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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

tests today, and the details re: Friday

Stanley went to get his tests done this afternoon. He had an EKG and a chest x-ray, blood was taken, piss collected. Dr. Clive Robinson’s physician’s assistant, Bill, spoke with us, getting a case history and details and letting us know a bit of what to expect. Then, a nurse from anesthesiology took another history (same questions, different sequence, with dental history included). She filled us in on the sequence of events on Friday.

We’re supposed to get there at 6:30 am. That’s as in am in the morning, as in a time of day we rarely see unless we work an all-nighter, before the sun even rises. Which also means we probably won’t sleep much the night before. Stanley, especially, doesn’t sleep well if there is someplace he MUST be very early. Anyway, we’re supposed to report to the third floor where they’ll take him in and prep him for surgery, and I will get to be with him for most of this time (he gets a nice shave from his neck to his ankles—they shave the legs just in case they need to get one of his leg veins for the bypass).  His surgery is scheduled to begin at 7:30 am sharp, and will last from four to six hours. I get to wile away the hours in the third floor waiting room. The nurse said I could even leave and go home during surgery if I wanted to. As if! The farthest I will go is the coffee shop on the first floor. I wonder if I can get a coffee IV ...

The PA said his tissue valve will likely be a bovine or porcine valve, rather than a human valve. Stanley was kind of leaning toward a human valve, but those are only used in 82% of these procedures, PA Bill said. S decided it doesn’t matter—he trusts Dr. Robinson. As long as it’s not a mechanical valve.

After the valve job/bypass, the surgeon will come out and tell me that everything went perfectly. About an hour after that, I get to go see S for a little while in his cardiac intensive care room on the 7th Floor. He will have all kinds of tubes, particularly a breathing tube and a chest tube. He should be able to have the breathing tube removed with a few hours post surgery and the chest tube gets yanked the next day if all is well (which it will be). He’ll then get moved to a “regular” room on the 7th floor. A private room, which is nice.

The nurse said he’d be spending at least five days post-op in the hospital, maybe four days if he’s cartwheeling down the hall on Day Four. (Stanley said he wants to be going home in four days. That would be nice, but I want him to come home when he SHOULD be coming home).

Visiting hours, once he’s out of intensive care (by Saturday morning, when all goes well) are from 8:00 am until 8:00 pm. It’s pretty easy to get to Bridgeport Hospital as it’s right off I-95 (exit 29, the follow the big H signs to Grant Street). I know he will want visitors, and I know he won’t have any trouble asking visitors to leave if he gets too tired (or I will!) The hospital also delivers CheerGrams that can be sent via the website (his full name is Stanley Thompson).

The cat and the dog will miss him, I already know, because they both moped last year when he was gone for a week rescuing a friend’s dogs trapped in Bumblefart, Kansas. Ginger will be berserk spending so many hours without either one of us—maybe I can pretend she’s one of those care dogs that make trips to the hospital—she is a Golden, after all. Only she’s so terrified of elevators she would make the lie pretty damned obvious real fast. S won’t be able to pick up Twitch for a month, which will be hard not to do since the cat is very insistent when he wants to get picked up. Stanley is also bummed out that he won’t be able to drive until mid-March—he has to be very careful not to re-fracture his chest and it will take about a month to heal enough so it won’t be so much of a worry.

Stanley and his buddy Twitch upsetting Ginger by sitting in HER seat:
Stanley and Twitch share the couch

S said, “Hey, I won’t be able to check my email for a while. I don’t know if I can handle the withdrawal.” I told him I would check it for him if he really cares that much.

We saw the bill from Norwalk Hospital for his MRA (MRI heart scan): $2047. Don’t know yet if we have to pay for this as part of our hospital deductible or if it’s outpatient and part of lab testing or if it wasn’t approved so we’re stuck paying for it. I’m not gonna worry about it yet. So far, not counting the consultation with Dr. Robinson or today’s pre-op testing and consultations (which we haven’t yet seen the bills for), this journey has cost $9,950. That’s for two consultations, two tests, and one cardiac catheterization. Which reinforces my determination to lose weight and stay healthy.

Stanley’s heart stuff is purely genetics—a congenital heart valve problem, an inherited tendency toward a blockage as his father had to have a bypass when he was about Stanley’s age. Otherwise, he’s ridiculously healthy. ‘Tain’t hardly fair ... live right, eat right, don’t smoke, don’t drink and whammo, aortic valve stenosis and a blocked coronary artery. PA Bill said that it’s 90% probable that Stanley’s older brother, Scott, also has cardio problems; less so his younger sister Holly because she’s protected by estrogen.

