Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cardiologist Appointment

The doctor ordered an EKG and a nuclear stress test. After making sure that the nuclear stress test was not harmful, we proceeded.

For the nuclear stress test, radioactive dye is injected into the arm. The dye is formulated to target the heart but usually is absorbed by the stomach, pancreas and other assorted innards. The appointment is designed to be 5 hours with a one hour lunch break. The lunch break is necessary as digestion of food rids the dye from everywhere but the heart, thereby leaving a nice pretty picture of the heart to be taken. The dye forces the heart to believe that exercise is occurring so this test is given to those who can't take a standard stress test involving a treadmill.

Over the 4 minutes it takes to inject the dye, 95% of the population suffer side effects including tightness of the chest and/or throat, flushed feeling, headache, etc. These are fully expected and, after making sure that Mom understood she was in no danger, we proceeded, but we prepared for 4 minutes of possible side effects. As the doctor and I questioned Mom about every 45 seconds about side effects, we were all amazed at the fact that the only side effect she reported was a very very slight tightening in her throat. Those of us who know my mama very well know that she belies convention, and this is further proof that she’s just not like everyone else. In this case, we were all grateful.

Lunch time found us at That’s Amore where John walked over from work to meet us. Mom was in fine spirits, having been over the worse part of the test. We laughed and joked through lunch. Now it was just going to be a waiting game as we returned to the cardiologist office.

I watched the Nuclear Technician hook Mom to the cameras and start to take the pictures of the heart. I was absolutely amazed to watch the computer screen display a 3D vision of my mom’s heart beating. It was really fascinating. Even with my little bit of medical knowledge, I could see the valves working beautifully pumping the blood. I could see the aorta and the chambers of the heart. I was in awe.

The technician asked Mom if she wanted anything. Her reply was a 21 year old blond man. The guy laughed and said that he wasn’t 21. Mom looked this middle aged man up and down and up again and said ‘I’ll wait.’ We were rolling. The guy called her his girlfriend, and she was just lit up.

Final prognosis, and I’ll quote the doctor: ‘You have the heart of a 16 year old.’ Even he was amazed at how well her heart is working. She has just a bit of CHF which is to be totally expected at her age but….Amazing. She has some thickening in the top portion of her heart which is why she’s experiencing episodic shortening of breath. The choices are to do further studies (angiograms which are invasive) or just to make an app’t next year to check again. Obviously, the choice was the latter – the doctor allowed us to make the choice and seconded it loudly. Before he left, he asked if he could have a hug and a kiss. I rose to accommodate the request but, alas, it was for dear Gert.

Came home and put Mom to bed at 3. She slept until 7 when she got up for a light dinner. After assuring that she didn’t need anything, I went to bed at 8 pm and slept through to 4 this morning. Nice evening. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

I’ve gone ahead and called off the RV trip though as have to take her to her regular doctor next week for an inhaler – she’ll use this probably daily as prophylaxis against future breathing difficulties. I wouldn’t chance taking her on the road now anyway as we’re both still quite fatigued from the recent excitement. Sharyn (who was going to accompany us on the trip) will still come to us for the week as she wants to be with Gert a while. If Mom’s well, I’ve got some day trips planned – such as tea at the Ritz-Carlton (they’re supposed to have a stupendous tea, and I think it’s just the place for 3 ‘ladies’ to lunch). Sharyn and I will also go to the cabin for a few nights, hopefully, with Mom if she’s up to it. If not, Mom will remain at the Mansion East as we trip off to the Mansion West.

I also realized that, in my quest to give her a fun summer, I’ve been taking her out on days where there is a heat advisory or the air is not good for the elderly. I’ll make more notes in the morning before we schedule our outings. This could result in impromptu cancellations but it’s the best you can do with a 91 year old in tow.

So, all is well again. John’s folks are still in town so they’ll be over for a few nights this week along with some friends for a nice, relaxing grilled dinner.

