Archive for the ‘Nyel Stevens’ Category

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!):

And before you know it…

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Ocean Beach Hospital

Life has a way of happening to you before you really get a sense of the direction it’s taking.  You go along doing whatever needs to be done, adjusting here and adjusting there, paying your dues, cleaning up your messes, breaking new ground… and suddenly what might have been completely unheard of becomes the norm.

Take yesterday, for instance.  It was stormy. For a time, every road out of Astoria was closed with downed power lines or toppled trees.  Yet, we gave all that ‘nary a thought as we headed out to Nyel’s cardio appointment with Doctor God’s assistant at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland.  After all, commuting back and forth to the Rose City is what we do these days.  It’s been the ‘norm’ since last Christmas Eve when Nyel was taken there by ambulance – suffering, we found out, from acute congestive heart failure.

Columbia Memorial Hospital

Another thing about yesterday… we went to two other hospitals before we ever left ‘the area’ – that being the region of the Lower Columbia River.  Our first stop was in Ilwaco at Ocean Beach Hospital.  Nyel has been going there monthly, weekly, or sometimes daily for the last fifteen years or so – since he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. This past year, the blood tests have become more complex having to do with kidneys as well as his heart  and ‘everybody knows his name.’

After our stop at OBH, we headed toward the bridge, the river splashing over the rip-rap, kissing us as we passed by and then the bridge rocking and rolling with the big gusts of wind.  We more-or-less blew into Columbia Memorial Hospital but, wonder of wonders, not for a medical procedure this time.  Nyel had left his cell phone re-charger there last week when he was in the ICU for three or four days; they had saved it in the “patient lost and found.”  (I didn’t ask which usage of the word ‘patient’ was more apropos.)

Legacy Emanuel

Then on to Legacy Emanuel via U.S. 30 and I5.  Traffic moderate and moving at the speed limit.  No slow-downs or mishaps along the way.  Everybody apparently driving with due caution.  The blow-down and slashing rain were moderately scary for me and I chose to become the passenger after a pit stop in Longview.  (Nyel is always intrepid.)  We arrived at Emanuel in time for a sandwich at the Heartbeat Café and then had a long, catching-up sort of appointment with Amy, Dr. God’s assistant.  Nyel is trying to sort out who can do what for him and which doctors at which hospitals can be of greatest service and under what circumstances.

On our way home, we stopped for dinner at the Roo – another part of our ‘new normal’ it seems.  Who’d a thunk that we’d find traveling up and back to Portland on a dark and stormy day an acceptable, (nay, even a preferable) use of our time.  To say nothing of visiting several hospitals in a day, no matter what the reason. Sometimes, life just sneaks up on you!

A Giant Step (sideways?) for Nyel

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Nyel in the ER

Yesterday could easily have been another day from hell but, so far, it seems that it was all about taking a step in the right direction.  Nyel is at Columbia Memorial Hospital (CMH) in Astoria – a familiar skip and a hop from Oysterville!  He was admitted through the ER and it took the combined efforts (in a way) of our local Ocean Beach Hospital (OBH) plus Dr. God at Emanuel Hospital plus Dr. Consultant at OHSU plus Dr. Cardiologist at CMH to get that to happen!

The ‘process’ (if you can call such a happenstance of occurrences a ‘process’) began with a regularly scheduled blood draw at OBH.  After our experience on Friday (when the results took from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to be transmitted to Dr. God’s office at EH in Portland!  As we know from many, many procedures, minutes and hours are critical and we knew even then that Nyel was on a downhill trajectory.  Enter:  The Weekend and the Slippery Slope.

Bonding Time

So… when the lab folks at OH told Nyel yesterday a.m.  that it would be noon at the earliest that they could get the 8:00 draw’s results to EH, I went into my Great-Big-Noisy-Fuss (GBNF) mode a la Ramona Quimby of Beverly Cleary fame.  I went (read marched) to the front desk, got connected to the Lab Manager, told him that all explanations of “automated fax,” “new system,” “unable to fax the old-fashioned way” and blah-blah-blah were unacceptable and that we would be waiting in the lobby for him to tell us that all the damned problems were solved.  (I think I could probably be heard clear in Portland; I was furious.)

Ten minutes (by the clock) later, Mr. Lab Manager came out from his hidey hole, all smiles, and said he had found a way to override the system and that Dr. God’s office now had the information they needed.  While waiting to hear the verdict from Portland, we proceeded across the river to get a bag of chicken-feed-of-a-different-brand, having been told that it might solve our girls’ laying problems.  At first Brim’s wouldn’t sell it to us – said our ‘problem’ was simply that our hens were too old.  I made another GBNF and I’m happy to say the new sack of feed is in the trunk of the car.

Just about that time, Dr. God’s nurse called and said to go directly to the ER at Columbia Memorial.  Nyel’s ‘numbers’ were critical.  We went.  They were expecting us (Praise Be!).  We checked in at 11:15.  Many steps and staff members later – taking vital signs, another blood draw, nurses, a nurse practitioner, the ER doctor – and Nyel was told to get dressed; he was ‘not critical.’  Say what???   It was 2:30ish.

Just a Hop and a Skip

As we waited for his discharge papers, the CM cardiologist on duty came in.  She was in a hurry but spoke to us briefly, took a quick look at Nyel’s juggler vein and his distended belly, said something to the effect, “he’s critical, admit him” and… there he is!  I stayed long enough to have an early dinner with him and got home shortly after dark…

Nyel called this morning to say things are going ‘according to plan’ and it sounds as though he’ll be there several days!  Stay tuned…