Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bell's Palsy

I'd never heard of it until the advice nurse at Kaiser mentioned it to J when he called on Monday. J had come down with an infection--chills, lethargy etc.--on Sunday. On Monday he couldn't brush his teeth properly. The right corner of his mouth was visibly lower than the left. He'd lost all his wrinkles, but only on the right side.

We were frightened. I was thinking, in my usual positive way, brain tumor, stroke. J called Kaiser in the morning. We had a phone consultation with the doctor in the afternoon. She decided that J should come for an in-person exam. We went. I stayed in the waiting room. It felt like hours. I imagined. It wasn't good. We'd spent some time on the Internet, the source of panic for all hypochondriacs, and decided that it probably was Bell's Palsy, but also noted that even doctors sometimes have trouble making a proper diagnosis. This is particularly true with stroke, where the symptoms come on suddenly, rather than a brain tumor, where the paralysis is usually, although not always, more gradual.

J finally emerged from the dark regions with the Bell's Palsy hand-out and two prescriptions. We headed off to the pharmacy, which reminded us that it was good to order regular prescriptions online and have them shipped by mail. We were relieved--and exhausted.

But to got me to thinking about health insurance, and what would happen to someone with the same symptoms who didn't have any. This isn't one of those things where you wait a few days to see if it goes away. A stroke requires immediate treatment to limit the damage, and Bell's Palsy sometimes doesn't completely resolve for several months. Our uninsured patient doesn't have many options, particularly on a holiday. (Yeah, these things always happen on holiday weekends, never on weekdays during normal business hours.) There's always the emergency room, but that's a really long wait and a large bill. Maybe our uninsured patient could receive care at an "urgent care" center, cheaper than the emergency room, but not without cost. And were I a doctor at an urgent care center, I'd probably be nervous about diagnosing Bell's Palsy and sending the patient home. It's most likely Bell's Palsy, as 75% of facial paralysis is, but it would be a potentially very expensive mistake if it turned out to be a stroke or, less likely, a tumor.

Could it be that the cost of J's care was actually cheaper than it would have been for an uninsured patient in the emergency room, as a simple diagnosis there is far more expensive than our trip to the doctor? Sure, it would have been cheaper to do nothing, and Bell's Palsy usually goes away without any treatment at all. But I wouldn't want to put anyone through the stress of not knowing and having to wait to see if anything worse happened.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cat Bliss

There's nothing a kitty loves more on a cold, wet day than crawling up on a lap, turning over on his back and receiving a tummy rub.

Monday, February 14, 2011

In the Zone

My plants from Annie's Annuals arrived on Thursday. Annie's Annuals has all sorts of yuppie plants, most of which are only suitable for the Bay Area, with its mild winters and cool summers. Sacramento winters are colder and our summers are miserably hot, but I try and try and try. I was mostly careful in my purchases--only the impatiens' days are numbered.

And so my arthritic knees and I went outside and, because the weather was exceptionally nice, proceeded to clean up the mess that my back garden had become. Plants that were too far gone, or unloved, were sent to the street for
claw pickup. Other plants were trimmed, tidied and moved about. J was pressed into service for moving heavy pots and cutting back the flowering maples. And then plants received their first feeding in awhile.

But I looked out this morning and decided that I'd overdone it, and that the yard needed some untidiness. Just wait a couple of months...

Friday, February 11, 2011

On Budgets

I'm trying to stay away from economic issues for awhile (too much econ makes you start thinking about art in terms of a "cost-benefit" analysis--creepy), but wanted to pass this along. Read and weep.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

On Tenants and Foreclosure

During the fourth quarter of 2010 my Tenants and Foreclosure blog was a little slow. My hits fell from an average of 120 a day to a bit under 100 a day. That's not a big reduction, particularly for a small, noncommercial, specialized blog, but I did wonder what was going on. Since most of my hits come from search engines, I checked my position on them. Still first through fourth.

And no, I don't do this to feed my ego. Well, yes I do, but also for research purposes. For instance, a year or so ago, I discovered that people who searched "tenants foreclosure California" would come across my blog on the first page of results, while people who searched "renters foreclosure California" had to go through four to eight pages to get to my blog. I added the word "renter" to help people get to me more easily.

I looked at my stats for the last year, and found that the first and third quarters were hot, the second and fourth not so much. Aside from a bit of fall-off over the holidays and summer vacation, I couldn't come up with any reason for this. It may be just chance. And in the fourth quarter a number of banks and loan servicers quit processing foreclosures to deal with their documentation problems. (Even in California, where judicial foreclosures are rare, documentation of ownership transfers is required for title insurance purposes.) Now that lenders have decided that their documents aren't really all that bad, we should unfortunately see tenants evicted from their homes when their landlords lose their buildings.

I'm always depressed when I look at the search terms, but nothing depresses me more than finding something like "rent control Sacramento" or "just cause eviction Sacramento", and realizing that a portion, perhaps a majority, of Sacramento tenants don't know that they have no protections other than those provided by state (and in foreclosure, federal) protections. Our local press covers the issue of tenants' rights so little that many tenants don't know that they don't have any.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Plant Shopping

I love plant shopping. The absolute worst is shopping online. When I go to the nursery, I can think, this plant is not a good idea. The last time you bought it, it was dead in a week, or it got mites and you cried when you had to kill it, or it never filled out a four-inch pot. But when I'm online I can delude myself that this time things will be different. This time the abutilon with the super-cool flowers will not die even though it hates hot weather. This time the really nice fuchsia will not get mites, even though fuchsia mites are a scourge on the West Coast, and magellanicas are particularly susceptible. It's so easy to point and click...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I found Corydalis Blackberry Wine at Forest Farm. I bought two of them. Corydalis though has an unfortunate tendency to drop dead in the heat of the Sacramento summer. I'll have to find just the right combination of morning sun and afternoon shad to keep it alive. And Annie's Annuals has a very cool Mimulus. Plant shopping is so much fun, but my needs are bigger than my garden.