Tuesday, 27 December 2016

O Holy Nightmare

Xmas Eve
Just as I get home from feeding the horses at my local barn, Suz rings to tell me that "Silas isn't right" and she has called the vet. It's the call every horse owner dreads, with the c-word hovering, menacing but left unsaid.

But at first it didn't sound like colic.  He was cold to the touch, shivering, temp 98F.  There was freezing rain but he was dry under his spiffy new waterproof sheet and his winter coat is thick and fuzzy.  In fact, he's only had a sheet for about a month and a half.  He survived his first three winters with no blanket and never a sign of minding the cold.  My first thought was that he had sweated under the unaccustomed sheet and gotten chilled from that but they quickly warmed him up, he stopped shivering, his temp returned to normal, but his eye was dull and he wouldn't eat.  He wasn't kicking his belly or showing other signs of colic though, and he was pooping.  [Sorry non-horse people, but the presence or absence of poop is the difference between life and death for horses, so we're obsessed by it in a way that we understand seems bizarre to you.]
But the freezing rain delayed the vet's arrival and by the time Dr. C. arrived Silas was wanting to roll and the barn slaves were walking him around the indoor.  Suz gave him oral banamine for pain relief.  He was liking the attention but still obviously not his normal cheeky self.  Vet gave buscopan and butorponal for pain relief.  He heard gut sounds in all four quadrants [horses fart a lot – sorry again, non-horse people] but he did detect what he thought was a slight impaction in the right colon.  He was severely dehydrated so he started an IV and also tubed him.  Silas was refluxing badly – he got 9 litres of fluid.  The more he examined him, the more serious it appeared, and it was decided that he needed to go to hospital, at the very least for the IV and to administer pain meds since obviously the oral banamine was getting nowhere.

Luckily, Suz was both able and willing to trailer him the hour and a half to the nearest hospital.  Did I mention Xmas Eve is also her birthday?  I was beside myself and helpless being both broke and far away; I can never repay her dedication and kindness.  Her response was simply that she knows I'd do the same for her, which is true.  And she and everyone else at her barn adore Silas and would do anything for him, never mind me.  When I lamented her birthday and Xmas Eve being ruined, she replied that she was just happy she caught it in time to help him, that she could have found him dead or beyond help, as has happened in the past.

But Suz's devotion to me and my baby boy was not shared by the hospital.  They would not admit him without a credit card that would hold $10K, which is the typical amount for colic treatment, and all three of my cards are maxed out.  It's the first time in my life that has happened and I have had no access to credit for an emergency such as this.  To make matters worse, I have always been diligent about insuring Silas since before he was first shipped to me as a weanling.   But I just had to let his insurance lapse because I could not afford the premium.  This makes me sick because insurance would have covered all of this staggering expense that is now going to be piled on top of my existing debt.

So what did I do?  I called one credit card, lied about my income, and got a $2500 increase on my credit limit.  A start, but not enough.  Back when my dog was sick, I had used a special credit card just for vet bills.  But he died in 2011 and it had since been deactivated for lack of use.  I had to reapply for it, again lying about my income, and got a $7K limit.  That gave me at total of $9.5K.  Not quite the $10K minimum they wanted, but they took it, thank fuck.

It was nearly 4pm before he arrived and was examined and I got some news.  I have never been so scared in my entire life.  And this was Xmas Eve, my favourite holiday.  Looking back, I don't know how I got through the day.

Sometimes just the bumpy trailer ride alone can get a colicky horse to poop but no such luck.  Vet at hospital at least sounded cool and competent over the phone.  She said he had a huge impaction, not small like regular vet had opined, and his small intestines were extremely distended and severely displaced.  They tubed unbelievable amounts of foul reflux.  She said she had never smelled such an odor, quipping that "Silas was making silage."  It had clearly been brewing for awhile, but he'd eaten his dinner with his usual gusto the previous evening, kicking his dish and demanding it be filled as per his usual entitled insistent attitude.  Friesians have a reputation for being so stoic that by the time they refuse food and actually show clinical symptoms of illness, they are practically dead.

They loaded him up with oil, salt water, and drugs for pain and to relax the gut and encourage motility and said they'd ring me Xmas morning unless there was a change for the worst:  "No news is good news."

I spent a literally entirely sleepless Xmas Eve night with the phone on my pillow, willing it not to ring, and trying not to imagine worst-case scenarios.  For the non-horse people reading this, the dread is that the intestines will twist, necessitating surgery to remove the necrotic section.  Friesians do not do well with anaesthesia, and the prognosis for colic cases needing surgery is extremely poor.  Most who go into surgery do not wake up.

