Surgery Not Happening

Less than 24 hours before Steph’s surgery, while we were at the Clinic to fill a prescription and eat breakfast at Au Bon Pain, Dr. Lytle’s office called Steph on her cell phone.  Surgery had been overscheduled, Dr. Lytle will be on vacation next week, and the cardiac unit is booked to capacity (“no room at the inn”).  Thus, no surgery for Steph tomorrow.  Both of us are outraged, and wondering if we have the emotional reserves to go through the experience of this week once again.  In between lodging and having to eat meals out, plus prescription co-pays at the Clinic’s pharmacy, this safari cost us a small fortune.  Susie has been a wreck since Steph called and told her the surgery wasn’t happening.  At first, I thought she’d be happy that Mommy would be home sooner, and would be able to go to her play, keep swimming, etc.

The exact opposite turned out to be the case.  Susie was upset about Steph having surgery, being in Cleveland while Susie remained in Columbus, missing her play, etc.  We mollified her a bit by telling her that Steph needed this surgery in order to survive and live longer.  So now Susie is scared to death that Steph is going to die.  We’ve put her a little at ease, but we don’t know how much.

On Monday the 11th, Steph will be seeing the cardiac surgeon at Riverside who did her ’99 surgery.  She’s going to be blunt: How long can she live if she foregoes the procedure altogether?  If it’s imperative that she have it to live, how long can we afford to wait?

Pat is coming up here early tomorrow morning and driving us back to Columbus.  He was planning to drive up in the predawn hours so he could wait with me while Steph is in surgery, so now he’s leaving Columbus 1-2 hours earlier.

I can’t fully vent how I feel about this whole thing–not to mention Steph’s feelings–but if I was to type it all out right now, I’d probably damage this keyboard beyond repair.  So I’ll post this while I can maintain relative civility and stability.

Steph is Poke- and Prod-Free Tomorrow, and We Are Married 12 Years as of Today

The clinic told us we should expect to spend most of the day there, and they were right.  Most of the tests were not as invasive as some of the ones described earlier in this blog, but you really get down to the gravity of this whole thing when you hear from the anesthesiologist and actually see copies of living wills, powers of attorney, and other such documents waiting to be filled out by you.  (I am tempted to just tattoo the letters DNR on my breastbone, so there’s no misunderstanding should the need arise.)

The surgery will be going forward on Friday morning.  We are supposed to be at admissions check-in at 5 a.m., so my guess is that the procedure itself will be underway by 7.  Our last appointment today was with the surgeon himself, Bruce Lytle, M.D.  He chairs the Cardiology Department at the Cleveland Clinic, and he went to Stanford and Harvard Medical School.  He’s at least 60, and he resembles a cross between Mark Twain and Albert Einstein, with a little bit of Hal Linden during his Barney Miller days thrown in for fun.  I liked him right away.  He wore an O.R. mask around his neck like a sash, a Band-Aid was stuck to the pocket of his lab coat, he wore no tie, and his white shirt and coat were a little off-white from so-so laundering.  His office has models of Harley-Davidsons and a cowboy hit sitting in the window sill.

But he was all business.  He showed us just what is going to happen–it is almost sure that he will install a mechanical valve, mainly because a human one won’t last as long and will mean another operation in 10-15 years.  His biggest concern is Steph’s size, and he says that bariatric surgery further down the road will ease the valve’s and the heart’s burden considerably.  The space for the valve will be small, and Dr. Lytle wants to install the biggest valve to allow maximal blood flow.  (He showed us where everything will happen, alternating between an anatomical model marked by section, and some colored plates in an erudite medical journal he had on his desk.)

Steph is not the first patient he has had with this set of circumstances.  As Bob Seger said, “It happens out in Vegas, happens in Moline, on the blueblood streets of Boston, up in Berkeley and out in Queens.”

So, we are supposed to check in Friday at 5 a.m., and a conservative estimate is that the surgery will take about eight hours.  Pat is going to try his damndest to be up here to help me wait without going nuts.  (During Steph’s ’99 surgery, I was in the Riverside waiting room with Steph’s dad and her friend Anne.  It was also at the crack of dawn, and they had barely wheeled her into surgery, and the doors to the O.R. suite were still swinging, when I turned to them and said, “Let’s get some breakfast.”  Steph said I did the right thing.)

