Friday, May 15, 2009

On Cheering Up A Depressed Orbit

When they stole Dave's handkerchief from me in the hospital in Rome, I had no idea it was a sign. After the accident, he gave it to me and told me to apply pressure over my eye; but even in my confusion I knew the proper use of a handkerchief and used it to blow my bloody nose.

Since we got home last Tuesday, I've had a Herceptin treatment, chased with a visit to our ENT to check on said bloody nose, then a visit to my dentist for an X-Ray to see if my top front teeth were ok even though I can't quite bite quite yet, followed up with a visit to an oral/facial surgeon to take Star Trek pics to determine the status of my face since Rome wouldn't give us any of the many pics they took, then back to the ENT to get my stitches (and it felt like, my eyelid) removed, followed up with a CAT scan to verify that the structure supporting my right eye is sound, and lastly, up to this point at least, a visit to an opthamologist for further examination, and some explanation on how to cope with a depressed eye socket. I apologize for that crazy run-on sentence, but my life this past week and a half has been a run-on sentence. A run-on sentence with jet lag, and a big head, from all medical paparazzi snapping pictures of it left and right.

The consensus of the docs and pics of the orbit floor of my right eye is that it was not a blow-out fracture, which we were worried about, since the orbit floor is a tissue thin bone which supports the eyeball and keeps it from falling into the sinus cavity. My overactive imagination was in a state of panic over the thought of blowing my eyeball out my nose. Instead, thankfully, while the orbit floor is broken, it's still intact though depressed. So no immediate surgery to repair the floor. Thank God.

It seems like we are to just keep the old proverbial and quite literal eye on things, let things heal, don't blow my nose, and call if I experience any double vision (which could be signs of my eye muscles getting snagged on some of the bone fragments from the break). Other than that, I have been the green light to swing my racket at those little green balls. Which, one would think, would cheer up a depressed orbit. At least in my world.

Yes, I can play tennis; and no, I'm not supposed to blow my nose. I do not know when I will get the green light for that again, depending on how things have healed when I see the ENT and oral/facial surgeon for follow-ups in a few weeks.

Thank you for your continued prayers. I am so grateful, humbled, and obviously find them quite necessary to my life, as I've just blown threw a couple this past year alone. By my count, I should have about 6 lives left, but between the chemo and hitting my head recently, I don't really trust my math. All I figure I can do, is trust God, and wrap myself up in the prayers of family and friends, and keep living and loving and laughing hard.

So cheers, to your health, all who pray for my health, and ciao to you, and also to blowing my nose, not to mention, Dave's hankie.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Mouth of Truth Chewed Me Up and Spit Me Out, or, How I Learned The Mouth of Truth Isn't a Drive-Thru

Here's a new and improved photo of me, since The Mouth of Truth broke my face, just to hopefully erase previous images from everyone's minds.
Here's where I hit. We think I may have flown off the Vespa and into the bars. (This is not a picture of the day of the accident, but just a view from Google Earth.) We were just across the street from this courtyard of The Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, where The Mouth of Truth is. This was our second (and foiled) attempt at sticking our hands in the famous monument's mouth. The first time we got to see it behind the bars, but it was after hours and locked up. The second time was less successful. I was driving. We were just across the street. At a complete stop. I was just accelerating enough to cross the street and park the Vespa where the other Vespas are parked in the picture, although there were more Vespas and a Smart Car out front when I hit the scene. Once I crossed I found the Vespa wasn't going to take the turn to park, so I was just going to stop and walk it over to a spot. I remember Dave telling me to brake, and I was totally trying to brake. I was not braced for impact because I was squeezing the brake and was shocked when my nose was hurting. That is all I remember. Thankfully. Dave was holding on to the seat and says I disappeared from in front of him and ended up on the ground under the front wheel, so he assumes I flew over the handlebars on impact and into the bars. I have no idea. I was so confused what was going on and with Dave telling me to hold his handkerchief over my eye, that I asked him to take a picture so I could see what was going on with my face. Thank God I had on a helmet.
Here is the scene we were trying to recreate, instead of the one we made. It is from Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. In it, he tells her of the legend that if you stick your hand in The Mouth of Truth and tell a lie, it will bite it off. This is a fantastic movie scene, because she had no idea he was going to pull out his arm with his hand hidden in his jacket, so her surprise is genuine and so lovely. Alas, my scene was not so lovely, and I still didn't get to stick my hand in The Mouth of Truth. I wonder if it was trying to tell me something. Double rejection and all.
Anyway, so now there is another Redo on my list: To have another go at sticking my hand in the Mouth of Truth. Third time's the charm, right? So let's hope the coins I threw in the Trevi Fountain work, and bring me back to Rome someday. The other is to go back to Paris and walk up the Eiffel Tower instead of riding the elevator.

