Mama, Biopsies, and My iPad

1. Mama.
On the heart transplant front things are going very well indeed, and the Infectious Diseases doctor, Stanley Martin, finally cleared me for getting a cat. You may remember from prior posts (see “Parakeets and Me” Feb. 5) that he had told me to get rid of my parakeets because they convey too many diseases to humans. Barbara (see “The Woman Who Runs My Life” May 5) kindly took them home with her while I was still in the hospital. My lung infection (see “New Year’s Eve Party Without the Host” Jan. 7) has scaled down to the point where Dr. Martin finally said I could get a pet as long as I didn’t have to deal with the feces. Try doing that with a dog. But a cat is allowed, though the good doctor had rules (not a kitten, litter box must be changed once a week, etc.). It had been very lonely coming home to a lifeless condo, so it was important to me to come home to a living creature that would, I hoped, be glad to see me.

One of the members of my chosen family is Pamela, who at one time had 13 cats, but is now proud that her “nuisance of cats” (the technical term; I looked it up) is down to a mere eight. Helping me find a suitable cat was a labor of love for her, and she promptly located one currently under the care of her regular (and I mean she sees him a lot) veterinarian. This kind and gentle man is a sucker for abandoned animals and one of his other customers had captured and brought to him a mother cat and her two kittens. She’s about 1½ years old, had been declawed, but, interestingly, not spayed. Apparently last November (about the time of my transplant) she’d gotten out from her prior home, had a romantic dalliance with a Tom, produces a litter of kittens (who knows how many?), and managed to keep two of them alive until they were all captured and delivered to Pam’s vet. In her short life, Mama has had perhaps too much adventure. Pam’s vet farmed out the kittens in due time, but “Mama Cat,” as they called her (and in theory—this is theory only, mind you—she answers to that name), stayed around, becoming the office favorite, being permitted the run of the place (she rubbed up against Pam and I when we first came in with the cat carrier), and obviously loved by all who met her. The vet himself was sorry to part with her, and there were misty eyes at the reception desk as Pam and I exited, cat in carrier, to take her back to my condo.

Mama and I have now been together a month, and are having a great time. If I’d written what’s happened as a dream screenplay entitled “Doug Gets a Cat” it would perfectly reflect the reality of how things have happened. Mama found the litter box right away, learned to like me enough to come up and suddenly lick me for no apparent reason (I do know how to pet a cat, and we’ve had many antic games—particularly the little red bug produced by the lazar pen I once used in the classroom, which scuds around the floor and has to be chased up and down stairs, so far mysteriously eluding capture by Mama the Mighty Huntress). We even sleep together. Mama and I do have a steady battle about which mammal is really in charge. Someone once well said that dogs have “masters” and cats have “staff.”

2. Biopsies.
This topic might seem unrelated, but stay with me.

Once last September, then next time the day of the transplant itself (Nov. 23, 2009), and periodically thereafter (once a week for the first couple of months, then once a month for a year, and then three times a year, and, eventually, once a year), I have had and for the rest of my life will have to endure a biopsy. In this interesting medical procedure, which takes about 45 minutes, the cardiologist inserts a tube into my neck on the right lower side, threads it down to the heart (which, trust me, does not like this) and takes a couple of tiny snips for analysis. Sounds like fun, right?

Actually, it has had its fun moments. In the very first one last September, the cardiologist performing the procedure was Dr. Carl Leier, who is quite a character. As I was lying down on his table he informed me that for background music “You have a choice: 60s music or 60s music.” He looked at me steadily, waiting for a reply. “Well, doctor,” I opined, “I think I’ll choose 60s music.” “Good. I should warn you that sometimes I sing along.” I nodded agreement to that too, remarking, “Doctor, I want you happy all during the time when you’re sticking things down my neck, so sing away.” The operation then proceeded and the good doctor did sing along occasionally. Dr. Leier has a good voice too, and only sang snatches of songs, but, I confess, it was a bit disconcerting to have a doctor playing around with my heart while crooning in my right ear “DUKE, DUKE, DUKE . . . . DUKE OF EARL, DUKE, DUKE!”

