Archive for April, 2014

Bypass surgery behind us

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Friday, April 18th was a good Friday for our family. Steve went through five hours of bypass surgery and 24 hours later, he was sitting in a chair – albeit tethered to more monitors than on the deck of the Starship Enterprise – chatting with the nurse and experiencing very little pain from the 12 inch incision running down the front of his chest.IMAG0561

The whole concept of bypass surgery is mind-boggling to me. The doctors who developed the procedure definitely thought outside the chest cavity. How did a doctor make the leap to come up with a technique that harvests (love the use of that verb in this context) veins from the legs and grafts them to the heart? It sounds incredibly far-fetched yet somehow and thankfully (!) it works.

The only anomaly that the surgeon encountered during Steve’s surgery is that he has unusually small arteries; I think “spindly” was the word the doctor used to describe them; our daughter thought it was more fun to tease Steve about his “dainty ladylike” arteries. The doctor said that arteries the size of Steve’s are generally only found in very small women or certain ethnic populations. If Steve has Filipino blood somewhere in his heritage, it’s going to come as a big surprise to his Norwegian relatives in North Dakota.

The doctor wanted to bypass five arteries but because of the size issue with Steve’s pipes, he was only able to do three. A triple bypass versus a quintuple bypass? Unless Steve is competing for points in the Bypass Olympics, he is fine with just three.

Steve came out of the anesthesia somewhere between three and four hours after surgery. Because Steve was a surgical tech in the army, he has had a lot of experience with the various and sometimes wacky ways that people react when the anesthesia wears off.

I think it took every fiber of his being to do this, but he was determined to stay rational and calm as he came to. If he hadn’t just gotten through such a serious operation, it would have been downright cute. He spoke each word separately and deliberately…and sort of gravel-ly because of the breathing tube that was just taken out. The result was that he sounded a lot like Peter Boyle in “Young Frankenstein.”


Hmm…maybe grafting body parts onto other body parts, does bring out the Frankenstein in us. Onward to recovery!

Anticipating a speedy recovery

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

So with Steve’s bypass surgery less than two weeks away, we are starting to think about what kind of preparations we need to make for when he comes home from the hospital – which frankly is a little scary for me, especially when the word “caregiver” is tossed around to describe my role in his recovery.

As Steve will tell you, when it comes to taking care of people when they are sick, I’m a devoted and compassionate caregiver for about an hour and then it’s time for them to get dressed, go to work or school, quit whining, and while you’re at it, salute!  In the family that I grew up in, being sick was only for wimps. Did I mention my German heritage?

The really great thing is that my kids cooperated with me by almost never getting sick. Jennifer Lynn literally never missed a day of school until she got to high school. I don’t take any credit for this, she is just blessed with a Teflon immune system.

Okay, so I’m not so great at caring for sick people. But Steve won’t be sick, he’s going to be recovering and rehabilitating so maybe he won’t need the same kind of care that a sick child needs. In fact, I think what will really speed up his recovery is resuming all of his household chores just as soon as possible – nevermind that his sternum is being held together by duct tape and wire – the cats’ litter boxes are looking pretty nasty.

Hey, I’m only trying to help.

Is a college education in the cards?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Jennifer has received the financial aid award letters from five out of the seven schools she has been accepted to. She’s a practical thinker, so to figure out how much she would need to borrow in student loans, she made an index card for each school. On each card, she put the cost of tuition, subtracted the amount she was awarded in scholarships or grants, and then multiplied the difference (the amount she would need to borrow) by 4 to come up with a grand total for her college education debt.

She made a title card which she called “Financial Aid Summaries o’ Sadness” for this exercise in comparing the cost of colleges.  It was indeed sad for her because all but one of the schools had a six figure total for the amount of money that she would owe upon graduation. The thought of my daughter graduating when she’s 21 and owing more than $100,000 in student loan debt gives me instant heart burn. That’s just not something that we could let her do.

She is coming around to the idea that by going to the JC for two years, her dreams of going to college far, far away from Cotati haven’t been dashed…just delayed. Only having to borrow $50,000 to finance the cost of two years of school instead of four, starts looking like a real bargain.

Whatever amount that she ends up borrowing, she’s going to have a lot of company. An article in last week’s Press Democrat said that there are 37 million others in the US saddled with $1 trillion in student debt. It’s not unusual for law school and medical graduates to owe $200,000 and more; the average undergraduate student owes an average of $29,000.

We have to remind her that it’s not where she starts that matters but where she finishes that really counts. The chapter of her life having to do with her college education is just beginning; the end of the story has not been written  – that’s a hard perspective to have when your 17 and you feel like you’re doomed to a condo in Cotati. We’re doing our best to counteract that.