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Archive for the 'Friends and Family' Category

A Mere Trifle

Posted by glasscastle on 29th August 2006

The
quid pro quo for having a herd of friendly foreign in-laws in exotic
climes from Flushing, Queens to Jipijapa are long, unfortunately timed
visits from selfsame in-laws, particularly the traditionally gnarly mother-in-law.

So it was with some trepidation that we have been anticipating
the arrival today of Norma Yvonne’s outlandish aunt Delfina, morbidly
obese
brother Gualberto and her wizened, widowed mother, Annie. Our dear mom-in-law
is here for the better part of a month, the others just came along from
New York to drop her off. This is a cultural trait of Latinos, we have
noted. When any family member is leaving on a trip, or coming back from
one, the entire troupe of 27 troupe down to the airport in a rolling bon
voyage, or welcome home, as the case may be.

At any rate, due to our only partially undeserved reputation
with our in-laws as an accomplished chef, we were expected to produce
an exotic
epicurean repast for tonight despite our current crushing schedule down
at the academic salt mines.

Within the constraints of time, budget and ingredients,
we kept it simple: Matza ball soup (for that exotic, ethnic Yid touch)
Pollo a
la Brasa (Broasted Chicken), Arroz a la Jardinero, fresh local sweet
corn,
and
tomato,
cuke
and onion slice salad.

But the tour de force, by popular request, was trifle.
Trifle. is a category of dessert, rather than a single dish. The version
we learned
from our mother combines a base of pound cake, layers of fresh fruit,
Bird (British) dessert pudding, marmalade, canned cling peaches in heavy
syrup and whipped cream.

The cool thing about Trifle. is that it is kind of
the smorgasbord of fancy desserts. You can throw in whatever marmalades
or preserves you
have in the refrigerator, and whatever fresh fruits are available and
in season. In this version we used fresh strawberries, mandarin orange
slices, and a banana.

The other adjustment we made in this version was in
the pudding layer. Usually we use two envelopes of Bird’s, a quaint
and traditional British
pudding which brings to mind Brigadier Pudding and treacle and is oddly
available in most major American markets, but today we found ourself down
to the very last packet. At the local Star market, we searched in vain
for the magic powder, which when mixed with two cups of milk and a bit
of sugar turns into a pasty pudding that holds the whole Trifle. together
like tapioca holds together whatever those little white globules are.

They had already made, ready-to-eat Bird’s Pudding,
a new format we had never seen, at $5.99 for a small packet, but as
it was unrefrigerated
and who-knows-how-long stored and shipped from the mother country we
passed. They had a Bird Trifle. Preparation Kit, at $7.99, which included
mixes for the cake, the pudding, a sort of translucent gelatin layer
unlike anything in Mom’s version, and a white, whipped cream-like "topping".
We recoiled and retreated.

In lieu of a Bird’s refill, we noted that the directions
on a package of Jello Flan were EXACTLY the same as for a packet of
Birds – mix with
two cups of milk and a bit of sugar, heat to a full boil, stirring constantly,
and then chill. We were cooking for a Latin audience, so maybe the Flan
substitution would fly. Should we just go with the single packet of
Birds, prepare a packet of each and apply them as separate layers, or
throw them in together and how for a fortuitous blending of tastes and
consistencies? We threw caution to the wind, and threw them both into
a pot with 4 cups of milk, and crossed our fingers.

Seems to have worked find for tonight, but we can’t
hide behind trifles for the better part of a month…

for a full photo review of the process, SEE HERE

Posted in Friends and Family | 3 Comments »

Airing our Undies

Posted by glasscastle on 15th August 2006

In the past we have written of Zapatos,
the funky warehouse shoe and clothing store, featuring seconds, overstock
and, we suspect, the contents of an occasional mysteriously missing
big rig. Name brands at a faction of list price, almost perfect Nikes
and Bass for twenty bucks, hooded sweatshirts with slightly smudged
logos
for
$3,
bins of sneakers sorted only by size.

