Blood is Thicker… Category

Sleeping with the Diamonds On

6 Jan 2010 In: Blood is Thicker..., In Memory..., LIVESTRONG

One year ago I knew my Beloved Grandma would die today. I recognized the signs. By evening, when everyone else had left for the day, I was dosing her with the appropriate medications hourly. I intended to do it all night if needed. It was not necessary.

I’m still second-guessing myself; I find so many things that I could have done better – I could have made my Grandma more comfortable AND comforted. I know I must let it go, but the sound of a voice crying out in pain and confusion stays with you.

I sang to Grandma. I sang with more intensity than I think I’ve ever mustered; I sang with every fiber of my being. I wanted to sing the Pie Jesu from Fauré’s Requiem, but I couldn’t get my Mother’s voice out of my head. She sang it so beautifully at the funeral of Helen Ann Williams Pawlowski, one of the other dear Mothers of my childhood. And she told my wonderful Pamela, who always was a sister, really, that she was not an orphan; she said she’d be her Mother, too. You cannot sing when you remember that.

So I played it for her. And then I started In Paridisum on a loop. But you always think there is more time. I’m glad I had leaned down close to her ear and touched her face and given her my thanks, all my love and told her to go to my Grandpa, for he had waited almost sixty years for her.

Though I didn’t know it until a few minutes later, I heard my Grandma’s last breath, just as I walked from the room to get doses of medication. When I went back into the room less than a minute later, I stood there with my hands full of syringes of liquid medication – just stood for few minutes at the side of her bed. I thought she might start breathing again (it happens) but she didn’t. I went and put the syringes down and came back to check her pulse. 11:55 p.m. January 6, 2009. Time of death.

I called my Mother. She was not surprised. I called hospice. I received, by some miracle, a call from my friend Grettir before anyone showed up. Bless him for having miraculous timing, compassion and patience when my life falls apart.

I had the privilege of helping the hospice nurse prepare my Grandma’s body for the Funeral Home. With reverential care she pulled the access needle from the port and removed the other tubes, we took off the cannula, she cleaned my Grandma while I helped move her body, and finally we put on a clean gown on her. She had to dispose of all the medications and she left. The funeral home gentlemen came and before they zipped up the home-made quilted shroud, and though I knew she was gone, I kissed my Grandma on her cool, smooth forehead.

I might protest at this juncture in some other entry that I had a point. I’m not sure that I do, unless it is to say that some moments in your life will never be forgotten. And many of these moments are ingrained on my psyche forever.

I had entries written in my head for my Grandma’s birthday (in JULY) and for other occasions, but they never made it to the page. Well, the title did. For when I was alone a year ago tonight – so alone – after they took my Grandma away and my Mom left, I didn’t know what do to. I had decided to stay with Lucy, her cat. That’s when I looked at her things. That’s when I laughed at some of the “collections” and cried at the beautiful letters written back and forth between she and my Grandfather.

I put on her anniversary band – ten diamonds in a band of white gold. She bought it herself on her Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary and it was the ring I remembered her wearing the most in the last decade. She was a little embarrassed that she’d purchased it for herself, but we all reassured her that my Grandpa would have wanted her to have it.

The ring is mine now. At some point after her Birthday, I started wearing it not just regularly, but night and day. My LIVESTRONG™ and other wristbands are a fixture as well unless I’m showering or the like. The most recent, a colo-rectal cancer wristband sent to me from Germany – a gift from my beloved Soul Sister, Henrike, was purchased in my Grandma’s honour.

So day and night, I wear my Grandma’s ring. I sleep with the diamonds on, because I cannot forget one year ago tonight. Nor can I forget a lifetime in which my beautiful Grandma was always, ALWAYS there for me. I will love you forever, Grandma.

