Wednesday, May 30, 2007

2-chamber heart

No house was harmed in the making of this post. Instead, we spent all day with our 3 year old, Michaela, as she underwent a battery of tests for Pre-Op at Stanford's Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. For those of you who are unaware, Michaela was born with a serious congenital heart defect, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. This is where the left ventricle doesn't develop in utero, and therefore the aorta never fully develops. This is the part of the heart that distributes the oxygen-rich blood to the body, and should be the largest and strongest part of the heart.

We found out several months prior to her birth, and were given 3 options:
- Heart Transplant
- 3-Part Surgery
- "Compassionate" Care.

The later option means you take your child home without medical intervention until they expire 2-10 days later. Until about 20 years ago, this was the only option. The former two options became available in the early 80's. Baby Fae was one of the first infant transplant recipients, although she lived only a few days. We, however, chose the 3-stage surgeries for our precious daughter, and pray every day that we made the right decision. It means that she will live with a 2-chamber heart, and that heart would have to work twice as hard for her.

Her first operation, call the Norwood procedure, was performed at 4-days old and the second stage, called the Glenn procedure, was done at 4-months. I could write reams of copy on all that has transpired through those days, but I shall refrain. Instead, I will share this: We have decided to move her surgical services from her previous hospital (UCSF) to Stanford for another mini-reams-worth of reasons.

She isn't yet ready for the 3rd stage, called the Fontan, where they complete and close the 2-chamber heart system, and so an additional heart surgery is needed. The issue is to open up the bottleneck in her aorta where the completely reconstructed arch meets the existing transcending aorta. The pinch you see at the top is caused by scar tissue that just wouldn't grow with her. Angioplasties are just not effective on this. Unaddressed, it would force undue pressure on the heart, valves and lungs.

She has this new proceedure planned in the next 2 days. Of particular concern is that she will be on bypass for a signficant ammount of time, and the "goods" are in a rather tricky spot to get at. She is also old enough to understand what is going on.

Although the prognisis is quite good, it still scares us aplenty, and she could certainly use your prayers. So if you sincerely wish to know more, email me and I would be happy to answer any questions and invite you to her care page we have set up. Otherwise I plan to leave short update posts on this as it progresses.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

The Bane...part 3 - Getting Ready For The Sequel

So the rotted, perforated, rusty pipe has been replaced (albeit temporarily) from the "box" to where it climbs it way up our embankment, which ammounts for about linear 7' feet. And YET we still have a leak somewhere!!! Hmmm, make that "somewheres" because it seems to be leaking in several places: Up top, in the middle, and at the end.

The rate of the leak is significantly less that it was with the "sieve", but I am going to have to get to it sooner than I planned. Replacing our entire plumbing line has now claimed top spot in my ToDo list.

As of now, I plan to replace it all with copper, but my final decision has yet to be made on that. There is a significant learning curve for me regarding brazing copper tubing, whereas CPVC gluing seems pretty straight-forward. There's also the expense issue as copper prices seems to be at its all-time high. But I still like the anti-bacterial properties of copper and feel that it somehow is more durable (though I doubt I can substantiate that belief). Noise level is a non-issue for us if it is even a issue in the first place. Well here are the issues I have ready about in the debate of Copper versus Chlorinated PolyVinyl Chloride. Here's were I do my Tevye impersonation:

"On One Hand....On The Other Hand..."

- Copper has a long track record.......CPVC is new, unknown long-term effects
- CPVC is cheaper and req. few tools.......Copper is expensive and tool intensive
- Copper has anti-bacterial properties.......CPVC may leach some chemicals/toxins
- CPVC is faster to install.......Copper is expensive and work intensive
- Copper is a fine conductor of electricity, good for grounding (we don't yet have it)
- CPVC isn't prone to corrosion.......Copper will discolor, but is not likely to corrode
- Copper is flexible/impact resistant.......CPVC may snap upon shearing or impact
- CPVC is presumably quieter.....Copper makes some noise, but don't we all?
- Copper tubing is small and fits in small spaces......CPVC is fat and cumbersome
- ...

There IS no other hand:
- Copper has more size and fitting options
- Copper just looks better

If you have your own thoughts on this matter, please share your observations with me and leave a comment. I am a raw novice on plumbing, but I can be a fast learner.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Bane...part 2

First of all I must confess that I had nothing to do with this phase, being the actual repair, though I wish I could claim so. Instead, I went back to work, but even if I had been present, the best I could have accomplished would have been as a gopher (“go-for”); Plumbing is not my thing. Instead, after 3 trips to the hardware store, the WonderParents fixed this, so that we now have them to thank for our once again running water.


Day 2 began with the parental units cutting into the sidewalk. The diamond saw didn’t quite reach the full thickness of the slab, so our kind neighbor lent a hand. Being a concrete contractor, he had the tools to help finish that part of the job. Hurrah for compassionate good neighbors!!! We are again so lucky.

As they set about the task of replacing the leaky pipe, they discovered just how brittle the 50+ year pipe was. This resulted in having to replace the pipe all the way from the meter to the ivy (~+6'). Working down the rabbit hole was just too confining so the already crumbling wall came down. No worries there as it already needed to be replaced anyways.


