My Two Favorite Dorks

My Two Favorite Dorks

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Highlights of 2016

Todd and I in Bochum, Germany
It's hard to believe another year has come and gone – my second year with a new lease on life! I celebrated my 2nd transplant anniversary on Oct. 23 with close friends. I have continued to not have major health problems, but have had some minor-ish issues with sinuses, skin allergies, mystery headaches, chronic back pain and some fatigue. But I continue to be thankful for all I have, and all of those with whom I have to spend it with – including (or, especially!) Todd and my precious animals.

My mom with the new member of the household!
The highlight of our year – besides our amazing Europe vacation – has been our newest feline family member, Pippa. I stalked Pippa at the pet shelter for 5 weeks before I actually got her. I kept going to visit, hoping that someone hadn't taken her. After all, she is very special, she's a two-faced cat! Half of her face is black and half is calico. I got her so that our young-ish cat Maya would have a friend to play with instead of bothering our oldest cat, Gus. Things could not have worked out better. She and Maya are best friends. They chase each other around the house and are constantly into mischief. Pippa is also sweet with the dogs, sometimes sleeping with them, but also sometimes using their wagging tails as swiping toys. One of Pippa's favorite things is to be picked up and carried around to see things with her daddy. She purrs and purrs and relaxes in his arms. And sometimes when I'm lucky, she will fall asleep on my lap at night purring and purring and stretching out so that she's as long and lanky as a string bean!

Pippa Smith-Platt with her sister Maya
Our dog Doc (both boys are now 11.5!) had some medical issues during the time I was visiting, but holding off getting, Pippa. He had a lump biopsied that came back as minorly cancerous. The doctor said a second surgery was almost sure to keep the problem away permanently. We went ahead with it and thank goodness the second surgery went much better than the first (not as much inflammation and no infection). He's been doing well since!

Doc was such a good patient even having to wear the cone
Sam has had some skin issues. He's now on an expensive synthetic steroid medicine that Doc takes and it has been an amazing difference. All the cats have been fine, with the exception of Gus getting diagnosed with FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) this summer. So far we've had very few problems with it. In other cat news, the introduction of another indoor cat (Pippa), led to making our back porch into a catio area – a patio for cats! It has cat trees, plants, other things that are good to scratch and lay on. The girls have enjoyed it a lot and ask to go out every day, even now that it's cold.

Maya (black cat) on the catio

Human News

Todd's 50th birthday was June 26th this year and I arranged a semi-surprise boys' weekend in the mountains for him and a few of his best college buddies. Tom (Todd''s best friend) even flew home from Ireland for the occasion!

From the end of October until Nov 5, I was worked a ton in preparation of the annual Casino Night Fundraiser for The Lung Transplant Foundation.

Friends Millie, me, Chris, Kirsten and Martha at Casino Night
The night was a big success – we raised twice as much as last year! My major duty was handling the silent auction. I did all kinds of soliciting (begging) to a bunch of friends, and friends of friends...I was lucky in that I know a lot of people with small businesses. One fun thing my friends helped me with was soliciting a handbag from a big-time local handmade purse maker named Holly Aiken. At a birthday get-together, some of my friends brought their Holly Aiken bags. Instead of posing with all us girls, like I had planned, someone had the idea to make all of our husbands pose! The result was hilarious and brought Holly Aiken right over to our side. She donated a great bag and also wants to frame the picture and hang it in her store!!

Our friends Matt, Craig, Todd, Chris, Charlie, Jason, Greg and Ross
To expand a bit on my health, I developed some major skin allergies, to what? we were never able to find out. I went through panel testing with the Duke dermatology folks as well as blood testing – all negative! (Probably because of my suppressed immune system.) Yet some things clearly make me react, so it's been a bit of trial and error. The whole experience was a nightmare that lasted many months of the summer. And I was not able to wear sunscreen (some of which was making me react) during the months I needed it the most! I became well acquainted with sun protective clothing.

For my patch test, I had to wear this around for three days during the summer...and was not allowed to shower or sweat!
I went back to see my sinus doctor (ENT, ear-nose-throat) doctor from UNC this fall – so weird being back there! - because I have had a horrible time with a nighttime cough for the last half year or more. My pulmonologists and I have played around with allergy and asthma meds but nothing seemed to help long-term. I now have two pretty nice nasal polyps, for which we are trying things to deal with other than surgery. The doctor says that when one part of your body is healed, it can cause problems previously more minor to flareup. Perhaps so. I am currently doing a steroid/saline rinse and it has helped some. But still I notice a lot more going on in there than I used to. And I will pretty much do everything possible to avoid having sinus surgery, including continuing to live with this nuisance.

