Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Rebecca, Jeremy and Alexandria

We spent a wonderful four days in Utah to witness the graduation of our son, Jeremy, our daughter-in-law, Alexandria, and our daughter, Rebecca graduate from Brigham Young University. The commencement for all of the graduates was on Thursday afternoon, while the individual convocations were on Friday morning at 8:00 AM in different locations. Barbie and I split up to attend both and kept in contact through texting as the separate ceremonies proceeded. Soon it was evident that Rebecca's smaller class in Advertising and Communication was already walking up to receive their diplomas so I raced from the Marriott Center to the Fine Arts Building and made it with two minutes to spare to see Rebecca. I yelled loud so that she would know that I was there. I ran back (I actually never run) to the Marriott Center with Barbie, Caitlin and Lydia (my mother-in-law) arriving soon after so that we could all see Alexandria graduate in Food Science and Jeremy graduate in Physiology and Developmental Biology. Thanks to modern technology we could be in two places simultaneously. Additionally, my nephews Doug Hulbert and John-David Anderson graduated in Electrical Engineering and Law respectively.
Saturday morning we cheered as Jeremy and Alexandria finished a half marathon at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah. We are so proud of our children and the responsible choices they continue to make. Now on to the next chapter, Rebecca and Jason's wedding on May 21st.
The last three weeks have been tough physically as I am back on chemotherapy which leaves me tired and unmotivated. I still function, however, mostly driven by duty. I know when I am feeling better because I want to cook and to write (in that order). Work is very busy and I cannot keep up in a three-day work week, but I stay afloat. Speaking of drowning, I have to wear a splint on my finger for 6 weeks due to the ligament tear I sustained trying to save myself. I have a 'mallet finger'. It makes surgery challenging, but it is better than the alternative. I still have flashbacks to the underwater terror, although they are less common now. Next time I go snorkeling, I will be better prepared.


Monday, April 12, 2010


Have you ever regarded a blossom for more than a moment?
Maybe fifteen moments or even a minute
So close that the fragrance fills your senses, 
but with the softness remaining in constant focus.
Can such singular regard preserve the comprehension of the whole?
The leaves, translucent green as new tender shoots of spring
Capturing the sun, breathing the air, drinking the morning dew
All to nurture the flower that ensures their existence.
The twig, the branch, the trunk
Buried roots in soft earth
Land, air, wind, sky
Clouds roll by to promise the possibility of essential rain
All combine in time to create.
Small delicate pink with lines of red
In its fragility lay the seeds of strength
Yesterday a mere bud; unopened
Tomorrow a phantom petal on the breeze
Today the majesty of beauty simple
Can a human by thought or deed exceed the magic of nature?
The Gift of God given; to behold and wait on this coupled variety
To finally see the greater whole.


Monday, April 5, 2010

A beautiful kidney stone*

Maybe there is something inside me that enjoys searching in salt water for interesting things. Last Monday this resulted in me being attacked by vicious rocks. Today it was my turn to strike back. Using my trusty ultrasonic jack hammer it was my pleasure to pulverize a saline submerged stone. This stone was also causing pain; to one of my patients.
The procedure is called a percutaneous nephrolithotomy. Essentially, this is accomplished by placing a needle into the kidney and passing a wire through the needle into the kidney and down the ureter into the bladder. Then a balloon dilates a tract big enough to insert my nephroscope directly into the kidney to break up and remove the stones. We irrigate with saline to be able to see what we are doing.
Today, the patient had a very odd looking stone; Its vanilla, verrugated outer shell was atypical for a human stone. But then as we broke off the end, we could see that the inside was hollow like a geode with beautiful crystals visible throughout. I just had to get a picture of this unusual treasure while snorkeling through inner-space. I include it for your viewing pleasure. I know that some people will say 'Yuck' based on the awareness of its origin; I however, paused for a moment to reflect on its varied uniqueness before crushing it out of existence.
I know the patient will thank me later.


*Posted with patient permission

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Over the river and through the jungle


Of all of the places that I have visited in Mexico, I believe that Puerto Vallarta is now my favorite. As much as I like the climate in the Gulf of Mexico, this Pacific coast town is quite pleasant. It is a modern city that has not forgotten its past. On the journey up the canyon of the Rio Cual we passed many small humble huts that blended, but did not impose, on the surrounding jungle environment. At one bend in the river a dozen tents of camping families dotted the beach with laughing children nearby played in the shallow water. Interestingly, laughter is the same regardless of language, while crying is not.
Soon the truck carrying us intrepid adventurers arrived at a location high above the river below and, after a brief safety instruction; we donned our harnesses and became one with gravity. To use the zip-line, the guide attaches your pulley to the cable and then connects one carabineer to the pulley and a second safety around the cable. Then you glide over the jungle. We must have been at least 150 meters above the river below. On the other side a guide would ‘catch’ you, unhook your lines and then we would hike to the next zip-line. This was hard for me as I would get out of breath hiking up the steep mountainsides, Caitlin would always stay back with me as I slowly trudged forward. But soon my energy would return and I would be flying back over the valley. If you looked down you would see the river below. To the left was the Pacific Ocean miles down the canyon. On the longest and fastest zip-line, Barbie went upside down and backwards. Finally, after riding 13 zip-lines, we arrived at the river basin and a team of mules carried us back to the base camp where we relaxed under a thatched roof patio sipping Squirt and eating Nachos and Guacamole. Caitlin, always concerned over my well being exclaimed, “Dad. You’re not supposed to drink grapefruit juice!” to which I responded “We just glided over the jungle 13 times, I’ll take the added risk.”
Speaking of risk; I am slowly healing from the injuries I sustained on Monday. I only feel pain when I walk, sit up, move, touch anything or lay down. So far I don’t have a fever or cellulitis. The daily application of Neosporin and antibiotics seem to be working. Given that I am immune-suppressed, I get concerned with just one cut, let alone one hundred. I can walk, but slowly and with a limp as I have two deep lacerations on the sole of my right foot. (Not deep enough for stitches.) We still have two more days on the boat and, other than dancing or getting a foot massage, I can participate in most other activities, namely eating. I will recover from this, but the experience has shaken me up emotionally. I almost died, not secondary to some disease out of my control, but rather due to my own overconfidence, ignorance and poor judgment. I should know better. Yes, I have learned a lesson. We managed the zip-lines safely because we were prepared and followed our guides. I know now that I must always have a safety line, a buffer as it were, whenever I venture again into the unknown.