I always like the hummus here, Sara Salberg said, ordering the garbanzo bean specialty in a veggie wrap with roasted eggplant and carrots from Kiki Bs lunch menu. I ordered my favoritea turkey, cream cheese and cranberry wrap with homemade garlic chips.
I have two forks and no spoon, Sara noticed. In Rockford, it seems like there are never any spoons, she remarked, speaking a stream of consciousness, staying in touch with her thoughts.
And it says its CHIP-approved, she remarked, as she eyed the menu approval of the hummus wrap. I try to eat that way. But then Ive had a bad couple of months.
Saras sunny smile is always ready, even as she talks about her life-threatening brain surgery.
I wasnt going to start our chat with your brain surgery, but what did happen? I asked.
Initially, I was feeling fine, she said. My dentist had me coming in every three months, now that Im over 50. For a year, hed been telling me he was hearing noises…noisy carotid arteries.
Your dentist heard noises in your head? I asked.
He takes his stethoscope and listens to your carotid artery, she explained.
No dentist I know does that, I said.
Hmm. Well, finally after a year-and-a-half of him saying that, about my sixth visit, I went home and told my husband, Chuck, she said. Then, I went to my doctor here in town…my first doctor wasnt going to do anything. I said, Listen, were friends, youve delivered all my babies, please, just test me because I want this dentist to get off my back. He sent me to a specialist.
She was advised to get her carotids cleaned outsomething like plaque removal.
He said it was really urgent, but he couldnt get me in for six or seven weeks, she said. We were going to Arizona to see our oldest grandson, who was 7 at the time.
Sara tried one of my garlic chips
I dont taste the garlic, she said. Oh, there I do, she saidmore stream of consciousness.
Your taste buds still work? I asked.
Theyre very good, another smile.
On the way to Arizona, I told my husband we should go to Mayo because we had gone there for our 50th and 55th birthdays when we were out there visiting our kid and grandson, she said. So we had our foot in the door.
She wanted a second opinion.
We were nonchalant about it, even though there was pounding in my carotids, she explained. The doctor said it was an emergencybut six or seven weeks!
Sara didnt have an appointment, but when she called and said she had had a diagnosis she didnt understand and wanted a second opinion, they told her they had an opening that afternoon. But they couldnt do the tests they wanted to do that afternoon, because the lab was closing. It was 5 p.m.
They werent sure they were looking at the carotids for the problem, she said. They just knew it was something else. We were going to be in Arizona for five days, so we went back and forththis hour-and-a-half drive, but it was worth it.
An hour before their flight home to Chicago, Mayo informed them Sara needed a special procedure because of a malformation in her brain, which had been there from birthweakening blood vessels.
The arteries, the veins, and in between, the capillaries, were wound up together like a ball, she said. Those capillaries were ballooning and were going to rupture. She pointed to the back of her head…making an imaginary line from the left to the back.
But when I was young, I hadnt stressed out all of the capillaries, she said. Once (the stress) startedprobably from weight and agethe few capillaries left were doing all the job. The rest were going to rupture, I guess. They would have just popped one day. I would have lost my whole right side of my bodythis side of my brainparalysis and blindness. She pointed to the left side of her head again. When they took that malformation out, they bruised me a little. Thats why I have the loss of short-term memory.
All from an alert dentist, I marveled. Its so good you got that second opinion. Otherwise, they would have cleaned your carotids, and it would have gone on. She nodded.
Sara and Chuck returned to Illinois, and Sara had the surgery to reconstruct and cut out the damage. They saved what could still be useful.
Sounds like a huge surgery, I remarked.
It was almost nine hours.
Insurance covered this? I asked, imagining huge bills, too.
Isnt God good? We just always had good insurance, she said.
Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
from the July 5-10, 2007, issue