Our Excoriatingly Negative Review of Champion Windows

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:24 am

This review is both long and long-winded, for which I apologize. However, it tells a story that should be of great interest to any potential Champion customers, so I would recommend wading through it.

In March of 2019 we signed a contract with Champion to install a 15 x 10 foot sunroom on our Western Washington house. Paid $52,000 for it. Install went well as far as we could tell, but the first time it started to rain the floor was covered in water. The workers who built the structure came out to deal with the issue multiple times: caulked around the interior and exterior of the wall, drilled holes around the base of the structure (something they were apparently supposed to do upon install), added more holes/bigger holes around the base. Nothing would stop the flooding. A few weeks in, the person running the job on the ground (one rung below foreman, I believe) came to tell us that he had been drilling the wrong type of holes in the base, that he had just been informed that perfectly round holes won’t drain properly, that they needed to be oval in shape. He ovalized the holes, problem solved. That problem, anyway, and only after weeks of ineffectual bumbling.

Next–and ongoing, as of this writing–problem: the roof started leaking almost at the same time as the floor started flooding, every time it rained more than a sprinkle. First leaks were right up against the join between the house roof and the sunroom roof, water dribbling out up and down the width of the junction between the two. Same crew that didn’t know they were supposed to drill holes in the base came out to address the new problem, basically blamed the leaks on the fact that our fascia and soffits were somehow strange and unlike other fascia and soffits. Went on the roof and tightened things up in some way. Leak continued, they came back and tightened things up again, or more, or whatever it was they did. My memory isn’t perfect, but I believe they came to our site three times to fix that particular leak. Eventually it stopped.

That is to say, it stopped leaking at the roof/roof junction. Instead it began leaking further down the roof line. I don’t think it would be inaccurate for me to assume that what the previous crew had done was to plug up all of the most upstream leaks that allowed water to breach the sunroof’s interior at that particular spot without actually preventing the water from penetrating the roof itself, and now the water was traveling down the interior of the sloped roof and finding its way out anywhere it could. Causing God knows what kind of damage to our new and existing structures along the way.

Parenthetically, during their time on our job, we learned that the person on the ground in charge of our project had never led one of these before, that we were his inaugural sunroom. We also recently learned that neither of the two people who put in the vast majority of the work on our site is still with the company. Frankly, nothing we have learned about this whole situation has made us feel anything but less confident in the work done on our home. The impression we got was that an inexperienced, unprepared and under-supervised team was sent out to perform the construction at our site, and that the quality of the build suffered for it. Tremendously.

Over the next two years Champion sent people out to our house perhaps two or three more times. Asking them to come out every time the roof leaked would have been ridiculous, because a) the roof leaked every time it rained for more than an hour or so and b) it would be near-impossible to successfully attend to the problem in the middle of a season of perpetual precipitation. So I reached out to them about once or twice a year, and they came out once or twice a year to try to resolve it. Their general strategy was to apply one or another type of fix (caulk this, add more screws to that, re-tarpaper the roof etc.) then tell us to call back if that didn’t fix the problem. It never did.

The last time they came out, in the dry season of (I’m almost certain) 2021, the person they sent ran water down our roof from just above the line of the roof/roof junction, onto and down the sunroom roof. He ran it for about an hour, saw no leaks inside the sunroom, and claimed to have “proven” that the problem had to be occurring above the line where Champion’s work was done, and was therefore not their responsibility. He suggested that the leaks were coming from the supports that hold up our photovoltaic panels, so we had the company that installed them come out and inspect the braces, no issues there. And anyway, the PV panels were installed the year before the sunroom, and we had experienced no issues with leaks during that time; only after the sunroom was built. On top of that, however, the most glaring problem with Champion’s “proof” is this: having come out to inspect the building during a period of sustained clear days and high temperatures–with sunlight beating down on the roofline of both the house and the sunroom, causing everything to expand and shift in the heat–the inherent makeup of both roofs and the intersection between them was totally different than in in a period of sustained lower temperatures and precipitation. There is absolutely no justification for coming out in a period of hot, dry weather and claiming to have proven that no leaks can possibly be occurring in cold, damp weather. Claiming so defies logic and common sense.

In December 2022 I reached out to Champion for what was ostensibly going to be my very last time before giving up. I managed to get hold of Roy Richter, Regional Manager for Champion in the West. He agreed to come out and take another look at the work that had been done. I didn’t tell him this of course, but if (as he had over the phone) he denied any responsibility on behalf of his employer for the damage and/or poor workmanship we had paid tens of thousands of dollars for, I was going to ask him for his recommendation as to what sort of company (roofing, general contractor, exorcist, whathaveyou) he would recommend we bring out to completely repair the roof from peak to gutter over the affected area, and call it a day. Roy and I arranged a time for him to come over.

The day before the appointment he called up to say that the employee he was planning on sending to our house (beg pardon? I thought you were coming out personally, Roy; that’s what you said over the phone) Had called in sick and that he (Roy) would not be available until after the 13th because he was going on vacation. I said no problem, let’s meet up after the 13th.

Since then I have emailed Roy directly twice and called his mobile number twice, with no response of any kind. I don’t think it’s out of bounds to interpret this as indicating an attitude of, “f— this guy, I’m sick of hearing him complain about his roof.”

Well Roy, if you’re sick of hearing about our leaky roof, imagine how we must feel, living as we do underneath it.

I find it noteworthy that Champion has been acquired by other companies at least twice since 2020; first by a real estate management company and then by a property improvement conglomerate. (https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20211228005195/en/Great-Day-Improvements-Acquires-Champion-Windows, https://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2020/04/02/exclusive-one-of-world-s-largest-real-estate.html)
This sort of situation does not speak well of the motives of the buyers or the outcome for the company purchased. Typically the plan is to use the good name and reputation of the company acquired to produce a short-term profit (usually by some combination of dramatically cutting costs, trimming staff and reducing quality of products/services), then either strip the carcass bare or resell the business while there’s still some scraps of meat left on the bones. Based upon our experience, the strategy with Champion would appear to have been the latter.

When we first did our research on Champion prior to signing our contract, the company was apparently still hanging on to the last fraying threads of its reputation, as both institutional and customer online reviews were still quite positive. Since then their reviews have plummeted; currently have an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau, for instance. And while the reviews on sites like TrustPilot skew towards the positive (3.8 out of 5 on that site at the time of this writing), we noticed that the bulk of the positive reviews were focused on the friendliness and knowledgeability of the sales reps, and the negative reviews were mostly about customer service and–of particular note to us–the failure of representatives to respond to repeated inquiries about problems with the company’s work.

I truly wish we had never let these people through our door. We had quotes from two other, locally-based companies to do the work, but we ended up going with Champion because they had a good reputation (at the time) and a national infrastructure, which we thought would mean stability and longevity. We will be kicking ourselves for the rest of our lives for having been suckered in by the siren song of “Over 70 Years of Total Awesomeness!” As far as we’re concerned, Champion is now just another of tens of thousands of companies that exist primarily as a fine-mesh screen to filter money out of consumer’s pockets. That is literally all you will ever mean to them, in our experience. Even if the people who come to your door or to your job site want to do good work, they won’t be given the resources, and certainly not the mandate, to actually do so. Find a local or regional company, do some deep research, save yourself the aggravation and disappointment that comes from paying thousands of dollars for the pervasive feeling that you have been had.

ADDENDUM: In January 2023 I gave up trying to get Roy to respond to my repeated inquiries and instead reached out through Champion’s customer service Web portal. I was contacted shortly thereafter by Rodney Lacheney, the Install Manager for Champion in the Northwest, or perhaps just the Puget Sound area, not totally certain. Instead of denying the obvious or actively refusing to communicate with us, Rodney agreed (he might even have broached the subject himself, I don’t recall) to send out a roofing contractor with which they work, Forever Roofing, to check out the situation. Sam Josan from Forever Roofing contacted me shortly thereafter and we arranged to have him come out and check out the situation. After arriving, Sam took a five-minute walk around the roof and announced that he had found the problem: the people who had installed the sunroom had laid the new section of the roof over the existing roof rather than tucking it under. There was never any chance in any plane of existence that the roof was not going to leak, and no less (and possibly more) than four different people from Champion had walked around on this same roof and failed to notice this. Sam’s team came back and fixed Champion’s glaring, stupid, infinitely avoidable error, and our sunroom did not leak through a typically rain-soaked Puget Sound Winter and Spring, nor has it since. Check Forever Roofing out if you need some roof work done, they’re good people. And to give Rodney credit, Champion paid for the repairs.

Who will pay for the table ruined by the leaks, any possible damage caused inside our walls and ceiling by consistent exposure to water over a period of three-plus years, the abatement of any Stachybotrys, Aspergillus or other “Sick House Syndrome” fungi that might be accumulating in our now-waterlogged structure, or any health effects we might suffer from exposure to same, remains in question. Not to mention compensation for the hours we spent on the phone and in person trying to convince various representatives of Champion that our roof was still leaking and that they were at fault. I suppose we’ll have to bring that up with whomever buys Champion next, should the need arise.

