Friday, November 30, 2012

Zoom, zoom ...

Since I was going to be in the E Nic area for a couple of days, I met Adrienne at one of my favorite stores, Joann's Fabrics.  She had an idea for a project  for an antique doll crib so we were looking for fabric.
Then lunch at

Back at Justin's, step one: get that fabric washed and dried. 

By the end of the evening, I'd finished the mattress cover, a pillowcase,

all the 2-inch squares were cut.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

In San Francisco

We just spent several wonderful days in San Francisco with Greg and Nicole.
Both Greg and Nicole had to work 10-12 hour shifts at work so got to do some cooking. Roast turkey, sausage/giblet stuffing, and orange-walnut cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving; pumpkin pie donated by Carolyn. Then a short parade of leftover dishes: turket pot pie and turkey chilaquiles; and a pumpkin cheesecake complete with a burnt crust which didn't hinder consumption at all.

One afternoon, as I was working in the kitchen, Dick called out, "Arlete, I'm stuck in a hole and I can't get out."  He'd sunk between the cushions.

Motto on sleeve of Greg's jacket "Oro en paz, fierro in guerra" means "gold in peace, iron in war."

Thank you, Greg and Nicole, for your warm hospitality and sharing your home with us.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

I spotted this little squirrel in a tree at El Camino Gardens where Mom lives.  He was enjoying his food so much, he didn't mind me getting close.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Quick dash to E Nic

Monday.  It was time to go get the car from Justin's house, which meant a day filled with public transportation. CalTrain, Palo Alto:

Amtrak, San Jose station:

Regional Transit, Sacramento = 2 "trolleys" and 1 bus

A therapeutic evening of cracking walnuts. My work station in the garage:
Tuesday.  Lunch with Thais at Orphan - if in Sacramento, eat at Orpha, sooo good.
Fall colors in front of LPA where Thais works.
A visit with Mom.  I told her about Dick's surgery.  She said, "Well, that was uncalled for."  Later she asked if Dick was following the doctor's instructions.  Not always.  She raised her hand and shook her finger, "You tell him to listen, or his mother-in-law is going to have a talk with him.  And that would be horrible."

OK, Dick, you've been warned.

Friday, November 16, 2012

First days in Palo Alto

Brrr! Arriving in flip flops and T-shirts doesn't work at this time of year in Northern California.

After a full day of rest, we went for our first walk ... after socks were borrowed and shoes purchased.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Honolulu memories

Dick had just been wheeled into surgery and I was a basket case. The nurse who had been with us asked me what she could do to help me. The only thing I could think of was I desperately needed a charger for my cell phone. I would need my phone a lot in the next few days/weeks. Cassandra went out and bought one for me, found me in the cafeteria and gave me a bag filled with not only the charger but also things I might need: trail mix, deodorant, lotion, etc. I pulled out my wallet to pay her but she declined. Even more, she sat down and listened to me babble and cry. Her kindness and generosity went above and beyond. The staff at Straub Clinic and Hospital has been excellent, but Cassandra will always have a special place in my heart.

This was my first time going inside a Buddhist temple.  It was on the way from the hotel to the hospital.

For my first excursion away from the hospital, I wanted to walk to a Starbuck’s, but had no idea where one might be. I asked a friendly-looking young man. He walked to the corner with me and gave me directions. Then he walked me all the way so I wouldn’t get lost, we chatted the whole time. At one intersection the pedestrian walk light was about to turn yellow. James, “How old are you? You just ran to beat the light!” He is a “raw vegan” (no animal-created foods and nothing cooked) and credits his change in diet with a renewed joy of living life. Thoughts of suicide have disappeared. He has some great ideas for online businesses who donate a percentage of their profits to charity.

On the way to/from the hospital to McDonald's/wifi hotspot - a daily stop for me.

Two weeks ago, Cesar arrived in Honolulu and plans to stay in the Islands for the next 2-3 years. He wants to start a bicycle coop called Bikiki (I’m not sure how he plans to spell the combination of bike + Waikiki). He worked at a bicycle coop in the Los Angeles area. He is also choosing to be homeless, but he’s way more put together than most homeless people. He has a membership at 24 Hour Fitness so he can shower and wash his clothes. He gets in the shower fully clothed and soaps up, rinses off, takes off the clothes, then washes himself. He puts on his second set of dry clothing and his wet clothes have a day or so to dry. He rented a small storage unit where he can keep some of his other belongings. He rides a bicycle for transportation and sleeps in a hammock. He plans to get a job soon, but wants to work a graveyard shift. That way he can sleep in a park during the day and work at night. Most parks close at 10 pm except for Waikiki Beach which closes at 2 am. Cesar is also a bicycle tourer and has ridden the Pacific Coast Trail or as Cesar described it “from point eh? to point sí.” In the Islands he wants to ride the perimeter of 7 of them and write a touring guide. To get from one island, he will convert his bike to an Akwakat and ride across the channels.


