Sunday, September 27, 2009


It's starting to feel a lot like normal. Today's plans are in flux; Nick's girls were going to come over and hang out for a few hours in the afternoon, but the bad weather is discouraging the drive, and we also have people coming to see the house early this afternoon.

It's theater season again, and we just got tickets to two plays for October. One is called Aftermath, about Iraq. The other is Cambria/Douglass, at the Irish Repertory Theater. Feels good to start getting tickets again. We're also making plans with friends for the coming weeks. Nick was right when he said we should just consider September to be a lost month. Now that September's winding down I want to make October better, more interesting and more active. And we head to PEI at the end of the month, so we're really psyched about that.

Another sign of the return to reason is that I'm going to bake today. Nothing hard, just some muffins and maybe banana bread, but it signals both the change of season and re-engagement.

Liv starts SAT tutoring today, which she both wants and dreads -- I understand.

We've returned to full-bore Scrabble playing. Nick beat me on Thursday night twice, and in both games I lost badly. He always says that he hates the next game after he wins. And he's right. We've played four since then and I've won all of them.

I feel better. My energy is back, though I'm sleeping longer and later than I have in years. The swelling is still there. It doesn't seem to me to have gone down, but I'm sanguine about giving it more time. What I'm less sanguine about is that this whole mess may have been watershed; that I may just be one of those people with a bad back. I don't like the idea that I'll always have to be careful, or that I'm fragile. I was hoping that after everything I've been through with hip and back I'd be good as new, but that seems unrealistic. Hip ortho said I could expect 70% relief, but that once a labrum is torn it never functions as it used to. And Nick said that back ortho told him (I was either not there or semi-conscious) that I'd always have pain but that it would be easier to control and manage. Hmmm.

Stories in the news that I'm enjoying: Senator Kyl's performance and Senator Stabenow's retort ("your mother probably did"); Rod Blagojevitch on The Daily Show, Eric Cantor at his (only) health care Town Hall (did he really say that poor woman with tumors should rely on charity?), the adventures of Michele Bachmann (really: how was she elected?)

Interesting times.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Adelante means moving forward. That part I knew. What I didn't know, but found interesting is that it was also the name of a a socialist newspaper in Argentina, founded in April 1916 by young leftwing dissidents of the Socialist Party. I first heard it when we were working with a large global bank, which makes the association with socialism that much more surprising.

But I use it in its purest sense, that of progress. I survived the week. I worked Friday from home, but unlike my most recent at-home days this one was actually productive, filled with calls and meetings and other work activities. Much more satisfying. And by the middle of the week I was able to do more consequential things: client meetings, issue resolution, team updates, press interviews (look for a profile of me in the widely-read B2B magazine, coming soon to a newstand near you.) Lots of work to do this weekend, but I don't mind one bit.

There's still this swelling, which stubbornly shows no sign of receding. The idea of having inside me something the size of what he described is quite nauseating. Nick jokes about it -- whether by calling me Quasimodo, or by suggesting that if I eat carbs it'll go away -- and it's all pretty funny.

We'll keep this weekend quiet, though I hope to end the moratorium on socializing soon. So many people I want to see and hang out with. So many new plays opening, music to hear, restaurants to try. Fall signals the resumption of productive activity -- I still think in school year terms -- and I'm nearly ready to re-engage.

We're booked for PEI for Halloween. That's great, and we can count down the days till then. I like the idea of starting to count again; my numerical abilities disappeared with my cognitive and linguistic abilities over the course of this surgery and aftermath.

Much amused me this week. Sarah Palin's jaunt to Hong Kong is endlessly amusing. Watching the Republicans squirm, dawdle and delay is also funny, in a gallows humor sort of way (great piece in this week's New Yorker: "Getting to No.") The odd and somewhat aimless protests ("no global capitalism" scream the Millenials) at the G-20 have their light side too. And I must have missed something, but why exactly was this meeting held in Pittsburgh? Not that there's anything wrong with it, just wondering. Someone at the NYT figured out that there's a correlation between poor sleep and susceptibility to colds. Wow. That was definitely worth the grant money.

Of course, much is deadly serious. The Iranian nuclear threat, the arrest of terrorists in Queens (in Queens!) and Denver. The real consequences of the health care debate.

But I try to leaven the seriousness with humor, however dark.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Speed bumps and spetsnaz

That's how the doctor referred to my progress when we saw him Wednesday. The swelling has increased, and he described it as the size of a half orange with about 6 ounces of fluid (definition: blood.) He wants to wait it out versus subjecting me to more intervention, which is more than fine with me. Also prescribed a new drug -- an anti-inflammatory used for arthritis, which he promises has none of the weird side effects I had from the others in the constellation of meds. He and Kim were both surprised at my fortitude (their version of how Nick refers to me as a "spetznaz*") in that I returned to work so soon and am taking no drugs.

They did suggest that I lose the high heels for now, and also throttle back on my activity. On the other hand I'm cleared to fly, which works out well since I have two trips on the calendar for next week.

*From Wikipedia: Russian special purpose regiments or Spetsnaz, Specnaz (Russian: Войска специального назначения, (спецназ) tr: Voyska spetsialnogo naznacheniya, pronounced [spʲetsnas]) is a general term for "special forces" in Russian, literally "special purpose". These Russian special forces can specifically refer to any elite or special purpose units under subordination of the Federal Security Service (FSB) or Internal Troops of Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the units controlled by the military intelligence service GRU.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Go dog go

That's the Dr. Seuss book about the dog party -- Go Dog Go. Liv and I looked it up last night, and we both feel much better for knowing. I'm hoping to join Nick this weekend to watch Holly at her fete.

Sunday wasn't the day we anticipated. We expected another languid day but instead had child explosions everywhere we looked. We dealt with them, and we helped each other with our own issues. Ah, the benefits of partnership. We drove out and collected Nikki and brought her home. Matt was here when she arrived, so they got to spend some time, and then Liv got home and they were together.

I went into the office yesterday for an abbreviated session. It was great to see people and be seen, if only for a few hours. Did some catching up so I feel less disconnected. Actually the updates came on so fast and so furiously that remoteness was the least of what I felt. Certain problems, left unresolved will resolve themselves. Others left unresolved stay unresolved until you return to deal with them. The tricky part is deciding which kind of problem is which.

I called the doc for two reasons. First, I was supposed to call Friday for a check-in, and didn't. It wasn't because I forgot; I didn't. I just didn't feel like it. The other reason is that the swelling hasn't dissipated. On the contrary, it has increased. So they want to see me on Wednesday.

Today will be a half-day at home and a half-day in the office. I'll work from home til about noon and then head in. There's a business dinner tonight and I'm hoping to be able to make it. So interesting how expectations adjust to circumstances.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A better Sunday

I feel more like myself every day. We'll see how many naps I need today as a harbinger of what's to come next week when I (happily) return to work.

Holly and Nick just returned from another triumphant morning in the park. Now they're regulars, not newbies, which is always comforting. Holly's so tired but like a true toddler is fighting sleep. It won't be long till she crashes.

