Merry Christmas Mates!

Many of you have enjoyed Hook’s unique bug Christmas cards for the last dozen years or so.   For 2012, we still have an insect to share by way of a public Christmas card to our family, friends, and all the good people of the world who have been keeping up with our blog (72 countries total!).

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The 2012 Hook Christmas Card


Photo taken by Dr. Allan Hook: An acacia ant, species of Pseudomyrmex, on an acacia plant in Chiapas, Mexico, 2009.

From the Hook home to yours this Christmas season, we wish you abundant health, happiness, and a good friend to share it with.

Speaking of friends, this acacia ant, a species of Pseudomyrmex, shares a unique relationship with the acacia plant.   The plant provides swollen, hollow thorns as a nest site for the ant to lay its eggs, and the light colored nodes you see on the leaf tips provide food for the ant.   What the ant provides is protection via a very painful sting to plant-eating animals that would otherwise harm the health of the plant.

Protect the health of your family and friends and may you enjoy a prosperous life.

Photo taken by Dr. Allan W. Hook, El Panchon in Palenque, Chiapas MEXICO, 2009.

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The Great Hook Escape


Hook’s Get Well cards. There were so many, I had to tape some to the window.

As I sit in the hospital cafeteria and dream of life outside the walls of St. David’s, my POW-stricken husband lies in his 5th floor room being poked, prodded, picked, and occasionally pampered.

With a hollowed, gaunt look of someone who has been starved and beaten, Hook’s recovery continues but his appetite struggles to rise above broth status.  His initial plunge into shrimp marinara proved too aggressive and his stomach beat back any hopes of resuming regular consumption of even the most basic of solid foods.   Like coming across a DETOUR sign on a side street and driving down roads never before taken, Hook’s internal system is learning how to maneuver new passages while trying to heal in the process.  Progress has been made but it is slow and arduous.

“Maybe you could just place the Cherrio on your tongue and let it sit there,” I suggest in a desperate attempt to get him to eat even a little bit more.

When I’ve exhausted that parental tactic, I switch to bribery, “If you eat one more spoonful, you can take a nice long nap.”   Knowing Hook has been deprived of a full night’s rest due to middle-of-the-night vital checks and oral pain medication, the promise of sleep is motivation enough for one more spoonful.

Release Date

Our hoped for Tuesday release came and went and now Friday the 21st will be the earliest we are released.   I say We because the closer a Go Home date approaches, the more nurses and technicians and nutritionists and dieticians and physical therapists and home health care personnel and doctors …have I left anyone out?…visit Hook’s room to prepare us for what to expect once we are on our own.   And slowly but surely his plastic appendages are being removed but one outie tube and one innie IV will remain attached when we finally exit these beige walls and the antiseptic smell of healing in progress.   Once home, we’ll entertain daily visits from a nurse and other home care professionals at least through the first week of January.

Since pampering is actually my job and not the nurses, it’s time for me to return to the room and resume my full duties.   But Hook and I have decided, if the surgeon doesn’t set his discharge for Friday, we’re breaking out and pleading insanity.

Regarding visitation, I’ve reverted back to surgery day status and have put on hold any in person visitation for the remainder of 2012.  Feel free to email and call Hook directly and this way he can respond as he feels able.

Friday or bust.

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Beaming Up Some Dr. Hook

What a treat.  The good profesHDU_Star Treksor has a second message for everyone.  On the doctor thing:  Hook doesn’t mind if little kids call him Dr. Hook and he insists that his students either call him “Professor Hook” or “Dr. Hook” but never just ‘Hook’ — show some respect! — but if adults call him “Dr. Hook,” he’ll always respond:  “I’m not a real doctor.”

