Archive for the ‘Nyel Stevens’ Category

Not only had he been to Oysterville, but…

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

In Seattle Yesterday – Definitely Fake Sky

It was about three o’clock yesterday when the doctor came in to talk to us before Nyel’s ‘procedure’.  We were back at the University of Washington Medical Center, this time for a long-planned implant of a cardio mems into Nyel’s heart.

“It’s essentially an antenna,” said the doctor.  “It has no battery, no moving parts, nothing to go wrong.  It will stay with you forever.”  In conjunction with the pillow-like device (in its own rolling suitcase) that Nyel will rest against each morning, the CardioMems device will send information back to his doctor in Seattle concerning the pressures in his heart.  It’s a way to keep track of his congestive heart failure without those frequent trips to the hospital – a management-by-long-distance-method.  Or so we all hope.

The doctor had a sample one to device to us and explained how it would be inserted into an artery in Nyel’s heart.  They would go in through the right side of his neck and the device would be placed in an artery on the back of the left side of his heart.  The process would take about 45 minutes.  No anesthetic required; just a bit of numbing at the insertion site.  Wow!

CardioMEMS Sensor


“Will I be able to drive afterwards?” Nyel asked.  “Sure,” said the doctor.  “Where do you live?”

Usually, we respond “the Long Beach Peninsula.”  We’ve found that people from the big city are more likely to have heard of the general area – not necessarily our little corner of it.  But for some reason I said “Oysterville” and Dr. Wood’s eyes lit up.  “Have you been there?” I chanced.  “Actually, yes,” he said “a friend of mine has a house there.”  And I thought to myself, “Probably not.  Probably out in Surfside.”

Dr. Gregory Wood

Imagine my surprise when he said his friend was named Lexie.  “Lexie Hook Bemis?”  I asked.  “Yes,” he said.  “Brock and I were colleagues.”  We chatted then about my Red House Cousins, their wedding at Timberline Lodge (which we found we had all attended back in 2007), and how the Bemis family had moved to Sun Valley a few years back. And how things weren’t the same anymore.

It was one of those small world moments to the max.  There’s nothing like a shared memory to make you feel bonded – unless it might be having someone look (literally) right into your heart!  Wow!  What a world we live in!

From Back Forty to Twenty-first Century

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

In a complete reversal of the usual order of things in this household, Nyel has been cleaning out files and reorganizing his ‘office’ which is actually my grandfather’s roll top desk in the corner of our East Room (read: Family Room.)  The desk is a handsome piece of furniture, seldom seen under the piles of papers, and trappings of modern office life like computers and printers.

One of the difficulties is that there isn’t a place in the desk, despite all its cubby holes and drawers, that will accommodate a modern file folder.  And, try as we might to do all our filing digitally, we still have numerous hard copies of documents and other important ‘stuff’ that has to go SOMEwhere.

I was out of the house most of yesterday and came home to find that Nyel had resurrected an old wooden file cabinet from our back forty and had placed it next to the roll top.  It’s a perfect fit and no doubt was what my grandfather used back in the day.  I remember my dad using it years ago, but neither Nyel nor I recall if we were the ones who relegated it to storage.  Right now, it is still empty and it may well be that when it gets put to use we’ll find that it really isn’t useful.  So… the jury is out on whether it is back inside to stay.

Along with the file cabinet, Nyel has revived an old globe that had also been removed from our (seemingly) endless trove of treasures from the past.  “Copyright by Replogle Globes, Inc. Chicago, Ill” it says but, even after a careful search with a magnifying glass, we could find no date.  However, there are numerous clues – Thailand is still named Siam, the USSR is still intact, Hawaii is still a Territory, Korea is not divided between North and South, and French West Africa still exists.

With a little bit of research, we could probably nail down the date.  We’re guessing sometime after World War II, but we’re not sure.  I’ve gone so far as to Google the Replogle Globe Company and find that “From its humble beginning in a Chicago apartment, Replogle today is the world’s largest globe manufacturer.”  The site also provides a chart that will help in determining the age of your old globe.  I wonder why they just didn’t date them like book publishers do…

Just plain popcorn, please.

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

And about all that hot air…

Unlike Mikey – the one who “hates everything” in that old 1970s cereal commercial –  Nyel has seldom met a food he wouldn’t eat.   In this household, the words to live by have always been “Nyel eats anything.”  But… under the heading of ‘S*** Happens’…  now, not so much.

I think the deal breaker is salt.  Actually, no salt.  Not ‘lo salt’ as in all those lying snack foods and not that old standby ‘no salt added’ when cooking from scratch.  Try no sodium chloride at all.  As he has been told in the hospital many times, he is apparently salt sensitive which means that even a little is a dangerous thing.

