CABG

No, not the leafy vegetable that everyone avoids until they have it with their corned beef on St. Patricks’s Day. This CABG is an acronym for Coronary Artery Bypass Graft.  We recently became intimately acquainted.

I had some chest pains, and some medical-technical procedures showed I had blockages in a couple of arteries. After two attempts to remove the arterial blockage by less formidable methods, I was scheduled for a CABG operation.

I won’t, or maybe can’t, go into details about the operation, but there are videos and animations on YouTube for those with more fortitude than I. I am one of those ‘I-won’t-look-just-tell-me-when it’s-over’ kind of guys.

So, they rounded up all the usual suspects; surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, perfusionists (don’t ask me what they do), and for all I know, some sturgeons, anarchists, ninjas and percussionists as well, and set to work on me.

They must have done a remarkable job because I was up and walking and talking and breathing the very next day. I was told I could be the poster boy for CABG surgery. (Me? A poster boy? I have never been a poster boy for anything. I used to get beaten up by poster boys).

It’s not that simple of course; I still have a long way to go. But, recovery continues, sense of humor remains, and sense of awe at what happened to me begins to blossom.

Here is an old song, way old, that I used to sing before my arteries got clogged.

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Best Friends

The first one was a classmate in second grade, whose name completely escapes me. We stood on a corner near the Saint Pascal Baylon rectory and made plans to cut our fingers, mingle our blood, and become blood brothers forever. We probably got the idea from some television program.

We both chickened out, of course, claiming something about the possibility of infection (like either of us knew what that was), and this best-friendship lasted only a few weeks more.

The next I remember was Stephen Hawk, the sixth-grade class clown. Stephen was cool because he was able to tie a handkerchief in some clever way to make it look like a brassiere. Brassiers were very, very popular among the sixth grade boys. In fact, brassieres were probably the official undergarment of the sixth grade. Stephen and I were best friends until he didn’t invite me to a party in his basement. It wasn’t just a party, but a party where there would be girls. I don’t think I am quite over that social slight yet. Rosemary Gentilesco had made actual eye contact with me during a geography lesson a week or so before. One of her eyebrows raised during that brief encounter, and I was sure that subtle facial expression had deep and significant meaning. I was primed for a party including Rosemary, but “The best laid plans of mice and men/ gang aft a-gley”. Without an invitation to my soon-to-be-ex-best-friend’s party, my plans gang a-gleyed like a jewelry store window during a riot.

High school just blurred by, with friends, acquaintances and arch-enemies whizzing by too quickly to settle on one as a ‘best’.  There were some ‘goods’, but I don’t remember a ‘best’.  It was much the same with college, although beer may have been a factor in all that whizzing, until I met Dolores. She is still, four decades later, my best friend.

Oh, we’re also married, but central as that is to our relationship, it somehow seems secondary. At least it does now.   All of what, at one stage of life, was critical, love, sex, children, job… fill in your own blanks… has shifted from the road we were on to the rear view mirror.  What brings focus now is not a plan or an activity or a dream, but a person, and she is sitting next to me.  Or across the table, or on the other side of the bed or kneeling in the garden brushing the hair out of her eyes.

Certainly the length of time that we have been together is part of the equation.  You can really get to know a person in forty-something years.  We may know each other well enough to finish the other’s sentences, but we also know not to.  We’re able to make plans without conflict, and to shrug it off when the plans fall through.  It is accepted without comment that there are times when it is right to be together, and times when it is right to be separate.

In short, although it’s too late in this essay to be short, we have survived the tortuous realities of twentieth and twenty-first century life long enough to become best friends.  There is no mixing of blood necessary, and beer is not a factor.  That brassiere thing though…. well, I’d better not say.

•••••

Here is the theme song from “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father”.  The lyrics don’t quite fit, but Harry Nillson sings ‘ladup badada bup yaaa’ at the end, and really, who can argue with that?

Hors de Combat

I had a visit to the hospital this week; happily I was in and out in one day. Apparently, two of my three main arteries are doing okay, but the third, well, not so much. That one will require some discussion and decisions, not to mention appointments, needles, meds, forms to fill out, yada, yada, and of course, etcetera. But, it’s early in the game and the outlook is decidedly positive.

Meanwhile, I will be ‘hors de combat’. That’s a neat little French phrase meaning, ‘outside the fight’, which is okay by me. Generally, French phrases are too rich for me, kind of like putting syrup on your spaghetti, but ‘hors de combat’ is a good description of how I’m feeling.

What surprised me, pleasantly, was the way the whole process flowed. And flowed, I think is the right word. I was first told to be at the hospital the following day for a P.A.T. I was hesitant to ask what a P.A.T. was, thinking that, with the assurance used to speak those initials, everyone knew what a P.A.T was. At first I thought I was due for a friendly P.A.T on the back, but no. Then I thought perhaps I would be expected to kick a Point After Touchdown. But no.

Port Authority Terminal? Public Access Television? Psychiatric Association of Tulsa? No, no and no. P.A.T, as anyone in the medical field will attest, stands for Pre-Admission Test. Of course. And yet, somehow, this is information that I was not born with.

That was really the only snag in what turned out to be a smooth process. Once I was in the know, I did my P.A.T proudly and cheerfully, and proceeded to be admitted. Someone behind a desk asked me The List Of Pertinent Questions; name, date of birth, social security #, insurance carrier, and of course, etcetera.

In due course, I was directed upstairs to what was called ‘the holding area’. Despite the name, it was a pleasant enough waiting room where another person came out from behind the desk to ask me The List Of Pertinent Questions. I guess I got the answers right because shortly after that a nurse escorted me to a clinical area where I was assigned “Bay #1”, which was actually a bed. (To my disappointment, there was no sign of a bay, or even a pond).   After I was settled in with one of those robes that are impossible to tie in the back, she commenced to ask me The List Of Pertinent Questions. I guess I passed the test again, because shortly after that a doctor came by, the very doctor who would be performing my procedure, and asked me, as if you didn’t know, The List Of Pertinent Questions. After all this practice, I nailed it, and was wheeled to an operating room. Or, more accurately, procedure room. I had been told that this was NOT an operation, but a procedure. A rose by any other name would still require drugs.

And speaking of drugs, they can truly be a wonderful thing. Like atomic power and the Internet, carefully applied in the right hands they can be a force for good. I was given something, or several somethings, and woke up when it was all over thinking I had just nodded off for a few minutes. While I was away, I was, as Arlo Guthrie was in Alice’s Restaurant, “injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected” with only moderate damage to my personal dignity. Yes, drugs can truly be a wonderful thing.

I am home now, only slightly the worse for wear, and slightly less curmudgeonly in my respect for the medical establishment.

 ••••

So, anyway, a guy goes to a doctor and says, “I’m a wigwam!! I’m a teepee!! I’m a wigwam!! I’m a teepee!!”

The doctor says, “Try to relax. You’re just two tents.”

••••

Another doctor advises his patient… “You need exercise. Walk two miles a day, and call me back in a week.”

A week later the patient calls. “So, how do you feel?” asks the doctor.

“Well, I feel fine,” he says, “but I’m fourteen miles away from home.”