Archive for March, 2007

PFO No More!

Posted by julie on Thursday, 29 March 2007, 12:24

In the early hours of Monday, the sun just beginning to fade away Orion, my sister Jenn and I bundled up and walked to the hospital for my PFO closure. “Procedure, not surgery,” said Sam Lau, my energetic cardiologist. Okay, procedure, but they were still going to fiddle with my heart. When I checked in, the first literature I received was about advance directives; the first line read “Many people today are concerned about the medical care they would be given if they should become terminally ill or unable to communicate their health care choices.” Well, I had been calm.

One gown, two grippy socks, one superb shaving job (I would have waxed if they’d told me), one Valium (unnecessary), six Plavix, and one aspirin later, I was wheeled into the expensive-looking procedure room, where all the women were wearing funny, puffy, brightly-colored chef-type bonnets. They gave me one when I admired theirs. I asked that they not give me too much sedative, since it put me to sleep for hours last time, and I really wanted to see and hear the procedure. No such luck. I was awake for the whole thing, but there was too much machinery obscuring my view and too many lead panels interfering with my ability to hear the cardiologists. From what I could gather, they were looking inside me via a chest x-ray (the piece of machinery I most wanted to punt) and, once it was in place, a catheter camera in my left atrium. I recommended that they put a screen on the ceiling for the patient to see the procedure.

Dr. Lau performed the procedure, assisted by Dr. Tom Jones, a cardiologist from the Children’s Hospital in Seattle. Dr. Jones had been invited down because he’s done hundreds of PFO closures in addition to closing some atrial septal defects (ASDs). Before they had a camera in my heart, they thought I might have an ASD, which is when there’s a wide-open hole between the heart’s atria, hence the addition of Dr. Jones to the team. More commonly what people have (maybe as many as 40% of people my age), and what I ended up having, is a PFO, or patent foramen ovale. There’s a flap of heart tissue like a door between my atria, and it allows some blood to pass from the right to the left atrium instead of proceeding normally from the right atrium to the right ventricle and to the lungs. That’s normal in the womb, because we don’t use our lungs, but it should close in a child’s first few years for most efficient heart use and less likelihood of stroke. My PFO was rather large, 11 mm, or about the width of the fingernail on my first finger; I don’t actually know how big other people’s usually are, but that seems big – I mean, I could have fit a kidney bean through there.

While I lay still, Dr. (“Please call me Sam”) Lau inserted catheters on either side of my groin into veins extending up to my heart. The left side had a four millimeter wide sheath holding open the vein for the camera, and the right had one three mm wide for the catheter with the closing device, an Amplatzer PFO occluder. He carefully but relatively quickly measured the width of the PFO and inserted the Amplatzer. I wish I could tell you more, but I missed it. Afterward, he left the sheaths in my veins but took out the catheters; my blood had to clot well before the sheaths would be removed, and they’d given me a huge dose of two anticoagulants that morning.

The sheath removal was definitely the worst part of my day. My nurse, Sue, said she’d have to use a “clamp” to put pressure on my vein to stop the bleeding. Do you remember ring stands from high school chemistry? They had wide, metal bases with poles to which one could attach various clamps to hold burets. Well, Sue had a ring stand with a screw-down pad attached to it. She put the base under my mattress and then screwed the clamp down just inside my hip bone to shut down the vein so she could remove the sheath. Well, I breathed deeply and slowly, trying to relax, and my blood pressure still dropped to 78/39 as they removed the first one. Sue decided to boost my blood pressure with some atropine and also to give me a little morphine for the second one. I may have had more drugs on Monday than I’ve had in the rest of my life combined.

Now, 72 hours later, I have a heart without a hole, big yellow bruises just inside my hip flexors, and some lightheadedness, a side effect of the anticoagulant Plavix, which I’ll be on for a few months. And I’m no more likely to have a stroke than any other 33-year-old, fit, non-smoking, whole-hearted woman.

