Kaddee’s Cairo Chronicles


January 26, 2012

Ok, I lied.

Filed under: How it works — Kaddee @ 10:39 pm

I didn’t update about the microphlebectomy and vascular surgery.  It has been 6 weeks since my surgery.  I’ve run the gamut of recovery and still have not reached the finish line.  The pain and post-surgery slowness have gone away.  I no longer get crackling electric shocks up my leg if I try to walk quickly and have to “heel strike” abruptly.  Most of the initial bruising has diminished, but the edema remains.  I can’t do a lot of things in yoga, because the swelling just under my knee prevents comfortable kneeling (kinda necessary in a lot of postures).  My foot, at the base of my toes,  is still quite puffy and tender which precludes a number of pairs of (really cute) shoes from being worn comfortably – especially when my teaching assignment right now involves 6 hours of continuous contact time and being on my feet.

My “extra special” present for having my surgery was/is a 2cm x 0.7cm raised “egg” (cyst) at the base of my shin.  This, too, precludes the wearing of certain shoes AND is *at least* as ugly as the vericosities were and not as easily hide-able by long hems!  I had it aspirated about 4 weeks ago, only for it to return within about 4 to 6 hours!  I’ve just put up with it since then, and in my “follow-up” today we found that it is about 50 – 60% solidified and can no longer be aspirated at all.  So now we wait.  Most of the radiating pain from the cyst has abated and now it is just ugly, annoying and uncomfortable.

The bonus of today’s visit with the doctor was sclerotherapy!  I didn’t know this was going to happen (nor did I really expect/want it).  In this stage of the therapy, a mildly caustic detergent solution is injected into the discolored or spider veins left after the endovenous laser treatment and microphlebectomy.  The detergent displaces the blood in the tiny, superficial veins and irritates them so that they collapse and remain colorless.  It all seems rather much, and there were few of these to deal with, but it means another week in the compression stocking and a bit more limping.

Woot!  Aren’t we having fun!!??

December 19, 2011

Microphlebectomy

Filed under: Being There,How it works — Kaddee @ 9:38 am

If you are weak of stomach, you may not want to read this saga.  It will be ongoing – with new additions periodically.

On December 15th, I underwent a procedure called “Endovenous Laser Treatment with Microphlebectomy”.  What the HELL does that mean?  “Endovenous” = inside a vein; “micro-” =small; “phlebectomy” = removal of vein.

I have had a worsening varicose vein in my left leg for about 20 years.  I decided to see a vascular doctor about it recently.  I had it “treated” on Thursday.

Procedure – Thursday, December 15th, 2011

The day began at 5:30am (after giving my final exam in my night class the previous evening).  I had to shower  before the procedure because I would not get another shower until Friday evening.  I also had to apply Lidocaine cream to the entire area that was going to be worked on.  (I’ve had poor success with these lido-creams in the past and was not too confident for this time either!)  The lido-cream had to be Saran wrapped in place (no kidding!) and I got dressed.  A light breakfast, no coffee and WHEE off we went.

We arrived early.  The facility was not yet open.  I twitched.  At 8am we got registered and by 8:30 I was in my treatment room.  They gave me disposable shorts to wear, unwrapped my leg and washed down the entire area.  To my surprise, the lido-cream REALLY worked.  My left inner thigh and anterior/medial calf were completely numb!  It felt like they had been iced, but not cold, just that thick-numb-kinda-like-a-piece-of-meat feeling.  Once we had gone through all the releases and possible problems I was given a glass of water and Xanax (anti-anxiety medication) to relax.  The nurse suggested I take two, I opted for one – not really knowing what Xanax would do, and not really wanting to be totally out of it.

The doctor came in and traced out the veins on my skin with a Sharpie marker.  One of the nurses also came in with an iPod and asked what type of music I wanted to listen to during the procedure.  She offered elevator music, jazz, 80′s and all kinds of specific artists.  I told her that she could put on anything that did not distract the doctor from his primary focus – my leg.  She spun through the list for a bit, picked something and put the iPod in the docking station.