Owned by a crusty archtype named Eric Schapero, Zapatos
serves mostly Boston’s active Latino population and the homeless-looking
denziens who haunt the projects and alleys around the sprawling Boston
Medical Center. Yesterday, for some reason, we found ourself with our
unmentionables at a stulyfying presentation on an Ugandan Refugee Camp
in a computer lab on the Medical Campus in between the hospital and
the shoe store.

We know that what is happening in Africa at this very
moment is the most tragic affront to human dignity and and the sanctity
of life on the face of this sorry  planet, but we have to confess
to an inability to concentrate on it for more than 45 minutes without
becoming dangerously depressed.

After the presentation ended, we huddled our group
in the grassy green lawn outside the building. Students, professors,
doctors and interns came and went in mufti and scrubs, sandals and
sneakers.  It was a gorgeous day.

We felt the need to shake off the aura of death and
disease that still hung in our minds from the horrifying slide show
we had just seen. "Hey," we offered, "Who wants to go shoe shopping?"
They are, after all, Business Professionals. Don’t ask why we took
a bunch of Business Professionals to the Medical School for a presentation on NGO’s in Ugandan refugee camps.

Their reactions to the Schapero business operation
were mixed. The Europeans, accustomed to shopping for high fashion
in Paris
and
Rome, were almost as horrified by Zapatos as they had been by the refugee
camp. The Asians dove right in, digging for bargains.

We had explained to them that the selection was always
changing, and if you were looking for a specific thing, it was pure
chance whether you would find it. We were looking for a new pair of
Topsiders, for example, but this week they had nary a pair. On the
other hand, when we enter with an open mind, we always find something
we need.

However, on this trip we discovered a new danger in
going the discount route. We ended up buying some new underwear, three
pair for one low price, a major American brand, labeled "Slightly Imperfect"
(see photo). When we got them home, we realized they were straight
out of the Goldilocks catalogue
– one pair was for Papa Bear, one for Mama Bear and one for Baby Bear.
At least, Norma Yvonne says she’ll wear the small ones…..

Posted in Friends and Family | Comments Off on Airing our Undies

Mad Max Meets Dog Days of Summer

Posted by glasscastle on 11th July 2006


So this morning we were en route to Russo’s, the
super fresh produce market in Watertown, rolling through Watertown
Square in the White Whale, when we saw something we couldn’t believe.
A quietly dignified although definitely shabby  elderly woman
was pushing a grocery cart full of plastic bags down the sidewalk in
front of the storefront bakeries, travel agencies and barber shops.
So far,
not
so unusual
in modern urban America.

But perched in the Fragile Foods protector at
the back of the cart, propped up on pillows and folded swaths of
fabric, was the cutest little dog, dressed in a yellow T-shirt and red
sun visor, with a matching yellow tennis ball in his mouth.

Immediately distracted, we detoured from our destination
and doubled back to try to find this fabulous couple,  And find
then we did, a few blocks away.  The dog is named Max. We never
got the lady’s name.

Posted in Friends and Family | Comments Off on Mad Max Meets Dog Days of Summer

Medical Care Costs Arm and Leg

Posted by glasscastle on 23rd June 2006

Massachusetts has "the world’s costliest health care," with
average annual spending above $7,000 per person, according to an analysis
of federal data to be released today.

The report by Boston University’s Alan Sager and Deborah Socolar, health
care advocates at the university’s School of Public Health, is based on
state-by-state 2004 expenditures disclosed last month by the federal Centers
for Medicare and Medicaid Services .

The findings also show that health care spending in the state increased
faster than in the rest of the country from 2000 to 2004, the period covered
by the data.

from the Boston Globe

Lately the Dowbrigade has been studying the Massachusetts health care
system up close and personal. Last Friday we let our unmentionables
go fifteen minutes early because we
had a doctor’s
appointment
over in
Cambridge.
Five months
after
surgery for a tear in our diaphragm through which our stomach had migrated
from
our abdomen to our chest, we were still experiencing an assortment
of stomach pains, nasty gas and sulphur burps.

