Master Guitar News - 2007
Dec 21st, 2007: The surgery was a success and I should be ok. Thanks to the many people who sent emails of support and encouragement and prayer. It's times like this that one realizes how much is taken for granted. There've been days where I said, "I'd give anything just to be able to go to work!" I'm also looking forward to pain-free days. I know they're coming. I'm now at 48 hours with no narcotics. That's progress! It indicates I'm not hurting as bad as I have been. I'm also sleeping 4 or 5 hours at a time with no drugs. For probably 12 days I haven't been able to sleep at all without pain pills.
I have much gratitude for my son Eric, my son-in-law David Eames, and one of my students who also teaches, Derek Dodson, who covered a great deal of my teaching schedule over the last two weeks. Also, there have been monetary gifts from various generous people (you know who you are). The gifts from good-hearted people (that I accept in much gratitude) as well as the help from Eric, David, and Derek, has minimized the financial hit and helped make the next couple of months go from looking kind of bleak to not being much of a problem. I taught for a couple of hours last night and I'm going in today and will teach 4 hours. Today is the last teaching day of the year so after today I have nothing to do until New Year's Eve. I haven't committed to the Embassy gig on the 29th yet but at this point am seriously considering it.
I hate the fact that this page has turned into a blog about my physical issues. My life to a large degree revolves around music and the guitar and that is what this site is all about. Music has been one of the magnificent obsessions of my life. But...there ain't no Jay-music if Jay isn't playing any! So for those who are interested here are the gruesome details.
My surgeon was Dr Jungbluth at Truman Med Center downtown (Kansas City). When he actually got into it the damage was worse than anyone realized. He said that my eye socket was so fractured that when he pushed my cheekbone (which had been crushed into my sinus cavity), back into place my eye socket collapsed. He put in a plastic mesh to hold things in place, which will graft into the bones as they heal and will stay in there forever. I also have various plates and screws holding my facial bones together but they are not metal. They are made out of a substance that will break down and be absorbed by the body in 6 months to a year. The surgeon was very cooperative with our desire that no metal be left in my face, even to the point of agreeing that if he did have to use metal or titanium he would go back in after healing was complete and remove it. We are very thankful that we wound up with the surgeon we did. We both liked him a lot, and for Andrea (my alternative healing earth-mother wife! ...who happens to be another one of my magnificent obsessions! ) to actually get along with, even to say she likes, a modern, western-style MD is saying something! It turns out that this guy and his team do more surgeries of this kind than anyone else in town, hundreds a year, according to him.
Two days ago was the first post-op exam. Before the exam I had an MRI done at the request of the radiologist who thought he might have seen a hint of some bleeding in my brain in the CT scan done earlier. The surgeon ran the CT scan by his brain-surgeon buddy who dismissed it, said it was nothing. At this point we haven't heard back about any results of the MRI so unless we hear something I'm assuming it's a non-issue. I'll follow up on it next week if we don't hear anything. Anyway, I'm glad I did the MRI because by the time I got to the post-op exam my MRI was accessible on the hospital computer system. Since an MRI of the brain also shows the skull and facial bones, the surgeon was very interested to see a post-surgery MRI, which is rare. They use MRIs to asses the damage and extent of the injury, not the results of the surgery. It's a chance to really see how he did. There were all kinds of surgeons and interns grouped around the monitor talking their lingo. Andrea and I could see everything. The surgeon explained to us what we were looking at, what a great job he did, and why. He was very pleased with himself, which was very encouraging to me! Everyone there was very curious to see a post-op MRI. It was actually kind of fun.
