Derision 2012! The Birth(er) of a Nominee.

The stars at night, shine big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.  Sing it with me.  Governor Romney secured the republican nomination for President last night; winning 90 of the 155 delegates up for grabs in the Texas primary.  That brings the Governors’ total to 1198, with only 1144 needed to become the nominee of his party.  So it’s official, Willard Mitt Romney is the republican nominee for President of the United States.  If he doesn’t get a handle on his newest big money donor, presidential nominee is the highest title the governor will ever get.

The Donald has become a big time spokesman for the Romney campaign.  His first effort in that regard came on the day Romney clinched the nomination.  Trump trotted out the old birther issue.  This was a mistake on so many levels.

First of all Trump is a bit of a kook and his dogged pursuit of an issue long laid to rest by the government of the state of Hawaii is only cementing the kook persona.  The Donald went at it on CNN with Wolf Blitzer Tuesday; trading blows over the absurdidty of the birth certificate released by Hawaii.  Trump maintains it’s a fake and claims a lot of prominent people agree with him.  When Blitzer pressed Trump on who exactly agrees, Trump pulled the old “I don’t name names” line.  Tough to name names when you don’t know any.   Keep in mind Trump is an entertainer and, as the President put it, a carnival barker.  This is all upside for the Donald, and all downside for Governor Romney.

To me the bigger issue is the mud.  The President was the first to crawl in it with all the attacks over the dog, the alleged bully incident, and the inaccurate Bain Capital attacks.  The Governor should have let the Obama campaign wallow in the muck by themselves.  Romney should have been happy to let the President have all that low ground to himself.  The President and his campaign did a masterful job in 2008 building up Obama’s person as an enlightened, above the fray guy.  Someone that high has a long way to fall and the thud will be loud.  Once more, the President’s own campaign seemed eager to get the fall rolling with all the idiotic moves they made early on.  Romney didn’t even have to work for it, they were tripping themselves.

Ultimately Trump is a carnival barker who always works himself to the center of any spotlight, good or bad.  He believes in the axiom of any press is good press.  Maybe when you’re trying to get ratings, but votes are different.  Romney has hooked his wagon to a carnival barker with no filter and an ego unmatched in human history.  Not sure I like that combo.  If I was advising the Governor I would tell him to use Newt’s line, yes that Newt.  Gingrich said yesterday “….we believe this is a American born, job killing, President.”  I would have Romney word it differently, make it more declarative.  He needs to say “I have no doubt that President Obama was born in America, just as I have no doubt he has been wrong for America and here’s why.”  Boom.  End the birther issue and pivot to your economic message in one easy sentence.  You’re welcome Governor.

Spel Chek Dipartmint

Rarely do the gaffes associated with a campaign originate with the nominee himself.  This is one of those cases but Romney will get tagged with it for a week, maybe two.  His campaign sent an iPad/iPhone app to Apple.  It’s supposed to be an advertisement and a campaign tracking app all in one.  Problem: the app’s opening page has the slogan “A Better Amercia”.   It happens, it’s embarrassing, it’ll go away by next week, especially with Trump on board.  And there is the one up side of embracing Trump, any gaffe your campaign or you make will be quickly overshadowed by The Donald’s antics.

Good luck Governor, I think you’ll need it now.

Tracker Change

With the nomination all sewn up, the primary voting tracker and delegate tracker on the right side of Frank’s Place will be removed.  In it’s place will eventually be opinion and polling trackers.  These will become more significant after each party has its national nominating conventions late this summer.

Stay tuned.


Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: First Contact….. and an update

After the dust had settled over the little medication mishap and all the “naming a wing of the hospital after us” jokes had subsided I casually suggested that the suits could appease me by making a way for Frank to meet his sister.  The NICU has a strict policy on visitation, only two people near the child and everyone who enters must be at least 18.  Kids are a walking petri-dish of germs and microbes, so I get that.  Not quite as clear on the 18 years of age cutoff.  It seems a little arbitrary.  I mean I’ve seen some germy 18 year olds.  Hell I was one.

