Today is our visit to the cardiologist who did the surgery for Mom's pacemaker sixteen days ago. For twenty days she hasn't been anywhere except her residence, the hospital, a few trips in the wheelchair around the block, and one visit to my house.
Jona has Mom at the front door, sitting in the wheelchair and ready to go when I arrive at 9 am.
The doctor's office turns out to be on North Robertson in Beverly Hills; there's a lot of traffic, but we make good time.
"Oh, is that where John works?" asks Mom, pointing to the skyscrapers of Century City and Beverly Hills.
"No," I say, once again explaining that those tall buildings are not downtown Los Angeles, though they look like it.
We arrive and park in a glamorous medical complex. The elevator has glass walls so we can see the large fountain and pool surrounded with greenery in the lobby as we sail up from the parking levels.
On the second floor, we find Suite 150, but there is no door; we wheel right into the waiting room where the receptionist sits overlooking the fountain. We sit down and watch the people in the elevators as the glass boxes slide up and down.
The other people in the waiting room are in matching groups, older and younger, as we are: an Asian man my age with his frail father in a wheelchair; an elegant older Caucasian woman with an equally elegant blonde daughter my age; three women in lovely flowered sunhats, speaking Farsi, one older, two about my age.
Forty-five minutes later, we're admitted to a small examination room; Mom is told to change into a gown from the waist up. Fifteen minutes later Dr. Noel B. enters. I have spent the hour making a whole page of notes about events since the surgery and questions that I have.
"How have you been doing?" he asks Mom.
"Fine," she says.
"Except for one episode a week ago where she was nonresponsive for ten minutes," I add and start to describe it.
"That has nothing to do with her heart," he concludes, as Bill did a week ago.
"Okay," I say and look over my list of other questions and concerns.
"Her incision is healing well. Excellent!" he says, about to leave.
"I just want to know about the pacemaker, when it was reset a couple days after her surgery, what level of demand it is set to now," I begin.
"I can get you that information, but that's not what this appointment is for today. I'm just checking on the incision. You need to call the Pacemaker Clinic and make an appointment for November or December, to have the pacemaker checked after the leads have matured."
He disappears to get a written report on the surgery, and Mom says to me, "Don't overdo him or he won't come back." She knows exactly what's happening.
When he comes back, I ask again: "Well, I just wondered about whether the pacemaker is monitoring both the atrium and the ventricles--the specialist in the hospital said it was not set to read 'A-fibs and fluts.'"
"It paces in the atrium, but her ventricle does itself, unless it needs help. The demand is set at 60. In the atrium it's set so it doesn't track rapid beats."
"Okay, thanks," I say, accepting the papers he hands me.
We're back out in the elegant lobby, never having paid a penny, thanks to Medicare.
We wheel out onto the sidewalk to look around, but this part of Beverly Hills doesn't seem to have any shops or anything interesting, so we enter a liquor store next door and buy two lime popsicles and a small glass bottle of Coca Cola with "USC Trojans--2004 National Champions" on the back.
We retreat to the parking levels, pay $9, and drive back to Santa Irena, where we meet Jona.
"How did it go?" she asks.
"Okay," I say. "All he wanted to do was look at the incision. It was fine."
Jona looks at me with wonderment.
"Yeah, we knew it was fine," I say.
We look at each other, shaking our heads, thinking about all the effort it took to get Mom up and out by 9 am for the big expedition to the doctor.
"Oh well, at least we saw Beverly Hills, didn't we, Mom?" I smile.