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Three score and ten or more

Friday, January 26, 2007

Episode two of the Finnish Adventure

Flea market prime in Myyrmaki.

rainbow 1
Rainbow 2

Episode two of the Finnish adventure. (not day by day)
(As a side note, I have had a couple of question in 'comments' and a couple of e-mails asking how to

find out when I have posted. At least until the Finland story is over, I will try to post each weekend-- what day? I can't say. I will post vignettes like the theatre stuff as they come to me during the week. Saur promised in one of here early posts to post every day. It aint gonna happen here. I love to write but for me it is much too hard a job to try to do it every day. Back when I was posting on politics etc., I could blow off steam pretty often, but not now.)

That first evening, Ed Rogers (they agreed to let me use their names) and I drove to the cottage where we had been staying, and removed all of our baggage and property, taking it to his (our) house, and checked us out of the timeshare. The following day, Ed came with me and we gave Janet a blessing the way it should have been done, with two elders. After he went on to work, Jaana sat with me and with Janet for a long time. In the evening she rode with me, giving me directions, hoping that I would, sometime in the future, be able to find my way back home by myself. I became a regular member of the Rogers household, included into family prayer, church services, and family excursions whenever I was not at the hospital.

My original tickets were to return to the United States on October 7. The doctor told me that the earliest possible return would be November 3, so I changed my tickets to November 6, anticipating some minor problems. In the meantime, my younger daughter called to inform me that she was coming immediately to Finland to help me and asked me to make reservations for her in some hotel near the hospital. The Rogers family immediately vetoed that, rearranged their house again and when daughter arrived on October 8, she had a bed in the Roger’s living room. In the mean time, Janet remained in stable condition in ICU, but when they tried to close the incision she had retained so much fluid from intravenous therapy that her blood pressure spiked, so they informed me that they would have to use diuretics to remove the fluid before she could be closed. They finally closed the incision on the day following my daughter’s arrival. After the incision was closed, they began to try to awaken her. The nurse suggested that we talk to her and call her by name and we did. We also sang to her.

I have mentioned singing Our Love is Here to Stay, to Janet over and over in the hospital. (I am sure that the other residents of the ICU were tired of it) My daughter and I had sung duets in church many times, so together we sang church songs, spirituals, primary songs, scout songs camp songs, and as many other songs as we could remember in two part harmony. I am not sure how much the other residents of the ICU appreciated the daily hour and a half of music, but at least there was more to listen to than Our Love is Here to Stay. As we entered the ward one day, one of the attendants turned to another and said, in Finnish, “Here comes the floor show”. (Sarcasm or enthusiasm, it was hard to tell, but he came by and stood by the door for a while.)

The day after they closed the incision they removed all anesthesia and sedatives. All she was receiving was nutrients, two antibiotics and a diuretic. She was turned slightly on her side and seemed to be breathing mostly by herself, although she reacted pretty strongly when her breathing tube slipped from its connection. She showed no other signs of consciousness. The doctor on call told us that, because she was under sedation for so long that it may be a day or two before she really became conscious.

When we were not at the hospital, daughter and I toured Helsinki, visited Porvoo where Janet had first gone into the Emergency room, visited both the National Museum and the Porvoo Museum (She had worked in museums before she took her present job), had meals with the Rogers Family, went shopping and to the biggest flea market I have ever seen with Jaana and some friends. The Rogers family was not without its own trials as Ed made a business trip to the U.S.A. that included a last visit in the hospital with his father who was terminally ill (and who passed away before we left the country). One of Jaana’s closest friends, had been stricken with a brain tumor, and Jaana was very concerned about that.

Each day we went to the hospital, expecting her to have awakened, but each day we were disappointed. Finally the doctors became a little alarmed and took her up for CAT scans and neurological examinations. They discovered that she had had two strokes, possibly during the atrial fibrillation and subsequent heart massage, and that she had an excess of fluid causing pressure on her brain. We were most concerned when the neurologist informed us that they had given her an EEG (brain scan) and that the readings were almost flat. She warned us that we should prepare for a long recovery, and that she might never completely recover. They did some surgery to relieve the pressure on the brain, but she was still slow to wake, although we had some sense of comfort when she began to breathe on her own a bit. Almost our first daily act, each day was to check the computer to compare her breathing rate to the air provided through the machines. Gradually all the tubes had been removed except the breathing tube, the feeding tube a tube for antibiotics, and a catheter. Other than checking the computer and questioning her nurse (a wonderful lady named Aila, who spoke wonderful English, and whose efficiency was astonishing), we spent our time comforting ourselves by staging daily singing recitals by her bedside. Before going to the hospital one day, I took Beth-Anee out to see the Helsinki Temple. The open house was over, and work had begun preparing the temple for dedication. As we walked around the courtyard taking pictures a lady came out to see us, asking if we were taking pictures for a newspaper. If we were, she said, we should have asked permission. I replied that I was just a former missionary who had come for the open house and whose wife was now in the hospital. “This,” I said, “Is my daughter who came from the States to see her mother.”