Anyway, one of Anne Marie’s docs said he could make that happen, no problem.   Once she didn’t need as much support with breathing etc.. he could set it up.  This was one moment I thought was ripe for the over promise – under deliver column.  Like so many other times in my life, I was wrong.

We got the call on Saturday.  Bring Frank to the NICU at 1:30 on Sunday and they would bring him to a back hallway between the NICU and the Cardiac operating Room.  The hallway passed right behind the “Butterfly Cove”, the wing of private NICU rooms where Anne Marie was.  Frank would be able to see her through the glass doors that separated the NICU from the hallway that normally serves as a quick shortcut for surgeons headed to the OR.  Shortcut, that’s funny right there.

Of course around 12:00pm on the big day Frank promptly crawled into the pack-n-play set up for his little cousin visiting from North Carolina.  He wasn’t just exploring, no he went complete with blanket, binker, and his stuffed lamb Lenny and commenced to cutting lumber.  That’s snoring for those of you un-afflicted.  He finally snapped out if it on the way to the hospital.  Then much like the military it was hurry up and wait.

The nurses and respiratory techs were in on it and they were busy setting up a portable breathing system they could move to the glass doors.  So we sat in the family lounge watching the Indy 500.  Frank thought he saw Francesco, or Acesco as he calls him, about 100 times.  Francesco is the Italian open wheel race car for the movie Cars 2.

After what seems like hours, the nurse who figured out the medication error and saved our daughter’s life, came through the door.  She was waiting for a new baby to be admitted so while she was in hurry up and wait mode for the new arrival she came out to meet Frank.  She had heard so much about Frank she felt she knew him already but nothing beats seeing in the flesh.  After I made the introductions she led us down the zig-zaggin hallways to the glass doors where Tracy was standing on the other side with Anne Marie.

Something was familiar about the winding hallways and all the turns.  We passed a room with a five button lock.  Then it hit me.  That was the room where we said goodbye to Linda Claire, these were the hallways they led us down after she passed away in the NICU.  Most of that day is a blur.  A nurse will speak to me as if she knows me, thenTracy or my mother-in-law will say, “she was in the OR when the twins were delivered.”  Yeah, I don’t remember them.  They remember me because I went through 3 boxes of tissues that day.

When we got to the glass doors I could see Tracy holding Anne Marie, surrounded by the nurses and repository therapists that made this all happen.  Frank’s expression was priceless.  He had a huge smile on his face and his eyes were locked on his baby sister.  The staff standing with Tracy were watching Frank.  He didn’t disappoint them.  It reminded me of our wedding day.  When Tracy came down the isle, a lot of our female friends turned and looked at me.  They were making sure I had the appropriate expression of happiness and admiration on my face.  My expression nine years ago was the same as Frank’s yesterday.

Frank and Anne Marie – First Contact

Frank was a lot more excited than I thought he would be.  I had explained to him what we were going to do, but how much of that he understood is hard to say.  I mean, he just turned three last week, he knows colors, counts to 15, can count to three in Italian, and knows how to operate the microwave, iPad, and the TV remote.  I didn’t know most of that stuff till I was in my mid twenties.  But we were never quite sure if he was able to understand he was a big brother and had a little sister named Anne Marie.

Like I said, nothing beats seeing in the flesh.  He called her name as soon as he saw her.  Tracy unwrapped her a little bit, just enough for Anne Marie to get her hands free.  The arms went straight forward, palms out, fingers stretched.  It looked like she was trying to move the glass door.  Apparently she has grown tired and bored of removing measly little feeding and exhaust tubes from her belly.  The force is strong with this one.

Jedi in training

Frank thoroughly enjoyed meeting his sister.  Until his mother mentioned ice cream.  Through the glass she says “y’all going to get ice cream?”  She just chucks it out there like a grenade.  We never talked about ice cream.  Well I guess we’re going to get ice cream.  Food and sleep is where Frank’s Jedi focus become apparent.  He heard ice cream and immediately he was like a blood hound.  Led us right out of the labyrinth to the elevators taking us to the Lido Deck, or in this case the first floor cafeteria with a fridge full of Nutty Buddies.