The biopsy operation tests for the body’s rejection of the heart, and produces a number on a scale of zero (which means no rejection) to four (which would be bad). I’ve now had about ten of these and with three exceptions they’ve all been zeros. I did have one 1A (mild rejection) and two 2s (rejection starting), but in all those cases a simple adjustment in medication took me back to zero the next time out. So things are good for old Doug.

I’m very pleased with it all, particularly the very talented doctors and their nurses and assistants who have been so friendly time after time. My thanks to them.

3. My iPad.
Every April 1, the major yearly check from my law books publisher arrives, and this year it was, happily, higher than expected. So I asked Barbara (see above) if I could afford to buy a toy. She said yes, and the iPad arrived shortly thereafter. I was suspicious of this new device. How complicated would it be? Could I learn to use it? Would it outperform my beloved Kindle when reading books? Was I throwing away money on a beta version that would be much improved if I waited, say, a year?

The result is clear. I love my iPad, and they will have to pry it from my cold dead hands in order to bury me. “Yes,” therefore, is the answer to all the above questions. The book-reading screen is bigger than the Kindle’s, and it can handle color photos and maps and other illustrations that are usually awful on the Kindle. Even better there’s an App you can buy and download that allows you to read Kindle books themselves, including ones you’ve read in the past and those currently on your Kindle, moving them directly to the bigger iPad screen. Okay, I do sometimes feel guilty, like I’m “cheating” on the Kindle, so every once in awhile I pull it out and read a little on it’s too-small screen—just so its feelings aren’t hurt.

It’s the iPad’s Apps that are wonderful! You can surf the net, summon up Word documents and revise them, read your email, watch ABC shows you missed, get the latest headlines, have a calculator, Wikipedia, GPS, weather forecast, dictionary/thesaurus, games, and much much more at your fingertips. It’s truly a major technological advance, and makes the 21st century a good time to be alive.

Yesterday (Tuesday) at 7:30 a.m. (!!!) in the morning I went to OSU’s Ross Heart Hospital for my monthly biopsy. I took the iPad with me so that in the waiting room I could read one of many books I have currently stored on it, and that iPad attracted a lot of attention. Everyone wanted to see it: doctors, nurses, aides, patients. I handed it around and demonstrated the various Apps. The one that most amused people (and gathered a crowd) was the “Cat Piano.” In this App a touch of an icon summons up a piano with about 15 white and black keys, and when you push one of them you hear a cat’s meow in the right pitch for the note pushed. Thus you can actually play tunes with cat meows (and change the kind of cat meows from six different choices: angelic, asthmatic, fur ball, etc.). It is very funny to listen to, unless, that is, you happen to be a cat named Mama. It drives Mama nuts! Where exactly are these cats? Why are they making these annoying noises? How did they get into what is now “her condo” without Mama knowing it? And how do all these musical cats fit inside that little box? The first time I played it for her, sitting on the floor, she got so frustrated she jumped on the screen with both front (declawed) paws, producing a major screech that sent her scampering frantically into a distant part of the house. Now, whenever I want to summon her from wherever she’s napping, all I have to do is play a note or two on the iPad cat piano and she’s right there bristling—ready for territorial battle.

And you thought I couldn’t tie these three things together, didn’t you?
Related Posts:
“Dog Meat,” December 27, 2009
“Bears,” February 23, 2010
"Parakeets and Me," February 5, 2010
"Milking Cows," June 8, 2010
"Teaching English to Cats," August 6, 2010
"The Purring Heart," November 23, 2010
"The Dogs In My Life," April 18, 2011
"My Parents and Dummy," May 13, 2011
"Two Cat Stories: Mama and Barney in the Wild," July 9, 2011
"Zoo Stories," August 30, 2011
“Mama Cat Saves My Life,” October 23, 2011
"Stepping on Cats," February 8, 2012
“Snowbirding, My iPhone 5, and the Coming Crazy Cat Trip,” December 5, 2012
"Barney Cat and the Big Mammal Nightmare," January 7, 2013
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013


  1. Doug,

    great post! Sorry the birdies had to move on but I can only guess at how insane Mama and the birds would have been together!


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