Once the pipe was exposed, the source of this leak was obvious. Perforated is one word. Swiss cheese are a few more as are “DID WE DRINK WATER FROM THAT??!?!?” Well, we are so glad at least our little girls drank only bottled water. Just look at that pipe interior (below). Sometimes it’s just better to not know. But this is how I had imagined all municipal (and domestic) plumbing pipes to look like inside. Not that I know for sure, but those I suppose are deep calcium deposits. But there are so many holes that I’m sure some rust got in there.

But then again, the water never tasted nor looked tainted by iron or rust. So in all likelihood, the constant high pressure would have forced any loose particles out rather than in the line. Never did a glass of water have little specks in the bottom, and laundry whites still looked relatively white, so I guess we are safe, BUT STILL…

Another Item for the ToDo List

We will be replacing all our pipes before we drink from this tap again. I suppose we should just get it tested, but because the whole of the galvanized pipe we located was heavily rusted, we are resolved to just replace it anyways before it bursts, too. So over time we shall begin to lay a new line and re-plumb the house (and include the new and relocated fixtures we intend as well). And then we can just abandon this line. I intend to do this myself, and take my sweet time doing it, too. Plumbing lacks that sense of self-satisfaction of, lets say, painting. This shall be my induction into the not-so fine art of domestic plumbing. What joy!

But for now, we can bathe and wash and water. Now we just need to fix up that concrete frontage, until the next time...

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Bane of All Old House Owners...PART 1

Plumbing!!! Though I’m sure Electrical runs a close second. When we looked at the sidewalk in front of our house on Sunday on our way out, we noticed a puddle of water. I dismissed it thinking that it was just runoff from a late night of watering the lawn (in which I fell asleep during for a few hours). So when we returned at the end of the day, the puddle was now a little spring, and water was now running down the gutter. I opened up the water meter box only to watch the number go whizzing by. Now either someone was taking a shower and doing the laundry while we were out, or we had ourselves a serious leak.


So I go and fill as many pitchers (for drinking) and buckets (for flushing) as I can find before I go and shut off the main. The sun had set and there was nothing to do about it until the morning. After a frantic end-of-Mothers’ Day call to my parents, I coerced them into coming to our rescue.

To The Rescue

As good parents skilled in Home Repair do, they came. All Monday morning we traced down the water line from the box to the house. We dug it up near the house, at the end of the lawn before the slope down to the street, and at the retaining wall at the foot of the stairs. Let me first say this: Digging amidst the ivy is no fun; hacking away at it with an ax, however, is. “Die, ivy! Die!” I kept thinking. The stuff never seems to go away, and it only keeps spreading. You may wonder why I hate ivy so, and I would tell you that rodents make homes in ivy, and transients park empty bottles (broken and half-empty) inside. As an aside, my Father-in-law, likes the ivy, and went to the trouble of purchasing and planting more ivy where we had previously made a bald spot! if it wouldn't grow back on it's own.

In this photo, the pipe is marked by the screwdriver and the line roughlt followed the tape measure, flagged by sticks. A nice long screwdriver makes a good probe, btw. Now I will also admit that I was blaming the lawn crew whom I thought two weeks earlier had nicked the line with their rototill. The pipe is as shallow as 6” under. But as we flagged the pipe along the way, no where else did there seem any evidence of a leak other than close to the main box by the street. Digging out to the pipe elbows at the retaining wall to sidewalk was no fun either and took some time. It was deep and the soil was not only a dense clay, but also packed with softball sized rocks (presumably to protect the water pipe).

Locating the Leak

With the pipe elbows exposed, from the turn up from under the sidewalk to the turns from the retaining wall to the upslope, we turned the water back on. And we waited until the water would show. It appeared inside the box and on the other side of the retaining wall simultaneously (see topmost photo). The leak was somewhere in between the two, which means under the sidewalk on our side of the meter. This is our problem. This is a problem that will have to addressed on the next day as this day was nearly over. But at least we know where it is within 4'. Stay Tuned....because we are STILL without water!!!

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...T'other side of the Fence

...Where they say the grass is always greener. That was until now. In this entry, I wax about the new greenery we have. Yes, this is a Gardening Post, even tho I vowed to never do one previously. I do house-type stuff, not nature-type stuff; I prefer to leave that to, well, Nature. Roxana, on the other hand....

So we have this great front window in our Living Room, perched atop the hill in the Heritage District that even peeks at the SF Bay & Mare Island (in two places), even though the glazing suffers from sandblasting over-spray. But, as we look out to admire the view, our eyes are drawn to the lava rock & wild weed landscaping our front yard sports. Then we see the lush green grass our identical neighbor boasts. Green with envy, to say the least, especially because they have no children to make use of that turf and we have 2 growing little girls.

