Newsy News

Happy New Year!

I’ve been safely underground in my writing cave (actually a lot like a cave, not intentionally) and so have been remiss in blogging. But here’s some stuff to report.

My dad found a Gil Webber for Christmas, so yay! (I am NOT asking what he paid. Seriously).

The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns won Pulpwood Queen’s Bonus Book of the Year! Double yay! I go to Texas next week to accept my award. 

My kids are all in activities now, and I spend every afternoon driving around. It is 7:30 and I’m just now sitting down NOT in a car. So if people who are not in these activities wonder what has become of me, that is what. I have made dinner once this week so far– the rest has been ready made or mostly made or take out. 


Stranger than Fiction?

“Nobody would believe you if you wrote this in a book,” my mother-in-law said by way of greeting. We had come to visit her daughter, Deb, who was recovering from surgery in the hospital.

I sat down to hear the story. I fully believed that the story would be an interesting, albeit frustrating, one. While I was writing my new novel, QUEEN OF SHOW, my editor expressed doubt about various scenes that had to do with the character’s renal failure and dialysis. My editor thought they sounded unlikely.

That is, she thought they were unlikely until I explained these all happened to Deb.

QUEEN OF SHOW is about a rose breeder and her relationship with her wayward niece. The rose breeder also happens to have kidney failure, like my sister-in-law. Deb provided all the kidney incidents in the book.

For years, I’ve been hearing jaw-dropping medical stories. I guess that’s why they say truth is stranger than fiction.

Deb was in the hospital for about a week; she came home yesterday. A shunt in her leg– basically an implanted plastic tube– had an infection. There was a scab on it that kept breaking off and bleeding. The doctors did nothing about it the first time it broke, saying those just did that sometimes, but she insisted it wasn’t normal. She got a blood infection. Nobody linked it to the shunt. It bled again, and again the doctors wanted to leave it alone.

Of course, Deb was right about the bleeding not being normal. It began gushing blood again while she was at work, and she had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital, where they finally did something about the shunt. Now they think the blood infection may have been caused by the shunt. Um, yeah, we all suspected that two months ago.

So now to the more unbelievable part that happened while she was in one of the country’s top-rated hospitals. When she was admitted, she was admitted to internal medicine, so that was the unit in charge of all her orders. Other doctors, like her kidney doctor, could request an order be written.

She was supposed to get an ultrasound of her upper chest, to find a vein they can use for a catheter. She’s had three transplants and the veins are mostly unusable now. The kidney doc asked for this to be done, but it had to be passed up the chain of command through internal medicine.

This turned out to be like a highly annoying telephone game. Somebody botched the orders, and a tech came in with orders for a leg ultrasound.

“It’s supposed to be on my upper chest,” she insisted.

The tech went away. Eventually, another tech showed up and said she was supposed to scan her arms.

“That’s wrong,” she said.

“That’s what the orders say,” the tech said.

So the chest ultrasound had to wait another day.

Nobody seemed to think it was a big deal– after all, ultrasounds are harmless– but the awful bureaucracy makes it likely that they also mess up orders on harmful tests (which she’s also experienced). Also, the useless ultrasounds will still be billed to Medicare.

Why doesn’t the hospital simply have the doctor who wants the order done, write the order? I don’t know. The chief of Internal Medicine came in to talk to her and made it clear that all the orders had to be written through her, yet refused to take responsibility for the botched tests.

In case you think hers is an isolated incident, the woman in the next bed was supposed to have a colonoscopy. To do this, you have to drink a bowel-cleaning terrible fluid and not eat. It is not a pleasant process. In the afternoon, someone came in and told her, “Oh, there was a mix-up. We’re not doing your colonscopy today. We’ll do it tomorrow.”

So this poor woman had to go through all the bowel-cleaning again and stay overnight, to boot.

Has the IRS been teaching hospital administration?

I’m just frustrated on her behalf. You’re lying there powerless, trying to get better, while all these people around you who are supposed to be professionals with 12 years of schooling seem to be purposely messing things up. I guess it goes to show you that you should always try to have someone with you to advocate if you’re in the hospital; and you shouldn’t be afraid to question people, even if that makes you a “bad patient.”

High Anxiety Confessions


I have a vivid imagination.  This is what I tell myself when I worry.  I worry so much I even worry about being worried.


I’m a natural-born worrier, from a long line of worriers.  I actually don’t know if anyone besides my mom was a worrier, but considering how much she worried I would expect her ancestors were, too.  Some of her concerns:


That there would be an earthquake while I was out and there’d be no way for me to come home.