Love that kid.

Good work mom.

An Update

It was a weekend of firsts.  Anne Marie took her first bottle and earlier, while on kangaroo detail in her mothers shirt, took matters into her own hands, latching on and feeding.  She is weighing in at 4 pounds 10 ounces, measuring 17 inches.

Frank was all smiles on Sunday.  He got to meet his sister and because of that meeting he got ice cream too.  Ironically, if she ever makes it out of there and gets home to touch all his stuff, those smiles will be a thing of the past.

Alert Reader Segment

Ok gang, look at the picture below.  What item in the picture would tell you that this baby, premature by three and a half months,  has grown significantly?  To my sisters, cousins, aunts and in-laws, (looking at you Dan & Diane) directly in the business, e-mail me your guess.  Everyone else respond in the comment section.

Good luck.

To my brothers and sisters in arms Happy Memorial Day.

I’m much bigger than my initial 1lb 9oz. How can you tell?

Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: Repetition for lack of a better word, is good.

At the risk of becoming more of  a broken record, I am reposting an article I wrote about the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Tennessee Medical Center here in Knoxville.  The article was titled Four Weeks and Famous and was the first at length description of our daughter Anne Marie and her struggles in the NICU at UT Medical.

I mentioned in the piece that a video was produced for a very large fundraiser designed to help with the renovation of the NICU, enabling all of the premature babies to have their own rooms.  My wife Tracy, pictured below, and yes I know I married way out of my league,  was interviewed for the video and appears in it with our daughter.  I even got a 3sec cameo at the end, although my hands appear several times.

The video was used on the night of the fundraiser and the NICU received over a million dollars in donations allowing them to continue with the renovations.

I have added the you-tube link to the video for your viewing pleasure.  UT Medical did a great job with it.  The three stories are very compelling.  I was told there was not a dry eye in the house.  So here is the post again, the link to the video and an address to donate is at the bottom.


Four Weeks and Famous

I’ve hesitated to write about my daughter for a lot of reasons.  First and foremost; she’s battling for her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NIC-U) at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.  I wanted to be sensitive to the very real and frighting thought that she may not make it, and then here I am writing semi-funny blogs posts about her.

She is doing much better now, gaining weight, growing longer.  She is now 2 pounds 12 ounces, a full pound heavier than the day she was born. She’s also taping out at 15 3/4 inches, three and three quarter inches longer than the little 12 inch sprout she was, born a month ago.  But, one thing I have learned is it can all go downhill in a literal breath or heartbeat.  Life is unbelievably fragile.

That’s when I decided it was ok to write about my daughter.  Her life is fragile, but all of our lives are fragile.  We all hang on the edge of living or dying.  Not talking or writing about Anne Marie in funny and positive ways won’t change the balance of that.  This stems from an old adage or practice that you don’t really tell anyone you’re having a baby until the pregnancy gets past 12 weeks.  The odds of something catastrophic happening go way down after 20 weeks.  I get it and we’ve even done that.  But this is different, for me anyway.

So I’ve been sitting on my hands, worried that I’ll write something funny and then something catastrophic may happen.  Then I looked around the NIC-U again.  Something catastrophic is always happening.  In the five hours she was alive, Linda Claire taught me to enjoy while you can.  Anne Marie is alive, and I am going to enjoy my daughter and celebrate her for as long as she’s here and part of that celebration, for me, means writing about her.

Introducing my daughter, Anne Marie Linardo – Four Weeks and Famous.

Grip reflex – check. Budding golfer I think.

So when we wrote the obituary for Linda Claire we did what a lot of people do.  Instead of flowers we asked for a donation be made.  It took Tracy and I about two seconds to decide the donations should go to the NIC-U at the UT Medical Center here in Knoxville.  The staff there have just done an outstanding  job in every conceivable way.  The nurses are the total package.  Healers, ministers, counselors, you name it they can do it.  It was an easy choice to ask people to donate there instead of send flowers.