EVELYN MONSON LEE
July 9, 1926 – January 6, 2009

A Year Ago Today

3 Jan 2010 In: Blood is Thicker..., In Memory..., LIVESTRONG

A year ago today I was sitting with two hospice nurses in my Grandma’s bedroom. She was sitting on the edge of the hospital bed that had been delivered earlier (which the delivery man so kindly switched about with me AFTER the frame was put together so it faced the “right” direction). My mom was in Kansas. My uncle was on his way from Washington State.

One year ago today the nurses were asking her questions. She could answer some. I helped with others. She could scarcely make a mark on a piece of paper any more unless we gave her a marker instead of a pen; she was so frustrated.

One year ago today I wanted to be able to tell them there was no time. While the nurses were wonderful – knowledgeable, kind, honest, comforting – I sat wishing there had been time to say, “THERE IS NO TIME. She will not be alive by the time the musical thanatologist can be here. She may not make it to the day that she could have a bed bath. She won’t be able to speak – literally speak – to the counsellor. Ah well.

One year ago today is somewhat a blur, though some moments have stayed stayed with me with such clarity that I feel like it was yesterday. I remember rushing through the drive-through at Wendy’s because it’s so close to the condo and I’d only had coffee that day. I remember finding bedding for the hospital bed and thinking that I was making the bed in which she would die. I remember that the weather started out clear but SO cold. I helped the medical supply delivery man carry things up the stairs. He kept saying I needn’t help, but I said I didn’t mind. I needed to do something.

One year ago last night I had stayed at the hospital after Grandma was admitted after that endless day in the ER on January 2, 2009. That was after she’d been on the floor for possibly hours. I was supposed to take her to an appointment and she didn’t answer the phone to tell me when. I think I knew on some level that she was NOT just getting ready. I don’t think I didn’t wanted to call the paramedics again. I think I knew it was the end. I should have… I should have done many things. But I must lay that to rest. I know I must.

One year ago yesterday: All day in the ER. Scans, blood tests, more scans (some I kept saying, “she’s just had those”), more tests… Calls to her oncologist. The first time in my life I’d EVER seen my Grandmother confused (she was completely with it even when in renal failure months before that). And late that night, the doctor and intern asked me to come out and speak to them. Then they thought better of it. They came into the room and I stood across my Grandma’s bed from them while they explained that there was unusual and horrifically rapid metastasis from the lymph nodes (about which we knew) to her lungs and to her brain. I remembering covering my mouth with my hand; I don’t know why. What could I say?

One year ago last night the doctor and the intern said that her oncologist said that she could have part of the transfusion that had originally been planned for the day if she wanted it. It was established that it might make her feel a little better (and somehow they let me know that it was not cruelly life-sustaining). She said she’d take it. Then we waited, again, for another doctor to admit her. I had to step into the hall and called to tell my Mom that she had to come home right away to see her Mother before she wouldn’t know she was there.

One year ago last night SO many calls then and the next day in the halls of the hospital. One so that my meds could be brought so that I could stay with her that night. Many others to family, to her church, to ask my older sister which hospice she’d been researching. I was on the phone, huddled against the wall, weeping – I don’t know who I was talking to – and I remember one of the social workers (was it a nurse?) coming by, putting their hand on my shoulder for a moment, and walking on.

One year ago today this morning, the oncologist, wearing his University of Utah Hoodie, stood in the hall with me while they were x-raying an injury of her arm. The process was hurting her. And he just sensed what he could say to me. He said, slightly exasperated, “What are they going to do if it IS broken?” He told me that he was really surprised about the metastasis. He’d seen her on New Year’s Eve; she’d walked right into the office. He thought there MIGHT be spots on her lungs. He studied the films (which were a few weeks old) at length. But he also knew she had had pneumonia.

One year ago this morning he said, “She has a few days to a week.” “Probably closer to a few days, as she’s not eating [hadn’t eaten in the ER and had only had a popsicle in that day].” Then he walked into her room, told her she looked horrible (which made her smile and almost laugh). He said, “Let’s get you out of this horrible place. We could radiate the brain tumor, but I don’t think it would give you much. I think you’re very, very tired and want to go home.” She nodded.

