I was reminded of the Heart Valve Journal since my cousin and best friend "Ozzie" (who had the same aortic valve replacement surgery as me) experienced serious setbacks. He had two strokes, his speech is impaired and been in and out of the hospital for several months now. For whatever reason his doctors could never get his blood levels to do what needed to be achieved. His coumadin levels were constantly being changed and never really stabilized. Ozzie is eight years older than I am which may not necessarily have anything to do with his situation. He continues with physical therapy and that seems to help some but he is deeply depressed - who wouldn't be depressed given his situation? I ask for your prayers for Oz.
I also started receiving emails about Fran Zilko and her circumstances. Fran was one of the first supporters of me through this blog as I was approaching my surgery. My prayers and support for Fran go out to her and her family too.
As for myself, I just turned 64 and continue to work and plan to keep working until I am seventy. One reason is I have for continued working is my current job as Coordinating Chaplain in a men's state prison in upstate NY. Something I've been doing now for the past 5 years. It is challenging work but I've never felt so alive in performing it compared to the other jobs I've held throughout my career.
So there you have it - a short update on my situation. If I shared everything with you folks you'd end up laughing / crying. So I will save that for a later post. In the meantime -
May God bless and keep you all in good health.
Keep on Laughing (and Rockin')
It is hard to believe but FIVE years ago I had my aortic valve replaced. Since that time Life continues to surprise me. I made significant changes in my career, celebrated 41 years of marriage with my wonderful wife Barbara, and continue to wonder where I will go or what I will do next. Since its been three years since my last post, I thought I would see how many email connections are still valid through this website. I hope everyone is doing well.
I'm back once again to celebrate my aniversary post valve replacement. It's been two years now and so far so good. I had a serious bout of Deja Vu a couple of weeks ago when my first cousin Dave had the same procedure done. He too suffured from arterial stenosis and had an artificial valve replacement done in the Guthrie Clinic at Robert Packard Hospital in Sayre, PA. He is doing quite well. Since his affliction was caused by a genetic defect like mine, we think we inherited all the bad heart genes from our grandmother's side of the family. What are you going to do? We had to inherit something since all the good looks genes were used up by other relatives.
Here's to another year of fun and excitment and I look forward to "checking in" again next year.
One year ago today I underwent surgery for Aortic Stenosis and had my mechanical valve installed. Just like Timex - "It's taken a licking but still keeps on ticking" - just ask my grandchildren. I'd like to say life has been simply wonderful since the operation, the truth is my life is just plain normal again. That's not a sad commentary - it just is. All of the good and bad things continue to happen as if I had no surgery at all. Let's see: Eight grandchildren now, 37 years of marriage, the dual losses of my best friend to pancreatic cancer and my step-father to coronary disease; settling in to a new job; my new ministry assignment and strokes of bad luck. All the normal rhythms of life.
A couple of days ago, I was in a car accident when an individual hit me from behind - not once but TWICE. Apparently the person felt hitting me once was not enough to get my attention. I ended up in the emergency room for about 10 hours lying on a backboard with a neck brace.
At first after the accident I wasn't going to go to the hospital. Then I stated to have back spasms and thought it more prudent to have it checked out. While in the ED and conversing with the doctor, I informed him of my upcoming surgical anniversary. He seemed puzzled at the notion and asked me how does one celebrate such an event. "Do you like go out and have a greasy cheeseburger or something?" I replied, "Hell no, I get down on my knees and thank God for being alive."
So that's where I am at these days. Thankful to God for being alive, thankful for the gifts of the surgeon's skilled hands, the caring nursing staff and all my supporters from my group of family, friends and HVJ. With that kind of support I'll be able to meet normal life head on!
February 4, 2011 Updating News you can use (well maybe)
Journal posted on February 4, 2011
33 weeks and counting.
It seems like eons ago since I published my fractured attempt at waxing poetic with my bit “‘Twas the Night before Surgery” at Christmastime. I asked for feedback and the survey results are in. I will quickly sum up the all the constructive criticism I received by quoting one of my dear friends. The advice was, “Don’t give up my day job.”
Other comments included:
“Too graphic for my taste”
“I didn’t catch all the jokes.”
“What kind of soap was that anyway?”
On the other hand I did receive quite a few positive comments of how much people enjoyed what I wrote at holiday time and was encouraged to go back to blogging with greater frequency.
Well, love or hate what I write about I decided to come back to the HVJ again. I can always find something to blather about. If it helps my brother and sister valve recipients that’s really what this forum is for. If anyone else receives enjoyment reading about my life’s musings, that makes me happy too.
State of the Heart Address:
I visited my cardiologist and primary care doc this week. It’s been 33 weeks since surgery so this would have been my belated 6 month check-up. The cardiologist was impressed with my weight loss and encouraged me to keep working on it. I’m in a holding pattern at the moment and haven’t lost any more than 70lbs. Now that the holidays are over I have to summon up the willpower and incentive and get back on track.
I’m an absolute mush when it comes to sweets. If I were to be tortured all it would take is a small piece of chocolate cheesecake and I would spill everything I knew and then some. Heck, I’d even spill made up secrets! Wave a good dark chocolate truffle under my nose and I’ll sit up and bark like a dog. You don’t even want to know what I’m capable of doing for homemade creampuffs. You should see me at parties . . .
I digress –
The good news is the artificial valve is working great and after a scheduled echocardiogram in August 2011, if all goes well; I’ll only need a yearly visit after that. At least that’s the plan.
I did ask about the occasional pain I still get at the surgery site. The cardiologist explained some people have slight to moderate pain for up to a year post surgery. In rare cases the pain stays longer. Let’s hope the odds are on my side for lessening of the discomfort.
I’ve settled in to taking the daily medication regimen. It’s almost to the point where my wife doesn’t have to ask if I took my pills anymore. I think I forget to take them subconsciously just so I can earn my wife’s ire. Nahhh, I can easily maintain that honor just by being me. I keep telling her I never promised her a rose garden. Maybe I should stop saying that? What do you think?
The extra special news from the last few weeks is my wife and I are grandparents again and again! Our daughter and son-in-law had their third child, another little boy.
Meanwhile two days after that miracle, our oldest son and his wife had a second girl. Enjoying two miracles of birth in one week is better than winning the lottery. That makes eight grandchildren for us now. Unbelievable!
My new job is going extremely well too. When I was hired I was given the task of spearheading a certification process by a national organization for our company. I am proud to say we achieved that goal in 4 months. Normally this process takes at least a year.
Life is good for now.
Until the next time,
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')
Peace and love to you all.
Hello everyone since my last login to the journal in August 2010 I have experienced a flurry of activity. It's been 6 months since surgery already. I finished cardiac rehab; lost 70 lbs; joined the YMCA; found a new job; learned that grandchildren 7 AND 8 are coming in January 2011; and been appointed to a new ministry assignment. I feel great! AND, none of my blogs are complete without something whimsical. I am including a little ditty I wrote and hope you enjoy it. If you do (or don't) let me know. Consider it a Holiday Gift from me to you and keep in your prayers those who are not with us and those facing upcoming surgery. My home email is at the end of the my composition.
THE NIGHT BEFORE SURGERY
(With sincere apologies to:
Clement Clarke Moore
or Henry Livingston)
'Twas the night before surgery, when all through the house,
Every creature was stirring, specifically my spouse;
The go bag was packed with compassion and care,
In hopes that clean skivvies were packed and be in there;
The pre-op paperwork was stashed in their respective files with dread,
With visions of leaving my insurance card at home danced in my head;
And mamma in her PJ’s and I in my gym shorts,
Had settled down for short night of sorts,
When out of the bathroom there arose such a splatter,
As I shaved my chest with the least amount of lather.
Away to the shower I flew like a flash,
As dry shaving my chest turned out to be more of a slash.
The clutching moon of my buttock cheeks looked like an interesting show,
As the sting of the special antibiotic soap reached the nether regions below,
When, what to my wondering mind should I fear,
But a set of personal railroad tracks into my chest they will sear,
I knew the surgeon was lively and quick,
As he promised to fix me up in an instant, with his procedures so slick.
More rapid than eagles his surgical staff they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Nurse Baker! Nurse Lancer! Her sister Nurse Shaker, now, Dr. Jones
The trusted gas passer,
On, Heart Lung Machine! on OR Techs! on, Catheters and Stitches!
To the top of the OR table! And the Monitors on the walls!
Now work away! work away! work away all!"
As clean dry bandages that before the whirlwind of activity fly,
When they meet with my chest cracked open they mount to the sky,
So up to the heavens my prayers, they flew,
To a benevolent God and his son Jesus too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard in my ears,
“Tom – time to wake up” You can’t sleep for years.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
The ICU staff came in my room with bound.
I was dressed all in tubes and machines, from head to foot,
The thought of keeping modestly covered soon became moot;
Batches of IVs were stacked on the Alaris pump,
The medications helped tremendously get over the painful hump.
On Dilaudid – Oh my eyes how they did twinkle! My dimples how merry!
My cheeks were like roses, my nose stuffed and red as a cherry!
My mouth was drawn up like a bow,
To accommodate the breathing tube I’ll have you know;
The stump of that tube I bit hard with my teeth,
And the oxygen encircled my head like a wreath;
I had a broad face and a distended big belly,
That shook, when I coughed like a bowlful of jelly.
I was chubby and plump, from the IV fluids they pumped,
And I laughed when I saw the catheter, but I won't be a frump.
My bride winked her eye and gave me a twist of her head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
The healthcare staff spoke not a word, but went straight to their work,
Tending to my needs; not thinking I’m a jerk,
And raising my thumb to signal OK aside of my bed,
And I giving a nod, my family chose;
To wish me well and bring me some clothes,
And away they all flew down the hall with speed and great flare,
To get me discharged, and home to my easy chair,
As I was leaving the hospital I expressed to the staff,
"Thank you for being there when I needed you most,
May God bless you all will be my New Year’s – “New Life” toast!
10 weeks Post-op and 4 weeks into rehab, time to catch up.
Journal posted on August 25, 2010
Where has all the time gone? I never thought I would find myself saying that sentence. My official “medical disability” period ends on Monday 8/30 and I’m OK to return to work.
Since I resigned my current position before surgery, I now have to concentrate on finding another means of employment. Not to worry, I’ve been through this before and I usually find something totally out of context or character to what I was doing in my last job.
That’s not to say I am not anxious or scared given the state of the economy. I am fearful just like everyone else. Several people have asked me if I knew about the impending heart problems prior to my resignation would I have still relinquished my job.
Even with 20/20 hindsight, the answer is still Yes! If I stayed in my present job, the pressures I felt would continue mounting and I’m convinced I would have worked myself to death. In retrospective discussions I would have logged on the minute I had access to my laptop and worked from home post surgery. I wouldn’t have paid the attention to my healing as required. I knew that would be the case because I purchased a new laptop prior to surgery just so I could stay connected while in the hospital. Fortunately for me, I couldn’t access the hospital’s Wi-Fi network and that brick–up-side the head feeling came over me. DUH!! This time it IS about you, dummy! Give it up! Let someone else carry the burden for once.
You see, I was instilled with a work ethic that pushes me even now to work very hard to reach my goals in life. The problem is, once I reach those goals I set newer loftier goals and take it as a personal challenge to meet or exceed the new standard. Consequently I end up in a never ending cycle.
God help our children! They seemed to have inherited the overachiever gene in their DNA. To make matters worse, their mom has the same gene! They are doomed to a life of hard work and commitment.
So as not to evoke a pity party for myself, I am looking forward to something new. I enjoy and welcome change. Being part of something new gets the creative juices flowing again. Learning new skills and another industry is exciting to me. So I continue my job search, networking with others and writing resumes. Not to worry, I do play the resume thing straight forward. The offbeat humor comes out only after being hired.
I have to say a little something about rehab. After 4 weeks, I have met and befriended several of my fellow rehabbers. Yes, all of them have very unique personalities. I’ve even accepted Mave as she continues to bellyache and cuss through her routines.
