WH Chronicle No. 8.7.13

August 7, 2013

We are finally back in Texas!  
We waiting anxiously in the boonies outside of Lampasas for our house to become available.  We will check-in into our wheel-less home at high noon next Sunday. 
Renters out, and Whaleherds in!

Along the long journey home, we have been systematically lowering the property values of relatives with our “Trailer Parks and Banjos” installation on their lawns.   They have behaved kindly only because Tom ‘has a condition’.   

<Cue Kenny Roger’s song: “Just Dropped in to See What Condition My Condition Is In”>

Tom is doing very well.  Too well.   Just recently I found him and both kids on the second branch of a huge pecan tree.  He acts casual.
“Whaaaat?  They didn’t say anything about climbing trees,” Tom responded innocently to my dagger-ous stare. 
“Nor did they mention being a contestant on Wipe Out, or participating in the Running of the Bulls,“ I thought very loudly.
Next time, I’m going to request that they stick a lot more holes in Tom so he’ll pace his recovery more appropriately.

But now, I’m off the hook—absolved of responsibility.  If he injures himself doing a chore for me, I can blame it on that silly tree incident.

At the post surgery check up in Cleveland the doctor stated that Tom no longer needed constant supervision (for heart malfunctions; this is obviously not the case for rule infractions); so we had one last thing to do before leaving Ohio: Cedar Point Amusement Park—home of the highest, fastest, tallest, meanest roller coasters on the planet.   Luckily, Cleveland Clinic offers half price tickets to patient’s families to insure future business.  So, we left Tom peacefully napping in the trailer (our assumption) and spent a day at the park.  After 12 hours of neck whipping excitement, a few G-force blackouts, and more plastic nacho cheese than anyone should consume, we were ready to leave Ohio.  Only 1800 miles and 3 weeks before home.

Here’s a link to a short video featuring one of the roller coasters: Top Thrill Dragster (click here).

10 RV Parks Total
We began to look like a professional pit crew each time we pulled in to a new park.  We could back in the trailer, plug in cords and hoses, pick up all the fruit that had rolled around on the floor, and have it completely livable by the time we were ready to leave the next day.

“Sam, bring me that tool thing with the blue handle.” 
“I think they call that a ‘wrench’, Mom,” he says.
“Bring it anyway.” 

The RV Park occupants were ridiculously kind and helpful.  Of course, I had usually told them my life story within the first 90 seconds of meeting them.   There was always someone to help with any heavy lifting.   And a 12 Pack of Coors Light would insure a whole crew of assistants with grease already under their nails.     

We met all sorts of friendly people along our journey.  Many of them were wishing us well on the highways.  Honking, waving and saluting with their middle finger, as we drove our contraption slowly through the downtowns during rush hour.   State lines were also a welcomed event that meant restitution from any crime we may have unknowingly committed, like leaving dump station accouterment untidy (or dragging it behind us).

Informal Mexican cuisine survey across the US:  TexMex, OkMex, MizMex, OhMex IllMex, WisMex, IoMex, NebMex, InMex, KanMex, New MexMex,.
Well, we continued our survey, but at some point lost our resolve and resorted to Chipotle and Taco Johns.  Anthony Bourdain’s reign is safe for another year.

The kids gave themselves ‘game names’. Sam, a.k.a. “Skull Crusher” has become an avid reader of chapter books via the amazing benefits of hospital confinement.  Daryl, a.k.a. “Screecher” reads while painting her nails.  Both Screecher and Skull Crusher learned how to ride a skateboard in the hospital parking lot.  They have affectionately named Tom, “Third Nipple" for all games.   So far, I’ve avoided any meaningful terms of endearment.

In all honesty, there were times this trip felt like a twisted hybrid of National Lampoon and Grapes of Wrath.  I wish I could say I basked daily in elation and gratitude of a successful surgery, but those moments were usually usurped by the realization that I had to keep Tom and the kids safe, alive, comfortable, and delivered safely back home.  Lizzie became a very welcomed co-pilot.  Now that we are less than 100 miles from home, and Tom is healthy and insolent-- it is a wonderful feeling. 