“I suppose you don’t recognize me,” she said. I acknowledged that she looked familiar, and I tried a couple of names of sisters I had known as a missionary. She giggled and informed me that, as missionaries we had served together in both Pori and Oulu (cities in Finland). I then recognized her and she noted that her husband, who had been a missionary at the same time as we were, was the Project Superintendent for the temple. We walked around to the front entrance where she introduced me to her husband, who, after giving us the appropriate foot covering, gave my daughter and myself a personal tour of the temple, and showed us what refurbishing was being done. . As the four of us left the temple a wonderful double rainbow appeared, stretching clear across the sky. It was wonderful.. My friend exclaimed aloud “I think it is the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen.” To which one of the workmen who was working on the portico grinned, “Made in Finland, of course.” arousing a lot of laughter in us all. I hope I can be forgiven for considering it an omen, and I have included some pictures of it at the top of the story.

Gradually Janet began, without being conscious, to respond to verbal stimuli by blinking her eyes, sometimes moving her eye for a moment without any focus, and responding to the efforts of the therapists to move her limbs, and even by moving a foot when asked to do so. The neurologist returned and gave Janet and EMG (electric myolagram, to measure nerve reaction) and discovered that she has a peripheral neuropathy in both legs. I could relate to that, having had a neuropathy of my own since 1992.

Daughter’s visit was drawing to a close and I was afraid that she would have to make the trip home without ever seeing her mother conscious, rainbow or no rainbow. I began a fast on Saturday the 14th, and then, on Sunday, October 15th, we went to church, then after sacrament meeting we went to the hospital. Her plane was to leave the next day. When we walked into the room, sat beside her and began to sing, The nurse informed us that she was breathing well enough that they were going to remove both the feeding tube and the breathing tube, and that she had paged the doctor on call to come do it. We were then sent up to the cafeteria to have a snack, and wait so I broke my fast at that time. When we returned, her tubes had all been removed and she was lying there with her eyes open wearing a breathing mask.. The doctor told us that the nurse had been very eager, and she, more or less brushed him aside to get the feeding tube out.

“I guess she wanted my blessing, not my hands” he chuckled.

She seemed so much more comfortable and relaxed and we talked to her. The nurse said, loudly, “Janet, can you give me your first words,” but there was no reply. Only once did she seem to talk. Daughter asked her a question and, without sound, Janet mouthed “What?” Then she went to sleep. I still felt bad that Janet had not seemed to recognize our daughter, (or any of us, for that matter.)

Dr. Kaarne came in just as we were about to leave and apologized that he had been out of town, and said that he would be on duty all next week. I told him that my reservations for the trip home were for Nov. 6, and asked him if I should make them later. He looked at me, checked Jan’s charts and said, “Don’t change them yet. If it becomes necessary, I will let you know in plenty of time.” Somehow, his words made me nervous, rather than comforted.

The next morning, we packed Beth-Anee’s baggage into the car, she said her goodbyes to the Rogers and we went to the hospital for one last visit before her plane was to leave that afternoon. As we sat down and began to sing as usual, Janet opened her eyes, recognized our daughter, and called her by name. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. She was fairly coherent, and much more interested in her child than in her husband, but she recognized me, and became aware that she was in a hospital. She had great difficult talking. We each kissed her as we left, and she kissed us both back. I am sure that my sweet daughter’s trip home was more peaceful than it might have been.

After our daughter was on her plane I returned to the hospital where they let me feed Janet her dinner. I gave her four or five spoonfuls of what smelled like good soup, then she shook her head no. She then drank two thirds of a glass of some kind of shake, which she liked, then they had a little box (like children have, with a small straw on the side) which the nurse said was important because it was an energy drink. She drank half of that, though it smelled like coffee, not a favorite. Then, she turned to me and whispered “I want a coke.” I told her that the nurse wouldn’t approve that, and the nurse asked me “What?”

I explained, and the nurse said she had some fruit juice or lemonade. Jan shook her head and said “coke”. The nurse told me to go ahead up to the snack bar and buy her a “coke”, so I went up and bought her a diet Pepsi. It was the best I could do, and when I brought it down Jan drank almost a half of a half liter bottle, which thrilled the nurse. At the end of her meal, Janet leaned to me and whispered “I must have had a stroke, did I have a stroke?” “Yes you did.” I replied, to which she said “I thought so”.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

New Adventures of the Famous Actor

New Adventures of the Famous Actor (movie, or otherwise).

