By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/23/2020
Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver #TruckDriving Page Views: 1391
An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal

Thursday, June 19, 2003

I spent the day, like yesterday, waiting for my dispatcher, Jay, to get in touch with Schneider's Workman's Comp person. It wasn't until about 1 pm that he finally did so; and the word was: send the man home!

So the wheels went into motion. Arrangements were made for me to get a rental car (at Schneider's expense). Unfortunately, none were available until tomorrow morning. So, it was another night at the motel. First, however, I turned the keys to the Jeff Roadworthy over to the fuel desk. Whatever truck I drive when I return, it isn't likely to be that one.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Radar, the office guy who in fact looks like the character from M*A*S*H (and performs the same functions), drove me to the Ontario, California airport to pick up my rental car. I got in, and headed east.

The drive took less time than it would in a truck, of course. I could drive the speed limit, instead of being held back by Schneider's governed engines. I was not in pain. I still had the "outie" navel to remind me I was now the proud possessor of a hernia, and instructions to not try to lift more than ten pounds; but, other than that, I felt fine and as if I were embarking on a vacation.

By the time I got home, it was too late to call Green Bay for further instructions. So I stood by while my husband, Michael, kindly unloaded all my gear—all the stuff I'd had in the Jeff Roadworthy, every can of Spaghettios, every bottle of Danon water, every shirt, pair of socks, and jacket, every book-on-tape from the library, even my rolls of "pumpkin tape" (orange duct tape) and my never-used kingpin lock. Most of the gear went into a corner of the garage; the clothes went into the hamper; the canned goods into the pantry.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

It felt very odd not to have to hurry anything. As always, friends and family wanted to take advantage of my being home by getting me to help with their computers. But this time, knowing I'd be home for at least a week, I was able to schedule visits in such a way that didn't turn my days off into a more grueling session than a day of work.

And I got to go swimming with my grandson, Zachary. I didn't actually swim, of course; we explained that I had a "boo-boo" and couldn't pick him up or lift anything heavy until I had seen a doctor. He's only four, but he understood. "How will the doctor fix it?" he wanted to know.

"I'm not sure," I replied honestly. "But, probably, the doctor will make, like, a zipper in my tummy, and unzip it and reach in and fix the broken part, and zip me back up."

"A zipper? Really?!" He wasn't completely sure if I was kidding. I must admit, this story sounded pretty unbelievable.

Yet, the reality would probably be even harder to explain…or believe.

I then watched Zachary, a four-year-old, swim all the way across the pool. Michael had been working with him while I was gone, swimming with him almost every day and teaching him how to enjoy the water. I envied Michael for having the opportunity, but I had to admit I couldn't have done a better job, or even as good a one. And Zachary now hurled himself into the water (while shouting Power Rangers phrases) and swam like he'd been doing it for years.

Talk about hard to believe!

Monday, June 23, 2003

Monday morning I called Schneider's Workman's Comp department in Green Bay and, now, they weren't hesitant to get things moving. Within two hours, they called back with an appointment with a Dr. Timbadia, a surgeon, for that very afternoon.

Financially, the deal seemed simple enough. Schneider would calculate my average gross weekly pay for the past year, and send me 2/3 of that amount. "It isn't taxable," Robin, the Workman's Comp person pointed out. "So your take-home should be about what you were making, anyway."

I didn't bother to tell her that I hadn't been able to make the rent on my pay for the previous year.

I was a little apprehensive that the doctor would be another of these medical professionals that doesn't speak English; but my fears were groundless. She spoke perfectly, with only a slight (and charming) accent. The first thing she did, of course, was to examine my navel. She poked her finger into it, which hurt far worse than I expected—I had to ask for a moment to recover, which she gave.

Then she asked me to drop my shorts, which surprised me a little, as my hernia was clearly located beneath my navel. But she did the "turn your head and cough" thing, and announced I had a second hernia, a worse one, to the right of my scrotum. When she poked at it, I nearly went through the ceiling…which isn't unusual in itself, except that this time, I wasn't smiling.

I had been led to believe that she would schedule my surgery for the next day, but she refused to schedule it until I had been "cleared for surgery", which meant I had to see my "regular doctor" and have him or her do a "surgical clearance" exam, then fax the results to her. "It is to make sure that your heart is good, your lungs are good, that you can survive the surgery," she explained. "If you die on the operating table, you are going to be very annoyed with me."

The problem, I tried to explain, was that my "regular doctor" was in the Reserves and was now, in point of fact, on his way to Iraq. Dr. Timbadia, in turn, pointed out that I could get a surgical clearance done by any general practitioner, but if I tried going to a new one, I probably wouldn't be able to get an appointment for a month or two. I knew this was so. It took that long before I could get my first appointment with the Iraq-bound Dr. Cruz.

So I made an appointment with his stateside replacement, Dr. Palnati. From his accent, I suspect he may be a countryman of Dr. Timbadia. (These days, what doctor isn't?) But his English isn't as good, which is why I hesitated to see him. Still, it seemed I had no choice. So I made the appointment for the earliest opportunity, which turned out to be tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

It took longer than even I'd expected to get across to Dr. Palnati what I wanted of him. "I have two hernias," I began, "and—"

"There is nothing I can do about a hernia," he interrupted. "You will need a surgeon."