One year ago today, because of some blessed miracle, bureaucracy took a back seat. The necessary equipment was arranged for delivery. It was acknowledged that I could stay the nights with her, so the hospice team was contacted and scheduled to arrive. I barely had time to get back to her condo and figure out where to put the equipment before she was transported home.

One year ago today my Beloved Grandmother came home to die. And one year ago today I promised her she would not be alone.

And Then There Were SIX

13 Aug 2008 In: Blood is Thicker..., Celebrate!

I’m having a very difficult time deciding what to tackle next (I have a mental list – and yes, it’s Kate-typically lengthy). I’m defaulting to CUTENESS. It’s my prerogative as the Aunt who only has Kitten Children.

Oh, my NIEPHEWS. They keep growing, and GROWING and officially number A HALF DOZEN now! It’s mind-boggling. Let’s start with the eldest and youngest first.
Sarah & Bela
Sarah & Isabela Sage. And Will’s Legs.

Sarah, who I saw “ripped untimely from…[the] womb,” will be twenty (TWENTY) in November. Good honk. Wow that’s a blast from my OWN past. Don’t know quite what cobwebbed recesses of my brain I have just accessed. Good honk?

Beautiful Isabela Sage was born on May 9, 2008 and joined the family of my Baby Brother and my Baby Sister-in-Law a few days thereafter. She is so sweet and lovely and she has SKILZ (if you’re lucky, my Mother might list them for you in an email sent from HER VERY FIRST EMAIL ADDRESS). Only the GRANDCHILDREN (indirectly, at this point) could actually get my Mother truly online.
Bela BURRITO
Mom? Dad? Why am I a burrito?

I love this next picture so much. It’s actually one in a series (that I’ll get on Flickr soon, I promise). An Engineer, a seven-year-old (slightly chocolaty), and a JV Ballroom Dancer. Which is which???
Wee Wiii!
Wee Wii!!!

In the middle of July as much of the family as possible took some time at a Midway Homestead Condo to celebrate my Dad’s “retirement” from Brigham Young University (he’s a Professor of Chemical Engineering). Oh – and “retirement” SO belongs in quotes. He won’t stop. He’ll enjoy the “emeritus” title. And evidently he’s taking great delight in the fact that he will not be required to attend faculty meetings (seriously). But he won’t stop. He loves what he does. (Though I assert that it’s what he OVERDOES.) Befitting the occasion he had FANS.
Anders Loves Grandpa
Anders ADORES Grandpa

I like the contrast in the following images. Who is the most chocolaty? The youngest? Nope. He only has the tiniest speck on his face.
Leif.  And his teeth.
Leif. And His Teeth.
Anders Blue Eyes
Anders Has a Smut.
CRAZY BANANA HEAD
Crazy Banana Head

And when I came back from the LIVESTRONG™ Summit in Columbus, Ohio, Paisley was already there. PARTY!.
Chocolate Cake Party!
Paisley Loves Cake!

It’s important to look to the left in that picture. That chocolate-laden finger is actually the source of most of the “decorations” on Paisley’s face (ASHLEY!).

ALL my niephews are hysterically funny, and I could go on and on and ON (and on) all about their cleverness and such, but I won’t. Not, at least, until we get the chosen group shot of all six taken late this July. Ha.

Yes, You Still Shouldn’t Tell Grandma

16 Apr 2008 In: Blood is Thicker..., LIVESTRONG

Just a quick update on Grandma Lee. She had her colon resection yesterday. Following is a brief description (and YES, I say “rectum” at least twice, possibly three or four times – so you can either ignore the paragraph altogether or just suck it up):

The surgery went pretty well. They removed the tumor, which sounded like it was even longer than any of the scan images I’ve seen. They took out the rectal stent (hallelujah). The surgeon was able to connect her intestines/colon to her rectum, but the tissue is fragile, swollen and whatnot (partially because of the radiation) and at one point they found a little fistula in part of her small intestines (which they fixed). Consequently, he did an illiostomy (looping part of the small intestine to keep some of the waste from going through rectum, giving it time to heal better in order to avoid a failure of the connection and a permanent colostomy).

