Friday, September 25, 2015

One Year Bronch

     Here is a "live" blog of my one year bronchoscopy experience, the last routine bronch I will need! 

9:38 am - Checking in, I'm asked if my visit today is accident related.  Does an accident of genetics count?

9:45 - I am measured at 64 and a half inches. Did I grow?  Post-transplant steroids, perhaps?  Whatever the case, every half inch is important when you are a short person!

9:47 - My pulmonary function test (PFT) starts out with a lower than I'd like number (83% FEV1) which is normal for me. I typically add ten percentage points to what I score in the first run.  Which is exactly what happened this time- my final effort was a 93%. Very nice. 

10:11 - My wife and I arrive down the the Medical Procedures Unit. They confirm that she is my driver since I won't be allowed to operate a vehicle for the rest of the day. 

10:24- IV is in. No matter how many times I've had an IV put in, I can never look at what they are doing. Same with standard blood draws. But I can access my own chest port without a problem. I think I have an aversion to veins being stabbed more than just needles in general. 

10:30- I am so glad I am not a hairy guy as the electrodes are stuck to my chest. One less thing to deal with. 

10:32- I read and sign the form saying I understand the risks of the procedure. It reminds me of how often we sign stuff without really reading it. This form warns me that "death" is a possible outcome from this procedure (infinitesimal though it may be), so this is slightly more important than an iPhone OS update user agreement. 

10:37 to 11:24 - Nap!  The doors open, noise is pouring in from all the hallway traffic, and the lights are on, but I don't let that stop me!

11:26 - I'm wheeled to the room where the procedure will take place. 

11:32 to 11:36 - I inhale an analgesic through a nebulizer to numb my throat for the procedure and overhead a conversation between the two doctors about a patient with lymphoma. Of course, they don't violate HIPPA, but I do get to hear firsthand how medical professionals engage in debate over the best course of treatment for someone. Balancing immediate patient comfort with long-term health concerns sounds difficult to navigate. 

11:45- My pillow is taken away in favor of a piece of foam which gently thrusts my head back to make access to my airways easier.  The doctor gives the order to send the sedatives through my IV. 

11:46 - I'm out. 

Not sure when? - I remember moving from the procedure gurney to the movable one. Vaguely. 

12:51 pm - I wake up from the sedation and, after a few minutes, I'm able to remain conscious enough to have them tell me the initial results of the bronch. (Looks pretty good).

1:17 - An X-Ray to confirm my lungs don't show any visible reason to keep me around is done. No need to tell me what positions to stand in, X-Ray tech-- I've got at least a hundred of these under my belt. 

1:25- X-Ray looks good and the IV is out!  I can leave and go eat-- not being allowed to have breakfast is pretty much the most annoying thing about this procedure. 

1:31 - Made some wonderful choices in the cafeteria- lasagna and garlic bread with sautéed veggies. And chips and a brownie. Enough to account for having missed breakfast. ;)

     When we got home, there was a package on the porch, and I had a hospital wrist band on-- just like the day I returned home after the transplant. I could not resist changing into the outfit I had on that day (well, the shorts are different; I outgrew the pair I wore in the original photos). Makes a pretty spectacular before and after, no?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Life Renewed"

    Yesterday in the mail I received the formal invitation to this year's Vita Redita, an annual fundraiser for the University of Michigan Transplant Center. I am honored to have been selected as the guest speaker for this year's event. 

     They have asked that I speak extemporaneously for about ten minutes, but I will be sure to post my planned remarks here on the blog once I write them. This will probably be the swankiest fundraiser I'll ever attend, let alone speak at, so I want to make sure I'm starting off with a solid foundation of what to say before I go improvising!  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

And Here is the Host of Jeopardy!

     As a teacher, one of my "things" was starting off the class each day with extra credit (.25 points for a correct answer) in the form of questions (well, actually, answers) taken from the page-a-day Jeopardy! calendar. It served as an excellent way to get all the kids focused on me, partly because I play the Jeopardy! sounds "This is Jeopardy!." And "Here is the host of Jeopardy!..." after which all the kids shout, "Mr. Green" at a reasonable volume. 

     I was finally able to resume this tradition, 948 days after the last time I was greeted with a chorus of teens yelling my name. The calendar arrived yesterday, and I was so grateful to have yet another thing "back," something that, without my donor, donor family, my own family, and so many amazing medical professionals, would have never been possible.

     I asked my wife to take a picture of me holding the calendar like Rafiki holds Simba in The Lion King. Yet another circle completed, and so many new horizons to behold. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Beyond Four Walls

     One of the suggestions I received repeatedly from former students about how to approach teaching 7th grade was, "Have class outside!"  So today, we did. 

     To establish a strong foundation for our everyday journaling, we spent most of the hour outside writing, taking advantage of the last full day of summer-- scientifically speaking.


