Posts Tagged With: Dr. Mark Estes

Day 2219: Trust your crazy ideas

Yesterday, I trusted my crazy ideas to



I will now trust my crazy ideas to share some of those photos at full size:








If you want to look at other full-sized versions of my photos, trust your crazy ideas and click on the photos, above.

Today, I’m going to trust my crazy ideas and meet the new cardiologist replacing my long-time cardiologist  Dr. Estes, who trusted his crazy ideas to leave Boston and move back to Pennsylvania with his family. If you want to read more about my encounters with Dr. Estes over the years, trust your crazy ideas and visit my previous blog posts here, here, herehere, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.  (I trusted my crazy ideas to find and list about half of my blog posts that featured Dr. Estes.)

Now I’m going to trust my crazy ideas to look for some trust-your-crazy-ideas music and finish this post, so I won’t be late for my first visit with Dr. Munther Homoud, who my primary cardiologist Dr. Deeb Salem trusts and has some crazy ideas about (including “he is the most compassionate doctor I have ever met”).

Here are characters from a production of Rent trusting their crazy ideas to move from NYC to Santa Fe:

If you have any crazy ideas, please trust them and make a comment, below.

Now I’m going to trust my crazy ideas to alway end these blog posts with gratitude.





Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Day 2034: Is this good news?

If you look at the good comments in yesterday’s post, you might notice that some good people had some trouble discerning whether that post had good news.

The news in today’s post is that I can relate to that confusion.  When I look at the news these days, I often ask myself and others, “Is this good news?”

It’s probably not news that I’m going to share many new photos and relate them to today’s topic.  I ask you, good readers,  is this good news?




























Is this good news that my son Aaron took so many photos of camera-shy Michael? I guess it depends on your perspective and on who you are.

Is “Good News” by Manic Drive good news?

By the way, I continue to get good news about my dentist‘s recovery from a double lung transplant.

I look forward to all the news in your good comments.

Is this good news that I always thank those who help me create these posts and — of course! — YOU?




Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Day 2033: Good Bye

Good day, everybody.  Today I’ll be wishing a good bye to one of my incredibly good cardiologists, Dr. Mark Estes, who has appeared in a good many blog posts (including here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

What makes a good bye, especially when you do NOT want to say “good bye” to somebody?

Most importantly, let the good person know how important they are to you.

How will I let the good doctor know how important he is to me? My good bye, on this good day, will probably include these good things:

  1. Reminiscing about how good Dr. Estes has been to me over a good thirty years.
  2. A good greeting card.
  3. Good words, written and spoken.
  4. A last good look.
  5. A good cry.

My good reader, what do you think makes a good bye?

Here‘s a good 2007 video showing my good doctor briefly talking about a procedure he also performed on me in 2015.

Here are some good photos I’ve recently taken:











That good panel from that good Dove Chocolate advertisement shows these good words:

Find someone you didn’t mean to lose.

I didn’t mean to lose Dr. Estes, but he is moving to Pennsylvania because of family reasons. I’m glad I’m going to find him today, as we say our good byes.

Before I say good bye for today, I’ll share some good thanks to Dr. Estes and everybody else who has helped me create good blog posts over the years and , of course, to all my good readers, including YOU.




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

Day 1417: Tough

The tough title of this post is inspired by the first photo I was tough enough to take yesterday, while I was doing some tough exercises at cardiac rehab:


Based on my understanding  of (1) the word “tough” and (2) the staff at cardiac rehab, I assume they meant  I am “strong and resilient” rather than “difficult.”

If you want me to provide citations for those two definitions of ‘tough,” one word:


The last few months have been tough for me, as I’ve undergone several  tough cardiac-related surgeries and suffered other tough slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Apparently, I’m tough enough to take it,  because here I am, writing this tough post today.

Now, some of my tough readers probably want to know how tough my day was yesterday, since I mentioned in yesterday’s tough post that I’d be seeing lots of tough doctors and getting some tough tests at my tough hospital.

I hope it won’t be too tough for you to tough it out through several other tough photos from yesterday, first.


































For those of you tough enough to make it through all those tough images, here’s my news from my tough day:

The news is good.  My tough doctors told me that all the tests show that I am exactly where I should be, after all the tough things I’ve been through.  As a matter of fact, my tough doctor, Mark Estes (not pictured), said this to me:

We’re going to keep you going until your 90s.

While recent events have shown lots of tough people that it is VERY tough to make accurate predictions, that was not tough for me to hear.

It’s tough for me to decide which tough music to include for this tough post, so I will leave that to my tough readers.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. The tough writer of this tough blog does need to get going, but not until I express thanks to all, with three more tough photos:




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

Day 1409: Adapt and Endure

When I was lying on the operating table last Friday, my cardiologist Dr. Mark Estes talked about what people, companies, and countries all need to do to survive, by quoting Helen Keller.

Adapt and Endure

He was referring to me — because of all the challenges I’ve faced growing up and surviving into my 60s  with a congenital heart condition — but  also to the USA, as everyone in the operating room looked ahead to the presidential election.

The election has been decided, and I am especially grateful, here and now, for Dr. Estes, his staff, Helen Keller, and everyone  else who is kind, loving, thoughtful, and wise.

Adapt and Endure

I can find no better words at the moment, so I shall  adapt and endure by sharing all my photos from yesterday.




























I have an attitude of gratitude for all who adapt and endure, including you.



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

Day 1384: Too ____ To Be True

About a week ago, I wrote a post about my very recent open heart surgery and how the outcome seemed too good to be true.

Today, I’m writing another post about a development that seems too weird/unlucky/odd/scary/infuriating/ distressing/unfair/sucky/ridiculous to be true.

Yesterday, I got a voicemail message from one of my too good to be true cardiologists, Dr. Mark Estes, requesting that I call him as soon as possible on his cell phone. This seemed too unusual to be true, since I’ve never gotten a message like that during all the decades of my working with Dr. Estes.

When I called Dr. Estes, he picked up immediately and told me this, which seemed too bizarre to be true:

Ann, St. Jude, the manufacturer of your pacemaker/defibrillator, which we implanted in you a year ago May, has  informed us that your device can suddenly  and prematurely completely lose  battery power.  We are informing all those patients with the device. You are one of seven patients we have who are completely dependent upon your ICD, so I am recommending that you have surgery to have the device replaced within the next two weeks.

I was too shocked by this unexpected news to believe it was true, but Dr. Estes did his too-calm-to-be-true best to clarify the situation, accept my reactions, and continue to push for surgery as soon as possible. It’s true that I was initially reluctant to agree to another surgery so soon, especially since my sternum/chest still feels too painful and tender to be true, three and a half weeks after my valve replacement surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Dr. Estes was too empathic and reassuring to be true, as he explained that the device replacement surgery would be day surgery and minor enough to allow me to resume my normal (?) activities a day later.

Dr. Estes suggested that I think about this too-strange-to-be-true development for a few days, while he informed my other too-good-to-be-true Boston-based medical team members about this new and too-ridiculous-to-be-true truth.

I hung up the phone and informed my boyfriend Michael and my ex-husband Leon (who had just driven me home from  another  one of my too-frequent-to-be-true medical  appointments) about this too-absurd-to-be-true necessity  for me to undergo another too-soon-to-be true surgical procedure. Michael and Leon are too-friendly-with-each-other-to-be-true, considering the complicated history there, and they were both  immediately too-sympathetic-to-be-true about this unexpected turn of events for me.

Then, I wrote a too-stunned-to-be-true post on my Facebook page, as follows:

Just found out that my pacemaker/defibrillator is being recalled and my doctors want me to have it replaced within the next two weeks. What kind of hashtag should I use for this news?

Here are the too-quick-and-empathic-to-be-true hashtag suggestions I got:

  • #defibrilatethis
  • #wtdf
  • #ohsh*t
  • #oyvey
  • #SMDH
  • #sucks
  • #thatispoop
  • #holyshit!
  • #unfairperiod
  • #annisnotaguineapig
  • #WTF?!
  • #gimmieabreak
  • #showmethemoney
  • #you’vegottobekidding
  • #It’sAlwaysSomething
  • #shoulda put in a zipper
  • #IWillSurvive
  • #areyoukidding
  • #speechless

Here was my too personal to be true suggestion for a hashtag about my too freaky to be true situation:


My ex-student, Chris, was my too-clever-to-be-true Facebook friend who came up with the too musical to be true hashtag above (here on too-popular-to-be-true YouTube):


Here are  the too-happy-to-be-true photographs I took yesterday at Mount Auburn Hospital (where I was registering for the too-awesome-to-be-true cardiac rehab program there), before I got the too-infuriating-to-be-true news from Dr. Estes:






And here’s the too-delicious-to-be-true meal my boyfriend Michael cooked for me, last night, after I got the too-overwhelming-to-be-true phone call from Dr. Estes:


Because I am having trouble sleeping tonight because of this too-outrageous-to-be-true need for more surgery so soon after my September 21 valve replacement, I just sent this email to my too-great-to-be-true Boston-based medical team:

Hi all,

Dr. Estes tells me that he recommends replacing my recalled St. Jude ICD within the next two weeks. I would like to comply with his recommendation but also feel the need to say these things:

  • My chest is still soooooo sore from the open heart surgery that the thought of another surgical violation, no matter how small, seems quite daunting to me.
  • I would like Dr. Carol Warnes and Dr. Joseph Dearani from Mayo to be informed and included in this decision process. Even though I understand that too many medical cooks can sometimes spoil the broth, adding the ingredients of their participation would help me feel better about moving forward with the plan.


