Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Damage Assessment

People have been checking in and asking for an update, and I truly appreciate the concern more than I can say - it is making the road ahead much more bearable - but it is emotionally exhausting to answer everyone individually, so here's another post. (Remember when this used to be a running blog?)

Monday, Kristin sent us photos of the outside of our house. The water looked high but the roof looked solid. Our pool cage looked destroyed and we lost of a lot of trees, but nothing fell on our house. A colleague who lives down the street from me texted that our outdoor garage lights were on, so she assumed we had power. (I could verify this from Kristin's photos.) This all seemed like pretty good news.
A photo from Kristin...I've always wanted a waterfront home.
We got back to Sarasota from Miramar Beach in the wee hours of Tuesday night/Wednesday morning and stayed the night at my parents'. The traffic was horrendous and our 9 hour drive took 14; I actually wish we had waited one more day to head south as the linemen, National Guard, and other out-of-state helpers really needed the road, but I did not have the final say in travel plans.
Anyway. After a night of sleep, my mom drove Matt and me back home. As we got closer to our interstate exit, we saw more and more tree damage. It was a relief to get home, and also nerve-wracking.
Electric poles making their way down the west coast, where many poles were completely snapped in half.
The wind literally blew the bark off trees; there were hundreds of naked trees everywhere!
Here's what we found:

Cons:

We definitely had water get into the house. The line around the furniture in our living room and the car tires in the garage suggest 3-4 inches. The walls sopped up a lot of it, and that means we need to cut out the drywall due to the risk of mold.
Luckily Matt brought his Shop-Vac home from the studio and we used it to suck up the water.
We are missing a handful of shingles on one area of our roof.
A view of our house from the golf course. You can see where the shingles are missing, the downed trees, and the ruined pool cage.
One beam of our pool cage broke, and the screening is ripped up.
Archie's memorial bird bath survived.
Multiple trees fell, including our avocado tree and lemon tree. This is actually devastating...we love our avocados and lemons. The avocado tree was huge and definitely decades old. There are avocados and lemons all over the yard, in the pool, and in the neighbors' yards.

Pros:

The biggest pro, obviously, is that most of our friends sustained only minimal damage to their homes and all of them are safe.

None of the trees that fell from our yard damaged any houses! The avocado tree landed in our neighbor's yard and the trees from the golf course missed our pool. The trees on the other side of our house all fell harmlessly into the ditch between our yard and the other neighbor's.
No more avocados. I am so grateful this didn't hit the neighbor's house.
We have a super tall palm tree that the neighbors said was about five feet from hitting their roof but luckily did not (it's still standing); I am so relieved! I would have felt terrible if our trees caused damage to another house!

Our power was out for two days because a tree took down the wires, but FPL was able to temporarily hook it back up so we have lights and AC for the time being. Eventually they will come back and do a more permanent fix. (Internet is still out, but I can use my hotspot.)

We have running water and we are not on a boil notice.

Our insurance company is being extremely helpful and allowing everyone affected to file claims via email because their phone-lines are swamped, so we've been able to take photos, file the claim, and begin cleanup ASAP.

Everything in our freezer stayed frozen - hooray for gallon bags filled with water!. The water and non-perishables we prepped are all safe, too.

Our belongings are okay, including Matt's ceramics (and his studio!) and my grandma's crystal.
This is just part of Matt's park's flooding (you can see more on the Upriver Ceramics Instagram page); the river is still rising and it is honestly a lake right now.
Luckily, the cottages are all safe! Somehow they withstood the wind!
We have had so many offers to help us that it is overwhelming - in a good way, of course. Words cannot describe how appreciative I am of everyone and how very lucky I feel that it wasn't worse. We honestly dodged a bullet. The drywall stuff and fixing the pool cage is going to be frustrating and costly, but I have a house and I have power and cleanup will be intense but we are not starting from scratch, as many people are.

This entire ordeal has been stressful and exhausting, and it's not over yet, but at least now we know what we're dealing with.

(Also, every ten minutes I'm thinking about how climate change will lead to a higher frequency of huge storms like this and I don't know how many more times I can do this. Once is enough!)

ABK

Monday, September 11, 2017

First Irma Update & Good News

While we are not home yet to see the extent of the flooding, I do have some good news to share. First of all, thank you to everyone who has reached out to offer help in the coming weeks if we find extensive damage in the house, and thank you to those who offered good thoughts Sunday as we waited to see how the storm would turn out.

For us, Irma has passed. It is still going to bring dangerous weather to other cities, but I hope it peters out quickly and more damage is avoided.