One highlight is the weekly classes on Wednesdays to learn about different aspects of heart disease. Last week we learned about enduring the emotional ups and downs of our recovery. This section included discussions around engaging in sexual relations post heart surgery. All I can say is there are some very randy individuals out there especially when it comes to finding the right positions so as not to place any strain on the chest. YIKES!
I have kept up with yard work around the house and spread 6 yards of top soil into the spot where the old pool used to be; installed new laundry close posts; corrected the mailbox height (I received a ticket from the post office), edged my sidewalks and driveway; I have two small trees to fell and some light masonry work to do on the house foundation. Oh yes and in between, I write and send out more resumes.
So that’s my story for now and I’m sticking to it. I will be taking my wife to another outdoor concert this weekend to see the band Foreigner and then we will swing by and visit our son and his family. We are looking forward to the time away.
Until the next time,
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')
Peace and love to you all.
And now, something completely different . . . Rehab!
Journal posted on August 6, 2010
Seven weeks post-op and as promised, I alerted everyone that I would find new material to write about once I begin Cardiac Rehab. Much to my delight, my assumption was true. I reported for duty on Tuesday for the intake process, Wednesday was my first experience with actual exercising and today I finished my first week of exercise.
My very first observation was my Band of Brothers and Sisters kicked my butt and put me on report for being incapable of meeting the exercise standards. Now these were no young powerhouses. Although many were my senior in age a lot of them had mastered the exercise shtick and put me to shame.
Oh Goody, nothing like being embarrassed by your peers in your first week of getting healthy again. I figure this is payback for all the pizzas, chicken wings, onion rings, and “Gut Buster” submarine (hero, torpedo, grinder etc.) sandwiches I ate in my life. This is really going to be a chore AND it comes with a $20 co-pay each time I go for the next 8 weeks, I couldn’t be happier. Mea Culpa! Mea Culpa!
The next thing I noticed was the stare. Maybe it was my imagination and being so self conscious about exercising. Yet, in the midst of my warm up and cool down exercises I swear I caught people glaring at me as I switched positions with the exercises. Why? Who knows? Maybe my resemblance to Chris Farley is piquing their interest and they are waiting for me to do my “Fat Guy in a Little Coat” imitation. If it’s not that then maybe I am amazing them that I can move my big butt-a-carriage around with grace and aplomb. Even elephants can dance . . .
In case you hadn’t figured me out yet, there is only one thing I am allergic to and that is exercise. Unfortunately there is no vaccine for that ailment and I have to be serious about this to insure I am around for awhile to see my grandchildren grow up.
After today, I felt better about the whole ordeal. I actually enjoyed the experience. I think because I had a chance to be a part of the playfully serious banter in the collegial atmosphere post exercise cool down period. I did a meet and greet of sorts with some of my comrades and they seemed to accept me (I hope).
On the first day of exercise I met a women I’ll call Mave. She is a salty individual who is free with her language. That is not an issue for me as I never claimed to be a choir boy. However the selected expletives she uses places the exact amount of emphasis in her telling of personal experiences. The expletives added a certain amount of zing to her stories giving them a high level of believability.
Before I proceed, I learned something immediately. Everyone listening to Mave either had a great experience or a bad one. There is no middle ground with heart surgery. I feel I had a great experience. Naturally, Mave’s experience was the worst of the worst.
Mave explained that she had doctors from cultures that treated women as second class citizens (her words). As you can imagine Mave was not the kind of a person to stand for that kind of treatment. She took offense to whenever a doctor came in to check on her and they always addressed her husband and not her directly. She hated that the doctors would talk about her condition to her husband as if she didn’t exist. She would tell the docs out loud, “Hey! Talk to me &*$%#@! I am laying right here in the &*$%#@ bed! I am the &*$%#@ patient not him!” Insert your own expletives.
By the second day of being treated so rudely she decided she was going to give those &*$%#@ doctors a piece of her mind.
Just by happenstance, two of her docs must have been rounding together that day as they both entered her room together. Maybe it was more of a defensive move on their part than the convenience of rounding together given Mave’s previous outburst the day before.
Mave spied them both and motioned for the two of them to come closer to the bed. Without thinking they did. All of a sudden when both docs got within arm’s reach Mave throws out her hands, simultaneously grabbing both their ties at once and pulled them both to within inches of her face and says to them, “Listen you SOB’s the next time you decide to talk about my condition in front of me and not with me so help me God I will get out of this bed and strangle you both!”
Like I’ve said before you can’t make this stuff up. Reality is stranger than fiction.
After we stopped laughing some of the remaining individuals relayed what we had done to our hearts. I didn’t have any stents inserted so that eliminated me from the “Stent Club”. That’s OK, I’m positive I don’t want to be a member of that group anytime soon.
All in all the first week was really fine. Stay tuned for more reported banter from my comrades and I will go over the various machines I’ve used so far. Trust me they put any medieval torture chamber to shame.
Last week’s concern about the irregular heartbeat turned out OK after all. After the wearing of a heart monitor, echocardiogram and follow-up doctor’s visits I’ve been given a clean bill of health. It was explained as an anomaly – one of those things that just happen on occasion after major surgery. We did adjust two medications to higher levels and that helped tremendously. My cardiologist doesn’t want to see me for 6 months and my primary care doc won’t see me again for 3 months.
What that means is I’m back on the schedule for joining cardiac rehab next Tuesday and I promise I’ll have more material to write about. Please stay tuned as I enter the next stage of hilarious high jinks and indignation in my otherwise joyful life.
My valve Jude happily continues to tick away with a steady rhythm. Not quite the rock n’ roll back beat I’m accustomed to but steady enough for my grandchildren to call me “Tick–Tock Cramps”. As much as it sounds like a digestive affliction –it is still cute. I’ll just add it to my other monikers of G-Daddy, Gramps, and G-shizzle, and Hey You – Old Guy (I don’t get any respect).
I’ve taken to reading a lot more and don’t even turn on the television anymore until Keith Oberman comes on at 8:00 PM. No FOX Noise in this house.
I just finished reading Bill Maher’s “New Rules”, started reading “Unholy Popes” by Bob Curran; I’m part way through a Biography of The Three Stooges, John Madden’s, “A Knee is as Good as Two feet” and the for good measure, “The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.” Now that is a fairly eclectic list of reading material. No wonder I have a warped sense of humor.
I’m feeling great otherwise and actually looking forward to working on improving my lifestyle choices relative to food and exercise. Until next time, take care everyone.
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')
Peace and love to you all.
Hello everyone, I just found out today I am experiencing a bit of a setback.
My heart Valve Jude and I are experiencing an irregular heartbeat – A-Fib. I was conscious or it before and reported it to my Cardiologist at my last appointment. He did an EKG and listened intently through his stethoscope to see if he could detect it. Unfortunately the EKG or he listening didn’t produce any A-Fib sounds. I had A-Fib immediately after surgery and was treated with medication to correct it and it went away.
I certainly scared the life out of my wife and the Visiting Nurse Service after my remote vital signs machine started registering a heart rate in the thirties. The strange part is I have no other symptoms that normally go with an irregular heartbeat. No shortness of breath, no dizziness, or feeling faint. Everyone started to be very concerned and made sure I had my cell phone with me to call 911 at the first signs of any of those symptoms. You think I should be worried too?
During the Visiting Nurse’s visit yesterday she detected the backbeat being played by my mechanical valve and contacted my cardiologist. His office asked me to come in today to have a halter heart monitor attached to my body which I did early this morning. The Monitor is will be my newest, “bestest” buddy for the next 24 hours along with a diary to track the times of activities that change my heart rate.
It’s a real treat being able to hear the clicking of the mechanical valve. If it changes in the consistency I hear it in my inner ear.
Hopefully it will show I need a medication adjustment (?).
The resulting issue is I can’t start rehab now and I have to wait for the cardiologist’s approval once more. I’ll find out next Thursday when I return to his office for the results.
Having the leads and monitor installed was still humorous.
First they had to shave my chest – again. I told the nurse this was a setback by itself since my reverse Mohawk from surgery was just starting to fill in quite nicely. She mentioned that she noticed that and still preceded to dry shave my chest.
Then the nurse had to “abrade” me. Wow - A new medical term for me. I did not know what it meant so I asked her what that means. It sounded so medieval i.e. after we put you on the rack for awhile then we will ABRADE you.
The nurse said no problem – it means the skin surface where the electrodes are to be attached has to be scraped up a little to insure the electrodes have a good contact.
Immediately in my mind I had visions of heavy grit sandpaper being produced to sand me down like an 8th grade wood shop project. But they wouldn’t use that . . .
The nurse broke out a small piece of a Brown Scotchbrite scrubbing pad and proceeded to do her worst. She sanded me up like an antique rusty car being restored.
Mind you after open heart surgery you don’t want anything or anyone touching your chest area and here is this short woman, barely 5 feet tall, reaching up to “rough me up”. I immediately wanted to beg her forgiveness for all the bad things I ever did in my life. I was trapped as I stood there holding up my T-Shirt with both hands. I had no choice but to surrender.
Of course I had to be macho and uttered something in the lowest possible voice I could muster and asked her, “Gee, can I take that home with me? I have a few pots and pans that could use some extra scrubbing.” She laughed out loud but I don’t think it was at my attempt of bravado (and funny) – I think it was because my voice came out in a high pitched pre-pubescent tone which made her laugh.
Oh great – she’s done! Now for the electrodes.
The nurse couldn’t let it go however; she had to use some kind of Super Glue to make the electrodes stick to my skin. God forbid one of those puppies come loose.
It’s hard to keep the monitor hidden too. I thought for sure when I went into Lowes this afternoon I was going to be accused of shoplifting. That moderate bulge on my left side certainly appears as if I stashed a small box of nails under my shirt. Luckily that didn’t happen and I was free to move around the store.
So until tomorrow my heart monitor and I are one. Just one more indignity to add to the list.
Until next time -
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')
Peace and love to you all.
Hello everyone – I visited the surgeon’s office today and they gave me my walking papers – meaning I don’t have to see them again unless something out of the ordinary happens. There isn’t any anticipation that this will happen, but walking papers also means I have to walk, and walk, and walk some more. That seems ironic since I was also given permission to drive again. Maybe I can walk a little then drive a little? Or maybe I can drive to areas conducive to walking? Probably not, I did promise to behave myself.
I am still in awe of the progress as tomorrow is only 4 weeks post-op.
Next is cardiac rehab. The arrangements are being made for me to join a facility closer to our home. My children forced me to buy some decent walking / training shoes which I did after my doctor’s appointment today. Quite frankly I didn’t want to spend the money. However, I succumbed to their pressure and did as I was told.
I may have my walking papers but apparently that doesn’t give me control over my actions.
You know what else this means? Since I can drive I can mow lawn again using my favorite toy. YEA!!!! I will wait one more week and have it cut by the professionals. That assures the kinfolk I am not overdoing it.
I am still working with the doctors to even out my Coumadin levels and that will take some time.
The constant ticking of my mechanical valve is as familiar to me now as the voice of a good friend. You know the kind of voice I’m speaking of - it is the kind of voice you immediately recognize even when coming from the din of a crowded room.
Being that my valve has become an old friend I thought it appropriate to humanize it and give it a name.
Therefore its name will be “Jude”. I chose that name for a many reasons.
The first reason is the valve is a model 25AGFN-756 made by St. Jude Medical.
The second reason is St. Jude is the Patron Saint of Desperate Cases and Lost Causes. I’ve been known to qualify under those parameters.
The last reason is I identify with the lyrics from the Beatles song “Hey Jude”:
“Hey Jude, don’t make it bad. Take a sad song and make it better . . .”
To me that’s the fantastic result of this entire endeavor. Being able to recognize those who have it bad and that we have the ability to make it better.
And so to my HJV co-bloggers and to everyone else who has followed me through this ordeal thank you for your inspiration, empathy, sharing of emotions and ideas that have been so supportive for me throughout Phase 1.
I’ll be taking a break from blogging for a little while until Phase 2 of Cardiac Rehab starts. That promises to be a hoot! There’s nothing funnier than a Big Guy trying to exercise. Imagine Chris Farley from the movie “Tommy Boy” doing his fat guy in a little coat routine. That will be me!
As usual until next time -
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')
Peace and love to you all.
