We be trippin’
Day 4258 (since I quit smoking 8/22/04)
What a trip. We live maybe 2 miles from the local airport. Getting there is never a problem. Checked in, got our boarding passes, checked our bags, did the security dealie and made it to our gate probably 15 minutes before boarding.
Got on our plane, it was one of the smaller regional jets. All 44 seats were booked. Pilot came on the PA, said something about a weight restriction and asked if we could get two people to de-board for a $400 bribe. One guy took them up on the offer Got $400 and a ticket to his final destination that actually had him getting there sooner than he would have had he stayed on. Sweet deal for him. Because only one person got off, it looked like the ground crew off loaded some fuel. Then we pushed away from the gate and sat there. And sat there, then we sat there some more. Total of 30 minutes. Rather scary as we had only a 50 minute layover and had no idea of what our gate arrangement was at O’Hare. Best guess for the delay? Waiting for an open gate at our destination (O’Hare) so we could fly straight in and not circle Illinois for a half hour because we were now operating on limited fuel. Oh joy!
Made Chicago. Came in at Gate B24. Had to get to Gate B2 (of course). And? Our next flight was actually scheduled to be boarding as we were pulling up to the gate. The people nearest us on the plane were all very cool and let us get out ahead of them. Get to the concourse, get oriented and head off. It was about 863 miles from B24 to B2 and that terminal had none of those handy slidewalks. At a hair over 6 feet, I can move out when needed, but at a whopping 5’1”, the spousal unit hates it when I put it in gear. So we walked at her best speed which is a leisurely stroll for me. Didn’t dare even hit a restroom on the way because of the already boarding issue I mentioned.
Got to gate B2 in outer Mongolia just as the tail end of our boarding group was headed up the jetway. Non stop flying!! The rest of the trip to New Orleans? Boring and uneventful. The best kind of travel.
Wednesday evening we hit all our usual haunts – Pat O’Brien’s, The Bayou Club, strolled down to the far end of Bourbon St to get dinner. Such a relief to have made it in one piece.
Thursday morning we caught the 2nd Line parade that marked the start of the French Quarter Festival. Here’s a few requisite pics of the parade happenings:
After the parade, we scooted down the side streets (helps to be familiar with the Quarter) and hit Jackson Square where the Preservation Hall Band was going to get the music part of the festival going. If you’ve never seen these guys and they come to your city – go see them. They play all the old jazz/Dixieland standards and the sousaphone player alone is worth the price of admission.
Most of the bands/music we wanted to hear were scheduled for 3 of the larger stages – 2 right on the river and the 3rd at the split of Decatur & North Peter St, right in front of the statues of Bienville and Iberville (Early settlers/founders of New Orleans) One stage was right next to where the riverboat Natchez docks. Here you can see the Natchez through the stage behind a band named “Bag of Donuts”. (Odd name, odder band, but if you were to have a party with 500 – 600 of your best friends and needed a band to play that evening, you’d want these guys. They play EVERYTHING and do it well.)
Here’s another shot, same stage, different day. The Natchez is returning from it’s lunch cruise and is offering a nice backdrop for Kim Carson. If you like the older Loretta Lynn style country music, she’s right up your alley. Doesn’t do a thing for me (in spite of her cuteness), but the spousal unit likes that stuff, so I took a bullet on that one.
That was pretty much the routine for Thursday and Friday. Hop from one stage to the next, check out some stuff we never heard, catch other stuff we knew we liked. Never, ever caught a bad act. Probably saw a dozen groups the first two days. On the weekend there were 27 stages going all through the Quarter and a total of 255 groups performing. The spousal unit counted. Usually I’m the weird one doing that, but there was time to kill during a band changeover I guess. . . .
Oh! Can’t forget this. Every time we are in New Orleans, Doreen H. sets up her little band on Royal St. right in front of Rouses Market. This year was no different. Awesome clarinet player, she’s actually a professor of music at one of the universities in New Orleans. She just plays on the street to help sell her albums and make a bit of grocery money. Yeah – we have a couple of her albums.
So anyhow. Doreen’s making her clarinet sing and a couple of unicorns come strolling down Royal, cutting between Doreen and the small crowd we’re in on the sidewalk across the street. To say I was shocked at the couple would be an understatement. I was shocked enough that I didn’t get my phone out in time to record this couple walking down the street. But, remember I said I could move out when I needed to? This was one of those times. I got lucky, the unicorns stopped for a photo op and I got a shot of this as they were getting going again.
Yeah. She’s wearing a unicorn horn, weird fuzzy boots, a diaper, pasties and a whole lotta blue body paint. I also noticed as I walked up behind them that the diaper was barely hanging on, and they did a VERY thorough job with the body paint. 1pm, walking down Royal St. Whoda thunk it?
Of course later that day I missed a completely naked girl walking down Bourbon St during the early evening. Oh well. Naked women I’ve seen, but blue unicorns? That’s different.
Saturday morning, everything changed. 7am CDT my phone rings. One of my brothers is calling. Never good. I answer the phone, asking what’s up? My brother, never one to mince words just blurts out, “Mom’s in the ICU in Columbus”
Mom is 77 and just started a trip with her sisters. They were headed for Tennessee to see one of my other brothers and were stopping in a bunch of spots along the way to see cousins, various points of interest, etc. Didn’t have a lot of details at that point, but since I am Mom’s POA and Health Care Proxy, I had shit to do.
I talked to my aunt who was in Columbus with mom. Friday morning she had a scratchy throat, hurt to swallow. They found an urgent care clinic, the people there did an exam – throat swab, peeking down the throat, etc. Rapid strep test comes up negative, diagnosis is post nasal drip and mom leaves urgent care with a prescription for Nasacort or some such juice. They tour the Columbus Zoo. A bust – it’s cold enough all the animals stay inside. Late that night, mom woke her sisters, said she couldn’t even swallow water and was having a lot of trouble breathing.
