your ability to get along on reduced sight, a cheap pair of sunglasses and some 4-ought steel wool should do the trick.  Simply scuff the lenses up and there you go.

I don’t know about the second sense – taste of foods – but there is something to be said here, too when comes to a test drive..

If you ever lose your taste buds, two things become statically possible as you age. One is that you will lose weight. In my case, I have never worried too much about losing weight. Having some excess fat gives the body reserves for healing.

There is a serious science question here:  Is recovery quicker for people who are a few pounds over ideal weight?  My question is because it would seem that a slight excess of fats could be converted more easily in recovery than just eating your way real-time back to health.  If you find such data, please share.

And then there’s the second point about disappearing taste bud sensations. Our family knew something was amiss with my late dad when in his 70’s, he really lost his taste for food. The problem? Lost taste buds may be a companion of decreasing mental acuity – and his case was no exception: It was an early indication of Alzheimer]s. So healthy appetite (and doing at least something about it) is a really good thing.

You might not notice a major decline in tactile sensations, but it is somewhat related. The nerves in the body require a lot of nutrition ro fire well, specially the magnesium, calcium, and sodium,, and while eating a balanced meal SHOULD work, it often will not. Two reasons here: One is modern food doesn’t have quite the same nutritional value as foods from 100 years ago due to trace element soil depletion. The deniers of this will say “a plant is a plant, is a plant.” But that’s simply not so and I’ve had good results in testing with ground rock, believe it or not, as a soil modifier.. When we pull a tomato out of our garden, we can taste the difference. If you can’t tell a store bought ‘mater from a garden fresh one, consider supplements that might reinforce the body’s natural systems. Ask your doc about trace elements.  They may also play a role in cancer, but I’m not going into that…more research, as always.

Hearing is another one to be aware of: Again, the people I know who have hearing loss seem to do much, much better when they listen to the body and what it wants in the way of nutrition. All kinds of things are written, and if you check the database, you can spend the rest of your life reading up on things like trace mineral amounts, but we’re believers in them.

This is not to say that you won’t have hearing loss if you pop a vitamin daily, but there is no harm in being proactive in this stuff. The cost of a good daily multivitamin is low and the potential returns are very high.  It’s no a quickie solution, but it seems to accumulate over time.  Just as living stress-free is a life extender, as well.

Last, but not least, I want to encourage you to get at least two different ways “out of your head.”

I don’t wish this on anyone, but suppose you had a stroke tomorrow morning and you could no longer talk. What’s more, what would happen if you had half of your body paralyzed and because of vision problems, you couldn’t see well enough to type?

Here is why I am (gently) pressing Elaine to learn Morse code.  (She does a fine job of gently resisting, by the way.)

If we ever suffer such a fate, (and we hope not) it would be useful to be able to Morse out messages with whatever part of the body works.

I would simply have a good laugh and pour myself a tall one. You see, I can Morse code with any part of my body I can get control of. Think of this as an “off-body” communications channel.

Even if the ears went, one could still copy code via a light! There is a lot of flexibility to developing this  off-body channel.

In the end, there are always certain fears; a hangover of socialization (such as it is).

One of these is being buried alive. There are actually coffins sold with built-in panic buttons. Which seems like a good idea if you tend to sleep 48 hours, or longer. Check local cooling=off periods, YMMV.

But another – and  worse fear  – is being caught in your body and being totally isolated. Brain alive, body non-responsive except for a foot, for example.  Everything else useless. Yuck, huh?  Madness could follow since the brain needs broadband I/O channels to shine.

A side benefit to Morse: you can meet some damn nice people on the ham bands. In fact, I had a couple of Morse contacts Sunday because it’s a skill at higher speedsthat (like shooting landings) needs to be brushed=up, now and then.

If you have a family history of eye troubles, practicing with touch typing would make sense.  Maybe you too can finish the Great American Novel you have lurking inside you. 