This is a low-key anniversary.  So far, all I have done is buy Steph a giant Hershey bar from the Rite-Aid on Chester Ave.  I don’t even know what the traditional gift is for the 12th wedding anniversary.  (I used to have an appointment diary which had a list of all those gifts printed in the front, but it’s buried in the big box of notebooks in my study.)

The best thing about Dr. Lytle is that he has done his homework re Steph’s case.  There was a very thick file, and a stack of CD-ROMs on his table labelled with Steph’s name (E-mail before mignight tonight for a boxed set, cats and kittens!)

Susie’s play debuted this afternoon, and as of now (7:10 p.m. EDST, per my Coleman digital watch), we haven’t heard how the performance went down.  Pat had Twitter’d earlier this afternoon that he was at Davis to see the play.

High Marks for The Cleveland Clinic

I would have been online and posting sooner, but the Internet connection and router here at the Sight Center is spotty, so I’m seizing the moment.  (That is why this entry may not be spelled all correctly–the connection is a bit jerky, and I’m typing so fast that I’m like the skilled Linotypers of old–they often had to stop and let the machine catch up to them.)

We’ve completed the round of doctor visits and lab tests for today.  Steph and I meet with Dr. Lytle, the actual knife-wielder, tomorrow afternoon.  The physician we did meet, Dr. Brian Griffin,(pictured–sorry, too good to resist!), was a 60ish guy with an Irish accent, and he took all the time we needed to answer questions, compile medical history, etc.  It was much better than the doctors at Riverside who spoke with us for 5-10 minutes with their eyes on their watches the entire time.

The news is a mixed bag.  Steph’s heart situation is much more serious than the Riverside doctors led us to believe.  Dr. Griffin said that it is not realistic to think the valve can be salvaged.  (I came away from the April hospitalization pretty sure that the valve was toast, but the doctors held out hope that it was saveable.)  Aside from replacing the valve (either with a mechanical or human valve–they won’t even make the determination until they have Steph cut open!), there is muscle building up and hardening around the valve, and there will also be a membrane resection.

Paradoxically, even though there is much more wrong than we were led to believe, we feel much better about Steph’s chances of recovery because of the good feeling we have working with this surgical staff.  We were immediately at ease when we heard that we were the second of Dr. Griffin’s two appointments today, so he wasn’t in a rush-rush-rush mode.  We were ahead of schedule on all of her tests, and they decided one could be skipped.

Deja vu–If you go back to my blog at the time of Steph’s April hospitalization, I mentioned watching Rachael Ray’s show in the waiting room, where she went lingerie-shopping with two men who were buying for their wives.  That same one was running today!

Let the Testing Begin

If I was in Columbus, I would be at work for an hour already, but instead I’m at the Cleveland Clinic, in the waiting room at Desk F15, while Steph is having her first round of testing–a chest X ray and a blood draw.  I’m waiting until she’s in a procedure that will take awhile, so I can find the cafeteria and an ATM machine and then get some breakfast.  Steph has had to abstain from everything except water since 8 p.m. last night, so I didn’t want to eat in front of her.  (Steph has appointments almost back to back this morning.)

Steph didn’t have much difficulty getting to sleep once she had settled in.  I called Pat in Columbus, made sure my previous blog entry actually posted, and hit the sack a little after 11.  I forgot to take my nighttime meds last night.  When you combine that with my trying to sleep in a totally new surrounding and trying to get my bearings, it took me quite awhile to finally go to sleep, and I was awake on and off all night.  I still don’t feel very rested, and I have yet to have my first infusion of Diet Pepsi for today.

The Sight Center room came with everything we need.  There are extra linens, bottles of Palmolive dish soap, a toaster, a microwave, a stove and oven, and a refrigerator.  There’s a Rite-Aid at the same intersection (the Sight Center is at the corner of E. 101st and Chester), so we can pick up odds and ends as needed.  (Many of the appliances and vending machines have Braille labels.)  I will probably post pictures of our living quarters in an entry later tonight.  And there is free laundry… not to mention a bowling alley! 