3 weeks Post-OP. “We are having a tropical heat wave."
Journal posted on July 8, 2010
Today is 3 weeks post-op from the surgery and it is hard to believe. I still marvel at the speed, efficiency, and skills needed that made it all possible.
To celebrate Upstate New York is now officially blessed by the National Weather Service as being in a heat wave. For 4 days in a row we have reached temperatures between 90+ and 100+ degrees. It has been several years since the last time we had an official heat wave. I am trying not to complain since our summers seemingly too short. In two months time we’ll be grumbling again about how cold it’s become. The close proximity of Lake Ontario impacts the weather patterns greatly. A popular axiom around the area is if you don’t like the Rochester weather just wait 15 minutes and it will change. Now that’s more perception than reality but it’s a constant topic everyone in the area collectively whines about. There is an infirmity nicknamed Rochester Rhinitis that constantly wreaks havoc with individuals’ sinuses. It’s a community building thing where all of us complain about the topic often and loudly.
I discovered over the last three weeks that my personal whining has somewhat subsided. This ordeal has shown me that it is the positive aspects of life that need my attention and not to waste my energy on the negative. Especially those things I have no control over. Trust is the word that comes to mind as we have to trust in our health care providers and support systems to see us through. I can’t tell you how tough that has been for me. I live up to my name and am among the original doubting Thomas’s. You would think I was from Missouri as I constantly ask people to back up what they’re saying with proof and top that off with a healthy (albeit respectful) skepticism of authority – well you get the picture – inquiring minds want to know.
Several friends from work have stopped by the house this week. 1 couple, Nancy and Peter, brought me a sign to put up over my room that says “The Man Cave”. I laughed so hard when they gave it to me I thought I popped a stitch. It was well worth the laugh.
My friend Bob and his new wife Debbie stopped by to say hello. They were married on July 4th and because of the travel I couldn’t attend. They were very generous to stop and visit.
My in-laws from Greensboro, NC stayed with us this week and it is very nice to have them here.
Blessings all around have been my experience this week and I am one grateful person. I want to share these blessing with my peers on HJV and wish all of you good health, and a great journey on the road to recovery.
Having said that, I feel obligated to write something funny. If I didn’t I would be remiss in my mission to bring a smile to you. I hope you like this it is a true story:
During my hospital stay part of the post-op training included education by a hospital pharmacist about the gang of medicines to be taken after the procedure.
The young woman entered my room introduced herself and one of the hospital pharmacists and that her name was so and so. She wanted to bring me up to speed on the medications I’ll be taking. I said fine and helped her correctly pronounce my last name. I told her my last name Schrage rhymes with Froggie and as long as she remembered that she would be fine. The young pharmacist apologized profusely for bungling my last name. I told not to worry about it. I was born with the name and was used to people fracturing it. I also ask her to please do not call me ‘Mister” as that refers to my father and to please use my first name Tom.
To that request she responded. “OK Mr. Schrage”
Now this young lady was no slouch. She in fact was a PharmD. That means she has her doctorate in pharmacology. But hell she wasn’t as old as my own daughter. I thought maybe I should go by Mr. Schrage.
Mind you, with all comedians, half the joke is the set-up; the miss direction that keeps people off balance so that don’t know what’s about to hit them. I successfully did that with the name thing.
As a credit to her she proceeded to tell me in earnest all about the drugs I’ll be taking highlighting the Coumadin and the Vitamin K overload related to green leafy vegetables and so on. She did an excellent job.
Then she asked me, “Do you have any questions?”
I could have played it straight as I didn’t want to embarrass this young professional who really knew her stuff (mind you at this time I was in a double room and my older roommate was in the next bed). I felt one angel on one shoulder encouraging me to leave the poor thing alone; on the other shoulder my guardian devil encouraged me to go for it as he provided the question to ask in my head.
It’s amazing how much soul searching one can do in a split second. I must admit the devil won out this time. It was too good to pass up, the set up was perfect!
“Go for it!” the little devil said. “Go for it!”
Succumbing to the pressure and intense twisting of my arm by my guardian devil I asked the only question I could. Are you ready for it?
I found myself asking her, “Will I be able to play the violin?”
Next thing I know, my roommate breaks out in loud guffaws (so much for HIPPA Rules). My wife damn near slaps me. My roommate’s wife says out loud “Oh Lord, you and my husband will be great roomies!” All the while I am stifling back laughter.
Then without a second thought the pharmacist says “Of course you’ll be able to play the violin – these drugs will not impede that activity.”
And of course I finished the shtick with the closing line, “Funny I was never able to play it before.”
By this time everyone in the room couldn’t contain themselves. The poor young pharmacist didn’t know what happened to her. I quickly recovered and apologized profusely for setting her up as my straight person. I explained she was way too young to know that joke and I apologized again. I told her if it makes her feel better she has my permission to go back and tell the rest of the pharmacy employees about the wise guy that Mr. Froggie guy is in Room xxxx.
I apologized again but the timing the set-up and deliver was too perfect.
It wasn’t long after that incident the staff moved me to a private room. The planning manager of the unit was a friend of mine from my hospital who moved to this hospital. She explained the move as a professional courtesy and I was very appreciative. Personally I think they probably got word from the pharmacist about me and figured best to put him in a room where he can be a funny guy all by himself.
As usual until next time -
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')
Peace and love to you all.
Good afternoon everyone and Happy 4th of July Weekend. The weather here in upstate NY is absolutely perfect today. The blue skies, low humidity, and temps in the eighties are a real bonus for us.
Lots of activity happening at the Schrage homestead today. The weekend started yesterday with relatives from my wife’s side of the family coming to upstate NY to attend the bridal shower of my wife’s niece who is being married in October. My Brother and Sister–in-law brought me a “care package” of BBQ ribs from Prissy Polly’s in North Carolina and cured my fix for ribs and sauce. They were mindful to not overdue the quantity.
Accompanying them is their son Adam and his wife Sarah. Adam is not only my nephew, but also our godson. I co-presided at their wedding one year ago and it is great to see them.
They also graced me with a Prissy Polly’s T-Shirt which I will wear with honor. All I can say is God bless them! I am good to go for now.
However the taste of BBQ still lingers. Have no fear – the annual Rochester, NY Ribs and Blues festival is happening next week. If I feel up to it I may try to make a brief visit. That probably is wishful thinking though. I did three laps around the driveway and a trip to the mail box so far today (to pick up the newspaper) and I was still winded. I’ve got to step up the physical activity. Slow and steady wins the race.
Health wise my O2 Sats were back in line this morning upon waking up. Being a sleep apnea sufferer for years I changed sleeping position using several pillows to create a reclined position instead of laying flat. I can really feel the difference too. No headache to deal with either. Waking up with a headache was always a bummer – it is like having a hangover without the partying the night before. Talk about being cheated!
This morning my wife and her three sisters got together for a long overdue get together. I was well prepared with my noise cancelling headphones and back-up ear plugs. I don’t want to denigrate any of them because I love them all dearly. However after 36 years of being part of this family the noise level at family get-togethers just gets louder and louder. I think as we all get older our hearing ability becomes limited which forces the decibel level to increase which creates a never ending upward spiral of volume. Either that or we indoctrinated the children with the same behavior (“Say it ain’t so – Joe!”) or there are simply more of us to perpetuate the legend of the “Loud Family.” I swear that is where Saturday Night Live got the idea from originally.
If you can you imagine being strapped to the underbelly of a B52 as it takes off full throttle - that’s the normal small gathering sound level.
Tomorrow – we are having a family picnic in the town park pavilion next door. Several are bound to bring their favorite deck of Euchre cards. When that takes place its equivalent to the whole fleet of B52s doing a simultaneous launch.
My in-laws are Euchre freaks. While playing the volume created by the atmosphere of “jaw jacking” one another outdoes any normal conversation fueled by their off the charts competitiveness. The only way you know you had a great time is if you walk away from the function after losing only half your voice. I generally bow out of the competition preferring to watch from a distance – which is usually from 50 yards away – and not miss a thing.
This is the first large gathering of family since my surgery and you know what? In spite of my tongue and cheek (but true) description above it feels very good to see everyone and have their support. I did have to take a pain pill today because of all the laughing, but that is a very, very small price to pay. I look forward to the family gathering tomorrow.
Oh my God! I can’t believe I just said that. Does Heart Valve Surgery have that profound of an impact? I guess it does. WOW! I am dumbfounded!
I guess the message of today’s post is the importance of family.
My father, Bernie, was a wise man (not a wise guy like his son). As such I couldn’t help but remember one of his “isms” today. You could say this was “Bernie-ism #1.” He used to tell my brother and sisters and I that family comes first above all else but also remember that no family is perfect. Just keep working at being family during good and bad times. I can honestly say that came to fruition for me this weekend and how blessed I am for not only my own family but of my wife’s family as well.
Enjoy the weekend.
Until next time
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')
Peace and love to you all.
It is hard to believe that two weeks have passed since the surgery. These last several days included two doctors’ visits, 2 visiting nurse visits, and best of all Barb and I celebrating our 36th Wedding Anniversary.
The doctor’s visits were with the cardiologist and my primary care doctor. Both were pleased with my progress and made just very slight changes in medications to adjust for the fluid buildup in my lower legs.
I obtained a copy of the surgeon’s report to find out what the ultimate diagnosis was for me. It reads: “Patient had a bicuspid, heavily calcified, critically stenotic and moderately insufficient valve.” It goes to prove that I am true to my personality in that I never do anything half way. It’s full tilt or nothing.
My O2 Sats have been borderline acceptable over the last couple of mornings upon awaking. I am relinquishing my man cave tonight to sleep in a real bed to see if that makes a difference tomorrow morning.
Visiting Nurse Service installed the slickest remote device in our home that measures my vitals each morning at 7:00 AM. Of course I have to be awake and hooked up to it or it yells at me! God Bless technology!
I continue to receive well wishes from individuals who are just finding out about my recent surgery. This is a wonderful experience by itself. Some individuals I haven’t heard from in years. It is nice to know I’m still remembered in spite of my offbeat humor and bizarre behavior.
On our anniversary my wife made us a light steak dinner which was very nice. It was a good place to be and be able to enjoy it together.
Now – for the contest of what the shadow image is on my chest. A lot of you were mystified while others were on the mark. Among the entries were a hippopotamus, chimpanzee, orangutan, and one vote for the “Great Ape of Kodak”.
My daughter in-law explained what caused it. Yes – the “eyes” are where the drainage tubes were inserted into my chest cavity.
I like the hippopotamus entry because it shows out of the box thinking. This family actually discussed it at dinner time and their consensus was a hippo – they even named it “Brett Michaels.” I thought that was hilarious.
For those of you who saw a chimp or orangutan – you are very close.
However – the winner is my buddy Dale who referenced the Great Ape.
You see, part of my early repertoire of bizarre behavior was to imitate a gorilla and chase people around in my work area at Kodak. I scared the life out of some of the older workers while we young bucks would laugh at them. I wouldn’t hesitate to jump up on tables, countertops or chairs imitating a gorilla to get a rise out of someone especially if I thought they needed a pick me up.
Some people look at me now and fail to see that kind of behavior coming from me ever in my life. Well – you can never judge a book by its cover and for us introverted / silent types still waters run deep.
So there you have it - another revelation from me to you. You can file it under the “you had to be there” to enjoy those moments, yet as you can see I have witnesses. I am guilty as charged.
Thank you all for playing along. This Blog continues to be a valuable link to the world for me regardless of my silly stories and stupid antics.
Until next time.
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')
Peace and love to you all.
I apologize for not posting for the last several days. I’ve been going through a flurry of activity between visiting with friends and family at home, answering phone calls and making arrangements to cover other tasks I am sidelined from performing. In addition I have doctor’s appointments over the next couple of days which will be my first trips out of the house since coming home last Monday.
Yesterday I hired a gentleman to cut my lawn so my wife and children won’t have to be bothered with that task. I referenced before in this blog how much I enjoy cutting grass and its therapeutic value for me. It takes me 5 ½ hours to cut our lawn. In fact my dream job would be to be one of the state highway employees who spend the summers mowing the median strips of grass on the highways. Give me my iPod, a comfortable set of noise cancelling headphones, an eclectic set of music or books on tape and I am lost in my own introverted world.