Yesterday was a better day; not only did I feel better and well enough to do exciting things like errands, but we had a 3-game Scrabble match with games among our best. I won the first game, but displayed hubris and so was punished in the second -- Nick beat me by over a hundred points. I could blame my letters (which sucked -- for most of the game I had nothing but vowels and never even the good ones, just u's and i's) but that wouldn't be consistent with the spirit of the game. He played well, the gods were against me and I lost badly. But in the third game I rallied and so I won the day. But it was tough.

Errands went well, though exhausting. I had a disoriented sensation in Trader Joe's, almost as though I were seeing everything through a filter that diffuses. We rested a lot after, and that feeling dissipated. We didn't watch any movies yesterday, though we've seen quite a few lately. Watched and loved Frost/Nixon. I made Nick watch The Miracle Worker -- I was looking for something familiar to watch; re-reading books and re-watching movies I've seen helps me fall asleep. But The Miracle Worker had the opposite effect; it woke me up but put Nick to sleep. We also watched Catch-22 during the week, but we both found it tedious after the first hour and we both nodded off, then turned it off.

Matt's been here for the weekend, which was great. He's adjusting to the new school (even if he won't acknowledge it.) Academically he's happy with the classes and the profs; more so than he was at GWU. He's less happy with the social life, but is starting to meet people at the other schools in Amherst so at least he has people to hang out with.

We decided yesterday to go to PEI for Halloween. It is -- as my dad used to say to my maternal grandmother -- a big yontiff. Actually, Halloween does seem to be a big deal up there. We went last year, and it was over that weekend that we first saw the house we'd eventually buy (even if I didn't know it at the time.) The island was on full alert; we heard on the radio that there were warnings and curfews. Apparently they take seriously the "trick" part of "trick or treat." All the more reason for us to be there that weekend. We're looking into flights today.

Also got a call from the agent who used to list our house that one of her buyers wants to up their bid. Their original bid was low, lower than the others we've received. And these people have been interested in the house for a long time. They came several times last summer but hadn't been able to sell the house they were in. So it was a little surprising that when they finally did they made an offer so low. That's not entirely true; in this market no lowball offer is really all that surprising. I didn't call the agent back yesterday, because I got her message during the drowsiest, dopiest part of the day for me (read: the afternoon.) I'll call her back today. Liv is already skipping around the house at the idea that selling the house and moving into the city edges toward reality.

It's time to go. We're tired of the neighborhood, the commute, and everything else. We've moved past it in spirit, now we need to move past it in practicality. Maybe this time it will happen, and another enormous set of pressures will ease.

Things are moving and improving. Soon we'll be able to socialize again, start going places and seeing things and people. My mind is ready. My body will be soon.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Holly unbound

By all reports (ok, by Nick's report), Holly had the time of her life. There were about 30 dogs of all sizes, shapes, age and breeds and it was a veritable dog party. Which Dr. Seuss book is it that features the dog party -- big dogs and small dogs, black dogs and white dogs? That's the book I'm most reminded of.

NB: Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition. Yes, I know that's a no-no. But I did it with knowledge, and also with the knowledge that the rule is a holdover from Latin where it made much more sense than it does with English. So I'm breaking the rule with impunity. My blog, my rules. We have to seize and hold control where we can.

He said -- without any bias of all, of course -- that Holly was the belle of the ball. She played, and ran, happy and unafraid. She generously shared her water with all of her new friends (and if not quite generously,she was smart enough not to get between the other dogs and her water.)

We'll start taking her there every weekend. For today that kind of exertion was beyond my abilities, but I'm planning on getting stronger every day. I'd love to see her in that setting. It reminds me of how I used to love to watch my kids in social settings, to see how they behaved without me; sometimes that required me to hide in shrubbery so I could watch them without their knowledge (I was a shameless mom, and hiding in shrubbery wasn't in any way beneath me.)

So Nick will take her to the park tomorrow, and I'll join next weekend. Holly, unbound. She's had a quite a wonderful doggy day: not just in the park but with the new chewy Nick bought her, and now she's happily resting in a patch of sunshine inside our corral in the yard. A perfect puppy day.

Socializing Holly

It's early Saturday morning, and Nick's taken Holly to the park. A fellow dog owner told him that if you go to Forest Park before 9 you can let dogs off leash in a large fenced-in part of the park. She needs socialization, our Holly, so that she can learn to play well with others. Right now her social skills are limited to skittishness and barking. She also needs endless exercise, just because she's a Jack Russell and therefore has limitless energy -- she's like an overwound top who literally vibrates with intensity. He just texted that there are about two dozen dogs and she's having the time of her life.

Today should be the first day since the surgery that approaches normalcy. We'll do errands, and I'll go along for the ride. And even though the list of chores includes nothing more exciting than food shopping, dry cleaners and drug store it's a big deal for me (I'll no doubt need a couple of naps just to recover from the glory.)

Last night was -- in Olivia's words -- Wendy's big night out. We went to my parents for Rosh Hashana; Matt came in from Amherst and Liv brought Jon. Great dinner, lovely evening and in these particular times a milestone for me. I made it through dinner and was able to stay for two full hours before I got too tired. It was great having everyone together in the same time in the same place (though the kids didn't talk and the only exchanges between them had to do with passing food from one to the other.)

I'm going back to work on Monday, and hoping to make it through an entire day, though we'll see. I was supposed to call the doc Friday for clearance, but forgot.

Some things in the news that puzzle me:

  • Why would someone spend $63,000 to have dinner with Sarah Palin?
  • Why did the conservative right have to turn out to be right about Acorn?
  • Did Jimmy Carter's comments do more harm than good?
  • How can David Brooks believe that the great divide and vitriol we're seeing is sourced from populism and not race?
  • Did the House resolution on Joe Wilson help make him a martyr and was there an alternative?
  • Can health care reform be salvaged?
  • Will Michele Obama's efforts help advance health insurance reform?
  • How many seats will the Democrats lose in the midterm elections?
  • Can anyone mobilize kids to vote in those elections?
  • Which Republican seats are at risk?

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I'm coming out of it. Finally, today, Thursday, I feel more like myself. I've got the pain but I actually welcome it -- I can feel it sharply, intensely, the way it really feels, not distorted through a haze of drugs and withdrawal symptoms. The nausea remains, though lessened, but the crippling headache and disorientation are gone. I'll sleep a lot today, but less than I have been.

Coffee tastes good again, for the first time in about a week. I'm not craving the usual gallons I drink in the early morning, just a cup or so, but it's a start. I think after another day or so of rest I'll be ready to re-enter the world. I'll need to call the doc tomorrow and get cleared to go back to work, and the continued swelling notwithstanding that's exactly what I'm planning.

We managed to get a couple of kid things done this week, somehow. We got Olivia out of her ill-fated US History class and into a regular global class. She's acting as though a great weight was lifted, and seems excited about her upcoming English reading (I'm excited: Othello, Brave New World, and I've strongly encouraged her to actually read these books and not to rely on Spark Notes.) Also looks like we've secured an SAT tutor for her. His name is Wesley, he taught Liv's best friend and they'll start a week from Sunday. Let's hope the genetic inheritance of poor-test-taking ends before her.

Matt's coming home for the weekend, which is great. All he needs to feel at home at school is to meet some people and make some friends, but he's resisting all of the traditional ways to do that.

