Tuesday, November 13, 2007

PANIC! (on the airplane)

Mr. Misha and I had been wanting to visit Las Vegas for quite sometime. But being of the fair-skinned and squishy persuasion (we don't tolerate desert sunshine and heat well), we had to wait until the fall. When we found out that two other couples we dig were going on Veteran's Day weekend, we decided to book our trip.

The day before we were set to leave, our friend and adopted "Noni", Babe, passed away. Paul and I really didn't feel like partying in Vegas. I checked to see if we could postpone our flight and hotel reservations. Changing the plane tickets...no problem. Changing the room reservations, no such luck. So we talked with Babe's family and they told us to go. They reminded us that Babe loved traveling, gambling, cocktails and a good time. They told us she would be pissed off and would quite possible haunt us if we didn't go and have a good time. We decided to go and party in Babe's honor.

I woke up early Friday morning with puffy eyes, lingering tears and a headache after Thursday's events. I finished packing, showered and dressed and then headed to

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for my usual drink. I decided to get Mr. Misha some coffee and a snack too. He likes the egg salad sandwiches from Starbuck's,

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so I picked one up along with a butter croissant for myself. I got home, woke him up and we had our breakfast together. We drove to Erika's house. She was going to drive us to the airport and then patrol the greater Sacramento area for the weekend riding in the "Misha-mobile".

Erika dropped us safely at the airport and we checked our bags and headed through airport security. All of a sudden, Paul didn't feel good. He said his stomach was upset and wanted some meds for it. I went and bought some water and tums. He took them, along with some pepcid I had in my purse. I was thinking I could nip this ailment in the bud. He seemed okay as we boarded the plane.

As soon as we reached cruising altitude, something happened to my husband. He looked pale, he started to sweat, he kept clenching and unclenching his left hand. He told me he was nauseous. I started to freak out. These symptoms, added with his family history of cardiac problems......made me think he was having a heart attack. I took his pulse, it seemed fine. But there was no way to be sure without putting him on a cardiac monitor. I didn't want to panic the flight attendant, so I just waited. Paul just kept looking paler and paler. He said he had to go to the bathroom. The other guy in the row and I got up and let him out. It seemed like he was in the bathroom forever. Our aisle-mate tried to distract me with small talk. It turns out he is the stage manager for a Ska Band called Reel Big Fish. He was a really nice guy and offered to go and check on Mr. Misha for me. As he got up to go check on him, Paul was on his way back to his seat.

He sat down and seemed okay for a moment. Then he grabbed the airsickness bag and hurled. I have to say, my husband is the best airplane puker in the whole world. He did it silently, with no spillage and sealed the bag quickly so no one smelled it. I was still really scared, but proud of my husband's stealth-puking abilities. The RBF dude kindly got the attention of the flight attendant, who gave us a garbage bag and some extra airsickness bags. Paul thanked him with an apologetic look on his face and RBF dude replied; "Dude, no worries. I travel with a band. I have seen it all."

Paul continued to look like shit. He continued to clench and unclench his left hand. I knew that airplanes were outfitted with AEDs (Automated Electrical Defibrillator) and you need some room to use one of those things. I had no idea where I was going to find the space!

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The last 20 minutes of the flight were scary. We would be landing at Long Beach International Airport for a 1 hour layover. I just wanted to get him off the plane. I knew if I could get him on land, I could get paramedics to him quickly. I also knew that we had family in southern California, so if I had to get him to a hospital, I would have some family support.

We landed and de-planed. I got Paul situated in a quiet area and went to inquire about a first aid station, local hospitals and changing our flight. Paul continued to puke in the barf bags I got on the plane. He didn't want to go to the hospital (which is quite common for someone having a heart attack). I tried to convince him that he needed to be seen by a doctor. He wouldn't have any of it. He said he just wanted to get to our hotel room in Vegas and lay down. While Paul went to the bathroom, I changed our flight for a later one and texted our friends to tell them we would be late or might not be there at all.

When he came back from the bathroom, he told me not only was he still puking...but now had problems down south too. I instantly felt relieved. He seemed a bit annoyed that I was happy that he had diarrhea. I told him that the added symptom reassured me that he was not having a heart attack, but probably food poisoning. I was relieved. I medicated him with some anti-nausea medication, some Immodium and some Tylenol. I figured he would be safe to fly in a few hours.

The flight to Vegas was uneventful, thank goodness. We rescued our baggage that had arrived 6 hours before us and headed to our hotel. Paul still wasn't feeling great....but I was pretty sure he would be okay. I was also pretty sure that he would never eat another egg salad sandwich from Starbucks.

Stay tuned for the next Vegas blog post tomorrow.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation...
here is some info.

Heart Attack

Each year over a million people in the U.S. have a heart attack. About half of them die. Many people have permanent heart damage or die because they don't get help immediately. It's important to know the symptoms of a heart attack and call 9-1-1 if someone is having them. Those symptoms include

* Chest discomfort - pressure, squeezing, or pain
* Shortness of breath
* Discomfort in the upper body - arms, shoulder, neck, back, stomach
* Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, light-headedness, sweating

Food poisoning


Food poisoning is the result of eating organisms or toxins in contaminated food. Most cases of food poisoning are from common bacteria like Staphylococcus or E. coli.