Speaking of music – today I felt like listening to 80’s Big Hair genre bands. That style of music is something my daughter Beth and I share a deep appreciation of. There is an entire channel called Hair Nation on XM Radio to serve that need when I need to reacquaint myself with driving metal and pounding rhythm. In fact my idea of a family outing was a Van Halen concert several years ago at the local Blue Cross Arena.
Rock on dudes!
The reason I entitled this entry as “Taking Inventory” is I seem to be doing a lot of that. As a quality control professional I believe that what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done. The inventory follows below.
First Category: Health Status
Weight - being charted daily and back to pre-op tonnage. No more French-fries covered in cheese and bacon. No more chicken wings and blue cheese. No more “garbage plates” – God help me!
Now before you all say to yourselves, “Jee wiz – no wonder the guy had heart trouble!” I have to tell you my cholesterol levels are consistently in the 160 range. Call it “Tommy’s Revenge.” Na ne, Na ne, Boo-Boo to you.
Blood pressure – Normal using medications (and as long as certain people leave me alone). That was the case before surgery.
O2 Sat –a bit worrisome. Will be setting up a remote reporting process through Visiting Nurse Service to monitor. Oh-Oh I’m so busted. I have to be true to my breathing exercises and their prescribed regimen.
Stamina – staying within prescribed parameters. Especially since the Visiting Nurse whacked me up side my head for doing too much already.
Pain level – I was fine using minimal pain relief until this last weekend when I had to ramp up the pills a bit. I finally figured out that the additional pain was attributed to watching Jay and Silent Bob movies and couldn’t stop laughing. Even funnier was recalling how my sons imitate these guys. Yes, my sons and I share a testosterone laden, sophomoric, juvenile, locker room sense of humor. I never said we were perfect – just real.
Regardless, Jay and Silent Bob should put a Health Advisory on their films. Warning: This material is so funny it may cause aggravation to anyone post Cardio-thoracic surgery.
Second (and most Important) Category – W.A.I. Measurement.
The W.A.I is the Wise Ass Index. It’s the measure of my ability to push the envelope to the point where people respond with, “He’s such a wise ass!” It’s a lagging indicator because most people don’t express this to me personally. They usually express their disdain about me to someone else first.
Sometimes this is confused with the S.A.I. measure which is the Smart Ass Index. I consider this a leading indicator since the response of “Smart Ass!” or other expletive deleted is elicited immediately after a comment or joke I make. If I’m successful I break up the room in laughter. My Mother used that term with me all the time, God rest her soul!
I consider my W.A.I. measure to around 4.5 out of 10. I am way off my feed since surgery and look forward to getting back to a 7 or 7.5. Any measures higher than that just makes you cruel and obnoxious which is never my intent. Trust me I take as good as I give. By some standards I’m a real cream puff.
I added more photos to the blog site one of which is titled “My New Friend”. Can you guess what that is a picture of? It’s not quite as dramatic as seeing a Holy Image in a potato chip but it appeared on my chest. What can I say? Let me know what you think the image is and I’ll post the results and compare it with what I see.
I also added some more post-op photos. One is titled “Immediately After Surgery.” It shows me in all my glory still attached to every machine / IV / etc. Believe it or not I am conscious as I’m giving a “Thumbs Up” sign. I include this as public service message for those who may wonder what to expect. Heck I wanted to see what I looked like. Those aren’t my real “Guns”. Instead I was extremely bloated from all the IV fluids. Those will be my real guns after rehab – What do you think?
I’ll stop here as I have to prepare for my first Doctor’s visit this afternoon. Wishing everyone a great day until my next entry.
By the way if you disagree in my self-score on the W.A.I. I will take that as feedback too.
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')
Peace and love to you all.
I think I went too far this time. I scared my wife off.
I don’t think it had anything to do with the topic of the beverage refrigerator coming into the man cave either. At least I hope it wasn’t related.
I attempted to reach a consensus between us through discussion, thoughtful listening, and proper constructive feedback. It’s the same process I suggest to all couples I counsel before marriage.
It was time to practice what I preach.
Personally I can’t stand the word compromise. Compromising implies someone had to give something up to make someone else happy. Consensus on the other hand means that each person in the discussion can live with the final decision and not be taken advantage of or put down upon. So I offered the following compromise.
I suggested I use the small Styrofoam Harris-Teeter Market cooler that brought home Prissy Polly’s BBQ from North Carolina, to store my seltzer at my chair side using reusable ice packs to keep them cold.
She said, “Yes, she can live with that.”
I’m sorry honey, my selective hearing kicked in for a moment, what was your answer again?
OH HAPPY DAYS!
Did you hear them? The heavenly hosts began singing in wondrous splendor. Oh sing you angelic choirs! Sing the entire universe and rejoice in the consensus we reached. I can have a beverage cooler in my man cave. My life is now complete! I was in the middle of my Happy Dance when. . .
“What was that Honey?”
“There is one added condition? What is that?” I inquired.
The usual conditions remained. I would be responsible for replenishing my own supplies including a new condition – I also had to remove the empty bottles for recycling. I thought, “OK that’s reasonable.” I did master the task of picking up my dirty socks so the bottles wouldn’t be that big of a deal. The recycle bin is three more steps away from the dirty laundry collection basket. Heck, I could even work it into my exercise regimen.
We were both so proud of our accomplishment.
My wife then mentioned it was time to go the post office box to pick-up the mail and said she would be back shortly. I said great.
Well – it’s normally a 15 minute task. Barb left and didn’t return after 30 minutes; then 45 minutes; then it became an hour.
“Oh no!” I thought. I really did it this time. She got so tired of my nagging about the stupid man cave and the beverage refrigerator I began thinking the worst. I scared her off never to return. Her objections of the fridge finally took the last drop of patience she had. I outsmarted myself. What will I do?
About 75 minutes into her absence I heard the car pull in the driveway and the rustle of plastic shopping bags as she came into the back door. She went to the supermarket to get a few things.
Don’t get me wrong I was ecstatic over her return, but the rustle of plastic shopping bags breeds angst for me.
Guys understand this more than women I suppose but the question has to be asked.
Why does your significant other’s love for you manifest itself by asking us to eat food that will make us “better”? Things like Stir Fry Walnuts and Kelp with cheese sauce? How about ground turkey sausage flavored with Maple Syrup? Then there is always the vegetable medley concoctions flavored with Angus beef gravy?
Just as I was about to brace myself for whatever Health Food she purchased, there sitting on the kitchen table was a warm roast beef on a wick sandwich, made fresh about 10 minutes ago. She said I looked like I could use a pick-me up. Then she proceeded to list all of the items she purchased that are among my favorite things. There was Frosted Flakes and fresh watermelon and oranges to name a few.
One of the items we haven’t reached consensus on is my future eating habits. Obviously I have to address that issue. My stubbornness to even talk about it makes it so I don’t want to be bothered with the discussion. Yet here is my wife meeting me in the middle reaching a consensus for the both of us.
"We’ll get started by moderating the portions of what you like to eat and work from there" she said.
I realize the finality of having to do something as I don’t have the choice anymore.
So, to my Barbara, once again you are the beacon of rationality. If, I don’t live up to the needs of the eating healthy, I ask for forgiveness and for your continued patience once again.
These are not the drugs talking.
The weather turned nice again now I can do my second lap around the driveway.
Until tomorrow everyone have a great day!
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')
Peace and love to you all.
Today’s report is coming into HVJ after my being “Imbedded” for 4.5 Days with the staff and Crew of the Peri-Operative Surgical Team, their anesthesiologists, Cardiothoracic ICU and Cardiac Step-down Units of Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY from 6-17-2010 through 6-21-2010.
I realize how easy it is to emotionally gush over the people involved in contributing to a personally life transition. Yes, statistically, this procedure has a great success rate so my risks factors were relatively low when combined with the other health markers in my life. However – the statistics be damned when it is your chest being cracked open.
Typically when people ask me for referrals I don’t provide them without this caveat, “I will share with you who took care of me and what they did, but I cannot guarantee the same will happen for you.”
In my case I am going to make an exception. Everything at the Strong / U of R –Including the ala carte food service was OUTSTANDING.
You lived up to and surpassed my expectations for the tag line you use in your advertising.
Strong Memorial Hospital of the University of Rochester practices:
Medicine of the Highest Order!
Thank you- I hope I receive a Press Ganey Survey where I will be more specific in my feedback.
Now that the procedure is over I can put to good use all the fine advice and suggestions provided by the HVJ Membership.
I’m doing OK. The surgery was a success as I was under the knife for only 3 hours.
I decided it is time to get off my dead derrière and start answering my email. I cannot believe how much energy this has taken out of me. The pain has been a bit severe at times but is being handled nicely by the pain pills.
I find when the hallucinations stop it’s time for another dose. I had to stop telling my wife I didn’t mind having a cat In the house but 6 were too many. She just shakes her head and says to me what a putz you are! You know we don’t have 6 cats in the house. Concentrate on the six woodland sprites they seem to have taken over you man cave!
Waking myself up from naps repeating the conversations of the people in my inner vicodin mind fueled by has been an absolute hoot. And as an added bonus I think I am open and more susceptible to seeing shadow people now.
If you know what these beings are you must be A Coast to Coast Fan with George Noory and Art Bell.
The mechanical valve keeps ticking away and lulls me to sleep at night.
You know I just remembered I have two model fire engines I might just start to work on. Two more projects I wanted to find time for. Now I have it.
I’ve been sufficiently reminded by everyone to behave myself and follow instructions. I promised so many people that my promises have promises.
Well, back to staying hydrated and thanks to all of you for tour support and love. Many personal thanks go to my wife Barbara who has run with the torch for the last several days.
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')
Peace and love to you all.
Good evening everyone,
Tom not quite up to journaling tonight. Finally, he is eating a little something and talking back. Guess he is better.
The visiting nurse came late this afternoon. At which point I left the room per some good advice of a friend (Leslie). I needed to be the wife not the nurse. Proved to be the best advice of the day.
Tom was back to his old sense of humor...the nurse was getting a medical history and she made the mistake of asking if Tom had any trouble with his hearing. To which he said "what?" Then Tom said I am sure you have heard that response before. They then had a conversation about selective hearing.
The visiting nurse reinterated all the things he needs to be doing: coughing and deep breathing, walking the recommeded times per day, & various restrictions.
This time it was not me saying it but the independant third party.
Tonight he must feel better as he is watching a Star Trek movie. Guess we are well on our way to living long and prospering... Sorry i just could not resist.
He has not been up to reading the guestbook yet. He passed by the computer today and said:" Wow 150 enteries... I have got some reading to do." So i know that soon he will be reading all your many words of encourgament. Watch out when he starts journaling again.
Take care. This as been such a comforting theapy for me.
We arrived home this afternoon around 1215. Had a list of do's and don'ts but a wonderful nurse who explained eveything. Had 3 MD apptointments to make for the next several weeks. Let the recovery begin!!
I will enter once more for Tom this evening. He is just tired out from the day's events. He is comfortable and trying to get situated. I have heart healthy beef stew a brewing and he is not even interested. I think all the events of the last several days has him out of sorts.
I made a trip to the pharmacy and signed the screen to pick up his drugs. I almost forgot to swipe the debit card through to pay for the medications. Guess it has been a long day for all of us!!!
Just filled his mediset for medications for the next 5 days. Thought this would help us keep track.
I know that it will take a few days for him to get his routine back.
Sure is great to have him home
Tom was able to visit with two our children today. I watched our 3 year old, 11 month old and 10 month old grandchilren while the kids visited. Tom was able to enjoy all his Father's day cards plus drawings from the grandchilren in Binghamton. Today Tom had the phone connected so he could talk to son, daughter-in -law and grandkids in Binghamton. Plus he just was not up to talking on the phone until today. He also had the TV hooked up in hopes of catching a Yankee Baseball game.
