Sunday, September 4, 2011

She's Bionic Pt4

So I get home from HUP at about730 and decide to make some dinner. I had picked up a small steak for myself the following day and decide to grill it up. I find a rub Mags bought for me and I coat the steak lightly, because while it has a great flavor it is a bit on the spicy side. I then chop up some red potatoes and asparagus, mix them with some dried herbs and EVOO and stick them in the oven. I sear my steak on the stove for a few minutes before throwing it onto the grill. I put my iPod in the docking station and turn it on....a nice dinner, music and (try) to relax.
It works a little and after dinner I take CrazyDog in the yard for some catch and then when he has had enough I plop on the couch and watch a movie. I call the CICU at about 11 to check on Mags then go to bed. I was pretty tired and thankfully slept through the night.
It's Sunday morning so traffic is light when I go to HUP. I bring tea for me and a real coffee for Mags. We talk and enjoy our day together. Her nurse again is Alpha who is incredibly. He checks on Mags every hour or so and tells her she may be going up to a regular room tomorrow. This makes us happy. Dinner time rolls around and after dinner Mags starts to not feel so good. She starts to get anxious and is clearly not ready for me to go. I offer to spend the night with her. She calls her nurse in and asks if that would be okay. He smiles and says "of course it is okay. I will just let your nurse who comes on at 6 know." Mags breathes a sigh of relief and soon Alpha is wheeling a large brown recliner into the room. He positions it about three feet from Mag's bed, 'out of the way in case we need to get in here' he explains. That's fine with both of us. We watch tv and her overnight nurse Chris comes in. He's a very nice guy and asks me if I think I would like anything. I tell him two pillows and two blankets will do me good. He returns in about a minute and soon I'm hunkering down for the night.
And apparently I was very tired because during the night, Chris and another nurse were in the room trying to give my wife an IV and I never woke up. Never even stirred apparently. This was a source of great amusement to everyone present. When breakfast finally arrives I go to their Cafe (which is far better food-wise than the actual hospital food) and grab a small breakfast sandwich for me and some fresh fruit for Mags. Also, some real tea. Tazo, the stuff you pay 2.09 for at Starbucks? .99 cents.
So after breakfast we watch some tv and at this point Mags is feeling better. Physically and emotionally. She has seen a team of doctors who assure her she will not need a pacemaker as was once feared, and that she would indeed be getting out of CICU this day.
So a team of doctors is doing rounds and they come in. It's a mixed group. The lead doc is in his, I'm guessing 40's, the others vary in age from 30 to I think 14. seriously, who was that kid?? The lead guy is Polish or something and he has a slight accent. Nice guy, speaking to Mags about her situation and talking to her about her impending IV.
Let me break there. The staff has told her that she will need an additional IV before she leaves the CICU. Mags argument is why would she need two IV's to go to a regular floor and not need two in CICU? Valid right? They tell her in case something goes wrong with the original line on the floor then they have a backup. Mags argues for a long time because for all of my wife's wonderful qualities, she has crappy veins. And whenever someone tries to give her an IV, the blow a vein. Even the 'experts' have trouble getting them. Seriously, when someone comes in and says "I'm the best at this", my lips curl at the corners into a faint smile because I know whats coming. The best even have trouble getting a line in her.
So back to the Polish doctor. He tells her she needs the IV, yadda yadda...and then he says they could put it into her neck. He looks at her neck and says even those are hard to find. He then looks at me and in the weirdest moment I've had in this hospital he says "now your husband, that's a great vein. I can see it from here." I was sitting on the windowsill 5 feet away. I smile politely and Mags shoots back, "Good. Stick it in his neck." Everyone laughs and the doctor tells Mags she looks great and she will be moved upstairs today and that he would send 'the expert' in to do the IV. Mags and I share a look and nod. I wait another couple of hours for either the 'expert' to show up or for her to be wheeled upstairs. Neither has happened by 11 and we then wonder what we'll be charged for being in the garage overnight.
We decide I should go so I give her a kiss and say a prayer for her and hit the road.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

