Posts Tagged ‘Winter in Oysterville’

The Stove Saga Continues

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Let’s hear it for the new stove!

The good news is that at last we have a bright, new, working stove in our kitchen.  The semi-bad news is that a little cosmetic surgery is needed to make it fit perfectly.  But… not to worry.

It’s just a matter of moving the power outlet to the north so it will snug itself into the stove’s recessed area at the back allowing the range to fit flat against the wall.  As it is, there is a two-inch gap between stove and wall — easily camouflaged except that the drawers and cupboards adjacent to the stove’s front cannot fully open right now.  Never mind.  The electrician will come and fix us right up – this week or next.  When they have time.


Meanwhile, I’m experimenting with burners – which of the six will I use for this?  Or that?  How about the griddle?  Will it work any better than the one on the dreaded Samsung (now on its way to Samsung Hell)?  But it is the two ovens I’m most eager to try.  (OK, English critics — It “are” the two ovens????)  First, just the upper one.  Then just the lower one.  Then both at the same time at different temperatures.  The combinations seem endless!

Ready for Breakfast?

My only regret is that Chef Nyel isn’t here for the stove’s maiden voyage.  I thought about waiting for him to get home but we don’t really know how long that will be.  And, truth to tell, I’m kinda tired of cooking on a hot plate.  Besides which, so far, Nyel has very little appetite.  Right now, I’m blaming hospital food, but I’m not eager to find that he’d feel the same way about my cooking – even if I can master all those burners and ovens.

Otherwise?  For the first time since October 2017, we have a fully-functioning dual-fuel, double oven stove!  It’s beautiful!  (It’s a GE with and can be repaired right here in Oysterville, WA, America!  Fancy that!)   Hurry home, Nyel!  Playing French Chef is really a game for two or more, no matter how spiffy the stove!

On reflection…

Sunday, March 17th, 2019

The Original St. Vincent’s, 1909

Now that Nyel and I are safely in home territory, I have had a chance to think about our St. Vincent’s Experience more fully – to put it into some sort of context beyond Nyel’s very difficult fifteen days there.  The reality is that my relationship with that institution is very nearly ancestral.  In some ways, that hospital has been “part of our family” since it was dedicated on July 19, 1875.

By then, my great-grandfather R.H. Espy – who had co-founded Oysterville in 1854 – was 49 years old and he and my great-grandmother Julia (20 years his junior) were well into raising their family of eight children.  The up-and-coming city of Portland was the nearest go-to center for serious business like banking and lawyering and yearly shopping.   Like all pioneer families on the North Beach Peninsula, the Espys had a close relationship with Portland, and it stood to reason that the hospital would eventually take a place in their lives.

Aunt Veron Espy c. 1900

As far as I know, it wasn’t until their youngest child, Laura Ida Verona (by my time, always referred to as “Aunt Verona”) was born in 1885, did the family’s journeys upriver to Portland ever include doctoring.  But, by the time she was ten, it became apparent that “something was wrong” and the family’s association with St. Vincent’s Hospital began.  Aunt Verona apparently suffered from an ailment similar to multiple sclerosis, although it was never diagnosed as such, and she lived what was called “a sheltered life) until her death in 1925.  She spent time in and out of St. Vincent’s hospital and, by the time my mother and her siblings remembered, Aunt Verona always was accompanied by a nurse.  St. Vincent’s was credited with helping her live a fairly normal existence.

Fast forward to Oysterville in 1981.  Aunt Verona’s next oldest sibling, “Uncle Cecil” was then 94 years old, a retired banker from Portland, and living in Oysterville in the house where he had been born.  A widower, he lived alone, still mowed his lawn with an old-fashioned hand-mower, and conceded to “old age” only in his gruff acceptance to dinner invitations by my folks who lived two houses to the south.  One weekend when his daughter Barbara come to check on him, she found that he had his bags packed and was ready to return to Portland with her.

