Memories from the ICU








I found this online journal, CarePages, where Victor and I documented my stem cell transplant.   I keep going back to this one particular day, October 17th, 2005.   It was one of the most terrifying yet life defining moments  in my life.  I had woken up from an extensive life saving thoracic surgery for what is quite commonly a fatal fungal illness, Invasive Aspergillus that had tremendously infected my body during transplantation attempt while I had zero immune system.   It was a very high risk surgery to begin with.  My surgery did not go as planned either.   When they opened me up I was far worse than they ever imagined… but reading this I remember what a fighter I was.  I hated that stupid ICU and desperately was begging to get back on the 5th floor, the bone marrow transplant floor, or my “comfort zone” as my  new thoracic surgeon called it.  I remember at the time I hear him say this to me,  thinking to myself, “If my “comfort zone”  is now the bone marrow transplant floor at City of Hope hospital, my life has certainly sunk to an all time low!”  I remember my reflection in the glass doors, seeing in my bald head, swollen body,  chest tubes, plastic tubes, Iv poles and bags everywhere,  electronic equipment stuck to me and around me making loud screeching noises, and just  feeling like I was the ugliest human being on the planet.  I was so incredibly sad, despondent, and felt so unlovable.   I was terrified I would never see the outdoors again.  I was terrified I would never see the outside of the ICU again.  Pathetically enough, I thought I would never know was it was like to feel pretty or even happy ever again.  I had Victor put photos of the “real me” up on the walls in my room that day, and I made sure everyone taking care of me,  knew this ugly monster that I was presenting as was “not me” and would point to  them the pictures of me skiing and having fun only a year before and cry  “See that’s me, this isn’t me!”  My mind could not reconcile what was happening, I could not understand what this horribly sick thing was, I had turned into, and I was in a state of shock.  I was only 36 years old.

Posted Oct 17, 2005 2:42am

Hi from Peg :

This note will be short as I am really tired tonight and still recovering. It may not make sense as I am really medicated as well. Victor snuck the computer into the ICU (they are not allowed and neither are cell phones but the nurses have not said anything yet). By the way the city of hope phone number is 626-359-xxxx and I am in the ICU listed under my name.

The charge nurse notified me the night before my surgery that indeed not only will I be having my case added on the next day but that I will also be Dr. Kernstine’s first case of the day (I was really hoping he got some sleep the night before). What began as a 4 hour somewhat risky case became an over 7 hour much more risky case with a lot of unforeseen problems. When I woke up from surgery, I was told that from the moment that the doctor opened me and spread my ribs, that there was Aspergillus everywhere, all over my lung, and it was beginning to invade my heart and my major and minor pulmonary veins and arteries. Dr. Kernstine decided once he saw this that his main goal was not only to remove the upper lung but to investigate and remove any fungus or other problematic tissue that he could find. In the process of doing so, my pulmonary artery collapsed and separated in Dr. Kernstine’s hands which led him to infuse 4 units of blood into me to replace what he was loosing while he was suturing and extracting all of the unneeded upper lobe. In addition, he quite frankly told me he was shocked at the extent of the fungus infection. Dr. Kernstine, in so many words, made me feel that my situation had been much more extreme than he had thought prior to the surgery. He told me that it was likely that coughing or even laughing, had we waited any longer, could have ruptured the already limited and invaded pulmonary artery and that death would have been immediate.

All my doctors came in and visited that evening in the ICU, which I hate. It’s not that the rooms are bad but everything is more limiting and extreme here. Also, when I first woke up, I looked to find 14 individual IV bags plus a pulmonary tank and a chest tube chamber, 3 chest tubes sticking out of me, a urinary catheter, and a bunch of EKG lines and a bunch of other stuff stuck to me and a bunch of bright and beeping screens that made a lot of noise. When I wanted to sit up to go to the bathroom, the nurse practically laughed at me and said, “This is the ICU, not the 5th floor. You just sit there, that is what the catheter is for.”  The idea of just laying here and doing nothing and not being allowed to move made me panicked. I devised a plan that I must prove that I not the kind of person that belongs in ICU and this has all been some crazy mistake. So I have done everything I could, little by little, increment by increment, to do whatever was necessary to remove every feature I absolutely hated (which is pretty much everything) and restructure my path back to my room on the BMT floor. So far, I have been measurably successful. Today I made sure that I had my nurse chart that I was up in my chair for most of the day and I went for 2 walks totaling about 4 rapid rounds around the perimeter of this hospital floor. By the way, my first plan was to devise a way to get rid of the urinary catheter. I need not explain the desire for that. I was successful within the first 12 hours. I think I am still a little shell shocked from what we discovered in surgery last Thursday. However, I have NO idea what out time frame looks like and where do we go from here. Whether or not I stay here and continue treatment is unknown to me as well as will they want me to heal from this procedure and then want me to come back later. It is truly up in the air. As soon as I have more answers, I will post them here.

I wanted to thank everyone for all their posts during the time I was pre and post procedure and quite nervous. Your sentiments helped me bring down my stress level. As usual, Victor read them to me when I was completely unable to do so myself, and they were read considerably more than once. Also, I have picked up on some of Victor’s ability to become popular on the floor. My friend Lori sent me 2 little soft Halloween pumpkin heads which hold candy (currently jolly ranchers). When I walk around on the floor, Victor usually has them filled so that I can offer treats to the staff. When I am in my room, they hang on my IV pole so my nurses can come in and get a snack (or take the entire pumpkin head around the floor and bring it back later, usually empty). I’m going to bed now. I just hit my green pain killer button.

I love you all


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Next Iron Chef Season 4 Sundays 9/8c: October 30th, 2011 TV Show Review


Spoiler Alert!  If you do not not want to know the ending PLEASE do not read  past the “Spoilers alert” notice until you have watched this episode

Episode 1:  October 3oth, 2001

  T-PIG’s RATING:  5  STARS out of 5   QUOTE:   “I’m in Love”

OK for starters, Can I just say I am so happy I turned on the Food Network channel last night (Its my default station).  I  had forgotten that the season premier of this show was coming on, and additionally had irresponsibly forgotten to Tivo it.  Totally lame.    What a loss that would have been…. this show is AWESOME!  Super exciting, and pleasantly surprising there were no weirdo’s,  cranky personalities or “meanies” . I know that kind of crazy drama is good for “ratings” and all, but I hate it, and it gives me a stomach ache.  None of that with this season.  Yay!

From the looks of just the first show last night of this competition, I think any betting man would have a difficult time placing a wager.  All of these chefs are so incredibly talented I have no idea how this competition is going  to play out over the next several weeks, but I have a feeling it will be exciting.  The producers and editors of last night’s episode certainly did make me feel like I was watching a super exhilarating Super Bowl type  competition,.  I really was having a hard time not jumping up and down, screaming and cheering my favorites on.

The show was very fast paced, exciting, filled with some of the most mouth watering  food ever.  Even after having taken 10 pages of handwritten notes and watching the episode 2 times, I can’t be absolutely sure that all of my information as follows is totally accurate.  Understand however,  I did do the absolute best job I possibly could.  Please forgive me ahead of time for any mistakes I might have made in some of the finer, yet possibly critical aspects of this show. It was hard to note every detail described when watching food creations evolve with this kind of finesse and depth.

Hmmmm… so where to begin? I guess we should start off with the contestants the season.

Chef Contestants:

1. Anne Burrell: I love her from her many TV appearances on the Food Network, but honestly I don’t know that much about her so she is not one of my “favorites” going in.  See here for her bio here  on the show.

2. Michael Chiarello: Ok he is my favorite!  One, he is from Northern California, and two, I have had the honor meeting him at a book signing at Draegers Market’s flagship store in San Mateo.  He is so much more handsome in person, if that’s even possible. Additionally I am completely biased because  have all of his cookbooks, all of which I just LOVE.  Michael lives, eats and breathes modern Italian cuisine, and his passion is contagious!  He is really able to elevate ingredients to a whole  new  level without his ego growing at the same time.  In  this first show, Michael really exhibited he has the “chops” to be the “Next Iron Chef”.   This is just my initial totally biased impression of him.  Here is his bio here on the show.

3. Elizabeth Falkner:  When you live in San Francisco its impossible not to love Elizabeth.  I had the good fortune of meeting her at a charity event in San Francisco last year for “Share Our Strength” a national non profit (check it out).  She was cool, down to earth and just mellow, you couldn’t help but be in “awe”.  If she cooks at the “Share Our Strength” event again this year I am for sure going.  Plus Elizabeth is friends with, has cooked with and competed against Cat Cora!  Cat Cora is my current favorite Iron Chef  on the TV show, so, you know I am totally rooting for this amazing lady Elizabeth.  Here is her bio here on the show.

4.  Alex Guarneaschelli:  I know her only from one of my favorite shows “Chopped” which I religiously watch every Tuesday.  She is a judge on that show and I know very little else about her.  Here is her bio here on the show.

5.  Chuck Hughes:  Ok, I know absolutely nothing about this guy at all, but he’s cute, and his bio has a lot of cool looking recipes, so lets hope he can cook with this crew.  Here is his bio here on the show.

6. Robert Irvine:  I’ve loved this guy forever!  He’s was so awesome on the former show “Dinner Impossible” and now on “Restaurant Impossible”.  This guy seems to be able to cook and do anything under under pressure and time restraints thrown at him, so we know he can handle “cooking battle”.  I don’t know how well he can cook against some of these pretty formidable opponents, but I have to admit I am really rooting for him.  I think he is under rated as a chef.  Here is his bio here on the show.

7.  Beau MacMillan: Who is this? Am I just totally lame for not knowing who this is?  But I’ll be honest,  I knew nothing about him, but after watching this first episode  I REALLY like him.  I think he knows his stuff.  His bio claims he was victorious on  “American Iron Chef” which I think is not always an accurate “win”, so that is not really a big stamp of approval in my book.  I do believe its safe to assume he could easily be a dark horse in this race.  Here is his bio here on the show.

8. Spike Mendelsohn:   I am such a big fan of this guy after seeing him on Top Chef  in a couple of different competitions.  He knows his shit, has definitely grown as a chef since I first “met” him years ago on his first debut on “Top Chef”.  I think he is amazing and super creative.  A real competitor and one of the most creative chefs on TV in my opinion.  Here is his bio here on the show.

9.  Marcus Samuelson:  Besides the fact he produces my favorite “celebrity chef food and cooking blog” , I also love that  he is such a down to earth, inspirational human being who has never lost touch with his roots.  I also hear he cooks a pretty mean fried chicken, and god knows I am a closet fried chicken slut at heart. Loved watching him win Top Chef Masters on Bravo  just barely by the skin of his “chinny chin chin”. He  is a heavy weight competitor even amongst this group.   Here is his bio here on the show.

10.  Geoffrey Zakarian:  He is for sure one of the top guys to beat, if not THE guy to beat.  I would refer him to him as the “Obi-Wan-Kenobi” of the bunch.    I’ve only seen him as a judge on “Chopped” but after tonight, I think he has the “will”, “experience” and the nerves to really outshine everyone.    There are lots more weeks and the challenges to come, sometimes its not the ones who we think who will hold up challenge after challenge.  Here is his bio here on the show.


1. Michael Simon: Current Iron Chef and on too many show to mention.  Bio here

2. Judy Joo: Had never heard of her but apparently an Iron Chef in the Uk.   Bio here

3. Simon Majumdar:  Seen him before but don’t remember much.  Some kind of food and travel writer.  Bio here

Host for first episode:

1. Alton Brown: Who really needs NO introduction, he is one of my Food Network Favorites. Here is his Bio if you must.  Bio here

Show Premise:

The basic  premise is the same as most of the other “Iron Chef” contests, where some really awesome chef’s compete in semi bizarre and challenging contest” and he/she who loses leaves, and he/she who wins gets some special prize or immunity or whatever they decide that week.  Alton is pretty much the host although they have the “Chairman” shows up on some taped segments in this first episode which really seem kind of  unnecessary.  Sorry “Chairman”

Spoilers so don’t read past this if you don’t want to know what happens….

It begins with the cursory introduction of the “chefs” competing, which is kind of fun to watch.  Then Alton gets down to business with the “contestant chefs” drawing “matchsticks” to see who would get a “red stick”.  It was Spike to get the “red stick” so he got to choose his team mate which was Samuel Marcusson (that’s whom I would have probably picked too knowing Michael Chiarello would have been too damn good looking and distracting  for me to get anything done but make an ass out of myself).  Spike additionally had the honor of creating all the other “couplet” teams.

Teams are as follows:

1. Spike/Marcus

2. Elizabeth/ Alex

3. Micheal/Chuck

4. Jeffrey/Beau

5. Anne/Robert

Spike had some ” Psychological Theory” for why he matched these people up the way he did, but it seemed to me like pretty much all the teams worked well together.  There were no big fights, crankiness or drama, as much as I am sure the TV producers tried to create it.

The Challenge:

Now I gave this show 5 BIG stars, so keep that in mind while I lovingly critique some of the aspects of last nights episode.

The contestants were supposedly “thrown in the wild” given a whole pig “per team” on ice ( not so wild) and then a whole outdoor pantry and farmer’s market of produce (again not so wild).  I guess the “wild part ” was it was next to some pond or “lake” as they called it, likely not far from the TV studio, then given kindling and firewood stuff to make fires.  Oh yes, and had to do everything outdoors which I guess is also “wild”.  This challenge being appropriately named : “Heat and Meat”.

