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I’m In A Very Good Mood

March 25, 2019 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on I’m In A Very Good Mood

Lately I’ve been in an especially good mood. It’s Spring. I’m enjoying exploring and researching my new neighborhood. And finally, I have my power wheelchair back. 

My wheelchair after being delivered early this month.

In the Summer of 2015 my 7-year old wheelchair had a problem unlike it had experienced before, it appeared to be an electrical short somewhere. It wouldn’t come on at all.

The company that sold & serviced the chair brought out a loaner and took mine to their facility for repair. Within a few weeks they delivered it and took back the loaner. I immediately go in the chair and went out for a spin. I broke down a couple of blocks away, I had to release the drive wheels and push it back home. Very unpleasant.

The company brought back the loaner chair and took mine back for repair. Again, that was the Summer of 2015.

The loaner wheelchair was lighter, slower than mine, but I got used to it. I gave up bugging them about repairing my chair. I had them out in January 2017 to replace the batteries & tires  on the loaner chair.

When they came out this January to do the same is when they realized I still had a loaner since 2015 and that they still (hopefully) had my chair.

By this point the batteries in the loaner chair were two years old, they’re usually replaced annually. Medicare covers most of the cost, but my co-payment isn’t insignificant.

I could get to the downtown YMCA, where I’d charge it while working out. This required me to lug around an external charger. Then I’d go to Culinaria where I’d need to charge it again, though not as long, to be able to get home.

Even when the batteries were new it just didn’t have the distance of my chair. I had the loaner for at least five trips to Chicago. Unfortunately I had to limit my pedestrian activity, reply more on transit, and keep charging while out.

I think I’ve only been to the Missouri Botanical Gardens once with the loaner, we had to get lunch afterwards in their cafe so the chair could recharge, it wouldn’t have made it as far as the bus stop on Tower Grove Ave otherwise.

In the weeks since my wheelchair was returned I’ve been able to go to the YMCA, Culinaria, and back home all on one charge. I’ve gone out exploring on my own, plus my husband and I went out Saturday for a mile plus journey.

Increased mobility really does increase happiness!

— Steve Patterson


Now Living North of Delmar in Columbus Square Neighborhood

January 14, 2019 Featured, North City, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Now Living North of Delmar in Columbus Square Neighborhood

A week ago I shared that we moved, leaving the Downtown West neighborhood. I’m happy to report that I’m once again living north of the Delmar Divide. I’ve told the following Delmar Divide story before, but it has been a while, so it’s worth repeating:

When I first moved to St. Louis in 1990 I rented an efficiency apartment on Lindell in the Central West End, I was 23. The apartment manager was a childhood friend of the mom of a friend I’d met in college, the two women grew up in the 1950s near O’Fallon Park in North St. Louis.  The manager, looking out for her young new tenant from Oklahoma, advised me: “don’t go north of Delmar.”

My 3-room flat in Old North at 1422 Sullivan, 1991-1992

I’d just moved to St. Louis after falling in love with the street grid, substantial architecture, and tremendous potential — I had to see this forbidden part of the city where I shouldn’t go.  I fell in love all over, marveling at the beauty being abandoned.

After 6 months in the CWE I moved to a 3-room flat in Old North St. Louis (then called Murphy-Blair). I still have friendships with neighbors from time, and lots of fond memories.

Years later I’m living in my 7th St. Louis neighborhood:

  1. Benton Park (couple of weeks in Aug/Sept 1990)
  2. Central West End (6 months 90-91)
  3. Old North St. Louis (3+ years  91-94)
  4. Dutchtown (9+ years 94-03)
  5. Mt. Pleasant (4+ years 03-07)
  6. Downtown West (11+ years 07-18)
  7. And now: Columbus Square  (19…?)

