Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Transplants and Racing? A New Development

Hello and welcome to Robert J.'s Transplant Tribune.  If you are a newcomer, thanks for visiting.  If you are a previous subscriber, thanks as well, but where've you been for two years?  In any case, after reading this latest effort, please feel free to check out the dozens of previous articles on this blog.  Some are sad, some funny, some well-written...some not so much.

So, my question in the title asks "Transplants and Racing?"  Is the relevance between the two similar to that of "Ice Cream and Tomatoes"?  Come to think of it, I believe I saw Tomato Ice Cream on the menu at one of those hippy-dippy ice cream parlors in Berkeley, the one with a line around the corner that ends in Alameda somewhere.  But, Transplants and Racing do have some common ground...allow me to explain.

Carroll Shelby, legendary racing driver and originator of the Cobra, received a heart transplant followed several years later with a kidney from his son.  Niki Lauda, the three-time Formula One World Champion, has been the recipient of two living-donor kidney transplants.  When NASCAR star Davey Allison died in a helicopter accident, his widow Liz granted her permission to share his organs.  Which brings me to Joey Gase.

Joey Gase?...Joey Gase...hmm, never heard of him.  Not surprising.  Joey is a 21 year old driver in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, a championship kind of like the highest minor league is in baseball. It is intended to be a development series for people wanting to earn a seat in Sprint Cup, NASCAR's "Majors".  Three years ago, Joey's mother Mary Jo died of a brain aneurysm...and Joey had to make the decision whether or not to donate her organs and tissue.  Can you imagine?  At a young age he had to think very hard to make an extremely important adult decision, and quickly.  Many will agree when I say that he made the correct choice, and Mary Jo saved several lives.  Joey is a busy racer, but gives a lot of his time visiting hospitals, schools, and any venue where he can urge people to become organ donors.

Since then, Joey, already a local track champion driver at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Grand Rapids, IA, has been struggling to make it up the NASCAR ladder.  In all forms of racing, the real fuel isn't gasoline or ethanol, it's MONEY!  And lots of it.  The team for which Joey races in Nationwide is Jimmy Means Racing, and it is not one of the big buck organizations.  Its owner, Jimmy Means, raced for many years at NASCAR's top level, but on less than a shoestring budget. Things are still hard, especially securing a steady sponsor with big pockets.

Joey's story and hard work have brought moderate, one-race-at-a-time sponsor deals with local Organ Procurement Organizations around the country, many under the national brand of Donate Life.  These arrangements aren't available at every stop on the Nationwide schedule so often the #52 car runs in a virtually pure white livery.  So far, however, Joey has made it to all the races this year. Television coverage of the latest race at Chicagoland Speedway featured a very nice piece on a local donor family who Joey had invited to the race.  A picture of their loved one appeared on the back of the #52 Chevy along with one of Joey's Mom.  The family was interviewed on ESPN in the pit area wearing Joey Gase T-shirts.

Recently, via Facebook, it was announced that for a small contribution, a picture of one's important transplant person could be likewise displayed on the racecar.  At several upcoming dates on the circuit this will be available, starting with this Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Wow!...but what caught my attention was the race at Watkins Glen, in beautiful Upstate New York, on August 9.

Why the Glen over Indy, you ask?  As a 12 year old racing geek, Yours Truly and the Moss Family visited former neighbors, The Gorts, who had relocated from Pittsburgh, PA to Elmira, NY. Family head Bill Gort knew about my car thing, so he suggested a ride over to nearby Watkins Glen. Although the original course had been laid out on public roads and city streets in the late 1940s, for safety an actual race course was built on gorgeous rolling farmland outside of town.  In 1962, it was simple just to drive out on a dirt path, directly onto the racing surface, so we did!  Bill got this devilish grin going, leaned over the steering wheel of his green Plymouth Valiant station wagon and gunned it.  He slammed off some expert shifts on his "three-on-the-tree" and provided the racing sound effects to boot.

The Three Gort Girls, Linda, Donna and Pammie (with my litle brother Gary who always liked to hang out with The Girls) hooted and hollered from the back seat while I was up front with Walter V (my Dad) and Bill, taking it all in.  Of course, WVM had his eyes out on stalks with his imaginary brake on full-stop.  We dropped down a steep hill into a hard right hander before the start/finish line (what is now Turn One), and I could easily imagine all my heroes lined up on the paint marks signifying the starting grid from the '61 United States Grand Prix.  Yeah, including Dan Gurney in a Porsche. Then, we slowly rolled out the (non-existent) exit gate and back to town.  It was over way too soon.

See why I say The Glen?  Joey now has a picture of my donor, Ruben Bernal, Jr., in his possession that will take a place of honor on the #52 at Watkins Glen on August 9.  The perfect scenario would be for Ruben's image, and those of all the other Transplant Heroes thereupon, to end the day with Joey and the team in Victory Lane.  But remember what I mentioned about $$$ and big-time racing?  "Speed costs money; how fast you wanna go?" is a very old guiding principle, in Joey's case particularly. Neither Joey, nor Jimmy Means, nor Donate Life have the funds to get consistently farther up the finishing order.  Not to discourage anyone, because one never knows.  A top-twenty would be awesome, though.  Doubly so because The Glen is not an oval track, like the ones Joey learned his trade on, but a road circuit with right turns. left turns, hills and a LOT of shifting and braking.  Hard work, and I have the experience there to know!

I haven't gotten the impression Ruben was a car guy, or that he ever looked at more than two minutes of NASCAR.  But since I consider that a large portion of my time should be spent recognizing and thanking him for my current enjoyment of car stuff, I want to share this passion with him.  He will get many more laps, at faster speeds, with real racing noise, than I did over fifty years ago.

Enjoy the ride, Huero....and Go Joey!  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Live, from Grand Rapids....It's SUNDAY NIGHT!!!


Previewed earlier in your Trib were the 2012 TGA in lovely (and it is ) Grand Rapids, MI.  We arrived last Friday by way of Chicago, a city never visited but on our list.  And it was as described...fantastic.  Our room at the Swissotel on the 36th floor overlooked an unfinished high-rise enabling us to enjoy some fine in-room coffee while watching some brave dudes (and a lady) working away opposite us.  Harnesses were the order of the day, so no worries.

We did a Lake Michigan twilight cruise and followed up the next day with a "hop-on, hop-off" double-decker.  We were unceremoniously ejected at  a coupla tourist-trap eateries ( The Rainforest?  Screw that noise. Ditto Hard Rock) but finally managed to locate a less raucous location, free of rugrats.  Most unfortunately, and along the same lines, we found the vaunted Navy Pier to be nothing more than Pier 39 on steroids.  Basically a series of shopping malls and kid adventures on a wharf, we coulda don without it.  The breathtaking architecture, lighting, and landscaping all over the downtown area more than made up, however.  We definitely wanna go back.


This fine city, a most worthy host to such a premier event as TGA, is named by its rapids on the Grand River.  Duh.  Please, not hint of this to Young Dr. Duncan Henry, MD, who would immediately attempt to drown me again as he did (to me AND his mother) several years ago on some wild-ass river up in the hills somewhere.  I digress.  The downtown section of the city has many nicely-restored old buildings, their bricks and woods preserved whilst new businesses have taken the spaces therein. Being a college town (Grand Valley State University) many establishments exist to satisfy the moderately-hedonistic needs of these young scholars.  There is no shortage of food choices, beverage options, and intermingling opportunities.  It was nice to wander the brick-lined streets on a warm Upper-Midwestern evening soaking up the beautifully-lit ambiance.  We enjoyed a bit of food and a brew or two, and found it a very appealing area.  

