Friday, November 30, 2007

health care update, part 1

When last we saw our heroine (me) she thought she had made arrangements to have some blood work done so that she would be allowed to purchase the medication that keeps her healthy. The plan, as she understood it, was that her cardiologist's secretary would fax a script to the lab of her choice detailing the tests that had to be done on her blood sample. This was on Tuesday morning, as I recall. On Wednesday (at the very end of the day, when we receive all our mail, but that's a rant for another day) I was surprised to receive the script in the mail.

I hatched a plan to have my blood work done first thing Thursday morning, since I had to fast for twelve hours prior to the test. I understand that no one likes to do the fasting, but I find it especially difficult now that I eat a very meager, albeit healthy, dinner, with no evening snacks. To put it simply, I am starving when I get up in the morning. Anyway. I know the lab opens at 8:00 a.m., which was always quite inconvenient when I was working, because my work day started at that time, as well. So did a lot of other people's, evidently, as there was always a crowd there at that early hour. I don't have to worry about that punching a time clock thing, anymore, so I didn't have to be there when the doors opened. However, I still had the whole ravenous hunger thing to contend with.

I put my plan into action when I got out of bed at 8:15 yesterday morning, and immediately washed up and got dressed and headed for the lab. I was well-supplied for my journey. I brought a book with me to read in the waiting room, and a little bag of fresh grapes to eat as soon as my blood was drawn. I figured the simple sugars in the fruit would do me the most good the fastest until I could hurry home and have breakfast. The waiting room was empty when I arrived, and I was able to turn in my script and answer all the questions right away. I barely had time to start my book when the lab tech called my name.

I was pleased to notice that it was the same woman who had drawn my blood on previous occasions. She is an elderly woman and she is straight and tall, with a long white braid down her back. She seems to be a no-nonsense-type of person, and doesn't waste one's time with sugar-y small talk. In recent years, I have been told repeatedly that my veins are difficult to find, words one dreads to hear from someone wielding a painful needle. This skilled technician had no problem, however, and I really did feel only a prick as the needle entered my vein. Practically before I knew it, I was finished.

Back out in the lobby, I immediately opened my bag of grapes, and popped one into my mouth. The red grapes we have been getting recently are a little too sweet for me, but they seemed to pop with freshness as I bit into them. I ate the whole bag as I drove home. The whole ordeal had taken less than a half hour. Later that morning, I called the doctor's office, as I had been instructed, to inform his secretary that I had had my blood drawn, like a good girl. She promised to call me after she finally calls my prescription in to the pharmacy.

So, just to re-cap: I called the cardiologist's office on Monday, for what I assumed would be a routine request for a prescription. It is now Friday, and I still don't have my medication. I doubt the prescription will be called in tomorrow, since it's a Saturday. I am hoping for next Monday. It's a good thing I didn't wait until I was down to three pills to get this process started. And I haven't even started to try to get the new insurance company to pay for it yet. That's something to look forward to, eh?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

just hope you never get really sick

Almost twelve years have passed since I had a heart attack. I was a 43-year-old woman, and because of that, I was seriously mis-diagnosed. After a series of tests, the G.P. I was seeing remained clueless. When he finally asked me if I was "having problems at home" and if I wanted a prescription for a tranquilizer, I told him what I wanted was a referral to a doctor who could figure out what was wrong with me. Fortunately, he referred me to Dr. Razak Kherani, a caring, compassionate cardiologist, then affiliated with the Elyria Memorial Hospital. It didn't take Dr. Kherani any time at all to figure out what was wrong with me. The episode I described to him: intense pain under my left arm that radiated up into my neck and shoulder and left me writhing on the floor in agony, was clearly a heart attack. Couple that with my inability to climb even a single flight of stairs without stopping to catch my breath, and, clearly, I was in trouble.

After he examined me, Dr. Kherani invited me back to his office for a consultation. He would prefer to get me into the cath lab that very day, he told me, but regretted that we would have to wait through the weekend for that. He made the arrangements for the following week and gave me a prescription for nitro tablets. When I had to take one of the tablets, and it relieved my pain, it all became real to me.

