Saturday, May 05, 2007

einstein is an avid birdwatcher

... said Dad & Mom when they sent her current photo this afternoon. So, here she is at 10½ months. It looks like she’s sitting in a planter on the windowsill on the screened-in sun porch—yes, that’s where she is. Lots of birdies to watch there—especially those silly hummingbirds.

Bird lovers, don’t worry—Einstein is an inside cat. Here she is (click to enlarge):

Einstein at 10.5 months

It’s going to be interesting to see how she gets along with Twitch and Slink this summer. She already knows Twitch from last summer; Twitch tolerated Einstein biting his tail and trying to tackle him. For the most part. Ginger was fascinated with Einstein, probably because she was so little when Ginger first saw her. I wonder what her reaction will be now that Einstein is larger—Ginger still hasn’t taken to Slink yet and still barks at him to keep him in line. (Doesn’t work very well though).

posted by lee on 05/05/07 at 04:01 PM
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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

turtle beach dreams

This year we had a nasty, cold winter followed by a nasty, very cold spring. So it was kind of bittersweet, working on a website for an eco-resort in sunny Mexico.

We recently launched Playa Las Tortugas, a website for a resort in Mexico located about 70 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. It’s on an 11-mile stretch of beach designated a protected area by the Mexican government, where sea turtles nest. Playa Las Tortugas is adjacent to, and supports, a sea turtle conservation camp, and guest and villa owners can help baby Olive Ridley and Hawksbill sea turltes make it to the ocean once they’ve hatched.

The site has three primary goals: to present the beach vacation villa rentals available, to present the lots and villas that are for sale, and to feature the sea turtle camp and the abundance of activities available at PLT. I was surprised at how affordable the rental rates are.

This site has lots, LOTS, of content and the site owner needs to be able to change it and add to it as PLT is developed and more activities and villas become available. It didn’t make any sense NOT to use a content management system—this was a badly needed redesign as the original site had become unwieldy in both English and Spanish. We built it all on ExpressionEngine, building out the English version first and cloning it to get it ready for translation. ExpressionEngine is perfect for this—there are enough plug-ins and modules available now to handle just about everything. We added our own form software since the built-in form software isn’t robust enough for what we needed (reservation requests, for example).

It was kind of nice looking at photos of palm trees and tropical birds when outside my window I had a view of icicles and drab gray days. Or rain.

We are also adding in ecommerce so guests can pay deposits and other fees or make donations to the turtle camp online. That should be ready in a few days.

It was great collaborating with the site owner—with ExpressionEngine, he could add content from his base in Mexico while we diligently worked on the structure. Our big problem was we were jealous of the site owner—he had tropical breezes while we were shivering in our office!

Casa Linda at Playa Las Tortogas, Nayarit, Mexico

Some day, we’ll get to Mexico. Stanley has never been there. I have, but spent most my time there in the Yucatan and the Chiapas area. And when we do get there, we would love to spend a few nights at Playa Las Tortugas, particularly during turtle hatching season.

posted by lee on 05/09/07 at 03:42 PM
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Sunday, May 13, 2007

rapturous scrabulous tigers

It’s cold. I have one tomato outside—I hope it survives.

Stanley showed me a story today. Pure capitalism—America at its best. “Atheist offers to send letters post-Rapture,” the headline reads. Oh how I wish I would’ve thought of it! Here is the link to The Post-Rapture Post: The Postal Service of the Saved for those of you planning to say so-long to those of us who prefer science to superstition (or other non-believers who won’t be leaving everything but their socks behind one of these days). for $4.99 per letter, you can deliver your nyah-nyahs and be sure they’re delivered.

Stanley also sent me a link, via Nora Ephron in the New York Times (subscription probably required, damn them), to an online Scrabble game. Scrabulous offers regular Scrabble, Scrabble Blitz, and some other variants that I have not yet tried because I’ve been so sucked in to Scrabble Blitz that I didn’t get as much done today as I planned and I don’t want to lose my mind entirely.

And, finally, a Tiger game. I haven’t been to a Tiger game in their new ballpark yet (Comerica Park)—the last time I saw them was in New York at Yankee Stadium several years ago. I loved the old Tiger Stadium and felt sad when they tore it down. But I’d like to see the Tigers live again, in their new ballpark.

