Dentistry On Vacation

“I can’t believe you’re on vacation again.” That was my boss speaking to me Friday. I’m with him

“I can’t believe you’re on vacation again.” That was my boss speaking to me Friday. I’m with him.

After a week and a half off and three days on I’m off again this week!

The real culprit is longevity. With 25 years in I get four weeks of vacation, two more for working holidays, and a few scattered here and there for times I’m asked to fill-in on weekends or odd hours.

dentist office tools-w250-h185.jpgStill, God has ways of evening things out. He hit me in my weakest spot–my teeth!

I went to bed a little sensitive but woke up at the George Clooney level of sensitivity. By 9:00 AM I was on-the-phone to the dentist and in the chair around 3:00 PM.

You can’t call out sick while on vacation. Life goes on. I am typing with one hand while holding an ice pack with the other.

The problem isn’t a recent root canal but the bite that was left. One point was too high. Every time I bit down there was minor trauma. I felt nothing but the tooth was keeping score.

Alas, it’s all cumulative. Last night the tooth said “enough.”

The work took a few minutes. Bill, my dentist, says I should be fine in a few days. Hopefully he’s right as always.

Helaine and I are heading to New York City tomorrow for a quick visit. Even in NYC walking around with an ice pack stands out.

Charlie Gibson Announces His Retirement

He is without a doubt the smartest and best informed anchor I’ve known. A graduate of Sidwell Friends in Washington (where Chelsea Clinton went), he later graduated Princeton.

ABC announced Charlie Gibson’s retirement today. He’s 66.

It’s an exhausting job–the kind where you’re on-call 24/7. Maybe he just felt it was time.

There’s nothing in this whole affair that suggests it’s a Cronkite/Rather thing… that he’s being pushed. Diane Sawyer moves from GMA to World News as the new anchor.

It’s easy to misunderstand the importance of the news anchor. Most of what we see is nothing more than a reader. Many news managers (who should know better) fail to see beyond that superficiality. That’s why there are so many pretty, though vacuous, boys and girls on the news.

The anchor is the firewall. He/she is the last chance to check something before it hits air.

A good news anchor does more than just read. A good news anchor understands the context of the story and makes sure what’s on reflects that. Some of the more adept anchors also become managing editors–acknowledgment of that firewall.

I worked with Charlie Gibson a bunch of times when I used to fill-in on GMA (GMA–you’ve still got my number, right?). He is without a doubt the smartest and best informed anchor I’ve ever known. A graduate of Sidwell Friends School in Washington (where Chelsea Clinton went), he later graduated Princeton.

He will be missed.

That being said the impact of the single evening network news has diminished in this 24/7 cable/Internet era. TVNewser printed the combined evening viewers for the three networks over the past few years and the trend isn’t good.

Week of August 28, 2006: 23,380,000

Week of August 27, 2007: 21,310,000

Week of August 25, 2008: 20,290,000

Week of August 24, 2009: 20,330,000

Good luck to Diane Sawyer, though it’s tough to wonder if Charlie is really the last of the heavy hitters in that chair.

Hurricane Bill – Use The Power Wisely

I walk a thin line. I don’t want to panic people. I don’t want to lull them into complacency either.

hurricane-bill-visible.jpgLet me put you in my chair for just a moment.

Hurricane Bill is headed directly toward the US mainland at the moment. That’s scary. Of course forecasting weather is not just extending the current path. There are all sorts of variables taken into account. Bill should begin a sweeping right hand turn paralleling the coast over the next few days.

There is uncertainty so I look at Bill with respect and some trepidation.

I walk a thin line. I don’t want to panic people. I don’t want to lull them into complacency either.

Not only do I have to sell the most likely scenario to the public, I have to sell it to my co-workers. They are constantly on the lookout for good stories. What would cause more interest than a storm heading our way? I can’t let them ‘wishcast’.

Mission accomplished today. We handled a hurricane preparedness story in Stonington with the gravity it deserved without sending people into shock.

I have to remain diligent. We have to use the power wisely.

Trouble In My Mouth

This part of dentistry is all hand/eye coordination. He found the roots and began clean them with tiny hand tools. You can see three of them in the photo.

geoff-in-dentistry.jpgYesterday afternoon I began to notice tenderness when I closed my mouth. A molar was acting up. Over time I’ve learned these are never self healing.