Unadulterated and Barely Edible

The knee-jerk response to that, of course, is that your body requires a certain amount of salt.  True.  But almost all foods contain some.  Even celery for heaven’s sake!  One stalk, medium (7-1/2 to 8 inches long) 32 milligrams.  One wedge of cantaloupe ( 1/8 of a medium-size melon) 88 milligrams. Who knew?

Somehow, it stands to reason that razor clams, being a seafood, contain sodium but, 64 milligrams in four ounces of fresh clam (about one of medium size) seems extreme.  Especially when you consider that, for me anyway, five or six fried clams at a sitting seems about right.  Once upon a time, Nyel could put away a dozen, no problem.

Fowl Treat

The recommended allowance of sodium for congestive heart failure patients is no more than 2,000 milligrams  each day; less than 1,500 mg a day is ideal.  That’s one-and-a-half to two grams per day.  It’s easy to see the problem and for a foodie sorta guy, it’s really tough.

Last night he tried out the handy-dandy Air Popper that Santa brought for Christmas.  In nothing flat it spewed four quarts of popcorn from ½ cup of kernels (1 milligram sodium per cup of air-popped corn).   Big, white, fluffy, inedible popcorn.  The next time he’ll try adding some melted unsalted butter (2 milligrams sodium per tablespoon) plus garlic powder and some Mrs. Dash which are both sodium-free.

Meanwhile, Farmer Nyel has several days’ worth of treats for his girls in the coop!

Special Delivery!

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Mail Service!

According to the patient, “You know you’ve been in the hospital too long when you get a package via the USPS!”  Jorivic, Nyel’s Personal Care Assistant, said that in all the years he’d worked here at the UW Medical Center, this was a first!  It was big excitement up and down the hall!

It was from our Portland/Seaview friend, Ann, whose note said:  “Since I can’t bring the chocolate in person, the mail will have to do!  And ‘do’ it did!  Nyel didn’t waste a minute getting to the heart of the matter – two hefty bars of dark chocolate!  His favorite.

He kindly offered me some, but tempted though I was, I demurred.  That very morning, I had wakened to a situation that I very dimly remember happening to me once before, way back in high school.  A zit on the very end of my nose!!  Nyel, in his typical, loving way, put the best possible spin on it by christening me “Rudolph!”  No chocolate for me for a while!

Several other visitors in the last ten days have endeared themselves by bringing dark chocolate.  Nyel, ever generous, has shared; me, ever willing, has accepted.  I just hope my beacon disappears sooner rather than later!

Meanwhile, Nyel has made good inroads on Ann’s gift.  The first bar went fast.  The second he seems to be allotting himself more slowly – perhaps hoping to make it last until he is discharged.  Rumor has it that we could be on our way home before the weekend wanes!  I’m happy to light the way!!!

Training My Tongue

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

I was brought up to believe in the adage: “When you speak, speak the truth, but don’t always speak.”  Not that I often follow that good advice.  It’s right up there with another mantra that is popular in some circles: “There is no such thing as a stupid question.”  Yes, there is, say I.  I heard many during my 39 years as a teacher and have certainly asked my share – especially when I’ve ignored the second half of that familiar old proverb: “Speech is silver but silence is golden.”

I’ve been thinking about all of those mantras and idioms here at the University of Washington Medical Center.  Nyel was sent here from Legacy Emanuel Hospital to be evaluated for receiving a heart pump – an option not available at Emanuel Hospital, but yet the only option the Portland doctors feel is viable at this point.  The doctors here say that Nyel’s heart function is good enough so that the heart pump possibility is “off the table.”

Now that they have said “no” to the heart pump, they are back to walking a path that is familiar to Nyel. They are repeating the same tests that Nyel has been having for many months; some for many years.  I suppose the hope is that they will see something here that the Portland doctors have missed.  So far… not so.  And why is it that they cannot look at his history – all the charts and notes and scans, all the electronic records and DVDs that were sent with Nyel?  Or did they?  What are they doing that is different?  Or are they?

Yesterday I asked.  The answers were in doctor-speak and made me feel like I should reconsider the “silence is golden” rule.  I’m pretty sure that my questions came under the “stupid” category.  Fair enough.  But I didn’t like some of the responses that seemed to demean Nyel’s Portland experience.  I didn’t like feeling patronized.  The team (yesterday four doctors, a nurse, and a fellow or two) will be here shortly on their rounds.  I mean to hold my tongue this time.  Except maybe to ask when Nyel might be discharged.

It was dicey but I made it!

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

UWMC — Nyel’s Currenet Home-Away from Home

Nyel reminds me, now and then, that it’s not all about me.  Never in relationship to himself, though.  Usually it’s about something totally non-related to our lives and I am obsessing or stressing about imagined impacts on us.  It’s the Worry Syndrome and I come by it honestly.  Even genetically.  My grandmother was a worrier – all of her children said so – but they and my grandfather took it in stride.  Nyel…not so much, in my case, but after thirty-five years, he is adjusting!

