Remodeling the Kitchen During a Pandemic

April

It all started with the mystery wet spot in the carpet next to the kitchen. It was about 4 inches in diameter and had no apparent source.

May

On May 2, a post on Reddit’s home improvement sub led me to check under the dishwasher. I found water steadily dripping from one side of the dishwasher because an $18 valve had been leaking.

The water inlet valve

We removed the subfloor under the dishwasher and replaced it with plywood. I replaced the valve and began to wonder how extensive the damage had been. I imagined there was an under-floor stream that went from the dishwasher directly across the kitchen to the wet spot in the carpet. It was obvious that we would probably have to remove all of the wood laminate flooring but we had been planning that for some time anyway.

The river under the floor highlighted in blue. The original wet spot is circled in red.

After some rudimentary attempts to facilitate drying, on May 26 I posted on Reddit asking what else I should (or could) do. One helpful user told me to call my homeowners insurance company. This advice changed our lives.

June

Our insurance claim was accepted on June 9 and two weeks later our kitchen was entirely enclosed in plastic with dryers and dehumidifiers running 24 hours a day. Everything had been torn out including the floor, subfloor and all the cabinetry. We had to move the contents of our kitchen and dining room to the nearby family room.

We packed most of the contents of the kitchen and dining room into our family room.

The temperature inside the house peaked at 93º despite the “bubble” surrounding the dryers. This went on through the rest of the month.

Dehumidifiers and dryers. The kitchen was over 90º at night.

July

After everything was dry, negotiations between contractor and insurance company stretched over three frustrating weeks. Our original estimator left the contractor company shortly after our project began and the new estimator struggled with the regimented process required by the insurance company. On July 23, we signed a contract to have our kitchen rebuilt from floor to ceiling and it seemed like we would soon be done eating take-out on the picnic table on the deck outside and washing dishes in the laundry room.

August

Because the moisture had touched all the adjoining rooms – dining, family, living room/office and entryway – we got new floors for five rooms. We elected to have the same vinyl planking installed in all five. The contractor crew installed vinyl planking in all five rooms from August 3-6. They also put in new baseboards and repainted the kitchen.

Planking underway

No further work would be done in August as we awaited the cabinet maker but on August 11 we were able to move the stove back into the kitchen and return to eating at the dining room table. We were still stuck using the laundry room utility sink, though.

We temporarily reassembled the kitchen as best we could.

September

The new cabinets were installed on September 1 and 2 but we did not have counters yet.

Cabinets but no knobs, pulls or sink.

Tina had purchased the sink of her dreams from Wayfair after we cleared it with the project manager. Unfortunately, he had made a mistake because the sink required granite counters but we had decided to use the less expensive laminate counters. After we considered an upgrade to granite, we decided to send back the sink and go ahead with the laminate. It seemed that we were close to the finish line when a strong, dry wind blew into Oregon on September 7. Two days later the sky began to darken.

Rotating from northern view to western and then southern view.

Eventually the smoke from nearby fires would blanket Portland and the surrounding area for over a week. Our contractor was incommunicado during this time, further delaying the project. Eventually, we realized that they had been evacuated due to their close proximity to forest fires. The smoke cleared by mid-September but counter installation was delayed until the end of the month. In the meantime, they installed our new over-the-range microwave and moved the refrigerator back into place.

Finally, the counters were installed along with the new sink.

We had to wait a few more days for the dishwasher to be installed due to a part that had gone missing.

There should be a rubber gasket around this part.

October

Five months after discovering the source of the leak, our new kitchen remodel was finally nearing completion. During the first few days of October the dishwasher was installed, the backsplash was put into place and the finishing touch was the addition of door knobs and drawer pulls.

Our glorious new kitchen
Reverse angle of the completed kitchen

Epilog

I began shopping for a new refrigerator in November and found the perfect deal shortly before Christmas. The deal was so good that the model went out of stock for two months. It was finally delivered in February.

