A Full-Service Facility

August 19th, 2017

Sleeping Sydney

By my count, Nyel (and I) have spent more than 40 days and nights here in the cardiac unit of Emanuel Hospital – usually in clumps of five or six days in a row – since last October.  I jokingly think of it (can you jokingly think?) as a Five Star Hospital with Medical Benefits, the latter part being exclusively for Nyel, of course.

Often, as in now, he is simply waiting – waiting for meds to take effect so that he won’t bleed to death or have a stroke during whatever procedure is needed.  The wait-time is wholly dependent on Nyel’s system and its ‘willingness’ to interact positively with whatever plan the doctors (yes, plural; this time, three) decide.

So, yesterday it looked like the procedure that he’s waiting for might happen Sunday.  The cardiologist mentioned that, if not by then, it would have to be Tuesday.  No ‘elective’ procedures requiring an anesthesiologist on Monday.  Say what?

It has to do with Emanuel being a full-status Level I Trauma Center – one of only two in Oregon. As such, it will be on some sort of alert status Monday because of the huge influx of eclipse-watchers who are converging in Oregon as we speak.  From our standpoint (and that of Nyel’s doctors) it’s one of those ‘timing is everything’ situations.  All hospital facilities will be on standby for the possibility of serious, traumatic need.

Nyel and the Morning Crossword

As it turns out, though, Nyel’s lab numbers looked excellent this morning.  His nurse paged ‘Dr. God’ who has scheduled his ‘procedure’ (a TEE or Transesophageal Echocardiography) for eleven o’clock.  Today!  Granted, depending on what is found, there may be additional procedures, but maybe, just maybe, those can begin sooner and we can get out of here earlier.

However… we certainly are not hoping for Nyel’s discharge to be before Wednesday.  For one thing, we’ll need more gas before we can drive home and, according to the news, gasoline in the area is scarce. In fact, some service stations are closed until replenishment can occur. Besides which, traffic conditions are likely to be nightmarish on all highways leaving Portland.  At this point, anyway, we are content to remain here, safe and sound, waiting for Nyel’s tune-up to be finalized and for all his doctors to sign off on his new out-patient plan.

Who knew that the eclipse madness would be affecting us in this way?  We were absolutely content to give it all a miss in blissfully peaceful Oysterville.  Just us and the chickens…  Once again, a lesson in never counting them before you see the whites of their eyes.

Names and Numbers

August 18th, 2017

Nyel’s Door

The more time we spend around doctors and hospitals, the more we realize how little we know.  I sometimes think we should all be born with an instruction manual attached.  One with an up-to-date glossary and lots of diagrams.  It almost seems like a cruel joke that in all of the millennia of human existence, we still are breaking new ground with regard to our own care and repair and — very few of us know even the basics.

Right now, for instance, we are waiting for a decision by Nyel’s doctor which will be based on the numbers revealed by his 4:30 a.m. blood draw.  We were told, within an hour of the draw, that the results show a reduction in numbers for both his INR and creatinine but, until the doctor weighs in, no one knows whether those numbers (especially the INR) have reduced enough.

We feel “very much accomplished” at this point just knowing a tad about ‘creatinine’ and ‘INR.’   Creatinine – a waste product that comes from the normal wear and tear on muscles of the body and can be used as one indicator of kidney function.  INR – an abbreviation for reporting the results of blood coagulation tests.

The Most Important Meal of the Day

Terminology is a steep learning curve in itself – never mind the numbers, levels, and upward or downward trends involved.  Like every other niche in life, the medical profession has its own vocabulary – most of which we lay-persons learn about on a need-to-know basis.

Terminology and  complex definitions notwithstanding, though, what it all boils down to for Nyel (and the part that concerns him the most!) right now is that the sign outside his door says NPO.  Translation:  Nothing by Mouth.  Further translation: nothing to eat or drink after midnight last night because a ‘procedure’ is scheduled for one o’clock this afternoon.  The big question is, has that pesky INR level lowered enough so that it’s safe for the procedure to be done.  And, if not, can he get some breakfast?