He still has the pacing wires in which will be removed tomorrow. His heart is back in a normal rhythm. He is very tired today. His pain level is <3. Just not sleepng well at night. Hopefully this will improve once he is home. I am still amazed at his progress. We are anticipating discharge Monday or Tuesday.
Hang in there Honey... It will get better. If it gets too tough.. I will call in your chilren to get you laughing again. After all they learned from the master.
I brought in his lap top to journal an entry today. However he was unable to obtain access to the internet. It sure would have been therapeutic for him to start journaling again.
Take care... Love barb-- Cannot wait until you come home Tom .. We Love you!!
Things continue to progress. Tom was moved to a private room last night. This was terrific in that he was able to get more of an opportunity to rest.
Tom was able to take a shower today and felt like a new man. The other thing that did was tucker him out! He sure learned that his activity limits are real.
He has developed A-fib. Guess this is common related to the surgery. He is on medication and they are monitoring. No ill effects so far.
The incisional dressing was changed. He had some student nurses come in to do his dressing. He had them chuckling so as to reduce their strss of changing the dressing in front of their instructor.
Sister Miriam came in and gave him communion. He had some friends and co-workers stop by today as well
He was so tired that at 1PM he wanted me to go home so he could get some sleep.
I did leave for a few hours and returned for a little bit this evening. His appetite is poor so I am trying to get him to eat a little.
Think I will need to bring in some fruit and healthy snacks.
Tomorrow is Father' Day and we are grateful to celebrate with him tomorrow.
Just came back from being with Tom all day today. He was up in the chair this morning when I arrived at 0800. He had ordered oatmeal and toast for breakfast. Those of you who know Tom...Oatmeal is not what he would order. He was still hooked up to several lines and feeding himself was difficult. So I started to feed him. I was scolded by the nurse to : "Let him do it". We cannot baby him too much.
By 1130 he was told they were moving him to the step down unit. They asked if he wanted to go for a walk. Tom ended up walking from one unit to the new unit...About 200 feet. I was amazed at his ability to walk that far <24 hours after heart valve surgery.
At times the pain is moderate but other times not so bad. They have him on a time released medication for pain which seems to help much better.
He frequently naps after activity. This afternoon he had numerous educational sessions with: Discharge Planner, Pharmacist, Physical therapist, Rehab nurse, nutritionist etc
There is a strong possiblity he could go home on Sunday or Monday. The team was trying to assure that if he goes home this weekend, he will have received the necessary discharge information.
He had numersous visitors today which he greatly appreciated, members from his church family, co-workers from Strong and Highland, family,& friends. Father Mark came to visit. Tom received communion, prayed and of course the two of them engaged in the gift of laughter.
The recovery phase we were told today takes time and work. THere will be good and not so good days. This is at least a 3-6 month recovery.
As they say...one step at a time.
Good Morning Everyone,
I woke up with a start and thought Oh my gosh I slept last night. I felt a little bit guilty becasue I was expecting a restless night just like the ones over the past weeks. Oddly enough...I slept hard.
I called the hospital at 0600. His nurse Sara told me he had the breathing tube removed at 1100PM, She has him up in a chair this morning(note the time of this entry), he is eating ice and doing a-okay.
Just getting home from the hospital. Our day started out very early at 0415. Tom needed to be at the hospital at 0615. Shortly after we arrived, Tom went to the pre op area. When family was allowed back to stay with him... I ran into the Anesthesiologist. Ellen was someone we knew from church. She informed us she was going to do his anesthesia.It was so comforting to know that she was going to there with him.
The resident came in to put in his arterial line and IV line. Next they talked about shaving his chest. Tom being his witty self asked if it would be like the "movie the 40-year old virgin."
THe resident chuckled and assure him they would be much more gentle.
He went in tho the Oporating Room at 0815. We recieved a phone call one hour later informing us he was doing well and would be another 2 hours. We were pleasantly surprised that it was not as long as we had anticipated.
At 1130 he was out of the Operating Room and into ICU. We were able to see him at 1245. He looked amazing well. He did not have a many tubes as i thought. Everyone of the hosptial staff has been top notch. They continue to updating us answering questions and making us feel like he is the only patient there.
Our daughter Beth,son Matthew, Tom's brother Michael and cousin Ozzie were able to visit this afternoon and evening.
He had several visitors to whom he gave the thumbs up sign. Sorry we missed some of you who visited this evening.
This evening he remains intubated. They tried eariler this evening (5PM)to take out the breathing tube but he was unable to consistently breathe on his own. The nurse will try later tonight to wean him off. They tell me he will be out of bed in a chair by 0500. Tom not being a morning person...I am sure he will love this maneuver.
We would like to take this opportunty to thank everyone for their prayers, well wishes and support. It has been overwhelming and much appreciated.
This was been a great source of strength. for us.
I will sign off for now as tomorrow will be post-op Day #1 and one of the toughest.
Well Tom took his first of two showers before surgery. i cannot believe he is in bed before me!
Read his bolg just now... What a special husband I have. He is the heart of the family and keeps us all guessing what he will do next. Life has not been boring! Just a note of Thanks for all your well wishes and prayers.
I am planning on staying through the night tomorrow so I may not update until Friday... We will see.
God Bles you all
I called the hospital this afternoon to get my surgery schedule. I report to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY tomorrow at 6:15 AM for the prep work with the procedure scheduled to begin at 8:30 AM. I don’t have to be anxious anymore now that I have this information.
Being that I will be up and out of the house so early tomorrow this will be my last post until my wife Barbara can update everyone.
The only problem is I am so NOT a morning person! The thought of having to get up that early makes me more anxious than the surgery. Oh well - you do what you have to do I guess.
On Tuesday I spent my normal 5 Hours cutting lawn so it would be out of the way at least a week before anyone has to cut it again. In the process I Boo-Booed and hit part of a roadside guard rail that is part of the west side of our lot. It protects cars from driving off the road into a 10 foot deep ravine into our creek.
Ironically, the State Highway Department just repaired the bent portions made by snowplows over the last several winters. When they did the repair they raised the anchors up just enough that it caught my blade and broke the shaft to the motor. Before, the anchors where were sunk in the ground so I could mow right over them.
The noise was awesome – plus I now had another reason to add a new toy to my collection. To Lowes I went today and bought a new machine. I over did a little and bought a lawn edger too. One can’t have too many toys you know.
Afterward my daughter came over with her children to see their “Cramps” as did my oldest son and his family. The three grandchildren were great as usual and we had the baked macaroni & cheese followed up with Ice Cream Cake from Abbott’s Custard – a local well known and scrumptious establishment serving up fresh made custard ice cream. The dinner and company were great.
My granddaughter Gabbie called and left me a message: “Hi G-daddy, I love you very much.” Her dad (my son Peter) called later to wish me well and also ask Septic Tank questions. I thought for a moment and said to myself, “Life goes on doesn’t it?”
I had to leave early to attend a Town Planning Board Meeting of which I am a member. To show you that God has a sense of humor, just before I came to my place on the agenda to explain about my upcoming heart procedure and my absence for most of the summer, we did a site plan review for a new restaurant about 1.5 miles down the road from where we live.
Just what do you think they are serving as their anchor menu? That’s correct, barbeque! Not just any BBQ but all you can eat BBQ Ribs for $8.95. AND they are opening in a couple of weeks. Of course my “friends” on the board said it’s a good thing I will be unavailable because I would be the kind of guy at an all you can eat place and be asked to leave. I’m so blessed with Friends aren’t I.
I posted two new pictures on the Blog today.
One is the picture of the “Laughing Christ.” That painting has inspired me to believe that Christ wants happiness for all of us in this life. It inspires me in that I know regardless of whom we are, all of us are loved Children of God. If there ever is a court jester in heaven, I gladly volunteer for that role.
The second picture is the 3rd greatest thing ever to happen to me in my life. It ranks after:
Number One – my marriage to Barb.
Number Two - the birth and growth of our children including their spouses and children.
Number three – is the picture of my wife and myself on my ordination day back in 1996 when I was ordained a Catholic Deacon. That is a driving force in my life. My daughter tells me I am the most unholy, holy man she knows. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Because of my fatigue related to the aortic stenosis (although I didn’t know it at the time) I took a year-long leave of absence from my ministry work. I thought I was pushed beyond my physical limits of work and ministry and needed a break. Since I couldn’t quit my job at the time ministry had to take a back seat. Now that I am headed for surgery, the anticipation of returning to ministry hangs in the balance of a successful valve replacement and recuperation.
I feel like so many award winners who are called to the microphone to accept their token of a newly bestowed honor. There are so many things I want to say and so many people I want to thank in support of this shared journey. Instead I will simply say Thank You All in hopes that it covers everyone and I don’t leave anyone out.
Onward and upward. Hopefully I will be able to post messages in a couple of days.
I’m sitting here multitasking (how about that as an oxymoron?). I have a cold bottle of lemon–lime seltzer working, my new laptop playing Michael Jackson’s last movie after downloading my Netflix subscription, updating and answering email looked at the time and wanted to get today’s entry out.
My wife and I stopped at the lawyer’s office to sign and pick up our updated wills, living wills and healthcare proxies today. We actually had time to eat supper, clear the dishes and dress in our comfy clothes before the 6:00PM local news came on. We haven’t done that in quite some time. Fortunately my bride is taking several weeks off of work to help me convalesce. As I mentioned in earlier posts, she is a nurse practitioner which means I’ll have the best personalized care a patient could have – but I won’t be able to get away with squat! Since she’ll be at home I can’t call my buddies and have them move the beverage refrigerator into the man cave.
My daughter and her two children will be visiting tomorrow making me my favorite meal –home made baked macaroni and cheese. Nothing but the best comfort food for me until midnight before surgery. I’ll get to play with the grandbabies outside if the weather holds out and then on to Town Planning Board meeting at 7:00PM when I will clue them in on my upcoming absence. My brother and cousin Ozzie are planning on being here the day of the procedure while close friends and family have been calling with offers of help and support. I am overwhelmed with the kindness being extended our way.
I started gathering together some of the items I’ll need in the hospital including my Superman and Beatles pajamas. The suggestions of creature comfort from the various members of HVJ are excellent. However, I found something the other day which I thought is a good suggestion for everyone else to consider taking in their hospital kits. It’s the neatest little compact hand held battery operated fan. With my working experience in hospitals the ability to adjust the temperature in a room is not always available. Consequently rooms can get extremely warm. This little fan would help offset the discomfort.
That’s not the best thing though. The gimmick of this fan is it has a programmable light bar imbedded into one of the blades AND you can set it up with four different messages. When I am not able to speak because of the respirator I figured that I could just click on the appropriate message to communicate. I took pictures of the four different messages and posted them on the site. I think each message is appropriate enough to handle just about any situation. I am open to suggestions for changing them though.
Take a look and see if you agree with the messages and feel free to suggest your own.
No need to stifle the humorous creativity at this point. I don’t know if it will win my any favors with the healthcare staff though. Time will tell.
Have a good evening!
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')
Peace and love to you all.
Not much happening to report today. I just finished a honey do job hence the late night entry. Going to bed now to get some rest and I'll talk to everyone tomorrow. But first I think I'll snack on a piece of KFC Extra Crispy Chicken otherwise known as a dough ball on a stick. If that doesn't give me bizarre dreams nothing will. Thanks again to everyone for all the new journal entries, they keep me going. Ironically so will the chicken.
I overdid the activity today and really tired myself out. All of a sudden I have this compulsion to finish “honey do” jobs that I’ve put off for a long time.
I never understood the “burst of energy” expectant moms experience before the birth of their babies. Now I think I do.
Correct me if I’m wrong but this compulsion serves two purposes. First, we (heart surgery patients) realize at every level this is a huge life changing event. Keeping busy helps assuage our angst of the unknown future. Secondly the compulsion to complete tasks verifies that we still have what it takes to carry on keeping us focused on the moment to appreciate life lived so far.
The other explanation is the burst of energy is just a hormonal thing that can’t be experienced by guys? Sorry if that sounds misogynistic.
The biggest event of the day was shopping. I was in the market for a new laptop to use during recovery and make it part of my man cave. And as long as my wife and I were out looking for the laptop we just happened to browse through the Flat Screen TVs. WOW was I impressed. I could see the 60” wall mounted HDTV mounted on the wall of the man cave. I’d be the envy of friend and family alike.