She’s in intermediate care now – a step below the Intensive Care Unit – (largely due to her age – she’s 81) so that they can take closer care of her. She’s stable. I think her biggest complaint right now would be dry mouth (she’s going through those little spongy mouth moisteners like there was no tomorrow) because she can’t have anything – not even ice chips – until her bowels make some sort of appropriate “noise.” I don’t know what it’s supposed to be, but I hope it’s musical and happens very soon.

Thanks to everyone for their love and support.

Tibbles

1 Feb 2008 In: Blood is Thicker..., LIVESTRONG, My Monkey Cats: Monkeys & Cats

You know – tibbles – a summary of bits and pieces – catching up with the highlights from a time period in which I’ve been either too lazy, busy, crazed or tied up by kidnappers to update my blog for my faithful reader(s). They are like stringettes. Individual stringettes… Simpson’s Individual Stringettes – for attaching notes to pigeon’s legs, DESTROYING HOUSEHOLD PESTS…. NO, no, no – I shan’t go down that road, I shall not. Tying up very small parcels…

Mock all you want; this phrase will be sweeping the nation before you can say…uhm..before you can say – “SIMPSON’S INDIVIDUAL STRINGETTES!” Ah, but where to start.

Well, on December 22, 2007, my darling niephew (that all-encompassing phrase “niephew” will sweep the Nation, too – I have no doubt) Anders turned three AND truly beautiful baby Moses Giles Samuelson-Lynn was born (who doesn’t look ANYTHING like Winston Churchill or Chairman Mao, as babies often do at first).
Anders in the First Snow 2007

In January, hearty congratulations to lovely Niephew Sarah who officially graduated (with excellent test scores, indeed). There was even a ceremony with two dozen or so other “non-traditional” students. My faux Niephew, Tyler, was even one of the speakers (it was awesome – he gave a completely extemporaneous graduation speech – I think the sweeping hand gestures made it). They gave them diplomas and tassels, but had I known their would NOT be caps and gowns (even LEIF got a cap and gown to graduate from St. Marguerite’s kindergarten) I’d have loaned her mine (from my University graduation – yes, I had to BUY it – I could rant about how stupid that is – but she could have been the first high school graduate with a Phi Kappa Phi ribbon on their ensemble).

This past Tuesday I took Grandma Lee (SHHHHHHHH – DON’T TELL HER – REMEMBER: EVERYTHING I SAY ABOUT GRANDMA IS A SECRET FROM HER) to get her chemo pump attached and for her first radiation treatment. She had an Implantable Venous Access Port (a “Super” or “Power Port) put in last week and tattoos and other preparations for her radiation. I think it’s a great delivery system for her. They’ve been able to give her iron infusions through it and blood samples. And when she’s not hooked to her chemo pump she can even shower because the port is under the skin.
WEIRD fashion-style photography of the Implantable Venous Access Port

The chemo pump is amazing. Over the course of a week it dispenses a gradual dose of chemotherapy (in her case FU5) in a small machine that you carry around in a fanny pack (alright you Brits – STOP LAUGHING – “Bum Bag”). This lessens possible side effects and makes her simultaneous treatments (chemo and radiation) so much easier. They just refill it every week and flush out her port.

I wish she felt better, but the size of the tumor is substantial (it’s a “bulky” mass that’s probably been growing and bleeding for a long time) and it compromises the walls of the colon. Since her lymph nodes are involved as well, one of the specialists said it was important to shrink the tumor before they did any surgery. He was also so concerned about a possible bowel blockage that he inserted a stent to keep her colon open. I’d no idea that you could do that. I’d make a joke in poor taste that she was jealous of my Dad’s two stents and had to get a bigger one and put it in an – uhm – unexpected location, but it’s not really funny; she’s incredibly uncomfortable. We believe she’s probably in pain as well, but she won’t cop to anything but “discomfort.” Hopefully when the tumor shrinks she’ll get some relief. Three radiation treatments down, twenty-two to go: You hang in there,
Grandma! (shhhhhh)

Which brings up an important reminder: NEVER, EVER FORGET THAT ANYTHING I WRITE OR SAY ABOUT GRANDMA LEE MUST NEVER GET BACK TO HER EVER. EVER EVER.

