Left Behind

The article says phone sex is gone because it’s been replaced by texting and IMs. I plead ignorance, but can text be as erotic as the spoken word?

When Stef was in elementary school we heard stories of kids who couldn’t read the ‘old school’ analog wall clocks, nor operate the rotary dial telephones in the nurse’s office and classrooms. These are lost skills.

I know Morse Code. In fact, I’m very good at it. Morse Code is outmoded. My skill is virtually worthless.

Same thing with my abilities as a radio actor. Even when I was doing it, in the late sixties, I was behind the times.

In today’s Washington Post there’s a list of more in our lives which has been left behind.

  • Truly ‘Blind’ Dates
  • Mix Tapes
  • Land Lines
  • Short Basketball Shorts
  • Cigarettes
  • Phone Sex
  • Getting Lost
  • Cash
  • Having the Blues

I don’t agree with all of these, but they’re pretty interesting. When was the last time you had contact with someone new and didn’t go to Google to see who it was? Mix tapes, land lines and basketball shorts all make sense too.

Cigarettes? Maybe they’re not extinct, but smoking inside anywhere is!

When I first came to work in New Haven, as a smoker, we smoked at our desks. That seems so weird now. We used to use film cannisters as ashtrays.

The article says phone sex is gone because it’s been replaced by texting and IM. I plead ignorance, but can text be as erotic as the spoken word?

Drama In The Air

My flight to Chicago was relatively easy. I had the iPod for the first time and listened to a long interview with Bill Murray and This Week in Technology with Leo Laporte.

I love Leo. He’s been a trailblazer in tech. The show was rudderless. I still listened all the way through. I just wanted more meat and more structure.

About twenty minutes out of Chicago a flight attendant came on the PA. “Is there a doctor, nurse or medical person on the flight?”

That only happens in the movies, right?

About ten rows behind me a woman had suffered a seizure. As I’d later find out, she had medication with her. This must not have been a total surprise.

You would guess this sort of thing puts you to the head of the line for landing. We hit the ground, hit the brakes, did a 250 degree turn and pulled right to the terminal.

The door popped open and in rushed three Chicago Fire Department EMTs.

I can’t tell you how the woman is. She looked unconscious as they moved her off in a wheelchair.

Before we landed, the crew asked everyone to stay seated and not go to the overhead bins. The instructions were followed.

The Chicago-LAX passengers are starting to get on. It will be a full flight. I’ve moved back a row and taken a window seat. Maybe I’ll see some snowcapped mountains.

Next stop Los Angeles.

Into The Hospital

I don’t remember my father as an early kind of person. He is now – big time.

I went to sleep last night around 3:30 AM. My dad rapped on hard my door around 7:30 AM. He was told to be at the hospital between 9:00 and 10:00 and he was aiming for 9:00… maybe 8:45 AM.

He’s going to the hospital today though his procedure won’t take place until tomorrow. Today is a day for medicating. His angiogram uses a dye which is stressful on his already compromised kidneys. The medicine will reduce that stress.

It’s a 20 minute drive from my parents condo in Boynton Beach to the hospital in Boca Raton. I remembered this hospital from when I lived down here nearly 40 years ago. The area was less congested, more residential, but the hospital building is still intact and well kept.

Boca Raton is different now. We pulled into the valet parking area. A Rolls pulled behind us.

When you check in, you become a part in the massive hospital machine. Hopefully you’re getting the treatment you need, though that result seems ancillary. The hospital is just moving you through the system, in much the same way UPS moves packages.

We walked in and sat in a room where patients are admitted. Wrong room. A volunteer was called to walk us through the maze to the correct admitting room.

After a few questions my dad was led to an alcove screened off with a curtain. There are eight beds in this unit, though none but my dad’s is in use right now as I type.

Two nurses walked in and began to prep my dad in much the same way Swift preps turkeys at Thanksgiving. They were fast and efficient – a well coordinated team. It only took a few minutes for my dad to give blood, get hooked to monitors and receive an IV drip.