Upon arrival, the city was wildly welcoming to TGA.  There were signs and banners everywhere, even in the dive-type bars with their festive Budweiser "Welcome Transplant Game Athletes" messages.  Check-in was exciting, since everyone you saw was there for the same incredible purpose, and everyone represented a unique and fascinating story.  We were recipients, living donors, donor families, healthcare professionals and local volunteers.  Teams from all over the nation were all over town in their identifying shirts and hats, and they were all happy and interested in a chat, a wave, a "hello", or just a pleasant smile.  Very, very outstanding atmosphere all over town.

Before that nasty blog control guy butts in again, I will temporarily and voluntarily discontinue the TGA story before it gets too long.

Caution....Turnpike Ends 1/4 Mile


I will now say farewell to those of you who have read this blathering account for the last, oh, six or seven years or so.  It's time to turn off that "Sorry, We're Open" sign for the last time.  Thanks, and best to each and everyone of you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Slow Train to Portland and Other Tales


First, may I whine just a wee bit?  Cheryl tells me people read this silly bloggie-ness and I usually (and humbly) refute that notion.  So if you would, please post a very short comment on this blog or email me at  No need for a literary critique, just tell me if you actually read this crap.  I need to know for budgetary purposes since I do get some Federal Redevelopment Agency money originally meant for that football stadium on the parking lot at Great America.  Sorry for the inconvenience.


We had originally planned to drive to Portland earlier this month, score a rent-a-wreck and head for (Rockin') Rockaway Beach, OR.  There, we would join our dear Arizona Moss Cuzzins, Mel and Jacquey, at a timeshare they secured on the Oregon Coast.  But on the drive up the SuperSlab (Interstate 5) from our annual Aunt Bessie birthday visit in Long Beach, the extended boredom got us thinking......we hate airports, so what about the train?!?  

Immediately, Cherie stepped into a nearby phone booth and emerged as Sooper Travel Consultant ready to kick some Amtrak ass and take names. Of course, everything was sold out except Coach which is potentially scary particularly for 17 hours.  After a few days of trying, sleeper compartments became available.  Pricing is in the "don't ask" bracket, but does include meals and some wine tasting.

Train stations do attract some unusual inhabitants, and I am not talking only about the passengers.  Martinez was no exception with a gentleman walking in and out of the building while intermittently spewing out some unintelligible shouting, something about Berkeley or Emeryville or something like that.   I guess he was unhappy with the arrival time of the train but according to the station agent he never goes anywhere.  The Coast Starlight chugged into Martinez two hours late, which is considered "on time" in the railroad world.  We were shown to our compartment which happened to be a handicap unit double the size of the regular "room".  It had its own potty right there sticking out into the center of the room and the expected hanging bunk bed arrangement.  No ladder, I just had to find a way up there.

The ascent was OK, but the descent for the first of several pee breaks was disastrous.  I missed the bottom step and stretched the hell outta my left leg.  But the room was pretty great when the beds became chairs in the morning.  We watched the countryside go by while reading, munching and enjoying a Coke Zero or two.  We brought our own Zero since Amtrak was the first in an endless succession of "is Pepsi OK?" responses to my drink order.  No it's not, actually.

Dining on a train is delightful despite the surly dining car staff.  A piece of paper with a buncha boxes to check was plunked down on the table with no explanation on how to select breakfast.  So we faked checking a few boxes.  When "Kyle" returned he looked at the cards and just tore them up and tossed them down on the table.  "No boxes!" he sniffed, then demanding our orders.  Seems the card was for him and we tragically ignored the rules and insulted the living shit outta him in the process.  We did finally get a very good brekkie, though, and enjoyed the company of a 12 year-old boy escorting his 97 year-old grandfather home from Los Angeles.  Talking with other passengers is a high point of train travel.  Blame it on Prednisone but Cheryl had to continually drag me kicking and screaming away from fascinating conversations with fellow travelers.


We enjoyed a short but entertaining break in Downtown Portland before pointing our Chevy Cruze (pretty good ride, I'll admit) to Tigard for breakfast with Aunt Mary in her retirement home's dining room.  Excellent, I'll add. Only Pepsi, however. Then it was off to the coast on a beautiful Friday during the long, long July Fourth Week.  Oregonians don't get a lot of nice weather so we shared Hwy. 26 with every resident of Greater Portland.  The two-lane route was choked with beach enthusiasts causing many dead-stop situations, some up to 20 minutes long.  We were both squeezing our legs together in agony, and the roadside bushes started looking very good to me.  Every time I started to exit the vehicle, the traffic miraculously started to move.  Go figger.

We reached the coast at Cannon Beach, facing a line waiting for a parking spot then a line out the door at Mo's Restaurant.  While waiting in that line, one is absolutely surrounded by what we know as moych-'n'-dizing in the truest, Disney-inspired sense.  There were shirts, hats, hoodies, scarves, umbrellas, cups, mugs, underwear......jeez, you name it.  You even had to navigate sunglass racks and a Mo's sandal display to get in for a much-needed whiz.

At any rate, we did arrive at the (1-bedroom) condo for a beautiful twilight after another start-stop journey south on 101.  Unfortunately, sometime during the night, my insulin pump took a proverbial dump.  Nothing the Animas tech could suggest outside of total, irreversible failure.  Like a dummy, I have become complacent and do not carry a conventional syringe-administered backup.   Mel, Jacquey, and Cheryl leapt into action while I sat, paralyzed with fear, in front of my frozen mass-produced bagel.  The excellent endochronologist on duty at Muir Medical group, Dr. Bressler, called in an Rx to Safeway in beautiful (not) Tillamook, and the problem was solved.  Thanks everyone.




Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Recall February As If It Were Yesterday


Please don't ask me what in the hell I have been doing that has prevented me from performing my blogger duties.  Hey, I said DON'T ask me, you there in the back!  The answer, put simply, is not a damned thing.  Not that I have not been deliriously occupied, but I will say that since I am handing out my (treasured) business cards with Robert J.'s Transplant Tribune boldly emblazoned on the top, I should get my s**t together and write something.  Anything.  Except about what I had for lunch today. Hell, I don't even care what I had for lunch today!

Just to bring you up to date, I have gotten deeply involved in several altruistically-inspired projects.  Despite my profound technical inabilities I did assume the duties of Membership Chair for our Bay Area chapter of Transplant Recipients International Organization (TRIO).  Although just yesterday I discovered I was appointed not elected, this small disappointment has not decreased my enthusiasm for the position in any way.  In fact it inspires me to get elected to something, no matter what it may be.  So do feel free to nominate me for an elected position of any sort.  Thank you.

Due to my unqualified admiration for Ana Stenzel and Isa Stenzel-Byrnes, I am honored to report I was allowed to join the efforts to bring The Power of Two here to Livermore.  Wine for a Cure is an annual happening here in our fine city that will this year combine wine, food and film to raise support for Cystic Fibrosis Research, Inc. (CFRI).  If you know Ana's and Isa's story you are aware that it describes their determined battle to survive this horrible disease.

