Granddaughters, Bunions, and Courage – KGUA prompt #9

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This week’s KGUA radio writing prompt comes from the repeated words in last week’s submissions.  The words that kept coming up again and again were: trust, passion, peace, end, love, give, life, free, youth, kindness, nature, faith, walk, time, courage, ammunition, people, conviction, black, drown, and potential.

Mark Gross, the KGUA writing leader, asked us to time our free write for ten minutes, limiting us to 200 words.  We were to edit just for spelling and grammar, and send in the draft.

His directions were similar to what I did with seventh and eighth graders in Kittery, Maine and while leading the Teaching of Writing courses at Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of New England.  I would have a discussion, read a passage, or come up with a group activity.  From those activities, I would have my students write for ten minutes to see if they found a topic to take through to a final draft in our writing workshop.  Head down and trusting they’d write, I wrote along with my students.

Mark has given me a taste of my own medicine this week, and for that I thank him.  I chose three words below to run with.  The Walk draft aired on the KGUA Monday Morning Writer’s Hour on June 28, 2020 .

Walk

For the first time in six weeks, Hannah walked with me at the beach in Ogunquit, Maine.  You see, six weeks ago to the day, Hannah had bunion surgery.  First she was on crutches, then two weeks in a walking boot, and then wrapping her foot with surgical gauze twice a day in a hiking shoe.wa

words - ogunquit beach

Ogunquit beach on the southern coast of Maine

Oh, she could move around the house, then our yard, but walking for more than twenty minutes…well she just didn’t want to risk screwing up the operation.  It turns out she was walking on the side of her foot to protect her big toe.  A no no.

But this morning, we woke at five, stretched, then a little after six drove to the wide sandy beach here on the Atlantic.  Being low tide, we walked where the waves were rolling softly to the shore.  She thought she’d go halfway, but then…distracted by the fog, stepping in and around the pools of salt water, we were thirty minutes down the beach before she knew it, nearly to Wells.

Pumped, she headed back into the wind full speed ahead.  I’ve been listening to podcasts as I walk alone during Hannah’s rehab, but this was much better.  Both the conversation and the silence.

 

Youth

Hannah and I are just back from Ithaca, New York where we met our granddaughters for the first time.  Yes, granddaughters!  Reese and Charlotte are our identical twins.  In this crazy Time of Corona, we didn’t know if we’d even see them for six months or even a year!  But when our son and his wife, a nurse no less, invited us to visit the girls three weeks after their births, we were all in to drive 400 miles to be with them.

CR girls nose to nose

Charlotte and Reese

When we arrived, mom and dad hugged us!  Do you know how long it’s been since we hugged anyone else!  Yeah, you do, it’s three months going on a year!

The girls mold together as they lie in their bassinet, just like they were in the womb.  As I sat on the couch knees folded together, I held Reese as she lay sleeping.  Yeah, they sleep a lot.  Then they cry, then mom feeds them, sometimes at the same time, and then the girls sleep some more.

But after three days, they were looking around more and more, checking out their new world.  I look forward to being a part of their lives for a long time.

 

Courage

I have to admit I never really got the white privilege stuff.  As a kid, I was just a kid.  What did I know?  We did live in Radburn, a privileged part of Fair Lawn I learned later as a young adult, a pretty much all white community in north Jersey.  We did take two family car trips to the West Coast.  I just figured lots of kids did that.

words - map of maine

In tiny print, York is on this map

My goodness, I played tennis!  Is that ever a white man’s sport, even though the Williams Sisters took charge of the women’s game for the last twenty years.

I was just going through life.  Living frugally on a teacher’s salary while Hannah stayed home with the kids.  But then we moved from multi-cultural Arizona to white bread Maine.  As such, there were not many families of color here that I knew.  Without a second thought, our kids went to college, had careers.

Of late, I am aware that my white comfort is compromising the lives of so many fellow Americans of color.  Now is the time to have the courage to admit my privileged status and do my part to even the playing field.

I’m listening.

 

Dan and Hannah’s Bunion Surgery – Part Deux

As driving partners in the Bunion 500 for Foot Health, Hannah and her surgeon Dr. Juris are, in the far turn, pulling away from her pathetic little right foot bunion.  Her bunion seems ready to wave the white flag.

Let’s back up, despite how much fun I’m having with the racing metaphor.

On May 13, 2020 Hannah had bunion surgery on her right foot at the Scarborough (Maine) Surgical Center as a day patient.  Both walker and crutches proved beneficial for her rehab.

Bunion2 Hannah with boot

During her first five days, the crutches were valuable in getting up and down the one step from our living room to our outside deck or maneuvering through the small doorway from our bed to the bathroom.  On the other hand, the walker was easier on her arms and wrists as she navigated around the dining room/kitchen area; though it was cumbersome in the hallway turns of our quirky home.  Though, for steadying herself in the shower, the walker takes the pole position!