Albert Espy (Aug 1900 – Jan 1905)

“I believe I’m ready to die,” he told her, “and I want you to take me to St. Vincent’s.”  He was much surprised when Barbara told him that you couldn’t do that anymore.  He remembered that “back in the day,” that’s what old people did when they could no longer take care of themselves.  They moved into St. Vincent’s where nurses took care of them until they left this mortal coil.  The upshot was, Uncle Cecil put his suitcases into Barbara’s car and went home with her (not exactly what either of them had planned!) where he stayed until his death in June 1982.

My favorite family story about St. Vincent’s, though, has to do with my mother’s older brother Albert who had died of stomach cancer in January 1905.  He was not yet five years old.  During his final illness, my grandmother sat with him in his hospital room at St. Vincent’s and they watched some little boys playing outside in the snow.  “Maybe next year you can play outdoors with the children,” she said.

Sydney and Uncle Cecil, 1979

“Will they have snow in heaven?”” was Albert’s response.

All of these associations with St. Vincent’s – right up to my beloved uncle Willard’s new heart valve in the 1980s – were in my own heart and mind during our stay there these past weeks.  I’m so sorry that my feelings about that particular institution have been forever changed.  Thankfully, it is no longer the only option to us Oystervillians!

The Home Stretch

Friday, March 15th, 2019

Daffodils on Bay Avenue

What a difference a day makes!

Bright and early yesterday morning, after eleven days away from home, I headed for the beach to take care of a few necessities on the Homefront.  Like finally receiving delivery of our new, back-ordered-for-three-months stove and keeping an appointment or two of my own.  Nyel had given me a list of things to do and get for him, as well, and besides all that… we both felt that I had done all I could to get his care situation turned around.  It’s not that we had given up hope exactly… but we felt it might be time to let some dust settle on the hospital front.

My drive was uneventful weather and traffic-wise.  Until the home stretch!  I had stopped for a moment at the Ocean Park Library to pick up a book waiting for Nyel and then headed east on Bay Avenue, curious to see if Tom Downer’s daffodils were up and blooming.  Were they ever!  Hundreds of cheerful yellow blossoms filled the verge from Eric’s gallery to the Charles Nelson House at the corner of Bay and Sandridge.  Talk about a glorious welcome back to the beach!  OMG!

Better Than The Yellow Brick Road!

I arrived home about noon-thirty and called Nyel to see how it was going!  He hadn’t sounded so cheerful since my birthday night before TBH (The Broken Hip.)  Apparently, no sooner had I left but “everybody and his brother” – hospitalist, cardiologist, the orthopedic team, his current nurse, etc. etc. – crowded into his room.  No one called it the “Care Team Conference” (that we had been advocating for since Monday) but, that was what it seemed to be.  Everyone weighed into his progress, pro and con, and what the next steps should be!   YAY!

The decision was made to get him onto oral diuretics so he can be transferred to a rehab situation – maybe as early as today!!!  No sooner had they left than Nyel got a couple of phone calls – one from his cardiologist’s assistant in Seattle saying that his doctor was again offering to oversee his recovery (the heart aspects) long distance and, hard on the heels of that, a call from our Primary Caregiver in Ilwaco who said he would be comfortable working with the cardiologist and managing things from this end.  So… it looks as though Nyel might still wind up in rehab at the Ocean Beach Hospital in Ilwaco!  Double Yay!

The Rose City Mixed Quartet

About that time, the Rose City Mixed Quartet arrived to serenade Nyel (!!!) and the Physical Therapist who happened to be working with him right then (and who also belongs to a singing group in Portland) joined in on the madrigal “Paul and His Chickens.”  (Nyel said, “She later told me that it had been the BEST day of her entire working career!”)

When I checked back with Nyel in the evening, he said that the day just kept getting better and better.  Sue and Bill stopped by in the afternoon and stayed for a couple of hours.  “You have to share that chocolate,” I told him.  “How did you know they brought some?” he laughed.  “I know Sue and Bill…” was my response.

