Pampered

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Photos by Cora Johnson

The recovery continues at the lovely little house called Aloha Moon in Pearl City, above the historic harbor of the same name.

Dick is alternately being pampered and exercised by Cora Johnson and Connie Raub, two of the best women on the planet—who cocooned him for warmth and gave him a foot rub and also accompany him on daily neighborhood walks. They also took him on his first outing since coming to the house Jan. 30, driving him to an exotic retail experience unique to Honolulu called Don Quijote, where he posed with his formerly favorite drink.

He returns home in a week, Feb. 15, a month to the day of his cardiac arrest, where he’ll be sent off in a celebration of life in Honolulu and warmly received (even if it is a Sacramento winter outside).

RDS at store with Pepsi

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His sweet baby face

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Dick Schmidt, February 2019 (photo by Cora Johnson)

When Dick’s mother Elizabeth was alive, she was always so happy when Dick, who had a beard for a good sixteen-plus years, shaved it off. She’d pat his hairless chin and exclaim, “There’s my baby boy!”

She was on to something because Dick did look younger without his beard, though in his prime he had a healthy, dark beard that I think gave him a rather distinguished look. Of course, as he’s aged and the beard has grown as white as the hair on his head, it gives him a different look. I still think he looks distinguished, but Dick calls it “just old.”

After his cardiac arrest, Dick made a half-hearted attempt with a plastic razor in the shower to eliminate some of his face foliage. But by the time of his surgery, he was just letting it grow. He had to decide whether to keep it or shave it. I was good either way—fuzzy or not fuzzy, I’m just happy to have him upright in the world, his newly repaired heart chugging away, stronger than it’s been in years.

In 2004, Dick wrote a letter to a friend in which he detailed the story about how he came to have the beard. Here is part of that story:

“The beard ‘took root’ on my previously ever-smooth face due to the unexpected influence of two hippie girls from San Francisco, in October 1968. That’s when I was a participant in a Sierra Club Wilderness Outing to the Big Island, where our group was destined to camp on various beaches, moving several times during the 10-day outing, as we explored the island.

“I’d always been a clean-shaven, fresh-faced young man, and, embarking on this 10-day outdoor adventure, planned to remain as pure. I’d always used an electric shaver, and knew there would be no outlets in the Hawaiian wilderness, so I borrowed my dad’s Remington electric shaver, which had a built-in battery. This was (if you’ll excuse the expression) cutting-edge technology in the ’60s; a corded electric shaver with a built-in rechargeable battery was an uncommon luxury then.

“The main drawback of an early-years battery powered shaver was its short charge life. You could get maybe three shaves out of it before it needed to be plugged in for an overnight charge. My plan, for the 10-day adventure, was to shave every third day. That way I would return to Sacramento looking just as respectable, with regard to facial hair, as when I left.

“It so happened that, within this large group of campers (who came from many different states and were a wide variety of ages) four of us were from Northern California. We were in our mid-twenties, and kind of found each other early on and began to ‘hang out’ together. We’d hike as a group, gather together at meal times, and pitched our tents nearby each other whenever we’d move to a new campsite.

“This foursome consisted of me, a guy from Stockton, and two authentic hippie chicks from San Francisco, Marilyn and Joan.  They actually lived right in the heart of the Haight-Ashbury District, on Cole Street, in a tiny 3rd floor walk-up apartment.

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Dick Schmidt, 1968, and the two who convinced him to grow his beard.

“After breakfast on the morning of the third day, I was about to get my dad’s Remington from my tent at Hapuna Beach State Park, on the northwestern shore of the Big Island, to remove the first few days worth of beard. (Remember that every-third-day shaving plan mentioned earlier?)

“I casually mentioned to the others that I’d be right along, to start a hike we’d planned, after a quick shave with the battery-operated device. There was an immediate outcry from both hippie chicks as the words left my mouth.

“’No, man, you can’t do that! Let your beard grow.’ I explained that I’d never had a beard before and wanted to retain my familiar look. ‘Come on, man, this is the place to do it…you’re in the wilderness and camping on beaches in Hawaii.’ They were very persuasive, clearly alarmed at what was, to me, a natural, routine task to maintain decent personal hygiene. Their faces were practically distorted with bewilderment.