I started acting in plays soon after I learned to breathe and read, and began to get compliments in either Jr. High or High School .  As I worked through college as a Political Science Pre-Law major I divided my time between Intercollegiate Debate and College theatre, doing classwork and working at the UP railroad in order to stay in school.  When I went off to be a missionary in Finland, I assumed that I would have a two or three year vacation from theatre, but I ended up doing some acting, writing some sketches, and doing a fair amount of puppetry.

Returning home from the mission after three years, I was over twenty one, sort of self financing, and I changed my major to theatre and did plays etc. to get my degree.
My first paid acting gig  was at the San Diego National Shakespeare Festival, the summer of 1958.  We did three plays in repertory, Anthony and Cleopatra, Much Ado About Nothing, and Macbeth.  As a green actor (at least for pay) I got some fair roles.  I think that my favorite was playing King Duncan in the Scottish Play.  I died in the first act and came back to murder  folks, carry forests to Dunsinane and change costumes a lot.  It was well directed as sort of a pot boiler.  The other roles were more substantial but a lot more fun.  One of my great discoveries, after having had folks tell me how wonderful I was for years was to discover: 1. That I was a competent actor, improving all the time, but I was not nearly as good as I thought I was.  2.  Even really great actors (and we had several in these shows, some who had been doing it for twenty years) can work for peanuts and never become “stars” or even consistently self supporting without other jobs.  3. After spending three years in a totally spiritual and pretty securely “straight arrow” atmosphere, working with a bunch of free living actors can be a little mind blowing. (It was the first time I had ever seen guys dancing with guys at parties, or seen a house with a nude statue of a famous actress in the living room.—You get the idea)  

After we got through with rehearsal  and into nightly performance (rep is interesting because you are in a different play every night, so it is a great experience), I got my self a job as a life guard, first in a pool and then out on a beach so I became a very well tanned bearded guy with long hair (which actually has something to do with this story).

We were dark (didn’t do a show) on Mondays, and one day a guy (one of the better actors, with some major roles, Benedick, Augustus,  -  he later spent ten or so years playing Dr. Bill Horton on the soap opera Days of Our Lives,)sort of made the announcement that he had to drive up to Hollywood. the next Monday for an audition at Desilu (If you don’t know desilu, you are too young) and wondered if anyone would like to ride shotgun and keep him awake.

I had an uncle up in L.A. who had a major Hollywood real estate firm and I wanted to see the family, so I volunteered.  Ed (His name was Ed Martz, but he later became Edward Mallory) swung by and picked me up early in the Morning and off we went.  We chatted about theatre, he gave me some names of possible agents, we ran some lines for his audition, and soon we were in Hollywood.  He let me out at Hollywood and Vine (My uncle’s real estate office was just a block away), gave me the name of a couple of good, cheap restaurants within half mile, and told me when he would pick me up in the late afternoon.

Being on my own, I wandered down to the real estate office and peered in the window, recognizing one of my Idaho cousins working in the office.  I was about to enter, when I heard a lot of female screaming, and a bunch of teen age girls, who seemed to be together, were running down the street pointing at me.  I toyed with running away, but that seemed cowardly, and I didn’t want to go into my uncle’s office and leave them screaming outside, so I, sort of, held my hands up in a gesture of surrender and they surrounded me, shoving autograph books at me.  I tried to tell them that I wasn’t anyone whose autograph they would want, but was ignored.  

Shrugging, I took a pen, scribbled “Best wishes” or something like that and signed a thoroughly unrecognizable squiggle on twenty or so autograph books.   As I finished, a “crowd” of six or eight more came along, drawn by the commotion.  One asked me if I “was anybody”, and I said no, but ended up signing more books, then as they went on the hunt for someone else I slipped into the office.  My cousin asked me what was going on (actually she asked me who I was, because she didn’t recognize me with the tan, beard, and long hair, THEN she asked me what was going on.)  I told her that I hadn’t a clue, she called my uncle who came along in a few minutes and took both my cousin and me out to lunch.   I still don’t know who those girls thought I was, and I have often wondered about them showing those autographs to their friends and whose autograph they told their friends that they had aquired.  Except for working in an outdoor historical drama where one of the parts of the job was to line up every evening and sign autographs for the audience as they left (thousands of autographs, it seemed) that’s the closest to being really famous I have ever been.  To tell the truth, it was somewhat terrifying, and I don’t envy those who go through it all the time a bit.

I will look, in the morning to see if I can find my pictures of King Duncan, Pompey, et al and post some young, “handsome” and working pictures.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Finnish Stuff

Finnish Stuff, That First Intense Day
I promised I wouldn’t do a “day by day” on our adventures in Finland, but the first day remains so vivid that I am going to break my word. If you don’t want to hear about a day more or less divided between heaven and hell, skip this one. Some of this is in my first post about Jan’s illness, but it may be included again.