I’ll keep you updated about PFOs in the general population. There’s currently some research about the correlation between migraines and PFOs; insurance companies may actually prefer to pay for closure rather than a lifetime of migraine medication. Also, PFOs may be genetic, so we’ll keep an eye on Sylvan’s heart.

A master’s thesis

Posted by jonesey on Wednesday, 21 March 2007, 16:51

For those of you with more free time on your hands than I have (or had, until last week), here’s the master’s thesis (5 MB PDF file) that I just handed in. My master’s degree was in Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon, just like Julie’s.

The title is “A Case Study of a Floodplain Channel Restoration Project in the Southern Willamette Valley of Oregon.” It’s almost 100 pages long (about 30,000 words), but my readers tell me that it should be pretty easy for most people to understand. I worked hard to keep jargon and made-up words, two graduate school standbys, out of my writing.

sister and flood 2003

A Family Resemblance (or: The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree)

Posted by jonesey on Wednesday, 21 March 2007, 11:39

Everybody says that Sylvan looks just like Julie, but we, of course, think he looks like himself. We have to admit that they are right, though, when we compare pictures of Sylvan with pictures of Julie at the same age.

These two pictures were taken 32 years apart:

fam 2afam 1a


Posted by jonesey on Monday, 12 March 2007, 19:37

I handed in my thesis this morning at 8 AM. A note for the Joneses among you: it wasn’t due until tomorrow. How’s that for breaking the mold?

Everyone has been asking me what I’m going to do now. I tell them: “I’m going to read a book.” Really. That’s my big ambition for now.

boston medalThey don’t give medals, but in less than (fewer than?) two weeks, I will receive a certificate, suitable for framing, declaring me the Master of Science. I will no longer be the least educated adult in my family.

P.S. My primary thesis advisor actually wrote the following when she returned my draft: “I have very few changes to make, it’s in very good shape.” I was shocked. She was probably more shocked than I, having seen the state of my draft just six weeks earlier.

Happy Birthday: 18 Months

Posted by julie on Monday, 12 March 2007, 9:14

My neighbor, a hip, urban Mom of two young boys, recently pointed me to, a weblog by Heather Armstrong, another hip Mom who is not afraid to tell the world about the tribulations as well as the joys of parenting a three-year-old. Every month, Armstrong writes to her daughter, Leta, about what it’s been like to live with her. It seems like a great gift to her daughter, and I’m going to try to follow suit. Be aware that, if you decide to visit, is frequently a little risqué and always completely candid.

The MPAA rates the following letter R for mild nudity.

Dear Sylvan-

Early this morning, you awoke at four a.m., calling for me. Your thesis-exhausted Dad asked if I’d like him to go in and try to calm you with a sip of water and Jamberry. That meant I could stay in bed. I love you, but I’m not dumb, so of course I said yes. But you didn’t calm, not at all, as he read to you and asked you to lie down. “Mom” {sob} “mee,” “Mom” {sob} “mee.” I felt like you were pulling my heart through my belly button. I gave you three minutes more of sobbing after your Dad came back to bed, then went in to see you, standing in your crib with tears rolling off your chin.

Now, we’ve had two days of seventy-degree weather in Eugene, so our conveniently uninsulated roof has made our bedrooms quite warm. I had just taken off my shirt in bed, and I walked into your room in my underwear. You stopped crying, looked at me, with your milk supply in plain view, and said, “duht,” which, as I’ve come to understand your vocabulary, means “shirt.” I took you out of the crib and stood you on the floor, where you pointed to the door and said, “Out. Duht.” Not until we walked into my bedroom and I put on my shirt did you want milk. Thank you for protecting my integrity.