My friend Mark Groth blogged about the Neighborhood in March 2010, with lots of photos showing the various developments. He concluded his post this way:

Frankly, this is not a neighborhood that overly inspires me, nor one I would take someone from out of town to showcase the city.  I’m just not into 1980’s architecture.  However, if you are interested in the history of public housing and government subsidized housing, check out Columbus Square.  It has a long history of being home to slums and crime; but, it’s a long way from a slum today.  Maybe Columbus Square will actually be a nice doorstep for north city and the site of more positivity and investment for the near north side in the coming years. (St. Louis City Talk)

Ouch, but I agree.

Looking north the Columbus Square neighborhood, view from parking garage located along Cole St @ 10th St. Twin towers of the historic Shrine of St. Joseph can be seen in the background.

Still, I love exploring new neighborhoods. It’s one thing to go down an unfamiliar street occasionally, but its another to get an opportunity to immerse oneself in a new experience.  In future posts I’ll talk about why we moved and why we selected the housing we did.

It feels very good to again be living North of Delmar.

— Steve Patterson


Looking Back on 14 Years of Blogging, Starting the 15th Year

October 31, 2018 Featured, Site Info, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Looking Back on 14 Years of Blogging, Starting the 15th Year

Here we are at another blog anniversary, the completion of 14 years and the start of the 15th year. I was 37 when my dad had a heart attack on October 1, 2004. I needed a mental distraction. I began blogging in the year it entered the mainstream:

In 2004, the role of blogs became increasingly mainstream, as political consultants, news services and candidates began using them as tools for outreach and opinion forming. Even politicians not actively campaigning, such as the UK’s Labour Party’s MP Tom Watson, began to blog to bond with constituents.

Minnesota Public Radio broadcast a program by Christopher Lydon and Matt Stoller called “The blogging of the President,” which covered a transformation in politics that blogging seemed to presage. The Columbia Journalism Review began regular coverage of blogs and blogging. Anthologies of blog pieces reached print, and blogging personalities began appearing on radio and television. In the summer of 2004, both United States Democratic and Republican Parties’ conventions credentialed bloggers, and blogs became a standard part of the publicity arsenal. Mainstream television programs, such as Chris Matthews’ Hardball, formed their own blogs. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary declared “blog” as the word of the year in 2004.[19]

Blogs were among the driving forces behind the “Rathergate” scandal, to wit: (television journalist) Dan Rather presented documents (on the CBS show 60 Minutes) that conflicted with accepted accounts of President Bush’s military service record. Bloggers declared the documents to be forgeries and presented evidence and arguments in support of that view, and CBS apologized for what it said were inadequate reporting techniques (see Little Green Footballs). Many bloggers view this scandal as the advent of blogs’ acceptance by the mass media, both as a news source and opinion and as means of applying political pressure.

Some bloggers have moved over to other media. The following bloggers (and others) have appeared on radio and television: Duncan Black (known widely by his pseudonym, Atrios), Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit), Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (Daily Kos), Alex Steffen (Worldchanging) and Ana Marie Cox(Wonkette). In counterpoint, Hugh Hewitt exemplifies a mass media personality who has moved in the other direction, adding to his reach in “old media” by being an influential blogger. Music blog publisher Jeff Davidson, Earvolution.com, now produces Sun Studio Sessions airing on PBS stations across the U.S.

Some blogs were an important news source during the December 2004 Tsunami such as Médecins Sans Frontières, which used SMS text messaging to report from affected areas in Sri Lanka and Southern India. Similarly, during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and the aftermath a few blogs which were located in New Orleans, including the Interdictor and Gulfsails were able to maintain power and an Internet connection and disseminate information that was not covered by the mainstream media. (Wikipedia)

In the early years I wasn’t taken seriously, I recall planner Rollin Stanley, dismissively telling me he doesn’t read blogs. A few years after he left St. Louis he emailed me asking me to check out his work blog!