Whirlpool French Door in black stainless steel

The One with the Subarachnoid Hematoma

Summary

On Thursday, October 8, I fell while mowing the lawn. I hit the back of my head on the sidewalk. I was unconscious for a short time. Tina drove me to urgent care and then to the Emergency Room at Portland Adventist Hospital. A CT scan showed a small subarachnoid hematoma had occurred in my occipital lobe. I was transferred via ambulance to the trauma and intensive care unit at OHSU where I stayed under observation for 24 hours. A second CT scan showed no additional bleeding and I was eventually released after one full day in the hospital. It’s now a few days later and I feel better. I still feel the effects of the injury but I can tell it’s getting better.

Details

October 8, 15:56, home

I was mowing the section of lawn shown above in the red box. Where the lawn meets the sidewalk there are bricks laid sideways to form a border. The bricks are approximately 2-3 inches higher than the sidewalk. I was mowing diagonally from northwest to southeast with the distance continually getting shorter. As I finished up the section, I did not pay attention to where I was stepping. I must have stepped backwards and placed my foot partially on a brick. I Iost my balance or twisted my ankle or both. I fell backwards and the back of my head hit the concrete.

Everything went black but I was still aware. I could hear some boys down the block shouting to my next door neighbor, Bobby. I knew I had injured myself. My hands were tingling and it felt like they were raised in the air. I tried to lay them down but I couldn’t move. I also couldn’t make my eyes open.

After Bobby and the boys arrived, I managed to force my eyes open but I still couldn’t move. I might have told them that I was OK but I wasn’t. I sat up and felt the back of my head where it hurt – there was no blood which I felt was a good sign. Bobby sent one of the boys to the house to get Tina. He told her I had been “knocked out cold” when she came to the door.

16:00

By the time Tina came out, I felt the back of my head again and noticed my fingers were wet with blood. There was a brief discussion about what to do before I lurched to my feet and walked towards the house. I immediately noticed an unsteadiness in my gait. I also noticed a pain on the inside surface of my right ankle that extended 4-6 inches up my leg.

Once inside, I sat in my chair to recover. I noticed that when I moved my head and then stopped, the world seemed to keep moving as if my head was still moving. I decided I would need professional care.

16:19, Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care

We departed for urgent care and arrived 10 minutes later. After a short wait, they informed us that they did not take head injury cases. We departed urgent care 8 minutes after we arrived.

16:49, Adventist Health Portland, Emergency Room

Twenty minutes later Tina dropped me off at the Emergency Room. Only patients and caregivers are allowed in the waiting area so I went in on my own. I described the incident to the receptionist and she told me to take a seat in the waiting room. There were a limited number of chairs and they had been arranged per social distancing guidelines. I settled into one where I waited for the next 90 minutes. Since she wasn’t allowed inside, Tina drove to 7-Eleven to get a snack for me.

17:58

Tina returned from 7-Eleven with white chocolate M&Ms, a favorite. I decided to save them for later especially since eating with the mask promised to be awkward. As I waited I noted that I could feel blood drops falling on my shoulder occasionally. I also grew a little chilled. I was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. There was a fireplace a short distance from where I was sitting, but all the seats near it were occupied. As time wore on, I grew increasingly uncomfortable sitting in the chair but I did not feel confident in walking. I noted that my shoulders and the back of my neck were sore.

18:36

A triage nurse called my name. I went to the triage area and described the incident. Soon they whisked me away for a CT scan for my head and X-rays for my ankle. Ten minutes later, I was back in the waiting room but now the fireplace chair was available so I took it. I also took the opportunity to eat some of the M&M’s, raising my mask each time I ate a few. I inadvertently spilled some during one of these maneuvers but knew that I couldn’t risk picking them up.

19:03, Consult Room 8

I didn’t have enough time to finish the M&M’s before I was called back again, this time to a “consult” room where Tina was finally allowed to join me. They had me remove my shirt and put on a hospital gown. They also put in an intravenous line in each arm and treated my head wound, all at the same time. The vein they chose in my right arm was “blown” so they had to redo the IV in that arm. Because of the soreness in my neck, they put me in a cervical collar as a precaution. All of this was being done because the CT scan had shown that I had a small subarachnoid hemorrhage which could require surgery if it got worse. They were preparing me for a transfer to Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital where the Level One trauma center provides exceptional care for traumatic brain injuries.

