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They wheel me into OR-3 and my first thought is, “I’m going to pay for all this luxury later.”

I also felt guilty thinking about all the people with REAL problems who come through this hospital. The young woman I interviewed who just recovered from a brain aneurysm, the man who had his digestive system rebuilt because of cancer…they flash through my mind as I watch the ceiling pass by and face the huge round lights in the all-white room.

“When’s the last time you set up this big OR for a broken pinky?” I ask, irreverent. The anesthesiologist answers that my pinky is a special pinky. He had already explained they were doing a block on my ulnar nerve, which will numb my arm from my elbow to my pinky and keep me from feeling what has to be done to untwist my left small finger and repair a tiny fracture in the middle bone.

My million-dollar pinky, while I waited to see the orthopedic surgeon.

Someone said they were injecting a sedative into my IV and that it would burn a little. The last thing I remember was thinking that the burn was traveling from my wrist to my shoulder and across my clavicle to the other side of my body. Thirty minutes later a nurse was talking loudly to me in recovery. “You’re all done, wake up.”

I never expected to put any healthcare professional, nor myself, through this much trouble. But I did have a fractured bone, however small, and all these people were here to help. I had driven myself in and thought the doctor would just look at the x-ray, untwist the tangled parts (cold blooded) and give me a splint. Maybe send me home with some Aleve.

Instead, I ended up with a top-notch orthopedic surgeon who said I had a rare fracture (code for ‘not as easy to fix as you thought’), and we could either leave it alone and it would heal crooked, or we could try to fix it and maybe make it worse. He didn’t sugar-coat it, which I appreciated. If the fix didn’t work, then he would have to shish-kabob my finger — with a surgical pin. Good to know what you’re up against.

I had just told him how I had tried to fix my finger the day before by grabbing the top of the finger and pulling gently until I felt my little distal bone fall back in place. So he knew he could be graphic with me. Without congratulating me for my chiropractic skills, he said the middle bone would need more help. He showed me the x-ray from all angles until I saw the fracture.

Okay, so I didn’t get a membership into the bone-setting society. And I wasn’t going to hang around to document the miracles performed on other people. I was going to be the miracle, along with my pinky. Actually, it was a series of small miracles.

Miracle #1: I got to sneak into the schedule of the best hand surgeon in the southeastern United States — probably the whole country.

Miracle #2: I actually put the laptop away and accepted the fact that it was time to stop working and take care of myself. (Sorry, Dr. Wharen, I can’t work on that neurosurgery story today. Pinky problems.)

Miracle #3: I let a nurse trick me into letting her put me in tight stockings that were supposed to keep me from having a thrombosis in the middle of the “surgery.”

Miracle #4: I kept the stupid stockings on until I got home. You seriously didn’t expect me to sleep in those uncomfortable things, did you Nurse Pam?

Miracle #5: Nurse Pam gave me the spa treatment and removed my worn nail polish before the “surgery.”

Miracle #6: Did I mention I got wheeled into OR-3 at Mayo Clinic Hospital? Where else would I get the spa treatment?

Miracle #7: My pinky was spared the shish-kabob. I did not require a pin.

After all these small miracles, I’ll need a big miracle to pay the invoice later. But my pinky will be functional and pretty again. And I will do my part to delay the impending national healthcare crisis by paying a large amount of out-of-pocket costs. I already had a good idea why healthcare is so expensive, but if I had any doubts about escalating healthcare costs, all I need is a head count of how many people were kindly taking care of me during my pinky ordeal. But let’s think of it in terms of the L’oreal commercial: I’m worth it. (I think it’s L’oreal.)

Oh, how did all this fun get started? It’s a long and silly story, so here are some keywords. You put it together: hyperactive dog, wet leash, another dog, little old lady (me), tangled, dragged by pinky finger.

I could’ve broken other moving parts, so I was lucky. As for the dog, I’d like to think she’s sorry, but she’s oblivious. Another lesson in unconditional love. Another +-million dollars spent on healthcare.

The culprit: Cheeva the hyper dog. Still cute.


Special thanks to Dr. Peter Murray, for moving heaven and earth to fix my pinky, and for telling me about his 95 lb chocolate lab, so I didn’t feel so bad. Also to Drs. Robards, Cartwright and Torp for keeping me pain-free, and to all the nurses, especially Pam, Susan and Boris, who made sure everything went smoothly and treated me like I was the most important person with the most important problem. No job is too big or too small.

