Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Organ Donation Chronicle - D Minus 14

A friend is someone who late at night picks you up at the airport having asked you want you want to eat, picking up on the way so it is in the car waiting for your with a nice cold brew in a coffee travel mug (so we don't get picked up for an open container). Thanks Lakeview!

Now back to the tale

Part 3

Getting Serious

By now it was getting towards the summer of 2006. We initiated contact with the hospital where my sister was being taken care of, Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut and began the series of screening tests. This consists of blood and urine tests that identify how well you match or don’t match and how healthy one’s kidney functions are since they’re not going to take a kidney from you if you are having your own problems.

There were a couple of humorous moments here. When you stop in for the first set of blood tests they come out with almost a dozen vials. I think my jaw must have dropped because the technician made a comment about how this was indeed a lot of blood to be taken. Another test is known as the 24-hour urine sample. This requires you to literally collect all one’s waste for an entire day. I will just tell you that it’s a helluva lot! Emotionally once you’ve made a decision like this, you now start to become worried about failing to be able to follow through on the commitment. So it was relief to me when the results of these tests were positive

The next hurdle was a trip to Hartford Hospital. By now they had gotten a complete medical history, ekg, and other general health tests. The trip to Hartford included meeting the doctors, being told what was going to happen, meeting a psychologist (they try to screen out the self-sacrificial) and getting an MRI to find out what the kidneys look like and where they were exactly located.

The results of everything were positive. I was fully approved. We began talking about dates. Our desire was to do it around Christmas time when activity in my business tended to slow down. We began discussing specifics and mechanics of how we were going to arrange for my care and stay in Connecticut and what we were doing business wise. I began to tell various business contacts about what might be happening so that the appropriate planning could take place. We researched mechanisms for financial aid (there aren’t many) and I talked to lots of people who had been through donating. We were gearing up and dealing with our concerns and issues as best we could.

Then we got a call from my sister. Everything was going to be on hold. Evidently the deterioration of her kidney function had stopped and was hovering at a level higher than the threshold beyond which they will do a transplant. We learned that this is not an uncommon situation where a recipient will plateau, hold steady, and then suddenly start having the kidney function deteriorate again. After all of our efforts, we were on indefinite hold.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Short Dark Interlude

Since I got back from the trip I have been filled with positive thoughts about the upcoming donation and sure of the rightness of the decision and its outcome. But every once and a while as I will relate in the story, I get an attack of the dark fears.

Yesterday was one. I was allegedly going to make sure Mrs. de-I was totally OK and had verbalized any fears to me but ended up just hitting the play button of my own inner loop of anxieties. The biggest tend to be financial and not following through. I sent off a mass email to our business contacts to inform them of my being out of touch for a period. I also did my May billing which will be very low because I've ramped back my activities.

So the fears go something like this:

They will cancel the procedure - what to do I say to everyone
My whole business is going to collapse and I'm going to be destitute
I've got everything planned out - what if it gets delayed
etc, etc.

No problem - my confidence and faith are solid - dealing with these are just part of the process.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Organ Donation Chronicle - D Minus 16

Continued story of my decision to donate my kidney

Part 2

Weighing The Choices

The choices I discussed last time get going over and over in my head and in my discussions with Wife – what would be the consequences to us to her if the worse happened. At the same time there was this other theme – I could save her life. Or I could let her go on dialysis and wait and wait and wait until maybe she came up on the donation list. And I balanced this against the importance of my life to my family and what my sister’s contribution was.

That was a particularly bad space to be in. How do you judge another persons life. Do you do it on accomplishment? Values? Wealth? What? Ultimately for me the entire conundrum came down to a rather simple thought. If the roles were reversed, would I want someone examining my life and passing judgment on me as to my worthiness to be saved? Hell no I wouldn’t. I’d want them to save my ass.

That sealed the decision in my own mind. But that did not take into account the fillings and desires of Wife. I don’t want to put words in her mouth. I think anyone who is married or has had a long relationship with a partner would be less than happy to have that partner making such a choice. After long talks with Wife I got her acquiescence to proceed.