Dr Jungbluth was impressed by the fact that the swelling and bruising was actually much less than what he was expecting to see. This is directly attributable to the energy work my wife does. His response to this was, "Whatever you're doing, keep doing it!" This is a very polite way to say, "I'm not interested in this area ("whatever you're doing"), but there may be something to it ("keep doing it")," This actually is a positive response - especially so when qualified by the fact that it is coming from a surgeon of the western-medicine paradigm. Dr Jungbluth gets many, many brownie points for not being dismissive, condescending or downright hostile, which has happened to us many, many times when dealing with the practitioners of western medicine. I like him, and so does my wife, and he is certainly very good at what he does. Because of him, the rest of my life will be normal. This situation - my broken face - is the kind of situation at which western medicine excels, namely, trauma intervention and control. (For a little more info on this see the entry for Jan 15, 2007, third paragraph.)
At this point, all the bandages are off and sutures removed, except for two sutures in my upper gum, up against my cheekbone. These will dissolve in a week or so. I have 2 incisions around my eye and one on my cheek. Probably be some minor scaring, but I don't really care about that. The older I get, the less important my looks are, at least to me. Besides that, chicks dig scars! Every face tells a story. I still have swelling on the right side of my face, and my eye turns a different color every day. The tear ducts and drainage aren't working right, I assume because of the swelling, and my right eye is constantly tearing and the tears run into the incisions. It's salt in a wound, literally! I have numbness in my right upper lip, gum, teeth, and a little part of the cheek. I have reason to believe normal nerve function will be restored but it may take several months. I can talk and eat ok. I have a sinus cavity full of fluid, blood and mucous and junk that's slowly draining out the back of my throat (I'm not supposed to blow my nose). Yuck!
That's the basic scoop - I hope my next entry is about the gig I just played.
December 12, 2007: Last Saturday I fell on the ice and broke my face - literally! My right cheekbone and right eye socket. Multiple fractures. I'm very ugly at the moment. Friday morning I will have facial reconstruction surgery. The prognosis is good. I should completely recover. However, I have cancelled all gigs up to but not including New Years Eve. It's possible I might play the Embassy on Saturday afternoon the 29th. I'll make that call after the surgery and the first week of recovery. So sorry to any of you who will be in town for the holidays and want to see me play. The last year has just been one thing after another hasn't it? As Arnold says, "Ah'll be baack!"
November 5, 2007: I'm improving physically now. Finally! Still not sure of the cause but the dental work seems to be the thing that's correlating with the improvement. I have one more visit at the end of this month and then all my amalgam fillings will have been replaced with composite fillings. After that, I have two permanent bridges that have metal on the back to replace. The replacements will be porcelain. Most of my adult life I've been 27 in my own mind. 7 years ago I was 45 years old and still thinking of myself as 27. The last couple of years have obliterated that! Chronic daily pain definitely changes one's self-image!
October 12, 2007: Mama Ray has moved the Jam to the Embassy Bistro and Bar permanently. Positives: No stairs, the air conditioning works, the bathrooms don't stink, it sounds better, there are decent blinds on the west-facing windows, there's actually a stage, and they serve food. Negatives: it's smaller than Harlings. In the wintertime Harlings packs. I think that people will be turned away because it's too crowded. But....that could be a good thing, more demand than supply = our price goes up. Some have expressed to me that they'll miss the sunlight streaming in the windows at Harlings. It's true that Harlings has a unique ambience. But...time moves ever onward. The only constant is change. Deal with it! Harlings will always have a special nostalgia for me. I was fairly young (28) when we started that gig. I've played with some great players there, it was the right gig at the right time. Thanks to Jerry (the owner) and Rich VanSant for making it happen all those many years ago. As far as I know Jerry and Mama Ray have parted on good terms. I've heard that Jerry is planning on putting another band in there on Saturday afternoons. I think that would be a good thing. The two jams would feed off each other, people would go upstairs to hear the band (I've heard that Tom DeMastersis putting it together) have a drink or two, walk downstairs and see Mama Ray et al, have a drink or two, go back upstairs....could make for a fun Saturday afternoon.