19:36

Text message to my family: “I’m ok. Everything is precaution.”

19:52, Ambulance Bay

My ambulance attendant, Levi, explained that it would take about 15 minutes to transport me to the OHSU emergency room. When I arrived, he said I should be prepared for a massive number of people swarming around me because OHSU is a teaching hospital. He also explained the different procedures I should expect. After he was done, I joked that there was no way we were getting there in 15 minutes. His reply: “We will use the lights.”

20:04, OHSU, Emergency Room

19 minutes later they unloaded me from the ambulance and rolled me into the ER where everything happened as he had explained. There were least 20 people in the room with me. At one point somebody asked if I had taken aspirin that day to which I replied, “Every day!” That really changed the mood in the room because aspirin is a blood thinner and made me a “big three” which I assumed is a risk level assessment. After a bit of debate, they decided to “roll” me to examine my spine because of the neck and shoulder pain.

21:16, ER room 26

After the initial kerfuffle, they moved me to my own room temporarily until I could get a bed in the ICU. My nurse assured me that it would be soon but the conversation he had in the hall before he came in said otherwise. Tina was allowed to visit during this time and she brought a bag of essentials including my CPAP machine which allowed me to doze a little. Once an hour they would wake me for a neurological exam that included answering questions, performing simple actions with my feet and hands, and a pupil examination. I became increasingly uncomfortable because I had to lay on my back and did not have any pain meds until just before they transferred me to the ICU.

23:37

First pain meds, dilaudid, delivered

October 9, 01:30 (approximate), Richard J. Mullins Trauma and Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Room 17

A bed finally became available but visiting hours were over and Tina had to go home. After I was transferred to the ICU, a team of nurses put me in a different bed and made me much more comfortable for the duration of my remaining stay. I also got a second CT scan at this time. I dozed some but would wake for the occasional neuro exam. Each time I requested that they plug in my CPAP but that needed to be approved from someone from respiratory. The blood pressure cuff on my left arm would inflate every hour to the point of nearly unbearable pain. I had less painful cuffs on my lower legs that would alternately inflate and then deflate. As I dozed if felt like one of our cats was snuggling up to my leg.

05:41

The second CT scan showed that the hematoma had not grown which means I would be released around 18:00. I had slept some but without the CPAP I do not sleep well. A nurse asked me if I was sore and I told her my throat was quite sore from snoring and can I please use my CPAP? She hooked it up and said “it was like this when I came on shift.”

10:21

“Sitting up and eating an omelet” I reported to my family via text message. It is my first food since the M&M’s more than 12 hours ago. Sitting up made me very dizzy and so nauseous that my mouth started watering as if I was going to throw up but it passed.

Omelet tasted delicious

12:30

My doctor concluded that there is no neck fracture and they remove the cervical collar. I also noticed that the giant “goose egg” on the back of my head has receded completely. The wound itself is an abrasion and did not require stitches. It does hurt and they give me occasional pain killers for it.

13:18

14:13

I moved from my bed to an adjacent reclining chair. I enjoyed a very bland meal of macaroni and cheese, spaghetti squash, a dinner roll and orange slices. I tried to order cheese cake but they said that it exceeded my carb allowance. I remained in the chair for the rest of my stay except to take a walk in the hall with a physical therapist who cleared me for release. My ankle hurt during the test but x-rays are negative for a fracture.

14:35

I passed the cognitive ability test with flying colors and will be released that evening. Estimates for release vary from 18:00 to 20:00.

19:14

Home with prescriptions for Tylenol and oxycodone. I took the week off from work. The healing begins.

COVID-19 Drive-Thru Testing

Because I have a minor medical procedure at the end of this week, I had to get tested for COVID-19 today. I was tested at a drive-thru location near the Providence Portland Medical Center. It’s right across the Banfield in a parking lot that is probably a shuttle parking location for the hospital. My instructions during a phone call the night before were “Bring your ID and a tissue.”