“They didn’t let up: ‘Look at yourself––your beard’s already started. It’ll really look good, man. Don’t shave. Why would you want to do that? Just let it happen!’  Well, this was quite some pressure––and logic––coming from these two free spirits, one of whom was braless, and, as she made her arguments, two protrusionary points beneath her shirt bounced around, punctuating her animated statements.

“What else could a guy do, being lectured and lobbied like this?  I yielded to the two hippie chicks from San Francisco. I didn’t shave that day after all––or any other day as the outing progressed. And, at the end of 10 days, I could see they’d been right: My beard, while still in its way-early formative stage, seemed to be taking on a good shape, and I liked the way it appeared.

“I decided to let it continue to grow, though I knew there’d be a bit of uncertainty (and even scorn) by family, friends and co-workers once I was home. Full beards were not yet that common––in the 1960s––on business people, being more associated with vagrants, mountain men, poets, hippies and wackos. People eventually adjusted to my new look, and the beard, though trimmed regularly, never left my face for over 16 years until the morning of January 18, 1984, when I shaved it off––and went to work.”

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Shaving the facial fuzz, February 2019 (photo by Cora Johnson)

Once again Dick made the same decision, and the girls—Cora and Connie—who are caring for him in Pacific Palisades in Pearl City, Hawaii, dutifully bought him an electric razor. Then Cora documented the ritual of beard shaving, Dick Schmidt-style.

I understand this: When you get a new lease on life, you go for the younger look.

He continues to get stronger each day in Honolulu, but he’s looking forward to coming home—clean shaven—Feb. 15, two days after his 76th birthday and, of course, a day after Heart Day. Though for Dick, every day is now Grateful Heart Day.

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His sweet baby face, February 2019 (photo by Cora Johnson)

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Mulling it over

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To beard or not to beard…

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Update on Dick Schmidt from his care team in Hawaii:

Saturday he walked outside, on an actual sidewalk, for a respectable distance. Super Bowl Sunday he was rocking a sugar-free Pepsi and having some chips. (Good sign that his appetite is improving! I understand that there’s also been consumption of much healthier stuff, too.)

Note the beard growth. He’s trying to decide if he should keep it or shave it. Pro for keeping it: It’s easier, especially for now. Con: It makes him look, he says, like Foster Brooks.

RDS Super Bowl

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Another ‘anela

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Kamehameha’s warriors, Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, Honolulu

ʻanela (ah-nay-la): angel (in Hawaiian)

On the first day of February, after being away from home for nearly a month—roughly half of that as planned vacation, half of it not—I returned to Sacramento from Hawaii, winging my way across the Pacific for the first time by myself.

Since 1995 I’ve traveled to and from Hawaii with Dick at least once and occasionally two times a year. He is the reason I go to Hawaii, having formed an attachment with the place beginning in February 1968 when he took that month off from his job as a Sacramento Bee photographer to spend a week on each of the major islands.

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Dick Schmidt on some of his first trips to Hawaii, 1968-69.

He turned 25 on Feb. 13, on the Big Island, where he was surprised to learn that they had an active volcano. He drove from Hilo up to Volcanoes National Park, made his way to the crater called Halemaʻumaʻu (Hah-lay-mah-umu-u). There he climbed up the steps of bleachers—like the ones set up for sporting events—and watched bright orange lava bubble up from the belly of the earth. He had other jaw-dropping experiences on Maui, Kauai and Oahu, too. And he knew he wanted to return.

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In 2009 Dick Schmidt and Mary Lou Mangold revisit the hut where they spent part of their honeymoon in 1971 at the Kona Village on the Big Island of Hawaii.

In 1971 Dick took a leave of absence from The Bee, shortly after he married Mary Lou Mangold, and they spent their first year together in Honolulu. Dick had gotten a temporary job at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and Mary Lou took a leave of absence from her state job in Sacramento to work for a bank. They loved it there, and that year changed their lives in the best possible ways. They made lifelong friends and traveled throughout the islands. That was when Hawaii became home for them. Even after they divorced in the 1980s, Dick and Mary Lou remained lifelong friends, traveling to Hawaii a number of times together to visit people and places they loved.