I had a wonderful and especially grateful Mother's Day. We went to P. F. Changs for our fam fave dinner, and then to see The Soloist, which was such a beautiful movie. I love dinner and a movie, especially with my redheads. And I was determined to live it up and eat popcorn during it, even if it was one kernel at a time. It was still delish, even in slow-mo.

At Changs, we ran into some friends who came over to our table after their meal and said they thought they might've gotten my fortune. It said, "Sometimes traveling to a new place leads to great transformation."

Well, I guess that's one way of looking at my crash landing of my Roman Holiday!

Salute and ciao, and please keep praying. So far we've been getting good news about all the many doctor visits: Oncologist, ENT, dentist, Oral/Facial Surgeon/ENT. I got the stitches out yesterday, which was not any fun at all, but I am glad they are out and that getting them out is behind me. Tomorrow I have another CAT scan in re: my right eye, to make sure the bones that support my eye are intact and structurally sound. My ENT said he has a hunch things are good, but wants more detailed pics of the specific area to verify.

I can't exactly get out on the tennis courts yet, which is SO FRUSTRATING, but I did take a 4 mile walk with a friend today, and that felt really good. Just hoping tennis is still in my future. Where can I get a fortune cookie that says that? ;)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dodging Bullets

This is Dave again. I forgot to mention Julie also hit her port pretty hard in the accident. It was hard enough to break the skin over the port and it left the whole area bruised, swollen and sore. We were concerned the port might be damaged. Yesterday (Wednesday) I took Julie to the oncologist for her scheduled treatment. They accessed the port and checked it out - no problems! Everything worked just fine and she was able to get her treatment. Thank God!

The oncologist told us to get to an ENT ASAP. While Julie was getting the Herceptin, I called a few recommended doctors. I was able to get an appointment the same day with Dr. Skurow, the ENT we've gone to for 15 years. Since we had checked ourselves out in the middle of the night, the hospital in Rome couldn't give us any copies of the x-rays or scans. But after Dr. Skurow did a manual exam he said, "I think you may have dodged a bullet here." He explained that her nose and jaw are both in place and don't appear to be broken, and as best he can tell the cheek bone doesn't appear to be broken! Amanda had prayed that God would put all the bones back in place and heal them so they wouldn't have to be set. We pray He's done just that. The doctor is still concerned about the cheek but the swelling needs to go down more before he can tell for sure. He's going to request the test results from Rome. We'll see him again on Monday to get the stitches out. By then he will be able to tell if everything is OK or if we need to get new scans. Please pray with us for more good news on Monday.

My dad always told me if a horse throws you, you gotta get back on. We didn't get a chance this trip, but Julie and I both want to ride a Vespa again. It was so much fun! And we had so much fun together, like we we're a young couple again. Think we're crazy? You may be right. :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Roman Holiday - Day VIII

This is Dave, filling in for Julie. Monday was our last full day in Rome. It started out slow and relaxing, and ended with Julie in the ER! We had pretty much seen and done all the main things on our list, so the plan was to spend this day scooting around town on our Vespa and seeing whatever we came across. We toured the Pantheon, which was very old and very cool. It has huge dome (our capitol building was modeled after it), with a large round opening at the top. The rain pours through this opening and drains through holes in the marble floor. Raphael is buried there. To me, the really cool thing is that even though they still call it the Pantheon, where many "gods" were worshipped, it has actually been an active Christian church for 1400 years!