To summarize this addendum, Rodney was the one person we came across at Champion who didn’t seem to be either incompetent, uncaring and/or unscrupulous, and I thank him for that. He is, by all appearances, a good egg. The rest of the organization seems to be a company in severe decline, and we would recommend, in the strongest possible terms, that you stay away.


Pumpkin Pogrom 2022

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 2:38 pm

This Saturday marked the long-awaited return of the annual Pumpkin Pogrom. This was a smallish affair, in the name of COVID safety. Many pumpkins were sacrificed to the Gourd Gods, and a good time seemed to be had by all. Many thanks to everyone who participated!


Blessings on your hat and the head beneath it.

Filed under: @ 6:01 pm

Valerie and Curt are right, it’s not fair to leave y’all hanging. And truthfully I didn’t do it on purpose, I always did plan on coming back and finishing the story.

Let’s see.

So we were in the ER at Christus St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe feeling like we’d both been set upon by rabid Sumo wrestlers.
After I finished having my hypersensitivity reaction and they’d convinced themselves that neither of us was going to spontaneously combust any further than we already had, the medical folks told us to go home (oh how I WISHED) and go back to bed.
Which we promptly did.

A profound nap later and we were addressing part B of this most clustered of fucks. Which is to say, we were trying to figure out how we could get home. NOW!

Andrew was sitting in his bed with his laptop and phone. Andrew was taking on the “how soon can we travel” and the “how in hell are we going to get from the airport to our home?” part of the issue.

Since I’d made the reservations I was the lucky stiff who got to deal with the plane tickets. Piled in pillows on my bed I was switching between my phone and my tablet.

I started with American Airlines. We’ve got tickets for July 6th. We want to see if we can move them up to July 4th. Shouldn’t be difficult, right?

WRONG! This might have been true in some universe but the multi-verse version of our reality was the “Wow you need a really sucky vacation.” one and it absolutely was not easy.

I spent an hour on the phone with the ticketing people at American Airlines. I had gotten far enough that we had new flight numbers, new times, and new seat assignments. Since we’d purchased first class tickets *and* flight insurance we weren’t even going to have to pay extra to change our tickets.
But when it came down to issuing the tickets the computer at American Airlines shit the bed.
Another half an hour passed while I improved my familiarity with the hold music for American Airlines ticketing.
The ticket agent with whom I had been working finally came back and asked if I’d booked my tickets directly through American Airlines.
Why no. No I hadn’t booked directly through American Airlines.
Which, of course, was the problem. To be able to change my American Airlines tickets I’d have to talk to the people through whom I’d purchased the tickets. Travelocity for the record. Why on EARTH would I think that I could change my airline tickets by talking to someone from the airline? Silly me!

So I went to Travelocity. I went to the “I want to change my plans” part of the website. Which told me I had to talk to the airline.

Much language.

Y’know that part of pretty much any website out there where you can click on a menu, a tab, or a button that says “Contact us”? You wanna know how challenging it is to find that section of Travelocity’s site?

Andrew ordered dinner while I was arguing with Travelocity.com. I finally, FINALLY found somewhere that I could go for live chat help and was promptly told I had to wait for the next available warm body to answer.

We ate dinner.

45 minutes later I was connected to a lovely person named Avinash in some place like Bangalore (I assume. I know that English is not this person’s native language at least.)

I proceeded to spend the next *TWO HOURS* on live chat with Avinash.
I was falling asleep in the interstices of my conversation with Avinash before we got everything hammered out.
But by 10 p.m. on Friday July 1st Andrew and I had tickets for a flight from Albuquerque to Phoenix and a flight from Phoenix to Seattle that would land us at home around 3 p.m. on Monday the 4th.
After offering blessings on Avinash’s hat (and head) we shut down the tech, plugged everything in to recharge for the next day and went. the. fuck. to. SLEEP!


Thank you Christus St. Vincent

Filed under: @ 5:14 pm

Friday morning came around and, in a passionately desperate attempt to get the EFF out of Santa Fe before we had to remove ourselves from the hotel and sleep in Meg’s back yard or something, we decided to call around and see if we could get an Approved Treatment sooner than Saturday morning.
At that point we really didn’t care who we had to run over to get there, we just. Wanted. Out. I can say with authority that I have never been so homesick.
So we called the health department. Who didn’t have any idea what we were talking about. They didn’t have doses of monoclonal antibodies to administer, why would we think they did? The person that I spoke with actually seemed affronted by the question.
We knew that the hospital that was just up the road from us wouldn’t be able to help. It was they that had told us to call their infusion center the day before. So we called the only other hospital in town, Christus St. Vincent.

Yes! We were told. Their ER did have doses of monoclonal antibodies to administer!

So we threw on garments that might have been classified as clothing and headed for the car at full steam.

Which, for the record, is a remarkably snail-like pace when one has Covid.

Andrew had far worse respiratory signs than I did. I had the fatigue and body aches more dramatically than he did. I felt like someone had spent most of the previous 24 hours trying to remove my bones and had stopped halfway.
Which is why Andrew drove.

Drove me up to the front door of the Christus St. Vincent ER in fact. I got out, flolloped myself up to the triage desk and said (I swear I’m not making this up): “I tested positive for Covid yesterday and I heard you guys have doses of monoclonal antibodies. I’m hoping you can either make me feel better or kill me.”
The dude behind the triage desk was remarkably sanguine about that statement. He printed me out a wrist band and told me to go sit over there.
Which I gleefully did. Standing up was not my favorite thing right then.

In the mean time Andrew was abandoning the car in the closest possible parking spot which might have been the “reserved for physicians” parking area. I can neither confirm nor deny that.

When Andrew flumped himself up to the triage desk and told them that he was a solid organ transplant recipient and that he’d tested positive for Covid the night before the dude behind the desk was not at all sanguine. Andrew got a wrist band and was hustled off into some (to my perception) mysterious back room in the blink of an eye.
15 minutes later they called my name and I shuffled into the room where they’d secreted Andrew. It looked like a re-purposed conference room, being large, airy, and separated from the rest of the emergency department by solid doors and windows, but at that point the only thing that really mattered was that there were reclining chairs on to which I could collapse.
Which I did.

Nurse took my vital signs and, having had the detailed story from Andrew a few minutes previously, only took a very brief history from me.
Nurse went to get the attending PA who, having gotten the detailed story from Andrew a few minutes previously, only asked me a few questions and told me that he’d already ordered me a dose of the monoclonal antibodies.
Prior to this experience I’d not realized that miracle workers wore ceil blue scrubs and Dansko work shoes.

Presently we had both had IV catheters placed. Some time after that the nurse came in with the drugs. 10mL followed by a 10mL saline flush then, since this is a relatively new drug and since Andrew is a solid organ transplant recipient, 45-60 minutes of observation.
The nurse filled Andrew up with *The Good Stuff*, filled me up, then went over to the computer work station do start in on whatever paperwork she had to do while keeping us under observation.

I had hoped to nap but within a few minutes I felt like someone had reached their fist in through my chest and was squeezing.
Then I noticed that my lips and the tips of my fingers were all tingly.
It was as I was saying to the nurse “Hey, am I supposed to feel like this?” that Andrew looked over, gasped, and said “You are BRIGHT red!”
Which is apparently a good way to get the attention of a nurse.

Nurse hooked me up to all sorts of monitoring equipment and, having assured herself that I wasn’t actually at a point where she’d have to trigger all sorts of alarms, went to go get the PA. Who brought the attending MD. Both of whom poked and prodded at me but since the reaction was calming down they decided that they didn’t really need to give me any sort of drugs.
I have the peculiar honor of having been only the second of thousands of people to whom Christus St. Vincent had administered that particular monoclonal antibody to have an immediate hypersensitivity reaction to it.



The Plan

Filed under: @ 4:03 pm

The nice lady at Swedish spoke with the on call transplant nephrologist who told her to tell me to arrange for Andrew to get a monoclonal antibody infusion.

Great! How do we do that?

“Well, if you were in town we’d tell you to come in to one of the Swedish clinics and we’d be able to do it here.”


Nice Lady told me to check with the local health department since they usually have monoclonal antibodies.
I checked with the health department, they didn’t. They recommended that I call around to the local hospitals to see whether or not their emergency departments or infusion centers had doses.

So late Thursday night I was calling every hospital I could find in Santa Fe to see whether or not they had The Good Stuff.
BINGO! Got one.
Made an appointment for Andrew on Saturday morning, their next available, to get an infusion of monoclonal antibodies.

While I was dealing with medical stuff Andrew was dealing with travel stuff. According to the CDC we had to quarantine for 10 days. Fuck.