Soooooo, they get her to the ER at Mount Carmel West in Columbus. ER doc takes a look and pretty much knocks mom out and gets her intubated. This is like 3am Columbus time. They get an airway established, start pumping oxygen. Based on what he saw while trying to get the tube in place, the ER doc figures mom has epiglottitis – inflammation of the epiglottis – that little flappy thing that steers air to the lungs and food to the belly.
That got them to the point where they started calling. Mom being a Jehovah (that’s a whole ‘nother set of entries – some already made, check for categories on religion) so her DNR is rather specific – and in my fire safe.
Our trip was done through Travelocity. Easy, painless, hides bunches of details that until then, I didn’t give a shit about. Air travel was through United. Called them about re-arranging our return tickets. Saturday morning I’m on the phone with them (after the worlds’ worst biscuits and gravy breakfast) trying to change my Monday return flight to something Saturday afternoon. Cindy (the spousal unit) would fly home, I’d go to Columbus. After being on hold with the brains of United’s customer care center in Calcutta three times., the best they could do was to get the two of us home to Rochester late Sunday to the tune of $1800 dollars above and beyond what we’d already paid. Honestly, the trip didn’t cost much more than that to begin with.
Luckily, I explored a bit while choking down that nasty biscuits & gravy. Checked stuff out on my phone and knew what I would pay at Southwest to do exactly what I wanted. Ended up at the hotel courtesy computers making reservations with Southwest to get Cindy home and me in Columbus by 11pm that night for $1000 less than United wanted. Made the reservations, asked the front desk to get us a cab (foregoing the return trip we already had set up for Monday) and went upstairs and packed. We had 2 hours to make the first flight.
Long story slightly shorter (I do NOT want to know how fast the cab driver was driving to the airport, but he got a really nice tip for his efforts) (I think he was driving almost as fast as I do – I just prefer to be holding the wheel when I’m going that fast) lets just say Cindy got home and I made it to Columbus. My brother D was there to pick me up. They got me the last room available at the hotel where they were staying (damn their good taste!) and we crashed for the night.
Got to the hospital Sunday morning. Mom was awake, somewhat alert, and already shaking her finger at us like we weren’t supposed to be there. Too bad. My aunts said she looked much better than she did Saturday morning. Made me wonder just how bad that was. By the end of the day she was able to communicate by writing. At one point they actually cut off the fentanyl because she had trouble with her veins blowing. Apparently Fentanyl can cause trouble with that. Turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because with the fentanyl clearing out her mind cleared up too. Through the day her communication got better and better. Getting off the fentanyl also turned out to be a blessing in regards to extubation – but more on that later.
Got to talk to doctors, found out what the plan of action was, what was done Saturday morning, and cleared up mom’s rather specific DNR needs with regards to the Jehovahs Witness crap and her own desires to avoid that ugly permanent vegetative state.
Monday was the big day. There were tests to do to determine whether or not the breathing tube could be removed. Mom passed every one with flying colors. Getting off the fentanyl early helped with all of that. Apparently mom tolerated the tube – oh, I don’t even want to go there. But it got her off the fentanyl. By Monday afternoon the tube was out and mom could talk. Sort of. She sounded like Donald Duck. Apparently the end of the air tube actually projects through the vocal cords (how long IS that thing? And do you understand my reluctance to go there?)
Tuesday mom busted out of ICU and got a room in the general population. We were also trying to do a changing of the guard. We tried for 3 days to get our aunts to go home, but they refused to budge. Tuesday morning, I put on the last of my clean clothes and I was out of my daily prescriptions (I packed 1 day extra in case we could take a bump on the way home – never planned for this!) Our youngest brother (K) was headed to Columbus from home. We had asked him to hold off – we knew there was no immediate danger of mom jumping ship and there wasn’t much he was going to add. But by Monday night D and I knew we couldn’t stay longer. Mom was safe-ish and we all had to get back to our real lives. So K arrived Tuesday early afternoon. We had lunch at a place called Katalina’s. Ex gas station, funky little place, but they had THE BEST tacos. Really good lunch and it was near the place where we got mom a wheelie walker with a seat. Win win. Good food & ran an errand.
D, his wife and I finally got home Tuesday night. Mom was discharged late Wednesday. The gang stayed that night in Columbus. They hit the road late Thursday morning and arrived home Thursday just before dinner.
In the end, mom is ok and can now really start to rehab. Her throat malady is cleared up and the teeny bit of aspiration pneumonia she acquired is all but gone. She’s seen her doctor here in town and he’s all up to date on her little excursion and is following up. The scariest part of this whole mess is that had mom been at home, alone Friday night when things started to go sideways she probably wouldn’t have survived. As it was, the ER doctor said she may have been within 30 minutes of not making it as it was.
Mom has asked how many days of vacation we lost. That I told her. It was only 2 days. She hasn’t asked what we paid to make our changes. Wouldn’t matter, I won’t tell her anyhow. Bottom line was she was sick, needed us and we were able to do what was necessary.
The side bonus was that for what may be the first time since Dad died (1993) we 4 brothers were all in the same room at the same time. (I didn’t mention J – the resident Jehovah’s witness and only brother who lives outside our home county. He just chose Tennessee instead of upstate NY) I have to get hold of his wife (also a Cindy) and get a copy of the pictures she took. Haven’t seen them on Facebook yet, but I know she has them.
Best part of it all? Our trip to the French Quarter Festival got so fucked up, we’re going to do it again. Just don’t tell my mom.