A Personal Survival Test

A long time back – like 10 years ago, or longer – I advocated a process of prepping for the worst with a “Turn off the Utilities” weekend. The idea was that if you really want to know how “prepped” you are, turning off the phone, cable, power, and water will quickly illuminate any areas of self-deception. (I have lost track of how many websites since have claimed to have “invented” the idea of utility-free weekends as a prep check, lol.)

Now? Something a little different for you to consider: Turn off one of your key senses for a weekend, or even a day, and how’s that feel?  

There are lots of ways to try this kind of “prepping for old age reality” exercises.

One way would be to simply put a blindfold on over one eye (or both) for a weekend. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal unless you are engaged in activities where there is a lot of depth perception required.

Another try it yourself (TIY) prepping exercise is to put one arm, or the other, in a sling for the weekend. This is a terrible thing to do, because suddenly, opening a jar of pickles one-handed becomes a massive exercise is creative problem-solving.

Any of these will change your thinking just a bit and that’s the whole point of the process.

The same is true of pretending to have a broken leg for the weekend.  And if that’s too easy, toss on your bug-out bag and put in a five-mile hike. With no cheating, like putting the pack and some water in a gator-bag by the door ahead of time….

You know, it’s interesting. One of my daughters is very much into serious Tough Mudder events. And cool they are. But except for the rare chance of urban warfare happening on a rainy night when the pavement has disappeared and barbed wire has sprung up, the competition is not as useful in terms of personal survival, I think, than some of the exercises outlined above. True, if I was young, and was going into the military, mudding would be a great character-builder. But I’m more interested in the odds of losing sight, busting a leg, or falling while getting out of the shower and having a mangled hip. Statistically, the number of successful combatants in ware over age 65, or so, is low, compared with the number of broken hips, eye surgeries, and fallen and broken limbs and the like.

One of the greatest personal creative moments ahead of you, if you haven’t practiced for a broken arm yet, is the simple act of (pardon this) wiping from the “wrong side” when you visit the personal (ahem) recycling station in the morning.

So there is prepping, and there is prepping.

Elaine doesn’t think much of this kind of prepping.  “Deal with it when it comes…”
She has a point.  But anyone who is perfectly enabled can do mostly anything.  It’s how good your game is when you have an unexpected limit imposed that can make the difference.

To my way of thinking, it’s the learned mindset from the exercises, not the actual specifics that are the payoff.  Learning (again) to do what we did when we confronted tough problems in life the first time.  Noodle our way through.  With all the modern conveniences, that kind of stuff is easy to blow off.

Two views on the subject.  As always I like to think “I’m right” but more often than not, Elaine is…

Write when you get rich, or achieve “ambi-wipesterous.”


Coping: Losing Your Senses, Gracefully — 24 Comments

  1. Funny you mentioned this, I was thinking about the “personal hygiene” thing, just yesterday. I am essentially ambidextrous although I have my preferences (I prefer to shoot a gun and dribble a basketball right, but prefer to write and throw left. Crossbow – right, but longbow, unorthodox.) Yet, I can do anything with either hand.

    The vast majority of people wipe left, as has been the custom since time immemorial, and is the reason we shake hands with the right hand (in some cultures, especially those with Muslim roots, shaking sinastra is considered an insult.)

    I was tending to some personal hygiene, and considered I’d never done so with my right hand until 30-some years ago, when I was in a body cast for four months, with my only free appendage, my right arm (only cast from the elbow, down.) My thought was how difficult the transition, how fascinating the experience, and how interesting it would be for anyone not used to using their “off” hand for mundane tasks.

    I will occasionally sign my name with my right hand, just to keep in practice — one’s signature is identifiably the same, signed with either hand, because you write what your brain perceives as your signature; it might be shaky or funky, but a handwriting expert will still identify it as yours.

    Skillz… Good to have, good to practice, cuz ya never knows what hand Fate will deal you tomorrow…

    • You know.. people really don’t consider just how much we all .. Yes ALL of us take for granted..
      lifting a glass of water.. peeling a potato… opening a can of pop… wiping.. what ever you take it for granted.. including sight and sound.. every home should have a wheel chair accessable bathroom.. and a bidet..

