Family Health & Exercise Me, Myself and I Politics Work

I AM HEALTH CARE

As a kid, I never dreamed of being a doctor.

I moved to California at the age of eight, when my dad (a PhD biochemist) was asked to work for a biotech company that, in 1987, thought they may have found a cure for HIV. (Spoiler alert: that didn’t pan out.) I didn’t understand the temporal bravery of the scientists working on what was then thought of as a homosexual disease, but I was so proud to know that my dad went to work every day trying to save people’s lives.

Within months of our cross-country move, my mom got a job at Stanford University Medical Center making sure insurers paid the hospital and the hospital paid the docs and the university…blah…blah…blah…accountingcontractsnumbersmath…so that, ultimately, the many thousands of patients – HUNDREDS OF WHOM I PERSONALLY KNOW – could get the best health care on the planet. I don’t understand accounting but I am so proud to know that my mom goes to work every day to make sure Stanford (and Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital) can deliver the highest quality care to my friends, neighbors, family, and the many people who come from across the country and around the world to seek health.

When I was a teenager and young adult, I worked in Stanford’s heart and lung transplant department (with the father of heart transplantation) where I met donor families, people waiting for a donor match, transplant recipients, nurses, doctors, office staff, schedulers, and yes even accounting folk who came to work every day because together, as a team, we saved people’s lives. Some of the most fulfilling “work” of my life happened when the nurses who supervised my clerical/office tasks asked me to go hang out with the younger transplant recipients – kids who were stuck in a hospital for weeks on end with no one but adults with whom to interact. I wouldn’t trade those conversations for the world. (You don’t know humility until you hear it from an adolescent fighting for their life.) I was invited to witness an organ harvest (sorry, technical term) and heart transplant all in-house (which does not often happen) and it ranks right up there with birthing my two sons on my list of top life experiences. I may not have understood why transplants worked, but I was so proud to work with a remarkable group of people who, with an astonishing amount of regularity, resurrected life from death. [PSA: if you’re not already, please learn how to register to be an organ donor.]

I moved on from my high school and college clerical jobs and pursued a Masters degree in Public Policy from Georgetown where I took classes from amazing professors who taught me the policy and politics behind our most important health laws. (I mean, for reals…I took Politics & the Media from Paul Begala while he was still appearing on the (good) Crossfire. Could life have been any better for a policy/politics dork like me?) I began to understand that policies enacted by our government can truly impact people’s lives. I was so proud to have chosen a profession where I could – in my own, passion-driven way – help people live healthier, more productive lives.

Since I graduated from grad school, I have had the honor to do work – on my own and in my career – on behalf of the people like my dad and my mom and my coworkers and the many hundreds of thousands of people in California and across the country who go to work every day to try to make people’s lives better by optimizing their health.

Policy-making isn’t always pretty. Politics certainly isn’t. Medicine is often as much of an art as a science. And though I don’t always understand the science part of medicine, I am so proud to be part of a community of people who I KNOW strive to enhance, improve and save lives EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

 

***Disclosure: I’ve acknowledged, both in this post and on my “My House, My Rules” page, that I work for health care companies. That being said, I’ve not been asked to write this post, nor have I been compensated for it. The opinions expressed on this blog are mine and only mine and do not reflect the views of my employers, colleagues or clients.***

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Animals Family Me, Myself and I My Boys Parenting RIP

Friend. Protector. Family.: RIP Mater

***This post began as a comment on Facebook in response to the notes I received after I posted the status update and pictures shown below. But in typical FB fashion, it was being a punk and in typical Emmie fashion, I was blabbering on and on. So I dusted off this blog and decided to just post this here. Thanks for coming back to visit.***

Friend. Protector. Family.: RIP Mater

Thank you all for your kind thoughts. All of us are taking this very hard. For those of you who asked what happened, all we really know is that Mater got sick and went downhill fast. The very long version is as follows:

Mater vomited once on Saturday morning. We withheld food, figuring it was a stomach bug. He threw up a small amount Saturday night and then was fine until Sunday night when he vomited water. We came home (we were in the Bay dropping off the boys for camp). By Monday night, he was perking up a bit…asking for food, following me around the house close to normal. I fed him a small amount of rice. He kept it down all night. I gave him a bit more the next morning (Tuesday) but when we came home from work we found he’d thrown it up in his crate.

By that point it was clear that Harley hadn’t contracted whatever he had (they always share little stomach bugs so that was unusual) so I was no longer inclined to think it was something that simple. I called our vet who was closing for the night. They sent us to the emergency vet. (Side story: Just before we left, I took Mater into the backyard. Our neighbor’s dog was out and they did their usual tussle at the fence. Normally I’d shush him but something told me to just let him have his fun while he could. Yesterday morning, I heard the neighbors’ dog outside waiting for Mater like normal. It broke my heart.)

