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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Friday, February 18, 2005


I know I owe several calls, but I’m just too exhausted to deal with it at the moment. Stanley’s operation went as expected, according to Dr. Robinson. Stanley received a bovine valve and a mammary bypass. (So I guess he’ll start asking me to get alfalfa sprouts for his salads?)

Anyway, as I write this, he is still in surgical intensive care. He breathing tube has not been removed yet (as far as I know). He has some arrhythmias going on, which I’m told it typical post-op for this kind or surgery. His platelet count was low coming out of surgery and he got two blood transfusions. I was in with him as late as 8:00 pm, but got thrown out because his heart rate shot up while I was there. I think he was trying to talk to me but couldn’t because of the tube. He was trying to tell me he was having trouble with the tube, most likely, though he wasn’t; I’m sure it must feel awful to have that thing. Nurse Janelle thought it would be best if I left so the heart rate would be steady. Who knows—maybe he just wanted me to go home or something. He was in considerable pain, so they floated him off into the arms of morphine.

I was hoping the breathing tube would have been out when I left. Usually it’s out in four to six hours post op, but not always. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing that it has to stay in longer. I think, for me, it is more a symbolic thing that it’s out and he’s breathing on his own.

Helene and my sister Maureen were with me through the surgery. We took a break after I got to see him in post-op and came back home to walk the dog and drop Helene off. Alice had walked Ginger already, blessed be Alice! Ginger was so happy to see Maureen and me I thought she’d break in two from the wagging.

After a while, Maureen drove me back to the hospital (I left my car there—I’m so tired I’d be a menace on the roads). I spoke with Nurse Ronan for a while, went in and out. Greg and Sarah stopped by and it was really great to see them.

UPDATE: He’s breathing on his own and the breathing tube it coming out now (it’s almost midnight as I write this). He blood stuff is much better, though the platelets are still low. Nurse Janelle said he’s looking really good and is cleaned up, and asked that I give them until around 10 a.m. before I show up because they’re really busy in the morning, and I can call around 5 am to see how the rest of the night went. She said they’ll wean him off the tubes and move him to the floor when he’s ready.

I’m so relieved—I think I can sleep now (after setting every alarm clock in the room for 4:45 am so I can get a progress report). Been going for nearly 40 hours with just 90 minutes of sleep so I’m pretty discombobulated. Maureen keeps pointing out that once Stanley is through this, the worst is over. I can’t wait until I can actually talk to him in the morning. I have to remember to tell him that his blood type is A-—something he never knew and has been curious about.

posted by lee on 02/18/05 at 08:58 PM
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Saturday, February 19, 2005

stanley-saturday morning

Stanley was resting fine as of my 5:00 am phone call, and when I called at 8:45, the nurse said his chest tube is out!! They’re going to try to feed him some breakfast. I’m looking forward to talking to him at last—it is so damned frustrating not to be able to tell him things. He will get moved to a regular room today if one becomes available. Yay!

I haven’t decided yet if I will tell him that his stupid cat streaked outside as I was bringing the dog in from her pre-bed walk. I had to chase Twitch across two back yards. What’s even worse (besides it being just 13 degrees out), he went right through patios against the back doors of the neighbors at 1:00 in the morning. I finally caught him and had to find my way down the hill and through a rock garden just going by the moonlight. Twitch was supremely proud of himself. Crisis averted. Stupid cat.

posted by lee on 02/19/05 at 06:21 AM
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better and better

Stanley understands now why they gave him a teddy bear to clutch to his chest when he got out of the OR. Other than being in a lot of pain, both from getting his chest ripped open and from the holes punched all over his arms, his throat hurts from the breathing tube and the tube sticking out of the side of his neck bugs him. But he is doing really well! No arrhythmias today, and he got his first dose of rat poison (warfarin, and rat poison is his term for it because that’s what it’s also used for) to keep the blood from clotting. Plus some Zocor and a bunch of other stuff and something for the pain.

