Sunday, February 01, 2009

State Memories Project: California

To be honest, I was satisfied with the sedan picking me up at the airport, taking to the hotel, to the taping, back to the hotel, and back to the airport. The $11,000 was gravy. I had a driver!

Swankette had prepared me with a drill sergeant’s doggedness for my Pyramid appearance. Once there, it was a matter of getting to know our local news anchor and weatherman, who were the celebrities for a special Seattle edition of Pyramid. The goal was to develop a rapport. The news anchor mentioned she likes hanging out with her kids, the weatherman that he likes golf. Well, that’s something.

When you look at the tape of my Pyramid victory, you can tell that I’m nervous and that I’m concentrating, but you can also tell that I’m having a hell of a good time.

The second time I made the bonus round—with the weather guy—we blitzed right up to the top, getting 5 of the necessary 6 clues for the $10K. But then he gave an illegal clue (“Money from an ATM” is illegal…can’t use a prepositional phrase). Amazingly, the lawyers and rulemakers gave me another shot because they had mistakenly given me credit for two earlier clues (I said “What Nickels would say” instead of Greg Nickels, and I said “Why you’re angry” when the correct answer was “why you’re mad.”) I suspect they simply wanted a winner on the show and wanted to find a legally-solid way to give me another shot. I think of those lawyers huddling on the other side of the studio, next to the crowd. The decision they made has impacted my financial life in the extreme; without that choice to let me replay the round, I may still be renting an apartment.

It’s a bizarre moment, the instant I won. Me, Donny Osmond, and the weatherman, hugging like best friends, all chanting “Cool Shimmy.” Unlike the other key moments, however, this one is on video forever. Check out my face. That’s unbridled joy.

After one wins $11,000, one tips one’s drivers very, very well.


Anonymous said...

TRP's parents lived in California for 4 years and I, his Dad, experienced one of my most memorable professional learning experiences while taking two years of general practice training at the Community Hospital of Sonoma County during the late 1960's I was called to the E.R. to see a young women of 23 who was severely dehydrated. About 6 months earlier she had been diagnosed with a rare cancer that presented as a growth on her scalp. Doctors at San Francisco General had offered her chemo and radiation but felt that it would only buy her about 6 months extra. She refused the treatment and went with her boyfriend to live in a cabin on the Russian River at a hippy commune. She came to our hospital only when she developed vomiting so severe that she could not even keep water down. When I saw her she weighed about 85 lbs, was so pale from anemia that she almost blended into the sheet, was severly short of breath from metastatic fluid on her lungs, had a large fungating mass on her head at the site of her cancer, and was severly dehydrated. She was however very lucid and calm. I told her I would have to admit her to get control of her vomiting. In those days patients had little say about the terms of their hospitalizations or their doctor's decisions. She told me that was ok but that her boyfriend would stay in the room with her and that she would approve all treatment choices. She was in no way confrontational or angry. She just wanted a say in what happened. Relatives did not come to the hospital except during visiting hours so I didn't know how I would get approval for any of this but after negotiating with the head nurse I got her a two bed room that was empty and the nurse found a pre-lazyboy like chair for him to sleep in. I explained to her the way I wanted to treat her vomiting which she approved. The next morning she was much more comfortable and I sat down to discuss further treatment. She was very collegial and kind and also clear about how we would proceed. She said that she would like to see her brother one more time but that he was in the Navy, stationed in the Phillpipines. I arranged through the Red Cross to get him emergency leave but he would have to travel space available on military aircraft. That would take 3 or 4 days. She asked me what I could do to keep her alive that long and from my list of suggestions she picked the ones she would accept. So for three days she let me give her oxygen, daily lung taps to drain the fluid, and transfusions. She also said that her Mother could visit her but only once and only for an hour because she was an hysteric and a drunk and that she had a right to see her because she was her Mother but that she was not going to be there at the end because she would make it all about her. Three days later her brother arrived. He was very tired and a little excited because his high priority pass had allowed him to bump a Captain for the last seat on one of the planes. She and her brother obviously had a strong bond. They visited all day and were very upbeat and happy. The next morning I came to work to find her room empty. She had died overnight. In 5 days she taught me all a doctor needs to know about patient rights, end of life care, and patient-doctor partnering. All of this before hospice care and patient advocacy had been thought of. She was one of the most remarkable people I have ever known.

TeacherRefPoet said...

Wow, Dad--that was extraordinary. I'd never heard that story before.

tommyspoon said...

Wow. Simply wow. I have so many questions but this may be the most important one: How much resistance did you receive from your colleagues at the hospital? How unorthodox was your treatment of this remarkable woman?

Well done, sir.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments Tommyspoon. The hard part was getting her admitted on her terms. The head nurse was an old, retired, army nurse with a no nonsense attitude. Most everyone, including the Doctors were a little afraid of her. Like the miltary, where the non-coms are the ones who really get things done, she was the unofficial power on the wards. At first she was all policy and regulations but when I pointed out that the two bed room was empty and that we could put them in there at least until we needed the room she gave a conditional ok. I would point out that she was the one that then found the recliner for him and, without saying anything, put it in the room. That act showed me something that was reinforced many times over during my career. Nurses, even the hard nosed ones, are almost always the best friend a patient has. Then as now most were not in it for the money.
I had no trouble from other doctors. Charity hospitals are always overcrowded and under staffed and the attending resident has a lot of autonomy. My fellow residents had their own problems and would take an interest in my cases only if it was a difficult diagnosis. There must have been an attending M.D. involved but I can't remember any specific input. Again they were there to lend a hand when the case was difficult, so I do not imagine that they quized me much about a patient whose diagnosis and outcome were so obvious. I would not call the treatment unorthodox but perhaps its objective was. The standard then, and unfortunately too often even now, was to do as much as possible to extend life as long as possible. She guided me to extending her life to the point where she was ready to let go and then to let it happen.

Anonymous said...

That is an amazing story, Dad - and between yours and TRP's. It makes mine seem silly, but here goes.

I was at a conference in San Francisco, which was followed by a speech at Pepperdine. I had three days in between, so I rented a convertible and drove the Pacific Coast Highway. There was a lot of stress and garbage in my life then, and my cell phone wasn't quiet much during the trip. After pulling over to take a call that was surprising good news, I sat on the side of the road after hanging up the phone staring down at Big Sur in the sun and the early spring breeze, thinking that life is sometimes just quietly perfect.