Diana Heppe and Robin Modlin, two CF moms, are, amongst others, the focused individuals spearheading the effort.  The documentary will be shown at 5:00 pm on Sunday, May 20 at Livermore Cinemas.  May I strongly ask you to consider attending?  Tickets can be obtained at  If you are not touched by this story, you must be an emotionless creep, and I will refund your cost of admission (minus a small processing fee) and, further, never speak to you again.  So there.

Moving on, Cheryl and I have joined forces with Team NorCal to compete in the 2012 Transplant Games of America, to be held at the end of July in Grand Rapids, MI.  "Compete" is a relative term in my case, since my last successful athletic endeavor was when I won the 1/4 Mi. run for the Slow Group in my Boy's PE class.  This woulda been my junior year at Dear Old Hamilton High, which is where they used to film Mr. Novak (starring James Franciscus) back in the day.  Anyway, that satisfying victory is memorable in that just after the checkered flag flew, I lost my Pop Tarts from breakfast (Mom always got up early to prepare us a nutritious brekkie) right there on the track.

Uh, sorry for that Moment in Time remembrance.......but we will be gong to Grand Rapids and from what we have seen and heard, it is a seriously moving experience.  Many donor families attend, and recipients will use the opportunity to offer thanks for our donors' decision.  Once more I ask for your support, which you can give at  Funds will be used to financially assist donor families who wish to attend, as well as for team apparel, equipment, and meetings.  Thank you
for your interest.

Finally we come to my own favorite cause, the 2012 Donate Life Walk.  We are re-forming Team Ruben and are hopeful we will have all of last year's veterans along with many new recruits.  Once again, Team Ruben-identifying apparel will be provided to all registered participants.  The Walk happens on Saturday, September 8 at Lake Elizabeth in Fremont.  Please see to register and/or donate.

Are you sick to death of getting constantly assaulted with causes for which I ask your help?  Yeah, I agree, but they are all of the very highest quality.  And what is more important than saving or improving a life?


Beginning with this very minute and working backwards, I was accompanied by two fine Mamas last Sunday in observance of the incredibly wonderful occasion of Mother's Day.  In addition to my amazing wife, Cheryl, I was gratified to be honored by the attendance of our machatuna, Sandy Chaw.  You will need to check my archives for a definition.  We had a very gracious brunch in Pleasanton at Nonni's which I heartily recommend.  Their specialty is smoked salmon, and yes, it is smoked right there on the premises.  Since I don't smoke that stuff anymore, I ordered a different item which was, I am sure, equally good.

Racing was on the agenda the prior day, and no, it definitely was NOT in order to offset Mother's Day, all you wise guys out there.  Along with Two Jeffs and John P., we set a course to Laguna Seca for a six-hour sports car race.  Since we engaged in all sorts of good-natured male debauchery (some including actual lying, exaggerating, and distribution of spent gasses) we were unable to reach the conclusion of the event.  No matter, we were a bunch of happy kids having spent a great day in a favorite location, on a marvelous Monterey day, enjoying the sights and sounds we most adore.  Uh, second only to the sight of our wives and the sound of them saying "get off that damn computer, already".

Exceeding all possible expectations was Cheryl's and my 39th Anniversary Road Trip to Cambria, Solvang and Los Olivos.  We reached these fine destinations via our beloved Honda S2000, largely with the top retracted.  After a magical evening in Cambria enjoying cocktails at Moonstone Grill, we observed with wonderment the Year's Biggest Moon from our room at the Blue Dolphin.  Luckily for everyone, the guy who was mooning us hoisted his trousers and went back to his room, allowing us to clearly see that big round hunk of green cheese in the sky.  Except for some shabby check-in treatment at the Corque Inn in Solvang, it was again a great day of wine-tasting followed by dinner at A Brother's Sides Hardware and Shoes.  I am not making that up, that is the name of the restaurant that previously operated in the famous Mattei's Tavern.  I do recommend it, as well as the other places I have named unless specifically indicated as unsatisfactory (see Corque Inn).

There have been several other adventures since we last spoke, but I will spare you most to relate one more.  We beetled up to Reno to see and (mostly) hear a favored electric blues/rock virtuoso, Joe Bonamassa.  If you've not heard of him and like that style of music, do give him a listen.  The concert was nothing short of excellent and yes, loud.  But this guy can play and sing like you would not believe.  We did dinner, upon Dan's and Carol's direction, at The Hash House a' Go Go.  Describing itself as "Twisted Farm Cuisine,  it grossly violates a long-standing Moss/Cook teaching, i.e. "Never eat anything bigger than your head".  So we obeyed, and took the rest of the cranium-sized dishes back to the hotel where it still is, perhaps.  And I know you think I made up the name of this restaurant, but you are wrong.


Recently we lost two important people, one of whom I have known for over 40 years, and one I have merely "known" for 50 years.  Our very dear friends Dan and Carol lost Carol's mom, Gladys, last month.  I first met Gladdy amd Jim back in about '67 when we kids were all at UCSB.   I visited them at several of their SoCal homes and, more recently, in Clayton.  Over all these years they have been the same lovely, gracious and generous people to Cherie and I that have endeared them to all of their many friends and relatives.  We miss Gladdy, and hope the very best for Jim as he struggles to adjust.

I never met Carroll Shelby, but I have felt as if I did, or certainly should have.  As a 12 year-old I devoured magazine articles about the new Cobra, devised by Shelby to join Ford's V-8 engines to a chassis from AC Cars in England.  This started a brilliant career consisting of manufacturing, preparing and racing successful cars for Ford, modifying a long line of performance Mustangs, and establishing Cobra as a supreme world-class sports car.  He cooperated with Chrysler and GM on other concepts including the Viper, not to mention distributorship of Goodyear racing tires, production and sales of many Shelby accessories, and the famous Carroll Shelby's Texas Chili Mix!  What is less well-known is that, like Yours Truly, Carroll was a heart and kidney transplant recipient.

Cobra at Monterey, Shelby autograph on hood

After experiencing chest pain in his own race driving days, he had to stop and turn to the projects described above.  He got his heart in 1990 from a deceased donor, and a kidney from his son Mike in 1996.  As you may know, it is a gift of life that inspires you to do as much as possible to educate and help others who may be in need of an organ or tissue transplant.  In Carroll Shelby's case he created a foundation to use his own considerable fortune and to raise additional funds for many health-oriented causes.  His primary focus was on children, particularly those who, with their families, were enduring that awful waiting time that is a common condition of transplantation.  Now known as the Carroll Shelby Foundation, it is still helping kids and also has extended support for automotive job training to underprivileged adolescents.

We lost Ol' Shel' last week at age 89.  He was one of the longest-surviving heart transplant recipients in the nation.  He was truly a self-made man, legendary in the world of fast and exciting cars, racing, and philanthropy.  I was lucky myself to have owned a '66 Shelby Mustang and have been a lifelong fan.

I will miss both of these fine people.

Monday, February 6, 2012

To Ruben: Two Years On

Huero, it was two years ago today that you were taken suddenly and uselessly from your family and legion of friends. You left behind some great gifts, such as the memory of a funny and unpunctual guy who could be unconditionally counted upon in any situation. The gift you promised to someone by registering as an organ donor, should the worst happen, was bestowed on me. For this there is no adequate expression of thanks that can be expressed via written or spoken word.

