Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eat Or Be Eaten


Today's Republican party. The only exception is that there is no well-spoken serial killer in the scene. The party is digging forks into their own succulent gray goo. MMMMmmm tastes like chicken hawk.

As they chase Arlen Specter out of the Big Half Empty Tent, they don't even realize that they brought this on themselves. Specter, like the state of Pennsylvania, was once reliably Reagan-Republican. Over the past 15 years, the party has pushed forward their ever-more radicalized agenda by marginalizing more and more of their former base. As the Bush doctrine stated, you're either with us or against us. There's no room for moderation. 1980's Reagan Republican, Senator Arlen Specter, is now deemed a left wing loony. Specter is not the beginning or end, either. He's the big news today, because as he exits the tent, he's taking one of the main poles with him. He explained it quite succinctly in his answer to a reporter's question about his decision to switch parties.

"The Republicans didn't rally to Wayne Gilchrest in Maryland, who was beaten by the Club for Growth and the far right and [the Club's candidate then] lost the general election. Republicans didn't rally to the banner of Joe Schwartz of Michigan and he was beaten by a conservative and the Club for Growth and they lost the general election ... And had Lincoln Chafee been elected in 2006, the Republicans would have controlled the Senate in 2007 and 2008 and I would have been chairman of the [Judiciary] committee and President Bush nominated 13 circuit judges. They were all left on the table for President Obama. And President Bush nominated 21 district court judges and they were all left on the table for President Obama. Now take the social conservatives in America and how they prize circuit judges. And for people who are Republicans to sit by and allow them to continue to dominate the party, after they beat Chafee, cost us Republican control of the Senate and lost us 34 federal judges, there oughta be a rebellion. There oughta be an uprising. So thanks for asking me the question about what are the Republicans like here."

Oh there IS an uprising in the Republican party, but it's a polar opposite of what Specter meant. While he's suggesting that reasonable people take back the party, the remaining party faithful are throwing tea bags on the ground and threatening to secede Texas and turn it into a socially conservative holy land.

Embarrassing moron.

In contrast, when reasonable people have an uprising, do you know what it looks like? It looks like the Pennsylvania elections of 2008, where about 200,000 former Republicans registered as Democrats to vote in the presidential primary. Of course, some of those people did so to try to prolong and thus weaken the Democratic Party's primary victor. Right wing cheerleaders insisted that most of them switched for this reason ... but who won PA in the general election*?

So good riddance to Specter! Yeah go on! And while you're at it, take McCain with you, as Rush Limbaugh said today. Come to think of it, take Maine's Senator, Susan Collins - she (like 70% of the country's voters) is PRO CHOICE! All you intellectuals can pound sand too. Boo! Pretty soon, the Republican Party will be back to it's old glorious self-righteous self. Except instead of a Big Tent, it will be a handful of sideshow freaks.


* That would be not McCain.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Thanks, Yanks


Dear New York AL Team,

You and your fan who works in our office have made this Monday morning a pleasure. The drubbing you took all weekend from the venerable Red Sox has all but made me forget that my team looked like Little League players against the Mets. At least my guys avoided the sweep. My guys suck, but they only cost $60 million dollars for payroll. Yankee suckiness rings up at $201 million. Yes, I know it probably won't last. NY tends to clock-in sometime in June and claw their way back in every year. For now though, let's all just sit back and enjoy Monday.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Summer In America

Yeah, the date says April, but 94º and sunny is summer. Em came out and stayed the weekend. She brought Spudnuts! Ro* and Ellen and Em went shopping while I strove to tame the land about us. Dave and Kelly hung out at our place, then we returned the favor. Lots of food and laughing. This was the first normal weekend we've had in a while, and it was so good.

Yes, of course there's still a lot of recovering to do, and we dote on Ro*
much more than she would like. The difference is subtle, but enormous; If any of us has to pee, we walk ourselves to the bog and have at it. The only pain medications around are white Russians. And nobody is paralyzed, with dicey odds on whether or not it's temporary. On top of this, there's an awful lot to the notion of knowing that you have people - friends and family who will back you up when you need it most, and just kick your ass at board games when things are chill.