Well, some family members sent donations, then some friends, then some friends of friends.  Even a few people who just happen to see the obituary in the paper but have no connection to us sent a donation.  I know this because every time someone donates, the Director of Development at UT Medical Center sends me a letter acknowledging a donation made in memory of Linda Claire.

Small side note.  I also got a three page hand written letter from a woman who wants me to become a Jehovah’s Witness.  She sent the letter to the funeral home listed in the obituary and they mailed it on to us.  She really threw down a sales pitch.  She sent me a few tracts from the Watch Tower.  For you young folk, that’s an old version of the literature JWs used to hand out.  They moved away from that because it became a bit of a stigma.  If a person was preaching to you on the street or your porch all you had to do was look at the back of whatever publication they gave you and if it said Watch Tower publishing, you had some JWs on your hands, well on your porch anyway.   Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Anyway, word got around, as did the edible arrangement my sister Mare sent to the NIC-U nurses. Master stroke dude.  First it was about our tragedy and then about the donations made in memory of Linda Claire.  We got a call from the development office at UT Medical and they want to interview Tracy about her feelings on the NIC-U and film her interacting with Anne Marie in the NIC-U environment.  The interview will be played during an event called “An Evening in Orange” at Neyland Stadium.  It’s a large, yearly fundraiser for the hospital and this year it will benefit the NIC-U.  So naturally they wanted parents with children in the NIC_U to participate.  I think four families were interviewed.

Neyland Stadium is home to the University of Tennessee Volunteers football team.  It seats 102,455 people on game day and is the 6th largest non-auto racing stadium in the world.  Just in case you were wondering.

I imagine this event will be tents and tables on the field.  I don’t expect 102,455 people in Knoxville have the desire or the 750 shekels it takes to get in.  Yeah, this is a big time fundraiser.  Hell, we’re in the video and we’re not going.

Hey, where’s that breast milk I ordered! And turn up the heat, it’s freezing in here!

Today was the day of the taping.  Tracy was interviewed and then the crew followed us over to the NIC-U to film what amounts to some action shots.  Wasn’t sure how much action they were going to get out of a bunch of one to two pound premies.  Of course our daughter didn’t disappoint.  As soon as the crew sets up and starts filming, Anne Marie falls asleep, stops breathing, and her heart rate dropped into the 40 to 50 range.

That’s bad of course.  It normally sits around 165.  Alarms start going off, people start coming.  However, this is “normal” for a baby that weighed less than two pounds and was born 3 1/2 months early so we’ve seen this a lot in the past four weeks.  It’s just funny because she had been fine all day until the very moment the cameras were on.  Tracy had her hand in the Iso-Box and so she just sprung into action.  Normally a few strong pats on the butt or feet will be enough to wake her up and she’ll start breathing again.  It was maybe 5-10 seconds and her heart rate went right back to where it should be.  Welcome to our normal.

Once everyone settled down, it was movie making time.  The interview had already been conducted so this was just film footage, no talking.  Our nurse decided she did not want to be famous, said something about getting her hair done had she known and shot off to work on some other babies.  There is a reason the nurses in the NIC-U are badass.  They fight the fight 12 hour shifts at a time and take none of the credit or glory.

Tracy put her hands into the Box and Anne Marie just laid there, sleeping.  She normally works the camera, but not today.  One terrifying heart event is all you get today boys.

It was a tiring day, for everybody, but it was worth it.  The NIC-U staff of doctors, nurses, support folk, and front desk gang are all top notch, earning every nickel and then some.  After everything they’ve done for us the least we could do was spend a few hours helping in the fund raising effort.  Although when they see the part of the video I’m in they may start a collection to send me to fat camp.

For those of you who attend this event, remember the camera adds ten pounds at least.  And yes there was only one camera on me.  Video here: UT NICU


You sure that’s my best side?

Getting the close up.