Our long-time Primary Care Physician is a moderately overweight laid-back
middle-aged Jewish guy, like the Dowbrigade, with a penchant for mixing
work and
pleasure on
extended trips to exotic locales.  Luckily, he had a cancellation and
was able to see us that week.

As soon as we got to the office we were informed by the receptionist secretary
that he was running late – had not yet arrived, in fact – due to an emergency
at the hospital. Such is life, we thought, glad we had brought the New
York Times and a pencil.

45 minutes later the doctor finally hurried in. Half an hour after that
we were invited into an examining room and 15 minutes later the doctor
finally came in.

"Sorry I’m running late. I was at the hospital. I just had a patient die,
suddenly. He wasn’t expected to die, but he just took a turn for the worst,
and in two hours, he was gone."

"It must be difficult," we ventured, wondering what the poor bastard had
died from. However, wanting to move the appointment along, and lighten
the mood, we didn’t ask.  Instead we made some small talk about Ecuador,
where the doctor had recently advised the government on a UN-funded supplemental
health care program.

We agreed that the people were nicer and the official corruption more
endemic than in any of the other South American nations we had visited.

Finally
we got down to business. We have been having digestive problems lately,
involving socially questionable symptoms such as voluminous farting
and
burping. Five months ago we were operated on for a hiatal hernia – a hole
in our diaphragm through which our stomach had migrated from our abdomen
into our chest.

To put everything back where it belonged and tie it down took popping
us open like a lobster tail and mucking around quite a bit. Our stay at
the local City Hospital, whose precise name we have been advised by counsel
not to mention, was a nightmare involving a historic blizzard, a seven-hour
surgery, awakening in an equipment storeroom, mind-boggling post-operative
pain, delirious ravings, pharmacueticals purloined from prostate patients and a 5-foot, 300-lb
female African nurse with a gleaming white human bone on a leather thong
around her neck. We are trying to forget the whole thing.

Of course, our Primary Doc referred us to a new specialist in town, who
of course had his offices in the very hospital from which we had barely
escaped five months earlier.

But we gritted our teeth, found parking in the neighborhood, and shuffled
in to see, believe it or not, Dr. Payne. Turns out we had been at college
together, he two years ahead of us, but in different fields and out paths
never crossed. 30 years later, we got on famously. He ordered blood work,
a three-day course of fecal analysis, a CAT scan and an endoscopy. If those
don’t turn
up
anything they’ll make us eat a radioactive egg and watch it digest.

And there’s the possibility that our current stomach
problems are stress related, caused by worrying about our current financial problems, which
have been created by our stomach problems.

Today we went in for the CAT scan. Same hospital. Luckily it was in the
afternoon, so we didn’t need to miss class. We had to register, dropped
our samples
at
the lab, and waited for our turn in the Big Tube. France and Togo were
just starting a World Cup match on a tiny monitor hanging from the ceiling.
We watched standing next to a middle-aged gentleman from an indeterminate
Caribbean
nation.

It was almost half time when they finally called us. We were led into
the back and given a hospital johnny. We were putting our cloths in a plastic
bag when they asked us if we had been able to get down all two liters of
the chalky white scan-shake.

What shake? we asked. No one, it seemed, had remembered to tell us when
we made the appointment, that we needed to pick up said reactive material
and ingest it all two hours before
our appointment. A simple oversight. No way to continue. We needed to reschedule.

We grew incensed with the ineptitude, incompetence and insulting inefficiency
shown in this simple oversight. Fortunately, we had the presence of mind
to realize that the people in the CAT scan lab had nothing to do with the
mistake. Quickly and silently we dressed, got a new appointment for Monday,
and stomped upstairs to Medical Specialties, where they had given us the
appointment two days earlier.

"Can I help you?"

"Not now, you can’t. But you could have helped me two days ago when I
was in here getting the appointment for my CAT scan.  You could have
told me, for example, I needed to pick up these two bottles of white shake
and drink them before my appointment. Since you didn’t, they couldn’t do
the
scan
and I’ve  wasted half a day!"

"Well, I’m sorry, sir," she was glancing nervously around, looking for
a weapon or a clear escape route. "I wasn’t even here Wednesday."