Dick has shown me that part of his heart and home, showing me the places that have touched him deeply—from Kalaupapa, the former leprosy settlement on the island of Molokai, to exploring the Kilauea eruption on the Big Island, which just concluded in spectacular (and destructive fashion) last year. We’ve driven and hiked the former pineapple-growing island of Lanai, and we’ve spent weeks soaking up the north shore of Kauai. But Oahu, in so many ways, because they lived there, is one of Dick’s homes.

We did not expect to extend our vacation, as many people have suggested, by spending it in a hospital in Honolulu, but once again, Hawaii opened its heart to Dick’s struggling one. We’ve found nothing but kindness and ohana (family) who have been extremely sympathetic to Dick’s health crisis and my needs, too.

So while I hated to leave Dick, I did so knowing that he was in the good hands of our two friends, Connie and Cora, in a lovely little house in Pearl City. I was taken to the airport by two now-dear friends who’ve done a great deal for us—Jenna Tanigawa of the AED Institute and Makena Ongoy, my former student. Still, I sat at gate E9, waiting to board the Hawaiian Airlines flight home, with a heavy heart.

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Chris Ohta at the Hawaiian Airlines podium

Then I heard my name over the loudspeaker: “Will Janis Haag, passenger on flight 20 to Sacramento, come to the podium?” Oh, no, I thought. What now? But I took myself to the podium to see one man helping another passenger. I waited and then introduced myself. And Chris Ohta made my day.

“I wanted to see you again,” he said, and my eyebrows rose. I didn’t remember him. “I’m the one who used the AED on your husband,” he said, and my mouth fell open.

“You? You were the one?” I said. “You ran for the AED?”

“Yes,” Chris said.

“You opened it and placed the pads on his chest and belly? You shocked him?”

“Yes,” Chris said.

“You need to come out from behind there,” I told him. “I need to give you a hug.” And I did.

“How did it happen?” I asked. “What did you see?”

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ʻAnela Chris Ohta

Chris said that he and his colleague Heather Tanonaka were at the podium when Dick fell into the metal luggage-sizing stand. They saw him hit the ground, not moving. She immediately picked up the phone and called 911. He went to find the nearest AED, which are placed 90 seconds apart at the Daniel K. Inoyue International Airport in Honolulu. He knew where to go, retrieved the device and sprinted back to gate C1. He opened the device, which began talking to him, giving him instructions. But Chris had also been trained and knew to take the pads and place one on Dick’s heart and another on the opposite side on his ribs. The machine told him (as we learned in our training the day before from Jenna) that the patient did not have a heart rhythm, said “clear” and delivered the shock that delivered Dick back to life.

I was stunned.

“I wanted to meet you,” Chris said again. “And so did Heather, but she couldn’t be here today.”

They knew I was coming because Pam Foster of the AED Institute had contacted Hawaiian Airlines to arrange my flight home. Chris made sure he was working the gate where I’d be. I’d walked right past him to sit down and had a momentary thought to check in since I hadn’t set up that flight. But I’d checked a bag and had a boarding pass, so I didn’t think I needed to.

It turned out that I did. I needed to meet one more of the ʻanela—the angels—who saved Dick Schmidt’s life. (I think, among our many companion spirits, one of those saviors was Mary Lou Mangold, the little red-haired angel who died in 2016.) We’ve encountered so many of them in this village of healing and aloha that is Hawaii. We are so grateful to the 50th state for many reasons, but Hawaii has given us one more reason to love them with our appreciative, happily beating hearts.

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Honolulu from the air

 

 

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Tres amigas

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Good morning, sunshine: the “wimmin” of Dick’s all-girl care team—Connie, Cora and me.