I did go into the hospital one day this year back in July. I came down with what we eventually discovered was a virus that went to my lungs. I was feeling awful, coughing, fever, and went to the ER. They admitted me for one day, gave me some IV antibiotics, did a ton of lab work and sent me on my way with some Cipro. Isn't that nice! It also coincided with our AC being out, so the timing wasn't bad.

I have also been dealing with mostly minor headaches. I'm not sure how much of it is sinus related or what. Still a mystery. I have some pills I take when it gets bad, but that isn't often.

A colorful day at pulmonary rehab, me and Edie
I am still going to pulmonary rehab, and trying to push myself a little more than I have been. I feel like I've become lazy and compliant. Maybe I have somewhat. But it's soooooo nice to not HAVE to exercise to feel good! That also makes it harder for me to stay motivated (although, for perspective, my old CF doctor has told me that exercise is even more important post-transplant than pre-transplant.)

Todd is doing alright. It hasn't been the easiest fall for us, but hopefully things are leveling out for a while. Todd's company, where he's worked for 20 years as one of their first employees, got bought a couple of weeks ago. So far there are no major changes, although the focus of the company as a whole is probably going to be shifting. Jury is still out on whether or not it's going to be a place Todd wants to stay long-term.

Merry and Bright

At the Smith-Platt household, we are poised for a very Merry Christmas! Our dogs might be getting the most presents they're ever gotten, and of course the kitten has several coming as well. We are doing things a little differently this year. Mom, Todd and I are going out to a nice Christmas Eve dinner before retiring to our house for the evening. Mom will stay the night and we'll do Christmas in the morning before leaving for the mountains to catch Christmas dinner with some of Todd's family and enjoying a few days up there.



Our friend Dejah with us at Wiseman's View overlooking
Linville Gorge on a mountain trip this summer

In early April, my mom and I and Doc and Sam drove to Glenwood Springs, NC (about 7 hours away) to visit with my cousin Anne, her husband, two kids and my Uncle Roger on their horse farm in the mountains. It's very pretty where they live and they are such great people to be around! Doc and Sam fit right in with their pack and were absolutely spoiled by Miranda and Evelyn.

Miranda and Evelyn
Doc and Sam hanging out at the barn
Miranda loving on Sam
Evelyn takes a break from brushing Sam
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Todd and I outside a restaurant in Bochum, Germany
In early May, we took our biggest trip of the year overseas to Germany, Belgium and Ireland! Nathan, Jo Ellen and Simon lived in Bochum, Germany for five months – Jo Ellen did a teacher exchange. We spent several days bumming around their home town of Bochum with Simon as our tour guide. My favorite day was when we decided to walk across town to the children's zoo. We ended up going the long way and I was so tired of walking! At last we reached the park in which the zoo is located and it was beautiful. There were giant trees, meandering paths and bunnies galore!!

Another delicious bakery
Sleepy Simon on the train
Simon and Nate in a small town near Bochum that all of us visited
Simon waiting for the slow adults on a castle tour
Next, Nate, Simon, Todd and I rode the train to Ghent, Belgium. On our way, we had a short layover in Cologne and we were able to pop out of the train station to see the famous cathedral right in front of us!

Koln Cathedral
We stayed in Ghent, right along the canal, for a few nights, making a side trip to Brugges. Ghent and Brugges are two of Europe's towns that survived bombing in WWII and still have medieval buildings. Both places were really neat to walk around, and the contrast between old world buildings and modern life was quite lovely. We also enjoyed great Belgian beer (my favorite!!) and chocolate.

Ghent at night
Our hotel was located on a canal like this
Artisan owl chocolates in Brugges
We started our second week flying to Ireland to see our old friends Tom and Maria who have lived outside of Dublin for the last few years. Tom played an exquisite tour quite, driving us relaxedly yet efficiently through central western coastline towns and villages. We first stayed in Galway and then moved on to the Burren – think, barren, not much tall growth and lots of bristly ground cover and rocky terrain. It was a good jumping off place for the Cliffs of Mohr and the Burren Perfumery the next day as well as some cool ruins and dinner at a good pub where the owner was cousins to a former Hurricanes hockey player (!).