She's Bionic Pt. 3

When the phone rings before 6 am, it's always bad news. Right? Nobody calls you at 6 am to tell you they've won the lottery. No, they call you sometime late at night, 10 or 11 pm, and they are drunk somewhere...maybe even in the bar of a Caribbean island where they have decided to live the rest of their rich, happy lives.
when my youngest sister Jen died, we got the call from the hospital at 5 am and if I recall, my father-in-law passed away before 6am. So when the phone rang at 53o I have to admit, I was nervous. I answered the phone and it was Mags. She was relatively calm and the she started the conversation normally, "were you asleep?"
"Yes,'s 530. What's wrong?"
She responded with the following. "Everything is okay but there's something I have to tell you. Now remember, everything is ok."
By this point I know that things are not, in fact, ok. Now my heart is racing.
"What is wrong?"
"My heart stopped last night?"
Me mumbling incoherently. "Whaaaaaaat?"
"I'm fine. They are actually saying my heart only paused."
Me still trying to clear the cobwebs and digest this nugget of information. I tell her I will be right there. She says to take my time that she's ok.
I feed the boys and let them out into the yard for a few minutes before hitting the road to Philly.
The ride is ok because of the early hour and I get there in about an hour. I make it to the ICU and find my wife sitting up in bed struggling with the awful hospital food. In all honesty the staff at HUP is fantastic. Freakin' awesome. Everyone who works there from the Docs and nurses to the food service folks to security...everyone. The food however, falls into the other end of the spectrum God-awful is what I'd call it. I at one point said to Mags "It cannot be that bad." She gave me a look and pointed at her French Toast. "Try it." So I did. I mean, how can you make bad French Toast? The kitchen at this hospital can. I can only say it tasted like foam peanuts covered in sugar-free syrup. Horrible.
So, back to Mags. She was sitting up in bed looking totally wiped out. She relayed the previous nights event to me best she could. Apparently at some point she felt like she was going to pass out, then she felt it was something more and began to moan as she lost consciousness. Her bitch roommate was yelling at her because she was trying to sleep and yelled over and over at Mags "What's wrong with you? Just call the nurse!" Her heart having stopped, she could not. Thankfully the nurses did come into the room and notice that Mags heart had stopped. They had put special pads on her chest and were getting ready to zap her when Mags came to. They were all talking to her, asking her questions, and really trying to get a feel for what exactly had happened.
At this point they decided to get her back to CICU pronto. So, as Mags tells it, there is a group of 5 nurses, doctors and interns, all rushing her in her bed down the halls and into the elevators to get her to CICU. Once in CICU they set her up in a new room and she is told she will be kept there for a day or two for observation.
Her nurse for that weekend (during the days) was a young African dude named Alpha. I honestly can't tell you how great this guy is. Seriously, top-notch. Great guy. Great nurse.
So I spend the day with Mags at HUP. I run across the street to a little sandwich shop called Potbelly Sandwich works (Freakin' awesome subs. If you can find one check 'em out.) for some lunch. And later to McDonalds for dinner.
6pm rolls around and I tell Mags I should head home for the boys but that I will be back tomorrow. When I leave she is in better spirits and seems to be doing better physically. I tell her I'll see her tomorrow and head for home.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

She's Bionic Pt. 2

When I finally settled down and got myself somewhat calm, I called the hospital. Mags was still doing good and they had actually gotten her into a chair. she was in bed for days after her first open-heart surgery, so the fact that she is sitting up a mere 36 hours after her second open-heart and a surgery that was much worse than the first was happy news.
Two days later she was in a 'step-down' unit. The 10th floor which was for heart-surgery patients. I called her and she seemed to be in pain and was less than happy with the food.
So we talked briefly and I let her go because she was so sleepy.
Going to work was hard. Trying to concentrate on my duties was difficult knowing Mags was in the hospital so far away. I went up on that Saturday and let me tell ya', for someone who was practically cut in half and had her heart worked on she looked really good. The nurse came in and actually got her up to walk a bit. I was happy to spend the day with her. She slept most of the time but that was okay. After dinner I drove home and did some relaxing.
During the week, Mags was moved out of the step-down floor to a regular ol' room. Meaning she was a step closer to coming home. I was so happy because she was doing so much better with this valve-replacement than the last one. She was doing sooooo good.
This made all of us who care about her very happy. Progress was being made, the strides she made were tremendous...until the following Saturday morning, when, at two am, her heart stopped.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