This blog peaked in popularity in 2006. St. Louis magazine named me the 50th most powerful person in St. Louis in their December 2006 issue. That month I met a young man named Alex Ihnen. I attended at 2-day event downtown on “accessible streets” reviewing ADA/accessibility issues — I wasn’t yet disabled. After the 2nd day, December 15th, I agreed to meet Alex at 6 North Cafe to discuss blogging. At this point I only had a little over 2 years of experience, though in January 2006 I switched to WordPress 2.0 on my own leased server space.

Outside 6 North Cafe on December 15, 2006

Alex went on to do great things here with UrbanSTL, and later with NextSTL, before moving to Cincinnati. My only time in Cincinnati was at a Streetsblog event, also attended by Alex prior to his move.

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll most indicated they found value in local blogs:

Q: Agree or disagree: Local blogs, including this one, provide insights not gained via mainstream media.

  • Strongly agree: 10 [43.48%]
  • Agree: 9 [39.13%]
  • Somewhat agree: 2 [8.7%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [4.35%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 1 [4.35%]
  • Disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Strongly disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

I still enjoy sharing my thoughts. There’s no shortage of material to write about. Occasionally I get some little things accomplished, like getting an obstacle removed from the 6th Street sidewalk earlier this year, see: Sidewalk Obstruction Removed After Annoying Pedestrians For 7+ Years.  I can easily see reaching the 15 year mark — only one more year.

Not sure if 20 will be reached.

— Steve Patterson


My Vision Is Better Than It Was On Sunday!

August 22, 2018 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on My Vision Is Better Than It Was On Sunday!

Sunday’s non-scientific poll was about vision. My poll answers are still the same, but my vision is better today than it was on Sunday. Monday morning I had outpatient surgery on my left eye to remove the cataract.

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye which leads to a decrease in vision. Cataracts often develop slowly and can affect one or both eyes. Symptoms may include faded colors, blurry vision, halos around light, trouble with bright lights, and trouble seeing at night. This may result in trouble driving, reading, or recognizing faces. Poor vision caused by cataracts may also result in an increased risk of falling and depression. Cataracts cause half of all cases of blindness and 33% of visual impairment worldwide. (Wikipedia)

Over a decade ago, not long after my stroke, I was diagnosed with early cataracts — my lenses were just beginning to cloud over.

Like the myth about the frog in boiling water, the change is gradual.  Myth because the frog would notice and would jump out. Over the years I’d learned how to compensate — going into a building because I couldn’t see my phone’s screen outside, having apps set on the largest text option, not driving when glare would be an issue. This year I jumped out of the pot and asked my physician to refer me to a specialist. The first ophthalmologist that examined me agreed both lenses should be replaced, I just needed to come back to make sure the surgeon concurred.

Monday as I was about to be wheeled out of the Center for Advanced Medicine

She did, no prescription would help me see as well as I should. On Monday I got a new lens in my left eye — it also corrected my near vision. Colors are more vivid, everything is sharp now.

The right eye will hopefully happen soon. I’ll still wear glasses for distance. Cataracts runs in my family — my mom had it, as did her mom. My dad had it. My two older bothers both have it, though the oldest has had one lens replaced. For some, like me, it starts earlier and progresses faster. Lucky me…

Through all this I thought about a 60 Minutes story from April 2017 — two US doctors who travel to other countries to perform the surgery I just had:

U Myint Oo hadn’t seen for two years, until this moment. Others here had been blind for decades. They all had cataracts – a milky, white build-up of protein that clouds the lens of the eye.  In the U.S. they mainly afflict the elderly; removing them – a routine operation. But here in Burma, also known as Myanmar, cataracts go untreated and blindness is a way of life. (CBS News/60 Minutes)

Yes, left untreated cataracts gradually leads to blindness. This is why my maternal grandmother had her cataracts surgeries in the early 1960s — back then it was a major operation that required hospitalization — and it didn’t correct vision — just removed the clouded lens. She wore thick glasses, but wasn’t blind. A few years later Dr. Charles D. Kelman’s research changed the process:

In 1967, the phacoemulsification procedure was introduced. Instead of making a large incision in the eye and removing the lens, doctors could make a tiny one. Then they inserted an ultrasonic tip which, vibrating thousands of times a second, broke up the cataracts without damaging the surrounding tissue. The remains of the cataract were suctioned out.

