5-01-10

   Today marks two weeks that I’ve been here at Hopkins.  It’s difficult for me to believe it’s been that long.  Perception of time is certainly shaped by the circumstances one finds oneself in.  Einstein once remarked when asked to describe relativity that to a person sitting on a hot stove a minute seems like an hour, to a person sitting next to his sweetheart an hour seems like a minute.  I’m lucky to have sat most of the day next to my sweetheart; there are not enough minutes in day.

Status: 9.0/10.   Started off earlier in the day with some queasiness and let the nurse know I could use some as needed anti-nausea meds.  Turns out I didn’t get my standard daily early AM IV anti-nausea medication.  The doctors had stopped it because I’m off chemotherapy, but some of it is still lingering in my system.  I am very careful about knowing what drugs I am taking, making the nurses show me the individual named packets of the tablets or capsules, noting the colors and shapes.  What I had not considered is checking to see what meds they had discontinued; yet another wrinkle in staying safe in the hospital.

Events:  Received 2 more units of blood last night (for those of you in the betting pool, that’s 5 so far).  The aforementioned spots of the roof of my mouth have disappeared.  The medical team says they’ll probably never know what they were. Easy come, easy go.  As my white count is zero, I have to wear an N95 mask when leaving the ward (I don’t have to wear anything in my room, nor do visitors).  N95 masks are the same ones that were in such high demand during the H1N1 epidemic; they are tight-fitting and have excellent filtration of particulate matter.

Comments: I wish I could respond individually to each comment on the blog, and hopefully in time I will be able to do more than that.  But I did want to say thanks for  particular reasons regarding the nice comments of Dr. George Lundberg and Dr. Art Ulene.  George was the Editor of JAMA, and in 1983 he selected me as the AMA’s Fishbein Fellow in Medical Journalism.  It occasioned my move to Chicago, my subsequent employment at JAMA, and my transition to television and Lisa.

   Art was a role model to everyone who became a TV doc in those early years.  I remember how thrilled I was when he came to the studios at WLS-TV, and we did a live on-set piece together for the afternoon news.  I’m sitting there in awe, looking to see where his mike was, how he held his hands, trying to learn from every little thing he did.  He was so relaxed, comfortable, and confident as a communicator.  He broke ground for everyone who came afterwards.

   And Art has been part of a favorite story of mine over the years.  The WLS studios were about 5 or 6 blocks from the AMA building, just over the Michigan Ave bridge; a nice walk in the early autumn or summer, but murderous during the winter.  The wind coming off the Lake down the Chicago River when it was 5 above zero was frightening.

   One afternoon (one not meant for walking) I caught a cab to do my spot on the news.   The cabbie looks in his rearview mirror and says, “I can’t believe you’re in my cab!  My wife loves you, she watches you every day. You’re the only reason she watches the news, and she says your the nicest and smartest doctor anywhere.”  I thank him and tell him to give my best to his wife, but he continues to gush on and on.  I try to give him a subtle hint to start the cab so I won’t be late, but he just keeps on going like the Energizer Bunny.  Finally, I make it clear that I really do have to go, and he says, “Sure, sure, but you gotta do me a favor.  Would you please sign an autograph for her, it would really make her day.”  I say I’d be more than happy to, and he hands me a slip of paper.  I’m about to sign it when he says, “Just wait until I get home, and I tell her I had Dr. Art Ulene in my cab!”   I signed the slip, Dr. Art Ulene.

    I’ve always been fascinated with time, and how little decisions can make huge differences later on.  There’s a wonderful movie, Sliding Doors, with Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah (he was the lover of the man who died in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and now stars as the owner of the gladiator stables in the HBO series Spartacus: Blood and Sand).

   Sliding Doors refers to the beginning of the movie when in two alternate realities Gwyneth’s character either makes it onto a London tube (subway) train or not.  Both realities move forward with masterly intercutting as you follow the divergent streams in her life depending whether that seemingly insignificant moment occurred or not.