We visited Piazza Navona which was very nice with a fountain and lots of artists selling their paintings. Julie identified several rooms with terraces overlooking the piazza. We'll keep these in mind for places to stay when we return.

And then, about 3:00 in the afternoon we hit a wall... literally! Julie was driving the Vespa and handling it very well, better than me actually. We were stopped in front of the Mouth of Truth trying to make a u-turn and park. When we started to make the turn to the left the scooter couldn't turn sharp enough to avoid hitting a car parked on the side of the road, so Julie corrected to the right to go in front of the car and up onto the sidewalk. She was trying to squeeze the brake but it didn't work and we crashed into the wall and gate that houses the Mouth of Truth. I think Julie went over the handle bars and unfortunately she got the worst of it. Her face hit either the bars or the wall, she got a bad laceration over her right eye, I think from her glasses pressing in, cuts on her nose, lips and chin, and other scrapes and bruises elsewhere on her body. We were wearing helmets but they didn't have visors. If it hadn't been for the helmets, well, I don't want to think about that. There was so much blood all over her face and my hands as I tried to help her. So scary and sad to see my poor wife like that. I had a handkerchief and applied pressure to the cut right away. Two English speaking tourists came to help, one a doctor and the other a nurse, and someone called an ambulance which arrived quickly. She never lost consciousness but doesn't remember some things. She wanted me to take a picture for the record. There's a link to it at the end of this sentence, but I warn you it's pretty graphic, so if you get squeemish at the sight of blood just keep reading and don't click here.

I was holding on to the bars under the seat and pretty much stayed with the bike. I fared much better and came away with only a chipped tooth, some bruises and scrapes, and a sore knee, wrist, and Adam's apple. I just wish I could have borne the brunt of it rather than Julie; the poor girl's been through so much already.

I rode with Julie in the ambulance. She got 5 stitches over her eye and two in her chin. They did several tests (x-ray, cat scan, EKG, ultrasound, and blood tests). The doctors and nurses didn't speak much English, and it was very confusing and frustrating trying to figure out what was going on. Thankfully, our friend Juliet came to the rescue and was able to act as translator. If we understood correctly, she has a broken nose and maybe a broken cheek bone and jaw. After the ER they admitted her and took her to a room with 3 other ladies for "observation". After several hours no one had checked on her and she wasn't hooked up to any monitors. Around 9:30 they told me I had to leave and couldn't stay in the room or anywhere in the hospital over night. Juliet tried to plead with them but they were insistent. There was no way I was going to leave her alone there so we told them if I can't stay then we're both leaving. I spoke with my mom (a nurse) and she told me how to monitor Julie for any problems. We figured it was better for her to be with me in the hotel than alone an unattended in their hospital. Juliet helped us get back to the B&B, get some medical supplies and she took care of getting the Vespa back to the rental place - she was an angel!

The Rest of the Story

Well, we made it home safely. For the long flight we were blessed to move to a row with four empty seats, so Julie was able to stretch out and sleep most of the way. Here's a picture of her in the Atlanta airport. The kids met us at the airport in Cincinnati and we had a happy reunion. They were sad to see their mum so banged up, but we were all happy to be back together. It was Cinco de Mayo but no one was in the mood for Mexican food, so we picked up PF Changs and decided to celebrate Chinco de Mayo instead.

You might be wondering if this tragedy ruined our vacation. It was certainly not the way we wanted it to end, but we both agree it didn't ruin it. We had a wonderful time together, saw so many amazing and beautiful sights, and ate some of the most delicious food we have ever tasted. More than all that, we really reconnected with each other, laughing and playing and enjoying life together. We accept good things from God and harder providences, too, thankful that the many blessings far outweigh and outnumber the hardships.

Julie had posted earlier about an old Italian man who told us that in Italy when you've been married 20 years they give a diploma. The kids picked up on this and made a diploma for us.

Thank God Julie's going to be fine, and we're going to be fine. Please pray for the healing process.