This weekend is the anniversary of my grandmother's passing, and she has been all over my mind. There are echoes of her influences everywhere. Much of my own ability to take things in stride can be traced directly back to her. The last time I saw her, she said Ro* was a dancer, and she gave me strict orders to take good care of her. Then she took my hand, looked me in the eyes, and said goodbye. She had three beautiful daughters, and one of them is my mom. We have good people.

Photo by granddaughter Lauren Szafran Lally

My my my, it's a beautiful world.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

This Is What A Real Republican Should Look Like


(Strong language)

We liked Shep Smith's Katrina coverage, too. Which one of these guys would Ronald Reagan side with? And hey Trace Gallagher, you soulless shill, you're "not saying whether torture is right or wrong"? You can't set down an opinion about torture?


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wee're Number One


Some of y'all started coming here for updates on Ro*. When we post stuff about other things, you get a little impatient. We understand, and we'll try to include Ro* information, or "Ro*Fo" , within our other updates. Let's try it out:

Ro* was very pleased to watch her Washington Nationals take their second win in a row against the stinkin' Braves. She could have done without the heart attack drama in the top of the 9th, when the closer walked the leadoff batter, then gave up a double. With 2nd and 3rd bases juiced and no outs, it was looking like yet another Hanrahan Heartbreaker. But wait ... what's this?!? They get three outs and win the game!

Everyone was inspired, but none so much as Ro* - so much so, that she urinated on her own today to celebrate. Yep. She whizzed. She made her bladder gladder. She micturated. She achieved emiction. Life gave her lemons, and she made lemonade. For the first time in 23 days, she


without the assistance (intrusion) of various implements and people.

We're happier about this than we were when she went in the potty for the first time. Here's the thing; ever since we left the hospital, and moreso with each passing day, her lack of production was becoming more and more abnormal. For a few days, or even more, it's easy to blame the various drugs. Then you move to recovery from the surgery as a rationale. As time passed though, the possibilty of nerve damage loomed ever larger. Nobody uttered the words "bladder paralysis", but we all quietly googled it and obsessed about it in the wee dark hours of the night. Nobody wanted to think about it, just like nobody wanted to think about Joel Hanrahan's growing habit of blowing ballgames (see how I brought that back around?)

Tonight, we will celebrate Pee and Poo Independence Day with Chinese food, followed by a special Potty Cake. At Ro's suggestion, it's a yellow cake, with chocolate frosting.


- Then we will watch the final game of the Nats/Braves series. Hopefully, Atlanta will piss away another one.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

All Your Baseball Are Belong To Us


This is the logo of the team that got PWN3D last night by THE WORST TEAM IN BASEBALL.

April 20, 2009

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 6 0
0 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 X 3 8 0

Here's the moron who couldn't pitch his
way past a batting lineup that falls off a
cliff after the four spot.

Jesus Flores is overcome with emotion, after closer Joel Hanrahan finally finds a team that
is unable to ruin one of his save attempts.


Monday, April 20, 2009



photo NY Daily News

It took several years, but the Washington Nationals have inked a long term deal with the Face of the Franchise. From The Washington Post:

Zimmerman, Nationals Agree To Five-Year, $45 Million Deal

Until at least 2013, Ryan Zimmerman will play for the Washington Nationals -- the team that drafted him, and the team that has now affirmed his role in its future. Zimmerman and the Nationals have agreed to a five-year, $45 million contract, two industry sources said tonight.

After imploding to the Marlins three games in a row, and being in last place in all of Major League Baseball, and even failing to correctly spell the name of the team on Zimmerman's jersey (and Adam Dunn's), The Washingtn Natinals have finally managed to land some good news.

Jordan in his Potomac Nationals
Minor League cap

And tonight in DC, rookie phenom pitcher Jordan (the other white meat) Zimmermann debuts on the mound. There will be much hullabaloo. So we got that goin' for us. Everything's coming up Zimmerman(n)s.