Safe, Sound, and Sane (?) in Cleveland

The focus has now shifted to Cleveland, where Steph will begin her battery of pre-surgery tests and labs.  Our friend Joanna drove us up here, leaving around 4 p.m.  We packed comparitively light, with the exception of Steph’s scooter and our laptops.  I brought my faithful over-the-shoulder bag with my journal and books I brought for the trip.  (During the many hours to come in the waiting room, I may actually put a dent in Pynchon’s Against the Day, which Steph got me for Christmas and of which I have read about 60 pages, tops.)

The trip itself was blessedly uneventful.  It was the first time I have been to Cleveland since Steph and I were married.  (On 7/30/96, Steph and I got married at Highbanks Metro Park in Powell.  Our friend Rich drove us, along with Steph’s dad, to the Amtrak station so we could catch our trains.  Steph’s dad was headed home to Milwaukee, we were headed to San Francisco.)  During my high school days, when I was at the height of my activity in Unitarian Universalist youth activities, I was up here fairly often at different conferences and camps, and I was often sending mailings up here.

Steph and I have just eaten dinner, delivered from the Amazing Wok restaurant, and Steph has to fast until after her procedure, so she’ll be hitting the sack pretty soon.  We’re sitting at a round table in our temporary living quarters, Room 112 at the Cleveland Sight Center.  It is not elegant by any means, but it’s very comfortable and air-conditioned.  Unfortunately, the rooms have single beds, so Steph and I can’t sleep together.  That may be better for tonight at least, since Steph is about to collapse and I’m too wound up to sleep.  (There may be many more blog entries in the next 24 hours, depending on how much energy I feel like expending.)  Also, I commit the trifecta of sins beyond redemption for someone who shares a bed: I steal covers, I sleep diagonally, and I snore.

The Cleveland Sight Center is not part of the Cleveland Clinic’s complex, but they do loan out rooms and living quarters to clients of the University Circle area.  For $250 a week, we have a living room, kitchen, two small bedrooms, and a bathroom.  If any of you readers went to Ohio U., and lived on New South Green, the layout is much like the “modular units” in the dorms there.  The mods had a common area with one- or two-person rooms and a shared bathroom.  (The mods at O.U. didn’t have kitchenettes.)  There is no TV here, although I have some type of radio receiver in my room–which I think accesses the Radio Reading Service, because it doesn’t seem to be the same radio that you would have in your house.  The lack of a TV is really a non-issue, because what I do want to watch I can stream from

Also, there is a two-lane bowling alley in the basement.  When Susie comes up on Saturday, I’m sure that’ll keep her entertained.

Steph will be hitting the sack shortly, so she wants me to sit in her room and talk to her until she drifts off.  (She has the room closer to the bathroom.)  I thought I would file a status report here for those enquiring minds who want to know.  We’ve paid until the fourth of August, so this is our H.Q. for at least the end of the week.

For more information about the Cleveland Sight Center, their Website is

There is shuttle service to and from here to the Clinic, and under better conditions, Steph would be able to make the rounds of her various appointments on foot.

Hard to Believe I’m Saying This, But See KIT KITTREDGE!

Susie and I had made a tentative movie date for today after I ended the work day at 4, but it was still up in the air as to what we were going to see.  I was trying to steer her toward Ghostbusters, but getting there on the bus was a logistical nightmare.  Steph had the home pages of several Columbus theatres on her screen this morning and we were E-mailing suggestions back and forth between home and work.  She finally suggested Kit Kittredge, a movie based on the American Girls line of dolls and the books that come with them.  I was lukewarm toward the idea, since the price of the American Girl dolls we’ve bought Susie borders on the astronomical, and I didn’t want to contribute to their delinquency.

There seemed to be no other kids’ movie available within our time schedule and availability to public transportation, so I went with Susie to the AMC Lennox 24, via Subway for an early dinner.  (Subway was my base camp on W. McMillan Street in Cincinnati during my time in Clifton, so I always gravitate toward their restaurants.)

I perked up when I saw that the heroine of Kit Kittredge lives in Cincinnati during the Depression (1934, to be exact), and her prized possessions are her typewriter, her notepad, and her pencil.  She dreams of becoming a reporter, and she hangs photographs of Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart in her treehouse.  She constantly tugs at the leg of the editor of the main daily newspapers until he finally prints one of her stories at $.01 per word.