(HERE’S WHERE IT IS GOING TO START GETTING ICKY – YOU’VE BEEN WARNED)  The first part of the procedure was the endovenous treatment.  In my case, what this meant was that a fiber-optic with a laser was inserted into my Greater Saphenous vein starting just below my inner ankle bone (medial malleolus) and “gently” snaked up, inside the vein, to about the middle of my thigh.  (This reminded me a bit of the old RotoRooter commercials – but that may have had something to do with the Xanax.)  At about this time, I realized that the music that the nurse had picked was… JOURNEY.  LOL.  I hadn’t really noticed it (thank you Xanax) and when I did, I found that quite humorous.  With the laser in place, the fiber got slowly pulled back out with the laser firing every n-seconds to damage the inside (endothelium) of the vein.  This damage will cause clotting and, combined with compression, will collapse the vein.

WHEW it is nearly over, right?  Oh no, grasshopper – the best is yet to come!

The traces of the veins on my leg were to show the doctor the tortuous path of the vessel within the skin so that he could make small incisions near the vein, pull small sections of the vein out through the incision and cut it, and then make another incision about 1 or 2 inches away and PULL pieces of vein out of my skin.  Did it just get really warm in here?? That is the  microphlebectomy portion of the procedure.  There was lots more lidocaine injected into my skin around the areas of vein that were going to be “pulled”.  It was quite odd, come to think of it, because I was awake and talking with the doctor and could feel (and hear) pulling, puncturing, moving of my skin but could feel nothing.  The “meat-y” feeling of the skin was all I could feel.  It was attached to me, but not really part of me.  Only on one occasion was there a big, shooting pain – and that was when he touched a nerve that was running next to the vein.  BOY HOWDY was I awake then!  It felt like he was pulling miles of vein out of my leg, but after the procedure the nurse showed me the pieces (yes, I am that type) and it was less than 8 inches!  Finally after about 2 hours, we were done and the nurses washed me up, SteriStripped my “punctures” (no stitches), put gauze over EVERYTHING (a lot of extra lidocaine solution had been pumped in around my veins, and would be leaking out over the next few hours) and got me into my ever-so-lovely compression stocking (+30mmHg if you are interested).

The Xanax was fading, but still enough to make me a bit dizzy when I stood up to get dressed.  :)   I was advised on my medications and sent off with Jack for a 20 minute walk.  All walking for the next two weeks is supposed to be slow and careful.  No cardio, nothing bordering on exercise, just enough to keep the blood flowing through the deep vein so as to  minimize the possibility of clotting in the deep vein.

After our walk, Jack took me to  my favorite comfort food place for lunch.  It is the ONLY place we ever go where I will order lasagna at a restaurant!  It is my absolute favorite and always makes me feel happy.  Full belly, drugs wearing off, a little walk and then NAP TIME.  The rest of Thursday was somewhat of a blur.  Walks around the block. Sitting with my leg elevated.  Napping.  The pain was not bad, more sore than pain.  The gauze under the compression stocking were NOT pretty, and I had a whole other day to live with that before I could take off the stocking, the gauze and have a shower!

(more…)

August 13, 2009

Recycling overload

Filed under: How it works — Kaddee @ 7:49 pm

Our shipment arrived.  The boxes were a tad beat up, but nothing was falling out or OBVIOUSLY damaged from the outside (unlike our boxes from Namibia – but that is another story).

Nineteen boxes take up most of our living room – full or empty.

When they arrived – full – there was a mere path through the center of the room.  It has gotten no better since unpacking 15 of them!  As a matter of fact, I think it has gotten WORSE.  Before, all the haget was CONTAINED, now it is piled in every room of the house – mostly in my “office”.

We have no shelves or other horizontal surfaces to pile things on, so all piles are on the floor, making navigation difficult.

So far, only  one casualty of the trip!  One of my alabaster plates split and crumbled along a lovely translucent vein in the stone – oh well, could be worse.  My alabaster lamp made it!!!  As did all the ceramics and the mashrabiyya screen.  Mabsoota awy.