If your heart desires, donations can be made to:

In Memory of Linda Claire Linardo

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Tennessee Medical Center c/o Office of Development

2121 Medical Center Way, Suite 110, Knoxville TN, 37920

Derision 2012! Pig in a Poke – Arkansas and Kentucky Vote

The President should be thankful he won’t be running against a felon or a nobody come November.  It was just two weeks ago when a felon, Keith Judd, in the federal pen in Texarkana, won 40% of the vote in the West Virginia Democratic Primary.  Winning 40% of the vote assures Mr. Judd, by law, at least two delegates at the Democratic National Convention.  Well it’s too bad Mr Judd or should I say #11593-051, couldn’t get on the ballot in Arkansas and Kentucky.

Last night President of the United States, Barrack Obama, won only 58% of the vote in Kentucky.  Not bad until you consider he ran unopposed, as in there was no other name on the ballot.  Who won the other 42% – Uncommitted.  Yep, the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky decided Uncommitted was a better choice than the current President.  Keep in mind this was the Democratic Primary; democrats were voting.  There was probably some crossover and it’s worth noting more people voted in the Democratic primary in Kentucky than voted in the Republican primary.  Romney did win all 42 delegates in Kentucky last night.  Have no doubts, Kentucky will go to Romney in the general election but the folks there don’t seem too enthused about it.

The President fared no better in the Razorback State.  He did have an opponent this time.  John Wolfe, a Tennessee attorney won 41% of the vote to President Obama’s 59%.  John Wolfe will have at least one representative in the Arkansas delegation at the national convention.  I submit that Keith Judd, had he been able to get past the “no felon on presidential ballots” laws in KY and AR, would have given the President a better game then Uncommitted and John Wolfe.  This may have actually been a horse race.

Governor Romney won 28 of the 32 delegates in Arkansas last night, but again failed to turn out more voters than the Democratic primary.  Like Kentucky, Arkansas will go to Romney on election night in November and like Kentucky, they ain’t happy about it.  No one is calling the hog for Romney, if you know what I’m saying.

Still Governor Romney has amassed 1073 delegates and only needs 71 more to officially win the nomination.

The Lone Star state of Texas is up next, voting May 29th.  With 155 delegates at stake, the Governor will win the Republican nomination in Texas.

Only two questions remain – will Texans be happy about voting for Romney and is Keith Judd on the Democratic ballot in Texas?

As far as the national polls between the President and Governor Romney, pay them no mind.  Those polls mean nothing until the 3 presidential debates and the national conventions are done.

Stay tuned.


Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: An update – bullet dodged.

A mishap lasting about two and a half weeks has caused a little setback.

Everything is fine now but for the past couple of weeks we thought we might be at the end of the line.  Anne Marie was vomiting the different formulas they were trying, her heart rate drops, known as Bradycardia, were coming in bunches, she was unresponsive to sound or touch, and she was limp as a rag doll.

The incredible nursing staff, and one nurse in-particular named Paula, felt this was not some virus or bacteria, something was wrong with the medication.  In making their point to the doctor, the pediatric pharmacist overheard and joind the conversation.  She started putting the pieces together and disappeared with the doctor.  A while later they came back with the news.

Once the adult doses of cerebral palsy medication were discovered and removed, Anne Marie started to recover immediately.  She wasn’t sick at all.  She was stoned on adult doses of muscle relaxers meant to un-stiff the limbs of palsy patients. No long term effects are expected.

Anne Marie is back to her old self.  She’s back to pulling out her feeding tube.  She has become so proficient at this and can do it at will, the nurses have basically given up on the tape, the pins, swaddling, and anything else designed to keep the tube in her mouth and down her throat.  They removed the tube and re-routed it through her nose.   They may have stymied her this time.

Currently at 4 pounds 2 ounces and 17.2 inches long, Anne Marie has graduated from the incubator or Iso-box to a normal bassinet.  More importantly, the formula that appeared to make her sick is causing no problems at all.  We may have dodged the rickets bullet.

Although the pharmacy, and I suspect one pharmacist specifically, will be feeling the pain of all this, the NICU staff is to be commended again.  They believed their eyes and used their brains when all data and history of the drug they thought they were administering said otherwise.  It’s one thing to recover from your own mistake, but it’s another level of smarts entirely to figure out and reverse someone else’s mistake.

They saved our daughter, again.

Here is a very bad picture of Anne Marie in her very own normal bed.

