Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Ladies & Gentlemen, LIVE from the Mayo!

Some of the music they play around here is pretty amusing. As we walked into our first appointment this morning, we heard the Longine Symphonette version of What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?

I'm not sure if anyone else caught it in the waiting room - it was a pretty florid arrangement and you had to listen carefully to understand it. How ironic, though...

Someone burning the cd's around here has a pretty good sense of humor.

A pianist plays in the lobby of the Mayo building during lunch hours. She obviously loves what she's doing, the pedestrians hurrying from one building to another converge in front of her piano and look as if they're doing a crazy waltz. This must be the Grand Central Station of health.

As Gerry and I turned a corner - me with the 'step-side step-hop' that I always seem to be doing these days to avoid tripping over his wheels - I almost ran into an older man who smiled at me and said, "With this music we could be dancing!"

He had a strong, kind face. I found myself hoping that he was here for himself, and not for a loved one. I think deep down it's easier to deal with our own illness rather than see someone we love become very sick.

Watching people's faces is interesting. Older folks - those in their 70's and above - are relatively non-plussed. Some seem to enjoy the activity and the very kind interactions with the Mayo staff.

This must be the point in life when all that much touted wisdom and experience kick in - thank heaven - and you realize that sometimes you're just along for the ride, so you may as well enjoy it!

Folks in their 40's - 70's are either accompanying a younger family member (in which case they look a lot better than I'd look - but still, they've got that 'must get through this' set to their jaws.) Or - like Gerry - they may be patients themselves.

The patients are obvious because their accompanying party consists of a worried looking spouse, furrow browed siblings or oblivious children.

Younger folks, in their 20's & 30's, seem to be the most upset - definitely the most irritated. If their time is cut short, then by god get OUT of their way! I guess this makes sense, as they are much too young to be seriously ill, or to lose someone to a serious illness.

There are a few kids - mostly children and grand children of patients. While we were waiting for Gerry's echocardiogram there were some siblings running amok - apparently waiting for grandma - whose father was a sort of 'hands off' type of parent.

It was the only time today a waiting room seemed loud. The Mayo staff member who addressed the dad was SO gracious and kind - I wish I had her diplomatic skills! I just kept knitting all day (even when the lights were turned out so the tech could do Gerry's echo - knitting in the dark!)

Here's proof that Gerry has a heart. The desk clerk told me I have, "The nicest husband!" She's right.

I haven't seen many worried looking children - thank god - plenty of time for all that later. What the artwork, kind (very kind) folks, music and magazines can't obliviate is the knowledge that we, every one of us, is here because we are or are involved with someone who is very sick.

Not just any sick, Mayo Sick. But there's a lot more hope here than worry on the faces I've seen.

This is not where folks come who have a simple urinary tract infection. Mayo Sick is having been to another facility and have been referred here for the excellent care. Folks who come here seem to have been through the system - some system - and are scarred in various ways.

Gerry and I - we're just giddy. We're usually pretty giddy together, even after almost 14 years, unless we're in pissy moods. Today we're scared, and that makes us laugh like nervous adolescents. Gerry's first test was a bone marrow biopsy, which had been - to date - his most painful experience up in St. Paul.

I delight in asking him, "Painful, yes - but how does it compare to childbirth?" (You got nothing on me, Landy...)

On the wall was an electronic billboard type of readout - how medical folks keep track of what patient is in which room. Gerry said it was really the Powerball numbers.

I thought it was a new form of Bingo - "MAYO!" It's only 4 letters, so it takes less time...

What are YOU doing the rest of your life?


Gerry was out cold for the test, he's not supposed to make any legal decisions for the rest of the day. The procedure was so quick, relatively pain-free, and he was up and coherent in 20 minutes, walking around like he'd just had a nap. Amazing.

They do more BMT's [Bone Marrow Transplants] here than anywhere else, if you do something a lot you get good at all of the pre-procedure testing stuff. Anything that saves Gerry a bit of pain is cool with me!

So while Gerry's getting his teeth and jaw checked, I'm waiting patiently (feels like forever - and now they're playing, Please Release Me...) Dang.

Our hotel room is very nice - a good size, comfy bed, wireless internet, excellent cable channels and a quiet vista of a residential street. We had a celebratory dinner last night at Canadian Honkers - amazing vegetable soup! - and spent the entire meal talking about how much we miss the kids.

I miss the kids.