However we decided that something much smaller like a 46 inch model was more sensible. Then we looked at the prices. OUCH!!
I tried to convince myself that my purchase would help jump start the economy. With the prices of some of these units I could keep 6 people from losing their jobs.
Then I remembered I’m out of work too.
So we backed off and decided to stay with our current TV.
Maybe that’s why I was so tired out – the internal conflict of buy or not to buy the TV wore me down. We did buy the new Laptop PC so it’s all good.
I had my first bizarre dream overnight about the upcoming event. I’ll save that for tomorrow’s post as I’m still trying to sort it out. I may experience part two tonight.
Until then I have a laptop to play with.
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')!
Peace and love to you all,
My wife and I just returned from having dinner and going to a movie. It was an early anniversary celebration of sorts. I'll be 12 days post op on our actual wedding day. My wife felt it important I don't have surgery on our wedding day. A full 36 years and counting on June 29th. I know that date for certain because we had it inscribed inside our wedding bands. That way I can’t ever use the excuse I forgot about it.
We haven’t taken time to go to a movie in a few years. In fact I think the last movie we saw at the theater was “Saving Private Ryan.”
Exciting happenings in the neighborhood this weekend.
A couple of days I go I got the brilliant idea of installing bird feeders in the back yard. We have a panoramic view of our back lot from the kitchen window. It is not unusual to watch deer, rabbits, fox, an occasional coydog (a cross breed between a coyote and wild dog) and wild turkey play in the back lot. I thought it would be nice to see some song birds up close and personal. Given the smooth metal pole I bought I figured the squirrels couldn’t get into sunflower seeds as there was no way to get their claws into the metal to climb up the pole. Little did I know they could wrap their grubby little paws around the pole and climb up just like scaling a rope. After 10lbs of sunflower seeds and trying different baffles at different heights to keep them out, I finally defeated them – the little bastards! I came close to getting out the .22 rifle but took pity on them. Next time I may not be so tolerant.
What else is happening is the annual Clarkson Rodeo Days. YEE HAAAA!
Our property borders the town park and when events happen all summer long we get a lot of uninvited guests wandering into our back field. The rodeo event is the loudest one of the summer complete with barrel racing, calf roping, and whatever else insane people do on the back of a horse. Then at night country music wannabes pick up instruments and try to sing them good ol’ boy songs. Songs like, “Just Give Me 40 Acres and I’ll Turn this Rig Around,” or “My Dog Died,” or one of my absolute favorites, “My Wife Left Me for Greener Pastures but All She Found Was Meadow Muffins.” You get the picture. Oh, did I mention the horse flies? You would have thought Gene Autry and Roy Rogers reincarnated right here in Clarkson, NY.
Tomorrow I have to start prepping for the big day scaling back on some of my medications and using the antibiotic ointment in my nose twice a day. If I sneeze will I have to reload my nostrils with another round of goop?
Have a great evening.
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')!
Peace and love to you all,
Another busy day taking care of all the business items that must be completed before the procedure. I balanced the check book, wrote out some bills, set the appointment with the lawyer to sign our wills, and went over the funeral plans with my wife. Also thought about people I should still notify who may not know about the event. You get the idea. I found a taker for our Jethro Tull tickets for the 17th and I couldn’t be happier. The individual who received them needs a break to have some fun.
You know, I made a lot of personal and professional trips in my lifetime and I swear to God I’ve not had to do this much preparation for any of them. I figured if I packed and traveled light, if I forgot something, then that’s the whole purpose of owning an American Express Card. Do you think they have a card swipe for credit cards in the OR? Maybe they accept an ATM Card instead?
I still managed to get a 1.5 mile walk in to help build up my stamina. I will start practicing my coughing exercises tomorrow – oh joy of joys!
Others on HVJ have talked about the calmness they felt the closer they are to surgery. I think that is what’s happening to me. I realized it today during my walk.
As cliché as it sounds, when faced with adversity, once we accept it, we enter into the world of serenity. Tonight I realize I am in this world.
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Most of us know the first paragraph of this famous prayer yet it’s not until you take in the entire work that the wisdom and spirituality of Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in its entirety comes to the fore.
So tonight I am at the computer truly humbled by the amount of caring I received from family, friends, and new friends who don’t know anything about me other than a picture and a few short stories. Caring for the stranger is God like. I thank God for all of you!
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')!
Peace and love to you all,
Today was pre-Op day at the hospital. The entire process took about 2 hours. I was poked, prodded, x-rayed, examined, listened to, informed, and let go with a, “Good luck!” from all the individuals I met. A few may see me on the day of surgery since they do cross coverage work in the pre-anesthesia, pre-surgery area.
I tried to keep the atmosphere light and entertaining but this was a tough crowd. The biggest laugh I got went like this;
Nurse Practitioner – “Are you ready for this procedure?”
Tommy – “I have my heart set on it - pun intended.”
Nurse Practitioner – “Oh, that was a terrible pun.”
Tommy – “Well then consider it 2/3 of a pun = PU!”
Nurse Practitioner (when she stopped laughing) – “Now that was a good one.”
Tommy – “Thank you, thank you very much. I’ll be here for the next two hours.”
And with that I cut through the tension.
Nurse Practitioner – “When was the last time you had any chest pain?”
Tommy – “I’m having chest pain right now.”
Nurse Practitioner – “Oh my Gosh! What do you normally do, shall I call for a doctor?”
Tommy – “Only if it is Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine and Dr. Howard. Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk!”
The NP didn’t find that funny or she wasn’t a 3 Stooges fan. I guess saying you have chest pain in the Pre-op Clinic is not a cool thing to do. I assured her that my angina is something I’ve lived with so long I’m used to it and I’ll be fine. I met my match and realized I pushed the envelope too far. I scaled back my attempts at humor. At least with her.
Now the technician came in to draw my blood and he went on about the most recent shootings in the city of Rochester, NY. Unfortunately two young people were killed last night due to possible “gang related” activity. I listened intently as he was bothered by the news.
When he finished I mentioned that when I was younger you heard about gang rumbles but nothing like what’s happening in today’s cities. He sort of laughed at my reference. He said the only rumbles he remembered was from scenes of Westside Story and somehow dancing with great choreography before a fight didn’t quite cut for him.
What could I say?
I grew up on a small street in a very small city. The closest I ever came to a rumble was when the neighborhood kids would form “clubs” and they had a shouting match between other clubs or kids they excluded. Membership in the clubs was exclusive to whatever attribute was popular at the moment.
There was the girls club and the boys club. The public school vs. parochial school kids clubs. The paved driveway or patio clubs – you could be a member only if your house had a paved driveway or a patio on the back of your house. Yes, even at that age we were all shallow little imps.
There were some clubs that had universal appeal and anyone could join unless you were part of the family that was being castigated. These were the “I Hate the XXXXXXX Family Clubs.” These lasted long enough until something inappropriate was said or done and your parents made you go apologize to the family. By the time I left home I think I had apologized to almost every family on our end of the street. I look back on the experience now and chalk up all the apologies to building character.
Sorry Mom and Dad may you both rest in eternity. I still don’t regret what I said to some of the neighborhood parents –Absolutely nothing felt better than telling some of the parents in the hood were to go. Call me a rebel or call me thick headed, I gladly accepted the pain of a spanking and other lost privileges just to tell Ol’ Hooknose to shut her big mouth. Hell, I was a neighborhood hero for doing that. Even the parents told me after I was older they were happy to see someone tell off that old bitty. I gladly basked in the glow of being the “snot for the day.”
In all realty we didn’t experience too many arguments with other clubs. Our family had the coolest swing set on the street. If you fought with us - no swing set for you.
As I was leaving pre-op I spied the tech that drew my blood in the hallway. I started snapping my fingers ala Westside Story. He told me to do well with my surgery and watch out for those dancing gangs. Good advice.
It is a gloomy rainy day today in Brockport, NY and my wife and I are going to have Chinese Buffet for dinner. So until tomorrow here is my daily ramblings.
Feel free to tell me where to go if this gets annoying. I have broad shoulders and can take the feedback. Just remember no playing on the swing set if you make me sad.
Thanks to everyone for their continued support, prayers and allowing me the privilege of ranting on.
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')!
Peace and love to you all,
I typed so much over these last few days I wore out my computer keyboard and had to purchase a new one. All of a sudden the B and N keys stopped working. $14.00 at Wal-mart for a new keyboard and I’m back in business. Nothing but the best for me.
From yesterday’s blog several individuals want to see a picture of me in my Snuggie. If my brother can forward a copy to me I will post it on HJV.
One thing was verified for me after the post. Judging by the responses I received there are a lot of closet Snuggie owners out there!
My advice is you should come out of the shadows and be proud of your Snuggie and wear it with PRIDE! Regardless if you are embarrassed for purchasing 1 or 4, the idea of putting on a bathrobe backwards and selling them as a true innovation is a mark of the entrepreneurial spirit of America.
Maybe P. T. Barnum was right after all. NAAAAA!! We are only limited by our imagination on the uses of the Snuggie.
The days continue to count down and I report to the hospital for my Pre-Op work-up tomorrow morning. So, I’m turning a little to my serious planning mode for a moment.
First, my wife and I will go over a set of questions to ask tonight.
We thought about store housing some of my blood, but I think it is too close to the surgery date to donate much in advance but I will ask. I’ll also ask about cardiac rehab and what needs to be done to get that set up.
For individuals having had a mechanical valve procedure and must remain on blood thinners, is it a good idea to buy a Medic Alert ID bracelet to inform others in case of an incident and I’m not responsive?
For those of you that have gone through this, are there any suggestions or inside tips I should keep in mind to ask? I welcome your advice.
I especially like the idea from Kyle in Montana of buying a “Grabber” for picking up dropped items.
Thanks for listening and your continued support.
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')!
Peace and love to you all,
What a whirlwind of activity over these last two days. Yesterday I traveled to my home town to visit with my brother AND to attend the 25th Anniversary Happy Together Tour featuring The Buckinghams, Grass Roots, Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees fame, Mark Lindsay former lead singer with Paul Revere and the Raiders, and of course Flo and Eddie of the Turtles.
Each performer, in spite of showing just a bit of their senior status (all were in their sixties), were profoundly in love with what they do. They had a polished back-up band and told a lot of stories concerning their various careers. I must say they put on an excellent show. They are not ready for Branson, Missouri by a long shot.
My brother Mike and I were accompanied by our cousin Ozzie who has been our “other brother” for years and years. We’ve palled around together longer than I can remember.
It was an outdoor concert and the weather didn’t cooperate. We dodged misty rain and occasional heavy showers before the show started. We were prepared with lawn chairs and large golf umbrellas and my wife insisted I take a rain poncho.
I didn’t argue about the poncho because I certainly didn’t want to catch a cold this close to surgery. The disadvantage was the only rain poncho we had was bright yellow with a huge color picture of Mickey Mouse on the back. It was a left over from our kids visit to Disney World some 15 - 20 years ago. God that woman loves me!
That was not the worst of it. I also took my Snuggie with me. If you don’t know what a Snuggie is who have led a very sheltered life.
Mind you I have taken a ton of grief over the purchase of my Snuggies. I didn’t just buy four of the plain ol’ Snuggies either. I brought the deluxe version in red and blue.
My wife has grown to like my Snuggies. She like the one I had in her car so much she used it to cover the rear luggage area with it so the plants she purchased didn’t get dirt all over the car.
Believe it or not that was the one I took with me to the concert against her wishes. She insisted I take a clean one. “No husband of mine if going to wear a dirty Snuggie to a concert”, was her reasoning. The heck with the fact if I had my accident underwear on for not or the trip - she didn’t ask. God that woman loves me!
Yes, I will have a Snuggie in my man cave. In case you were about to ask.
Getting back to the concert.
Sometime it is in vogue for some folks to laugh at the performers during these Legacy concerts. However, that would be hypocritical with me sitting there with two jackets on and wearing my Jobst support stockings for the edema in my legs. Yes it did get cold enough to Snuggie Up and my beloved brother couldn’t stop taking pictures of me with his cell phone. Being the younger brother I learned a long time ago to just ignore him and eventually he goes away.