At about t (heck, not about, exactly) two ten A.M. October 2, 2006 I awoke to hear Janet screaming in pain. I jumped out of bed and flipped on the light to see her sitting up with her fists clenched in pain with her arms across her chest. I moved to sit beside her and the only word she was able to say was DOCTOOR ! !. I asked (in futility since we had no land line phone in the house and our cell phones didn’t work in Finland) if she wanted me to call a doctor or take her to the doctor. TAAKE!! was her reply. I asked her what was wrong and she said “Back - chest, - head - exploding”

I pulled on my pants, shoes and socks, and found a caftan and shoes for her, then placed my hands on her head and gave her a blessing. (This is a Mormon thing. Most male members of the church are members of the lay priesthood, and we believe in the words of the scripture in James, 5:14,15: “ Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick.” . )

I am an elder, I had no oil with me, and there weren’t two of us elders, and I had no clue where I would find another, but I blessed her as an elder and her husband, and I had faith. It had to be enough. I put on a shirt and put my arms under her shoulders then helped her out to our little rental car latching her seat belt. Locking the house, I backed out of the driveway and started out into Isnas, only realizing when I arrived there that I didn’t have a clue how to find a doctor. I pulled into the fire station and pounded on the door, but there didn’t seem to be anyone on duty. The next possibility was to drive into Porvoo which is a pretty good sized city and try to find a doctor there. I expressed my worry, and Janet said “Red crosses on street signs, - Hospital”. With gratitude for thinking by one of us I screamed out onto the road to Porvoo. It is a curvy, hilly two lane road with several villages along the way. The speed limit varies from 40 to 60 km per hour. I drove it between 80 and 100 km per hour, muttering under my breath at the patchy fog that made topping a hill really treacherous. I confess that I prayed under my breath that a cop would stop me then lead me to the hospital but I had no such luck. I went around one curve with a real lurch about 4 or 5 k from Porvoo and Janet reached and touched me on the chest.

“It wouldn’t be good if we both got to the hospital in an ambulance” Jan struggled to say.

I took the hint and slowed to a somewhat more reasonable speed. As I got into town I looked up at every street sign and found no red crosses. We reached the other side of town and came to an ESSO truck stop where we had had dinner once. I rushed inside and asked the girl behind the counter (in English of course) where was the hospital. She indicated that she didn’t understand, so I tried again in my failing Finnish. She gave me some rather complex instructions that I only partially understood, but “cross the bridge” was clear, so I went back the way I had come, crossed the bridge, and on the reverse side of all those signs was a red cross and and arrow. Ignoring what I understood of the directions I set off to follow the signs. I came to a main intersection in about a mile, and the sign for the hospital indicated a right turn. I turned, and even stopped at the stop light on the next intersection. I drove down that road until the business buildings all ended and we entered some housing developments. Further down the road I concluded that I had somehow missed the hospital when I came to a cross road, and noticed that a car stopped, and someone in uniform got out. Assuming it to be a policemen I turned and screeched on the brakes to stop behind the car. I then jumped out of the car and ran toward the person in uniform, who put her hands up to her face and began to scream. It was not a policeman it was a teen age (or slightly older) girl who was delivering newspapers. I tried to calm down and said in Finnish, “Sairala (hospital) Missa on Sairala? ( where is the hospital?)”

She lowered her hands and gradually understood the urgency then pointed the direction I was going and said in English “About half a kilometer, there is big sign”.

Away we went, turning into a parking lot that turned out to be for employees, then I backed out (thanks for the reverse gear) and went down the lane till I saw the sign that meant Emergency Room. I stopped in the driveway, and two doctors came out. I indicated Janet in the passenger seat, said “heart” (in Finnish) and they put her on a gurney and took her inside. Another man came out and told me in English that I couldn’t leave my car there, and showed me where to park. By the time I got inside, they had her hooked up to an EKG and were taking blood. One man, doctor or nurse, I never was sure asked me for name, address, symptoms and all those things. He then asked if we knew anyone in Finland.

I hadn’t been here in forty years. I couldn’t remember any of the names of people I had met at the Temple Open-house the day before. The only name I could think of was an American, whom I knew lived in Finland and who owned the FMA (Finnish Mission Alumni) list where I had first learned about the Mormon Temple Open-house which had brought us to Finland (see archive October 30, 2003). I gave him the name, and while the other folks worked on Janet, we went through the phone books, in futility. He asked me if I knew where the man worked and I told him that I thought my e-mail friend worked for Nokia. He nodded wisely, went into his office and came back moments later with a cell phone number. I called it several times and no one answered so I went back into the room where they were working on Janet. She was fairly coherent by then, but still in great pain. The EKG was perfect, her blood gasses were good and they were beginning to ask her what she had eaten that day, to see if it was a digestive problem.

