Posts Tagged With: Dr. Deeb Salem

Day 1391: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

To start telling this story, today’s post title is a quote from the musical Hamilton.


Who lives, on the day I’m writing this?

  • I do, against all odds and even though a team of doctors at the Mayo Clinic  essentially killed me* on September 21 in order to repair my heart before they brought me back to life.
  • Mel Brooks, thank goodness, even though he is 90 years old (and whom I’ll be seeing today in person in Boston).
  • Approximately 7.5 billion people, according to this link.


Who dies, on the day I’m writing this?

  • Kevin Meaney, suddenly at age 60, who was one of my and my son’s favorite comedians.
  • 151,600 people, according to this link.


Who tells your story?

I’ll tell you who tells my story —   it’s me, through this blog.  Perhaps because my story has included so many doctors and medical institutions from the moment I was born, it’s VERY important to me to be the expert of my own experience — the primary teller of my own story. Of course, I can’t control how others will tell my story after I die, but to quote Kevin Meaney about that, “I don’t care.”

Here’s how I photographically choose to tell my story of October 21, 2016, when I went to  one hospital for cardiac rehab and then to another hospital to get blood work to prepare for ANOTHER surgical procedure on November 2 and also to drop in on my  amazing cardiologist Dr. Deeb Salem:













And because we do need help from others to tell our stories, I want to thank my friend Carol, who is such a wonderful woman, for capturing the story of those last four photos.

Here’s the last photo that I took yesterday, to tell my story:


Now, how would you tell a story in a comment, below?

I’ll end today’s story with live gratitude to all those living and dead who helped me create this post and to you — of course! — no matter how you tell your story.

* I’m glad you lived to read  this part of my story from the Mayo Clinic surgeon’s report on  September 21:  “The aorta was occluded, and 800 cc of cold blood cardioplegia was infused into the aortic root obtaining satisfactory asystolic arrest.” Doesn’t that sound like they satisfactorily killed me?

Categories: heart condition, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Day 1375: Band wagon

Time to join the band wagon of Ann’s readers, who are used to seeing her begin posts by defining phrases like “band wagon.”

1. a wagon used for carrying a band in a parade or procession.
2. a particular activity or cause that has suddenly become fashionable or popular.
“the local deejays are on the home-team bandwagon”

I had a recent experience with definition #1, when one of my  Boston cardiologists offered to pick up me and my boyfriend Michael at Boston’s Logan Airport in a band wagon, no matter when  we returned home after my September 21 open heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.  However, I foiled that band wagon by returning late at night and way before anybody expected me to —  six days after my heart valve replacement surgery.

By the way, I just noticed that WordPress is suggesting I invite my readers to join a band wagon (definition #2) by including this message at the top of post-creation page:

Encourage your US-based users to register to vote by adding a subtle prompt to your site.

If you were in my band wagon  of classic American movie musical fans, you might add a third definition of “band wagon,” like so:

3. the most intelligent AND fun American movie musical ever made starring Fred Astaire (as opposed the most intelligent AND fun American movie musical ever made starring Gene Kelly, which is Singin’ in the Rain).


Because I like to join band wagons of people recovering from a traumatic event like surgery who treat themselves exceedingly well, I watched the beginning of The Band Wagon yesterday morning, which included these two musical numbers (here and here on YouTube):

No  matter what is going on in my life, that second number from The Band Wagon puts a melody in my heart, gives me a singable happy feeling AND a wonderful way to start my day.

Now, would you like to join the band wagon of Ann’s readers who enjoy looking at  images captured on her iPhone from the day before?









Those last two photos feature Dr. Deeb Salem, one of my band wagon of cardiologists (but not the one who offered to pick us up in a band wagon at the airport).  In the first photograph, Dr. Salem  is with Dr. Marvin Konstam, 31 years ago, as they performed the first heart transplant at Tufts Medical Center. In the second photo, Dr. Salem is with the person who is writing this here blog post on band wagons.

