Friday, September 28, 2007

Needles to say....

My life has been full of hospitals, Doctors visits, and major surgery so I'm no stranger to the "patient" view of the healthcare industry, but I've not been a "patient" at Mayo Clinic very often - especially not for serious things as I was today. But as in all things, I find humor in my latest adventure.

I've been having a great deal of pain and trouble with my "good" hip the last several months. I guess I'll have to find something new to name it, because it is being very naughty now. I guess, like every teenager, it had to find its time to rebel. It supported it's lesser sibling, the "bad" hip for years and years.

And when we took the "bad" hip away and brought in a titanium replacement, "good" hip didn't complain. Nay, it bucked up under the pressure of having to support ALL of me - and I am not a small person! It performed beautifully all those 10 years ago. "Good" hip was only 33 at the time of this major test to it's strength and when I made it through a very long and arduous recovery I thought to myself: "Self: You've got one really great hip who is willing to go the extra mile for you. You should be very thankful!" And I was.

But there is one thing I didn't do for "good" that with my 20/20 hindsight vision I can see clearly now. I should have taken better care of it and not assumed it would be there for me for the rest of my life. All relationships are fragile, and extreme care must be administered to ensure their health and happiness, and this relationship I've had with "good" is no different.

Over the past several months, "good" has been giving me the signs of a mid-life crisis, but I ignored them. I wasted 10 years ignoring them and not doing the right thing by "good." So, I went to see an orthopedic doc on Monday. I actually have an appt. with the Dr. who pioneered hip replacements, but that's not until October. This appointment with a different Dr. came about because of an extremely painful episode that left me unable to put any weight on "good" at all.

The nurse told me to remove my pants and put on these ugly little shorts. I complied. So there I am, with a business suit top on, and the ugliest pair of cotton shorts that aren't even the same color. Below that, my knee high nylons and dress shoes. What a sight! The shorts, however, were a size too small. I sat down and rip...the back of the seam ripped. Yes, I'm fat. But to my defense, they were TOOO small and already very worn and frayed. I'm sure I just found the one weak spot in that lousy pair of shorts, right? I spyed the forbidden drawer under the examination know the've always wanted to snoop in those drawers but were afraid to be caught! I was more afraid to be discovered that I was fat and busted a pair of shorts so I dove for the drawer. I rummaged through it, destroying any bit of sterilization they may have had. I checked the sizes on each of them. S. Nope, not me. XS. Definitely not me. XXS? i didn't even know they made people that skinny! Then I found a M. Well, that's a step in the right direction. Did I tell you I was already in an XL? Then I found them, the oversized group. Hiding (or should I say shoved) in the back of the drawer. I felt a flood of relief - which of course was short lived. 4XL. 3XL. What the *&^%??? Who are these giants that fit in these, I thought? I could use it as a pup tent. I could fit both my children and myself in the 5XL I found! Yes, that's right, they make a 5XL. Do you think I could find ONE STINKING XXL?????? This is Mayo Clinic after all, and I work in the fundraising department - I know how much money we have raised for Orthopedics! You think SOMEONE could have stashed one lousy XXL in that drawer? Then it dawned on me - that drawer must be for the mis-fits in our society - there must be another drawer...

Before I had the chance to look - the door opened and there was the Doctor, and the obligatory student in tow. This is a teaching institution, so I've gotten used to having these silent guests in my examinations. Feeling awkward in my very tight shorts (except where my fat was protruding) I sat down on the bench and greeted them. When I sat, however, my feet were 8 inches from the floor! I started to believe this whole room was for mis-fits. As I sat there with the Dr. prodding and poking me, and talking to him about my history I realized how much of it sounded like a mis-fit and I was right where I belonged.

Back to the story of "good." This week I learned that "good" has went from mid-life crisis to full-blown estrangement, and it is very unlikely that our relationship will ever be the same. In fact, this week I learned that "good" wants a divorce. This week I heard the words I never wanted to hear again - "you will have to have your hip replaced soon"...

Soon? What kind of medical terminology is that, I asked? I can't deal with soon. I feel like I just had "bad" replaced and now you're telling me I have to get rid of "good" too? Are you crazy? I'm SOOOOOO not ready for this...I thought "good" would stay with me until I was at least 60.

I think the perceptive old Dr. saw the pain in my eyes...and that's when he suggested that we could try a cortisone injection into the hip to see if that relieve the pain and bought me sometime.

Flash forward to today - 9am. Oh, and did I say I HATE HATE HATE NEEDLES???? I have this thing that is apparently very common called vasal vago response. It means I get the crap scared out of me so much that I faint like a sissy when you stick me!

But for some odd reason, I wasn't feeling a lot of anxiety about this "procedure" as they called it. I was feeling pretty calm. I was laying down, a little nervous maybe, but no sweaty palms, no palpitations, no shortness of breath. I think because I know the pain I've been in is so much worse than one stick with a needle. But maybe it was all their talk while they were prepping about firmness of needles, different gauges, sizes (remember: Teaching Institution) that got me. Or the fact that this was not one needle, but two? The first to numb my leg a bit, the second to deliver the goods. All while they use an ultrasound to guide this 5 inch needle into the inner sanctity of "good."

