Thursday, February 28, 2008

I'm lucky to be alive.

That's what the doctor told me this morning.

Today started out as a good day. Then it all went bad rather quickly. I was getting ready for work when suddenly my head felt like it literally exploded. I cannot describe the pain I felt, it was maybe the worst pain I've ever felt in my life. It was as if someone was drilling into my head with a power drill. I couldn't see straight and I couldn't stand up. About 5 minutes later the pain subsided enough that I was able to finish getting dressed and brush my teeth even though the entire right side of my head was throbbing. My immediate thought went to my friend Don who almost died from a brain aneurysm. My next thought went to my Uncle Ronnie who DID die of a brain aneurysm. I went to the computer and looked up info on brain aneurysms and the symptoms described matched what was happening to me. I told the wife I'd better make a doctor appointment when I got to work, kissed her goodbye and left. Driving to the office, the right side of my head was still throbbing immensely and I could not shake the feeling that something was happening to me so instead of going to the office I kept driving until I got to the base hospital and up to the ER. They took my blood pressure and admitted me immediately. Apparently my blood pressure was so high that they were worried about me keeling over right on the spot. They hooked me up to a couple machines, drew some blood and put in an IV while they waited for the doctor. I figured they'd just give me a once over and send me home so needless to say, this started to really scare me.

As if I weren't scared enough, imagine how I felt when they wheeled in an EKG machine and gave me one of those. I breathed a little easier when the nurse said the EKG looked normal. Eventually the doctor showed up, a German doctor named Dr. Maral. There's one great thing about German doctors - they don't sugarcoat things. She told me in no uncertain terms that my blood pressure was "disastrously high" and that based on what I told them had happened that morning, coupled with my history of hypertension and my current BP, I very possibly could have (or had) an aneurysm. She then yelled to the nurse that she was going to radiology, came back and told me that I would have a CT scan (CAT scan) ASAP to see if it showed anything. Radiology was busy so I ended up laying on the ER table for about an hour waiting. The nurse took my BP every 10 minutes and I remained hooked up to a couple machines. Eventually they were ready me and I received my first ever CAT scan then went back to the ER and waited another 45 minutes for Dr. Maral to read my results. Fortunately the CAT scan didn't reveal any major damage. She explained to me that a CAT scan is not sensitive enough to show any leakage caused by an aneurysm so the only way to be 100% sure would be a lumbar puncture. But the fact that nothing major could be seen on the CAT scan was positive. She also thought I might have had a mild stroke at first but since I didn't experience loss of vision or most of the other symptoms, she all but ruled it out. But she could not rule out an aneurysm.

An aneurysm. That is the scariest word in the English language to me right now. I sat there laying in the ER waiting for my CAT scan and could not stop thinking about my wife and the X Man and my unborn son. What if I really had keeled over? What if I did have an aneurysm and it ruptured and killed me on the spot or turned me into a vegetable. The thought of never seeing the X Man again and never getting to meet my little unborn son who has been kicking me every time I put my hand on my wife's belly...well, it scared the hell out of me. So scared that when I left the ER and got into my car, I lost control and started crying into my steering wheel. I guess a brush with death will do that to you.

Dr. Maral prescribed a couple blood pressure medications for me to start taking. She told me to take some time off from work and relax so I'm on leave for the next week or so. She said that I'm a walking time bomb right now and if I'm not careful I could explode any minute. She told me all the things I'm supposed to avoid from now on. I have to avoid lifting weights and doing anything that causes me to exert myself until my BP comes down a little. I also had to buy a BP machine for the home and I'm supposed to take my BP 2-3 times a day and keep a diary of the readings to make sure it comes down.

So I guess the past 10 years of hard living have finally caught up with me. At least I have a second chance, some people never get that. But when a doctor tells you that you're lucky to be alive, it kind of has an affect on you. I guess it's time to make some changes...

Uncle Steve-O, this one's for you...

"Fresha peppa?"

Sunday, February 17, 2008


From the song right down to the hairdos, this video is...


Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day

We went to our favorite Italian ristorante here in Heidelberg, La Vite's and it was unbelievably good. The wife had minestrone and the spaghetti frutti di mare (spaghetti and seafood) and I had the insalata di polpo (octopus salad) and agnello di ferrai (grilled lamb with garlic). For the wine I started with a valpolicella but when the lamb arrived I made a quick switch to the chianti and it was the perfect compliment...I've still got it baby.

After that we went to the Dubliner for trivia night and we cleaned up, taking first place by a whopping 5 points. In all the times I've been to trivia night the closest we've ever come to winning was finishing in second place by 2 points. Not only that but the team we beat play there every week and have won something like 30 times or something crazy like that.

Needless to say, it was a great night all around.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Gaylord!

Me and Eric at my wedding, October 2002.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Time for a snack.

Sauvignon blanc, assorted olives, grano padano and pecorino (sheep) cheese.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


My mokka is alive! My wife, industrious person that she is, was able to somehow get the cover fixed and I'm currently sipping a deliciously bitter espresso as I type this. When I'm finished, I might even make another one.

I want to thank everyone who sent their best wishes and condolences. Next time you come visit, I will make you a coffee!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

RIP Mokka.

Some of you may remember this post:

How to make an Italian espresso at home

in which I described the way that Italians make their coffee at home. The mokka in that post is one of my most prized possessions. My Italian neighbor Marissa had bought it for me as a gift way back in 2000 or 2001 and it's been one of the best gifts I've ever gotten. As I mentioned in the post about mokkas, the secret to the mokka is to use it a lot and let it get a nice coffee stain build up as it makes the coffee taste better. Well, after 7 or 8 years of coffee flowing through my mokka, it had become a perfect coffee making machine. From my years in Italy right through my move to Germany a couple years ago, the one constant has been my mokka. No matter what, I knew I could always count on a good espresso.

This morning, as I was going through my morning ritual of preparing the mokka for my wake up call, the little black knob on the cover broke off.

I was horrified.

I tried to get it back on but it would not stay. My mokka, for all intents and purposes, is dead. In a strange coincidence, Virginia found a used one at a local fleamarket a few months back and bought it. After a brief mourning period, I must now begin the healing process and attempt to forge a new relationship with this replacement mokka. I will never forget my first mokka and the many years of great coffee that it gave me. But alas, it's time to move on.

RIP mokka. You will remain in my coffee stained heart forever.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super disappointment.

Well, my New England Patriots couldn't do it. They could win 18 in a row but could not win the last game, the only one that counted.

Believe it or not, I'm not as depressed as I thought I would be. This season has been one of the least enjoyable ones that I can remember due to all the spygate nonsense (and it is nonsense) and having to listen to everyone and their brother talk about how the Patriots and Bill Belichick are true evil incarnate. It's almost a relief that it's over, although I really wanted to see them pull off 19-0 just to stick it to all their critics. In the end though, they just could not get it done. Credit the Giants who played a near perfect defensive game and did just enough to pull off the upset.

As disappointments go, this one hurts but still not as bad as the Red Sox colossal collapses in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS to the Yankees or, of course, 1986. I'd list my top 5 sports disappointments in this order:

1. 2003 Red Sox, Game 7 vs. Yankees
2. 1986 Red Sox, Game 6 vs. Mets
3. 2007 Patriots, Superbowl vs. Giants
4. 1987 Patriots, AFC Championship vs. Colts
5. 2005 Notre Dame vs. USC

Thankfully, as Gino reminded me earlier today...21 more days until pitchers and catchers report...GO SOX!!!!!!!!