Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Middle of Nowhere

I was making a delivery to the Summers/Scott cottage. I stopped at my parents' place first to make a delivery to them. My Mom suggested she come with me to the cottage. I could use her help and we'd enjoy the afternoon together.

We used her car. We were going to take the back roads to Sturgeon. It's faster (and more scenic) than taking the highway. The only problem was, neither of us could remember the name of the road where we'd need to make the first turn. We had the landmarks for the turn, but not the street name.

"No problem," she said. "We'll program the navigator." Her 300C has an in-dash navigation system. Once we'd programmed the address (not exactly the address, but a street near to the address, since the cottage's address doesn't exist), we set out.

Millie, her navigator's voice, instructed us to turn several times before the road we were looking for. It seemed like she was getting frustrated with having to recalculate. "You are off the specified route," we were told before Millie adjusted.

We came to The Glen Road and turned...even though Millie didn't want us to. Heading east on The Glen Road, Millie recalculated the trip several more times. She'd given up asking us to make U-turns to return to the specified route. Is it possible for a navigation system's voice to sound exasperated? I was waiting for a message like 'Get there yourself' to appear or for Millie to say 'To hell with you'.

Somewhere east of County Road #6 and about 5 kilometers west of #35, I looked at the navigator display screen. We were officially in the middle of nowhere. We're the arrow - and there's nothing around us. According to Millie, we weren't even on a road!

We made it there and back.
I've been to the middle of nowhere and it looked a lot like Cambray.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cleveland IV

It's that time again - another appointment at the Cleveland Clinic.

You didn't miss the post about trip #3 (it would have been titled Cleveland is Closed), an official version was never posted. Here's a recap: Michelle and I arrived in Cleveland at 9:00 p.m. We went to each of the restaurants along E. 89th St. in search of food for Michelle. Despite the signs indicating the places were open, they were all closed. We asked at one place why they were closed when the posted operating hours showed they'd be open, and the security guard simply said, "We're closed". Michelle negotiated some yogurt at Subway and scrounged some soup at the hotel. Drove all that way only to find out that part of the city closes at 9:00. The appointment was uneventful and nothing unexpected happened. Drove home. The turnaround trip happened while Michelle and Lju were finalizing the purchase of their store and I was being held hostage by a virus. It was a tight time-frame since I was also leaving the next day with Jessica's hockey team for a tournament.
Didn't see that recap either? It's not there. The team brought home silver after the championship game went to shoot-outs. But the real highlight is that Lorraine and I went to Bingo and won!

Back to today.
It's the one-year follow-up visit. My traveling companion for this trip is my son, Andrew. Also on board is Kate, the voice of John's new portable navigator. It's not long before Kate and I have a disagreement. She wants me to get off the 190 in Buffalo and take surface roads to pick up I-90. I stick with my instincts and proceed along my usual route.

We enter the toll road in little traffic. Just us and the 18-wheelers cruising along. We pass a Caution, Deer Prancing on Hind Legs sign and 1/2 mile down the road, Bambi and her mother tentatively move from the woodsy median toward the westbound lanes. I slow the car to see what they're going to do. The doe takes a couple more steps toward the highway then prances back to the woods.

In Pennsylvania, we trade seats. We've muted Kate on the GPS navigator. We decide to let her keep track of our travel stats, but that's it for now. Unfortunately for Andrew, beginning at mile #3 and through to the Ohio state line, the Interstate is under construction - only one lane is open and the speed limit's reduced to 45 mph. We gas up at the edge of Ohio and switch seats for the final leg.

Kate agrees with my usual route to the hotel. Apparently Kate is holding a grudge over having been muted: she fails to tell us that all the roads around the hotel and hospital are being reconstructed - Euclid is closed completely to traffic; same with 93rd; 89th is torn up, but passable at very low speed.

After unpacking and checking in at home, we go looking for food. Based on the November experience, I know better than to venture anywhere but the lobby...where, at the restaurant, you can order food until 10:15 (it is 10:00 when we start looking), or order room service until 10:30. I guess nobody ever gets hungry late at night around these parts.

Andrew eats in the lounge and we catch a couple innings of the All-Star Game. He comments that it's not a very happening place. I explain that it's not a club - most of the guests at the hotel are here for the hospital services, not the party.

Next ...

It's The Best You've Looked

I head to the Global Patient Center in the morning. Joachim processes my registration and finances, and Bernice is assigned as my concierge. Bernice remembers me from last June.
The Cleveland Clinic is building a new Heart Institute and rehabbing 2 other buildings. Getting from GPC to Section M proves to be a challenge - Bernice, a concierge for 6 years checks directions with a CCF Ambassador after circling the lobby with me in tow.

