Saturday, December 6, 2014

The ugly side of a blood disease

Acute Myeloid Leukemia is a blood disease no one wants to face. After battling the disease for the last 9 months, my wife gave me the okay to blog it. I only blog it to show the determination, courage and fortitude that my wife has shown this year...and every year I have known her. Me? I would of asked to be dropped off in the middle of the desert and left alone.



It's amazing that my wife can on occasion, find a smile...the same smile that melted my heart 39 years ago at a Denny's restaurant  The crazy monkey hats have nothing to do with it, right?



Donna is starting to acquire a substantial number of fun hats to wear in the hall of the hospital. Her stay this time is now 9 weeks longs, so anything that can flip a frown upside down is cool with me.



Unfortunately, most of Donna's journey... is a lonely one.



The reality of this blood disease is what the doctors treat it with, a witches brew of some of the most toxic chemicals on earth. All applied with the certainty of flipping a coin, their constant adjustments at times will cause the patient having to fight for their life...but in an imperfect world, the experts with chemicals can, and do make mistakes. 



To better inject the poisonous brew, the surgery unit places a Hickman catheter, which allows for multiple IV's to feed the toxins straight to the source...the body. 



The once beautiful hands of my wife have been starved to the bone while bruising with the slightest of touch.



The legs aren't immune to the ravages of chemo, radiation, and  chemicals either. One quote the doctors seem to agree on is...if you get leukemia, you will die from leukemia...even if it's 20 years after transplant.



There is always hope... but sometimes, even with a loving caregiver to help you on this journey,  it still feels like you are on this trip alone, partly because there is no one who really knows the uncertainty, the pain, the hopelessness or the loneliness as that of the patient.





Why is this blog shot in "black and white"? 
No amount of color, prose or gloss could put any beauty in a dreadful disease as this, courage yes...beauty... no!
















Monday, October 20, 2014

City by the Bay...Seattle

It's been a quiet two week's blog wise, and this will be more of a pictorial after a short couple of paragraphs of things that seem odd to me.
 The title is even in question because Seattle is really on the Puget Sound, not a bay. What is the difference between a sound and bay, you ask?. I found one definition that states a "sound" is a large inlet from the ocean or sea, whereas a bay is just smaller and not as deep. A sound is also deeper than a bight and wider than a fjord... in case anyone was wondering.
Well this just keeps on getting better...what's a bight? Yeah, well I've never heard of it before, so here...
A bight is a recess of the coast, bay or other curved feature.
I'm embarrassed because I had a number of upper level geography courses in college and have never seen or heard the word before. 
Maybe it's like some of the new words we get thrown at us every year, like hashtag? For all my life, it was the "pound" sign on the phone and calculator, but it was hijacked a few years ago by nerds for their benefit.
While I'm at it...why after the year 2009, did everyone start calling 2010 "twenty-ten"? Why not two thousand-ten?  We didn't call the year 2000 "twenty-nought-nought" or 2001 "twenty-nought-one"...did we?
Ok, back to blogging.


Downtown Seattle is a beautiful setting, on Puget Sound.


The fog is rolling in from Seattle on a rare day with light traffic.


This is more typical of the bumper to bumper traffic that I encounter daily. The cracked windshield was a gift from a Seattle freeway the very first day in town.


As a car guy (I've never owned an exotic car) who loves looking at any car... that I can't afford! Seattle is also home to more Audi and Beamers than I have ever seen in one place. There are more of those two vehicles whizzing by than VW Beetles on an LA freeway in 1970. There was an article in the local paper about a "Personal Finance Manager" in Bellevue, Washington who leased two Ferrari while owning another. I'm not too sure I'd trust this guy with what little money I have?


I have never seen a sign on a road like this before. Could it be that the WSDOT  installed them after marijuana was legalized?


Ok, back to the Sound. Here the current leaves the Whidbey Island area and into the Northern Pacific.


Just inside the sound is Lake Union, a body of fresh water. Just from my prospective it looks like Lake Union is the industrial body of water for shipyards and repair marinas. 


Here is a shot of Lake Union from the 6th floor of SCCA. From this vantage point we can see tour boats, float planes and large merchant ships being repaired along the shoreline.


Here I am looking at the entrance of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, west into Portage Bay. In the distance are the famous houseboats of Seattle and above them, a long elevated portion of the Hwy 5 bridge.


I was looking on Zillow at some prices of these floating homes. Even small ones ran a million plus.


The Montlake Draw Bridge, built in 1925, and since I go across it four times a day to visit Donna I can tell you first hand that it is a very cool bridge. I'm looking east into Lake Washington.
Lake Washington Ship Canal was a project developed in 1891 to connect Lake Washington with Puget Sound. The project wasn't actually completed until 1934.
My question as a former saltwater boat owner is...when your boat is in fresh water and you go out to the salt water for a day or so, does it kill any fresh water algae that might of accumulated at the dock?