So many people have offered to fly to Hawaii to stay with/care for/tend to Dick and me throughout this ordeal, and we have been touched by every one of those offers. When it became clear that I needed to return to Sacramento before Dick, and that he needed to stay a bit longer in Honolulu recovering from his bypass surgery before coming home, we had to decide whom we might ask to come stay with him.

It came down to Big C and Little C: Cora and Connie, two of Dick’s “wimmin,” as he calls them. (And me, too; I’m one of the wimmin.) Cora’s the taller one (Big C), Connie’s the shorter one (Little c).

Dick has known Connie Gibson (later Raub) since they were kids in Sacramento. Connie went off to Chapman College in Orange, California, where she met Cora Hoffmaster (later Johnson) and they became roommates—even after college when they were young teachers together. That’s when Dick became friends with Cora, too. Connie taught choir/drama and Cora taught P.E. and was later a high school librarian. Each of them cared for husbands with illnesses—Cora’s Bob with a bypass and later a heart transplant, Connie’s Richard with cancer.

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Connie in her shirt that Dick got for her some time ago, the perfect shirt for her trip to Oahu as one of Dick’s caretakers.

As I’ve said before: These women know how to deal with sick and recovering men. They’re also powerhouses who eat and cook (mostly) healthy food, work out regularly, volunteer in so many ways in their communities (Cora in Minden, Nevada, and Connie in Colorado Springs, Colorado), and are just generally all-around, fun-to-be-with, funny, compassionate people.

It also helps that they adore Dick. (So many people do.) And when I called each of them from the hospital and asked if they’d consider coming to help Dick after I left Oahu, their responses were immediate yeses. As if we didn’t already love them and consider them family, this certainly clinched the deal.

They arrived the day Dick was released from the hospital, Jan. 30, and we moved all of us and all our stuff to a rental house in Pearl City—the three of them for two weeks of caretaking.

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First real shower, post-hospital

I have to say that in the first 24 hours with Cora and Connie, Dick is eating more—Connie’s tuna melts have won his newly snappy heart, and the nearby Palisades Cafe takeout they brought in tasted very good to him. He’s had more energy (though he’s still napping a lot), and the optimistic outlook of the girls, as he fondly calls him, has lightened his mood. A haircut (by me, as I often do when we travel) and a real shower helped, too.

While I hate to leave Dick, I fly home today very reassured that all is well and all manner of thing shall be well with Big C and Little c handling this healing project. They will get him to his follow-up appointment with the cardiac folks here and accompany him home on the plane. And Connie, who was rubbing Dick’s head (which makes him purr), offered me a bit of heaven on my last night on Oahu by giving me a foot rub (which made me purr, too). All the tension of the past couple of weeks fell into her soothing hands. I was beyond happy and oh, so grateful.

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Friends like these are not only keepers for life, but they also provide the means to forge on when times get tough. Connie and Cora, you are not only a major part of our healing village in Hawaii, you also are no ka oi (the best)!

 

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Stayin’ alive

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(From left), Cora, Mr. Manikin, Connie, Dick (with our new AED) and me (photo by Jenna Tanigawa)

So it turns out that if you’re performing CPR correctly on someone—high quality, fast compressions between 100 and 120 beats a minute—it helps to hum a song. One that’s been suggested for years is the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive.” You gotta love the irony of that.

But, according to an NPR story done in 2017 by Rebecca Hersher, there are a number of good song choices:

“In addition to Stayin’ Alive, Hanson’s MMMbop, Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror, Missy Elliott’s Work It, Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun and Mariah Carey’s Heartbreaker also made the list.

“Another One Bites the Dust by Queen is one thematically interesting choice to include,” Hersher wrote.

Apparently, Spotify has a list of possible tunes called “Songs to do CPR to.” There are even more current tunes, but for some of us oldsters who were re-trained in CPR and the use of an AED, we’ll stick with the Bee Gees and Cyndi Lauper.

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Jenna Tanigawa

Jenna Tanigawa, project manager of the AED Institute in Honolulu, who with her boss, Pam Foster, came to visit Dick the day after his cardiac arrest in the hospital, today brought us our very own Automated External Defibrillator to take home with us. Talk about a door prize!