First Chinese Church of Christ in Hawaii:

It was the morning Dick was discharged from the hospital and I had to get his prescriptions filled downstairs. It was a 25-minute wait so I sat on a nearby bench and read on the Kindle. Barbara soon sat down and told me her husband gave her a Kindle as a birthday present last year. Her 81st. She loved it since she’s allergic to printer’s ink. Barbara was so interesting to talk to. I wish I could remember more. Doctors have told her her sense of smell is 1000 times more sensitive than that of other people. She teaches acrylic oil painting as a hobby. She met her husband in New Caledonia. We had a great, though too short, chat which ended with a hug.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dick's health: day 12

Hurray!  The chest tube came out.  Tomorrow for discharge? 

The morning was a flurry of activity. Get prescriptions, get discharge instructions, pack belongings. The goal was a noon departure. Finally at 12:30, I told the staff we were walking out at 1:00 whether they were ready or not. Oh!
Straub Hospital sends patients home wearing a "heart hugger" which Dick must unhappily wear for at least 6 weeks.  Any kind of motion or coughing, he is to grip the blue handles and squeeze to protect his sternum.

A chair by day

became my bed at night.  I won't miss it.

As we move into the next phase of recovery, we want to say THANK YOU to everyone for the many ways you supported both of us in the past two weeks.

Dick was wheeled to the hospital entrance where we got in a taxi that took us directly to the airport.  We boarded a late afternoon flight for Oakland.  We sure appreciated the wheelchair service provided by Alaska Airlines.  The attendant pushed Dick and pulled our luggage, I only had to manage IDs and tickets, and we went to the head of every long line.  Sweet!  It was a long exhausting flight.  We arrived at 11:45 pm and were picked up by Dick's sister and husband, Carolyn and Mark.  Whew!  Time for a good long rest.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dick's health: day 10

Progress each day! Dick walked 900 feet, tomorrow we'll reach the 1200-feet goal. We went to a "discharge" class this morning to learn more about what life will be like after our hospital stay. He's determined to make the best possible progress as he recovers, Dick: "I'm going to be a really good at rehab." Thank goodness they gave us a booklet detailing all the restrictions and instructions, there is so much to learn and remember. The surgeon told us there are 3 criteria remaining before discharge can be considered: last chest tube removed, stable blood pressure, and stable lab results. The nurses told us Dick also needs to pass a "shower test" - taking a shower properly. One requirement is not lifting your arms above your shoulders and still be able to wash your hair, or in Dick's case, his head.

We had a fairly rough Saturday night/Sunday morning. Dick has a relentless cough and must grip his “heart hugger” harness before he coughs. Taking cough medicine didn’t seem to help, Xanax at 1 am did the trick and we got a few hours sleep. Because his fluid collection container tipped over at some point during the night, an exact measurement was not possible, so the doctor decided he should leave in the chest tube at least one more day.

Each day his walking is stronger. Today he walked 1200 feet 2½ times (he got dizzy during the last go-round so we stopped). He also does breathing exercises ten times/day.

The cough continues, the staff took a gullah (sputum) sample, but it will take a few days for results to come back.  Now he has a terrible ache in both ears.  Sheesh!  There's still too much fluid leaking from the chest tube so we're still at least two days from discharge.  When Dick goes for his walks, the staff checks his blood pressure before, immediately after, and 10 minutes later.  The immediately-after measurement is just over what they like to see, so he's been encouraged to slow down and pace his walking.  The cardiac rehab nurse says his exercise should be "easy breezy", no sweating allowed.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dick's health: day 7