My trip to the cath lab showed that one of my arteries was, indeed, 99% blocked. Dr. Kherani immediately performed a balloon angioplasty. I watched on the monitor as the team worked on me in the cath lab, and found it surreal and fascinating. If my relative youth had masked my coronary artery disease, it also helped in my recovery from the procedure. And, really, I was a model patient during my rehab. No, really, I was. They ran an article about me in the local newspaper, with a photo showing me and my golden family, walking down a leafy, sunlit street.

I saw Dr. Kherani every six months for the next couple of years. What a wonderful man, what a compassionate doctor he is. Each time, he examined me, then invited me to his office, where we chatted. He knew where I worked, and how my kids were doing in school. Dr. Kherani was pleased with my progress, and let me know it. He clearly cared about me. I don't think I am exaggerating to say that he saved my life.

Time passed, and, of course, I backslid. We moved to a new town where instead of being within walking distance of the hospital, we didn't even have one. When the familiar pain returned, I found myself in an emergency room in Akron, forced to deal with whatever cardiologist was on duty that day. His name doesn't matter, but I will say that he belonged to The Heart Group, a large group of cardiologists who seem to have a lock on all the heart patients in several surrounding counties. Another trip to the cath lab showed no blockage, and I received virtually no follow-up care. I was, however, given a prescription for a statin, to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and so had to have periodic blood work done.

Several years went by, until during a phone call to the doctor's office for a new prescription, my file garnered some unexpected attention. As I gave the woman on the phone my information, she was amazed to see how much time had passed since my last appointment. "Honey, you need to come in and see the doctor," she told me, and set up an appointment for me. He didn't remember me, and I didn't like him any better than the last time I had seen him. I decided to switch doctors. I could see someone closer by, I thought, and he couldn't be worse than the cardiologist handling my case. Well, as I said The Heart Group has a virtual monopoly in this area, and I ended up with another one of their doctors. While he isn't any worse, he isn't any better, either. It is amazing how impersonal and indifferent both of these men seem.

Since I switched to this doctor, my annual appointment has been in the fall. Accordingly, I called his office earlier this year to schedule an appointment. The doctor's secretary was incredulous that I expected to get in any time soon. "We are now scheduling for (six months out)," she told me. "Well, perhaps I should just see one of the other doctors, then," I told her. "Oh no," was her response, "their schedules are the same." "What a racket," I replied. "Schedule me whenever you can, then, but I will need a refill for my prescription before then." "That's not a problem," she reassured me. "Just give me a call when you need it."

My supply of pills has dwindled since then, so I called her yesterday for a new prescription. She cheerfully offered to call it in to the pharmacy of my choice. I waited until today to pick it up because I didn't want to make a needless trip. Do you think my prescription was at the drugstore waiting for me? Of course it wasn't. I made another phone call and reminded the secretary that she promised me just yesterday to phone in my prescription. "I think you have to have a blood test first," she told me. "Let me check. Yes, you need a blood test before your prescription can be renewed." I was sorely tempted to ask her when she intended to share that information with me, but instead took a deep breath and made arrangements to have my blood work done later this week.

Hopefully, soon, I will be allowed to purchase the medication I need. I am not getting my hopes up, however. How I miss Dr. Kherani and his kindness and concern. The doctors in The Heart Group would do well to take a page from his book and remember that the assembly line of half-clothed bodies they briefly see in their examining rooms are actually people they need to look in the eye and treat with respect. I'm not holding my breath for that, either. I'll let you know if I get my pills.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Upon reflection, I have found that the people who care about me are right, and that I do, indeed, have many things to be thankful for. Here are five of them:

1. A husband who has encouraged and supported me for the last four months, as I have healed and (hopefully) grown, without hardly ever asking me when I am going to look for another job.

2. A daughter who loves to be at home with us, and who helped me bake two pies, make cranberry sauce and stuffing for the turkey, and who has brought her fiance, whom I love like a son, into our family.

3. A son and daughter-in-law who are willing to load everything, plus two little dogs, into their car and travel at the busiest times of the year, to be with their families.

4. My dad and brother, who are always there to support me in every way I could possibly need, even when I let too much time go by between visits.