I learned CPR back in the dark ages of the 1970s when I was training to be a Water Safety Instructor for the city of Roseville where I eventually went to work as a lifeguard, swimming instructor and synchronized swimming coach. In those days, you also gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation—two breaths to every ten chest compressions, as I recall. In subsequent re-trainings over the years, that’s what I practiced. Nowadays, mouth-to-mouth is out partly because, Pam Foster told me, if it collapses, the body has about 10 minutes of air. CPR is all about the compressions, keeping that heart pumping oxygen-rich blood to the brain.

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Jenna Tanigawa coaches Cora and Connie through CPR and the use of an AED.

That’s one of the things that made me realize that it’d been way too long since I’d had up-to-date CPR training.

Connie, Cora and I got that on the last day of January from Jenna, who just the day before had been training folks at the airport about AEDs. “After Dick’s cardiac arrest, there’s been a lot of interest at the airport,” Pam Foster told me on the phone.

We’re amused and rather tickled that he’s become a poster boy for AEDs and the lifesaving work they perform. But, we’ve learned, AEDs don’t actually restart stalled hearts; in fact, they stop the heart with a sudden shock, allowing it a chance to resume a regular rhythm. It doesn’t always work. It depends on the reason for the heart attack or cardiac arrest (which are different things, it turns out). Dick had the latter. His heart went into ventricular fibrillation, a kind of cardiac arrhythmia when the heart quivers instead of pumping due to disorganized electrical activity in the ventricles, according to Wikipedia. People with vFib lose consciousness, as Dick did, and have no pulse.

An AED automatically analyzes the heart rhythm of a pulseless person and, if the person is in ventricular fibrillation (VF) or ventricular tachycardia (VT), will shock the victim’s heart in an attempt to restore its rhythm to normal. AEDs will not shock patients who do not require a shock.

e280a2e-img_6261-jennapadsSo Connie, Cora and I practiced, putting two pads—one on the upper chest, one on the belly—on the training manikin Jenna travels with. We did chest compressions and watched as Mr. Manikin’s right shoulder beamed with green lights (to signify the correct kind of compression) or red lights (not correct compression). What we three learned on the floor, as Dick watched from his spot on the sofa, is that CPR is physically demanding. It poops you out, and that’s why it’s good to have someone else to take over compressions when you need a break. We also learned that not only do the compressions need to be done in a consistent, pretty fast rhythm (stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive), but they also have to be fairly hard and deep.

“You can’t hurt the patient,” Jenna reminded us. “He’s gone.”

And one formerly gone patient one week after his bypass surgery sat there watching us, unable for the moment to join in the training. But he will when his chest heals, as his newly repaired heart grows stronger. He is now the proud owner of an AED, which he hopes never to have to use. But he will know how, and for the rest of his life, he will tell the story of how one saved him.

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Jenna Tanigawa demonstrates the proper use of an AED as Dick Schmidt looks on.

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E komo mai

And so, fifteen days after his heart stopped and was restarted again, after some major league replumbing of that heart, and with the help of a lot of people, I sprung him from the hospital.

He was untethered from his last wire, deftly pulled out of his chest by cardiac PA Tim Berkeley the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 30. Shy, the health aide who shaved him before his triple bypass Jan. 24, helped him shower for the first time post-surgery. Nurses Agnes and Tatyana were the last ones to care for him on the third floor. And he was showered in the metaphoric sense with hugs and handshakes by staff who’ve become ohana (family) to us.

We have a long list of people to thank at Kaiser Moanalua Medical Center.

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Nurses Agnes (left) and Tatyana prepare to help Dick check out of his fancy Hawaii hotel.

This heart surgery stuff has come a long way since the days 35 years ago when I watched my late husband undergo an aortic valve replacement. Yes, they still open the chest. But the whole process feels far less brutal. Techniques to make this easier on the patient have clearly been developed and brought to a high level—including the small incision below the knee to extract the vein for the bypass, pioneered by Dr. John Lee, part of the surgical team that operated on Dick.

