Friday, September 30, 2022

Call the Interpreter Tales

Now offering a new series on where life as a French-speaker and an interpreter might take you. One of my friends joked it could be named "Call the Interpreter" as one of my beloved t.v. series is entitled, just with "Midwife" instead. Only with less blood and gore and screaming, except during labor and childbirth, of which there was quite a lot for the first nine years.

And truthfully, it all began spontaneously. I was a former translator and interpreter, but currently a mom at home. The first phone call was to request I report for duty... at the western wall of the in-patient psych ward one wintry day. "Yes," came out of my mouth, it does sometimes. I have kept much of it tucked away as this used to be a homeschooling blog. But the hard, real, hilarious at times, truth of being a semi-working mom and wife and homeschooling five children will be interwoven in the fabric of these stories.

The plan

Share the juiciest, most exciting, lively, and tender moments of this 20-some-year adventure in every type of interpreting encounter you might imagine, but entirely fictionalized. No real stories will be shared, would-and-might-have-beens only.

        My short-list 

of people, places, memories and scars, as noted on my Ipad. Please do excuse the formatting, as I have only one hand and I'm relying on a write to text app to produce this.

People from:

France  🇫🇷                 Congo RDC 🇨🇬

la Belgique   🇧🇪     Congo RC 🇨🇩           la Cote d' Ivoire 🇨🇮

Benin  🇧🇯             Haiti  🇭🇹          Togo  🇹🇬

le Liban  🇱🇧                               Cameroun 🇨🇲

le Quebec 🇨🇦                 la Suisse 🇨🇭

le Maroc  🇲🇦           l'Algerie 🇩🇿                     Burundi  🇧🇮

Rwanda  🇷🇼                          Niger 🇳🇪                     le Burkina Faso 🇧🇫

le Mali 🇲🇱                                        Senegal 🇸🇳

                                The Central African Republic 🇨🇫

Gabon  🇬🇦                           Tunisia 🇹🇳                             Roumanie 🇷🇴



les Landes                         Springfield                  Las Vegas

Iceland                   Nashville                  Muscatine 

Paris                                Cedar Rapids

San Francisco                    Racine


                …and hidden FLW masterpiece gems like Cedar Rock and its boathouse

        Des Moines... my own capital (but hardly known)

        Chicago... my own city of proximity (scarcely visited)

Dublin                 Salt Lake City                     Rock Island

        London                             La Salle                          Adel  


relatively few

- one or two from biking the Golden Gate bridge...

-psychological ones from high-winded, icy, bleak highway travel in winter

Memories made:

the best and the worst and everything in-between

Names and any other identifying factors shall be disguised beyond all recognition and stories will just be stories, based on treasures of all sorts I’ve seen and heard. Weird treasures. Beautiful treasures. Terrifying treasures.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

A Super-Bendy (Hypermobile/EDS) Recovers From Joint-Replacement Surgery; Chapter One

This is, in fact, Day Seven Post-op of having a joint replaced in the left wrist, or an arthoplasty CMC . ***If you cannot abide reading medical descriptions, skip to the next paragraph and cute dog pics. The trapezium bone was removed, replaced by a tendon graft and the bones hitched back together with a tiny tightwire. I always dreamed I'd do acrobatics and tightwire stunts. Fancy this being the first one.

I'll start here and in future chapters work back to when this hand first became a problem, but fresh things first. I am accompanied by a warm weight pressed up against my knees in the form of woman's most faithful friend (until the mailman shows up), Tuxy Pup. He desires nothing more of a morning than for his person to stay put for the duration of his morning nap.


We are back in a comfortable position, pillows in place under left elbow, ready to chronicle recovery as I live it. But earlier I did a very easy-going set of stretches. I am not going to get all stiff and old because of my left thumb. I am drinking as well, as much water as I can remember to drink each day. Recovery hinges on a balance of all three. Move. Rest. Hydrate.

Surgery Day, as you might imagine, was woozy, fuzzy, and tired until it wasn't. There was a good deal of meditation on gratitude and some silent cussing. My rambling notes, scrawled on a tablet with my Apple pencil went something like this, "Think of everything that is pain-free. Toes? check! left leg, right leg, torso, right arm, right hand, neck, eyes, nose, whole head? Check, check! I am so fortunate!" I even used pretty colors. And no cussing.

How could I complain when my husband had rearranged his day, his month around this to take care of every detail, meal, animal, and child? What's more, I was not going to whine about a choice I made freely. 

Nevertheless, the truth is, when the nurse tells you, "take a pain pill when you first start to notice pins and needles," it is a good idea to do just that. They know what they're talking about. I blame timing and a chronic low-pain tolerance for what happened. 

They said, "a nerve-block can last for up to 24 hours, if it hasn't worn off before you go to bed, take the meds to be safe." That was my plan. But, the pins and needles warning sign came two hours after surgery as I was being bundled into the backseat to head home. I thought it might just be the new positioning of my arm or imagination. I have a bright and vivid imagination that goes into overdrive for anything with the smallest hint of the catastrophic. When the pain began vaguely in the heavily-bandaged region of the joint that had been gussied up, I knew that this time it had to be my imagination. There was no way I could have any feeling at all in this arm when the nerve block was so clearly still at work. 

How did I know this? Remember when the fake wizard professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, casts a spell that eliminates all the bones in Harry Potter's arm? When it goes all gooey and limp right there on the Quidditch field? Yes, well, that was the exact appearance of my arm too. Like jelly, zero control over it, made you queasy to look at. The nerve was blocked. For real. Fingers could not wiggle. And...weirdest of all, I could not get a grasp on its coordinates. 