But I get to visit vicariously via a photo from Detroit: here is a snapshot of Kristine, Tiger, and Jamie (click to enlarge a bit—and it will take a bit to load on dialup) at Comerica Park:

Kris, Tiger, and Jamie at Comerica Park 2007

Maybe we’ll be able to arrange to go to a game with them and other family members in August or September when we head to Michigan for our vacation. Would be fun. And May 13th, besides being Mother’s Day, is nephew Ben’s 15th birthday. We offered to send him a book for his birthday, but he passed (imagine that!) so we sent him a gift certificate instead. Oh, some garden notes, before I forget. Our lilac bloomed. We just put it in last year two years ago (Stanley said), so didn’t expect anything. It has one big bloom on one branch. I smelled it the other night and went looking for it. It’s so exciting! But, alas, the wisteria again did not bloom. The dogwoods are almost finished—they didn’t start blooming until May 3rd or 4th this year—about ten days late. Our magnolia, if it bloomed, we didn’t catch it. The tulips and daffodils just didn’t bloom this year—a few of them. But the lily of the valley is taking over, and the astilbe are coming in strong. There, that’s so I can look it up next year when I’m wondering if stuff is late.

posted by lee on 05/13/07 at 08:59 PM
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Sunday, May 20, 2007


Keith is my cousin. He’s about 40 years old, married, with a 10-year-old son who’s a doppleganger for Keith when he was that age.

Keith is in the University of Michigan hospital in renal failure brought on by liver cancer. The liver cancer is a mystery—nobody knows why he has it because he does not have liver disease—not hepatitis, not cirrhosis, none of the usual suspects for liver cancer. It has metastasized to his lungs. We suspect he was exposed to something in his lab—he is a medical researcher. It came on suddenly—he was diagnosed just last month.

He’s too young to have liver cancer. His son is too young to have to deal with his daddy getting so sick. I hadn’t seen Keith to talk to in more than 20 years until my parent’s golden wedding anniversary in 2004. I moved out of Michigan and then he moved out of Michigan to Colorado and California after he graduated from college. He’s funny, smart, and someone I want to get to know better. I babysat him for years and remember him being so smart he made me feel dumb—came up with the damnedest counter-arguments for going to bed.

I feel so distraught about Keith. For him, for my Aunt Joan and Uncle Ron and his sister Wendy and brother Michael. I’ve lost cousins, one to cystic fibrosis and one to an industrial accident at Ford Motor Company, but that was long ago, more than 20 years ago, and I think I was more resilient then, able to absorb it better. Keith is closer to my age and he is someone I grew up with and his illness triggers more fear, more deep-seated dread. My and my sisters’ and brother’s childhoods were intertwined with his and his sister and brother—we were a close-knit clan when I was growing up—the Dunn sisters and their kids.

I need more time to get to know him. I always think there’s going to be time enough to do all the things I want to do, to get to know all the people I want to know better. I’m hoping he goes into remission so I can visit him this summer when we make our trek to Michigan. I hope he’s not in pain. I wish there was something I could do.

posted by lee on 05/20/07 at 02:31 PM
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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

more bad news

Tuesday, I had to take Stanley to the ER at Norwalk Hospital. He had an agonizing pain in his lower right side, front and back, which occurred about 5am after he spent the night in pain from a calf muscle and a foot that went to sleep (went numb). He didn’t want to go to the hospital then—he wanted to see his doctor, Jay Horn. I got him in there about 11:45 and Dr. Horn spent about two minutes assessing Stanley’s abdomen and told me to take Stanley to the ER and he’d phone ahead to set things up. Might be appendicitis, he said.

So off we went after stopping by the house to let the dog out to pee and grab the cell phone. They did a CAT scan and found kidney stones lodge high in his kidney, so the theory was he passed a stone. Only, if the stone passed, why was he still in pain? The ER doc, I forget his name but it started with an A I think, was thinking of doing a contrast CAT scan, but I guess decided against it and said he was going to send Stanley home with instructions to come back if the pain shifted or got worse along with some pain meds. I immediately wondered how Stanley would know if the pain got worse or shifted if he were on pain meds ... but it didn’t matter because I, and Stanley, pushed for a diagnosis, telling Dr. A that Dr. Horn said it should be checked for appendicitis. Turns out Dr. A never saw the message from Dr. Horn—called him and then he ordered up a contrast CAT scan. The first scan didn’t take because the contrast stuff didn’t go down. The second one also didn’t go down—Stanley ended up having to get it done the hard way.