After several pictures we went on to other things like yelling for more cow bell to be played during each performer’s set. Just like Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live – they played the heck out of the cow bell. You can never have enough cow bell.
I was concerned at one observation I made at that concert. I watched an outbreak of the insidious disease called A.S.S. grow to pandemic proportions before my very eyes. It seemed as if the entire audience had this embarrassing disease. To have the affliction is known as having a case of the A.S.S.
A.S.S. is not particularly harmful to the body of those who contracted the disease. Its major impact is that it annoys people around you if they are within earshot. This disease knows no limits. It infects everyone at sometime in their life.
A.S.S. is Automatic Singing Syndrome.
What happens is a song is played and it is one of your top ten favorites (a natural tendency at reunion concerts). The music instantly transforms you back to a time when it had meaning to you and grabbed your soul. It reflects upon an experience that was so real it reminds you of loves found and lost. It may remind you of a time you attended school, or married, served in the military or cruising with your buddies in your first car etc.
Once that memory is downloaded into your conscious mind, this is when the disease does its worst. You are so overjoyed about the music you automatically break out into song at the top of your lungs and then. . .
YOU CAN”T REMEMBER ALL THE WORDS.
The beautiful poetry of the written lyrics and especially the song refrain are reduced to a series of rambling mumbles, grunts, and na na’s or la la’s – broken up by an occasional word you do remember. “I can’t see me, na, na, na, na, na for all my na.”
It nothing to be ashamed of – we’ve all suffered from it.
As I get older, I find myself trying to remember the words to favorite songs that used to roll off my golden tongue and through my lips. I always imagined myself to be the protégé standing in the wings to take over for the lead singer in case he or she came down with a sudden bout of laryngitis. Alas, my case of the A.S.S.is so deeply ingrained in me I could never pull it off successfully. I’m thinking about starting a support group – A.S.S.A. - Automatic Singing Syndrome Anonymous.
I digress. It was great being with my bro’s and sharing another concert experience together. Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ said it best, “There is no place like home Toto!” That’s one of the Happy Place images I intend to use during surgery.
Keep on laughing (and Rockin')!
Peace and love to you all,
First of all thoughts and prayers go out to Kimberly S. She is struggling a bit with her blood pressure. Her husband David and Kim can use our support. Let’s all gather around them and give them a virtual group hug! Nothing says love and best wishes more than a big, warm, bear hug!
Yesterday was eventful. I managed to set up my man cave. I installed new blinds, washed the curtains, vacuumed, rearranged the furniture, brought in a new floor lamp, and organized the remotes and drink coasters. I’ll be shopping for a magazine rack today.
Mama refused my request for bringing in the beverage refrigerator.
I’m not surprised because my request was turned down before when I was healthy. You can’t hate a guy for appealing the previous decision on humanitarian and health reasons. Translated - I was trying to play the sympathy card. Men are such dogs aren’t we? Sorry guys, sometimes the truth hurts. Admitting I’m a dog allows me to hold my head high and wear that moniker with pride. I also realize how much I can get away with before I run to the end of my leash. Or as a good friend of mine used to say you get “The jerketh of the chain.”
What happened was my bride exercised her right to administer tough love because she loves me so much.
“You sir, will be getting up and walking to get your sodas and don’t look for me to get them for you. Request denied.” was her response. I must be the luckiest husband in the world to have a wife that loves me so much.
Funny thing though, before the heart thing was discovered, and I was healthy, if I asked nicely she would bring me a cold soda and say yuck as she handed it to me. You see, other than coffee, I only drink unsweetened flavored soda water. I admit it is an acquired taste.
The question I have is what changed? Healthy – have a soda brought to you if asked for nicely. Sick - get your own. Maybe I used up all my credits?
All joking aside our 36 years of marriage has been our Rock of Gibraltar (at least one of its foothills). I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else as my life partner. Together we have faced obstacles that seemed impossible to overcome. We have always come out on top – worn out and exhausted - but wiser and more experienced afterward. We'll get through this one too. Babs – I love you beyond measure.
When I announced to the community about my surgery date being June 17th, I loved Fran Z’s comment that I hardly had time to pack a toothbrush. I was thinking about this as I was working on the man cave. The realization of not having enough time to take care of certain things at home became obvious. So my wife and I will be prioritizing the must do tasks and try not to be sidetracked by the not so important ones. All of a sudden timing is essential and I’ll have to kick out of my normal laid-back, Mr. Procrastination, mode. So onward and upward I’ll keep everyone updated as best I can as I value your support too. Save a virtual bear hug for me.
Now that I have had time for the surgery date information to sink in I went back to the HVJ community postings this morning and reread several posts for reassurance. The overriding themes from the various posts are love, support from loved ones and friends; get well, and new life with an extra dose of God's love thrown in for good measure.
The sub-theme is perseverance.
In spite of each individual’s experience the human spirit - the will to persevere - is tantamount to our happiness and well being. The Creator intended humanity to be happy and too often we are sidetracked from truly knowing and appreciating what we need to persevere for.
In my short journey I reflected back on the choices – both good and bad – I made in my 55 years. My hope is I am forgiven by everyone I may have offended or harmed in any way. For the good choices made, my hope is others benefited from them as much as I have. My intent was always and will continue to be of service to others. For me that is the privilege and honor of perseverance in my life.
As was mentioned in an earlier post; Heart Valve Replacement is not a procedure for “sissies.” Neither is living life to the fullest. Git ‘er done!
Enough philosophical observations
My post was shorter than usual yesterday. Yes, I was taken aback by the surgery date and did go into a reflective mode which resulted in today’s comments. I thought WOW, to have this scheduled so quickly I must be worse off than I anticipated.
Because of the date, I had to drive into the hospital quickly yesterday to get set up in the clinical trial I volunteered for. There is a 2 week deadline prior to surgery for receiving the trial vaccination. It was there that I found out that the turnaround time from diagnosis to procedure was normal. Here in the Rochester, NY area we are blessed by 3 large healthcare systems two of which have significantly capable heart programs.
By the time I finished this task, ate supper (a celebratory pepperoni pizza), notified my children and friends of the information, I simply ran out of time and was too tired and detached to write much.
Today however . . . I go into countdown mode: 12 days and a wake up to go.
The task for today is to set up my den into my new man-cave (with my darling brides’ permission of course). I decided to use my recliner at least for the first week to sleep rather than trying to negotiate stairs upon returning home from the hospital. I have to install some blinds and install and air conditioner to compensate for the room’s location on the west side of the house. In the summertime it becomes extremely warm.
I have TV with surround sound system, cable, DVD, VCR and Netflix wireless connection for movies. Wireless headphones if I want to zone out. I might even move my beverage refrigerator into the room. I’ll buy a small magazine rack to hold my subscriptions and keep the remote control holder within reach along my favorite pillow and red Snuggie to sleep (don’t knock them if you haven’t tried them).
What’s the difference between the Den and my new man cave plans? None except Heart Surgery and I don’t have a magazine rack. Those two things and I will now have justification to live in there. It's a "guy" thing ladies.
I received word today my surgery is scheduled for June 17, 2010. Pre-op is scheduled for June 9th. I am surprised at how soon they found a slot. Because of my involvement with the clinical trial of a new vaccine I drove into the hospital to be prepped for that this afternoon.
My only regret is my tickets for the Jethro Tull / Procul Harum Concert is that night. I guess I will be singing my own version of Aqua Lung. Too bad too, the seats are close enough to the stage to see how old these guys really are . . .
Yesterday’s activities included visiting the lawyer and the funeral home to attend to those “just in case” scenarios and create a plan.
The lawyer I visited is friend of mine whom I’ve known for years. He and I worked together on various town boards in the community where I live. He is still the Town Attorney. Me? I am a past member and former Chairperson of the Zoning Board of Appeals. Now I am a member of the Town Planning Board. My attorney friend has as much of a warped sense of humor as I do– maybe more. He is older than I am and has longer time to practice. You know the old saying, “Birds of feather flock together.”
When I emailed him asking for his help as an attorney to work on our will his response was,
“Of course, last "need a lawyer" email I got was from a lady whose little boy (23) was accused of …….”
I guess he had to be sure I didn’t fall into the “…………” category. Sorry I can’t share what the specific category is – attorney / client privilege and all that.
Needless to say we had a great time working on the will. He is putting together a draft and send it via email for review.
Now for the Funeral Home visit. The one task I dreaded the most.
I told myself if they were busy I wasn’t going in. I didn’t want to interlope onto another family’s event. Just my luck, as I drove up to the facility, there were no cars in the parking lot, just a big black Cadillac by the front door. I know how trite that sounds – and as God as my witness it was true. I parked my car and walked to the front door. There we no lights on so I thought good, maybe they are closed. I reached for the door handle and gave a small tug – the door opened! Damn! Now I have to go through with this. As I walked into the main foyer I spied light coming out of one office. Every other light in the place was turned off. Of course the drapers were closed so no natural lighting was coming through the windows. It was a little un-nerving. I turned toward the lighted office to see if anyone was there. I was met by one of the associates at the door with a quick, “Hello” followed by “May I help you?” Uh Oh, time to fish or cut bait.
As I stood in the darkened hallway a thousand thoughts raced through my mind. Thoughts denying my heart issue. Thoughts of wimping out and running out the door - let someone else take care of this. I started to recall every funeral home and wake I ever attended, many of them in this same funeral home for people I loved very much. And what’s with the lights being off? Is this some ghoulish setting to get me in the proper and somber mood?
Surprisingly I managed to retain my composer and to speak rather clearly about my situation. “Hi – I’m Tom and I am having heart surgery and want to preplan my funeral arrangements just in case it’s not successful.”
The funeral home associate’s response – “I sincerely hope that is not the case, but I can help you with that.” She said it with a warm and welcoming smile. What a huge relief! She is just like us. Genuine and no trace of Vincent Price
From there we entered a side meeting room and she broke out all kinds of information with PRICING. In the end it was as simple as selecting a complete all inclusive package or ordering a la carte off the menu with an estimate total price.
I must admit my curiosity almost got the best of me. On the menu were options that added up to over $40,000. I so wanted to ask what a $40,000 funeral looked like, but then that wouldn’t be my style.
As much as I dreaded completing the tasks they were literally so simple it was like falling off a log. Seems my angst was for nothing.
Lesson learned (again!), joined with God, Faith, loving family and friends once we name our fears we can move out of paradigm paralysis and deal with them the best we can.
Oh yes, the situation with the lights being off? They were practicing good energy conservation. The joke is on me for once.
Now that the holiday weekend is over it is time to get down to the business of business.
Today I begin to make the “Just in Case” Plans.
I promised not be maudlin or depressing writing in my Blog. Updating plans and arrangements are part of the reality of living. Granted, no one wants to face their own mortality and prepare for the “end”.
In my case, I am obligated to create the process because a good portion of my professional work life involved process improvement. The distinction of planning the steps in a business process or a personal life process bares no differences. In my opinion, both are responsibilities that have to be taken seriously. Taking the burden away from family is the least I can do for them.
Remember, my plans will definitely have a Mark Twain Escape Clause. “. . . The report of my death was an exaggeration.”
This afternoon I meet with the lawyer to update our will, power of attorney, and healthcare proxies. Later this week I will visit the Parish to discuss the Funeral Liturgy. I also plan on visiting the funeral home where our family has routinely held services for relatives to get information about preplanning funeral arrangements. Then I will spend the rest of the week gathering up all the important information and prepare a portfolio for my wife and children so they have access to what they need immediately. The biggest issue to be settled is where my wife and I decide on where to be interred.
So far, here is what my preliminary plan is (or at least the plan that I always fantasized about). I want to be propped upright in the corner in the viewing room at the funeral home. With a tapped keg of ice cold Canadian brew next me and a sign saying “Have a cold one like me before I go.” Like I said – it is a fantasy from a misogynistic juvenile warped mind and some fantasies are best left not coming to fruition. I apologize if I offended anyone.
