Friday, March 31, 2006

I am Not Getting Old !

While speaking to my father this past week, the topic of my recent hamstring injury came up. I described to him, somewhat sheepishly, the rather entertaining circumstances of my misfortune. He, being the protective type, was understandably concerned for my health and safety. After all, he has had to endure 32 years of me running, jumping, climbing, playing sports, and the various injuries that naturally follow my almost-fearless nature and unbridled energy. It is conceivable, given this, that he would be distressed when I told him of my latest voyage to the physical therapy clinic.

"Be careful," he said, "You're not as young or flexible as you used to be."

Me ? Old and inflexible ? Absolutely not !!!

Truth be told, I am in better shape now than I was in my 20s. A 50-pound weight loss, coupled with a dramatic increase in physical activities, has rendered me stronger and more flexible than I ever have been. When I started karate two years ago, I could barely come within 2 feet of the ground while attempting to do the splits. Now, I am merely an inch and a half above complete floor contact. Flexibility is not an issue, thank you very much.

Although, I do have to admit that age, or perhaps just increased responsibility, has taken its toll. No longer can I spend an entire day awake, then go out dancing for 6 hours without missing a beat. No longer can I simply rely on Diet Coke and Jolly Ranchers to keep me going. These days, I actually need sleep. And coffee.

Nonetheless, I will not resign myself to being washed up, like most hockey players are when they reach their 30s. I will fight ! I will resist ! I will prevail over the natural aging mechanism that predisposes us to crippling injuries from mundane activities such as getting out of the car. That will never happen to me. Not if I have anything to say about it.

"So Dad," I said, "if you're saying I'm old, what does that make you ?"

"Hmm. Good point."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Machoism Hurts

Ok, I admit it. I have a streak of macho in me. Underneath all the compassion, the gentleness, the motivation, the passion, and the tech-geeky job, there is a little voice that sometimes surfaces, telling me, "keep on going, no matter how much it hurts." That voice is always there, daring me to run farther, to stack more weights on the bar, to keep on playing even after taking a screaming line drive to the body. That voice has been calling me again, for the last three weeks.

At least the injury wasn't something lame like getting out of my desk chair. It was at a kids' party, one I was participating in to the fullest, doing gymnastics tricks with the girls. One of my tricks is to do a cartwheel and drop into the splits. I can do this, and did it once without incident. But the second time, I landed wrong, with my front leg turned to the side a bit. I felt that sickening twang, that feeling that one gets when a muscle is stretched beyond its limits.

"That's gonna hurt tomorrow," I said to myself, then promptly went back to running, jumping, climbing the inflatable obstacle course, and playing with vigor with the other kids and adults.

Now, a normal person would take it easy when they woke up the next day and could only hobble and limp to the bathroom. A normal person would not even dream of attending karate class a few days later. But, as I've proven many times, I'm anything but normal.

That class was the first part of my Green belt promotion. Of course I didn't tell my teachers that I was injured. Did I want them thinking I was wimping out ? Hell no !

After that class, I again was relegated to the limpy gimp back to the car. And over 2 weeks later, it wasn't any better. I finally sought help, and was figuratively kicked in the arse by my physical therapist for letting it go so long. Turns out I messed up my hamstring, and good, with that one crooked drop into the splits.

For tonight's karate class, the last in the promotion process, I did inform my Sensei that I was injured. While the rest of the class did one or two kicks, I was asked to do a sequence of 5 or 6 hand techniques. We did push-ups, some on our knuckles, some on our fingertips, some only on the sides of our hands. Even so, my hamstring was complaining to me by the end.

Why do I do this to myself ? What is it that motivates me to push farther, to try harder, to continue on even after my body has started to fail me ?

Call it masochism. Call it ego. Call it insanity. Whatever it is, it keeps me going, long after some others would have quit.

As I write this, brand-new Green belt still around my waist, I am sitting on an ice pack. Strangely, it feels good. Maybe it's the soothing cold. Maybe it's the knowledge that I perservered. Maybe it's the fact that I had the courage to admit my injury, to go to class anyway, and to do every agonizing sequence over and over again until my Sensei was satisifed.