In between the 'heavy donation process' posts I will continue with the occasional everyday posts.

It was a lovely weekend in Albuquerque. Wife and I took granddaughter C for the morning. I picked her up for a trip to bakeries a butcher shop, bought her a treat and she also got to sample cold cuts which she loves. Then we came home and she flitted between Wife outside working in the garden and I inside cooking.

On Sunday I did another long hike with Wild Bill, who yet again was muttering about what I had gotten him into. This was a hike I've done in the past in the Eastern part of the mountain that was strenuous but not over the top. However, I forgot to account for the still substantial snow pack at the upper elevations of the hike - hence the reclassification to over-the-top from just strenuous. You'd think Bill would learn after a while and stop answering my phone calls!

Then we went over to Pulisha's and Tim de Buffalo. I brought over a ragout of pork with Hungarian inspired flavoring and a couple of bottles of wine and cooked up dinner for the always 'on the edge of insanity' Pu and Tim. Much wine drunk and the ragout was killer.

Kitchen Completed Pictures



I'm thinking of getting life preservers for people who use this sink in case they fall in or maybe building a ladder on one side.

Color from Wife's Garden

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Organ Donation Chronicle - D Minus 18

Most of the people close to me are aware that in 18 days I should be in the operating room of the Hartford Hospital in Hartford, CT, where I will be donating one of my kidneys to my sister. But since one needs to write about something in one’s blog and 1) this isn’t exactly a common everyday event, 2) it will give me material for at least a month and maybe more to write about, and 3) being open about this has over the last two months has opened a wellspring of uplifting events; it really seems like the right thing to do.

The Journey Begins

It has been almost two years since this odyssey began. During the winter of 2006 I got news that my sister’s kidneys were failing. I would say that my family (siblings and remaining parent) is not exactly close. And while if I were a good brother, I would have known this much sooner than I did about, it came to me as shock. My sister lives back in Connecticut and I would not characterize her as the most self-reliant person in the world.

So getting this information, what was I going to do. There was a initial passing thought about donating but with conversation with my father, I was counseled to be very careful about what commitments I made and to really think about the consequences of my actions. That led to a hiatus in activity. But it became apparent very quickly that there were very few people who had expressed any interest in donating and those that did were either not compatible blood types and/or my children. I really didn’t like the idea of my children with so much of their life in front of them to take this risk. And I knew that I was compatible. A nagging feeling began to arise. I was being put into a situation where for once in my life I had to make choice that could affect if someone was going to live or die.

So I began to start reading about live donation and getting an idea of the risks that were involved and what type of commitment would have to be made. I learned that this is considered a very, very safe procedure – but that it was major surgery – and you could die. I also found that I could be out of commission for up to 3 months – Yikes! What was going to happen with my income? I am self-employed. Most of my income is what I generate. Because out legal system wants to discourage any trafficking of organs, it is very, very difficult to get any financial aid to assist a donor. Our financial situation was going to be doubly taxed because of having to go to Connecticut and all the associated costs of funding the travel and staying their. What would be the consequences to my wife if I died? What would happen if I didn’t die but became disabled – financially a much worse scenario? There was a lot to consider.

(To be continued)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Back to Mundania

After two weeks of fabulous Central European trip posting where there was twice as much going on as time to post it, it is back to the grind - at least for a couple of weeks. We got back from our European trip on Sunday. On Wednesday it was off to Southern CA for business. I had to get a couple of vaccinations on Wed morning and between that and jet lag from Europe, I was a basket case this morning. Fortunately, my So Cal partner, Fighter Pilot Girl recommended a caffeine/ibuprofen break. The combination worked and I was able to get myself up and going for our first client meeting. I'll be home Friday night and then go to Chicago next week.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cruise Vacation Thoughts

So the question is what did I think about the ‘cruise’ vacation. Did I like it? Would I do it again?