Thanks for going with us—all of you!  Your bodies, minds, spirits, texts, emails, phone calls—all of it was immensely helpful.  Thank you.  We are very blessed.

Elated, grateful, and relieved at last,

“I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.”  Jewish Proverb

"There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There is just stuff people do." Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

“But the place which you have selected for your camp, though never so rough and grim, begins at once to have its attractions, and becomes a very centre of civilization to you: "Home is home, be it never so homely."”  ~Henry David Thoreau

“We travel because, no matter how comfortable we are at home, there's a part of us that wants - that needs - to see new vistas, take new tours, obtain new traveler's checks, buy new souvenirs, order new entrees, introduce new bacteria into our intestinal tracts, learn new words for "transfusion," and have all the other travel adventures that make us want to french-kiss our doormats when we finally get home.”  The Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need,  Dave Barry

At first, I thought this was Tom, but then I remembered that he never wore shorts under his gown. 

Why is this so amusing to us?

Daryl took this photo while Liz and I were changing a tire. 


WH Chronicle No. 7.20.13

July 20, 2013

We are finally out of the hospital and have spent a few days recuperating on the banks of Lake Erie. 

So now, Tom’s plumbing is tight and the pump has finally decided to maintain a regular rhythm—though, it took a few nail-biting (for me, not the doctors) days for it to settle down.  

Now the kids and I just have to monitor Tom’s activities and watch for any irregularities.  He is stronger each day.  His right nipple now points at 2 o'clock, but other than this, no huge scars to sport.   Sam does blood pressure every few hours and monitors bathroom/shower times.   Daryl is his walking buddy.   He is only left unattended for a couple of hours during his naps while we feed ducks and hold fishing rods. 

Tom is not always a compliant patient.   If we are not watching carefully, he wanders off like a toddler with a screw driver or hammer in hand looking for something to repair.  When I mention his reluctance to cooperate I hear him mutter something about turnabout being fair play. 

We have lots of post-op appointments and follow ups here in Cleveland.  Our journey southward depends on doctor clearance.  Lizzie flies in tonight and will assume the duties of co-pilot.  Even if she doesn’t choose to drive or fold a map; she is able to walk 25 yards without tiring while being old enough to buy beer.  This makes her over-qualified for the job.

"My doctor is nice; every time I see him, I'm ashamed of what I think of doctors in general."
  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

Surgeons must be very careful
When they take the knife!
Underneath their fine incisions
Stirs the Culprit - Life!
~Emily Dickinson

Coordinating the convalescing, 

Tom and a portrait of  his "Rock Star" heart surgeon.

View from his hospital room.

Bustin' out of the hospital!  They decided not to take the stairs. 


WH Chronicle No. 7.12.13

July 12, 2013

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
The love and support we’ve received from everyone has been amazing.  It is as if you all have been holding our hands via technology.  I’ve always preferred hugging warm bodies—but my Macbook is very warm—so whatever works.  The well wishes have been welcomed gifts.

Tom’s surgery went extremely well.   It took two tries and over 7 hours, they were able to completely correct the leaking valve with minimally invasive robotic heart surgery.   I think the cardiac surgeon was very pleased with her knitting job.  It's really amazing. 

As far as the recovery ups and downs--we are enduring.  I’ll spare you, and myself, recounting the details.  It has not been easy.  They say it will get much easier. 

Most importantly, Tom is out of ICU.   Pressures, rhythms, and other important heart functions are finally stable.    Thank goodness. 

If all goes as scheduled, he’ll be discharged early next week.  We’ll come back for post-op check up five days later.   After that we are free to depart the 75 degree weather of Cleveland. 

The kids have been great.  They want to stay pretty close to Tom, but are happy going on walks and exploring the campus while he sleeps.  Amazingly, they navigate their way around this huge hospital; and in the process they have charmed the ICU nursing staff.   We are extremely grateful to Dave and Deb for giving the kids some time away from the hospital.  They are filling those shoes that all of you in Austin wish you could wear for us.  Same for Don, Tom’s brother; he was here during the surgery.   So we have been in extremely capable hands—professionally and familially (?).  If this doesn’t alleviate your worries—then reread the above.  All of this, coupled with your warm thoughts, makes us incredibly fortunate!  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.  