August 29, 2007: This is to let you know about some temporary changes occurring to Mama Ray's jam at Harlings on Saturday afternoons. This Saturday, Sept 1st, Harlings will be closed for the Labor Day weekend. The band has decided to just take the day off.
Secondly, Harlings will be temporarily closed for the month of September. We are moving the jam downstairs and 2 doors south to the Embassy Bistro and Bar for the remaining Saturdays in September (Sept. 8, 15, 22, and 29). The Embassy is a great little place - and they serve FOOD! So come on down, enjoy the jam and EAT too!
We will resume at Harlings in October.
July 30, 2007: Sorry, regression. A week after the last entry I started hurting again. I'll make it short. We now suspect I have a low-level chronic infection somewhere. Possibly in my teeth but it could be anywhere. More later.
July 1, 2007: A quick update: Through my energy work, among other things, there have been indications that at least part of the problem is my teeth, specifically R31, which is a 30-year-old root canal. Long story short, just this last Monday I had oral surgery to extract the tooth, root canal - everything. I have to tell you, it was a bitch, even the surgeon said it was a tough one and there was about 3 hours Monday night that I was in the worst physical pain I have ever experienced - and I'm no stranger to pain. It's been a very rough week. My face is still bruised and swollen and I still have stitches in my mouth. However, I just played a gig tonight where I sang all but a half dozen of the tunes. I pushed myself, I picked tunes that last week would have hurt me bad for sure and I'm VERY encouraged. There was only very slight pain! I got home from the gig about half an hour ago and I still have energy, I'm not totally wiped out from the pain! VERY ENCOURAGED!
Jan 15, 2007: As some of you may know, I have been having a physical problem that is keeping me from doing a lot of singing and has just generally been inhibiting my performances. For those who are interested, here's the scoop;
My symptoms are acute headaches with exertion - singing, coughing, picking up something heavy etc. It started about four years ago but within the last year has gotten considerably worse - way past the point of deniability. Within the last couple of months I've actually turned down gigs, or lost them because the physical stress was going to be too much to deal with. I have not been pain-free onstage in a long time. When my ability to work is hindered it is extremely frustrating and scary to me. I've tried all kinds of stuff - drugs, structural stuff - chiropractic, traction on my neck and head; massage therapy - acupuncture, etc. Nothing has helped. I've gone through a gamut of tests (X-rays, CT scans, MRI etc). The MRI of my head showed a vascular abnormality that is said to be congenital. That means that there is a vascular system that is fetal and after birth it goes away and another more mature vascular system develops. In my case - apparently - there are remnants of this fetal system still functioning on the right side of the back of my head. The main system is narrower and smaller than the corresponding system on the left side. So I have two vascular systems on the right side in parallel that both function and that probably feed into each other somewhere. While all that is very interesting, the consensus seems to be that the MRI was "unremarkable" and that what it showed does not account for my symptoms. I'm a little skeptical of the consensus because the pain is on the right side. However, my skepticism is going against, in particular, one man's opinion who knows way more than me and who I highly respect. So, I am stuck on the horns of a dilemma there. So at this point, all we've done is rule out possibilities. The MRI showed no evidence of an aneurysm and there was no plaque showing in the vascular system in my neck and head - that rules out a stroke. The news about the absence of plaque was very encouraging and worth the price of the MRI as far as I'm concerned. This tells me that my diet and exercise regime is working. Heart attack is a major problem in my family history. My dad had a heart attack and a quadruple bypass at 51 - the same age I am now. My grandfather died in his early sixties, my great grandfather died at 52 - all of heart attacks caused by arterial sclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries). None of them smoked, none of them were overweight.