Entrance to the garden at the Burren Perfumery
Kilbeggan Distillery Tour
Hiking at the Cliffs of Mohr
Visiting cool old stuff
The monestery
Part of the royal gardens
The tower next to Yeats's house on a lovely river
Former Hurricanes' Jeff O'Neil's second-third-something cousin
Enjoying a sunset outside the pub
More cool, ancient church and cemetery ruins awaited us the next day as we worked our way toward Connemara. Tom took us to a beautiful national park in Connemara. We all started out hiking up a path toward the peak of a mountain. I lasted maybe 2/3 of the way up, which was more than I thought I'd be able to do.  Tom and Todd continued the rest of the way and it sounded like a tough climb. While they did that, I went through the mountain bog exhibit – fascinating to me because at The Nature Conservancy we also worked with mountain bogs and would try to figure out ways to get people engaged by them. The exhibit did an awesome job of showing the history, cultures, tools, foods, and animals that all came from the area. Very neat. We saw some more ruins and then finished the day at the famous gardens of a monastery.

A Connemara horse - specifically bred to work
the mountainous bogs in the area
Walking up, up, up on the Connemara trail
One of the famous "bog women" found preserved in the peat bogs of western Ireland.
We saw the actual bodies in a museum in Dublin!
Elaborate decorations at grave sights
An abandoned church with cemetery
The next morning – MUCH to my pleasure (and insistence) – we went to a sheep farm! We were, of course, in the midst of baby sheep season - only the best time to visit Ireland. Those guys are so darn cute! I just can't get over squealing every time I see them. Anyway, at the farm, we saw a sheep dog demonstration – very impressive – saw how they harvest bog peat for fuel and also got to feed the baby sheep!! They were so cute, roaming around their small holding pen, making sounds like they were starving because they knew what was going to come next (food!).

The baby sheep scarfing down the milk
This one was my favorite - moving too much to get a good picture!
On the last part of our road trip, we checked out some more ruins, saw more baby sheep, (almost got the perfect baby sheep picture until Todd interrupted me with something silly) and drove to the end of a small, remote island with breathtaking views of the ocean and all of the small-village, slightly decaying Irish charm you could ask for. For the record, I was the first one to introduce the island's coffee shop to an iced espresso drink

View of the beach at the end of the island
Me with some very Burren-looking rocks in the foreground and beautiful blue ocean in the background
We spent the next day roaming around with Maria (our luck with beautiful weather having run out) added to our group - she had been in the US visiting - to see some more cool old stuff and another national park near where they live. Our final day we took the train into Dublin, did a little shopping, and met Maria for a delicious dinner. All together we were gone for almost 2.5 weeks. Amazing trip!!

An older-than-Stonehenge-type of circular monument near Tom and Maria's house
Cool spiky grass
More cool old ruins in the background
A sign from a famous Saint, I think
In June, I went up to Cleveland for about a week for the Transplant Games of America. I also got some good family vising time in. Mary Ann, Amy, Jay and Keri all participated in the 5K walk with me! I also did poker and trivia. Next time I will do something more physical. It was an amazing experience to meet so many people who have been through so much more than me. I was also encouraged by meeting some “long-time” transplant survivors (15+ years.) The next Games will be in Salt Lake City in 2018. Anyone is welcome to join me!

My good friend Jessica and I who arranged the games for Team North Carolina
The Kalasunas-Sutton-Buchholz-Smith cheering section!
(Amy, me, Keri, Jay and Mary Ann)
State pins from the Transplant Games
Me in front of the wind mobiles for the Transplant Games
In September, mom and I went up to Michigan for a belated celebration of Simon's 5th birthday! We played soccer in the yard, went to a nature park, ate Blue Moon ice cream, and watched one of Simon's soccer games and swim lessons. It was good bonding time for all of us. On the way home, we stopped in Cleveland and had a spur-of-the-moment lunch visit with Mary Ann.

Michigan moon rise
Simon in his raccoon ears and tail at the nature center
Blue Moon ice cream - cheers!
Simon playing goalie
Simon at his swim lesson
For Thanksgiving, Todd and I went up to Cleveland (I usually go and this year he was able to join me.) Nate, JoEllen and Simon were also able to come! It sure was good to see everyone although, unfortunately, my nieces were with their father the entire time. Todd and I took Simon to the Natural History Museum (dinosaurs, rocks, glaciers, etc.) and he had a blast. Nate, Mary Ann and I spent the good part of a day going through dad's old stuff: books, paintings, CDs, DVDs, old pictures. I've been up there and gone through his stuff before, but somehow it was sadder for me this time. I think I wasn't as prepared for it as I have been before. Before we left, we had a big fiesta dinner with Jay, Keri, Amy, Nathan, JoEllen, Simon, Todd and I.

Todd and I take Simon through the animal habitat at
the Natural History Museum in Cleveland
Thanksgiving meal at Amy's:
Joe, Nathan, JoEllen, Amy, Mary Ann and Paulette

Happy Holidays to All!

Sam in front of the Christmas tree