  My fascination with time perhaps began as a young boy when my grandfather, my mother’s father, Eugene Bespalow, “Daddy Gene,” gave me a book explaining Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity.  He was an extraordinary man, lived until 94, and rose to the top of his profession.  He was the President of the American Society of Civil Engineers and a nationally acknowledged expert in concrete.  He produced critical concrete runways for the Air Force in World War II, created the first reinforced steel concrete bridges we now take for granted, and designed the high speed interstate curves we all drive on.

   One of the consequences of relativity is that the faster you go the more time slows down.  It’s only meaningful at speeds close to the speed of light, but near that limit they are extraordinary.  And it’s not relegated to just mechanical or electronic clocks, timepieces that you may think are a part of physics, but to biological clocks as well, since the theory explains what happens to the fabric of time itself. 

   To illustrate the effect, physicists use an example called the Twin Paradox.  Take two young identical twins, have one take off in a spaceship to a nearby star at almost the speed of light, say a roundtrip for him of 10 years.  Let the other stay on Earth waiting for his brother’s return.  Relative to his earth-borne twin, our astronaut’s time will have slowed down, so much so that when the space ship lands, while only 10 years will have passed for our space boy, perhaps 50 or 60 years will have elapsed for the earthling. The astronaut will step out of his rocket and be greeted not by his identical young sib, but by an aging grandfather.

   So here’s what we do.  We stop spending money on wars and bridges to nowhere, and we build fleets of spaceships taking people with currently incurable diseases on roundtrips to the stars.  When they return a half century later we will have discovered the cures for their illnesses.

   That’s the platform I’m running on, I’m counting on your vote.

 Love and the good graces of time to you all,

-Bruce

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13 Responses to “”

  1. Judy and Larry Says:

    Bruce,
    You certainly have my vote. You make your blogs so interesting…I appreciate you taking the time to let us know what is going on and your thoughts about everything.
    We continue to keep you in our thoughts and prayers. We hope you keep feeling well enough to update us.
    Love, Judy

  2. Steve Seekins Says:

    Bruce, so many of us are following your progress and praying for your recovery. Hope you can continue to keep us all updated…I cannot imagine anyone is worrying about individual responses. I think we all get it that you have plenty to think about and work on. Blessings to you all. Steve

  3. Hope Dan Says:

    Can I go with you on your space trip? I want to be around when we both get back.

  4. Donna Hill Howes Says:

    Roaring at the Art Ulene story….and knowing both Art and George, it’s now fun to learn of your connection with them both.
    Count me in on the space ship ride….I’m always up for a great adventure. Hope to see you in another week.
    Love to you and Lisa. Kids visit this weekend?
    Donna

  5. Eileen Breslin Says:

    Dera Bruce, i dare say you will have quite a full spaceship… a new twist on healthcare reform.. NASA ANd CMS..leave it to you to pose the interesting ideas ..could solve a multitude of problems.
    I do hope you, Lisa and the children have a lovely restful Sunday. Nothing is more important than rest and the time to cherish your loved ones.
    Bill and I continue to send you positive energy daily, wish we were closer to you both to help with the daily routines, We daily await the postings, you are indeed the teacher for us all, and we are most grateful for the gift of you. love Eileen and Bill

  6. wendy Says:

    Oh, I guess I read it all wrong. I was given the book too…and I thought the book was the theory of special relatives… and so I went into social work, while you followed the sciences..:)

    He was a wise man to provide you with books that would stimulate your interest and so his Genes,,,live on and on..I wear his wedding band during times when I want the ones who have gone before us to help guide our loved ones.. I have had all wedding bands on for you….his and Nana’s and Gogo on to stay connected to those who will provide support for you..

  7. Susan and Larry Says:

    glad to hear you are feeling better.love the stories and commentaries, look forward to seeing lisa the kids and vou in memphis.talked to your mother several times.she seems to be doing okay.forgive my typeing.come from the hunt and peck system.cant find the capitals yet.we think of you every day.get well soon.love cousin larry

  8. Sharon McDonnell Says:

    Hi Bruce, I wanted to see if I can sent you images via wordpress. IF yes, this is a coyote puppy (“high spirits) my mother used to send to me as our code signal for good cheer and support. If it can’t be embedded well then I’ll go with plan
    B.
    I am continuing to work on project “health through imagery” after being appalled with what I was seeing in hospitals and amazed at what I was reading about the research on images, neuroscience, and how some of these could work together better in the world of health promotion and patient care.