Today – mmm – yesterday, technically, as we are the medical havoc and ruination family, Shirleen had eye surgery. Well, tear duct surgery, to be more specific (up through her nose). She has an unusual condition (WHAT – Shirleen has an unusual condition?) that causes her left tear duct to run constantly and squirt arbitrarily. They were not able to find a non-surgical solution (flushing it out and whatnot), so after they scanned to make sure there was nothing in her eye orbit that might even be connected to her brain (or something like that) she helped schedule her own surgery (since she works in the hospital in that department). She even threatened to get off the table in a surgical gown and go to work if they made her wait or something.

Anyhoo, the surgery was quick and successful (even though the doctor had to repair a deformed nasal turbinator – ?). Unfortunately, in recovery her nose started to hemorrhage. And why? Because if some sort of freakish thing can happen to Shirleen during a medical and/or dental procedure it likely will. They successfully stopped the bleeding; this process evidently involved something called a “nose torpedo.” She’s still wearing it, from what I understand. OH, ALAS, FOR YOUR SCHNOZ TO BE BETTER VERY SOON, SHIRLEEN! Oh – and anyone who wants is welcome to pass that along – go crazy.

And my dear Monkey Cats, your Crazy Heathen Aunt Cake Kate hasn’t forgotten you. How could she? YOU HAUNT HER DREAMS! Ha ha. In a GOOD way? It was Solo and Ensemble Competition time again on Wednesday. No prevaricating blossoms of any kind this year; we had placid Ernest Charles trio, Clouds, this time. They did a very lovely job, and I don’t think I made the “bell-like” chords sprinkled throughout the piece entirely TOO cacophonous (in performance). My principal goal for me was to NOT repeat the rubber-chicken-moment debacle of last year’s competition.

I also played for M.C. Nessa’s solo. She sang a lovely Fauré piece that I massacred when I played it for M.C. Amy’s audition for Chamber Choir last year (they took her in spite of my über-dissonant additions). I was very proud of her because she introduced herself DECLARATIVELY and CONFIDENTLY (AMEN), sang lovely French and, most importantly, kept going and was poised when she forgot some lyrics. A lesson for ALL PERFORMERS. Oh – and with MY Monkey Cats there’s never an “Adam and Eve” pose in sight.

I even got to do an almost completely unrehearsed performance of Bist Du Bei Mir with a euphonium player. “Little King,” a wee freshman, was abandoned by his accompanist a couple of hours before the competition, so I agreed that I’d probably be better than nothing (M.C. Amy would have certainly played it better, but she was already accompanying seven thousand people and singing with another five hundred or something very, very close to that). It was a very creative performance that sounded nothing like Lady of Spain. And I’ve no doubt that he will learn some semblance of tempo with a little more experience. The tone was nice… Oh – and Adam Keith owes me $15. I’ll take that in small cash bills. (?)

We found my entirely too grown-up Niephew Will ACTUALLY FILLING OUT PERFORMANCE REVIEWS. He became an honorary Monkey Cat for the evening, did the “Money Dance” at arbitrary moments throughout the afternoon/evening (he’s on the Junior Varsity Ballroom Dance Team – that’s really all the explanation I can dream up). We deviated from tradition with a Jamba Juice break, but we did end up with the requisite Taco Bell feast. We waxed nostalgic about past Taco Bell feasts, talked about their plans after high school (They are graduating! My baby Monkey Cats are Graduating. Monkey Kittens?) and they confirmed that I am, indeed, very, very old. You’ve just gotta love them. Hugs and Kisses, Monkey Cats!

