(That’s a joke – Dottie’s the least diva-esque person on the planet. Granted, she does like a good tiara. But that’s where the similarity ends. A few years ago, I got her a license plate from the Santa Fe Opera that read, “Diva.” We both thought it was hysterical.)
It’s July 2015, and I spent two days this past week with Dottie and her daughter Cindy. Not for the greatest reasons – Dottie had a procedure scheduled at the Mayo Clinic Hospital.
You regular readers have no doubt noticed that Dottie’s participation in our Experts Panel has been spotty in the last six months or so. I thought you might be wondering why, so I asked her permission to tell you, and she said sure.
Before I get into what’s going on, for the non-regular readers, Dottie will be 89 years old next month.
Holy cow, that’s all I’d written in a month! Now it’s August 19th, and Dottie goes in for surgery tomorrow morning.
Let’s start with the backstory. Dottie and I have known each other for about ten years. I sought out the American Red Cross as a place to volunteer, because one of my grandmothers had volunteered for them. I wasn’t sure what department I would end up in, so at first, I was volunteering in the office with Dottie and another volunteer, Carol. Those two special ladies had me in stitches every time we were together.
I heard stories about how Dottie had learned to weld during World War Two. How she worked at a cereal factory. How she’d been a volunteer for the Red Cross since 1963. How she raised six children. How she believes everyone deserves respect.
In those early days, we didn’t get much actual work done in that tiny office. We were too busy laughing all the time.
It was the beginning of a wonderful and cherished friendship.
Fast forward to the present. Dottie now lives in Sedona, Arizona. That’s great for me as a recent transplant to Phoenix.
For about the past six months or so, Dottie hasn’t felt very well. She was having trouble breathing. The doctors in Sedona felt certain she had pneumonia. The medicines weren’t helping. After getting the run-around and general disinterest from the staff at the Sedona hospital, she decided to seek better care.
It was the docs at the Mayo Clinic who discovered the problem with her heart. Her aortic valve wasn’t functioning correctly. Her heart itself is strong as an ox. She likes to say it’s just that her plumbing is clogged.
The docs put her on oxygen and ordered her to stop driving. Then they began working on a plan.
Back when I started typing up this story, Dottie had just gone through what’s called a Cardiac Catheterization. That’s a process where doctors thread a catheter into the heart so they can get a better diagnosis. They needed to do the procedure so they could gauge whether or not she was a candidate for surgery to replace the valve.
Let me tell you something about hanging out in the hospital with this woman. Generally speaking, hospitals are somber places, people don’t feel well, others are sad or subdued. People are stressed. Not Dottie though. You could hear Dottie, myself and her daughter Cindy laughing practically the entire time we were there.
She charmed every doctor, every nurse.
Was it an easy procedure? No. She developed two painful hematomas afterward, which landed her a few extra days in the hospital.
But the humor and grace with which she handled herself was inspiring.
I wasn’t surprised one bit.
The good news is that Dottie is a candidate for the surgery. She’ll have two of the best surgeons in the country working on her. They’ve been nothing but wonderful and reassuring and professional. She trusts them completely.
You may be wondering why have the surgery at all? Because if she doesn’t, she’ll be dead in just a few months. She very much wants this surgery. She scheduled it for the day before her 89th birthday and has been calling it her birthday gift to herself.
Remember that this is a tough old Irish broad – she’s going to fight for as much time as she can get. She cherishes every day she gets to spend on this planet. She’s grateful for every experience, for every moment.
These are the reasons I’ve been saying for years that she should be declared a National Treasure.
A few days ago, Cindy gathered many of Dottie’s closest friends and surprised her with an early birthday party at a Sedona restaurant. There were about 40 people there! The love in that room was palpable. There was great merriment, and many tears, as Dottie was so moved.
Here she is getting teary again:
Another daughter, Karen, took a video of us singing happy birthday. I tried to embed the video into this post, because it’s adorable, but WordPress isn’t letting me. Some of you may be able to view it if you go to my facebook page, which you can do by clicking here.
Earlier this evening, I met up with Dottie, daughters Cindy and Karen, and their cousin Carol at the hotel next to the Mayo Clinic. It was a room full of comedians and top-notch story tellers. What a hoot.
I brought my camera, but the lighting wasn’t great in the room, so I only got a couple of decent-ish shots.
Here’s Carol lighting birthday candles with a blowtorch:
With an oxygen tank in the room, it’s a miracle we weren’t blown to smithereens, haha!
Here’s the hospital:
Here’s the view from the other hotel window:
And here’s Carol, Cindy and the lady of the hour herself:
Obviously, we’re going to need all of you to send prayers, well-wishes, positive thoughts, love and good vibes.
The surgery will probably be around 11 o’clock on August 20th. Even though Arizona is on Mountain Standard Time, during this time of year, it’s as if we’re on Pacific Daylight Time, same as California. So that’s three hours behind you East Coast readers. The docs say the surgery should be about three hours. (I know, it’s astonishing how far we’ve come medically. )
I think to be on the safe side, you should keep the prayers coming all day.
I’ll pass along any comments you’d like to leave, and I’ll update you when we know more.