  2. About trace minerals: Azomite, worm poo, compost and real wood charcoal with a small amount of ashes, all mixed in the ground before planting. And, a bit of chicken manure tea carefully and occasionally poured around the garden works miracles.

    About the Azomite, much the same as rock dust. But Florida has no rock quarries and the counter-top cutters wash their grindings into sumps to be pumped out and “properly” disposed of according to jackboot regulation.

  3. I believe my old friend, Jim, said it best.

    ” . . . no one here gets out alive.”

    Why is it Americans seem to have the mentality that they’ll live forever ? Or that they have the right to live forever ? Part of our global population count explosion has got to be due to the advances in medicine which have saved a lot more people to breathe and consume a lot longer than they might have previously, which has stretched our resources pretty thin.

    I’m not suggesting the Soylent Green route, but really, there has got to be some upper limit that we can live with, and dammit, learn to say good bye and let people go.

    I will not fight that long-deserved rest, but neither will I rush headlong into that hole.

    My other friend, Paul, had something to add to this, for those who could really understand him when he sang it – live and let die.

  4. George, IIRC Thomas Edison taught his GF/fiance/wife Morse since he had hearing loss from illness as a child and an incident boarding a train. The whispers of courtship while chaperoned weren’t possible, so she learned Morse and they tapped with a coin in the palm of the hand.

  5. Every morning take your multivitamin and split it in half and eat it half and take the other half and put it in your garden water sprayer

  6. 4 months ago I woke up with my hearing total gone after going to bed feeling fine but with a mild cold. It took 2 1/2 weeks for it to reappear. It was a depressing time – no music, talk radio, youtube videos, etc. to lift my spirits. Reading was also out because of all the internal racket in my head (hissing, whistling – like a noisy factory).

    Think my guardian angel wanted my attention because the only thing I did was think about my life and since then major changes are being made. Also, a lot more gratitude when I hear a bird sing, my grandchildren talk or the wonderful sound of music.

  7. I’ve been clinically dead twice in my life. Whatever the scientists say, death is nothing to fear. The process, otoh – often involving pain, and lots of it – might be worth trying to avoid. ;)

    The first time was at a party in SoCal, many years ago. An accidental overdose, after some unknown prankster spiked my drink. DoA. They called it. He’s dedd. …and a minute later, I awakened from a very interesting, and very peaceful ‘dream’.

    The second time there wasn’t much pain. Just an impact and lights out…until I awakened several hours later in the ER. Which is when I cussed the docs and nurses up one side and down the other. From ‘peace beyond understanding’ to an explosion of pain in less than a heartbeat. They saved my life…but I’m not at all certain they did me any favors. :) …especially when the bills arrived.

    Yes, the experience does change your outlook on life.


    Death is nothing to fear.

    Life becomes a very interesting exercise, as well. No one I’ve met, since, sees the world in quite the same fashion. …nor do I see others with the same eyes as before. I am more pragmatic, in many ways, than I was before…and also, generally, more patient.

  8. George,your comment “You see, I can Morse code with any part of my body I can get control of.” I sure hope you do not demonstate with your maleness on “Field day” in a thunderstorm. You could end up getting a weening you had not prep’d for. :)
    Sorry, but feel you walked into that.

    Keep up your positive attitude relative to health. As we get older, I am in mid 70’s, it is the geatest contributor along with gratitude, to getting over the hurdles of “getting older”.

    Keep well and safe,
    Ole Dave, nu old ham in NC.

  9. Why wipe with the left hand and not the right? Muslims attribute the practice to the Prophet, who, according to tradition, “commanded people to eat with their right hands and forbade them to eat with their left hands. He said, ‘The Shaytaan [a devil] eats with his left hand and drinks with his left hand

  10. When I was younger (teens and 35ish) I’d play that game of “what if” like lighting a match from a matchbook with one hand (either hand since I smoked at the time). I’d also float in a pool with my hands behind my back and feet together as if bound with rope. Experience reduces fear. It increases confidence and knowledge. By the way, while attending Lehman College in the Bronx, I saw blindfolded students being led about by another student.