I hoped there was something caught in my gum or under a piece of earlier dental work. I flossed and probed. Nothing.

It was a dull pain. If I didn’t bite I could deal with it. That let me fall asleep. It’s also what woke me up.

I called my dentist, this morning. I’ve been seeing Dr. Ortman 22 years. This was not my first unscheduled call.

“How quickly can you get here?” he asked. Fifteen minutes later I was in the chair.

In a perfect world our story would end here. It didn’t! This wasn’t a cavity. I was off to the periodontist.

Dr. Evans looked at my x-rays (emailed from the dentist), probed a little and decided maybe an endodontist was who I needed to see. He’s down the hall.

It wasn’t long before I was back in the chair. In the name of science my tooth had already been probed and scraped and chilled twice. One more time!

It was becoming a little more difficult to answer, “Does this hurt?” It hurt constantly.

By this time the gas was flowing and I was slowly approaching a 1968 state of mind. My new found relaxed state allowed him to administer the novacaine (I think it’s actually xylocaine nowadays) and deaden the throb.

Dr. Cha is a high tech guy. I asked if I could use a mirror to watch what he was doing (Yes, I like to watch) and he reached for a remote control to turn on an LCD monitor mounted near the ceiling. I could see what he was seeing in his dental microscope.

The angry tooth was one that had been filled decades ago. Dr. Ortman saw it in his records from my first visit in 1987. Now Dr. Cha was opening a hole in the amalgam to expose the root canals.

This part of dentistry is all hand/eye coordination. He found the roots and began clean them with tiny hand tools. You can see three of them in the photo.

A little more dental housekeeping before he resealed the tooth. I’ll be back next week. In the meantime I’ve been given prescriptions for an antibiotic and pain reliever.

My mouth is still tender, but not when I bite on that molar. I’m on the comeback trail.

JDRF Walk Sunday

It would be easy to complain about the early hours on a Sunday or say after 15+ years, enough–but I can’t.

jdrf_walk_sophie.jpgOnce a year I act as ‘celebrity chair’ for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk to Cure Diabetes. Every year I hope it’s my last, because I really do think diabetes will be cured. It would be nice if one of the dollars I helped collect was the one that made the difference.

You might be wondering what a celebrity chair does? Basically I’m there because I can give away TV time–and I do. I generate publicity. I also go to a few events during the year. On the day of the walk, I make sure to say hello to as many people as I can. Everyone there should feel they’re important, because they are.

It would be easy to complain about the early hours on a Sunday or say after 15+ years, enough–but I can’t. Look at Sophie Baum (see attached photo). The walk is filled with people walking for their own Sophie’s.

I really do think diabetes will be cured.

A Day On The River With My Dad

I had hoped for a day that could be characterized by a scene like that. God, I hope that last sentence makes sense.

I’m tired. Long day. Lots accomplished. This crap about vacations being for resting… I don’t think so.

Stef was babysitting this morning. That put her afternoon shopping with my mom on hold, which left enough time for Helaine and me to hoof it to the top of Sleeping Giant. I expected this week would be sans walking. Wrong.

And I claim to predict the future for a living! What a scam.

Back–oatmeal–shower. Stef takes my mom and drives off. This leaves Helaine, my dad and me in the house. I had a plan. I asked my dad if he wanted to take a drive to take some photos? I knew the answer before I popped the question.

Have I mentioned I predict the future for a living? I’m pretty good at it.

We hopped in the car and headed toward Chester. The top was down on this sunny afternoon. This whole trip was a leap of faith. I programmed our destination and blindly followed the disembodied GPS voice toward the Chester/Hadlyme ferry slip.

My folks lived in Connecticut for fourteen years before moving to Florida, but I guarantee this ferry (and its sister that runs between Rocky Hill and Glastonbury) was totally off their radar.

My goal was simple–get access to the Connecticut River. Is there a better way to see it than crossing it in a boat? Actually, calling this ferry a boat is a stretch. I’m not sure how to describe it, except to say “small.” The web write-ups consistently say it takes 8 or 9 cars. Yes, but with a shoehorn.

We timed it perfectly, getting to the slip as the ferry was halfway to the other side. That gave us time to get out of the car and take some shots.

As I approached the ramp, a canoe glided by. A woman in a two piece was paddling as a large black dog stood watch in the front. I had hoped for a day that could be characterized by a scene like that. God, I hope that last sentence makes sense.

