Storm Approaches


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An unofficial source of Eagle Harbor, Michigan news, views and information.

Winter Storm Approaches

The Week's Weather Journal.

"...when we don't live with birds or weather or waves we lose the opportunity to think hard about ourselves, to discover from nature important facts about human nature."
(excerpted from Nancy Lord's, Fishcamp)

The Week Of February 1, 1998


Not a good day for the ruffed grouse! A light freezing drizzle in the morning seals the shrinking snow cover, trapping and suffocating unwary grouse as they snooze in their buried snow pocket nests. Not a good day for humans either. Roads are dangerously slick, steps and walkways are navigated gingerly, and the ski trail track is hard and icy. All a product of the unseasonable, and in my view unlikable, weather that's been hanging around for the past week. We did have some half days of sunshine and beautiful blue sky, but for the most part it has continued to be grey and much too warm. Forty above in January! The now completely open waters of the harbor and lake just sit there in their sullen and molten pewter color state...seemingly sharing my disatisfaction with the El Nino winter of '97-'98. The darkening snow pack, what little there is of it, is shrinking as fast as my woodpile. Yes, I'm in a weather funk! Fortunately, most of my neighbors are delighted with our meager snowfall and moderate temperatures, and their "isn't this great" demeanor tempers my frustration. I'd surely prefer ill-tempered weather and upbeat neighbors than the reverse. In truth, this winter of little snow is a blessing. My docs are momentarily stymied in their efforts to address my deterioating coronary system, so not having to dig out snow blocked front stoops, snow buried woodpiles and vehicles stuck in roadside snowbanks is a fortunate circumstance. More importantly, my lack of good sense and willpower with respect to resisting the lure of beckoning ski trails, is not being severly tested. There will be another year. In fact, I'm already getting psyched up for the Harbor winter of '98-'99, the year of La Nina and its promised mighty winter storms.


A light, but beautiful fluffy snow drifts in off the lake today. Doesn't add much to our near record low totals, perhaps three or four inches, but sure makes the place look more presentable. M-26 had been totaly bare and even little used side streets had bare spot patches. The County road crew liberal applications of stamp sand had added to the general unsightliness. The fresh snow covered these blemishes, at least temporarily. Many more birds around. The jays are especially active. A lone what appeared to be an early returning double brested cormorant drifted in the open harbor swells for hours, but it seems much too early for their arrival back from the Gulf regions. Perhaps it was a merganser. As the day ends, I begin to pick up signs of impending heart trouble. I consider driving to Marquette, but things accelerate and I finally give good neighbors Tom and Jean Ellis a phone call. They arrive quickly, and after getting stabalized in the Keweenaw Mwmorial ER, I'm once again loaded in the flashing red light box and we speed through the snowy night to Marquette General. As I'm greeted by my doc and old friends manning the cardiac unit, I can hear the buzz of the billing computers happily cranking up to full speed at arrival of what must be their most active account.


Not much weather to report from the confines of a cardiac caterization lab, my viewing place for what seems like most of the day. If I didn't think about how much money this was all costing, I could almost enjoy the experience. It's exciting, probably like being in the conning tower of a nuclear sub in attack mode. Monitors glow in the dim light; the skipper(my doc) mans the main console, quickly issuing instructions after analyzing what he sees on the data displays and information provided by soft spoken and well trained technicians; machines whirl in response; more observations, consultations and more responses. I lie on the hard and narrow metal tray, watching and listening to it all through sensory systems on active mode, althought dulled by sedatives....feeling at times like a detached observer, but then returned to the reality that I am the center of it all as hot dyes explode and inflated angioplasty "ballons" stop blood flow and generate short lived but painful heart attack symptoms. The quiet voice of an unseen sedative techician behind me responds to my spasms of discomfort and "play by play" reports from the "skipper" offer continual assurance that all is going well. It's a long procedure, as the "search and fix" process results in four agioplasty (ballon) applications in a multiple blocked arterial vessel serving the front wall of my heart. As it ends and the bright lights of hospital "work spaces" blink on, I'm in an exhausted stupor. I've lost count, but i believe that was fourteenth cardiac catherization. It's exciting, but that's enough!