Oh, I’ve started revamping the Mansion East back yard. It’s amazing looking! For those of you who remember the mud pit, it’s no longer there. I have GRASS, and PLANTS, including the rose bushes I’ve always wanted. John’s Dad planted the roses for me which was very sweet and much appreciated. Pictures follow.
Also, one of my friends asked if she could submit questions for Mom. Absolutely! We're not guaranteeing she'll answer them, but I will certainly ask and document answers. Submit away. Either add a comment to the blog or email me at

She's perfectly fine BUT...

Well, haven’t had a moment to blog recently as have been extremely busy keeping mom ‘pink.’ Ended up in the hospital Saturday night as Mom had been having problems breathing in the morning for the past 5 days. Decided to call the ambulance Saturday morning when she got up so we didn’t have to sit in the emergency waiting room forever – I don’t recommend this trick unless it’s warranted. In Mom’s case, one of the EMTs told me I should always call the ambulance so we can bypass the waiting room. Felt good to know we weren’t playing wolf.

Anyway, at 9 am, we had 7 big, strapping mens in our kitchen to collect their charge. Of course, when an ambulance is dispatched, you end up with a fire truck too. I've never been clear on why this phenomenon occurs unless they expect patients to spontaneously combust, but that’s what happens. So, with all those mens at our disposal, Mom and I had a brief discussion about maybe getting a poker game going instead. 2 of the 6 mens were game (pun intended). But, since they had to log the call, off we toted to Shady Grove Hospital.

Once we arrived at the emergency room and she got stuck for blood (I volunteered to stick her but the nurse declined my kind offer), we sat, and sat, and sat. Actually, it wasn’t that bad. We were only in the actual emergency room around 5 hours or so and she was in a bed in the back so it was ok. Friend Jeff came up so I could run out to get some waters and supplies at the local Safeway, so that was a nice diversion.

One of the doctors asked if she’d been on a trip recently. Uh oh. ‘Um, yes,’ I answered with trepidation, already not liking the direction of this questioning. I took her to Solomon’s Island the week before and, double uh oh, the symptoms started the next morning! Holy CRAP! Have I damaged my mother??? So, they started looking for a blood clot, suspecting that she might have developed a clot in a leg during the ride which then traveled to her lung. Quite thankfully, this appears not to have been the case. But, man, I was sweating there for a bit. After all, I’m responsible for keeping her pink, not making her blue.

Once they ruled out the blood clot (as I’ve mentioned, much to my relief), the doctors thought that maybe she had a slight heart attack so went off looking for evidence. Then they thought that maybe her CHF (cardiac heart failure) had just exacerbated a bit and caused the event.

Mom had a breathing treatment which appeared to help the symptoms and we figured that she’d be released shortly. Well…

We were both a bit dismayed (and more than a little surprised) to find out that a hospital admission was in our future. I was particularly dismayed as my strong memory of spending the night in a hospital chair has not faded a bit. Ugh.

So, our address for the night was Shady Grove Hospital, Room 407, Bed 2. A nurse came in to do a full medical history and suggested that I (along with Mom's input) answer her rather involved questions. So, she started in with her history form. Does she have: glaucoma (no), diabetes (no), dementia (I hesitated and Mom filled in with a loud 'No.'), last menstrual period (Mom pointed to me). We laughed through most of the form. At one point, the nurse apologized to me in advance and said that Mom had to answer the next question by herself. Ok, no problem, what was the question?

'Are you now or have you recently been in any kind of physical harm at the hand of another person? Are you scared of anyone?'

Jeff and I exchanged an anxious sideways glance as this was not the time for Mom to crack a joke. She obviously caught the seriousness of the question and answered 'No' at which time I let out a large breath of air. We all totally cracked up, including the nurse. She knew from the previous questions that we were wiseasses, and she was relieved too.

Sophia came up to relieve Jeff and me around dinner time so Jeff and I tottled off to get some dinner and a drink at a local restaurant. Did I mention that Mom and I have the best friends ever?