Allow me to beam up an entomologist then…

From Allan:

TGIF!!! So I’m now on solid food and I’m still learning what and how much to eat. Last night I ordered pasta with shrimp marinara sauce and boy did that taste good, with large shrimp – heck a meal better than you’d get at many restaurants. Unfortunately I forgot about the acidity in the red sauce and paid for that with a stomach ache. My nurse at the time said he could get me a tums….only to return to say it’s not on THE LIST. I thought there might be some antacid tablets in my toilet kit and the nurse said he’d look the other way if I found one and ate it. Sure enough there was one HEB antacid mint, lying decaying/disintegrating at the bottom of my kit – probably nearly a year old, co-mingling with spilled toothpaste, shaving cream and who knows what else….I gobbled that sucker down and it helped. My day nurse of late, Phyllis, thought that was a bunch of nonsense and will provide me with a pill if needed.

Phyllis has been my day nurse for 3 days now and we get along just fine. Her only problem is she doesn’t like to give shots (let alone get them). Anyway today I was scheduled for 3 shots: flu, pneumonia vaccine and this anticoagulant shot to the stomach. So I had to ‘coach’ her – you can do this Phyllis, relax, you’re doing fine, etc. We had a good laugh over that one.

Oh, another advantage of a hospital stay (besides the gourmet food) – cable TV!!! Yesterday Star Trek ran all afternoon….what more could you ask for?

From Rosemary:

I won’t apologize for my husband’s poor taste in TV — oh, did you hear that? — trekkies around the world just vomited.

The quick and dirty update on Hook is this:   He may get out of the hospital as early as this Sunday.  Hospital administration is gently pushing him to be released because that’s healthcare politics.  In fact, I’ve set up a small team of visitors to go see Hook so administration doesn’t try to secretly dump him into a wheelchair and drop him off under the 6th Street bridge with a cardboard sign that says:  Will work for bandages.

Hook is still connected to some critical tubes (I’ll spare you the fluid details) and he’ll have to remain connected to them for at least another 30 days.  But, he cannot stay in the hospital for another 30 days so hospital administration is not quite sure what to do with him.   One solution is they’ll have a nurse come out to the house 1x/day to empty the fluids and dress the bandages and teach me how to give him blood thinner injections.

Now, you can vomit.

Reporting live from my living room and headed to pick up some nice thank you gifts for all the nurses.

Editor’s Note:  Hook emailed in his blog post.  Yes, he has email access now!

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A Message from Allan

As promised, a message from Allan (that he typed himself).   For those who have never heard me say his given name, Allan is Hook, sometimes called “Al” by colleagues and only called Allan by me when I’m upset with him or when I feel very loving toward him — keeps him on his toes!   And, I don’t call my husband “Hook” at home, but well, other things . . .


Hidalgo, Texas: Allan and the largest killer bee. Photo taken by Riley Nelson. Circa ?

From Allan:

After the surgery I was seriously dehydrated and now the trick is to reduce a lot of the fluids they put into me – or by giving me albumen and a couple of amino acids. The body is now used to doing catabolic reaction to get the glucose it needs, so we have to kick-start the liver to get it back to doing its job.

Besides having to deal with this our fridge went out over the weekend and luckily Mary Joy and Dave Guzman discovered that while Rosemary was in the hospital with me. I understand they had to do some serious cleaning – so 15 million cheers for the Guzmans and thanks so much for your help!

I know Rosemary has talked/raved about two of our nurses – Roy Lopez and Justin Sandefur with a daughter named Nora – she’s only 14 months old. Roy trains a lot of the nurses here and with his experience they can gain a lot of knowledge in a short period of time – for example Roy came up with a pump variation to remove all the excess iter/intra?peritoneal fluid (well at least they won’t ask me to teach A&P again!). And Justin is great too – these guys have had to change so much dressing and gowns, sheets and towels – just so you know where your health care costs are going. But these guys are really dedicated.

Hospital visits – believe me I don’t really have time for visits – every hour they have me doing something and they just get in the way and you know I’m not a social wasp. I’ll be home soon so perhaps then a visit.

And for those that pray (I wrote prey…) thanks for your help – it does mean much to me.

cheers hook


p.s. from Rosemary:   Justin’s daughter, Nora, is Nora Jane.   Nora means ‘woman of honor’ and Jane means ‘peace’.   How cool is that?