In the Metabolic Center things are running behind schedule. Really behind schedule. So delayed, in fact, that it's starting to feel a little like home. The clinic is conducting a time study right now. I receive a time card at check-in that indicates my appointment time and my arrival time. At 20 minute intervals, if I'm still waiting, the clerk stamps my time card again. I'm to turn in my card on my way out. My card's filling up.

Sometime after the ninety-minute mark, I'm taken to a clinic room. Dr. Chand comes in and asks, "Where is everyone?"
"What do you mean?" I reply.
"Your sisters, your husband, your parents. Did you make the trip alone?"
"No," I answer. "My son came with me. He chose to stay at the hotel this morning."
Chand's face displays alarm. "You left your son alone at the hotel?"
"It's not like he's a toddler; he's 18," I say.

Satisfied with that, he moves on to the business of the day. "You look great. This is the best I've seen you look," he begins. "You look really good. Do you feel as well as you look?"

I tell him that I've been hearing that a lot lately. Over the past few months, people have told me that I look well again. He interrogates the pacer and increases the voltage to 6.0 v . We'll keep it there for the next 9 months. Six volts isn't the ceiling, but the recommended adjustments after 6 v are in smaller increments.

I express my frustration with not being able to eat yet. I want to eat, but I can't tolerate it. "It's been a year," I say. "I need to move forward faster."

He shakes his head. "You thought you'd be able to eat by now? That's crazy. Your health and nutrition had been severely compromised for an extended period. It's going to take more time to recover." [I'm thinking Don't be logical with me]. He adds that even though I had a restricted diet pre-2003, I need to expect new restrictions as my tolerance for food improves this time around. "Something you couldn't tolerate before might be OK now; a food you used to tolerate, maybe not so much now. Keep trying, but don't push yourself too hard."

He explains that he typically looks for a 20% improvement in gastroparesis patients each year after GES surgery. [I'm thinking That's 5 years recovery]. Then he points out that my rate of improvement has already exceeded the norm. [Oh]

"The bottom line for today," he says, "is that you can't make it happen any faster; and you look great."

Next ...

Spotlight on Shopping

On the elevator back to the Skyway Level the car stops at the 3rd floor. The doors open and 2 officers from the Cleveland Clinic Police Force jump in. "Ma'am we've got an emergency, you need to leave the car," one says to me. I exit and move well out of the way. There's a lot of commotion here. Garbled voices bark instructions on the cops' walkie-talkies. The police want to take a patient to 1-S (I know 1-S is the O.R./Surgery Center), one staff wants to wait for the On-Call to show up, another is taking and recording vitals. Amid the beeping from the P.A. system, the walkie-talkies cutting in and out and phones ringing, three white-jacketed staff run from the ward to the front of the elevators. The space is filling up quickly. There's no stairway to be seen, so all I can do is stand against the wall and try to take up less space.

Another elevator car arrives and 2 more staff rush off. Two women then calmly disembark. One woman is holding flowers, the other has a large teddy bear. There's no space left here. The On-Call arrives and agrees they all need to go to surgery STAT. The patient, the On-Call, the police and someone else take my elevator (the doors had been held open the entire time). Most of the other staff get on the 2nd car. The remaining staff return to the ward. The two women provide ID and get permission to visit. Once all the elevator doors have closed, I step forward, push the down button and wait for another elevator to come.

Andrew and I pack up and head downtown. I've never actually checked out the city on other trips. Andrew doesn't want to see any of the museums or galleries. He wants to shop. We head to Tower City. After exploring 3 levels of stores (including the food court), Andrew adopts a new pair of shoes into his family of footwear (the kid's got some Summers in him, for sure), welcomes a new hat to the house and a hard-to-find CD.

We're leading the rush-hour crowd out of the city. I run into pump problems in Mentor, OH, which coupled with the freezer-issue at the hotel means no meds for the return trip. Andrew understands it might be a looong drive and doesn't even ask to drive through Pennsylvania.

DJ ScAndrew spins the radio dial. We listen to 5 seconds of every station the radio picks up. If we luck into something we want to hear, we stop the scan. As soon as the song is over ScAndrew starts the 5 second sampler again. After 25 minutes, we reconnect the MP3 player. We call on DJ ScAndrew at least once more before settling in the driveway at home.

We're just west of Erie when I spot the billboard...(this is a reproduction of the actual billboard). Having declined the matching tattoos at The Cleveland Shop in Tower City, we have to stop at the Stun Gun Factory Outlet.