So I guess the lesson is live right, eat right, don’t smoke, don’t drink, and get those damned physicals every year or two. ‘Cause you never know.

posted by lee on 02/16/05 at 04:15 PM

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

happy birthday galileo

Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, Italy on February 15, 1564, according to

The SpaceWeather entry links to The Galileo Project, a website on the Rice University server which has a pretty amazing amount of information collected about Galileo and his work and the society he lived in. The section on Christianity and the Inquisition is interesting.

posted by lee on 02/15/05 at 02:06 PM

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Monday, February 14, 2005

my husband gave me roses ...

Stanley gave me roses

They came this afternoon—I didn’t expect them. They are so beautiful, and I particularly like the vase, which is a beautiful shape and color. Stanley said he ordered them for me last week one morning while I was still asleep.

My valentine to Stanley was to reserve the hotel room for our honeymoon. We will go to Washington DC on April 23rd and stay until the following Tuesday. I was going to get train tickets as well, but decided we might want to drive down instead of taking the train. That’s far enough in time so that he’ll be fully recovered and, I think, it will be less crowded than around Easter time. It will be fun to plan it all out while he is healing.

I was thinking it would be fun to take the Acela down from Boston (we’ll be leaving Ginger and Twitch with Ben, in Natick), but was surpised at how expensive it is and it only saves one hour of train time. It would actually take us longer to train down from Boston than it would to drive!

Twitch was busy getting into the picture:


twitch in the window with roses

twitch twisting with roses

We’re trying hard to get as much done as we can before Friday. Yesterday we spent a few hours helping Helene pack up books and knickknacks, and today were able to take a van-load of it over. Her new apartment is really nice and I think she’ll just love it there. Starting tomorrow I need to work on tidying the upstairs—I just want things calm when I bring Stanley home from the hospital. After that, I’ll tackle the office, which really isn’t that bad except for Ginger’s shredded boxes and yogurt container littering the floor like confetti.

Stanley’s surgery is scheduled to begin at 7:30 am on Friday. He still seems to be ok with it all, still looking forward to feeling better after he heals, and having some time to catch up on some books and actually read them, vs. listening to them as he usually does. I am not doing as well. I’m ok most of the time, but have these moments of, well, terror would be a good way to describe it. And I’m uneasy while Stanley is out of my sight. I know the fear and the uneasiness are irrational, and I do trust Stanley enough not to push it, but still, I feel like Ginger before a thunderstorm. On Wednesday, Stanley gets all his pre-op tests done and on that day we will find out from the staff there exactly what and where and how long, etc.

Off for a Stew Leonard’s run ...

posted by lee on 02/14/05 at 05:49 PM

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Saturday, February 12, 2005

the bushies abandon any pretext at compassion

Paul Krugman wrote an interesting op-ed column in today’s New York Times. In it he lays out how the Bushie proposed budget cuts will slam poor children and families while, at the same time, the rich will stand to reap even more money when two deduction limitations, put into place by Bush I, will be phased out. He goes on to write,

Until now, the administration has also been able to pretend that the budget deficit isn’t an important issue so the role of tax cuts in causing that deficit can be ignored. But Mr. Bush has at last conceded that the deficit is indeed a major problem.

Why shouldn’t the affluent, who have done so well from Mr. Bush’s policies, pay part of the price of dealing with that problem?

Here’s a comparison: the Bush budget proposal would cut domestic discretionary spending, adjusted for inflation, by 16 percent over the next five years. That would mean savage cuts in education, health care, veterans’ benefits and environmental protection. Yet these cuts would save only about $66 billion per year, about one-sixth of the budget deficit.

On the other side, a rollback of Mr. Bush’s cuts in tax rates for high-income brackets, on capital gains and on dividend income would yield more than $120 billion per year in extra revenue - eliminating almost a third of the budget deficit - yet have hardly any effect on middle-income families. (Estimates from the Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution show that such a rollback would cost families with incomes between $25,000 and $80,000 an average of $156.)

Why, then, shouldn’t a rollback of high-end tax cuts be on the table?

It’s pretty clear that the Bushies, are engaged in full-out class warfare. Heaven help you if you are a poor child in America, because you won’t get any help from the government or from any of the rich white men running America.

It’s heartening to see that the Democrats seem to be resurrecting what’s left of their spines by coming out strong against the Bushie massacre of Social Security. And maybe, with Dean at the helm, they’ll figure out once again what the Democratic Party stands for.  Now it’s time for them to kick some ass on this budget proposal and came up with a plan that, at the very least, doesn’t take food and medicine away from babies and the poor.