Nightfall found me, as expected, fighting the naugahyde beasts in the form of a green ‘lounge’ chair. I'm certain a lot of naugas died to produce this montrosity of a chair. I was certainly cussing the green little bastards. This chair is totally dastardly and is beyond torture. We faced off quite a few times. Every time I got up to help Mom, the chair scored a point in tripping me. Mom, on the other hand, slept fairly well – as well as can be expected if you consider that hospital personnel evidently want to keep you up all night. I guess they figure that, if they have to be up, you're going to be up too. So, every 4 hours, blood was drawn and vital signs collected. It was a very long night.

Sunday morning, Bobbi appeared toting the daily papers and a pretty cactus for Mom. We were talking with Mom, and I mentioned that the cardiologist hadn’t come in yesterday when Mom turned to me and said ‘yes he did.’ Now, this was news to me as I had waited all day for the visit. Turns out that the one time I went downstairs and left the room without a proxy (well, I had to have a cup of coffee), he magically appeared – this is the exact reason that you should never leave an elderly person in the hospital without someone at their side at every single moment (lesson learned). Anyway, the cardiologist must have been waiting for me to leave as his timing couldn’t have been more impecable to avoid my probing questions. And, of course, Mom failed to mention his visit to me. Geez…Now, the woman didn’t miss an opportunity to relate to me the fact that everyone who saw her complimented her on her nails and toes (having recently had a mani/pedi treatment) but, when it comes to important stuff like, well, a doctor visit, these minor details appear to slip her memory. Thanks, Gert.

Anyway, the cardiologist appeared Sunday and did a brief looksie before proclaiming that the following findings were evident from all of the tests done:

No blood clots (whew!)
No heart attack
No evidence of exacerbation of CHF

In fact, he proclaimed that she was the healthiest 91 year old he’d ever seen and couldn’t quite figure out what caused the episodic shortness of breath. He directed us to get an app’t this week at his office for an EKG and a chemical stress test. This brings me to our 5 hour app’t yesterday…

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Victoria's for the weekend

Well, the weekend was ‘busy’ in its own way. We took Victoria up on her kind offer of lending us here house on the water down in Lusby, Maryland (right up from Solomon’s Island). John loaded up his visiting parents (Sonny and Rose), I loaded up Gert and off we went. Mom and I beat John et al down to Vic’s so Mom and I took on the rather arduous task of getting her up the steps. Many rests later, we made it to the top where she was rewarded with the cold beer I’d been dangling in front of her. Threw some hors d’euvres in the oven, popped a few more beers and we were already close to naps by the time John got there.

First thing we did once John arrived was to set the crab traps up – well, we thought we set the crab traps up until the next morning when we noticed that the door to let the crabs out of the traps were not closed! Whoops. We only caught one very stupid crab who, even with an easy egress couldn’t figure his way out! We swore ourselves to secrecy about this slight blunder until his dad came down and I blurted out the issue – whoops again! His dad was too funny though when he said that he’d noticed the doors were open when we dropped the traps in the water but, being unfamiliar with crabs, thought that they kind of came in the trap, ate, went out, came back in, ate, went out – sort of like a little house. Of course, gawfaws ensued all around. We basically stuck to string and chicken parts from thereon out.

Made a nice dinner and crashed early. Favorite line of the day.

Sonny (John’s Dad) came out about 9:30 to tell Mom and me that he was going to bed. ‘Sorry, but I can’t keep up with you youngsters.’

Mom looked at him and replied ‘Well, tomorrow, I’ll show you how it’s done.’

Cracked us all up.

Friday brought a great breakfast of bacon/egg/bagel sandwiches and some rock gut coffee which sent me off to Starbuck’s in the new shopping center for my fix. Now, I can generally drink any coffee but this stuff was just TOO gooey. Ugh.

John took Sonny and Rose off to a nice lunch in Solomon’s while I stayed in the house and napped with Mom. Vic’s house feels like the cabin to Mom and me and we react accordingly – by sleeping! Had a nice afternoon though just snoozing away.