Overall, I think I was more liking it than disliking it and I would consider it again with quite a few qualifiers.


I learned through Al and Sandy plus others I talked to on the boat that the range of quality can be all over the place. This particular line caters to Americans and other English speakers. It was a middle of the road in terms of quality. A lot was not included and were extras. I might prefer going to a more expensive line where everything (drinks, tips, excursions) were included.


Pluses and minuses; there were genuinely nice people who I enjoyed being with and in general the group had a positive dynamic. But I am a loner and on a riverboat it’s tough to be that private. A larger boat would have the advantage of more space and more areas to be alone; but you would also miss some of that group dynamic.

Another part of the group environment is the group touring. We had quite a few excellent guides and the group touring helped me quickly become familiar with cities and an area of the world I didn’t know. On the other hand, I got real tired of the days being totally formatted, hence my Lintz rebellion.


If you travel with a group catering to Americans, you’re not going to get a full European food experience. And I've learned from this and other experiences that if you are with a group that does not value the culinary experience but who is agreeing to go along with it to be fair to you, it really isn't any fun. You need to have those accompany you who truly enjoy it.


I know a lot of people who just love the cruising experience in its own right. I don’t see myself in the camp. I see it as one of a number of different traveling modes that I enjoy. I think I would enjoy it again as a means of going to new places and becoming acquainted with them. I have places like the Aegean, Black and Baltic Sea regions on my list.

Eastern-Central Europe - Unimaginable Number of Pictures

Mrs. de-I on deck preparing to photograph entrance to PassauApproaching Passau

Passau's Castle

Church on other side of peninsula from Passau Castle

Passau Town Hall

Passau Old Town Street Scene with view of Cathedral


Passau Cathedral's Organ is the second largest in the world
There are actually five separate sets of pipes around the cathedral that provide "surround sound"

Scads of Flowers

Final Dinner

Eastern-Central Europe - Culinary Interlude 2

The food on the boat is not one of the highlights of the trip, it being erratic in both quality of food and in service. And our favorite waiter was sent ashore yesterday for some reason, which was a bit of a bummer. However, one area where the kitchen has seemed to do well has been in the area of local culinary favorites. Today they are doing a “Bavarian” lunch buffet. Wife and I had planned to eat out for the last time but I decided to give this a try based on our prior experience – BINGO.

The star of the meal was roast-suckling pig. Since most of our fellow passengers are from the US and are fat and skin-o-phobes, I was able to score an amble portion of fatty meat with crispy skin for myself. Unfortunately there were lots of other yummy goodies like a herring salad that was pretty much just good herring (like they have in the Netherlands), a selection of great wursts with hot mustard, bread dumplings (a lot like a Thanksgiving stuffing ball!) and a good German Weissbier. There was more but I couldn’t keep track of it all. I’ve been pretty good on this trip at not over-eating but I totally went over the top on this one!

Eastern (oops should be Central) Europe - Day Twelve

We're back home so I've got to get the final posts in while their still relatively relevant! Also I have a billion (well maybe a billion less 999,999,975) pictures left to upload. So I'll post those separate and you can use them tonight if you are suffering from insomnia and need something to put you to sleep.

Over night we have moved on to Passau, Germany, a small city situated in the far Southeast of Germany abutting Austria and the Czech Republic. Passau is renowned because it is a location where three rivers (the Danube, the Inn, and the Iltz all come together at a single point with the town of Passau being on the peninsula between the Inn and the Danube. As with many towns on the Danube (the ancient barrier between the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribes), its origins go back to the days of the Celts (who preceded both Romans and Germans). It was also the site of a Roman garrison town and became an important Christian bishopric being the mother church of Vienna originally. Passau’s medieval wealth derived from a monopoly it had on the salt trade that came down from Switzerland.