She's Bionic Part 1

Yes I speak of Mags. I should have posted earlier but things have been kinda crazy here. I'll start on the 27th, the day of her surgery. We spoke briefly by phone the night before and I told her I would be there when her surgery was done, figuring I wouldn't be able to see her before the surgery since it was scheduled for early morning. So on my way up the Turnpike her son calls me to tell me the surgery has been postponed until 1pm. so this is good for me because I get to see her before she goes in, bad for her because it's just dragging it out. So I got to see her before she went in, her mom and her mom's Pastor were there too and they waited with me the entire time.
Time has never moved so slowly, let me tell you. The surgery was supposed to last 3-4 hours. Well it lasted almost 7 1/2. I paced a rut in the hallways at HUP. (Wait, they won't charge me for that, will they?) Finally at 9:15pm the surgeon came out and said things were done and he was happy with the way everything went. He also said that because of the damage to Mags' heart it was one of the toughest surgeries he's ever done. He said the valve was so calcified it was like cutting through bone. So he patiently answered our questions and explained what he did and we all thanked him several times. He is a really nice guy. Very humble, down to earth. So once we knew Mags was done, her mom and her pastor decided to hit the road. It is about an hour plus ride so I said goodbye to them and told them I wanted to wait and see Mags to make sure everything was ok before I left. So the nurse in the family waiting area (we were the last ones of the day waiting) directed me to the CICU. I found it and told the nurse at the desk who I was here to see. She kindly explained to me it would be another hour plus until she is in the room and set up and directed me to a family waiting area. She also showed me some vending machines and I asked her "which one has the beer?" she laughed and said " tell me about it." So I watched something on TV and chatted with a woman and her son whose father/husband had just had surgery. They were nice, and nervous and we talked for about half an hour before they could see their patient. We wished each other luck and I sat, alone, for yet another eternity. My second eternity in one day! Am I good or what??
Soon Jackie, the nurse who would be watching Mags came to get me. Let me tell you something, even thought you know what to expect, it is still a bit scary when you see someone who has just had open-heart surgery. There are tubes and wires running from your loved one and several monitors and IV's and this and that and noises and it is a little hard to take in.
I asked a few questions and quietly told Mags "You made it!" Jackie looked at me and said "I don't mean to blow my own horn but I've been doing this for 25 years. Your wife is in very good hands."
She then looked me over and using all her experience and knowledge that can only be gathered from years of medical experience decided I looked like shit and was completed fried. She said "Long day huh? Have you been here all day?" I explained that I arrived at 9am and the surgery was pushed back, yadda yadda..." She spoke kindly and said "You've had along day too sweety go home and get some rest. You can call the desk any time, day or night to check on her. But you need some rest too." I always appreciate the kindness of nurses. So I took her advice told Mags I loved her and would see her soon and dragged my tired self out to to the parking deck.
I don't mind driving long distances. I don't. What I mind is traffic. If you're on a road trip and you're going to be stuck in a traffic jam, I probably not the guy you wnat in the car with you. Well, wait a minute, I guess if I'm not hate sitting in traffic. You don't want me with you in a car that is just sitting in traffic.
So when I left HUP it was after midnight. I don't mind driving late at night either. The hospital is right off RT76. So I jump on the highway, follow my trusty GoogleMaps directions and head for home. Thankfully I have my iPod plugged in and it's cranking. The variety of radio stations in that area, if you are 'old' like me and prefer classic rock to hip-hop or rap sucks. Honestly, aside from WXPN the music scene in this area sucks.
So I do the whole rt76 to rt676, the Betsy Ross Bridge to rt73...everything going smoothly....then the New Jersey Turnpike...
Ughhhh where to start? There is always always always traffic on the Turnpike. It is 1230am people! I hit a slow down around exit 6 and unfortunately I am going to exit 8...thankfully, again, I have my iPod. B.B. King comes on and starts on and starts singin' bout Lucille and I stare at the parade of brake lights in front of me.
Traffic opens up about a mile later and I gaze over at the south bound side..stopped. Parking.Lot. So I am soon thankful I'm not heading south.
Soon the traffic clears and I'm flying towards home. The music has helped me greatly. I find music very therapeutic and tonight the good music does me a world of good. I pull up to my home at a little after one. My mother in law made me promise her I would call when I get home. I hate calling her at this hour but I figure she may still be up. I call and she answers on the first ring. I tell her I'm home safe and I'm going to bed. work tomorrow and all. She tells me goodnight and I sit on the couch and give the dog and cat some attention, they've been home alone all day. After some ear scratching and some treats I head to bed. Completely exhausted I feel Ill be to sleep in no time...wrong I lay in bed and stare at the ceiling til almost 3....