In attempting to “settle in” we bought chairs!!!  We can sit down comfortably in the livingroom (surrounded by boxes and stuff).  YIPPEE

With most of the boxes (not the plastic totes) empty, we have a GIANORMOUS pile of cardboard (from the boxes and wrapping of stuffs), a HUGE box of paper (from wrappings) and another IMMENSE box of bubble wrap to deal with.  I think the dump will take the boxes and paper as recycling, but what to do with the bubblewrap??  Where is TypO when you  REALLY need her??

June 25, 2009

Can’t fully grok this

Filed under: How it works — Kaddee @ 3:21 pm

Our AUC car will be here to pick us up in about 3 hours.  This is nothing new or different – but it is.  THIS TIME we don’t have a return flight.  THIS TIME we aren’t coming back.

I am having a lot of difficulty with this, for many reasons.  I am not fully prepared to leave.  I don’t mean that I’m not packed, or anything like that, but I am not chomping at the proverbial bit to hop on a plane while doing the Happy Jig.  This feeling is rather new for me.  Just about everywhere I’ve ever left, I’ve done so with a clear conscience and narry a backward glance.  The only exception was Seattle because I knew I was going back there.  Leaving Cairo is not like leaving Hamilton, New York or Albany or even Ports-mouse, New Hampshire.  When I leave Cairo, as sappily melancholy as it sounds, I’ll be leaving part of me here.  That is new.  That is hard.

And somehow the people here have become intricately intertwined in our lives in a very short time.  We have friends in Seattle that I’ve known for 10 years that I don’t feel as tied to as some of our Cairo friends.  Is that “trench mentality” (as a friend recently put it)?  Is it part of being an ex-pat?  Is it just the way that things are in Egypt?  I am already missing some off the friends, and we haven’t left yet.  And some we didn’t get to see.  Perhaps we never will.

There is also a complete and utter cognitive disconnect with our imminent departure and its reality.  I’ve watched my 603kg in 19 boxes disappear.  I’ve sorted, shipped or sh*t-canned all my stuff – AGAIN.  I’ve gotten the signatures and given back the keys.  And yet it isn’t real.

Perhaps it is simply the exhaustion factor.  Perhaps it is three years living in Da-Nile (heh – Zamalek is an island!).  I don’t know, but it isn’t real.

June 15, 2009

Finally free

Filed under: How it works — Kaddee @ 7:40 am

It is just before 8am on Monday, June 15th, and the doors of the Zamalek dorm are unlocked, finally.

People are coming and going in a nearly festive mood.  Outsiders are coming in and greeting some of the “inmates” as though they have just been rescued and released from the Somali pirates – happy to see each other alive.

The medical staff and ministry people are presiding over the entire scene with the air of the “saviours” who brought us out of the darkness of A(H1N1) to our “reintegration” with the outside world.

In my (not really very humble) estimation – this is a ridiculous farce.  There was NOTHING WRONG with ANY of the people who were locked-up in the dorm for a week.  NO ONE HAD THE VIRUS.  The infected individuals were taken to a hospital on Sunday and Monday last week.  There was no further testing of people in the dorm.  There were no instances of illness.  We were all given prophylactic Tamiflu.  And we were left in the dorm so that the public could see how efficiently and effectively THIS flu was being handled.

A complete fiasco.  Incarcerating us for  5 days BEYOND isolation of the infected and distribution of Tamiflu had NO BEARING on the spread of the virus.  Students, staff and faculty were restricted in their  ability to enter and leave the building, but Ministry staff, some guards and other “important” people came and went – usually without masks or any other protection from viral contamination.

I feel like I’ve been used for a huge public health side-show, that had nothing to do with REALLY improving public health.

It is done now – people will take credit for doing valient things to protect the public.  We are now allowed to move freely – personal freedoms recovered.  I suppose I should be happy – I’m simply relieved.