"Well, I was, and nobody said anything about any white liquid. I had to
find a substitute teacher to teach my class this afternoon, and pay her
out of my own pocket. I’m out $100 and half a day of my life. I missed
my student’s final presentations. Do you have any idea of the effects of
your little "mistakes"?"

"Actually, we’re just admin staff. I’ll try and find a nurse." Her eyes
continued darting around the area, but the office suddenly seemed strangely
silent and empty.

"Never mind" It occurred to us that she might have a silent alarm below
the desk to summon security,and the last thing we wanted at that point
was to spend a few more involuntary hours in that hospital, "But when you  find
the person responsible make sure they know that they wrecked my entire
day and I will come back soon to talk to them about it."

We hate losing our cool, but that damn hospital creeps us out. As we hurried
out to save the White Whale from the Parking Police, we thought back to
the original appointment with our late-running Primary Care Doc.  Why
hadn’t we let well enough alone?

It was on the way out that we finally asked our friend the doctor what
had been the immediate cause of death of his unfortunate patient at the
hospital that day.

He gave me a weird, reluctant look like he wished he could lie but couldn’t,
and answered.

"Ruptured diaphragm"

Too close to home.

Posted in Friends and Family | 1 Comment »

Medical Care Costs Arm and Leg

Posted by glasscastle on 23rd June 2006

Massachusetts has "the world’s costliest health care," with
average annual spending above $7,000 per person, according to an analysis
of federal data to be released today.

The report by Boston University’s Alan Sager and Deborah Socolar, health
care advocates at the university’s School of Public Health, is based on
state-by-state 2004 expenditures disclosed last month by the federal Centers
for Medicare and Medicaid Services .

The findings also show that health care spending in the state increased
faster than in the rest of the country from 2000 to 2004, the period covered
by the data.

from the Boston Globe

Lately the Dowbrigade has been studying the Massachusetts health care
system up close and personal. Last Friday we let our unmentionables
go fifteen minutes early because we
had a doctor’s
appointment
over in
Cambridge.
Five months
after
surgery for a tear in our diaphragm through which our stomach had migrated
from
our abdomen to our chest, we were still experiencing an assortment
of stomach pains, nasty gas and sulphur burps.

Our long-time Primary Care Physician is a moderately overweight laid-back
middle-aged Jewish guy, like the Dowbrigade, with a penchant for mixing
work and
pleasure on
extended trips to exotic locales.  Luckily, he had a cancellation and
was able to see us that week.

As soon as we got to the office we were informed by the receptionist secretary
that he was running late – had not yet arrived, in fact – due to an emergency
at the hospital. Such is life, we thought, glad we had brought the New
York Times and a pencil.

45 minutes later the doctor finally hurried in. Half an hour after that
we were invited into an examining room and 15 minutes later the doctor
finally came in.

"Sorry I’m running late. I was at the hospital. I just had a patient die,
suddenly. He wasn’t expected to die, but he just took a turn for the worst,
and in two hours, he was gone."

"It must be difficult," we ventured, wondering what the poor bastard had
died from. However, wanting to move the appointment along, and lighten
the mood, we didn’t ask.  Instead we made some small talk about Ecuador,
where the doctor had recently advised the government on a UN-funded supplemental
health care program.

We agreed that the people were nicer and the official corruption more
endemic than in any of the other South American nations we had visited.

Finally
we got down to business. We have been having digestive problems lately,
involving socially questionable symptoms such as voluminous farting
and
burping. Five months ago we were operated on for a hiatal hernia – a hole
in our diaphragm through which our stomach had migrated from our abdomen
into our chest.

To put everything back where it belonged and tie it down took popping
us open like a lobster tail and mucking around quite a bit. Our stay at
the local City Hospital, whose precise name we have been advised by counsel
not to mention, was a nightmare involving a historic blizzard, a seven-hour
surgery, awakening in an equipment storeroom, mind-boggling post-operative
pain, delirious ravings, filchered medicinal narcotics and a 5-foot, 300-lb
female African nurse with a gleaming white human bone on a leather thong
around her neck. We are trying to forget the whole thing.