When the second needle went in - I went out. Out, out, waaaay out. When I came too, they were all hovering - all 6 of them. Teaching institution - six people in a room to do the job it usually takes 2 people to do. Six witnesses to my weakness! Thank God for their ethical boundary that they can't go tell everyone I know about what a baby my physiology is! They were putting cold cloths on my forehead, checking my blood pressure, etc. The nurse said I went "deep" - and boy was she right. I can't remember the last time I have ever fainted that deeply into it, or when I've been so disoriented.

An hour later I hobbled over to my office, but felt so nauseous that I had to lay down. I laid down right there in my office on the carpet that is only ever vacuumed if you vacuum it yourself. And, since I'm always running late from here to there and never even have time to clean the papers on my desk - what would make you think I've ever vacuumed my office? Thank goodness for the once a year shampooing they do - but that was 10 months ago.

I decided that I didn't want to risk what germs were there, and it would be a bit unsightly for someone to come into the Director of MIS's office and seeing her flat on the floor - so I came home. I slept. I ate. I wrote. How cathartic this is.

I have an aunt with whom I've always been close - although I haven't seen her in over a year. But she's been on my mind a lot today. She has had her hips replaced multiple times. I never saw that in her - all I ever knew her to be was warm, and funny, and wonderfully happy all the time. I always knew we shared the hip thing in common - and now I realize that the part of her I want to keep with me is not the sharing of painful things like bad hips, but the wonderful thing she always gave to me - her incredible attitude and kindness. Thank you Aunt Norma for being such a grand role model - if I can deal with "good" only half as well as you handled all of your mis-fortune, I'll be just fine!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

And then they were two...

I have so much to write about this week, I think I'll end up doing it in more than one post. Right now I want to share with you an exhilarating experience I had this week. My next post will be a cruely funny experience.

I joined Mayo Clinic in February. I learned early on that there was a "department summit" held every year. Basically, all employees in our department (across all three locations - MN, FL, AZ) gathered here in Rochester this week for a conference like meeting complete with panel discussions and special speakers. I anticipated it would be much like so many of the conferences I've participated in in the past. For much of it, that is true, but there were some outstanding events and one that I just have to share with you. Our summit officially started out yesterday morning with a breakfast gathering at the Radisson and a "panel" discussion on teamwork. That's the only description they gave us. The chair of our department said he'd like to bring in the panel - part of the team that performed the separation of the conjoined twins, Belle and Abby Carlson. Led by this man, Dr. Moir, the team filed in and took their place in front of us.

You see, this miraculous feat is what makes Mayo Clinic great - its teamwork and collaborative approach is unmatched in the medical industry. They were all so humble and gracious, and although there were 9 on stage, no one person dominated the discussion. Then Dr. Moir said they brought along a couple of guests to join the discussion, and in walks Jesse and Amy carrying their beautiful daughters Belle and Abby (Here's a recent picture):

The entire room stood in a burst of applause and tears, there wasn't a dry eye at my table. What a magical moment to see the true reason why we are all there doing what we're doing. It's to meet the needs of our patients, patients like Belle and Abby, and patients like you and me. There is a reason the mission at Mayo Clinic is unique - it's the only major medical facility in the country whose mission is solely based on the needs of the patient. Quite simply it reads "The needs of the patient come first."

It was cool. It was wonderful. It was humbling.

On my next posting...I'll tell you about my experience as patient as I am getting a cortisone shot in my hip tomorrow morning...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

It ain't easy being green...or purple!

Having been born in Minnesota, being a vikings fan is somewhat compulsory. Worse yet, feeling the pain year in and year out of of never a superbowl win, and nary a chance in hell of getting there again in my lifetime, I find myself questioning why, oh why, do I return for more of this punishment. Each year starts with the excitement of new hope - that this year will be different. But, here we are barely a few weeks into the season and I already know those hopes will be dashed as they are every year.

So I turn my thoughts to other events of the week - and reflect on Yom Kippur - a most sacred holiday for our Jewish friends. At church today our minister spoke of Yom Kippur and the practice of atonement and forgiveness that represents Yom Kippur. We have several Jewish friends in our church, so this is a fitting day to recognize this holiday with them. We had a lovely reading that started out saying: Forgiveness is the by-product of the healing process.

The pain that the Vikings will inevitably inflict upon me this season is most definitely fodder for healing and forgiveness...I only hope that come January I still remember the lessons of Yom Kippur!

Thank you to my loving, welcoming, and supportive friends at my beloved Unitarian Universalist church for helping me deal with the trauma of NFL football!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Swan dives...

August 21, 2007

Last night I went to one of Kaitlyn's many swimming/diving meets, but this one was different. It was a cross-town rival who has been breaking all sorts of records - so the team was very exicted. Kaitlyn is a diver, but even so she was very pumped for the meet. Well, it was an amazing night. Several pool records were broken, unfortunately they were broken by the opponent! Our team lost, but Kaitlyn - that amazing teenage daughter of mine - had a terrific night! She dove beautifully! She bested her highest score, and got her first ever "6" in competition - in fact - she got two of them!!! Isn't she so cool! What a kid!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Heckelphone anyone???