May 23, 2009

Authorization for Departure

Filed under: How it works — Kaddee @ 6:39 pm

No kidding – I have to be authorized by a bunch of bureaucrats and secretaries before I will be allowed to depart!  LOL

I have begun the long and tortuous process of collecting signatures on an “official” piece of paper.  We are in the 21st century, at a “state-of-the-art” campus and I am spending hours wandering around to offices to attempt to get people to sign a piece of paper!

So far I have managed-

  • Faculty Services – Miss Louise has to sign off that I have not taken (and kept) books from the Faculty Lounge Library – this one was the easiest, because I KNOW Louise and where her office is!
  • Main Library – this SEEMS straight forward, except no-one at the circulation desk seems to know who is authorized to sign the piece of paper.  Three separate people asked for my ID, checked that I had no overdue books or items on reserve or hold and agreed that I am “clear” but no-one would sign the paper!  Finally, one of the staff just signed a squiggle on the line and told me I could go.  The others looked  mortified at the gall of the signator!
  • International Phone Office – (no I am not kidding) I didn’t even know there WAS such a place, nor did I have any idea why I needed to go there.  I was informed that the office had to make sure that I had not made any international calls through the University switchboard!  WHAT?  Is that possible?  There’s a switchboard somewhere?
  • Chain Supply Office – I have ABSOLUTELY no idea what this office does – it used to be the Business Support office, not that that is any clearer to me.
  • Human Resources Office – they, apparently, need to make sure that I don’t owe the University Clinic any money for things not covered by my health plan.  I think the actual reason for the signature is so that they can try to sell you the insurance COBRA coverage.  Sigh.

I still have a number of signatures to get:

  • Housing has to come and make sure that I’m not taking home any of their rugs or lamps
  • The Dean of SSE and the Chair of Biology have to make sure that I’ve “completed my contractual obligations” to the University before I can be “authorized” to leave
  • Payroll (who won’t sign off until everyone else has, but you have to go thru many hoops with them BEFORE you can get everyone else’s signatures)

I am rather bemused at the MASSIVE headaches that must go on for me to LEAVE the institution.  It seems like harder work than getting there in the first place!

May 9, 2009

Stress springs eternal

Filed under: How it works — Kaddee @ 12:12 pm

Especially at this time in the semester!

I *should* know better/have learned by now….and yet, in the inimitable words of my hubby, “I spend my life lurching from one crisis to the next.”

The end of the semester is always stressful.  Students are cranky and have already checked out for the summer.  Grading MUST be done quickly so that student grades can be submitted before summer deadlines.  Committees and departments are trying to wind up all their projects before everyone scatters for the summer.  And THIS year, I am attempting to tie up loose ends with the course I’ve been coordinating so that I can hand it over, get ready to participate in a panel discussion at an international colloquium and prepare to leave Cairo for good.  Needless to say there is a bit going on.

On the student front – I’m nearly apoplectic about my students right now.  They have been working on a semester long paper, in installments, that is due TOMORROW.  They received their marked last installment last week for incorporation into the final draft.  Half of the class has not even looked at the mark-ups yet!  Two of the students FAILED the installment and have to COMPLETELY rewrite.  They seem to have simply gone on break early.

Some friends and colleagues try to remind me that I am not personally responsible for the students’ grades – they make decisions and their grades reflect their priorities.  I know that, but I also really want them to succeed.   Contrary to popular (student) opinion, I (and professors, in general) do not gain any pleasure by submitting low or failing grades!

On the department front – I’ve been working on getting an assessment plan outlined.  Just a “small project before I leave”.  The department has been reticent to obstinant about the entire process.  “We did that in 2004!!!  Why are we revisiting this??”  I HAVE managed to get a student exit survey in place, but any form of legitimate programmatic assessment at the course level is being actively blocked.  Oh well – Malesh

On the colloquium front – I’m actually excited and glad to be doing this, just not NOW.  Some colleagues and I will be presenting at the international “Building the Scientific Mind” colloquium here in Cairo this coming week.  We will be discussing the changes that we have been making in the course that I coordinate.  It is a good networking and CV building experience, and I think we’ll actually learn a lot and have fun!  But I’m in prep-phase right now, which is decidedly NOT fun.