One thing I’ve become even more acutely aware of is how dangerous it is in this country not to have health insurance. We do have health insurance, albeit with high deductibles, and it’s going to be painful for us to pay for what insurance doesn’t cover for Stanley’s surgery and testing. I can’t imagine what we would do if we were in the same circumstances, but without the minimal health insurance coverage that we have. The bill submitted by his cardiologist for the cardiac catheterization is for $6,200. That’s more than $2,000 per hour for this procedure, including the time Stanley spent in recovery. This amount of money, for this one test, would wipe out any family living on the edge, sending them into bankruptcy. And this is for ONE test dealing heart disease, the number one killer in our country, particularly of the poor.

Why don’t we have national health insurance? Why do people who work hard all their lives, who follow the rules and pay their taxes and contribute to society have to live in fear of ending up on the streets if illness strikes? We pay Oxford nearly $7,500 per year for our health insurance—we would gladly pay this and even more in taxes if it meant national health insurance.

I can’t gloat when the Bushies push something through that hurts the red-state bubbas and bubbettes who voted for him—yeah, they’re getting what they deserve (especially in Florida and Ohio). But it’s also hurting all of us, the immorality of abandoning the weak and the poor and the sick. What are we going to do about those 300,000 people left with nothing if the Bushies win this one?

posted by lee on 02/12/05 at 11:15 AM

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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

friday the 18th is the day

We like Dr. Robinson. He was straight with us, actually paid attention to what we had to say and ask. So we went ahead and scheduled the surgery for February 18, just a week from Friday. Dr. R. will be on duty that weekend, so he’ll be able to tend to Stanley.

Stanley is scheduled for an aortic valve replacement (he has a bicuspid aortic valve, which is congenital, and it’s finally giving up) and a coronary bypass. The bypass will be one of those where they connect stuff to the mammary artery rather than grafting in a vein or artery from the leg or arm.

The blockage (lower front part of the heart, whatever artery that is—we’re not sure) is 80%. Stanley’s cardiologist (David Lomnitz) was concerned that the aortic wall had thickened, so that’s what was checked when Stanley had an MRA (an MRI for the heart) last week. His score was 3.6 which, according to the doc, means it’s not too badly thickened (borderline).

Stanley is getting a tissue valve (vs. a mechanical valve)—Dr. Robinson also seemed to think this is the best choice because, he said, long-term prognosis for a mechanical heart isn’t that good considering all the warfarin S would have to take for the rest of his life. He is NOT getting the Ross procedure (Stanley’s attitude is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it), which the surgeon agreed with.

Stanley is otherwise ridiculously healthy, so the prognosis is excellent. There is a 98% success rate (or, as Mr. Half-empty says, “2% croak on the table”) with a 90% chance there will be no complications. Stanley goes in for a bunch of pre-op tests etc. soon (we have to schedule this tomorrow). We don’t know yet how long he’ll be in hospital, maybe three or four days only if all goes well, then a month to six weeks to recover, and doing those lung exercises, walking, etc.

The risks of waiting to have the surgery later are too high—Stanley already passed out once (which Dr. R. said is called syncope) which is a key “get thee to a surgeon” symptom for aortic valve stenosis. Dr. Robinson said the prognosis gets worse if there is damage to the heart muscle—Stanley doesn’t have this problem yet, fortunately, so it’s best to get things fixed before he does.

Stanley seems to be looking forward to getting the surgery over with rather than being [completely] wigged out about it—except he’s annoyed he won’t be able to see Constantine when it opens.  He swears he will be completely recovered three weeks after surgery.  (One can hope ... )

I am the one who is really wigged out. It’s been such a shock—just over a month ago, Stanley was perfectly healthy, we thought, then we discover he has a life-threatening condition. We both have this sense of unreality about it all. I’m worried about the operation and won’t be unfreaked again until about a week after it happens and things seem to be ok. I know all the statistics and hear all the assurances and all that, but it doesn’t matter: I’m still scared. Really scared.

I also remember what Dad went through when he was recovering from his bypass surgery: the mood swings, the frustration and not getting better fast enough, the painful breathing exercises to prevent pneumonia, etc. But I know we’ll get through it. Stanley told me today that it’s been really bugging him, how quickly he’s been getting tired over the past year and not knowing why.

Well, now I know that we can plan to take our honeymoon in April—which is probably a great month to visit Washington, DC for three or four days. Something to really look forward to when things get rough—I can’t wait to take him to the Lincoln Memorial.