Waiting for Farmer Nyel

We realize that things can change in a trice, but we are both feeling so much more hopeful now than we were twenty-four hours ago.  “What do you think caused all the turn-arounds with the St. V’s people?” I asked Nyel.  “I haven’t a clue,” was his response.  As usual, they didn’t explain themselves and Nyel didn’t feel he had much part of the decision-making process.  But… that entire concern is moot for the moment.  I’m heading back to Portland and hope to return with the ever-patient patient before too many more clucks and cock-a-doodle-dos from Farmer Nyel’s flock.

Oh yes… the stove couldn’t be installed yesterday – they brought the wrong connecting parts…  But even that didn’t mar the joyous thought that things are finally turning around for Nyel.  And did I say that neighbors Carol and Tucker had me over for the best dinner I’ve had in since February 28th?  It really was a day to hold in my heart!

Sleeping on Chairs and Other Indignities

Monday, March 11th, 2019

Sleeping Sydney 2-11-19

Well, it ain’t the life of Riley, this hospital living.  For me it’s a bit of a combination between camping and being homeless.  For Nyel is it’s a lot like being in an institution run by the deaf and dumb.  (Forget politically correct.  All that terminology and, especially the HIPPA stuff. does nothing but impede progress we have found.)

So, the/camping/homeless thing is my bailiwick.  I did a lot of camping back in the day when that was our only choice for a vacation.   We could never afford a tent so, when rainstorms caught us in the middle of the night, it was often sleep on the cement floor of the john or curl up in the back seat of our VW bug.  Here at St. Vincent’s my choices, by comparison, are quite luxurious – the primitive (“makes-my hips-hurt-to-look-at-it” according to Pat Thomas) recliner chair, or the extra wide chair with arms or the plain old institutional armless chair.  I’ve made do with each.

I’m the one, also, dealing with “all” my personal possessions – my purse, my toiletries kit, my meds, my laptop, my cell phone (never mind that I have to go to the lobby for service) and my change of clothes.  I’m not concerned that anyone will take this meager collection, but meager is definitely the operable road.  I grabbed what I could think of for the projected three- day stay.  It’s now been seven (for me; ten for Nyel) and anyway, why was it I thought one pair of sox would do??? I should have thought to bring a grocery cart.

Nyel, of course, is given everything he needs – except water which is restricted.  His difficulties are more serious than keeping track of his worldly goods It’s more like trying to hold the hospital staff responsible for his lack of progress.

“Everyone is different” is their mantra, on the one hand.  “Most people respond to…” is their conflicting excuse.  So… they keep him on meds that work for “everyone else” but obviously don’t work for Nyel – the same meds his doctors took him off long ago because (here’s the deaf part) THEY DON’T WORK FOR NYEL

The dumb part is how they make Nyel feel for trying to explain “their” job to them.  Like Nyel hasn’t been paying attention during the fifteen years he’s been dealing with these issues?  So far, not one of the eight doctors who have seen him (about evenly divided between orthopedic and cardiology) have paid attention to what Nyel has told him about his reactions to certain drugs, which regimen has been successful, etc.  They have chosen to “start from the very beginning” and Nyel, consequently, has regressed.

All I can say is… it’s a good thing I learned long ago to sleep wherever I need to and that Nyel is basically a non-violent person.  Otherwise, this “Monday Report” might be coming to you from a different kind of institution – a homeless shelter for me or jail for Nyel.

On a scale of one to ten…

Saturday, March 9th, 2019

Daytime: Nyel’s Chair at St. V’s

Hospitals are, at once, busy and boring places to be.  At times, usually from four to six in the morning, there is a regular parade coming in to poke, prod, and otherwise check on patient progress.  The phlebotomist is usually first, taking precious vials of blood back to the lab so various tests can be made and “the numbers” can be sent to the doctor in time for him/her to give updated orders for the day. Then comes the nurse’s aide to weigh the patient, followed by the nurse who takes “the vitals” – blood pressure and temperature and, sometimes, a measurement of urine output.