My arm was still in the position it had been in just before they jabbed me with the magical nerve block needle. This was the oddest encounter of the day, not the half-remembered conversation I had as I woke up still in the freezing cold operating room, nor the loopy happiness of seeing my darling still in my hospital room as though he'd never left, even though it had been almost two hours but felt like 3 minutes. No, what my brain could not wrap itself around was where it believed my arm to be and where my eyes said it was, stretched out and bandaged up, way off to the side.

But still it hurt in a dull, aching way. The wiggling capacity returned suddenly, and then it was too late. I accepted two ibuprofen. They did not seem very effective. One pain pill an hour later did not much help either, but I didn't know what other side effects the drugs might vomiting. Who wants to vomit when clean up will be someone else's duty? I would have to breathe through it. Until around midnight when I gave in and chose to take TWO pills. Best solution ever.

Speaking of decisions, this whole thing was not undertaken lightly. I have been present for too many limb surgery recovery visits as an interpreter (nine years worth) to believe in the always happily-ever-after of opening up body parts and making it all like new. It does happen and surgeons can be miracle-workers, but it is science, not magic. In science there are variables. 

My major variable is hypermobility (or super-loose joints), a form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome which has meant many things, as those of you who are familiar with it, (fellow zebras) can recount in detail. A few years ago, I wrote that surgery was not an option. What changed?

That is a topic for the next post. Suffice it to say that the arthritis pain could no longer be dealt with to my satisfaction in an alternative manner.

Today I will focus on recovery.

Day One following surgery, ugh, the barf I had avoided and feared appeared. Pain and nausea...typical post-op misery I knew, how many times had I seen patients in similar straights? Was it due to tacos for lunch or the pain medication? Hard to tell. I ended the day with tea and rice crackers.

Day Two, I sleep until 9, which is noon in my normal world.

-I read, clean up left-over invoices and emails, read and sleep.

-I get dressed, professionally, and work for two hours plus over Zoom. I thought I was going to be ready for this. It was a long and emotionally taxing interview. Once finished, I am wiped. 

My thoughts on Day Three, still mainly resting sitting still but off the strong stuff, down to a couple NSAs twice a day:

-Marvel at what a gifted surgeon can do today so that a person will be able to move; lift, drive, type and knit tomorrow. And wince, just a teensy bit, from time to time.

-Contemplating the terms Arthroplasty CMC and mini T-rope fixation, which serve as a reminder NOT TO USE THE THUMB. The only admonition from the doctor.

-Fortunate indeed to be free to swivel my head from side to side, to feel I lack no flexibility of body or inferior limbs (did this hypermobile human really say that?)

-Even luckier to have scrumptious food brought to my side at any hour of the day or night. Thank you, sweetie doing all the cooking and cleaning and thank you to the friend who showed up with a whole beautiful meal.

Day Four, in which I wake up and get up and moving.

-Yesterday I moved, allowed to go up and down the stairs on my own finally. OK, the instinct to protect me from myself is not necessarily out of line, I am ever-so-slightly pone to running into things. I also went for a drive to see the river because I know it was missing me.

-Today though, the garden beckons in the fall air and sunshine, it is irresistible and being outside feels healing. I garden, or rather, I spend an hour picking disgusting bud-eating caterpillars off my geraniums, one-handed, being extra careful not to splash the cast as I drop their squirming forms into a blue ceramic bowl of soapy water. At least I grant them a somewhat noble end. 

-Rest, tea, snack then a stretch. As usual, when there is pain, I go to a pain-relief Essentrics slow video. It feels good to gently, gently stretch every body part, minus the thumbs. 

-This is the end of not resting for the day. It feels better to have my hand raised and cushioned. 

Day Five

-We take two walks, one with Tuxy Pup held in place by my sweetheart, one alone, just to make the most of yet another beautiful autumn day.

 -I feel much like normal; I even wake up before 7. The pain definitely is more apparent with exercise in which my wrist is free and blood can flow into it rather than away. Back up we go.

Day Six

-There is no one free to supervise a walk until evening and it feels like a betrayal to go out without dog, so I work all day, with no fatigue, then break at 5:30 for another Essentrics video, this one is called a connective tissue workout.  After the first two minutes of warm up exercises, it slows way way down for the rest of it. I adapt for this heavy thumb I'm toting around by doing the warm-ups in halftime and instead of reaching for a feather, it becomes a fluffy white kitten. For others who have EDS, you might want to remind yourself that "pull your shoulder right back, stretch it way out" may need be be modified to "gently, ever so gently extend whichever body part we're stretching today," lest the helpful exercise become less helpful.

-Remarkable for today: no pain medication until early evening, no fatigue, a little achiness and twinges, both of which have been present since surgery.

Day Seven, Eight, Nine...

The week is a holding pattern of waiting to heal and have the next visit with the doctor. The pain is completely manageable with rest and one small dose of an NSA each evening. I always wait until the end of the afternoon so that the pain, if any, can be a reminder to slow back down and let this heal properly. 

I have a couple of remote assignments, but mainly I study to learn how to teach more effectively. This has been an exciting week as I go back through two online classes on better consecutive interpreting and do all of the exercises myself there and in Note-taking for Consecutive Interpreting. This freedom of having time to study and plan has been a great gift. I was looking forward before to teaching a class on interpreting for a local college, but now I am super-psyched about what we will be able to accomplish in that classroom and beyond, in our community.

What we all want to know does it turn out? Will I knit, type, drive and lift weights again? We shall discover it all together. 

More details also on the decision-making that went into this and the options offered and tried.

In the meantime, let me entertain you with strange tales of travel and encounters as a French interpreter, à tout de suite!