Nick had jury duty yesterday and managed to get out of it not just for this week but for 6 years. It wasn't his connections to law enforcement that liberated him, but the fact that he's a sole proprietor. Either way, he's free, and relieved (though he admitted that the 3-week criminal trial they were recruiting jurors for sounded interesting; it would have been incredibly disruptive and stressful for him to have served.)

Another crisis averted.

So we'll have a quiet few days coming up, and with luck they'll be the last few quiet days for a while. Starting next week it's time for my next "re" -- now that I've re-emerged and began to re-enter it's time to re-engage, and just get back to full participation in my own life. I miss work and the complications it entails, the ups and downs, the intractable problems easily solved, the teams to work with and help improve. I'm looking forward to next week.

Our social life can get back on track too, and we can soon start to see our friends again. And Nick can offload so many of the responsibilities he's had to take on during my helplessness. I want to share the chores again.

I'll be able to turn off the damn TV except for selected programming; not having it on as a running tap as I have the last few days since these drugs kicked in and robbed my focus and attention span.

So after today I'm looking forward to a better weekend, to a return to consciousness and clarity, to Scrabble and mojitos, to being able to sit upright for a 1/2 hour without needing a rest after, to taking care of some errands (no one can really do my drug store shopping but me, and I'm running out of many things), to starting to switch out my clothes for the new season, to hanging out with Nick and with the kids, to spending far less time in bed, to pulling my weight and doing my share.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Clean and Sober

I've made a decision: I'm stopping the drugs. Nick and I talked about it (when I even had the energy to talk) and we agreed that any relief I'm getting from this potent but evil combination of meds isn't worth the side effects. I haven't even had the energy to write in two days, let alone anything else. Since Sunday I've done almost nothing but lay in bed, and I haven't even been able to manage phone calls. The drugs drain my energy, break my spirit, and suppress my appetite. Even the doc said when we spoke yesterday that all they're meant to do is give me a little relief while my body does the real work, which is dissolving the blood clots under the skin. I've decided that I trust my body more. So effective a few hours ago, I'm getting clean (and sober: wine's off limits, at least until all this poison is out of my system.)

I'll go cold turkey. I'd rather feel the pain but at least feel like myself.

I haven't really been able to read since Sunday; that was when the drugs started to kick in. Before that, though, I finished the Battle for America book -- I highly recommend it. I've received two books as gifts, both very thoughtful (one is the new Doctorow, the other is the Senator Kennedy memoir.) Maybe tomorrow as my system flushes out the meds I'll have the attention span to start one. Inability to focus is actually one of the listed side effects of one of the drugs (don't remember which one; reviewing the side effects for both was like a "can you top this?" exercise -- one scarier than the last.)

More updates tomorrow when I'm actually able to start making things happen, instead of either passively letting them happen or even being completely unaware that they are happening. I'm more hopeful than I've been in a few days (that's a drug side effect too -- mood changes.)

I want my body back, I want my mind back, and I want my spirit back. And that's what's going to happen next.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Lethargarians

My Saturday reminds me of a scene from "The Phantom Tollbooth", when Milo meets the Lethargarians and they tell him how they spend their time.

"Well, if you can't laugh or think, what can you do?" asked Milo."Anything as long as it's nothing, and everything as long as it isn't anything," explained another. "There's lots to do; we have a very busy schedule"At 8 o'clock we get up, and then we spend."From 8 to 9 daydreaming."From g to 9:30 we take our early midmorning nap."From 9:30 to 10:30 we dawdle and delay."From 10:30 to 11:30 we take our late early morning nap."From 11:00 to 12: 00 we bide our time and then eat lunch."From 1:00 to 2:00 we linger and loiter."From 2: 00 to 2:30 we take our early afternoon nap."From 2:30 to 3:30 we put off for tomorrow what we could have done today."From 3:30 to 4: 00 we take our early late afternoon nap."From 4: 00 to 5: 00 we loaf and lounge until dinner."From 6: 00 to 7: 00 we dillydally."From 7:00 to 8:00 we take our early evening nap, and then for an hour before we go to bed at 9:00 we waste time."As you can see, that leaves almost no time for brooding, lagging, plodding, or procrastinating, and if we stopped to think or laugh, we'd never get nothing done.""You mean you'd never get anything done," corrected Milo."We don't want to get anything done," snapped another angrily; "we want to get nothing done, and we can do that without your help.""You see," continued another in a more conciliatory tone, "it's really quite strenuous doing nothing all day, so once a week we take a holiday and go nowhere, which was just where we were going when you came along. Would you care to join us?""I might as well," thought Milo; "that's where I seem to be going anyway."

That was Saturday. It must be the new pills, because not only did I spend most of the day in bed (as I'm meant to -- when you take away sitting and standing that's pretty much all that remains), it was all I really felt like doing. I plowed through the book, which I love, though I'm coming to the end and I'm not ready to finish it. So I'm making it last by reading other things along the way -- mostly food magazines and a couple of news and political weeklies. For some reason this pattern -- making the book last longer, stretching it out -- reminds me of Hamburger Helper. Must be the economy, but I'm seeing their commercials for the first time in a long time.

When I read I tend to keep the TV on with the volume very low, and I watched the President's healthcare rally in Minneapolis. When the coverage was over I discovered a strangely compelling show on MTV: "World's Strictest Parents." I don't know if the show is new or old, popular or not, but something about it drew me in and I watched a few episodes where truly difficult and intractable kids were sent away for a week to stay with families whose home lives are characterized by structure and discipline. There's a heavy dose of religion in the families who take in the teens, at least in the 2 episodes I've seen, which is unsurprising and makes the culture clash even starker.

We played a few games, but not until late in the day. Nick did a lot of work in the morning and took care of shopping in the afternoon, then we both did the de rigeur cleaning before our potential buyers arrived at 6:30. Very nice Chinese couple, asked the right questions, but we'll see.

Today is even less ambitious than yesterday. We've got people coming at noon but that's it. All the errands and cleaning are done. The day lies ahead, pretty much uninterrupted ("Let us go then you and I, while the night is spread out against the sky, like a patient etherised upon a table." - TS Eliot.)

I've been up a while; the pain woke me at about 4 and I couldn't get back to sleep. I stayed in bed as long as I could -- til about 5 -- then got out quietly so as not to wake Nick (though needless to say I managed to wake Holly.) I returned emails from friends (thanks Wendy, Thomas, Sara, Sarah, and while I'm on the subject thanks for your cards and calls and emails Gena, Lamia, Ellen, Pam, work people and family.) Holly's now been barking for a half-hour, but Nick is still in bed, though he'll be up any second.

While we're on the subject of Holly, she is a source of endless amusement. Last night Nick dropped -- and she retrieved -- a cherry tomato, which she played with for what seemed like a half hour. She rolled it, held it in her mouth, spit it out whole, stalked it, and chased it. She treated it the same way she treats a large ant or a cricket -- she torments her prey before she devours it. The tomato didn't put out too much resistance. She's a paper tiger anyway -- brave and bold inside her corral in the yard or inside the house; timid and terrified when she's on the leash. Afraid not only of other dogs but her newest phobia is a tipped-over trash can. Nick thinks it must look to her like an enormous open mouth. That would explain it (though I'm not sure he can come up with the creative reasoning to explain the rest of her new-found fears.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Yesterday at the doc

We trudged through the rain yesterday afternoon to see the ortho for our accelerated appointment; he'd moved it up because of concerns about what I was feeling -- pain, aching, numbness. When we saw him he said I'd scared him with my symptoms, and he and Kim examined both me and the MRI. What they found was a lot of swelling, both visible at the incision site and more so inside via the MRI. That swelling is apparently pressing on the nerves, which would explain my weird nerve-related symptoms.