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Kindnesses continued to come our way, even on the last day. Agnes, our nurse on departure day, after learning that Dick never got an official Kaiser heart pillow, searched and found him one—made of official Kaiser fabric and inscribed on the back, “Made by Manoa Lions.” Mahalo, Manoa Lions! And Agnes, too… she made our day.

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Our dear friend Cora Johnson flew in a bit before noon from Nevada, half of the team of devoted people who will care for Dick over the next two weeks after I go home. She brought Dick new duds—from sweatpants and undies to button shirts and a blue hoodie, new socks and moccasins. She saw her late husband, Bob Johnson, through a CABG many years ago and, in 2001, a heart transplant. This is a woman who knows how to help a fella heal after heart surgery.

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Because this is what it looks like less than a week after surgery—no tape holding anything together, just the imprint of silver that will gradually wear away, a substance that helps prevent bacteria from entering that lovely incision. He’s got a few new puka (holes) in chest and belly and leg, but the docs now leave them uncovered at this point, breathing along with him. (And he’s rocking the beginnings of a new beard, too!)

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Dick with his sack of meds

Then, after picking up medications at the hospital pharmacy, Dick was ready to be wheeled out to the rental car Cora and I picked up at the airport after her arrival, and make our way… well, away from the hospital, which has been a remarkable place of refuge and healing. Sure, they wake you up way too often to poke you and measure you (my mother, the former hospital nurse, always says the worst place to get some rest is in a hospital). But these folks were so compassionate and caring—above and beyond, it seemed to us, what is typical in hospitals. They hung around and talked story when they could; they asked us about ourselves and our lives. They treated us like old friends. More than one person asked to see the video Dr. Dang, the surgeon, shot of Dick’s heart before and after the repair and, like us, marveled at the difference.

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Cora with all our stuff

And we got in the rental Nissan and made our way west to Pearl City and a neighborhood called Pacific Palisades, where, coincidentally, our friend Connie Raub (who also landed in Hawaii today to be part of the care team) used to live in Southern California.

As my late friend Julie used to say, “Honey, there are no accidents.”

We came to a sweet little house on a street called Komo Mai Drive, which made me smile. E Komo Mai means “welcome” in Hawaiian. It is emblazoned over the entrance to Kaiser Moanalua Medical Center. You see it on mats outside homes and in hotels. It says to the visitor (malihini), come on in, leave your slippers on the mat, sit a spell and talk story with us.

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This is a place where we have been made welcome, and while we are happy to be again released into the world, we’re a bit sad to leave, too. But then look where we’ve landed—on welcome street.

This occurred to me today on what is my half birthday. I am 60-and-a-half years old. I’ve always had a fondness for the date Jan. 30—my name in the first month and the number of the day on which I was born in July. It feels like a bit of a rebirth for me, too, this whole experience. In some ways it seems as if it happened yesterday—there’s nothing cliché about that. That image of Dick dropping to the floor in the airport will stay with me forever. But in other ways it seems like more than two weeks have passed. How could so much happen so quickly? To die, be brought back to life, rest and allow experts to evaluate his condition, determine what needed to be done… and then do that… and then begin to heal and suddenly, out the door not even a week after bypass surgery?

Miracles about in the land of “komo mai,” and we continue to have full, happily beating hearts, awash in it all.

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Connie, Dick and Cora share a giggle in the new digs on Komo Mai Drive.

 

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Doggie kisses

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Tono and me

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well… for there is a Force of love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go. 
—Julian of Norwich

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought or whispered to myself as I’ve walked down the stairs to the cafeteria here at Kaiser Moanalua Medical Center, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Regardless of what happens next. Which is a difficult posture to maintain—life or death… recovering from a cardiac bypass… Yes, Life Is Good. And we have been graced with the kindness of strangers and people we barely know throughout this whole experience.

For example, today in Room 324, we had validation of that all manner of thing shall be well with the arrival of two four-footed furry friends making the rounds with their people.

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Tono and Mel Kai

Tono Kai, a local service dog, travels the hallways of Kaiser Moanalua Medical Center with his person, Mel Kai a couple of times a week. They’d visited us once before in a room across the hall before Dick’s surgery, and we both melted at the sight of the big blond dog with his blue bandana and official Kaiser ID hanging from his collar.

