Bad news forces plans to change

Ernie failed his stress test something awful. And all our plans changed, including the one I had for this column. Somehow I just can’t focus on personnel manuals, parking decks and petty politics this week. So I’m writing something I believe is important and just might save your life.


Six weeks ago, Floyd County government’s Wellness Committee sponsored a reduced-cost angio screening for employees, which included scans of carotid arteries, heart and lower body. Ernie had the tests and learned he had no pulse in his legs. None at all. That was a shocker.

And to make matters worse, that was right after we’d moved onto the screened-in porch with the dogs so the floors could be re-done and the house painted inside. I told you we could have gone to Motel 6 or the truck stop at Exit 175, but we love camping out.

I won’t bore you with details of what happened after we got the bad news about his legs, but by the grace of God, he ended up in the hands of the most excellent Georgia Health Sciences vascular surgeon, Dr. Gautam Agarwal, who made it all better with balloons and stents. Then he sent him to the Chief of Cardiology Dr. Sheldon Litwin who ordered the stress test.

This time it wasn’t such a surprise when Ernie emerged from the stress-test room all flushed and looking disoriented between a nurse and a technician named Steven who said the test had revealed significant abnormalities and that they were sending him to the
hospital and would do a heart catheterization. That afternoon, Dr. Vishal Arora found three, possibly four, blocked arteries and the cardiologists concurred his best bet is open-heart surgery. So if everything goes as planned, GHSU’s renowned heart surgeon Vinayak Kamath will overhaul Ernie’s chest.

The thing we can’t quite grasp though is how he could be a walking heart attack and not have a clue except that his legs hurt after he walked a good distance. We just thought he was out of shape.

Anyway, I’ve been on the computer researching what to expect after open-heart surgery, and read that besides the pain, “Other after-effects may include loss of appetite, problems sleeping, constipation, and mood swings and depression.”

“Look here, Ernie,” I said. “You’ve already got all of those symptoms except one.”

“So everything will be just the same,” he said.

Now only one thing worries me. He’s going to get fixed up and live to be 100, and I’m going to drop dead tomorrow.


IF IT’S NOT ONE THING, IT’S ANOTHER: The morning we went for the stress test, I woke up with a swollen right eye and half of the eye was blood-red. There was no time that day to do anything about it, but Friday I went to see Dr. David Bogorad. The waiting room was crowded with an assortment of interesting looking characters, who were soon engaged in a lively discussion about a subject everybody’s an expert in: Education. There was a tall old fellow, who looked like he’d plowed behind a few mules, and his stolid wife from Laurens County. He had a long black and gray beard that hung halfway down his chest and was dressed in work boots and jeans. He said when he went to school (which had to have been 50 years ago) when a child raised his hand in class a teacher would come and help, but that nowadays when a child raises his hand the teacher says, “Put your hand down,” and goes back to talking on a cellphone.

A woman to my left from Washington County said, “I’m a former teacher, and I take great offense at that because I know how hard we all worked.” Then another woman started talking about how smart her children and grandchildren are, which, of course, kept everyone enthralled.

Then the bearded man started on the teachers again, saying the school had raised money and that half of it was un-accounted for and they wanted to spend the other half to buy Christmas presents for the teachers.

“That money is for the children!” he said, his beard wagging.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer, so I asked, “Do you still have children in school?” which made everybody laugh except him and his wife.

“Grandchildren,” they both said.


IT’S A SMALL WORLD: Later that afternoon, I went back to see Dr. Bogorad and there was only one man in the waiting room. We struck up a conversation and he mentioned he was from Tifton, my hometown. I asked him his name, and he said Duckworth. He asked me mine, and I said Ross.

He knew several of my cousins. I told him I went through school with a Duckworth boy. So we went through that routine of trying to figure out who it was. He tossed out a few names that sounded familiar, but I couldn’t remember for sure. Then I told him about Ernie and the upcoming surgery, and he said his wife, Ann, is a nurse in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and probably would be taking care of Ernie. When I went back to Ernie’s room, I told him about the Duckworths, and he said that was nothing, that an anesthesiologist named Rob had been in talking to him and that he was from Omega, Ga., and knew Terry Dunn, my sister’s husband. Ernie had forgotten his last name, so I went down the hall to ask someone and ran into Senior Cardiac RN Gayle Lollis, who is Richmond County Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier’s mother-in-law.


A COMMON COMPLAINT: A couple of months ago, I told you that Richmond County Library Board President Jane Howington’s husband, Jerry, had accused her of being in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and that she’d made an appointment to be tested this fall.

So I called her last
week to ask how she fared. She said when she went for the appointment she’d expected to see some “fat old doctor sitting there,”
but instead saw a cute, young, blonde doctor who asked her a series of questions.

“She asked me what season this is. I said, ‘fall.’ She asked me what day it was. I said, ‘Monday.’ After several more questions, she asked me to identify a giraffe, a rhinoceros and an elephant which I summarily did. Finally, she looked at me and said, ‘Why are you here?’ I said because my husband thinks I have Alzheimer’s.

“The doctor said that didn’t appear to be the case, but there’s another test that takes six hours I could take if I wanted to. I said, ‘Thank you,’ and left. When I got home, I asked Jerry why he thought I had Alzheimer’s. He said it was because I tell the same stories over and over. I said, ‘That’s because you never listen to a thing I say. And my stories are wonderful, and they’re worth repeating.’ ”

Jane says someday, somebody’s going to find Jerry with a cleaver in his skull.



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