“The Dreaming Spires”

Self is still on Ch. 7 of Stephen Westaby’s Open Heart. It’s a very gripping chapter. Everything unfolds in Oxford, hence “the dreaming spires” (repeated twice in this chapter, the editor must have really liked the expression).

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  • It was almost 8:00 a.m. The summer sun shone brightly on the dreaming spires. I left Katsumata to close the chest and went to warn the ICU about the impending arrival. Something different. For the next twelve hours, Julie’s critical period, she would have no pulse.

As Westaby explains in the previous paragraph, pulse “was much less important than blood flow . . . it didn’t matter whether the blood had pulse or no pulse in it. Flow was the key.”

Further on Julie’s condition:

  • Her kidneys had quit. She would need dialysis for a few days. And she was a little yellow. The liver was suffering as well. By most criteria, she had been dead. But we hoped she would live now. Good or what?

Self would say Julie just won the Lotto. Because Westaby was paged, and because he was willing to come in despite not being on call.

He goes to the patient’s anxious family and they can read his expression: despite “mask dangling down and blood on my theater shoes, I looked pleased.”

Whew! What an event! Like a real battle, and the outcome: “Julie was still alive.” The doctor’s not sure about brain damage, though.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

“A Good Wife and Mother”: Rosario Ferré

The day of my debut as a writer, I sat at my typewriter for a long time, mulling over these thoughts. Inevitably, writing my first story meant taking my first step toward Heaven or Hell, and that made me vacillate between a state of euphoria and depression. It was as if I were about to be born, peering timidly through the doors of Limbo. If my voice rings false or my will fails me, I said to myself, all my sacrifices will have been in vain. I will foolishly have given up the protection which, despite its disadvantages, at least allowed me to be a good wife and mother, and I will justly have fallen from the frying pan into the fire.

Recommended Reading: Rosario Ferré’s short story, The Youngest Doll, from the collection of the same name

The AB-180, 1997 Prototype

From reading Sheryl Recinos’s harrowing memoir of surviving on the streets as an under-age runaway, to Stephen Westaby’s memoir of his most wrenching heart cases.

Sheryl Recinos ended up a doctor (amazing), but that part is not in her memoir, Hindsight: Coming of Age on the Streets of Hollywood. (Maybe there will be a sequel? Self hopes so)

Stephen Westaby’s memoir, on the other hand, describes his work as a member of the team that produces the first artificial heart.

Ch. 7, Open Heart: A Cardiac Surgeon’s Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table

It took the team five years to produce a spinning blood pump the size of a bicycle bell, weighing just half a pound . . . First called the AB-180, it was intended to support the circulation for up to six months . . . It was so simple that one of the technicians attached a prototype pump to his garden hose and drained his fish pond with it.

The first English “guinea pig” for the AB-180 was a 21-year-old woman who had contracted “viral myocarditis, a viral illness like a cold, but when it involves the heart, it can be fatal . . . a desperate situation for a vivacious young woman who had been normal the week before.”

As self told Dearest Mum many years ago: Dying has nothing to do with age.

Look at self’s older sister, dead of streptococcal pneumonia at 34.

Look at Dearly Departed Sister-in-Law Ying, who died at 38 of leukemia which had been diagnosed less than a year before.

In Westaby’s memoir, Julie’s “leg was already blue — pouring out lactic acid.”

Self was the person who received her sister’s autopsy from Lenox Hill Hospital. Her parents couldn’t bear to read it, so self did. It listed her sister’s cause of death as sepsis. Blood poisoning. 11 days earlier she had presented at Lenox Hill’s emergency room, complaining of a bad cough.

As Westaby writes, “most patients with viral myocarditis get over it.”

As most patients with streptococcal pneumonia, what self’s sister contracted, probably do.

Self can tell you she never, ever expected her sister to die that year. That it happened so close to Christmas made all subsequent Christmases into depressing occasions. In fact, a Christmas present her sister had mailed from New York arrived in California three days after she had passed.

11 days. That’s all it took to move a healthy young woman, a mother of three, to illness and then death. That was time enough, though, for self to fly to New York. Time enough for her parents to fly in from the Philippines.