Now that I have communicated these thoughts to my trusted Tufts team, I believe I can go back to the process of healing from the major surgery I so recently underwent.
As always, I am eager to hear any thoughts you want to share as we move forward.

All the best,

It would be too awesome to be true if you could leave a comment about this Too ____ To Be True post,  below.

I am too grateful to all those who helped me create this too-whatever-to-be-true post and to you — of course! — for reading it.  And in case you were wondering,  it’s all true!

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , | 61 Comments

Day 1373: Dreams

Yesterday, my  12th day after open heart surgery,  I fell asleep and had a dream of  being lifted suddenly by unseen hands and carried, very rapidly, as I lay flat on my back, through many rooms and hallways. In the dream, I thought, “Oh no!  Ghosts are taking me away!” I screamed in the dream, the dream faded, and I woke up in my  bed at home.

Somewhat of an expert on dreams (because I’m a psychotherapist), I asked myself, “What did that dream mean?” And I realized the dream captured the dreamlike experience  of being wheeled down hospital hallways into  operating rooms, which has happened to me more times than you could possibly dream between the ages of 10 and 63.

Then, I got ready for my dream of a friend, Carol, to pick me up and carry me to my appointment at the Coumadin/Warfarin clinic at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, to find out if I would be able to eat all the foods of my dreams on this new medication.  The nurse there, Kathleen, was a dream, as she allayed my fears and told me I would probably be able to eat whatever I wanted (including chocolate!), as long as I did so consistently.

Then, I told Carol I wanted to drop in on members of my Cardiology Dream Team at Tufts Medical Center, who hadn’t yet seen me since my surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on September 21. I assumed my appearance would exceed their wildest dreams. And while most patients wouldn’t dream of dropping in unexpectedly on their doctors, my cardiologist Dr. Mark Estes has demonstrated (see my previous dreamy blog post here), that he is fine with my doing that.

The next hour was like a dream.  Dr. Mark Estes showed up trailed by five students and told me I looked like a dream — better than he had ever seen me in our decades of working together.  I told Dr. Estes that I might have been dreaming, but I thought I had heard various people at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota state that my heart was in a normal/sinus rhythm after the operation, instead of its usual atrial fibrillation.

Let me explain why my heart going out of atrial fibrillation and into normal/sinus rhythm, even for a limited amount of time, would be a very unlikely dream come true.

  1. My heart went out of normal rhythm and into atrial fibrillation almost exactly three years ago today (described in this here dreamy blog post).
  2. At that time, my doctors agreed it did not make sense for them to try any non-surgical means to return my heart to a normal rhythm, because the atria were so stretched out from my leaky valve that my heart would almost definitely return to a-fib.
  3. When I had my last cardiac procedure in May of 2015, Dr.  Estes told me that my fibrillating atria were even bigger — “the size of a grapefruit, instead of the normal size of a walnut.”
  4.  My other cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem,  had a dream: he hoped that the surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, when performing the open heart surgery twelve days ago to replace my leaky valve, might also use a surgical technique (called the Maze technique) to try to get my heart back into a normal rhythm.
  5. When I discussed that possibility with the Mayo doctors, they all agreed that the added surgical time of two hours was NOT worth the risk, since the chances of any technique returning me to normal rhythm was highly unlikely.
  6. At that point, I let go of the dream of my heart getting out of atrial fibrillation, and instead focused on preparing myself for the heart valve replacement surgery.

So when I told Dr. Estes yesterday that I thought I had heard people at the Mayo Clinic say that I  was out of a-fib after my surgery, he looked like he thought I was dreaming. He said, “Ann, if your heart DID get back  into sinus rhythm post surgery, that would have lasted for a very short time. I am skeptical it happened at all.”

And then everybody  — Dr. Estes, the students, Carol, me, and others — watched yesterday, as if in a dream, as we accessed the data stored in my pacemaker/defibrillator to see what kind of rhythms my dreamy heart had been generating recently, when I’ve been awake and dreaming.

As if in a dream, my dream team cardiologist, Dr. Mark Estes, announced to all of us: “You’re in sinus rhythm.  And you’ve been out of a fib and in normal rhythm consistently since your surgery on September 21.”