That every time you see a restroom, you must pee because there might not be another chance even if you’re at, say, the zoo where there are at least 10 bathrooms, even in the 1970s (I think that’s why my current-day bladder is so jumpy)

That I should not go whale watching with a group because the ship might go down and everyone else would only save their OWN children and leave me to drown.  They wouldn’t even throw me a life jacket.

That washing one’s hair during one’s period was useless (or was it that you should wash hair?  I can’t remember which)


I’ve dismissed most of these worries and come up with brand spanking new ones.  I could pretend that my worries are merely trying to answer many what-if questions.  Be Prepared!  Come up with a Plan!  Yet even I admit I don’t need to spend time thinking about most of these things.


I divide my worries into several categories.  First, there’s the unlikely what-if category, where I think about what I might do when faced with extreme danger.  For example:


What if there’s an earthquake while we’re on Space Mountain at Disneyland and the entire structure collapses?  (My dad brought this up when I was little and while I was ON THE RIDE.  Thanks!  I still don’t know the answer to that.  Hopefully it’s pretty sturdy, being retrofitted and steel and all.  I don’t think there’s much you could do).


Then there are ethical dilemmas.


What if I am required to be on the show Kate Plus 8 to somehow promote my novel and then I have the moral dilemma of acting like I think the show is okay?


And what-ifs of home protection:


What if an intruder breaks into my home?  Should I shoot first?  What if it turns out to be the drunken celebrity neighbor?  (The answer to this is apparently yes, shoot first, and also we don’t have a drunken celebrity neighbor).


And what ifs pulled from the news:


What if a plane hit my house as it happened in the University City area of San Diego a few years ago, killing my entire family?  What would I do?  What if I was INSIDE the house with my kids and saw the plane bearing down on me?  Would I have time to do anything?


What if a strange crazy-eyed man appeared inside a high-end dessert eatery, stared confrontationally at a stranger, was told to leave, then reappeared with a gun and shot the stranger?  This also really happened.  In that situation, what would you do when the man reappeared and the gun was hidden at first?  Would you think he was harmless, or dangerous?  How could you tell?


And unlikely health what-ifs, like if I read an article about someone with some disease and think, HEY I’VE HAD THOSE SYMPTOMS, do I have that?  And then there are likelier health worries, like the fact both my brothers have a similar heart condition to my mother.  The doc says I’m fine but it’s something I need to watch for.


Just worrying about something can stress you out more than the thing itself.


I attempt to not infect my children with my worries, but sometimes I do, accidentally.  The other day, we hiked to Pele’s Chair, which is a natural rock outcropping on a cliff by  beach.  On a ledge below is a sailing mast or pole which someone stuck into rocks.  People jump off into the water below.  People being mostly teens.


No one was swimming.  It was evening and high tide and the waves were around 10 feet, crashing into rocks on both sides of the outcropping where we stood.  Cadillac climbed over the rocks and then down out of sight, and then out onto the mast.  He scooted out several feet above the water, and I yelped unintentionally, imagining him slipping on the mast and falling into the water and getting swept into the open ocean.  “Don’t go out too far!”  I called.  He scooted out further.


“I’m fine.  I’m perfectly stable,” he said.


I tensed up anyway.  Little Girl sensed my worry and began to cry.  “Daddy come back!  Come back!  You’re going to fall OFF!”


Our oldest yelled, “Get back here!  Do you want to give your wife a heart attack?”


“It’s okay,” I said.  “Daddy’s fine.” But the girls had already commenced their worry like they’re connected to my internal turmoil with a wire.


Our son decided he’d better go out with Dad, too, so he popped down out of sight while the girls called to them to come back.


“We’re perfectly all right,” Cadillac called.  “I’m made for this stuff.  Why are you making everyone worry?”


See, if you look at this photo, taken from actual stable ground across the way, it doesn’t look so high up or dangerous as it did from where we were.  And it was seriously high tide.  Okay, so I do tend to worry.  I’m admitting it.


I try to take the advice of my mother in law, who’s also a legendary worrier.  Worrying doesn’t really do much good in the end.  You could spend all day worrying about your heart and get hit by a bus.  You can’t control either one.


But as I said at the beginning, I do have a vivid imagination.  And many times those what-if worries work their way into larger scenarios, which turn into stories peopled with characters.  I put myself into the character’s positions, playing out that first theoretical worry into a whole tale.  I like to think of my worries as the price I pay for these stories, if only because it puts a positive spin on my neuroses.


And next time my husband goes out on a ledge, I’m going to trust him and pretend I am not worried that he’ll fall.  Because I can’t really control that.