John’s folks really got into crabbing – with a bit of practice, they both became experts by the second day. Dinner Friday was a success basically due to their diligence. We had close to 2 dozen very nice keepers. Mom, of course, gathered most of the claws and left the work to us. I think John’s folks left the table hungry as most beginner pickers do.

Pretty nice weekend though – although I have to go back down there today as we forgot Mom’s bag which has her sleeping pills and her little hand thingee she wears for her arthritis at night. Oh well, should be a nice ride in the ragtop! Might take a dog or two along for the spin.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Days of Beauty

Took Mom to get a facial at Jenny's house. For those of you locals, Jenny is a friend of ours who gives the best facial ever - I highly recommend her services. I almost always fall asleep and wake up totally refreshed.

John and I dropped Mom off for her appointment and then went off to spend an hour while Jenny worked her magic on Mom. We returned to a quite refreshed looking Gertrude. She just glows after a facial.

Jeff came up toting a big zucchini I'd left in his car the day before - don't ask. We threw some burgers on the grill, potatos and onions too, and fresh broccoli. Another fun throw together evening at the Mansion East.

John treated his parents to a trip East so he went off to collect them at the airport before returning to his house in West By-God Va. He, his parents, Mom and I are heading down to Victoria's house for a few days. Vic is in South Carolina vacationing with her family but graciously gave us her house on the water down by Solomon's so we can spend a few days of recreation down at the Tiki Bar and catching those delicious crabs off her dock. Mom, as always, gets all the claws but not without a lot of grumbling from me. Jeff will be staying at the Mansion East with all 5 dogs - I believe we'll be having a better time than he will.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Well, Monday found us surrounded by a messy kitchen as we made delicious blintzes. Friend Andi came over to help as it's really a 3 person operation - 2 people making the shells and one person filling with the cheese filling (no SUGAR to you non-Jews...) - Andi being the 'filler'. Mom can still sling a pan so she and I made the shells. We luckily found an excellent recipe as neither of us could remember the specifics but they came out exactly right. Andi left before the meatloaf was out of the oven but toted home a nice bottle of wine and a dozen blintzes for her effort (we made her leave the chocolates she brought!).

Invited Mitch over for dinner as we knew he, being a vegetarian who lives on his own, would love a homemade meal of rice with chinese brown sauce, stir fried veggies, and blintzes. Mom and I had a slice each of the delicious meatloaf.

Sat outside for a bit after dinner and watched the 7 dogs romp and play in the yard. Early evening at the Mansion as Mom and I were upstairs watching a DVD of the Temptations for a while before an early bedtime of 10. Not a bad time at all.

Summer brunch at Bobbi's Folks house

Took Mom to a delicious brunch at Bobbi's folks on Sunday. They've moved into a beautiful, 'senior-friendly' house up by Frederick. We bypassed the freeway and drove back country roads in the convertible. A gorgeous ride on unfamiliar roads was quite interesting. Development is certainly moving out that way - where once there were rolling fields filled with cows, housing developments now stand. A bit sad but there's no way to impede development 30 scant miles from Washington, D.C.

Mom was gorgeously clad in a blue outfit and she looked totally stunning. I'll post a picture once I get one from Bobbi. Lunch was fantastic and the conversations at the table was a lot of fun. Bobbi's folks are from West Virginia so her Mom has a southern touch to everything, well, except collard greens. I was a bit dismayed to see that she gets her collard fix from a can - in fact, the same can I do. Her green beans though? Never had anything like them. She cooks them for hours and hours on the stove yet they don't fall apart - it's a bit like magic. There's no set recipe but they're guaranteed to be delicious, each and every time. So, brunch mostly had a southern flair - ham, corn pudding (for those of your northerners who may have never had it, this stuff should be avoided at all costs as you might as well bypass your mouth and apply directly to the hips...). Ham, Bobbi's great pasta salad, a layered salad that was magnificent, scattered fruit and veggies, homemade cheesecake that was amazing - you get the idea. It was a great brunch. One woman, Lynn, couldn't believe that Mom is 91. She was really flummoxed by Mom's age - we all admitted that we don't even have the memory Mom has (well, none of us can remember anything, really).