  11. Re. wiping
    May I suggest a Joy Bidet C-1, $24.95 @ Amazon.
    4 yrs ago had both hands in casts, bought the Joy.
    Save a tree or 2.

  12. “One of the greatest personal creative moments ahead of you, if you haven’t practiced for a broken arm yet, is the simple act of (pardon this) wiping from the “wrong side” when you visit the personal (ahem) recycling station in the morning.” Been there, done that. It ain’t easy.

  13. A very stimulating game is to do everything backwards–off hand for eating (try chopsticks), wiping as mentioned above, go through doors backwards, great exercise for a month or so.

    Taste buds work just fine, the nose doesn’t. Brought forcefully to mind when I could hear the range burner hissing, but couldn’t smell the propane. ENT wasn’t helpful, steroids didn’t work. Flavors suck (couldn’t help myself) too. Weight stable, one keeps trying to find a tasty food. Chocolate still tastes fine-yay me. I don’t know about wine…long story…

  14. When one learns to fly, there are intervals where the instructor puts a ” hood ” on the student, has them look at their lap, and then tries to disorient them by strong maneuvers. When the student looks up, they are expected to put the plane into a straight and level configuration with only the instruments they can see, their hearing and perhaps the seat of the pants. The hood keeps them from seeing out of the plane.

    As the student advances, the instructor covers more and more instruments with a piece of paper, so the student has to extrapolate more and more. The idea is to simulate zero visibility plus instrument failure. Aren’t you glad all your pilots can do this? I enjoyed these exercises so much, that in my FAA check ride, the examiner thought I was cheating, and progressively lowered the hood until I could only see my knees when I raised my head. He exasperatedly gave up. Amazing how much your butt, the yoke and the sound of the engine can tell you.

    I believe that spiritual and emotional development are similar. We come into our bodies having all manner of senses disabled from our spiritual selves. Some of the most advanced souls I have encountered were bedridden, elderly, in constant pain, nearly deaf and blind, and they lit up any room they were in. Also people with cerebral palsy, retardation, and severe health issues. The more advanced souls can take such a body and make it into means to make people cry for joy and learn how giving and receiving love is really done.

    So when I recently suffered a fall from a roof, having passed out from overmedicated BP, and landed, unconscious, on my head and shoulder, I embraced the opportunity for a real learning experience in the ER, and in recovery. Internal bleeding, 5 broken bones, concussions, etc. were a real learning experience. One big lesson was the importance of letting go and happily, gratefully and bravely letting others take care of you. It is a gift to the giver to receive such care without resentment, or wishing you could do everything yourself. Gratitude for the help is better than any other thing you could give them. And if you muster some humor about the agony, and find meaningful ways to compliment caregivers, you can become a giver too.

    So yeah, practice life with hood on. That is why we are here.

  15. We thought we were pretty well-prepared for just about anything. But, deteriorating health has been somewhat of a surprise. The irony is that now that we know what to do, we are too impaired to do it.
    Now we have to make plans that one of us will be able to accomplish alone. We’ll be returning to city water, a lot rather than an acre, and relying on the utility company for power.

    Additionally, the challenge will be to not have all assets that have been accumulated in order to give our son a leg up in the world, sucked into the medical/pharmaceutical cartel.

    We have grown a lot of our own food, raised our own chickens and rabbits, taken a ton of vitamins and minerals – but the bodies are wearing out anyway.

    Unless we have a “natural” catastrophe soon that takes us out, we will have a personal disaster instead. I will probably decide to forego all the medicines that are keeping me artificially alive, and comply with my personal fate. I tend to think that Universe is more benign than the pharmaceutical industry. Moving on to my next experience seems better to me than learning Morse Code and talking with my eyelids or some such extreme measure. But then, each to his own.