We are taking a walking tour in the morning and luck out with a really good guide who had lots of embellishments to accompany the basic tourist information. The highlight was the Cathedral of Saint Stevens (mother church to Saint Stevens in Vienna). While this is yet another Baroque style church, the balance of the decoration and art is over the top. Evidently when the Baroque work was done, the Bishop Prince brought in three Italian artists to do all of it, which is a reason why it is so unified in theme. Our guide is very good at pointing out the detail from that artwork that shows all of the individualism in the sculpture and painting.
During the afternoon, Wife and I wandered around town. There is a great castle on a hill other side of the Danube and I wanted to go up and take pictures, but I’m a bit sore from my two successive climbs and it was raining so we skipped it.

We packed up our things and then it was time for the Captains Farwell Cocktail and Dinner. Once again the chef is trying to do haute cuisine and it isn’t working. When dinner was over we had a drink in the lounge and said goodbye to a lot of the people that we had met.
Tomorrow will be the long flight home, we have a direct flight from Munich to Denver and then a short layover and a short hop to Albuquerque. We had a great time but are looking forward to going home.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Eastern (oops should be Central) Europe - Day Eleven

Only Two Days to Go! Actually I’m ready to come home. It’s been a really great vacation – much better than I had anticipated – but this is the first time that I’ve been gone for a full two weeks in longer than I can remember and with my impending operation and down time coming up, I’m starting to get a bit itchy.

Today we are in Linz, Austria; home of the Linzertorte, Johannes Keppler, and Anton Brückner. Linz is sort of stepchild between the popular sites of Vienna and Salzburg. In fact a daylong trip has been scheduled for Salzburg – but I have opted out! I will be spending the entire day by myself here in Linz.

The reality is that I am used to being a loner. I spend a lot of my time traveling and being by myself and that’s perfectly OK. Not only that by my preferences for what I like to do when I travel, especially in Europe, don’t fit must others. So after over a week of of working with others schedule and preference let’s just say (and I don’t mean this in an antagonistic way) that I was looking forward to doing my own thing.

I started in the morning after most had left for the Salzburg tour and headed into the center of Linz where I went to the tourist information office and picked up map. Fortunately for me it was market day in the square so I had a chance to walk around and wish that I a place to cook. Then I did the walking tour that took me around an hour and a half. I went back to the market where I was able to get some free samples of various sausages and bread that was put out. I also picked up a smoked whitefish sandwich.

I went back to the ship, checked some email, drank some water and ate an apple. I then went for a longish hike (around two miles one way and up a thousand feet) up and out of town to a church in a small town outside of Lintz called Postlingburg. I simply followed the bus line road to get there which was a longer but gentler climb. That was good because I found later that there was a more direct path that a lot of people take and I took on the way down but it is a lot steeper. After visiting the church I stopped at a café with a phenomenal terrace and view for a coffee and to rest before going town. I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was visiting from Germany but who had grown up in the area. He filled me in with all types of history, economics and suggestions of other things to do in the area. Once back in the center of the city I sought out a wurst stand for a Weisswurst (veal sausage) snack.

Wife, Al and Sandy tootled aboard at around 6 PM and we went to dinner and then on to the deck to enjoy the evening.


Linz Town Plaza

More Neat Building Facades

The Objective of the Hike to Postlingburg

Not Sure What This Is?
Think its the old wall to the city castle

Stained Glass Windows from the New Church

The Market in the Plaza

On the Road to Postlingburg

Church at Postlingburg

View from Cafe at Postlingburg
Sorry for the hazy day

Friday, April 18, 2008

Gadzooks - Still More Pictures

I'm jamming in all these posts during the few hours I have left here in Linz and I keep finding that I've forgotten various pictures that are supposed to go with various other posts. Here are a few that are missing from the Durnstein/Melk post.

Durnstein Castle as seen from the Boat as we are Leaving

The Church in the Town of Durnstein

The Great Courtyard of Melk Abbey

Samples of the Great Rooms of Melk Abbey

Melk Abbey Church Seen from Outside

Melk Abbey Church Seen from Inside