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for Monday, July 9, 2007

Tony's Come Back

Forgive me, readers, for I have, well, not exactly sinned, but it's been almost exactly two months since I posted a new TOT and, for that, I'm very sorry. Let me see if I can give you a short-as-possible-explanation...

In mid-May, while driving around Medina on errands, I suffered what seems to have been a stroke of some kind. I experienced nigh-instantaneous double vision. I managed to get home by closing one eye tightly and driving very slowly. When I got home, I called my health care provider and got a same-day appointment with one of its doctors. My regular doctor was off that day.

My son Eddie drove me to the appointment. On taking my blood pressure, the doctor decided it was so dangerously high I needed to get to a proper emergency room. Rather than wait for them to sort out if they could get an ambulance for me, I had Eddie drive me to the ER in another medical facility where my Sainted Wife Barb manages a home infusion department. It's a good department and I should write about it sometime.

I was told I would likely be admitted to the hospital, but, as it turned out, the big-time blood pressure medication they gave me, combined with my desire not to be admitted, got my blood pressure reduced to a relatively safe "he probably won't pop like a balloon" level. They did a quick brain scan - I have one - and took some of my blood. The results confirmed I wasn't quite ready to exit stage left. I got to go home.

My vision was still a mess. I could kind of sort of work at the computer with one eye shut, but it gave me massive headaches. My energy was shot. On the not-pitch-black side, the medications they gave me were keeping my blood pressure down and not making me unbearably sick to my stomach. I am generally the poster child for adverse side effects, but these meds were doing okay by me. Just a little morning sickness. I plan to name my child after whatever corporate sponsors make the best offers.

Marvel Taco Bell Isabella has a nice ring to it.

Within a week, my close-up vision - as in the foot-and-a-half distance between my eyes and my computer monitor - was pretty good, almost completely normal. Anything beyond that was blurry and/or multiplied by two. My energy was slowly - painfully so - returning to normal as well.

I experimented with an eye-patch to curb my double vision. It made me look quite dashing, but that damn parrot kept defecating on my shoulder. I settled on huge sunglasses on those occasions when I had to walk the world as a normal man.

Over the past two months...

I saw a fine ophthalmologist who determined that I'd suffered something called a "fourth nerve palsy" as a result of the stroke and/or my high blood pressure. She was encouraging and hesitant to recommend any kind of surgery to correct it. However, she did say my vision might not improve on its own and we might need to revisit such possibilities at some future time.

My regular doctor wanted me to have an MRI and a "sleep test," the latter because I told him I hadn't been sleeping well in recent months. I had to wait three weeks for the former and over a month for the latter.

During that time, I worked very hard to get better. I did my best not to let things get to me. I tried to get proper nutrition and rest. I took my medications every time with the one blip that I had to stop taking a vitamin supplement; something in it was not mixing well with the blood pressure stuff. Happily, I experienced slow but steady improvement on all fronts and remarkable progress in lowering my blood pressure to healthy levels.

You'll forgive my pride in this accomplishment. During this period, many parts of my house were being torn apart to prepare for Eddie's graduation party. There were school and sporting events I had to attend for Eddie and his sister Kelly. I was just starting a new comics writing gig that, while fun and profitable, was also quite demanding. Not to mention all the little annoyances that are part and parcel of my life in the real world and online. However, when we had a blood pressure contest at Eddie's party, I did better than all but a handful of the participants.

Do I know how to liven up a party or what?

My MRI was a bit stressful because I had to make sure I wasn't injected with a dye that would cause me to go into convulsions and flop around like a fish. A substitute was found, but the MRI tech was a little unclear on the necessity of her needing to be ready to summon ER doctors if I proved equally allergic to the substitute dye. She likely thought I was a pain in the ass. However, better she have a little tuchis discomfort than I bust some portion of myself of which I might have further need.

It took two weeks to get the results of my MRI. The testing showed "non-specific changes." To find out what this means, I had to make an appointment with a neurologist. That appointment is two weeks from today. Which means either I have nothing to fear or I'm too far gone for it to matter. I vote for the first.

As for the "sleep test"...

I walked out of it within three hours.

My doctor, being the conscientious type, wanted to test me for sleep apnea, which the American Heritage Dictionary defines as "a temporary suspension of breathing occurring repeatedly during sleep that often affects overweight people or those having an obstruction in the breathing tract, an abnormally small throat opening, or a neurological disorder."

I was skeptical. My only "symptoms" were easily explained by my other ills. No one, not Barb or any of my convention roommates over the years, has ever detected any suspension of my breathing, though some have misheard the pleasant trilling sound I make while at rest as snoring. But my doctor is a good guy and I was willing to go along with him on this. The test was set up for mid-June and would run from 9:00 pm to 5:30 am the following morning. By then, I was actually able to drive myself to the test.

Strike one came when the neurology department wanted to move up my sleep test on a day's notice and got their panties in a bunch when I refused to miss my son's awards ceremony to accommodate the sudden opening in their schedule.

Strike two was when I arrived on the originally scheduled date and the first thing the technician did was show me a commercial for sleep apnea machines. If I ordered that night, I would have gotten a free Pocket Fisherman for no extra charge.

Strike three? That was my doing.

I was hooked up to 18 or 19 sensors and wires and instructed to go to sleep. I lie in bed - not sleeping except for a period of thirty seconds when I virtually willed myself into unconsciousness - and began to reconsider the wisdom of this test.

The main focus of my efforts was keeping my blood pressure as low as possible. Lying there in the sleep test department and not sleeping meant I would be tired when they tossed my ass out at 5:30 in the morning. That was an upsetting notion and not likely to be good for my blood pressure.

So, around midnight, I got out of bed and announced that I was done with the test, that I was removing the sensors and wires, and that I was driving home while I was still awake and clear-headed. Panties bunched once more, but I was not to be swayed by the crisis of their undergarments.

I slept very soundly in my own bed that night.

The idea of a "short-as-possible" explanation for my absence from TOT having been kicked to the curb several hundred words ago, here's where things stand now...

My blood pressure is usually pretty good. I have the odd bad day when I let something get to me, when I ignore the warning signs that I'm attempting to do too much, or when eat things I ought not eat too many times in a row. My current medications continue to do well by me. Little Marvel seems healthy.

My distance vision has improved. I do have to wear sunglasses when outside and especially when driving. Any harsh sunlight does trigger blurry and/or double vision, but I've learned to deal with it adequately. On the plus side, I got to see twice the fireworks everyone else saw when Medina had its annual Independence Day event on the night of July 3.

My sensitivity to sunlight and my diminished peripheral vision might improve on their own...or never. Right now, it's something to worry about another day. I see my ophthalmologist in a few days and we'll see what we see.

Digression. I spread happiness wherever I go. When I called for the above appointment, the ophthalmology department's schedule wasn't showing any available appointments because the July schedule hadn't been entered into the computer.

"We're not showing any available appointments."

"Ever? Damn, I knew Dr. McBride was good, but I had no idea she was that good!"

The department scheduler laughed out loud.

I'm a blooming ray of sunshine, I am.

End of digression.

My energy is generally good to excellent with the occasional bad day. I keep hoping the "non-specific changes" in my mind will allow me to bend the physical world to my will. I'll let you know how that works out.

I'm sleeping about as well as I ever did. Four hours or so, up for an hour, back down for two or three more hours. My life is never going to be such that I can get eight hours straight through and still take care of me and mine.

I'm good with that.

So, with thanks for all the cards, e-mails, and phone calls of well-wishing, I want to assure you that I'm doing fine. You don't need to fret about me and, to reward you for your kindness, I will not write of this again.

Even before my medical adventures, I was planning to make some changes in TOT. Those are still in the offering, but, for the time being, I'm going to concentrate on catching up with this, that, and the other thing. I have three of my Comics Buyer's Guide columns to run in the next week, other incidental material, a whole bunch of Tony Polls results, various guest reviews, and even a guest column or three. I'll also try to include as many of your favorite TOT features as I can. It should be fun.

TOT will be taking some days off here and there, mostly when our wondrous Web-wizard Justin is out of town. He'll be at Comic-Con International in San Diego (July 25-30) and also Wizard World Chicago (August 9-12). Other than that, we hope to have a new TOT for you every Monday through Friday.

When I'm ready to discuss the changes coming to TOT, perhaps in piece-meal fashion, I'll do so right here. In the meantime, you can vote on our current Tony Polls question until sometime after midnight tonight and then vote on our brand-new questions on Tuesday. You can cast your votes at:

Thanks for coming back and spending part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

P.S. Today's opening illustration is by Tim Tobolski, also known as "Doc Absurd" to his online friends at Gail Simone's "You'll All Be Sorry" forum. The talented Tobolski accepted this assignment with a very short deadline and came through magnificently for me. He's available for other assignments, so if you want to work with a very capable and dependable artist, e-mail him at:

<< 05/10/2007 | 07/09/2007 | 07/10/2007 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined and view my Amazon Wish List.

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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