All the weights and measures along with various comments and notes are dutifully put into the computer for the care team’s reference.  Sometimes the doctor actually appears in person to talk over the plan of action for the day but, usually, “doctor’s orders” are delivered electronically and the patient is informed of treatment adjustments by the nurse. Questions are fielded back to the doctor and may or may not be answered in a timely manner.

In our experience, which unfortunately is considerable, breakfast arrives around seven in most hospitals – unless they are holding all food intake for an upcoming “procedure.”  The food and the processes surrounding it – the ordering, the delivery, the tray collection – are probably the least standardized of all the routines.  In this hospital, someone comes in person around ten in the morning to take the patient’s food order for lunch, for dinner, and for the next day’s breakfast.  There is no food service for guests.

The day continues with various procedures, bedside consultations, exercises, medication deliveries, measurements of vital signs etc.  During the down times, which are few, Nyel dozes and I go off to one of the hospital cafeterias to get grab a meal or coffee to bring back and eat in the room.  (In this hospital, I feel the need to be present and accounted for as much as possible.)

Nighttime: Sydney’s Bed at St. V’s

This is the seventh hospital Nyel has been in during the last ten years.  We find ourselves staving off the boredom between spates of activity by playing the Compare and Contrast Game – from the way the hospital organizes its staff to the quality of the meals and the attitudes of the workers.  And, of course, to their treatment of family members and patient advocates.  “On a scale of one to ten…” our conversations often begin.

Mostly we compare the amenities for patients – which, after all, should be hospital’s major focus.  But in this day and age when it seems universally recognized that family members and loved ones play an important role in a patient’s recovery, Nyel and I also discuss accommodations made for the non-patient team member (that would be me).

For overnight stays in the patient’s room, some hospitals offer cots and, in some, the nurses even make them up with sheets and blankets.  Usually, though, this is a do-it-yourself operation, which is fine and understandable. In other facilities, it might be a window seat that is offered for guest-sleeping or, here at St. V’s, a chair that (sort of) makes into a bed. Here, there is also the option of a motel-like facility across the street (if space is available), but then you can’t be on hand when things might be happening.  On a scale of one to ten…

We’ve toyed with the idea of writing a Patient’s Guide – sort of the hospital equivalent to Consumer’s Report.  Unfortunately, though, when you need a hospital, you aren’t often in a position to pick and choose.

Underwhelmed at St. Vincent’s

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

Nyel at St. Vincent’s 3-6-19

So far here at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Portland, it’s been a matter of hurry up and wait.  Nyel was ambulanced here from the Ocean Beach Hospital ER late Thursday night.  He had a badly broken hip.  His surgery took place Friday morning.  The surgeon called me during the procedure to ask if, prior to his fall, he had been complaining about his knee.  It was an inauspicious beginning.

The surgeon was unaware that Nyel has had two (ultimately unsuccessful) surgeries to repair his quadriceps which failed following a knee replacement in 2010.  “I just wondered if this break to his hip somehow caused an injury to his quadriceps,” he said.  Obviously, he didn’t get the patient’s medical history…

Since the surgery, Nyel’s blood pressure has plummeted to the point that they cannot safely have him stand so he can begin walking – an urgent priority, it seems, after hip surgery.  Over the last three days they have given him five units of blood, two boluses (intravenously delivered saline solutions) and encouraged him to drink fluids to the point that he felt sick and could not eat for two days.  All this to get his blood pressure up.

Broken Hip Repair

They have stopped getting him up to stand on the scales (because of lightheadedness from low blood pressure) but as of day before yesterday, he had gained 17 pounds of weight (from fluids) in twenty-four hours.  This morning: 25-pound weight gain over his ‘protocol’ weight at which point, in the normal course of events, his regular cardiologist wants him to double his ‘usual’ dosage of diuretics.  Here at St. Vincents, they have given him no diuretics, usual or otherwise – because of the blood pressure issue, they say.  “It’s a balancing act,” they tell us.