Only one block from the Montlake Draw Bridge is this view of Lake Washington from Donna's 8th floor at the University of Washington Medical Center. Donna's room looks out over some construction to the west, but as she walks laps there are many windows with this view.

       Odds N Ends


This is the Kirkland Costco...Kirkland, as in their brand name. Not  the original store but the 8th Costco built.


Speaking of Costco...I haven't seen gas this low in a few years.


Judy and our family have been dear friends for over thirty years. Her daughter works in Seattle and Judy was visiting so I got to have lunch with the both of them this week...great people.

That's about it for now. I am anticipating Donna will be coming back to the motorhome next week and then maybe I'll be able do some real blogging.







Sunday, October 5, 2014

Journey of the Issaquah Creek Salmon.




This blog is about the salmon returning home to their spawning grounds. Salmon, by and large, always return to the river or creek where they were spawned, usually after three to four years at sea. There are 5 to 15 percent of the returning salmon that take a wrong turn to spawn, into an unfamiliar drainage system, but this is beneficial to the species by mixing up the gene pool.
Once in a while, their hormones will short circuit and the fish might stay out to sea five, six or seven years before it returns...that is what produces your big 70 pound or more fish.



After a few years cruising the Pacific Ocean, a hormone tells the 12 to 22 pound fish that it is time for him/her to go home. From where I am standing and 200 yards past the railway bridge is all saltwater coming from Shilshole Bay (not a misspelling) and the Puget Sound. Some of the salmon, who are lazy or smart depending on your outlook, use the locks to my right rather than the fish ladder off to the left to travel into Lake Union...the first fresh water they will encounter.




I am standing on a walkway that crosses the shipping locks and am looking under one of the arches of a diversion dam. This small dam (no more than 30 feet tall) provides a barrier between the ocean's salt water and the fresh water flowing down from mountain lakes and glaciers. Union, Washington and Sammamish are all natural lakes whose levels are controlled by the dam and afford floating traffic access to ports they might not normally be able to dock. 




This is the fresh water side of the locks. I'd assume the boats might be going out to Puget Sound on a little fishing trip. I also see kayaks and canoeists using the lock...for free.




This map is intentionally larger.

The salmon travel through Puget Sound, into Lake Union and Lake Washington. They then connect with the Sammamish River, into Lake Sammamish on their way to Isaaquah Creek and get trapped at the hatchery. A total distance of 42 miles and without a strenuous stretch of river to navigate, it makes for much healthier fish that arrive in Issaquah.


The city of Issaquah has the only hatchery within a metropolitan area in the state of Washington, and because of this, it is also the most visited hatchery in the state. The hatchery was built by the WPA in the 1930's to foster employment and opened for production in 1937 with plans of trying to repopulate the salmon fishery that was largely destroyed by logging, farming and coal mining. Most of the original salmon were extinct by this time, so fish from Green River were used as a starter stock.


I knew there was a public tour on Sundays at 1:00 pm so that was what I tried to schedule...and made it.. Larry our docent, was an excellent tour guide and historian.
I learned a lot from Larry such as "can I get any salmon after the hatchery spawns it"? His reply didn't encourage me.
"As soon as the fish enter fresh water their bodies start to change. The hens eggs are small to start with but the fresh water triggers the body to start turning oil and fat into egg development and sperm for the bucks". Larry said you wouldn't want to eat one of the fish at this stage because instead of the rich pink/salmon color meat that we all love, all you'd get is white wasted meat. That is one of the reasons why you see eagles, bear and raccoon just ripping out the eggs to eat and tossing the rest.


This small buffer dam blocks the progress of the salmon and force the fish through gates into a large hold pen.


At the bottom of the hatchery dam were hundreds of salmon dying...no really, they are dying...to get upstream. Most of these fish are running 15 lbs to 22 lbs and 25 inches long. Fall has the largest run of Chinook and Coho and I am lucky to be here in October.


I watched the fish, trying and trying again to jump the dam without any success. I have seen plenty of movies with salmon jumping six or eight feet...right into a bears mouth, why can't these fish jump "three" tiny little feet...are they weaklings I asked? Larry says they used a little trickery in keeping the water below the dam to a maximum depth of four feet. Those fish in the movies have a ten or twenty foot deep hole to gain some speed...these fish are just as good, but limited.
Larry did say if I watch long enough, I'll see a success story, but only if the fish approaches the dam from the side and not straight on...most do not.


The fish are crowded by a moving fence at the end of the holding pen where volunteers hand them off to other volunteers who measure and check to make sure the fish are reading to spawn. Some that might not be ready yet are put back into the pen (small opening in the back) for another week to ripen.