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Great Blue Heron nest by RGR

Great Blue Heron nest, March 2011, by Raquel with Cheeva in tow.

I started a “Saturday a.m. Inventory” of backyard wildlife on facebook a few weeks ago. I’ve been too busy counting birds and critters to try to post all of it, but here are some pictures. It has become more of a test for Cheeva, my new dog, to “stay” when she wants to chase all the birds and squirrels that cross our path. She will go after the gators, too, so I keep her leashed.

The sweetest find so far has been a Great Blue Heron nest with two chicks that are quiet in the morning, when the ospreys are out fishing, and cackle all evening when their mama brings them food. Sometimes I hear them cough out a big piece of fish (I think it’s fish). Hungry babies!

See other critters that crossed our path recently:

Ibis

Ibis birds crossing my street. RGR

3/5/11

Why did the ibis cross the road?   

 

2/12/11

Two Ospreys, one Red-shouldered Hawk, a flock of Ibis, assorted Great Egrets (Have fun trying to take that picture!). A Cardinal couple.

2/5/11
I thought I’d have to cancel the Saturday nature inventory due to fog-so-thick-you-can-cut-with-knife. Then, a flock of wood storks showed up!

Wood storks. RGR

Wood storks in my backyard. RGR

Others for which I only have a blur for a photo:

1/29/11

Saturday a.m. backyard inventory: 1 alligator, 2 pelicans, 3 mourning doves, 5 chickadees…one happy dog owner and one wagging tail…

1/22/11

Saturday a.m. inventory: one red-bellied woodpecker, two ospreys carrying fresh catch, three flocks of blackbirds, four stray seagulls, five different lavender hues on a beautiful sunrise…

In The Social Lives of Dogs, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas recalls this experience:

“While doing fieldwork with wild animals in Namibia, I once watched a lion watch a sunset. He was alone on open ground near a waterhole, crouched but relaxed, propped on his elbows, and from the time the sun was about five degrees above the horizon until the last red bit of it went down, he didn’t take his eyes off the spectacle. At the very last minute, he roared at it, or anyway, he roared while looking at it, not just once but four or five times, very loudly.”

Cheeva watching sunrise

I have my own sun-watching creature (a quiet one) . My new dog Cheeva is turning into quite the laid-back nature observer. She didn’t start out that way. The first time she set foot in her new yard there were far too many things that looked like prey. She’s a hunter after all. Squirrel!  Cardinal!  Tall bird in the water!  Off she went every time, almost pulling my arm out of its socket.

With a little patience, she’s turning into a different animal. I started talking to her very softly, narrating the scene every morning. That blue/gray flying stick is Great Blue Heron, showing up for the sunrise, perching on the almost-too-small-for-him pine branch. Look and don’t chase.

I think the positive instruction and her owner’s calm demeanor  worked on her, and one morning she just sat down right next to me to watch everything unfold. She now sits in contemplation almost every morning. She only bolts for a loud crow that likes to tease her from the red maple. (I praise her for chasing the annoying crow.)

Some mornings I’m too busy to sit out for very long. I try to find time later, and sometimes include Little Girl in the afternoon for a little nature watching. Cheeva seems to appreciate the time outdoors and the human company. She hasn’t roared yet, but she nods approvingly.

photo by RaquelMy most important resolution for 2011 is to watch 365 sunrises. I’m hoping that’ll mean I got an early start each day, and I took time to reflect on what each day holds. It also means I haven’t forgotten to walk my new dog! (She wouldn’t let me forget her.) Actually, one reason I got Cheeva is to have her get up early with me to watch the sunrise.

Sunday morning sunrises never disappoint. The sun rises slower – it’s more relaxed and less hurried.

365 amaneceres
Mi resolución más importante para el 2011 es ver el amanecer los 365 días del año. Espero que esto signifique que me levanté temprano cada día, y que tomé tiempo para reflexionar en la promesa de cada día nuevo. También querrá decir que no me olvidé de sacar a mi perrita! (Ella no me deja olvidarla.) En realidad, un motivo para adoptar a Cheeva fue precisamente el tener a alguien que se levante temprano conmigo a ver el amanecer.

El amanecer de los domingos nunca decepciona. El sol sale más despacio – como si estuviera más relajado y menos de prisa.