Andrew contacted the hotel. At that point, June 30th, our reservation was through July 6th. Which is not, of course, 10 days. Andrew explained the situation to them and was met with, unsurprisingly, “Sorry. Can’t extend your stay. The upcoming holiday means that we’re super full for the next 10 days and there’s no room.” Double fuck.
We couldn’t stay at Meg’s house, she was already hosting Sara and they were both sick but they didn’t have Covid.
We couldn’t stay at Libby’s house. Libby was hosting Caitlin and Calvin, all three of them were sick, but not with Covid. Lucy was the only adult in the family who wasn’t sick and she wasn’t likely to want two more sickies around even if there had been space for us (which there wasn’t).
The chances of us being able to find another hotel that would rent us a room knowing that we were sick, there wasn’t any way to hide it at that point, were vanishingly small. Triple fuck.

We did get a tiny ray of hope when Andrew found the exception on the CDC’s website. The exception was that if you’re Covid positive but have had an approved treatment and it’s been more than 24 hours since you’ve needed to take any medication to control your fever you can fly.

Then all we needed was the approved treatment.


Panic and chaos

Filed under: @ 10:55 am

Over the last two years my brand has developed into strict scientific conservatism.

I wear a mask any time I’m out of the house and not in my car. When I’m in public that is. I don’t take walks wearing a mask and I don’t garden wearing a mask, but those aren’t multi-person events.
I keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in one of the cup holders in my car and use it every single time I get back in the car. Heck it was only a few months ago that I stopped wearing gloves in public all the time.
I wash my hands obsessively. I changed from a non-washable purse to a series of canvas totes which can be run through the washer. Although granted I did recently switch back to a regular purse, but I still leave it in the laundry room when I come in instead of bringing it into the upstairs. Andrew does go into the laundry room, but he doesn’t interact with the coat rack from which I hang my purse.
I leave my shoes in mostly in the laundry room. I change from my work clothes in the laundry room.

My brand has been: “I do NOT get Covid. I don’t get it, I don’t bring it home, I don’t spread it, and I don’t give it to my husband.” Careless people get Covid. Dirty people get Covid. I am careful and paranoid and conscientious and I follow the rules. I do not get Covid.

We had known that some parts of the family had some type of sniffle. Ward and Beckah (oldest great nephew and niece) had some sort of upper respiratory thing on the first night we were in Santa Fe. But they were also dealing with allergies so…. Calvin (youngest great nephew) had gotten some type of upper respiratory thing that had ended up in him developing croup and having to be at the ER in the middle of the night two days previously.
But neither of us had been really cuddly/snuggly with any of the greats, seeing as most of them were only partially vaccinated for Covid. And since we’d declined to drive anyone around except ourselves and Libby — who is vaccinated and boosted — we figured we’d be able to avoid any sort of plague.

But there I was feeling like someone had tried, clumsily, to remove all of my bones but had stopped and left a good number of them in place. I was hyperventilating, looking at the positive test lurking there on the sink in the hotel room, and trying to figure out how to convince the hotel that they needed to put me in a separate room so I wouldn’t be a risk to Andrew. That’s when Andrew, who had also been feeling a little wishy-washy, spoke with the voice of reason and suggested that he test himself before we started figuring out how to quarantine me.
And, of course, he tested positive too.

Panic. Panic and chaos.
I can’t even begin to describe the horror. Out of town, away from my personal space and sick with a potentially very serious infection. Facing spending 10 days quarantined in a bloody hotel room with my similarly infected immune suppressed husband with a transplanted kidney next to me and no one local who was qualified to manage his particular condition.

Andrew’s thoughts immediately turned to letting family know and figuring out how long we’d have to stay in Santa Fe. My thoughts immediately turned to my life line, the after hours nurse at the Swedish Transplant Center.
I’ve mentioned before how impressed I’ve been with the post-transplant support service at Swedish. Since dealing with them regarding Andrew’s cardiac event and now this, I’m even more impressed. It occurs to me just now that I need to send them a big huge something as a thank you. The woman I spoke with was able to connect to the medical part of my brain and, bypassing the panic, download A Plan into my head. Having A Plan, even if it was A Plan that involved us staying in a bloody hotel room in Santa Fe was soothing.
Well, that, a milligram of Xanax, 50mg of Benadryl, and 3 Advil at least.



Filed under: @ 5:37 am

We grabbed Libby — Caitlin was staying home with Calvin since he’d been sick enough to go to the ER with, as it turned out, croup two nights previously — and headed to Julia’s house on Thursday morning.
There was a good deal of chaos going on there. Julia was very much interested in taking her two older kids to see the pueblos and Julia’s mother in law, Marianne, was also in favor of pueblos. Julia’s wife, however, was the dissenting vote so we ended up bagging Bandalier National Monument in favor of driving up to the Santa Fe National Forest.
Andrew and I had been told by a nice lady at an art gallery that this alpine retreat was lovely, cool, forested, and crisscrossed by nice little streams. Meg had confirmed that report and had recommended a second place up in the mountains so up we went.
And up.
And up.

Seattle is close to sea level. The elevation of Santa Fe is something like 7200 feet. The elevation at the top of this mountain was something like 10,000 feet. It was everything that we’d been promised. Cool, tree lined, crisscrossed by nice little streams. It was quiet and breezy and didn’t smell anything like a western Washington alpine region. The resinous evergreen scent was quite different.
I wasn’t really surprised when I was winded walking around on the short hikes that a few of us indulged in. There simply ain’t no air up there. At least not according to my lungs.

We went back down the mountain for a late lunch at an incongruous Japanese restaurant that is attached to a hot springs resort just outside the boundaries of the Santa Fe National Forest.
It was good food, but I wasn’t really hungry. And I was beginning to realize that I’d had a headache for a while. By the time we got back into the car I was really tired.

By the time we got back to our hotel – after a stop at the Albertson’s pharmacy for Sudafed, Benadryl, and a thermometer (my nose had started to run) I felt bad. Scary bad. Tired and achy and stuffed up and hot. And the Covid test I took once we got to the hotel turned positive after about five of the fifteen minute run time.


We did have some fun

Filed under: @ 4:28 pm

Tuesday morning started with us calling the rental car place since we’d noticed the evening before that the “check engine” light was on in our people mover. The nice lady at Alamo arranged a switch for us which we promptly went to get.
We were scheduled to pick up something like a Rav4 from the Enterprise rental outlet that we had been sent to, but the Rav4 in question was pulling out as we pulled in. The nice man at Enterprise (Alamo and Enterprise are connected somehow, I don’t know how) set us up with a Mini instead.
It was a fair trade. Since many of the family at the dinner party on Sunday evening had been suffering some sort of sniffle we had already concluded that we weren’t going to be sharing car space with any large numbers of germ ridden family so the Mini was a good solution.

We piled into the Mini and headed (literally) for the hills.
Tuesday was scheduled for a family gathering at a river that feeds out from the Abiquiu dam. There was going to be splashing and fishing and sunbathing then traipsing back to Meg’s house for Mexican food. We were lukewarm about the idea of hanging about the river all day and Andrew is supposed to stay out of the sun anyway so instead of waiting for everyone to mount up to go to Abiquiu we went ahead up into the mountains to Tierra Wools (https://www.handweavers.com) which is not quite in Chama (translation: Chama = the back ass of nowhere way up in the mountains north of Santa Fe) but close. It was a lovely drive and we spent an inordinate amount of money on some lovely woolen things. Then we turned around and headed back down the mountain, stopping for the tail end of the Abiquiu dam experience. We met up with the rest of the family in enough time to eat a couple of sandwiches, pick up a couple of rusty fish hooks that some brainless git (NOT family) had left along the river bank, then pack everyone back in the car and head back down the mountain again.
Again, beautiful drive. Breathtaking scenery, and prairie dogs are damn cute in their own environment. There were also LOTS of cattle.
It was good Mexican food at Meg’s.

The next morning David came down from Albuquerque. Nephew Sam and his clan were packing up and heading back towards North Carolina on Wednesday so we got to say goodbye to them and have a nice time with David. I wanted to do some shopping that afternoon so Andrew kindly drove me down to The Plaza. We noodled around together a little bit, but Andrew wasn’t up to walking a lot so he found a nice shady spot with good WiFi and I traipsed around a bit on my own.
After the second time I’d been accosted by an underfed, overly fussy, prissy huckster outside a skin care products storefront, complimented on my hair color, and offered help with “bagging and puffiness under [my] eyes” in the space of 10 minutes I decided I’d had enough of nosing around a tourist trap on my own so I went back to where Andrew was lurking and we went to look at knives.
We had dinner at Julia’s house that evening and put together plans to go to Bandalier National Monument the next day.