This Green belt, obtained after months of hard work, was worth it all.

Ki-ai !

Friday, March 17, 2006

Cattle Herding

As everyone on this continent is fully aware, the airline industry has taken a proverbial nosedive in the last few years. Post 9/11 traveler fear, increased security needs, and skyrocketing fuel costs are some of the main reasons why almost every major carrier in North America has filed for some sort of bankruptcy protection. Who is affected most by this ? The travelers, of course. This last trip to Toronto for my sister's bridal shower was a prime example of this.

The first major change I noticed was the weight allowance for baggage. On Air Canada, the checked baggage weight allowance was reduced from 70lbs. just over a year ago, to 60lbs, and now to 50lbs. After my last trip, and the fiasco of having to take out clothes and my medical bag with my underwear in full view of the rest of the terminal, I donated my large, sturdy Samsonite suitcase and replaced it with a rolling duffel. I had to do the same for my small suitcase, to meet the ridiculously light 22lb. carry-on requirement as well.

When I do fly, my airline miles now accrue at half the rate that they used to. If I want full credit for all miles, I'd have to pay double for the flight. Rather defeats the purpose, doesn't it ? Oh, and the regular amount of miles only gets you the crappy multi-stop flights with long layovers in airports nowhere near your destination. If I want a nonstop, it costs 1.5 times the regular amount of miles.

So, you accrue miles at half the rate you used to, and it costs 1.5 times as much as it used to for a decent flight. I wonder why they even bother in the first place.

In-flight meals ? Forget it. You want something to eat, you now have to pay for it. They don't even offer as many brands of soda as they used to. At least the food available for sale is higher-quality than the questionable concoctions they used to serve for free. But I now know to bring a Subway sandwich and a bottle of water with me. I won't pay for an in-flight meal. It's a principle thing.

But the kicker was my experience on the recent return flight. I habitually sleep on every flight I take, regardless of the time of day. I had left my trusty travel pillow in the rental car, so I asked the flight attendant if I could please have a pillow. Those little flat pillows they give you on the red-eyes (and that I saw conspicuously sitting on ever first-class seat on this flight !) are tiny, but are definitely better than nothing. I eyed them with desire for the comfort one of them would bring.

Her answer ?

"Sorry, we don't have pillows available. You can buy an inflatable one for $2 if you like."

What ???

Has this industry gone completely insane ? Do they really think I am going to shell out money for some lame-arsed inflatable pillow when there are plenty of unused ones sitting on the empty seats of the business-class flyers ? Do I have to go begging like a homeless person with my hand out in business class to score one of these precious items ? And what will happen if I actually do shell out my hard-earned $2 for one of the inflatable devices ? Will they make me pay for the oxygen I'd use blowing the darned thing up ?? What is wrong with this picture ?

I fretted and shuffled in my seat, convinced I would never rest for the flight due to this trauma. Until I was saved by the very flight attendant that broke me the terrible news. In her hand was one of the small, flat pillows, unneeded by the high-rollers at the front of the plane. She handed it to me, smile on her face, sympathetic to my uncushioned head and obvious distress.

She gave me that little pillow. And she didn't even ask for money.

I wanted to hug her.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

What's in a Name ?

For 25 years of my life, I was named Andrea D. The D stands for an ethnic name that is quite obviously European. As my father was born in Matera in southern Italy, my name was a reflection of that portion of my heritage.

Due to pressure from my mother-in-law-to-be, and my desire to keep the peace, I changed it when I first was married. I got used to being Andrea A. I was fine with it then.

After the divorce, I didn't change it back right away. Everyone in California knows me as A., and I'd just have to go through the same name-changing bureaucratic agony if/when I got married again. At the time, I thought, why bother ?

But then I started asking myself, why should I have to change my name when I get married ? That is the culture in North America, but not in many other parts of the world, including Europe and French Canada. I see more and more women in this country electing to keep their maiden names, with little apparent backlash. Why can't I do that too ?

