Sister Leslie is home, having a birthday

Leslie’s tribe of friends had wanted the feeding tube gone much earlier.

Sister LeslieI had this post about my sister Leslie converting to Roman Catholicism this year pretty well constructed in my mind. It’d have been how it was surprising it was – she did it as a secret from virtually everyone – but how it was fine by me.

Then she had this serious bicycle accident on June 4. To recap, she had been on vacation the previous month in Europe seeing her daughter Rebecca Jade sing on a cruise, but also spending a few days in Copenhagen, Denmark on her own.

She went back to San Diego and decided to start riding her bicycle partway to work. Since she is a safety official, she thought she ought to wear a helmet, so she bought one on June 1; wearing it almost certainly saved her life.

While I was in San Diego July 9-14, her friend Cathy managed to recover Leslie’s stuff that had been in storage at the first hospital she went to, Scripps Mercy. The distinct smell of dried blood remained on the helmet even days after being aired out. She’s keeping it, certainly not to wear again but possibly as a prop, along with her mangled bike, about the importance of bicycle safety.

Sister Leslie was semi-liberated from the SECOND hospital, Kaiser Permanente, on July 4, but she had a hospital bed in her bedroom at home because she still had a feeding tube attached. She was getting 1500 calories via it every night, but we – Leslie, her wonderful friend Leilani, the nutritionist, and i – agreed to start cutting back incrementally.

My primary task while I was out there was to get her from the bed, where she was not comfortable enough to sleep through the night, to a reclining chair. I became moderately competent at detaching and reattaching the “food” line when she needed to walk around.

I went to a couple of her doctors’ visits, notably to a heck and neck guy who removed the eight screws that had aligned her teeth to her jaw but were no longer necessary. Remember the worst pain you ever had at the dentist? Double that and add another 30%. That’s what the removal of the metal appeared to feel like, despite six shots of Novocaine, and I was in the room when it happened.

The good news is that, absent the metallic taste and feel in her mouth, she was more inclined to eat on her own. Then the feeding tube was removed on June 20. Leslie’s tribe of friends had wanted it gone much earlier, and I understood their feelings. I said, and she agreed, that it made her LOOK sick.

A couple of her friends asked me if her cognitive ability had been hampered. She took a test, and not only did she ace it, she explained the flaws in the testing instrument: “If Jill is taking off from her stockbroker job to raise the kids, what money are they living on?”

One of the words she’s had trouble remembering was “morphine,” which she was on during her first two weeks in hospital. It was probably just as well, as she had four broken ribs, but it really disoriented her. Except for that period, she was unfailing polite to everyone.

Given how she appeared in photos a month and a half ago, I note that she looks pretty darn good, i.e., more like herself. She has this little Harry Potter scar, and another hidden by her glasses.

The primary concern now is her left, dominant hand, which is still wrapped. Her friends need to exercise her fingers, lest they atrophy. She also likes lotion, especially between the fingers.

I’ve known sister Leslie longer than any living person and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to help her a little, even though I never did figure out all that long-term disability paperwork.

My sister Leslie Green in hospital

Rebecca had posted requests for prayers for her mother on Instagram and Facebook.

Rebecca Jade, Leslie Green – May 2018

Coming home from work Monday night, I received a call from my sister Marcia asking if our niece Rebecca Jade had called me. Turns out she had left a message on the answering machine.

As best as we can figure out, Rebecca’s mother, my other sister, Leslie Green, was going to work, riding her bicycle to a light-rail station in the San Diego, California. Whether she hit a pothole or another impediment, we don’t know.

What we do know is that Leslie arrived at a hospital by an emergency vehicle. I get the sense she didn’t realize how injured she was; adrenaline will do that. Fortunately, she had her helmet on, because she might have suffered brain damage, or worse. But her sunglasses probably helped to break some bones in her face. Everyone should take Cincinnati CPR Training in case there’s an emergency.

