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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Give Me Back My Spleen and Other Adventures from Surgery

I know it sounds like an exaggeration, but I’ve had over 50 surgeries in my life.  By “surgeries” I mean any procedure in which medical cutting was done on my body.  Some of these were small (cataract surgeries in both eyes) or lasik surgery, for example, but others were major (most obviously the heart transplant in 2009).  The first happened when I was in second grade and had my tonsils removed, and the most recent was last week when I had a cyst removed from my pancreas.  I ruptured my appendix in 1978 and this led to my belly being sliced open six times in major surgeries; for the blog post on point see Then, before the heart transplant, there occurred much slicing open of my upper chest to take in and pull out a defibrillator (it kept malfunctioning).  At one point I had major problems with my nose which led to my turbinates being cut away by lasers.  And in 2013 I had a total knee replacement.  A blog clot in my leg required stents being inserted/removed in my body four times, and there have been a number of surgeries related to problems with my heart including one in which a dual electrical system had to be cut out of my new heart!

Heart biopsies have led to most of the surgeries of the 50+ count in the list.  In this interesting medical procedure (it checks for rejection of the heart and takes about 45 minutes), the cardiologist inserts a tube into my neck, threads it down into the heart (which, trust me, does not approve of this invasion) and harvests four tiny snips for analysis, pulling the pieces back up the tube.  Sounds like fun, right?  A couple of months before the transplant I had the first of these procedures. The next one was the day of the transplant itself (Nov. 23, 2009), and periodically thereafter.  In recent years they’ve tapered off and may be over. There have been, I believe, 26 of these biopsies.

Since 2011 I’ve been aware I had a cyst on my pancreas which, ominously “must be watched,” and this year a doctor whose expertise is the pancreas explained that pancreatic cancer is very fatal—even if only one cancerous cell gets in the mix.  That scared me so I agreed with the doctors it was time to take it out. 

My husband David and I went on vacation to Oregon on August 17th, and the very night we arrived home on Sunday, the 20th at midnight, we immediately prepared for surgery at six a.m. that Monday at the Ohio State University Hospitals here in Columbus.  The surgery went off smoothly and my surgeon told me that the cyst contained no cancerous cells and my pancreas, now devoid of an atrophied section, was doing fine. 

Prior to the operation (#53 as I calculate the number) my surgeon had casually mentioned that he would also be removing my spleen.  What!  My SPLEEN!  I was surprised—shocked even. Frankly, I’m not real sure what a spleen does, but the offhand comment that mine would be a casualty in all this was somehow disconcerting.  What had my poor little spleen done to deserve such treatment?  I did a mock protest and learned a lot about the spleen.

The Spleen

It turns out it had a primary function, particularly early in life, of boosting the immune system, and that function gets fainter as we age.  In my case I take major medications to thwart my immune system so that it won’t reject my heart, so removing my spleen from the picture is a good idea.

The portion of the OSU system I recuperated in is the lovely new James Cancer Hospital, which just opened in late 2014, and it is spectacular.  The design of the building, the rooms, the very friendly staff, doctors, nurses, all of it is magnificent.  I have spent a lot of time in hospital rooms at Ohio State in the last forty years, and the James is the best of them all.  I am thankful to everyone for the care I received in so warm and friendly a fashion.

Having said that, the hospital stay there is the same old torture for the patient that it has always been at whatever hospital I’ve stayed in across the country.  If you’re a former patient you doubtless know what I mean: you get no rest.  All day long, all night long the patient is interrupted by person after person coming into the room with his/her own agenda: time to take “vitals,” time to take medicine, time to clean the room, what would you like for your meals today?, here is the meal you ordered, time for your shots, the doctors are making rounds, time to clean the wound, time to try walking, and the list goes on and on.  The longest period of sleep I could maintain without a visit at night was three hours, and this at a time when my aching body begged me for sleep, needed sleep.

The bed itself was like a joke.  It certainly was not designed for comfort for the patient.  The controls are hard to reach and frequently attached to a cord that slips all too easily to the floor.  Whatever the patient does, he/she slides to the bottom of the bed and is scrunched up there until rescued and temporarily pulled back into a position where supine sleep is theoretically possible.  Whoever designed this bed should be forced—by law—to sleep in it for the rest of his/her life.  On top of this, various items in the room beep and buzz, and even ear plugs won’t keep out these irritants.

