Posts Tagged ‘Nyel’

Reunited At Last!

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

Coopward Bound!

Yesterday, with very little fanfare, Nyel mounted his Knee Scooter and headed east.  Through the south garden, over our scraggly winter lawn and down to the chicken coop.  The girls and boys, ever attuned to goings-on beyond the coop, gathered at the hog-wire fencing and watched his approach.  They were quiet – perhaps awe struck – as they tried to figure out what was coming their way.

I thought briefly of the rabbits in Watership Down and their fear of motor vehicles which they called hrududil (plural for hrududu.)  I wondered what chickens would call a knee scooter and if they even recognized that it was Farmer Nyel who was propelling it.  As always, it’s hard to tell with chickens.  It was even hard to tell with Farmer Nyel – I don’t know if he was expecting a little more fluff and flurry after his three-and-a-half-month absence.

Waiting for Farmer Nyel

Perhaps of greater importance to the flock was their release from confinement.  As soon as I was safely back in the house and out of harm’s way from that killer rooster, Farmer Nyel opened the gate and let them into the yard – also a first in three-and-a-half months.  He reports that they were initially a bit tentative but, with the enticement of some scratch, they were soon off and pecking – Backyard Chickens once more, ‘just as God intended” as our friend Ti would say.

Nyel spent an hour or more doing his Farmer due diligence – cleaning the coop, putting fresh cedar shavings on the floor and in the nest boxes and, generally checking things out. As requested, he called from his cell phone when he was ready to head back to the house.  I wanted a picture of Farmer and Flock and was willing to brave a confrontation with you-know-who to document this big red-letter day.


But, no worries.  When Farmer Nyel paused in his homeward trek, all seven chickens gathered round for the offered treats with ‘nary a glance at me.  The little red hen even ate from his hand just as she had done in the past.  Who knew there was enough memory space in that teeny-tiny brain to remember that trick!  Nyel didn’t let on but I’m pretty sure he was pleased.  As for the chickens… I’d wager they were, too.

Noreen, Nordstrom’s, and Nowadays

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

BIG but Too Small

“It ain’t like it used to be” is almost a mantra in our household these days – a sure sign that we’ve grown long in the tooth and, probably, not gracefully.  This morning it had to do with Nyel’s current foot and shoe problems.

Although he has his surgeon’s okay to put weight on his foot, he is finding it impossibly painful to do so.  As in so many problems to do with health and lack thereof, the reasons for this are probably multiple, arthritis being the main culprit.  For years now, Nyel has worn custom-made orthotic inserts in his shoes which help alleviate said pain but, currently, his left foot is so swollen that he cannot get his shoe on.  The reason for the swelling says his primary care doctor is “a combination of surgery aftermath and his congestive heart failure problems.”  Great.

First Nordstrom Store Seattle

“Maybe you’ll have to have a custom-made shoe,” said I (helpfully, I hoped.)  Nyel already wears a size 13 Triple E which is the largest he’s been able to find in the type of shoe he needs. There was a long silence following my suggestion.  You know – that kind of silence which tells you that you have been the opposite of helpful.  But then the conversation segued into “remember when Nordstrom used to specialize in foot and shoe problems?”

Nyel got his first Nordstrom credit card (which they won’t let him use anymore) in 1966 – just three years after the (then) 55-year-old store had begun carrying some items of women’s clothing.  They had started as a shoe store, Wallin and Nordstrom, in 1901 and prided themselves on service.  As we “remembered” all that, Noreen came into the conversation.

Noeeen Robinson (1925-2006)

Noreen Robinson had suffered from polio as a child and it left her with disparate sized feet.  She once told me that she had always purchased her shoes at Nordstrom – the left shoe and the right shoe each from a different pair.  And even though they had to break up two pairs to make the sale, Nordstrom’s only charged her for one pair.  Noreen swore by Nordstrom!

Now that they are digitized, incorporated, up-scaled, and out of our network, we doubt that their customer service extends as far as it did in Noreen’s time.  But… maybe it’s worth a phone call to see what would be entailed in getting a custom-made shoe.  Especially if elevating, wrapping, icing, and all other shrinking methods don’t work.  But… I suspect we’ll find “it ain’t like it used to be.”