The shots of Cincinnati in that era were quite good, and the street references were authentic.  I was wondering if there would be any reference to Robert Lowry, the Cincinnati-born novelist I befriended during the late 1980s until his death in 1994.  He had been in high school in 1934, and publishing stories and drawings in The Cincinnati Times-Star.  He would attend the University of Cincinnati for a single year (1937) and start The Little Man, its first literary newspaper.  He would drop out when U.C. stopped funding the magazine, and he would buy a printing press and several fonts of type and establish Little Man Press in the basement of his parents’ house.

I wasn’t surprised there was no Lowry reference, and I would have been appalled if there had been.  Although he had some modest success with his novels after World War II, his career crashed and burned as his mental health deteriorated.  Long story short, when I met him on a Main St. bench in the fall of ’90, all of his books were out of print, he had four divorces behind him, three grown children he had not seen since they were toddlers, and was living in a flophouse, the Fort Washington Hotel, drinking his Social Security checks in the Bay Horse Cafe.

The irony is that the movie deals with Kit’s family’s reversal of economic fortune in 1934.  Her dad loses his car dealership and leaves for Chicago in search of work, while her mother has to take in boarders and sell eggs.  Not uncommon in those days, but their 21st-century counterparts couldn’t afford American Girl dolls without giving up groceries for nearly a month.  There were also scenes where people would come home and find FORECLOSURE! signs on their front lawn and workers carrying their belongings to curbside.  That scene is scarily relevant these days, which means the timing of this movie’s release was ominously precise.  (And everybody wonders why we’re content to rent, and have no plans to buy a house or condo!  Someone at work who just obtain a Realtor’s license was aggressively trying to get me to buy a condo.  He told me I needed a condo, and I looked at him and said, 100% deadpan, “I don’t need condos–I’ve had a vasectomy.”)

On a less-than-lighter note, Steph’s friend and knitting pal Joanna will be driving us to Cleveland on Monday afternoon.  The laptop is coming along, and I’m sure the Cleveland Clinic will have Wi-Fi, so I will keep all of you in Blogland abreast on what is happening with Steph.  Susie is going to the Ohio Renaissance Festival in Harveysburg with Pat, Tanya, and the kids during the weekend, so she’ll have some much needed diversion from all the tension that mounts as the date of the surgery approaches.  (Steph will be going under the knife on the 1st of August, but the Clinic wants her there sooner to run different diagnostics and pre-op tests, etc.  After the cardiac catheterization experience at Riverside last spring, we can only wonder what this safari will have in store!)

Steph came home from knitting while I was typing this, so I’ll click the Post to aspergerspoet button below, and not keep this from the world any longer.

I can’t believe I’m doing this, but go on to to learn more about the movie.  I will buy it when it comes out on DVD!

Commerce & Picnic

Steph, Susie, and I joined Pat, Tanya, their kids, and another homeschool family for a picnic early last evening in Whetstone Park.  We ended up in one of the rear stone shelters, complete with “666” and inverted pentagrams on the floor in charcoal, and penises drawn on the benches in Magic Marker.  Lots of good food to satisfy all dietary tastes–the key lime pie ended up being pudding, since it didn’t set up all the way, and I had pasta, chicken, and bacon.

This morning, Steph, Susie, and I went to the Clintonville Farmers’ Market to buy produce, including some honey and pastries.  We wanted to go into Karen Wickliff’s Books, but there was no way Steph could navigate through it, because her scooter just could not make it through the narrow aisleways and around the stacks of books piled on every flat surface.  (Karen used to have a bookstore in a space just north of Hudson, right by our place on Duncan, but she moved north 2-3 years ago.)  We also bought a few homeschool and leisure-reading books at Cover to Cover.  (I saw, to my dismay, that Go Ask Alice is still being marketed as non-fiction.  I remember when I was in junior high school, and it was always in demand at the library as being “a real diary” about “sugar and spice and everything nice and acid and smack and no way back.” and several New York Times book reviewers and columnists revealed that the book is bogus.  Informationally, it’s about as accurate as Reefer Madness.)  Cover to Cover is one of the best children’s and young adults’ bookstores I’ve ever been to.