Last and CERTAINLY not least is the “moving BACK half-way around the world” front – this was a royal PITA the first time.  We have less stuff now – all the furniture belongs to AUC, we have no vehicles, few(er) books etc, but we STILL have to sort, sell, pack, ship and otherwise DEAL with all the stuff!

Jack is in Excel/webpage hell right now – trying to sort, categorize, photograph and post all our “For Sale” stuff.

I’m in paperwork hell.  I am dealing with AUC and all the forms, attachments, scheduling and other logistics.  Considering that AUC sends, at least some, faculty home EVERY SEMESTER and has been doing so for 90 years, the process could sure use some updating and streamlining.  (And perhaps a straight-forward set of instructions!!??)  [sigh]

I shouldn’t be surprised by the process, as the process to come over was EVEN LESS well-defined.  Ahh malesh, ed donia kiddah.

May 2, 2009

Mafeesh Pork!

Filed under: How it works,What the...? — Kaddee @ 9:46 am

In an unprecedented (and almost definitely ill-advised) move, the Egyptian government decided that the way to prevent swine flu in the country was to kill all the pigs.  I am simultaneously stunned and not about this knee-jerk over-reaction.

These actions demonstrate a distinct lack of:

  1. Understanding of the virus and its epidemiology
    1. There have been NO CASES of swine flu in Egypt.  Unlike bird flu, this one is not present in the country.  (Some say, it is  not here YET!!  So let’s kill all the pigs before it gets here!)
    2. This flu is NOT the flu that pigs get!  It is a chimera of human, pig and bird.  It is similar to pig flu, but IS NOT THE SAME.

    Michael Shaw, the CDC’s associate director for laboratory science states, “Everybody’s calling it swine flu, but the better term is swine-like. It’s like viruses we have seen in pigs — it’s not something we know was in pigs. It doesn’t really have any close relative.”

  2. Understanding of the longer term effects of eradicating the pig population in Egypt
    1. Pigs here are the main organic waste recyclers.  Pigs are kept by the zabaleen (garbage collectors) and are fed the organic wastes – kitchen scraps, fruit rinds and pits etc.
      1. For those who are wondering – most of the zabaleen are Christian, and therefore do not abide by the Islamic ban on pigs and pork.  They raise the pigs on the organic wastes, and then sell the pork products to restaurants etc.  Many Coptic-run restaurants in Cairo serve pork.
    2. Eradication of the pig means that the disposal of garbage will also be decreased or eliminated.  Obviously, the health risks of growing piles of garbage have not been taken into account.  (Remember the garbage strike in Naples about a year ago??)
    3. The sale of pork is also a mainstay of the zabaleen economy.  Interestingly, since the slaughter of the pigs began on Wednesday (April 29), the SALE of pork products in the usual places has ALSO been eliminated.  A critical thinking individual would wonder WHY?????  The virus cannot be passed via eating pork products.

We encountered this unfortunate reality yesterday at Maison Thomas – our 2nd favorite pizza place (1st favorite for delivery).  I attempted to order the Croque Monsieur for lunch yesterday and was told, “No ham – international bans.”  Whatever that means.

The conspiracy theorists in Egypt are saying that this is the working of the Brotherhood to eliminate all the pigs in Egypt, and insure that pigs will never be raised in the country again.  Others are saying that this is a Zionist plot and that the flu has been engineered.

I don’t think it is all that sinister.  I think it is the two most commonly mixed ingredients of bad decision making: ignorance and fear.

For me, it simply means no more pork products until we leave Egypt.  <sigh>

April 25, 2009

Yogi Berra

Filed under: How it works — Kaddee @ 6:44 pm

“It’s like deja vu all over again.”