The procedure, which Dr. Kelman taught to thousands of doctors around the world, is now performed more than a million times a year in the United States alone. Artificial lenses that he developed in the 1970’s are now routinely implanted in patients’ eyes, making unnecessary the ultrathick glasses that once were common after surgery. And his ultrasonic approach has been adopted in other fields of medicine, including neurosurgery. (New York Times)

Both of my parents, already in their 70s, had both eyes done in the 2000s. I recall my mom being so thrilled — something I can finally understand. Sadly, she died just a few years later. After my mom died my dad had both of his cataracts removed, but was hospitalized & died just after the 2nd — completely unrelated to the cataract surgery. Getting mine done at 51, I hope to have many more years of enjoying good vision again.

Yesterday after returning home from my followup with the surgeon

Cataracts is one of the big four causes of adult blindness/low vision:

Four eye diseases — age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts — account for most cases of adult blindness and low vision among people in developed countries. Unlike many other ailments associated with aging, they cause no pain and often no early symptoms and thus do not automatically prompt a person to seek medical care. But a thorough checkup by an ophthalmologist can detect them in their earliest stages, followed by treatment that can slow or halt their progression or, in the case of cataracts, restore normal vision.

Macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 and older, involves an irreversible loss of retinal cells that robs people of the central vision needed to read, watch a TV program or identify a face or object in front of them. There are two types, dry and wet. In the dry type, the light-sensitive cells in the macula, a structure near the center of the retina, gradually break down. In the wet type, abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula.

Steps you can take to lower your risk of macular degeneration or slow its progression include not smoking, eating lots of dark leafy green vegetables, wearing sunglasses to block ultraviolet light, and taking one or more supplements formulated to support macular health. There are also treatments specific for wet A.M.D., including laser surgery, photodynamic therapy and drugs that are injected into the eye to slow the growth of abnormal blood vessels.

Diabetic retinopathy, the cause of most blindness in American adults, also affects the light-sensitive retina, damaging the vision of more than half of people with diabetes age 18 or older. The most effective preventive is maintaining a normal level of glucose in the blood through medication and a proper balance of diet and exercise. Blood glucose should be routinely monitored, high blood pressure effectively treated and smoking avoided entirely.

Glaucoma, another leading cause of blindness, involves a rise in fluid pressure inside the eye that damages the optic nerve. It affects more than four million Americans, about half of whom don’t know they have it, and is especially common among African-Americans and Hispanics. It can be detected with a comprehensive eye exam, which should be done annually for African-Americans and those with a family history of the condition.

Although glaucoma is not curable, treatment to lower pressure in the eye with prescription eye drops and, in some cases, pills or surgery can control the condition.

Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss among people over 40. They involve a gradual clouding of the lens, a normally transparent tissue directly behind the iris and pupil that helps to focus images on the retina. As cataracts progress, it becomes increasingly difficult to see clearly, impairing the ability to read, drive or recognize faces.

Preventing or slowing the development of cataracts involves protecting the eyes from sun damage, not smoking, consuming a diet rich in vegetables and fruits and, if you have diabetes, keeping blood sugar under control.

In years past, doctors often advised patients with cataracts to wait until they were far advanced before removing them surgically. This is no longer the case. Cataract surgery is now done when the condition begins to affect a person’s quality of life or interferes with the ability to perform normal activities.

The surgery is nearly always done under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis. If both eyes have cataracts, as is usually the case, the second eye is typically treated some weeks after the first to avoid the rare risk of a postoperative infection in both eyes. The operation involves removing the clouded lens and, in most cases, replacing it with a clear artificial lens that often gives patients better vision than they had even before developing cataracts. (New York Times)

Here are the results from the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: How is your vision? Check all that apply.