In time, the crutches threw a piston and crashed into the far wall as they hurt her hands.  Fortunately, five days after surgery, she was put in a walking boot.

Scooting around effortlessly, Hannah regularly rocks seven to eight thousand steps on her Fitbit.  You just can’t keep a good woman down for a long pitstop.

Bunion2 the walking boot

Even so, she is revving her engine in neutral ready to walk with me on the beaches of York and Ogunquit as well as bike our country roads to Mount Agamenticus together.

Hannah did take the recommended Naproxen every twelve hours for the first two and a half days.  But what about the narcotic, Oxycodone, the calling card of opiate abuse?  Hannah was advised to keep ahead of the pain.  So she took a half tablet the first night, then the next morning another half to stay ahead of the pain, even though she felt no pain.

Wondering, then calling the good Dr. Juris, she learned from him to take only the Oxy if she needed it.  She didn’t need it; it wasn’t that she toughed it out, she just didn’t have the pain.

A little later the following week she was slacking by not elevating her foot often enough. She paid the price of some throbbing briefly in the night that went away with her return to elevating, elevating, elevating.

Bunion2 Portland Foot and Ankle

Just two days ago (May 28, 2020) at her second post op appointment at Portland Foot and Ankle, Hannah had the surgical sutures removed (yes, they were painful to even our kids’ tough mother).  For the first time, she saw the five inch surgical scar from the bunionectomy.  Still, she has four to six more weeks of rehab of circling the damn track.

With the warmth of the May sun, friends have stopped by for coffee or tea on our front deck.  People who stayed for an hour or so helped beat the tediousness of being basically quarantined times two!  (Both bunion rehab and Covid-19.)  Others dropped off dinner knowing my culinary skills are limited to take-out chicken burritos from Loco Coco’s Tacos in nearby Kittery.

She’s doing well, ready to take the checkered flag and cruise down victory lane.

Metaphor complete!

Dan and Hannah’s Bunion Surgery

Bunion 1 H at FPC

Early morning at the 1830 First Parish Church Cemetery

Waking early on this Wednesday, May 13, 2020, Hannah and I walk the trails in the woods behind the First Parish Church in town.  It will be Hannah’s last walk for a good while.  As we walk among the beeches and oaks still not leafed out in mid-May, Hannah is subdued.  It’s not the bunion surgery, but the two months of rehab that mellows her mood.

She’s been through long rehabs before with her busted leg from a water skiing accident and another time when her leg was punctured to the bone after falling into a California ravine.  She knows what’s ahead.  There’s no sugar coating this recovery from serious surgery.

Though the others were emergency surgeries, the bunion surgery is “elective,” but oh so necessary; you see, the bunion is compressing the toes on her right foot in a damaging way.

After showering as required before we leave for the Scarborough Surgery Center, Hannah’s spirits lift.  She comments that she’s so lucky to even have the surgery since it’s been postponed before and could have been delayed until the late summer or fall because of the coronavirus.

Bunion 1A H with mask

The 45-minute ride from home in York to the Surgery Center goes smoothly as fewer cars are on the Maine Turnpike due to the Stay at Home order by Governor Janet Mills.  Originally, I was told that I couldn’t come into the building to be with Hannah, but just yesterday we learned that I can be with her as well as during her pre- and post-op.

Though we come with our homemade masks, the Surgery Center expects us to wear their paper masks.  In no time, we are whisked to pre-op.  The words warm, professional, and personable describe each of the nurses and doctors that prepare her for surgery.  Hannah is at ease, and so is her Uber driver.

Bunion 1B Dr J

Dr. J in the pre-op room

Highly recommended, Dr. Juris of Portland Foot and Ankle comes in to mark her right foot with a sharpie and then initials it as well.  Hannah is hooked up to a bag of electrolytes; to this IV will be added the anesthesia.  We are told that she will be in a fog throughout the operation and not remember a single thing from her hour on the operating table.

Bunion 1C marks on foot

Dr. J puts his John Hancock on her right foot

As they wheel Hannah to the OR, I return to the waiting room to take on my role as the Town Crier texting pictures of the dancing lady of my life to family and friends across the country.

Bunion 1E post op Hannah

Post-op Hannah with her protective sandal

Just as they said, Hannah remembers nothing of the hour long surgery.  When I see her in the post-op room, she is her usual sunny self.  In a protective hospital sandal, she will use both crutches and a walker for the time being.  In five days, we return to see Dr. J, when it is likely she will be fitted for a walking boot.

Bunion 1F H with walker

Home sweet home

The numbing medicine in her foot and the general sedative through IV fluid have not worn off by dinner time.  She’ll take Naproxen to reduce the pain over the next few days.  To deal with serious pain, she has Oxycodone, a narcotic which scares the shit out of me.  But trusted nurses tell us how important it is to stay ahead of the pain.  Maybe a half tablet before bed, maybe a whole one.  Hannah’s tough.  The pain is pretty damn tough, too.