    If the image embed doesn’t work then go on over to the website. I will put up some pictures for you. We are testing them with biofeedback and the like to see effects on stress response and other measures. Its fun.

    Lots of pictures for you to pick from == you can go by mood or search a word in the search field. Or go to health through imagery on navigation bar– I’ve tried to summarize the assumptions and guidelines for the work + link to pictures.

    The pictures in blog from last night might suit you just right– cheerful and they both make me smile. I’ve enjoyed reading your “adventures”. Your in-hospital time sounds very much like my own. It is strange to be on the other side of the story (patient side). I don’t like to bash our profession too much but it seems woefully easy to forget the center of the story is YOU and that helping you feel less exposed, estranged, out of control, and more a part of it would be an important goal. Ah so.

    Blog is http://gaybumgarnerimages.blogspot.com/
    I have been doing a lot of science ones on birds, butterflies etc. For a good tale check out the butterfly ones and what happens inside the chrysalis.

    I am rooting for you and your circle of family and friends.
    Love
    Sharon

  9. Sharon McDonnell Says:

    Hi Bruce, I tried to see if I could embed images for you in wordpress. Looks like no. So here is link
    http://archive.gaybumgarner.net/c/gbi/image/I000087rxKU2au5c

    to a coyote puppy (“high spirits) we raised (orphaned litter) and my mother used to send me this picture as our code signal for good cheer and support.

    I am continuing to work on project “health through imagery” after being appalled with what I was seeing in hospitals and amazed at what I was reading about the research on images, neuroscience, and how some of these could work together better in the world of health promotion and patient care.

    Go on over to the website. I will put up some pictures for you. We are testing them with biofeedback and the like to see effects on stress response and other measures. Its fun. Lots of pictures for you to pick from == you can go by mood or search a word in the search field. Or go to health through imagery on navigation bar– I’ve tried to summarize the assumptions and guidelines for the work + link to pictures.

    The pictures in blog from last night might just suit you– cheerful and they both make me smile. I’ve enjoyed reading your “adventures”. Your in-hospital time sounds very much like my own. It is strange to be on the other side of the story (patient side). I don’t like to bash our profession too much but it seems woefully easy to forget the center of the story is YOU and that helping you feel less exposed, estranged, out of control, and more a part of it would be an important goal. Ah so.

    Blog is http://gaybumgarnerimages.blogspot.com/
    I have been doing a lot of science ones on birds, butterflies etc. For a good tale check out the butterfly ones and what happens inside the chrysalis.

    I am rooting for you and your circle of family and friends.
    Love
    Sharon

  10. Judi Golding-Baker Says:

    My Dear Bruce (or Art, as you are known by at least one Chicago cabbie!),

    I loved your commentary on “time” and remember “Sliding Doors” …it was one of my most favorite movies…

    You have my vote (always) and specifically on your healthcare platform, with interglactic roundtrips for all those with incurable disease…

    In the meantime, while we are all still here on earth…I thought your advice on checking out what meds are “discontinued” was so insightful…never thought to do that…but it really makes sense…

    I’m rooting for you and sending you and Lisa, Rachel and Ethan all my love
    Judi

  11. Ronnie Goldberg Says:

    Hi Bruce! You might remember me, Jenny’s mom. Well, Karen is keeping us up to date on your journey. I love your blog. In fact, I think you could have been a writer of novels. You really have a flair.

    You may not know this but my husband, Ted, was at Johns Hopkins for a liver transplant. You know how devastating that is. So, I know exactly how Lisa is coping. And knowing Lisa the little bit that I do, she must be amazing.

    I wish every day to be a miracle. My heart and Jenny’s heart are with you both.

    Ronnie

  12. joel steinberg Says:

    And we all thought you were just goofing off all that time at MIT. You actually were paying attention! Appearances can be deceiving. Joel and Margaret S.

  13. Bruna Nevius Says:

    Hello could I use some of the information from this entry if I link back to you?

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