Cruising Toward 2019

Monday, December 10th, 2018

Today is a Red Letter Day of sorts.   Nyel is taking the driver’s seat!  Literally!  It will be the first time since his Big Fall on October 3rd – the one that resulted in his complicated leg break – even though his surgeon said that he could drive as long as he wasn’t taking opioid pain meds.  He hasn’t and isn’t and, though I am reluctant to admit it, I’ve been the one that has encouraged him to continue being chauffeured.  By me.

We both recognize that we are victims of one of those automatic hovering mothering mechanisms that kicks in whenever someone (other than me) in the household becomes impaired.  Nyel has learned that it’s easier to take a “whatever…” attitude than to deal with my fussing and, so it is, that I’ve been doing all the driving.  Until today.  When the EMTs arrive to transfer Nyel into the car, it will be to ease him behind the wheel!  He’s more than ready.  I am resigned.

I see it as one of those necessity things.  I have an eye appointment across the river – a biggee to check my glaucoma, dry eye, peripheral vision etc. etc.  There will be drops.  In the past it has been my experience that I do not see well enough to drive safely for twenty-four hours or so after such an appointment.  So… today is the day that Nyel re-enters the mainstream, so to speak.  I console myself that, after all, it’s his left leg that isn’t operable, plus we have an automatic transmission and cruise control.  No problem, right?

And besides all of the above, today marks the “less than a month to go” before his next appointment with his surgeon and, presumably, his release from this “non-weight-bearing on the left leg” sentence.  January 9th will be the next Red Letter Day!  Woot! Woot!

Does Nyel need any help?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

A Guy Thing

The phone rang mid-afternoonish.  “I just read your blog.  Does Nyel need any help putting that KneeRover together?” asked Tucker.

“I’m not sure.  Why don’t you come over and find out?” was my response.  I was in my studio, hard at it, and went right back to work.  It was probably an hour before I thought to go see what was happening in the rest of the house and when I did, there they were – Nyel and Tucker and the all-but-assembled skooter.

I watched as Tucker attached the “training wheel” onto the left side of the rear wheel.  “For extra stability,” they told me.  “Do you have a tire pump?” Tucker asked as he checked the other three wheels.  The answer was “No” although I seem to remember that we do.  Somewhere.

No problem.  Tucker went home and got his.  It even has a pressure gauge which I’m pretty sure ours doesn’t.  Soon, each tire registered forty pounds as directed in the instruction manual and Tucker was off to the dining room on a test run.  His report: difficult on the carpet and doesn’t turn on a dime.  Not even a quarter.

Nyel was next.  Tucker and I hovered (no doubt uselessly) as the patient transferred himself from wheelchair to skooter more-or-less effortlessly, it seemed to me.  There was some experimenting with the height of the handlebars and… he was off!  It didn’t look easy and it didn’t look exactly fun.  Not on the carpet, anyway.

The best spin we could put on it was that it will definitely help him strengthen that right leg.  All the better for hopping down the step to the porch, anyway, and eventually off the porch onto the lawn.  That’s where the all-terrain skooter should really shine.  Meanwhile… a new toy in the neighborhood!  I wonder how many Friday Nighters will want to take a turn…

Hunger Strike? Not exactly…

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Satisfying Nyel’s Sweet Tooth

I didn’t have any dinner last night but I certainly didn’t go to bed hungry.  Bill and Sue had come visiting in the afternoon and brought a box of a dozen little frosted cupcakes – all beautiful, delicious, and totally decadent! – and I had eaten two of them.  Not enough to stave off the desire for a decent dinner but, the operable word here is … well, suffice it to say that it’s hospital food and I long ago ran out of options.

The thing is… over the last year (since Oct. 4, 2016) we have been here at Emanuel Hospital for 66 days, mostly in increments of 5 or 6 days at a time.  That’s more-or-less 132 lunches and dinners.  On the “Guest Menu” there are four choices for those meals.  Not four for lunch and another four for dinner.  The same four choices for both meals:  1) Tillamook Cheeseburger; 2) Macaroni and Cheese; 3) Roast Turkey; 4) Northwest Salad.  Lunches and Dinners cost $10 each, cash on delivery.  It seemed reasonable enough at first.  Now… not so much.

Limited Choices

The meals are ‘passing fair’ as my mother would say of things that were barely okay.  But, even if I liked them all equally and alternated them evenly, that’s about as much hospital food (baked hamburger patty?  Soupy mac ‘n cheese?  One veggie choice – broccoli?) as I can stomach.  So… no dinner last night.

