Retirement: round three


Holy Ghost Prep’s graduation was yesterday.  As the class of 2016 waited for their diplomas, I waited for wheel chair transport out of Pennsylvania Hospital.  Discharge is always slow on weekends.  Finally Trisha, my nurse for the day came with a wheel chair, “Do you want me to take you down.”  Diane headed out to get the car; Trisha and I chatted about travels, past and future.   And so began the third year of my retirement from HGP.


Just after 1, we drove to Santucci’s at Woodhaven and Knghts Road.  Although the HGP graduates were headed home, the class of 1966 (a year after my graduation) were holding a reunion on campus. Should I stop?  No, a different plan.  I’ve had Santucci famous square pizza many times. It was frequently served at HGP on parent-teacher meeting nights.  But I’d never been to one of the family restaurants.   Joe and Philomena Santucci entered the pizza business in 1959 in Northeast Philadelphia.  Since then family members have opened Santucci’s in South Philadelphia, North Broad,  and Northeast locations.  All serve the  “original square pizza.”  I didn’t feel like a lot of tomato so Diane ordered a white mushroom and we decided to stop along the river in Bristol to eat.


We detoured slightly in Croydon.  Somehow the night before my Internet searches discovered a new looking restaurant, High Tides, on the Neshaminy Creek.  What drew me to it was the large deck over the creek.  It looked like a nice place for lunch or just a drink.  As a kid I sometimes asked my father to drive along the creek to State Road as the way home to Bristol.  My trip to Santucci’s and detour along the Neshaminy were part of that impulse.  Retirement: round three might need to start with many short local explores; little adventures.

The waterfront in Bristol was busy with people walking dogs, kids running through the marsh path, families sitting in the sun and then there were guys that hang out in their cars facing the river.  The one next to us was watching TV.  Some day we’d go back to High Tides for a drink.  I thought our mushroom white was tasty; Diane thought it needed some basil and hot pepper. But we will return; small discoveries.

Year two of retirement just ending has been tough.  My medical problems started last June on my return from Italy.  A fistula (holes linking the bowel and urinary system was discovered.)   It was the result of radiation treatment I had at the University of Pennsylvania.  Sadly my Penn radiation was Proton, newer, promoted as safer, and one of the many cancer treatments experienced by my grandson, Eli.  For a while we were the same room although at different times for our Proton radiation.  Thankfully Eli is four years out with no identified side effects or return of cancer. But I ended up in the wrong (I’m told small) percentage.

Surgery to repair the fistula was held off till September — surgeon schedules but also the doctors gave us the opportunity to enjoy a planned vacation in Cape Cod with Jen, Rob, Viv and Eli.  My September surgery was 11 hours and within weeks had been identified as a failure.  I liked both of my primary surgeons, Joshua Blier (Colo-rectal) and Robert Kovell (Urology) but the failure was devastating. Both advised against further surgery.  It became clear that the best would be permanent colostomy and  urostomy.  My recovery was slow and I was hospitalized for two weeks; followed by weeks in a Lower Makefield facility (a nightmare).

Surgery to make my appliances permanent was planned for March.  (Family joke: Cousin Philomena questioned whether the new appliances would be GE.)  Kevin Steinberg, my Penn cardiologist, (I have a heart doctor now), discovered multiple heart issues. Triple by pass heart surgery (CABG, pronounced, “Did you have your ‘cabbage’ done here?” was necessary. One carotid artery was 100% blocked  (need to monitor the second one for life) and a bit of luck, possible valve repair was determined unnecessary. But there is always the possibility of complications. This time mine came in the form of an infected abscess at the site of the original surgery.  For days I waited as the Heart team demanded no infection before surgery; Urology and Colo- Rectal decided what to do. After a week I was taken in for minor surgical drainage of the infected area. Satoshi Furukawa was my cardiac surgeon.  He radiated an eastern calm and confidence. In and out.   I was amazed after waiting for over a week for the heart surgery, I was discharged within days.  Back to recovery in Yardley with the help of Penn Care home nurses.

The heart issues came as a surprise. Particularly the severity.  Prior to, I thought my heart was fine; no recognized symptoms of heart disease.  Lesson, a bit late, see a cardiologist, have a stress test. The discovery of my heart problems have been the silver lining.  March, April, re-scheduled for the new appliance surgery at the end of May.  A typical five day stay turned into a week, then two weeks plus, until my bowels straightened out and began to function.  But yesterday I got out of bed, dressed, and headed home.  Enjoying my small adventures, explores.

My weight is 163 pounds.  Last September I weighed about 208.  I have several healing wounds and two new appliances (not GE). I realize full recovery will be months but I am determined that Retirement: round three will be better than the second.  I’ve started making the list — what I must do to recover; to live; but also what  I want to do to enjoy living.


Now it’s time for some breakfast and house organization.