When I first met your family, I promised to honor you and your gift by trying in all possible ways to be the best transplant recipient I could be. I hope my actions this past year have so far accomplished fulfillment of that promise. I carry your picture and story with me to every organ donation advocacy event I attend. Many people who are instantly adverse to speaking about registration see your photo, hear yours and my stories, and at least go away with a marginally-better point of view. I share your decision to donate in my talks to high school classes, benefit fairs, college classes, churches and hospital employee education groups. I hope I have in some minuscule way influenced a donation decision or helped a transplant candidate know that, yes, it can and does really happen.

Yesterday Cherie and I visited your gravesite. We laid flowers on the stone, and stood silently thinking of your contribution in getting me to this point in my life. Then, your brother Anthony and a group of your friends arrived. We met and spoke, and I received many handshakes, good wishes and even a hug from them. I couldn't help but notice the incredible T-shirts several of the guys wore, with colorful images of you on the front. One read on the reverse side "I've got your back". I think from what I have been told, this phrase characterized you as a son, brother, uncle, nephew and valuable friend that could be counted upon always. When the cervezas were broken out, we unfortunatly had to leave. I would have loved to crack one open in your honor.

I have considered myself to be relatively humorous, a good husband, dad, son, grandson, nephew, cousin and a stalwart friend. I hope there are more similarities than differences in our accomplishments in these areas, Ruben.

As we observe the two-year anniversary of my transplant this Thursday, we will all be happy that I am still around enjoying all the people and things around me. But our happiness is due to your gift, and everyone who knows me, knows that, too.

Descansa en paz, Huero.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Life is Like a Soap Opera Sometimes


Awright, there's this movie called Soapdish where Sally Field is an aging soap opera star who, for attention, goes to the mall. There, her agent (Whoopie Goldberg) starts screaming "Its her, it's (insert the name here), it's really YOU, isn't it?". Sally whips off her shades and about 25 women run up for autographs and adoration. It's a great movie, with Kevin Kline and Robert Downey, Jr. in addition to the ladies mentioned above.

OK, so what? Well, that is what happens here on 10 Long, UCSF Medical Center whenever "Mr. Moss" strides, er I mean is wheeled, out of the freight elevator and gently dumped in a room. I would be more gratified if I simply visited garbed as a regular guy, but alas, I am an irregular kinda guy who only drops in when medically instructed. And so it was this past Tuesday.

Waking up with cold-like symptoms and a 100+ fever, it was a no-brainer after placing the call to Transplant Services. Unable to stay awake, Dear Cheryl did most of the packing for what would just have to be a longer-than-hoped-for stay. We arrived at the ED with me having no personal memory of the trip, as I slept 97.3% of the way. On went the IV antibiotic and on came the questions from each and every visitor. "Diarrhea? No. Cough? No. Vomiting? Uh, no. Shortness of pants? No. Inability to stay awake in the middle of a sentence? Yes." This last one became the focus as the ED docs brought in a physician from ICU to judge whether my decreased mental capacity warranted admission to that intriguing unit. I guess I woke up enough to wave that fate off, but again 10 Long loomed in our immediate future.

Since that admission I have returned to (relative) normalcy insofar as I am functioning quite well. Besides writing this blog post, listening to kick-ass music, and recognizing the kind greetings of many of the folks who work here, I am remarkably stable and well. It is strangely comfortable, oddly enough, primarily because I am such a bitchin' dude and they ADORE me. Yeah, right, it is the people here who create it, and everyone involved seems intent on keeping a fat old transplant recipient motoring on down that ol' Transplant Turnpike. Lucky for me.

So, the search continues for the elusive cause(s) of all this. Could be a virus of unknown name, a bacteria, fluid, or simple but violent flatulence. See, the average person, including the Queen her own self, farts 14 times a day, so naturally after the fartoscopy results came in, that is suspected. Additional face masks have been issued to all staff here on 10 Long in case that is the main villain. The possible treatment in that case is too gruesome for even these liberalized pages.


Along the same route (see above) I was pleased to be selected to address a group of second-year med students recently, right here at Palacio Parnassio. Cheryl accompanied me where we met up with Laura, a CTDN clinical coordinator, and Ashley, a donor wife. Laura spoke first to this elective class on transplants about the process. Then Ashley shared that she had lost her husband, age 31, in a snowboarding accident. Ashley, then seven months pregnant with their first child, experienced a tragic loss but, knowing his wishes, was able to avoid handling anymore unexpected developments at that difficult time. She is still feeling the loss every day, but does take comfort in that her husband saved several lives. Pretty incredible stuff.

Then it was time for Your Correspondent to lecture, just as the assorted to-go lunches were opened. The aromas of Panda Express blended with Palio, Subway (wait, you can't smell a Subway sammich!), and Moffitt Cafe as the speaker (me) emitted a noticeable stomach growl. During my impassioned address I did see one young man in the back of the room with his head on his iPod, a bit of drool pooling on the darkened screen. Did anyone hear "Bueller..... Bueller..... Bueller"? Maybe not, but it woulda been hella cool.


Several other notable occurrences took place this month, including a swell Dinner with the Gang, a successful 49'ers Playoff Party courtesy Sandy C., and The Sleep Study from Hell. This last one is best left to your vivd imaginations, and it is probably on YouTube somewhere. If so, knock yourselves out but make sure no one under 17 is admitted.

Oh, the One More Thing thing. Faithful readers (and if not, why not?) will recall my account of an experience I had on March 21, 2010 in the wake of my transplant. I was sent nighty-night to sleep on a bed alarm to assure my safety, and remember, it played Take Me Out to the Ballgame< on the occasion of a wee-hour ("wee" hour...get it?) comfort break.

I was doing a lap of the floor this visit when I heard the unmistakable sound of Mary Had a Little Lamb, one of my childhood faves. It instantly jumped into my (what's left of a) brain.....S**T! Izzat a BED ALARM? My innate curiosity was instantly aroused (aroused...get it?) and I rushed breathlessly back to my quarters. No, I had plenty of breath, Dr. Lung Guy (one of the fine, young Asian docs here who look like a younger version of Dr. Duncan H. except for the Asian thing and all) and when I arrived, there were my very own set of quarters laid out on the bed. After reassembling all four, I was able to call for my nurse, the very excellent Meg.

Meg and her student Emily arrived (breathlessly) and I asked "Did I hear a bed alarm playing Mary Had a Little Lamb? The one whose fleece was white as snow?" "Why, yes you did" she said. My mind raced, asking what other models of bed alarms were available, and could I get one on Amazon to use at home when I, you know, have to, uh, Go? To my amazement she told me there is a SELECTION of melodies! A vast array of my favorite artists leapt to mind; Joe Bonamassa (on my headphones right this minute), Eagles, Stones, Elton, Liberace....the possibilities seemed endless.

But, no, hold on there, pardner. There is only one version, and it plays the two selectons mentioned above OR a simple and irritating regular old "beep beep beep . But, Meg kindly told me, Ballpark is great, on account o' the Giants and all. With due respect to SF fans everywhere, my preference would be Back Home Again in Indiana which truly brings tears to my eyes every time Jim Nabors belts it out at the Indy 500. "Gentlemen and Danica, Start Your Engines" indeed.

And there is the story on bed alarms and other matters of the moment, here on this fine Groundhog Day, 2012.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hockey, Rocky, Not Schlocky


I just could not get a Moss Family Letter 2011 done, so excuse my pathetic lameness as I offer a bit of cheerful, newsy repartee to lighten your Holiday load, so to speak.


I have unmercifully abused my dear son-in-law Chris (aka LuckyMan SB) for not introducing me to his passion, NHL hockey. And of course I mean, particularly, the San Jose Sharks. Although he has season tickets, he has offered the weak-ass excuse that the seats are at the very last row of the highest section of HP Pavilion, so he thinks I could not make it up there. Horseshit, I say, but I continued to patiently wait for an invite.

To hold up my end of the deal, I brought he and Leslie to Rennsport Reunion at Laguna Seca, and they loved it. So OK, dude, I took you to a race, looks like it's your turn. Well, let me say Chris really stepped up when he landed SECOND ROW SEATS to see the Sharks take on Florida. We were excited to say the least.

The scene in Downtown San Jose when the Sharks play at home is totally off the hizzle. There have been lots more entertainment and dining opportunities added to the city since I first wandered around during my halcyon San Jose Medical Center days. And believe me, the restaurants, bars, and streets were teaming with folks in numerous forms of teal and black Sharks gear. Luckily, Chris loaned me an appropriate jersey and a hat so I looked totally cool. We enjoyed dinner at La Pinata from their Sharks Express menu, then hailed one of the many free pedal-driven "rickshaws" for a lift to The Tank.

It is totally nuts inside the arena. And in second row seats, the action is absolutely incredible. So quick, so violent, and I am in awe of anyone who can even barely ice skate, so these guys blew me away. It is hard to follow the puck, but just the high-velocity action is fascinating, as are all the lights, noise, and general spectacle. Just for extra fun, right behind us was a completely shit-faced "chick" who looked like she was about to upchuck on Sandy C., and had to be removed by security.

I am still amazed, but I am sure those excellent seats have spoiled me. Seeing it on TV is just not even close to the same, and Chris' "nosebleed" seats may be kinda far away. But what the hell, I am not likely to become a hardcore fan but now I have seen it in all of its violent beauty. So you are (mostly) off the hook, was awesome, and thank you again.


I am not referring to climbing on anything, nor am I remembering any films with Sylvester Stallone. I am talking ROCK 'N' ROLL, baby. Old Time Rock 'n' Roll, to be more specific. If you are guessing Bob Seger, you are right on. When I saw the ad for tickets, I wished I could go. I really like his music, which I listen to a lot especially at the gym. It helps me exercise. So, like an idiot, I went online and got two without checking with my dear Cheryl. Yes, she was steamed, but she doesn't get too outwardly mean, as many readers may know. By the time we went, all resentment had vanished, and the music was about to begin.

Needless to say, it truly ROCKED. Bob and the ol' Silver Bullet Band were in rare form, and with three encores, all favorite numbers were performed. I know today's big stars like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga have spectacular shows with fire, explosions, costumes, dancing around and such, but just gimme a great rock 'n' roll singer and appropriate backing, and there you have it. Quite a fun evening, and well worth the abuse from my wonderful spouse. I agreed to accept this show as my own Hanukkah and Christmas present to myself, and who knows what I want better than me?


At the Transplant Recipient International Organization (TRIO) Holiday dinner, we all looked forward to our annual get-together in Sunnyvale to not only dine with fellow recipients and friends, but to honor and remember our donors as well as those who were not as lucky as I to receive a transplant in time. Each grateful recipient hangs an ornament on the tree and has a personal Holiday thought for our donor families.

To our complete and delighted surprise, TRIO's president, Steve O., announced Cheryl and I as Members of the Year, presenting us with a beautiful gift basket of goodies. When I was helped up on my feet after falling on the floor, I was able (barely) to thank Steve and the Board for a truly awesome honor. In truth, TRIO has been a forceful helping factor for us ever since our dear Grammy Joan dragged me kicking and screaming to our first meeting, now almost nine years ago. Thank you, Steve and Board, for this great treat.

I end this Holiday Edition with yet another emotional transplant experience. My good friend from CTDN, Laura S., serves as a liaison between the nursing staffs of several area hospitals and the Network. She gets the first call from a nurse, usually from the ER or ICU, that a potential donor situation could occur. Laura conducts a phone screening, then evaluates the conditions on site. Further, she is involved in retrieval and one end of the transport process. One of her responsibilities is Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.

Early in the morning of February 6, 2010, a young gunshot victim arrived at the ER from Union City. This was Ruben Bernal, Jr. In ICU, he was declared brain dead and the donation process began. The operating room was prepared and organs were retrieved. Ruben's heart and one kidney went to UCSF Medical Center, where I was waiting on 10 Long. On February 9 and 10, these organs were successfully transplanted into my body.

When I told Laura that Ruben had been taken to Eden, she informed the OR nursing managers, and they were instantly interested in meeting me. With all the important privacy issues, hospital staff never find anything out about the disposition of organs originating from their own facility. So to meet one very lucky local recipient would be a rare occurrence. Laura asked if I would come to a monthly staff meeting, and of course I eagerly agreed to do so.

Cherie and I arrived at Eden for the 7:00 am meeting as the managers were preparing breakfast, right in the meeting room Belgian waffles, eggs, was incredible. I said a few words and showed the group our pictures of Ruben, Mama Luz, and Team Ruben. The response was quite overwhelming, especially from two OR techs in the group who had prepared and assisted in the OR during the operation. Emotional, to say the very least. We were in kind of a daze for hours thereafter, since this was another major encounter along the ever-changing Transplant Turnpike.

We hope everyone has a most wonderful Holiday, and a healthy 2012. We are grateful to be where we are right now, as we are every single day when we see Ruben's picture and think of him and the Bernal/Tovar family. Now, it's back to the Turnpike which is looking straight and smooth at the moment.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Salute and a Poot For Our Troops


Excuse me for starting out this long-anticipated blog on such a low-brow level, but we here at the Trib just received an important communique from our sister publication, The Military Times. Seems some Afghani civilians and soldiers complained about excessively audible flatulence coming from a US Marine facility. The Corps issued a directive ordering our fine fighting men and women (are there women Marines?) to restrain themselves. Our embedded reporter on the scene doubted the effectiveness of the order, pointing out that farting (OK, I've said it) is "practically a sport" amongst our troops.

I mean, what group of guys and girls (yes, girls, if you were in our room at Capitola recently) could resist a bit of Fun Flatulence when the opportunity is ripe, er, I mean right? One of my most prized and meaningful educational experiences at UCSB (and there weren't many) was being introduced to this fine pastime. The practice was not approved by Mom in my early years, and contrary to what you may be stinking, er, I mean thinking, is, what about Dad? Don't recall any occurrences, so imagine my amazement when various college buddies (who shall remain nameless because, well, because they had no names. Strange, eh?) introduced me to not only live examples of the art, but a singularly incredible recorded version of an actual farting competition (won by a guy named Rip, as I recall) held in the UK. I am not making this up. Well, not much, anyway.


The story I have been asked for the most is definitely about our wonderful vacation. Seriously, many of you have expressed a burning (see above) desire to know every minute detail of the journey. Every meal, every adult beverage, every excursion, and every encounter with our butler, Rony. Ooops, I let the proverbial cat (not Lucy) outta the bag...we had a frickin' butler fer cryin' out loud. But I must disappoint many of you by only sharing the highlights of the voyage, since I forgot all those delicious details for which you are hungering. Delicious...hungering...pretty cool literary moves, yes?

