Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Hello, Clotters,

OK. I knew it would be a bit risky to write in gushing terms about our Good Friday. I know better than to tempt the random, flukey cosmic powers by suggesting we had the world by the tail…because that’s obviously the most vulnerable end of the tail to be on. And sure enough, poop happened. I was having lunch with some friends and telling them that things seemed to be looking up…when my cell phone buzzed. It was Dennis. And there was great frustration in his voice. Now, this does not exactly send red flags, because we’ve lived together so long, I just figured frustration was a side-effect of being married to me! But for once a different source was causing irritation. Apparently his feeding tube was kinked or blocked, and even after great efforts at flushing, he could not get his formula to pass through the nose hose.

It was imperative that we remedy the situation immediately, otherwise, he would have to be hospitalized over the weekend until Interventional Radiation could replace the whole system on Monday. So I had the waitress box up my hamburger, and I raced home. As we started our trek up to the Emergency Room, I suddenly became ravenous.

The aroma of the hamburger filled the car, and I began to salivate. Having been through this drill many times before, I knew we were in for a very long wait at the hospital, and opportunities for meals would be nonexistent. So I began to eat the hamburger as I drove. I don’t mean just “eat.” I wolfed, inhaled, snorted and gulped. Barely two chews per swallow. (I learned this culinary technique from our daughter, Erin.) I consumed that sucker so fast, it set a new low for bubbahood…oozing juices and all. I ate that burger in a feeding frenzy that ensured my established position at the top of the food chain forever. It was not pretty. And just at that moment, I was struck by the absurdity of it all. Here I was, rushing my 105 pound husband to the ER to replace a feeding tube so he could continue absorbing his glorified baby formula in the hopes that he would perhaps inch up to 106, and I had just consumed a cow…in record time, no less. Well, I was sick with remorse, guilt, shame. And I did what I always do when I am sick with remorse, guilt, shame…I started to laugh. More failed efforts at apology only caused more laughter. You know my motto: when in crisis, kill the fatted buffalo and begin the barbeque. By the time we reached the hospital, my expulsion of giggles had emitted partially moistened bun wads on my shirt. I was madly trying to remove the tell-tale sesame seeds from between my teeth as we walked up to the registration window…and, wouldn’t you just know it, they greeted us by name. I’m still embarrassed by the whole thing…but that was one delicious hamburger!

We were able to get Dennis a brand new shiny hose replacement, however. Installing it is a rather intricate procedure because all the organs in his midsection have been rearranged, and so it becomes rather technical, involving contrast dye and x-ray equipment. But the whole episode only took five hours total. And now he’s good to resume absorbing. I so look forward to the day when we can both humiliate ourselves by the compulsive consumption of solid food. I can’t wait till his breath smells of garlic instead of “eau de baby spit-up.” It will be nice to retire the whole hose system for mastication. Oh, there is such joy in anticipation.

We did have to postpone Dennis’s haircut, however. Pity, because there is undeniable evidence of creeping “helmet head.” I guess those are the consequences of an unscheduled ER run. Our son-in-law Dave, always the optimist, suggested we bury the tubing in Dennis’ beard so it would be less noticeable. I love our family. They make a party out of every situation. Sam, Brodi’s husband, keeps us entertained by hurling continual epithets of humiliation to the now-phantom mass. Seeing grown men get silly is a beautiful thing. Humor perpetuates a sense of well-being.

It’s funny how a slight adjustment in attitude can alter one’s whole perspective. Saturday night we changed our clocks ahead one hour for Daylight Savings Time. 4:30 AM arrived with premature punctuality. But my body was not convinced. My body knew instinctively that it was really 3:30. My biological clock has been ticking too long to be deceived by mere numbers on a time-piece. I do not love the extra early-morning darkness, I had a foreboding premonition that “Pissy” was going to be my alter ego from now on. However, I decided to look on the bright side and remain positive.

You know, the old “cup is half full” philosophy. So with that in mind, I decided that I had not lost an hour of rest…instead, I gained an hour of sleep deprivation. This minor adjustment in thinking allowed me to cheerfully go walking in the morning, even though it was darker, without fear of encountering that stealthy pod of nocturnal “were-skunks” that seemed so threatening on Friday. I felt empowered. There were birds singing so early I suspected they were insomniacs. And I noticed ever so many signs of approaching spring…crocuses in the gardens, and buds on the trees. I even saw a cloth rabbit hanging in a neighboring yard that swayed in the breeze and looked for all the world as if someone had just lynched the Easter Bunny. Very funny. I guess sometimes we must face the dark to see the light.

So, in spite of time changes, tube changes, and attitude changes, it’s a great day.


The Clot


kate o said...

Dennis, I get daily well wishes from your patients who really adore you. They miss you and send the best all the time. I must say I have enjoyed the experience of getting to know many of them better. Good people attract good people. Love Kate O

Aimee Stoddard said...

Dr. Ashton,
I recently found out about your battle. I guess this goes to show that we haven't been into the office in a while and my "Super Troopers" as you so often call them are doing well this year and not to many ear infections! Dr. Ashton we miss you and our thoughts and prayers are with you! Love Aimee, Trent and Bailee Stoddard