Yup, it’s true.  Three years have FLOWN by, and it is time to begin the grueling ordeal of relocating half-way around the world AGAIN.

Looking at the bright side – we divested ourselves of virtually all the furniture, vehicles and other large consumer items before coming to Egypt.  We’ve purchased very little of THAT sort of thing.  Then again, we’ve (ok, I’VE) purchased other things, like… ceramics, artwork, mashrabiyya, textiles.

Again, the bright side also says that THIS TIME AUC will be helping in the packing of the items (and Jack too – right honey!?).  Our main job is to sort, they will pack.  Sounds easy, right?

The sorting has begun.  Books are the first level.  Most of them will not travel to the States.

I’m beginning to look at things like socks (yes, seems insignificant, but this is what happens).  The weather is getting warmer, so any holey socks get tossed instead of being washed.

We are discussing the relative “necessity” of bringing back this or that item.

And so the negotiation begins.

I can’t really wrap my head around it yet.  I’m still struggling with completing the semester in any type of rigorous format.  I have a BAD case of short-timers disease.  Papers are waiting to be marked.  I’m writing blog posts.

Also, this time, I’m not nearly as excited/desperate for the move.  I’m not fully ready to leave yet.  I am  not chomping at the bit to “shake the dust off my boots” in the same way I was when I left Seattle.  Three years in Cairo has shown me that the things I left Seattle for are not Seattle problems, they are part of me and my personality.  They travel with me.  Sad but true.

I’m also at an interesting point in my life/career.  I came to Egypt to accomplish certain things.  Virtually none of those things worked out as I’d hoped they would.  That fact, for a while, left me feeling empty and failed.  But it has also shown me that there are OTHER things that I hadn’t planned on or even contemplated which have come out of this adventure.

I’ve, of necessity, assumed more of an administrative role in the CORE curriculum class that I coordinate.  I do a pretty good job of it.  I guess I kinda knew that I would (shush AJ and Jack!!!) after being the “chair” of my Department in Seattle, but it has still been quite a surprise.  I always figured that my greatest strength was my classroom teaching, but … perhaps there are other things.

I’ve also discovered a real love for Egypt and the people and the language.  They (all three) can also drive me batty, but I never figured I’d like it so much here.  That also feeds into the hesitation and anxiety about leaving.  Although AUC can make me nuts, and my department needs a good overhaul (which can be said about virtually EVERY academic department in EVERY institution) I do not have the feeling that I had leaving Seattle – I don’t feel like I’ve “done all I can here”.

I could stay and do more.  AND I can go home and have loads to do.  The latter is the plan.  And even before I can get to that, we have the Three S’s to deal with here (ship, sell, sh*t-can).

Deja vu, all over again.

February 28, 2009

More Bassily…

Filed under: How it works — Kaddee @ 11:28 am

Another installment of the vissicitudes that mark the use of Bassily Hall.  This time I must laugh heartily at myself.

In the last writing, I was bemoaning the lack of equipment in the hall and then expressed my great relief that it was “worked out” in the Wednesday lecture.

So, in I walk for the next Monday lecture (23Feb) and what do I see????  A slightly larger portable screen and desktop projector set up – AGAIN.

ARRGH – where is the large screen?  Where is the big projector?  Why were these things worked out for last Wednesday and we are back to square 1 on Monday????

Long story short – The large screen that “magically” appeared last Wednesday was NOT FOR US.  The university technology people were setting up early for a Thursday lecture and we walked in and co-opted the set up!

LOL – we, apparently, confused the living daylights out of the tech guys when we walked in, took over the hall, the equipment and the sound, and shooed them away.  They had NO IDEA that the hall was reserved and thought that we were all insane.  :)

Now, after 2 weeks of lectures in Bassily Hall, we (supposedly) have the situation figured out.  We are: (1) renting the sound equipment from an outside, 3rd party company, (2) being provided the projection equipment (screen and projector) by university technologies and (3) using the laptop from the Center for Learning and Teaching because it has the lecture capture software on it.

Easy – right?  :)