The contrast scan showed a blood clot in the kidney, which had killed a piece of the right kidney. Apparently, it’s pretty rare (go ahead, Google “renal infarction”—there isn’t that much there about it.) They don’t know what caused it, and did another contrast cat scan of his chest area to rule out a dissected aorta (a tear in the artery) or an embolism. Neither were present (relief!), and on Thursday Stanley’s cardiologist, David Lomnitz, is going to do an, um, ultrasonography? Kind of an echo-cardiogram via the esophagus instead of through the chest wall, gets a better picture of the heart close up. He will look for blood clots in the heart, especially to see if there are clots around the moo valve (the valve job Stanley got two years ago). If so, then it’s warfarin for Stanley, which is scary for both of us given the problems he’s had with the stuff. If not, a dna test will be done to see if he has weird alleles that are markers for ... and here it has slipped out of my brain—first things first.

But wait, there’s more. The doctor attending on Wednesday for Internal Medicine (our doctors’ group practice) FINALLY listened to our tale of the events that led up to the kidney clot—I think we told that story to doctor after doctor, but nobody seemed to think much about it until the doc from IM (I can’t remember his name, damn it) listened. Whereupon he wrote an order for a vascular consult and possibly a vascular cat scan of Stanley’s legs. Dr. Paul Gagne came in around 6:15 to assess Stanley and told us that it looks like there’s a blood clot in Stanley’s left calf, kinda below the knee, and that what Stanley thought was a bad sprain a couple of weeks ago was actually a clot and the clot cut off the blood supply to his foot, which caused the foot to go numb, and that the events are almost definitely related and might indicate that it is a cardio problem. I KNEW it has to be related—it doesn’t make sense any other way.

So, Dr. Gagne says Stanley’s calf artery will have to be roto-rootered to clear the clot, or bypassed if the whole thing is clotty. This will happen Thursday or Friday.

We are in shock. Stanley got a clean bill of health from Dr. Lomnitz on his April 27th checkup—not even a month ago!

Oh, I forgot—also, Stanley is anemic. Where the anemia came from is also a mystery right now. It explains a lot, like why he’s been sleeping so much over the past few months, and coming home and drooling on his keyboard when he dozes off while checking his email. I guess that’s the next thing to tackle.

I hate this. The cats and the dog are upset that Stanley isn’t around—it’s so sad how dejected Ginger gets when I leave to go to the hospital or when I come home and Stanley isn’t with me. Even Twitch is clingy when I’m home. I’m also trying to finish up some store sites that ideally should be done by this weekend—I’m so close to completion it’s ridiculous. I’m way to out of it to work on it tonight so I’ll just go sleep and get up early to put a couple of hours in before I go back to hospital. Stanley gets the echo thingy first thing, so I probably don’t need to get there until 10ish.

There was an old Twilight Zone, or maybe Outer Limits, episode, about these people who were transformed from skin people to people covered in kind of a hard, white, exoskeleton—not all at once, but gradually, a small patch of skin at a time. It ends with the main character, a woman, finding she’d already started transforming by finding a patch on her chest or something. At any rate, stress makes my psoriasis worse. I feel like I’m slowly being transformed into one of those exoskeleton people as the plaque patches spread. I just have to stay okay enough to be able to help Stanley, to deal with it when my cousin dies, which looks like it will be any day now, and deal with maybe bad news about one other person I’m worried about (but I’ll have answers for that towards the end of June—I’m so hoping it’s good news).

To bed, perchance to sleep.

posted by lee on 05/23/07 at 09:01 PM
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Thursday, May 24, 2007

another valve job

Stanley was transported to Bridgeport Hospital because he needs to get his valve replaced. When they did the weird echo where they looked at his heart from behind via the esophagus (I just remembered: transesophageal echocardiogram) they found that there was a vegetative growth hanging from the bovine valve he received two years ago. This is what is throwing the clots. So Friday morning bright and early, open heart surgery again, new valve. And they’ll probably fix the calf artery as well (removing the clot).

The same surgeon, Dr. Robinson, as did the first valve job was on hand, along with a cardiologist and an infectious disease doctor (Dr. Lobo, whom I remember from last time and like very much). We are glad Dr. Robinson is handling the surgery—we both trust him a great deal. And they’re being super cautious about making sure Stanley doesn’t pick up any staph infection this time. He will go in for the surgery after they do an ultrasound on his carotids to make sure there are no blockages there—he went tonight, but the doctor who tried to do it because the techs go home at five just threw up her hands—she reads them, she doesn’t do them. Can’t say that I blame her.