There is a glimmer of light, however. As you may or may not know, my wife has a background in the medical field. Over the last 28 years she has rejected a great deal of that paradigm and has explored all kinds of alternatives. She's way into nutrition, herbology; she makes tinctures - all kinds of stuff. We go to the doctor as a last resort and use western medicine in the case of trauma control - broken bones, childbirth, acute problems etc. We have had no health insurance for the last 18 years - and that's with 5 kids! How we manage our health care expenses with no insurance is another long story, I could write a book about it! We've had the usual gamut of sickness, accidents, injuries, hospital stays etc. Our main health care provider is a chiropractor that also does acupuncture, various forms of energy work, nutrition, and so on. For the last couple of years my wife has been studying a form of energy manipulation called, "KI" that has it's origins in Japan. It just so happens that the main practitioner in the West of this discipline lives and works in the Dallas area. I happened to play in Dallas a couple of months ago. When I committed to the gig, Andrea took it upon herself to make me an appointment with this guy - his name is Dr King. Andrea and I made the trip the weekend after Thanksgiving.
To make a long story short, Dr King believes the root of my problem comes from a head injury I sustained in 1978. I have about a two-inch scar that runs across the front of the top of my head about an inch in back of my hairline. Scar tissue is a serious problem when it comes to energy flow. We're talking bio-electromagnetic energy here. This electro-magnetic energy runs in loops in and around various sections of the body. It feeds all systems and organs. There are 144,000 energy functions in the human body and they ALL nexus at the exact place that I have this scar. He said it was one of the worst places on my body to have scar tissue. He gave me some exercises to do that focus energy on the scar tissue to break it down. He also had me go to Radio Shack and buy a laser pointer. The laser light breaks up scar tissue. Andrea is lasering the scar twice a day. She is also doing energy work on me that I can't do myself. All this is taking at least two to three hours of time out of my day, which bugs the crap out of me. It takes me about an hour and 20 minutes in the morning to do the energy work on myself that Dr King proscribed, plus 10 or 15 minutes of "laser therapy." Andrea's work is taking about an hour in the evening, plus 10-15 minutes of the laser. I'm trying to use the time to relax, and meditate, but sometimes I struggle with restlessness, impatience, and resentment at the time it's taking out of my day. The alternative, however, is unacceptable. Anyway, there is definitely some improvement. I still have bad days, and I'm still struggling on the gig, but there are days when I feel that some of my lost vitality has returned. I was getting pretty worn down just managing the pain every day.
We've been doing this energy stuff very faithfully for about a couple of months now and it has had more of an effect than anything else I've tried. So it appears to me that we're looking at several months of this, at least, in order to give it a fair chance.
I think that there may be another factor playing into this and that is the amalgam fillings in my teeth. That is a whole other subject but suffice it to say that I am having all the metal fillings taken out of my mouth and having teeth capped with porcelain caps or refilled with composite fillings. There are several ways this could be playing into my symptoms, but one of them is that metal also inhibits energy flow. Dr. King wanted to know if I had any metal in my body, pins, plates, etc. I don't, except for the fillings in my teeth. Another way that amalgam fillings cause problems is that the mercury in the fillings gets absorbed into the bloodstream and deposits in various organs. I became aware of this several years ago when I noticed a couple of my teeth were very discolored. The teeth were healthy but the enamel had absorbed the filling to the point that the cavity was actually beginning to show. The teeth looked rotten they were so dark, but it was the filling that was being absorbed by the tooth. "This can't be good!" I said to myself. So I did a little research and there is indeed a growing body of evidence showing that metal fillings are bad for you. I found a sympathetic dentist who REFUSES to put metal fillings in anybody's teeth and we've been taking the metal out of my mouth as I could afford it. I had some pretty major work done on two teeth - the last of my upper teeth to have metal fillings - several weeks ago on a Monday morning. I had no head pain until Friday of that week. THAT is an anomaly - to be pain-free for that long - so I am ramping up the schedule to have it ALL done as quickly as I can afford it.
My main concern at the moment is to continue with the energy work every day and work on breaking down the scar tissue on the top of my head.
If you're curious about the KI method you could go to kinginstitute.org and check it out. If you do, be sure to read Dr King's own story, it's quite amazing.