I responded, “My boyfriend Michael would call this a Christmas miracle.”  I heard Carol say, dreamily and sweetly, “Today is the Jewish New Year.”  Everybody looked happy, like in a dream or in a special on the Hallmark Movie Channel where the heroine does better than anybody dreamed possible.

How did this better-than-anybody-could-possibly-have-dreamed result occur?  I have a dreamy memory of a discussion, last week, with a Mayo Clinic EKG technician, who told me I was in normal/sinus rhythm when he visited me in the Intensive Care Unit.  Perhaps, we speculated, when they stopped my heart and then restarted it after the open heart surgery, that helped my heart’s rhythm — just how we often fix our phones, computers, and other devices  by turning them off and turning them back on again. Sometimes, the simplest solution works better than our wildest dreams.

After this dream of a visit with Dr. Estes, Carol carried me away in her car and drove me home to my dreamy boyfriend Michael. I told him the good news, as if in a dream. Later, when I shared the good news with my dreamy 18-year-old son, Aaron — far far away in the dreamy land of Scotland — Aaron texted me: “It sounds like a magical fairy wonderland situation over there.”

Magical and MUCH better than the scary dream that started out my dream of a day, yesterday.

I also want to say, at this point in this dreamy post, that it’s very possible that my dream of a heart with its shiny new valve might go back into atrial fibrillation — tomorrow, next week, or some other point in the future.  However, I wouldn’t dream of lowering my heart’s expectations right now — that heart of mine has exceeded everybody’s dreams for sooooooo long.

When I was dreaming under general anesthesia last week at the Mayo Clinic, my surgeon played dreamy music by our favorite saxophonist, the late Michael Brecker. On this dreamy day, 13 days later, here is one of my favorite tunes by Dreams, the 1970s dream team of Michael Brecker, his brother and trumpet-player Randy Brecker, the dreamily fabulous drummer Billy Cobham, dreamy bassist Will Lee, and other dreamily amazing jazz musicians.



Because my readers appreciate photos I take beyond my wildest dreams, here are all the dreamy images I captured yesterday:









You know what?  Yesterday still feels like a dream to me ….  too good to be true. And I don’t have any photos showing Dr. Estes, the medical students, Carol, Kathleen the nurse, or any of other people I dreamily wrote about in this post.

So …. maybe it was all a dream?

What do you think, my dreamy readers?

Dreamy thanks to all those who helped me create this dream of a post and to you  — of course! — for whatever dreams you bring, here and now.

Categories: adult congenital heart, celebrating, heart condition, heart surgery, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 58 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 1292: Seeing patients

Whenever I take a trip into the hospital, I am struck by all the different ways that people see you, especially when you’re a patient.

Often, people start by seeing you as your diagnosis.  Personally, I find that a little annoying, because there’s so much more to me than

I’m more than just heart and lungs, I considered saying to some people during this hospital stay. However, it was difficult for me to say that, because

  • I’m pretty polite and
  • I was sometimes hooked up to oxygen masks where I could not speak, at all.

Beginning with my many childhood hospital experiences, I’ve noticed that patients  can elicit a kind of non-seeing response in others. For some people, it’s like we’re invisible.

I see many reasons for that non-seeing response:

  • People are afraid of illness.
  • People are afraid of mortality.
  • People are very focused on seeing themselves.

It’s important to me that you see that I’m not claiming that everybody who sees me in the hospital doesn’t really see me. Every time I’m a patient,  I am also seen by many truly  caring professionals.

Speaking of truly caring professionals,  Dr. Mark Estes — my cardiologist who’s been seen on this blog before (including here and here) — was surprised to see that I was in the hospital yesterday. I loved seeing him walk into my hospital room yesterday morning, trailed by medical students.

Here’s how Dr. Estes saw me yesterday, in his own words:

  1. “The most famous and important patient in this hospital.”
  2. “Intimidating.”
  3. “Able to challenge and stand up to a  world-famously difficult and powerful cardiologist.”
  4. “Never looking better.”

I have to say I found #2 and #4 surprising, since

  • I never see myself as intimidating and
  • I was sitting in a hospital bed with pneumonia AND heart failure at the time, so I HAVE to believe I’ve looked better.

After Dr. Estes saw me for a helpful discussion of the details of my latest hospital stay, he turned to his medical students and asked them, “What’s the lesson to be learned here?” And here’s how he answered his own question:

Always listen to the patient.

Can you see why I love being seen by Dr. Mark Estes?

Here are some things I saw through my iPhone yesterday:

















What music would you expect to see in this post?


Now, I hope to see some comments from my patient readers.

Thanks to all for coming by to see me today!



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

Blog at