5. The good friends I made during five years of working a job that started out good and slowly turned toxic. I'm looking at you, Kristen and Cortney, Vince and Joany, Kathy and Sgt. Buckey.

Hm-m-m... I guess I could just say that I am thankful for family and good friends, but sometimes I think it's important to spell it out. I hope you all have as much to be thankful for as I do.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving: it used to be about family

Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday when I was growing up. We used to go to my Aunt Louise's house in Canton for our big family dinner. Aunt Louise was my dad's oldest sister, and she and her husband, Uncle Virgil had three children, my cousins Butch, Barbara and Greg. My Grandma Fischer, my Aunt Isabel and my cousin Dave, who all lived together, would be there, and sometimes Uncle Virgil's mother, Mrs. Smith, would join us, as well. Assorted dates and, eventually, spouses of my cousins were sometimes present; it seemed like there was always room at the big table set up in the family room.

My dad was a lot younger than his sisters, and so, of course, we were a lot younger than our cousins. We were the only ones who had left Canton, and, in addition to that, the rest of the family did not like my mother, so we really were the odd ones out. I don't know that either of my brothers liked going there as much as I did, but I loved it. I think I was too much like my mother for either of my aunts' liking, but I was the little princess my boy cousins doted on, and I loved them all right back. In my dad's family I was called "Anne Louise", sharing a family middle name with my cousin, Barbara and, later, her daughter, Chrissy. Being relegated to the kids' table wasn't so bad when at least one of our big cousins always sat with us.

When Ben and I were first married, we spent our Thanksgivings at his parents' house in South Euclid. I loved being there for my favorite holiday. His younger sisters, Liz and Laura, and his brother, Vic, still lived at home then. Later, after they were married, Laura would be there with her first husband, Al, and Liz's husband, Jim was there, as well. My mother-in-law makes the best stuffing in the world - my favorite part of the meal - and she always made enough for us all to have second and third helpings of that and everything else. (They are Italian, after all.) I thought we would always spend our Thanksgivings together that way.

We have been hosting Thanksgiving dinner since we moved to this house seven years ago. My dad and my brother always drive out, and when Bill was dating Laura, he used to bring her along. Tom and Julie were always home for the holiday, and I remember one year Andrew was here, as well, so we set up a "kids' table" for the three of them - probably the only time my kids were relegated there. It is a huge amount of work, but what a great feeling when it is all cleared away, the dishwasher loaded, and the turkey carcass simmering in a stockpot.

This year, Tom and Kristy are in Oklahoma with her family, and my dad and Bill don't want to make the drive. I'm not sure yet whether Andrew will eat here or with his family. Chances are it will be Ben, Julie, and me for dinner. I never imagined our Thanksgivings ending up like this. Well, the food will still be good, even though I never did learn how to make stuffing like my mother-in-law.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

good for you and tasty, both - who knew?

I found this recipe in the Plain Dealer recently and thought I would try it. It is really so good. Some of you - who may or may not be my children - might think you won't like it because of the eggplant, but, really, give it a try. We found it to be especially good as a vegetarian dinner on a rainy November evening. It was not as good when I re-heated it for a side dish, but I think it might have been because the vegetables lost their freshly-roasted flavor and texture.

Rotini with Smoky Eggplant and Red Pepper Sauce
makes 4 servings

1 large eggplant, cut in half
3 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into quarters
8 oz. rotini
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbps. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat broiler. Place eggplant halves, cut side down, in the center of the broiler pan. With a small sharp knife, prick through the skin of each half in several places. Arrange the peppers, cut side down, around the eggplant. Broil the vegetables until the pepper skins have blackened, about 20 minutes. Transfer the peppers to a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 10 minutes to loosen the skins. Return the eggplant to the broiler and cook until the skin has blackened and the flesh is completely softened, about another 10 minutes.

While the vegetables broil, cook the rotini in lightly salted water, according to package directions. In a large, bowl, combine the olive oil, parsley, lemon juice and garlic. When the eggplant is done, let it cool slightly, then use a large spoon to scrape the flesh from the skin onto a cutting board. Don't worry if the eggplant is "seedy". Chop the flesh to a chunky consistency and tranfer to the bowl with the olive oil mixture. Stir well.