Franchise trademark FAIL

Adam Dunn Hits Hme Runs


Sunday, April 19, 2009

All Terrain Physical Therapy


She still has to lie down to rest a lot, but this kid knows how to push the envelope.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Void Where Prohibited


Still pushing clear fluids, and watchful for any signs of UTI. Nothing else to report.


Monday, April 13, 2009

They Put Our Bidness In The Street


Last Friday morning:

7:00 am - Dr. Abel and his Posse came in to our little hospital room and said, "why don't you guys go home?"

10:00 am - All the papers were in order, the room packed up, ready to roll out of there.
11:00 am
12:00 pm
1:00 pm
1:25 pm
1:49 pm
2:14 pm
2:20 pm
2:23 pm
2:28 pm
2:32 pm
2:34 pm
2:35 pm - And off we go.

~~~ Either Dead Or Home ~~~

The two hour ride from UVA home was tricky, but we made it. Ro is doing really well at home. She has a day bed in the living room and a night bed in her bedroom. She is managing pain with nothing more than children's Tylenol. When she's sitting or standing, she wears a hard torso brace, and that will be the case until the end of June. She hates the brace, and the brace hates her. It's a thing they have.

Sorry for the delay in updating. Things are pretty busy post-hospital. Lots of people have been inquiring, but none have put it quite like the email from mom:

Subject: Ro*
Date: April 12, 2009 2:25:21 PM EDT

How are you all? Did she void on her own yet?
Happy Easter!
Are you ever going to blog again and tell folks Ro* is home?

They will think she is either dead or home!

Love, Mom*

So for any of you who were concerned about Ro's status upon this mortal coil, I can assure you that - who says "void"? She's doing great. Watching a boatload of TV, but great. As soon as she voids, I'll issue a press release.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Dammit Baby


When babies start toddling, it's hard work. Their muscles aren't tuned to standing up and putting one foot in front of the other. Even though it's frustrating, hard work, they really want to stand up. That's where we are today. Ro has been on a bed since last Tuesday. Since then, her center of balance has been scuttled. All her muscles now have to learn to work with this new structure. She has eaten almost nothing and her legs are weakened. It's frustrating, hard work, but she really wants to do it.

Ro laid in her hospital bed this morning and listened as the doctors talked abstractly about getting up and moving around. It will help get the body functions going. And eat something ... something healthy. Do you like yogurt? Ro lay with a pillow mostly hiding an angry scowl. The sun was coming up after a night of impossiblitilies; can't get into a comfortable position, can't do anything independently, can even use the toilet. She was fuming as this doc stood on his two legs and said oh just eat and walk around and go to the can, you know?

When babies start walking, they have a hard time, and they invariably fall down. Most of them cry until somebody helps them, but a few get pissed off, and you can almost see them saying "dammit". Sometimes they punch at whatever threw them off balance. Then they go again. Ro is a Dammit Baby.


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

No News Is Good News. And Annoying.


Hey playuhs. The lack of blog updates is due to an increased task list
and the need to sleep. Things are going pretty well during Ro's
recovery. I promise to dish details soon.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

We're Out Of The Woods, But It's A Long Walk Home.

Well Planned


Within about three hours, Ro should be able to focus. Within six, she'll have watched John Lannan and her Washington Nationals beat The Florida Marlins. Major surgery gives Opening Day a whole new meaning. It's going to be a great season.


Almost Post-op



Med Student Extraordinaire and soon-to-be Resident Anjahn just came up to the waiting room lounge. They are closing at this moment. The surgery went very well, with no neurologial interruptions. Anjahn was in the operating theatre to observe. He's been closely involved with Ro throughout this process. He took phone pics during the surgery and shared them with us (no - I won't).

We are now awaiting an official briefing from the surgeons. Ro will be taken back to our old friends in PICU, where we will be able to see her very soon. This time around, she will be knocked-out cold, and will come out of anesthesia very slowly. Take your time, darlin'. More soon.


Addendum: I was wrong wrong wrong. She is awake and alert and in every bit of the same kind of pain as the first post-op. I feel horrible, because I told her to expect an easier ride. This is so so hard.

Ro Cool


As they wheeled her into the O.R. for the second time in a week, she flashed an I Love You sign, followed by peace sign.


Quick Update