When I got back from Detroit and saw how happy Hannah was - how confident and, I swear, taller - I knew that sending her to Girl Scout Camp this summer was the BEST thing we could have done. I feel like we've equipped her with extra abilities to deal with the time away from us, and to be a source of comfort and strength for Max. She makes an excellent - if bossy - older sister. Is there any other kind? I never had one, so I don't know!

Talking to the kids last night, Max was almost crying. Hannah was bubbling and happy to be going to see her friends. I tried not to cry. I wanted to drive up this afternoon, but we realized that we're exhausted, we have to catch the 6:30am shuttle tomorrow, and I think emotionally it would be too much for Gerry. Yeah, that's right - too much for Gerry - not me. Naaaah.

'Jersey, you'd better be good to my kids. I know where you live, and I know people.

As forecast, knitting is EXCELLENT here at the Mayo, and I spied 3 other knitters (as well as a woman at a desk) doing some interesting stuff with two needles and yarn.

Hmmm, makes me wonder if there's any regular knitting group at the Mayo... I wonder if I should start one...

I got Gerry to make three stitches today - it's progress - and maybe I can get him to finish a row tomorrow. I can hope.

Here's a project I'm doing right now, a lace shawl that's not specifically "lace" - it's a twisted drop stitch, which works really well with a variegated yarn. If they like it, it's for VK. If they don't, I'll post the pattern here!

A note to folks emailing for basic knit assistance: Usually I get about 10 - 30 emails per week asking basic knitting questions, and I try to answer each one as quickly and thoroughly as I can. Right now I'm not able to get to them as I'd like. I'll try, but if you don't hear from me, please understand!

Oh, yeah, and something else happened on 8/7 - the release of Romantic Hand Knits!! And briefly - perhaps not - it's at #8 on the Amazon List for knitting books. Woo!


Mary the Digital Knitter said...

My husband was at Mayo Clinic, mostly in St. Mary's Hospital, for years back in the '50s. He still remembers how kind and competent everyone at the Clinic was. As I've heard a number of people say, you can trust Mayo Clinic.

August 07, 2007 9:06 PM  
Knittah said...

Your post puts me in mind of what I like to call the "fellowship of the ill." Young people, who frequently have an acute illness (or hope they do) are so impatient to get on with life. Those of us who are chronically ill, or facing serious health problems at a later age, realize that in some ways, we're all in it together. You can spot members of the fellowship quite easily, like the gentleman who joked with you about dancing. There's a sympatico among us. We learn to surf the waves with a touch of humor.

August 07, 2007 9:10 PM  
Carina said...

That's all good to know--that Mayo is so good. I'll make sure David hears tonight. He sends too many up there and over to UofM and down to Cleveland.

Hospitals before were always just where David worked. I'd run in his on-call bag or bring the kids in to eat with him during a hospital call weekend (don't miss those). Then I had my surgery last fall, and things changed. Now I get horrible anxiety when I need an IV, and I was never like that before. It's so hard to be that ill and need that much done.

Oh, and I'll tell David about the bone marrow biopsy hurting. He'll be pissed. I tease him and call him Dr. Feelgood, but he's super concerned about pain control. Tell Gerry to complain next time--he might need more than they're used to using. Everyone's different. I usually need twice as much numbing stuff myself.

I'll light a candle tonight.

August 07, 2007 9:16 PM  
susanc said...

Ditto what carina said. You do have to ask and not just assume that the doctors and nurses will know what and how much a person needs. I, too, usually need more numbing stuff.

I'm glad you're in such good hands. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Gerry, as well as Hannah and Max.

August 07, 2007 9:29 PM  
Anonymous said...

So glad it has started, and that you are encountering kindness besides good care. Thoughts and prayers for the whole family. May it all soon be just a nightmare that has passed...


August 07, 2007 10:28 PM  
Ellen in Minnetonka said...

Thank you for finding the time and energy to post. For all of us who care, it is good to know how things are going. And may they keep going as well as they have today.

Best to all of you.

August 07, 2007 10:45 PM  
HeadKnitwit said...

I call it the hospital cocoon.It feels like you are part of something important. People that work in medicine and feel called to serve are very special.You are in a condusive knitting enviroment, complete with soundtrack! Gerry will become a knitter. Look at Hannah on the sidebar photos.She looks so grown on camp departure day. Thanx for updating- Peace and Prayers

August 08, 2007 1:44 AM  
indigo warrior said...

On a knitterly note ... I bought your book yesterday and it's *fabulous*! I love it. I can't decide what to knit first.


August 08, 2007 5:17 AM  
Helen said...