I got him to the emergency vet. He was solemn but wagged his tail when the tech and the vet came in. At this point, everyone thought it was an obstruction…that he’d ingested something he shouldn’t have and that it was lodged in his digestive system somewhere. X-rays indicated that was unlikely. Blood work showed his liver values were through the roof. The ER vet said his levels looked like those of a dog who ingested something poisonous. We couldn’t think of anything he could have gotten into. I told her I needed to know if he wasn’t going to make it. That I had to go get my boys who were two and a half hours away.

We started him on antibiotics and fluids and the emergency vet kept him overnight to run some more tests. In the middle of the night, she called to say his liver wasn’t producing the proteins to clot his blood (which meant they couldn’t get a biopsy of his liver, the next step in diagnosing him along with an ultrasound). He could suffer from internal bleeding at any time. The nurse caring for him said he “looked worse” in the morning. The radiologist that reviewed the film confirmed that obstruction was highly unlikely and said his liver looked smaller than it should be. The vet informed me that it would be extremely difficult to figure out what was going on and likely significantly harder to fix it. She explained the procedure for euthanasia.

At first we asked to move him to his regular vet. But as we thought about it, we wondered whether we should just keep him there so as to avoid the anxiety and discomfort of a car ride. I called our vet to tell him our concerns but he pushed hard to evaluate him himself. “He’s my patient,” he said. “Let me try to save him.” I couldn’t blame him. (In case you question his motives, he offered us a break on the expenses and was significantly cheaper than the emergency vet even without the discounts. He’s a good guy.)

The car ride over was awful. Mater cried the whole time, like I’ve never heard him cry. He threw up as we pulled into the parking lot. I got help getting him inside and talked with the vet. He ran a couple more tests (it wasn’t parvo but he had bacteria in his stool) and asked for two days to try to treat him with antibiotics. Scoot went to get the boys so they could see him that day (Wednesday) just in case. He rushed down to the Bay, told them Mater was really sick and that we wanted to give them a chance to see him, and they headed back. While they were on their way back, I got a call that Mater had a seizure. He wasn’t responding to the antibiotics (now on hour 18). I asked the vet to keep him comfortable and told him that the boys would be back in about two hours.

I went to lay with him while we waited for the boys. When I arrived, his eyes were fixed. The vet had to sedate him and he said he thought Mater was blinded by the seizure. I put my face in his. His nose twitched. He knew I was there. I talked to him, told him
how sorry I was, that we all loved him, that the boys were on their way. I wondered whether I had time to bring Harley over, thinking maybe she could bring him comfort that I couldn’t. He adored her. But I knew there wasn’t much time and my priority was to make sure he wasn’t alone. I got all the arrangements handled. We moved him to an exam room where he was able to lay comfortably on a blanket.

The boys arrived. How they felt is their own story to tell. I, however, have never felt as terrible as a parent as I did when they walked in and said their goodbyes. Mater dragged himself into Bop’s lap as Bop sat in my arms on the edge of the exam table. It was such as juxtaposition to the early days when the puppy Mater and 2-year-old Bop wanted little to do with each other.

The boys went to the waiting room with Scoot while Mater left this world. I stayed with him, nose to nose. The end was peaceful and merciful.

Meanwhile, the boys chose the inscription for his urn: Mater Johnson. Friend. Protector. Family. September 29, 2008 – August 7, 2013.

He wasn’t even five years old.

Mater was supposed to be our way of helping the boys deal with Harley’s mortality. He was supposed to comfort them and snuggle them when she died of old age. He was supposed to be here to greet them when they walked home from school by themselves for the first time. He was supposed to hang out with them while they played video games. He was supposed to be the playful peacemaker after enduring the yelling of fights between adolescent boys and their parents. He was supposed to get in the way when we were trying to take pictures of the boys on their way to prom. He was supposed to cry at the door when DJ went off to college. He wasn’t supposed to be a distant memory by then.

Instead of enjoying all of the “supposed to”s, I’m left to mourn. To comfort my husband and my kids as we all struggle with this complete and sudden shock to our lives. To second guess every decision we’ve ever made about him and his care. To wonder what would have happened if he’d been seen sooner. To research the chicken-or-the-egg cycle that is liver failure in a fruitless search for an explanation. To question my natural inclination to plan out everything in my life. To get smacked in the face by the reality that there is so much beyond my control. To try to envision my kids’ future without him in it. To answer my boys’ questions – some of which are unanswerable. To know when to let tears flow and when to dry them. To forgive myself for my role, however big or small, in his demise. And, ultimately, to have faith that none of us will feel this way forever.

