Monday, December 23, 2013

Hour 92 - Charlottesville Adventures

So there I was, sitting in the cockpit of a Cessna 172 on the ramp at KCHO, with the engine off.  But I wanted the engine on.  When the engine is on we could go flying, which would be good, but when the engine is on the heater works, which would be very good.

It was 28 degrees on the ramp and we'd just done pre-flight in the dark.  We had needed oil and the cold and wind were enough that it actually hurt just to hold the dipstick.

The problem is, it's hard to start a small plane in the cold.  It can be hard to start a car also, but modern cars have a bunch of gizmos that sense air temperature and stuff and mix fuel and air just right to get you going.

In this plane, there were no gizmos.  Just me and some knobs.  The knobs control the primer, throttle, mixture and ignition.  Most combinations of those things result in the engine not starting.  A few result in success and a few result in an engine fire.  After about 10 minutes of the first set I moved into the second.  The third I thankfully skipped altogether.

Honestly, it felt like the mission was complete the moment the tach came alive, but there was more to be done.  We had to navigate home in the wind and the cold and the dark and land safely at Leesburg Executive - our home base away from home (real home is of course KSBA).

The flight back went okay.  Winds aloft were pretty stiff but not too turbulent.  I added a bit of time on to the trip by following the highways a bit more due to it being night time.  During the day you can land on a field safely if the engine goes but at night roads might be your best bet.  I added a bit more time on to the trip by going around some hills.

Dulles airspace lies over Leesburg so pilots are required to come in pretty low on their approach.  That's okay during the day when you can see and avoid hills, but my altitude wasn't high enough to make me feel safe coming in so I went the long way around to keep ground clearance.

The night landing was actually surprisingly smooth.  The wind was high at the surface but mostly down the runway.  Surface temperature was 25 degrees.  We made it home safe and sound and made for the warmth of the pilot's lounge.

Trips home don't happen without a trip out though, and the trip out was the day before.  We had planned to take off around 9 but pushed the flight back about an hour in order to allow for frost to melt.

The destination was KCHO - Charolttesville.  We were going to visit with Will and Erik, two college friends, and their spouses.  I went to school in Charlottesville but had never been to the airport prior to landing there.

We didn't fly direct.  We made diversions to overfly Lake Anna and Lake Monticello.  The first as it was a childhood vacation destination for my family and the latter so we could fly over Erik's house.  We also took some time to fly over the UVA grounds to take some photos of my college.

Lake Anna

The flight out was uneventful and fun, the visit was awesome, and the return trip was, well, an adventure.  Hour 92 in the books.  More photos can be found here:

The Padendix

In yet another installment of our sub-series on unintended adventures, I just had my appendix removed.  Perhaps spurned by so many jokes at the expense of its vestigial nature, it did not go down without a fight.

Honestly, this isn't really a very unique adventure.  It's pretty went down the same for me as it does for most folks in the modern world.  In fact, rather than reading my notes on the subject, perhaps you could just watch this informative documentary.  I've linked in to the middle to save you time, but I'm sure the intelligent youtuber can find the entire three part series if he or she desires.

For those more into the written word, the adventure begins on Sunday.  I went to Reston to play some ultimate, eat some chicken wings, and hang out watching football.  Pretty normal day.  Tried some crazy-spicy wing sauce at the restaurant, but only a bit and that's probably not what did the appendix in...

I felt fine during the game and for the most part during the football game, though I had a bit of a gassy, bloated feeling towards the end.  Having just had a few beers and a bunch of wings, that wasn't THAT unusual.  We watched the end of the game at my parents house and hung out for a bit before heading to ANOTHER pub, to watch ANOTHER game.  You know, a pretty normal day.

By the time we got there I didn't feel great.  Really gassy, didn't really want any food but got some bread and beer to hopefully fill up my stomach and push the gas out.  Felt pretty darned miserable by the time we left, which was late because on the east coast they play football until like 12 in the am.

By the time I got home, I was solidly miserable.  Went to bed around 1:30 or so and kept getting up to try and use the bathroom but the gas pressure wasn't going anywhere.  It was hard to get comfortable in bed.