She was in the trauma section, but she didn’t have surgery until that night because she wasn’t as bad off as other patients, which I suppose is positive news. She had a “temporary” tracheotomy; I do not know what that is. She’s breathing well.

I called a nurse early Tuesday morning, who said Leslie looked remarkably well. The swelling has largely subsided.

She had some plastic surgery on her face Wednesday night, which went well, as shown on My Botox LA Med Spa`s website. I’m mentioning all this, despite hating to write extemporaneously about fluid situations, because Rebecca had posted requests for prayers for her mother on Instagram and Facebook, and one of Leslie’s friends IMed me on FB:

“Is [Leslie] going to be OK? We had no idea last I heard she was on a cruise with her daughter.” And that is true. From Rebecca’s newsletter from a little over a week ago re: touring on two weeks of cruises with Dave Koz and his band:

“It was an incredible experience! From Copenhagen, we cruised to Stockholm, Sweden; then to Tallin, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; and finally to Helsinki, Finland before heading back to Copenhagen. And this year, my mom was able to join me!

“We had a great time, shared some amazing moments together, and she became a bit of a celebrity on the boat, both for singing in the ‘So You Think You Can Jam’ talent contest and for an impromptu jam with the legend himself, Larry Graham, where she and I got to sing together while Larry Graham thumped his bass! It made Larry emotional, as it reminded him of performing with his mom when he was growing up.”

If memory serves, Monday was supposed to have been Leslie’s first day back to work and they were concerned when she didn’t show up. As it stands now, she still has a broken left hand and left wrist – her dominant side -as well as four broken ribs (3 through 6).

She’ll be having more procedures, I imagine, but the Wednesday surgery was two days earlier than I was originally told, so I take that as a good sign.

But it kind of sucks being roughly 2,879 miles away. One of my oldest friends will be in San Diego this weekend, as it turns out, and she will visit Leslie Green and Rebecca Jade. This is some small comfort.



I HIGHLY recommend that you get a notebook when you go to the hospital with someone – and you SHOULD have someone, if at all possible.

hospital-billThe bill came for the Daughter’s two-day stay at a local hospital:
Over $4,000 for the emergency room
Over $4,000 for the MRI brain scan
Over $12,000 for the MRI spine scan (which they probably didn’t finish when she balked after an HOUR)
Over $4,000 for various labs
Over $4,500 in “accommodation fees”
Plus drugs and physical therapy

The hospital actually got $4,889 from my insurance company, with over $25,000 eliminated by the “Insurance Contractual Adjustment.”

That made the total due from us $100.

THAT is why I LOATHE it when I’m without insurance.

One can argue whether it was all necessary, to eliminate what she might have had, but evidently did not. Had she suffered from Guillain-Barré syndrome, rather than the viral infection she likely had, it would have been terrible.

One more thing on this topic: the Wife and I were at the hospital all the time, but not always at the same time. I HIGHLY recommend that you get a notebook when you go to the hospital with someone – and you SHOULD have someone, if at all possible. You are likely going to see so many different people, it’ll be difficult to keep track of what each one said.

I’m always coming across people – writers, artists, musicians especially – who have no insurance. It’s usually in the context of someone who has had some illness or injury, and is now facing some catastrophic bills. This is why I’ve supported the single-payer insurance plan that never got off the ground in the bulk of the US; Obamacare is definitely a half a loaf, but, I’m hoping, better than nothing for those people going forward.

The Lydster, Part 120: What a pain

She doesn’t have Guillain Barre or Lyme disease, but I don’t know what she has.

The Daughter’s last month as a nine-year-old was… interesting. As noted, she’s been rehearsing to be in the church production of The Lion King. The rehearsal for February 23 was very intense, and she did not feel up to going to school that day and missed that night’s rehearsal. But when she was too tired to go the next day, I took her to the doctor. Ultimately, she had a blood test, stayed home Wednesday but went to school Thursday and Friday.

