Day 717: Interrupting

Before I tell you the story of

Ann and Some Cardiologists, Yesterday

by Ann

I interrupt this blog post to tell you that I have no idea how I am going to shape this story well enough, especially since I am prone to interrupting thoughts AND I have a lot of thoughts about the topic of “Interrupting.”

For example, I want to interrupt, right now, to mention that one of my favorite knock-knock jokes has to do with interrupting. Let me interrupt the writing of this blog post to see if that knock-knock joke lives, anywhere, on YouTube.

It does!

The “Interrupting Cow” joke, as told by South Park characters, lives here on YouTube. I first heard that joke on “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.”  Let me interrupt this interruption to see if I can find that.

I couldn’t find it, but I found another telling of “The Interrupting Cow”:

Why am I focusing on “The Interrupting Cow” now, instead of on

Ann and Some Cardiologists, Yesterday

by Ann?

Here’s why: because

  • my son Aaron and I liked “The Interrupting Cow” joke very much, when he was little,
  • Aaron and I made up variations on that joke when he was young, including “The Interrupting Abe Lincoln” and “The Interrupting Therapist,”*
  • this past weekend, Aaron starred in a play where “The Interrupting Cow” joke made several appearances,
  • I like telling stories about my son Aaron,
  • I tend to interrupt others and myself when I (a) am anxious, (2) have a lot on my mind, (3) understand the point somebody is making and want to move on, and (4) am stalling for time, when I’m not sure how to tell a story (like now).

I imagine some of you might be interrupting this post now, thinking

What the *(*#@%!?@)* happened with the cardiologists yesterday, Ann?????

Ann and Some Cardiologists, Yesterday

by Ann

The first cardiologist I saw yesterday was somebody I met on Monday, for the first time.

Let me interrupt this story to give you some context, to why I am seeing a bevy** of cardiologists, these days. I and a herd** of cardiologists are trying to figure out (1) what is going on with my very unusual heart and (2) what to do about that.

The cardiologist I met for the first time, on Monday, is named Dr. Mark Z.   I am not disguising his name to protect his identity, I just can’t remember his last name. It’s too long.

I don’t think cardiologists should be allowed to have long names, should they?

Man, I don’t know where THAT interrupting thought came from. It doesn’t even make sense.

Anyway, so I met Dr. Mark Z for the first time on Monday. He was part of a team** of cardiologists, whom my primary cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem, wanted me to meet with.

I interrupt this post to tell you my first impression of Dr. Mark Z.  I didn’t particularly like him.

Why?  Because

  • he didn’t smile,
  • he asked me a question that I experienced as challenging and not completely respectful, and, most importantly,
  • he was a member of a pack** of cardiologists whom I was meeting for the first time, and even though I am a group therapist and I passionately believe in the healing power of groups, a group of unknown people makes people nervous.

I interrupt this story to bring you the interchange between me and Dr. Z., on Monday, so you can decide for yourself about it (although if you were there in the examining room and heard everybody’s tone of voice and saw everybody’s body language, you might come to different conclusions):

Me:  This is why I think I am not feeling as well, lately.  Because I am in atrial fibrillation, my pacemaker can’t speed up on hills and stairs …

Dr. Mark Z (interrupting):  How do you know that?

Me: (giving him a dirty look, because I hate being interrupted, especially by doctors, because I’ve been dealing with this my WHOLE FRIGGIN’ LIFE): Because I can feel it. And,  I take my pulse.

Dr. Mark Z: Oh.

I interrupt this post with the realization that Dr. Mark Z might NOT have been disrespectful or doubting of me or dense or anything else judgmental I might think of him. He might just have been doing what I do, sometimes: interrupting to get more information.

The group** of cardiologists I saw, on Monday — of which Dr. Z. was one — decided that I needed more tests to ascertain whether I need heart surgery, which could be

  • valve replacement surgery or
  • a heart transplant

I have already gotten different opinions about this, depending upon whom I talk to, among the pride** of cardiologists involved in my story.

Dr. Mark Z., who is a pediatric cardiologist, offered his opinion on Monday that  I needed yet another echocardiogram, before any of the swarm** of cardiologists involved in my life could figure out what to do with me. Before I could ask, “Why?”, he told me that the special echocardiogram they have in the pediatric division of Tufts Medical Center (where my usual congregation** of cardiologists practice) might give more useful information about my heart than the usual echocardiogram I get, every six months or so.