Xmas Day
Vet reported that he was much brighter in the morning – he'd pooped twice and pulled out his IV, and was making it very clear that he was NOT happy the other horses were getting fed and he wasn't.  But there wasn't much change internally – impaction not cleared, still bloated, and small intestines still horribly displaced.  He wasn't coming home but vet was optimistic that he just needed more time and that surgery could still be avoided.  They'd given him lots of mineral oil which she hoped to see streaming disgustingly down his legs by the next morning.  I breathed, just a little bit, but still got no sleep Xmas night.

Boxing Day (or St. Stephen's Day, as you prefer)
No oil.  I had hoped for better news this morning but exam (I'll spare non horse people the details of how this is done) showed that the small intestines were still displaced and blockage must not be clear due to the oil's non-appearance.  They were giving him hot mashes and horse tea (water with a handful of sweet feed mixed in), which he was eagerly sucking down.  We decided that turning him out for awhile might shake things back into place.  (Also, feeling better and not being used to confinement, he was climbing the walls in the stall.)  There was a risk he could roll and create the dreaded torsion that would necessitate surgery, but, at this stage, vet and I agreed that the likelihood movement and even rolling would help outweighed the risk it could hurt.  Her hypothesis is that the intestine is resting on a section of colon that is still impacted and once it clears it will fall back into place.  If not, well, the other possible explanations are all ominous.  She said she'd update me later.

Unfortunately, per the evening update, he didn't move around much in turn-out – lazy or just exhausted from the ordeal.  So, the plan is to keep giving him tea and mash overnight and hope to see that oil by morning.  At this point, I am so tired I can hardly see straight.  I desperately wish I could see him but can't afford to drive all that way and have nowhere to stay if I could.

And he won't be coming home tomorrow even if impaction is cleared and intestines are back to normal because the next step is challenging with hay to see if he colics again or digests it with good motility.  So, he won't be released until at least Wednesday at this point.  And Suz is out of town for a week's much-deserved holiday so getting him home is a problem.  Luckily, she has a boarder who is willing to pick him up after work any night this week.  I HATE to be in anyone's debt, but I have no choice here.

I hoped he'd be out of the woods by now, and surgery would be definitively ruled out.  But I have another anxious night ahead.  I wish I could just be with him, even if there is nothing I could do to make him better.  I just want to touch him and talk to him and tell him I love him a hundred times a minute.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Mistakes Were Made: An Election Post-Mortem

November is a bleak month at the best of times.  I'd been buoyed this year by optimism about the future, with every aspect of my life reconstructing in a promising way.  But that has all come crashing down since the election.  My stubborn belief that I would overcome financial, physical, familial, and other assorted problems has been threatening to give way to the panic and depression I have kept at bay by sheer force of will.

The post-marathon cold morphed into bronchitis which had me confined to the sofa and the bleak company of post-election lamentations on the Web and the obscene gloating of Trumpsters on social media for the three weeks since the election.  I'm rarely ill and the interminable disappointment and frustration of waking up every day thinking it would finally turn a corner and it didn't would have made this the month from hell on its own.

City Boy owes me money, which he is now forcing me to go to court to collect.  It's a fucking nightmare but I can't let it go as it's more than a month's rent.  A trivial sum to him, but it could keep me from ending up homeless.  If you had to ask me who was worse, Trump or City Boy, it would be a toss-up.

City Girl is leaving NYC because she can't afford to live there anymore.  I spent one final night with her as a way of breaking up the long drive to see my little pumpkin; I don't know how I'll see him going forward.  City Girl asked me to store her things until she is settled so I stare at the enormous piles of boxes in my dining room in denial that my friend is leaving the area, quite likely permanently.

The only one who is happy is the cat, who doesn't seem to care that a megalomaniac is now the Moron-Elect, and who spends her days sleeping contentedly on the topmost box of the pile.  What's sadly symbolic to me is simply a new high perch to her royal furriness.
But my little problems pale in comparison to the damage November has done to the country and, thanks to our global economic and military hegemony, potentially the entire world.

I've started this post a dozen times, with as many different approaches to analyzing and commenting on the election, but it's been such a depressing horror show, and I've been so sick, that I let each draft fizzle.  But it's now been three weeks.  Dust has settled and as we all emerge from the horror and disappointment, we need to assess the destruction and cut through the bullshit explanations to understand what really happened and what atrocities are in store.

There's been no shortage of articles analyzing the election, and some of them have been excellent.  But four of the main takeaways that keep getting repeated are inaccurate.