Nyel is a great believer in the adage, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”  He is remarkably accepting of the NPO designation when needed but is feeling a little anxious that perhaps the procedure will not take place today, after all.  In which case, presumably, he can eat until midnight tonight and precious meal time is being wasted as he waits!  One thing for sure – there is nothing wrong with the man’s appetite!

Hunches, Inklings, and Glimmers… Oh My!

August 17th, 2017

Ready and Waiting

Of the two of us, Nyel is the ‘just the facts’ one.  He’s not much for surmising or second-guessing, or speculating.  So, yesterday morning when he said, “…and you probably should bring an overnight bag…” I didn’t question his judgement. Meds, cosmetics, toothbrush, a couple of changes of clothes and my trusty computer went along with us to his appointment with his cardiologist.  When Nyel has a hunch, I’ve found it best to listen.

It was a regularly scheduled appointment but…   as it turned out, Nyel was absolutely right.  After a brief meeting with the doctor, he arranged for a bed in the cardiac unit at Emanuel Hospital and here we are.  Again.  Probably until Tuesday.  I think it’s the seventh time since last Christmas.

Solar Eclpise 1999

This time, the plan is to bring in a team of specialists and to run a series of tests to find out why in the world Nyel has been on this revolving door plan between hospital and home.  At the end of each stay here, everything looks good; a few days at home and not good at all.  Perhaps, the doctor says, it’s because one of his key meds is being delivered by IV in the hospital and orally at home.  Perhaps his system is having trouble absorbing the oral delivery. That’s his hunch, anyway.  And that’s what he hopes to determine.  We aren’t sure what that might mean but, presumably, if they can find out the cause of the problem, then a more effective plan for treatment can be developed.  We feel a glimmer of hope.

Meanwhile, as we watched the news last night we suddenly realized that we may well be here in the big city for the eclipse on Monday.  Damn!  I was planning to do a little chicken research that day.  I had thought that I’d park myself out by the coop for an hour or so on either side of the magic two minutes of totality and see what our girls do.  Will they go to roost?  And will they ‘wake up’ when the light level returns?  I’m pretty sure they will… but it’s just an inkling.  I’ve asked them, but they don’t seem to have a plan.  Or even know what I’m talking about.  Not a glimmer.

Safety First!

In a way, though, we are hoping for a late rather than early discharge.  We are thinking that the traffic coming and going from Portland will be unmanageable for a while.  And it could be a serendipity that the hospital’s helicopter pad is just off the cardiac unit.  We have gone there many a-time on Nyel’s obligatory walks through the hallways.  If it’s not in use on Sunday, I wonder if it will be a gathering place for elipse viewingg by staff and mobile patients?  Will someone have the solar-eclipse-viewing glasses-franchise?  My pinhole camera is the one thing I didn’t think to pack!

Just Call Me “Queen of the Sidebar!”

August 16th, 2017

Sidebar in Jailhouse Stories

If I were to be known for a particular journalistic style, I would choose to be called “The Queen of the Sidebar.”  Not the sidecar with a ‘c’; the sidebar with a ‘b’.  The ‘c’ kind is a drink – made with bourbon, I think, and, not being much for alcoholic beverages, I could care less about sidecars.  (And if this WordPress blogging program would allow it, I’d insert a sidebar right here to give my readers the history of and a recipe for a sidecar.)

The sidebar, on the other hand, is 1) a short news story or graphic accompanying and presenting sidelights of a major story, or 2) something incidental to the essay’s central theme.  To someone who writes about history, they are one of the most useful journalistic tools imaginable.  There are invariably related bits of information, not necessarily germane to the main thrust of the story, but interesting and illuminating. nonetheless.

I use sidebars often.  In fact, I’m a bit of a pain in the tush sometimes about them.  I used them liberally in Dear Medora, Child of Oysterville’s Forgotten Years and, as I remember, their use sometimes posed layout problems for my wonderful editor at Washington State University Press.