I think Google Maps was in on it

Filed under: @ 3:45 pm

We woke up the next morning with the knowledge of why we don’t have a queen bed at home firmly reinforced in our minds.
Andrew and I are not cooperative sleepers. Andrew sleeps in more than three dimensions. I sleep deeply unless something unexpected touches me at which point I jerk.
It wasn’t a restful night.

Still, we got up, showered, contacted Andrew’s GP about the insulin, and went downstairs for breakfast. To find that the complimentary breakfast bar was only open between 0600 and 0900.

Irritating, but not fatal.

We talked to the front desk about switching rooms. The manager showed us a room on the ground floor with two twin beds which, we confirmed, would do nicely. We needed to eat, though, so we arranged with the manager that we’d move our things before official check out time at noon and went to find breakfast.

It is absolutely mystifying to both of us how, why, and what happened next. It’s maybe 7 or 8 miles between our hotel and the center of downtown Santa Fe (called “The Plaza”) where Cafe Pasqual is located. If you know what you’re doing, it’s even a straight line with one right turn to get from where our hotel is to Cafe Pasqual.
It. Took. An. Hour. To. Get. There.
An hour which was punctuated with non-Euclidian geometry, investigations of numerous Santa Fe neighborhoods, and a trip outside city limits.
Granted I’m not experienced with mobile navigation systems and my capacity for rational thought declines along the same slope as my blood sugar, but for fuck’s sake, I *can* read. I read the instructions as they came up on Google Maps and we ended up traipsing around places I don’t think I could find again if I were paid a large sum of money.

We left the hotel at about 9:45 and ended up seated and ordering our food at about 10:55. And we had to be back at the hotel to move our crap into a different room by noon.
It was an insult to the food to bolt it down like starving pirhanas but by the time there was food in front of us we were both starving, it was 11:10 a.m., and we needed to figure out how to get back to our hotel in less than an hour so we could move our stuff in time to not be charged for two rooms.
So our manners left a little to be desired.

Suffice it to say that we got breakfast and we got back to our hotel in much less time than it had taken to get to the cafe. Got our rooms switched and settled in to plan the afternoon. We’d been invited to Libby’s for dinner so we thought we’d go and get Andrew’s insulin and make a stop at Target to pick up additional pillows since the hotel couldn’t provide us with extra pillows and we each sleep with LOTS of them.
Went to Target. Got pillows. Got pillowcases. Even remembered to get Andrew a pair of headphones since the ones that he’d brought with didn’t work with the media player he’d brought.
Went to Albertson’s to get insulin.

Albertson’s had the insulin. Their pharmacy was even open. Our insurance, however, wouldn’t pay for the insulin since Andrew had just had a full 90 days’ supply delivered to our house and they couldn’t see why he should need more.
There are numerous reasons why the American health care system is in desperate need of revision. One of them is that two bottles of insulin – a medication Andrew needs to STAY ALIVE – cost us $583 and that was *after* the pharmacist pulled some strings and used some coupons. 20cc of medication. Enough to last one type 2 diabetic adult human about 14 days. $600.


The fucks begin to mount….

Filed under: @ 3:58 pm

The flights were actually smooth. We went from Seattle to Phoenix and from Phoenix to Albuquerque. We got off at Albuquerque, got our rental car and got to Santa Fe.

The hotel in Santa Fe was a little more run-of-the-mill than we’d planned on, but it was clean and extremely convenient to Meg’s house, Libby’s house, and, as it turned out, the VRBO that Andrew’s oldest niece Julia and her family were renting for this debacle.
Our room, as it turned out, was not the king bed sized room that we’d hoped for and it was right next door to the exercise center. Still, it was a decent hotel and once we got all our stuff schlepped in from the car we set about to settle in a bit.

Which is when we discovered that Andrew had very cannily packed up his insulin and put it in the fridge before we left then totally forgotten to put it in the suitcase.

Annoying, inconvenient, and potentially medically dangerous, but not really too bad.
One of the things that many people don’t know about insulin is that many years ago the federal government decided that this exact situation could be fatal for a lot of people so most insulin isn’t actually a prescription drug. You can walk into pretty much any pharmacy in the U.S., ask for a bottle of insulin and they’ll sell it to you.
All we needed to do was to find a pharmacy before we headed out to Julia’s house for the barbecue and we’d be set.
So we went to the CVS up the road from us.

Did you remember that it was Sunday?

CVS’ pharmacy was closed.

So we went to the Albertson’s pharmacy down the road from the CVS. Their pharmacy was open so we rolled up to the counter and asked for a bottle of Andrew’s type of insulin.
Which, as it turns out is one of the few types of insulin in the U.S. for which you need a prescription.

Annoying and inconvenient, but still not really too bad. Andrew had enough insulin to last the night and all we needed to do the next morning would be to call his GP and have him issue a new script.
So we gave up on giving a fuck and went to Julia’s house for ribs.
And beer.
Lots of beer. At least for me. Lord that was a lot of Lenzers!

Andrew and his three sisters (four). Andrew’s oldest niece, Julia, Julia’s wife Sam, their three year old Mara, and Julia’s two older kids Ward and Beckah. Oh, and Sam’s mom, Marianne. Can’t forget Marianne. That’s, what, six? Andrew’s nephew Sam, his wife Shelley, and their two kids Liam and Ana. That’s four of the Sam & Shelley contingent. Andrew’s second oldest niece, Caitlin and her five year old Calvin. That’s two more… Let’s see, Lucy, the youngest niece, had the good sense to decline to attend. Oh, but Julia and nephew Sam’s father and his second wife were there so Jay and Susan are another two. And I can’t forget Meg’s third ex-husband Rad. Rad was there too which makes….

20 of us. 14 adults and 6 kids ranging from 3 to 12.
And every single one of them at maximum decibels. The neighbors must have been reeling.

Ribs, salad, chips, and beer in great quantities consumed. It was a nice dinner, it was lovely to see people in the flesh and actually meet relatives we’d heard about but never met before.
But it was also nice to get in the car and retreat away from the decibels.

So we went back to the hotel only to realize what it meant that our room was next to the exercise center.


One should listen to the little voices…..

Filed under: @ 5:40 pm

We were scheduled to leave Sea Tac at 0830 on the morning of June 26th. We’d spent much of the prior week with a list of things we needed to get done before we left. Most mornings I’d sit eating oatmeal and add to, or cross things off of, the list. It had been four years since we actually left town for any period of time and we wanted to be sure that we had everything covered.
I should have known something was going to go pear shaped when we’d finished The List before Anastasia showed up on the evening of the 25th.

We wanted to be at the airport by 0615. We thought that flying on a Sunday would maybe keep the crowds a little less crazy and we’d heard that airports have become capital C Crazy. I had checked us in for our flight the day before and (inadvertently) even printed two copies of our boarding passes. They didn’t have our TSA Known Traveler Number on them, but we figured that since we were planning to check suitcases we’d deal with that when we went to check our bags.

We got up at 0500, had breakfast, did our last minute carry-on packing, smooched the kittens (oh yes. any very occasional readers will need to know that Flitter and Pogo are both gone, we remodeled the upstairs of the house, and we’ve got a new pair of kittens. R.T. and Skooch.) and were just on the landing humping our luggage towards the front door when Andrew turned to me and said “I think my heart is doing something funny again.”

Very, very occasional readers (a.k.a. anyone with whom we don’t have frequent contact since I didn’t have the energy to write about that little cross eyed debacle at the time) will have missed the fact that in April, just before we were scheduled to go out of town for the first time in four years, Andrew’s heart developed an electrical anomaly called “Tachy/Brady Syndrome” which is where your heart rate speeds up and slows down abruptly for no particular reason whatsoever. Even to the point of stopping for several (the longest was 11 seconds) seconds at a time. Which involved investigating two hospitals’ emergency departments, one cardiac care unit, the emergency implantation of a dual chamber pacemaker and a (Jesus Christ in the DESERT!) $5000 ambulance trip between Burien and Tacoma. This did, of course, preclude us from leaving town for the first time in 4 years. 2022 has been a real barn burner of a year so far.

So when Andrew told me in late June that his heart felt funny the PTSD from April kicked in. I ran upstairs to grab a stethoscope (you *don’t* keep a stethoscope in your study at home? where do you keep your stethoscopes then?) and listened to what turned out to be a perfectly normal, steady heart rate.

Reassurances offered, we hoiked our luggage into the back of Anastasia’s car and we were on our way to the airport.
But the juju had been cast at that point.

We got to the airport. I got out. I got my purse. Andrew got out. We got our carry on and our two suitcases out of the trunk of Anastasia’s car. We walked to the check in kiosk.
Did you notice something? Did you notice any little deficiency?

I didn’t have the boarding passes.
The boarding passes had our airline confirmation number on them. And our flight number.
The lack of boarding passes, I didn’t know that I’d left them on the back seat of Anastasia’s car until we got to Albuquerque, was annoying but not fatal since we were going to have to get new ones printed with our TSA KTNs on them anyway. And I knew that I had all of the vital information about this trip because I’d very carefully placed every single e-mail that had been generated in planning this trip into a nice, new folder on the desktop of my computer which I then, at Andrew’s suggestion, had e-mailed to myself so I could access the file from my phone. Easy peasy, right?