Of course, our Primary Doc referred us to a new specialist in town, who
of course had his offices in the very hospital from which we had barely
escaped five months earlier.

But we gritted our teeth, found parking in the neighborhood, and shuffled
in to see, believe it or not, Dr. Payne. Turns out we had been at college
together, he two years ahead of us, but in different fields and out paths
never crossed. 30 years later, we got on famously. He ordered blood work,
a three-day course of fecal analysis, a CAT scan and an endoscopy. If those
don’t turn
up
anything they’ll make us eat a radioactive egg and watch it digest.

And there’s the possibility that our current stomach
problems are being caused by worrying about our financial problems, which
are being created by our stomach problems.

Today we went in for the CAT scan. Same hospital. Luckily it was in the
afternoon, so we didn’t need to miss class. We had to register, dropped
our samples
at
the lab, and waited for our turn in the Big Tube. France and Togo were
just starting a World Cup match on a tiny monitor hanging from the ceiling.
We watched standing next to a middle-aged gentleman from an indeterminate
Caribbean
nation.

It was almost half time when they finally called us. We were led into
the back and given a hospital johnny. We were putting our cloths in a plastic
bag when they asked us if we had been able to get down all two liters of
the chalky white scan-shake.

What shake? we asked. No one, it seemed, had remembered to tell us when
we made the appointment, that we needed to pick up said reactive material
and ingest it all two hours before
our appointment. A simple oversight. No way to continue. We needed to reschedule.

We grew incensed with the ineptitude, incompetence and insulting inefficiency
shown in this simple oversight. Fortunately, we had the presence of mind
to realize that the people in the CAT scan lab had nothing to do with the
mistake. Quickly and silently we dressed, got a new appointment for Monday,
and stomped upstairs to Medical Specialties, where they had given us the
appointment two days earlier.

"Can I help you?"

"Not now, you can’t. But you could have helped me two days ago when I
was in here getting the appointment for my CAT scan.  You could have
told me, for example, I needed to pick up these two bottles of white shake
and drink them before my appointment. Since you didn’t, they couldn’t do
the
scan
and I’ve  wasted half a day!"

"Well, I’m sorry, sir," she was glancing nervously around, looking for
a weapon or a clear escape route. "I wasn’t even here Wednesday."

"Well, I was, and nobody said anything about any white liquid. I had to
find a substitute teacher to teach my class this afternoon, and pay her
out of my own pocket. I’m out $100 and half a day of my life. I missed
my student’s final presentations. Do you have any idea of the effects of
your little "mistakes"?"

"Actually, we’re just admin staff. I’ll try and find a nurse." Her eyes
continued darting around the area, but the office suddenly seemed strangely
silent and empty.

"Never mind" It occurred to us that she might have a silent alarm below
the desk to summon security,and the last thing we wanted at that point
was to spend a few more involuntary hours in that hospital, "But when you  find
the person responsible make sure they know that they wrecked my entire
day and I will come back soon to talk to them about it."

We hate losing our cool, but that damn hospital creeps us out. As we hurried
out to save the White Whale from the Parking Police, we thought back to
the original appointment with our late-running Primary Care Doc.  Why
hadn’t we let well enough alone?

It was on the way out that we finally asked our friend the doctor what
had been the immediate cause of death of his unfortunate patient at the
hospital that day.

He gave me a weird, reluctant look like he wished he could lie but couldn’t,
and answered.

"Ruptured diaphragm"

Too close to home.

Posted in Friends and Family | 2 Comments »

So Much Media, So Little Time

Posted by glasscastle on 19th June 2006

The Dowbrigade is old enough to remember
when we had more time than media. Long hot summer afternoons when we
ran out of the paperback Ace and Tor science fiction novels we borrowed by the armload
from Mother’s mysterious friend Betty Mae, nights after curfew with
a flashlight under covers sick of rereading the same Dr. Strange and
Green Lantern and Magnus Robot Hunter issues, long weird nights in our
dorm in the Yard, wired and twisted, listening to the national anthem
following the late show on the last TV station to sign off, six long
empty hours til dawn. VCR’s, Cable TV and personal computers were years
from being invented, and physical media like books, comics and LPs were
expensive for a kid.