“The present ferry, the Selden III,was built in 1949. It is an open, self-propelled craft, 65 feet long and 30 feet wide. The vessel can accommodate 8 to 9 cars and 49 passengers. The Selden III provides a convenient, direct link between Chester and Hadlyme at Route 148.” – CT DOT

I definitely recommend the ferry over the free bridge a few miles upriver. The ferry toll is $3 for a car and passengers, but it’s a piece of heaven. About &#190 of the way across the deckmate looked up and told the handful of passengers there was an eagle overhead. Holy crap, there was!

Making it to the Hadlyme side was all I had planned for the day, but it was still early. I asked my dad if he wanted to visit Gillette Castle? It became our next stop.

William Gillette was a stage actor, born in the 1850s. His specialty was Sherlock Holmes. Born too soon for the movies (he has a few picture credits from the 1910s), he still did very well financially. Gillette Castle was his estate, overlooking the Connecticut River at East Haddam.

I visited the castle when I was a little kid and the fear induced by seeing this very weird residence (now a state park) is still with me! I felt sorry for the young kids being dragged in by their parents. They will not sleep well tonight.

“Gillette Castle, built at a cost of about $1 million and completed in 1919, features a number of peculiarities including hidden mirrors, a lock-protected bar and intricate, hand-carved door latches on each of the castle’s 47 doors–no two are alike.” –

I have more of an appreciation of Gillette’s home today. The outside is still strange to see, but inside is now more understandable.

It was hot today, so as I explored the home, my dad stayed downstairs. I can’t say enough about the Castle staff who brought him a chair and made sure he was comfortable. Then they let me backtrack (wrong way on the one-way stairs) to rejoin him when I was done.

We got back to the car and I punched the GPS screen a few more times, programming in our next destination. It wasn’t long before we were at the Goodspeed Opera House. As strange as it is to say, this theater in the middle-of-nowhere has an astounding history of spawning Broadway hits, including Annie!

Talk about spooky looking buildings!

The Victorian inspired theater sits on the river too, but at a much lower elevation than Gillette Castle. Unfortunately, there wasn’t the easy foot access we had there either. I went out and took a few pictures of the opera house and the swing bridge across the Connecticut and got back in the car.

That was it for us. We were ready to go home.

I am very lucky indeed to have a father I enjoy sharing afternoons like this with. I’m luckier still, he enjoys sharing them with me.

My Jet Lagged Wife

Will the security area be jammed or empty? Your guess is as good as mine. You have to anticipate the worst, even if it means you have to spend a few hours sitting on your hands.

This is not my idea of passenger friendly!

Helaine is bushed. She deserves to be. Flying cross country isn’t as easy as it should be. After all, you’re just sitting back in a chair, right?

Leaving with enough time means leaving your hotel 2.5 hours pre-flight. Will the security area be jammed or empty? Your guess is as good as mine. You have to anticipate the worst, even if it means you have to spend a few hours sitting on your hands.

This is not my idea of passenger friendly!

The flight itself was about five hours. Once back at the gate in Connecticut, she waited another half hour for her luggage.

That’s it – if you live at the airport. We drove another hour to get back to Hamden.

Portal-to-portal was approximately 8.5 hours, most of them trapped inside an aluminium tube with dozens of coughing and sneezing people.

The elapsed time is enough by itself, but you’re simultaneously whipping circadian rhythm back toward EST after whipping it in the opposite direction a few days earlier.

Helaine has a major case of jet lag. I’ll do my best to make things easy for her… though she doesn’t like to delegate household responsibilities.

I think she’d still say her trip was worth it. Fun has its price.

Interviewed For New Haven Magazine

I don’t belong anywhere near that list. Speaking to me is the journalistic equivalent of slumming!

Last week I was approached by New Haven Magazine. They wanted to interview me for a story.

Was I flattered? Sure.

Of course there are always nagging worries. Why exactly me? I don’t want to be like Dr. Joyce Brothers, emergency guest when all else fails.

I asked who else had been featured.

  • Roya Hakakian, author, Iranian ex pat.
  • C. Megan Urry, chair Yale Physics Dept.
  • Hugh Keefe, leading defense attorney
  • Jonathan Rothberg, scientist entrepreneur
  • Peyton Patterson, CEO

I don’t belong anywhere near that list. Speaking to me is the journalistic equivalent of slumming!