I suddenly had an inspiration, or a vivid memory. In 1991 I had a problem that involved double vision, loss of balance, and all kinds of strange symptoms. My GP sent me to the Medical College of Georgia where they tested me for almost everything. One of the tests was a complete cardio work up, which concluded that I didn’t have much of any problem there, but the cardiologist said that they had great difficulty catherizing the heart because I had a “tortuous aorta”. He said that an aortal aneurism was a serious possibility for me and that if I ever had swelling under my shoulder blades and intense pain across the upper back I should go immediately to an emergency room and tell the doctors that I probably had an aortal aneurism. I related that to the doctors, called their attention to the fact that these seemed to be Janet’s main symptoms, and asked if they had checked her for an aortal aneurism. “We were just going to do that.” said a young blonde lady whom I assumed to be a doctor, and they took Jan’s gurney away.

While they were gone I used the computer of one of the doctors to access the webmail program of Georgia Southern University, and sent an e-mail to all of my children letting them know what had happened and that their mother was on the way to the hospital. The doctor then tried again to help me contact someone in Finland. No one answered the number that I had, and I was beginning to get desperate when a man in a black uniform with a green glowing vest came in and said that Janet was ready for transport.

In about ten minutes they had given her a CT scan or a sonogram or something, had diagnosed an aneurism and had generated an ambulance with appropriate personnel. The lady doctor came in and told me that they were transporting Janet to Meilahden Sairala (Meilahti - Maria Hospital, the hospital of the University of Helsinki) in Helsinki immediately and that Meilahden Sairala had some of the greatest heart surgeons in the world. (I found out later that she was completely accurate, but I wasn’t so sure right then.) I asked if I could go with Jan in the ambulance and one of them pointed out that I couldn’t leave my car in the emergency room parking lot. “You can follow the ambulance” one of them said.

I went to the ambulance driver, told him that I would follow him, and he laughed, “At the speed we will go, we cannot be responsible for your safety.” I looked at the doctor who said I could follow the ambulance and she shrugged.

The ambulance disappeared almost instantly into a siren filled void, and they took me aside and gave me directions to the hospital in Helsinki. It took about ten minutes to Xerox a map segment, draw on it with a marker and give me directions to the main highway. I had driven from Helsinki to Porvoo several time on highway 18, a thruway, but they told me to take the main Helsinki Highway, Highway 7 (It wasn’t till a couple of weeks later that I learned that they were the same road, which, if I had known, might have simplified things.) I took off again, at a high speed, (legal here, the thruway speed limit was 120 km, and many cars seemed to consider that a suggestion.) and went into Helsinki where I got thoroughly lost, and spent over an hour finding the hospital. (Thanks to some dishonest young men at a shell station where I bought 37 Euros worth of gas, paid cash, got very good directions, and when I checked my receipt they had rung up 3 Euros and 70 pennies and, I presume, pocketed the rest.)

By the time I got to the hospital Janet was already in surgery. They sent me up to the seventh floor which is the cardiac ward, and people ran around a lot trying to get me information. I did get to use a computer there, and try to update what I had sent to the kids, letting them know that she was in surgery, and the diagnosis, but that I didn’t know much more. I tried several times to contact the man from Nokia, and finally one of the doctors asked me if he had a wife. I recalled that he did, and what her name was, because she frequently posted on the FMA list. He came back with a cell phone number for her, I called, and she answered (I later found out that the first number I was given, though it was in his name, was the six year old daughter’s phone and she only answered it when she was expecting a call. We Americans have a lot to learn about a true cell phone culture.)

I called, identified myself as a Mormon and a participant on the list, and asked if I could talk to her husband. He had already left for work, (it was still really early, before 6:00 A.M.) So I asked if her husband had some consecrated oil (I have mentioned its use) and if she could get some and bring it to me. She said that she would be right there, and she arrived in what seemed like no time at all.

In the mean time, they had taken me to the second floor, which had the cardio surgery waiting room and the ICU, so that when she arrived she had to hunt me down in the waiting room. In she walked, a lovely friendly woman who appeared to be in her early thirties, whom I had never met. She brought me the oil I had requested, introduced herself, told me a little about her family and sat quietly beside me, keeping me from going insane.

The wait seemed eternal, and periodically, nurses or other attendants came by to tell me that things were going well, and I should help myself to the boxes of fruit juice in the waiting room. Finally someone came by to tell me that the surgeon would be with me in just a few minutes, and that the operation was over. Shortly, Dr. Kaarne came into the waiting room. He is a big, fair, balding, shambling man with a very kind smile, and what seemed like enormous hands. He spoke quite good English and he sat directly opposite me and told me that the operation had been successful. He took out a pad and some colored pencils and drew me a picture of the operation, showing that he had replaced a large section of the ascending aorta with a Dacron tube and had done a small bypass to bring additional blood to some part of the heart.