I was really worried about neurological damage, but none! His wicked wit is definitely intact. Now that he’s getting more oxygen to his brain, maybe he’ll finally be able to beat me at Jeopardy! (I know, hubris ... ) He’s in room 734, which has a great view of Long Island Sound and is on the opposite site from the helipad so it doesn’t keep waking him up like it did when he was in the ICU.

When Dr. Robinson talked to me after the surgery, he told me that Stanley’s valve was much worse than he expected, that he was shocked at how bad it was and amazed that Stanley was still walking around with it that bad. I still don’t know if that’s something I really wanted to know—it took my breathe away when he told me that. I’m still working it through—and I can’t even figure out yet why it bothers me so much beyond knowing that it means I’m lucky not to have lost Stanley before we even knew there was a problem.

Thank you to everyone for your calls and emails and visits. It means so much to us to know how much people care—emphasizes to us how much we are NOT alone.

posted by lee on 02/19/05 at 10:36 PM
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Sunday, February 20, 2005

progress. slow, but still progress

Matt is home from Iraq! I’m so glad he’s finally home. His mother, Diana, emailed this picture of Matt and Kristine, which made me really happy and cheered Stanley too when I told him about it:


Sunday was a very long day. Very long. Stanley was sitting in a recliner when I arrived around 11ish, and George was there keeping him company. Stanley said they got him up very early—it was still dark outside—and gave him a bath. George cheered Stanley considerably and I was really glad to see that he was able to stop by. Then I guess the narrowness of one’s world while recovering was reinforced once again when Stanley, who doesn’t really care that much about food, told me first thing, “Never get egg beaters, they were [gagging noise].” Me: why didn’t you just get oatmeal? S: I wasn’t awake when they called to find out what I wanted, and eggs sounded good, so ...

The nurse came in a had him walk to the window and back. Stanley was stunned at how difficult it was. It’s one thing to read about how much surgery smacks you down, but it’s another thing entirely to experience it—particularly for someone who’s been extremely active. Later the physical therapist came by and gave him a set of warm-up exercises to do and walked him again, a little farther. S was pretty white by the time he got back, but went through the finish-up exercises. Jeff and Ben came by to visit and S was really happy to see them.

After they left, S became really ill—apparently he’d been queasy for hours but said nothing, assuming that it would pass. He’d been queasy on and off Saturday as well. Sweet jesus—I explained to him that he needs to tell his nurses when he’s feeling queasy or dizzy or weird so they know how to adjust his meds, and no more of this stoic shit, damned granite-headed New Englander ... he also thinks he cracked a tooth during the operation; I hope he remembers to tell THIS to his nurse.

Here he is pre-op, mugging for Helene and me:



On Sunday afternoon, PA Bill finally got a chance to remove the tubes in S’s neck, a kind of pacemaker, he explained as he clipped stiches and pull wires out of Stanley. Weird. Also removed the bandages so the wound could start healing:



I was pretty surprised at how neatly it was sewn. No staples! I asked PA Bill about this, and he said, “It depends on the surgeon, how big of a hurry they are in the process. It’s faster to staple.” Seeing how carefully Stanley’s chest was stitched made me feel a LOT more confident in the outcome, left me feeling a lot less worried about something not being quite right. I figure if Dr. Robinson was careful enough to not take the quick way out, we have nothing to worry about. Stanley is pleased because he wasn’t looking forward to the more-typical frankenstein scar, which is what Dad has.

The feeling quesy and trying to get through without pain pills really took a toll on Stanley. He was gone, clutching his coughing bear:



Eventually he did tell the nurse, and got his pain pills. He said there was no way he’d manage a third walk today. The nurse also pointed out to him that he needs to get more food in his stomach because there are so many meds he needs the food to settle his stomach. So he at a tuna sandwich and some peaches for dinner—the biggest meal he ate since coming out of the OR.