He said these will subside on their own, but could take a month. A month! And he swapped out the meds. Goodbye Percoset. Goodbye Flexoril. Hello Ultram. Hello Lyrica. Scary drugs, according to the package labels. Scary drugs, according to the pharmacist who insisted that she speak to me before filling the prescriptions, as she made sure that I was no longer taking the old drugs before I started the new ones. One is an anti-epileptic, which got our attention. One of them -- I don't remember which -- says that thoughts of suicide are a possibility. I remember Lyrica from my last job when I was working on Eli Lilly's Cymbalta; Lyrica was identified as a chief competitor when Cymbalta received its new indication. It's a very different thing to work with these drugs in the abstract than it is to have them prescribed for you. A clash of the abstract and the concrete, the theoretical and the actual.

He also thought my plans to return to work early next week were a pipe dream. He was visibly surprised when I asked about returning -- "not yet!" and asked if I needed a note. What we did agree on is that I'd like to start coming in for a few hours mid to late next week, but that I need to check in with him early next week first.

Apparently I now have the dread complications, though they're not serious. It also means that I need to do even less than I've been doing -- less sitting, more resting, no bending, no twisting. No kidding. More bed time, more lying down and the occasional short walk. And that's all that's available to me.

So the weekend will be very very quiet. We have 3 groups coming to see the house which will require at least some cleaning and straightening, but I know Nick won't let me do any real heavy lifting. So I'm working at my level -- just picking up what I can without breaching any of the forbidden activities. It means I can empty the top shelf of the dishwasher but not the bottom, and I can clean off the coffee table in the living room as long as I'm sitting but not standing. As an old boss of mine used to say, champions adjust.

Otherwise I'll read. I'm halfway through the Balz/Haynes book -- completed the section on the Democrats, moving on today to the Republicans. We'll wallow today in the weird news that characterizes 9/12: Glen Beck's insane astroturf movement, the tea parties, the continuing hand-wringing over Joe Wilson and the erosion of civility.

We'll try a lying-down version of Scrabble, and see how that goes. I'm glad it's raining today; it'll make it easier to live within my current limitations, which feel boundless.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Do you hear what I hear?

Roy, the Celtic fiddler we admire, has a website. He plays and teaches at the College of Piping in Summerside (and was featured in the show "Highland Storm: the Gael") and plays Sundays at the Triangle Pub in Charlottetown. We're busy downloading his music and wanted to share. He also plays at weddings, which is something we'll keep in mind (assuming that the divorce actually makes its way through the Queens County court system, which is no small thing.)

Adventures in Commerce

ok, I decided to try something: I clicked the box that asked me if I wanted to monetize the blog, which essentially means that ads will appear. I'm trying this as an experiment, so I'll wait and see what happens. It's my curiosity that's driving this -- I want to see what sort of ads appear (I do this with gmail too; I like to see what google decides is relevant content based on the emails. Sometimes the ads are surprisingly relevant, and other times their irrelevance is just plain funny.) Apologies to anyone offended by this mercenary turn; if it turns out to be offensive or just plain pointless I'll abandon the experiment.

Within seconds of sign up two ads appeared: one for -- fine, relevant. The other is for an organization that offers micro-financing -- ok, I support that. Let's see what happens next.

Comments welcome, as always.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Thursday's progress

Today will have more activity, more interest and more to do than the other days post-op. I'm not facing yet another endless day with nothing that separates morning from afternoon or hour from hour.

Another MRI is scheduled for today, this one with contrast. The doc ordered it Tuesday night when I spoke with Kim about the continuing and quite strange pain I'm having, in places as varied as my groin and my ankle.

They gave me a 3-step plan: first, start taking steroids, which I did on Wednesday. So far, no 'roid rage. Second, have another MRI Thursday. Third, see the doc Friday instead of Monday.

Happily Nick kept today and tomorrow free, with no appointments, so he's available to accompany me both days. Of course he is -- he's my knight. His knighthood, and my princesshood (is that a word?) has always been a central theme of our relationship. Early on he told me that after his marriage ended and he began looking to meet new people he decided that he wanted a princess. And happily for us both, he believes that I am that princess. In keeping the trope of the royal family alive, each of us has a regal appellation. Olivia is the queen, Holly is the monarch (sometimes a benevolent one, sometimes a tyrant), Matt is the Infanta (and rarely the Dauphin), and Nick is alternatively the knight -- to me -- and the Tzar -- to Olivia, who gave him that nickname. In scrabble though he might be the "czar" or the "tsar", depending on letters. Needless to say we've mixed the royal metaphors, but since all of Europe's royal families are related we're not that far off.

So this morning we're off to the city so I can get dyed and viewed. The steroids seem to be having an effect already, if on nothing else but my energy level, which began to improve late yesterday.

I completed the two mini-projects I'd planned -- sending a thank you note to the hospital staff and posting vacation photos. Also, I read most of the day and am already about halfway through the Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson book, which I highly recommend. When we get back from the city I'll be exhausted (my only exercise these days is blogging, and there's a funny New Yorker cartoon this week (above) about blogging for health.

I'll no doubt be exhausted when we get home this afternoon, so I'll return to bed, sleep and read more of this book, which I find fascinating and seductive.

We watched the President's address to Congress last night, and were very impressed. The ending in particular -- when he referenced the letter he received from Senator Kennedy in May -- was particularly moving, and it gave that part of the speech the revival meeting campaign quality we haven't seen much of since the election (though we saw it also in his speech to the AFL/CIO on Monday.) The shockingly inappropriate outburst by Joe Wilson (R-SC) seems to have backfired (beware the law of unintended consequences), but is a reminder of how much ugliness the Obama presidency has unleashed.

One week post surgery I've stopped researching the recovery for what I had; the info no longer applies because the surgery was more involved and unexpected than planned. Halting the research is a key step in recovery, and I'm happy to have let it go. Of course if I learn anything new at tomorrow's doc appointment all bets are off.

Both kids had good first days of school. Liv's was yesterday, and she came home pleasantly surprised and in a good mood (not bad for day 1.) She was placed in AP History; a welcome surprise but still a surprise -- the other kids who knew they'd be in the class had summer reading to prepare. We talked it through and she's going to give it a shot, though she's already way behind and it's only the first day. She knows I'll help: my sphere of influence includes english, history and and other humanities. Nick can help with chemistry and math for things like music theory she'll get help peer-to-peer (a fancy way of saying that her friend Jackie will help.)

Matt's second day of classes also went well, and he texted me that UMass's dining facilities kicked GW's butt. The only detail I got is that there's a self-serve stir-fry station. There's also a Trader Joe's in town which is great -- it's his (and ours) favorite store. I expect to see lots of purchases from their on his credit card statement. Everything that goes well and every sign that he'll have a better experience here than at GW is a victory. The only thing he'll need is a new batch of friends, and that'll come in the fullness of time.