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Long Time No See

Yes I am still amongst the living. Blogging has just not seemed important lately. I haven't had motivation to write even though plenty has been going on. So where to begin? At the beginning I suppose. Since I've written last, Mags has been hospitalized 3 times. Twice at RWJ and once in UPenn. There has been something very bad going on with Mags as those of you who read my blog/Facebook know. It has been an issue of pneumonia/water retention/ lung things...etc. It has also been something of a dilemma because her (former) cardiologist has sworn it was her lungs. Her Pulmunologist, the lovely and talented Dr. Trisha Gilbert has said "no, it's your heart." So back and forth we go. Mags asked her cardiologist if perhaps it was time to replace her other valve, since we know it is leaking 'slightly'. He cardiologist said "You won't need that valve replaced for 37 years," with a wave of his hand. Now being he is head of cardiology at the local hospital, we kinda went with that. During her last stay at RWJ, she found she needed a certain procedure they at RWJU hospital could not do. (Weird right?) Dr Gilbert recommended a doctor at UPenn for the procedure Mags needed done. Actually the doc who did it is one of the few in the country who would do this certain procedure.
Long story short, her Mitral valve needs to be replaced. ASAP. The doctors at Upenn wanted to actually keep her and do it immediately, but Mags said no, she wanted to come home and let it sink in that she would be enduring this again, just 7 years after her first open-heart surgery.
I have to admit, when Mags called me that night from her hospital room in UPenn and told me I kinda broke down. Okay, I cried like a little girl whose Barbie was just run over by a freight train and then raccoons carried away the pieces before I could glue them back together. I mean seriously? How much more can the woman take? She's so tough I'm considering nicknaming her 'Nails'.
So on July 27th Mags will be getting herself a new Mitral valve. It will be performed at UPenn hospital which seems like a very good hospital. I was only there once but all the staff I had contact with were really nice, even the food service kids.
So back to her former cardiologist, he was stunned, to say the least, when Mags called him and told him. I am thankful that Dr. Gilbert stayed on the case. She really busted her butt and went above and beyond to help Mags. So thank you Dr. Gilbert and also to her associates whom she consulted on numerous occasions.

Work has been busy. We lost our department lead. I can't go into it here but I'll say we miss the guy. He was a nice guy, hard worker and nobody knows the job like he did. Man I hate politics.

For Easter Mags bought me the book "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Excellent excellent excellent! Go buy it and read it. Right now....

Yesterday we went and treated ourselves to a new recliner and box spring and mattress. The sounds you hear is our backs rejoicing. Can't wait to get them. Then we had a killer lunch at Longhorn. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm steeeaaaaakkkkk.