Hannah v Pain.  We will see what the weekend brings.

Danny Loves Hannah – 47 Years and Counting

47 wooster

Today Hannah and I celebrate our 47th Wedding Anniversary.  In 1966, we met in Ohio at the College of Wooster, a small (1500 students), self-contained liberal arts college.  Ergo, it was no surprise that many of us first-year students were in the same classes.  In our case, I sat as close as I could, but not creepily so, to Hannah in Sociology 101 and French 103.  We also played on the tennis teams.

During our first year, Hannah, quite understandably, was hotly pursued by first-year guys as well upperclassmen.  Me?  Pursued?  Not so much.  My shyness and horned rim glasses might have had something to do with that.

I was biding my time, hoping the meteors at Wooster would flame out.

47 H at zion

Zion National Park, Observation Point Trail overlooking the Virgin River Valley (Btw, my favorite all-time picture)

Out of the blue, the summer after our first year at Wooster, I received a post card from Hannah while she was a counselor at a summer camp at Moss Lake near Old Forge, NY.

To say the least, I was pumped to return to Wooster for our sophomore year and ask Hannah out.  By that fall as nineteen year-olds, we were dating.  For one who didn’t date in high school, it was the time of my life.  We’d go to the TUB (Temporary Union Building) for cake topped with soft serve ice cream for 25 cents.  We’d play honeymoon bridge in the common area of her Wagner Hall dorm.

Later that fall, we went to the Homecoming Dance at Severance Gym.  The home to varsity basketball and dances, Severance Gym was so small that students sitting on the lowest of the six rows of bleachers had their feet on the basketball court during the game.  That night with the lights low, we slow danced all night long.

Later that night, we walked around campus, holding hands, and eventually found ourselves slipping into the empty chapel on campus.  Without much subtly, I lead Hannah to the balcony in the back of the church; we kissed for the first time.

47 ithaca 2

Taughannock Falls, Ithaca, NY, circa 2019

That sophomore year was life at its best.  Junior year not so much.  Our relationship faltered and we became “friends,” a détente that was not of my choosing.

After our junior year, I took my broken heart out West by transferring to Arizona State University.  Hannah stayed at Wooster, graduating with honors in 1970.

During the following school year, I taught fifth and sixth graders social studies, science, and Spanish at Patrick Henry School in Anaheim, California while Hannah taught elementary physical education at Thornell Road Elementary in Pittsford, New York.  We wrote letters to stay in some touch.  Phone calls were few and far between as the price of a call was $30 per hour back in the day.

47 map of az

47 young D and H

Circa 1976

In an effort to see what magic we might have, Hannah moved to Arizona in October of 1971 where I soon had a job teaching fourth graders at Holdemann Elementary School in Tempe, Arizona.  Time together in the desert climate worked for we married on July 1, 1972 on a Penfield, New York hill where her dad grew Christmas trees.

47 five kids

Our “kids” [Tip, Molly, Will, Laurel, and Robyn] circa 2016

Molly (1979) and Robyn (1981) were born at Desert Samaritan Hospital in Mesa, Arizona.  In 1982, we moved to New England to raise our family in a small town (York).  Once Will came (1983), we wrote and still write our love story on the coast of Maine for now 37 years.

With all the errors and bumps in the road in our life, we had some Ws based on…

47 ithaca

Buttermilk Falls, Ithaca, New York, circa 2019

Hannah’s belief in me that allowed my confidence to grow.  My encouragement of her to let her true self shine through.  We valued experiences over things. We sat and talked most evenings in front of the fireplace when cold and on our deck when warmer.  We celebrated each other’s small victories.

47 in cali

Point Reyes National Seashore (California coast north of San Francisco), circa 2016

I developed a voice such that I had the confidence to become a university professor at the age of 51.  With courage, she at 55, pursued her dream job – cutting hair in a nursing home and in the homes of the housebound.  She willingly came along on my wanderlust travels throughout the United States when home was her journey of choice.

I hit the jackpot going to the College of Wooster where I met the girl of my dreams who turned into the love of my life.

Hannah’s Sandal Tells Her Side of the Story 

Three days ago, I posted a blog on the miraculous recovery of Hannah’s sandal from the side of the New York Thruway.  Click here for that blog.  Teacher/blogger/former UNE student of mine Molly Hogan suggested I write from the sandals point of view.  Challenge accepted.

sandals right one

Really!  You are just leaving me here.  It’s damp, gravelly, and my goodness the cars and trucks are roaring by.  I can hardly hear myself think.  As I was minding my own business on the floor beneath Hannah’s feet as she drove, their car slows, and all of sudden I’m dumped by the side of road.  And then she and her loser hubby (really that’s too harsh, just unobservant) drive off in their fancy, shmacy Prius.