Since Sunday, I have requested that they bring a staff cardiologist in for a consult.  So far (this is Wednesday) that has not happened.  Because he has had congestive heart failure for five years and is on a strict protocol regarding weight gain from fluids, I’ve asked why they have stopped his regular regimen of diuretics.  “We are waiting to see…” is the answer.  “Could he please talk to a cardiologist?” I ask.   “Yes, we’ve noted your concern…” is the answer.  “Maybe today…”

First Steps

Always ‘The Plan’ seems to be “let’s wait to see if this transfusion (or this orange juice or this Gatorade) will help.”  They’ve taken hm off all pain meds and muscle relaxants though his pain level is elevated from muscle spasming.  “Analgesics tend to lower blood pressure.  Let’s see if eliminating them will help,” they say.  Each time I ask for a cardiologist’s input they say, “You have the absolute right to advocate for your loved one.”  (Duh!)  Somehow, my advocacy is going nowhere at all.

Nyel told me a few minutes ago that he’d like to be moved to the Seattle Medical Center where his cardiologist is.  If they can’t honor his request to bring a cardiologist in from another floor in this very hospital, I wonder what response he will get to the transfer request…

I keep thinking about the Hippocratic mantra, “Do no harm.”  I wonder where that fits into the St. Vincent’s picture.

Birthday Bash and Late Night Crash!

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

Sydney’s Birthday Dinner

On balance… but that was part of the trouble.  My birthday began well enough.  Almost.  It was to be the Christmas we were unable to have with Charlie and Marta but only Charlie could come.  Still, Nyel made reservations at the Bridgewater Bistro, Cate filled in for Marta,and we met Patty and Noel for a marvelous dinner with visiting by Tony and Ann thrown in.  And Dave Drury and his trio played Happy Birthday!  To Me!

Andrew Emlen of the Skamokawa Swamp Opera

We got home about nine – pitchy black outside.  Nyel took the flashlight and went to check on the chickens.  It seemed to be taking him a long time.  I looked out the east window and could see his light but it wasn’t moving.  Just then my phone rang.  “I’ve fallen.  I think I broke my hip.”  I called 911.  Charlie grabbed blankets.  (It was below freezing but, fortunately, the grass where he had fallen was fairly dry.) Aid Car.  Ocean Beach Hospital ER.  X-rays.  Bad break. Yes, hip.

Charlie Visits Nyel at St. Vincents

Nyel was ambulanced to St. Vincent’s in Portland where he had surgery on Friday morning. Blood pressure plummeted.  Much concern.  Charlie and I feeling helpless at the hospital.  Sunday, no improvement.  Charlie and I went home to host an SRO House Concert for the Skamokawa Swamp Opera. (Fabulous!) Phone calls to the hospital before, during, after.  No improvement.  Transfusions.

One Step at a Time

Monday Charlie and I caravanned into Portland.  Nyel feeling lousy but sitting up and actually walking ever-so-slowly with a walker.  I am staying until he is ready to go home; Charlie said his goodbyes and back to L.A.  “I think we have to stop celebrating Christmas – no matter what time of year it is,” he said.  And we both remembered Christmas of 2016 when Nyel went into congestive heart failure and this merry minuet of hospital stays began.

Damn!  Damn!  Damn! This gentlest of gentlemen has had way more than his share.  We’d gladly give up Christmases and Birthdays, too, for Nyel’s good health.

Conflicted & Confused about Kid Safety

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Keeping its children safe is one of the paramount responsibilities of a society.  No sane person would argue that belief.  But it’s the how question that is usually the sticking point.

When I read of the Ocean Beach School District’s proposed two-point-five-million-dollar bond in yesterday’s Chinook Observer, I was aghast at my own reaction.  Total conflict!  How, I wondered to myself, can our community agree to pay for all the safety measures outlined in the article when our own recently elected sheriff is hedging on the gun control initiative just passed by the state?  (And, make no mistake about it, the proposed school bond and our attitudes concerning gun control are  inexplicably related.)

To be clear:  I voted for Sheriff Robin Souvenir.  And I voted in favor of gun control Initiative 1639.  The initiative is now being challenged in court and our sheriff, along with many others in the state, is not willing to enforce its provisions until it works its way through the courts.  It confuses me when the very people we elect to oversee enforcement of the laws that keep us safe decide, instead, to interpret them or to “wait” for further clarification.