Secretly For Grandma

16 Jan 2008 In: Blood is Thicker..., LIVESTRONG

LIVESTRONG™ Local Army Utah

Last week my Grandma Lee was diagnosed with colon cancer.

As is often the case, the symptoms that became the most acute and were the blatantly obvious did not point right away to the ultimate diagnosis. Initially, it looked like congestive heart failure, especially since she has respiratory problems that are, for the most part, untreated (they can either cause congestive heart failure over time or be a result thereof). When some of the blood tests came back from her initial visit, it was determined that her hematocrit was obscenely low (about half of what is normal – worse than Sarah’s before they diagnosed her Hodgkin’s – and you don’t want to tell your Grandma that she looks positively corpse-like). She was given an infusion, but that didn’t bring her hematocrit up enough. It was then thought that perhaps she had bleeding ulcers. She was given upper and lower g.i. tests including a long-overdue colonoscopy (she’d had polyps the last time she’d had one – fifteen years ago).

Her stomach was fine. Unfortunately, the doctor could immediately tell that she had a cancerous mass in her colon. He did think that the area (about four inches of her colon, I think) could be excised and her intestines reconnected. However, now the tumor (I’m crossing my fingers for just one) needs to be tested and staged, and she is having a number of other diagnostics to pinpoint and hopefully rule out spread of the disease. Today she also started on a series of iron infusions that the oncologist hopes will bring up her hematocrit.

Now you may ask why I said, “Secretly.” Well, the truth of the matter is that she would be completely horrified if she knew I was doing this. And it’s not just because of her personality and propensity for anxiety (in MY FAMILY – how could that BE?). She is “of a generation” where you don’t say “cancer” except, perhaps, in a whisper. Her sister, for instance, whose husband, my Uncle Ron, died this summer, did not want to talk about the “cancer” aspect of his illness. To someone like me (and my cousins) this doesn’t make sense. His illness WAS cancer. And I believe in speaking about it.

I believe this so strongly, in fact, that I volunteered a number of months ago to be the “leader” of the LIVESTRONG™ Local Army in Utah. I haven’t done anything to advertise, “get going” with a word-of-mouth campaign or organized any events – these are my responsibilities. Well, there’s nothing like a wake-up call like this.

And now I will present two wholly antithetical requests for today:

  • DO NOT TELL GRANDMA LEE THAT I POSTED ANYTHING ON THE INTERNET ABOUT HER CONDITION. BBo, Tracy, Family, PLEASE don’t say anything. I don’t want her to be so angry at me that she will not accept my help. You may wonder why I’m wantonly disregarding her obsessive need for privacy. Call me a big fat hypocrite (I TRIPLE-dog-dare you), but I believe that what she does not know (in THIS case) will not hurt her. That’s the antithetical part.
  • And why? BECAUSE WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW CAN HURT YOU. A colonoscopy of one of the best cancer defenses we have currently. Part of my responsibility of a LIVESTRONG™ Day Delegate last year was to help convey important messages to our Legislators. One of the requests we made was for parity in diagnostic testing (like legislation that is already in place to help with mammograms and PAP testing – I’ll discuss some serious complications with these laws another time), such as colonoscopies and PSA testing.

    My Father, for instance, could have colon cancer in addition to his (prostate) bone cancer. They excised two (or was it three?) pre-cancerous polyps during his colonoscopy a few years back. I even saw the pictures.

    So indeed, that’s the important message here (and I do not care if it’s redundant – and I assure you that you’ll hear it AGAIN even if I have to resort to graffiti): Do the preventive testing that is prescribed at the appropriate age. Well – start with getting check-ups IN GENERAL. And do consider your family history. Some cancers have a larger genetically inheritable component than others. For instance, my brothers should have PSA tests YOUNG, and my Dad’s brothers should NOT ever miss them, because my Father has his initial Stage II prostate cancer in his mid-forties. Moreover, my Father’s Father had prostate cancer (though it was not the cause of his death).

