Day 402: News (good, bad, and indifferent)

Regular readers of this blog know this:  I had my yearly check-up with my cardiologist, Dr. Salem, plus an important test of my heart, scheduled for yesterday.

Regular inhabitants of the United States know this:  The weather has been very challenging this year, and a snowstorm might have posed some challenges, yesterday, for my making this VIP — Very Important ‘Pointment.

Regular readers of this blog know this, also: I have limited time in the morning to write my daily post, which can be a challenge when I have lots to say.

And I do have lots to say, today.

So … how to organize this post, to promote clarity and good communication?

I’ve already indicated some organization — in the title. I also like to tell stories chronologically.

Let’s see how this goes, shall we?

Yesterday morning, after I finished my post, I decided to drive to work.  This was a risk, but a calculated one. With a lot of snow on my car, in the air, and on the roads, I chose a post-rush-hour departure time, to reduce the danger.

As I ventured out, I spoke to myself, like so:

Geesh, Ann!  Why are you (and other people) so afraid about snow?  I know snow causes accidents, but it’s beautiful! It’s light and fluffy, too. While you may have read how removing snow can cause heart attacks, you’re smart and experienced enough to figure out a way to get out of here that’s safe!

And once I felt safe enough, as usual, my sense of play kicked in.  And when I looked at my car and pondered ways to clean it off, I thought:

When you were a kid, you weren’t afraid of snow.  You enjoyed playing in it, and so did everybody else. So why not play with it now?  Don’t worry about looking like an adult, or “doing it the right way” as you’re cleaning off your car!  Just have fun with it!

And by:

  1. evoking good memories of my childhood and snow,
  2. imagining the fun I could have in the present,
  3. being in touch with my adult competencies and wisdom, and
  4. thinking about how I could share the results, at some point, with other people (including you, dear readers) ….

…. the result was: magic.

I know, dear readers, that I need to get to “the point” of this post: my afternoon cardiology appointment. But please bear with me, as I show you some photos of my morning.

I didn’t think to take a “before” photo of my car before I had fun clearing it off, so I will show you a photo of my downstairs neighbor Karen’s car:


… so you can get some idea of how much snow there was.  Here’s my car after (what felt like) a short amount of music-filled fun, playing with the snow:



Then, to get safely to work (and continue to have fun), I just needed to remember:

  • I DO know how to drive in the snow (I HAVE had lots of practice)
  • I have a fine little car, for that purpose: it’s a 5-speed manual, and
  • I’ve had lots of practice with that, too.

So, I figured, if I’m very careful, pay attention, get in touch with my driving skill, AND remember this:

You have all the time you need.

(in other words: “Don’t rush, Ann!”) … driving to work should be fine.

And it was.

Here are some photos I took on the way to work.  (I only took photos while I was waiting at lights I knew were very long, so I wouldn’t have to rush, in any way):





As you can see, there was very little traffic. When I got to work, and somebody asked how my commute went, I said, “It was one of the easiest commutes I’ve ever had.”  And because she had driven in earlier, she looked very surprised.

Okay!  Time to write about my afternoon cardiology appointment.

I was scheduled for:

  1. My yearly echocardiogram, which shows much important information, regarding the function of my very unusual heart.
  2. A yearly check-up, with my cardiologist, Dr. Salem (whom I wrote about recently, here).

Good News

Because of the snow storm, very few patients were there, so I got lots of extra time with everybody.

Starting out, I got extra time with a very helpful echocardiography technologist, whom I hadn’t met before, but who was kind and informative. As a matter of fact, for the first time since 1980 (when I first found out about my very unusual heart), I think I may really understand how my heart works!

My new understanding, after all these years, does not reflect poorly on my cardiologist or on me. No, not at all, since the way my heart works is VERY counterintuitive. My heart has two big “mistakes” which cancel each other out (as a result, the blue blood goes to the lungs and the red blood goes to the body, just as it does with your heart). However,  different parts of my heart are doing things that they are … just not designed to do.

