Tag Archives: family

The Heart of a Hero

Image by José Goulão via Flickr

He lay sleeping, slightly listing to one side of the raised hospital bed, head resting on his chest. A once-broad shoulder jutted out of the neck of the thin gown. His hands rested on the covers, calm and free of tremor.

My eyes lingered on his hands. They still looked strong and smooth – the hands of someone twenty years younger. But mostly, they were pale. Almost white. Strange, for my Sicilian-skinned father, but a relief. It was a huge improvement over the yellow tinge he had been sporting in recent months.

My dad has been in and out of the hospital for the past two weeks. He’s had a total of four endoscopies during that time, first to find out why his liver counts were elevated and he was so jaundiced, then to correct the problem.

It turned out he had a precancerous polyp in his small bowel that was blocking his liver and pancreatic ducts. On the third endoscopy, the doctors put in a stent to hold the polyp away from the ducts. This temporary fix allowed the liver to drain while we decided what needed to be done.

Within hours of that procedure, he was sleeping and pale. But a good pale. The kind that meant his skin was no longer holding the toxins his liver couldn’t release. Despite my mortal horror of hospitals, I wended my way through the concrete-blocked and pipe-laden halls, up elevators and through scary sets of double doors to be with him.

The doctor came in to speak with us. She explained his condition and outlined the treatment: Whipple surgery. Whipple surgery, to be completely un-technical and probably slightly inaccurate, is a 5-6 hour ordeal where the surgeon takes out your guts, connects them to things they aren’t normally connected to, removes what needs to be removed, reconnects everything properly and replaces it.

Recovery time is up to two months and involves feeding and drainage tubes. This sounds horrible for a normal person in otherwise good health. For a diabetic Parkinsonian, this news was just left of a full-on catastrophe: heightened risk of infection, possible complications during the surgery and other delights and wonders.

The alternative? A potential for pancreatic cancer – one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. I went home and sobbed on my couch.

The next morning, the sun rose on a new ballgame. My mother called: The doctors think the polyp can be successfully removed endoscopically. The procedure takes about 90 minutes and the recovery time is just a couple of days.

Relief flooded through my family.

The procedure was scheduled for Monday – my birthday. So, yesterday, my dad had his fourth endoscopy. It went well and he came home this afternoon, tired but already on soft foods.

I know my mom and dad both felt bad that they had to be in the hospital on my birthday. Admittedly, I’m a bit of a birthday brat. I’ve always loved my birthday – it’s the one day of the year that I feel belongs to me; that is ripe with possibility; that is, well, special. So, yeah, I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be spending time with my family on my Day of Days.

But then I picture my dad, holding a cup of broth in his newly pale hands. He’s not had solid food for almost 48 hours and has only recently been started on liquids. The broth smells delicious and I’m so glad for him. He takes a slow, careful sip.

“That smells really good,” I say, to encourage him.

“Yeah, it really does,” my mom sounds surprised, hospital food having the reputation that it does.

My dad holds the cup out to me. “You want some, Sah?” he says, calling me by the shortened form of my name that maybe only three or four people in this world use. Then he offers it to my mom.

We refuse, of course, but the scene strikes to my heart and stays there. A man who hasn’t eaten in almost two days is still willing, quite literally, to give us the food right out of his bowl. I know he feels like he has so little to give these days, but it’s times like this that he gives more than I can quantify.

How does one measure inspiration? Kindness? Example?

When that scene flashes through my mind, as it has so often during the past week, it ceases to matter that he was in the hospital on my birthday. In fact, suddenly a successful surgery seems like the best birthday present ever.

The Easter Buddy

Today was a busy day for the Easter Buddy.

Easter Buddy

He had to make his rounds and deliver presents.

Easter Buddy's pack

The Easter Buddy delivered presents to Grampie.

Easter Buddy and Grampie

And to Grammie.

Easter Buddy and Grammie

And then he ate some chocolate coconut cream pie.

chocolate coconut cream pie

Actually, he didn’t because chocolate isn’t good for Easter Buddies. But he did nibble on some ham and a little chicken as he rested from his labors.

The rest of us enjoyed this mouth-wateringly rich and decadent pie made with an almond meal crust (gluten-free) and coconut milk (dairy-free). Recipe courtesy of Elana’s Pantry.

So. Good. You gotta try it. Oh and it’s vegan, so it’s totally healthy, right?

I’m So Low I Have to Look Up to See Whale Poop

Yay! I’ve become the boring person who does nothing but talk about their medical problems. If you knew my family, you’d know it was just a matter of time. This is how conversations with my relatives go:

Me: So, what’s new?

My Mom: Well, Dad had a doctor’s appointment today. Oh, and did I tell you Uncle X came home from the hospital today? His legs are still swollen, but he’s feeling better. Auntie Y’s funeral is on Wednesday and afterwards I’m going to see Cousin Z in the nursing home.