He slept, I read. He slept, I talked a friend through some website stuff. He started perking up a bit after 60 minutes, turning on Criminal Intent. He saw about half of this show. He managed to stay awake for most of Deparate Housewives and Boston Legal. The problem with these shows, though, was it hurt him to laugh! The room is so awful—it’s so hospital green—the pictures are not touched up—that when I got home I ordered flowers to be sent to him, a pretty, cheeful arrangement.

Since a snow storm was due to hit after midnight, I decided to head home around 11 pm. Only—the snow hit around 11. It was shocking how rapidly the roads became treacherous, but at least the people I encountered where driving like they knew how to drive in the snow (slow and steady). Or so I thought, until about 3/4 mile past exit 18 in Westport.  On top of the Saugatuck River overpass was a really nasty accident, so just past the Sherwood Island exit, the traffic slowed to a crawl. It was so frustrating because my exit is 17—so close to home I could walk yet trapped on I95. I’m relieved at the crawling traffic, though, because not too very long after I got home I saw on the tv that southbound I95 traffic has stopped completely—the same cars for the last forty minutes on traffic cam. Bummer.

After I FINALLY made it to exit 17, I figured I was nearly home free if I just took it really slow. But I couldn’t get up the hill—my car was literally sliding backwards!! So I had to do this weird backup and turn the car around manuver to get back to Rte. 136 and crawl me way back home via the “long way. Not too much trouble with that because there was very little traffic. And I was so glad to see Ginger and Twitch!

Monday morning I will have to hook up the Snow Fox and test it with the real stuff. After I dig out the outlet! I would be looking forward to it, but I really want to be at the hospital as early as possible, so this storm is messing up my plans!

I should stop here as I’m so tired the words are coming out so weird ...

posted by lee on 02/20/05 at 10:37 PM
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Monday, February 21, 2005

Maybe tomorrow!

Just a quick note before I go out and fire up the Snow Fox: Stanley saw his surgeon, who told him he was doing really well and might be discharged tomorrow! S and I are both very happy about this, but also very nervous. I want him home, but I don’t want to push it. Just have to trust that they know what they’re doing.

Off to dig a path through seven inches of snow ...

posted by lee on 02/21/05 at 06:50 AM
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and maybe wednesday

Well, Stanley had a pretty good day today and took four walks, and George stopped by for a visit again. We talked about the possible discharge Tuesday, but we both think one more day is needed. I’m a little concerned about his blood pressure, which is on the low side, plus they cut his coumadin because he blood is too thin—I’d like it if things were stable before we came home.

But I don’t know what the discharge plan is—maybe I just have to cart him over to his cardiologist for monitoring. I know I do have to take him back to Dr. Robinson’s office to get the stiches out.

I’d like to go grocery shopping tomorrow evening so I don’t have to run out for a couple of days when he gets home and clean up some more of the walk if it doesn’t finish melting away tomorrow so there are no slippery spots. I haven’t even had time to do the dishes that have accumulated—would like to get the kitchen tidied up a little, too.

He’s worried that Ginger will jump on him when he gets home. She won’t. It’s more likely that his cat will try to get Stanley to pick him up, and Stanley can’t for quite a while.

His edema looks like it’s pretty much gone, and other than looking like he got punched in the mouth and stabbed a few times, he looks pretty good.

He got flowers today from me and from Jamie, Kris, and Keith. Plus a bunch of CheerGrams via the Bridgeport Hospital website, which he really loved getting. A woman from the patient relations department brought them up to him. And he got some phone calls.