I am afraid that I was growing visibly impatient, so he shook my hand and that of my new friend and told me that Janet would be down to the ICU in about fifteen minutes, and that I could see here as soon as she arrived. “I will come down and tell you when she is here,” he stated, and then he went away. Fifteen minutes elapsed, and he did not come. Thirty minutes elapsed and he still had not arrived. A bit later I told my friend (I am not using personal names because I didn’t ask permission. I may change these later) that I was going to go down and see what is keeping the doctor. Just at that time, he appeared in the door, this time with a surgical mask hanging around his neck. He snatched it off and came into the room. “We have had complications.” He said softly, as my heart sunk through the floor. He then told me that as she arrived in ICU and they were hooking up equipment she began having an atrial fibrillation. They tried using the electrical paddles to stop the fibrillation, but they were not effective so he had had to open the incision in her chest and massage the heart manually. As he finished and was cleaning up, she began to fibrillate again so he had to repeat the procedure. “We are going to take her back to the operating room to check the blood supply to the atria,” he stated. “We must take steps to prevent further fibrillation.” He then dashed away with surprising swiftness and I went out into the hall to see what, I assumed was Janet, being hustled away.

The next few hours went by with agonizing slowness. I tried to read the magazines that were there but my Finnish was not yet that competent, and what I did read seemed to be books for physicians about heart surgery , which, of course, I wasn’t sure I wanted to understand. An eon or two after he left, he came back into the room to give me the word that I most wanted, that Janet was still alive. “I gave her a double bypass, using the vein from her leg,” he stated, and, like a goof I assured him that I understood bypasses, that I had received a quadrupal bypass several years ago. He held up his hand to indicate that he was there to provide information not to converse generally, then continued, “We have not closed up the incision in her chest, but have put a mesh plate over it in case there was some kind of reoccurance, and we should have to open her up again.” Then he said the key words, “We kept her in the operating room until we were sure things were stable, she is now in ICU and you may go see her. She is doing well, we think, and seems completely stable in view of the fact that she has had three serious thoracic surgeries in about seven or so hours.” I asked the doctor about how this would be paid, and he said that he thought that probably they would bill my insurance, and then the hospital, the Finnish government, and the U.S. government would work it out with me. I told him that I had a credit card with a 30,000 dollar limit, but he told me that they probably didn’t want my credit card. I also asked the doctor what he would estimate to be the time Jan would be in the hospital, and he stated that the earliest possible departure would be November 3, one month away.

He then led me to the ICU, which was much different from the ICU departments I had seen in the past. It was not separate rooms around a central desk, but an ICU ward with four beds like spokes on a wheel, each bed and patient having his/her own nurse sitting at the foot of the bed with his or her eyes fixed on the multiple computer monitors which framed the head of the bed. Janet was lying on her back, unconscious, of course, with tubes, IV s, and wire sensors attached all over her. I told the nurse that we were going to have a prayer, so she pulled the curtain around Jan’s bed. My new friend held her hand while I anointed Jan’s head with the oil that had been provided, and again I placed my hands on her head, blessed her that her nurses would be wise and that she would be well cared for, and that she would live to leave the hospital. I confess that I was a little surprised at the confidence in my own voice when I said that, because it just slipped out of my mouth. Since Jan was totally unconscious it couldn’t have made her feel better, but it made me feel better. Then, for the first time, I began what became a sort of a routine or ritual. I sat beside her bed, held her hand and sang lullabies to her, concluding with the song that had become “Our song” when we were dating, and which I had sung to her at the wedding reception. Our Love is Here to Stay, “ It’s very clear, our love is here to stay. Not for a year, but ever and a day. In time the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they’re only made of clay, But, Our love is here to stay” That’s not all the words, but I probably would be in some kind of copyright trouble and you would all doze off if I wrote all the lyrics. I am sure that the other residents of ICU for the next twenty one days probably got really tired of the song, but she wasn’t in the hospital a single day when I didn’t’ sing it to her (along with some other stuff) and have a prayer with her.

It then occurred to me that I was going to have to do something about my own situation. I only had my cottage for seven days, four of which had elapsed, and the prospect of driving back and forth seventy plus kilometers every day was a little daunting. I asked Jaana (I have got to give her a name, “my friend” is getting tiresome) if she knew of a nearbye hotel that might be reasonable. (We had priced hotel rooms before we came to Finland and found nothing for less than about 170 Euros, but I assumed I could do a little better by shopping for something small, around the hospital.)