What would they do with a rock garden but throw them all about? (Lava) rock gardens are intended as a low maintenance landscaping solution, which is ironic because they breed an impenetrable network of weeds under that weed-barrier tarp. By the time that fabric is breached, it's too late...they're everywhere! Now, I don't actually have any pictures of this sorry state of our yard because it was just too unpleasant to look at and not worth the pixels. So, my father-in-law stepped in (in a very good way), and suprized us with a crew to install a lawn for us!!! How cool is that?

The first day was spent carting off all the lava rocks, weeds and fabric. Also, we had them rip up a few plants we had little concern over. The rose bush, we begrudgingly had relocated. I mean, what kind of person kills a plant that produces roses, anyways? The day ended with the clayish soil being rototilled.and about half the area being marked out for lawn-age as you see in the above photos. Day 2 was all about laying the turf down. Voila! a water-hungry plot of land! O! but it will be played on and avidly appreciaited by all.

And NOW we have this plushy green joy to look at outside our window. Much prettier than lava rock, wouldn't you say? Btw, that tree is a plum tree of some sort; pretty in the springtime. So, R has been busy with the gardening lately, with much continuing help from her father. A few new pots here, a dash of color there, and now it's starting to look quite homey. Soon, we will lose that CMU wall for something a bit nicer...and then there's the cursed ivy.

By the way, the picture to the left includes "the cat" in tow, after a brief escape to go chow on the new lawn. He has become ever more insistent on getting out since seing the new grass below his inside perch (the big window). Once he darts out, he begins eating grass at a furious rate, and eats even fast as you approach him. I suppose this is better than having to chase him around the yard. The young tree in the background (behind the Foxglove) is a Japanese Weeping Waterfall Maple. With it's lacey foliage, it remains rather small and takes the form of an long as we don't kill it someow. Here it is before it was planted, and you can still see the lava rock I was ranting about before it was removed.

Well, this all occurred two weeks ago, and now we have a new dillema. Just this weekend, we had out waterline burst, and I was certain the lawn crew had something to do with it. Come back soon, and I will relay the (ongoing) saga of Plumbing in the Anterior Dimension.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lesson No. @!%!**#~@#!!

Installing a light fixture in the dark: Don't

Okay, so this one may seem a bit obvious to all of you, but just you wait until You get that cherished light fixture you had to have re-delivered (because the first one was received broken) and you get home from work late and can't find any portable lamps.

For weeks we had been put-off by the cheap bathroom fixture dome light that graced our front porch. Even the nickel plating was corroding away. It was no early/mid-century standard, either, but a knock-off from the 70's. We had been looking for a proper replacement from some time and finally smitten by the fixtures from Hubbardton Forge.

So when it finally arrived mid-week, I was over-eager to get this beauty all hooked up just as the sun was going down. I nabbed up the closest tools I could find, including the only portable light I knew the immediate whereabouts of: an LED "battery-free" flashlight that you must shake vigorously for a short charge. I was hoping to beat the sunset, however.

Perched up on a ladder, I got that cheap lantern dismantled, disconnected and discarded in no time. This is where I come to the realization that there is no fixture box to protect the electrical connections or to mount the fixture bracket to; there is only a hole in the 3/4" beadboard (hardwood) ceiling were the aged electrical tubing protrudes from.

So, I am past the reversal line of this project and must push on. I know I will have to someday soon replace this old wiring before the dried out sheathing breaks off. I will also have to install a proper fixture box that's a bit larger than the 3/4" dia hole. By now, the sun is down and I have only one long screw holding the mounting bracket hand screwed through the thick hardwood. This takes both hands, and I have the shake-a-light tucked under an arm. But I must stop every few minutes to give the flashlight another shake.

By the time I get the light hooked up & taped, assembled and "hot", I turn it on and step back only to realize that I mounted it crookedly by about 5-degrees! So I knew better than to mount a light in the dark, right? Well, thankfully I already knew I would have to revisit this project in the future. Consequently, now that the ugly light is gone, the sorry state of the beadboard has become highlighted and vies for our disdain along with our cadywompus light. Just have to toss that onto my To-Do pile. More Stripping in my future, Whoo-hooo!!!

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

It's My Birthday!

Or so said Michaela all week long. We celebrated her 3rd birthday at out first "home" event last weekend, having just moved in about 2 months ago. She had been so looking forward to her birthday party all month and it reached a fevered pitch last week, always reminding us just in case we forgot. I have to say, though, it was almost more of a debutante's ball than a 3 year old's birthday party; she was such an extrovert and was in her element. The one thing she didn't get was the piñata, content with only a tap with the stick. In the aftermath, she asked "Uh oh! Why did he break it?" and "Need to fix it...go get tape". She feigned no interest in the entrails of chocolates and sugar as though it were tainted.

One gift we got her was a Thomas the Tank Engine™ set. In her years [sic] of sitting in waiting rooms and visiting various toy shops, she has developed a real joy for playing with toy trains. This is not a girl who adores stuffed animals or dolls (or, sadly, the cats either); she likes shapes, books, and puzzles...and penguins, of course (they're so silly).

So although we were unable to get even half of the "need to finish before the party" items (like the floor or painting, or the back door knob...), the soiree was a hit. And now we can resume our glacial pacing. Next up....sleep.