While all this was going on his cardiologist walked in.

In our society, we encourage the brightest to become physicians. That’s a good thing. On the other hand, they often are not our most coordinated or athletic. That’s OK for diagnosis, but these doctors are also opening us up and sticking instruments inside our most vital organs. That part has always concerned me.

The plan is for my dad to have his angiogram around 7:30 AM tomorrow morning. Most likely that will be followed by the insertion of a stent.

I asked, and was told, bypass surgery (which my dad had 16 years ago) was an unlikely result. Of course bypass surgery is what worries us.

The nurse informs us that my dad’s room is ready and someone will be down to get him in a little while. His trip through the hospital machine has begun.

The Wuss Survives His Colonoscopy

I’m home, typing in bed. My colonoscopy is over. Dr. Chang found one very small polyp, which he assumes is benign.

I am also pretty stoned right now. If this entry isn’t totally lucid, I reserve the right to come back and revise my remarks (as they say on the floor of the senate).

A number of people said the worst part would be the prep, and they were right. I ate no solid food yesterday, though I did finish a half gallon tub of ice cream.

At home, around midnight, I began to cleanse. I poured out a glass of soda from a two liter bottle of Sprite and replaced it with the contents of two small bottles of Fleet Phospho Soda.

It’s been a while since I’d had real sugared soda, so I’m not sure how the Phospho Soda changed the taste. I think I tasted the salt in it, which got stronger as I got closer to the bottom of the bottle. The Phospho Soda must be more dense than Sprite.

I knew I needed to get started fast or I’d never finish.

The first half of the soda bottle was downed in about 10 minutes. I took another hour to do the rest. That’s also about the time the effects began.

I’m not going to go into detail, but I can guarantee there’s nothing solid left in my digestive system – nothing! And, I probably lost five or more pounds.

Wow – diet secret!

By this morning I was getting apprehensive. It wasn’t one thing that worried me, it was everything. Though, if I had to choose a prime suspect for my angst, it was the IV.

Somehow, I expected it would go in my forearm and it would burn. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Actually, it went into the middle of my hand, between my wrist and fingers and didn’t hurt at all.

The doctor’s waiting room looked like… well it seemed like a doctor’s waiting room. It was only after a nurse came to fetch me, and I walked through a door to the inner sanctum, that I was transported into a hospital. That part amazed me.

The building I was in was designed to be an IBM sales office. It’s three stories tall with lots of parking. Obviously, it’s been heavily modified.

In a small prep room, the nurse began going through a questionnaire. It was the typical medical queries about medication and past procedures. By this time I was wearing an automated blood pressure cuff on my left arm and an oxygen sensor on my right middle finger. EKG probes were stuck to my chest and side.

A heart monitor blasted a rhythmic line of beeps. That, more than anything, took away any pretense of this being a ‘nothing’ process. Say what you will, this is a real surgical procedure.

John, the anesthesiology nurse came in. More questions. More forms. He was reassuring, but also had to tell me everything that might go wrong.

No one wants to hear a sentence which contains the words, “in rare cases.”

By this time I was a real nut case. I could feel myself quivering with fear. I said, “If my blood pressure isn’t high now, when will it ever be!”

I told John I didn’t want to be totally under. I wanted to be sedated, but awake. However, I would leave my actual state of consciousness to his judgment. If it seemed I was in discomfort, he could do what he felt was right.

He saw my nervousness (a blind person could have seen my nervousness) and recommended something to take the edge off before the ‘main event.’ Within a minute my anxiety was diminishing.

I was OK to walk to the operating room, though I wanted someone to hold onto.

They helped me onto the table, I got on my side and that’s all I remember.

Later John would tell me I wasn’t comfortable as Dr. Chang began his work, so out I went. I don’t remember getting to that point, but that’s exactly what I wanted him to do under those circumstances.

So, what can impart to you? After all, a colonoscopy is a life safer and recommended once you get to a certain age.