I am amazed at what’s available on the Web too. Did you know you can buy an honest to goodness casket on-line for half the price of what you can buy it from the funeral home? That had some nice selections. I suggested to my wife I pick one up, they deliver within 24 hours. If I don’t need it I can use it as a conversation piece, a coffee table, a tool box or an ice chest. Wouldn’t that look great on the deck during a party.
By now you know that my bride is in line for canonization. It hasn’t been easy for her after being married for 35 years putting up with of this kind of irreverence - but I do keep it lively!
To all my friends and family who continue to support and pray for me; I thank you. Please remember, my irreverence is only possible because of my deep reverence in faith that death is not the end but the beginning. I firmly believe that there is life after death and without that belief I would be the fool’s fool.
Enough for today – time to get ready to visit the lawyer.
Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer. We are experiencing a rarity in Western NY today as the entire weekend has resembled July more than May. Temperatures in the high eighties with clear skies coupled with intense sunshine. Also cool enough in the evenings so we can stay comfortable with a window fan in the bedroom without installing the A/C.
Our daughter Beth is here with her two children Brian and Bailee (her husband Kevin is out of town working). Our son Matt, his wife Lindsay and their little girl Olivia will be joining us for a cookout a little later.
Out youngest son Peter, his wife Kristin and their three children Jena, Colin, and Gabby are three hours away but here in spirit.
Kristin I can’t express in words what your last post to means to me. Fer shizzle my nizzle Colin – your post was hilarious. You definitely are the spawned minion of your father!
We are planning on having barbeque ribs, chicken, salt potatoes, Taco Salad, corn on the cob, baked beans and strawberry shortcake (low cal) for dessert. Pretty good summer faire don’t you think?
Now I love barbeque ribs. I’ve sampled barbecued ribs and pulled pork from a lot of different places in the country. Whether it was in Dallas, Greensboro, NC or here in Rochester, NY all have decent rib joints. I have no one favorite or style because I love them all.
However, I am looking at ribs in a new light. That being, they look like my ribs and what I will go through during the procedure. If there is anything that scares me about this ordeal it is the idea of having my chest cracked open with my sternum cut in half.
First of all, I think all of us have a personal space that we just can’t stand to have violated. Some areas are obvious like the eyes or face. One guy I knew couldn’t stand to have anyone touch the top of his head. Maybe the reason was he was prematurely bald, who knows? If you wanted to set this guy off all you had to do was make a motion toward the top of his head and stand back. He went ballistic! Of course all us who worked together NEVER touched his head!
If you haven’t guessed by now I cannot stand to have anyone touch the middle of my chest. Go figure. I think God has a sense of humor about these things as this experience will make me a better human being. I sure hope so.
The reason for today’s title is I like to go to concerts – especially outdoor venues. My brother Mike called and invited me to go to a concert next Sunday. It’s a gathering of older performers. The event is called the Happy Together Tour featuring Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees. Is that bizarre or what? I owe my brother and cousin Ozzie an apology since he is going too. Apparently my CRS disease kicked in and I confused the facts about them not liking the Monkees (CRS Disease = Can’t Remember Stuff).
Also playing are Flo & Eddie of The Turtles; The Grass Roots; Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders and the Buckingham’s. Oh Beat - My Diseased Heart – songs of my youth. Here is another example of going back to “firsts”. These are among my first favorite bands as a youngster.
Later this summer (surgery and recovery allowing) my wife and I have tickets to see Procol Harem and Jethro Tull. Followed up in 4 weeks is Ringo and his All Star Band.
Well here I am – wondering if I’ll ever be able to look or eat ribs again and hoping I don’t have to miss any concerts this summer. Next to Laughing, Rockin’ to good music keeps me going.
Author’s Note - I am a big fan of Prissy Polly’s Barbecue located in the Greensboro area of NC. I just had a “care package” of their ribs delivered a few weeks back from my family. They were great. With that kind of medicine I could adjust quickly to eating Ribs again.
In closing - Thank you to all Veterans and their families who made the sacrifices enabling us to enjoy the rights and privileges we do.
Fran you are correct, I should be hearing this week when my procedure will be scheduled.
Our children were a challenge in the early stages and are now old enough to take care of Mom and Dad. At least that's what we taught them - let's see if they listened! With my youngest son Peter speaking of he and his brother and sister as minions of laughter, they will probably think I was pranking them (playing a pratical joke on them).
I'll be posting a picture of the family soon. As far as writing - I do some in an unpaid professional capacity but not as much as I would like. I'm glad you enjoy my writing style.
Kimberly - yes you are correct! It is the Monkees. You receice the FIRST HVJ trivia "Pat onthe Back" Award. Well done!
I hate to admit it but I still have the original vinyl LP in my collection.
If my brother reads this he will immediately vomit then chastize me for still owning that album. My cousin Ozzie might join in. The three of us had spirited "discussions" about music over the years. The heck with them both - I'm going to download that song to my iPod and listen to it in the hospital during recovery.
"It's my surgery and I'll do what I want to, do what I want to, do what I want to,"
I’m a little late with my post today only because it’s Sunday and another beautiful day here in Upstate New York.
Yes, Virginia there is an entire state outside of New York City. Typically we upstate residents are asked what part of NYC we are from when we mention we are from New York. I can assure you NYC is over 350 miles from where we live to where the boroughs of NYC start. “Forget about it.”
Some of you on HVJ from Ontario, Canada can appreciate what I’m saying. Toronto is only a three hour drive from our house. Do you get asked if you are from Toronto when you say you are from Canada?
Aaah Toronto – how I love thee! My wife and I have a special connection to Toronto.
Approximately 30 years ago my wife and I visited Toronto with another couple for a long weekend getaway. We stayed at the Delta Chelsea Hotel. Upon check in we decided to let the other couple have the room with the better view. We thought it would be more romantic for them since they were trying desperately to start a family. Well one thing led to another and in spite of our best intentions for our dear friends my wife and I came home with an Eskimo Pie in the oven. When my darling bride summoned the courage to break the news to me one evening, weeks after the trip, I immediately jumped up and yelled, “Who’s the father”.
Mind you our youngest child at the time was 9 months old . . . Moms, need I say more?
Anyway so began the legacy of Gus Toronto – the nickname our friends gave to our youngest son. You can file this story under the TMI category – too much information.
During church today I was in a reflective mode – I’m sure this won’t be the first I’ll have on this journey. Father Peter was delivering his homily about the Holy Trinity and I reflected on the Church, the parishioners, the new faces I didn’t recognize, and the faces of individuals I did recognize. I started thinking about the topic of “firsts” or new beginnings, or new life that has been so prominent in the HVJ entries I’ve read thus far. I wondered what the “firsts” in their lives were. It seemed appropriate.
I wondered if it was the first time the little blonde haired dude with the tiny black bowtie helped his Mom, Dad, and little brother bring up the gifts to the altar for the celebration of Mass. Of the new faces I didn’t recognize I wondered how many were in church for the first time. I wondered if this was the first time Father Peter used his analogy of the Holy Trinity (God is the Sun; Jesus is a ray of Sunshine; and the Holy Spirit is the warmth of the sun).
I recalled that this parish is where my wife and I were married which started our lives together as husband and wife. It is where our children received their Catholic sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. Hopefully these grounded them with a sense of spirituality and an appreciation for something greater than themselves. I thought about our grandbabies and how being present for them is a life enhancing, life giving relationship for me (plus an opportunity to spoil them within the limits of their parent’s wishes). Hopefully I can be more than the old fool to them. I’ll be happy to have the privilege to improve from being the old fool I already am after surgery.
Enough deep thought for one Sunday. I’m giving myself angina. It’s time to help in the garden, plant more roses and improve my tan.
P.S. A giant pat on the back if you can tell me the name of the group that sang the song from today’s Blog Title. Be careful you’ll be giving your age away.
Three Stooges fans will instantly recognize the quote above. In my humble opinion, the antics of “Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard” were some of the funniest bits The Boys ever performed. I understand fully that their brand of comedy is an acquired taste and doesn’t appeal to everyone. For those of us that grew up with the expansion of TV in the late 1950’s and 1960’s, The Boys were programming standards on late afternoon after grade school. Couple them with the nuances of Bugs Bunny cartoons and it explains why my sense of humor is so bizarre.
By now you are asking yourself what does this have to do with the serious subject of heart valve replacement? Please hang in there with me and I’ll explain.
I am having my surgery at Strong Memorial Hospital / University of Rochester in Rochester, NY. As both a teaching hospital and university research institution clinical trials are the norm. Finding suitable candidates for clinical trials is an ongoing effort.
As I was about to step up to the receptionist’s desk to check out last Wednesday my Surgeon came from the exam area and asked me to talk with someone in his office about a participating in a clinical trial. Believe it or not I didn’t hesitate for a moment as the quote from the Three Stooges popped in my mind. I thought to myself “For Duty and Humanity” and said OK. I told you my mind is bizarre in how it works.
What I’ll be participating in is a trial of a new vaccine against staff infections. It’s a double blind study and I won’t even know if I get the trial product. Being in health care battling infection is an imperative to patient care. What a great honor to be asked I thought. When I found out I will be paid $40 for each visit related to the study - WOO HOO, I hit the big time. Being paid and altruistic at the same time doesn’t get any better than that. Enough said.
It’s a beautiful day here in Brockport, NY and I have to go mow lawn. My wife Barb is out buying flowers for the gardens and we look forward to working on them together.
Many thanks to Adam Pike, Theresa Callanan, and Fran Z.
Adam your advice is spot on;
Theresa I could use more information on your experience with cardiac rehab;
Fran Z the reason for cutting the beard is so any facial masks used in procedures (such as oxygen) are firmly sealed against the skin making them more effective (no leakage). Either that or the surgeon hates beards. However he’s the man I’m entrusting my future too. If he ordered me to dress up in a tutu or a tuxedo I’d gladly comply. I agree with you about the grandchildren. My wife and I just visited them last weekend out of town and I couldn’t roughhouse with them because of angina. The disappointment on their faces was overshadowed only by my own. Fran I also have to share with you that as you sent your post my mother-in-law and I were speaking on the phone. She is 83 and being assessed for possible heart problems as well. What is so amazing is her name is also Fran Z.
I hear Rod Serling over my shoulder saying, “Imagine if you will…”
Thank you all for responding so quickly. My special appreciation goes to Kimberly S who posted the first response. I didn't think anyone would give me a second thought. Kimberly, it shows the depth of your compassion to communicate with a perfect stranger. My hope and prayers go out to you as you approach your big day with a quick recovery.
What most of you don't know is I work in the healthcare field and my bride of 35 years is a Nurse Practitioner. Therefore what I didn't learn on my own I obtained by osmosis from my wife. Having experienced other surgical procedures in my lifetime I am always amazed at how well Nurses do their best to maintain the patient's dignity. Call me biased in my opinion because of my relationship with healthcare. However, let's face reality. Once you go through the hospital admitting process your dignity is checked at the door.
In my case I haven't even scheduled the pre-tests yet and I suffered my first indignity. I had to shave off my signature beard - doctor's orders. Now I look like a little kid with gray hair or Santa on summer vacation. When I get a chance I'll post a picture of the "new" me. Now this might seem petty but my beard to me is the same as Linus and his Blanket. On the other hand if this is required to help me get better I can choke back my pride and go with it. I just hope the Doctor doesn't order up a Bikini wax!
Hello everyone -
One of my old bosses used to comment that the reason I lost a lot of weight a long time ago was because the doctor told me I had the heart of an 80 year old man and I had to lose weight. That's an inside joke for the amusement of my former co-workers. Turns out to be somewhat prophetic after all. Seriously I was diaganosed with Aortic Stenosis and began planning for a valve replacement procedure yesterday. So here we go - if you would like to respond, I have a healthly sense of humor. I especially like offbeat humor, but please keep it within the bounds of good taste. Laughter for me is the best medicine and I plan on laughing a lot between now and the end of this journey! I've been told I resemble some famous icon that runs around one day a year delivering gifts to all the "Good" people. If you don't get me to laugh I'll use my connections and have your own personal lump of coal delivered to your front door autographed my me. As plans firm up, I will post them in this journal.