Dropped Mom back off at the house but wasn't ready for the party to end so Bobbi and I went out for a bit. You've guessed it - La Mexicana again. It's always very interesting up there. Met some fun people and sat on the porch for a few hours nursing a cocktail. As almost always, a great afternoon ensued.

Independence Day

The 4th started off with a delightful breakfast prepared by John - egg omelet and pancakes. Mom was especially appreciative of the buckwheat pancakes awaiting her arrival at the table in the morning. Topped off with a cup of steaming coffee and the paper and she was a happy camper.

John and I decided to take the Jeep for a spin and took bagels and cream cheese over to Sharyn's sister Linda's house as dear friend, Sharyn, and her other sister, Mary, were in town. We took Rita with us. The Jeep has a bikini top on it so it's not enclosed, thereby throwing little Rita for a loop - she was constantly trying to alert us that something just wasn't right in the back. But, I held her tightly and off we went.

It's always interesting to get together with the Sharyn and her sisters! Had a ball telling stories on Sharyn as there are just so many to wade through. She and I used to cause a fair amount of trouble together so there were always tears of laughter everywhere we went. Had some bloody marys and made another good memory just sitting around Linda's backyard.

Spent a few hours there and then headed back. Decided to stop for lunch and a cool drink on the way but had a hard time finding an open restaurant. This seemed a little strange to John and me as it was the 4th of July (not Christmas or anything). So, we decided to settle on the norm and headed to La Mexicana for a margarita and late lunch. Rita was a doll sitting on my lap pretty much the whole time. If you ever want to meet people, get yourself a darling dog and place said dog on your lap (it's even better is he/she falls asleep - tranquilizers may speed the process.....). Sat there under the awning when a summer storm appeared and just talked to the masses. Very nice time was had. Brought mom dinner - her normal meal with a side of beans and rice (a small side of beans). The staff knows us there now and always sends their best to Mom when she's not there with me.

Came home and hit the hot tub for a little bit before retiring for the evening. Nice, quiet 4th.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Reunion time

Well, it’s been a very busy few days around here. I dropped Mom off for a visit and dinner at Ron’s Thursday night while I went to a reunion party of my old ‘gang.’ Now, we were a ‘gang’ of kids before ‘gang’ was a bad thing. We’d play flag football in the median strip (when there was a median strip!) of Norbeck road when Norbeck was 2 lanes. We’d get together at someone’s house to watch tv or have impromptu parties in the summer. We’d put on the latest music (generally Bobby Sherman or, if we were feeling adventuresome, the Stones) and dance, dance, dance. We’d make up line dances before we knew that they’d one day be popular. And, that Hustle dance? We were all about getting those moves just right! I believe it might have been Mike who even had a white suit but not sure about that…

We had the childhood that others dream of – loads of fun. I don’t ever remember complaining that there was ‘nothing to do’ and we weren’t inside watching tv either. We’d play kickball in the court where I lived and late summer nights would find me and 3 or 4 friends sitting in the gazebo in the court where I lived, sipping an illegal beer (that’s about the extent of our rebellion back then). We’d sit on the transformer in front of Robin’s house and watch the cars go by. Or lie on our backs in the grass and watch the clouds float by.

So, after 32 years, it was time to see some of these people again. Most of the core group showed – Robin, Sharon, Mike, Don, Tom, Janet, Andi, Howie and me – some of them toting significant others, some coming stag or toting their kids.

It’s always interesting to me to see how similar the kids are to the parents. Janet and Tom's baby (who is 15!) looks just like Janet at that age. Very fun to see - almost like being in a time warp. I spent a fair amount of time goofing off with her.