I interrupt this post to explain that droves** of cardiologists have trouble deciding (1) what is going on with my heart and (2) what to do next because

  • in my heart, the ventricles and the valves are doing work that they are not designed to do, which is exceedingly rare, and
  • nobody can get good friggin’ pictures of what’s going on with me, in order to decide about next steps, because everything is in a different place, heart-wise. (Pardon this interruption, but when I said to the nice woman doing my echocardiogram yesterday, “my heart is not photogenic,” she replied,  “yes, your heart is not echo-genic.”)

I interrupt that interruption to tell you that when I showed up for my echocardiogram in Pediatrics Cardiology yesterday,  and the nice people at the desk did not seem to know why I was there, I said — interrupting their work:

” You’re not used to seeing people my size, are you?”

“You don’t know why I’m here, do you?”

“Would you like me to give you a clue about who scheduled this echocardiogram for me?”

“On Monday, I saw a doctor named Mark who never smiled, and he wanted me to get this echo done here, today.”

I definitely saw smiles on some faces when I described Dr. Mark Z that way, and after waiting for a short time (during which I snapped this photo, in the waiting room of Pediatric Cardiology):


… I was ushered into a room with Dr. Mark Z.’s extra special echocardiogram machine:


…which to me, didn’t look particularly special, but I have to have faith that my committee** of cardiologists knows what they’re doing.

I didn’t take the name or photos of the nice woman (mentioned above in a previous interruption) who did the echocardiogram on me, yesterday.  The test took a long time, as it usually does, because of my unusual anatomy. In the course of the test, we discussed many things, including:

  • my experience of other echocardiograms in my life (and I have had a flock** of those, believe me),
  • my son, and
  • her teenagers.

After the echocardiogram was over,  Dr. Mark Z made another appearance in my life and told me, in no uncertain terms, that he and a surgeon had looked at the pictures of my heart and, in his opinion, I needed

  • heart valve surgery and
  • ASAP (probably next month).

When I was talking to Dr. Mark Z about this, I expressed many feelings, including fear and sadness, and I told him about some difficult experiences I had, as a child, when doctors didn’t know much about how to deal with kids with cardiac problems. Dr. Mark Z was very sympathetic.  At one point, he said to me, “Do you want a toy?”  which struck me as very kind.

I said, “Of course.”

Here are some photos of Dr. Mark Z., giving me a toy:

IMG_3710 IMG_3713 IMG_3715

As you can see, I was wrong about Dr. Z never smiling.  He also gave me a free t-shirt:


which reminds me of another time I got a free t-shirt but — don’t worry — I’m not interrupting this story to tell you that one.

After the echocardiology test, I had an appointment to see Dr. Deeb Salem. Let me interrupt this post now, to tell you some important facts about Dr. Salem:

  1. When I was in my 20’s, I decided to leave Children’s Hospital in Boston and choose a cardiologist I wanted to work with, now that I was an adult,
  2. I interviewed several cardiologists at several famous hospitals in Boston,
  3. I chose Dr. Salem, because he treated  me with respect and said things  like “You  know more about your situation than I do” and “You’re obviously very smart,” and
  4. he was obviously very smart.

On my walk to see Dr. Salem, after the echocardiogram and the discussion with Dr. Mark Z, I was trying to adjust to the idea that I was going to need major heart surgery and soon. As I had admitted to Dr. Z., I have a lot of fear about heart surgery, because of experiences I had as a kid.

Then, I had a looong meeting with Dr. Salem. We interrupted each other a lot, as we always do.  At one point, he interrupted me to tell me that he always schedules me as his last appointment of the day, to give us time to talk.

Here is Dr. Salem, being interrupted by a phone call from his son:


I could hear his son, during this phone conversation, asking his father about a worrisome stomach problem he was having. Dr. Salem and his son kept interrupting each other,  and I kept laughing, as I was listening to them. When Dr. Salem hung up, here’s what we said to each other:

Dr. Salem: Let me ask you this.  Who do you think, out of all my children, reminds  me most of you?

Me: That one.   I was thinking, “He interrupts you more than I do!”

Dr. Salem: Yes.  That was my son, Michael. He is very smart and he asks a lot of questions. Thank you for helping me prepare for Michael.