So that's it. Nothing too exciting right?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Kingdom for an Electric Blanket

So Old Man winter has finally started showing his mean ol' face here in central Joisey. The weather has been brutal to say the least. I think today it might have been about 32. Now factor in the 'wind-chill' factor and you're looking at temps around the 20 degree mark. I don't know how windy it was, but the wind moving between my and my neighbors house sounded like a jumbo jet passing through. I was wondering if Sully was puttin' er down on my street and coming in for tea. The sound was pretty loud and our faithful dog more than once raised his head from his nap to go room to room to make sure all was in order. The cat was of course, unfazed by all the sound and snoozed contently on the couch.

I had another round of PT tonight. This time with a different therapist. A young dude who introduced two ways to create pain. It is getting easier but tonight I do have some pain. Not aches, pain. I'm not getting too upset because I have been doing good as far as pain goes. Hopefully tonight we will both get a good night sleep and wake feeling better.

Mags has been under the weather lately. She is off from work until Monday. Hopefully that helps her. Her job is way too stressful and add to that the stress of the Christmas season and you have an unhappy Leprechauness.

I am done shopping and before I go any further BIG thanks to the dolts at I ordered Mags something she has wanted for a couple years. Worked a bunch of overtime to ensure we had the money for it and ordered it online. They told me it would be delivered between the 9Th and 12Th of December. On December 8Th, the UPS truck pulls up to our house and the driver rings the bell. Mags, who is sitting by the door, opens it. I run in and try to intercept her but too late. Why too late you might say? Wasn't said gift in a separate box or even a shipping 'bag'? No the brain-trust in the Kohls warehouse didn't feel the need to wrap or box this gift. They simply slapped a shipping label on the box and sent it on it's way. Are ya' F*%$@ kidding me? So surprise ruined. I wrote a letter asking if anyone may have thought this would be a Christmas gift and if it was indeed their policy to ruin Christmas surprises around the country. I got a return letter apologizing for this act of idiocy and they would be happy to, as a show of just how sorry they are, refund my shipping. Yeah. I responded by asking them if they could instead erase my wife's memory of that day so she can be surprised on Christmas morning. I've yet to hear back.

Well, time to head up to bed I think. Stay warm

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Yes I'm Still Amongst the Living

Yes, I know, long time no post. Working hard, here and at work, you know the routine. Work has been busy the last few weeks and next week we will be having our Winter warehouse sale. So I'll be getting some much needed overtime. It's easy really, unless I get stuck out in the parking lot directing traffic. I volunteered to do that during the spring and summer sales. Standing outside making overtime?? Hell yes I'll do it. The winter sale however, not so eager.

I finally broke down and went to a doc about my constant low-back pain and after examining me deduced that all the muscles in my lower back are 'spasmed' and I would benefit from physical therapy. So I signed up and have had 4 sessions already. It is mostly stretching and 'strengthening my core'. Which translated to lay mans terms really means, 'bending you like a little pretzel until all your good remaining muscles burn like they are ready to leap through your skin, kick you in the face and run out the door into the night'.
I'm no sissy by any means but this is sometimes a challenge. I was told by my therapist that because of my condition, one side of my back has been compensating for the other side for the last 30 or so years and now it is catching up to me. So that's where I'm at.

I have almost all my shopping done. Just a few little things left to get for Mags and something for Tom. I think today the tree is going up. This involves a trip to the attic and passing things down to my lovely assistant then bringing everything down to the living room and setting up.

It is cold today and feels like it may snow. My back is really achy but that comes with the weather I 'spose.

The Devils are playing some pretty crappy hockey lately and that vexes me. They have a great roster but can't seem to get on track. They are playing today and I forgot so I wont see the game. I haven't caught one game yet this year, of course I'm not really missing much.

That's all. Stay warm

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Smallest E.R. 'Room' in the Universe

So on Thursday I get a text at work. Mags saying, "Hey.... feel like I've just been hit by a jumbo-jet while parasailing and fell 350 feet into a pit of hungry porcupines....Going home early." Well, she didnt say that exactly, (I took liberties with that part) but she was sick. So I come home to find my lovely wife in the Chair, semi-conscious. She looked like she was battling something and I felt just a bit worried. I made some chicken noodle soup and she ate just about half a bowl. Not a good sign. So we chatted for a bit before she retired to the bedroom. Once comfortable in her floral nightshirt she got cozy on the bed and flipped the tube on. Her mom called and said that Tom had been there earlier and brought her a salad from one of her favorite restaurants and would I mind going to get it? Of course not. So I drive the mile to Bubs' house and pick up said salad.
After salad Mags feels a bit better having eaten and is soon asleep.