Mel asked if we wanted a visit, and though Dick couldn’t see them at first from the bed, I jumped up and said, “Oh, yes!” So they came in and, after sniffing each of us, Tono lay down on the cool floor. I got down there with him and learned again that Tono enjoys head scratches (like Dick) and belly rubs (Dick not so much right now), and is a master healer.

We’ve enjoyed visits from a number of folks here—some of whom we know and some of whom are new to us. Yesterday Sue Young, one of Dick’s friends whom he met in the 1970s when he lived here and worked for the then-named Honolulu Star-Bulletin, came to see us. Sue was married to Bob Young, who became Dick’s best Hawaii buddy. He and Dick stayed close until Bob’s death a decade ago.

And in one of those there-are-no-coincidences moments, we learned that Bob Young’s sister Jackie was also in this same hospital. She’d had a stroke and was in a room two floors above ours.

Today we also got a visit from Jervin Wait, who took a series of local buses out to see us. He and his wife Dolly spend four months in Honolulu every year, escaping part of a South Dakota winter. They bus everywhere, and though Jerv (who is a high school friend of Dick’s brother-in-law, John Thompson) doesn’t know us, he’s been kind to email and make a visit.

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Dick and Hawaii Jan

Hawaii Jan (as we call her; I’m California Jan), the daughter of one of Dick’s former Sacramento Bee photographer buddies, has been a lifesaver. Not only did she find us the rental house we’ll stay in starting Wednesday, she also brought us supplies to make our stay here easier (the warm pink sweatshirt-material blanket!) picked me up and took me to lunch last Saturday. Few visitors get to lunch at the Alley Restaurant, which is a part of the Aiea Bowling Alley. I had the specialty chicken sandwich, Jan had a good-looking burger, and we both shared the lemon crunch cake, which had what tasted like crushed toffee on top. Heaven!

Also today we got a second visit from a four-footed, furry friend named Indy, who arrived with his person Steve. And chaplain Leavitt Thomas has been in pretty much daily to chat with us. Andy and Leona Doughty, who came to take me to dinner the night before Dick’s surgery and then sat with me during the surgery, as well as my former student Makena Ongoy, who’s done Target runs and bought me stuff I’d never have thought of… this has meant the world to us.

We’ve been bidding our fond aloha to nurses and health aides who’ve tended to us over the past two weeks, to internal medicine docs and cardiac folks—even the cafeteria ladies—each of whom has treated us like ohana—family. We are beyond touched by this. And while it’ll be nice to let Dick rest in a house where he won’t be awakened so often, we’ll miss these devoted Kaiser Moanalua staff folks who have taken such tender care of him… and me, too.

Mahalo nui loa to you all.

tono and dick

Tono and Dick

 

 

 

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Life Is Good

•e-img_6031-lig shirt

I’m a big fan of the Life Is Good T-shirts. Have been for years. I like their fun designs and upbeat messages (one of my faves is the simple drawing of a glass with some liquid in it that says “Half full”) by this company founded by two brothers, Bert and John Jacobs, in Boston in 1994.

A couple of years ago on Kauai I bought Dick a special Hawaii LIG shirt with the company’s stick figure named Jake snorkeling on it. Dick has worn it on every Hawaiian trip since. The day of his cardiac arrest, he was wearing that shirt as we stood in line to board the plane. When he collapsed and people began working on him, they cut through the shirt to place the pads and leads on his chest that brought him back to life.

We are keeping the shirt—and his precious photo vest that was also cut off—because of what it represents. As our friend Andy pointed out when he saw this photo, the shirt was slit vertically down the center, right between the “i” and “s” in “Is.” If that’s not irony, I don’t know what is.

Dick is. Life is… not perfect, as some of the LIG shirts say. But it is good. He is great. And though it’s unlikely we can replace this same LIG shirt, we will treasure it always.

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RNs Donovan and Sally have a chuckle with Dick on Day 4 after surgery.

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