Nurse Justin spent two summers in the Dominican Republic as a health missionary and he is pursuing his NP (nurse practitioner — a higher level than an R.N.) because he said N.P.s get to do all the fun stuff without having to have a schedule of a doctor.  When I asked Justin how working nights affected his family life (there’s a lot of time in a hospital room and when someone is lifting up your husband’s scrotum, you kind of feel like it’s okay to ask them personal questions.  How many of you DIDN’T need to visualize that?), he said something so profound that I felt compelled to write it down so I wouldn’t forget to share it with you.  Justin said, “You don’t get married because it’s easier.  You get married because it’s better.”  I asked him to repeat it louder for Hook’s benefit, or maybe for my own.   Justin said he couldn’t take credit for the quote because he got it from his older brother.   To Nurse Justin:   thanks for the great care, for being so attentive to Hook, but also for the wise marriage advice.

And to Nurse Roy:  you rock and you are great at what you do!

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Getting Back on Schedule

You all must have been praying double-time because from about 7 o’clock yesterday evening to most of today, Hook’s situation has improved:

  • Sunday 7:00PM: A great second shift weekend nurse, Justin, entered the hospital scene.  I was looking forward to having Nurse Daniel back because I didn’t want to break in another night nurse.   But Justin came, started chatting Hook up, asked him about his surgery and what he did for a living so that when I heard Hook crack a sleepy joke to him, I knew everything was going to be all right.  Hook seemed comfortable with Justin so by 8:30, I headed home and got a full eight hours of sleep.  I felt a little bad that I didn’t ask Justin his story about how he came to be in nursing, but I’ll do that tonight since I’ll hang around until after the nurse shift change.
  • Monday 6:30AM:  Nurse Roy took over for Justin and when I saw him, a sense of relief floated over me.  Roy was the back-up to Nurse Michael when Hook was in the real ICU.  When we met the first time around and he asked if there was anything he could get for me, naturally I said, “Margarita, frozen, no salt,” and Roy replied, “Make mine with salt.”   Roy is like the Edward Scissorhands of nurses.  He whipped Hook’s schedule into shape and within one hour gave me status updates on all liquids, physical therapist appointment, when we can expect to see the surgeon, and how the rest of the morning would look.   The room vibrated (I’m not kidding!!!) from his energy as he zipped around pulling sheets off, hooking things up, punching buttons here and there.  It feels so good to be taken care of!  Even Hook said, “He’s good.”  Roy always knew he would be a nurse growing up.  His mom and two brothers are also in healthcare, and he started volunteering in health service settings when he was 15 years old.  He said he’d thought about medical school but changed his mind after his first pre-med course.  The professor in Hook snickered when he heard that.  (The man even snickers when he’s drowsy!)
  • Monday 9:00am:  In walks Joyce, a 30-year, career physical therapist with a witty sense of humor and a joke bank to back it up.  She immediately went into action, giving Hook a play-by-play of how he was going to pull himself up and off the bed and into a standing position and how she would navigate the whole process.   Joyce has raised three sons, all in their 20s, and she said she enjoys her job even more now that she doesn’t have to worry about soccer practices and laundry.  She’s firm and insistent with her instructions to Hook which is exactly what he’ll need for this next physical stage.
  • Monday 10:30am:  A visit with the surgeon and the big spleen debate.   Our surgeon informs us that Hook is hooked up to more tubes than anyone on the floor and that his goal is to start removing a few.
  • Monday 2:30pm:  One of the outie tubes is removed!

Love is a Many Spleendor Thing 

Since yesterday, when Hook overheard a conversation between one of the weekend nurses and me about the reconstruction of his insides, he has insisted that he still has his spleen.   We’ve been circling this spleen thing ever since.HDU_spleen

You see, even though Hook can answer questions asked of him, he has drifted in and out of a drug stupor for the last five days.   Although he remembers more and more in between his wake-ups, in the first three days, he could recall very little about what was asked of him and what was going on around him.