Wrong because (and Andrew assures me that people who speak Computer will understand what a clusterfuck this is) for some reason Macintosh desktop computers automatically turn those types of folders into Zip files and one can’t un-Zip a Zip file on a mobile device. Or at least not mine.

So we got to the head of the line with our suitcases, a knowledge of our preliminary and eventual destinations, Andrew’s Known Traveler Number, and an e-mail on my phone which was full of information like my KTN, our airline confirmation number, our airline “Frequent Flyer Club” information (for which I’d signed us both up because it was free and of some sort of benefit to us that I have since forgotten), and every other contact and reservation number THAT NO ONE COULD READ.
That’s when I started to hyperventilate.

The nice lady at American Airlines’ ticket counter found our confirmation number and, of course, our flight numbers. She checked our bags. She re-printed our boarding passes. Andrew’s had his KTN on it. Mine, of course, did not. Nice Lady did suggest that we go to the TSA Pre Check line at security, explain the situation, and see whether or not they could find me in their files.
We did. They couldn’t.
That’s when I started to have a panic attack.

I have spent the last two years in a more or less constant state of pronounced germ phobia. I distinctly remember Matt saying something along the lines of “Don’t get this, you’ll die.” (paraphrased, of course) when talking to Andrew about Covid in early 2020. And I had dealt with the fear of leaving our untidy, but distinctly antiseptic, home by taking every precaution I could to be sure that my immune suppressed husband was going to have as minimal contact with The Great Unwashed as could be managed during this trip. The fact that we were standing at the head of the TSA Pre Check line with the nice dude telling me that he had no way of confirming that I had a KTN and Andrew telling me that he wasn’t going to go through the Pre Check line and leave me to go through the regular security line completely blew every gasket I had.

Because he is very familiar with me by now and because he does have a marked degree of authority with regards to the workings of my brain, Andrew did manage to get me calmed down to the point where we actually got through security and to the departure gate. I took a Xanax, we got on the plane, and we figured that the fucks had all been up for this trip.

I just went to thesaurus.com to look at synonyms for “chump” but didn’t like any of the options. The best option I can come up with besides “chump” is quell naiif.



Filed under: @ 4:31 pm

We should have known better.

We thought “Oh, we’ll fly.” Then some obscenely ignorant trumphumper judge decided that the FAA and airlines requiring people to wear masks on airplanes was In Violation of Human Rights or something so we decided we’d drive.
1500 or so miles between Seattle and Santa Fe could, with two drivers, be covered in three semi-marathon driving days which would leave us with five days to hang out with family. Not a lot, to be sure, but sufficient. Even though it would mean that we’d only have one whole day to see Nephew Sam (there’s a niece Samantha and they both go by “Sam”) and his family.

But Andrew got sick in late May/early June and we spent five days between three hospitals, three emergency departments, and two multi-night admissions. Not Covid. Not anything respiratory at all in fact. I’m not sure anyone has satisfactorily explained how he got a urinary tract infection but he did and since a preliminary blood culture was (erroneously as it turns out) positive, there was a lot of arm waving and IV antibiotics to be dealt with.

After which time Andrew was really worn out and I wasn’t terribly far behind him.

We decided that neither of us really felt confident that we had the energy for a three day drive and since we also didn’t to face the possibility of either of us getting sick or completely exhausted in the middle of Goatfuckegypt Utah we decided we’d fly.

We didn’t make that decision in a complete vacuum. Both Andrew’s GP and his nephrologist said that they thought things should be relatively safe so long as we were both wearing high test PPE and kept up with bleach wipes and hand sanitizer.
So tickets were purchased and hotel reservations were made.

We signed up for TSA Pre Check too. We figured the less time we had to spend in lines the better.

What Fate Decided

Filed under: @ 3:52 pm

Yeesh. Two fucking years of pandemic. Two years of wiping down incoming groceries and stripping off work clothes in the laundry room after I get home. Two years of masks, hand sanitizer, take out, social distancing, fucking ZOOM CALLS, “pods”, and not touching anything or anyone ever.

And then came the vaccinations. I got vaccinated as soon as I could figure out how to make someone justify vaccinating me.
Andrew got vaccinated as soon as he got the high sign from the transplant center.
And we got our boosters.
And we got our boosters boosted.
And Delta and Omicron passed us by.

And we thought… Surely a quick trip. Surely since our family is vaccinated. Surely if we’re masked and we’re careful and we maintain rigorous hand sanitizing protocols.
Surely this isn’t a good idea, but surely…. it can’t be a bad one.

Fate, as it turns out, is an acid pickled, fire breathing, menopausal bitch.

Andrew and I enjoyed our previous trips to Santa Fe. Staying with Meg, exploring the city – although granted with a knowledgable guide – seeing an environment so very different from ours.
We were getting a little house bound and wanted to see family so when the idea came up of everyone meeting in Santa Fe for the first time since Tony died and the estate was closed in 2018 we thought… We thought “Well, why not?”

This is why not.


“Dear Seattle Times….”

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:20 am


My name is Andrew, and I recently (mid-2019) underwent a kidney transplant at Swedish Medical Center’s Seattle hospital, with the aid and coordination of their Organ Transplant Center. My recovery has progressed steadily and by the numbers. My experience with Swedish was the best I could possibly imagine under the circumstances, and I owe my life—literally owe my life—to the skilled and dedicated staff. From the folks who run the desks and phones, the patient coordinators, the lab technicians, up to the on-staff nephrologists Drs. Vadivel and Reddy, and the surgeon (shout out to Dr. Precht and his team) who performed the procedure. And of course and especially, the countless nurses, caregivers and other medical support staff who are the indispensable front-line infantry of any medical center.

As with everyone on Swedish’s medical staff, they deserve my eternal gratitude; mine and countless others. They also deserve a living wage and decent working conditions.

We seem to be on a terrible downhill slide in our healthcare system….in truth, in so many aspects of our modern day-to-day existence. We have chosen to allow our most crucial public services to be commodified, letting the Invisible Hand of the marketplace determine the quality and capacity of these institutions. Suppressing the workforce in the name of efficiency and rock-bottom prices isn’t even a good idea if you’re selling McNuggets. Applying such practices to a system intended to keep body and soul together in times of crisis is a recipe for disaster.

People should be aware that so much of what the union is asking for comes down to patient safety. Chronic understaffing of hospitals should not be SOP. Permanent “Crunch Time” is not even acceptable in the video game industry. Why should it be boilerplate practice for a Critical Care nurse? How does that make any sense?

The employees of Swedish Seattle aren’t asking for much; in fact, Providence Health Systems (the entity that owns Swedish as well as their own eponymous facilities) offers their Portland employees a package that essentially mirrors what our Seattle workers are asking for. This is not a financial issue for Providence. This not-for-profit group earns approximately $700 million annually. They pay their top 16 executives approximately $40 million a year. They have cash reserves of around $11 billion-with-a-b dollars, some of which they are undoubtedly dipping into to import and pay non-union staff during the strike, along with bonuses, housing allowances and travel costs. Or perhaps it’s being covered by their strike insurance, if such a thing exists.

I would be very worried if I were slated for a procedure during the strike period. Not that out-of-town workers are necessarily not highly qualified, but they are unfamiliar with the facilities and culture in which they now find themselves operating. That would give me pause.

The sole purpose of Providence’s refusal to bargain in good faith seems fairly obvious under the circumstances: they would like to break this union. In the eyes of senior management, the most sensible strategy is to spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to pull the SEIU’s teeth, so that next contract they can more efficiently push their employees a little further—or a lot further—down that slide I mentioned earlier, on the dizzying race to the bottom. Where, in their market-driven Utopia, nurses are as interchangeable as Subway Sandwich Artists and health care is doled out at the exact rate and level of quality that keeps money spent on lawsuits lower than annual revenue.

I would hate to think where I would be had we already reached that point. Probably in an urn on my wife’s bedside table.

Thanks for reading,



Chapter 14: You Must Be This Vaccinated…..

Filed under: @ 8:38 am

I don’t know why it never occurred to me that people with transplanted organs need to be immunosuppressed life long. Somehow, despite my scientific training, I had it in mind that after the transplanted organ had been in-situ in the recipient for enough time, the recipient’s system would replace the cells that wear out in the transplanted organ making the transplant “self” after a certain amount of time.
But that’s not an accurate vision.
If worn out or dead organ cells could be replaced by a person’s own new tissue there wouldn’t be the need for transplants that there is.

So for the rest of Andrew’s life he’ll have a piece of Curt inside him and his immune system will be trying to remove it.