“Be careful reading health books.  You might die of a misprint.”  Mark Twain

“Our prayers for others flow more freely than for ourselves.  This shows we are made to live by charity.”  C. S. Lewis

"The ultimate indignity is to be given a bedpan by a stranger who calls you by your first name." 
Maggie Kuhn

Breathing gratefulness,


The day before surgery at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Rolling Stones Exhibit


WH Chronicle No. 7.8.13

July 8, 2013

Things are different now.  Vacation bliss has evaporated revealing the ore of our summer mission.     

Today we strided through the glass doors of the Cleveland Clinic and mounted the medical gauntlet.   This facility more closely resembles an international airport than any hospital we’ve ever encountered.   Our departure began at Gate J-1 on Concourse “Heart”.  
This is just the main building.
Cool fountain from the main building.  Mr Limpet is parked behind the red building on the right. 

Tom checked in at 9am and never sat in any of the 6 waiting rooms longer than 10 minutes;  6 tests and 1 doctor all within 5 hours.   It was frighteningly efficient.  They are still searching for potential reasons that Tom might skew their near-perfect statistics for minimally invasive heart surgery.   So far, they have failed.  He is stilled scheduled for this new hi-tech procedure on Wednesday.

Mr. Limpet has kept us warm and dry during the monsoons occurring in Ohio.  He behaves extraordinarily well when stationary.  We were on the banks of Lake Erie for a couple of nights in a beautiful, lush setting, to watch fireworks, catch fireflys and play vacation in a park where ducks wander under our camper. 

Now, we are parked on the hospital tarmac in downtown Cleveland.  It sounds like Gotham City.   The constant whirring of sirens, honking horns, and helicopters, is a continual reminder of a very different reality for the rest of our summer.    

Everyone back home will be glad to know that we are also suffering the good will of some wonderful people here in Cleveland.  Long time friends, Dave & Deb, Rich & Julie, have come to our aid with kid care.  They have beautiful families and have extended their generosities of entertaining Daryl and Sam during a few of the  tedious days.   Though, the herd of kids tends to be a distraction hours on end, our kids have made it a habit of knowing Tom’s daily details.  They have refused to spend the night elsewhere and made it very clear that they see ‘Daddy’.   I feel for them with their occasional concern and wonder about each of our coping styles.

Which brings me to an examination of a personal weakness (just one for now)—‘suffering good will’.   It is a challenge.   I hear a small voice saying, “Just say ‘thank you’”; but basically,  I feel unworthy.  This might sound silly, but it’s honest.  I could name 100 causes that feel  [to me] more worthy of the incredible kindness we’ve received from our friends.  Just say, ‘thank you’.  But then it was Martha and Ken, that in an effort to assuage any guilt, kindly reminded me of a logical notion:  “There are certainly plenty of less worthy causes receiving support.” 

So for those of you who are looking for those causes:
Polar Bears with Cleft Palates (a.k.a. PoBeCleP Foundation)
More Boobs for Blondes (a.k.a. MoBloobs Charity)
Spray on Tans for Nigerian Nationals (a.k.a. Afri-tan R US)
Korean Dog Sweaters (a.k.a. Eat More Hot Dogs)
Endangered Pandemic Viruses Foundation (a.k.a. Save Ebola Foundation)
Nuclear Weapons for Underserved and Over-Zealous Nations (a.k.a. Holy Smoke)

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you. 

Don, Tom’s brother, flies in tonight.  Tom will be admitted tomorrow, and surgery on Wednesday.  Love and well wishes have been in abundance from all over the US and from places as far away as Kazakhstan, Norway, and Tanzania.   Thank you.  You all are an inspiration to continue to striving to become a better person.

“If you haven’t charity in your heart, then you have the worst type of heart trouble.”
Bob Hope

“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.”
Saint Francis of Assisi


Last day in St. Louis

Top of the Arch

Flooding Mississippi.  That's the tip of the Lewis and Clark Monument.

Thomas Edison Museum in Ohio