And all the while, these two clueless ones have no idea that I am back by the side of the road.  Oh, she’ll find out soon enough and wonder how he could have been so careless.  There’ll be smoke coming out of her ears, I predict, when she learns of my predicament. 

I know their itinerary is traveling to Ithaca, Syracuse, and Old Forge, New York, and then returning home by this very thruway in two days.  Lying four feet off the shoulder in these nasty small stones, I’m starting to itch and damn if those aren’t storm clouds above.   

sandals hannah sans right one

You know, I had it pretty sweet, nestled on the top bookshelf in their bedroom.  It’s warm there, and she takes me out when she wants to kick back, be uber comfortable.  I am her go-to shoe.  She gently caresses me with her foot as she slides in.  She’s light, delicate and gives me just the right Reiki massage on a daily basis.

She found me at Marshall’s after months of looking for just my style.  She loves me.  She said so.  As dark approaches, car after truck ignores me, and for that I am thankful.  I am waiting for my deliverance back to Maine.        

Two days later – I am certain that she hasn’t slept well thinking of me lost and alone.  He has his doubts, but damn, he’ll support her come hell or high water.  She is the girl of his dreams going on 51 years.  She’s the faith; he’s the what-the-hell, let’s-give-it-a-shot guy.

By later afternoon Thursday, I still don’t see their Silver Prius with Maine plates.  And now it’s time for me to have faith in the Sandal God.  I close my straps and pray for the return of her loving foot embrace. 

Prius 2

A little before 5P, for the fifteenth time a car pulls over, the last time to change a tire, but this time it’s his yuppie Prius.  OMG.  She’s driving, he jumps out with the cars racing by, cradles me, and returns me to the most appreciative sandal wearer in the Known World.  Clearly, the Sandal God answers prayers. 

Dan and Hannah and the Ways of Our Love

It’s the first week of August, Hannah and I have come to Sandy Springs, Georgia (Atlanta Metro Area) for Hannah’s second experimental stem cell injection; we’ve hopes that stem cells just might hold a key to improving her voice, which has been softened and limited for the past 15 years.

SH 1 Julie and Dr T with H

NP Julie and Dr. Tan prepping Hannah

Injected into her spine (to pass the blood/brain barrier), the stem cells will also be infused into her blood system for improved joint health as well.  We have been encouraged by the positive stem cell results by many pickleballers that we have met from the Yonah Mountain area (north Georgia).

SH 1B J to infuse H

Julie prepping to infuse Hannah with stem cells

Up by 2A in York, Maine for our 6A flight to Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, we arrive in the Peach Tree State before 9A; drive 25 miles north to Sandy Springs for Hannah’s treatments.  Dr. Tan administers the stem cell injection; later Nurse Practitioner Julie Thorne infuses the stem cells into her blood system.

SH 2 Anne Frank

Anne

Hannah comes out of the 90-minute procedure smiling, without any pain, but…

…we are both weary beyond belief from our just after midnight wake up call on this 90F afternoon.

Unsuccessful in our attempt to check in the early afternoon at our Comfort Suites motel, we take the opportunity to visit the Anne Frank in the World Center in Sandy Springs!  Who knew that the heart of Dixie would have such a treasure!  Click here for more information about this much-needed telling of her story, especially in light of the August events in Charlottesville and the dangerous equivocating of the President.

Finally checked into the Comfort Suites, we lunch on our Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki subs, sort of nap, later walk to the local grocery store for our dinner, and then, toast the success of Hannah’s stem cell surgery with a fine Cabernet in our suite.

Fried, though Hannah’s feeling no pain, we are in bed by 8P.  That’s when our love kicks in.

Unbeknownst to me in my deep slumber of exhaustion, Hannah soon develops back pain pushing past 12 – on a scale of one to ten.  She can’t sleep.  I mean can’t sleep at all.  She showers; she walks the corridor of the motel’s second floor; she takes a bath; she lies in bed hoping to fall asleep.  Nothing works.  Her back hurts big time.

SH D and NR

Dan and Nancy Rose over brunch at the Summerland Cafe, south of Santa Barbara

And this is where Hannah calls on the wisdom of our Santa Barbara and Unity friend Nancy Rose.   Earlier in the evening, Nancy Rose had emailed Hannah

Dear Hannah,

Just getting around to reading my emails.  I love your friend’s saying- “what soap does for the body, tears do for the soul” -beautiful.  You are good for my soul too, Hannah.  Take good care down there in Georgia.  You are in the best hands, and you know whose they are. 

Later, Hannah emails Nancy Rose.