This is probably your last few days of breastfeeding, although you don’t know that yet. I need to have surgery within the next month and a half, and I’ll be on some anticoagulant drugs afterward that we don’t want in your little body. Since I’ll be away for four days next weekend, you, with your Dad’s help, will be going cold turkey. It seems unfair that, just as breastfeeding has become something I really enjoy, we have to stop. You were a bit of a parasite as a baby, wanting milk every 1.5-2 hours; it was, um, tiresome. Now that you don’t need my milk for nutrition, you just ask for it for comfort. You’ll just have to learn to cuddle.

Sylvan is ready to bowlTwo months ago, you started going to childcare two mornings a week, where you play with all manner of cool toys and run around for four hours. You couldn’t be bothered with something as banal as sleeping when so much cool stuff is going on, so you’ve largely transitioned to one nap a day. Sometimes those naps are three or four hours long! Hallelujah, hallelujah.

The one thing about you, Sylvan, that consistently amazes us is your mastery of language. A number of friends and acquaintances have noticed your vocabulary and your ability to string words together. As your Dad pointed out, though, you actually clam up in front of other folks, so they don’t know the half of it. They don’t know that when you were climbing over logs as we walked through the snow, you found one that was cantilevered perfectly, so you rode it like a horse and said “bounce.” Your Dad said you know that word because Sarah, Percy, and Bill, the owl babies, bounce up and down on their branch in your board book. HOW did you make that conceptual leap? Or this one: You’ve pointed out a paper clip, a five-inch long toothed hair clip, and nail clippers, saying “clip” to each one. I’m sure all parents are astonished by their brilliant children at one point or another, so you, Sir, are just keeping up your end of the bargain.

Everyone tells me that parenting keeps getting easier — well, at least until you’re eleven — and better. I am really enjoying you now, though, and I hope our relationship isn’t peaking. But if the past fourteen months are any indication, you will continue to be more fun and interesting every day. The four months before that, well, let’s just say that you were lucky we have a covered porch when I left you on the doorstep.


Mile 25

Posted by jonesey on Sunday, 4 March 2007, 20:57

I’ve figured out what this feeling is. It’s the feeling I get during mile 25 of a marathon. I’m exhausted, really exhausted, and I don’t see how I can keep going, but somehow I just keep putting one foot in front of another. At under eight minutes per mile. I know that I’ve got to keep going until the end. There’s a big bag of Doritos waiting for me in less than two miles.

mile 25, that's chris in the shirt

My thesis is due in nine days. As far as I’m concerned, it’s done and ready to hand in. Julie and Patrick have both read it and given me helpful feedback. I have formatted everything in accordance with the graduate school’s strict and somewhat antiquated guidelines. I’m just waiting for feedback from one of my advisors. I have this fantasy in which she writes “This is great! Don’t change a thing!” across the top and gives it back to me, but she’s not that kind of advisor. I picked someone who gives ten constructive comments for every piece of positive feedback. Hmm, just like me.

I’m working on my second cold in three weeks. The last one was a bruiser. I took my first sick days since starting work at the UO more than seven years ago. And of course I spent those days writing. This cold is not as bad yet, but I did sleep for five hours today after sleeping nine hours last night. Did I mention that I’m exhausted?

Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.

extreme close-up, 2 Jan 2007

Chandra’s Blanket

Posted by julie on Thursday, 1 March 2007, 0:07

sylvan_chandrablankie.JPGLast spring, Chandra gave Sylvan a gorgeous, knitted blanket that she apologized was “late” (here’s a woman who doesn’t know that we have amazingly unique and beautiful quilt squares from our wedding guests that still haven’t been made into a quilt; yes, our sixth anniversary is this year). Sylvan has used the blanket well, cuddling with it in the car and in the baby jogger; he was too little before she gave it to him to even appreciate it. Today, I saw harbingers of a toddler’s obsession with blankies, a la Linus, as Sylvan pulled the blanket around the house, saying, yes, “blankie.” When I showed him he could wear it as a cape, he wrapped up in it, reminding me of Klimt’s The Kiss, all colorful and swaddled.


Later, Tephra didn’t want to miss out on the blankie action.