  • I wear prescription glasses: 14 [38.89%]
  • I often wear sunglasses: 7 [19.44%]
  • I don’t need glasses/contacts: 6 [16.67%]
  • I wear prescription contacts: 4 [11.11%]
  • I have reduced vision: 3 [8.33%]
  • TIE: 1 [2.78%]
    • I have cataracts
    • I have glaucoma
  • TIE: 0 [0%]
    • I’ve had laser or other surgery to correct my vision
    • I have no vision (blind)
    • I have age-related macular degeneration
    • I have diabetic retinopathy

If you haven’t had an eye exam in the last couple of years, please do so soon.

— Steve Patterson


One Decade Since My Hemorrhagic Stroke

February 1, 2018 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on One Decade Since My Hemorrhagic Stroke
Steve Patterson a week after his stroke.

Ten years ago today I thought I was going to die on my cold concrete bedroom floor. It was the afternoon and I thought I suddenly got a headache. I laid down on the bed then decided to go into the bathroom and take an aspirin. That’s when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to remain standing, so I lowered myself to the floor. I thought I should call 911 but I couldn’t think of where my phone was. I began vomiting…a lot. I pulled the comforter off the bed for some warmth.

I heard my phone ringing, it was in the kitchen. I couldn’t move.

I began realizing that I was likely to die — one month to the day after my dad. I thought about loose ends I hadn’t taken care of. Then I must’ve blacked out. The next morning my close friend Marcia used the emergency key I gave her to check on me. Apparently I was conscious and told her to grab my phone so she could call my brothers.

It was Saturday February 2nd — the big Mardi Gras parade meant the emergency room was busy. Marcia and other friends waited amongst the ill party goers. I was at St. Louis University hospital for more than 3 weeks. In that time I had many visitors, though I was sedated most of the time.

My friends Rich & Andrew, from Seattle & Kansas City, respectively, arrived a week after my stroke. Thankfully Rich documented his visit and my condition.

This is a good place to discuss the types of strokes:

All types have one thing in common: a loss of blood to part of your brain. That causes big problems.

Your brain cells need the oxygen that’s carried by your blood. So when a stroke cuts the supply, some of the cells start to die. And that sets off trouble like memory loss, confusion, and numbness on one side your body.

There are two main types of stroke:

  • Ischemic
  • Hemorrhagic

If you have signs of any of them, call 911 right away. The sooner you get treated, the less likely you are to have long-term effects. (webMD)

Ischemic, caused by a blood clot, is far more common than the type I had, hemorrhagic.

My first memory after February 1st is of waking up on February 25th. I’d been transported to St. Mary’s on Clayton Rd to begin therapy, a cousin and one if my brothers was there. Two trips in an ambulance and I have no memory of either!

On the 25th I had a trachea (voice box) in my throat, initially I thought it was permanent. Even once I knew it was only temporary I would pull it out — nurses had to restrain my right arm to prevent me from interfering. No need for them to strain my left side — I had zero movement. After nearly 41 years as a leftie I would need to become right-handed.

By the 28th I was allowed to eat foods and drink liquids — I had to pass a swallow test first.

Therapy (physical/occupational/speech) should begin within hours/days after a stroke — but it was several weeks in my case. Before leaving St. Mary’s on March 21, 2008 friend Antonio French stopped by to document my progress.

On March 21, 2008 one of my brothers drove me to a now-closed state rehabilitation facility in Mt. Vernon MO. There I continued to work on physical, occupational, and speech therapy. On April 30, 2008 myself and a few others from the St. Louis region were taken to our respective residences.

During these first three months after my stroke I wasn’t sure what my future would be like. I didn’t know I’d be able to live well on a fraction of my prior income. I didn’t know just 5 years later I’d find love. I didn’t know I’d be forced to narrow my focus and rethink my priorities.

Ten years ago today I thought I was going to die — but it was the day I really began to live!

— Steve Patterson