Tonight, New Haven Magazine’s publisher Mitch Young and photographer Steve Blazo, came by.

I always worry how to answer a reporter’s questions? I’m not interested in towing the company line, but I don’t want to tick off my bosses either. Anyway, everyone can tell when you’re bullshitting to stay politically correct. Who needs that?

Years ago, we had an anchor at the station who was often quoted saying outlandish, foolish or even stupid things. I suppose she was sought out once reporters realized she made for good copy&#185.

She’d write it all off to being misquoted, but if you read the words and closed your eyes, you could see her saying them!

One question tonight came out of left field. Mitch asked, in light of Keith Olbermann’s move from sports to news, whether I’d like to make the transition to anchor? Keith Olbermann is not your typical TV anchorman. His career, though on the upswing now, has not been without setbacks and hardship.

I find what Olbermann, Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly and a few others do very interesting. Their job demands a skill set different from those employed by a totally impartial anchor. They also work within a structure different from conventional, and impartial, TV journalism.

I don’t think local news will be moving in that direction anytime soon, so the point is moot. It was still interesting to think about. It’s a choice I won’t have to make in real life.

I’ll let you know when the article is published… unless it’s incredibly embarrassing.

&#185 – Don’t ask. I will never tell. However, your guess is probably correct.

More Dentistry

It’s a day and a half since I was last outside. I am recuperating after having more gum surgery yesterday. I don’t recommend this as a leisure time activity, but it’s not as bad as you might think.

I knew I needed this last treatment for a while, but hadn’t made an appointment. A few weeks ago, Helaine pointed out yesterday would be the perfect day (is there a perfect day for periodontal work?). No appointments were available.

I asked to be contacted if anyone canceled and that’s just what happened.

Actually, this was a perfect outcome. Who doesn’t anguish over upcoming dentistry – especially if you’re going to have your gums sliced open like a piece of ripe fruit? I had less than a day to be a head case.

Believe me, I am a head case!

I got to Dr. Weiss’ office at 10:15. By 10:20 I was in the chair. By 10:21 Rebbecca, his assistant, had spun the knob and the nitrous oxide was flowing up my nose.

I’m no doctor, but if you’re going for dental work, have fear of pain and don’t get gas – you’re nuts. It doesn’t stop pain, but it does relax you and (in my case) remove inhibitions.

I’ve been taking gas for dentistry since I was a kid. I remember sitting in the dentist’s office and feeling the window mounted air conditioning unit vibrate. Trust me – you wouldn’t feel it vibrate without gas!

After the gas comes the novacaine. Actually, as I understand it, it’s really not novacaine anymore. This is the part I dislike most. Getting a shot is one thing. Getting one in your mouth is way over the top.

Lying on my back in the dental chair, I stretch my body and arch my back, but it’s a reaction that speaks to fear more than pain.

By the time the injections have taken hold, I’m high as a kite from the gas and totally numb where the work is being performed. When Helaine came to pick me up, she was told I talked through the whole thing… not that I remember much of it!

Exactly what went on in my mouth is a mystery to me. Dr. Weiss said I needed this one additional section of gum fixed and who was I to say no?

Dentistry is very much a matter of trust. After all, how many places do you go feeling well, knowing you’re not leaving that way? You either trust your dentist or not.

Yesterday, after the injections wore off, I was uncomfortable, but not in pain. That discomfort has diminished over time, but it’s still there a little as the ibuprofen’s effect slacks off between pills.

Along my gum line, on the tongue side of my teeth, there is a piece of plastic material – packing. I’m surprised it’s still there protecting the surgery. When it falls away (any time I expect) the stitches Dr. Weiss used to close my wound will be exposed.

I should be pain free, with only the weird sensation of the surgical thread against my tongue to remind me what went on.

He’s a nice guy, but I’d rather just see him somewhere else.

The Florida Difference

We went to pick up my father this morning. The hospital is done with him.

Hal, a volunteer, came to wheel him down in a chair. Hal has got to be as old as my dad. Isn’t this rolling exit a quaint tradition that can end?

Driving up and back from Boynton Beach to Boca Raton gave me a good chance to watch the Florida sky. It is definitely different than the Connecticut sky. Maybe I’m just more attuned to looking up because I’m a meteorologist, I’ll admit to that. But there is a difference.

Even with high humidity levels, the air here is mainly clear and the sky is mainly blue. Days that would feature haze in Connecticut don’t here.

