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


WH Chronicle No. 7.3.13

July 3, 2013

We finished up our employment at Quartz Mountain, unplugged and packed our vacation home on wheels and headed north on the highway.  We made it about 3 exits and realized that poor Mr. Limpet didn’t gracefully handle being passed by big rigs.  It caused him to fish tail and pine for the shoulder.  So back roads it was for us Clampetts.  We blindly drove down exactly where the GPS told us; down Route 66; and through Kansas and Missouri.  We were listening carefully for banjos.  All systems still appear fully functional, though we almost lost our camper awning.  Perhaps we were supposed to have rolled it up before entering the freeway. 

The kids loved Quartz Mountain.  Their average day consisted of breakfast, hiking, swimming, lunch, cartoons, card playing, swimming, dinner, watch a performance, play Frisbee with the teens, lather, rinse, repeat.   Sam announced that he wanted to live there year round.  Of course, the slumber parties with Lizzie add to the allure. 

Lizzie and kids.

Two solid days of driving…the whole way the kids fought, slept, and sang terminally jovial songs like John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt or 100 Bottles of Beer.  Sam was assigned “Speed Governor” where he commenced with an annoying alert sound (a true talent) if Tom was speeding.  Note:  speeding is only possible in a school zone.  Another favorite pastime was for them to try to elicit a response from me by slapping their own legs and screaming “Ow…Stop it!”   I’ve come to realize that one must endure if not willing to drug your children or arm them with mind-numbing, electronic distractions.  

We are in the midst of an informal survey to track the degradation of Mexican food as we travel north.    We have sadly found that the quality (and authenticity) are inversely proportional to the latitude and the price.   As TexMex as our control, we have experimented with OKMex, KanMex, and MoMex and IllMex.  InMex and OhMex is on the list. 

Tour of RV parks:
Cubby Bear RV Park and Precious Moments Chapel
It was a creepy ghost town.  We arrived late and plugged in.  In the daylight it was even more Twilight Zone.   We called the number on the entrance center and were instructed to put $10 in the drop box upon departure.  We did it—of course—we’ve all seen the movies where they didn’t comply with the unseen…

Cahokia RV Parque off Monsanto Drive in East St Louis.  Seriously.  Equally poetic was the number of chemical factories in which this RV park was nestled.  The murky skyline was contaminated by dozens of smoke stacks.  We awoke this morning to a strange and unidentifiable smell.  The smell was too potent to even blame Sam.   No doubt that every bit of it is completely legal with the potential emission of clean air being a punishable offense.  But strangely enough, this park was not empty—it was full of high-end motorhomes, including a slick, 4 slide,  million dollar Prevost Bus.   The bus owners seemed unusually helpful when Tom was backing our trailer in the slot next to their investment.  
We also met one of the Tuskegee Airmen at this park.  He was on his way to the St. Louis 4th of July Parade to ride in the VIP car.  I gave him a hug. 

Guess where we are...

On the other side of the river--St Louis City Museum is one of the most creative places I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.  Robert Cassilly Jr.  had the concept of  renovating an old shoe factory and turning it into a child’s dream scape.  He succeeded in a remarkable way.   It is all built with reclamation from demolished St Louis buildings.   It consists of tiny tunnels, nooks, crannies, crevices, and a 10 story shoe slide left from the original factory.  On top of the 10 story building there is an old bus, plane and other fun exploratory items in which children  can climb and explore without ever retracing their tracks.  But with all of the tiny twisting passages reaching throughout, it could also be designated as a “claustrophobia therapy center”.   Some of the small downward tunnels would make a MRI chamber feel like a king size bed. 

Today the kids road the tram up into the St Louis Arch.  600+ feet up to look out the little windows at the top.  Tom explained to the kids that it was originally the world's tallest building that fell over in the mud.  I don't think they bought it. 

Coming up—
We will be arriving in Cleveland on July 7th.  We’ll park the camper in the hospital parking lot right next to Trapper John MD.  July 8th and 9th contain more testing.  If all goes well, the valve job will be on July 10th.   An interesting fact:  for the same price of our deductible, there is a service that will fly a family of four to India to have the exact same surgery with the same robot.   All accommodations and meals included.  This is the real medical tourism industry that Americans (with and without health insurance) are popularizing around the world.   Of course we considered it, but felt a little uneasy about potential unknowns; especially those highlighted in Slumdog Millionaire.

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything.  Charles Kuralt

You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance. 
~Franklin P. Jones

A child is a curly dimpled lunatic.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Failing to ever properly fold a map,

The joys of hiking.

Tree kids

City Museum Tunnels

City Museum

Couldn't help ourselves...