Film Essent Archive for August, 2012

Adventures in Parenting: Hospital, Schmospital

Just when you think things are all settled down, they unexpectedly go awry. This was going to be a post about our fantastic camping trip to Ocean Shores, in which I actually went completely off internet for five days and survived. It did, actually, feel very good to unplug for that long for the first time in forever. And we did, actually, have a terrific time on our camping adventure, cooking many fairly extravagant meals and desserts, playing in the ocean, building sandcastles, watching the sun set over the endless blue Pacific, and sitting around the campfire. It was a lovely trip.

The one dark spot of the whole thing was that Neve, my 15YO, had a couple of bouts of extraordinarily bad abdominal pain, so bad I thought we’d have to trek to the nearest ER. But then both times, the pain resolved, and we thought all was well. Until Thursday afternoon, when the pain came back with a vengeance. Called our doc’s office, and fearing a burst appendix, they sent us directly to the nearest ER, do not pass go, do not delay. So off we went. Six hours, a very high white count and a suspicious but not conclusive CT scan and ultrasound later, Hospital #1 decided to transfer Neve by ambulance over to Children’s Hospital to let the pediatric specialists figure it out. After more tests, and several visits by the surgical team, they admitted her to the hospital with the plan of repeating the ultrasound the next day and possibly doing some exploratory surgery.

The CT scan indicated a large softball-sized mass near her left ovary, and things didn’t look too peachy on the ultrasound, so in short order I was conferring with surgeons about emergency surgery, signing off on the surgery forms, and a couple hours later she was off to the OR, with a great deal of uncertainty about what exactly they’d find. The surgery was supposed to take an hour or two. Around hour three I was getting nervous, and when they finally paged me back to surgery, I raced back there, where the nurse said, “Oh, yes, Patient Allen. Uh, we’re going to put you in this family conference room, the surgeon will be in shortly.” Erg. Okay, so was my daughter out of surgery yet? “Doctor will confer with you as soon as he can.” Great. So I sat, and I waited, and waited some more, distracting myself reading Cloud Atlas, a fog of parental worry enshrouding me.

Finally, finally, the surgeon came in, bearing mostly good tidings. They had removed a softball-sized cyst, from my daughter’s ovary. The cyst was so large it had caused torsion, and the ovary had gotten twisted three times into a tight spiral, cutting off blood supply. They were able to save most of the ovary, but the fallopian tube was dead. As for the cyst, it was huge, all right, one of the largest the surgeon had ever seen. But it was fluid-filled, not solid, and the surgeon was clearly relieved to be able to say that he didn’t think it looked malignant. Not 100% sure on that, yet, as they have to wait a week for pathology, but much better news than they’d thought going in.

So now we’re back in a cozy room, Neve’s pain meds are keeping her comfortable, she’s eating and moving around okay. We can go home later today and she will be recovered enough to still perform next week in Alice in Wonderland, in which she’s playing the Caterpillar. Not exactly what we’d planned when we headed out for camping last Friday, being back at Children’s again (this time, thankfully, sans the absurdly cheery holiday music I had to endure every time I popped down to the Starbucks on the first floor last December), but also much better than it could be.

Children’s is still Children’s, the constant parade of worried parents shuffling about, with only the faces mostly changing out. Last night I ran into a dad I met here last December whose baby girl has hepatoblastoma and had been here since last March; when we were going home that time, they had also just been released and were heading over to the Ronald McDonald house for a respite. Sadly, his daughter has relapsed, and the haunted look in his eyes and the tremble in his arms when he gave me a warm hug spoke of the kind of bone-weariness that sets in when a child is terribly sick and you want to fix it but can’t. I had no words to help him, this erstwhile hospital friend of mine, nothing to offer but a hug and a kind word. What else is there to say, besides “I’m so very sorry.” Worried as he must be about his own child, he was also concerned for mine and offered his well-wishes that all will come back clean on the pathology report. If anyone knows what it feels like to be waiting for pathology reports, it’s a parent who’s been dealing with them for over a year now with little likelihood that any of them will ever come back clear.

The docs and nurses here are great, they’ve taken great care of my baby. We will go home this evening, after the last round of IV antibiotics, and it’s likely the pathology report will be fine and we will go on with our lives in the outside world. I feel very blessed, every time we’re here, that our hospital stays are brief and not semi-permanent, that my child will heal completely within a couple weeks and all will be well. I hope, for my hospital friend, that healing happens for his baby girl as well.

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“When books become a thing, they can no longer be fine.

“Literary people get mad at Knausgård the same way they get mad at Jonathan Franzen, a writer who, if I’m being honest, might be fine. I’m rarely honest about Jonathan Franzen. He’s an extremely annoying manI have only read bits and pieces of his novels, and while I’ve stopped reading many novels even though they were pretty good or great, I have always stopped reading Jonathan Franzen’s novels because I thought they were aggressively boring and dumb and smug. But why do I think this? I didn’t read him when he was a new interesting writer who wrote a couple of weird books and then hit it big with ‘The Corrections,’ a moment in which I might have picked him up with curiosity and read with an open mind; I only noticed him once, after David Foster Wallace had died, he became the heir apparent for the Great American Novelist position, once he had had that thing with Oprah and started giving interviews in which he said all manner of dumb shit; I only noticed him well after I had been told he was An Important Writer.

“So I can’t and shouldn’t pretend that I am unmoved by the lazily-satisfied gentle arrogance he projects or when he is given license to project it by the has-the-whole-world-gone-crazy development of him being constantly crowned and re-crowned as Is He The Great American Writer. What I really object to is this, and if there’s anything to his writing beyond it, I can’t see it and can’t be bothered. Others read him and tell me he’s actually a good writer—people whose critical instincts I have learned to respect—so I feel sure that he’s probably a perfectly fine, that his books are fine, and that probably even his stupid goddamned bird essays are probably also fine.

“But it’s too late. He has become a thing; he can’t be fine.”
~ Aaron Bady

“You know how in postproduction you are supposed to color-correct the picture so everything is smooth and even? Jean-Luc wants the opposite. He wants the rupture. Color and then black and white, or different intensities of color. Or how in this film, sometimes you see the ratio of the frame change after the image begins. That happens when he records from his TV onto his old DVCAM analog machine, which is so old we can’t even find parts when it needs to be repaired. The TV takes time to recognize and adjust to the format on the DVD or the Blu-ray. Whether it’s 1:33 or 1:85. And one of the TVs he uses is slower than the other. He wants to keep all that. I could correct it, but he doesn’t want me to. See, here’s an image from War and Peace. He did the overlays of color—red, white, and blue—using an old analog video effects machine. That’s why you have the blur. When I tried to redo it in digital, I couldn’t. The edges were too sharp. And why the image jitters—I don’t know how he did that. Playing with the cable maybe. Handmade. He wants to see that. It’s a gift from his old machine.”
~ Fabrice Aragno