I saw the growth this afternoon when they did an echocardiogram. It looks like a piece of string flapping in a strong stream. It’s about 4 centimeters (about two inches) in length. At Norwalk Hospital, they don’t think it’s bacterial, but maybe fungi. At Bridgeport, the leading theory is that the kitty did it—that Stanley got a bacterial infection when one of the cats scratched him. Another theory is that it was left behind after the staph infection two years ago and just recently got ugly. Or it could’ve been from a sinus infection. After they get it out they’ll do what they do to figure out what it is.

When they transported Stanley to Bridgeport, they did not send along the trans. echo CD with him. I don’t know why. So Dr. Robinson sent me off to go get it from Norwalk Hospital. Getting back to Bridgeport during evening rush hour took me a little over an hour for a less-than-20-miles trip.

Oh, I forgot to mention. Having broccoli growing out of a prosthetic heart valve, or even a real one, is rare. So yet again, Stanley makes himself into a publishable subject. Again, go look up “aortic valve vegetative growth” and see if you can find any articles in layperson English about it. I couldn’t (and if you do, please send me the link, I really want it).

Stanley, by the way, loved getting the cheergrams during his last surgery two years ago so much I’m asking folks to send one again:—his full name is Stanley Thompson. I hope this is the last time he’ll need them.

More later, have to get up very early so ...

posted by lee on 05/24/07 at 09:19 PM
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Friday, May 25, 2007

a mystery

Stanley got a new moo valve Friday. He went in at about 9-9:30 and was out at 2:30ish pm. As I write this at about 2:30 am he is in the surgical ICU at Bridgeport Hospital. The cheer grams that he’s received so far were pinned to his bulletin board when he arrived on that unit. I read them to him and he smiled around the tube, but he was a lot nuts with morphine and pain so I’m sure he will want to read them for himself again. So he’ll get two smiles out of each of them—thank you!

When I left the ICU Friday evening, it was after an unsuccessful attempt to remove the breathing tube. Every time he dozed off, he stopped breathing. When I called at 10:15, they’d tried again, but no luck. Last time on the tube, it was very difficult for him as well so I’m not surprised. It was very hard to watch the struggle—I was glad to flee this evening and leave him to the nurses and respiratory therapist. But he was much, much more lucid when coming out of surgery than he was the last time—well, as lucid as you can be with a tube stuffed down your throat and pain at 12 on a scale of 1 to 10.

The operation went like clockwork and well, according to Dr. Robinson. I’m not sure when Stanley will be on the telemetry unit—hope on Saturday (likely) because that means no complications. He may not need the roto-rootering of his calf since his foot pulse is getting stronger each day.

The surgeons sent the broccoli off for culturing. The primary suspect is still Bartonella, though which strain, or even IF it’s Bartonella (cat scratch fever) is still a mystery. Whatever it is, it’s still one for the record books. Stanley keeps saying we’re in our own episode of House. At least I finally washed the dishes in the sink so that when Cameron and Chase show up to snoop, they won’t make snide remarks about it.

What really, really sucks about this is how unprepared I am for it. Last time, we knew in advance so we could clean the house up in advance, make arrangements about work stuff in advance, get all the bills dealt with. This time, none of that—as I was washing the dishes I was feeling very overwhelmed by it all, by the thought of having to manage most of our life on my own for the next few weeks, like taking out the trash and recycling and mowing ... though mowing sure beats shoveling out from yet another blizzard as I had to do in February 2005. I lost some weight then and the good news is that I’ve lost a couple of pounds already this time—just from walking all those corridors and trips to the parking garage. (Would rather just walk around the backyard a lot.)

I am glad my sister Maureen made the trip down to help me. I wouldn’t have been able to drive home Friday evening—at least not without some sleep, which would be hard to get in the incredibly uncomfortable waiting rooms at Bridgeport Hospital. So we atw dinner at Wild Oats (I had a wonderful pannini with pesto sauce, tomato, and mozzarella) and brought home decadent things for dessert (bear claws for me) and watched tv and talked. Which was good. Don’t get to talk with her as much as I like to.

I’m so tired everything looks blurry and my eyes are crossing. More when I can ... just very glad he’s on the “getting better” side of the ledger. Finally.

posted by lee on 05/25/07 at 10:27 PM
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Saturday, May 26, 2007

quick update - the tube is out!

