Tuesday, March 30, 2010

3 Days of the Myna

For the past 3 days a pair of Common Myna birds have been in process of building a nest in the coconut tree at the roadside corner of our property -- and another pair of Mynas don’t like it at all. Throughout the day, loud violent clashes occur. Synchronized “attacks” come from both high and low, and as the mating pair get the squeezed to leave, they fight back with tenancy.

Mynas make the coolest sounds, especially in excited moments of the fray. Mynas are loud; they screech, they squeal, they make popping and clicking sounds. They even make this sarcastic chuckling sound as they fly off. Kinda scary little buggahs, actually.

According to the Hawaii Audubon Society, the Common Myna was introduced to Hawaii from India in 1865. Mynas are abundant in Kapahulu. And they can be quite comical. They have a goofy gait: instead of hopping like most birds, they walk (and sometimes run), one foot at a time. They perch on lamp poles and on the gutter of our roof and behave like bossy overseers.

A few times a day, I’ve been drawn out onto the deck to see the commotion -- loud, violent nosedives, but a wonderful reminder of nature in management mode. I’ve come out to see a puff of tiny feathers fly and a few cool loop-de-loops from plumeria to coconut tree; coconut tree to plumeria.

On day 3, the nest-building looked complete, but the protesters were back for a final launch. Physical contact this time: clutched together, two rivals tumbled to the ground as their mates cried out in disapproval! And suddenly, pau. The competitors split. A swift exist, a hard left arc around the Namba’s house and gone. Wow....

I was amazed. I parked myself at the railing, close to the tree. Mr. Myna did like that; he squealed a high-pitched warning from a high palm frond. I looked directly at him. “Wait a minute buddy-boy,” I said, “this is my house; I pay the mortgage. Wanna use the tree, no prob, but don’t threaten me bucko.

Mr. Myna hissed, I swear, and flew up then dive-boomed me!

You can’t attack a quad with glasses!” I booked it down the ramp to the driveway. Wrong move. Mr. Myna now had me in open territory. I saw him round the avocado tree and swoop in for another hit.

Jesus, Joseph, and Mary!” I felt the flap of his wings on my balding head! I turned for the ramp. Again, another dive at me! I’m thinking Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds; Robert Redford, Condor.... Get me outta here!

I made it back into the house and here is where I stay: a quad shut-in. Homebound. Confined to my wheelchair. And here I shall remain, in fear of the outdoors, at least until the Myna kids grow up and fly off.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Live In PCAs

Shortly after graduating from college and securing a real job at a Center for Independent Living, I decided that it was my turn to strike it out on my own. And why not? I was helping other people with disabilities achieve the same, and besides, I was the Personal Care Attendant Referral Counselor -- I had first pick off the list of attendants I recruited and interviewed.

I approached my quad buddy Kirby Shaw on the notion of renting a two-bedroom apartment somewhere in the Honolulu area; some place we could call our own; somewhere we could invite girls for sleep-overs. (We never had any girl sleep-overs; a few drunk guys, maybe, but never any girls.)

Kirby and I conducted our search for both a place to live and a live-in attendant with diligence. We were conscientious about physical access and clear that we were open to a cigarette smoking, beer drinking attendant willing to wipe our butts. And then we compromised on a more-than-less accessible Liliuokalani Avenue apartment in Waikiki and an attendant named Jay.

Jay was a great attendant: strong, willing, and able. He was attentive to detail, including finger/toe nails and rouge nose hairs, and he liked his double gin and tonic cocktails. Perfect for the 2003 up-coming holidays.

Oh, he liked guys too. Kirby flipped out when he learned this after we were all ready moved in, but later accepted the difference, mainly due to peer pressure, frat-house badgering, actually.

Jay was the first of 6 different live-in attendants I had before getting married. And there were also 4 other PCAs I hired throughout the years. (I’ll talk more about these relationships in future blogs.)

All of the live in attendants I hired had some kind of “instability” in their life. They were either newly relocated to Hawaii, newly divorced, newly sober, newly humanitarian, or newly reborn -- and my need/situation was perfectly void of material things and non-taxable income.

Looking back, some 35 years later, it all seems logical. They were available to accept a live in job as a personal care attendant BECAUSE of their instability.

Were these going to be long-term work-relationships? Of course not.

One Bible-thumping guy even told me as we were breaking up, “... you need to find a wife, someone that loves you as a person, and she’ll be your PCA for life.” SOB was right! I hate when those guys are right.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Admit Obit Misfit

My neighbor Steve died a few weeks ago. His heart stopped. I’m not exactly sure why, but he was about 65 years old, easily 150 pounds overweight, and smoked a lot of long white cigarettes everyday. Go figure.

Steve was a nice guy. He was kind and generous. He and his family welcomed Valerie and I into the neighborhood with food and drink -- offered before they even knew us.

Steve was a retired City and County home construction inspector; he was a seamstress too. Yep, this big, fat guy with dark, poor circulation in his legs was a needle and thread guy. Nine years ago, Steve made our newborn daughter a beautiful quilt blanket. Wow, a precious gift indeed! Iwalani will probably keep it forever. Geez, Iwa might hold her child in it someday.