It is scary to consider a colonoscopy in the abstract. Someone is going to run a tube… many feet of that tube… into your body while taking pictures and possibly snipping polyps.

On the other hand, my apprehension was not in proportion to what actually happened. I felt no pain. I feel no pain now. There is nothing that would lead me to believe I’ve had it done.

The prep part, as everyone says, is worse than the procedure. And even it is more of a bother than anything else.

The people I dealt with today were super. They were confident and reassuring and promised not to tell anyone what I looked like with my clothes off. I hope Dr. Chang knows how important they were to me even before they were doing their real work.

It’s impossible you’re a bigger baby or more of a wuss than I am. That being said, I’m glad I had it done. I’m also glad I don’t have to do this again for another five years.

Blogger’s note: Do I have photos of my colon? Of course. I’m in no shape to scan them now, but they’ll be added to this post later.

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.

That Scary Call

I went to bed around 4:20. That’s typical for me. It didn’t take long to fall asleep.

It hadn’t been a full hour when Helaine woke me up. “It’s the phone,” she said.

God bless Helaine. She’s the best part of my life. But, she is petrified when the phone rings before dawn. It can’t be good. Answering these calls is my job. It goes with killing trapped bugs and seeing what’s making noise downstairs.

It was Steffie on the other end of the line. She didn’t sound good.

Steffie has been suffering through a persistent cough for three weeks. A trip to the “Wellness Center” on campus brought no relief and no sympathy.

Now there was another problem.

Steffie was calling from the communal bathroom in the dorm, so she wouldn’t wake her roommate. She had broken out in hives. She didn’t call them hives, but that’s what she described. And, everywhere she had hives, she was itching like crazy.

Like I said, Steffie didn’t sound good. She wasn’t in pain, she was fearful because she had arrived at a situation she didn’t understand and couldn’t control. And, she had already lost confidence in the “Wellness Center.”

It didn’t take more than a few seconds for Helaine and me to decide a trip to college was in order. While Helaine hit the shower, I called work. They’re not used to hearing from me before 6:00AM.

We were in the car by 6:30. Helaine thought the Parkway might be faster than the Turnpike, so we headed that way. Who knows if that was true? I do know the Parkway was s-l-o-w. How do people put up with this on a daily basis?

The trip to school was brutal. We’ve made it in 1:45. This time it was 2:45.

We got to the school as Steffie was coming back from the “Wellness Center.” They wouldn’t be able to see her until 10:00 AM. That was actually a good solution. We knew no local doctor. A trip to the hospital ER could take hours.

We headed back to the “Wellness Center” and Steffie was seen almost immediately. This time her experience was much better. The nurse practitioner in charge was very nice and warm.

Make no mistake about it, warm counts. Good bedside manner is very important in putting a patient at ease.

She prescribed two drugs – one for the cough and an over-the-counter antihistamine for the hives. We headed to the drugstore.

I’ll cut to the chase. The jury is out on the antibiotic for the cough, but the antihistamine was a magic bullet. Within the hour Steffie’s hives were going down. Tonight there is a world of difference.

We took Steffie to a diner for lunch and a supermarket so she could restock her refrigerator with fruit and drinks, but our real purpose was support. We were glad to do that… glad we were asked.

The trip home was easy… Well, it was easy for me. I was exhausted and passed out as soon as Helaine got to a spot she recognized. We were home in under two hours.

Four and a half hours on the road seems like a lot, but it was very little all things considered. It’s at times like this we’re glad she’s not at UCLA.

Seventeen Years Ago Today

Steffie was born 17 years ago today. I remember Helaine telling me to come right home after the newscast. She knew the time was right.

Earlier in the day Helaine had gotten out of the house as the exterminator did his thing. She stooped in our tiny front yard in Branford, planting impatiens. I couldn’t figure out how she was doing it. I still can’t

Now, with me home, she was getting ready to call the obstetrician. He listened to her signs and told her, “not yet.” We turned on the TV.