The symptoms from the most common types of food poisoning generally start within 2 to 6 hours of eating the food responsible. That time may be longer (even a number of days) or shorter, depending on the toxin or organism responsible for the food poisoning. The possible symptoms include:

* Nausea and vomiting
* Abdominal cramps
* Diarrhea (may be bloody)
* Fever and chills
* Weakness (may be serious and lead to respiratory arrest, as in the case of botulism)
* Headache


You will usually recover from the most common types of food poisoning within a couple of days. The goal is to make you feel better and avoid dehydration. Drink any fluid (except milk or caffeinated beverages) to replace fluids lost by diarrhea and vomiting. Children should be given an electrolyte sold in drugstores. Don't eat solid foods until the diarrhea has passed, and avoid dairy, which can worsen diarrhea.

If you have diarrhea and are unable to drink fluids (for example, due to nausea or vomiting), you may need medical attention and intravenous fluids. This is especially true for young children. If you take diuretics, you need to manage diarrhea carefully. Talk to your doctor -- you may need to stop taking the diuretic while you have the diarrhea. Medications should NEVER be stopped or changed without discussing with your doctor and getting specific instructions.

For the most common causes of food poisoning, your doctor would NOT prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics can actually prolong diarrhea and keep the organism in your body longer.

If you have eaten toxins from mushrooms or shellfish, you will need to be seen right away. The emergency room doctor will take steps to empty out your stomach and remove the toxin.

Expectations (prognosis) 

Full recovery from the most common types of food poisoning usually occurs within 12 and 48 hours. Serious complications can arise, however, from certain types of food poisoning.


Dehydration is the most common complication. This can occur from any of the causes of food poisoning.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Long Goodbye. (updated)

Originally posted on Thursday November 8th @ 11 am PST.

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This is Cornelia. But no one calls her that. She was the youngest child in her family, so everyone just calls her "Babe". Her parents are from Northern Italy. "So far north, we are practically Swiss!" as she would say.  Her parent's immigrated to the US and settled on the coast of Northern California.  Her family struggled through the depression and Babe left school in her early teens to work.  She cooked for the cowboys at the ranch where her older brothers worked. Babe married in her late teens and had two children, a girl and then a boy.  Her daughter had two children; both of them are good friends. Her grandchildren have given her three beautiful granddaughters. Babe outlived two husbands, her son and all of her siblings except one of her sisters. 

How do I know all of this?

Well, for the past 4 years she has been my neighbor.  Her family bought the duplex next to Babe's so she could have someone she knew to keep an eye on her.  It just happened to be at the time when Paul and I got engaged and were looking for a place to live.  It was a good deal for both parties and Paul and I moved in about 2 hours after her granddaughter got the keys. For the most part, it was a pretty easy gig.  Until this year. 

After 70+ years of living on her own and by her own rules, Babe's mind started to give out on her.  It started off with harmless absent-mindedness that is to be expected in an octogenarian and escalated to where she could not be left alone. When Babe stopped driving, one of the things she really missed was breakfast at IHOP.  When my husband Paul found this out, he set out to remedy that.  That started our somewhat weekly "Breakfast with Babe". 

I would get off work in the morning and stop by Babe's to see if she was up.  Most of the time, not only would she be up, but she would be dressed, lipstick on, hair combed, purse on her lap and cane in her hand and sitting in her chair waiting. I would wake up Paul and then go get the car. Paul would walk Babe to the car and get her buckled in the front seat and we would take off.  

When we would arrive, Paul would open her door and help her get out.  Seeing him dote on her and help her was so sweet.  She loved the attention and it made Paul feel good too.  When we would get into IHOP, we were immediately greeted.  The hostess, the wait staff, and the bus staff...they all knew Babe by name. Despite that she could not remember most things, she knew all of their names too. They all welcomed her with hugs and kisses.  Paul immediately dubbed Babe, "The Duchess of IHOP".  It didn't matter how many people were waiting for a table, we were always seated immediately.  

After a few times there, they knew our preferences too.  We wanted to sit at a table, not a booth.  Babe would have coffee, Paul a Diet Pepsi and water for me until I made up my mind.  Babe would have the "International Passport" with Swedish Pancakes and Lingonberries. Paul would have the Spinach and Mushroom omelet with griddlecakes. I was always the hold-up; I never found my regular dish. 

While we ate, Babe would tell us stories about her life. The same stories, OVER AND OVER.  Paul and I can recite the directions to her parent's hometowns. We know the stories of her romance and married life with her first husband. We can tell you all about her life on the farm, her son who loved to swim and how wonderful her granddaughters are.

The trip home from IHOP was pleasant and usually was capped off with Babe trying to pick up on Paul.  My favorite Babe pick up line was: "Next time, I will pay for breakfast! Or...Paul, you and I could work it out in trade". Paul would just smile, let her take his arm as he walked her home and then give her a kiss on the cheek before he left.

We haven't gone to IHOP with Babe since September.   We tried to go last week, but she wasn't up to it.  Father Sean came and gave Babe The Sacrament of the Sick yesterday.  The hospice nurse is coming in a few hours.  The fact that Babe is passing away isn't surprising, she is 86.

I just wish we could have had one more "Breakfast with Babe".

UPDATE, Thursday 11/8 @ 2pm PST:Babe just passed away a few hours ago, peacefully in her sleep.

Thanks to all of you for your kind words. Please keep her family in your thoughts over the next few days.