The neurologist confirmed that Dick had several small strokes, but a full recovery can be expected after a long recovery, and not to get discouraged along the way. Late yesterday afternoon, Dick left ICU and was moved to a regular room. Yay! for more room, more privacy, less light and noise.
This morning he passed the swallowing test by the speech therapist which meant he could have a "heart healthy" finely chopped lunch. The cardiac care nurse told us one of the benchmarks to be achieved before discharge could be considered was to be able to walk 1200 feet. Dick told her he wanted to accomplish that by this afternoon. Ha! He made it about 100 feet.
Greg and Mike are flying out tonight since we now believe Dick is out of the woods and headed in the right direction. I'll be sleeping at the hospital from now on, in Dick's room. It couldn't possibly be any noisier than the party-hotel we've been staying at.
Side note re Hawaiian hospital terminology:
shee shee = pee
gullah = phlegm
hanabata = snot
Are you pau? = Are you done?
Continued improvement for Dick - hurray! Only one chest tube remains, all other tubes and IVs have been removed. He now gets to eat bite-sized (an improvement from finely chopped) heart-healthy meals, and even got a greatly appreciated piece of apple pie for lunch today.
We went to a class this morning given by a cardiac rehab nurse which was very informative. All the expected advice of low sodium, no saturated fat, no caffeine. Being limited to one cup/day of decaf coffee may be one of the hardest adjustments Dick will have to make. Eating oatmeal every morning will be the easiest since he already does that. One surprising requirement is limiting fluid intake to 48 ounces/day. Dick is a big water/beverage drinker, so this will be a challenge.
Dick also walked 300 feet early today and another 600 feet around noon. Great progress in this area. His coordination and use of his right arm and hand also continues to improve. We each got a great night's sleep last night, the nursing staff found me a chair that converted to a flat bed, and there were very few interruptions (or I slept through them).

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dick's health: day 5

When we arrived this morning, Dick was awake, smiling, talking, and sitting up more erect, the ventilator and feeding tube had been removed. What a welcome sight! He could move his right arm, although it's still weak. The MRI showed he had several small strokes, and their effects are as yet undetermined.

Therapy has begun. Speech: swallowing ice was difficult so no real food today. He pouted rather cutely at that and the feeding tube was put back in. Physical therapist got him to sit at the side of the bed and shuffle sideways a few steps. Occupational therapist also got him to sit at the side of the bed and gave him a couple of exercises to do. He told her his goal is to get back to sailing, so he plans do his exercises more often than suggested.

We are breathing a sigh of relief and preparing for the long road of recovery.

Continued improvement since yesterday. The speech therapist is keeping him on a feeding tube but tomorrow morning, if he passes the swallowing test, he will get a "full breakfast." He will also move from ICU to a regular room by tomorrow as long as there's a bed available. Breathing exercises have been added to arm raises and bicep curls along with getting out of bed, with assistance, and sitting in a chair for a while.
Not much to report today. We are more hopeful that he is on the long road to recovery.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dick's health: day 3

Technically it wasn't a heart attack, but a ruptured aneurysm and leaky valve. The surgery took longer than they'd predicted, over 6 hours. He went into shock just before the surgery began, so they had to deal with that before continuing. He received "massive amounts" of blood and blood product, a new pig valve, and a woven dacron graft where the aorta had torn. When I was allowed into ICU, there were 5 nurses working on him at once, he was losing a lot of blood and received 2 units there. I was told things could go either way. Very slowly, the bleeding subsided and there was a ray of hope. Greg arrived are out 10:30 from San Francisco. Around 11:30, we went back to his hotel and slept for a few hours.

This morning, the nurses stopped the sedation so he could "wake up" and the tube going down his throat could be removed. But he was very slow to wake and never was able to respond to commands (squeeze my finger) or keep his eyes open. Both legs and his left arm began moving, not his right. He had a CT scan at noon which came back negative for neurological damage, so we're hopeful the right arm is just slow to get with the program. However the jostling started the bleeding again, but not to the point of needing more blood, and subsided fairly quickly. They decided to sedate him again. Mike arrived from Boulder CO around 2 pm. Both boys are with him now so I could leave the hospital for a bit.

Very little change from yesterday and there's not much to report. The sedation medication was changed to a lighter version, to keep him calm but not totally out of it. Soon after, he "woke up" and recognized Greg and Mike, tears flowed. This is the first piece of good news we've gotten since Friday. He also pulled back his right arm when the nurse pinched him. He is now having an MRI to check for neurological damage (resulting from a stroke), but the results won't come back until tomorrow. As they wheeled him away, I'm pretty sure he smiled at me with his eyes. I want that to be true anyway.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dick's health: the beginning

Last night Dick exhibited 6 (out of 8) classic symptoms for a heart attack. I rowed him to shore, the paramedics met us, and he was transported to Wilcox Hospital in Lihue. They did as much as they could for him, but he needed more. At about 5 this morning, he was life-flighted to Straub Hospital in Honolulu, I was able to ride along.

By 9:30 am, he was wheeled into the OR for open heart surgery. He has four big things wrong: fluid around the heart, a leaky valve, an aortic dissection (the lining separated from the wall), and an aneurysm. Without the surgery, his survival was about 5%, they estimated his loss of mortality at 1%/hour.

(I wish I could change the name of this blog right now.)