Now if I could just get it together enough to get my work done—I need to get my focus back. I’ll be in the middle of constructing a form and then I enter the Twilight Zone, compelled to google “aortic valve stenosis” yet again, like there is something new and miraculous that happened just five minutes ago, a magic bullet. Oh frell ...

posted by lee on 02/09/05 at 09:53 PM

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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Google Maps and focus

Got a link to the beta of Google Maps and have been playing around with it some. The online maps are really nice, clear, easy to read.  The driving directions are outlined clearly, though there are some weird blue lines that seem to go nowhere. The online maps themselves are quite nice.

However ... the font size is much too small when you print out driving directions. It would be impossible for most people to read this text while driving, particularly in low light. Also, it would be nice if the path was printed on the directions map—again, it’s much too hard to read the map printed out and not having the map makes it all the harder to use.

But there are some interesting features. If, for example, you want to find a restaurant nearby, there will be a way to find that. Right now, the search is in no way granular—I can search for restaurants in Norwalk, but if I try to search for restaurants using my street address, I get Joloff Restaurants [sic] in Brooklyn and a link to University of Pennsylvania’s African Studies Center directory of African restaurants located somewhere besides the continent of Africa (this is the real link, in case you’re interested). Hmm. I suspect Google Map is way not ready for prime time.

In the afternoon, we go see the heart surgeon at Bridgeport Hospital to find out the deal with Stanley’s valve job/bypass. I have lots of questions and will write them all on a list tomorrow morning so I don’t forget to ask them. Starting with the basics: “Where is the blockage and how bad is it?” Didn’t hear anything from the cardiologist today about the MRA—what is the procedure with this, do we call him to find out the test results? I suspect this would be good for us to know before we see the surgeon. Stanley will call him in the morning to find out. And I also want to get Stanley’s blood test results so we have a baseline, so to speak. So much to do. What is so maddening is I’ll be working away on something, or reading, or watching tv, and then I start thinking about all this. I can’t focus on anything else very long.

Ack. Now to go finish off those screen shots for a project due to launch soon ... and speaking of Focus—our damned car is being recalled AGAIN. But that’s another story.

posted by lee on 02/08/05 at 08:54 PM

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Sunday, February 06, 2005

matters of the heart

I’m reading Seven Steps to Stop a Heart Attack by Dr. Bob Arnot. It’s an excellent book at explaining what’s going on, what drugs are used and for what, how they work, what the different tests and procedures are, what to ask for if you wind up in the hospital suffering from a heart attack (besides making sure the ambulance crew knows to take you to an ER than can actually handle heart attacks—which our local hospital, Norwalk Hospital, cannot handle), and much more. Arnot recommends a few tests and points out the patterns of symptoms and signs to be on the lookout for that indicate you are at a high risk but that are often missed. The book is frightening—but I guess that’s a good thing because, otherwise, who would take it seriously? I got this book out of the library, but I’m going to buy it because I want to have it around for reference. I’m going to see if I can get the tests he recommended done (lipid panel, hsCRP, etc.) soon instead of waiting for my physical in April. Alice, who has good days and bad days but seems to be getting better, also thinks it was the massive amounts of Stew Leonard’s ice cream Stanley consumed that clogged up his artery.

posted by lee on 02/06/05 at 12:53 PM

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matt is out of iraq!

Received a message today from Matt’s Mom that his platoon has made it to Kuwait! After a very long year, he’s on his way home at last. I am so happy for Matt’s Mom Diana and for Kristine! (Matt and Kris’s story, and pictures, can be found here.)

posted by lee on 02/06/05 at 12:44 PM

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Saturday, February 05, 2005

catching up

Well, yesterday Stanley went in for his MRA, which is an MRI on the arteries. Or something like that. Took 40 minutes! He said the hardest part was not being able to move or cough—and that the worst part was listening to a Stamford-area oldies radio station on really crappy headphones. The results are being sent to his cardiologist on Tuesday. Stanley says the MRI was ordered to get a definitive diagnosis of whether or not he has a blockage. Hmm. I thought the doc said he wanted the MRA to get a good map of what’s going on. At any rate, we’ve tapped into our network to find out the consensus on the surgeon and on the cardio unit at Bridgeport Hospital, and the word coming back is all good, particularly about the surgeon. Much to my relief.

Maureen recommended that we read No More Knife Guys in AARP Magazine, which we did, quite carefully. In a nutshell, the article talks about how American cardiologists are quick to recommend bypass surgery as a first resort, without trying other courses of treatment first such as diet and exercise and medicine. I wish we had known about Stanley’s valve stenosis a year ago, when replacing the valve wasn’t so urgent. Then we would have learned of the blockage (or, alleged blockage, as Stanley seems to hope for) in plenty of time to try the lifestyle change/medicine approach to see if the bypass surgery could be avoided. As it is now, the valve job is urgent and maybe the risk of not doing the bypass and trying the lifestyle/medicine approach is greater than just going ahead with the bypass. Because, if the non-surgical approach doesn’t work, he would need surgery again in a short time. There’s no way that would be a good thing, I think.