Now, would you like to join the band wagon of people who keep telling me I look way too good to have had heart surgery a scant two weeks ago?

Because I always like to join the band wagon of people polite enough to express thanks when they are feeling gratitude, here’s a message to all those who helped me create this post and to all those who are reading it, here and now:


Categories: heart surgery, personal growth, photojournalism, self-care | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Day 1356: Important

Yesterday, while I was waiting for an important appointment at an important Boston hospital, I saw this important book:



After I saw that important book, I saw my important cardiologist Dr. Deeb Salem, who thought it important to tell me about two important people fainting when observing open heart surgery. It’s probably important for me to share now that I’m having important open heart surgery in four days at the important Mayo Clinic in important Rochester, Minnesota. That surgery is so important to me that I asked for an important hug from the important Dr. Salem yesterday for the first time in our important 34-year doctor/patient relationship. I also told Dr. Salem that I’m so important to his important colleague and fellow cardiologist Dr. Mark Estes that Dr. Estes had promised to importantly greet me with his important medical team at Boston’s important airport when I return in two weeks from my important surgery.

Then I went back to my important job at another important Boston hospital, where many important people wished me well.

Here are more of my important shots from yesterday:

























It’s important to note that those last two important shots include important lyrics from the important musical, Hamilton. Here‘s the important Hamilton number “(I Am Not Throwing Away) My Shot.”

Another important fact in today’s important post: last night I gave myself my first important injection of twice-daily anti-coagulant before my important surgery …


… and then I threw away my shot.

What’s important, here and now, to you?

Gratitude is important to me, so ….


Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Day 1295: What is heart failure (part 2)?

Four months ago, I wrote a blog post titled What is heart failure?  wherein I

  • defined heart failure,
  • explained that one of my cardiologists, Dr. Mark Estes,  believed I was in heart failure,
  • reported that I did not agree with that diagnosis,
  • tried to de-dramatize the extraordinarily scary term “heart failure,” and
  • suggested the alternative name of “heart struggle”instead.

My chief cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem, has suggested, for years,  that I weigh myself every day, to make sure that I’m not going into heart failure.  Why? A major symptom of heart failure is the body’s retention of fluid — which shows up in weight gain as well as swelling around the ankles.

Last weekend, as I was dealing with many successive days of unsolved fevers that were apparently not endocarditis (everybody’s main fear for me), I stepped on the scale, at home, for the first time in several days.  And I noticed I had gained a lot of weight.  My heart dropped in fear and I immediately called the Infectious Disease Fellow on call at my hospital.  Here’s my memory of the conversation:

Me:  I’m still running fevers.

Infectious Disease Fellow: We’re still watching the many cultures that were taken, including those when you were in the hospital last week.  They are not growing anything. Don’t worry, you don’t have endocarditis.

Me:  Good.  I wanted to let you know something I just noticed. I’ve gained some weight inexplicably.

Infectious Disease Fellow: How much weight?

Me:  I’m not sure. But it really doesn’t make sense. I haven’t been eating much.

Infectious Disease Fellow: Okay. Well, keep watching things. If your fever goes up or you’re feeling much worse, come into the emergency room.

I called the Infectious Disease Fellow three times over the weekend.  The last time, Sunday evening, I was feeling very lousy — no energy at all and an even higher body weight.   I could tell that the Infectious Disease Fellow was not nervous.  Why?  Because he was focusing on his specialty, according to how he had been instructed  — “Above all, watch out for endocarditis with this patient.”   We both agreed that I should come into the emergency room if my fever went over 101 — something I knew was inevitable by Sunday evening because it was climbing.

On 7 PM last Sunday night, my fever went over 101 and I told my boyfriend Michael I was heading back to the Emergency Room. He insisted on accompanying me, thank goodness.