How times have changed! Gainful employment and the
internet opened access to far more types and numbers of media than we
had even
imagined existed during our formative years. We first realized during
the original Napster gold rush that one could download media at a much
higher rate than you could consume it, leading to media glut. Bit torrent, podcasting, video blogging and collection nets, together with huge, cheap hard drives, only exacerbated the problem.

Our apartment and our office are piled high with unread
or annotated newspapers, magazines and academic journals. There are overflowing
bookcases in every room, with books stacked two high and two deep on
most shelves, and horizontal piles on top. There are racks, piles and stacks of CDs and
DVDs, drawers full of VCR tapes, and hard drives internal and external,
with and without computers, on all surfaces.

And in addition, almost to our chagrin, we find ourselves
with a "real" life that we rather like – a job we enjoy, a lovely and
lively wife, plenty of free time to exercise and play games. On
nice days, we can’t bring ourselves to sit in front of a screen anymore.
We finally have a surfeit of fantastic media, and a deficit of idle hours
to enjoy them.

Plus, like Zippy, we just can’t stay awake for three
or four days at a stretch like we used to, back in the day. Nowadays,
we have trouble making it to the end of the 11 pm news. It took us three
days to watch Da Vinci Code cuz we wouldn’t fire it up til Norma went
to sleep, and soon we were getting verrrry sleeepppyyy. And now the World Cup is wreaking havoc
with our nap schedule.

Of course, even today there are people in the world who have more time than media. Pockets of poverty throughout the developed world and oceans of humanity in Asia. Practically the entire continent of Africa. People incarcerated, hospitalized, militarized or otherwise institutionalized. Entire families who voluntarily eschew modern media as uncouth, unaestetic or corrupt. Of them, we can only say, may God have mercy on their souls. We are sure they feel the same way about us.

It is both a blessing and a curse to live in times so
interesting, and to be so easily amused…

Posted in Friends and Family | 1 Comment »

What’s In a Name

Posted by glasscastle on 21st April 2006

Dave got called a “notorious curmudgeon” by Fortune magazine. And he was upset! Personally, we will know we have “made” it when we are called EITHER notorious OR curmudgeon by Fortune. Congratulations, Dave.

Posted in Friends and Family | Comments Off on What’s In a Name

Tierra Incognito

Posted by glasscastle on 23rd March 2006

In a few short hours the Dowbrigade is off to San
Francisco. Our first trip since the Bad Run medical evacuation from South
America. This one, however, should be a Milk Run.

We have never spent more than a few hour
stop-over in the city by the bay,
and
are
looking
forward
to
a relaxing
week poking
around. We
will try to blog as we go, assuming we can find some free wireless hotspots
in town.
Gotta be, right? We have no idea what to expect or where to go…..

Posted in Friends and Family | Comments Off on Tierra Incognito

Fake Ass Shit

Posted by glasscastle on 18th March 2006

The classic internet scam involving the wife/financial
advisor/secretary of the Minister of Finance of Nigeria/Kenya/Uganda,
who needs access to a foreign bank account to tidy up the funds.The continued
variations on this scam must mean it’s sucking in somebody,
although its hard to avoid asking oneself "Why would a government minister
in Africa want to give ME millions of dollars?"

A
new wrinkle on this scam recently hit home.  Our
22-year-old
son
, who was out of work and looking for a job at the time,
received a US Mail Express Mail envelope from California printed with,
in large letters, "Extremely Urgent – please rush to addressee" and bearing
$14.40 in postage. This was clearly not conventional spam.

Inside were what appeared to be 9 US Postal Money Orders
for $950 each. He also got emails which followed the familiar pattern,
money in Africa, need to get it out, need help, God led us to you. He
was supposed to send 90% and keep 10%.