Still, the real star of the sky is the clouds. They are white and puffy and well defined and tall. These are towering cumulus clouds – a term often seen in airport observations, but never so literally true as here.

Yes, these towering “Cu” produce the numerous thunderstorms found over the peninsula every day. It’s a fair trade. They’re amazing.

Palm Springs Swings

I was on Instant Messenger with my friend Farrell a moment ago. Though he works in Poland, tonight he’s home in Palm Springs.

(01:11:23) Farrell: earthquake

(01:11:25) Farrell: just now

(01:11:28) geoff: wow

(01:11:29) Farrell: house just shook

(01:11:31) geoff: in the Springs

(01:11:46) Farrell: just now

(01:12:10) geoff: wow

(01:12:25) Farrell: where can i go to see it on line

(01:12:34) Farrell: vered thought she felt something on the other side of the house

(01:12:37) Farrell: weird

(01:12:43) Farrell: the entire room shook in here

(01:12:49) geoff: small quake?

(01:12:55) Farrell: small maybe

(01:13:07) Farrell: but large enough for the 3rd bedroom to shake including my chair and the desk

(01:13:33) Farrell: vered was in the BR when she felt it

(01:13:37) geoff: looking for it now

It’s was freaky to be online, speaking with someone, as the quake let loose.

This was even more amazing. Within a few moments,the data was available online!

Version #1: This report supersedes any earlier reports of this event.

This is a computer-generated message. This event has not yet been reviewed by a seismologist.

A light earthquake occurred at 10:11:26 PM (PDT) on Friday, June 1, 2007.

The magnitude 4.2 event occurred 17 km (11 miles) ENE of Thousand Palms, CA.

The hypocentral depth is 5 km ( 3 miles).

According to all this, Farrell felt the quake and sent a message three seconds before it happened! Could be my clock. Could be a data error at USGS.

Farrell and Vered are OK. They’ve got no damage. I’d be changing underwear.

My Friend Kevin

I say without fear of contradiction, Kevin Webster is the nicest man I’ve ever known or will ever meet. He is the proverbial ‘shirt off your back’ guy.

I got a call Thursday afternoon from Melanee Webster, my friend Kevin‘s wife. They were at Yale/New Haven Hospital getting ready to come home. It was Kevin’s wish.

I’m not sure what her exact words were, but I knew what she meant. If I was going to see Kevin again, the time was now.

This evening, after our early news, I made the drive to Cheshire.

I remember the first time Kevin and I met. We’re both ham radio operators. A mutual friend, Harold Kramer, had seen my antenna setup in the attic. He thought I’d do better if my wires were flying in the trees, so he called Kevin and another friend, John Fowler.

Kevin came to my house to do me a favor. He didn’t know me. He didn’t have to. He did favors for friends and strangers alike as a matter of course.

I was amazed as he pulled out a slingshot… something I’d only seen in Dennis the Menace cartoons, and shot a lead line into a tall tree. Before the afternoon was over, I had a wire antenna strung between two trees at the 80 foot level!

Where did he find the time? Kevin had four daughters and was extremely active in his church. He was always busy… and yet he was always available. That ‘busy’ and ‘available’ weren’t mutually exclusive was just part of his magic.

Kevin and I quickly became friends. We built radios together, went to computer shows and ham radio events and talked on the phone.

He was the ultimate technogeek. As the allure of ham radio was replaced by computers, Kevin adapted, becoming everyone’s ‘go to’ guy for tech support and help. As with antennas, Kevin helped everyone.

Sometimes, when facing a particularly puzzling challenge, he’d call me for advice. I’d like to think he was more savvy, but he inherently knew two heads were better than one and he didn’t have a jealous or envious bone in his body.

A few years ago, Kevin got into kayaking. One Saturday, he found a kayak for me to use so I could join him for a float on a lazy river. This river was well beneath his expertise, but he gave up a little to afford me a good time.

I say without fear of contradiction, Kevin Webster is the nicest man I’ve ever known or will ever meet. He is the proverbial ‘shirt off your back’ guy.

He was always up, always smiling, always laughing, even when he found out he had incurable pancreatic cancer. That was nearly a year ago. Too damned short a time.

I spent a good part of July 4th weekend last year trying to make sure Kevin would get the best care possible. My weather partner, Dr. Mel Goldstein (a cancer survivor himself and incredibly well connected) made calls to the top specialists in the field.