Now none of us will lack for reading material in the shower.  We bought bottles of Dr. Bronner’s soap.  (I’m partial to the peppermint flavor, which is great except when it gets into your eyes.  You have the added bonus of going through the day smelling like a stick of Doublemint.)  What truly makes Dr. Bronner’s Magic “All-One” Castile Soap fascinating is the extreme-of-consciousness writings on the label, which takes up 95% of the sides of the bottle.  Some of it sounds totally loony, but there is enough that is beautiful and visionary that you can cut loose some of the zanier stuff.  It is more pleasant to read than the non-stop lunacy of the Book of Revelation.  Go to to sample some of the wares.

We were planning to go swimming tonight, but the sky has alternated between pleasant (as it is now), and gray with spitting rain.  Steph was arranging a ride home from the pool on Project Mainstream, which requires four hours’ notice for cancellations.  Not wanting to gamble on the weather, and knowing that keeping the scooter out in the rain is never a good idea, she cancelled the ride, and we’re hoping for more dependable weather manana.

Susie and I are at the Franklinton library, picking up reserves for all three of us, and I’m working on the blog now because I may not have the chance later.

We haven’t been to First UU since about Memorial Day, but Steph (and possibly Susie and I) plan to go in the morning.  (Summer services there are a mixed bag.  Almost all are lay-led, and they’re either very stellar or they suck canal water.)  In Marietta, I was used to having the entire summer off, since First UU in Marietta went on hiatus from June until after Labor Day.  A Baptist friend asked me why that was, and I told him it was because Unitarians were the only denomination God could trust out of His sight for three months.

The Rest of the Fourth

On the morning of Independence Day, first cousin Karen and her son, first cousin once removed Granger, headed back to Virginia.  (Since Susie and Granger have the same great-grandparents, they are second cousins.)  We sent them off with a bellyful of breakfast from Tommy’s Dinner on W. Broad St., lucky enough to get the last of their cinnamon rolls.  Hanging amidst the OSU Buckeyes posters and memorabilia is a respectable collection of old movie and classic rock posters.  Susie is getting better at identifying people in the posters–Elvis, the Beatles, the Rat Pack, the Marx Brothers (although my favorite Marx Brother–Karl–was not included), Laurel and Hardy, and Marilyn Monroe.

Barely had the exhaust cleared from Karen’s car when we were honored by the presence of an old high school friend, Robin, now living in Toronto with her husband Doug, who was also in tow.  Robin’s mother lives with her life partner in Clintonville, and Robin and her husband were in Columbus for a combination Canada Day/Fourth of July celebration.

This was the first time I had seen Robin for nearly 30 years.  She was a class ahead of me at Marietta High School, and we were quite close, although we were never romantically involved.  I hung around Marietta, unemployed and bored, for a year after high school before I left for Boston and fell into my typesetting job at The Harvard Crimson.  She apparently left Marietta as soon as she could.

I am so glad she spared Steph some of the anecdotes which shed light on the many less admirable qualities of my character.  Some of them can’t even be explained away by invoking youthful ignorance.  She said she remembered me mostly as being “this thin [holding up a pencil], pushing an A-V cart.”  (You know how every high school had a kid who always seemed to be there running movie projectors, operating the lights during shows, and could hold equipment together with chewing gum and spit?  At Marietta High School, that was me.)

Here is a picture of Robin and me, first time together in eons.  (Robin made contact with me, searching to see if I had published any books.  She came up dry there,  but she did find some of the reviews I had written.)

I spent Saturday at the Olympic Swim and Racquet Club with Susie and her friend Rosemary.  The pool seems to be back to normal operations after the mishap last week.  (The last we heard, the man was still in a coma.)  I didn’t go in the pool, and I didn’t blog because the Wi-Fi at the pool is so unreliable.  You almost have to sit in the volleyball pit to get any kind of usable signal.

We went to a bookstore afterwards, after I made a quick shopping trip at Weinland’s.  I didn’t have much cash with me, so all I bought was a Dell Yearling edition of Keith Robertson’s teen novel Henry Reed’s Journey.  I had read that while I was in parochial school, although my cousin Karen had introduced me to its predecessor, Henry Reed, Inc. while my family was visiting her in Richmond during her dad’s final illness.  I think both Sister Elizabeth (my St. Mary’s English teacher) and Karen recommended the series because the novels were told in the form of Henry’s journal entries.

The evening meal beckons, so I’ll sign off for now.