SH Four of us D H NR Duncan

Dan, Hannah, Nancy, and Duncan earlier this year in Summerland, California

dear Nancy  

            Your latest email helped more than I can say….in the middle of the night last night (after my stem cell injections yesterday) I couldn’t sleep, was feeling aches down to my bones (lower back and back of my thighs), tossed and turned – and thought of your words: “You are in the best hands and you know whose they are.” Because of that sharing from you, I woke Dan up and let him be “God’s hands” in the middle of the night.

      I am so blessed. And I am so grateful for you, dear Nancy. And, for my Danny Boy.  my love – to you and your Duncan.

Hannah

As often in our 50 years together, I am the regular recipient of Hannah’s love, and tonight was another such case.   Hannah wakes me and we cuddle as she tells me of her incessant back pain and inability to sleep.   For me, I am so damn pleased she woke me; I hold her snugly until she is ready to give sleeping another shot.

A few hours later, she wakes me again, still unable to sleep or get comfortable.   We walk the motel corridors together before dawn while everyone else, except us two, sleeps.

And that, my friends, Hannah waking me in the middle of the night is one way of our love…

PS Oh yeah, we’ll remember the Tylenol next time.

Dan Joins Hannah at Woo Girls Reunion III in Richmond, Virginia

I am soft.  Let me explain.

Woo girls outside

Woo Girls – Hannah, Wendy, Maxine, and Bambi

Two years ago, Wendy from Maryland, Maxine from New York, and Bambi from Virginia, all who graduated with Hannah in 1970 from the College of Wooster in Ohio, came to York for the first Woo Girls Reunion.  Last year we all went to Maxine’s place in western New York for the second get-together.  This year we head to Richmond in the Commonwealth of Virginia for Numero Tres.

Rather than manning up and driving the 600+ miles from York through the choking traffic of the Northeast, we decide to fly.  Flying first to Atlanta, we hike the waterfalls trails of Alabama as well as hike and play pickleball in north Georgia.  After five days loving the South, we are set to fly from Atlanta to Richmond for Woo Girls III.

Woo 1 D and H by Delta sign

Arriving two hours early at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport south of Atlanta on Friday morning, we are given the option at the check-in kiosk to volunteer to take a later flight.   If we do, we have the choice of five Delta dollar reimbursements – $100, $200, $300, $400, or $500.  Hannah selects $400, figuring we might get chosen over the “greedier” $500 selectors.

Arriving at the waiting area, soon we are called to the counter and asked if we are still willing to volunteer to take a later flight.  Agreeing to take the 222P flight rather than our 955A, we are now offered $800 in Delta dollars each.   We can’t say yes fast enough.

Having only six volunteers when they need seven as the flight is ready to leave, Delta ups their offer to $900 and nabs their last volunteer.   After the 955A flight departs, the young counter woman calls us up to get our $900 vouchers!  We feel like we won the lottery.

Woo 1A Delta scheduled departure

Waiting four more hours in the Atlanta Airport for $1800 is no sacrifice.  Sending emails and texts from our phones, Hannah writing postcards and me revising blog drafts, sharing a turkey Subway sub, and reading the USA Today, in no time, we are lining up to take our 222P flight to Richmond.

What do you know but Delta overbooks again!  It is NASCAR race weekend in Richmond.  This time they get to $1500 before they get enough volunteers.  We are not a part of the auction.  Earlier I had learned that the next flight is tomorrow.  Wanting no part of finding a place for the night in Atlanta in addition to missing the opening night of Woo Girls III, we board the plane with our hot little $900 bonanza in hand.

Woo 2 welcome to VA sign

After landing at Richmond International, we drive on I-64, then country roads to Quinton (Richmond Metro Area), where our hosts Bambi and Skip welcome us.  With Wendy, Maxine, and her husband Don already here, we catch up on each other’s lives over water, wine, and Coors Light; Bambi’s mouthwatering lasagna from the classic Moosewood Cookbook follows.

Woo 3 H at little library

Little Free Library

Come Saturday morning while the others sleep, Hannah and I drive a couple of miles down Quaker Road to the half mile oval at Quinton Park.  Before walking five laps, we find a Little Library, where one and all can take a book or place one in the outdoor cabinet for others to take.  Finding a family favorite from the Little Bear series, we add it to our own Owen and Max home library.

Our hosts for the weekend, Bambi and Skip have planned this Saturday in nearby CW.  Do you know what CW is?   I had no idea.  I am not talking the cable station, but a visit to Colonial Williamsburg.

Woo 4B King's Arm sign

On this unusually warm 90F summer Saturday in late April, we walk the car-free Main Street past period homes from the Revolutionary War era.  Lunching at the King’s Arms, we have an updated repast in a Revolutionary Years setting.  Later, in nearby Yorktown on the James River, we take in Surrender Field where General Cornwallis in defeat offered his sword to George Washington.