“You’ll come home and have dinner with us, and we’ll see,” she said. I thanked her and asked directions to her house, and that was, I think, the first time I realized that she didn’t have a car. She had taken a cab, and her house was over fifteen kilometers away, so she volunteered to drive me in my car to her house. “Easier than giving directions.” She said. She was right, considering that I had been lost in Helsinki for an hour while trying to get TO the hospital, and that my driving had been less than stable and legal.

It was almost a twenty minute drive to her house, and I reflected that if I had tried to drive it I probably would have ended up in Kentucky. Soon after we arrived at her home, her children came home from school, and her husband came home from work. I was immediately taken into the family, and before bedtime her youngest was calling me grandpa. They had four children, all girls, ranging from mid twenties to six years old. The children slept in two bedrooms with bunk beds, and they removed one of the upper bunks to the living room to make me a private bedroom (I was not fully sure at the time where all the girls slept., certainly not in one small bedroom),but my hotel worries were over. Her husband drove me back to the cottage near Isnas, where we removed all of Janet’s and my belongings, and left the key in the door. He also provided a telephone so that I could call the resort management and check out by telephone. I am pretty sure he also went with me to the hospital also that evening so that we could give Jan a blessing with two elders present, but that could have been the next day.

When we got back to his house, he had Skype on his computer so I was able to call many of the members of my family directly and tell them what had happened, and reassure them that things were better than they had sounded in my e-mail. It was quite late that night when their family gathered together for family prayer (in which I was included), and we made our ways to bed.

There are not many people in this world who would take someone whom they only knew by a few e-mails on a mailing list and a shared membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints into their family and inconvenience themselves so much, but these folks did. I will be forever grateful both to them and to my Father in Heaven who, I feel, led me to them (or them to me).

I will be back in a day or two with a couple of posts on the rest of our stay in Finland, but this time, I REALLY promise that I won’t try to do a “day by day” description.

Friday, January 19, 2007

My Adventures as a Big Time Movie Actor

January 19 My Adventures as a Big Time Movie Actor.
We went to Savannah today to look at a sale at Worldmart and get Janet away from the house, the water aerobics and the physical therapy.  On the way home there was some discussion on the local PBS station about the old Chatham County Jail in Savannah.  It brought back some memories so I thought I  would tell you about some of my adventures as a big time movie actor, some of which happened in the old Chatham County Jail.  I will tell you a story that I would call “Mostly True”.  It is only mostly true because it happened in the mid seventies and then later in the eighties and it was long enough ago that I can’t remember many of the names, and I have become suspicious about my memory of events that long ago.

This adventure has its roots in a motion picture that was made in Statesboro and environs five or ten years earlier.  The movie was eventually called Buster and Billie and starred Jan Michael Vincent and some quite lovely young lady whose name is among those I don’t remember.  I got involved with the film because it was a film about southern teen-age angst, and most of the supporting roles ended up being played by students from the Acting Program at Georgia Southern College where I was Director of Theatre.  It  happened that I was directing a production of You Can’t Take It With You at the time, and several of the kids that were in the movie were also in my play so I had to juggle rehearsal time a little for the shooting schedule.  As a result I got quite well acquainted with the director who was a heck of a nice guy and who treated my students very well. (A fair number of them worked in the set decoration and continuity of the film as well, a good start for a potential career.)  In fact a few of them were so impressed with him and with themselves in the film (it got pretty fair reviews) that they quit school and went out to Hollywood to make it “big”.  All in all it was a good experience.  As a member of the Georgia Theatre Conference board at the time, I even conned the director into serving on a panel at the Georgia Theatre Conference in Savannah that year.

I then went on about my business of teaching theatre and he went back to his business of directing films and time flew.  A few years later an announcement appeared in the paper that they were filming a television movie in Savannah to be called Orphan Train with Glenn Ford, and, I believe Julie- Julie- I can’t remember except that she played the Belle of Amherst some years earlier, and I had met her backstage at a play in Long Beach California twenty years earlier.  The announcement identified my “old friend” or at least “old acquaintance”, the director of Buster and Billie as the director.  They were holding auditions for day players (small speaking roles) and extras in Savannah, and having some time free, I decided that since I knew the director and one of the stars, I might have a good chance for a role.  

I went down for auditions, but of course met only the casting director and no one else I knew, but they read me several times for the part of the “judge” and again for a policeman or bailiff in the court (not sure which anymore) and finally cast me as the cop.  I was given sides (a partial script for the scene) told to memorize them and come back on a specific day to film the part.  This I did, but when I walked in and was sent to get a costume, the costumer more or less exploded because I was much too large for the costume.  (We couldn’t say that the costume was too small, could we?).  If you want an ego blow, watch a costumer go out to the line of people getting ready to be extras and cast a guy in your part, without a reading or anything else, because he was the right size for the costume.