The phone rang in the waiting room just after 9:00 am. Just a call to let us know that surgery was underway. The expectation is that she'll be in for three to four hours today. Much of the heavy work was done in the first procedure.

What's left, to be very basic about it, because that's all I can be, is to attach the two titanium rods to the spine. The rods attach to screws that were put into individual vertebrae last week. Today's work will be a very deliberate effort to coax the spinal column into position and attach the rods on vertebra at a time.

We are very comfortable with the team of docs and nurses on this job. Their combination of humanity and competence is on a level we've never witnessed close-up. It's a privilege, an honor, and a true gift to have access to their skills.


Go Time


Something happened somewhere else and patient we never met did not go
into surgery early this morning. Dr. Abel, not one to sit idle, said,
"let's get that cool kid in here and get going." Ro went into pre-op
at 8:00. More when we know.


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Sunday, April 05, 2009

UVA Medical Center WiFi Guest 167 Logging In


"Sweetie, you want me to read to you some more?"
"hmmmm ... what time is it Dad?"
"11:30 at night."
"You were right. My body clock stopped. Sure, maybe half a chapter."

Tonight has been much better than the last night. We've both gotten a few more naps, and pain management has worked out a lot better. Nurse Rachel (our second nurse Rachel) just left. We've done a lot of sleeping position changes this evening - back, to right side, to back, to left side. It seems to help ease the pain a bit. I just helped her roll flat again.
"Are you chilly?"
"No. Maybe a little."
It's cool in the room, but this was a first. Having a sheet has almost been too much for her. I gave her a blanket.
"Do you want me to read to you some more?"
"No. Sing me a song." She grabbed my finger in her hand.
"Ok then. " I started into True Love Ways by Buddy Holly because she likes that one, but she cut me off.
"You Are My Sunshine," she said.
As the song was ending, she gazed at the balloons that came from Jane and the girls. I segued into more stuff about sunshine, but I could only muster the chorus. As I repeated it over and over, she drifted off to sleep.

Weave, weave, weave me the sunshine
Out of the pouring rain
Weave me the hope of a new tomorrow
and fill my cup again.


Friday, April 03, 2009

GTIF. Good Thing It's Friday


Close your eyes for a moment and imagine being 12 - don't worry, the internet will still be here when you open them again. You're 12 years old, and you're in a room with your parents. You're in that room together for 24 hours a day and for four solid days. With your parents. You're forced to stay in a bed while their faces hover a couple of feet above you, telling you what a trooper you are.
Crazy yet? No?
How about we add in the worst pain of your life.
Now? No?
Let's take away that morphine you've been slurping on.
How about now? Looking for this?

We've gotten lots of positive news today.

I don't care about your news.

This morning, the two hugely uncomfortable drains in her back were removed. The arterial line is also gone. Ro's temperature is down to normal range. Her breathing and leg exercises are coming along very well. After talking with the good doctor this morning, it was decided that she would be fitted for a hard plastic brace instead of going back into traction for the days leading up to Surgery II - The Empire Strikes The Back. It's no flowing gossamer gown, but the brace is aces up against re-applying the ice tongs to either side of your head for traction. One big benefit of the brace is that it will allow Ro to sit up in bed, which is handy for a lot of things. I won't go into it.

So long, artline.

This evening, we officially ruled out one other potentially big problem: The lack of productivity in the area of bowel movement is now definitely attributed to Ro's morphine habit that she picked up in the Nam. A side-worry was that the paralysis symptoms exhibited in her foot may also be playing havoc in her intestines. Not the case. Ruled out. All good, except that I went into it.

The switch from sweet sweet morphine to vicodin today has been rough, but the itch is going away, the nauseous feeling is subsiding, and the strike has ended at the Crap Factory. Production is scheduled to resume anytime now. Now all we have to do is have another back surgery. That won't be too bad for a trooper like Ro*. My God, I AM annoying.


They're Moving Us Again, Again


It's about 7:00 on Friday morning and Ellen and I are awaiting rounds. We've developed a strategy for getting the most out of Dr. Abel and all his hangers on while they're showering attention on our patient. Ellen asks questions and I take notes. Brilliant, I know. It's taken us the better part of a week to develop and perfect this technique.

