Snow Walks: Weekend Vs. Weekday

Snow in the City: Monday through Friday
Snow in the City: Monday through Friday

It’s snowing today. A. and I walked to school as flurries fluttered down. Snow plows and salt trucks made a couple of loops to help commuters reach the FDR. Elementary students and their parents clad in moon boots crowded  sidewalks.

He had fun (he’s five; what kindergartener doesn’t like snow?) but I preferred our snow walk on Saturday. It was everything that I enjoy about snow in the city.

There aren’t too many things that slow this city down, but storms can. Some do more than others, such as blizzards and superstorms. But when it snows on a weekend morning, this huge bustle of energy transforms; it almost feels like a cloud city.

When A. and I walked in the snow to get M&Ms for gingerbread bears and breakfast on Saturday, it was quiet. The sounds of the city were muffled. Salt trucks and plows lazily patrolled the streets. Sidewalks were empty because people huddled in their homes.

It is a rare moment when this metropolis is tranquil. That is why it is one of my favorite occasions in New York City.


Snow Walks: Weekend Vs. Weekday

Lessons from a Cardiac Unit: A Patient’s Perspective

A girl with an improved and slightly new mitral valve sits here today typing. Surgery was inevitable so instead of being afraid, I scheduled it as soon as I possibly could. I figured it was better to get to the healing sooner rather than later.

That week in the hospital was difficult  because the  recovery effort is. This was no holiday. The day after heart surgery I was expected to sit up in a high back chair and three days after that the expectation was to walk. And these were things that expected from my stay. I’m familiar with the cardiac unit: I had watched my stepfather recover during his month in the cardiac unit. What I wasn’t expecting was the education about being a patient that I would get. Here is what I learned in during my week in the cardiac unit.

There should be a Patient Code of Conduct. In the myriad of papers that are part of the hospital admitting process, there should be a Patient Code of Conduct that each patient must sign. I cannot begin to list the rude behavior that I witnessed as a patient, but the incident that give me this idea was this: I was in the step-down unit and there was this older gentlemen who decided to yell obscenities  into his cell phone as he walked up and down the ward (something you are expected to do often). It was vial and didn’t help promote an environment for healing—one that is positive and peaceful. As I listened to him ( there was no way not to) I came up with the Patient Code of Conduct.

Until hospitals take that idea and run with it, be aware of your actions and how they may affect the other patients around you. This is true whether you are a patient or a visitor.

Your nurse and aide are your partners. One of the most difficult things about being in the hospital, especially ICU, is that you feel powerless. There is not a lot of things that you can do for yourself and nearly everything is dictated to you. However, if you talk to your nurse about everything that is happening—from medication to tests to physical therapy—those activities can happen more on your terms. (Sorry, the 4 a.m. blood draws and vital readings are not one of them. I’m still waking up at that hour unprompted.)

For instance, during my first night, one of the meds I was given was for anti-nausea. I threw up nearly all night until I asked not to take it. After a few hours of dry-heaving, I noticed it was worse after taking the med. Sure enough, once I stopped taking it, I stop throwing up. From that moment, the nurse and I talked about my treatment more. Now, I am not suggesting you go against your doctors orders. Be aware, ask questions, and play an active role. Only you know how you feel.

Treat everyone you encounter with respect. Yes, you feel like hell. Yes, you’re in a bad mood. Yes, you feel helpless. All of these things does not give you the permission to treat anyone—whether it is the porter to the doctor—like shit. When my stepfather was in the hospital, he was so mean to everyone that the nurses were concerned he abused my mother. It was bad. Also, his chart said “MEAN” in red caps: Nothing like being labeled a son of a bitch to make people approach you with their guard up. Kindness and respect will get you farther in this world and studies have shown that these things can even help your health.

Leave the smartphone at home. The moment my cell phone came into my room, the restfulness dissipated. Sure it was helpful to text wants and needs to my mom and M. but the draw to check email and social media were strong. (Granted, this may say more about me than anything else.) Luckily, I had brought enough reading material to keep me busy but Bejeweled Blitz called out once or twice.

And one final thought: Re-admittance is common.  One night when I was talking with my night nurse, she told me that she saw a lot of people return to the unit—more than half of the patients! I can’t even imagine going through recovery and then have to go through it again. Healing is difficult. Eating right and exercising is a whole lot easier and less painful.

Time for me to take a walk; I’ve got healing to do.

Lessons from a Cardiac Unit: A Patient’s Perspective

I Finally Saw A Cardiologist

I walked through Grand Central Station. I passed NYPD officers hoping that I wouldn’t be stopped, hoping that I would have to explain the wires and the device I was wearing. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what suicide bombers felt like. The difference: my weapon of destruction wasn’t explosives, it was my heart.

After knowing for 15 years that my mitral valve prolapsed, the monitor that hung around my neck would help determine what I always knew was inevitable—surgery. The weeks that followed were  disrupted as if someone had strapped explosives to my chest and threatened to set them off: I was consumed, I was stressed, and I was impatient. After feeling like crap—immense fatigue, panic and anxiety, dizziness, inability to concentrate, palpitations, and depression—for over three years, I had a reason and a solution and I couldn’t wait to get back to my old self.

When I was first diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse, an EMT friend of mine told me:

You’re the healthiest sick person I know.

Then, racewalking half-marathons and hiking were regular leisure time activities;  working out every morning, and eating well were as much a part of my schedule as waking up. While my activity level has been in a state of flux over the last decade and a half, my diet has always been on the healthy side. So, even though I tired easily,  get winded, and  get light-headed, I just powered through it. Never did I make the connection that my bum heart was making me less fit.

Fast forward to September 2013, the heart monitor, and walking through Grand Central Station, my cardiologist’s voice still echoing through my head:

You need surgery.

Yes, it was time. My heart’s structure had been compromised, but  my stress test was excellent—thanks to my physical prowess all these years. Despite its handicap, my heart was strong.

I Finally Saw A Cardiologist

My Hunter Boots: Frivolous Purchase or Crystal Ball?

My best purchase ever?
One of my best purchases ever

Nearly four years ago I bought this pair of Hunter boots (see left). Normally this wouldn’t be a purchase that would garner any attention but consider this: I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and never owned rain boots (honestly, never had the need for them). I lived in California where rain was a rare occurrence that made the local weather man Dallas Raines giddy and news directors send entire news teams to cover the freeways and Los Angeles River when a tenth of an inch was forecasted. Needless, buying the Hunter Boots was a whim based on an upcoming trip to New York where real rain storms were forecasted.

The boots ended up staying on the left coast  when I headed to the right. But it was that trip that started the cascade of events that would lead us to New York City and the steady use of my Hunter boots.

For the six months that we lived in New Jersey, summer rain storms kept the boots in heavy rotation. Little did I know that it was only a glimpse of the amount of action that the rubber boots would see during the upcoming winter of blizzards—two  blanketed NYC with more than 20 inches each—and rain. They definitely took the Big Apple by storm (pun intended). I think I wore them everyday of our first winter living in Manhattan and by the time spring finally came I was tired of walking with  rubber shackles around my legs. (Man, are they heavy!)

The following two winters did not deliver the weather wallop that the first one did. Now we are entering our fourth winter in the city and they have already seen rain and snow action in the last week.

Yesterday, as I was walking through the rain wearing my Hunters, I thought about what a great buy they were. What started out as a frivolous purchase ended up foreshadowing a life that I didn’t even realize was ahead.



My Hunter Boots: Frivolous Purchase or Crystal Ball?