Peel and discard the blackened skin from the cooled red peppers. Coarsely chop the peppers and add them to the eggplant mixture. Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce and toss thoroughly to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Monday, November 12, 2007

memories are where you find them

I finally got around to folding the clean cleaning rags in the laundry basket that had been kicking around the basement for a couple of weeks. Surprised to learn that I fold cleaning rags? Well, that's what I was taught to do, although I have at least rebelled against my mother's strict system of sorting the rags into three distinct piles. There was the dusting pile, made up for the most part of old t-shirts. 100% cotton only - synthetic blends need not apply. There was the window-cleaning pile, mostly thin old cotton sheets that had worn through where our feet had restlessly kicked at night. Finally, there were the old towels, saved to soak up all the spills and accidents of a growing family.

I am happy to just get the rags folded into one neat pile. They are predominantly old towels, I find. Bath towels and wash clothes, hand towels and dish clothes, worn thin from repeated use. Some of the blue and yellow bath towels go back to when we lived on Longford. The pink and green patchwork-patterned ones (they look as bad as they sound) date to before the bathroom re-model on Denison. Some of the kitchen towels we took to Chincoteague and back, to the little house on Lewis Street where we stayed each summer.

There are not just old towels in my clean pile of rags, however. I find pieces of Ben's old flannel shirts, that always seem to grow too short in the sleeves before they can wear out. Oxford cloth shirts that he wore to work make excellent cleaning rags, and I find a few of those, as well. I don't find any of the kids' old clothes, and that puzzles me at first, until I remember that we always gave those to someone we knew with younger children or bundled them off to Goodwill.

The remnants of my own old clothes are the most poignant reminders of the past. Here is a panel of those flowered Liz Claiborne shorts I wore when we took the kids to Disney World. How I regretted wearing shorts that had to be unbuttoned and then un-zipped for each of my many trips to the restroom! Here is the front of that over-sized New York Yankees t-shirt I bought to wear when I was pregnant with Tom. It reminds me that I saw my first major league baseball game during that pregnancy - the Cleveland Indians played the Yankees. (Reggie Jackson hit a solo home run in his first at-bat.) I don't seem to have a single remnant left of my dad's old flannel shirt. I wore that all the time when I lived in the dorm, and for many years after that. When it was beyond wearing, I cut it up for cleaning rags. It seems even those are gone now.

That's the interesting thing about it, I guess. The cleaning rags just wear away over time, some taking longer than others. As I fold them, I remember. It's not such a bad thing.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

oh my gosh - check this out

My blog was mentioned again in Blog 5, "a roundup of opinion and information from local blogs" in the online Cleveland Plain Dealer. It is the fourth blog mentioned. Here is the link:

the first snow

It was cold and blustery when Rufus and I went out for our morning walk today. Leaves of red and gold and burgundy and brown swirled down on us as we walked along. We had dressed for the weather, however; Rufus in his thick black fur coat, and I in layers, including a long-sleeved knit shirt, a hooded sweater, and a warm leather jacket. I also wore gloves and the beret I bought for Julie years ago.

I can't speak for Rufus, but I was enjoying the weather. Then I noticed - could it be? - a snowflake blew by. Hm-m-m... maybe just a fleck of something white that the wind had picked up. No, there was another one... and another. It was definitely snowing. I was utterly exhilarated to think that I was actually outside when the first snow of the season began to fall. Oh sure, it snowed for less than a minute, and I don't know that any of the flakes even made it to the ground, but I was right in it. It was wonderful. I wish it would have snowed longer and harder, but I am sure I will experience plenty of that before too long.

Monday, November 5, 2007

how women measure weight loss

I have nice pairs of jeans in three different sizes. Needless to say, I have been wearing the largest size ever since the weather turned cool enough to wear long pants. Today, for the first time in about a year and a half, I am wearing the middle-sized pair - and I didn't even have to lie flat on the bed to zip them up.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

don't buy this book

I mentioned in a previous post that I am a proud member of LibraryThing, an online forum where booklovers can catalog their libraries and discuss books and why they love them. LT offers an Early Reviewers program, where selected members receive free copies of recently published and pre-pub books. A requirement of receiving these books is that one must write a review and post it on LibraryThing. Members who have blogs are asked to post reviews there, as well.