Several years later, my History Press editor for Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula flat out told me that they “didn’t do sidebars.”  I argued like that proverbial Dutch Uncle and finally convinced them of the necessity for sidebars in my book.  They may have even changed their policy a bit after our ‘go ’round’ because there were no questions asked when I submitted my sidebar-filled manuscript for Jailhouse Stories from Early Pacific County.

Article and Sidebar in 8/9/17 issue of Chinook Observer

At the present time, I’m finding sidebars to be a marvelous way to illuminate my “Stories from the Heart” series in the Chinook Observer. Through them, I can present some factual information and insights through interviews with knowledgeable community members and experts in particular areas – so far, a neighbor, an employer, a teacher, a priest.

I’ve been surprised, though, that readers who comment to me about the series don’t often realize that the sidebars are also written by me and are an extension of the main stories.  I believe the lightly colored background for each sidebar, as well as its adjacent placement to my bylined story is an effort by the editor to indicate that the sidebar is part of the whole.  But, if you are among those who have been confused, perhaps this explanatory blog will help.

Shoes, Pennies and Portents

August 15th, 2017

Our Black Stove

Okay.  I think the shoe we’ve been waiting for has finally dropped.  Or is that a penny?  Whatever it is, it’s the third one, as in ‘things happen in threes.’  First it was totaling the Prius.  Then it was our garage door going belly-up.  Now it’s our kitchen stove.

I do have to admit that we’ve had both the garage door and the stove for a long time.  In fact, the garage door guy said that ours was at least 40 years old (which might have been twice as old as he was) and is not only unfixable, it’s not up to current codes.  Our stove, on the other hand, is only about twenty years old – clearly a case of built-in obsolescence.

The stove, a Jenn Air Dual Fuel, has been on the fritz for a long time – something to do with the electrical circuitry.  Our appliance guru has done as much as he can with it.  Now the oven and all the control panel ‘buttons’ have quit completely and, though we can manage with just the gas stovetop, we don’t really want to.

Or, how about red?

But, there are certain parameters for a replacement stove.  First, it has to be a downward venting stove; there is no other possibility unless we do a serious remodel to the kitchen, which is not an option.  Second, it has to have a gas cooktop; non-negotiable according to Chef Nyel.  Third, it has to be black; otherwise, say I, our entire kitchen needs to be re-done and that is impossible – see the first parameter above.  And, finally, it has to be affordable – which means mid to low price-range – none of these fabulous custom-built or imported models.

We’ve completed our online search and find that there might be one or two that fit at least three out of four of our requirements.  (It may be the color that is the sticking point – wouldn’t you know.)  I should also say that we’ve had lots of advice and heard many cautionary tales from friends.  We are probably on IGO – Information Gathering Overload.  So, today we are going across the river to see a few options up close and personal.

I am not hopeful.

In The Dark and All A-Tangle

August 14th, 2017

Garden All A-Tangle

It’s not just my usual lament about the warp-speed at which time travels these days.  At least, I’m pretty sure not.  It’s my usual lament on steroids!

Already we are waking up in the dark.  I have only begun all my planned summer garden projects.  We’ve not yet made a single potato salad.  We haven’t eaten out in the garden even once.  And we’ve had fewer get-togethers and visits with the usual summer travelers who ‘just stop by’ or at least ‘give a holler’ when they are in the area.

Nope, it doesn’t seem like summer should be winding down already.  Not at all.

Remants from 2016 Garden

It’s not only the weather that’s to blame, but it certainly even that has been different from most summers.  Usually July and August hold out many opportunities for al fresco everything.  This year, not so much.  Or at least, not so much when we’ve been home.  Unfortunately, good weather doesn’t count for much when we are spending time in the hospital – an occurrence that has been all too frequent this particular summer.