I am conflicted, too, by the “safety” measures that are being proposed to protect our children.  One entry point into our school buildings, a full-time ‘resource officer,’ security cameras, improved lighting and fencing, etc. etc.?  Sounds a lot like a prison to me.  So… until we can come to grips with the root cause of our school safety problems, we plan to imprison our children?

Frankly, that’s not how I want to spend my money and it’s not how I want the next generations of children to grow up. And, yes, I’ve heard all the arguments put out by the NRA and their followers.  Not one of those self-serving reasons answers my concerns about locking our children up to keep them safe.  Not one.

Back in the Swing!

Sunday, February 24th, 2019

By Vicki Carter

As I looked around the room to see where Nyel had gotten to, I was overtaken by such a joyous and familiar feeling!  We were at the Art Opening at the Picture Attic surrounded by familiar faces, Fred Carter’s music, walls of bright, inviting paintings and… around the corner a huge table laden with finger foods of every description.  And there was Nyel – on his own two feet, looking over the food possibilities with great interest.

This was our first actual “outing” since Nyel broke his leg on October 3rd.  During the first three months, while he was wheelchair-bound, our only forays beyond the house were the obligatory doctor visits.  More recently, he’s been transitioning to leg-brace and cane, but still in the house.  Last night, though… wow!  Everyone at the Picture Attic was there for the Art Show, but in my mind, it was Nyel’s coming out (in the old-fashioned ‘into society’ sense) party!

(And, speaking of ‘old-fashioned, I just hate it that I feel compelled to explain what I mean these days when I use perfectly good expressions like “coming out.”  So many words and phrases seem to have been co-opted by younger generations and now have taken on new and, sometimes, nefarious meanings.  But I digress.)

Jean Nitzel

I felt that things were absolutely back to normal!  Me, hugging and schmoozing and enjoying the people.  Nyel, gravitating toward a quieter space and the food!  Both of us taking in the art and thinking to ourselves that we’d have to come back to really see what was there.  And both of us gratified in ways that we probably can’t explain that our long-time friend, recently-widowed Jean Nitzel, Picture Attic owner and hostess of the evening’s event, looked to be glowing in the success of the evening!  Another community role model, for sure!

We didn’t stay long but it was a start.  A re-entry into the fun of the Peninsula!  Bring it on!

Ka-ching! Ka-ching!

Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

1904 Cash Register

Tucker outdid himself last night for his weekly “show and tell” part of our Friday Night Gathering!  In fact, when the time came, he had to go home and bring the mystery object over in his car.  “It was too heavy to carry,” he told us and, as always, acted as though we might not really have time for this weekly highlight.

He brought it in covered in a blanket and set it on the floor. The rest of us were totally mystified until he revealed… an old-fashioned cash brass register that was so shiny bright that there was an involuntary “Ohhh!” from the nine of us onlookers.  What a beauty!

But it wasn’t until he pressed the ‘Total’ button and the cash drawer opened with that never-to-be-forgotten “Ka-ching” sound that our nostalgia really kicked in.  All of us were old enough to remember the days when purchases were made with real money and almost every store had a cash register – but perhaps not as grand as this one.

It was made by the National Cash Register Company (which is still in business after 135 years, though now owned by AT&T.).  According to the label on the bottom of the cash drawer, the register had been manufactured in 1904 for a specific (unnamed)c company who, as part of the terms of purchase, was obligated to buy any supplies such as ink and paper (cash register tape) solely from the National Cash Register Company.  Ditto any repairs to the register.

The highest amount on any key was $1 which made $1.98 the largest sale that could be rung up.  This caused Tucker to believe that perhaps this particular register had been manufactured for a five-and-ten cent store – back in the day when most items at such a shop did, indeed, cost a nickel or a dime.

We all agreed that it was one of the best “show and tell” items ever from Tucker’s collection.  Surely, he’ll never top this one!  (But… we’ve said that before.)