Mayo Clinic does this really cool thing on Monday's - it's called Harmony for Mayo. For 1 hour, over lunchtime they sponsor a musical performance of some kind. Sometimes it's pop, or modern, or bluegrass, and other times is classical. Today was truly an incredible treat - they had a reed quartet with the most unusual of instruments called the heckelphone. It was invented in the early 1900's by Herr Heckel of Germany, and is a part of the oboe family. What a beautiful instrument! The whole concert was just the most wonderful way to start a Monday!

a TAG by any other name...

ok, so I've been tagged by my pal Ahna - it feels somewhat like being hit by a snowball with all that crystally edginess you get in mid-January. So, here goes! My middle name is Ellen...

E is for Esoteric...not because I am - I'm not. But I think not only is it a cool word, I like it's meaning. I like things that are esoteric, things that I have to sit and ponder, things I have to think deep about.

L is for Lakes - it's the reason I left "paradise" (Southern California) and moved back to home - our 10,000+ lakes. Actually, the last time I heard an actual number it was somewhere around 15000, but who's counting??? I grew up on a very special little lake in Northern Minnesota, and to this day it's still pristine and beautiful. I just returned from a weekend up there and thus the lakes are on my mind.

L is for Lyrics. When I was young, listening to music was all about the music - the tune - the mechanics. But as I've grown older I have started listening more to the words and frequently I'll find a song I like because of the words, and it wouldn't matter what music was attached. I recently bought Pink's new album and it has a really cool song on there called "Dear Mr. President..." - but it's not for the republican side of the house, that's for sure. I LOVE the song. But, by far the most powerful song for me is also accompanied by a beautiful tune - Imagine, by John Lennon. I can't think of any more beautiful thoughts than this one, and the music deeply enhances the message.

E is for Exercise. It's something I used to do fairly religiously until I started my MBA, and then I got off track and fatter than I can stand! However, I have this great new job at the Mayo Clinic, and they just opened a new exercise facility for employees - it's a beautiful grand facility that I am enjoying very much. Because I have bad hips, I love to swim, and it has two big wonderful pools - one dedicated to laps, and one for water aerobics. And - they're salt water not so hard on your skin, hair, and suit. Thank you Mayo Clinic - I really am loving the new facility.

N is for Nonna. When my 16 year old daughter came to me two years ago and told me she was pregnant, the thought of being a grandma at age 42 sent me into a tailspin. Once I got over the shock and adjusted to the idea, I decided one thing had to change - we would NOT call me "Grandma" - that's for old people! So - Nonna it is. That's Italian for Grandma - and anyone who knows me knows I was probably an Italian Grandma in a prior life! I am so very proud of her now, she's raising a wonderful little boy. He's nearly 18 months now and is the light of my life. They just moved off to college and I miss them very much, but I am so proud of how she's taken on the challenge, and I am happy to be Nonna!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Hello World!

What does one write about on their very first ever blog posting? The possibilities are endless I'm sure, and inevitably everyone wants to be witty and clever...what a challenge...what stress.

I'll start by explaining the title for this particular entry and why "Hello World" is ironically apropos for my first blog. The irony - I've been a tech geek for some 20+ years now, both professionally and personally - so I think it's funny that it's taken me this long to start my own blog. Apropos because anyone who has ever had any type of computer language class can atest to the fact that almost inevitably when you make your first creation in programming, the first project is always called "hello world!"

So, world, what am I doing here? And why am I so late? Well, truth be told, I have always just assumed that I don't have much to write about. And when I voiced that to my dear old friend, Ahna (, she said - why sure you do! I know she was just being polite and lovely as she always is, but it got me to thinking...thinking and ruminating...and since I moved my first baby into college life this last month, I found myself looking back on my life and assessing the first half (at least I hope half) of my life. Call it the proverbial mid-life crisis, call it whatever you want, but as I have been ruminating in my brain over the changes in my life I came to realize that I have some pretty deep thoughts running around in there. Hence the title for my blog - Because I knew you - because one thing I have come to appreciate in my mid-life are all the wonderfully spectacular people out there. ("Because I knew you..." is a title from an insightful song from Wicked - the verse is "Because I knew you...I have been changed for good"). Life is about relationships. Life is about people. It's not about the jobs we hold or the money we make. It's about people and how we love one another (or fail to). Period!

So, my adventures in blogging are underway and it's all about you! (ok, well, me and you!) I do have lots to say, in time: Some sad, some witty, some cleverly funny (I hope!).

Blogging, however, is not quite so private as journaling was. Recalling when I was 14 and jounaled everynight about the pedantic adventures of a wannabe grownup, I remembered why I loved to journal so much then. Journaling has a very cathartic effect, and in a strange way helps you to see yourself from the outside in. Since we're in the electronic age (and my hand gets writers cramp after just 5 minutes of writting) blogging seemed to be the logical way to get back to that journaling effect. I guess I have to find a new way to journal. Any ideas from you, world, would be appreciated.