So on the kid front: so far, so good.

I was in closer touch with work yesterday than I've been since last Wednesday, and everyone's been incredibly supportive. I had one conference call and a bunch of email exchanges, and it helped make me feel less disconnected from the goings-on, all of which (my boss assured me) will be waiting for me when I return. I'm very grateful to work with people like this, and it's one more reason why I know that I made the right decision returning to Grey almost one year ago.

It'll be a year on October 14th. I'll always remember that date, not only because it was when I started this gig but more importantly it was the day that Matt was diagnosed and hospitalized with Type 1 diabetes. Paranthetically Matt is doing a spectacular job managing his diabetes, which is miraculous. To be diagnosed with something so serious and so life-altering at 19 is unimaginable, but he's rallied, taken full responsibility and dealt with it with a maturity and seriousness that continually impresses me. Not only is he on top of it, at camp he became to go-to person for all the diabetic kids, both those who were handling it well and those who weren't. Hail, Matt. I adore my kids and I'm endlessly proud of them. My only wish is that they were on better terms with each other, but there's no sign of it. The first night that they were home alone together was last Wednesday when I had my surgery, and they had an enormous blow out, complete with language that would make a longshoreman blush. By the time we got home the active fighting had ended in an armed truce, which included accusations that one had hidden the other's ipod, and other such felonies. That lasted a few days til Matt left for school, and now they can return to their prior state: complete apathy and lack of interest in each other.

On the trail

There's always time for romance on the trail

Abandoned dacha

this was the spa we found, built by a Chinese Canadian investor but then abandoned. It's the one that reminded me of the dacha in Dr. Zhivago. And the other one shows what I thought was a uniquely Canadian warning.

Photos from cycling trip

And here are a few choice ones from our early August trip.

And now for something completely different

I'll take a breather and post photos from our last 2 trips to PEI. Here are 2 from the trip with the kids, both taken in Cavendish.

Monday, September 7, 2009

blurring days

Monday overall

Not much to report on Monday. Even the low-level, low-commitment projects didn't get done.

I did get to watch the President's speech to the AFL-CIO, which was fiery and stirring.
Otherwise, a lot of resting, some actual sleeping, and reading .

Word games

We played two games of Scrabble, one late morning and one late afternoon. They were probably the two best back-to-back games we played. Both were squeakers, and right down to the wire. In the first game Nick had great words, including hording and a couple of stinkers ("unplant"? "birna"?) That game ended 402-396 in my favor. In the second game the highlight was Nick's 7-letter word -- siltiest. The lead kept going back and forth between the two of us. At the very end I was barely ahead, just by 4 points. Nick went out with a 3-letter word (ora), got one point from me and the game ended in our first-ever tie: 348-348.

We played the first game outside, because I wanted to experience some of the exquisite weather. The second one we played in the living room, and during both I got up and paced every few turns so I that I didn't sit for too long.

Arts and Letters

I finished more of the Fed book, enough that I can now put it away and feel like I've read it. Today I'll start a new one: "The Battle for America 2008" by Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson. They were featured last night on PBS The Newshour and it looks interesting (and less of a hagiography than Richard Wolf's "Renegade", which I read up in Canada.) I'll read and then report. (vs. "we report, you decide." Indeed.)

Pain report

Lots of pain yesterday, more than I anticipated. It's not so much at the incision site as deep aches in my thigh, hip, butt, leg and knee. The pain has a stretching quality that reminds me of a bad menstrual cramp or a labor pain. I felt more of it yesterday, either because the pain worsened or because the drugs weren't helping as much (or I was waiting too long to take them). When I take enough of them to dull the pain I find it harder to hold a thought. I can originate a thought, just can't hold on to it for very long.

The kids: part 1

Spoke to Matt from Amherst and he sounded better. More hopeful, more encouraged. Bought himself a new bike (actually a used one but a vintage model in good shape.) He's going to ride around campus and get his bearings. He met two of his apartment-mates. Both are partiers (one was filling the fridge with beer, the other reeked of weed) but all he needs to do with them is peacefully coexist. He'll find his own friends. I'm confident that he can make new friends; he's much more facile socially than he used to be. His first class is "Fixing America's Foreign Policy." As an outsider that seems a presumptuous course title. Shouldn't there be a pre-requisite like "Understanding America's Foreign Policy"?

The kids: part 2

Liv did some back-to-school shopping with Jon and Joe. Not traditional school supply shopping, more the Manhattan/LaGuardia/artsy back to school shopping -- a few key items of clothing and accessories. Gues the notebooks and pens will wait. I used to love back-to-school shopping when the kids were little. Loved checking the items off the list, organizing and labeling them, seeing an array of fresh supplies. When they were very little they enjoyed it too, it was only later that their dread of school clouded the joy of brand-new school supplies. The apple store fixed her MacBook (no charge) and I ordered a new ipod (her last one beat the dust, in the proud tradition of our family). So now she's set for school. She did try about a month ago to dupe me into a new phone. She was entitled to an upgrade but the phone she picked out was still about $400, and that was with the discount. I demurred, and even Jon agreed that she didn't really need a phone that advanced or that expensive.

Today, and some random musings

Nick's going into the city this morning to deal with criminal histories, so he'll be gone til about 11 or 12. Then Joe comes over so they can review cases, which means that Nick will be here all afternoon. He won't have the same kind of free time he's had the last few days, but I'll take what I can get.

Liv will be in last-day-of-summer-break denial, but maybe the exigencies of the situation will get her to finish her summer reading. It's Malamud's "The Assistant" -- great book but she doesn't like it. That's expected, she rarely enjoys the books assigned. Oh well. The English major genetic inheritance stops with me; neither of the kids is a great reader. Matt's gotten better and now carries a book wherever he goes. But neither was the kind of voracious, insatiable reader I was when I was a kid -- I read everything: cereal boxes, shopping lists, books, magazines, newspapers, anything I could get my hands on. The kids have always made fun of my English major but they also appreciate it when it comes to book reports, essays and anything having to do with reading and writing. So it was a useful major from their point of view, mockery aside. I've always been glad that I studied literature and linguistics. I believe -- and I've told the kids this a million times -- that college isn't trade school, and that they shouldn't view it as merely a way to get skills to land a job. College should teach you how to think, and to know what educated people know, so a liberal arts major is desirable (I use that word deliberately because Matt used to make fun of me when I used it. Never sure why, but the word always struck him as funny.)

If nothing else, this recovery time gives me time and opportunity to muse. My thoughts may be narcotic-impaired but I still enjoy them.