The first time he asked me how the surgery went, I de-briefed him as the surgeon had de-briefed me.   Hook’s focus then was on the specifics regarding the smaller stomach which made sense given he was looking forward to getting back to eating.  All was fine until yesterday when he piped into my conversation with the nurse and from out of a slumber mumbled,  “No he didn’t,” and I said, “No he didn’t what honey?” and Hook said, “He didn’t take my spleen.”   Then he glanced at me with a sideways look and what I believe to have been a sneer that screamed, you don’t know what you’re talking about.   Then he fell back into a sleep.

Spleens aren’t exactly trending on the internet so here’s a quick paragraph on all you could ever want to know:

“The spleen unfortunately was an innocent bystander,” said our surgeon at the 10:30am meeting.  One of the arteries going into the spleen had suspicious looking nodes and leaving them behind was not an option.  When Hook kept on with more questions, asking about the 10% number regarding his pancreas (he questioned the accuracy of my information on that one as well), the surgeon confirmed that yes he cut away more than he had anticipated.  Hook said, “You didn’t leave me much,” and the surgeon replied, “I left you enough.”

And it will be enough because we will make it enough.

If all goes well the rest of today, Hook might be allowed to enjoy something other than ice chips as an entrée like a frozen ice pop, maybe even some broth, or tea.  But we won’t know that until the late evening.

Before I forget, this joke from Joyce the physical therapist is too good not to share:

A man is lying in bed in the hospital with an oxygen mask over his mouth.  A young nurse comes into his room and says she’s there to sponge his hands and feet.  “Nurse,” the man mumbles from behind the mask, “Are my testicles black?” Embarrassed, the young nurse replies, “I don’t know, I’m only here to wash your hands and feet.”  The man struggles to ask again, “Are my testicles black?”  The nurse pulls back the bed covers, raises the patient’s gown, holds his penis in one hand and his testicles in her other hand and looks closely and says, “No, your testicles are not black.”  Finally, the man pulls off his oxygen mask and replies, “That was very nice but, are… my… test… results… back?

My baby is gaining strength and thanks to our new nurses (Justin will be back tonight!) his body is getting back on track and back on schedule.  If it doesn’t, the nurses and the surgeon will have some exspleening to do …  😀 😀 😀

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From Room 232

The frustration with hospitals is that they are in the business of treating patients instead of people and those closest to the front lines, nurses and technicians, get caught in the political middle … but the body that pays is the one strapped to a bed completely dependent upon those around him.

FRIDAY late afternoon:  Our surgeon said he wanted Hook to be moved from the bed to a chair and that he “will make a note of it to the nurses.”  He said that the longer Hook stays immobile, the harder it will be for him to get moving.

SATURDAY 12:26PM:  The doctor ‘on call’ tells Kelly Scott (my stand-in) that Hook will remain in ICU until Monday.  This is longer than expected.  Later in the evening, long after I return to the hospital, I learn that the extended stay in ICU was due to some issue with Hook’s lungs.

SATURDAY 3:00PM Kelly Scott leaves to go pick up pizza to thank the ICU staff for taking care of Hook.  We find out later that Nurse Michael was off for the day, Nurse Stephanie wasn’t in yet, and Hook was going to be moved from ICU in a couple of hours.  So unfortunately an unknown team got thanked but I’m sure they earned it with someone else.  Note to self:  scratch future suggestions of pizza.

SATURDAY 5:00PM  I mention to Hook’s new day nurse, Norma, that he was supposed to be moved from the bed to a chair per the surgeon’s orders yesterday.  She says she will look for the orders.  Instead, two technicians come in and adjust the bed into a full sitting position.  This works for now but all of Hook’s limbs are swollen and our surgeon said it was important that by day 3 he be physically up and off the bed.

SATURDAY 6:00PM-8:00PM Hook waits in limbo to be assigned out of ICU and into IMC (Intermediate Care) because someone worse off than him needs to be in the ICU.  All of a sudden the ‘lung problem’ is “okay.”  Neither Norma nor Stephanie is allowed to claim Hook as their patient so I have no GO TO person to go to for help.   I ask again about getting Hook up and out of the bed to anyone who will listen and I’m told I have to wait until a new nurse is assigned which we are told will be Vance, oh wait, no, that is the technician not the nurse, but wait some more, it won’t be Vance but Mark or Kyle or some other random name.  Our new tech does not end up being any of those people.