Of course, our son barely had enough in the bank to
pay the rent, he was foraging daily in our frig, so he couldn’t send
them anything.  Their emails, dripping in "Praise Gods!" and "Glory
to the Lords" and other evangelical balderdash, started asking for 50%,
30%, anything. Meanwhile, bereft of funding, our son decided to try cashing
a few of them.

Of course, they are counterfeit. He is probably lucky
he decided to deposit them in his bank account.  If he had tried
to go into some "Checks Cashed" storefront he probably would have been
held a gunpoint until the police arrived. As it was, he was given a good
talking to and charged fees as though he had deposited bad checks. They
closed his account, but opened him another one. The schmuck.

We say that only because he waited until after he had
deposited the first batch to tell his dear old Dad what he was up to.
One of the rare occasions on which our experience and knowledge of scams
could have aided a loved one, and it went by the wayside.

So how did they get his data stolen? Where did they
get his info to start the scam? Turns out a week before we had posted
his Resume on Craig’s List, and it had included his address and email
(not phone). That’s all they needed.

Of course, one has to question the judgment of criminals
who try to rob people who have no jobs, who in our experience
usually have no money, but they must have gotten enough suckers to send
them enough money to make it a worthwhile scam,The money orders were
certainly realistic enough, although the numbers must be fake.

The ad on Craig’s List did get our son a job, but it
also got him into trouble and cost him money. Caveat
emptor.

Posted in Friends and Family | 5 Comments »

Laproscopic, My Ass

Posted by glasscastle on 24th February 2006

Fair Warning: Anyone grossed out by medical details or
simply uninterested in the personal life of your correspondent can safely
skip the rest of this entry. However, since we are still to a certain
extent a Mom and Pop operation (Hi Mom! Hi Pop!) and a lot of our readers
know us personally, we feel a certain obligation to blog about our recent
medical emergency.

When we went into surgery two weeks ago today, we were
certainly not expecting
to
come
out gutted
like
a
bottom
feeder
and studded
with more metal than the population of The Pit in Harvard Square.

We needed this urgent surgery because of wandering stomach
syndrome. Our stomach had somehow come unanchored and migrated through
the esophageal
opening in our diaphragm. Most of it was now in our chest, shoving aside
the previous occupants like our heart and lungs. This was extremely puzzling
to our doctor, who said he typically sees this condition in elderly,
obese women.

The operation supposedly consisted of 1) grabbing the
stomach and pulling it back through the hole into the abdomen where it
belongs 2) wrapping
an anchoring it among the intestines and such so that it doesn’t start
wandering again, and 3) sewing up the hole in the diaphragm it went through.

According to the Chief of Surgery, who does this kind
of thing for a living, they hoped to be able to do the entire operation
laproscopically,
through three or four small holes, using miniature cameras, robot arms
and other tiny tools. If so, they said we could go home in a couple of
days, and be back at work in a week.

However, if the hole in our diaphragm was too big or
hard to get at, sewing it up would not be simple, and the surgeon said
he would probably have to sew a patch in
to seal it up tight. This would involve a slightly larger incision in
the chest, three or four days in the hospital, and two weeks of rest
before returning to work.

Once they got me on the table, however, all of these
estimates went the way of the Big Dig. Turns out that during the month
we were waiting
for the operation our stomach had gone COMPLETELY through the hole, and
was folded over and twisted around to boot. Putting it back was considerably
more complicated than anticipated. Pretty much everything had to be moved
around somehow.

Then there was some problem putting in the patch. We
are not sure exactly what went wrong (they never tell the patient the
details, apparently),
but several other surgeons, not part of our "team" have told us they
were in and out of the operating room several times because the case
presented "unusual complications."

In all, the operation lasted 5 hours, and we will end
up with a scar down the middle of our belly bearing an eerie resemblance
to a C-section. We ended up with 30 stainless
steel staples holding our gut together.

After the 5 hours of the actual operation, we were told
it took them an additional 3 hours to "get your pain under control".
We are not exactly
sure what this means, since mercifully we remember almost nothing, but
near as we can figure it means the first few times they tried to take
us out from under the anesthesia, we started kicking and screaming.
So
they
would
put
us back under, increase the underlying dosage of narcotics in our system,
and try to bring us out of it again.