I expected some ab and back soreness - on Friday I'd gone to the gym and done a bunch of heavy deadlifts followed by a high intensity interval set of ab exercises.  Second day after is a common time for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS, we're no strangers).  My stomach was really bloated and muscle swelling is actually associated with an extreme condition called rhabdo, but I had none of the other telltale signs and rhabdo usually affects de-conditioned athletes who attempt strenuous workouts with insufficient hydration.  I've been a regular at the gym and I hydrate well so I kind of wrote that out too.

By 3 or 3:30am, I was pretty much unable to get comfortable in any position whatsoever and I'd actually started vocalizing my breaths as the pressure down there was making breathing hard and painful.  Melch figured that this was the point where it was time to seek medical attention and I agreed.

I'm not sure why, but as I was getting dressed to go, it dawned on me that it could be my appendix.  I have no idea why I thought of that as a possibility, but I hit wikipedia on my phone while waiting for Melch to get ready to go and their list of symptoms was my list of symptoms.  In the car I asked melch if the emergency care place we were going to had the capability to perform surgery.  They didn't, she said, but they could transport me if needed.  That'd do.

I was having so much fun that I was crest-fallen if we got a light red.  We got a few lights red.

We did of course eventually get to the emergency room and I was pretty out of sorts, kinda mumbling my name and birth date and all of that jazz to the admissions orderly.  A nurse took my vitals, commented on my low blood pressure and we waited for the doctor.

I had told the nurse what I had going on and he told the doctor who then asked the resident he had in tow for a diagnosis.  The resident said "appendix?"  The doctor turned to me and said, "yeah, you need your appendix removed."  30 second diagnosis for the win - gets you to pain killers more quickly!

Not THAT quickly though - I waited for an MRI first but it wasn't forthcoming so then I got an IV and finally some narcotics that made life a bit better.  I actually usually dislike narcotics like percocet or vicodin, but the heavier morphine and friends work out just fine for me - loopy enough that I don't care about anything and just get super friendly and talkative.

Changing venues
Anyway, they moved me from the emergency room to another hospital where I chilled out in my room waiting for the operation to be scheduled.  Then it was off to prep where a bunch of people tell you a bunch of things and ask you a bunch of questions and make you sign a bunch of things even though you're way too high to deal with any of that competently.

Hanging in my new quarters
Surgery was a laparoscopic affair which means it works with small incisions, lasers, computers, cameras and sorcery.  Apparently all of that went well.  Which didn't mean that I felt well, just better than before and without the time bomb organ.

I won't get into the details of laparo recovery for a padendix, you can look them up if you're interested.  The highlights: they've pumped your insides full of CO2 and cut 3 holes in the middle of you (the otherwise entirely accurate video above suggests only one).  The holes hurt and the CO2 creates discomfort.

I think the beard cover was Melch's idea... No idea if the doctors left it on.

The fix is apparently "walking," but you're tired and sore and high and attached to an iv thing that you have to wheel around with you.  But a-walking we did go.

Melch accompanied me and I actually had visits on my evening strolls from both my parents and hers, followed by a painkiller-supported attempt to sleep.

The following day the nurses felt like it would be a good idea for me to get up early and eat and walk.  I felt like it would be a good idea for me to sleep in.  The nurses won.

I went in early Monday am and left on Tuesday evening.  Tuesday daytime was a mostly boring affair with walking, eating and surfing the internet as highlights.  Daytime TV sucks.  Hospital wifi sucks.  But dying of appendicitis sucks more...

Anyway, I'm back home now.  Eating normally.  GI tract functioning... but not normally, yet.  The first few days back were really sore in the abs, that's starting to go away, but the wounds itch and the gas is still keeping me up at night.  Hopefully that'll improve soon.

I also can't lift weights or engage in strenuous physical activity.  Which, aside from sitting at my computer and drinking beer... is pretty much what I do.  This too shall pass though.  The restriction will soon be lifted and I'll be back to more intentional adventures...

A three?  A tree?  Oui Oui!