The challenge was to come up with two dishes within 90 minutes to be judged.

Next scene it showed everyone racing around getting their “well iced” pig from its wild  “ice bed, then running around to the outdoor pantry and “wild” mini farmer’s market getting their gorgeous produce.   Again, no real drama, everyone got along and there didn’t seem to be much confusion.  These were all well established chefs really running around by a makeshift campground with lots of supplies.  The hardest part really was the obvious: 1.  Breaking down the pig  2.  Figuring out how to cook and plate by a fire and grill.

Again PLEASE forgive me if I did not get all the finer details absolutely perfect, this was the best I could do with TEN pages of notes and watching the show twice.

Marcus/Spike: Decided to do 1. Pork stew with water from the lake 2. Pork Ribs

Elizabeth/Alex: were the most lost and confused, mainly due to Alex not doing well with stress, and Elizabeth being the cal one of the two.  The decided upon 1. Pork 4 ways using: Pork Belly/Ears and Tail/Tongue/Kidney 2. Pork leg on the grill

Michael/Chuck: Had their shit together from the get go, and worked great together.  I’m sure the producers were now annoyed with how little drama was going on amongst the “couplets”. Michael and Chuck decided upon a 1. Salad with roasted beets on grill with pork cheeks and pig ear 2. Maple Chili Glazed Pork Chop with some kind of mushroom stuffing incorporating the pig brains.  As weird as that sounded when you saw the two of them creating this dish, you felt like saying “Damn I love pork brains even though I have never tried them before, nor will I ever “.

Geoffry/Beau:  An unusual coupling that seemed to be working out great from the onset.  You had little fear anything was going to go terribly wrong here with these two.  1.  Some kind of grilled  fore hind quarters  2.  something  called ???? Barigoule Artichoke dish with Potatoes ,Shallots and Cream.  It looked great whatever it was they were cooking.  I wasn’t worried at all,  even though I was not quite sure what was happening over in their section.  The camera shots alone made me fairly confident whatever they were putting out was gonna be pretty fricking amazing.

Anne/Robert: They seemed to be having the most difficulty with the timing of the “heat”, and you were a little concerned throughout the 90 minutes that maybe it wasn’t going to all come together…. but it did.  They did 1.  Braised pork belly and pork cheeks 2.  Porchetta with Rosemary, Sage ,and Garlic

Judging Comes:

1. Spike and Marcus: With the Stew the judges thought was OK, but lacking “in depth” of flavor, perhaps from the lake water. The pork ribs while “great” glaze, not enough meat.  Ouch… you felt they might be up for elimination

2. Geoffrey/Beau: Michael Symon loved the finesse of the dish and the other judges thought the pork was cooked perfectly.  The 4 Quarter Spit Roast with the potatoes and the rhubarb raspberry barbecue sauce was a big hit with everyone.

3.  Anne/Robert:  Braised pork belly and pork cheek was well received for the sweet potatoes that it was served with. Complaints that the skin was not crispy enough but other than that, the judges seemed to be impressed.

4. Michael/Chuck: The salad of coal roasted beets of crisp Pig Ear and Pork Cheek Salad.  Everyone loved it but complaints were there was not enough Pig Ear.  Then there was the Chile Maple Glazed Grilled Pork Chop with Pig Brain Duxelle on Grilled Olive Oil Poached Potato with Pork Belly Braised and crisp on barbecue.  Gosh I hope I got all that right!  Whatever it was it looked amazing, and it was a big hit.

5. Elizabeth/Alex (By this point my short hand was referring to Anne as “hyper chick” because she was so anxious and annoying compared to Elizabeth): The offered up first what was referred to as the “Best Dish of the Evening” called “Pig 4 Ways” 1. Mushroom with crispy Pig Ear 2. Sunchokes and Egg with Tongue 3. Pig Jowl and Rhubarb and Strawberries 4. Pig Kidney with Tarragon and Leeks  Also note appropriately it seemed was the “Ambition” involved with the “Pig 4 Ways” Idea.  Their 2nd dish was Glazed pork Belly and Spiced with Maple Glazed roasted  leg with Saccatash of Celery Root, Rutabega, and Pistachio Cremolata.  Judges did not like second dish.

Super Spoilers I give who wins and who goes home… don’ read if you  don’t want to know….

Results: Not going to give that much away because I want you to watch the show, but  Geoffrey Zakarian wins, and Spike is sent home but not without a really cool “Death Match” between he and Chef Marcus Samuelson.







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