Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Living with intention

It's amazing how its so easy to take health for granted.  I have spent many hours since my accident looking at my good right hand, flexing it, watching the muscles and tendons moving easily underneath the skin. Appreciating all the wonders of a healthy hand. My full time job lately has been getting better. After meeting with my physical therapist, I'm doing a set stretching regime followed by massage and skin manipulation for ten minutes every hour. It was almost horrifying to see how little I was able to bend my fingers when I started and to see how much my skin had fused to the tissues underneath due to scar tissue. Every time I move my fingers all the skin moves with it! But I've been working through the yuck factor and being diligent. I am already seeing improvement. 
It's been tough avoiding using my left hand. It is mind blowing how many things you can't do with just one hand. You... can't... twist... anything... bottle tops, medicine caps, salt and pepper grinders, or even door knobs. How often does anyone pass through a door without carrying at least one thing? So that uses up your one hand allotment. That has been the most frustrating part, never being able to open doors! It takes twice as long to go to the bathroom since its harder to button or zip pants. You can't cut up food. Poor Kevin has to cut up steak for all of us lately! 
But being one handed forces you to think through every step of every action you intend. Making a bowl of cereal? Figure out the maximum number of trips you will have to make back and forth between the table and refrigerator to get the bowl, spoon, cereal, milk etc...multiply that number by 4 and plan on that number being the necessary number of trips needed to make that one bowl of cereal. I can't complain since walking back and forth is the only real exercise I get these days! But it has done wonders at slowing me down, making me think through my actions, living life with intent. I have to think about what I am doing to not only prevent myself from inadvertently trying to use my left hand but also to keep me sane as I try to help out around the house as much as I'm able.
This period of my life will definitely be remembered as a time of inconvenience and discomfort, but I'm  hoping the life lessons I've learned from this will stay with me when I'm back and running. I hope I can continue to live life with intent and appreciate my health and I hope everyone who reads this can take a moment to be thankful for their health and to think about slowing down, even for a moment, to appreciate everything they are able to do. We are all very blessed.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Wool warehouses and mills of North America:)

This is mostly a photo blog, but over the last 7 months I've had the chance to visit several wool warehouses/mills. For the most part they all look the same, a nondescript building in a shady area of town. Neatly stacked bales of wool lining the walls, usually a pile of loose wool in one corner. It's funny to think that large portions of the USA wool clip passes through these buildings on their way to being processed (mostly in china). But a small portion is lucky enough to stay in the country. 

The first warehouse was Roswell wool in New Mexico...fabulous folks.

Neatly stacked square bales, most of these weigh around 400 pounds. Notice the farm name initials on the front of each bale along with info on the wool that's inside.

These are New Mexico sheep...

Next up was Center of the Nation Wool in South Dakota. 

(Yeah, that's all I got on them!)

Last year I was able to visit Chargeurs in South Carolina as part of an ASI tour. That was eye opening!

Wool being washed

Wool roving going into super wash

Wool roving is carded numerous times...

Final tests to determine quality of roving (ie no black fibers, poly twine, hair)

Another warehouse I got to visit was Groenewold Fur and Wool.

There was wool everywhere, most of these bales weighed around 1000 pounds.

The wool sorting machine...

Setting the wires to make a bale. 

Up close look at a bale.

Big pile of sorted wool.

Sold the last of my spring wool here!

We also got to go see MacAuslands wool mill in Prince Edward Island Canada.

Unloading wool for processing.

Wool waiting to be washed...

The washing (scouring) equipment...

Inside the mill, this is all the equipment. Hard to believe so many blankets get made here every year.

Inside their store...we bought 2 blankets:)

Being able to visit all these wool buyers and processors really was a wonderful experience. I'm hoping to continue to visit other mills and buyers in the course of my travels and report back about all the great people that are involved in making every wool product. I always like to brag that sheep are the greatest job producers out there since they seem immune to automation. Even while visiting the mills it is people doing hands on work every step of the way. Wool is amazing:)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Long hard road...