I hasten to say that the Patient Menu is entirely different, thankfully. Nyel has sixteen lunch and dinner choices as well as a “build your own sandwich’ option with multiple possibilities. Granted, it’s a heart healthy menu which means only, as far as we can tell, no salt.  Otherwise, it looks great and Nyel is quite happy with his meals.  The problem for me, of course, is that guests are not allowed to order from the patient menu.  Even if they pay.  The Kitchen Nazis won’t allow it.  Maddening.

There are options.  There are two cafes on the first floor.  One is a serve-yourself sort of buffet, on open for limited hours only.  I have checked it out and put the entire place in my mental round file.  Dreadful!  The other possibility is the Heartbeat Café.  Again, limited choices (and hardly gourmet) but when I really am wanting a Caesar salad (and have a momentary lapse, forgetting that it will be just a pile of wilted lettuce with some shredded bits of parmesan cheese) I do venture forth.

Pesto Pasta

I could, of course, take the car and go ‘out’ for a meal now and then but it just doesn’t seem worth the effort.  Plus, I’m not a huge fan of eating alone in a strange restaurant.  And, it’s not that friends (bless them!) haven’t offered to come whisk me away for a meal.  But, that seems way too much ‘all about me’ when the whole reason for being here is to support my honey.

However, there is one option left which I’m thinking of exercising today.  Calling for take-out service!   I have a hankerin’ for a big serving of pasta with pesto sauce and an order of garlic bread.  And maybe a tossed green salad (hold the lettuce??).  I Googled ‘takeout food near me’ and found a half-dozen possibilities from an Olive Garden to a pasta bistro that will deliver right to Nyel’s hospital room.  Yay for the Big City!

Virtually Climate Controlled

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

The View From Nyel’s Room

We’ve only been outside the walls of the hospital once in the last twelve days.  For me, that has been a choice.  Not so, of course, for patient Nyel.

For one thing, his heart is under constant surveillance by dint of (now there’s an expression you don’t hear very much these days!) a heart monitor that he wears in the pocket of his hospital gown. Five ‘leads’ go to sticky patches affixed to his chest and his heartbeat is magically transmitted to a monitoring station down the hall.  Unless he has permission from his doctor, Nyel must stay ‘within  range’ which, basically, is this particular unit of the hospital.

Neither of us feels in the least bit stir-crazy.  There is always something interesting going on and the people with whom we interact – from doctors and nurses and pharmacists to housekeepers and education specialists and food servers – are personable and often entertaining.  Between times, Nyel dozes and I work on various writing projects.  Although Nyel brought a book to read, he has not yet opened it.  Nor is the TV a temptation – not until time for the evening news and Jeopardy.

Out Nyel’s Window

The room is comfortable temperature-wise.  There is a thermostat with numbers and gauges so tiny as to be unreadable for our old eyes.  And, besides, it’s in centigrade.  We are pretty much oblivious of the outside weather except when we purposely look out our window.  We’ve noted intermittent rain, clouds, sunshine.  No wind which, as I think about it, is the biggest difference from the weather at home – that and the somewhat warmer temperatures, only known to us by checking the weather apps on our cell phones.

Day before yesterday, Nyel got permission to go out of monitoring range so that we could visit the Children’s Garden.  We can see it from our window and Nyel had noted that the sunshine was making its way to an inviting looking bench.  That’s where we headed – down five flights in the elevator, turn left, a short walk to the Garden entrance, and then a few more steps to the bench!  Ahhh!  Sunshine!  We took a few selfies…  and looked like moles seeing the sun for the first time.

Squinting Selfie

I wonder if this is the life in store for future generations.  Living in a climate controlled environment, self-contained against the havoc wreaked on our planet by the non-believers and the greedy and the all-about-me generations.  But with benches and fake trees in virtual gardens instead of real ones…  I wonder if that would be better than the alternative.  But… I digress.

Day Five, Stay Seven, Legacy Emanuel

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Nyel and Nurses

There don’t seem to be many new faces in Unit 53 this time.  Nyel (and I, by default) knows most of the nurses and they all seem delighted (in an apologetic way) to see him again.  He gets hugs and (maybe) special attention and I feel like I do, too.  For Nyel, it’s showing him pictures of their dogs; for me, it’s keeping me supplied with cups of decaf coffee – all above and beyond the call of duty.

