Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Pat has acquired a faithful retainer who follows her everywhere, ever vigilant, never sleeping. His name is Baxter. Baxter is the machine that meters out her TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition). Pat calmly announces his name to me. I am mildly concerned that Pat has taken to humanizing a machine. “Why Baxter? “ “Well, because that’s what written on the machine.” Sure enough, in bold letters in the top left-hand corner, Baxter announces his name to all who can read.

Baxter the Butler is how I think of him. Dinner, m’dam? Highly nutritious, if slightly on the bland side. “I would kill for a cappuccino”, mutters Pat. One of Pat’s docs is within earshot. “Well, you can probably have one if you want. It just gets sucked back up the gastric tube.” And just like magic, doctor’s orders are written for cappuccinos.

Petra, who cherishes her own cappuccinos, has been mourning their loss for Pat. We feel that she should do the honour – and the next morning, Petra appears with two in hand. Cautiously, Pat sips on the cappuccino (double sugar). She savors the taste on her tongue, like a fine wine, and then swallows. A quarter cup later, no disasters have occurred. And with morbid curiosity, we watch the gastric tube for evidence of exhumed cappuccino.

Pat is ecstatic. The taste of food, the act of swallowing. The doc suggests she try a popsicle next. Sharon fetches a popsicle from the hospital fridge (Baxter refusing to leave Pat’s side, even for a moment). A grape popsicle. Pat cautiously sucks on the popsicle, carefully navigating its tip around her gastric tube. She gives a huge grin, and we realize that the popsicle has turned her teeth and tongue purple. So we agree that perhaps not grape the next time.

We learn the rules – if the food is liquid enough to pass through the gastric tube (which is about the circumference of a large straw), then it can go into Pat’s mouth and down the throat. Gravy from stew is next on the menu. Broth is requested. The possibilities begin to unfold.

Pat tells me that doctor’s orders have been written allowing her two glasses of wine a day. I think we will have someone other than Baxter make the wine choice.....


Marinucci Travels said...

Oh the machines in our lives!

Your Baxter story so reminds me of a time at the Sunnyside house...when Pat was "down sizing". I had come for a visit to see if perhaps the beautiful upright piano would fit, strangely enough, in my sisters front room.

Not ever owning or "knowing" cats, I so remember a very cautious first step in. Perched at her front door "post" was the inky largeness of the green-eyed highness, offering a frosty albiet demur feline welcome. Scanning between the possibilities of slightly ajar front door and window, "Oh, its you...." she seemed to purr.

Satisfied at the measure and move dimensions we, (Pat, cat and I),marched upstairs to inspect the newly purchased bed clothes from a local shi-shi Egyptian store. After oohhing and ahhing at the deliciousness of 1000 threadcounts and impracticalities of white silk on a bed, I noticed for the first time the bright red, recessed tub in the middle of the bedroom floor. While my proper English upbringing cautioned the unmannerliness of spending much too much time or asking too many questions of a friend's bedroom, I simply could not resist a "Wow! Now that looks like fun."

As we talked, the cat stealthly jumped to the other side and silently measured the tip toe distance around the tub. And with that famous smurk, Pat smiled sideways and informed me that this was not just a machine, it was a kin to a butlar; a wonderful way to soothe sore bones and tired muscles while pondering all that the future holds.

And while I still have not figured out how to install a red butlar in my bedroom, the piano is well-loved and practised daily with the combined groan and glee, in my sister's front room.


Anonymous said...

speaking of the house in Sunnyside what i rememberthe most about that house was the constant problem with the door handle on the front door. We tried many solutions and none ofthem really worked. The next one would have been bringing the welder and welding the darn thing on!
Loved the last blog Pat humor is good!

Jordan Shuler said...

Hello beautiful friend;
If you're wanting a glass of wine allow me to take care of that. Red is preferred yes?

Aviva and I just returned from France and I surprised her with a marriage proposal, as I told you I would. She accepted. I sent you the story of how it unfolded up on Montmarte to your email account, perhaps your sister can print that off for you to read. It's a good one. Thank you sister.

I'm glad to hear your pain is minimal Pat. I wish you peace of mind and lots of love,