So… what to do about it?  I can’t decide whether to knock myself out for the remaining days of the season, no matter the weather, and try to shape things up around here or… maybe to decide just to give this summer a miss.  Chalk it up to ‘shit happens’ and get on with things as best we can.

Barbara Espy Williams Geisler at The Great Wall 

I think I am at that point in life where the examples of my forebears come into play.  I think of my mother’s cousin Barbara who went on a long-planned trip to China with her daughters even though she had been recently diagnosed with brain cancer…  I think of my grandmother who coped with my grandfather’s increasing dementia, even though she, herself, was blind and suffering from heart problems.  I think of my Great Uncle Cecil who lived alone well into old age and managed a house and garden larger than ours.

I don’t remember any of them lamenting what they could not do.  Oh.  Except once my dad noticed Uncle Cecil sitting on the edge of his porch – his push mower nearby.  When dad asked him if everything was okay, Uncle Cecil did complain… just a tad.  “I’ve never had to stop and rest while I was mowing before,” he said with disgust.  He was 90 at the time!

Wow!  Short summer be damned!  I’m on it!

A Nine-Minute Drive; A One-Minute Walk

August 13th, 2017

Anja Patten Sings”The Telephone” Aria by Gian Carlo Menotti

There’s nothing like a hug to make the world feel a little more do-able.  I seem to get lots of them these days – one of the perks of being a little old lady, no doubt.  And, I’ve come to realize, a good hug is not the only kind of heart-warming embrace that I’m fortunate enough to receive on a regular basis.  Music is another!  How lucky we are here on the Peninsula to have access to so many musical opportunities.

Barbara Poulshock, A Cate Gable Photograph

Yesterday I drove nine minutes from here to the Lutheran Church on ‘U’ Street to a “Musical Afternoon” performance by Barbara Poulshock and Anja Patten.  Barbara (at 90) is considered a Peninsula Treasure.  She has had a full life as a pianist, composer, and teacher of voice and piano, and, despite occasional lip-service to “slowing down” shows no sign of doing so.  Anja, a recent graduate of Whitworth University, is at the other end of things – soon to begin graduate school and then to launch her career in… social work!

Or, at least, that is this magnificent young soprano’s plan.  At the reception following the program, more than one person remarked, “But she could reach far more people with that gorgeous voice than she could through social work…”  Anja smiled through the compliments and well-meant musical encouragement.  Barbara also smiled with a teacher’s ‘time will tell’ kind of patience and a lifetime of knowing that each of us must follow our passion, no matter how it seems to observers.

Tom Trudell

Today, a one-minute (or less) walk will take me across the street to the Oysterville Church where two more local musicians will be playing at Vespers this afternoon.  Pianist Tom Trudell and vocalist/guitar-player Brian O’Connor will share center stage for the music portion of today’s service.  Both men are familiar figures in our local music scene.  Each of them mostly heard in solo performances – often as ‘regulars’ at venues on either side of the river.

Brian O’Connor

Tom and Brian are old-hands at Vespers.  Their performances are always so relaxed – laid back to the max – that I am left feeling that their selections were chosen with me, personally, in mind.  I have no doubt that every single audience member feels the same way and will leave the church this afternoon believing that they have had a Sunday hug times two!

Another Bluesy, Woozy, Newsy Friday!

August 12th, 2017

At Bailey’s Bakery and Cafe

As is often the case, we planned our day (insofar as that’s ever possible!) over our morning coffee.  As usual, the discussion was mostly about what and where we were going to eat, and since it was Friday and the appetizers that folks bring for our weekly gathering usually serve as dinner, we only needed to talk about lunch.  We hadn’t been to Jayne’s (Bailey’s Bakery and Café) for a very long time and were hankering after one of her sandwiches.  We decided, in the interest of Nyel’s low salt diet – and with the thought that half would be better than all — that we would split an “Italian.”

We walked up to the counter, mouths already watering, and Jayne greeted us with. “Before you order, take a look at the sign board there,” and she pointed to a white board with the shocking message that henceforth she would be serving only baked goods and drinks.  Soup during the lunch hour.  “Say what?!?”