    Now, since my Grandmother has colon cancer and my Father had pre-cancerous polyps, some schools of thought would say that my siblings and I should start having colonscopies at age forty instead of fifty. As it is, since my Grandmother had a polyp at her last colonoscopy, they told my Mother that she needs her next colonoscopy in five years instead of ten (the same goes for my Father, because of his polyps).

So that’s it for now. I shall be enlisting your help (almost literally “enlisting,” come of think of it). And you shan’t turn me down, because I AM YOUR LEADER! Okay, I’m your leader if you’re in Utah, but if you think I won’t sic the leaders from States on you (and most of them have regional leaders in their States, so it will be easier to get you), you are sadly mistaken.

I love you, Grandma! And we are all there for you (even though we might not mention why or how).

Gridiron Holy War

24 Nov 2007 In: A Little HELP HERE?, Blood is Thicker...

Yes, it was the big rivalry game of the year: BYU versus The University of Utah. Let’s just say my Father is a die-hard BYU fan (he is a BYU professor). Since the University of Utah is my alma mater, I derive the greatest pleasure from the football rivalry through giving my Dad a REALLY HARD TIME and teasing him about it whenever possible (as he takes it a little too seriously).

But the title above refers more to the idea that I almost had to tackle my Father at the airport today so that he’d let the paramedics take a look at him. He did not want to miss the game, for one thing. But, there are times in one’s life when one can say, “Sit down!” with the right balance of force and concern so that a man who, as a rule, does NOT listen to one me very often, OBEYS (although grumpily). And I had to do something other than body-slam him (though it was very tempting), as this seemed rather counterproductive to preserving his health.

It’s been a LONG day. I’m going to “part II” this whole thing. Aren’t you all excited.

Hindsight is Plenty Scary

19 Nov 2007 In: Blood is Thicker..., LIVESTRONG

My Dad spent the last few days especially grateful to be alive. The angiogram and resultant angioplasties in and of themselves are not serious procedures, relatively speaking. Two stents are certainly better than a quadruple bypass or – well – a fatal heart attack.

But my Father has spent the last two years having symptoms of heart problems (despite medication and and a lifestyle designed to manage his hereditary high blood pressure and high cholesterol). And OH what a family history. He’s the oldest of eight siblings, and at least one of his brothers has already had serious heart trouble. His mother’s cholesterol (and she’s tiny) has been as high as 400. She’s had miny strokes, her siblings have died of heart trouble and strokes. My paternal grandfather died unexpectedly of a heart attack* at age seventy; one moment he was walking around, and a moment later he fell over and was gone. Just like that.

And here’s the rub: My Dad had a treadmill test a few years back; it was inconclusive. A few other indeterminate exams here and there… And then in late April he had an MRI and an extensive series of accompanying tests (despite the fact that the insurance company did not want to pay for it – imagine that). The radiologist called my father’s PCP and said everything was “clear.”

Then, last week, he sent the doctor the actual report. I don’t think anything on that report was “normal” except the size of my Dad’s heart. The report indicated horrible percentages of plaque blockage in a number of locations and recommended immediate catheterization. Immediate.

This is what, in medical ethics terms, we call a MEDICAL MISTAKE. Yes, physicians are human; mistakes happen. And I found myself grateful that the radiologist sent the report at all, though I do hope he was horrified at what could have been a fatal delay. I imagine a scenario in which he was making calls SEVEN MONTHS AGO, reading from an overwhelmingly tall stack of reports, and he simply gave the wrong results to my father’s doctor. Who can say.

All I know if that my father had started more and more often to feel faint and dizzy, fatigued, etc. So much of it you can write off: He has bone cancer, his schedule is ridiculous, he has sleep apnea and doesn’t wear his CPAP enough, he puts the “a” in type “a” personalities (? – well, you get the picture), he has asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and he deals with a ridiculous amount of stress.

Honestly, I felt like a heart attack was inevitable at some point in his life (especially when I’ve given him a really hard time, stressed him out and felt really guilty about it).