The parking lot has three stations, each manned by several people under a canopy. At the entrance to the the parking lot is a security guard who waved me towards the first station. A lady at the first station held up a sign that told me to roll up my window (which I had rolled down as I pulled in). After I did that, she held up another sign instructing me to place my driver’s license against the window. I did so.

She consulted a clipboard and then waved me on to the next station. At the next station, the first sign asked for me to hold my license against the window again. After they confirmed who I was, the next sign instructed me to blow my nose. After I did so, they waved me on to the final station where a woman wearing a mask and face guard waited.

Again, I placed my driver’s license against the window and she confirmed my identity matched the test kit she held in her hands. She then asked me to roll down my window and then told me to place my hands on the steering wheel and  lean back in my seat. She briefly described the procedure which involves swabbing your nasal passage. She said it would be uncomfortable but it would be over in 10 seconds. I nodded and closed my eyes.

What followed was the most intensely uncomfortable 10 seconds of my life. It was astounding just how… intense it was. “Wow” I said when I opened my eyes. I then thanked her, rolled up my window and drove off. “Wow”, I repeated to myself several times. I could feel the effects in my nostril acutely for at least 5 minutes after and can still feel it slightly two hours later. Wow.

Results take 3-4 days which will be just in time for my procedure on Friday.

The Fall

It’s 5:36 on the morning of January 31, 2018. I had set an early alarm and am walking out the front door of our house looking at the sky. The security footage shows me linger on the sidewalk in front of the house for several minutes before turning south to climb the hill to the end of our street for a better view of the cloudy sky.

10 minutes later the camera shows my return – carefully walking across the front yard holding my left forearm stiffly in front of me with my right hand. At the front door I try the doorbell three times before finding a way to open the door with my feet.

The inside camera doesn’t catch my entry through the front door but it is activated when I walk through the kitchen and come to rest at the dining room table, forearm on the table. A few minutes later Tina appears and I shuffle out the front door for our trip to the emergency room.

As I watched it for the first time, I was surprised at how little of the pain was visible in those silent images. There is just one moment as I wait for Tina to respond to the doorbell that I throw my head back wailing but the moment passes quickly.


It was a futile quest. Typical Oregon clouds blocked any view of the rare super blue moon eclipse. Even before setting the alarm I knew this was likely but I thought it was worth a try and it was only one hour earlier than I had been waking recently.

As I hiked up the hill I remembered the numerous times this climb had been difficult and now it was easy. When I got to the top, I walked to the next street over and scanned the sky. Nothing. “Where should I be looking?” I wondered as I turned around and began walking back. I pulled up the web browser on my phone as I formulated the Google search phrase in my mind. Before I could type it, I stepped off the sidewalk and into a world of pain.

It was the curb strip and it was landscaped with lava rocks. I was laying face down and my left arm hurt a lot. I lay there moaning and swearing for a bit before attempting to get up. However, when I pushed up with my left arm, I felt no resistance from the ground. Confused, I looked up at my forearm and was surprised to see it was laying at a different angle than it “felt.” Instead of facing the ground, ready to push off, it was laying at a 45° angle the other way and on the other side, a position that is normally not possible because the shoulder won’t rotate far enough. I knew then it was bad.

More swearing and lots of self-recrimination (“Stupid, stupid, stupid!”). My phone was within reach so I called Tina who was still sleeping at home. It was 5:39 when I made the first call and 5:40 when I gave up after the third. I briefly considered a FaceTime call but abandoned that idea when my phone told me I had disabled it for cell data.

I needed to stand and I needed to walk the four blocks back to the house. I needed to keep my arm from flopping while I walked. Once I got to the house, I knew Tina could take over and make the remaining decisions such as whether we should go to urgent care or the emergency room.

I gathered my wits, grasped my left wrist with my right hand and lifted my left arm off the ground. I lurched to my knees, carefully centered my gravity and then stood. “Yes. Good. Ok. Ok.” I muttered as I turned towards home, eyes fixed on the ground immediately in front of me for fear of another misstep.