     Ultimately I think the number of words written was roughly equal to the number of bugs played with / killed. It was worth a try!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Open House of Gold

     I continue to add to my list of "firsts" in my career (and potentially to the list of "first time for any teacher ever").  Tonight, I almost cried at Open House in front of the parents of about half my students.  I blame my lung transplant.  It's a funny thing, talking about my transplant experience, because I've done it so many times and for so many audiences that you't think I'd either A) know what moments might make me cry, or 2) not get emotional about it at all.  Usually, the latter is the case, but tonight, I was caught off guard when I got choked up because of how happy I was in that moment, to be doing a thing that most teachers (including myself in prior years) pushed through and said, "Well, I'm glad that's over."
     Earlier in the night, one of my new colleagues asked if I felt ready.  In my most braggadocios voice, I claimed that this and parent-teacher conferences are the nights I live for: seeing kids every day and educating them are not why I went into teaching-- it was because I love talking to the adults at Open House.  We chuckled at how silly I was being, and that was that.  The clock neared six and we all had to be in our rooms-- well, except for me-- I wouldn't see any parents until 6:25 since I only teach the one class.  

     When parents walked in, I did what I do every year at Open House.  I greeted them as they entered and then they answered a few questions written on the board (What is something you know about me?, What is something you want me to know about your child?, etc.) as people all filed in and got settled.  As everyone wrote, I announced that it was not okay to write "You had a lung transplant" for the "What do you know about me?" question, since that was probably the first story out of the kids' mouths at the dinner table that second day of class.  We all had a good laugh, and then I spoke for a only two or three minutes about the transplant.  With a mere ten minutes of time with these folks, I didn't want to spend too much of it on the Evin show.  They care more about what their kid's experience in the class will be like this year, and that's as it should be.  But as a I talked about going on medical leave, being on the waiting list, getting the call, all things I've told to individuals and crowds more times than I can count, I got to a part of the story I hadn't really told before, and before I knew it I was swallowing away a lump in my throat.  

     When I was on the waiting list, recovering, and especially when I was in limbo not knowing if I could return to my career or not, conversations with my wife (who is also a teacher) and colleagues often took a "I bet you don't miss this!" tact-- Open Houses, angry parent emails, ridiculous student behavior, parent teacher conferences where the ones you need to see the most don't show up, meetings (so many meetings!), standardized testing.  It's a long list.  I remember one particular conversation with Kayla, during the "limbo" portion of this past summer, and she told me that what I was longing for was an idealized version of our career-- that I'd been away from it so long that I was forgetting or ignoring what it might really be like to be back.  She did this, of course, to soften the blow in advance in case the decision was, "No, Evin can't teach again..." She's good like that.

     So, as I spoke last night, I told the parents that I was so happy to be back, even if it isn't at the high school, because there was a time when I didn't know if I'd ever do another Open House, or any of the other not-as-awesome-as-actually-teaching-the-students parts of the job.  I didn't think that would make me cry, but it almost did.  And the reason I became emotional is because I do actually like Open House.  And I did miss kids acting a fool, talking to parents at conferences, and even meetings (so, so many meetings!).  Because those parts of the job are the dross, yes, but they have to be sifted past to get to the gold.  When I realized tonight that what I was in front of me, an occasion that many, most, my old self, would have discarded was, for me, a piece of that gold-- one I was unsure I'd ever touch again-- I choked back some tears.  Then I wrapped up my opening speech before taking questions about what kind of writing kids would do and how much homework there would be.  In other words, it quickly became a completely normal Open House.

In the end, I'm really glad this all played out as it did, because now I know I'll need an entire box of Kleenex to conferences in October. ;)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

7th Grade Revelations

     It is not difficult to discern what a 7th grader perceives as "young" or "cool," or what he or she really thinks about you. At that point in life a child hasn't quite developed the filter that (some) kids (hopefully) attain by age 16 or 17.  Though I've spent less than ten hours with my students, they have offered me many indications of how they see me. Here are some examples:

     One said, "You are my coolest teacher, all of the rest of them have, like, really old phones."  It's worth noting that I did not have my phone out or anything, but had made a comment about writing on the Internet (such as in blogs) versus how to format writing for a class assignment. 

     One group wanted to know my age.  According to them I am somewhere between 30 and 37 years old. Not having any of them guess that I am in my twenties would have been a blow, if not for the fact that one of the lunchroom employees mistook me for an 8th grader the previous day. Either whisps of gray hair and full-on mustaches are what all 14 year olds are rocking these days, or being 5' 4" will always give me that "not yet an adult appearance."  

     No matter what the case, defining "what's cool" is not a one way street. One student was apparently very interested when I explained which app I used to put cartoon images of myself in my syllabus...


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Come Back Summer!