They're not much, because I can't do most of the stuff I usually do when I have time at home. Normally I work out, do household stuff, sometimes play guitar. With all of that off limits, it's a short and sedentary list of what's available to me. Here's the current plan:

  • write a thank-you note to the nurses and staff at 8 Wollman, Lenox Hill
  • post more photos from our trip to PEI with the kids
  • read
  • read
  • read
  • cuddle with Nick
  • check my email for a response from Roy, the brilliant Celtic fiddler in PEI who we've now seen 4 times (we emailed him to let him know that we're huge fans, and also to see -- in a bit of vague future planning -- if he performs at weddings)
  • write
  • respond to emails
  • sleep
  • read
  • play Scrabble
  • take short walks
  • rest
  • cuddle with Nick

That's about it. Not a particularly ambitious agenda. I'd love to do some baking, but too much bending, lifting and standing involved. Working out is sadly out of the question. Maybe a bit of on-line shopping with Liv, and perhaps I'll return to reading the daily political blogs, which include Politico, HuffPo, Daily Kos, Wonkette. I lost my taste for them and for most of the news over the last week, and while we're both saner since we left the 24-hour news cycle I wouldn't mind dipping a toe back in the water.

I missed one key project: appreciating Nick for everything he's doing and for the loving way he takes care of me. I try to thank him at every opportunity but I'm not expressing it well or often enough. There's no one on the planet who could do for me what he does, and no one else I'd even allow to try. He is the best, in every way and by every measure.

Labor Day Monday

It's early morning on the Monday of Labor Day. I've been home now since Friday afternoon, and here are some of the highlighted events since then:

  • my usual driver -- Chaim -- who I request when I use a car service -- took us home from the hospital, even though it was his day off

  • Matt was here when I got home with a friend from camp who crashed here til yesterday. Matt asked me if Holly was racist, since he's black and she kept growling at him. I explained that Holly's not a racist, but she is a sexist -- she doesn't like men, unless she knows them (which includes Nick, Matt, my dad, and other men she sees and remembers, which includes my ex-husband). Other men are greeted with growls and barks

  • Olivia stepped up while we were gone and took care of everything in a singularly impressive way. She took care of Holly, kept the house in order, checked to make sure all was under control, made the coffee, ran and emptied the dishwasher, brought in the mail and the papers -- everything. She did an amazing job

  • Matt was offered a ride up to Amherst by a high-school friend who offered to drive him up to school on Saturday afternoon. But inexplicably and unforgivably he blew him off. First there was a series of vaguely explained delays, then finally by evening he just let him down. Understandably upset, Matt asked his dad to take him early yesterday, which fortunately worked out. Unconscionable about his friend. But he got to school early and safely, and by 11 or so was already in the housing office getting set up. He sounded better from there; he found out he can get apartment-style housing on campus in a single that's part of a larger suite. All this for a mere $1200 more per semester. A bargain at twice the price. Even he said "so far so good", which for him is a major affirmation. Fingers crossed

  • the house is filled with flowers, cards, plants, gifts and fresh fruit, and the care and thoughtfulness of the givers means a great deal to me. Thank you John, Bruce, Ellen, Judy, Bob, Mom and Dad, Nikki and Jamie and to everyone who's been calling and emailing

  • I've had two sets of visitors. My parents came on Saturday, for about 45 minutes. And they returned yesterday with my favorite aunt and uncle for an hour. Great to see them. The only problem is that I can't comfortably sit for more than 15 minutes, which I did during both visits. After each I needed to lie down and rest for hours. I think I'll spend more of today supine than sitting, and may need to forgo visits for a day or two

  • I'm having a lot of post-op pain, not only at the incision site but in my low back, butt, hip and leg, and there's also some numbness in my right calf. I'm sure this is well within the normal recovery range, but if it's not better in a day or so I should probably call the doc (which means I won't actually speak with the doc; that' s not the protocol, but with Kim the always-helpful PA

  • I'm almost continually drugged, taking all the pain meds as prescribed which is a hell of a lot of pain meds. 2 percs every 4 hours plus the muscle relaxant twice a day. I'm a little woozy and spacy, especially about an hour after I've taken them. I'm sharp enough to write and email and read, but would never be able to work or be truly productive. That'll have to wait until the pain subsides enough so that I can cut back on the drugs

  • I found out during the family visits that my maternal grandmother was addicted to percoset. They wouldn't go so far as to call her a junkie, but apparently she had pills squirreled away in every pocket and every place so she'd never be far from pain relief. I've been told all my life that I resemble my grandmother more than anyone else in the family, and here's another common bond (though I don't see any true addiction coming my way; I don't particularly like the state I'm in on perc

  • it's possible though that the pills I'm on now are helping break my addiction to sleeping pills. For as long as I can remember I've taken stuff every night that's intended to prevent migraine. It's a low-level anti-depressant that's supposed to help avert all headaches, and over the years the dosage has been adjusted as my body inures itself to each level. I started at 10 milligrams and today I'm at 100. Though it's not intended for sleep it offers drowsiness as a happy side effect, and I've relied on it for as long as I can remember. But I'm concerned about mixing it with the other drugs (I've tried it and the experience was something I don't want to repeat.) So I've been doing without since I've been home. The good news is that I'm sleeping pretty much as well without it as I did with it, though of course the perc/flex combo is pretty powerful. I'm hoping to continue without it once I'm off the current regimen -- that would be an unintended but welcome consequence of this whole process
  • We resumed playing Scrabble yesterday -- first games in about a week. We played three games yesterday. I won 2, Nick 1, but all were good, tight games (though in fairness the scrabble gods smiled at me throughout and Nick was seriously disadvantaged when it came to letters. Didn't stop him much though; he had a seven-letter word (the word was smiling. He's learned to look for key letter groupings like "ing") and a couple of killer plays. He's so cute -- he gets more anxious when he's winning than when he's losing. When he's losing what's happening is what he expects. The winning though makes him tense because he's sure I'll pull out some amazing late-game play that will turn the game around for me. That didn't happen in the last game, though he thinks I threw the game to him. I didn't -- scout's honor -- I just didn't have the letters or the imagination to win the final game. But he's such a great and fun competitor; nothing skirtly about him

  • We watched Gran Torino last night. We're completely behind in movies, and hardly saw any in the past year. What we saw a lot of was plays: over a dozen in the winter and spring. We agreed on our two favorites, each with a bullet. They were the new production of O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms (brilliant; the director cut at least a third of the dialogue, added key sections in pantomime and refreshed the entire play) and the revival of Joe Turner's Come and Gone (we saw it exactly one week after the Obamas did, and sat in the two seats directly behind where they sat. The whole audience and staff was still all abuzz about their attendance.) But over the next couple of weeks, with my boundless limitations we may get to catch up on some of the movies we've missed.
It's good to be home. Yesterday the house was full: the 3 of us, Matt and his friend, Matt's dad, then later in the day the family. Today will be quiet, which is just fine. After today Nick starts working again, so it's the last day for a few when he can just hang out with me without work beckoning him. So I want to make the most of today when we're still in the bubble of the holiday weekend.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Days 2 and 3

Thursday was a day of both adventures and misadventures. After what seemed like an endless night the morning finally came. While the hospital stay was characterized by hustle and bustle and an almost constant stream of people coming in and checking things and doing others, there's a block of time at the hospital that's particularly quiet. From about 3 or 4 in the morning until about 6, nothing happens. No blood pressure checks, no meds, no traffic. I tried to watch TV but the 70s-era TV in the room had missing channels and volume problems. The newspapers were boring. I read and dozed and thought about what would turn out to be the day's parlor game: whether I would be set free and sent home Thursday or not.