1)   Hillary was a flawed candidate
No, she was perceived as flawed.  The Republicans, media outlets addicted to false equivalencies, not to mention rampaging social media, Democrats with an anti-Clinton axe to grind, and a brutal anti-establishment-themed primary created the belief that she was flawed.  In reality, she was one of the least-flawed candidates ever to run, with the skills, experience, temperament, and genuine concern for people to be a great president.  If you had to find any flaw it would be that she is not skilled at selling herself in a campaign environment.  She knows that policy change is incremental and she refuses to make sweeping, melodramatic promises she knows will be impossible to fulfill.  But the latter is what fires up the electorate and gets them to the polls.  And her main obstacle was sexism.  Virtually none of the criticisms leveled at her would have stuck with a male candidate.  America is not ready for a women president, I am sorry to say.  This election unambiguously demonstrated that.  There has always been figurative dick measuring in debates but she lost to a candidate who literally talked about his dick size.

2)   Bernie would have won
No, he would not have beaten Trump.  He never appealed to minority voters, and he was a one-note candidate.   Now, that note was the economy, stupid, and Trump would not have been able to show up his lack of interest in other policy areas like a normal opponent would have, but Bernie was still singing in the wrong key.  Trump notwithstanding, a candidate has to be a policy polymath.  The president oversees every policy area, domestic and foreign, and Bernie came across as increasingly myopic.  He had one song he played at every concert, he couldn't seem to add repertoire or improvise, and the audiences would be larger and more diverse in the general campaign.  Also, it's rare for a two-term president of one party to be followed by a president of the same party.  Obama took the blame for voter woes that were actually the result of an obstructionist Republican Congress and Republican-controlled states, so Democrats were facing an uphill battle.  Republicans always have an easier time getting out the vote, and the Democrats needed an inspiring choice, an Obama on steroids, to win this one.  Bernie simply had too many strikes against him – his age, his unkempt appearance with flyaway hair and ill-fitting suits, his gruff demeanor, his angry harping on about big banks to the exclusion of all else, his history as a "socialist", his long tenure in government in an anti-establishment-themed election, his lack of accomplishments in said tenure, his lack of foreign policy knowledge and experience, his hailing from a tiny New England state, and his Jewishness.

When Bernie first entered the primary, I thought it was a great lark.  I had campaigned for him in college, and I figured he'd shift debate a bit to the left but I never seriously thought he was a contender for the nomination.  I mean never, not for a millisecond, even when many pundits were saying he had a serious chance of winning.  Just for fun, I bought an organic green Bernie 2016 t-shirt from the Vermont Clothing Company and wore it to one of his rallies, my first political rally.  It was exciting to see the enthusiastic support he drew from (mostly young) people.  But that enthusiasm and support did not transfer to Clinton.  Bernie's call for revolution was as impotent as Occupy Wall Street.  He would have pulled in more younger voters than Clinton but fewer minority and older voters.  It would not have been a winning coalition.

3)   Trump is going to be an authoritarian ruler with a compliant Congress
The exact opposite is true.  Berlustrumpi has only four motivations: feeding his ego, power, revenge, and increasing his wealth/brand.  He never expected to win the presidency and has no interest in governing.  Yes, he wants power, but the presidency is too much like work.  He lacks curiosity, intellectual or otherwise, and has no ideological commitment to particular policies.  His appeal was based on populist demagoguery but he has neither affinity with nor concern for people.  Nor does he have any loyalty to his own class.  Pence and the Republican Congress, on the other hand, have a clear policy agenda and free rein to implement it.  They know Trump's four motivations and they can easily manipulate him to get him to sign any piece of legislation they want and nominate any judicial candidates and political appointees they desire.  This piece explains my point in more detail.

4)   This election was an anti-elite blue-collar flyover state revolution
This is admittedly the most compelling and prima facie appealing explanation for Trump's victory.  Based on social media, it certainly appears to be the obvious conclusion.  Of the four takeaways I have debunked here, this is the only one I personally ever gave any credence to.  The problem with it is that the numbers that have come out on voter demographics don't bear it out.  We're not seeing an increase in voter turn-out amongst white men without a college education, Trump's supposed base.  He picked up more minority votes than expected, and many more votes from college-educated women, but he is, at last count, losing the popular vote by over 2.3 million.  Republicans, as noted above, tend to vote more reliably than Democrats, and in the end they fell into line, as they always do, and voted for their party's candidate.  Democrats were not as motivated to get out and vote for Hillary, due to her manufactured flaws and her sex.  The pendulum usually swings after a two-term president.  The election was always going to be tight and turnout was only 56%.  Trump voters who are most vocal on social media make it appear that this election was a backlash against a socially progressive and economically regressive world that had moved increasingly beyond their ken, but the plural of anecdote is not data.

It is tempting to say this election is an indictment of democracy.  Democracy only works when voters make decisions in a fact-based universe.  It doesn't work when people are ignorant, uneducated, gullible. Except that Trump did not win democratically, but that's another post.