I can’t tell you everything Dr. Salem and I talked about yesterday. I don’t have time. I mean, we talked for way over an hour!!

I have to interrupt the telling of this story, so I can get to work on time.

However, I do want to interrupt any conclusions you might have drawn about what is going to happen to me in my heart in the near future by letting you know all this:

  1. Dr. Salem thinks that the data is still inconclusive.
  2. He discontinued one of the heart medications the committee** of cardiologists started on Monday, because (a) it was making me feel sick and (b) it’s probably not going to help that much, at this point,
  3. He went over all the possible and likely outcomes for my future, including (a) heart valve replacement and (b) heart transplant,
  4. He doesn’t think surgery needs to be done in January,
  5. He knows that I am seeking a second opinion from yet another cardiologist at my old hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, and he said, “If you like this guy, tell him I would be happy to talk to him,” and
  6. Even though we talked about very scary things, I believed, at the end of this conversation, that Dr. Salem will do everything in his power to meet my request: “I want to live as long as possible.”

I interrupt this post to tell you this.  After seeing Dr. Salem yesterday, I feel MUCH BETTER.

Feel free to interrupt with any comments, whatsoever.

Ooops!  I forgot to interrupt this post with more photos from yesterday:

IMG_3724IMG_3727IMG_3729 IMG_3730 IMG_3732

What song would I like to interrupt this post with, now?  I honestly can’t remember, at this point, what songs I heard yesterday. Are there any songs I know about “Interrupting”?  Can’t remember that, either.

How about this one, about gratitude?

(If you want to interrupt your reading of this post to find “Thank You,” performed live by Sly and the Family Stone on YouTube, look here.)

Thank you to the gaggle** of doctors I have seen over the last 61 years — most especially Dr. Deeb Salem — and to you, for reading this interrupting post so kindly and patiently, with or without interruptions.

*  The  Interrupting Abe Lincoln  and Interrupting Therapist jokes include these lines: (1) “Four score and seven years ago” and (2) “We have to stop now.”

** While that first footnote would have been a perfect way to end this post, I need to interrupt here to direct you to this Wikipedia page, for collective nouns like “bevy,” “gaggle,” “team,” “committe,” “flock” etc.

Categories: personal growth, tribute | Tags: , , , , | 57 Comments

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57 thoughts on “Day 717: Interrupting

  1. First, it is too bad that you can’t set up WordPress so that we could have interrupted your post by commenting in the middle of the post itself! That would have been–and another thing. Don’t you hate it (at first) and (then) love it when people interrupt you in that very subtle way of suddenly cutting to the chase and telling you EXACTLY what you were just about to interrupt them to ask them? That is when you know you’ve found a member of your tribe.

    And interrupting any other minor points I was about to make, we all want you to live as long as possible. So if you could work on that one for us, that would be awesome. And, if you have any more of those toys, you can send them to me.

    • It is so great that you wrote this comment today, Jeff. This is what I call, exactly, an extraordinarily awesome interruption.

  2. I am glad that Dr Salem promises to make your wish come true.

  3. Cutting through the bevvy of interruptions and the flock of opinions from the chairman of the committee of cardiologologists before meeting the Frank Sinatra doc singing singly to his familiar audience of one in a room made for back-and-forth I have to say at last … yes.

    Yes, Ann. You two will be able to sift through the MOUNTAIN of information and conclusions from all those others, second and third and fourth opinion-givers included, and interrupt each other in all the proper places to decide the best course of action that will allow you to live as long a life as possible.

    I would like to interrupt my relief from your reveal right now to say:


    Thank you for lettin’ you be yourself. Again. Dance to your music. By Sly, not shy.

    By the way, my final interruption for today: Heart surgery has come really, really far since the days of your youth that still give you fear, has it not?

    • Thank you for being yourself, Mark, as always. Double thanks for the invitation to let go of old fears. You can interrupt me any time.

  4. Glad you are feeling better! Glad you don’t need any January surgical intervention! And Dr. Salem sure is smart when he said you’re smart!

  5. I have a friend (not you) who rambles on and on before getting to a point and EVERYTIME I interrupt to ask a question (to get to the POINT) she says “I was just getting to that”. I need better interruption techniques!

  6. yeoldefoole


  7. I loved your use of the collective nouns, first of all. I love word. I’m a former English teacher, so words and I get along very well.
    I also loved that Dr. Mark actually does smile and gave you a toy. I think that shows he has a kind heart (as do you, even though yours is a tad more confusing than other people’s).
    Hoe your day is happy. Hope surgery isn’t imminent.