Out of nothing but boredom and lack of control, I changed my clothes in the middle of the night. It was more symbolic than useful (it's much easier for the nurses and docs to do their stuff when the patient is in a hospital gown) but it made me feel a tiny bit better, and like my apparently extraordinary bathroom success impressed the staff. It also made possible another of my misadventures, which I'll get to in a moment.

Mercy's opinion was that I'd be staying another night, and Nick felt strongly that I should. Unsurprisingly, I had every intention of going home. The people closest to the decision were Kim, the ortho's PA, and Alex, the hospital's nurse-practitioner. They came to see me frequently, and were terrific. They also acted as a proxy for the ortho, who never came by, which was mildly shocking. But Kim, Alex and Mercy were great -- attentive, ever-present and thorough. Nick canceled the second night at the Carlyle, figuring that either I'd be released that day or if not he would just go home late at night and come back early the next morning.

When the morphine stopped helping they decided to try something else -- a heavy-duty narcotic called Dilaudid. Shortly after they gave it to me in an injection, I developed a rapid allergic reaction: itching, shortness of breath, tingling in my hands. Nick went to find Mercy who immediately recognized the symptoms as a reaction and gave me benadryl. One more drug, one more set of toxins flowing through my system. The benadryl worked and neutralized the dilaudid. Then they added a new drug to my cocktail, a muscle relaxant called Flexiril which I now take every 12 hours.

The day wore on, and no decision was made, which in and of itself seemed like a decision. By mid-afternoon Mercy was urging me to start walking, which is a recovery requirement. And so I decided to indulge my delinquency, and sneak out for a smoke. I was already dressed (good prior planning) and we were told to go walk. We rode the elevator down, I kept my hospital bracelet hidden inside my sleeve, and we left the building. I managed just a few drags before I started feeling dizzy, but we stayed outside a few minutes longer just because the weather was so beautiful and the air was fresh and fragrant. When we walked back into the hospital and started to walk by security, we were busted by a guard. He told us what we already knew, that I wasn't actually allowed to leave, and because we didn't want to get him into trouble we apologized, feigned stupidity (that was easy) and quietly slunk back upstairs.

Shortly after we got back upstairs Alex came back, told me that he didn't like the way I looked (I took that in the spirit in which it was intended) and said that I should stay that night. By then the fight was beaten out of me and I assented. Nick felt better that the decision was made and wisely chose to stay at the hotel another night.

He had a lot of fun at the hotel. He pretended to be an out-0f-town hick blown away by the big city, here only because his girlfriend was in the hospital. He wisely spoke little, because his accent would have instantly given him away. But he had fun. And loved the hotel and all the excellent service they provided. The only surprise was that he ordered the in-room breakfast Friday morning, and when he got the bill for what was really just coffee, cappucino, juice and some baked goods -- $52. That's the big city for you. And to get to the business center he had to walk through the tea room, filled with ladies who lunch (or more accurately, ladies who drink tea), all well-dressed and well put together. Dressed in shorts, tshirt and sneakers he felt more than a little out of place but enjoyed the juxtaposition.

The bill for breakfast, along with my hospital bracelet, goes in our memory box.

Nick stayed with me till late that night, and ate my dinner so he wouldn't have to go out. That was fine with me; hospital-issue baked tilapia, canned peas and carrots and potatoes au gratin (which were apparently weird but tasty) weren't exactly my meal of choice.

By then I was sanguine about staying. Once the decision was made and the uncertainty was gone it was easier to just settle into the situation. Thursday night was very long too, though less traumatic than the night before.

Next: the return home.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


I woke up this morning in my own bed for the first time since Wednesday morning, and now I can start to chronicle the last few days. I'll do it in fragments both because it's easier in my current state to write short bursts than sustained narrative, and because my memory of the last few days is choppy and inconsistent. But I'll start at the beginning.

Day 1 -- Wednesday

The alarm went off at 4:30, but I'd already been up an hour. Everything was done and up to date but still it was a harried chunk of time until the car arrived. I had a little coffee first (I view the no food or beverages dictum as more of a suggestion than a rule), and then we were off to Lenox Hill.

Things went smoothly and efficiently, with no real waiting. Once I was changed and situated in my corner of the pre-op ward, the parade began. Lots of nurses asking lots of questions. Lots of forms to be filled out. Lots of repetition. The visits had a reassuring humdrum quality to them, at least until round 2 started.

Round 2 included visits from the anesthesiologist (a very good person to know), a neurobiologist (that was unexpected, more to come about him) and finally the ortho. The ortho was reassuring and said a couple of things that made me feel better. First, he said that this is the least aggressive of the spinal surgeries he does, and that a simple laminectomy (or as I later heard it called "a one-level lami" )with a small cyst removal was straightforward. He also said that my thinness was a distinct advantage and would make the surgery easier for both him and me. The anesthesiologiest had a dry sense of humor, which I always appreciate.

It was the neurobiologist though who struck me, both in the simple fact of his presence and involvement and then because of his personality. He was short and squat and bearded, and a little too chipper and hyper for that hour of the morning (the other guys had a better approach; neither sepulchral nor solemn, just a little quieter and more in tune with the occasion.) He chattered on about how he always works with this doc, and how the insurance would work. Those two facts could not have been less interesting to me at the moment. What was more interesting was his role: he'd be monitoring my brain, spinal cord and nerve function throughout the surgery, and that made perfect sense to me.

Shortly after the last visit it was time to go. I was wheeled out of there in a wheelchair, and Nick came along as far as they let him, then we said goodbye and the nurse and I went on to the OR.

I was awake a long time in the OR before they put me out, long enough to take in the room (I like to look at labeled cabinets and drawers and shelves see what they keep. I didn't recognize most of the stuff, until I saw a box marked "drill bits." I stopped reading labels after that. The other thing I saw that struck me was a radio labeled "Ortho Spine Radio." It took me a minute; my first thought was that spine surgeons had their own radion station and I wondered what kind of stuff they broadcast, music to drill by, tutorials - yes, of course that's not what the label meant.)

There were so many people in there; the anesthesiologist, dr. brainwave, the PA, nurses everywhere and finally the ortho. Huge room with tons of equipment and staff. I made a lame joke asking if all this attention was for me, and that they needn't bother. The brainwave guy was prancing around putting electrodes all over me, and humming and whistling. I liked the anesthesiologist better; he chatted quietly with me and made a few wry comments. The ortho told me again that this would be straightforward and all would be fine. He'd go in, clear the lamina from the spinal canal, excise the small cyst, close up and be done.

From there it fades to black. I awoke many hours later in the recovery room. The surgery had taken longer than expected; closer to two hours than one, and I was out for hours after. The first face I saw when I woke up was Nick -- nothing in the world beats that. He'd obviously gotten the report on the surgery before me, and he brought me up to date. I heard what he said as though I were in an echo chamber. I had a hard time processing and remembering what he was saying.

The best laid plans, and all that. Apparently the ortho was shocked when he opened me up, because he found things that neither the MRIs nor xrays showed (so much for the great value of imaging studies.)