It was a holiday weekend, but time was of the essence. Dr. Mel just called them at home. I will never properly be able to express my gratitude for what he did for Kevin.

When I first discovered Kevin’s fate, I thought to myself, God must have made a mistake. Kevin’s not the one to take. It just doesn’t make any sense.

I’ve thought a lot about Kevin’s mortality over the past year. Surely he and Melanee have considered it more, but it was on my mind too.

In March, at a poker table in Las Vegas, I sat next to a man who was a counselor at a hospice in Texas. We talked about Kevin and my fears for him.

“No one ever dies scared,” he said.

I was taken aback. I asked him to explain.

He told me he had been with 800 people as they approached death and none of them were fearful as they approached their end. It was among the most reassuring things I’d ever heard. I wanted to write about it then, but I thought it might be uncomfortable or disrespectful if Kevin read it.

My hope is Kevin is not scared about what lies ahead.

My friend Harold and I walked into Kevin’s house tonight and into a downstairs bedroom. There was some hospital equipment, a bed with rails and Kevin sitting in a big chair.

It was tough to look. My poor friend has been ravaged by his cancer. His skin was ashen, his eyes sunk deeply into his skull, his breathing was shallow. His feet were in socks, but so swollen it looked like they were in casts. Later, when I helped him move, I saw his bruises from dozens of injections and probes.

At times, Kevin would just stop all motion and blankly stare ahead as if he were in suspended animation. It was tough not to think the end was coming right there.

He said a few words and acknowledged our presence, but I’m not sure how much he really understands right now. He’s sedated with opiates to control his pain. It’s a guess he was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Melanee sat by his side and gently comforted him. She is his life’s partner… the girl he met while they were both students at BYU. They were each other’s only tue love.

Neither of them could have anticipated this outcome when they pledged their love and lives to each other.

Kevin will soon be gone. His body is shutting down piece-by-piece. It’s tough to imagine he’ll live more than a few days in his current state.

Kevin’s last year was spent in pain, while suffering the indignity invasive medical treatment brings. And yet, if given the opportunity to stop the pain… end his life early… he would have said no.

He got to spend time with his granddaughter and watch another grandchild swell his daughter’s belly. He got to see another daughter graduate college; the second to do so.

He was proud when Marlene, his youngest daughter, a high school senior, trained and ran a race for charity in Miami. She showed maturity as she tackled an adult sized challenge.

Kevin spent a lot of the last year being up and happy and smiling and… well, he was just being Kevin. Until the very end, cancer could not strip him of that.

The sadness we experience when someone dies is often so overwhelming, we forget what it really means. We mourn the most those we love the most. As horrific as that pain is, it is worthwhile because of what we got in return.

Kevin, I will miss you every day. Our friendship will live in my heart forever.

Note To Steffie: Inherit Your Mom’s Teeth

Last Thursday I started feeling some tenderness when I bit down on my farthest back lower molar on the left side. It’s probably not the same molar you have back there, because I’m not fully ‘toothed’ anymore.

Since the problem could be intensified on the gum line, I left a message with the periodontist I see. The next morning they called and by Friday afternoon I was in the chair and soon out of pain.

They hadn’t fixed what was wrong, but had freed me for the short term. I returned this morning at 9:30 AM.

Going for dental work under these circumstances is a great leap of faith. I was in no pain when I got there. I would certainly leave in pain. I knew that going in.

I sat in the chair as the dentist fired up the gas. Nitrous oxide at the dentist’s office is as close as you can get to a 60s simulator! It almost makes the dentistry worthwhile… almost.

I’m not sure what he did after the gas took effect, except I do know I was injected a few times with Novocaine (which really isn’t Novocaine, but some modern day offshoot).

When it was all over, I felt thread near my gums, so I know I’ve been stitched. I’ve got a little discomfort right now and I’m taking the horse pill sized Motrin.

Have I mentioned, Helaine has had one cavity in her life – one! And we’re pretty much convinced that decades ago, her dentist needed to pay for a vacation or an unforeseen car repair and… well, the rest is history.

I’m sure my dental hygiene as a child enters into this. I’m also afraid I inherited my dental problems from my mom. I have a lifetime of memories of my mom dealing with dental surgery.

So far, when given half a chance, Steffie has inherited some of my worst traits. Maybe she can inherit her mother’s teeth?