Back in Quinton after dinner, it’s game time.  Bringing a new Rothermel Family favorite, we introduce the Left Center Right dice game.  Played with three specialty dice, the game becomes even more “interesting” when we each bring a few dollar bills to the table.  Being an entirely random game with no skill needed, the first time player has the same chance of winning as the veteran player does.

Woo 5 LCR game

To explain, the six sides of the specialty dice have an R, an L, a C, and three single black dots.  Rolling three dice to begin, if the player rolls an R, she passes a dollar to the person to her right; an L, pass to the left and a C means she puts the dollar in the center (the pot).  A black dot means you keep your dollar.  Once done, the turn passes to the person on the left; when only one person has a dollar, that one wins the pot.

Woo Girls dice

With seven of us each starting with three dollars, we are playing for a $21 bonanza.  Hannah is especially adept at the pre-roll movements (e.g. holding the dice with one hand pointing to the ceiling, then extending the other arm, blowing on the dice, all the while smiling, and enjoying the attention).

Woo 5 Don and Hannah win

Don and Hannah, Big Winners at Left Center Right

It turns out Maxine’s husband Don wins the first game and the $21 bounty.  In the second game, Don and Hannah have the last two dollars.  A black dot roll for Don has him keeping his dollar, then a black dot roll for Hannah lets her keep her greenback.  Then Don rolls a C, putting his dollar in the pot and Hannah comes home the winner.

Board, card, or dice games bring groups together in laughter and celebration.  For Woo Girls IV next year in York, we have the classic Mormon Bridge for the gang.

Dan and Hannah’s Reflections on the Hike to the San Ysidro Falls with the Family Rawding

Dan’s Reflection:

SY2 D with family

That Hannah might die never entered my mind. That said, people could die from such a fall if they, as she did, slide uncontrollably down a nearly vertical wall of sharp rock and dirt towards the waiting San Ysidro Creek 40’ below.  At that moment of her fall, I was comforted in four ways: first, that she looked safe on the perch below; second, it didn’t appear she had hit her head; third, that we had Molly and Tip for support; and fourth, I had no idea how bad her injuries were.

I guess one is never ready for sudden death.  I can’t imagine what it was like for our friend Amelia, when her husband and my college roommate, Big Steve, died in his sleep as a seemingly healthy man just turning 60.  The deaths of my parents in their 90s were not unexpected, indeed a blessing after rich lives.  I had no idea that I might be a widower when I woke up that morning in late February, 2017.

I know tomorrow is not promised to anyone, but the events on that Montecito mountainside gave new meaning to that cliche.  I am very glad that the curtain didn’t come down on Hannah’s life story that day.  But as I think about it, in time, I would have been very grateful for my many years with Hannah.  Hannah was always the one!

On a lighter note, Hannah’s sunny disposition has served her well for 69 years.  Despite deep wounds in her leg, she smiled and limp-walked steadily for a mile and a half out of the woods.  Her confidence and perseverance gave me confidence.

This is a great country for seniors like us with health insurance.  Hannah’s bill from Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital was $4200.   The ER was $2755, IV Therapy $1010, Drugs $152, Pharmacy $140, Medical Surgical Supplies $103, and Clinical Lab costs $37.   Since we have Medicare coverage, we ended up paying a mere $75!!  It’s not a stretch to think all Americans deserve such coverage!

I’m stunned how quickly she is recovering.  Get this, the very next day after the accident, she was slow-walking a half mile, within two days she was hitting the pavement for a mile, three times per day.  Within three weeks, she was working out at our local gym on the treadmill, elliptical, and Wave (roller blading motion).  Within a month she was back playing pickleball as if she had never been gone.  Her recovery is a testament to her lifetime commitment to fitness.

I buy the wisdom of The Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Art of Purring by David Michie. I wish that all of my students could ‘nearly’ die.  There is no better wake-up call on how to live… Life is finite; every day is precious.  And simply to wake up in good health is truly a blessing, because sickness and death [and falls off the trail] can strike at a moment’s notice.   

Our daughter Molly married very well. Tip is the kind of husband, father, and son-in-law we are thrilled to have.  That said, Tip hit the jackpot with Molly.

Life is not an exam. Life is for learning and healing.  We are learning and she is healing.  Hannah and I will be hiking the waterfall trails of northern Georgia and playing pickleball with our Yonah Mountain family in late April.

With my one degree of separation, I got quite the reminder that every day is precious and there is no time to waste.

 

Hannah’s Reflection:

SY2 4A five on trail

It is when we are confronted with…poignant reminders of mortality that we become most aware of the strangeness and wonder of our brief life on Earth.  Kathleen Basford

 

Nearly a month after my fall on the San Ysidro Trail in Montecito, California, I feel more tuned in to life than perhaps ever.  My perspective has once again been “re-set,” as challenging times have a way of doing.  I never did feel fear or pain – thanks, I believe, to my body going into “protective mode” to sustain me til medical attention was available.  Also thanks (especially) to Tip, our son-in-law, who provided his calm reassurance that We’ll get you back on the trail, Omi.  Mostly I feel grateful – that it wasn’t Max or Owen or Molly or Tip who fell.  And grateful that I didn’t fall any further, hit my head, or break any bones.