On July 2, 2013 Kevin and I were shearing out west of Frederick Maryland on a farm with about 160 big Charolais/Southdown cross ewes. We got a good start on them but we knew right away it was going to be a tough flock. On my 19th sheep I was moving into the long blows (ie. the sheep was laying on its side) when the sheep kicked and got its foot in behind my handpiece which drove it into the back of my left hand. 

Kevin took me right away to Frederick memorial hospital where we sat for 6 hours before a doctor saw me. I had a large gash in the back of my hand and could not lift my middle and ring fingers. When I finally saw a doctor they cleaned it out and referred me to another doctor who said he wanted me to come see him the next day to clean it out again and possibly sew it up.

The next day I called this doctor to verify my appointment time and learned that I could not see him because he did not accept my insurance. I was told that I would have to pay "possibly several thousand dollars" to see him and they told me to look elsewhere for care.

What followed were several stressful hours on the phone calling doctors and my insurance carrier trying to find someone to fix my hand, which at this point was still an open wound and two dangling fingers. Even my insurance company couldn't help me find an appropriate doctor. My own family doctor declined to see me because they knew they couldn't fix the tendons. I did finally end up getting an appointment with a doctor in Frederick for A WEEK LATER. I kept up with the calls and finally spoke with a sympathetic nurse who told me I had three options, call my insurance for doctor recommendations (did that), wait for the appointment I already had (no freakin way), or go back to the emergency room. So that's what I did.

24 hours after that conversation, one hospital transfer, and several OxyContins later I was in surgery (on July 4th, God bless America) getting my tendons sewn back together. I was discharged later that day in a soft cast with orders to keep it dry and follow up in 2 weeks. 

This worked out to my advantage as I was still able to go on a planned road trip to Canada. The week of sitting in a car helped keep my hand still and clean and I didn't go crazy with boredom. 

Upon returning I went to see my doctor for follow up and the drama continues as the doctor whom I was scheduled to see in my follow up was not the one who did my surgery. Somehow because of it being a holiday the doctor who was on call when I was admitted was not there on the 4th and so my paperwork was mixed up and I ended up seeing the wrong doctor. He did check me out though and prescribed a full finger brace and no physical therapy.

When I went to the in house PT she was very concerned about the unnecessary use of a full finger brace and highly recommended follow up physical therapy. They eventually decided on a half finger brace but still no doctor ordered PT.

The next day I searched online for possible physical therapy references in Sioux Falls SD (where I will be the next few weeks) and ran into more problems since I didn't have a doctors notice and then ran into another problem that now my surgeon wanted to see me himself. Well that does me no good when I'm halfway to Missouri. 

To say that this injury has been a constant struggle would be an understatement!

But in spite of it all my prognosis looks good. I'm going to continue to push for physical therapy and hopefully I'll be able to shear by the end of September. 

Which brings me to the important info for anyone who was planning to have me shear this fall. Because of the uncertainty of my hand strength and because there are only 30 or so jobs that I already had counted on for this fall, I've come up with an acceptable (for me) option for helping get everything done safely and efficiently. Kevin has agreed to come out for 2 weeks (around sept 22-oct 5 roughly)to help me. This will allow me to shear only as much as my hand will allow and Kevin can help get the work done. There is too much work going on out west for him to stay much longer but we will do what we can on a first come first serve basis. I know this option isn't ideal for some of you as you may have planned on earlier or later shearing dates but I cannot commit to shear anything on my own until I know how much my hand can handle. I am happy to refer you to other shearers if you would feel more comfortable with that option or if you decide to stick with dates when Kevin will not be here.

I want to thank everyone who has been so supportive through this whole ordeal. I don't see this impacting my spring 2014 run at all. But I'm going to have to take one day at a time for a while until I'm back to cruising speed:)
Photo curtesy of Pieter DeMooy