Sunday, September 30, 2012

Outback Trip with My Dad

I love taking my kids on road trips. But, it's been awhile since I went on one with my Dad!

We drove from Melbourne to Yowah, Queensland. Then to Charlieville for my flight home.

Good times!

A Roo-Paw in the opal fields of Yowah

Outback Sunset - Yowah

Outback Sunrise

Crack of Dawn - Yowah
Toompine Pub & Shop - middle of nowhere!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hearing / Balance Test

Yesterday I rode my beautiful Honda Shadow 750 (freshly polished!) into the city for an ear and balance test. It always makes me smile when I’m asked by neurologists “Do you have any balance issues?” Today I was able to point to my helmet and say, “Nope, I rode here on my motorcycle.”

Well, the tests showed something quite interesting. I do have balance issues. My left inner-ear is basically not reporting anything to my brain. But, the change has happened so slowly, as the tumour has grown, that my brain has adjusted where it gets its messages from to provide me with balance. Cool, eh? 

Let me start from the beginning. When they booked me for a three hour ear and balance test I thought they must just build in buffer time for “waiting room time”. I was wrong! I was invited to join the audiologist right on time - 1:15PM. Over the next three hours I spent time in three different rooms with an audiologist and a student audiologist. Both were young women and not at all hard on the eyes or ears. 

Room 1: Very quiet. They shut the door and it was VERY QUIET! (said in a whisper). It was quite a quiet difference from the busy city bustling outside on Swanston Street. 
In room 1, I wore headphones and pressed a button. Sounds easy, eh? ... Not so! The sounds they play are soooo quiet. Testing my pitch and decibel hearing abilities was a frustratingly long procedure. It was revealed that both ears have hearing loss. The right is about normal for my age. The left was worse. The tumour is on the left.

Room 2: Goggles, dots and women blowing gently in my ears. Sounds nice? it was... Some parts more than others. 
In Room 2, I wore a pair of eye tracking goggles that sent my every eye movement to a computer. In test 1, I stared at a dot on the wall. It moved. I stared at the dot in its new location. It moved again. 
In test 2, I was told to relax my neck so the audiologist could jerk my head from left to right without warning while I tried to keep focused on the dot. Then the student got to have a go. Fun for everyone! 
In test 3, I faced a different wall and watched a different dot. This dot played pong all by itself! I just watched it go back and forth. 
In test 4, on the same wall, I stared at a smiley face for ten seconds. The next part was really hard! After fixing my eyes on the location of the smiley, they put a cover over the goggles that completely blocked out all light. It was DARK! (said with eyes closed). I had to keep my head perfectly still and my eyes in the exact position they were in while staring at the smiley face. The first time, I followed the residual image of the smiley face as it wandered off to the left. The next time, I tried harder. “Forget the smiley face.” I told myself. Just keep your eyes fixed in the middle. Not easy in the dark! Without a reference point, I’m not sure what my eyes were doing. 
In test 5, I laid back on the bed with my head on a pillow. The blinder was put on the goggles (to keep me in the dark!) and I was told to keep my eyes open while they blew air in my ears through a tiny little tube and watched my eardrum through a otoscope. Each ear got a turn with cold air and then warm air. They did the right ear first. Cold air for about a minute. “Almost done. Twenty seconds left. Ten seconds left. Done.” Then they asked me to tell them a girl’s name starting with A. “Alexandra”. B. “Beatrice”. C. “Coriander” The ladies laughed. D. “Delilah”. E. “Emilia”. F. “Frieda”. “These are very unique names,” the audiologist said. “Frieda is my mother-in-law!” 
“Ok, now look at the red dot.” A red dot appeared in my darkened goggles.  I looked at it.
Then they blew the cold air in my left ear. Boys names. Red dot. They asked how I was feeling. “That felt good!” I said. The audiologist laughed and said she’d never had a patient say it felt good. “What is it supposed to feel like?” I asked. She told me that everyone reacts differently. “Why all the questions?” I asked. “To make sure you’re still awake,” she said. 
“People fall asleep while you’re blowing air in their ears?” I asked.
“There are different kinds of responses. OK. Let’s do the warm air now.”
About five seconds of hot air in my right ear and the bed began to slowly rotate. Then it spun faster. And faster. And WOW fast! “Almost done,” I heard from somewhere outside the amusement park. “20 seconds.” Whizzing, whipping around the universe. “10 seconds.” My teacup reached maximum velocity. “Done.”
It was amazingly discombobulating! 
“I am spinning,” I laughed. “Really spinning. It feels real!”
“How about countries.” It was the students voice. “Can you name a country starting with A?” Now all the questions made sense. I bet some people pass out from the spinning. It was vertigo heaven.
“Africa.” B. “Brazil.” C. “Congo.” D. “Denmark.” E. “ummm... England.” F. “Finland.” I. “What about G?” Both ladies cracked up. “Of course, G.” “Germany.”...
The dot appeared and I focused on it. Then they asked how I felt. “Like I just got back from Disneyland,” I laughed. “Well, you’re about to go back to Disneyland in your left ear,” the audiologist said. “Let’s see how it goes. Ready?” 
Hot air began blowing in my left ear. I prepared myself for the slow rotating of the bed. I waited for the spinning sensation. The air was hot and blowing. I looked for the teacup. “Almost done.” But, I couldn’t even see Disneyland. “20 seconds.” Nothing happened. “10 seconds.” Not the slightest bit of spinning. “Done.”