That's awful about the music. There must be a company that makes a lot of money supplying music for hospitals, selecting playlists and settling the performing rights and so on, and you would think they would take a bit more care about what they choose. But then I suppose they couldn't play remorselessly cheerful all the time either. Come to think of it, I'm not sure what I would choose: maybe you should ask for suggestions :) And you should definitely start a Mayo Knitters Group. Not because you haven't got enough to do already, but because it's a great idea.

August 08, 2007 5:45 AM  
Heather said...

Its such a blessing that you can find the humor in this experience. I am, also, grateful that you find the time to blog. Not just because I find myself worrying excessively about you when you go 48+hours without posting, but because you get to lay it on us and let us help carry your burden just a little. You are amazing.

Oh and the shawl looks fantastic. :)

August 08, 2007 7:45 AM  
Cheryl said...

Annie, you are tearing my heart apart.

I hope you are keeping all these thoughts as they would make an awesome book...

August 08, 2007 8:31 AM  
Alcariel said...

I'm glad to hear that you're having such a positive experience at Mayo. I spent my 3rd year nursing clinicals there and loved all the experiences I've had. Now that I'm employed as a nurse in a different city, sometimes I miss all the friendliness that Mayo just seems to exude without even trying.

August 08, 2007 8:37 AM  
Penny said...

Thinking of you and G & the kids. {hugs}

the shawl is simply beautiful and G's stitching very heart warming.

August 08, 2007 8:57 AM  
Judy in MN said...

A couple things:
While you're visiting Mayo, keep an eye out for the art! They have quite a collection of beautiful art displayed (I love the art glass by the elevators in the Gonda building).

Yes, Mayo has at least one knitting group and many of our Wednesday bunch at Dunn Bros. are Mayo folks (and a few of us "others," some of whom work at IBM (which also has a knitting group)).

And finally, you mentioned that Hannah might be a bit bossy as a big sister--well, that's the natural order of things. :) I'm a big sister and my younger sibs will tell you how bossy I am. And I have an older sister who is bossy (or tries to be...I've ignored her commands for long enough that we just laugh when she tries to tell me to do something now).

Judy in (Rochester) MN

August 08, 2007 8:59 AM  
jill said...

My mom knit washcloths throughout my dad's surgery a few years back and not only did it give her something to do but it gave her something to talk about with the other knitter in the waiting room besides why they were really there.

I hope that everything goes well for you two. Deserve so much more happiness.

August 08, 2007 9:48 AM  
Kathryn said...

If you ate at Canadian Honkers, then you passed the yarn shop a couple of doors away. (Always a good thing to know, right?)We enjoyed CH during our last visit, too. I hope everything goes extremely well.

August 08, 2007 10:20 AM  
Holly said...

I do like the look of that scarf...very nice. Reminds me of hairpin lace from years ago.

August 08, 2007 10:35 AM  
Sheri said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you...

I ordered your book first thing on the 7th - can't wait to get it!


August 08, 2007 10:43 AM  
rho said...

Helen thought it was terrible about the music and I (known far and wide for my twisted sense of humor) find it hysterical. Just the type of thing I would want to listen to in the hospital.

Thanks for keeping us all updated - sending good thoughts out for you all.

August 08, 2007 10:51 AM  
Carolyn said...

I love your comments about the music. I'm among those who find it amusing. A few years ago, my husband and I were at a special couples' dinner at family retreat for people with disabilities. A guitarist had been engaged to play lovely music, and his selections had the two of us in stitches. The theme from MASH was one of the most out-of-place!

As others have said, you can still ask questions, even at Mayo (and the doctors can be wrong, too). Hang in there!

August 08, 2007 11:25 AM  
Seanna Lea said...

Romantic Hand Knits was actually out for purchase at the Borders near where I live on Sunday (August 5th). I flipped through it and it is pretty nice. Unfortunately, I was shopping for birthday presents for non-knitters or I would have gotten it then and there.

I loved the hat patterns best!

August 08, 2007 11:31 AM  
Joe.Karen said...

Dear Annie,
My friend shared your blog with me because I recently fell in love with knitting. More importantly, I too have a husband who is going through quite the roller coaster, health-wise. We are in Pittsburgh, but interestingly enough we are going to be your neighbors soon. At least temporarily. :) My husband is being sent to University of Minnesota for an umbilical cord transplant.
Anyway, I wanted to let you know that you, your husband, and family are in our prayers. I have so much respect for all that you are going through.


August 08, 2007 11:46 AM  
Laura said...

Congratulations on #8 - that is awesome! I can't wait to see it!
Take good care - ox

August 08, 2007 1:01 PM  
Marin said...