It’s made me more than a little anxious being that I work with the general public.

I don’t like getting vaccinated. My mother tells me that when I got my first measles vaccine at the age of 2 or so I spiked an enormous fever and was miserable for 2 or 3 days. It was that reaction, and the fact that the Bellevue school district sent out a notice prior to the beginning of the school year in 1982 or so indicating that kids vaccinated for measles prior to 1971 would need a booster, that made Mother grab me by the scruff of the neck and haul me off to the doctor to get a booster that summer. I resented the fuck out of it at the time, even though I didn’t spike an enormous fever, and I resented it with a great deal more vigor when the same notice came out the next summer. Protest as I might that I’d gotten a measles booster the previous summer, Mother didn’t remember and somehow (thus adding to the persistent resentment nearly 40 years later) the previous year’s booster hadn’t been noted in my medical record. So I got a measles booster for the second summer in a row.
Beyond that persistent resentment, I’m allergic to horses. Granted that allergy only pertains to tetanus vaccines (the genesis of tetanus vaccines is horse serum), but that little fact makes tetanus vaccines a trial for me. My arm swells up and aches for 3 or 4 days and I run a low grade fever which leaves me achy, listless, and snappish.
Besides, says my previous self, I’ve HAD all the childhood diseases. That’s not entirely true. I had scarlet fever, then mumps and chicken pox in quick succession. And I’m not afraid of the flu.

Except now I am.
I got my first flu shot a little over a year ago. I was cranky about it but resigned. When my MD checked my vaccine titers this spring and found me wanting (HOW?!) in antibody levels to measles, I was a little more cranky. Especially when I realized a month later that the sore knot in my left tricep was residual inflammation from the measles vaccine.
I got my second ever flu shot about a month ago. Followed, probably too quickly, by my first ever shingles vaccine about two weeks ago. I am made persistently resentful by the fact that my left tricep and deltoid will probably continue to be achy just in time for me to get the booster for the shingles vaccine.

I am emphatically pro-vaccine. Vaccines have been safe and effective at preventing disease since the 1600s. I am also maniacally frustrated by those anti-scientific twee folk who claim that vaccines are the root of all evil when really the root of all evil is a slavish repetition of ‘facts’ that aren’t substantiated by anything or anyone with any reason.

But it doesn’t mean that I like getting them!

That said, vaccines and people’s vaccine status, have become high priority in my life. Andrew’s company employs anti-vaxxers. And because vaccines are part of a person’s medical information, an employer can’t really ask whether or not their employees, or their employees’ children, have been vaccinated.
So Andrew is restricted in which of his company’s employees he can interact with personally. This is fine, actually, since the folks that he needs to interact with the most are mostly the ones he’s known the longest and who are friendly enough with him to reveal their vaccination status. It’s fortunate, too, that Andrew’s job has mutated over the years to the point where he does’t actually need to be physically present at the company offices terribly regularly. Also, technology. A lot of the in-person stuff can be done via Skype or some other computer/video assisted tech.

Me, however… Oy. I’m familiar enough with my staff, and we’re a small enough organization, that I know my co-workers have been vaccinated. Staff is safe. Clients are another matter. That said, since we see a lot of animals to administer vaccines I suspect it’s probably rather rare to for their owners to be anti-vaxxers.
I don’t ask, of course. But I do wash my hands and use hand sanitizer before I leave work.

It makes interacting with the outside world a little anxious. When Meg was here in October we took her to Vashon island to see the Betty MacDonald farm (from which we were promptly slung out, but that’s another story) and since the Vashon school district has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state I was more than a little concerned just about being there.
Similarly Lopez island. Andrew and I spent some time in the San Juans as part of our honeymoon and we’ve wanted to go back, but since Lopez has the lowest vaccination rate in the state I don’t think we’re going to be repeating that trip.

Immunosuppression isn’t going to keep us from traveling, but it’s definitely going to influence our choices of destination.


Chapter 13: Now What?

Filed under: @ 9:03 am

I never meant for this to be a blow-by-blow detailing of the whole surgical/hospitalization experience so I’ll only fling in a few details of the 3 days that Andrew was hospitalized.

First being the utter and complete blank confusion on the faces of the nurses in Andrew’s room when Curt, attended by Laura and one of his nurses, went wandering past the door to Andrew’s room proving that he could be mobile without falling on his face.
Being Curt, of course, he started belting out the Spam song.
Which is why Andrew’s nurses were a little, shall we say, disconcerted. I’m fairly certain that Curt’s nurse was convinced that he’d thrown a clot somewhere and was in imminent danger of falling on his face.
We got much the same reaction when Laura, coming to stick her head in and find out how Andrew was doing, stood outside Andrew’s door (door open, can’t knock) and called out “BURGLARS!”. *We* knew she was asking to come in, the nurse was utterly foozled.
It’s a sad thing when the younger generation has to be introduced to Monty Python.

While Andrew was hospitalized I learned that it is actually possible for one to run out of levels of Candy Crush. This isn’t to be an exegesis on Candy Crush or other freemium games, nor yet what I choose to spend my pin money on. I play Candy Crush because I find the puzzle solving challenge of the game to be calming, hypnotic, and highly addictive.
Anyway, running out of levels, right.
Literally. I’ve cleared more than 5000 levels of Candy Crush and was on a heck of a roll while Andrew was hospitalized. So much so that I got to a point where there were no more levels. Instead I got a message stating that new levels were coming soon. So I switched to Crunch Time.

The day after surgery I had to pull a Mamma Bear on Andrew’s co-workers.
(Steve, if you ever read this I’m sorry I was so crabby with you. I wasn’t crabby about anything you were doing, but crabbiness needed to happen.)
Andrew’s hospital packing included one pair of fleece jammies, two tank tops, the shorts, button up flannel shirt, and fleece socks he was wearing when he was admitted, a toothbrush, and his diabetic supplies. As well as two tablets, a mobile phone, appropriate charging stations for all of them, a multi-outlet strip, and half a dozen random cables that I never will know the use of.
Because Andrew had been in charge of the FP fall catalogue up until the day he was admitted to the hospital, he was part of e-mail and text chains about the catalogue and various other work related things.
I could literally see his blood pressure getting higher (multi-parameter vitals monitors can be handy sometimes) when he read some of them and then he felt like he had to respond. Which is maybe not the best thing to do when you’re pinned to two or three different machines and up to your follicles in dilaudid.
I knew that I had absolutely zero chance of removing his electronics from his ken so the only thing I could do was to have the office manager stop the flow of work related information on his end.

So I did.


But they discharged Andrew eventually and we got to go home for dinner and a night’s sleep in a proper bed without either being checked on by a nurse no less often than every four hours AND without Andrew having to hook himself to an annoying laser printer.
Pogo was beside himself to have us home.

The pre-transplant folks are superb at training transplant recipients for the pre-surgical stuff.

The transplant folks and the hospital transplant staff are superb at training transplant recipients for the hospitalization and surgery part of it.

The post-transplant folks take the bloody cake!
We had one day at home before we had to start going to Andrew’s post surgical appointments. Two lab draws and two doctor’s appointments (on different days than the lab tests) per week.
Have I mentioned recently how glad I am that we’re fortunate enough to live within driving distance of a major transplant center? We met a dude during that first four weeks that had had surgery only two days after Andrew did. Dirk and his wife live in Tacoma so they were staying in a long term stay hotel in Seattle instead of driving back and forth. I can’t even BEGIN to think about how much more complicated their experience had to have been!
Anyway, the post-transplant folks.
We walked into the transplant center for that first appointment and while none of the staff knew us on sight (yet)… Damn they were organized. The right people came to see us to give us the information that we needed. They had all the right paperwork in the right place — although granted some of that was my doing (more on that later) — and before we left we were scheduled for something like another two weeks worth of visits. We got to see the transplant nephrologist who was cool about showing me the lab results and discussing them on a professional level with me (that earns you a star in any veterinarian’s book, by the way).
One of the things that Andrew was handed before he left the hospital was a Big Bag Of Post Transplant Information. Two bags, actually. One containing a binder full of information and monitoring parameters, along with a pile of things like sunscreen, hand sanitizer, a blood pressure machine, a thermometer, and other medical stuffs of which we now have multiples. The second bag contained medications. LOTS of medications.
Because I am who I am and I deal with stress and tension by wanting to have all the facts in order and all the details of everything laid out in plain view I’d taken the binder, removed all the extraneous stuff we didn’t need (information about pancreatic transplants for instance), added tabbed dividers to each section, and put in some additional Andrew specific stuff that I thought might be helpful.
Every single person who saw what I’d done with the binder thought it was a. brilliant and b. (although they didn’t say this to my face) absolutely hysterical.