After talking it through, it is clear that the tumour has been growing slowly and compressing the left balance nerve. None of the signals from my left inner ear are making it to my brain. I asked why, if I didn’t have any balance information coming from my left side, I didn’t have balance issues. Evidently, because the tumour has been growing so slowly, my brain has compensated each little step of the way and takes it’s balance cues from elsewhere. It was the most enlightening part of the day!

Room 3 was noisy. They put headphones on my ears and probes in my ears and tested my eardrums. They told to relax my jaw and lay still. They said it was going to be a long time with lots of clicks and bangs. They said I could go to sleep if I wanted. So, I did. And when the noise stopped I opened my eyes and said, “Now you know what my wife has to put up with every night.” They both laughed. A bit too much, me thinks! The audiologist said, “You were having a good sleep, that’s for sure.” 
We had a short chat afterward and she explained all the results. Hearing is worse in the left ear, but not dramatically. Balance is non-existant in the left ear. The tumour has clearly done it’s work on the balance nerve, affected the hearing nerve somewhat and is now starting to irritate the facial nerve.

When Acoustic Neuroma’s are removed, the main physiotherapy need is usually relearning balance. It is quite possible I am already a long ways ahead in this area. My brain is already accustomed to receiving very little information from the left balance nerve. It will be interesting to see how much different it is when the nerve is cut. We shall see!

As I exited the building my hearing adjusted to the cacophonous world of downtown Melbourne. I threw a leg over my Shadow, put on my helmet and gloves, fired up my pipes and rumbled my way home. 

Any questions?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Great Southern Railway

I took a few pictures on my train journey from Melbourne — Adelaide — Perth
I also overheard a few conversations. And I had a few conversations on Facebook. 
So, here are the highlights!

-------     --------     -------
David Edgren
Always dreamed of taking the train to Perth. After the surgery my balance will be affected for life. Motion sickness may be my new friend. I'm booked to do a double WOP in Perth next week... So, I've decided to take the train before the surgery! First stop — at North Shore Station (Geelong)
Graeme Frauenfelder I love the train across Australia. Enjoy it heaps! 
Jodine Azzopardi that will be wonderful! Good for you! Praying motion sickness will not be!
Briohne Sykes Hooray!!!
Tanya Karaoglanis Enjoy!!!!
Clansi Rogers Liking the train part, not the reason for your surgery!
Vicki Knight Praying for you David. God Bless. The best train ride you will ever have.
Tony Cullinan Brilliant mate! Hope you have a ball pal!
Neil Wilson Our family will be praying all goes well for you in surgery Dave. God bless you. Enjoy your trip.

Whizzing past Winch...
(I'm sure Winchelsea is just there somewhere!)

Mt Ararat.

David Edgren
So green out here. Rain is a blessing! — at Dimboola Railway Station (Horsham)

Just outside of Bordertown.

Rolling hills coming into Adelaide.

The mighty Murray from train bridge (see shadow!) 
with paddle steamer included just for character. ;)

Murray River from the bridge into Adelaide.

David Edgren
What an amazing day! Beautiful on the train. all the way from Lilydale (at 6am) until Adelaide (at7pm). Sunny. Clear skies. Funny people ride the train. Big windows. Swivelling seats. I worked a half-day on my iPad. Random conversations with various people - also random. I read for hours on my Kindle. I took snapshots out the window, doctored them up and posted them on FB. Just finished tea downstairs. Went shopping at Coles for breaky (right across the road!). Now, I'm sitting on my bed, with free wifi... Life is good! — at Metropolitan Hotel (Adelaide)
Philip Knight Well done Dave. And what memorable things you get up to!! Good on you!! Enjoy the trip across the desert :)
Candice Jaques You should get some great story material on your train adventure.
Tony Cullinan Thats awesome mate. Good on you Dave!!