I looked over one time and saw Sharon and Robin viewing old pictures. I love the granny glasses on both! This is the synopsis of the party. We all are certainly aging (that goes without saying) but, in the end, we're all pretty much the same people we were before - only with granny glasses.
John and I saw some gorgeous fireworks on the way home – big bonus to being out late on July 3. All in all, a nice time was had by all.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Lazy days - fun filled evenings

Well, not much going on at the old Mansion East yesterday. I spent most of the morning on house/car issues which, sadly, is pretty typical around here.

I did have some fun though with my Blackberry at the Frederick MVA as there are some sights there that you, well, just don't see anywhere else in the world. My favorite family montage was a woman Bobbi claimed (after seeing the picture) was one of 3 wives - she had brown hair to her waist, pulled back in a tidy clip at the crown of her head (it's important to get that 'poof' up there just right) and then cascading down her back in 3 long braids, each ending in a red ribbon - a l-o-n-g red ribbon. What I assumed was her son-in-law was a stunning black man with hair the color of buttah - spiked. He had a nice touch of having one teeny weeny braid ending in one teeny weeny bead. Sort of looked like Crabman on My Name is Earl. Now, the crowning participant though was his girlfriend/wife (relationship assumed by her position of reclining across his lap in the front row of the MVA). She was about 16, in a buff colored bustier which, excuse me, didn't quite cover her bust. It ending way north of her pierced navel. The jeans were low riders and quite unassuming until you got to the belt buckle which was a sunflower - and a BIG sunflower. Now, this woman obviously had assumed her mother's penchant for scarves as she had, not only one, but TWO long green scarves adorning her - one tied in her hair and the other tied like a cast on her arm - come to think of it, do they make casts in green polka dots? At any rate, taking stealth pictures of the motley crew kept me amused for the requisite hour while I waited for the MVA staff to finish their lunches, play computer games, etc.

Mom's feeling much better and stronger these days as can be witnessed by an episode yesterday afternoon:

I came in from an hour outside to find her dressed and pertly sitting in her chair. I was a bit surprised as it generally takes the two of us (me being the 'dresser', she being the 'dressee') to get her up and at em. I asked her who helped her get dress - I didn't hear Sophia (or Jeff?!) come in! She said she did it herself. I said that I didn't realize she could do that and she made a similar comment. I believe this was the moment when the gig was up. I've got the mop and broom ready for this morning....No more of this walker crap....

Old friends, Andi and Howie (probably 'Howard' to anyone who hasn't known him for the past - um, few years....) Anyway, Andi called in the afternoon and wanted to drop by to give me a gorgeous silver necklace they'd gotten me and 2 rose bushes - one for Mom, one for me. Too sweet. Threw some chicken kabobs on the new grill (still da bomb!) - they brought fresh corn which accompanied the chicken, made some jasmati rice with basil in my rice cooker (if you don't have one of these things - get one. Amazing invention). Grilled, marinated portobello mushroom topped with Parmesan rounded out the meal. Fresh fruit and coffee for dessert and some nice talk, loads of laugh. Mom had a great time, as did I. Talked a bit about Dad - he's always very close by when friends are here. Got some fun pictures. Mom and Rita continued their nightly bonding exercise. - well, Mom bonded, Rita slept...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cocktails with Gert!

Well, best intentions -

Mom and I had plans to go to the movies (Sex in the City) but, when I came home from running errands, she was napping so let her catch up on some z's.

I did, however, manage to get Mom out of the house last night and onto a bar stool. Went to La Mexicana, a very small mexican restaurant/bar here by the house. Mom really likes the food and the people love her there. So, took her in and propped her up at that bar with a whiskey sour. Played Keno and actually won $52 - covered the tab for Bobbi, Phil, Mom and me. Not a bad take.

Decided that Cape Cod is not the best place to head in late July. Put a post up on Fodor's website and all who responded told me to stay clear. Very tough traffic and few places to stow an RV mean that we'll head for a different path. Not exactly sure where to go, but we already have some stops planned. Might take Mom to the library today and sit in front of an atlas to start the planning. Yes, we can do it on the internet but, for Mom, paper works better. She really is an amazing woman, inside and out. Having a lot of fun with her this summer.