We got to be very familiar, not surprisingly, with the folks at the transplant center including some of the patients who had had surgery around the same period of time.
The second day we were there Dr. Transplant Nephrologist’s medical assistant commented on how much better Andrew’s color was that day as compered to the previous visit. I’d noticed the same thing — he’d gone from a skimmed milk sort of color to being pink again — but Andrew, not surprisingly, hadn’t. It wasn’t until we ran across Dirk from Tacoma while we were waiting in line for Andrew (and Dirk) to have their lab tests drawn that Andrew realized that difference. We first met Dirk and his wife on their first visit to the transplant center. At which time Dirk, who’d had a kidney and pancreas transplant and had spent several days in the ICU with a bout of pancreatitis, had a greyish skimmed milk sort of color to him. When we ran across them again waiting for the lab technicians Andrew actually didn’t recognize Dirk he was so changed. Once again, there was the difference between skimmed milk and someone who actually feels good.
I don’t think I ever realized that dialysis doesn’t normalize one’s kidney function. When Andrew’s kidney values dropped from about 3 times normal to about 1 and 1/2 times normal in the first 24 hours after the transplant it was obvious to me how much better he was feeling.
Dirk had been a Type 1 diabetic since the age of 7 and had been waiting for a kidney/pancreas transplant for something like 4 years. The visible-to-a-virtual-stranger difference in his quality of life within such an astonishingly short period of time is yet another reason for me to be in awe of the fact that this crazy ass organ transplant thing actually works.

And that the person whom I love most in the world was able to take advantage of that.


Chapter 12: Monday, August 26th. The Aftermath

Filed under: @ 1:20 pm

Laura and I met up in the surgery waiting area.

Having had experience with the surgical waiting areas of several different hospitals I can say with authority that the best one in the area is at Valley Medical’s main hospital in Kent. It’s a large, open area with relatively minimal back and forth traffic. Instead of having “artfully arranged” tables, chairs, and comfy spots to sit there are separate open… well basically they’re caves. Three walls and a ceiling separating you and your space from everyone else and their space along periphery of the room with tables, chairs, and comfy spots to sit. There are also less enclosed, more centralized tables and chairs, or comfy spots to sit. Basically if you want privacy you can cabbage on to one of the alcoves and have a table, chair, and someplace comfy to sit and it’s your territory for as long as you like. If you don’t mind being “in public” you can sit outside the alcoves. There is one, and ONLY one, TV although there are easy sight lines to it from many different spots throughout the area. The restrooms are close and boldly marked, there’s a coffee shop and a gift shop both within a few steps. The addition that makes me give the trophy to Valley, though, is the water feature. There’s a 10-15 foot textured glass wall with water running down both sides into a tiled pool with a raised edge where you can sit.
When you’re in a surgery waiting area you’re looking for close and easy distraction (gift shop, TV) for when your Big Bag Of Distraction isn’t enough. You’re looking for a comfortable area (options for alcoves or individual table/chairs or comfy spots) to set down the inevitable stuff you’ve brought with you. You absolutely Do. Not. want to be disturbed by half a dozen different televisions playing half a dozen different ideas of “ideal distraction material” because whatever it is it won’t be distracting to you and the antiphonal chaos created by the sound of six different TVs all at once is highly irritating. You’re looking for quick and easy access to food/drink and restrooms (both within sight so you don’t necessarily have to pack everything up and give up “your” spot when you have to go have a pee). And you’re looking for something to mask the terrifying idea that you’re in a hospital and someone you care about is potentially in danger. The water feature at Valley covers a lot of the hospital noise and although there’s a faint miasma of chlorine rather than a nice outdoor water smell, having something to splash and splish around is soothing.

Swedish First Hill isn’t bad, especially considering how old the building must be, but there are definitely some deficiencies.
There aren’t enough electrical outlets for one. And while someone obviously has made the attempt to create a “private alcove” like experience, the sofas are arranged in U shapes with a single coffee table and multiple end tables meaning that unless you’ve got a crowd waiting with you you either have to share your U shaped sofa arrangement with other families (ick) or you have to be a real butthead and spread out to cover all of the sofas in your U. The sofa clumps are backed up against each other with a small (roughly 12 inches) shelf for lamps, magazines, etc. in between which means that you’re sharing your personal space with someone in the next sofa clump (ICK). There aren’t enough tables to sit at, the restrooms aren’t within visual range so there’s a lot of shifting around, and while there isn’t a television, some halfwit put a children’s play area in one corner which means that people bring their kids to sit with them instead of doing something on the kids’ level to keep them occupied while they’re waiting for someone in surgery. By this I’m not saying that people with families shouldn’t have their kids waiting for them while they’re in surgery. I just mean that the adults who are in charge of the kids should seek out something on the kids’ level to keep them occupied while they’re waiting instead of expecting the kids to wait, and not disturb the other waiting adults, in a space that’s more designed for adults.

Where was I?

Oh, right. Laura and I waiting.

They’d taken Curt to surgery first, or so I deduced from the fact that when I got to the surgery waiting area Laura had already staked out a sofa and had even managed to lay claim to the coffee table. Laura has recently discovered knitting so she and I sat and knit at each other. Sometimes we talked, sometimes I listened to my audiobook, sometimes she read. I had my blueberry muffin cake, she had a Starbucks protein pack.
And we sat.
And we sat.
And we sat.
It was past noon when Curt’s surgeon came to talk to Laura. Laura was able to go directly to be with Curt, even though she kindly asked if I wanted her to stay until Andrew was done, so she left. Since the rest of our sofa clump had been occupied by a group of people with a pair of kids I packed up and went to go find a quieter stretch of ground, ideally with an electrical outlet since the charge on my tablet was getting a little feeble.
So I sat.
And I sat.
And I sat.
It wasn’t until almost 2 p.m. that Andrew’s surgeon came up to talk to me. I have no idea what he said and no idea what I replied. I was absolutely starved and had to give up my fairly prime spot (table, two chairs, and a convenient electrical outlet) to tell the surgical waiting coordinator (or whatever he’s called) that my patient was in recovery, if someone needed me they’d have to call my mobile, and where was the nearest food?
I got some lunch then came back upstairs to wait more. I snagged a sofa, at least, and was obsessively playing Candy Crush. Then I was obsessively playing Crunch Time. Then I was obsessively playing Words.
It’s all about distraction, but when you’re that wound up nothing distracts you for long. I went back to knitting and audiobooks for a while, then games, then my novel.
I got up. I asked the goon to call up to recovery. I sat down.
I played games, I knit.
I got up. I asked the goon to call up to recovery. I sat down.
It wasn’t until nearly 4:30 before I was told I could go back upstairs again.

They’d just gotten Andrew back into his room. I cut through the crowd of nurses, he turned his head towards me and I burst into tears.

I don’t remember much about the rest of the day. I know at one point after all the nurses and other to-do had gone that Andrew turned to me and told me that I didn’t have to stay and watch him sleep. A statement with which I firmly disagreed. I know Matt stopped by on his way to work and that the on-duty nurse who was fiddling with Andrew’s IV pumps was amused by his “Pro-Vax” button (Buy one. Profits go to an immunization information organization that helps promote the safety and efficacy of vaccines to various groups. https://store.dftba.com/collections/mcelroy/products/pro-vax-enamel-pin).

The next thing I remember is being at home eating dinner and watching The Grand Tour.
Pogo was on my lap, I’d finished my food and was about halfway through episode 1 of season 1.
I woke up two episodes later.


Chapter 11: Monday, August 26th. Happy Transplant Day

Filed under: @ 8:04 am

We normally retire relatively early. Even before Andrew’s need to hook himself up to an annoying laser printer for 8-10 hours every night, we’ve never been late night people
Probably in large part due to the fact that I am physically incapable of staying awake past about 10 p.m. unless I am forcibly prevented from assuming a sitting or lying position and closing my eyes.

The evening of the 25th of August, however, neither of us saw any use in going to bed at our regular time. We realized that neither of us was going to sleep well and since we had to be at the hospital at 5 a.m. we were planning an alarm time of 0300.
Why no, in fact, it doesn’t actually take an hour plus to get from our house to Swedish First Hill, especially not at 0400, and we were familiar with the route, but this was emphatically NOT a date that we wanted to be fashionably late for.

So that night Andrew took his prescribed full body shower with chlorhexidine body wash — and why does Hibiclens stink so badly anyway? I use multiple iterations of chlorhexidine disinfectants every day, including surgical scrub, and none of them have that artificially floral chemical smell that Hibiclens does.
Clean jammies, clean sheets.
We stayed up until a little after 11 when I, with half a Xanax on board, passed out entirely until the alarm kicked us out of bed at 3.

I fed the cat, dressed, and ate a piece of toast. Andrew took another Hibiclens shower.
Andrew collected his wheelie suitcase, I grabbed my purse and the Big Bag Of Distraction, containing two different knitting projects, my tablet, a paperback novel, coloring book and a collection of colored pencils, my iPod with multiple audiobooks, and a container full of blueberry muffin cake, and we were off.