Either signaling Touchdown! or using the force to turn down the lights.

Derision 2012! Are you smarter than a Presidential Campaign Manager?

The GOP primary election is still going on but it’s time to make the switch to the general election for President.  So the political posts at Frank’s Place will appear under the heading Derision 2012!  I was going to use Decision 2012, but CNN had copyright issues with that. They way I hack the campaign coverage, Derision 2012! is much more appropriate.  Suck it Blitzer!

First things first.  A question: if no-one votes in a presidential primary, does it make a sound?  Answer: no, not really.  While you were sleeping, last Tuesday, the GOP held its primary elections in Nebraska and Oregon.  Governor Romney won both states in a landslide but received almost no delegates.  Delegates from those states won’t be appointed until the state conventions.  So, no those primaries were insignificant to say the least.  It’s hard to understand all the negative comments on those state web sites about the Governor not actively campaigning there.  Really?  He should waste his time and money in states who can’t get their primary system into the 21st century?

Kentucky and Arkansas are up next, Tuesday 22 May.  Then the big tamale, Texas votes 29 May.  The Governor should technically and officially clinch the nomination at the Texas primary.  Look for him to have a big presence there.  Texas will figure big in the general election.  Speaking of the general election, on to the opening question.  Are you smarter than a Presidential Campaign Manager?

Sadly this will probably be a recurring question throughout the campaign.  Anyone looking for the level of campaign discourse to be raised is in for a big disappointment.  I offer but a few examples of the genius we can expect from the President’s campaign.

It’s dog eat dog, literally.  The President’s reelection gurus decided it would be a good idea to jump on this 20-year-old story of Governor Romney putting the family dog in a carrier and strapping him to the roof of the car while on vacation.  It was supposed to show how disconnected Gov. Romney is from human emotion and thus unable to connect with the American people.  They even posted this picture to contrast the President’s love of Bo, the First Dog, and Romney’s hatred of Seamus.

A little creepy, considering the President’s childhood diet.

Apparently none of the President’s team has ever read his first book.  In that auto-biography the President tells of how he ATE dog when he was a child.  Why would you hammer the dog on the roof story when your own guy would have just eaten him to save space?  It gets better.  The Obama team’s response to the canine kabob enjoyed by young Obama? ‘Well he was ten, you’re really going to pick on something that happened 30 years ago?’  That last sentence is paraphrased.  But I would have fired the lot of them for even thinking this, much less saying it out loud.  Here’s why.

The Bully vs the Drug Lord

The next salvo from Team Three Blind Mice was even worse.  Still fresh from the ‘don’t pick on a kid’ defense they decide to…pick on a kid.  Yes they went back to an alleged incident involving young Romney in prep school.  The incident involves the would be Governor shaving the head of a hippie student at the very prominent prep school in Michigan.  Turns out the kid was also gay, although it’s not clear anyone knew that at the time.  The kid in question died of cancer in 2004 so no way to know who knew what.  The family of this kid has since come forward and made the whole story fuzzy if not outright manufactured.

Why this is stupid: Obama’s campaign just got done crying about picking on the President for something he did when he was ten.  But of course it’s ok to pick on Romney for something he did in high-school.  But the bigger issue, again back to the President’s auto-biography, where he admits to using cocaine.  What the hell is wrong with these people?  How can they be employed?  Do they think that they are the only people who don’t read?  The millisecond that bullying story about Romney came out, the cocaine stories were flying.  We all knew that was going to happen.  And by all I mean everyone in the known universe except Team Obama.

The Bain of My Existence

For those of you that have followed my coverage of the 1.3 million GOP primary debates, you know that the subject of Romney’s time at Bain Capital came up again and again.  Beating a dead horse doesn’t come close to describing the detail in which that story was hashed out.  But Team Obama felt they could squeeze one more ounce of blood out of that rock.  So they took on Romney’s record while at Bain Capital.  You know like the other 6 GOP candidates did the other 57 million times during the debates.  They decided to highlight the amount of people who lost jobs as a result of Bain buying up companies and then selling them off.  Now that would have been a great strategy except for one minor detail, the truth.