     There's nothing quite like having to miss teaching in order to attend a two hour session on how to give online standardized tests to make a teacher long for a return to the recently concluded summer vacation. As my eyes glazed over in the meeting, my mind flashed back to one of my favorite moments, and photos, from break.

     And then I had to "force" myself to focus on making sure I know how to help kids when their computer inevitably refuses to cooperate when they are testing in the few weeks. But, of course, I'd rather be doing what I did today than not be teaching.  And there's nothing stopping my son and I from having lightsaber battles in autumn!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

First Days...

     "Tales from 7th Grade" will probably become an ongoing thing as I blend "posting chapters for my book" and "sharing what's happening in the present day" going forward. Here's a bit about my first two days of teaching middle school...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Returns Accepted

     In the final analysis, last week was about as good as it gets.  On Tuesday, I was a teacher again.  Not that I wasn't one during summer school back in June and July, because, yes, I did teach Drama and Speech to fourteen kids for three hours a day four days a week for twenty days.  But, that was temporary-- a trial run-- and I wasn't even sure on the final day if it would be my last one teaching in a classroom.  For whatever reason, it was this week, teaching middle school for the first time in my career, that made it feel like I'd come full circle.  Not quite "home," but certainly where I'm meant to be at this point in my life-- the return that made this journey feel complete.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Pre-Transplanted Dad: Magic Words

I will have SO many stories to share in my next blog entry-- but until then, here are some thoughts from March of 2011.  Please enjoy them and thank you for reading.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Magic Words

They are called "magic words," but nothing really amazing or surprising happens when one says "please" or "thank you."  And it isn't exactly a magical moment when I hear students use these niceties, though I do appreciate it when a kid expresses gratitude upon receiving an assignment.  In some instances, the expression could very well be ironic.  Imagine it's near the end of 6th hour... a Friday-- do kids really mean "thank you" when a teacher chooses this moment to introduce a project or essay?  Suddenly, the weekend that was to be free from homework has become a Saturday and/or Sunday of hard labor.  Yet some students still say "thanks" as I hand out the sheets of paper that detail their weekend's demise.  Those who say nothing are probably better off for it.  If a student is considering saying a phrase ending in "you" in a case like this, "thank" probably isn't the first choice for what comes before it.  Maybe in those instances it is some form of magic that prevents a teenager's brain from allowing his or her mouth to utter something regrettable.

Actual situations like the one described above are rare, to be sure, and perhaps the "thanks" is as much a Pavlovian response as it is anything else.  But the other day, two students who had approached me with questions on an essay helped each other in the process of getting clarification from me.  I was struck by how, before returning to their respective desks, each one took the time to thank the other.  It was the sort of exchange that should be commonplace, and it made me long for the good ol' "citizenship grade" like the ones my elementary school teachers had at their disposal.  I personally don't know of any public high schools that have a mark for rating a student's civility, but an e-mail to each of the students' parents has a more personal touch anyway.  Since the unfortunate pattern of teacher/parent communication tends to begin when something is going wrong in the classroom rather than going right, it is always a pleasure to be on the sending end (and I'm sure on the receiving end) of an e-mail that says, "Your child is kind and polite.  In fact, earlier today..."

Though it will be a few years before I will have an opportunity to open such an e-mail, I have enjoyed witnessing firsthand my son's recent outburst of politeness.  Although he still often needs to be reminded of the existence of "please" so that his requests don't sound like demands, he has mastered the art of the "thank you."  He recently won his first-ever prize from a claw machine game, and he was quick to express his gratitude.  "Thank you veddy much box," he said, tightly squeezing his new purple teddy bear.  Last weekend, several minutes after we returned from buying groceries, he rushed over to me as though he had forgotten something.  He looked up at me, wrapped his arms around my legs, and said, "Thank you Daddy drive me blue car home."  In that moment, it was easy to see why they are called "magic words."

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

7th Grade Evin

If the 25 minutes I spent teaching seventh graders today are any predictor of the rest of the year, everything's going to be just fine. The kids look pretty much like this-- me when I was 12...

Friday, September 4, 2015

And Just Like That, the Wait is Over

     Question:  Who has two thumbs, two transplanted lungs, and is teaching 7th graders this fall?

     Answer:  This guy!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Different Kinds of Waiting

     I've found that even though I already played the most epic Waiting Game of my life, waiting for other things post-transplant aren't necessarily easier.  I am currently waiting to find out if I will be teaching 7th graders this fall, or if I will be able to move back to my "professional home" at the high school where I've spent my entire career.  And, as silly as it sounds, this Waiting Game is in some ways tougher than waiting for "the call" about my new lungs.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Pre-Transplanted Dad-- "Resolute Beginnings..."

     While I am swamped with professional development and preparing to teach 7th grade for the first time, please enjoy this fitting entry from my previous blog.