A friend was able to get close enough to our intersection to get a photo of our house. It looks like the water is sitting just below our garage in front; we aren't sure how high the water got before receding to this level, but I am hopeful that if we had flooding, it only came in from the back into the sunken living room, which we emptied and prepped. Knowing how our backyard floods, that is still a possibility.
Our neighborhood has no power and the estimation is about two weeks before it comes back on. With temperatures in the 90s, we are not anxious to get back to an AC-less house, but we are anxious to see if there is interior damage. Our roof looks intact from the front view, at least.

We got lucky; the areas south of us took the hardest winds and the storm surge, and by the time the hurricane hit us it was a Category 3 instead of the anticipated 4. By the time it got to my parents' house, it was a 2. (They never even lost power!) My brother's apartment made it through; my sister is on her way home to see how hers did. My friends and colleagues are safe and most sustained minimal damage to their houses and yards, but the downed trees, debris, and downed power lines are a concern.
A colleague sent me this still shot of her house. All the houses are on personal islands due to flooding; she's not sure about internal damage  yet. 
I am honestly weak with relief. It could have been so much worse for us and millions of others. The path Irma ended up taking was very lucky because she lost power as she stayed inland.

I've seen quite a few heartwarming stories that remind me that we are all in this together, and we will be able to rebuild.
Click here for the whole story.
 I think Kristina's home got through the worst of it intact as well!

Thanks again for your support!

ABK

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Preparing for Irma

This past week has felt like it lasted a year. As Irma strengthened, Matt and I prepared the house.

After putting it off for years, Matt bought some hurricane shutters (he found them for $3 a shutter - they are usually $6 a foot) and spent Tuesday cutting them to size and fitting them on our house. I helped him finish up on Wednesday. The original shutters were plastic and the bolts were unevenly spaced, so it was quite a project.
He worked all night Tuesday to get the shutters ready.
He also put out all the sandbags we got from last week's storm, but the two layers of bags we have probably won't do much good against the projected storm surge. (Some of you may have seen the videos I posted of that flooding on Instagram last week.) Finally, we went to his studio and cleared out all the ceramics.
Wrapping a tarp around his kiln. We're not sure if the cabin will make it through the storm. His kiln, wheel, and slab roller may all be lost.
For awhile we were unsure what Matt's mom would do, as she lives in a mobile home and has a small dog, but eventually decided whatever we ended up doing, she would join us. So Thursday, as Irma's path turned ever more westward, we finally decided we would evacuate.

Our home almost flooded just the other weekend from a rainstorm that sat over us for awhile, so we were sure the house would flood from Irma. As we saw that the wind gusts would possibly be 150 MPH, we became worried that our roof wouldn't survive, so we had to evacuate.
We are in Fort Myers. My parents live in Sarasota, between Tampa and Fort Myers.
We were able to book an Airbnb up in the panhandle. We finished cleaning up the house and removing things from our sunken living room, and after taking a video of each room to document our belongings, we hit the road around 2am on Friday. Because of my surgery, I was told if I evacuated I should keep my foot elevated and my leg outstretched to avoid the risk of blood clots, so Matt drove the entire way to Tallahassee. He used backroads and we used Gas Buddy to find fuel along the route, and we made it to our first destination (Matt's cousin's house) around 8am. Traffic was heavy for the dead of night, but we didn't encounter any gridlock.

Saturday afternoon, we completed our journey out to Miramar Beach. The panhandle is unlikely to have more than a tropical storm, so we will be safe here. Once we arrived, my mind was finally able to start processing that we may not have a home to return to. Irma's eye is aimed directly at our city, and our house was built in the 1970s. It wasn't until after Hurricane Andrew (1992) that more stringent building codes were enacted. It is extremely likely that the 15 foot storm surge they are expecting will get into our house, and it's very likely that our roof won't hold out against category 4+ winds.
Road tripping. You'd never know a hurricane was looming based on the weather we're having.
I am relieved for my friends on the east coast, but devastated thinking of what the west coast is facing.

I keep thinking about the things I had to leave behind, most specifically my grandma's crystal, which she gave me as a wedding gift, and the handcrafted menorah Matt got me for my birthday two years ago. I took all my heirlooms/good jewelry. I am trying very hard to come to terms with possibly returning to utter destruction. (The Weather Channel predicts our area will suffer somewhere between "devastating" and "catastrophic" effects.) If I expect that the house will be totally destroyed, then I can be happily surprised if there is anything left at all.
The Waterford crystal only comes out for Passover.
After all the work we've put into it, I can't really explain the emotions I am going through right now, but I'm sure you can imagine.

Before they evacuated, Elizabeth went to my house to grab my A1A marathon medal for me.

My parents and siblings (and their pets) are all in Sarasota at my parents' house. Their house was built in 2007 so it should be safe, and Irma should be a little weaker when it hits Sarasota. I am anxious about them staying behind, but I'm sure they'll be fine.

There is still time for things to change, as Irma won't hit Fort Myers until Sunday night. There is time for it to slow down or weaken. There's time for it to curve. Hurricanes are tricky in how difficult their paths are to predict.

