Arrivederci Little Italy/Holy Hospitalization!
As I stated in my last blog post, I have not been feeling well lately. On July 2nd I woke up with a sore throat and for the next five days felt quite lethargic. The sore throat went away, but I still was not up to snuff energy-wise. Then on the evening of July 17th, the sore throat returned with a vengeance. At first I was hoping to delay seeing a doctor until after the 18th because I had purchased a ticket to the Brit Floyd concert at Artpark that night and I was greatly looking forward to enjoying the show. I had seen Pink Floyd tribute band The Machine at Artpark four times and saw The Australian Pink Floyd Show two years ago, and every time I enjoyed not just the fabulous interpretation of this timeless music, but the recreation of Pink Floyd's laser/light show. Thus, I was planning on getting to the venue early to assure a spot close to the stage where the full visual and sonic experience can best be appreciated, but alas, it was not to be.
That night of the 17th, I could not sleep at all due to constant pain, fever, and most troubling, my throat swelled up so much that I could not swallow. During the night, the congestion in my throat was stuck. I could not cough it up nor swallow it down. It felt like I was being waterboarded with a slight sense of drowning on my own fluids. It became obvious that I needed medical attention ASAP, but rather than go immediately to the ER, I decided to wait until my primary doctor's office opened at 9am. But when I called to make an appointment, unfortunately there were no openings the whole day. I knew I could not wait to be seen so I decided to go to an urgent care center. After about a half-hour wait, a PA saw me and after hearing my symptoms and examining me, came up with a diagnosis of acute sinusitis and dysphagia. She was very concerned about my inability to swallow (earlier that morning I managed to eat some cereal with difficulty, but I choked on some turkey lunchmeat and could not get it down). She did not have the technology to examine further down my throat so she recommended I go to the ER at Sister's Hospital to be seen by an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor. This is exactly what I was afraid about and originally wanted to put off seeking medical attention for a day. So I stopped back home on the way to the hospital to pick up my ticket to Brit Floyd in case I was able to leave the hospital in time to make it to the concert.
That went from a long-shot to a definite no-go as the afternoon proceeded. The ER doc who saw me first wanted me to get a CT scan before calling in an ENT consult. But before I could go for the CT scan, I had to wait for the results of blood tests- which, not surprisingly, showed an elevated white blood cell count indicative of an infection. The CT scan, as I later found out showed extensive swelling of my throat including the lingual tonsils and epiglottis. Epiglottitis was exactly what I feared because inflam-mation of this cartilage flap that covers the trachea when swallowing food and liquids to prevent aspiration can lead to blockage of the airway and potentially a life-threatening condition. The ENTs arrived around 5:30- an older gentleman named Dr. Muscarella and his assistant, a young female ENT resident (who I later found out was from Kentucky and went to med school at the University of Louisville before coming to Buffalo three years ago for residency training). They each examined my lower throat with a scope and stated that there was much mucus and extensive swelling, including mild swelling of the epiglottis, but it obviously was not impeding my breathing. Due to my relative inability to swallow, they decided to admit me overnight to keep my hydrated with IV fluids and due to the severity of the infection and swelling, be given IV clindamycin and steroids, respectively. There went my Brit Floyd experience.
I had to wait in the ER until almost 8 pm until a room was ready. When I got up to the 4th floor, I was happy and somewhat surprised that I had no roommate. This was the first time in my life I have ever been admitted to a hospital. I had my uvula and tonsils removed two years ago, but that was an outpatient surgery and I was out of the hospital by the afternoon. Once I got settled in my bed, the nurse started the IV antibiotic and steroid, and asked me a bunch of question for an intake evaluation. Then after watching the news and the beginning of Stephen Colbert, I slept pretty soundly until 4:30 when a lab tech came to draw blood for a repeat CBC. I fell back asleep quickly and did not awake until 6:15. I was just so exhausted from not getting any sleep the night before, that I slept much better than expected in a rather uncomfortable hospital bed.
The ENTs came to check on me around 7:15 and said they wanted to do a repeat scope of my throat. I already could feel a significant improvement. My voice, which was heavily altered by the mucus and swelling on my vocal cords, was much more normal and I could now drink water easily. They did not say when they would be back, but I was hopeful it would be within an hour or so before they got into the OR to perform their scheduled surgeries. No dice. As the morning went on, I ordered breakfast, and then lunch, read some of Stephen King's Dance Macabre that my sister brought to me the previous night with some clothes and my toothbrush and slippers, and was able to get a copy of the day's Buffalo News from the volunteers' office.
Just the female ENT resident came at noon. She took a look with a smaller scope than the one used yesterday and she actually laughed and said, "Your throat is insanely better than it was yesterday- much, much, much better, which is what we were hoping to see." So obviously the medication was working just as planned. She told me that they want me to get one more dose of IV antibiotic and steroid before I am discharged, then I can pick up the Augmentin that the urgent care PA had prescribed for me yesterday and take as directed. I was glad to get out of there so I could go home and relax. Still I had to wait until 1 to get the last steroid dose and then undergo the discharge interview and receive discharge instructions. So I was able to leave the hospital shortly before 2. All in all, it was a fine experience as far as the care I received from the nurses and the doctors- but I still was disappointed to miss Brit Floyd, though knew the hospitalization was necessary. It was just bad timing. But at least I should be able to go to the Foreigner/ Cheap Trick/Jason Bonham concert tomorrow night at Darien Lake.