I am so tired. Mainly from shoveling today—the frelling Snow Fox did a nice job on about half of what I needed doing, then quit. We got about 7 inches here. I think something is caught in the rotor, or a belt slipped or something, but I just didn’t have time to deal with it, so I finished almost everything with the shovel. I need to finish the sidewalks, but the kiddies are off for winter recess so it’s not too urgent, although I like clearing a path for the mailperson. Maybe I can go our for a little bit tomorrow morning—I want to leave here around 8:45 or 9:00, though, would like to see the doc when he makes rounds and I need to be there if S really is going to be discharged ... I should just go to bed now. Ok.

posted by lee on 02/21/05 at 08:59 PM
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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

stanley is home

It’s amazing—last night I thought he needed another day in the hospital. This afternoon, after we were told he could go home if he wanted to, I was wild to get him out of there.

Stanley is mending well. He’s a bit anemic, and his blood pressure tends to the low side, but otherwise, he’s in damned good health. I listened to his heartbeat today and it sounded strong and loud and NORMAL. PA Bill said he could stay another night if Stanley wanted to, but that there was nothing they could do for him that he couldn’t get from me at home. The creatures are so happy he’s back.

There are a lot of things we have to do: followups, getting bloodwork done so his cardiologist can monitor his warfarin. I filled four prescriptions today (if you don’t have a prescription plan and are old enough to join AARP and get its prescription card—do it. Saved us the cost of the card on the Zocor alone) and I went grocery shopping for dinner for the next couple of days.

Pretty much everyone whom we encountered at Bridgeport Hospital was very nice to us. I had some problems with the quality of the nursing care on the surgical unit, such as having to wait 90 minutes for Stanley to get pain meds—I had to go track down the nurse to get them, twice. And the tube in his neck was in there 36 hours longer than it should have been. I would have liked to have met Stanley’s case manager before discharge day and I wish I didn’t have to ask to see the dietician. I wish I didn’t have to be the one to explain to Stanley that he had to ask for pain meds—this should have been done by the nurse. I didn’t like having to ask that they weigh him—it should have been happening every day. I didn’t like not being able to read his chart. But, several of the nurses and nurses aides were wonderful. Kristen was great, and Eva was fantastic. Joel was kind and gentle, and Ronan, from the SICU, was really good (though he should pay more attention to signs of pain). We met so many staff ... most were great. But boy, anyone going into the hospital needs an advocate or someone keeping track of what’s going on.

The other thing that really bothered me is the quality of the food. All I can figure out is that the menu is designed to ensure repeat business. My standard is the cafeteria at the University of Michigan Medical Center, where they were proud of their heart healthy menu of stuff that actually tastes great. Word of advice: if you’re eating at Bridgeport Hospital, stick with the chicken salad sandwiches because they’re pretty good. Get a sandwich at lunchtime or in the coffee shop and save it for dinner, because dinner at that place is over-cooked, over-fat, steam-table slop.

But all in all, I’m so happy that things went so well. Now if we can just get through the next couple of weeks ... trying to get through to Stanley’s cardiologist today is a tale for tomorrow—suffice to say it left me crying in frustration. A cardiology practice, or any practice, for that matter, should not have a dipshit answering the phones for them. They should also have a voicemail system that actually works.

But Stanley is home! And his heart sounds so wonderful! And I am so tired ...

posted by lee on 02/22/05 at 08:59 PM
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Friday, February 25, 2005

futures price history databases by Time & Timing

We launched Time & Timing the other day. Time & Timing is a database that provides historical information about the futures markets and their price movements. Stuart Johnston, who wrote this software, is the author of Trading Options to Win, which was published by John Wiley.

Stu wrote this software because he’s been looking for a database with this type of information for years, and just got tired of waiting and wrote it himself. It’s done in MS DOS, so searching it is incredibly fast. He is looking for someone who can convert it to a Windows version but hasn’t had much—the first person who took a whack at it spun his wheels for a couple of thousand dollars. So ... if you can tackle this, let me know.

Stu is also writing a blog about options trading ideas. Check it out: The T&T Blog. A lot of this stuff, to be honest, parts my hair, but the stuff I do understand makes a lot of sense.

posted by lee on 02/25/05 at 03:23 PM
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catching up

Stanley finally got the energy to write in his blog—you can see before and after photos of his chest there [laughing]. Right now, he’s pretty tired. He’s getting better daily, but still has a way to go.