“My two helpers have gone back to school already,” she said, “and without them, I can’t manage the sandwiches.”  Seeing our disappointment, she pointed to the ‘Specials’ board and said, “I can do you a tuna wrap, though.”  Done.  But our moods turned a bit toward the blue side of an otherwise gray looking day.  Damn!

Jayne’s Baked Goods

“Do you think this is a permanent situation?” we dared ask.

“It depends how much I enjoy being stress-free,” she smiled and proceeded to ring us up, and head back to her work area to fill our order.  Damn!   Being a savory-rather-than-sweet sort of person, that was bad news, indeed, for me.  On the other hand, I don’t know anyone who works harder than Jayne and deserves a break more.  And, the tuna wraps were fine – probably even delicious by some standards – but when your mouth waters for one thing and you end up with another… Well, you know how it is.

As things turned out, I didn’t even get the full advantage of the appetizers later in the day.  I came in late to my own houseful of people – Nyel ‘holding court’ for a dozen or more friends who we hadn’t seen for several weeks.  That was due, partially, to a couple of Fridays of Nyel in the hospital and to the exotic traveling of several of our friends.  My tardy arrival was due to an interview for the series of ‘heart stories’ I’m doing and so, by the time I arrived, the evening was in full swing.  And I think that a few of the appetizers were all but gone – though I couldn’t swear to it.  Too much going on, too much laughter, too much fun!

Friday Night Conversation

There was lots of news among our friends, too – not on signboards except if you count the certificate Tucker brought to share telling (I think) that he had successfully participated in a hot air balloon ride during his recent trip to Germany.  Though he described his adventure in some detail, I didn’t get my usual sweating palms thinking of the height part.  Not like when Kenny described climbing up the ladders during a rainstorm at Mesa Verde a week or so ago.  Been there, done that (though not in the rain) and not only did my palms sweat, but I felt a little woozy… glad I was on terra firma in the safety of my own home and among wonderful friends!  I do love our Friday Nights!

Taking Flight in Oysterville!

August 11th, 2017

Steve and the Test Pilot

You could have heard a pin drop.  The classroom absolutely thrummed with  concentration.  Twelve young scientists hard at work making… paper airplanes!

It was about 9:30 yesterday morning and I had walked over to the Oysterville School at Diane Buttrell’s invitation.  “Come on over to the Science Academy and see what the kids are up to.”  It was an open invitation and it just happened that yesterday was the day that one of my Oysterville neighbors, Steve Romero, was serving as GE, Guest Expert.

I’m not sure precisely what his topic was – I walked in after the class had begun.  But it seemed like an engineering class to me – or a class in aerodynamics.  Already, after just a half hour into their day, the fourth graders were using terms such as ‘lift’ and ‘thrust’ and ‘nosecones’ and ‘ailerons’.  One youngster served as the test pilot – with Captain status.  They were experimenting with shapes and designs – what did wider wings do?  How about narrower?  Double wings?

Did a plane with a blunt nose do better than one with a pointy nose?  One young scientist attached a paper clip to his plane’s nose.  “Oh!  Good idea!  Let’s see what the extra weight does,” Steve encouraged.   And how about a bigger body?  Or more ailerons?  What if we turn the ailerons up?  Or down?

Diane Buttrell, Founder and CEO – Oysterville Science Academy

In between, the GE suggested kids speculate, analyze, predict, experiment.  He wrote findings on the board – dictated by his fourth-grade engineering crew.  Good results: a happy face.  Poor results: the opposite. How do you spell aileron?  Someone look it up, please.  And all the while, he complimented, expressed amazement, gave suggestions and tested some of the planes himself.  And dignified every single response! When a student chose to not follow directions, Steve pointed out the innovation that had been made and praised that, too.