Complications. A risk of "going to the well" too often is that the arterial route to the heart when traveled too frequently can be prone to puncture or scar tissue breakaway as new probes snake their way to the worksites. That's why my docs an I decided a week ago after a stress test suggested poor blood flow in the heart front wall to wait a while before going back in. When things accelerated on Monday, that option vanished. The morning after stethoscope exam suggested a leak. An ultrasound exam confirmed it. Apparently, in most cases, when pressure is applied to the puncture point, the artery will seal, apparently like when you apply pressure to a skin wound to stop bleeding. An expensive and temporarily disabilitating surgical fix can be avoided. An innocent looking thing is brought into my room. I believe they called it a "fem stop". In retrospect I believe it to be a device left over from The Inquisition. A rigid frame is strapped to my leg and a pressure cup attached to a pressure gauge and hand pump is placed over the suspect spot. It's pumped 220 pounds per square inch. The application spot is alongside the main leg nerve. It hurts like hell. I complain mightly...I'm a coward when it comes to pain. They dope me up, but nothing seems to offer much relief. We keep this up for FOUR hours. I feel like kissing the nurse who takes it off. Another ultrasound. No improvement. Another four hours with the fem stop. Now I'm getting really nasty. They dig deep in the dope chest and by the time this test of my friendship with the cardiac staff ends, it's 10:30 PM and I'm so out of it, they call it quits for the night. If I remember correctly, It was a sunny day.


As even the best hospitals and the best docs are sometimes prone to do, keeping a not too patient patient in suspense is part of the routine. Did that last fem stop work? I remind myself that most of my hospital compatriots are a lot sicker than I am. I should wait while they are being tended to. By mid-morning however, and after realizing I have no feeling or strength in my fem stop leg, I revert to my Norman Cousins "be your own advocate" mode. (No book has more profoundly shaped my attitude about illness and medical assistance than Cousins' "Anatomy of an Illness". A well worn copy is always in my "hospital kit".) I "squeak" and the wheel responds. By 11 AM, I'm back in ultrasound and within a hour a friendly looking guy arrives at my bedside and introduces himself as my vascular surgeon. A few hours later I'm wheeled into an intensly bright and cold stainless steel room, strapped and spread eagled on a metal pan, and told to conjure up a favorite scene as I breath in the offerings in a plastic mask placed over my face. I think of summer waves rolling over the Harbor entry rocks. Night falls before I return to the worldly environ. A chatty recovery room nurse restores my sense of place and circumstance by asking how much snow we have had at the Harbor. My consciousness returns. I tell her about 140 inches when I left for Marquette. She asks how long ago that was. I don't know!


Things are a bit better in the morning. I know where I am, what day it is, and that my task for this day is to return home. An unfamiliar nurse tells me "no way", that cardiac patients just back from femoral fix surgery always spend a day or two in hospital recovery. One of my old friend nurses overhears this chatter and advises her partner not to bet on it. I apparently have a reputation for quick getaways. I'm exhausted and plenty sore, but talk the good game and resort to a ploy that almost always works: friends from the Harbor are already embarked on the three hour trek to Marquette to take me home. My cardiologist's physician assistant, Bonnie Kipela, a wonderfully talented, square shooting, and very savy young lady with a contagious positive outlook, knows what I'm up to, she's seen it before, but goes along with it. She gives the green light, sensing, I believe correctly, that I recover more quickly in my own care and with the support of Harbor friends. I start searching for a ride home, first exhausting the few Marquette possibilities, and then calling always helpful Jim Boggio. Jim quickly contacts Vern Robinson, who had offered to pick me up, and by 3:30 PM, Vern and travel companion Dick Lantz are in Marquette. (The charge nurse did wonder why it took my friends five hours to drive to Marquette.) I can hardly walk but they gently load me in the back seat of Vern's vehicle, and after Dick procures my first out of hospital real food, a hamburger from Burger King, we depart for the Harbor. I sleep most of the way. I'm home about 6:30 PM. I have a glass of sherry and go to bed. Another wild week winds down!


Another grey day, with temperatures just above freezing and little wind. I'm told there were a couple of truly beautiful days earlier in the week (unless your preference is snow), but today looks good to me. It sure is a good feeling to be back. I'm bringing the Weather Journal up-to-date and then will retrive the wonderdog from Ivan Fisher, who has graciously cared for Abby in this absence as he has on many past occasions. I am a bit hesitant to describe another of my Marquette medical adventures in the Journal. I could just leave the entries blank for the days I was gone. My account is hardly weather related, and except for the thanks I owe several of my neighbors, not even Harbor related. I am compelled, nonetheless, to write about my Marquette General adventure after re-reading the 102 emails I found on my server last evening. I'm always surprised that anyone is even checking the page, but when I encounter several messages from Harbor Web viewers curious about my activity and in many instances seemingly concerned about my well-being when the page goes unattended for a few days, I realize that something more than a web site devoted to news and views about Eagle Harbor relationship exists. The Weather Journal, for better or worse, has become a personal link. A couple of you have described it as kind of a continuing soap opera about George, his wonderdog Abby and their Eagle Harbor adventures. In that context, my adventures at Marquette General are perhaps relevant. I'm very touched by the concern and most appreciative of the support I receive from many Harbor Web viewers. Thank you. I'll do my best to stay healthy so that the Weather Journal can be entirely devoted to the good times of an Eagle Harbor life.

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