Steve invented this fabric shopping cart caddy for kids. We tried it; it was good for toddlers, but probably not a big market item. At least Steve produced a prototype; I never did follow through on my customized urinals for quads. And I still haven't picked up my "new" wheelchair from Frank Lane. I really ought to pick up that chair before I die.

Steve is gone. His wife found him in a “cold state” and quickly called 911. He was rushed to the hospital, but died a week later on February 20th. We didn’t know until March 15th, until we crossed the street and asked his grieving wife. “How is Steve? We saw you going out each day....”

“Steve died about 3 weeks ago.”

“OMG. Sorry. So sorry. Nobody told us. We thought we would learn by....”

“It was in the paper.”

“We don’t get the paper.”

“We buried him last week.”

Major awkward moment.

Since living on Kanaina Avenue for the past 14 years, 9 neighbors have died. We’ve never seen any of their obituaries. We do not subscribe to the newspaper. And even if we did, I probably wouldn’t scan the obits.... Or is this another one of life’s little things you’re suppose to do?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Top Ten List of Women who have Influenced My Life

1. Valerie Miehlstein. My wife; trusted friend; mother of our child.

Valerie has shown me an amazing ability to love all people, animals, and things on this earth. She has convictions beyond my capacity.

2. Iwalani Marie. My daughter; a smart, physically able child, still unaware that prejudices exist.

Iwalani forced me to grow up; confront insecurities; and demonstrate integrity. Not easy for a guy like me.

3. Evelyn Soares. My mother.

Evelyn fed me; dressed me; taught me; disciplined me; was my primary care giver for many years when I first became disabled. Tough ol’ Portagee lady -- gotta love her tenacity.

4. Rose Botello. My childhood babysitter.

“Aunty Rose” as I recall, was the epitome of gentle love. I was a magnet to this lady who would embrace me for my simple lego building and my [I thought] colossal bowel movements a kid.

5. Ann Ito. UH KOKUA Program Director.

I was introduced to Ann at age 18, and with a calm, gentle voice, she asked me to peer beyond my disability and seek higher education so as to foster my greater self. She remains my hero to date.

6. Susan Rocco. SPIN Program Disability Advocate.
Jan Tataeshi. SPIN Program Disability Advocate.

Susan and Jan have sons with disabilities. No big deal; just don’t tell them they ain’t welcomed here. These two ladies carry themselves with unmatched conviction and grace; they ask not for recognition, but acceptance and inclusion of all people with disabilities in society.

7. Erica Jones. Principal Investigator and Director of DBTAC - Pacific ADA Center.

Fresh out of college, Erica gave me my first real job as a Personal Care Attendant Counselor at the Hawaii Centers for Independent Living. In other words, she provided me with an opportunity to demonstrate I had the ability and the capability to be the person she saw in me.

8. Sheryl Nelson. Disability Advocate

Back in the mid 1980’s, Sheryl challenged me to develop a greater awareness of the movement of people with disabilities -- and then practice my new awareness as I lived my life as a participating and contributing member of my community. Today, I’d like to think I serve in the ranks with Sheryl, although she’ll always have that smart, sharp edge that comes by way of the genes only.

9. Helen Street. Spiritual Teacher

Helen gave me the permission I sought to accept that NOT adhering to my religious up-bring was OK. That saying I did not have and hold the gift of faith was OK. That questioning the existence of God was OK. That accepting myself as a mere mortal, unable to hoist the philosophical flag held by the masses was OK. BIG STEP forward for a young man.

10. Sara. Addict

Sara had a boyfriend, 3 kids, a trashy apartment and would predictably lose her sobriety again and again. I wanted more for her, and thus gave her a job, sometimes food, sometimes money. But she always pissed it all away. Sara didn’t want what I wanted. I could not give Sara what she needed. Lesson learned.

Old Goat Gets Colonoscopy

When I turned 50 years old last May, I was greeted by the birthday jabs of now being in the Old Goat Club -- and reminded that it was time to see the doc about a poop-shoot-look-see. I knew the test was important, but having talked to a number of folks who undertook the exam, my greatest concern was the preparation: the colon must be free of solid matter for the test to be performed properly. Easier said than done for a quadriplegic relying on personal care assistance for toilet transfers.

I did some research: the patient should plan to spend the day at home in comfortable surroundings with ready access to toilet facilities. The patient may also want to have moist toilettes at hand or a bidet for cleaning the anus. A soothing salve such as petroleum jelly applied after cleaning the anus will improve patient comfort.

Yikes! I canceled my scheduled appointment. Sorry, too much fun.

Bowel and bladder care for a quad is already enough fun without adding surprises certain to bust a move! But am I the only one? What about all you other guys and gals in the Old Goat Club? Have you done your poop-shoot-look-see? I can’t be alone in the matter of coordinating the matter of excavating fecal matter.... Help!


Colonoscopy is the endoscopic examination of the colon and the distal part of the small bowel with a CCD camera or a fiber optic camera on a flexible tube passed through the anus. It may provide a visual diagnosis (e.g. ulceration, polyps) and grants the opportunity for biopsy or removal of suspected lesions.