Meanwhile, in the news, we were on the move again yesterday. We got turfed out of PICU and down the hall to Acute Care. After the Tuesday Waiting Room Incident, we were anxious when we heard the rumblings of an impending move. Having been trapped in PICU for a while, we had developed a bit of Stockholm Syndrome for the people there.

Soon after we were moved to the new settlement, we realized the advantages and the reasons for the move. The new room is much more quiet, it has it's own bathroom with a camper-style shower, it has a TV with a DVD player to watch The IT Crowd (thanks John), the parent slab is even slightly better. The reasons they moved us are good as well; Ro isn't as needful of the PICU nurses as the other kids who were in there, and she's at less risk of various infections by being where we are now. At this stage of the game, infection is a huge risk, which is why I've become a Door Nazi. Nobody comes in without washing hands first. Nobody comes in unless it's for patient care. Ro really likes the singing balloon that Ellen M sent, but the delivery dude didn't make the cut for entry and was greeted outside the door. The little production our VTC family put together was brilliant - and germ free.

Ro is making the rest of us look like punks. She's managing so much pain and so many drugs, needles, drains and other necessary evils, and she's doing it with uncanny poise. It's been a tough 24 hours. She's been exercising her lungs and moving her legs and doing a lot of other things that are really really hard work.

We deeply discourage in-person visitors at this point, not only because of the infection risks, but also because Ro would prefer it to be that way. She wants a shower and a chance to brush her hair before holding court. Also, she'd like to remember that she saw you, and that's hard to do when you're busy working out minute-to-minute living.

If you'd like to send her a note, please do. Ellen and I promise she will get it. You can send it to my email or Ellen's. We also read her notes from the comments section here. UVA also has a nice e-card system HERE. The nurses will print your card and deliver it to Ro. The very best gift you can send is words. She likes having us read emails to her, and sometimes she dictates replies (but no promises ... sometimes she dozes off in the middle).

Docs are here. More news in a shorty.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Tempeh Sub. College Town, College Food.

Day 3


Hey y'all. Had a decent night, relative to the night before. That's
easy for me to say. Ro has had an increased amount of what the medical
community calls "discomfort". This morning marks the start of third
day post-op. She has a lot of work to, and it has already begun. Just
before the 7:00am rounds and shift change, she was rolled onto her
side and her dressings were changed. Next, her bed was placed into a
slight sitting position. Dr Abel had her try to bring her knees up to
her hips. She almost made it. Lots of pain. In addition, she has
started breathing excercises to combat the I'll effects of morphine,
and she'll start eating semi solid foods, like yogurt, today. Big
day. I'm writing from the cab of the mighty mighty F-150 in the UVA
parking garage. I'll head for home and pop in at work then return for
the afternoon. The outlook is good and we keep reminding Ro of the
near future to get through the present. When I last asked her what she
needed, she asked if I could find a Time Plow.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Here's What We Got


Any daytime hospital drama worth its time contains a few subplots. We've had our share here. Now that they're all a few hours old, we've had time to sort through and figure out which of the subplots means something. The clear winner on that count would be Ro's Left Foot.

Every hour or less, a nurse comes in to the room and does all the heroic things PICU nurses do. Among these tasks, they check Ro's extremities for good response to touch, good reflex, and movement. Last night, around 8:00pm, nurse Rachael did just that. After she left, Ro told me that her left foot was feeling a little weird, as though she were not able to make it do everything she wanted it to do. This of course seemed an important bit of news, but it was in with an awful lot of other news, all very important. We were scheduled to transport to x-ray floor and for a CT scan as well. Questions arose as to the risk of moving her at that time, versuses the now even more vital need for the data the x-rays and scan would provide. This is why it took every bit of three hours, two nurses, four scan technicians, four orthopedic MDs, three transport staffers, and one highly stressed dad to accomplish the goal.