The center aisles are filled with fireworks. Around the perimeter are cases filled with zillions of knives, daggers, swords and 5 models of stun guns to choose from. Cross bows, dart guns, blow guns, sickles, air rifles, nunchakus, razor blade stars and more are displayed on the slat-wall from floor to ceiling. I'm uncomfortable here at the Munition Supercenter. I've seen some of this merchandise in evidence bags on shows like Law & Order and 48 Hours.

Declarations regarding the use of stun guns surround the display :
"A charge for 1-2 seconds is like receiving a large shock. A charge for 2-5 seconds will cause temporary involuntary muscle spasms. A charge for more than 5 seconds will result in temporary paralysis."

"Can I get one?" Andrew jokes. "Not today," I answer.
"They're perfectly safe," Mike, the owner, says. "They're only really dangerous if a person has a pacemaker."
Since we're not Pennsylvania residents, we qualify to view the merchandise in the other warehouse. He explains that it's fireworks and stuff that's illegal to own in Pennsylvania, but as long as we use it outside the state, it's no problem.
We turn down the offer.
Thanks, Mike. We're done looking.

The Last 100 miles

Cleveland IV - The Final 100 Miles

Andrew takes the wheel from Erie to Angola. He refuels and we push to the border. Along the way, Andrew rates the food over the past 24 hours:
1. Chipotle Chicken sandwich
2. Angus burger from the hotel
3. Spicy & Sweet Chicken Wrap
4. Popcorn
5. Arby's sandwiches
6. Four bowls of cereal

At least the Arby's is far down on the list. At the border, the customs officer doesn't scrutinize. He asks one question: When did you leave Canada?
No I.D. No declaration. Nothing.
Guess we could have shopped around Mike's second warehouse after all.

One last stop along the way so Andrew can get his cell phone from the trunk.
His thumbs have been twitching for an hour in anticipation of catching up on his text messages.

Judging by this pic, it must have been exhausting for him!

And we're home.

"Thanks for the trip, Mom," he says.

Thanks for the trip, son.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Game Day. Every Day. Five Years Running.

Soon I'll have an update from Cleveland and one from Kingston for you to enjoy.

In the meantime, check out North Coast Hockey's
5 Year Anniversary Blockbuster Celebration.

I met Don Marinucci of NCH at his store in Erie, PA in February. North Coast Hockey offers a wide variety of quality equipment, accessories, NHL apparel and sports memorabilia.

"Just arrived are the new Vapor XXXX and Vapor XXV Composite Sticks, more 2007 NHL RBK EDGE Jerseys for youths and adults, NHL Licensed apparel and head-ware, player name and number t-shirts!"
Check out some of the Feature Deals!

Celebrate at NCH online with
FREE regular ground shipping to anywhere in the Continental USA and Canada.
No minimum purchase needed!

Register with and be eligible for exclusive NCHOCKEYNATION Team Member Benefits and Offers!

Does not apply to items already in layaway or special order. Does not apply to team orders.Promotional shipping charges and sale prices in effect until 11:59:59 PM EST Sunday, November 18, 2007.

"Dean Pepicello, Ray Kraus, Don Marinucci, Michelle Brown, Tracy Shallenberger, Eric Kauffman and Keith Kaval thank you for making North Coast Hockey the place to go for all your hockey needs!"

Congratulations Don and
North Coast Hockey.
837 West 38th Street
Erie, PA 16508

Monday, June 11, 2007

Medical Surveillance (Cleveland 2a)

We're off.

A major collision forces us to take a detour en route to the Canada/U.S. border. It is an otherwise uneventful trip to the Customs Check. This time, there's no interrogation about the medical supplies on board. The Customs Officer only wants to see an official document from The Cleveland Clinic before he wishes me better health and allows us to pass.

We stop at the first available rest stop - coincidentally, home of the No Restroom Protest - not to protest its lack of lav, but to run some meds. A few hours along the Interstate, and we're at the exit.

I'm not a map person. I've been here before and have already resolved not to make the same right turn mistake from our earlier sojourn. John, on the other hand, he likes maps. When we get past that tricky right-turn, I sense that he may have a little more confidence in my system...until I miss a turn altogether.

With my system, we would go a few blocks more to confirm we weren't on the right street, then cut over on a different street, traverse back on another street, come to a corner where I would look for a landmark, point and say "There, that's it." John's clearly uncomfortable with that system. I suggest a full turn around and pull the landmark check during a red light.
I get my bearings, point, and presto! We're there.
With help from the staff, the car gets unloaded and registered. We check into the room and call Mom and Dad so they know we're in town.

We meet to review the itinerary for the next day and set a meeting time. We're ready.

Cleveland Part 2 stories continue here
Jump to Cleveland 2e (Final Chapter)