But then there was the cancer recurrence. And he’d delayed his colonoscopy for – oh – a decade (and said, “Well, I already have cancer,” which was supposed to be a joke). When I finally dragged him to get one he had two (or was it three?) precancerous polyps that they were able to excise right then. The irony: Colon cancer can be quick and insidious (okay, lots of cancers can be so) and so he could have died of colon cancer before he even reaches a difficult point in his bone cancer treatment (it’s really prostate cancer, but I always feel odd saying that since they did the radical prostatecomy years ago the “first” time he had cancer).

Then there’s the ticking time-bomb hernia. Tomorrow he’ll get a report about the tests he had on that last week. If it’s BAD I’m not taking him to the airport Tuesday to go to Disneyland – NO SIR.

I don’t know what I’m saying (insert joke here?), except that I, too, am grateful that my Dad’s alive. And I’m very glad he feels so much better; getting a little oxygen flowing efficiently through your system will do that, I suppose. But retrospectively, I’m really frightened. I don’t suppose that makes tons of sense, but so be it. He’s actually healthier and now I feel afraid.

If the radiologist had suppressed the report or delayed it any longer, who knows when the massive myocardial infarction would have happened. Probably while my Dad was at work in the middle of the night. He might have ignored it until it was too late; he was getting so sick of “inconclusive” or supposedly “clear” tests.

AAAH! I cannot think about this any more.

Everyone? Please just TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES. And get your flu shot, please.

*I think that was it. He and my grandmother were in Germany at the time, so there is some confusion about the diagnosis (as he was the one fluent in German) – it could have been some sort of embolism. The whole thing was confusing; the airlines lost his body as it was being transported back to the States (just temporarily…).

Roto-Rooter

16 Nov 2007 In: Blood is Thicker...

Today after the Roto-Rooter they gave my Father two stents (gave – hah – they probably cost $10,000 CANADIAN a piece). He now has one in the left and one in the right side of his heart. I thought it was nice that they are symmetrical.

They said he has some plaque in other locations, but new medication should be sufficient for that. I tell you, someday soon you’re going to find one of my family members spooning pills into a pillbox like the one on the advertisement where the man puts an apple for each day of the week into the GINORMOUS “pill” box.

For those of you who are not eighty-five or haven’t a penchant for impersonating dowagers (or whatever the male equivalent is):
I want those red and white ones.
This is a Pill Box.

Yesterday they scanned my Dad’s worsening navel hernia (to see when it might just explode?). I don’t think they told him anything about it (probably just stood about mumbling, “Hmm, yes, yes, interesting. Don’t you think that part looks like a horsey?”). But I’ll tell you what’s cute: My Mom and Dad have matching hernias. Hers, however, doesn’t hurt. His pains him increasingly they tell me.

But guess what you get with two stents and a hernia that portends DANGER? A TRIP TO DISNEYLAND!!! I kid you not.

As Shirleen does NOT get to go to Disneyland (staying home like OTHERS of us ) she pouted by heading from my Dad’s hospital room down to the Emergency Room to have a breathing treatment. This week she eschewed breathing (breathing well, anyway). She works at that hospital now and cannot seem to get enough of it.

Pretty in Pink

4 Oct 2007 In: Blood is Thicker..., Celebrate!

It’s sick and wrong, I know, but the children keep GROWING UP! Even my niephews suffer from this horrible condition.

Paisley – poor child (ACK! She’s a CHILD now) – turned TWO last Monday (October 1). I’m sure she’s very upset and will tell people that she’s “turning one for the second time.”
Paisley in Her 'Asses'

Paisley likes to wear her “asses” – her sun-“asses.” Hey – that’s what she calls them. I love that she’s an aspiring fashion maven; note that her “asses” are upside-down. Now that’s COOL.
Caught by the Camera for Once

I think it’s a shame that Paisley will be teased so horribly when she reaches school because of her hideous visage. Yes, the ugly stick really hit her hard. **Sigh.**

Cheese Wisdom

“The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”
— Willie Nelson

Monthly Archives

Category Archives

In Memory Of