Some major decisions had to be made. If we did the CT scan, we would have to take Ro out of traction. With no support rods in place, what are the risks? Would it be better to wait a few hours? When we move the plate under her for x-ray, should she be log rolled, or slid? The techs had a lot of opinions. The on-call orthopedic doc had not arrived. A trauma patient was en route at that moment, and the CT scanner would be needed. The techs wanted to move us through the process. The Dad was voicing his extreme displeasure. We maintained this standoff in the freezing cold scanner room for a half hour. Our PICU nurse united with me to stall for time and hog the room. Finally, the orthopedic MD arrived. Then a second, then a third. The three M.D.s confered with each other and on the telephone with our own Dr. Abel. Ro was now unable to move her foot, along with her left knee. The docs reasoned that the CT scan was top priority, and outweighed the risk of removing traction. They needed and asked for my permission to do so. I wnated to call Ellen, but my phone had lost all it's data, maybe when we walked past the MRI machine. I borrowed a nurse's cell and made the call. The traction weights were removed and nine of us worked together to slowly move a backboard under her and transfer her to the scanning table.

It was decided that we would re-apply traction when we got her back to PICU. By that time, it was nearly midnight. As we returned to the unit, Ro was able to move her toes again. So, more huge news. Her motor skills were returning. The docs chocked it up to "spinal shock". Ro and I marked the minutes for the rest of the night. The moving and jostling were painful for her, and the morphine was starting to cause her itching and rash to get worse. There was a general feeling that moving her may have actually helped her regain her motor skills. Then, around 3:00 am, she said to me, "Dad, I think I'm losing that foot again." This time, it happened even faster than before. This time, we had a cavalcade of residents, nurses, pediatricians, rsdient assistants, assistatant residents, assistants to the residents come in and perform the same basic motor skills tests. "Do you feel that?"
"Can you wiggle your toes?"
Etc. Each would come in, ask the same questions, shrug and try to look pensive-yet-brilliant, and leave.

Just before 7:00 am, Ellen and Vickie returned, as did Dr. Abel. I took the opportunity to crumple to the cot like a sack of dirty laundry. The whites, Dude.

This trio, these fresh horses, might as well have stormed through the doors and declared, "what the HELL is going on here, people?!?" Ellen and Vickie took over patient care. Dr. Abel looked at the CT scan and x-rays and came to talk to Ro.
"How are you feeling, Ro.?"
"Not awesome."
"What hurts?"
"My head and my right foot. My left foot still won't move."
"Your head hurts? Let's remove that traction and take off the two-point halo. And your right foot hurts?"
"Yeah. I think it's because of the things they put on my legs."
They had place compression cuffs on her calves to help prevent clotting.
"Let's take those off too."
This guy was amazing. If she hadn't been so relieved already, Ro probably would have next asked for a pony.

Dr. Abel thinks the left foot issue is due to too much straightening of the spine in one go during yesterday's surgery. It simply isn't used to it. He removed traction to allow it to bend back a little bit. After her right foot stopped hurting, he replaced the cuffs, only looser.

Guess what - by noon, Ro was wiggling her toes again, in both feet.

So here is the Plan as of now: We have scheduled the followup surgery for Monday, April 6th, but that date will be scrubbed unless Ro has completely regained all motor movement. If indeed that happens, the rods will be placed on the spine, but they will be more open to allowing some curvature to remain, even with the rods in place. In other words, they will psh the spine as straight as they can, but they won't risk insulting the nervous system.

Ro is feeling much better, but there's a long way to go. Her big sister came this afternoon and read to her for a while. She can now be rolled toward either her left or right side, thus allowing for more relaxing bed rest. She is sleeping right now, and it's the first really good sleep she's had.


Just Real Quick


Nobody slept much last night, and we're all pretty happy to see the
sun. Ro had a CT scan and full x-ray done last night, which was no
small task. When a PICU patient gets moved, the PICU portable version
goes with them. She has a lot of pain but is managing it with a
morphine pump. This morning an MRI is scheduled to get a complete look
at her spine. I can't begin to tell you how much it means to us that
you all care so much. We really feel it. Ro is going minute to minute,
ice chip to morphine drip. Its really really hard. She knows you're
our there pulling for her, and I can tell you it means a lot to her too.

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