Stanley's constant companion

Stanley with his constant companion, Koff Bear

Our trip to the cardiologist’s office today exhausted Stanley, mainly because we had to wait an hour for his five-minute test. I was pretty angry about them wasting our time for so long, so we asked if we could go to Qwest, the local lab, and have them fax the results to the PA. She can then call us. It will take us maybe 15 minutes to get it done at Qwest. We like Stanley’s cardiologist a lot, but we hate the practice (Cardiology Associates of Fairfield County) because of the inefficiency and the huge amount of our time that some of the staff manages to waste. Today, for example, we waited an hour to get the blood test done and when we were in the process of getting the test done, the technician took off!! Un-effing-believable. Tuesday, we were supposed to call and set up the testing stuff for the warfarin, and the receptionist or whomever they have answering the phones there had me in tears—coronary aftercare is pretty routine so one would think they’d have the routines and responses down pat. It took more than an hour of our time just to get this routine thing set up and to do it we had to call the emergency number and talk to someone with a few functioning brain cells. I wonder if they’re this bad in the Westport office—I want to see if Lomnitz works out of that one and, if so, we can switch to that office. They also have a Stamford office, but that’s a hike because of the traffic. Ugh. Wednesday, we go back to Bridgeport Hospital to see the surgeon. Stanley is doing better, but is as crabby as hell, mainly because he hurts. The pain meds take the edge off, but don’t entirely get rid of it and it hurts him to move. He said he wakes up every 15 minutes or so while he’s sleeping—every time he moves. When he has his hissy fits, I just remember that this won’t last TOO long, especially since, while he’s a natural-born curmudgeon and Mr. Half Empty, he’s not a grouch. We’ve been eating so healthily (is that a word?) I can’t quite believe it. We started to even before Stanley went in for the surgery, but now, even more so. I read a good book, Dr. Bob Arnot’s Revolutionary Weight Control Program, and have been implementing his recommendations. It isn’t really a diet book like Atkins or South Beach. Nope. It’s not about how much you eat, but what you eat: no white sugar, white flour, or high-fructose corn syrup. Whole grains, lean protein, lots of fiber through fruits and beans and vegetables. Carbohydrates are ok as long as they are low glycemic carbs. He talks about why this works, and outlines what kinds of foods to eat when. For example, he says to drink a glass of lowfat or skim milk (or have something that’s high protein) first thing in the morning, which will rev you up. Then, eat your oatmeal or breakfast burrito after at least 15 minutes. I tried it—it works for me. Tons of good information and I have to admit: I’m feeling a lot better after trying this for just three days and I’m sleeping much better plus, and here is the bonus bonus for me: I’ve lost three pounds without even thinking about it. His section about the Pima Indians, their traditional diet and what’s happened to them since giving up their traditional diet, is fascinating. Now I just have to add exercise into the mix—today I had a good start because I had to dig out in order to get S to the doctor’s office. Stanley fixed my Snow Fox (there was a little rock jammed in there) and it worked just great, but it’s still a LOT of work. The really stupid thing is this: I like dealing with the snow. I don’t know why. I like shoveling, and I like using the Snow Fox. Our driveway and sidewalk (I have to finish the sidewalks tomorrow—I ran out of extension cord!), nothing else. At any rate, I’ll dust off the rowing machine and start using it again and very soon Stanley has to start walking more (Ginger will love this)—maybe a walk at Sherwood Island pretty soon, weather permitting. Lots of walking. So many thank-yous I need to make. Couldn’t have gotten through this without all the support from our family and friends. UPDATE: Is it masochism when, less than a week after getting your chest cracked open and re-sewn, you turn on America’s Funniest Videos?

posted by lee on 02/25/05 at 03:58 PM
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