Stanley is now breathing on his own—it took several attempts to get it out but it is now. He’s still in intensive care and we won’t know if he’s being moved to a “regular room” until his doctors make the rounds after they get out of surgery this afternoon, which should be around 2 or 3 this afternoon. The nurse said his vitals are fine but he’s still in a lot of pain so he is mostly sleeping as she gives him his pain meds. So Maureen and I are headed up to Bridgeport Hospital in about an hour. I need to hear his voice.

posted by lee on 05/26/07 at 08:53 AM
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saturday report

While Maureen and I were getting ready to go to the hospital to see Stanley, we got the call that our cousin Keith died this morning. We knew it was coming but it was still like a knife twisting in my heart. Just 42 years old. I feel so bad for my aunt and uncle and his wife and their son and Keith’s brother and sister. I wish I could have known him better as an adult.

Stanley is still in the ICU. Mainly, I was told, so they can get his blood pressure and heart rate under control. His “normal” blood pressure is about 100/60 and it’s been ranging from 145-165/90-100+. Same deal as last time. He also got some beta blockers and many other things. He said the pain from his “incision” hurts worse than he remembers from the last time—we figure it’s because they had to dig the wires out of the bones or something.

He thinks he’s doing worse than the last time—I told him he’s doing better, because he is. His nurse today, Ben, started giving Stanley the “pain is good” spiel and I could see the look on Stanley’s face—I know he was thinking “look you asshole, you get your chest ripped open and fifteen tubes stuck in your body and THEN tell me pain is good ... ” I pretty much agreed. Ben later admitted that he’d never had surgery of any kind. He’s young. But he told Stanley he wanted to keep the pain level at around 5 (out of ten). Why, he didn’t specify. I told Stanley to just lie. I know you have to be at least somewhat aware of what’s going on in your body—but 5? Why?

Ben also told us Zane Saul is the infectious disease doc charged with figuring out the source of the broccoli. Oh great—the one doctor we both detest. He’s the guy in charge of preventing infections and it was under his watch that Stanley got the staph infection. Then he was exceptionally rude to us when we had to go to his office to get the infection checked—kept us waiting for two hours and nasty to us when we complained. Ah well. (Also encountered PA Ryan again, but I was polite.)

Maureen went home so she could make arrangements to go to Detroit for Keith’s funeral, which Dad said is on Tuesday. What a nightmare this month has been.

I’m hoping Stanley gets moved to a regular room on Sunday. Early.

posted by lee on 05/26/07 at 08:19 PM
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Sunday, May 27, 2007

out of the icu now

Stanley was moved to room 738 today (Sunday). His neck tube was removed, and the blood pressure tube—a lot less plastic hanging out of various holes. He can receive calls and visitors and Monday I will take his laptop in so he can get email (hope it works—it’s supposed to).

Thanks to Sharon’s comment, I was able to be assertive about getting Stanley’s pain managed better (knowledge really is power!) His nurses today were good about making sure they showed up on time—if it goes as well throughout the night and morning I’ll be relieved and won’t kick up a fuss unless I have to. And I told the nurse to note in his chart that he is NOT to be gotten up at 6am to sit in a chair like he was last time.

We don’t know yet if they’re going to operate on the calf artery to remove that clot. And I don’t know yet how long he’s going to be in—he hasn’t started walking yet though he did sit in a chair today. He would like to walk so he could use the bathroom instead of the piss bottle. I’m relieved he’s doing better this time—I was worried that he wouldn’t be able to handle a second surgery is just over two years but, other than the problems he’s been having, he’s damned healthy.

So far, the valve broccoli is negative for Bartonella (cat scratch fever bacteria). It’s not definite yet, but it’s looking that way. We will both be very relieved if the kitties are exonerated, but now that we know that Bartonella can cause valve problems and potentially death, we’re going to be very careful. I still have to find out if there is a test for Bartonella the vet can give our cats and if there is a way to eliminate it from them if it is present (update: the vet can test for it, but it’s expensive. Cats can be treated for it too, but it’s tricky.) I know it’s passed from cat to cat via fleas—but our cats are indoor kitties now so maybe they’re negative and it won’t be a problem ... I want to talk to Dr. Lobo about it as he has a prosthetic valve and a cat.

I still suspect the broccoli started when the staph was introduced during the initial operation and just lay dormant for a while. We know that it was throwing clots at a minimum of six weeks ago since that’s when Stanley got the unending charley horse in his left calf. It could’ve been the infection Stanley got last December/January that triggered it. We’ll probably never really know the root cause.

Okay, headed to sleep.

posted by lee on 05/27/07 at 09:36 PM
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