The Fixing of Dana’s Heart

by Bob Sparrow

mrbellMr. Bell’s Fixit Shop was Dana’s favorite book as a toddler.  We read it to her so many times, that by the time she was two and a half, she had it memorized, literally. I could just turn the page, she’d see the picture and recite, word-for-word, what was written.  That remarkable recall memory would later serve her well in school. Mr. Bell had a sign in front of his shop that read, ‘I Can Fix Everything But Broken Hearts’.  Cutting to the chase, predictably he’s able to repair a doll for Jill that mends her broken heart.  In this tale of life imitating art, Dana had a heart in need of fixing.  Playing the role of Mr. Bell was Dr. Alfredo Trento, Director of the Cardiothoracic Division at ‘his shop’, Cedars-Sinai Hospital in West Hollywood.

 Dana is the world’s best patient.  We visited her as she was lying in pre-op, cracking jokes, pulling faces in her new ‘O.R. hat’ (see photo below) and speculating on whether they are going to insert a human, pig or cow replacement valve in her heart.  She concludes it’s down to a pig or human, as the Chick-fil-A cows have once again mounted a strong ad campaign in favor of the pig value.

tongueDana tells us that she’s made cookies for all her O.R. and I.C.U. caregivers and put them in little ‘Thank You’ bags.  She told the hospital staff, “If you do a good job, you’ll get a cookie”.  If you’ve tasted Dana’s cookies, you know that’s a great incentive!  They wheeled her into the O.R. cracking up and I cautioned her to ‘lie very still’ during the operation.  Dr. Trento tells us that the operation will take approximately 5 hours (there’s probably no smoke breaks in there) and that he won’t know what valve he’ll use until he looks at the heart.  Husband Joe is hoping they use a human valve because he knows that Dana is such an animal lover that if they use a pig valve, as a ‘Thank You’ gesture she will want to get  a pot belly pig as a pet.

In an hour we get a call from a nurse inside the O.R. (one of the great uses of cell phones) that the operation is going well; in three and a half hours we get another call telling us that the surgery has been successfully completed and they are now sewing her up.  Shortly thereafter Dr. Trento comes out to the waiting room to tell us that everything went very well – we all breathed a very heavy collective sigh of relief.

We visited Dana about an hour later in I.C.U. where there are no pictured allowed, but when asked about the picture I took at the right, I told them it r2d2was an artist’s rendering that I just drew.  I’m pretty sure they didn’t believe me, but they let me keep the picture anyway.  She was in quite a bit of pain up to 12 hours after the operation, but the next morning, less than 24 hours after the operation, Dana got out of bed and walked around the I.C.U. – pulling all the tubes and bags along with her.  It looked like she was walking with R2D2.  I think she set a new Cedars-Sinai record for the two laps she completed.  There is a lung transplant patient two rooms down that is challenging that, but I think Dana’s got it.

Wednesday is ‘moving day’ from I.C.U. to ‘I Don’t See You’ or whatever the regular rooms are called.  Her new room is decorated with lots of flowers and balloons – thank you!  She’s feeling pretty good for someone who just had her chest cracked open – thanks to ‘better living through chemistry’.  The doctors and nurses at Cedars-Sinai are amazing – could not ask for better care!  I felt like we should leave them a tip or something, but instead I’ll just give them a great recommendation.

emma dogOn day five, her last full day in the hospital, Dana is visited by a nurse that asks if she would like to talk with a social worker.  No.  Someone from the clergy, a minister, priest or rabbi? No.  How about a ‘Volunteer Dog’? YES!!!  Yep, hospitals now provide dogs that come in and visit patients.  Pictured here is a white Labrador named Emma, who stopped by to see Dana and do a little ‘Lab Work’.

Dana’s recovery has been remarkable; she is back to being her normal high-energy self, in fact our only concern is that they say her ‘new heart’ is going to give her more energy!  Welcome back Darlin’ Dana!!

Wonders in the Desert – Family

by Bob Sparrow

I was amazed again by the wonders of the desert on my journey last week, but this time in a totally different way.  Those who have followed us here know my fascination with places like Death Valley and Joshua Tree; last week’s journey took me to another desert, the Sonoran in southern Arizona, and the wonders I saw there were our brother, Jack’s kids and grand kids – no hiking and camping on this trip.

SuzAlDashBut the first stop along the way was to my sister, Suzanne and her husband, Al’s beautiful home in the private golf community of Desert Highlands in Scottsdale, about as far from camping as I could have gotten.  Linda and I made the stop in Scottsdale on our way to Tucson not only to see Suzanne and Al, but to see if it was true what they were saying about their new dog, Dash

It didn’t take long to see that it was true, Dash was now in full control of Suzanne, Al and all that goes on around the house . . . no, make that their lives.  It was easy to see why this dog commanded such attention – he is adorable.  When I found us all talking baby talk to the dog, I knew it was time to hit the road.  We headed south, confident that the newest member of our family had his owners firmly in control.


Abby, Colin, Katie, Shelley

Look up the word ‘family’ and you’ll find everything from ‘a taxonomic group containing one or more genera’ to ‘a loose affiliation of gangsters in charge of organized criminal activity’.  What you should see is a picture of the Watson family – Colin, Shelley, Katie, Abby and Murphy, the dog.  They are a fun-loving family full of caring, intelligent, thoughtful, humorous, loving people.  Add in nephew, Matt and kids Jackson and Madelyn, and you’ve got quite an assembly of people I just love being around.  Matt is a single dad who has his own physical therapy business; he is an intelligent, spiritual man who has a serious side, but is also one of the funniest people I know.  My cheeks hurt from laughing when I with him.  And I’m related to them all – which some say adds credence to the ‘me being adopted’ theory.



Katie (15) and Abby (12) both play tennis, very well, I might add.  They’ll be stars of their high school team, probably earn scholarships to a highly regarded academic college (they’re both straight A students) and enjoy the game of tennis the rest of their lives.  Unlike most kids and parent involved in youth athletics these days, they have neither the illusion nor the desire to become

Matt's family

Jackson, Matt, Madelyn

professional athletes – rather refreshing. If ever my faith needed to be restored in our youth, our future, it was – in straight sets.

After spending a very enjoyable ‘family’ weekend, we stopped in Phoenix on our way home to have breakfast with Linda’s sister and her husband, Starlet and Donnie, who, you guessed it, are great people!

I have come to enjoy the wonders of the desert; the mild days this time of year, the gentle nights; always amazed at how things not only live in this environment, but flourish.  And so it is with family there; I enjoy the smell of Matt’s chicken on the barbeque, the noise of kids at play in the pool, Colin’s British accent, Shelley’s make-you-feel-comfortable style, but mostly I enjoy the wonder of family and feel so very fortunate that Linda and I are so blessed with great family.

Donnie & Starlet

If you’re reading this on Monday morning, most of you know that I will be a bit preoccupied with my immediate family – daughter Dana is undergoing heart surgery this morning.  I’m looking forward to next writing about her successful recovery.