Blessings to you all,
Dave & Julie

Monday, May 4, 2009

Roman Holiday - Day VII

Looking in the rear view mirror of Day 7, we totally had a Vespa with a view! Now it has really been a true Roman Holiday, that we have bopped about on a Vespa! Although I haven't given her a go yet. I'm not sure if I'm crazy enough to enter the Roman road race. Seriously, you have to be certified if when in Rome you try do drive as the Romans do. Lanes? What lanes?

We rented a Vespa and drove it to the ATP Rome Masters Final yesterday. Rafael Nadal defeated Novac Djokovic 7-6, 6-3 in an uberly fabulous match. They both played so well; and they are two of the most fun personalities to watch. Rafa is such a grinder and Novac is so animated. I love both of them, but was rooting for Rafa since he is the king of clay, and I wanted to see him win on his surface. Plus, Rome was the only clay tournament he lost last year and I wanted him to regain it. (Djokovic won it last year, so it couldn't have been a more perfect finals to get to watch.)

I did take quite a few pictures, but here is the victory shot. RAFA vamosed! Woot!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Roman Holiday - Days IV - VI

So Day 4 was basically a wild goose chase, chased with a fun but fruitless hike. The wild goose we were chasing was a travel agent to book a train to Florence. All roads may lead to Rome, but we couldn't find one leading to a travel agent. And the one lead we had from our B&B ended up being a dead end--it had closed 20, that's right, TWENTY years ago. The internet roads definitely haven't been paved over here.

The Appian Way, on the other hand, is paved, and a little less antica e rustica and more like Frogger than I had conjured up in my overactive imagination. We played dodge, I mean, hiked outside the city walls and along the Appian Way to the Catacombs, just in time for them to close. So we hiked back. Which isn't as bad as it sounds because it was still an adventure and still a really good hike. We totally earned our Gelato that day.

We went back to the Catacombs on Day 5. Took a taxi. And toured the Catacombs of St. Domatilla. There are over 150,000 Christians buried in those Catacombs alone. Sacred and inspiring like the Colosseum.

After touring the Catacombs, we took a taxi back into the city and then took a walk along the Tiber and into Trastevere, the Greenwich Village of Rome. After chasing down a pizzaria that only existed in a guidebook, we found our own little find of a pizzaria, that had the best pizza I've ever had in my life. Plus the Rome Masters Tennis on TV to boot. We got to watch Djokovic play Del Potro. We met some Americans from New York, who were visiting their daughter who is going to school here to be a geneticist, which was so cool. She is actually quite up on and interested in breast cancer research, which is even cooler.

Speaking of, one thing that I have noticed here, is that I don't notice my haircut sticking out or saying I'm sick at all. In fact, I have been nearly ploughed over a number of times. Yesterday, a guy mistook me for a giant and came tilting at me with a sword in his backpack on his way to catch a train. No joke. Even drew a bit of blood. I doubt it will leave a scar, but that would be a cool battle wound to take back with me.

I think besides being a tour guide, I might like living someplace cool and keeping a guidebook up-to-date as well.

Day 6 we took a train to Florence and did a fantastic Dante tour. There are various plaques throughout the city with phrases from The Divine Comedy, and we had a great guide who took us around and connected the literature with the sites and the history. It was such a blast. I had my camera in one hand and one of my copies of Dante in the other, and I couldn't have been happier. There is also a Dante museum, which we toured. Outside, there was a guy reciting Inferno en Italiano. To be able to understand it in Italian. Maybe someday.... We also toured The Church of Dante, which was really Beatrice's church and not Dante's. But that was cool. There were a couple of baskets full of letters to Beatrice, beseeching her help in matters of unrequited love and such.

Here is a pic of Dave and me, standing on Ponte Vecchio, the bridge crossing over the Arno in Florence. It is supposedly a famous place where people have a wedding picture taken. In fact, right before us, a bride and groom had their's taken. Seemed an appropriate photo op for us, as well, since we are here celebrating our 20th anniversary a wee bit delayed. Or our 22nd a tad early. Whichever way you want to look at it. Either way our road led to Rome and how cool is that?! One guy here told us that when you are married for 20 years in Italy, they give you a diploma. We don't know if that is unreliable like guidebooks or not, but it sounds like a cool idea.