The tiny cyst turned out to be enormous (in his words he keep taking it out and it kept coming and coming.) There was a badly herniated disk. And strangest of all (at least to me) there was a bone fragment; apparently a piece of bone from my spinal column had broken off and was just kind of floating in there. He told Nick that he couldn't imagine how much pain I must have been in, and that he was astonished at what he found. The nerves apparently were also very much affected; whenever he went anywhere near the nerve the lines on the monitor were off the charts (ok that's not a technical description but it's the best I can do) and he used steroids just to calm the nerves.

So a much different surgery than planned, certainly a more involved and complex one.

I got the private room I requested, which was a blessing. Nick was there from the moment I was brought in until he left late that night Matt came by, which was great. I have no memory of what we talked about except that he said the TV in his hospital room last fall was way better than mind, and he was right. I'd told him that if he wanted to see me he should wait til Thursday; I'd either be home -- that was the plan -- or still in there but less out of it one day post. He chose to ignore my direction (for a change) and that was perfectly fine with me.)

I was hooked up to IVs, and they gave me morphine by injection every few hours. I did little but sleep.

And pee. This became a bit of a cause celebre. I was full of fluids from the IV drip, and was given one of two choices when I had to go: a bedpan, or an accompanied trip to the bathroom with a nurse. I took option 2 at first. But after Nick left and the night wore on I had to go every 10 or 15 minutes. So I decided that there was a third way. I was not going to bother the nurses every few minutes -- they had enough to do. And a bedpan was out of the question. So I just started taking myself there, using the IV set up as a walker. It wasn't too hard, but all the nurses and docs were shocked the next morning that I did this, and was able too. If nothing else, I am as stubborn as all get out.

My bathroom prowess -- combined with my unexpectedly complex surgery -- made me a bit of a celebrity patient on the floor. (It didn't hurt that many of the patients on the floor were difficult and nasty. I could actually hear some of them barking at the nurses and techs, and one woman who came by to draw blood was a little shaken at how she'd just been screamed at by a patient across the hall.) Yes, it's miserable to be in a hospital and it's difficult to recover from surgery but to take it out on the staff is unthinkable. I found the nurses and in fact the entire staff to be breathtakingly helpful, supportive and present.

Nick stayed as late as he could, and then went to get something to eat before going to his hotel (the Carlyle, hoo hah.) The night was endless. The pain was unimaginable and even the morphine didn't help. It kept me awake all night (though that was abetted by both the bathroom visits and the nurses checking up on me.) I found that I couldn't watch TV, or listen to music, or even read a magazine. TV and music hurt my ears. For some reason the one thing I could do was read "In Fed We Trust" in small bursts. If I remember I'll send the author an email to thank him.

By the morning I was a crying wreck. I think it was the combination of pain, frustration, narcotics and anesthesia, but whatever the reason I was a leaky sobbing mess when the day shift started and my new nurse introduced herself. Her name is Mercy, and she's a tough, tiny thing who speaks with both compassion and authority. She explained how pain management works, that I needed to build up and maintain a constant level of pain relief.

She asked if this was my first major surgery. I started to mention the arthoscopic things I'd had (shoulder, hip) and the endoscopic (sinus) but she waved all of that away with a whisk of her hand. That whisk reminded me of the passage from Brave New World:

"He waved his hand; and it was as though, with an invisible feather wisk, he had brushed away a little dust, and the dust was Harappa, was Ur of the Chaldees; some spider-webs, and they were Thebes and Babylon and Cnossos and Mycenae. Whisk. Whisk — and where was Odysseus, where was Job, where were Jupiter and Gotama and Jesus? Whisk — and those specks of antique dirt called Athens and Rome, Jerusalem and the Middle Kingdom — all were gone. Whisk — the place where Italy had been was empty. Whisk, the cathedrals; whisk, whisk, King Lear and the Thoughts of Pascal. Whisk, Passion; whisk, Requiem; whisk, Symphony; whisk..."

Ok, so it's not exactly the same, but that's what her gesture called to mind. She brushed everything else aside and said that this wasn't like the others; this was major surgery. And what I didn't know yet was that my crying was a marker, a marker that showed that the pain wasn't well controlled enough for me to be sent home, and that I was likely facing a longer stay.

I'm going to take a rest now and let the painkillers and muscle relaxants kick in. Will come back later with more tales from the Adventures of Wendy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Yesterday was a little strange and disconnected. My calendar was packed, and I remarked that a greased eel couldn't find its way in. But it wasn't just crowded, it was odd. It began early in the morning when I went to get xrays, and the technician hit on me. He was busy telling me that I was in great shape, asked if I'd been a dancer (hmmm) and then made sure to speak loudly when he was telling a fellow tech that he couldn't meet the kind of women he was interested in, and complained that the ones he was meeting weren't together enough, articulate enough, classy enough. It may have been vanity that made me feel he was talking to and about me, but coming on the heels of the dancer comment it seemed that way. And of course you're not at your most confident when you're dressed in a hospital gown and subject to someone else's direction and expertise.

From there the day went apace. I was entirely focused throughout my meetings, calls and exchanges, as though nothing were wrong or looming. But it was in between meetings -- the tiny interstices of time -- when I felt something, though it was vague and diffuse. I had a strange feeling as I went from office to conference room to office -- it felt like the disorientation that heralds the arrival of migraine. It passed when the next meeting or piece of work actually began.

And today was fine and far less strange. A 3/4 day filled with meetings and calls, but no disorientation between them. That strange state yesterday -- almost a fugue state -- reminded me of what a professor once said about Joyce's Finnegan's Wake: he said the novel described the space between nightmares. But there was no Joycean quality about today. Neither Finnegan's Wake nor Ulysses.

I'm home now, the kids are home, and Nick's on his way back too. The kids are hovering a bit, their anxiety showing. My reaction to that is to be supercharged earth mom, all reassurances and ease. And the more normal I act the more normal they act. But deep in my bones I feel their anxiety -- not my anxiety about me but their anxiety about me. I wish I could completely neutralize that but I can't, so I'll be satisfied just mitigating it. We're chatting about this and that, regular stuff.

"In the room the people come and go, talking of Michelangelo." TS Eliot, the Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock

The point of this afternoon and evening is to maintain the fiction that today is a regular day. No histrionics, no sad faces, nothing. I've got laundry going and the dishwasher running.

Holly's frolicking in the yard. I retract -- she's not frolicking. That word implies carefree capers, bounding and leaping. She's much more focused than that, inspecting the grass for bugs (she rolls in slug slime and taunts ants before she kills them.) She's hard at what qualifies for work in a Jack Russell puppy. Nick said she killed a bird this morning, and we're still processing that. Liv said she's like a serial killer, in that she murders and shows no remorse. Nick said that what she showed was surprise and confusion; the bird didn't (or couldn't) fly, and before he knew what was happening there was a burst of feathers flying. Everyone needs a hobby.

I'm actually much more sanguine today than I have been in a few weeks. I'm ready, and I feel so calm I'm almost (but not quite) serene.

Update: just got my surgery time. 7:30 a.m., but I'm due there at 6. We'll arise at 4:30, leave at 5:30. So even for me an early start. Onerous but better than the alternative.

I won't be bringing my laptop to the hospital, so no blogging until I'm home (and maybe not for the first few days.) I'll try to keep straight anything that happens of interest so I can chronicle it when I'm back home.