I have dozens of friends who either evacuated or have prepared their houses to weather the storm. Needless to say, I am anxious for my friends and family. I appreciate everyone who has reached out with well wishes and offers to help. I will need them.

So...yeah. I am trying to be objective about this, because I can't find it in me to be positive. We will survive and that's what matters. But the road ahead is sure to be difficult. Please keep Florida in your thoughts. I don't believe thoughts and prayers make any difference, but it helps to know people are thinking of us.

ABK

Monday, September 4, 2017

Surgery & Afterward

I am going to include photos in this post; nothing is gory or bloody, but there is one photo of inside my leg so if you think that might gross you out, you've been warned!

Thursday

Matt and I arrived at Naples Day Surgery at 2pm for intake. I was feeling very calm; I don't think I got nervous once during the entire day, maybe because I was still in denial a little bit about actually having surgery. Let's call it survival mode!

After I changed into a gown and got settled in the pre-op area, Matt came back to wait with me. The nurse gave me an IV to start pushing some fluids because I hadn't had any since very early in the morning, and then the anesthesiologist team (there were three of them) came by to each check on me and get my medical history.
This is my new look; it's great for hiding bad hair days!
One of these team members had had an emergency fasciotomy in high school due to a football injury, and he showed me his scars. Everyone was so helpful and nice; I definitely give them all an A+ for bedside manner.

Dr. Guerra came by and marked my leg, and then I asked one of the nurses to help me to the bathroom. The IV had made me have to pee, and I was afraid I'd go on the operating table once I was under anesthesia!

Finally, it was time to go into the operating room. They pushed the first dose of...something...into my IV and I immediately started feeling loopy. I remember trying to tell them a story as they wheeled me into the OR, but I honestly don't know what I was telling them. (Okay, I think I was telling them about an Unsolved Mysteries case about a doctor who killed patients by putting bubbles in their IVs. What is wrong with me?)  I vaguely remember the nurse attaching the monitor wires to my chest, and I think I remember the oxygen mask.
A photo they printed of my surgery. I think the silver thing on top is the blade, the smooth pink at the bottom is the muscle, and the thin white/red thing is the fascia being cut.
The next thing I knew, I was hearing voices and being moved into a sitting position. I became aware that Matt was there talking to someone about my care, and I asked for something to drink. I felt dizzy from the anesthesia, so I asked for apple juice (I felt like I needed the sugar) and nursed that slowly while I woke up.
I was wheeled out to the car, and about halfway home I made Matt pull over so I could try to puke, but nothing came up. After that passed, I actually felt a lot better. Matt stopped at Publix to get me ice cream and soup (I remember telling him exactly what to get me, but it's all very foggy; all my memories from Thursday are), and then at home he made me dinner and was generally just the best caretaker I could ask for.
I do not remember taking this picture while I waited for Matt. I guess I was subconsciously thinking I need this for the blog.
I used my crutches the rest of the day Thursday. I really didn't want to take any of the narcotic painkillers I had been prescribed, so I stuck with Advil (Dr. Guerra said that was fine) and actually didn't have much pain. I was able to sleep pretty well!

Friday

I spent the day lounging around watching Jessica Jones with Matt. I was able to hobble around a bit without the crutches, and was still taking 600mg of Advil every 6 hours or so, but really my pain was very manageable.
The size of this bandage freaked me out but when I finally removed it, I saw I had very little swelling. The ace bandage was just packed with gauze and cushiony stuff.
I woke up around 3am Saturday morning with some burning in one incision, and I took Advil and went back to bed.

Saturday

I was finally allowed to shower Saturday night! I did not have to take any Advil all day (besides the 3am wakeup) and was fully walking without crutches. Matt helped me unwind my leg and peel off the old dressings before my shower. After examining the incisions, we dressed them back up and I finally had a chance to shower. Afterward, my leg was a little sore from standing, but mostly I felt great.
They had me mark the leg they'd be operating on, and my initials are still there.
I had no swelling or bruising; my muscle was sore beneath my skin, but the surgical sites themselves were completely numb. I know this could last up to a couple months.
No swelling at all!
Sunday

By Sunday, I had no pain at all. My ankle is a little sore where my anterior incision is, but the rest of my leg is painfree, if a little stiff. We even left the house Sunday so I could walk around a feel like a normal person.

I start PT on Tuesday and I am excited to get on with it! My post-op is September 11, and I hope at that time we can schedule my left leg, because I am bouncing back fast from the right and I am ready to be totally done with both! I'm hoping my fast recovery means I could get my right leg done on a "normal" long weekend. This time I had five days off but I think four would be plenty.

I am so grateful Kristina is going through this at the same time as me; it sucks to have this injury, but it's nice to not be alone. I am so ready to come back, to truly train, and to run again the way I used to.

ABK