When we got there, they discovered I was having trouble breathing, because I had pneumonia AND — for the first time in my life — I was in heart failure.  My heart had been compromised enough by the fevers and the developing pneumonia  that it could NOT do its job, and fluid was gathering in my lungs.

In the Emergency Room Sunday night and then in my hospital room Monday morning, I felt worse than I have ever felt in my life. I kept panicking, because I was in “air hunger” — not getting the right amount of oxygen.  Also, there was a psychological component to my panic — I feared I would not be able to go to Edinburgh in August with my son and I feared I would not be able to have the reparative heart valve surgery we had scheduled at the Mayo Clinic in September.

But soon, because of the right medications, the pneumonia and the heart failure began to resolve.

This photo, from last week, shows my successful cardiologist Dr. Deeb Salem, smiling at how much better I looked, felt and sounded last Monday evening:


Right before I took that successful photo, Dr. Salem and I had successfully discussed the following:

  1. My insistence that somebody talk to the Infectious Disease Fellow on call ASAP about how that person had missed the very important clue that I was going into heart failure.
  2. My concerns about my trip to Edinburgh in August (plane and hotel reservations which Dr. Salem said I could cancel, if need be, with a note from him).
  3. My concerns about my heart surgery in September, which Dr. Salem totally reassured me about, stating I would definitely be recovered sufficiently by then.
  4. How I was right 99.9% of the time about medical issues, beating Dr. Salem by 20%  (these were Dr. Salem’s calculations, which I do not necessarily endorse).
  5. The fact that — after all these years of living with my extremely unusual heart — I had finally gone into heart failure (temporarily), and Dr. Salem’s belief that this was more proof positive that the heart valve surgery in September is perfectly timed.

Any failures in today’s post, so far?

Of course, my heart cannot fail to share my recent photos with you:










Of all the dozens and dozens of songs with the word “Heart” in the title, how can I successfully choose the right one for today?

How about this one?


Heart-felt thanks to all those who never fail to warm my heart every day … including you!

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , | 44 Comments

Day 1289: Masks

At various points during the day yesterday, people coming into my hospital room  — where I’m being treated for pneumonia and some associated heart failure —  have had to wear masks, for their protection and mine.

Because I’ve been wearing various types of oxygen masks and because my face has sometimes been a mask of exhaustion, illness, worry, nausea, and anxiety, I haven’t taken a lot of photos of those masks.

Here’s the one photo I took yesterday.


Who is that masked  man?

That is my long-time and trusted cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem.  To me, the mask cannot hide his wonderfulness.  Both times he showed up in my room yesterday, he dispelled my masks of worry and fear.

What music am I about to unmask for this post about masks?

I cannot mask my delight and appreciation for your visit to my blog, here and now.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , | 45 Comments

Day 1282: The more you know…

How would you complete this sentence?

The more you know …

I’ll show you how Tufts Medical Center in Boston — where I was hospitalized last night for fevers — completes that sentence:


Do you believe that the more you know, the better you feel?

Here’s more to know about my July 4th, yesterday:

  • The on call doctor phoned me to say he would feel better if he knew I went to the Emergency Room to get more cultures for endocarditis, since nobody knew why I was continuing to have fevers.
  • Because I know more about Emergency Rooms than most people, I decided I’d feel better if I went earlier rather than later.
  • The more some people know about the E.R., the better they feel, as evidenced by this photo I took soon after I decided to go.


  • I “knew” that the staff at the Emergency Room would simply take more blood cultures  and release me after that, which helped me feel better, since I hate to stay at  hospitals.
  • The more I knew, the more convinced I was that I was NOT going to see any of my beloved fireworks this year, which made me feel worse.
  • Once I knew that the Emergency Room doctors wanted to hospitalize me because they couldn’t figure out what was causing my fevers, the worse I felt.
  • I emailed my cardiologist, Dr.Deeb Salem — who is on vacation and away from the hospital until next week — about the developing situation in the Emergency Room, assuming that the more he knew, the better he would feel.
  • The more I knew about the doctors’ thoughts and feelings regarding my being hospitalized, the better I felt about reluctantly acquiescing.
  • The more people know about my cardiologist Dr. Deeb Salem — who sent me the two-word email “Safe plan” — the better they feel.
  • The more I knew about my nurses after I got settled in my hospital room, the better I felt.
  • The more I knew about a FABULOUS vantage point in the hospital for watching the famous Boston fireworks at 10:30, the better I felt.