SATURDAY 8:00PM The ICU floor nurse barks at me to give them space in the room because a team of 4 have entered to prepare Hook to be moved to a new bed. I’m actually okay with this because it means someone is in charge now.   I don’t leave the room as Nurse Ratched demands because not one of the people in the room has been someone who has been attending to Hook for the past 72 hours.  They’re asking each other questions that sound like they hope someone in the room knows the answer.  I helicopter the entire process with a watchful eye as they wheel Hook to his new room:  232.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY 8:00PM-4:00AM Nurse Daniel introduces himself as our new night nurse.   Throughout the night, I whisper stories to Daniel about Hook:  who he is, why he’s here, what he does for a living.  When Hook is awake, Daniel shares why he decided to be a nurse:  “I wanted to help people,” he said.  “I know that sounds trite, but I really enjoy it.  The first time I saw a cranium being cut into, I was hooked.”  I hope Daniel is not a fan of Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

SUNDAY 5:00AM  I introduce Nurse Daniel to the infamous Elton John song, Daniel.  Hook has a Norman Thayer moment when he grumbles, “How can you not know the song, Daniel?  You know Elton John dontcha?”   I intervene with a rub to Hook’s head, “He’s from a different generation, honey,” and Nurse Daniel responds, “Oh, is it an old song?”    I glance at Hook and give him the squinted eye that says he’s not to respond, but he mumbles something about Bernie Taupin and what’s the world coming to when people don’t know Elton John songs.  My baby is back!

Correction:  Nurse Daniel knew who Elton John was.  He just hadn’t heard the song, Daniel, before.   

SUNDAY 6:00AM-8:00AM Nurse Kate introduced herself as our day nurse.   She has a master’s in nurse administration, is interested in training, and she teaches from time to time at Austin Community College.    After Daniel brings her up to date on the stats, I bring her up-to-date on what needs to happen:  get Hook up and out of the bed.   Kate said she can’t do that without a doctor’s order and I run through how the order should have been put through 24 hours ago and if it wasn’t, will she please call the surgeon and get the order.  Kate seems sweet but hesitant to pick up the phone and call the surgeon.   I can’t have a nurse who’s afraid to call the doctors.

SUNDAY 9:35AM  Kate has been in and out and she’s getting the basics in order.   Hook has been moved around on the bed but these are non-ICU beds so they cannot be manipulated into a full sitting position.   I’ll give Kate until 12Noon to pick up that phone and call the surgeon.  I have the surgeon’s cell number from his business card but I think it would be better for the nurse to call.

SUNDAY 10:00AM Kate has talked to the on call doctor and has gotten the approval to at least move Hook into a physical sitting position on the side of the bed.   If he doesn’t feel drowsy, he’ll be moved onto the recliner.

VISITING HOURS:    None in Room 232 and I would hold on sending any cards to this room either because Hook will only be here 2-3 days before he is moved again.  But if you send a card to the P.O. Box 151240, Austin, TX 78715-1240, I’ll be sure to pick up.

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Ice Chips as an Entree

I guess when you’ve had part of your stomach removed, then eating falls down the list of priorities in the healing process.   Oh, Hook receives basic nutrients from one HDU_MASHof the half dozen tubes going into his body so no worries that they’re starving him to death, but those tubes tangle with the other half dozen tubes that are pulling things out of his body.   With all these innie-outies, Hook can have all the ice chips his teeth can crunch at once but he’s not to drink gulps of water although he tries to sneak in sips.  He’s very tricky.  He’s gotten me to leave the ice cup on the bed with him where he’ll let it melt so he can drink actual water from time to time.   When the surgeon stopped by yesterday evening, I told on Hook.  I TOLD ON HIM and the surgeon backed me up and explained to Hook that even a gulp of water could disrupt the healing process going on inside him.