I received a copy of On the Road to Heaven by Coke Newell late last week, and this is my review of it. I must say to my loyal friends and blog readers that I do not recommend this book. Well, read the review and you will see that.

On the Road to Heaven by Coke Newell

As a life-long atheist who finds Mormonism to be one of the more ludicrous of the Christian sects, I don’t feel qualified to comment on the religious merits of this book. However, as an avid reader who deeply appreciates a well-written book, I can tell you unequivocally that this isn’t one. The author offers the book as an homage to Jack Kerouac, with frequent quotations from his work throughout. I must state that I find any comparison to Kerouac an insult to that fine author.

The novel, a thinly veiled autobiography, appears to end before the protagonist’s 20th birthday. Unless that protagonist’s name is Holden Caulfield, I am not interested in his teenaged, self-absorbed, philosophical musings. Perhaps this book would best be marketed to the Young Adult crowd, who may find these ramblings unique or meaningful; although I would be concerned that they might be impressionable enough to buy into some of the author’s conclusions.

The author, a former PR man for the LDS, uses the house publishing company, Zarahemla Books, in an attempt to package his adolescent life story as "a love story about a girl and a guy and their search for heaven – a lotta love, a little heaven, and one heck of a ride in between." In reality it is just a public relations guy trying a different tact to sell his product, the Mormon religion.

Friday, November 2, 2007

lost and found

Well over fifty years ago, my dad worked at Timken Roller Bearing in Canton. When I was a little girl, he had a couple of roller bearings in his top dresser drawer - a place of utmost interest to every child, I think. One of the bearings was about an inch in diameter, and the other one was at least twice that size. I was utterly fascinated by their intricate design and by the smooth movement of the rollers. (Don't know what a roller bearing is? Look here:

When I was in elementary school, I received a house key for the days when my mother would not be home when I got there. (Our "house key" was actually a big skeleton key, but that is a story for another time.) I had a key chain for that one key, and my dad gave me the smaller of the two roller bearings to put on it, as well. I was so proud and excited! Other kids had house keys, but no one had ever even seen anything like my roller bearing.

Although even as a child, I was not prone to losing things, I lost that key chain. It is not an exaggeration to say that I was devastated. I didn't care so much about the house key, but my roller bearing was gone. My dad walked the five blocks back to school with me, searching all the way there and back, but we never found it.

He always kept the remaining roller bearing in his top dresser drawer, but whenever he would let me take it out, it only served to remind me of the one I had lost. When I was at his house earlier this week, he started to tease me about losing that roller bearing, and I think my response surprised him. "I still feel bad about that!" I told him. "I can't believe I lost it. I never lose things." It was my turn to be surprised by what he said next, "Well, would you like to have the other one?" I looked towards my brother and asked him, "Would you mind if I had it?" "No, I don't care," was his immediate reply. "I think it's in my room, actually. Let me get it for you." He gave me the roller bearing.

I look at the roller bearing from time to time where it sits on my desk as I write this. I pick it up, feel its familiar heft in my hand, and spin the rollers. It's not as shiny and smooth as I remember it, but it is, after all, almost fifty years older. I don't know if I can articulate how much it means to me to have this here. I hope this post will serve to do that.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

statistical data for the month of October

I worked out 25 days for the month, and took six days off. I had hoped to only take one day a week off, but I needed a couple extra.

Ben and I had beef for dinner three times throughout the month, which exceeds our goal of not eating beef more than once a week. We had a vegetarian dinner five times, which meets our goal of eating vegetarian at least once a week.

I took Rufus for two 20-minute walks a day every day unless inclement weather prohibited it. I think throughout the month I may have missed three or four walks, and Julie took him on his evening walks some of the days that she was home.

And although I did not meet my goal of losing 10 pounds for the month, I did lose 9 pounds, and I am pretty darn pleased about that!