The  drive from Oysterville to Seattle yesterday loomed as a huge worry but, in that case, even my calm and ever-competent husband was understanding.  It is never an easy drive these days given the traffic and the I-5 trauma drama that seems a daily occurrence. Within the last few years, for instance, we have been diverted on that trip by a freeway chase and shootout – for which all lanes coming and going were closed for hours and by an oil spill which closed all northbound lanes (us!) and resulted in us being diverted via Puyallup or somewhere equally far afield. Those, were “pleasure trips” so please-god-let-this-be-better was my mantra.

The View From Nyel’s Room

Yesterday, the immediate problem was rain in deluge proportions plus patchy fog in the creek and river bottoms.  Fortunately, even the truckers seemed to be paying attention to the speed limits and (until the dreaded Olympia/Tacoma area) traffic was light.  Then it got dicey.  But there was only one big slow down “COLLISION AHEA RIGHT ANE BLOCKED” and by 1:15 or so (I had left home at 9:15 – not bad!) I was on the alert for my turn off.

Nel – Off to Another ‘Procedure’ or Two

But, guess what!  Google had given me the directions to the wrong UW facility – five miles away, according to the nice young woman at a computer terminal in the first building I entered.  “Oh no!” was my all-about-me response, “Tell me I don’t have to go back on the freeway.”  After a bit of maneuvering, she managed to print me out a map of a route on surface streets (with only half a gazillion turns) and, despite construction detours and finding myself suddenly on “The Ave”) with students in hoodies scurrying here and there and lots of helpful directions given when I rolled down my window and called out… I made it without mishap.

Nyel is in good hands – many procedures and groups of people (doctors, residents, interns, nurses) coming and going to check on his progress and plan for next steps.  I slept on a cot here in his room last night and am feeling like this is where I need to be for the immediate future. Three or four days more while they ‘evaluate’ and then… we’ll see.  He and I both are so grateful for all of our friends “out there” with their concerns and suggestions!  Thank you from the bottoms of both our hearts!

Moving to the Fast Track?

Monday, November 20th, 2017

Nyel is still on the Hurry-Up-and-Wait plan here at Emanuel Hospital but it looks like he’ll be moving to the fast track sometime soon – maybe even tomorrow or the next day.  It seems that the University of Washington Medical Center has agreed to review his case and they will be sending an ambulance for him so they can meet him in person and involve him in the planning process!!  Woot! Woot!

As soon as we learn the timeline, I will beat feet out of here to Oysterville, collect our mail, pack a bag for each of us, say hello-goodbye to the chickens and head north, myself.  “You need to be a part of the conversations up there, Sydney,” I was told.  Not that there was even a glimmer of doubt in my mind about where I’d be, but it’s nice to know that the medical team here sees me as a necessary part of the equation.

I’ve already had a couple of “stay with us” offers but haven’t fine-tuned that part of the plan yet.  The timing is sorta sucky – what with Thanksgiving looming, holiday traffic, and everybody heading for grandmother’s house.  I’m thinking that, no matter where I stay in the Seattle area, I’ll travel to and from Nyel’s hospital bedside via Uber or one of those other fancy schmancy auto options.

So, there you have it!  The cutting-edge plan as of this moment! Another adventure in the making, I say!

Totally Tubular Troublemaker

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

The IV Drip Bags

The annoying BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! from one of Nyel’s IV drip bags (probably not a technical term) brought a gaggle of nurses to the door about five o’clock this morning,  “Troublemaker!” said the Charge Nurse, popping her head in, and everyone laughed.

If you know Nyel, even slightly, you know him to be a low-key, non-complainer to the max.  “Troublemaker” is about the least descriptive word imaginable for him and the Charge Nurse’s playful teasing was the perfect tension dissipater.  “It’s just that you’re totally tubular right now,” said his Night Nurse.  More laughter.

Nyel is, quite literally, a mass of tubes – to the point that there is only one area, on his left forearm, with enough space for a blood pressure cuff.  So, getting a kink or a crossed wire or something else to cause the alarm bells to sound, is an imminent and constant possibility.  Even so, the nurses come running when they hear that annoying distress signal and we are ever-grateful for their attentive watching and listening.

More Connections for Nyel

Almost as importantly as their attentiveness – they are fun.  As soon as the kink in his picc-line was straightened out, they got into a guessing game about the origin ‘totally tubular.’  “It’s from California in the eighties,” said one.  “Yeah.  I think it’s one of those Valley Girls expressions,” said another.  “I’m thinking it’s a surfer term,” said the Night Nurse.