The James has a new idea on how to prevent bed sores (which occur when the patient fails to move around enough in bed).  It is now routine to attach large balloons around the ankle/thigh area, and these inflate and deflate all during the night, moving the patient’s legs as pressure is applied here and there.  Want to try and sleep through that?

Actually I didn’t mind it at all, but I’m an unusual case.  I sleep with cats, and during the night they frequently cuddle up to my feet for warmth.  When the balloons started inflating, half drugged as I was, I thought it was my cat Mama, who has spent almost every night for the last six years snuggling against my legs, and her mysterious presence made me happy.  How had Mama snuck into the hospital and found my room?  Great cat.

My Cats Mama and Abby on the Bottom of the Bed

However, as the drugs decreased I noticed that the balloon machine emitted an intermittent buzz and some clicks, and those made sleeping difficult.  I finally told the nurse to turn it all off.  She said that most patients really dislike the whole balloon idea, which was no surprise to me.

And in the bathroom the toilet had no solid surface to relax back upon when one was sitting there.  Instead there was an upright fixture for washing the toilet that consisted of a nozzle at the end of a pipe that swiveled down to clean the toilet when the patient was gone.  Since I was wearing the ever-attractive and functional hospital gown that was, of course, open in the back, it was a surprise in the middle of the night to sit on the toilet, lean back into this icy cold fixture, and yelp in protest.  They heard me two rooms away.  Whoever dreamed up this idea should come over to my house and we’ll have a good long talk.  Whoever approved its use and decided to install it in the James can come along too.

I was very pleased when my splendid doctor announced I could go home on Friday, and I am here to tell you now that one of the most sublime pleasures of my life was climbing into my very own bed that Friday afternoon, surrounded by husband, cats, love, and comfort.  As I fell into a long sleep, Mama Cat climbed onto my feet, purring, settling down to sleep herself.  She didn’t seem to care that I was spleenless.

Related Posts:

A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

"About That Heart Transplant," January 24, 2010;

“The First Time I Nearly Died,” August 3, 2010;

“Ten Startling Sentences I Can Stop a Conversation With,”  October 1, 2014;  

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Comparing Donald Trump to a Badly Infected Big Toe

“Horrible but fascinating, and hard not to stare at over and over.”   That’s my analogy between Donald Trump running for president and closely inspecting one’s own badly infected big toe.  My blog is usually about things other than politics, as steady readers will certainly know, but in 2016 I keep coming back to The Donald because he’s mesmerizing.  I promise to stop, at least for awhile, and in the future write about other topics, but right now I can’t stop marveling at the impossibility that this madness is really going on.

There is no way anything as outrageous as the Donald Trump campaign could be this close to the presidency of the United States, with the man at its top so outrageously unqualified for the office—that scenario surely is fiction, or a joke, or a skit on Saturday Night Live, or a ridiculous dream.  Like huge numbers of people the world over, I find myself guiltily rubbernecking at this traffic wreck in progress, not quite believing it’s real. 

You keep hearing speculation that Trump has never really meant to actually become president, that one afternoon he’ll simply pull his chips from the table and announce that he’s tired of running and has decided instead to build a golf course on the moon or something else more interesting than the tedium of politics.  But so far, no.  Instead The Donald keeps rambling on, making spontaneous disconnected statements as the moment seizes him, sounding, as one commentator wrote, like someone making a “drunken wedding toast.”

DOONESBURY [click to enlarge]

When things are revealed about Trump’s past that would sink any other candidate immediately, it means nothing to his followers and fans.  Donald Trump is not, as he endlessly proclaims, one of the most astute businessmen on the planet, and no one who looks carefully into his record thinks so.  Major books have been written exposing Trump’s shady business dealings [see Wayne Barrett, “Trump: The Deals and the Downfall,”; Timothy L. O’Brien, “Trump Nation,” (which led to the author being sued by Trump for libel and winning the lawsuit); David Cay Johnston, “Temples of Chance” exploring Trump’s casino days and concluding that in 1990 Trump was in debt to the tune of nearly three hundred million dollars, leading to the first of the (so far) six bankruptcies filed by Trump companies.  His record is replete with major failure after major failure, all of which he escapes from nicely by taking the corporations into bankruptcy while he retains big bucks paid to him as a salary/bonus/commission for heading up the financial disaster. 