I had only taken a couple of steps before realizing that my sweat pants had slid down and would be a problem for walking. Except neither hand was free to pull them up. A nearby hedge was just the right height to temporarily rest my bad arm and pull up my pants with the good one.

Half a block later the problem arose again and I looked for a new arm rest. The problem with pulling up pants one-handed is that it is very difficult to pull up the side opposite your hand properly. I managed to get the waistband completely over my left buttock this time and was soon back to walking slowly and muttering encouragement to myself. “Just a little further. Almost there. We got this.” (Yes, I refer to myself as “we” for conversations in my head.)

Halfway home and I realized I was not wearing my glasses. I did not consider turning back to retrieve them. The thought was preposterous.

When got home I knew that I had to be especially careful crossing the yard. If I fell again, it could be disastrous. I walked very slowly and very carefully across the grass, feeling each step fully before shifting my weight forward. I tried the doorbell but Tina was fast asleep so I opened the door with my foot and walked inside yelling Tina’s name.

I went to the bedroom and she still lay in bed undisturbed. I sat on the edge of the bed by her feet, reached over and shook her. I waited for her to rouse and remove her earplugs before saying, “I fell and may have broken my arm. You have to take me to the hospital.” It took her a few seconds to realize what was happening but then she got out of bed and started dressing.

I wandered out to the dining room where I sat at the nearest chair, rested my injured arm on the table and began sobbing uncontrollably. I knew that I had done what was necessary to get help and now I could trust others to take care of me. The entirety of my situation came crashing down and I collapsed underneath the weight. My whole body shook and all my recent failures flooded my consciousness.

I closed my eyes and tried to focus on my breath, a technique used in mindful meditation. Time crawled. Soon I began wailing “What is taking so long?” over and over. The pain was immense and I knew it was not ending any time soon. Aside from the pain, the visceral feeling of danger felt like an existential threat. I was completely in fight-flight-freeze mode and all rationality had been suspended.

Tina came out and began reassuring me. She helped me out the door and into the car. She drove to the scene of the accident to retrieve my glasses and then on to the emergency room. The fifteen minute drive to the hospital seemed to take an eternity but I was calmer by this time and tried intermittently to focus on my breath again. It seemed to work but when I opened my eyes, we were hardly any closer than when I closed them. The swearing and self-deprecation continued throughout. I also came to realize that eventually I might be faced with even more pain while my arm was being put back into place.

Tina parked near the emergency room entrance in a handicap spot and put her placard (which she keeps in her purse) on the dashboard. The waiting room was relatively empty when we arrived and I was admitted immediately. After standing in the admission office for a few minutes (I was afraid you sit because I didn’t know how hard or painful rising from the chair would be), we were walked to a room with a bed on which I sat to be evaluated.

It was quickly determined that x-rays would be needed. I was offered a wheelchair but I declined, still fearing the painful consequences of standing from a low seated position. We walked to the radiology room just outside of the ER where they thankfully had a downward facing projector which allowed me to rest my arm on the detector pad.

My actual x-ray

The x-rays showed that I had suffered a “simple dislocation” of the elbow which essentially means that there were no fractures. Obviously, that was good news but I knew that the possibility of more and greater pain lay ahead during the reduction maneuver that is used to restore the elbow to normal alignment. When the doctor told me that I would be “under” for the procedure, I immediately told him that I loved him. I was only half-joking.

When I awoke from the anesthesia (propofol), my arm was in a splint and a sling. When we checked out a short time later, the pain was considerably less and the events of the morning already felt like a fading memory.


It is now two weeks later during which time I have worn two splints and a brace but now my arm is free again. Physical therapy starts next week.