All Night At The ER

If you’re squeamish, maybe this isn’t the blog entry for you. I’m about to write about bodily fluids. This is not everyone’s idea of a good read.

Our story starts at 1:00 AM. Helaine was asleep. Steffie was watching TV. I was in my upstairs office, playing online poker.

It’s difficult to describe the sound of someone throwing up, except to say it’s pretty distinctive. Stef was throwing up.

I went to see her, but was rebuffed. She wasn’t feeling well, but it wasn’t a big deal. Everything was fine.

It was not.

Before long she was back, leaning over the toilet, letting loose.

Stefanie is 19. She lives in a dorm most of the year. Late night barfing is commonplace. Her own stomach distress wasn’t a major concern – even though she hadn’t participated in the usual pre-throw festivities that make college life so… well, college life.

Within 10-15 minutes she was back.

We tried Pepto Bismol pills and some soda, to replenish the fluids she lost. As quickly as they went down, they came back up. Her forehead went from warm to cool with each episode.

Helaine and I were getting nervous. We had never seen Stef like this before. Upstairs, we spoke about what to do, while downstairs Stef moved between the family room and the bathroom.

I started talking to Stef about going to the hospital, but she would have none of it. “People don’t go to the hospital because they’re throwing up,” she said.

I totally see her point. She knew she wasn’t feeling well. She also thought you had to be in much worse shape to demand any ER attention. The ER is a place where people come with limbs hanging off.

But things weren’t getting any better. Stef was out of solids in her stomach and quickly depleting herself of fluids.

“We’re driving, or I’m calling an ambulance.”

With Helaine, Stefanie and an oversize kitchen pot in the back seat, we set off for Yale/New Haven Hospital. I was driving fast. I already had decided what to say if stopped by the police.

We navigated our way through New Haven to the ER entrance. The receiving area has a small circular driveway with a cement island in the middle. I pulled up onto the island and shut the engine.

Stefanie plopped in a chair as a technician entered some rudimentary patient information into a computer, put a blood pressure cuff on her arm and pulse monitor on a finger. It’s tough to put in words, but this was done in spite of Steffie’s being there. She was obviously in distress and continuing to heave, but the cuff and monitor went on as if they were in some parallel universe.

A wheelchair was rolled in and we made our way to an examining room.

Emergency Room is a misnomer. At Yale, it’s a sprawling area of many rooms with dozens of staff members, visitors and patients. We turned right, just past the nurse’s station. Along both walls, patients laid in gurneys.

The first held a man, no shirt, with an intricate tattoo covering his arm and some of his chest. I didn’t see the rest. I looked away. Helaine later told me, she did the same.

We made a left, into a small room. To our right, in a doorless small room divided by a flimsy curtain, a man on drugs, alcohol or both, incoherently babbled about his hate for his mother and how he wanted to get home to go to sleep. He was loud and angry. I’m not sure where he belonged, but it wasn’t on-the-street without supervision.

Stef’s exam room was small and dingy. Let’s assume it was clean. It would have seemed cleaner with a fresh coat of paint.

A succession of nurses, physicians assistants, technicians and one doctor came and went. Each was confident. Each had a job to do. We think they were happy to be taking care of someone whose distress was not self imposed – certainly not the babbler across the hall. No one could possibly relish the thought of quality time with him.

One of the nurses brought in an IV bag, and a drip was started. Whatever else they’d find, Stef needed to be hydrated. It’s sort of Gatorade in a bag, minus the sugar.

Through all this, there was no change in Stef. Every few minutes she was back with her head down, holding a pan the hospital provided to replace the kitchen pot we’d brought.

The first attempt at treatment was an anti-nausea drug injected directly into her bloodstream via the IV. When there was no change, in went the next potion. We were told there were a half dozen they could try…but they didn’t have to.

If you’re a parent, I don’t have to explain this moment to you. If you’re not, there’s no way I can explain it. Stef began to respond. She was still talking in monosyllalbes , but now there were a few strung together. She leaned back and put her head on the pillow. It looked like she was out of distress.

You don’t go from as sick as she was to ‘pink of health’ in an instant, but this was still a pretty rapid turnaround. There was no guarantee, once the medicine wore off, she wouldn’t revert – though she didn’t.