The lounge car. Powerpoints with a view!

David Edgren
Thursday via Mobile
After a two day layover in Adelaide, I'm back on the train. Let the adventure continue! — at City of Salisbury, SA, Australia
Tanya Karaoglanis Enjoy!!! And relax ....

David Edgren
Woke up as the train stopped. — at Mambary Creek
(Maybe a bit too relaxed, eh Tanya?) lol
Any window. 
They're all the same. 
Just like snowflakes.

David Edgren
Just Overheard: "Look at that gum tree. Isn't it amazing how the morning sun shines off it's leaves."
My Thought: "Nobody flying from Melbourne to Perth ever says that!"
Aldona Jones no...but substitute "gum tree" with "sunrise" and "leaves" with "colourful clouds" and it brings back memories of flights from Melb to Perth (or Sydney, or Brisbane, or wherever). however you travel, you will always have an opportunity to glimpse some of God's wonders that you wouldn't see any other way!
Katherine Darroch I did that flight twice last year - the only thing that I was saying was, "If they didn't cram in so many rows of seats I may actually be able to move my legs now..." Guess you don't have that problem either hey?

Scrub. Framed. 
Train seat. Saved. 
For you!

David Edgren
Stopping to check the mail! Lucky for the people in Tarcoola that we stopped by. :) — at Tarcoola

Scenery change. 
Looks like God stopped after the base coat.

David Edgren
Just Overheard: 
Woman: Is there anything worth taking photos of?
Man: Well there's a toilet block coming up.
I laughed. I thought he was kidding. The left side of the lounge car emptied as the oldies charged the view of the toilet block. I stifled my laugh. These are serious tourists!
Today, it's not just what's outside the windows that matters. 
It's what you do with it! lol
Kaye Wilson LOL, even though aged, they were interesed in some thing!!
Tony Cullinan Was it a well built toilet block?
David Edgren Yeah, I think it worked out.

In between Sydney and Perth lies Cook: 
a toilet and a souvenir shop. 
The school is closed!

David Edgren
20 minute break in a ghost town. Any disciples on the train? It's not a ghost, Peter! — at Cook
David Edgren Makes me wonder: If Jesus could walk on the sea, could he swim in the desert? (better go out and have a look!)
Katherine Darroch What's the verdict?
David Edgren I'm back: I didn't see any swimming but I did see a few of the least of these. So, Jesus is in the desert.
Scott Wegener I've been to Cook via car. Not much there. We went to the tip to find snakes and saw the Indian Pacific stop over while there.
David Edgren Where did you come from? It's really out there!

Scott Wegener I know, up the dirt track from the Aussie bite.

A sign and a train. 

Cook gaol cells. 
A bit too gentle on the badies, I say. 
Private rooms and stoves!

David Edgren was at Wynbring (dirt Runway).
David Edgren Went by so fast I didn't have time to write a description. So, here it is. 
Red. Dirt. Runway.

David Edgren
Just went past a most misnamed bit of scrub. — at Forrest
Katherine Darroch The people that named it either had a great imagination or a great sense of humor:)

Crossed Over!

David Edgren
finished The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and gave it 5 stars

Late night in Kalgoolie. 
Hanging out at the train station because it's cool. 
Raining actually.

David Edgren
Bedtime. Todays official roo count - 27. But I wasn't really trying!
Tony Cullinan Well, we expect far better from you next time!
Tanya Karaoglanis Instead of counting sheep to help you go to sleep in the outback it's Roo's .... very Australian. Lol.
James Toogood oh - i thught you meant you hit no 27 driving home from country
David Edgren Larrikins, the lot of ya!

Coming into Perth.

David Edgren
Arrived on time in Perth - 9:15am. Got picked up by PrRobert Stankovic and got to church with 30 minutes to spare before my children's story and sermon! Awesome day!

Tonight (Tuesday, Sept 18) we went to see the city at night. 
Snapped this with "slow shutter" on my iPhone 4S 
(all the pics in this post are iPhone4S pics)

Perth, the beautiful...

Dave Edgren ~ Story: Teller, Author, Trainer ~

BOOK DAVE NOW! Dave Edgren is passionate about creating a values-based storytelling culture. In his engaging and often hilarious way,...