“I did some major reconstruction in there and you don’t want to ask your insides to do anything they don’t need to right now,” said the surgeon.

The surgeon stopped by twice yesterday.  Each time he does, he makes sure he hears from Hook directly on how he’s feeling, and then usually, he’ll check his dressings.  I can’t even be in the room when the dressings need to be changed.  It’s too M*A*S*H for me.  I almost expect a green drape of a tent to descend over the bed and for bombs to start going off outside the window with someone yelling, “I need more suction!”

I wish I were one of those people who say without thought, ‘I’d take his pain if I could!’  But that would be too much of a big, fat lie.   I’d take Hook’s smaller stomach though and his ice chip diet because if there is one thing Hook loves, it is sitting down to a robust meal.    The man loves to eat which I attribute to his healthy French genes that he got from his mother.  Everyone knows the French eat whatever they want and that their insides are lubed with butter – real butter – and Hook, for all his German blood, inherited from his French mother, the love of rich food.

Returning to the Hospital

Kelly gave me last night off and stayed with Hook until around 3am when Hook kicked him out and said he (Hook) needed rest.   Kelly’s heart is as big as Texas but his attention span is the size of Rhode Island.  I’m sure every time the nurses came in to check on Hook, Kelly probably started up a conversation.  He’s very social that way.

After being kicked out by the patient, Kelly returned to the house but only for a few short hours, and headed right back to sit with Hook in ICU.  I woke up at 10am (egads!), texted Kelly, and got a quick update:   He’s sleeping then 10 minutes later, He needs his glasses so he can watch the game this afternoon, then 10 more minutes later, He has 175 channels!   Time for me to return to the ICU but not before publicly thanking Dr. Scott:    Anyone who has had someone in ICU understands that yes, it would be better to sleep in your own bed, but no, you’re not going to leave them alone.  What if they need you? Many times in the last 48 hours, Hook has woken up and couldn’t find his finger clicker or needed ice chips or I’ve tracked down our nurse to come shut off the beeping sound that keeps going off from the monitors.   For all the fun I poke at Kelly, it has been a gift to have him be my stand-in and to have him show up and say, “get up, get out, go home.”

Comments & Visiting Hours

I read every comment you all post and I read them to Hook, too.  He smiles when I read them and chuckles at the funny ones so I’ve learned to ask him to click his pain med in before I read him something that I think will make him laugh.

Regarding those visiting hours:  figure next Friday at the earliest.   The doctor has let us know that Hook will remain in ICU until at least Monday.  But remember, Hook really, really, really doesn’t want visitors so only come if you feel like you won’t live unless you see him.  Then when you do show up be sure to say, ‘I didn’t feel like I could live if I didn’t see you,’ or something like that.

And Get Well Cards — probably hold on those, too, or feel free to mail them to Allan Hook, P. O. Box 151240, Austin, TX 78715-1240.  I’ll be stopping by the P.O. Box today and Tuesday.  I only suggest the P.O. Box because there’s really not a lot of space in his ICU room.  There’s one tiny shelf behind a chair but Hook can’t see it and that’s where I store my overnight bag so it stays out of the way of the nurses and techs.  If you send cards to the P.O Box, I can bring them to the hospital once Hook is finally moved to a regular room and is able to read them.

I’m going to take a break from blogging the rest of today.   It has helped a great deal to be able to keep everyone updated this way and I thank you for letting me get away with not calling or emailing or texting.  It eliminates a layer of constantly repeating the same information over and over again but still lets you all get the information you want because you care which is nothing small to me — that you care.

Mucho mucho gratitude from the Hooks on ice.  And now, I’m going to order pizza for the nurses in ICU at St. David’s so as to keep them on ice, too.

p.s.  Jehovah Witnesses just came to the door and I said, “My husband’s in ICU so I can’t talk right now.”  Finally, a great excuse.  Hook’s going to LOVE that. But I’ll still take the little brochures to him because I said I would.  Hook won’t love that, but that’s the downside of ICU– you don’t get to choose your own reading material.  😉

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