Speaking of volunteers....
In the 1990's the state of Washington, because of budget cuts, was considering closing the Issaquah hatchery. The city couldn't see that happening and the Friends of Issaquah Salmon Hatchery (FISH) was born. The hatchery was saved and the state now only has two (2) paid workers at the hatchery with all else being done by volunteers. (I'm surprised the state doesn't threaten other hatcheries with the same?)


The fish are measured, called out as to whether they are a buck or a hen, ready to spawn or not and whether they are wild or hatchery fish...90 percent of the returning are hatchery fish. They then conk the fish with a club (I mean really...they were going to die anyhow) so nobody gets hurt handling a flopping, twenty pound fish. All wild salmon and about 1000 otherwise exceptional fish are set aside to be released above the hatchery dam so they can spawn naturally.


The eggs (about 4000) are stripped out of the hen and into a bucket.


The bucks are milked into little white cups.


As I said earlier, the fish are not for human consumption...but as pet food, they're gourmet!


The buckets of eggs and little white cups of sperm are mixed in the incubation room. The eggs are mixed with at least 4 different bucks to ensure a diversity of the gene pool. Next year when the millions of fingerlings are released into Issaquah Creek the life cycle will start again...three years down the road.


Three weeks later


After two inches of rain in the last two days, interest must of been sparked out in the middle of the bay because there are many more salmon and much are more active. As I watch the frenzied action I really did feel sorry that most won't spawn naturally.


Here the volunteers are loading 100's of salmon into a water tanker truck and will release the wild fish into a number of neighboring creeks, trying to establish new salmon stocks.






Friday, October 3, 2014

The Ferry to Bainbridge and Olympic National Forest

Our trip to the peninsula was on a partly cloudy day. So much so, we at first thought to cancel and try another day, but am glad we didn't.


It was good to know that security is on alert this day. After departing I had asked one of the ferry workers if this was an every day event. His answer is they do check all the cars entering the ship, sporadically. 


While this is a much smaller ferry on the return trip than the one we took in the morning, it gives a better view of the entrance into the monster's mouth.


We begin the trip with temporary tracks marking our progress as the ship plows through Puget Sound after leaving downtown Seattle. 


The ferry ride gave me a good view of the "Space Needle" in Seattle. About the only way to get a better shot of the needle is on one of the many tourist float plane rides....and that just ain't gonna happen! 


I can only imagine what Donna is thinking about as she stands near the rail and looks across the water, her future or just wishing she was home in Colville instead of being on this damn boat?


As luck would have it, the Coast Guard made our 1/2 trip to Bainbridge Island a one hour trip. Occasional the CG spot checks the crew's ability to stop the ferry mid-channel, unfurl a water hose and fight an imaginary fire.


The crew then unloads a zodiac to pick up a "pretend"
person who might be floating off the ship's bow. It was worth the extra 1/2 hour listening to all the alarms going off and watching the excitement as the crew runs through their procedures. 


We arrived on the island, just a little behind schedule.


Donna always insists I take a photo of any entrance sign, I suppose because she fears I'll forget where we have been...always a possibility. This entrance right outside Port Angeles closes one hour before the visitor center 19 miles up a dead end road to Hurricane Ridge does, I thought that was odd.


At times we were socked in with fog while driving up the mountain. I drove slowly but was still surprised by a faint figure of a human riding their bike on the side of the road. Apparently, it is a popular route for bicyclists. Personally, I think they're crazy, but I would have no problem taking my bike up in the car, and riding it down...just saying.


We did do a little walking among the multi colored moss.


Don't do it babe...


It was interesting to stand above the fog bank and watch it engulf the forest below. 


This is looking out towards the Pacific Ocean, still ten miles off in the distance. 


This is what I believe is the Blue Glacier on top of Mt Olympus. At last count in 1983, there were 266 glaciers or permanent ice fields within the park. I'd assume, that with global warming, the figure is likely to be less today. 


The visitors center on top of Hurricane Ridge at the end of a 19 mile drive up the mountain is open till 5 pm, whereas the visitors center in town closes at 4 pm. I only dwell on this because I would of thought, the one in town close the same time as the ridge center does. I drove down the mountain at 4:15 in hopes of securing a "shot glass" from the park only to find it closed...urgh



Benji and Missy enjoy getting out of the car once in a while to explore.


Back home, we have a plethora of Whitetail deer, but here in the Olympic National Park... it is all about Blacktail deer. 


We came down the mountain just as the sun is starting to come down on us. 


In line at Port Townsend to take a ferry home, I can see the dogs starting to get excited that their day is almost done. "Are we home yet", "are we Home yet" they seem to be panting.


I began the trip with a vanishing trail, and end it with the same.