Me: Really? Okay, we’ll I’m going to go throw myself out the sixth floor window. Have a great afternoon.

My grandfather used to give me advice on aging. “Sara Lee,” he’d say, because he had a nickname for everyone. “Sara Lee, don’t get old.”

“Sure beats the alternative,” I’d tell him.

Now I’m not so sure. I’ve seen old. It ain’t pretty.

Anyway, enough about everyone else. Back to me.

Monday I took my two sets of lab orders and I hied me off to a different lab. I walked in the main entrance of the hospital and up to reception. I had to wait a few minutes, but once the receptionist got to me, she was quite pleasant. She took my name, entered it into the computer and asked another lady to escort me to the waiting room.

The attendant was a beautiful little Asian woman who asked me if my hair was natural. When I told her, yes, it was, she sighed with envy and said, “I love it!”

I like this place already.

She courteously pointed me to a chair and told me someone would be right with me. I didn’t have time to do much more than take off my coat and pick up a BHG magazine when a door opened and my name was called.

A third woman ushered me into an office and took my paperwork. Since I had never been there before, it took a few minutes to enter my information into the system, but I suspect that was a one-time thing. She photocopied my ID and insurance card.

I braced myself, waiting to be told I’d need to walk down to East Japeepee to get a blue card or an orange card or a notarized certificate of authenticity, but she simply printed out two documents, asked me to sign the privacy thingamabob and handed me my lab orders back. Then she gave me directions to the lab.

The directions weren’t that great, but there were signs everywhere so I figured it out pretty quickly. I can read like that.

I walked down to the lab and checked in with the lab receptionist. Okay. Admittedly, that’s a lot of check-ins, but so far everyone had been really nice, so I didn’t mind.

Did I mention I didn’t need a blue card?

At the laboratory, the receptionist informed me that if I had both sets of labs sent to both doctors, I would only be charged for one draw instead of two. Sign me up, yo. There’s no reason each doctor couldn’t each see the others’ results, so I said, Yes, please.

I thought it was nice that she showed me that little loophole. She took my paperwork and pointed me to another waiting room. This is the only sub par part of the experience. Not the waiting room – that was fine – but the fact that I was there about ten minutes. I was the only one in there.

It seemed like a long time, but if that was the worst thing that happened to me, it was going to be a pretty good day.

Moreover, the tech who waited on me was both friendly and…wait for it…competent! Yes, that’s right. She managed not to poke the needle through my vein despite the fact that she had to change out six differnt tubes. Count ’em, six.

Rock on.

I am, however, reserving my final judgment until the process is complete. I still need to see how quickly the results are processed and how the billing cycle plays out. I’ve had problems with both before and am in no hurry to repeat the experience.

But, it’s looking good. It’s looking real good.

I did get one set of results back today: the thyroid. And because I know you’re dying to know, here they are:

T4: 0.79 (normal range: 0.90 – 1.70)

TSH: 1.39 (normal range: 0.27 – 4.20)

The good news is that the TSH (the thermostat) is in the normal range. I mean, I guess that’s good news. Again, I’m not sure why it needs to be and, again, I forgot to ask. Because I am a jackwagon.

The other good news is that my T4 (the furnace) is lower than normal. I say good because it was that, combined with the now normal TSH, that prompted the doctor to adjust my meds to every other day.

Yahootie! I’m now taking half of what I was before. And that can only be a good thing, in my book.

Still, it irritates me that I had to get lower than whale poop to get a change made. Today when the nurse was explaining the results she told me that I “may be feeling a little tired”. Clearly, she has no memory of our last conversation. The one where I told her I was exhausted and depressed. The one that happened four weeks ago.

Today, though, I didn’t even care. I was just so happy for the news.

I have not heard the results from my OB/GYN orders yet, but I did take some time yesterday to look up what exactly the tests were. My doc did explain them to me, but she has a soft voice, talks very quickly and has a little bit of a lisp. I can totally understand what she’s saying, but there is a two-second delay there. Make that a three-second delay. I’m adding a second due to the effect the sheer terror of being in any doctor’s office has on my brain.

All I remember hearing is, “Blah blah blah blah, Day 3, blah blah blah.”

Right. Got it.

So I looked it up. And I was horrified. You guys, I’m basically waiting for the phone to ring to find out whether or not I have any eggs left.

Hoe. Lee. Whale poop.

Oh good. Because between my job, my father’s Parkinson’s disease and my husband applying for grad school, I didn’t have enough stress in my life. This makes everything so much better.

I need a drink.

Oh, wait. I stopped doing that so that I could get pregnant.

In that case, I need some ice cream. Stat!