    • I love the clowder of comments you have left on this blog, Emilie. Thanks so much for your flurry of hopes and pack of loves in this interrupting comment.

  8. I’m feeling a little dizzy after this post. I do hope the outcome is a decision that can trust from from your collections (lovely collective nouns) of doctors. I just wish their opinions were not quite so subjective, but I am sure they are all figuring out the best way for you to live as long as possible.

    • I was feeling a little dizzy from my heart medication; I’m really glad I don’t have to keep taking that. Your comments help me feel the opposite of dizzy — grounded. Thanks for this excellent, helpful interruption of my day, Hilary.

  9. Ann,
    First, while reading your post, I felt as though I was in the middle of a pop-corn machine; with all the interruptions flitting about.

    But, I did gather one thing; that your heart, regardless of its condition, is in the right place. We all seek a long life, because we believe we have not accomplished our purpose yet.
    I further believe that our lives will only be over when God is ready to take us home. He knows best when we have reached that purpose. I have come to know examples of this.

    I for one, when as a 4 year old paralyzed by polio, was observed by nurses that my breathing had become erratic during the night. The doctor rushed to the hospital to ready the iron lung. When he arrived he was upset with the nurses, because I was breathing as normal as could be. If that change in course had not occured, my life would have taken a completely different course as well.

    Stay strong in Faith, Ann. A little play on the word FAITH. (F)ound (A)lways (I)n (T)hy (H)and.
    I pray for many-you are in there somewhere!

    • Your heart, obviously, is in the right place too, Alan. Thank you for your inspiring stories, thoughts, and your prayers, too.

  10. Ann, I didn’t mind the interruptions! Its not a easy time for you with the “not knowing” and the “what if’s”. A few interruptions are called for to re-group (almost a pun!).
    Hugs to you.
    Val x

  11. I really enjoy your style and wit that you share in your posts! I am so sorry that you are having to go through all of this. You certainly have a great attitude!

  12. Estelle

    Knowing your history and spunk, I feel that you will be able to conquer this and that all will be well with Cliffy! Love you,, Ann

  13. My head is spinning, not from any interruption, but the tiring and trying day you went through yesterday. Throw out the negatives and run head first into the positives.

    I am guilty of interrupting too, not a habit i admire, but one that is listed in my copywrited trademark inventory. 😉

  14. I’m so glad you have such a good team of doctors. I enjoyed the back and forth with Dr. Salem about his son and how you, and your interrupting questions, have prepared him for his son’s traits. Funny! I think a conversation without interruptions is rare in my life. Everyone is always in such a hurry. You exude resilience, Ann. The kind of testing and scrutiny you are always under couldn’t be easy and must often feel intrusive and unpleasant, but you insert some humor and make a heavy topic lighter. I’m glad you didn’t interrupt me and let me say that! I think it needed to be said. 🙂

  15. Hi Ann. One of the first things I did today was to rush to your blog to see the outcome of your appointments. I was so moved by what you wrote, and also so worried, that I was pretty much speechless and only clicked ‘like’. Now a day has gone by and I am still speechless. You really do seem to have an amazing team of doctors. Including a very sweet-looking paediatrician. I am so impressed by how you were able to write about something that was probably quite emotional for you, with such drama and style. I am still digesting everything.

  16. Deborah

    Hi Ann,
    Perhaps the lack of a smile, when you first met Dr. Mark was his attempt to show that he takes your situation seriously? People in packs(bevies, teams, prides, flocks, herds, swarms, committees…) behave in a different way than they would one on one, of course you know that. I think it is a good thing that you got to see him in a better environment. It sounds horribly intimidating to have a gang of Doctors coming at you to look into your health concerns. It must heighten the stress. If you should ever want someone to come along and sit with you in waiting rooms, or just drive you there, let me know.

  17. I left a long message on this post and it seems to be gone. I cried when I read this post, full up appreciation and admiration for Doctor Salem’s authenticity and for yours. What a beautiful collaboration. I realized, reading this one, that Dr. Salem, as well as you, Ann, is one of my mentors. That lively, deeply informed authenticity engenders two way respect and honesty, which is the key ingredient in building trust. And you two have built a skyscraper! Love you, Ann.

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