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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“I suddenly couldn’t say anything about some of the movies. They were just so terrible, and I’d already written about so many terrible movies. I love writing about movies when I can discover something in them – when I can get something out of them that I can share with people. The week I quit, I hadn’t planned on it. But I wrote up a couple of movies, and I read what I’d written, and it was just incredibly depressing. I thought, I’ve got nothing to share from this. One of them was of that movie with Woody Allen and Bette Midler, Scenes From a Mall. I couldn’t write another bad review of Bette Midler. I thought she was so brilliant, and when I saw her in that terrible production of ‘Gypsy’ on television, my heart sank. And I’d already panned her in Beaches. How can you go on panning people in picture after picture when you know they were great just a few years before? You have so much emotional investment in praising people that when you have to pan the same people a few years later, it tears your spirits apart.”
~ Pauline Kael On Quitting

“My father was a Jerome. My daughter’s middle name is Jerome. But my most vexing and vexed relationship with a Jerome was with Jerome Levitch, the subject of my first book under his stage and screen name, Jerry Lewis.

I have a lot of strong and complex feelings about the man, who passed away today in Las Vegas at age 91. Suffice to say he was a brilliant talent, an immense humanitarian, a difficult boss/interview, and a quixotic sort of genius, as often inspired as insipid, as often tender as caustic.

I wrote all about it in my 1996 book, “King of Comedy,” which is available on Kindle. With all due humility, it’s kinda definitive — the good and the bad — even though it’s two decades old. My favorite review, and one I begged St. Martin’s (unsuccessfully) to put on the paperback jacket, came from “Screw” magazine, which called it “A remarkably fair portrait of a great American asshole.”

Jerry and I met twice while I was working on the book and spoke/wrote to each other perhaps a dozen times. Like many of his relationships with the press and his partners/subordinates, it ended badly, with Jerry hollering profanities at me in the cabin of his yacht in San Diego. I wrote about it in the epilogue to my book, and over the years I’ve had the scene quoted back to me by Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Tom Hanks once told me that he had a dinner with Paul Reiser and Martin Short at which Short spent the night imitating Jerry throwing me off the boat.

Jerry was a lot of things: father, husband, chum, businessman, philanthropist, artist, innovator, clown, tyrant. He was at various times in his life the highest-ever-paid performer on TV, in movies, and on Broadway. He raised BILLIONS for charity, invented filmmaking techniques, made perhaps a dozen classic comedies, turned in a terrific dramatic performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” and left the world altered and even enhanced with his time and his work in it.

That’s an estimable achievement and one worth pausing to commemorate.

#RIP to Le Roi du Crazy

~ Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook