Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Hospital

The ongoing story of our visit to Basque Country.

Finally, Thursday of our memorable week with our Basque friends, we went to Alberto's workplace (also Gonzalo's)--the hospital in Donostia (San Sebastian).

As Amaia would say, with some difficulty, when asked about her father's occupation: "He is a neurologist."

This is one time Alberto walked in as a tour guide, not wearing his white doctor's coat.

Dane (on left) and Dr. Alberto Bergaretxe 
Laurie was taking pictures. Right inside the main door to the right was a convenience store. And that was her last photo before a security guard came and said, "Prohibido."

Family friend, Gonzalo (who, by the way, loaned us a vehicle for the week we were there!) works in the same hospital as a radiologist. We found his area and saw him looking very professional.

Dane was especially interested in visiting the cardiac unit as he is Coordinator for Inpatient Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Services at Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie. In his words:
"I had the opportunity to spend nearly 30 minutes with Dr.'Sanvi' [the friends' nickname for him] who was in charge of the outpatient cardiac rehab program in Donosti. He spoke with nearly perfect English as he described his program and the patients he treats. Initially I was surprised that his program was so small but he reminded me that in the Basque Country heart disease is not as wide-spread as it is in America and therefore there hasn’t been a need for this kind of program. We both laughed.

Dr. Sanvi was a very wise man. He had been involved in several research projects. One had studied the effects of the “Mediterranean Diet” on lowering risk factors for heart disease. He was relating to me the complexity of getting this study published due to the difficulty of finding a suitable control group in Donosti—“everyone eats the Mediterranean diet”, he said, with a bit of sarcasm.

Dr. Sanvi was kind enough to let me tour his cardiac rehab facility which was one room with several exercise machines, a nurses area with a heart monitor to assess patients’ heart rates and rhythms, some chairs and a table where patients could get evaluated in case they were having trouble. The staff that consisted of the doctor, a nurse and physical therapist was very polite and always smiling. They seemed to be very professional yet down to earth and working well with the patients.

There were about six patients being treated when I visited and the scene looked very familiar with our typical classes at our hospital—working hard, smiling and being monitored by the staff. One gentleman was having slight chest pain so he was receiving special attention on the examining table. As I stated before, because the Basque people don’t have a high incidence of heart disease there has not been a need for this kind of clinical program until recently. As I was allowed to interact with Dr. Sanvi I could tell that his knowledge of heart disease and cardiac rehab was quite high but their facilities and the equipment they were using seemed to be 20-30 years behind what we have in America today. It was, literally, like going back into one of my old text books and seeing the pictures come alive of how it must have been when our programs were just starting to get off the ground in America.

I was so thankful to have this experience with Dr. Sanvi in Donosti. I wish I could invite him to come and visit our program here at Ball so we could exchange more ideas and meet some of our staff and patients!"
 I remember listening attentively to that conversation, admiring the doctor's English and knowledge. I was especially interested in the study mentioned above. Eating a prescribed number of nuts daily (3 almonds, 8 walnuts, and ... peanuts?)+ olive oil, resulted in healthier hearts. Obviously I cannot remember the specifics of this study, however since then I always count out three almonds each time. I like to have almonds around for snacking, and always have a bag in the car.

We were very impressed with the hospital. It is also a research and teaching institution. The doctors take turns teaching seminars and travel abroad to present their scholarly findings.
We have appreciated Alberto's clear and caring responses to our questions about the rare diseases that some of our friends have faced. He is able to bring the scholarly down to our level.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Sick. Yes, both of usAll week long!

"It was a quiet week in Lake Woebegone..."

Maybe not so quiet, there was a lot of coughing and spluttering. Not much talking though. To this day Mike can barely get a word out without coughing. However, we slept through the night without one coughing spell and today we are feeling much improved.
Sadly we had to cancel our trip to North Carolina for the OM Ships weekend.
The good news: having the luxury of time and quiet allowed us to accomplish some projects that required focus and not too much physical energy.

We somehow made it up to the mailbox every day. On one of those walks I spied our first three daffodils.

We've enjoyed watching the deer come quite close to the house. They are intent on finding food now that the grass is beginning to show.

We watched several movies and I worked on different knitting projects. Mike gave me a new book full of ideas.

Mike spent some of his time working in his studio on various projects and finnished enough to fill the kiln and fire it. Here are a couple of his innovative pieces that were in the works for weeks.

I don't have any more photos of my own, but this came out in Wednesday's front page of the Muncie Star Press: Engineering teens place at robot competition.

Phyxt Gears team members competed in last week's regional at Purdue University. The team advanced to the elimination round for the first time in the program's six-year history. / Photo provided
I am thankful for the experience of this week to better empathize with others who have lingering ailments, and very grateful to be on the mend.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pelota vasca

Before leaving the farm country and saying goodbye to Eugenio, we came to the center of the community where there is always a church and a frontón, a ball court for pelota vasca.

El frontón

Alberto retrieving the ball

Explaining the game to Dane
OK, let's get started. Dane and Eugenio attempt to play a game of pelota a mano.

"Good game!"

That is the same ball Eugenio used when he was a boy!

The game is rough on the hands.

Back where we started, the same church where we had seen the pilgrim. Time to say goodbye.

"Gracias, Eugenio. Adiós."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A quiet week and busy weekend

A quiet week...

On the way out of town one day, I was happy to notice the steeple had been replaced on the quaint little chapel. It was ripped off by the tornado a few months back.

The winter's supply of wood is down to one neat stack.

Spring is nigh!

One last repair session Tuesday and the minibot was ready for the big weekend. However, Mike was not in the best shape with the beginnings of a sore throat.

A busy weekend...

Mike's been at Purdue since Thursday for the Boilermaker Regional FIRST Robotics competition. By the end of one day in the loud noisy pit, he was voiceless.

Most of time between matches he was in the pit area, their work cubicle, helping to keep Pivot, the robot, in working order.

1720 was a very efficient model. Almost every time it could do what it was supposed to during the initial 15" autonomous period--hold the Ubertube (yellow plastic inflated circle), extend its arm fully upward, move forward and place the game piece on the highest peg. During the two minute driver controlled period, it could move quickly, pick up and hang the other game pieces, play defense. And at the end, for high bonus points, it could deploy its minibot (small independent robot on the right) which would then climb a pole and set off a sensor light. Amazing really.

Our Baby Bot is at the top!
However, everything that could go wrong went wrong, and then some. There were matches when the arm would not extend, or the minibot would fall off, or Pivot stalled and could not move, and once for lack of a connector to the controls, it just sat through the entire match.  Add a few operator errors as well.

So, did we lose? NO, we ranked 13 out of 41. The other two teams on the differrent alliances pulled us through most of the rough times, and in the end we were picked to play in the finals!!!

Coach, drivers, human player and Pivot before final match.
 We didn't win but neither did we feel like losers.

There was a little robot that could not score at all. It had no arms and no minibot. It could only play defense. The name: NOT Your Average Rookie! We laughed at the little black box running around until we heard its story from the team sitting next to us.
That new innercity team was working to keep kids off the streets and out of gangs. Their robot hadn't come together and one of their members had been stabbed. They were about to give up but at the last minute he showed up so they came anyway without a working robot. Another team helped them put together a simple model in just one day! And they ended up on an alliance in the semifinals!

As for me, I drove to Lafayette on Friday and stayed overnight. The 70+ miles of straight road brought back memories of the ten years I commuted to Purdue, already more than ten years ago.

One of the many special moments for me was the conversation with the other Mrs. Koch (no relation). Two of their sons have been through the program and this is the last year.

Now it's good to be home again.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

2011 Week 11

Sunday afternoon our special overnight guests arrived, in fact, a little before we got back from our Indy getaway. Mike's brother and wife, and Pixie Pup, were on their way back to Wisconsin after vacationing in Florida. We had a great visit and were joined by DIL Karen and SIL Diane for dinner.

The week was spent mostly at home keeping busy with the usual tasks and the necessary upkeep, including defrosting the freezer (me) and fixing the water heater (Mike). Also our regular outings:
--Monday night dinner at Chef-son's, a great meal prepared by Karen. Stephan had arrived from Alaska shortly before and was very tired.

--Robotics (Mike), they only need two days now (Tuesdays and Saturdays) and fewer people to make the final changes in readiness for the first regional competition next weekend.
--LITE (Life Independent Through Exercise, me) meets twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays. I have been teased about the following photo and headline in the local newspaper.

Taylor students help elderly stay fit

--Ceramincs at the Red Barn (Mike) three afternoons. The first glaze firing yielded some happy surprises for the novice potters.

Friday I made garrapiñadas , a snack to take for Stephan's 40th birthday open house. Typically these sugar-coated peanuts are prepared and sold on the streets of Montevideo and Buenos Aires, especially in cold weather.  How appropriate, I was wearing my Uruguay t-shirt.

Today, Saturday, was a big day--Kayla's dance competition and Stephan's 40th birthday.

Results posted by her mom on Facebook:
Two Gold Medals for two solos ~~as group 5th and 4th place ~~ Special trophy in solo called "Beautiful port de bras"(movement of your arms) and group special trophy "Real Explosion" (good facial expression, and strong moves). What a way to end her final year of competition with Center Stage!
We watched her solo dances in the morning and then went to Stephan's open house.

In an earlier blog today I asked a question. What do you think, from looking at this photo? What if I tell you that nearly all of the many cards he received contained jokes.

Another fun week is over. It is time to go to bed, after changing the clocks.

Stephan's Story by Decades

Oldest son Stephan was born in Germany on a blizzardy March 12th forty years ago.

We came home a week to ten days later which was early for their health system back then. I refused to stay two weeks in hospital, standard for Caesarian births.

This is one of my favorite 1971 photos of Stephan.

Ten years later we were living on the M/V Doulos.


My records, not my memory, tell me that Stephan planned his birthday celebration and the castle cake. The latter is not a surprise considering his talent for 3-D sculpture.

At age twenty Stephan was a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL. I cannot remember, nor can I find records to remind me whether he celebrated his birthday there or with us. I'm assuming the former is true. These are a few photos taken that year, 1991.

The above photos are somewhat out of character, too serious.

When we celebrated his thirtieth birthday, he was recently married and acting more like himself!

Have ten more years made any difference? Come back next week for the 40th birthday party photos and tell us what you think.

Happy Birthday, Stephan!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring Thaw

Rain, flooding, and warmer temperatures signal Spring!

This photo was taken two days after the big rain only half a mile from here. The field and road floods over and a sign warns drivers NOT to take the plunge. Years ago one of my students rushed in unheeding, car windows rolled down, the flood waters poured in and her Spanish textbook floated away!

Sunday afternoon was full of fun and a variety of Meemaw moments!  When the grandboys came over there was still snow on the ground, but we may now have seen the last of it. I say that very hesitantly because we live in Indiana where weather is unpredictable.

 Brutus doing his best to avoid Zion's attentions.

In Alaska, Stephan and team worked hard all week in frigid conditions.

(photo from Ice Alaska website)
Some of his quotes:
"20 below zero seems okay after you've been working outside in 30 below zero temps for a while."

"It's really hard to carve when the temperature is 25 below. But when it warms up to 0, it's much more comfortable!"
"People can adjust, but the tools don't like it." (frozen brittle cords kept breaking)
American Rodeo
(photo from Ice Alaska website)
Pottery learning continues at the Red Barn three afternoons, MWF, and Team 1720 meets a couple times a week to make the necessary improvements on the robot before the regional competition in a couple weeks.

We, Mike and Rita, had two getaways in one week! Wow!

Thursday we visited a juried art exhibit, used a restaurant gift card and went to see The King's Speech. Excellent!

So where did we eat, and what? Any guesses?

Saturday we joined other "DABbers" (Daily Audio Bible listeners) at a 'family' gathering near Indianapolis. We met some really great people and put faces to the voices we hear every day online.

My favorite photo is of the two siblings who record the reading from the New Testament every day for the Daily Audio Bible for Kids.

There is also Daily Audio Bible en español.  I have yet to listen to these other formats.