Colonoscopy is similar to but not the same as sigmoidoscopy -- the difference being related to which parts of the colon each can examine. While colonoscopy allows an examination of the entire colon (measuring four to five feet in length), sigmoidoscopy allows doctors to view only the final two feet of the colon. A sigmoidoscopy is often used as a screening procedure for a full colonoscopy, in many instances in conjunction with a fecal occult blood test (FOBT), which can detect the formation of cancerous cells throughout the colon.


And then I received a telephone call from Kelly Takashima, a Nurse Practitioner from Kaiser Permanente. She questioned my reason for canceling my appointment after blood was found in my stool from a self-administered test. I explained the quad thing. She reiterated the importance of the exam, and suggested we work together on a strategy for managing the preparation process.

Ms. Takashima suggested a fecal collection bag as a possible option or an auxiliary method. She was concerned that I would not decide to proceed. As she spoke, I wondered to myself, “Why does this lady care so much about what I do? She doesn’t even know me....

And then I realized I was speaking to a caring, health care professional; someone above and beyond just doing her job -- someone with integrity.

My attitude changed. Ms. Takashima, through her caring point of view, convinced me to suck it up and follow through. I now felt a sense of conviction: a colonoscopy was now something I wanted to do.

I made a new appointment. My wife Valerie, my co-pilot in this adventure, met Ms. Takashima to pick up the bags. Val picked up the Gavilyte solution, and the night before the procedure, I drank down a half-gallon of the solution. Two hours after my first slug of the sauce, I made my first of eight transfers onto the throne. I did not need the bags.

The next morning, after twenty-seven hours without eating solid food, Mark Yoshida, MD conducted my colonoscopy. No pain; no problem; two benign polyps removed. And I was helped through the entire process by kind, gentle hospital staff proficient and communicative of everything they did. Actually, Valerie is the unsung hero of this ditty. She managed all the transfers and the paperwork; she was my transportation and helped me check in and out of the hospital.

So, what’s the verdict? Listen to Ms. Takashima.

You quads out there, find a way; follow through; it ain’t that bad. And it might save your life.

Wally Soares

Valerie's veggie Tofu Pie!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bora Bora and Ziplock Bags

I just spent the past 34 minutes of my life fighting to open the packaging on one of those energy bars: Bora Bora, an organic, nothing artificial, supposed-to-be-good-for-you foods. And if it wasn’t for the fact I was quickly crashing in hunger, I would’ve given up and went for the high fiber cereal bag staring at me on the countertop. It only had one of those spring-loaded plastic clips.

I often get lucky with these packaged foods as, compared to most quads, I have a little better hand-finger dexterity. I have a spinal cord disorder, not a spinal cord injury. I got the index finger-opposing thumb thing in my favor. However, this time, I gave up on going for the usual seam down the middle; I was now gnawing on the plastic wrapping -- but to no avail.

I took stock: I’m home alone; no one is coming for hours; I really need to eat something; my neighbor is watering his yard, but heck if I’m going all that way; the more I grind at the wrapper the more sloppy it gets. Expletive!

I took a few deep breaths. Expletive. I thought about the time my wife had left me a tofurky sandwich sealed in a Ziplock bag. Great invention, that color-coded seal, but not quad-friendly. When she came home she found an indistinguishable wad of goo still in the bag, on the floor, run over a few times by someone’s wheelchair. I know, I know, anger management.

I decided that I would open the Bora Bora with my teeth and gimpy hand come hell or high-water -- expletive with an ...er.

I gnawed on each corner; gads, we’re getting messy. I propped up the bar between a bag of mixed nuts and a bag of granola. Well, that didn’t help. No scissors in sight, then again, have you every seen a quad with a scissors? Yikes!

Finally, like a starving animal, I bit the packaging in the middle and ripped the damn thing open -- well, smashed-open. I smeared the contents into my drooling mouth. It was sustenance; it was good; I, (expletive with an ...ing), won. And just at that moment, a loud, hard-hitting noise from outside on the street: KA-TOOGE, as in a speeding motorcycle hitting a minivan broadside!

I wiped my mouth and watched a sunflower seed tumble onto my knee and hit the floor. Lost only one little b@st@rd, I thought.

I rolled out onto the deck over-looking the street. Geez! Someone’s motionless on the hot asphalt; no helmet. An almond-shaped lady in a blue and black muumuu cries out, “Call 911! Oh God, so much blood....”

I watched from my vantage point. Motorcycle gal ain’t moving. Deaf School psychologist is now crossing the street with cell phone in hand. I watched. Neighbors started to gather. Firetruck, ambulance, and police converge within minutes.

An older man, jogger-type haole guy, passes below me on the Kanaina Avenue/George Street corner as people and blinking neon lights swell. He mutters in a facetious tone, “Just another uneventful Thursday, huh?”

I came back in. I didn’t want to see anymore damage done. If not dead, she’ll survive through the luxury of modern medicine. Head injury? Quadriplegia? Better tell her about Bora Bora and Ziplock bags....

Wally Soares