OK, so we fly to Rome, stay a night a block from the Spanish Steps, and then are whisked by private chaffeur-driven Mercedes to Civitavecchia, where the Oceania Marina awaits. The newest and first bespoke ship built for the cruise line, Marina is a knockout. Decor, staff, and most of all food and beverage are beyond compare. Not knowing what in the hell Rony is supposed to do, we founder around to assign him busywork like keeping me stocked with Diet Coke (Coke Zero is NA) and finding a roll of duct tape to repair our shitty new luggage that was brutalized somewhere by one of those luggage-handling apes you see on TV commercials.

Our port stops are numerous, with only one day at sea. First to Livorno touring Tuscany, then Corsica (rude Frenchman), Sardinia (no evidence of sardines), Sorrento (weird trip to Capri singing Volare on the bus with our affable guide/salesman, Luigi), Palermo (miserable weather, good gelato), and Malta. After the aforementioned day at sea, next is a very depressing but riot-free Athens. There are not many operating businesses and unending grafitti, but we do snag a killer Greek lunch at a farmer's market. Oh, yeah, you do know you can always find a decent "comfort stop" at any McD's, right? Saved me many times on Interstate 5. Well, forget about it in Athens. Enough said.

Volos, Greece was gloomy and largely boring on a Sunday, so we stayed aboard. This is certainly not a bad thing, since there are multitudinous things to do on such a cool vessel. A major highlight of the trip was taking a Greek cooking class with Chef Kelly as we sailed away into a beautiful Greek sunset.

Our private tour of the ruins at Ephesus (Turkey) was another outstanding happening. Absolutely amazing to say the least. End of the line, Istanbul. Here, another private tour gave us a quick look at a very cool huge city, one that we both would do again in a minute. Both of our highly-knowledgeable guides were effusive in their praise of their country. Great education, great government, great work ethic, low unemployment, stable finances and overall a very happy situation.

When I asked each what was the biggest thing wrong with Turkey, one said "earthquakes" and the other indicated "our neighbors", meaning Iran, Iraq, know, those fine, peace-loving countries we all adore, and who mutually adore us. And of course Turks just laugh at their traditional adversaries, the Greeks. "All they do is play around and drink ouzo all day" was the reason for the economic train wreck in Greece. Ok, if you say so....

I have to mention that we met loads of very nice people on the cruise. We encouraged sitting with others at dinners, which produced some truly memorable experiences. They were enhanced by taking place in one of the four specialty restaurants available, beside the main dining room and the amazing buffet. Oh, and also at numerous locations dispensing Martini-like refreshments. And tea. And crumpets. " I have nasty habits, I take tea at three" kept running through my (alleged) brain, as all of you 'Stones fans can appreciate.

A particularly grueling return to SF via Lufthansa brought our long-anticipated dream vacation to a bittersweet ending. We were unbelievably fortunate to have this opportunity, due to Cheryl's expert work with Oceania as well as the generous upgrades from the cruise line. More evidence of travel advisor excellence at work here too. And although we were more than prepared for any medical incidents, none were experienced. Outstanding.


* Rennsport Reunion, a gathering of Porsche racing vehicles from over 60 years of competition history at Laguna Seca, Monterey. Great sharing the experience with our kids, our cousins and very closest friends.

* Hair, that iconic musical from the distant past. Excellent again today, in modern times, and an opportunity to join the cast onstage at the end to remove all clothing and boogie to "Let the Sunshine In". Really. Don't believe me? Go to this site and see for yourself. Be patient and look for the dork with the hat on the right side of the video.

* Go-karting with The Guys here in Liverwitz, no fatalities reported. Some nausea, though, but barf bags were not provided.

* Several John Muir old-folk events...the observance of the retirement of my good friend Rita C. after 34 years of service, then an enjoyable afternoon at the annual Retiree Luncheon.

* The triumphal return yet again to lovely Capitola and the Venetian for our family Thanksgiving. Particular thanks to bro-in-law Pat for including Ruben in his saying of grace before the main event. Cheryl and I hung about to see Santa surfing in as we enjoyed the sunny scene from the patio at Zelda's.

* Concerning donor-related activities, there have been quite a few. Our friends Barbara and Bart asked if I would speak briefly at First Presbyterian Church on the occasion of Donor Sabbath. This was most gratifying and I was humbled to be invited. Some other CTDN events included the employee benefits fair for East Bay Regional Parks, a nursing symposium at Safeway's main office conference center, and speaking to three health class sessions at Concord High School.

* A most satisfying movie-and-adult beverages evening here at our very own Vine Theater. Yeah, they serve wine, beer, and food from the next-door restaurant at this once-tired, longtime Liverstein landmark. Longtime, Liverstein,, that is some hell of alliteration there. And the film, you ask? The Descendents, and don't you dare miss it.


Well, alright, it's a wrap. Happy now? Good. I profusely apologize to every single reader out there for taking so long to do this here article. That of course explains it's length, and again my apologies on that score as well.

We have many exciting (and a few not so exciting) arrangements for this Holiday month, so please do start checking here at The Transplant Tribune on an hourly basis to get the straight poop (see above) on, well, on everything Me-related. It's all about Me, isn't it? Kinda reminds Me of the roughly 4 1/2 hours of useless TV coverage
awaiting the (hold your breath Here) decision of The Pizza Guy to end his unbelievably lame swipe at the White House. Sorry to get political, but "turning around" Godfather's Pizza, which by the way I don't consider "turned around", is not what I call great credentials for The Big Job. So, OK, he gave this woman money and job counseling for 13 years, but didn't lay a hand (??) on her. Hmmmmm......if you say so, Herman.

I digress. Enough already with the ranting. I wish everyone Merry Shopping, even at Wal-Mart, and a most joyful Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. If you see me on the Transplant Turnpike (already in progress), please flash your lights. I can't hear your horn anymore. Whazzat you said?


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Will I See You in September, Or Lose You to a Summer Love?


Summer,'s a year-round love. I'm talking about our great son Andrew J. and his beautiful bride, Linsey MOSS! Wow, that sounds good to me! In a truly memorable and well-organized series of fabulous events, Linz and Andy became a married couple at the Napa Valley Country Club last Saturday Sept. 17. The setting was breathtaking, the weather most cooperative, and the resulting celebration superb. What a handsome couple they are.

Our responsibility was to stage the rehearsal dinner, a duty we took on with delight and gusto. I used to know a guy named Gusto, but that's not important now. At any rate, after much careful scrutiny we selected Filippi's in Napa for the event. This establishment is well-known for traditional Italian dishes and KILLER pizza. By killer, I mean that in the most positive way. Fifty of us greatly enjoyed the dinner and the gracious and very attentive staff. It was an excellent intermingling of families, and as de facto Master of Ceremonies, I believe a grand time was had by all.


The ceremony was held overlooking one of the fairways which provided a glorious backdrop. Linsey looked spectacularly beautiful as she walked down the aisle accompanied by dad Bob Fluken. Andy looked equally great, as we don't see him dressed to this level very often. We made our way to the club banquet area for a delicious meal and some very great tributes to the bride and groom.

The action got going right away as Mark the DJ started the music. Everyone was HELL of rocking out on the dance floor, and yes, I must admit, we eagerly participated. It went on until midnight, way past the bedtimes of a large number of attendees. So we gathered up some of the delightful wedding cupcakes and retired, worn out but glowingly happy. Thanks go to Cindy and Bob Fluken, Linz and Andy for organizing a terrific event.