I’ll miss you, my little snuggle bug.

Friend. Protector. Family.: RIP Mater

Friend. Protector. Family.: RIP Mater

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Business Fashion Friends Me, Myself and I

Can We Have Take Your Classmate to Work Day?

I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about Facebook, questioning why in the world they’d want to be in touch with their entire high school class and I understand why some folks would say that. But I see it differently.

Facebook has allowed me to not only reminesce with the people I grew up with but to see what interesting people they’ve become as adults. I have to say, I’m pretty proud to have known so many awesome people. Many of them are doing really cool things. Below, I highlight three women I grew up with who have started their own businesses following their passions.

Live in San Francisco and own a dog? Then you should get to know Fetch in the City. FITC is run by my best friend from junior high, Jessey. She offers play groups for dogs as well as customized pet sitting. Her playgroups, which have a maximum of eight dogs each, get their exercise off-leash at Fort Funston. Anyone who knows Jessey knows she has a passion for animals. She nearly got me killed riding a horse once (ok, not killed…we were in a ring and the horse was barely trotting but it scared the snot out of me anyway), but I still love her.

Jessey and I both were soccer players throughout high school and a teammate of ours, Naomi, is also running her own business in San Francisco. Sweet Buds Floral designs beautiful bouquets of flowers and delivers anywhere in San Francisco for $13. They also deliver for weddings and events throughout the Bay Area and into wine country. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill carnations, these designs are breathtaking. Order your Mother’s Day bouquet today!

In addition to beautiful flowers, what better gift for mom than a way to stay fashionable while she’s serving as the hostess at her dinner party? Look no further than Smocks Design. When having company over, no one wants to ruin their good clothes while preparing dinner, but aprons can be so blah. Kelley, who I went to elementary, junior high and high school with, and her mom have you covered…literally. When Page Six Magazine decided to cut back to publishing quarterly, Kelley, who served as the mag’s fashion editor, went to work on creating her own company which promotes “the art of entertaining” by bringing high fashion to the apron-wearing set. They purchase remnant fabric from designers, so not only is the cut stylish and flattering, the fabric is too. While Kelley’s not kicking off new business ventures, she and her mom also search for style and substance together on their blog, Cuts on the Bias. It’s a daily read on my netvibes page.

I admire all three of these women for taking risks and following their passions. Go check out what they have to offer and I’m sure you will come to admire them too.

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Me, Myself and I My Boys Parenting Sports

I’m Either Raising a Master Manipulator Or I Suck As A Mother

While we were on our vacation in Michigan, D (our 5 year old), asked Scoot, “Daddy, will you stop being on the computer?” He then repeated the question to me. The next day, the two of us had a conversation about it and decided that while we’re not on the computer all that much, if our kid is mentioning it to us then perhaps we should cut back. Problem solved.

Until last night.

While driving home from registering D from his first soccer league, I mentioned to him that I have a soccer game at 9 pm tonight. His response: “Mommy, I don’t want you to play soccer any more.”

What? Why? I play one game once a week and it’s one of two outside-the-house activities I do (the other being the neighborhood association board which meets once a month for two hours).

“Because I want you to have fun time with me.”

OK, kid, so why don’t you break my heart while you’re at it? Am I really that bad of a mother?

I’ve always been proud of myself for not participating in a lot of non-kid activities. Though Scoot and I both work fulltime, we spend as much time as possible with our children outside of work hours. We put them in daycare near our work so that we could spend extra time on our long commute together. I can count on one hand the number of times they’ve been watched by someone other than one of us…IN 5 YEARS!

So now I’m vacillating between thinking I’m a horrible mother and thinking I’ve raised a total manipulator. Does he know that when he says stuff like that he’ll get his way? Even if “spending fun time with me” means he’s playing in his playroom while I’m doing the dishes or changing his brother’s diaper?

Don’t think I’m being too harsh on the kid…he really does know how to work it. A couple weeks ago he wanted to get “biscuit” (Lucille’s BBQ) for dinner and Scoot was ready to make a meal at home. D turned to his daddy, and said something along the lines of, “Daddy, can we please have biscuit? I’ll be so happy” and then gave him a kiss. Game. Over.

But even so, if a kid says they want more time, even if they get as much of it as you think you can give, shouldn’t you listen? Is spending a few hours a month on your own activities selfish? I’m so confused. Halp!

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