Now that we know more, how do we feel?

The more I know to express my heart-felt gratitude to my readers, the better I feel.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , | 40 Comments

Day 1186: Violent Agreement

You’re probably in violent agreement with me that one rarely sees the words “violent” and “agreement” linked together, as they are in today’s post title. You might violently agree that the words “violent” and “disagreement” are MUCH more commonly paired.

People who have have read this blog before could be in violent agreement about all this:

  1. I usually blog about things that have happened the day before.
  2. If I see or hear something that agrees with me (violently or otherwise), it appears in this blog.
  3. Since I started this daily blog, cardiologists have been in violent disagreement about my very unusual heart, including how it affects my health and my prognosis.

Yesterday, I wrote a  despairing (if not violent) email to my chief cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem, with the subject heading “descending into confusion and anxiety (again).”

Hi Deeb,

I know that’s a dramatic subject heading, but there it is.

One heart specialist tells me I’m in class 2 heart failure, a week ago Friday.

That affects how I feel.

Another one insists that I need to have a surgical consult when I visit with her at the Mayo Clinic.

She is not available for me to ask her why.

Her very kind and nice scheduling person tells me that she was concerned by the data she saw in my records about my valve and believes a surgical consult is necessary.


And I remember you and I deciding that the odds were not good for a valve operation.

Why would I want to talk to a surgeon in Minnesota ? There is no friggin’ way I would have the surgery out there, away from my friends and family.

So my question is this: does it make sense for me to shlepp all the way to Minneapolis, especially if the likelihood is that they are going to suggest valve surgery, which people here have  already convinced me would be very dangerous?

I know that you are used to dealing with smart people who ask a lot of questions. Please answer as best you can.

I am seeing Dr. Laura Snydman today and I’m sure we will be discussing this also.


After I saw Dr. Laura Snydman yesterday  (whom people would agree, violently or otherwise, is AWESOME), I checked my email and saw this:


Give me a call.


When I called Dr. Deeb Salem and told him where I was, he invited me up to his office.

Then, Dr. Salem listened patiently as I expressed all the thoughts and feelings in my heart, about my heart.

When I was finished, he said:

I’m in violent agreement with you.

Which immediately made me feel less violent and much more agreeable.

Isn’t it amazing how validation and agreement can do that?

As I write this “Violent Agreement” post today, Dr. Salem and I are in violent agreement about the following:

  1. I will consult with adult congenital heart specialists at the Mayo Clinic in May.
  2. My sister will accompany me there.
  3. No matter what happens, that will be a valuable trip.
  4. Brown University and the University of Edinburgh would both be non-violently agreeable places for my son to attend college next year (if he gets into both of those, which we should find out today).

Here are some pictures I took yesterday, in the midst of much violent agreement:











Are you in violent or non-violent agreement  or disagreement about any of the above?

I hope you are in violent agreement with me that Dr. Salem deserves to be on my


and so do my readers, including you!

Categories: health care, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 48 Comments

Day 1174: heroes

Even though there are many heroes in my life, this is the first time I’ve ever written a post titled “heroes.”