For me, and probably for Stanley as well, the hardest thing to deal with is the shock. Three weeks ago, Stanley was, we thought, perfectly healthy. Active, never smoked (though he grew up with smokers), hasn’t had a drink in nearly 30 years, eats whatever he wants and never gains weight, damn him ... to someone who will die if he doesn’t get fixed as soon as possible. Talk about your world turning upside-down.

We also found out that you just never know what’s going on. His overall cholesterol level is high, LDL is high—but not that high. But his HDL is very high (this is good), and his blood sugar is fine. Blood pressure is ok too. So I’m wondering where this blockage in the artery is coming from. He doesn’t know if he was tested for that, um, c-reactive protein (CRP), and he doesn’t know what his triglyceride level is. I suspect we will be finding this out fairly quickly. I’m just very curious about WHY the blockage happened and how we can avoid any more of them. (Yes, we’ve gone heart-healthy diet. He even tossed some Stew Leonard’s cookies ... !)

My brother Scott’s step-son, Chris, had a sudden, shocking thing happen to him that landed him in the hospital with tubes stuck into his chest. He collapsed at work with spontaneous pneumothorax, where his lung collapsed for no apparent reason. He’s tall and very skinny, and apparently this happens to tall very skinny guys. He was in the hospital about a week but fortunately his lung has reinflated and he should make a complete recovery. That was totally out of the blue.

On to other things ...

I meant to post this a couple of weeks ago. Amber, good friend and former colleague, had her baby on January 6th: Aiden Luis Otero. I think he’s a gorgeous baby (he has his daddy Lou’s dark hair!), one of very few newborn babies who doesn’t look like a wizened little monkey (c’mon, admit it—most newborns are funny looking!) I’m looking forward to meeting him.

Aiden and Amber, January 6, 2005

Jamie sent me this picture of Kristine and Bailey more than a month ago—I love it. (Hey, Jamie, send more photos!)


Kristine cuddling with Bailey

Mom and Dad seem to be enjoying Panama City Beach—when I spoke to them a couple of days ago they said they are winning (slightly) more than losing at bingo. Dad promised to send more photos (let Mom take one of you, hey Dad!)—he sent this one of Mom during a break at bingo. He’s a pretty good photog, I think (he sent me a great one he took of Stanley at the Golden Anniversary party).


Alice at bingo, Panama City Beach, Dec 2004

There, I feel better that I finally got these pics posted. Now to go do some more housework (which I’m enjoying in a weird kinda way. I feel less stressed when the house looks tidy. I don’t know why.)

posted by lee on 02/05/05 at 03:09 PM

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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

cardiac catheterization done ... news is not great

Stanley went in for his cardiac catheterization today. Dr.  David Lomnitz, Stanley’s cardiologist, found significant blockage in one artery. So, in addition to getting his aortic valve replaced, the doctor is recommending that Stanley undergo bypass surgery. At the same time.

Friday afternoon, Stanley goes in for a MRA, which is an MRI for the blood vessels, and will provide a detailed view of what’s going on. Then, next Wednesday (Feb. 9th), we go see Dr. M. Clive Robinson, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Bridgeport Hospital, who will explain everything to us and outline Stanley’s options.

Dr. Lomnitz suggests that Stanley get the valve job/bypass done within a couple of weeks. Stanley isn’t too happy about this—says he has stuff to do. I said, “Yeah, you have to get better.”

What was interesting today was seeing what they used to close up the hole they punched in Stanley’s femoral artery: an Angio-Seal, which kind of looks like a molly bolt—sinks the anchor end into the artery, where it opens up and flattens against the artery wall, holding a sponge against the hole. The anchor is made of some kind of a bio-absorbable stuff that dissolves when it’s supposed to, and the sponge is made out of collagen, which also dissolves eventually. Beats having to lie there with a weight on the artery for a few hours, or having some nurse have to put pressure on it until the hole closes up.

The recovery nurse, Anne, was quite nice. Stanley liked the other nurses who attended him during the procedure. Whatever sedative they gave him didn’t make him loopy. Or mellow, for that matter—he was really annoyed by it all, acted much like his cat does when I scoop him out of the laundry basket of warm clean clothes.

I’m in kind of a state of shock about the blockage. Although I guess I half expected it as Stanley’s father had a bypass when he was in his fifties.

posted by lee on 02/02/05 at 12:48 PM

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