I’m not sure if every program on “Nick at Nite” that night was the Mary Tyler Moore Show, but it seemed that way. We sat and watched and wondered. Even if Helaine would have seen a foot sticking out of her, she wouldn’t have called the doctor back. Luckily, she didn’t have to.

Somewhere in the middle of the night the phone rang. It was the doctor. Go to the hospital – they’ll be waiting.

Helaine was having moderately intense contractions by this time (who am I to say they’re moderate – let’s face it, if guys had contractions, we’d just pass out on the spot). Branford was deserted, as was I-95 and Route 34. I ran the only red light I hit… not because we had to, but because my wife was having a baby. It was my right to do as I wished on the road.

I’m not going to go into details about what happened when we got to the hospital. That’s not because it was gory or bad, but because Helaine has worked it into a stand-up comedy routine worthy of 6 minutes on Letterman. Least it to say, Helaine feels the receptionist was more interested in my celebrity than her pregnancy.

Labor was not easy for Helaine. I believe Steffie was auditioning for Cirque du Soleil in there – twisting and turning and getting caught up in her own umbilical cord. It was very scary as doctors and nurses scurried around and prepared Helaine for the emergency C-section they never had to perform.

It wasn’t until mid afternoon that Steffie thought enough was enough, and out she came. She was, and still is beautiful. She was, and still is our baby. This, of course, is a bone of contention between father and daughter.

I know it’s difficult for her to understand, at age 17 when it seems she should be a grown-up, but we can still close our eyes and see her wrapped up tight with the little stocking hat (which we still have). I can feel her in my arms as the nurse handed her to me and our feelings of joy and relief that she had ten fingers, ten toes and all the standard equipment.

The photo, the one with me holding Steffie just a few minutes after her birth, is one of my proudest possessions. Of course Helaine did all the hard work, but I get some credit too.

So today is Steffie’s day. I just hope she’ll take a cue from the Oscars and Emmys and thank the people behind the scenes who made it all possible.

Speared Against The Flu

Last week, the television station offered free flu shots. I signed up and then promptly forgot about it when the magic day came.

So, today, following in the footsteps of my wife and daughter, I drove down to my doctor’s office. I call him Steve. He wants to be called Steve. He’s been my doctor for almost 20 years… so Steve seems right.

Helaine, on the other hand, feels better medicine comes from someone with no first name other than ‘Dr.’

There’s really no way I could know if he’s really a good doctor, except to know that he’s smart… and smart counts for a lot in medicine and everything else. And, he’s a good person with a warm heart. There aren’t too many other people I’ve trusted with my life for nearly twenty years. I have never had a second thought.

His outer office was crowded… others getting their shots.

I remember, as a kid, Dr. Levy’s office back home in Flushing. Sidney Levy, MD was our family physician. His wife was his nurse and pretty much ran the place. His office was built into his house. You couldn’t go to Dr. Levy without sitting for hours in that cramped waiting room. It always seemed like there wasn’t quite enough oxygen to go around for everyone there. And, if you weren’t sick when you got there, you could be sure someone with something comkmunicable would be sitting close by.

Dr. Levy was the first person I ever knew who had a Mercedes Benz. He called it his Moishe Benz. Being Jewish, back in the 60’s, there was still a certain uneasiness in buying German.

There were already a mother and her grown daughter when I got to Steve’s today. The daughter was doing business on her cell phone. Unfortunately, she was doing it at a level high enough to include everyone else there. After a few minutes another mother – adult child combo walked in. She was hacking away. A Dr. Levy flashback.

It didn’t take long before it was time to get my injection.

Here I am, 53 years old, and I still panic over the prospect of getting a shot. I have often thought, “How can people become IV drug users? How can anyone take a needle for a good time.”

Hopefully, I won’t get the flu this year. And, hopefully, the soreness in my right arm will soon be gone. Did I mention, I hate getting shots.