Going back in time one week finds us deep in transplant activities. The very first Donate Life Walk took place early Saturday morning Sept. 10, and it's course was one lap of Lake Elizabeth in Fremont. Many teams were formed, including Team Ruben which we organized to honor and remember my donor. We were able to sign up 29 walkers from our friends and relatives, and were pleased to have members of Ruben's family in that group of 29 as well. Even Ruben's mom came to see the event. We had Team Ruben hats made and walked under large Team Ruben signs. It was fantastic.

Completing this awesome day was the Bay Area premiere of The Power of Two. We attended the pre-screening reception, and were greeted graciously (as always) by our friends Ana Stenzel and Isa Stenzel-Byrnes (who by the way was a Team Ruben member). This documentary describes Ana's and Isa's long battle with cystic fibrosis and their subsequent lung transplants and international efforts promoting organ donation and CF awareness. VERY remarkable and emotional film, and Cheryl and I were in the credits for the assistance we were able to give to help support the movie. A lively Q & A session followed, with the twins, Isa's husband Andrew Brynes, and the director, Marc Smolowitz. Again we arrived home late but very satisfied with our day's activities.


Last Sunday after the wedding we attended a lunch at the very beautiful home of Cindy and Bob Fluken in Napa. For some reason I could barely stay awake, and ditto for the gift-opening and the ride back to Livermore. Took a nap when we got home, then experienced the same phenomenon Monday. It totally sucked since Diana, Don and nephew David from Florida were staying with us. I just was completely tired all day.

Finally Tuesday I shared this with my transplant coordinator. When I told her I was at a wedding and had contact with many people, handshaking, hugging and kissing, she went silent for about a minute. Then she uttered those famous words "You better get in here now". So here I am, blogging my kishkies out on 10 Long, my second home. I was admitted Tuesday evening, and awoke Wednesday feeling fresh and energetic. That condition of normalcy continues to this very moment.

So you are wondering, "What the hell is wrong with Bob/Irv?" Well, none of the intensely brilliant medical minds here at UCSF know. After many studies, all indicating nothing wrong, here I sit awaiting yet another visit with my good friends in the cath lab. Dr. D. wants to positively rule out rejection which I am sure will be Zero R, or at the most 1R which means there is little if any rejection of my heart. But it means another long day with no food and long waits for the biopsy procedure, the pathology, and then (hopefully) that slow discharge process. I just had a chat with Dr. J. who assured me I would not be here Saturday. If I miss the Singapore Grand Prix this weekend, it WILL be a night for fighting (get a little action in).

All in all, it has been a remarkable coupla weeks, with events that I can recall with pride and pleasure. That's all good, as Andy would say.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor Day: Time for Reflection

On a truly beautiful Labor Day, Cheryl and I visited the Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery in Hayward to spend some time with Ruben. It was most emotional for both of us, as so many of our transplant experiences have been. We see and think about Ruben every day as we pass his picture in our living room. This was an incredibly more reflective and leisurely time. The sun shone, the temperature was pleasant, and other groups visited other sites around the very beautiful grounds. I felt somehow closer to him, which of course I was physically, but emotionally as well.

While we did have an excellent remainder of the day, and enjoyed our Monday holiday, the image of that stone with his name kept appearing to me. In a nice way.

Descansa en paz, Ruben.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Special Note from the Editor

Due to circumstances (and lack of talent) beyond our control, the latest post from your lovable star of the Transplant Tribune appears after the top post. It was completed and posted on Sept. 3, but since it was started on July 28, it fell below the August post. Make sense? Oh well..........

On another subject, we want to send positive thoughts and lots of love to our friend Allie, who is battling a bout of severe rejection of her new heart at Kaiser Santa Clara. Hang in there Allie - we expect to see you out and about soon!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Ordway Saved Our Day


After what by any standard was a crappy start (details forthcoming, maybe), we successfully got our little info table ready to go (an hour early) in the lobby of The Ordway, 1 Kaiser Plaza in Oakland. This beautiful office structure's facilities management (not part of Kaiser Permanente ) were providing all its tenant employees with a most gracious and informative Health and Transportation Fair. Outside the glass walls of the lobby where we were located was a farmer's market, adding to the festival atmosphere. Around Ordway were other high-rise offices and a church as well, but the spaces in between were beautiful and restful amidst all the serious business going on upstairs.

Despite a load of logistical problems, including the absence of assistance and supplies, we did a remarkable job. Thankfully, Cheryl put her work aside for the day to accompany me, and with the unexpected no-shows it was a most fortunate decision. In our matching Donate Life Ambassador T-shirts, we made a most attractive and approachable couple, in my opinion. We displayed brochures on donation, the Donate Life Walk (register NOW, please!!), and the premiere of The Power of Two (order your tickets NOW, please!!) , both happening the same momentous September day.

But by far the most significant and meaningful item we had on the table was the 2010 In Honor and Remembrance book, opened to the page featuring my donor, Ruben Bernal. Even those attendees who rejected our offer of information ("I'm taking it all with me when I die") were visibly moved when we brought Ruben's incredible gift and his family to their attention. The sight of me standing there, outwardly a picture of health, had a massive impact. There were congratulations, amazement, and, yes, a tear or two. Some told us "my fellow employee told me about you, I had to come down" which again was a very cool thing to hear.

Two organ recipients stopped by, both with incredible stories (all the stories are) and long-term health with their new organs. Ol' RJ even got a warm hug outta the deal....I'm sure you can appreciate the power of something like that for BOTH parties. Oh, by the way, I got a hug from our cashier at Trader Joe's the other day when she saw "UCSF Heart and Lung Transplant" on my hat. Pays to advertise, y'know? I have a special place in my heart (!!) for TJ's and this reinforced it tenfold.

Upon dropping by the Lake Chalet for a late lunch on the wharf, we spoke with two ladies nearby who volunteered to snap a picture with the beautiful Lake Merritt view behind us. Seeing our shirts, one of them told us her stepfather was a liver transplant recipient. Organ donation stories are everywhere, each mind-boggling in its own way. All in all, a most worthwhile end to a day that started out very shabbily.


To say the last month has been eventful would be a gross understatement. We had ups, downs, hospital experiences, broken ribs, upturned meat cleavers, and phenomenal avoidances. But with apologies (to those who give a flying wang), I will have to catch that stuff up in another session, very soon. I thank you profusely for your anticipated patience.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Yet Another Life-Changer


When we first met Ruben's family back in April, it truly was a major event in our lives. At that occasion, we spoke with the family and all expressed an interest in future shared social opportunities. The future arrived Sunday, it arrived here at Le Chalet Springtown, and it needed some food!

After several weeks of schedule-tweaking, the much-anticipated day arrived. I have heard several donor family stories. Sometimes there never is a story, since either the family and/or the recipient do not want to meet, or they may not even wish to know who each other are. I have heard of families who smother the recipient, feeling he or she is bringing back the lost loved one. Some meetings occur but the two parties are too different to allow useful conversation. But I wasn't a bit worried, and I was 100% correct.

We had a great time, beginning the yakking at the front door and not stopping until the last taillight disappeared around the corner. And yes, it's hard to talk while running alongside a moving vehicle. But seriously, despite temperatures of over 175 degrees F it was a most fine time. Ruben's family are just as interested in eating as we are, an important factor to say the least for anyone in either clan. The kids were very fun and extremely polite, especially considering this was a "boring adult deal". Unfortunately, Mamaluz was unable to come but we were promised a sampling of her world-famous tamales soon.