One major business tactic, employed in building Trump’s casinos in Atlantic City and at other projects, is to sign contracts with the various companies doing  subcontracting work, let them perform, and then send them checks for half the amount owed them.  When they protest, Trump’s usual excuse is not that their performance was substandard, but that he’s losing money on the project and they’ll just have to take their share of the hit.  When the subcontractor protests Trump’s lawyer frankly explain that, yeah, the contractor might well win if he goes to court, but in the meantime the enormous Trump legal machine will make it so expensive and so long a process that the contractor still won’t make any money from the lawsuit, so he might as well take the partial payment and shut up.  [For a more complete discussion see the AP news release of June 29, 2016 at; and for a very sad interview on point see the video in]  

I previously wrote a long blog post detailing Trump’s fraud in creating, profiting by, and legal problems arising from his promotion of Trump University, which duped thousands of the people who loved him into handing over their savings but giving them nothing in return [see “Trump University: A Fraudster for President”? March 10, 2016;].  If he becomes the next President of the United States, it is highly likely that, while in office, he’ll be found guilty of swindling these poor people and facing massive damages in one or more of the three class actions currently seeking that very relief. What an example of a U.S. President that will be for the world!

A major recent revelation is—shocking but somehow predictable—that Trump did not write the major bestseller “The Art of the Deal” which has made him millions since 1987 when it was first published.  Here is the cover of the book:

Note that the author of the book is described as “Donald Trump with Tony Schwartz.” It turns out this is false.  Recently Mr. Schwartz gave an interview to The New Yorker in which he repents ever meeting Donald Trump and agreeing to write the book that made Trump even more famous and both of them rich [see].  Schwartz says (and Random House, the publisher confirms) that Trump didn’t write a single word of the book.  Schwartz wrote it alone after spending 18 months with Trump, working hard to get him to participate at all.  Here are some Schwartz’s quotes from the interview:

 “I put lipstick on a pig. . . . I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.”

“He has no attention span . . . like a kindergartner who can’t sit still in a classroom . . . .  If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time.”

“More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true. . . .  He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.”

“I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

Statements like that of course sent Trump rocketing into the stratosphere.  Immediately after the interview was published in The New Yorker Schwartz received a blistering letter from Trump’s lawyer, who demanded a retraction and threatened a lawsuit for defamation.  That’s in keeping with Trump’s usual tactic: he sues fast, refuses to settle, and drags things out to raise the other side’s attorney’s fees until they give up.  Tony Schwartz’s lawyer immediately replied that Schwartz had no intention of making a retraction, so go ahead and sue.  Schwartz has pledged to give all profits he makes from “The Art of the Deal” from now on to charity, and he’s working hard to defeat Trump’s election as president.  [For more details on this legal battle see].

On August 2nd, President Obama, astounded at Trump’s ineptness, declared on television that Donald Trump is "woefully unprepared" and "unfit to serve as president."  Comparing Trump to Obama’s past election opponents, the president said "Mitt Romney and John McCain were wrong on certain policy issues, but I never thought that they couldn't do the job."  He is very disturbed by the possibility that Trump might be the next occupant of the Oval Office.  We all should be.

Governor John Kasich
There is some evidence that when Donald Trump was trying to persuade former rival John Kasich to become his vice presidential running mate he offered to let Kasich, behind the scenes, actually run the government both on the domestic and international levels, while Trump himself remained Head of State for all ceremonial occasions.  It’s both hard to believe that offer was made, but at the very same time no one would bet big money Trump didn’t actually propose it.  John Kasich not only turned Trump down, he has refused to endorse him for president, and wouldn’t even attend the Republican Convention held in Ohio where Kasich is the current governor.

I finish the post where it started.  The whole Trump campaign is very much like a badly infected big toe: scary yet fascinating, both real and unreal at the same instant.  Everyone should be clear about making sure this bizarre man is not elected president.  I don’t care how much you dislike Hillary Clinton.  Okay, she might either be a very good president or a poor one, but she’s not unqualified for the office, and she’s a sane and thoughtful person with an impressive record of public service.  If you can’t vote for her because you can’t stand the woman or don’t trust her, stay home.  Time Magazine quoted BriAna Golphin, an Ohioan, who summed up the attitude all voters should have about Trump’s candidacy when she said, “It could be Kermit the Frog and Donald Trump, I’d pick Kermit the Frog.”

I'm with BriAna.  Kermit would at least work to make intelligent decisions.

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

“Trump University: A Fraudster for President”? March 10, 2016;]

“Why Hillary Will Stomp Trump In November,” June 30, 2016;

“Trump’s VP Choice:  Introducing Sarah Palin . . . Mike Pence!” July 18, 2016;

“A Criminal Controls the Detective: Why Trump Will Soon Fire Robert Mueller”;