Several of the doctors on the Legacy Medical Cardiology team have checked in, too – each with a warm handshake and a “remind me when we saw each other last.”  It’s reassuring to know that there are weighing in on Nyel’s situation.  Of the sixteen M.D.’s listed in Legacy’s cardiology provider group, nine have dealt with Nyel at one time or other!

Nyel on a Walk

The plan for this visit is to stabilize Nyel – get his exacerbated congestive heart failure under control – and then to decide whether or not he is ready for a mitral valve replacement or, in fact, if that is the direction to take at all.  With the data that’s been gathered so far. some team members feel one way; some another.  It will ultimately be a group decision, Nyel weighing in, as well – maybe as early as Friday with the possibility of the open-heart surgery in the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, we walk the halls, meet other patients and visitors on the same ‘exercise program,’ spend untold hours napping (Nyel) and trying to stay focused on various writing projects (me).  There are many pleasant distractions during the day.   Day before yesterday the sous chef even came up from the kitchen to straighten out a mix-up in our dinner order!  The housekeepers, meal service employees, and electrical technicians also stop to chat, welcoming us back as much as you can ‘welcome’ a frequent-flyer patient.

Another Visitor

Speaking of “frequent,” Nyel has even proposed a sort of rewards punch card – nine visits and the tenth one is free!  Everyone thinks that’s a fine plan – but no-one has offered to pitch it to the powers-that-be who are probably, (bottom line) Medicare.  Speaking of which… the loudspeaker announced early this morning that the “Joint Commission” is visiting today and “Please welcome them.”

We asked and were told it’s a sort of inspection team, here to see if this is a good place for people experiencing chest pain to be.  Can’t speak to that specifically – Nyel has not ever experienced chest pain, thank goodness!  But we can certainly attest to this being a great place to be if a hospital is in your future.  If the Commission asks us, we’ll give Legacy Emanuel high marks!


No matter what, it’s still scary!

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

The routine has become all too familiar.  Wait and wait and wait until the nurses come up from the first floor to wheel Nyel to the cath lab*.  I follow behind, into the service elevator, down four stories and to the outside of the big double doors.  “This is where we part company,” they say.  “Time to send him off with a kiss.”

I watch as they wheel Nyel on through and wait a few moments while they bring me a pager.  It looks a lot like the ones you are given when you wait for a table at the Outback. But I know from past experience that any similarity ends when the pager goes off.  The one I will be carrying around with me for the next few hours absolutely vibrates right out of your grasp if you are not careful, and the alarm is so loud that everyone around you leaps to attention.  It is scary-to-the-max!

“Past Experience.”   Those are the operable words.  This is Nyel’s second trip to the cath lab during this hospital stay and we think (we’ve sort of lost count) it’s his fifth since October. The first time and these two recent times were to send a teeny-tiny camera (and other measuring equipment?) up through an artery from groin to heart.

On the second occasion, a surgeon reamed out a calcified artery with a teeny-tiny drill (also sent up the artery from groin to heart) and placed four stents**.  Nyel’s third and longest stay (nine hours!) in the cath lab was for an ablation*** during which another surgeon used a teeny-tiny laser tool to modify individual cells in various places in his heart.

Yesterday’s procedure was so short by comparison to the others, it was hard to believe it was over.  Plus, the scary pager never went off.  I had hardly returned to the Cath Lab Waiting Area after a Caesar salad in the Heart Beat Café when here came Nyel’s doctor, all smiles.  I very nearly said to him, “Wait a minute.  Aren’t you supposed to be in the Cath Lab with Nyel?”  But, he looked so pleased and was so eager to tell me that Nyel’s heart looked better than it had since February, that I just smiled and smiled right along with him.

Home today!  Woot! Woot!

*A catheterization laboratory or cath lab is an examination room in a hospital or clinic with diagnostic imaging equipment used to visualize the arteries of the heart and the chambers of the heart and treat any stenosis or abnormality found.

** Stents are small, expandable tubes, usually made of metal mesh, put into arteries in a procedure called a percutaneous coronary intervention or, its more common name, angioplasty.

***Cardiac ablation uses long, flexible tubes (catheters) inserted through a vein or artery in the groin and threaded to the heart to deliver energy in the form of heat or extreme cold to modify the tissues in the heart that cause an arrhythmia.

