June 23, 2004

Waiting Around

It's been an interesting few weeks for me. As I have mentioned (or at least hinted at) here several times, my grandfather went into the hospital three weeks ago. He originally had surgery on his gallbladder and went home just fine, at which point he developed an extremely severe infection. It wasn't looking very good for a long time (he was even "code blue" at one point, which is about as bad as it gets) and he spent nearly two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit.

The ICU is just a dreadful place. So much death, so much depression, so many families hurting. I spent long hours there with various members of my family, but also spent time with complete strangers. You see people in the waiting room day after day and you almost can't help but talk to them. You tell them why you're there and they do the same. There is something strangely comforting about knowing everyone is, more or less, in the same boat.

The hardest part is that, once in the ICU, someone either improves enough to move to another floor of the hospital or they die. What ends up happening is that everyone celebrates when someone gets the news that their patient is moving to a "regular" floor. But just as often, I saw someone pass away, and the pain that brought their family.

Anyway, my grandpa left the ICU last week and, although he is still in the hospital, he is doing far better. Not as many tubes connected to him, not as many drugs dripping into him, and not as many nurses and doctors buzzing around his room.

Yesterday I visited with him and my grandma for a few hours, during which time we talked Twins, took two walks, and shared some ice cream. I am not a big fan of hospitals, but a "normal" floor is infinitely better than the ICU. I hope I never have to go back there, although I am sure I will.

My mom's side of the family is an interesting bunch. We do a nice job rallying together in times of tragedy, and we were actually too present and too talkative at times in the ICU. Because of the sheer number of nurses you come across in the ICU, you get all sorts of different personalities and different "rules."

Some nurses are friendly and talkative, some nurses get to know the family and chat with us even when they aren't taking care of our room, and some nurses see us around the hospital and speak to us like friends. At one point, my grandma looked at a male nurse very closely, pointed at him and said, "You know who you look like? Rodney Dangerfield." And he liked us so much by then that he didn't kill her or anything.

And then there was one nurse who kept forcing all of my grandpa's visitors to leave the room while she did whatever minor thing she was doing, and told us that, "You know, you're only supposed to have two visitors at a time, and even then you're not supposed to stay this long." This was despite the fact that my grandpa told everyone and anyone who would listen that he did not want to be left alone, even for a short time.

This nurse -- I guess I can say that her name is Doreen, since I doubt she's a huge baseball fan or blog reader -- had the gall to actually ask my grandma and myself to step into the hallway so that she could lecture us on the rules for visiting sick relatives. At that point we had been spending days and nights in the ICU for nearly a week.

And it wasn't even a good lecture. Just as she did with my grandpa, she spoke to us like 4-year-olds. Actually, she spoke to us like 4-year-olds who were both deaf and stupid. She talked loudly, repeated everything, used small words, and kept saying stuff like, "I just want you to understand." My favorite moment of the past month came when my grandpa, after receiving yet another stern talking to, said, calmly, "I understand what you're saying, because you said it already. I am just not going to listen to you."

Nurses are, I've come to realize, one of many professions that are underappreciated until you really need them. A nice nurse -- or even a mediocre one -- can make the day pleasant, or at least as pleasant as a day in the ICU can get. But a bad nurse can really ruin things. A bad nurse can dampen the whole mood and actually take over a family's thoughts from what really matters, which is the person lying in the hospital bed that they're all there to see.

So I have a new appreciation for nurses now, and I also have a new appreciation for a couple other professions too.

You see, in addition to spending huge chunks of my time at the hospital, I've also spent long hours waiting around for service people to show up at my house to fix stuff. In the past month, we've had a problem with our phone, with our internet connection, with our DirecTV and then, Tuesday night, my mom went into the kitchen and saw a mouse.

She screamed (I believe her exact words were "Oh s---, a mouse!") and then called "The Orkin Man." The guy showed up right on time yesterday, stayed for a little while, and supposedly cured us of all mouse-related problems. He even did stuff to get rid of "spiders, ants and whatever else" while he was at it. I have a bit of phobia of bugs, so I told the guy I wouldn't mind it if he came back once a month for the rest of my life. He laughed, but I was serious.

I figure there isn't a whole lot of other stuff in my life that can break at this point. As many of you know, my laptop crapped out on me last month. Then the phone, the internet, the DirecTV and my ability to think that my house is uninhabited by rodents all went away. And, of course, the big one is that a member of my family was "broken." All that stuff is fixed (or in the process of being fixed), and I hoping nothing else will break in the meantime.

Oh, by the way, I was watching last night's Twins game (nice win ... another good performance from the starting pitcher) and Bert Blyleven (the Twins' color commentator) got an e-mail question asking him if he enjoyed pitching in Fenway Park. He said (paraphrasing), "I liked it when I got good run support." Bert also went on to say that his shortest career start took place in Fenway and he lasted just one-third of an inning.

I was wondering for myself how Blyleven actually did (since his answer wasn't much of one at all), so I looked it up. Bert Blyleven made 13 career appearances at Fenway Park, 12 of them starts. He went 3-9 with a 7.25 ERA in 63.1 innings, giving up 89 hits, including 12 homers. Not pretty. Outside of Fenway, Bert Blyleven went 284-241 with a 3.26 ERA in 4,906.2 innings.

Also, here's the boxscore from Blyleven's aforementioned worst career start. The pitching line ...

 IP     R     ER     H     SO     BB     HR

0.1 3 3 3 1 1 2

You know, that's not even really that bad. I mean, it's bad, but I'd be willing to bet that most managers today would leave a pitcher who did that in for a lot longer than one out. Of course, Blyleven was a rookie at the time and had a grand total of 15 games of major league experience, so he was probably on a short leash.

Interestingly, Blyleven came back the very next day to pitch 5.2 innings in relief of Luis Tiant, who lasted just 1.1 innings against the Red Sox. Blyleven actually picked up the win, his seventh of the season, giving up three runs. The Twins won 9-6.

I guess this means Blyleven has a good memory and is a little shy about admitting the Red Sox used to crush him at Fenway. Incidentally, Blyleven faired much better against Boston away from Fenway, going 9-7 with a 2.92 ERA in 20 starts.

Retrosheet really is a wonderful thing. And so are (most) nurses and guys who are willing to come to your house and get rid of mice.

Today's picks:

Pittsburgh (Burnett) +230 over Houston (Clemens)

Chicago (Rauch) -105 over Cleveland (Westbrook)

Detroit (Robertson) +105 over Kansas City (George)

New York (Vazquez) -170 over Baltimore (Ponson)

Total to date: -$2,910

W/L record: 107-146 (0-2 yesterday for -240.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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