Saturday, March 1 was the Lion King dress rehearsal. Christy, the director, who was featured in this article, had said they could rechoreograph The Daughter’s part. The first time through, she did it as planned, but in subsequent takes, she took the shortcut. I was worried that she’d be too exhausted for the show.


Sunday, March 2: the performance. I wasn’t the only one who commented that she was very good as young Nala, the lion cub. She sang well, she knew all her lines from fairly early on in the rehearsals, and she was definitely one of the best dancers in the show. (Oh, here is King Of Pride Rock/Circle Of Life (Reprise), NOT from the church production.) We went out for dinner with my in-laws, then we went home and she fell asleep on the sofa at 5 p.m.


March 3-7: another truncated week of school. The blood test was negative for Lyme disease and about 14 other things. March 10, she goes to school all day, but by the next morning, she’s having trouble walking. So The Wife takes her to the MD again. Wednesday, March 12, at the advice of the MD and the neurologist, we take her to the ER at Albany Medical Center at about 4 p.m. She doesn’t get admitted until 2:30 a.m., and to her room until 4 a.m. After much poking and prodding and an MRI that lasted an hour before she said, “I can’t do this anymore,” there was only a conclusion about what she did not have: no invasive infection, no Guillain Barre. Out of the hospital that Friday, and she slept 13 hours when she got home.

Next stop: physical therapy. Can this just be extreme growing pains affecting her joints, and the areas above and below, plus her back? I dunno, but I’m hopeful the therapy will make her feel stronger.

My second novennial visit to the hospital E.R. for chest pain

Evidently, the afternoon nurse was not on the ball, according to the evening nurse, because the former had orders to take blood from me, and it did not happen.

Back in 2004, I was having some chest pains, though not on the left side, where my heart is located. Still, I called my primary care physician’s office, and her office suggested I go to St. Peter’s Hospital and get it checked out. I don’t much remember the details, except that I spent about eight hours there before I went home.

Thursday, April 11, I’m getting the Daughter ready for school when I felt a real tightness on the upper right side of my chest; had it been on the other side, I would have thought it was a heart attack and would have called 911. Still, it was most uncomfortable, and I wasn’t doing anything more strenuous than clearing the breakfast dishes. Using the previous advice, I took the bus to St. Peter’s Hospital; it was a straight shot from my house, a little more than a mile away. I COULD have walked there, actually, especially in the time I waited for the ride, but I just wasn’t feeling up to it.

Got to the ER about 8:40 a.m., got seen right away by a nurse. The ER room very…gray; gray walls on most sides, speckled gray walls on the other. They hooked me up to various contraptions that monitored my heart rate, my blood pressure, my oxygen capacity, and other vitals. I saw in turn, at least two nurses, and two doctors, interrupted by long periods of not much.

For some reason, speaking to the primary ER doctor – I knew she was primary because there was a series of pictures of attending physicians that she gave me, her photo circled – I’d been there just long enough that my brain had temporarily fallen asleep. She asked what medicines I was taking, and I was giving her a list of what I was allergic to. Realizing this, I stopped, but could remember what I had taken, by brand name or dosage; eventually, they got better info from my primary care doctor.

There was an older woman, 81 by her own description, who was some sort of hospital aide, and she asked me if I needed anything. I noted that a phone would be nice.

It occurred to me that I ought to contact my wife. Only one thing; I didn’t know how. She is a teacher of English as a Second Language who works for this multi-county entity called Capital Region BOCES. In any given week, she might be in one of five schools in three school districts, one in each of three counties, and it alternates somewhat from week to week. So I called my friend and colleague Alexis at work and asked her to track down my wife, but for her not to worry. She found my wife’s supervisor, and the supervisor called my wife to pass on the message.