    Hang in there, George. I’m happy that the surgery went well and you didn’t get flooded out. I wish I knew when to cash in my own lone gold coin. Or the silver.

  16. “Deal with it when it comes?” Come on Sarge. Practice is necessary to prevent a “bad” thing from becoming a “disaster” thing. Having had a problem or 2 during life I have found that it is good to practice while I can. Most of the family doesn’t think so, so when the stuff hits the fan they need some guidance. Practice, practice and then practice some more. Turn it into a game.

  17. George, my 93 year old father-in-law (who lives with my wife and I) has macular degeneration and has only 25% hearing in one ear. The other is total deaf, a legacy of working in a steel mill without hearing protection. The only thing he has done in the 30 years since he retired is channel surf the TV, no other hobbies or interests. Dealing with him as his disease progresses has been trying, since he has a ‘ignorant and proud of it mentality’. We do all we can but it has been interesting.

    James Johnson, ex-nuke

  18. In most of the world, people don’t struggle with Incapacitation to keep going. They have the good sense to just peacefully whither away and die. There is nothing noble about fighting death at the end of one’s life. That’s just programming that promotes a business model that is not in the best interests of the individual.

    My hospice nurse wife’s proposed tombstone. Lived, loved, laughed, left.

  19. Hi George, if I remember correctly, low levels of zinc can effect taste buds. If a person, especially the elderly, won’t eat because the food doesn’t taste good any more, consider a multivitamin or a low dose of zinc. High doses of zinc will cause nausea.

    And I agree with you, although I haven’t seen any recent medical research on it, a little extra weight, as a reserve is a good thing. Having taken care of patients, I can tell you, skinny people don’t fair as well as those with a little more weight when trying to recover from an illness. Think about it. A lot of ill people are slow to recover if they can’t take in adequate nutrition. The extra weight is a go to body reserve. The body can use it while one is sleeping trying to heal. Eating can take a lot of energy that ill people may not have a lot of. So again, that extra weight can be a god send.

    Also, there are several web sites that have a lot of great information on health. For nutrition post injury including surgery would be Thorne research. They have a lot of monographs on different diseases and nutritional support.
    Another one would be Harvard’s website on nutrition. Then there is Linus Pauling’s website.
    Hope this helps. Thanks again for all you do. It’s appreciated.

  20. “But anyone who is perfectly enabled can do mostly anything. It’s how good your game is when you have an unexpected limit imposed that can make the difference.”

    “To my way of thinking, it’s the learned mindset from the exercises, not the actual specifics that are the payoff.”

    George, I don’t think you have ever brought me to tears before.

    You see, I contracted Chronic Fatigue Syndrome nearly four decades ago, which gradually morphed into Fibromyalgia.

    I will try to update this post later today with a fuller explanation, and a reference back to your “Sim Cube” post of several days ago.

    • Hi Robin, I hope you live in a State where you can get a balm maded with Medical cannabis. As a retired RN, I was amazed how well this works for pain relief. This can be applied directly on intact skin, and over arthritic joints.
      The amount of cannabis concentrate in the product will make a difference on the effect of relief. May take about 20 minutes for the pain relief to take effect and is good for about 2 hrs (with a gram of concentrate in the product). No psycho-active side effects with the balm.

      You might consider discussing with your MD. A good approach to see how open minded your MD is, you could just ask if they have any patients on Medical cannabis and go from there. If your MD threatens to fire you as a patient, might be time to find another provider. Best of luck.

      Also this might be of some help. and …you might to do some research on the human endocannabinoid system. This system is not taught in medical or nursing schools, but should be.

    • Robin, re CFS, I refer you to the 30 or so health care folks who have died/been killed recently who discovered that cancer, viruses, autism and, I believe, CFS produce an enzyme, Nagalase, which disables the immune system. It can be defeated with GcMAF, available on Amazon, believe it or not….