My last name is not just my title. It's my heritage. It's a part of my identity. I shouldn't have to lose that when I decide to share my life with another person.

So yesterday, I announced to all my friends and family that I was changing back. All the paperwork with the various legal agencies has been done, and now, I am officially known as Andrea D. again.

Many have commented on what a beautiful Italian name it is. One person even said "Sounds like a diva."

To me, it just sounds like me.

Andrea D.

It's what I was, it's what I am, and it's what I'm going to be.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

New ERT Member

Mocha has decided she wants to join the Emergency Response Team with me.

As soon as we can find some latex gloves that fit, she's in. :)

No Such Thing as Routine

Everyone who is trained in the medical field, either emergency or clinical, is well aware that it is not an exact science. Two people experiencing the same medical condition often will present with vastly different symptoms. Although it is not the job of the Emergency Response Team, EMT, firefighter or paramedic to diagnose the exact cause, there is often a fair amount of detective work needed to determine the best course of action for stabilization and treatment.

And as I was reminded yesterday, things are not always what they seem.

The ERT at my company was called out for a patient who had cut her hand. It looked pretty deep to me, right in the webbing between the thumb and index finger, but at least it was a clean cut. Probably needed stitches. The patient was nervous at the sight of blood, but said to me that she felt ok. Until the fire department arrived.

As I was giving my report to the fire captain, she said "I don't feel so good."

"What's wrong ?"

"I feel dizzy."

All of a sudden, her eyes rolled back, her head tilted to the side, and she lost consciousness. Her body started twitching, gripped in the clutches of a seizure. I held her head to keep her upright in the chair and prevent her from hitting it against the desk. 15 seconds later, she was still, and then slowly drifted back to lucidity.

What started off as a leisurely trip for a tetanus shot and some stitches turned out to be a quick ride to the hospital with the heart monitor and oxygen mask attached.

Was it purely psychological, from the trauma of seeing her own blood ? Was there an underlying medical condition that was triggered by the stress ? We'll probably never know. The doctors will determine that, I'm sure.

Lesson learned: never take anything for granted. The most routine call can very quickly degenerate, right before your eyes.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Parking Lot Adventure

During the years that I used to commute 120 miles a day, I would frequently and consistently come across, or even witness, a variety of traffic accidents. This dubious tendency became well-known amongst my fellow ERT members, earning me the nickname of Sh*t Magnet. Although I no longer spend 3+ hours a day on the road, this propensity has continued.

It manifested itself on Tuesday night, when I was driving around the parking lot of the building that I had just finished my karate class in. I was heading towards the exit when I saw two smashed-up cars, their previous occupants milling around in the parking lot traffic. As I always do, I stopped to help.

Luckily, there were no injuries. I called the incident in, put down flares, and spoke with the two drivers.

Of course they both stated that the other was driving too fast. "No kidding," I thought to myself. The car that was hit had a very prominent bash on the side of it from the T-bone impact. The car that did the hitting was leaking fluid and vapor, and obviously undriveable.

This was in a parking lot.

I guess these guys were in a hurry. The collision slowed them down, that's for sure.

The owner of the broadsided vehicle mentioned to me that he was considering driving the car home. After looking at the damage more closely, I didn't think this was such a good idea.

The impact was directly beside the wheel well. The wheel itself was on an angle to the rest of the car. The wheel well was damaged and distorted, with jagged metal pieces pointing towards the tire. I hoped this car was paid for. It looked like a write-off.

"You know what ? I don't think this is safe to drive. I'd call a tow truck if I were you."

"Oh. Ok."
Keywords: Andrea Di Lecce, andrea di lecce, Andrea DiLecce, andrea dilecce, Andrea Abrahamsen, andrea abrahamsen, Slinky, slinky, SlinkyGal, SLiNKyGaL, slinkygal, SlinkyDee, slinkydee, Toronto, toronto, San Francisco, san francisco, San Jose, san jose, softball, Seido karate, volleyball, blog, emotion, philosophy, funny, jokes, musings, psychology, EMT, EMS, emergency medical services