H is for… Hospital!

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

When you spend as much time in the hospital – especially the same hospital and in the same unit – as Nyel has this year, you begin to make friends with some of the staff.   Once in a while, you get a little glimpse of life on the other side of the hospital bed, so to speak… as in this story that happened shortly before we arrived last week:

It seems there was a guy in another unit (had a broken leg or two and an eyepatch) who commandeered a wheelchair and speed-raced to a nearby convenience store.  There, he bought an ‘adult beverage’ and concealed it in a paper bag, and proceeded to drink it on his leisurely return to his room.  Another convenience store customer (who happened to be a hospital employee) saw and reported the episode…  Busted!  Immediate discharge.

I’ve always thought that those scenes in the movies where old guys unplug their IVs and sneak out in a load of laundry (“The Bucket List” with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman comes to mind) were just figments of the silver screen.  Not so, apparently!  And those aren’t the worst transgressions.  There’s also the matter of civility and just plain good manners.

A day or so ago, when one of our nurses learned that I am a writer, she told me about a project she was working on – a little three-fold brochure for incoming patients.  “Basically,” she said, “it points out that this is not a hotel, nor is it a prison.  It gives patients a little idea of what to expect while they are here and a few guidelines for how to behave.”  I was amazed and all ears.  I had no idea that people would need ‘instructions’ on hospital etiquette.  And I had no idea that the need has seriously escalated in the last two years.  Here, like in every other public venue, people seem to feel empowered to show their ugly sides.

“Would you be willing to read our first draft?”  Absolutely! I was pleasantly surprised and pleased at the patient-friendly, cleverly illustrated leaflet I was shown.  It reminded patients, directly and kindly, about all manner of hospital do’s and don’ts from the ‘no smoking campus’ to the possible necessity for dietary restrictions.  It described the special services that could be accessed and how to call for help – even reminding people that the use of profanity or racist comments is not acceptable.  I found it well-written (one typo only!) informative, and totally inoffensive.

Yet, I was saddened that basic public etiquette has to be written out these days.  Especially for those whose lives may depend upon being here.  No wonder staff members, from pharmacists to housekeepers, tell Nyel what a pleasure it is to deal with him.  We had no idea!

Nyel’s Ford 8N

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010
Nyel and the Ford 8N

     About fifteen years ago, we journeyed to Molalla, Oregon where Nyel bought an old Ford 8N tractor.  Trailering it back to Oysterville was a scary story in itself, but we all arrived safely and our tractor adventure began in earnest.  Little did I know that our life would take on a whole new dimension.
     First of all, Ford 8Ns were made from 1947 to 1952 and became the top-selling individual tractor model of all time in North America.  They were equipped with running boards, were painted gray on the sheet metal and red on the body and were known as the ‘Red Belly’ model. The 8N was the first Ford tractor to feature a clutch on the left and independent brakes on the right.  Nyel was in seventh heaven with his new acquisition.
     Soon, we were getting the “N-News: The Magazine for the Ford Tractor Enthusiast.”  We began watching “Classic Tractor Fever” on RFD Channel.  And, of necessity, Nyel took up tinkering. Not that the tractor didn’t perform wonderfully some of the time!  We were living on the bay about a mile south of Oysterville then and Nyel and the 8N were able to keep our field mowed and could deal with the potholes in our gravel road. 
     Occasionally, the needs of the tractor were beyond him and he would take it to Guelfi’s Service Station in Ocean Park.  (Guelfi’s was the last of the real service stations at the north end of the peninsula.  Ed Guelfi could fix almost any tractor – or car! – problem.  Plus he pumped gas.  None of that serve-yourself nonsense.)  When we moved into the family house in Oysterville, the tractor moved with us.
     In town, the 8N took on a somewhat more glamorous persona.  She ‘lived’ in the meadow in front of our house and became another of the village tourist attractions.  Old farmers stopped and talked to Nyel about her.  Parents had their kids climb on her and pose for photographs.  Artists set up their easels and painted her portrait.
     She eventually stopped running altogether.  By that time Ed Guelfi had moved back to New York and Nyel couldn’t find anyone interested in reviving her.  We began to have discussions as to whether she was ‘yard art’ or an ‘attractive nuisance.’  Finally, we found a buyer who wanted her for parts.  Sold!  But not without a lot of angst and soul-searching