Now on to the Buffalo Italian Heritage Festival. When I first heard several months ago that the festival was moving to the Outer Harbor and that a $5 admission charge would be added, I was not certain if I wanted to go and it potentially could be a disaster if it rained. I had gone to the Irish Festival at the Outer Harbor last August. Last summer from June until mid-August, Buffalo was in a severe drought, but just before the Irish Festival, we finally received some significant rain. At Wilkeson Point, where the festival was held in an open field with several tents, there were some areas with large puddles, mud and standing water. So I was afraid the Italian Festival could suffer the same fate, except far worse because the ground was already saturated from record spring rains this year. The other down side was that the Italian festival had always been a street festival. Starting in the 1970s on Connecticut Avenue in the heart of the West Side, the home of Italian immigrants from the turn of the century, then moving to Hertel Avenue in the late '80s after many of Buffalo's Italian-American residents moved to north Buffalo or the northern suburbs, as the West Side became more populated with African-Americans and especially Hispanic immigrants, the festival always possessed the charm of being located on a busy commercial street full of Italian businesses. I have been going to the festival since I was a little kid, and my family relations certainly were a major draw. My great-grandmother Concetta Insalaco, lived for decades on Fargo near Connecticut, so the festival was less than two blocks away. Then when it moved to Hertel, my maternal grandparents lived on Linden, just three streets over, and for several years in the late '80s and early '90s, my Aunt Loretta live on Fairchild, just one block from the festival. So parking was never an issue for my immediate family. But now everyone had to drive to the Outer Harbor, which only has two entry roads- the Skyway/Route 5 or Ohio Street, which makes it a bit of a hassle, especially during peak times.
Sure enough- perhaps it was karma for the decision to move out of Little Italy to the Outer Harbor, which lacks a lot of basic infrastructure- the first day of the festival, last Thursday July 13th, the opening, scheduled for 11:00 am, was delayed for six hours due to a torrential downpour. I later found out from the son of the owner of Mineo & Sapio's Sausage that the grounds were flooded with about six-inch deep water. The water had to be pumped out and a contractor brought in to dump a truckload of gravel to soak up some of the moisture. This was exactly what I was afraid of when I heard the festival was moving to the Outer Harbor.
I waited for the next day, Friday July 14th, to go but made sure to get there well before two when the $5 admission charge started. As far I was concerned, the Italian Festival has always been free, the Taste of Buffalo and Allentown Art Festival have always been free, so I was not about to pay the admission if I could avoid it. The first thing I must say is that I was surprised by the location. Both the Irish Festival last summer and the 4th of July Carnival this year were held at Wilkeson Point, which is entirely an open field with grass and dirt. But the Italian Festival was held south of Wilkeson Point, where the old Pier Restaurant was located back in the 1990s and early 2000s. This location still has the concrete pads and foundation of the restaurant's parking lot and patio areas. So all the food vendors and cultural tents were set up on the concrete floor and thus were not surrounded by mud. This was much better than I anticipated. In fact, the only part of the festival that was affected by muddy grounds were the children's amusement rides and the carnival games, which did not interest me anyway.
Some of the festival's longtime Hertel vendors skipped out in anger at the relocation. Most prominently was Lombardo's, one of Buffalo's best upscale Italian restaurants, which every year made a killing by setting up a beer tent adjacent to the restaurant plus enjoying a huge walk-in crowd to their bar, and the venerable butcher shop, Johnny's Meats, which always has a stand right in front of its store. But Mineo & Sapio's were there so I got to enjoy their traditional Italian sausage on a sub roll. I also had a fried arrancini (rice ball) with beef, mozzarella cheese and peas- but surprisingly it was from a vendor that came all the way from Boston, Mass.- they certainly had never been to the Italian Festival before when it was on Hertel. I noticed a few other out-of-town vendors I had never seen before, which is an indication the organizers looked to expand the food offerings (I suppose partly to compensate for the local vendors that were angry about the relocation and refused to participate in the festival this year). I also had a chopped beef and stuffed hot pepper sandwich from Jim's Steakhouse, and of course, a cannoli and fried dough with powdered sugar and cinnamon. I bought two fried doughs and took them home to eat- one for my sister, who was off from work that day but declined to go to the festival. I would say I would still prefer the festival to be held on Hertel because the location does not have the same charm and is difficult to reach (plus on the weekend when the festival crowds really grew compared to Thursday and Friday afternoons, there were some reports of long waits to access the area
and people having to walk up to fifty minutes from their car to the festival grounds). But it could have been worse if it was held at Wilkeson Point- at least at the old Pier Site, the concrete made it easier to walk around and I do agree that the layout of the vendors, rides and games was an improvement because instead of being restricted by the linear limits of a city street, there was much more land to spread out. In any case, I guess people will have to get used to it because it seems like the festival will be there again at least next year, if not permanently.
Lastly, I do want to add a point about Senator John McCain of Arizona. Yesterday he was diagnosed with brain cancer, just a few days after he had a blood clot removed from above his eye. Given his advanced age, the aggressive nature of gliobastomas and the fact his tumor is inoperable, his prognosis must not be good. However, radiation and/or chemotherapy may prolong his life somewhat. When I heard this grim diagnosis, I immediately thought back to the public testimony hearing of former FBI Director Jim Comey, and how confused Sen. McCain was when questioning Comey. I stated in a blog post shortly afterward that I though he may be having a stroke or showing signs of early dementia. Well, it certainly is possible now that his brain cancer contributed to this state of confusion, and in fact it was light-headedness and disorientation that brought him to the hospital for diagnosis and treatment of the blood clot, that then led to the discovery of brain cancer. Best wishes to Sen. McCain- what he needs now is rest and recuperation away from the brutal partisan battles now raging in Washington D.C., and perhaps retirement from his post is ultimately his fate.
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