"Well, I have a surgeon, and she—"

"If you have a surgeon, what are you seeing me for?" he interrupted again. But, eventually, I was able to get across to him that I needed a surgical clearance. The phrases didn't seem to have much meaning to him, but he ordered blood tests and a chest X-ray, which were what Dr. Timbadia had implied would be involved. I had the blood tests done immediately, at a lab across the hall. The chest X-ray was scheduled for the next morning.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

The chest X-ray turned out to be a pleasure because the X-ray technician was an amazingly handsome, dark-haired, thirty-something guy. He had to take hold of my arms and shoulders to position me in front of the X-ray plate; and every time he touched me I practically melted. Not only was he good-looking, he had a devastating smile and an aura of true friendliness. I wanted to have his baby, but all I got was this lousy X-ray. Oh, well.

Today I got my chest X-ray.

The tech promised to get the X-ray to Palnati's office right away, and that they would call me as soon as they had it. I called Timbadia's office; she guessed the results would all be tallied by Monday; so we made an appointment for then.

Friday, June 27, 2003

I got the results from the chest X-ray, and they weren't quite what I had expected. Dr. Palnati's American-born nurse was quite clear. "We need you to go back for a chest MRI," she said.

"An MRI?" I echoed. "Why?"

"Well, the chest X-ray turned up a nodule and we need to look at it in more detail."

"A nodule? What does that have to do with my hernias?" I am nothing if not focused.

"Nothing," the nurse assured me. "But we need to check it out more carefully. We've already made the appointment for Monday morning." And she gave me the address, the same place I'd had the X-ray done. I was so rattled, I didn't even wonder if the cute X-ray tech would be doing the MRI, or if I could request him.

"I've never had an MRI," I said. "Do I need to fast, or just drink Jello, or anything?"

"No, nothing special. Just show up."

This put me at an impasse. Michael was attending school and had a big biology final coming up. He was very apprehensive about it; when he was younger and in college the first time, it seemed that every time he had a big test, his mother or father would have a health crisis and he would fail or even have to drop the course. I knew I couldn't lay the burden of what, I had to conclude, was a possible lung cancer, on him just before his big final. Somehow, I would have to not tell him this news until after his test.

It was bad enough that I had to have surgery, but as long as I treated it as routine, like a tooth cleaning, it shouldn't impact his ability to focus too much. But I would have to keep this more frightening, potentially more serious, news to myself for awhile.

Saturday, July 28, 2003

Now, in addition to my natural concern for going "under the knife", I had to consider the possibility that I might have lung cancer. How annoying! I don't smoke, and never have. I haven't spent time breathing noxious fumes, if one doesn't count the kitchen smells at McDonald's.

Would I have to have radiation treatments, or chemotherapy? People often lose their hair when taking those treatments; but people who are balding sometimes grow their hair back afterwards. Maybe this was just God's way of giving me back my hair.

Anyway, there was no point of dwelling on this without more information—information I would not be able to get until after the MRI. So, to help put it out of my mind, I cleaned my office area. The place had been a mess for nearly a year, from when I started driving. I hadn't wanted to use my rare time at home organizing the mess of books, papers, folders, sheets of music and records; but it bothered me every time I saw it. Or, rather, had to step over it.

But now, finally, it looked like an area I would want to work in.

Monday, June 30, 2003

I made an excuse to Michael as to why needed to use the car today, and drove him to school. Then I stopped at a McDonald's drive-thru for breakfast (thinking how long it had been since I'd used a drive-thru—you can't fit a truck and 53-foot trailer through one) and continued on to the imaging center for my MRI appointment.

As I was waiting for the receptionist to find my records in her computer, holding an Egg McMuffin in one hand and a Diet Coke in the other, she said, "You know, you have to fast for this."

"I do? They said at the doctor's office I didn't!"

"Well, you do." She offered to make another appointment. Since I had an appointment with my surgeon for Tuesday, I decided to make it Wednesday.

Appointments for MRIs, chest X-rays, blood tests, surgeons, GPs…all I needed was a Pap smear to become my mother.

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

"Chest X-ray…blood tests…insurance forms…yes, it is all here. I have pulled some strings for you, Mr. Cilwa," the surgeon told Michael and me. "I was able to get you into John C. Lincoln Memorial Hospital for tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?!" I exclaimed. I thought I'd have a day or two to think about it. Plus, my MRI was scheduled for tomorrow, but I couldn't say anything about that. Michael's Biology final was tomorrow, also; and it was bad enough the surgery was scheduled for then, without adding the possibility of lung cancer to his worries.

"Yes, tomorrow," the doctor assured us. "I hope you do not have other plans." This was said more as a threat than a shared concern.

"Okay, well…tomorrow it is," I smiled.

I'm not sure the smile was particularly convincing. But it was a smile.

It would have to do until after the surgery.