We received a most gracious thank you from Patty and Lucy, mentioning that they were glad I was the recipient of Ruben's unbelievable gift. This of course really got to me, and it remains my sincere commitment to honor Ruben by being the best recipient possible.


In my own inimitable, hard-hitting and unbelievably self-serving style I will attempt to recap the many happenings since my last blog post. I have mercifully omitted many of the more mundane facts, like what I have for lunch and crap like that. If you do wanna know my lunch menu rotation, just send an SASE along with $19.99 for shipping and handling to Yours Truly, c/o Transplant Tribune, 10816 N. Rhode Island School of Design Parkway, in Ukaipa. Allow 6-8 months for delivery, and, as always, offer is not valid in Sector R. So here come those updates.......

* We missed the CTDN event at AT&T (Giants vs. Dodgers) due to "an injury" much too traumatic and hurtful to relate here (hint: it involved the Beach Boys and my ribs). If you need to know, see above ("SASE" etc.) and I'll tell you.
* We recover enough to attend an evening showing of the incredible Picasso exhibit at the De Young. Late lunch is consumed happily at our SF favorite, Nopalito, which always pleases. You should go. Send that SASE and I will review it in detail.
* I travel to Rockridge and the A Cote restaurant for a small reunion of veterans of CPMC cardiac rehab. Bonnie Jo, Jane, Bonnie B. and I enjoy an onslaught of small yet expensive plates amidst mirthful banter about "those days".
* One of the best concerts ever as I begin my birthday celebrations, is Los Lonely Boys and Los Lobos at Mountain Winery, high above Saratoga. We enjoyed a marvelous dinner on the deck overlooking the entire South Bay, then entered the intimate amphitheater to enjoy the hardest-working Texican rock band in the universe. Wow! hardly describes it.

* After two years of hair pulling and gnashing of teeth we have a donor registration table at the Livermore farmer's market. Most passers-by think we are selling something, and scurry by with a "no, thanks" on their way to the corn stand. We did meet Robin, whose daughter Anna received a lung transplant and appears in The Power of Two. Also, local businessman Bill stops by and discusses his 25-year success with a heart transplant. Talk about inspirational! In general, though, this little excursion sorta sucked; we couldn't compete with the organic cherry tomatoes, even for our excellent cause.
*Strange symptoms prompt a useless visit to John Muir Concord, followed by the requisite trip to the ER at UCSF. Suspecting heart rejection, I am admitted and scheduled for a heart biopsy. After antibiotics eliminate the pain and fever, the biopsy confirms zero rejection, just a mild and unexplained lung infection.
* A most enjoyable day is had at Sveadal, near Morgan Hill, for the long-running Christian Family Reunion. Thanks to the Carlsons and Hughes for another fun event.

* The annual gathering of TRIO members for a picnic in Milpitas is again fun and flavorful.
* Another cool evening is spent at Armando's in downtown Martinez listening to the amazing Jeff Magidson Band. Jeff and his wife Isabel performed at Chris and Leslie's wedding as Duo Gadjo, and Jeff's blues band truly gets it on.
* A hot Danville night is experienced at, well, at Hot Danville Nights, naturally. Loads of classic cars and hot rods displayed all up and down the streets, after which we have a killer dinner at Laurus. I would recommend it however it has unceremoniously closed. More's the pity.
* We view the documentary Senna, an incredible story of an unusually spiritual and highly-talented Formula One driver. While decidedly not a "racing flick", it depicts the dramatic career of one of racing's acknowledged greatest. A fine dinner at Corso with Jeff and Sue F follows the intensely emotional film.
* Yr. Humble Svt's. birthday is observed with an intimate and exceptional dinner party at the home of Leslie and Chris, featuring tacos al pastor and a famous custom-designed Elspeth birthday cake.
* I dare to see Senna again, this time with newly-discovered F1 enthusiast friend Eduardo. We sample Spanish cafe con leche con afterwards and discuss the story.
* The arrival of my donor family here for food and conversation culminates a very active and happy month.


Soon, we will lead Team Ruben into battle at the 2011 Donate Life Walk in Fremont. There are still several slots open on our team and everyone who registers as a walker on Team Ruben will receive a very cool cap, like the one I am wearing at this very moment! But hurry, time is a-wastin'....sign up OR submit your contribution in the name of Team Ruben soon! Be sure to inform everyone you know, want to know, (or personally don't give a s**t about) to register or contribute TODAY!

The 10th of September festivities continue after the Walk with the Bay Area premiere of The Power ofTwo, based on the incredible lifelong battle of our friends Isa and Ana Stenzel with cystic fibrosis. After double-lung transplants, these twin sisters travel and speak worldwide for CF awareness and organ donation. Tickets for the two performances at the Castro theater in SF can still be had by going to

Shortly thereafter will be the rehearsal dinner, ceremony and reception celebrating the marriage of Linsey F. to our fine son, Andrew. Everything will take place in Napa and we are understandably excited!

Subsequently will be a trip to Monterey for Rennsport Reunion at Laguna Seca, a vintage racing event celebrating the accomplishments of Porsche over the years. Then, it's time for the Big One......Rome to Istanbul via Oceania's Marina! Wow! again.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Most Important Invitation from the Staff of the Trib

Please allow us to invite you to California Transplant Donor Network's Donate Life Walk 2011! The walk will be a 2-mile lap of Lake Elizabeth in Fremont, on Saturday, September 10, 2011. It starts at 8:00 am with a light breakfast and check-in, then awards and a raffle at 11:00 am. CTDN will provide event T-shirts and other goodies. We will include special swag to identify you as a proud member of Team Ruben, to honor and remember my donor, Ruben Bernal, and his wonderful family. Many family members and Ruben's friends plan to participate as well.

Simply go to the web address below to register. And please, list yourselves as participating with Team Ruben. Proceeds go to CTDN to enable them to continue facilitating transplantation and encouraging the public to register as donors. The website is located at: click on the link over there on thr right-hand side of the blog!

And do feel free to send this announcement to anyone you think might be interested.....wait a minute! Send it even if you think they're not the least bit interested!!

If you can't be in Fremont for the Walk, we encourage you to donate to CTDN by going to:

Register early! The fee goes up five bucks on August 20, so Get To It!! We also need to know how many custom Team Ruben items to order, so please don't delay!! This will be One Awesome Event, and we would love to have you share it with us AND help advance organ and tissue donation. THANKS VERY MUCH !!!

Cheryl and Bob/Irv*

* Your friendly, local, VERY grateful heart/kidney transplant recipient
RJ/Bob/Irv is a 61-year-old beloved husband, father, uncle, brother, motor racing fanatic, and Livermore resident who received a heart and kidney transplant in February of 2010. Bob's recent years have been defined by his health, which forced him into early retirement. Unfortunately, many of his days were spent in a dialysis center or at various medical appointments, primarily due to his living with diabetes for over 40 years. Numerous were panic visits to various Emergency Rooms all over California for treatment of chest pain. But now no more dialysis and no more late-night dashes to UCSF! The main focus of Bob's family, friends, and doctors has been a prompt transplant, so that he can get back to traveling with his Sweetie, driving fast cars, enjoying great music and laughing with his friends. This blog will function as a way to communicate with all interested parties and to keep everyone informed. And hopefully it can serve a great purpose also, in making people more aware of the importance of organ donation and how each life saved has a positive effect on dozens of related friends and relatives.