According to Google, there was merit to all of their explanations but the one no one thought of was the one I liked best:   tubular is an old term meaning awesome. That I know. It originates from vacuum tube amplifiers sounding better than other amps, so a “tubular” sound was preferred. Eventually tubular came to mean anything cool or awesome.  And more recently, it is used to mean “lame” or “nerdy.”

Tubular Bells

The surfing explanation came up most often:  Surfing Pipeline. When the wave closed over itself it was “Totally Tubular”, the perfect wave.  And, according to some, the term goes clear back to the Mike Oldfield’s 1973 recording of  Tubular Bells, the most famous progrock “symphony” of them all—and a bit of a “love it or hate it” affair amongst music snobs—but in actual fact, most of the instruments played on the album are played by Oldfield himself, layered during the recording process.

And… here endeth the first lesson for this Sunday, November 19th at Legacy Emanuel, room 5305!

Option #2

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

Nyel Under the Sterile Blue Tent

Yesterday was a very full and completely draining day if both of those things are possible simultaneously.  It was a day of the PICC (aka Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) Line and the Urinary Catheter Leg Bag insertions.  Plus, an Echocardiogram and a Right Heart Cath (aka a pulmonary artery catheterization).  Most of it (except the Right Heart Cath) happened in Nyel’s hospital room which, for the insertion of the PICC, was made sterile within a three-foot perimeter of  the patient.


The Big Deal was the Right Heart Cath –or rather what was conveyed to the doctor through that procedure.  He, in turn, explained that information to us around 8:30 last night in “the talk” which all of us dread.  Essentially, Nyel’s heart is pumping at about half normal capacity while, at the same time, the pressure from the fluids in the heart is at about twice what would be normal.  “If you took a fully inflated football and added enough air to make it twice its size, you know what would happen,” he said.  Way too graphic… but the analogy was clear.

The Masked Companion

He then went on to explain Nyel’s options which are (really not) three.  Option #1 – Do nothing resulting in death; Option #2 – Insert a heart pump which is a battery-operated device which will assist the heart do its job; Option 3 – A heart implant for which the cut-off age is 70 and for Nyel, at 74, is a non-option.  It’s probably an absolute no-brainer to say that Nyel chose Option #2.

The doctor said there is a ‘huge’ list of qualifying conditions, but he thinks Nyel is a good candidate.  He recommended that it be done at the University of Washington Medical Center – “the very best place” for this cutting-edge procedure.  Nyel, as a UW grad felt good about that and he and Dr. Reddy joked about an alumni discount.

Dr. R. will start the inquiries to the U on Monday.  Other than that, we have no timelines at all.  First, we have our fingers crossed that Nyel will ‘qualify’ and that it will all happen sooner rather than later – even if it means putting plans for our Christmas Party on hold until Valentine’s Day.  Which, come to think of it, might be appropriate all the way around!

Meds and Makeup? Really, Mrs. Crouch?

Friday, November 17th, 2017

The Get-Away Bag

Now that Nyel seems to be on the Emanuel Hospital Fast Track, I keep a get-away bag handy for myself.  Nyel-the-patient has every need supplied when he is admitted but for me, as the patient’s wife-and-faithful-companion… not so much.  I am eternally grateful that they supply me with a cot and linens and endless cups of decaf-on-demand.  I am happy to bring whatever else is required so that I can stay in Nyel’s room – a blessing of modern-day hospitalizations that I don’t remember back in the day.

Yesterday Nyel was scheduled for a pre-scheduled blood draw at Ocean Beach Hospital and, from the results, Dr. God’s assistant was going to determine what should happen next – return home or another stay at Columbia Memorial or a trek to Portland and admission to Legacy Emanuel.  “Better bring your suitcase,” said Nyel.  He wasn’t feeling at all well.  He had an inkling.  Quickly, I added my make-up and my own meds and away we went.

This morning I discovered that two (thankfully, not all-that-important) items had been left behind – calcium and my eyebrow pencil.  Fortunately, the calcium is a supplement rather than a prescription and can be replaced without having to call our pharmacy at home etc. etc.  The eyebrow pencil is more complicated – it’s the last of a discontinued color (charcoal gray) by Maybelline – not that there is a makeup store nearby, anyway.  Oh well…

Larry Murante who made Mrs. Crouch famous in song!

But a more serious concern is my inability to locate my debit card.  It’s not with me.  Probably it’s at home in a pocket.  I did my due diligence – calBled the bank etc. etc. but, since I can’t just hop home, I’ll have to wait for a while to solve the mystery.  In the meantime, I’m pretty sure that I’m in no way at fault for any of these ‘problems.’  I’d give odds that it’s Mrs. Crouch, our resident ghost.  It’s been some time since she’s weighed in and it’s just like her to want to reinforce her ancient bones, get decked out up to the eyebrows, and go on a shopping spree!

And, if you have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Crouch, check out this website – she’s definitely a force to reckon with at our house (and beyond, apparently!):