In fact, at a little before 4 a.m. on a Monday it takes far less than an hour to get from our house to Swedish First Hill. It’s probably the one time of the day when that can honestly be said.

So at 4:17 we wandered into the lobby at Swedish, went to the registrar — what a miserable job that must be at that hour of the day — registered, and were told to report to the 11th floor.

I would like to say that they put either Andrew or Curt in room 1142, but they didn’t. Andrew was in 1145 and Curt in 1147 (although we didn’t know that at the time).
A flurry of activity including Andrew stripping, a full body chlorhexidine wipe down, IV catheters, and a number of various fluid samples.


I don’t resent the “hurry up and wait” part of that day. It was annoying, yes, to have to get up at well above the ass crack of dawn so that we could rush to the hospital only to have to sit and wait for multiple hours before they could start this whole circus. I know that behind the scenes things were happening at a remarkable, and probably quite frantic, pace.
I do resent the fact that there wasn’t any place for me to get even partially horizontal so that I could sleep some too.
Andrew nodded off for a while, easy when one is in a bed, and I napped periodically sitting in the chair.

It was probably about 7:30 before anesthesia came to get Andrew. We went downstairs in an entirely different elevator than the one we’d come upstairs in. Which, for the record, was an entirely different elevator from the one we’d come up from the parking garage in. I really wonder if there is one employee in that building who has seen every floor and can negotiate without having to stop and look at a map.

Once we were in the realm of the presurgical anesthetic suite…..we sat and waited.
Met the anesthesiologist, a dude with a most amazing mustache who was a little put off by my request to have the actual names of the drugs that he was going to be using.
Met with the surgeon.
People popping in and out of the cubicle like bloody hummingbirds then *poof* the driving team was there, they were moving Andrew along, and I found an elevator and went upstairs to wait.


Interlude: Hospital Starbucks

Filed under: @ 8:10 am

I got up close and personal with two separate Swedish hospitals over the period of a couple of months this summer.

I have to say that whoever came up with the idea of putting Starbucks coffee bars in the lobby of main hospitals is an absolute fucking genius for a number of reasons.

First, and most obviously, financial.
Any time, and I do mean ANY. TIME. I’ve been at either Swedish First Hill or Swedish Cherry Hill this year the Starbucks has had a line. My understanding is that the Cherry Hill Starbucks doesn’t operate 24 hours a day and I’m not *positive* that the First Hill Starbucks does (although they were open and hopping when we got there for surgery at too-damn-early A.M. on August 26th) but that’s beyond the point. Every time we were at a Swedish hospital with a Starbucks that Starbucks was SRO.
These branches aren’t making a major part of Starbucks’ profit over all, but I’m sure they are high performers in the “average daily take” sweepstakes.

Secondly from a psychosocial aspect.
No one except the employees that is in a hospital on any given day is there without stress, anxiety, fear, pain, grief, or angst. An easy, calm, every day experience -smell, interaction, taste- is a great appeal to the basic nature of such a discombobulated person. Hospital Starbucks don’t cure all ills, but having a slice of what to many people is every day life in an environment where pretty much nothing is an every day experience is, again, fucking genius.

And finally from a marketing standpoint.
Hospital food isn’t, popular myths aside, worse than any other institutional cafeteria food. It’s just really hard to make food that is produced to appeal to the palates of the largest number of people taste like anything other than mass produced food. Granted that Starbucks’ food (coffee, juices, etc. etc. etc.) aren’t much less mass produced than that which you would get at the hospital cafeteria, but the difference is that Starbucks is trying to make a profit off of their products. Not that the food conglomerates that manage hospital cafeterias aren’t interested in making profits, but they’re making profits off of a captive audience. Their mass produced food can be as run-of-the-mill as hell and they’ll still make a profit so long as they’re not actually poisoning people. Starbucks, regardless of where their outlets are placed, is trying to attract people who have an option of where to spend their, let’s call a spade a spade, fast food money. The bottom line being that if you have a captive population and that population has the option of choosing your packaged but familiar in taste and quality foods (even if they are only marginally better than the alternative) over taking a chance with cafeteria style “cooked right here!” (cough) food, a large portion of them are going to go with what’s familiar. And they’ll knock you down to get to it. The quality of the food has a certain amount to do with the financial success of these hospital based Starbucks outlets I’m sure. I am, however cynic enough to feel that many people would opt for Starbucks’ products even if they were dreck given the choice between a hospital’s cafeteria and a familiar “non-hospital experience” option. It’s all about the marketing.


Chapter 10: The Swedish Saving Throw

Filed under: @ 7:37 am

The administration at Swedish Medical Center may have its downfalls (what medical administrative authority does not?) but their medical and patient outreach people are absolutely top notch.

How else can one explain the fact that I left work at a little after 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon and by the time I got home about 20 minutes later Andrew had spoken with the transplant coordinator of his team and she’d managed to shoehorn him into the schedule for the cardiac catheterization lab for the next day?

I submit that if we’d run across the same glitch -glitch, what a paltry little word for such a major upheaval- with the UW transplant service we’d have had to wait several weeks to a month before the test would have been scheduled.

As it was though…. 24 hours.
It was 24 hours of panic, a lot of frenzied e-mailing, apprehension, chaos and confusion, but 24 hours nonetheless.

We were at the Swedish Cherry Hill campus at 3p.m. the next day. Andrew was scheduled for angiography at 5. The regional head of cardiology, the specialist who’d just happened to be the one on call for that day, came to talk to us about the procedure at about 4. He explained that they were running a bit behind schedule, but they’d absolutely be able to get Andrew done that afternoon. We indicated that we really didn’t care what time the angiography was done so long as it got done that day and Dr. Cardiology assured us that it would be.

Then we heard him on the phone out in the hallway. Wheeling. And. Dealing.

The upshot being that Dr. Cardiology arranged with the scheduler for the cardiac catheterization lab and at least one other specialist that since Andrew wasn’t going to be hospitalized overnight and the *three* patients in front of him on the list for the catheterization lab that day were going to remain hospitalized overnight, Andrew would jump the line and go next.

*BING* And so it was.

I went down to the waiting area, conveniently close to the in-hospital Starbucks, plugged in my iPad and my headphones and spent 90 minutes or so frenziedly playing Candy Crush and sucking on an iced chai latte. In general I am a little jaded about Starbucks. I don’t really drink coffee, there are WAY too many Starbucks EVERYWHERE and my understanding is that their coffee, at least their “coffee bar” coffee, kind of caters to the tastes of the lowest common denominator, but I do love me an iced chai latte.
We all have our weaknesses.

Got a call, went upstairs (weirdly to the geriatric neuro ward) to the room where they’d stashed Andrew for post-anesthetic recovery and monitoring. And we proceeded to sit out the two hour post “you’ve just had a great enormous catheter shoved into your femoral artery and we want to be sure you’re not going to blow a gasket and blow up like the Sta Puft Marshmallow Man” waiting period.
Andrew, having heard my report of a Starbucks in the lobby, insisted on coffee. It was dinnertime anyway so I went downstairs, got a couple of sandwiches, the requested coffee (decaf) and came back in time to catch Dr. Cardiology coming by and telling us that the angiography looked good.

We’d known that Andrew had a blocked coronary artery. The angiography that had been done for the UW workup a year earlier had outlined that, but had also indicated that adequate collateral circulation had developed and that the cardiac muscle supplied by that artery was healthy.
This year? Another indication from the universe that the transplant was meant to be. Dr. Cardiology told us that the collateral circulation around the minorly blocked artery was improved over where it had been last year.
The upshot being that Dr. Cardiology personally was going to call the transplant surgeon with his recommendation that the transplant go forward. Dr. Cardiology noted that he’d also be talking to the transplant coordinator, but he wanted to tell us first so we wouldn’t have to wait to hear the final decision until the transplant coordinator called us. Normally we’d have to wait to hear the news until he’d made his official report and sent it to the transplant team, but he knew that time was running short and he didn’t want us to have to wait and worry any longer.

Seriously. Swedish medical personnel? Absolutely super people!

Things started moving rather quickly at that point.
Dr. Cardiology called and spoke with the transplant surgeon. Dr. Cardiology then called and spoke with the transplant coordinator who was waiting for the “go” sign from the transplant surgeon.
Transplant surgeon called transplant coordinator, transplant coordinator called Andrew.
During all of this we, in an absolute tidal wave of relief, were sending text messages and e-mails to everyone that we’d sent panicked “it’s off” messages in the previous 24 hours.
All with Andrew still lying flat on his back because he was still under orders to stay calm and flat so his femoral artery didn’t blow up.

And as soon as the transplant surgeon and transplant coordinator had the official “GO” from Dr. Cardiology (and as soon as the two hours “you haven’t blown up like the Sta Puft Marshmallow Man” waiting period had passed) Monday the 26th was back on.

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