Daily habit goals, November

[table]
Time[attr style=”width:50px”],Action
07:00,Wake
08:30,Get out of bed
,Clean bite guard
,Blood sugar
,Make coffee
,Kitchen chores while waiting
,Make/eat peanut butter toast (15g carbs)
09:00,Apply for jobs/career development
,Medications with second cup of coffee
11:00,iOS developer training
13:00,Bike ride (10 miles minimum)
14:00,Lunch (60g carbs)
14:30,Meditation
15:00,iOS developer training
16:30,Chores
19:00,Dinner (60g carbs)
19:30,Free time for…
,…Music
,…Chores
,…Reading books
,…TV
22:15,Brush teeth
,Bite guard
,Bed
[/table]

Daily habit goals, October

[table]
Time[attr style=”width:50px”],Action
08:00,Wake
08:30,Clean bite guard
,Blood sugar
08:35,Bike ride (10 miles minimum)
09:30,Make coffee
,Kitchen chores while waiting
,Make/eat peanut butter toast (15g carbs)
09:45,Apply for jobs
,Medications (second cup of coffee)
11:00,iOS developer training
12:30,Chores
14:00,Lunch (60g carbs)
14:30,Meditation
15:00,iOS developer training
16:30,Bike ride
19:00,Dinner (60g carbs)
19:30,Free time for…
,…Music
,…Chores
,…Reading books
,…TV
22:15,Brush teeth
,Bite guard
,Bed
[/table]

Daily habit goals, July

[table]
Time[attr style=”width:50px”],Action
08:00,Wake
08:30,Clean bite guard
,Blood sugar
,Put water on to boil
,Retrieve ear phones
,Walk
8:45,Make coffee
,Kitchen chores while waiting
,Make/eat peanut butter toast (15g carbs)
09:00,The Daily Bowie
,Apply for jobs
09:30,Medications (second cup of coffee)
11:00,iOS developer training
12:30,Yard work
14:00,Lunch (60g carbs)
14:30,Meditation/mindfulness
15:00,iOS developer training
16:30,Yard work/chores
19:00,Dinner (60g carbs)
19:30,Free time for…
,…Music
,…Chores
,…Reading books
,…Walking
,…TV
22:30,Brush teeth
,Bite guard
,Bed
[/table]

Daily habit goals for 2017, revisited

[table]
Time[attr style=”width:50px”],Action
08:00,Wake
08:30,Clean bite guard
,Blood sugar
,Make coffee
,Kitchen chores while waiting
,Make/eat protein breakfast*
09:00,Apply for jobs
09:30,Medications (second cup of coffee)
11:00,Mindfulness
11:30,Lunch: (tbd) calories and (tbd) carbs
13:00,Blood sugar
15:30,Snack
15:30,Yard work/home repairs
18:00,Dinner: (tbd) calories and (tbd) carbs
19:30,Free time for…
,…Music
,…Chores
,…Reading books
,…Walking
,…TV
22:30,Brush teeth
,Bed
[/table]

* snack pack, peanut butter toast

Daily habit goals for 2017

[table]
Time[attr style=”width:50px”],Action
08:00,Wake
08:30,Brush teeth
,Blood sugar
,Start hot water
,Walk
09:00,Make coffee
,Make/eat protein breakfast*
09:15,Begin work
09:30,Medications (second cup)
11:00,Standup
11:30,Lunch: (tbd) calories and (tbd) carbs
13:00,Blood sugar
15:30,Snack
17:30,Chores
18:00,Dinner: (tbd) calories and (tbd) carbs
19:30,Free time for…
,…Mindfulness
,…Music
,…Chores
,…Reading books
,…Second walk
,…TV
22:00,Brush teeth
,Bed
[/table]

* eggs, snack pack, peanut butter toast, cottage cheese, string cheese

A comment I wrote to William Shatner in a Reddit thread

Bill (can I call you Bill?), I want you to know that Has Been is one of my favorite albums of all time. I try to get people to listen to it but nobody takes me seriously. I recently had a “win” as a parent when my oldest son (17) asked me about Has Been.

I love how you poured yourself out for everyone to see and I use it as inspiration in my own (meager and infrequent) attempts to be an artist.

I bow to you and thank you, sir. 😀

PS: How do I get invited to one of your legendary parties?


Here’s the original thread which was brought to my attention by an r/bestof posting. I submitted my comment twice but Reddit didn’t accept it. I suspect that Bill has temporarily disabled comments.