Meanwhile, Alexis came to the ER, gave me a bunch of magazines to read, and stayed until my wife arrived. Alexis told me that my terse message on the call-in number at work, which meant that everyone knew I would be out made one of our co-workers quite nervous. “That was the shortest message he ever left; it must be serious!” I had eaten nothing, so someone got me some dry chicken sandwich; it was better than nothing, barely.

The hospital had decided that I should stay for “observation,” which in medical speak means I was going to be admitted! I was still in the ER only because there were no rooms available at the moment. Finally, around 2:30 p.m., I got wheeled to a room. It was a nice room, as hospital rooms go. I wasn’t exactly relaxed – I had oxygen in my nose for a time, and all sorts of cathodes (is that what they are called?) stuck on my chest, so that movement was limited.

The Wife left for a time but came back with The Daughter. My child may have been more worried than I. I told her that I’d always love her. She asked, “What if you die?” I noted that I’d STILL love her, from heaven. The three of us had dinner. My hospital meal was chicken, which wasn’t bad, and beans, which were rubbery. The family brought their own grub. We played a few hands of UNO together before they left.

I watched the news on TV, and a couple of other things, yet doing nothing is tiring. I tried to go to sleep around 9:15, but I was cold. So I got what the hospital called a blanket, which was barely helpful until they closed the door to my room about 11 p.m. That also muffled the sound of a bunch of monitors beeping from the nurses’ station and/or other people’s rooms.

Evidently, the afternoon nurse was not on the ball, according to the evening nurse, because the former had orders to take blood from me, and it did not happen. So I got blood drawn at 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.; I was awake already for the latter, but still. I was also awake at 4:40 a.m. when they weighed me, something that was supposed to have happened earlier.

Interesting that my temperature (c. 36.5) was given in metric units. Apparently, that’s the world standard, although the US has been SLOW to convert. 36.5 C is about 97.7 F; my temperature tends to run 1F low. I also know that my BP is excellent (115/65 +/- 5 over time), my heart rate is fine 9c 64/bpm), and my oxygen is good (98 to 99%).

In the morning, I’m tired but can’t sleep. Alternatingly watch CBS Morning News, the Weather Channel (tornadoes in the southeast, snow in the Midwest), ESPN, and some other sports news. I discover that every sports analyst said the exact same thing about some San Diego Padres player who got hit by a 3-2 pitch, charged the pitcher’s mound to tussle with the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, the end result of which is that the pitcher broke his collarbone. No, the Padre won’t be suspended as long as the Dodger pitcher will be out, as the Dodgers manager wants; it’ll be 5 to 8 games. I watched a little of the first round of the Masters’ golf tournament. At least I avoided the Jodi Arias wall-to-wall live trial coverage; I STILL don’t know who she is, or what she allegedly did.

Shortly after breakfast (pancakes – but they forgot the syrup – fruit cup, and some of the worst oatmeal I’ve ever attempted to eat), someone took my lunch order, which got me to thinking I’d be there for a while. About 11 a.m., though, a physician assistant asked me a bunch of questions; my answers meant I could be discharged. This was followed by a doctor essentially making sure the PA did her job, the technician taking all those cathode stickers off, and the nurse disconnecting everything else attached to me.

Their timing was a bit too bad; I was actually enjoying watching the talk show The View, with Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman talking about the new movie about Jackie Robinson, 42. Also was discharged before the lunch, which sounded really good; and in any case, they were going to bring me tea, rather than the coffee I’d been getting and don’t drink.

So, if I did not have a heart condition, what DID I have? Dunno, but this is my working theory: I have started riding my bicycle part of the way to work and back, putting on the CDTA the rest of the way. This involves lifting the bike, which isn’t light. My left elbow has been troubling me for a few weeks, for no known reason, so I may have been overcompensating on my right side when I would lift up the bike; my occasionally sore right shoulder suggests that. So I had some sort of spasm that affected my upper right chest area.

In any case, I’m seeing my primary care doc in a couple of weeks to revisit this issue.