Yesterday, I spent time with lots of heroes. For example, last night one of my heroes — my boyfriend Michael  — showed me this:


Earlier in the day, I met with my heroes Dr. Mark Estes and RN Melanie Marshall (both appearing in this heroic blog post from March 2014). During yesterday’s check-up with those medical heroes about my Implantable Cardiac Device (ICD), your humble blogging hero heard and said lots of things, including the following:

  • I seem to be doing somewhat better since I received my heroic  ICD last May.
  • Dr. Estes —  who is always more conservative, cautious, and concerned than my other cardiologist hero, Dr. Deeb Salem — wants me to travel to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to consult with Dr. Carole Warnes, well-known hero to others who have my extremely rare cardiac condition (congenitally corrected transposition of the great arteries a/k/a cctga),
  • I believe Dr. Carole Warnes is the heroic doctor who wrote me in 1997 when I was  pregnant with my only son Aaron (another one of my heroes) with her opinion that it was safe for me to carry him to term (despite other doctors publishing articles concluding that pregnancy was dangerous for women with cctga).
  • During the appointment with Dr. Estes, I saw him blush three times, including when I told him that my hero Michael had told me, “You’re always in a bad mood after you see Dr. Estes.”
  • I told  my hero Dr. Estes that my boyfriend Michael heroically exaggerates.
  • Dr. Estes acted like I was some kind of hero when he introduced me to a  heroic medical student as “The most famous patient at this hospital.”
  • I said to my hero Melanie, “It’s funny that I’ve been trying to get famous by trying out for The Voice when apparently I’m already famous.”
  • Dr. Estes heroically lied about my age in front of the student (giving me a heroic wink while doing so), but I heroically corrected him.
  • I told my heroic treaters that I was grateful for all of my medical heroes at Tufts Medical Center, calling them “The Dream Team.”
  • Yesterday, my medical heroes told me they want to keep me alive through my 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.
  • I heroically added “… and my 90’s.”

I may be a hero to some people, but I am not heroic enough to visit Rochester, Minnesota, USA in the winter.  Does that sound like a hero to you?

Do you see any heroes in any of the other photos I heroically took yesterday?






Astound me, please, with a comment (heroic or otherwise).

Thanks to all my heroes out there, including you!

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , | 46 Comments

Day 1158: Help is on the way

Here’s a sign I encountered yesterday at Boston’s Tufts Medical Center, when I was on the way to see my helpful cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem.


Even though that light wasn’t flashing,  help was on the way for me, including this opinion from Dr. Salem:

I think you’re doing really well.

While that and other help from Dr. Salem was on its way, I didn’t take any photos of him, which cannot be helped. If you want to go out of your way to see pictures of Dr. Salem, there’s help in some previous posts (including here, here, and here).

Earlier in the day,  during my therapy group, help was on the way for several participants who have trouble accepting good news and compliments.  People helped each other get beyond barriers to taking in the positive. As always, it was helpful to flash reminders to each other that negatives stick more easily than positives, as we go on our way.

If you want to see more photos from yesterday, help is on the way!

Did this flashing post give you any help on the way?

Helpful thanks — to Dr. Salem, to people who heal in groups, and to you (of course!) — are on the way, here and now.



Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Day 1157: Please Knock

What does “Please Knock” mean to you?

Here are some possible meanings of “Please Knock” currently knocking around in my mind:

  • Announce yourself.
  • Your presence is welcome.
  • Make noise.
  • Insult somebody.
  • Seize an opportunity (instead of waiting for opportunity to knock first).
  • “I am a social worker at a prominent teaching hospital in Boston who is not otherwise engaged in this moment.”

I saw all those “Please Knock” signs, yesterday, when I walked to a part of that hospital where I work and:

What other photos are knocking to be revealed here, on this morning after the Massachusetts USA presidential primary?










Before I turn the off the lights in today’s post, I want to knock on your door one more time, with this:  I’m seeing my long-time cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem, later today.  Dr. Salem (knocking around in this previous post) has always encouraged me to Please Knock with any questions during our appointments.

It always pleases me to know that my knocking is welcome, anywhere.

Please knock with any comments, below.  And knocking good thanks for knocking on the door of my blog, today.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

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