A few of you have been asking me where I am these days, so I'm going to keep you posted with a blog. I'll start with the first Philippines trip of 2010, and I'll be updating regularly. Life on the road is usually pretty boring - 12 hours of work plus dinner - so don't worry...you won't be reading an hourly journal.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Staying in the Country

Travels begin again this afternoon. I'm heading to the west coast to visit with friends, and then to Nashville next week, to spend some time at headquarters. Back in New Jersey next Thusrday night. And then I'm home for 10 days straight! Looking forward to that stability. All is back to normal, health-wise.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Isn't It Nice to be Home Again

What a delightful day. I flew home comfortably, flights were on time, and I am typing this from my own desk. Everything is fine. Sometimes, it's nice to have nothing to say.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Dreaded Stones - The Conclusion

So, a brief synopsis of the adventure since my last post.

Thursday 9AM appointment with a doctor, who gave me two choices. Have myself admitted, and get it all done quickly (like all testing complete same day), or be an outpatient and let it unfold over several days. I joined the ranks of the admitted.

Got to admitting, but…no beds. The admitting clerk subtly suggested I go to the emergency room complaining of pain and ask to be admitted there. Magic. I had my Stone Scan (CT scan) and x-rays by 2PM, the doctor reviewed them with me by 3PM and scheduled the surgery for 7AM next morning, and I was in my room by 5PM. While some of the facilities were a little old, all of the scanning equipment and procedures were first rate. My dearest friend and personal physician Fred followed the progress with me round-the-clock, and the care truly was in accordance with the most current US medical standards.

For those of you who care, there are two procedures for stones, other than waiting for them to pass. The non-invasive one has the unnecessarily long name of extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). If the stone sits high in the body, above the pelvic bone, ESWL is pretty effective in smashing it up. No such luck for me...Mine was deeply inside the bones, so they had to get it with what is euphemistically called a “basket.” Just like bringing home a quart of milk on the front of your bike, right? Not exactly. The only good news, as the surgeon advised me, is that they don’t have to make any new holes in your body (enough said).

Friday 6:30AM I was in a modern operating room and at 7AM, the doc put me to sleep to the accompaniment of “Whiter Shade of Pale.” Quiz: who sang it…no searching allowed. Woke up with my lower body completely numb from an epidural, and slept most of Friday away. 

I’ll spare you all the rest of the details (those who want to know already do or are welcome to it), but suffice it to say the Saturday and Sunday morning SUCKED. But by late morning Sunday, I was off all pain killers, and just confined to bed. Monday morning, I was detached from all medical devices, and by 3PM, I was in a cab back to the hotel.

I have to say that the care was pretty top-notch all the way. My only complaint was the amount of time it took to get assistance from the nursing staff…but they’re busy. So maybe the best decision I made this weekend was to hire a private duty nurse. It’s bloody lonely in a hospital with no friends and family nearby. My good friend and colleague Kat Flores did what she could, but I needed a lot of help and some company. Kat found a great RN named Neil (a friend of her family), and he was a godsend. I paid more than his standard rate, and by U.S. standards, it’s still almost embarrassing to tell you what I paid. Neil was with me all weekend, and made a huge difference in my life for those 3 days.

It’s now Monday afternoon. I’m back in the hotel room, and about to make arrangements to fly home tomorrow. Quite a trip...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Dreaded Stones - The Beginning

I woke up at 1AM this morning. By 1:30, I was writhing on the bathroom floor. (I know, possibly too much information.) By 3:00, I called for help, and was taken to the emergency room. Diagnosis: Kidney Stones. It was pretty clearly the worst pain I've ever felt. I'm better for now, thanks to IV and oral pain meds. I'm off to a doctor in a few minutes for follow-up. I didn't go to Hong Kong this morning as planned. And I won't do a 15-hour plane ride until this is resolved. I'll post more later.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Yesterday, off to Tagaytay, for my first sightseeing trip in the Philippines. Sort of a cloudy day, the hostess in the hotel restaurant advised me to take a jacket. I didn't bring anything long sleeved to the Philippines, but that's OK...it's 80 degrees outside, right? The adventure begins...

90-minutes drive to the town of Tagaytay, with our driver Jeffrey. Everyone in Asurion's Philippine operation knows Jeffrey. There is no such thing as a speed limit, a red light, or even a proper side of the road on which to drive. No one gets there faster, and no one takes more years off a passenger's life than Jeffrey.

Arrival at Tagatay, which is situated on a cliff that looks to be about 2,000 feet high, overlooking a beautiful lake with the Philippines smallest volcano. Clearly, the thing to do is to go out to the volcano, right? To get there, you simply have to go down a series of the steepest, narrowest, most winding roads imaginable...with Jeffrey at the wheel! Just close your eyes and think about something else.

Arrival at the bottom of the cliff, and here's our transportation...EXCELLENT! (Yes, that's the volcano in the background.)

The water looks smooth, right? Think again. A 30-minute ride to the volcano. It's hard to see in the picture below, but we arrived soaked to the skin and chilled to the bone. Beautiful ride anyway, though.

On our arrival, though, we found out that it is an hour's ride -- on horseback -- to the volcano. We thought about it, but were just too cold and hungry. So...we turned around and went back across the lake, which was looking increasingly ominous. For a moment, I actually pondered if we were going to die out there. Here is the scene just before we got back on.

We didn't die.

Back safely on the mainland, Jeffrey took us confidently up the steepest, narrowest, winding roads imaginable (eyes closed, think of something else), and back to the main drag of Tagaytay. Something hot for lunch was clearly next on the agenda, and someone had heard of "The Palace in the Sky." Off we went.

Up the mountains...further up...into the clouds (literally) we went. Until we finally reached The Palace in the Sky...which is a little local shopping district with -- you guessed it -- no food. Turn around, Jeffrey.

We eventually wound up at Pamana, a wonderful restaurant overlooking the cliffs and the volcano, where we had some of the best local food around, including crispy pata (deep fried pork leg) and much much more. Satiated and warmed, we settled into the peaceful return to Manila, safely ensconced in the car with...Jeffrey!