By now, whatever was the cause of her nausea was long gone. The body is amazing, knowing perfectly well how to expel those thing which might harm it. A best guess is food poisoning from chicken she had eaten earlier. Though Helaine and Stef had eaten together, it was Steffie’s first meal of the day. Any pathogen was going to find little in her stomach to dilute its power.

As Steffie rested, we waited for the attending physician, the ER’s ‘boss,’ to come and say it was OK to go home.

I can’t begin to tell you how impressed we were with the professionalism that marked the care Stef received. It’s always possible whatever celebrity I have here could bring more attentive care, but this was beyond that. Every person who touched Stef was confident, well spoken and obviously well trained. There was never a moment when we didn’t feel they warranted our trust.

We got home long after the Sun had risen on a beautiful June morning. As I type this, 12 hours after we walked into Yale’s ER, Steffie is weak, tired and well.

Your child can grow up, but she’s always going to be your baby. Sorry Stef – that’s how it works.

Blogger’s note: Originally, I offered up to Stefanie, this would be something not shared in the blog. She asked why? So, here it is.

If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s don’t wait. If you’re considering going to the hospital, that’s probably all the evidence you need to go!

The photos were taken after Stef felt better.

King of the Wusses

Next Friday marks 21 years that Helaine and I have been married. I am the lucky one here – let there be no doubt.

As it turns out, we very nearly didn’t get married. This is not a story about the guy getting cold feet or anything like that. This is all about blood! In order to get married you take a blood test. Though it’s seldom discussed, the romantic reason is to make sure you have no sexually transmitted disease. Nice.

We were in Buffalo. We were excited. We were ready to get married. I had never given blood before. I’m not certain Helaine had either (though that certainly has changed, especially while she was pregnant with Stefanie).

Where does one go to get a blood test? We didn’t know, but our friend Jeff Lapides recommended his friend (and former high school classmate) Tommy Cumbo – by this time Dr. Cumbo.

It isn’t the fault of Dr. Cumbo or his office staff, but they couldn’t get blood from my quivering arm. I was so panic stricken it’s a wonder they got within ten feet of me!

Time was running out. The wedding was approaching. No test – no license.

Finally, with little time remaining, we went to the hospital and a phlebotomist (let’s see if that word makes it through the spell checker). This was a woman whose sole job was extracting blood. Dealing with little wimps like me was just a normal part of her day.

Amazingly, she did it. And it didn’t even hurt.

That last part is important, because it should have said to me, “Idiot, you need not fear this.” Good luck on that happening.

I didn’t need another blood test for years… decades actually. Unfortunately, as I got older, my current physician wisely thought it would be a good idea to check my cholesterol. After all my dad has had bypass surgery plus surgery on both coratid arteries because of a buildup of plaque. Even if it wasn’t hereditary, I ate the same food he ate for 18 years.

The test came back with bad news for me. My cholesterol was high. I don’t remember the numbers but they were enough to make those in the know go, “wow.”

There is good news too. Cholesterol can be controlled with drugs. I started taking Baycol (since recalled because it was killing people – oops) and now Lipitor. My cholesterol is within the reasonable range.

Unfortunately for me, there are risks with taking these ‘statin’ drugs. So, every six months I have to have more blood drawn. Tests are performed to make sure the Lipitor isn’t hurting me and to see where my cholesterol stands.

Every six months a blood test… and I still panic as if it were the first time.

Today was my day to go. I went to a huge medical building on Whitney Avenue in Hamden. Inside are dozens of doctor’s offices and the lab. From the outside, it looked as if they were passing things out for free because the place was jammed.

I didn’t wait long to see the phlebotomist. She remembered me from a prior trip and my anxiety.

I sit in the chair, try to clear everything from me mind and close my eyes tight. She told me to take a deep breath, but I couldn’t.

The last time it didn’t hurt at all. This time it stung and then burned. It wasn’t awful… but it isn’t the kind of thing I’d do as a hobby. Or, more to the point, there is little chance of me becoming an IV drug user anytime soon.

When I was done, I hugged the woman who had drawn the blood. She knew it was coming. It is somewhat symbolic, but it’s also an incredible release after all the tension and foolish anticipation I had built up inside of me.

Within the next day or two the doctor will call and tell me what’s good, bad and indifferent in my system. I will be safely away from having blood drawn for another six months.

When I go back, and I will, I’ll still be scared as if it were the first time. It seems so silly that I can’t place this little pain in its proper perspective. That’s what you get when you’re a wuss.