A teacher extraordinaire!  In the 39 years I taught elementary school, I had many opportunities to observe other teachers – student teachers, colleagues, master teachers, college demonstration teachers.  Great teachers, poor teachers, mediocre teachers.  Steve Romero could hang out his shingle with the best of the best. Why am I not surprised?    This is a man who does well at whatever he sets hand and mind to.

The Oysterville School

Last winter, for instance, he decided to learn how to make pottery – bought the clay, bought the glaze, bought the wheel, set up the garage…  His pots are fabulous!  He’s interested in wines, especially champagnes.  His collection has been sampled by a French champagne vintner.  For nearly two decades he had his own software company in Portland and was recently bought out by e-Bay.  He grows mushrooms in the woods behind his house and, along with his wife, Martie, made fabulous macramé curtains for the windows in their new house.

Is there anything Steve Romero won’t try or doesn’t enjoy?  If there is, he hasn’t let us in on it yet.  He never ceases to amaze.  And those Oysterville Science Academy kids were one lucky group of engineering students yesterday!  I doubt that they have even an inkling.  But I have no doubt that the lesson designing paper airplanes will be long remembered.

Mike, Fred and the Apperson Women

August 10th, 2017

University of Oregon

The plan was to meet Mike Lemeshko in Eugene yesterday to do a little research at the University of Oregon.  Mike, whose recent quest for information about Judge John Briscoe led him to write a book, (The Cantankerous Farmer vs. The Ilwaco Railway & Navigation Company and the rest of his neighbors on the Long Beach Peninsula) and form the ‘Friends of the Briscoe Burying Ground, is on another quest – this time for information about B.A. Seaborg of the Aberdeen Packing Co. and other early canneries along the Columbia. .

My interest was in finding more information about my Jefferson and Apperson forebears.  Nyel was going along for moral support.  But, as is often the case with us these days, we couldn’t keep our date.  So, Mike (bless him!) went on his own and actually did a bit of digging on my behalf, too. We had arranged to take a look at the Fred Lockley files which are housed at the Special Collections Library at the U of O.  According to Wikipedia:

Fred Lockley (March 19, 1871 – October 15, 1958) was an American journalist  best known for his editorial column for the Oregon Journal,  “Impressions and Observations of a Journal Man”, which appeared throughout the Western United States on a nearly daily basis. Lockley also authored many books which, like his articles, were largely about his travels and interviews with early settlers in the Willamette Valley.  It was said that he interviewed “bullwhackers, muleskinners, pioneers, prospectors, 49ers, Indian fighters, trappers, ex-barkeepers, authors, preachers, poets and near-poets”.[1] He also interviewed Thomas Edison, Booker T. Washington, Ezra meeker, Woodrow Wilson, Count Tolstoy, General Hugh Scott and Jack London.

One of the interviews that was published in Lockley’s Conversations with Pioneer Women” was done in the early 1900s with my great-grandmother’s aunt, Elvira, who described the hardships her mother had endured when she came across the plains and settled in Portland in 1847:

Jane Tubbs Apperson (1809 – 1859) My three-tims-great-grandmother

My father, Beverly Apperson was born in Virginia.  My mother, Jane Gilbert Tubbs was born in Tennessee.  They were married in Missouri along about 1830.  Father died on the wa aross the plains.  He died at the second crossing of Ham’s Fork.  We had two wagons so mother had the men take the wagon bed of one of them to make a coffin. She abandoned the running gear, the ox yokes and some of our outfit and we finished the trip with one wagon.  They dug the grave in the middle of the trail and buried father and when the grave was filled they corralled the oxen over the grave so the Indians would not find it and dig up the body to get the clothes. No, we couldn’t put up a headboard and after a few hundred wagons and long strings of oxen and loose cattle had passed over it, I doubt if we could have located the grave.

Mike sent two other Apperson interviews that I’ve not seen before –  one done with  two with Elvira’s sisters-in-law.  I am so grateful!  And so sorry I couldn’t be there to take a look for myself.  Maybe there will be a next time