An eclectic website about Women, Christianity,
History, Culture and the Arts--
and anything else that comes to mind.
We all have a sense of who we are. I'm a healthy person. I've
always looked younger than I am. I'm a take-charge sort of person
who gets things done. I'm competent, capable, and quick to think
and act. All that changed in an instant when I ended up in the hospital.
On June 14, I was scheduled for surgery, and the next day, my
biggest decision was what to order for breakfast, and it was a difficult
one to make.
The hospital was the Ronald Reagan Medical Center on the campus
of UCLA. It's a wonderful place to be if you have to be in a
hospital. I. M. Pei, the local architect who designed the hospital,
wrote, "What is the true impact of space, light and nature on
wellness? I believe the design of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical
Center will affect the people who work, visit and receive care here.
The principal objective is to create an environment for healing."
Large windows in each room and at the end of each hallway open up
to views of the hills of Westwood and the brick buildings of the
UCLA campus--a lovely mix of nature and cityscape. Blinds on the
windows allow for softened views--particularly lovely in the mornings.
Steven Mittleman, my regular doctor as long as I've lived in Culver
City, is a member of the UCLA Medical Group, and I was pleased to
discover that that was where he'd refer me. I knew they'd be fine for
routine problems, but what really pleased me was that, if anything
serious came along, they would have cutting-edge resources.
And something serious did come along. I was working at the Healthy
Start office at Westchester High School, walking across the campus
to get students for services, maintaining records on them and writing
grant proposals to fund our efforts. But gradually I began to realize
that something was wrong. It was increasingly difficult to walk up and
down the stairs on campus, increasingly difficult to think what I was
doing and what I needed to do next.
My boss Marvin Cooper didn't realize there was a problem, but I
did, and I requested some time off for tests to identify what that
problem was. I was concerned about Alzheimer's, a frightening
Dr. Mittleman referred me to Dr. Verna Porter, a neurologist. She
ordered a battery of tests, including an MRI. When she showed me
the slides of cross sections of my brain, even I could see that one
ventricle was enlarged, indicating the presence of extra fluid.
She referred me to Dr. Bob Shafa, a neurosurgeon, who
recommended a shunt from my brain to my abdomen to drain the fluid.
On June 14, Dr. Shafa and his team placed the shunt, and it was an
immediate success. Both my balance and my memory improved as
the excess fluid drained off. In a few days, I was back at home.
Then I had a seizure. Our son Robert found me and called 911,
saving my life but making me end up right back in the hospital again.
The seizure had been caused by an imbalance in my electrolytes, and
it in turn caused me to aspirate, which gave me pneumonia. All in all,
I spent most of two weeks in the hospital.
While I was in the hospital, Frank came one morning with the good
news that the Supreme Court had declared the major provisions of
the Affordable Healthcare Act constitutional. I was getting such good
care that I was really glad to hear that other people woud be able to
get it as well. I can't imagine wanting something good for myself
without wanting it for other people, too.
My self-image as a strong and healthy person was destroyed. And
when they gave me a walker to see that I didn't fall again, I almost
cried. It destroyed my self-image as a person youthful for my age.
It makes me wonder if I wouldn't be better off just taking life as it
comes and not building images of myself that set me up for
disappointment. Maybe I should just live each day as God gives it,
and not saddle myself with so many expectations.
My time in the hospital, and my continuing recovery at home, have
given me an appreciation of the things I've written about on the other
pages of this website: the medical team that treated me, the support of
my family, and the importance of spiritual as well as physical health.
Your comments are welcome; please write to me at
Dr. Shafa (above), UCLA Medical Center, and
my self-image (below).