Obviously, they had to repeat this routine several times
if it took them three hours to get us to the point where we could manage
consciousness.
Of course, the amount of narcotics any individual needs to overcome a
given level of pain depends on multiple factors, including body mass,
general physical condition, past opiate usage, individual pain threshold
and reaction to different specific opioids. The Dowbrigade takes a load.

The first 48 hours were extremely difficult. Just let us say that the
pain management function in the step-down ward (one step down from Intensive
Care) on the weekends is less than fully effective.

Because of the length and invasive nature of the operation,
our return to the classroom is now predicted to be not one week, not
two weeks,
but SIX WEEKS. Meanwhile, we have to take it easy, no heavy lifting,
light exercise and bland diet. They won’t even guarantee we’ll be able
to go to Florida in three weeks, where we are supposed to deliver a 56
minute paper and then spend four days in the sun. Maybe, the doctor said,
but don’t buy a non-refundable ticket. The reason we were asking is that
we were just about to buy a non-refundable ticket. It’s the only kind
we can afford.

Anyway, two weeks out, we are feeling a lot better,
although we still tire easily, and have daily (although not constant)
pain the in belly. We got our surgical staples out
Wednesday, and that helped a lot in making us feel comfortable. Yesterday,
for the first time since the operation, we finished the New York Times
crossword
with no help. And we can still blog….

Posted in Friends and Family | 1 Comment »

Dowbrigade Back, Zipped and Zapped

Posted by glasscastle on 15th February 2006

After
a harrowing encounter with the modern American medical system, the Dowbrigade
is back in action, although under medical house arrest for the immediate
future. By the time the docs got in there to tackle a look, our stomach
had migrated completely through the hole in our diaphragm and into our
chest. Somehow, it had pushed aside the other stuff up there, like the
heart and lungs, and made itself at home.

No wonder we’ve been eating and eating and our belly
hasn’t been getting any bigger! Our stomach wasn’t there anymore! It
was our chest that was getting bigger. We thought it was just
extra muscle and sinew! Several times during the past few months, we
actually caught ourself gazing admiringly at our naked reflection in
a mirror and thinking, "Not a bad profile for a 52-year-old, Must be
all
that tennis."

Ah, save us from vain conceit. Look forward to
more tales of intrigue and medical mysteries over the next few weeks,
as well as the standard mix of fun, fantasy and incisive analysis, as
we expect to have plenty of time to blog during our protracted recovery.
Because of the extent of the organ relocation and length of the operation,
we have been told we may not be able to get back to work for 5 or 6 weeks.

note: Occasional readers may be shocked by the gross
graphical nature of the photo. We have even better ones to look forward
to. Regular readers will recognize that one of the themes of the Dowbrigade
News is shocking photos, visual puns, and that we rarely miss an opportunity
to gross out our readers.

Besides, one of our fundamental beliefs is that one
can call oneself a blogger only to the degree to which one is willing
to expose, risk or demonstrate some essential element of the person behind
the postings. Welcome to our world.

Posted in Friends and Family | Comments Off on Dowbrigade Back, Zipped and Zapped

Story Least Likely to Amuse While Awaiting Surgery

Posted by glasscastle on 16th January 2006

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean doctors
mistakenly removed part of the stomach of a patient due to have thyroid
surgery, while removing the thyroid gland of another scheduled for stomach
surgery, a hospital official said Monday.

The surgical mix-up took place at Konyang University Hospital in the city
of Taejon, about 150 km (95 miles) south of Seoul and involved two women
in their sixties who were both in for surgery the same day, hospital spokesman
Kim Man-sik said.

Medical staff found out about the mix-up, which took place on December
29, only after they were filing paperwork on the two women, he said.

Doctors later performed the correct surgical procedures on both women and
re-attached the part of the stomach they had removed from the patient with
the thyroid problem, Kim said.

from Reuters

Posted in Friends and Family | 2 Comments »