I believe I experienced what David Michie in The Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Art of Purring calls a “realization…”

A realization is when our understanding of something deepens to the point that it changes our behavior.      I wish that all of my students could ‘nearly’ die.  There is no better wake-up call on how to live.     A realization helps us to let go a little, to experience deep appreciation, even awe – just to be alive.      …time is precious and we must use it wisely.

I am grateful just to be alive and oh-so-grateful to those miracle workers and magic weavers (below) who, truly, brought me Home.

Tip

Molly, Owen, and Max

Danny

Zach and Dominique of AMR

Tony Anagnostou, MD

ER personnel at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital

Corky Thomson & Jane May of York Hospital

Elizabeth Helmer, MD & Alicia, RN  – both of York Hospital

sy-2d-o-and-o-on-rock

 

Eleven things my San Ysidro Falls fall taught me…

It’s all about the people.

Life just gets better.

We do not know what is in store tomorrow – or whether there is a tomorrow or even a tonight! But still, we have the golden present.

Our physical bodies are beyond magnificent.

I have so much to be grateful for.

How much I adore our grand boys.

How equally much I adore our children – and their father.

That I would give my life –in a heart beat – for any one of them.

What a rich, full life I’ve already had.

That I agree with Albert Schweitzer once again:  If there is anything I have learned about men and women, it is that there is a deeper spirit of altruism than is ever evident.  Just as the rivers we see are minor compared to the underground streams, so, too, the idealism that is visible is minor compared to what people carry in their hearts unreleased or scarcely released.

How proud I am to be our son in-law’s mother-in-law.

April 2017     Hannah B. Rothermel (aka Omi)

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 6 of 6

Part 5 ended with the successful surgery to repair Hannah’s gashed upper and lower left leg.

While Hannah is in a hazy fog from the medication, Tony, our surgeon, returns to the operating room.  He mentions that he will implant a drain that will siphon off excess fluid from deep within her thigh while it is healing.  Then looking to me, he says, Would you like to empty it?

SY2 drain

Under his guidance, I invert the plastic bulb and pour it into a plastic cup.  Then, he says to us, before you drain the plastic bulb, squeeze down the tube from near the leg to force the excess red liquid down to the bulbThis will help prevent the bloody fluid in the tube from clotting.  Would you like to try it, he says to me?  Experiential learning at its finest.

I squeeze the red discharge down the tube, knowing that I will remember little back at the cottage if all he does is show me how to do it.  He wants Hannah to take it easy this Thursday, gentle walking Friday, and by Sunday she can do anything she feels up for.  Whoa.

There are no limits to what she can eat or drink.  We should change the bandages after 48 hours and empty the drain 2 to 3 times per day, measure the discharge, and note the color.  In time, the color should turn from red to yellow.

While Molly has arrived to take us back to the cottage, first Kasey, an Ed Tech, wants to give Hannah a lesson in using crutches.  Taking us to a quiet place in the hallway, he demonstrates lifting the injured leg back, stepping forward with the stronger leg, and moving the crutches one step forward.

After adjusting the crutches for Hannah’s height (they are ours to keep and she never uses them; we later donate them to the Montecito Fire Department), Hannah tries, wobbles and flops back into the wheelchair behind her.  She mentions that she sees two Kasey’s; at this point he gets that she needs to be wheeled out in a wheelchair to our waiting car.

SY2 Han on couch

At the cottage the evening after the trail gave way

Once back at the cottage with Owen and Max in bed, Molly, Tip, Hannah, and I talk about our day on the trail.  Famished, Hannah eats two big bowls of Trader Joe’s salads and the big half of a Los Arroyos chicken burrito.  She toasts her day with a glass of white wine.  Oh, that we all could celebrate so after such a day.

We all know how fortunate we are that Hannah is sitting with us six hours after the ground gave way beneath her feet.  That her leg is sutured and stapled, and not…  We just don’t go there.  To what end?  The subjunctive can be positive when it brings up good possibilities but not when it goes down Alice’s rabbit hole.

Aftermath

Within a day, Hannah and I are slow walking a half mile.  Two days after, we slow walk over a mile, three times a day.  Two weeks after we walk a mile at a normal pre-fall pace.

SY2 Han in park 3 days after

Three days after our hike to San Ysidro Falls

Three ibuprofen before bed for the first five nights are all the pain meds she takes.

Repeatedly we hear from the health care professionals, You are healing so well because you are in such good shape.

Tony our surgeon gives us his cell number and calls us at the cottage the day after Hannah’s surgery.