In Westaby’s book, “the doctors scrubbed with haste. What was more important now? Survival or sterility?” He grabs a scalpel and runs the blade “straight through, hard onto the bone.” He runs “the saw up the sternum.” As Julie’s “heart was stopping, I kept moving . . . ” He gathers Julie’s “flickering little ventricles” into his fist and hand-pumps.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Today’s Mail: Last Wednesday of June 2019

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from Texafornia Dreaming, p. 7, The Economist:

One in five Americans calls Texas or California home. By 2050 one in four will. Over the past 20 years the two states have created a third of new jobs in America. Their economic heft rivals whole countries’. Were they nations, Texas would be the tenth-largest, ahead of Canada by GDP. California would be fifth, right behind Germany.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

SAMMIE (Street Name: Lizard): HINDSIGHT, p. 204

A little over halfway through Sheryl Recinos’s memoir Hindsight: Coming of Age in the Streets of Hollywood. Self is totally enthralled by this world (Admittedly, knowing how it all turns out in the end makes the hard times bearable).

Sheryl set out from North Carolina with two other waifs, Sammie and Hunter, and somehow they make it to Los Angeles and ARE ALL STILL ALIVE. They drift in and out of each other’s paths, making no attempt to stay in touch, but somehow they bump into each other. It’s a really, really casual friendship, but somehow self feels better when the narrator is with these other two.

Sammie and Sheryl spend the day at the beach.

  • Night had come, and we’d been quiet companions for most of the day. Sammie had gotten up to explore a few times, and I could see her looking at a display of sterling silver jewelry across the promenade. She wasn’t good at shoplifting, so I secretly hoped she wouldn’t try.

So, she can’t wait to read the rest of this book, which is sort of Jack Kerouac-y, but infinitely more interesting.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Work-in-Progress, First Draft

“Your Holiness,” Matias said, trying to mask his excitement by imbuing his voice with a tone of the most abject humility. “You have not yet informed me where I am to be assigned.”

The Bishop acted as if he was surprised, but he was not; he had left this piece of information for the last, deliberately.

“Do you know the island called Isla del Fuego?” the Bishop asked.

Matias’s throat contracted. “I do know it,” he answered, carefully. “I believe the natives call it by another name.”

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Self’s novel-in-progress, Blue Water, Distant Shores, is 340 pages of conversations between the Bishop and Matias. And between Matias and his native guide, Diego. Oh, and a few letters. That is all.

Stay tuned.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: 2 Items

It’s a good day whenever self can participate in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge. The week’s Fun Foto Challenge is 2 ITEMS OR THE NUMBER 2.

Here are a couple of pics with ‘2 Items.’

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Whipped Cheesecake, Drury Lane, London, May 2019

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Bridge Near Prague’s Jewish Quarter (No time to look up the name of the bridge, self will just wing it!), May 2019

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These two windows were directly across self’s in Hotel Aria, Prague, May 2019

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Back to Work

Below, page 1 of a very, very old work-in-progress. Self was clearing her closets when she stumbled across the hard copy yesterday.

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, DEAR DEPARTED DAD.

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #50: TREES

Self is joining a new Photo Challenge: Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #50 : TREES.

Thanks to viveka of My Guilty Pleasures for making self aware of this photo challenge.

The pictures below are from a trip to Prague that she took in late May with her niece, Irene.

1.  Trees, Prague, May 2019 (next to the Spanish Synagogue)

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2.  Last Sunday in May 2019: Walking by the National Theatre, Prague

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3. Afternoon Cruise Along the Vltava River

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Philip II of Spain, Habsburg

The man after whom self’s native country is named is Philip II.

She’s been writing a story about him for the past couple of years. It begins with a physical description and all of a sudden, self itches to see actual portraits (You’d think she’d have done this first thing, but noooo, self always has to do things the hard way)

So, here he is, dear blog readers: Philip II, King of Spain and Portugal, King of Naples, Ruler of the Spanish Netherlands, and Duke of Milan:

Born in Valladolid, 16 January 1556, died in Madrid on 13 September 1598. He was 71.

Stay tuned.

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