Now, I don’t mean that the different parts of my heart are doing something VERY different. That is, my ventricles — which do all the important major pumping (which is THE job of the heart)  — are still pumping blood to all the right places. My heart ventricles are not trying to do something totally out of their wheelhouse1 — like write this post or drive a car.

However (and this should probably be in the category of “Bad News”), the ventricle that is designed to do the tough work (pumping blood to the body) is doing the easy work (pumping to the lungs) AND the ventricle that is designed to do the easy work (pumping blood to the lungs) is doing the difficult work (pumping to the body).

And therein lies the danger — the possible bad news.  My ventricles may fail, prematurely, because they are doing what they are NOT designed to do.

But, we just don’t know.

More good news:

I also got lots of extra time with Dr. Salem AND (unexpectedly) with my other cardiologist, Dr. Mark Estes, whom I’ve written about previously, too — here (credited) and here (uncredited).

Now, why am I SO SPECIAL, that I have TWO cardiologists?  Well, I AM special.  Deal with it.2

Anyway, where was I?

Oh, yes.  Good news.

Actually, I don’t know how to place a lot of the news I heard yesterday into the buckets of Good and Bad.

I’ll just tell you the news, as I understand it, right now:

  • The two indicators of my heart function MIGHT BE showing a troubling trend.
  • For now, my heart is stable.
  • My cardiologists are not psychic, but they are definitely on top of all the possibilities — that I may or I may not need valve replacement surgery.3
  • Valve replacement surgery had never been discussed as a distinct possibility, before yesterday.
  • My doctors want to switch from seeing me once a year to …. once every three months.  That’s new, also.

As usual, I am trying to interpret “the clues” to figure out how safe I am.

And it’s very confusing, people!

But here’s some good news I’m sure about:

  • My doctors will do anything they can, to keep me alive as long as possible.  After yesterday’s appointment, I “got” that, in an entirely new way.
  • If I do need a valve replacement, they will be doing their best to grab the best window of opportunity, to ensure the best possible results.
  • I asked Dr. Salem, at the very end of our appointment, if he expected to be celebrating my 70th birthday with me. He had read the post I recently wrote, which explains that question. And he said ….


So there it is, in one word: The good (enough) news I needed to hear.

Now, I need to wrap up this post.

I notice I haven’t included  a section for  “Bad News” or  for “Indifferent” in this post  (as I had originally planned).

I think the bad news, from my appointment yesterday, is scattered among the good news. And that’s just going to have to be good enough, for this post.

Also, I want to say this: the “bad news” is probably not as bad as I might fear. What is the bad news that I fear?

That I will die prematurely, and not get to see my child flourish in the world.

But that’s a fear that I probably share with a lot of other people, in one way or another, no matter what kind of heart they have.

And I have great people on my team.  Which is VERY good news.

So what else is missing from this post?  This part of my blog post title:


Here’s what I want to say about “Indifferent” right now.

While I may sometimes assume indifference from my doctors, due to old indifference I experienced from doctors and nurses when I was a child in the hospital in the 1960’s, that is NOT the case, in the present.

As a matter of fact, my current treatment team is the OPPOSITE of indifferent.

Hmmmm. So what IS the opposite of indifferent?


Ooops!  Gotta run. There’s a lecture on Narrative Therapy today, one of my favorite ways of working with patient, clients, or whatever-you-want-to-call those amazing people I get to work with.

But you know what?  Among the many lessons I (re-)learned yesterday is this: I don’t have to rush.

In other words …

You have all the time you need.

Thanks to Dr. Salem, Dr. Estes,  Diane (who did my echocardiogram), people who are different and/or indifferent,  and to you — of course! — for visiting today.

1 To use an expression I’ve been hearing WAY too much of, lately. Why, oh why, are so many people in the media suddenly using the expression “In (or out) of somebody’s wheelhouse”?  What the hell 2 IS a wheelhouse, anyway?  Is it a house made of wheels?  A place to store wheels?  That phrase is totally counter-intuitive to me, people.  I get confused. (Although, I do know what that expression means.)