At this time, they were stuck with me (and I knew they were, as an old SAG member, thought they didn’t know it, I knew I could make things uncomfortable if they just left me hanging—of course the fact that I hadn’t identified my SAG membership in auditions would have gotten me in trouble too, but. . .. ..)  Actually they were very nice and they dug up a costume for me, blackened my beard and made me really scruffy and then hung me up by my ankles in a room in the jail where the young boy hero was to be questioned.
The second unit director (whom I discovered later was the son of my old acquaintance) came in, looked at me and said something on the order of “With a guy like this hanging there, who in hell is going to look at the action in the scene, take him down and get him out of here.”

They did as they were told, and, since I was made up, and had to be paid a day player’s wage anyway (which is more than an extra) they put me back into the jail with my well made up hands sticking through the bars (actually flat slats of steel in a sort of basketweave pattern) and my head up close for a pan down of the cells as the little boy is walked back to the back and placed in a cell.   I then took off my costume, washed my face and hands (at least a little) put on my street clothes, picked up my check (which wasn’t bad for a day’s messing around) and went home.

When the movie came out, I THINK I recognizes one of my hands sticking through the bars, but I am not sure.  I never did see my “friend” the director or any of the major actors in the film except the little boy they were questioning and jailing, and I have no idea who he was.    Oh Well..

Friday, January 12, 2007

One tree is down at left
The last tree is topped out above (I think)
The two trees are in the bucket.
As usual, I couldn't get blogger to use all my pictures, so the ones in this post come after the ones in the last post (If I can get them to post at all). Tomorrow I guess I go to the new blogger. When you are old, new things make you nervous.

Left, is the two trees with the crane in place

I am finally able to write coherently about our adventure in Finland. So far, it is too long to post as one part, so I am trying to divide it into reasonable units for the blog. Today I just want to show some pictures. Just before we went to Finland I posted pictures of a lightning-struck tree in the yard, and I have already talked about getting the tree (actually, it turned out that there were two trees that had been killed) removed. Here are pictures of the removal. I thought you might be interested. If you are really familiar with this process, skip this and wait for the Finland posts.

Friday, January 05, 2007



A few weeks ago I received a bill from Meilahti Hospital in Helsinki for EUR 88609.73. I dutifully relayed that bill to Blue Cross through one of the Human Resources officers at Georgia Southern University. Day before yesterday I received a check made out to me for $67023.92, in dollars, approximately half of what I owe the hospital. I immediately deposited that check, shepherded it through the bank until it was truly deposited, and today, mailed a cashier’s check to the hospital for that sum ($67023.92). Only for a very few moments was I tempted to go out, buy an expensive car and tickets to Shangri-la. Soon I will find out if the hospital accepts this a full payment or if I have to begin selling those organs in my body that still work to raise the remainder of the money.

In September I sent pictures of a tree next to my house that had been struck by lightning. When we returned from Finland in mid November the tree was dead and my roof and yard were covered with pine-straw (to the non-southerners, you sometime call these pine needles, but in the southern long leaf yellow pine, these needles are eight to twelve inches long and have picked up the name pine straw). I muttered about the need to remove the tree, but in hope of selling my house to a commercial developer who was going to tear the house down anyway, I procrastinated a bit. Finally I contacted my insurance agent to see if the loss of the tree was covered, and was told to go get an estimate for its removal. I did this, found that two trees had been killed by lightning and that insurance would pay all but $500.00 of the cost of removal. I really needed another bill for $500 bucks, but the removal started last Thursday and continued through Monday (The trees were in a place where they had to be cut down bit by bit. Now they are gone. This morning the tree man came to pick up his check (and an axe that he discovered that he had left in my yard).

Janet has been attending our water aerobics class but has just walked or swam gently. Monday she went to her first real physical therapy session and the therapist told her that it was time to try the exercises in water aerobics. Today she did that, and as a result has been completely “stove up” all day today. I just put her to bed with liberal applications of muscle rub and a couple of darvoset tablets. She is in real pain.

As a sculptor of dolls and a maker of puppets, one of my great joys has been my little outdoor studio. I have spent many hours there, but none at all since our trip to Finland (and actually a couple of months before). Today I went out to try to work. It is amazing how a few months of disuse will mess up a really small place. The floor was covered with dead Palmetto bugs (read one to two inch cockroaches) My tools were scattered everywhere, when I finally got it cleaned up on one side, and got out clay to begin work, much of my polyclay was hard as a rock. Much of this can be reworked but I couldn’t sculpt at all today.

It may sound really stupid, but today was a wonderful day. I think a normal life is really beginning again.
(I am too tired tonight, but I will add pictures of the tree removal, the studio (still pretty cluttered) and sometime in the next few weeks I am going to begin to post the occasional piece of what I call my art. (The last time I did that, it was a script of a play improvised by my students in a theatre workshop two summers ago or my adventures as Scrooge.)