1) In love with the Mayo Clinic. I don't ever want to go there, mind you, but it cheers me up just thinking there's such a world of benevolent and compassionate competence.

2) I can't tell you how good an idea a Moyo Clinic Knit Circle is. Maybe you could design a stethoscope cozy (you know how cold those things get) and have a knit-along.

3) Really? I got the book the first day it was out? I feel like a rock star.

Have a really, really good day, Annie.

August 08, 2007 3:27 PM  
Knits4Bears said...

Hey Annie,
I pre-ordered my copy of the new book and it was shipped today.
I can't wait to see it!
Doug in Atlanta

August 08, 2007 3:59 PM  
kmkat said...

Oh, Annie, I love reading your blog. There is always something to make me smile, like the musical selections, something to make me drool, like the shawl, and things to touch my heart.

Did you know that Crazy Aunt Purl reviewed your book today? Needless to say, she loves it.

August 08, 2007 5:05 PM  
Karen said...

Hi Annie

I'm with kmkat - I love reading your blog!!!

I'm glad things went well for Gerry today and I hope that they continue to go well throughout.

Must go purchase your book now :-)

Love and hugs,

August 08, 2007 5:59 PM  
Stephanie Anderson said...

Annie -

I bought your book today and absolutely love it! These patterns are gorgeous. I also appreciate that they are designed to flatter all sizes and shapes of women. I think your book will be one of 2007's best. Thank you for sharing your hard work and talent with the rest of us!


August 08, 2007 7:13 PM  
Auntly H said...

I see you've got a start on the soundtrack for when you turn this saga into a movie. I'm crossing my toes for a riding into the sunset ending. (I can't knit with crossed fingers)

Can you let someone (me?) help you answer basic knitting questions? I'm willing to pitch in. You could check my answers before they go out; I certainly don't want to mess with greatness.

August 08, 2007 10:48 PM  
valéria said...

I'm reading annie and sending love and hugs your way and good fibes.

August 09, 2007 2:58 AM  
Linda said...

I just checked your book, and in "knitting" it is now number FOUR. I did order it a couple of days ago and look forward to its arrival. Thank goodness for Amazon's Prime Shipping!

Bone marrow tests are affected by both the practitioner and the style of the equipment. There are recent developments in that area that are easier on the patient, due to the way the needle works to obtain the sample. I'm glad Gerry's test went well.

August 09, 2007 8:45 AM  
Anonymous said...

Saw the book and many of the knitted items at TNNA. LOVED everything I saw especially the hat @ the Trendsetter booth. Gotta get that book!

Keeping you and your family in my prayers.

August 09, 2007 8:57 AM  
Rusty said...

Thank you so much for your clever and honest way of sharing your life and your family's trials. You really are an amazing women. I've always admired you as a knitter and author, but now you're so much more to me.

I just tracked my Amazon order for your book...it's waiting at home for me right now. :-) I think I need to leave work early today...

August 09, 2007 2:33 PM  
Pam said...

Spend alot of time at Mayo a few years back, I wanted to eat at the Canadian Honker every night.

Good thoughts sent your way.

August 09, 2007 8:04 PM  
Chris said...

I spent a LOT of time at Mayo in 2000 and never want to eat at the Canadian Honker again. Arrived too sick for my heart surgery and had to spend a week getting "well" in a hotel just up the street before surgery could commence. No cooking facilities, of course, so take-out from the Canadian Honker was our mainstay. Can't say enough good things about the docs, techs, and other staff at Mayo, but hope to never visit again. I'm with you in spirit, though, Annie.


August 09, 2007 9:06 PM  
Amanda said...

Annie, I do not know you or your husband, but tears are streaming down my face. This post was lovely. I am in awe of your upbeat spirit and ability to joke. ("Painful, yes - but how does it compare to childbirth?" had me laughing through the tears.) My hopes and prayers are with you and your entire family.

August 10, 2007 4:39 PM  
Cheryl :) said...


I am sending you lots of hugs and prayers. (I'd send chocolate too if I had some! ;)

I hope everything is going well with Gerry. It's so good that you have kept your senses of humor. It really helps at times like this. Just know that we are praying for your family.


August 10, 2007 7:31 PM  
Connie said...

I hope your husband tolerates well the treatments. And that your family will be okay.

Your book is great by the way. Your garments and construction are always so innovative and different. Congrats. The egyptian dress in particular is stunning - though I worry how it would hold up in a pure silk yarn. Maybe someday i'll try it in Filatura di Crosa Brilla or something similar.

August 10, 2007 11:27 PM  

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