The drain comes out seven days later, the 25 staples are removed 13 days after.

After a month, she’s back on the pickleball courts at home in Maine!

 

So, we thank these angels in our lives:

Tip, for his rescue of Hannah off the cliffside.

Molly, for getting the EMTs in position once Hannah came off the mountain.

Zach and Dominique, American Medical Response EMTs, for diagnosing her wounds and safely delivering her to the ER at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The Ed Techs and Karen our RN at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital who prepped and cared for her pre- and post-surgery.

SY2 ER 3D Tony

Tony, our surgeon

Dr. Tony Anagnostou for his surgical skill, comforting bedside manner, follow-up calls, and accessibility.

Corky Thomson and Jane May of York Hospital who made Hannah’s appointment happen the very next morning back in York, after we landed in Boston from Los Angeles.

York Hospital’s Dr. Elizabeth Helmer and nurse Alicia for picking up the ball once we returned to Maine.

To conclude Hannah’s saga, Hannah and I reflect on the entire adventure.

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 5 of 6

Part 4 ended with Hannah prepped for surgery in the ER at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.  Three hours before on the San Ysidro Trail in nearby Montecito, she fell 15’ into a 40’ ravine of jagged rocks when the trail gave way beneath her feet.  The two significant, deep left leg wounds are on the very same leg that she busted while water skiing five years ago.  Click here for the first of the three part series on Hannah fracturing her tibia while water skiing in 2012.

SY2 ER 3 Tony surgeon

Tony our surgeon, another angel

In walks another angel on Hannah’s journey.  Dr. Anthony Anagnostou introduces himself as Tony, her surgeon.  As he looks around the wound, he is calm, professional, and encouraging.  After getting the details from Hannah of the accident, he says, This is a deep cut.  It must be thoroughly irrigated to reduce the risk of infection.  I will place needles of medication around the wound in your thigh.  The anesthesia will take about ten minutes to kick in.  This is a serious cut, but it is something I have seen before and it is routine.

With those words (it is routine), I feel elation and relief knowing that this isn’t his first rodeo and Hannah is going to be okay.

SY2 ER 3B Tony irrigating

Tony irrigating the wound

Explaining that he will first repair the deepest tissues near her thigh bone, then sew the middle layer of tissue and finally the outer layer.  There will be staples to keep it all altogether until they are removed in 10 to 14 days.  Amazingly, no muscles have been ripped, no tendons torn nor bones broken.

Three two-quart bottles of saline cleanse the wounds.  Hannah and I both feel she has been most fortunate that her capri pants weren’t torn away by the slide over the sharp rocks when she fell.   In fact, the upper part of her capris never ripped.  How could they not tear at all when she had such a deep wound?  They kept more dirt and grit from infecting the wound.

One Ed Tech squirts the solution from the first bottle while another siphons out the bloody liquid, like dental hygienists do as they clean your teeth.

SY2 ER 3C Tony with five watching

At this point, Tony comes in to irrigate the wound with the final two bottles.  Always looking to his expression for signs of good news, I see a dedicated professional going about his business.  Later, he is referred to as an Ivy Leaguer who wants to save the world; he’s going to Africa.  That is music to my ears that we have such a man.

Now that the medication has kicked in, Tony goes to work.  Karen and the Ed Techs all watch the deep tissue work, something I cannot see, or even want to see, sitting opposite where Tony is operating.

When he needs assistance, he is professionally polite, and appreciative of their support.  As he works calmly and intently, Tony pulls out his smart phone to take pictures of the wound and the stages of his care.  Later, he mentions that the wound on her thigh was so deep that he could put his hand in up to his wrist.  He says he will send the pictures of Hannah’s wound for us to see, if she wants.  (Two weeks later, Hannah sees them, but I am still not ready to look at them.)  Though Hannah will have scars from the surgery, Tony wants Hannah to know how fortunate she is with just scars.  Hannah knows!

SY2 ER 3D Tony

Hannah, eyes closed, face turned my way, feels nothing.  She is on major painkillers that will keep her in a fog till she gets to bed tonight.  Only later do we count the 8 staples in her lower leg wound and the 17 staples to close the thigh wound.

Soon an orderly comes in and says that there is a need for examination room 4.  Tony turns matter of factly and responds that he’ll be done in five minutes.  That works for everyone and pleases me no end that he is almost done 40 minutes after he began.

SY2 ER 4 wrapping leg

Tony our surgeon and RN Karen wrap first her lower leg, then upper leg in gauze; they then put a compression bandage over each section.  She is good to go.  That said, when she looks at me, she says, You have three noses.

 

sy2 cleveland clinic

Cleveland Clinic’s attention to the patient

This six-minute video from the Cleveland Clinic captures the importance of encouraging words when doctors are dealing with patients.  Tony our surgeon could have starred in this video.