2 I’m a tad cranky, to tell you the truth, right now. Why?  Hunger (as usual) and, honestly, it’s tough to make sense of all the information I got yesterday. I guess I’ll grab some more food and take a breath.

3  The heart valves are switched on me, also, so one of them leaks quite a bit, presenting all sorts of potential dangers.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

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35 thoughts on “Day 402: News (good, bad, and indifferent)

  1. Your day sounds like a lovely blend of childhood pleasure revisited, a safe trip, and news that is essentially good. You have a caring team of doctors, and that is, unfortunately, rare these days.I send you prayers for courage and strength and beautiful thoughts on which to float.

  2. Yes, I’d say go for optimism. I’m glad you have caring and attentive doctors, it makes all the difference in the world.

    I agree with how beautiful the snow really is, when we put it in a positive light. I’m glad you enjoyed yourself, and the ride to work was easy.

    All the best,


  3. Karen Funkenstein

    Dear Ann, I’m thrilled to be in your blog vicariously through my car. Have a great day. Love, Karen

  4. OK, now it is my turn to digest your yesterday-news. I think your doctors are so far ahead of the curve on the in’s-and-out’s of your heart that you are right to feel comfort in their care. They have a plan to keep you ticking for a great, long time. It might not be the hands-off approach that’s worked so far, but life evolves for all of us. They will update you in three months. No longer will you have to wait a whole year to hear the news of your very special heart. I am not indifferent about anything in your post today, either, Ann.

    I must also throw in an apology, for using the word ‘wheelhouse,’ in my post earlier this week about fashion store Lipsy London. Here’s how I always pictured the genesis. If something is right in front of me in my wheelbarrow and ready for me to push along in life with confidence, it’s in my wheelhouse. So, I guess the answer is, I can go Google it to find out tis true origin. Have a great Thursday, dear Ann.

    • Thank you for this helpful comment, Mark, which allowed me to see my 3-month checkups in a new light. And no need to apologize about using the word “wheelhouse.” I appreciate each and every word you use.

  5. Okay — so that is a lot of news to take in and digest. I admire how you can organize it and keep yourself level-headed through it all — as well as emotionally healthy.

    Oh — and about that snow — wow — you’ve definitely been getting the brunt of winter’s ire! we may be cold, but it is sunny and bright. Even the ski hills are complaining about no new snow!


  6. LOVE this post. Especially the way you’ve structured it. Can’t wait to read more from you!!

  7. That is a lot of news for you to take in! I actually followed most of it, but less than a year ago we lost my baby brother to heart failure, and man did I learn so much more about heart, liver and kidney function than I ever wanted to know! So, I’m glad to hear that while you may need to be monitored more closely, that they expect you to have many more years!

  8. lundygirl

    Your doctors sound like they care a lot which in my experience,makes a big difference. Take care of yourself.

  9. I think, that you have a great team of doctors to take very good care of you. So just feel safe. Very positive.

  10. Your doctors seem to be really great. On the other bit, the snow is incredible, rather dangerous to drive. Glad you got there alright. On a third note: nobody knows how long we live…… and that is why to cherish every moment we have. And to many many more birthdays Ann!

  11. Dear Ann,
    I’ve had chronic sometimes acute health issues for most of my life. My recommendation is to find the beet doctors ( done!) educate yourself somewhat but not too much Especially with a rare condition, too much information can paralyze you. I put off a treatment I was afraid of for months, I’d read about it (I do medical research). and I got worse I started the treatment and feel pretty damn good. There aren’t any guarantees in medicine or in life. Cross your fingers and go with whatever gets you where you want to be.

  12. Best. No beet doctors!

  13. well I hope everything works out with your health. I enjoyed the narrative about the brushing the car off and driving in the snow. I had a similar conversation when I was in Buffalo and there was snow in November, – very similar self-talk!!!
    Have a nice week. ~Yvette

  14. Ya mean you don’t have the boyfriend clean your car off? How very 21st century of you 😉

    • He almost always does clean my car off (without my asking, by the way), but not that day. How very 21st AND non-21st century of us! Thanks for the visit and the comment, Kenneth.

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