When 5:30am rolled around I crawled out of bed to get ready for work. I peek over at my wife who now looks like she is much sicker. And she was. She could barely walk under her own power and felt she may need a trip to the ER. I went downstairs and called out of work and made tea. Once some tea got into me I felt a little more awake, as for Mags, not so much and at 930 or so she decided a trip to the ER is what she needed. So we drive to Robert Wood Johnson in New Brunswick and she is taken in right away. Once they see she has an artificial heart valve, she is usually taken ahead of the rest.

Before I go any further I want to say this. This hospital and all who are employed there are just awesome. Seriously. I think the head of RWJ goes to other hospitals in a trench coat, follows all their best employees into a dark alley and says "psssst...hey buddy.." He then offers them a job at his hospital and there you have it. Seriously if the guy who did all the hiring here was a scout for a baseball team they'd win the World Series every freakin' year. Everyone who works there is top-notch. So when I tell you about the 'room' Mags was in, it is no slight to this place at all.

So Mags is taken to a 'room' is another part of the ER. She is, like I said getting preferential treatment because of her history. Her bed is wheeled to a nook, that's all can call it. It's really not even a room. It's a bed with a curtain around it. Honestly, there are broom closets in Russian Gulags that are bigger. It was made comically worse when our neighbors daughters tried to move alongside their mothers bed because, how do I say this nicely??? Hmm...they both had exceptioanlly large arses. No, they weren't asses, they were shelves. And when they moved along their mothers beds, their booties stuck into our 'room' so much, they were practially on Mags' bed.
There is a shelf behind her filled with bandages and stuff that nobody could get to unless they actually climbed on Mags' bed and the curtain that seperated us from poor Mrs. McCutcheon in the bed next to us was almost right against Mags' bed. Not to mention there was no chair.
Mags had the usual battery of tests. Bloodwork, EKG, yadda-yadda. Long story short, her electrolytes were out of kilter and after some IV fluids and a tunsfish sandwich, served up by her nurse Jim Christie, she was feeling better. It was about 5 hours but we knew we were going to get quality care.
Now to our neighbor, the poor woman. She was an elderly black woman who was in because she actually needed blood. I don't know how she made out but she was a freakin' trooper. Let me tell you. She had to be in her late 70's and she was really feeling like crap. One of the bad things about not being in a "room" is that you hear everything that is being said or done to your neighbor. At one point, her doc told her he needed to do a rectal exam. She was unhappy, as I'm sure I would be. I however would be able to leap over the doc and sprint away. Jerome Bettis couldn't have stopped me from escaping. She, being about 30 years my senior could not. Sadly, we heard everything. We felt awful about his. She seemed like a sweet old lady. She recovered from that and only about 45 minutes later did the staff come back for blood. Sadly the woman had no workable veins and they needed to go into her neck. Yes. Her neck. She protested quietly. Her daughters protested louder and told her mother "Nuh-uh! You don't have to have that done."
Look. I know it's your mom and you care about her but when a doctor tells you 'need' something, especially in an emergency situation, it's almost always wise to let them do it. The mother relented and they gave her a little something for pain but the poor woman was really hurting, and we heard it all. I felt awful as did Mags. I think the woman cried a bit. Heartbreaking.... for the next four minutes, then; whatever they gave the woman for pain, kicked in. Strong. She was happier than a pig at a Rabbis convention and told every male employee that came to help her how handsome they were. I'm glad her drugs kicked in. I just wish they gave it to her five minutes before they stared poking her carotid artery with a needle.

So we're home and hopefully this will a relaxing weekend. Hopefully.