While it’s true under Romney’s direction Bain put people out of work buying up companies and selling them off or restructuring, it’s also true that in the long run Bain put more people to work or back to work by reducing and restructuring.  It’s still painful for the people who didn’t get jobs back.  That’s an issue for another post.  The issue: Team Obama not only showed they are willing to lie and distort data, or maybe they’re just not able to comprehend said data, they failed to score a hit on Romney and actually proved his financial theory.  The capitalist system can create jobs and stimulate business.

So the gang who can’t shoot straight is suffering from a lack of physics.  Yes physics.  Had any of those people stayed awake in high-school physical science class they would have been versed in Newton’s 3rd law of motion which in effect states actions and reaction are equal and opposite.  Talk about my dog carrier and I’ll bring up your doggie burger.  Talk about my days as a jerk in high school and I’ll bring up your days as a cocaine addict.

It’s simple science guys, not rocket science.   Be Smarter.

Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: The Sink

One of the first things any good golf teacher will tell you: develop a routine.  Get a pre-shot ritual and do it the same way every time.  The theory being consistency breeds success.  The more you do it, the more you’re comfortable doing it.  Yeah, no I’m not talking about that.  Stay with me smut merchants.  If things start to fall apart, your routine is there to fall back on and possibly steady the ship. I am not consistent at it, which is one of the myriad of reasons I am no good at golf.  But this is one of those areas where golf has a life lesson to teach.  I’m referring of course to our time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

It gets pretty crazy in there as you might imagine.  The first time you see it is on the mandatory tour before the birth of your child or in our case, children.  They poured Tracy into a wheel chair and we rolled over from her hospital room where she had been on bed-rest for about five weeks, across the hall to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU, pronounced Nick U.  It might as well get certified as its own University, it has been a college level education every minute we’ve been in there.

After rolling through the secured double doors, access granted only through a phone call to the admin desk on the inside, the first thing you see that requires your attention is The Sink.  Two of them actually.  The silent sentinels of the NICU.  If you don’t visit The Sink and pay the proper homage, your journey ends, immediately.

No place can be germ free, but the NICU has to be as germ free as possible because the little babies who couldn’t wait the full 40 weeks, left behind their coat of immunity on their dash to freedom.  So if you want admittance to a true Magic Kingdom, you must appease The Sink.  In return The Sink will wash away your germs and deem you eligible to enter.

Here’s how it works.  You go to the sink, step on the two pedals on the floor to start the water.  Bare your arms to your elbows.  Although I have learned that if you want your sleeves to be dry at the cuffs you need to push them well past your elbow.  Get your arms wet from elbow to finger tip and start soaping.  If there is a chance you still have some pulled pork or curly fry remains under your fingernails, there is a cup with, what I would call miniature Punji Sticks, but is conveniently marked Finger Nail Cleaners.  Lets just say if the NICU is ever attacked or a particular doctor is not giving me the info I want, that cup will come in handy.  Dull they aint.

After sufficient soaping of the hands and arms from the fingertips up to and including the elbow, you rinse, completely.  Then repeat.  And then again, until you have done this for three minutes.  Oh, three minutes doesn’t sound like a long time?  Try it, every day, for two months straight.  The fear of bringing in a microbe that might wipe out the entire preemie population is what keeps me going for three minutes.  Tracy is a rule follower, she’s just afraid of getting in trouble.  My three minute commitment is much deeper.

Anyway, after the three minutes is up, you dry, completely.  No medical reason for this, just function.  If your hands are a little wet the next step is not pleasant.  After washing and drying, you apply an alcohol based sanitizer to your hands. Now I have seen people do that up to the elbow as well, but only the hands are required, some are more committed than others.  Here is where the drying completely comes in.  So strong is this sanitizer that it takes several minutes to get it rubbed in to a point that will allow you to separate your fingers.  If your hands are even a little moist, you can forget doing anything but Spock’s “Live Long and Prosper” gesture for at least an hour.  I’m talking about the real Spock now, Science Officer of the Enterprise, not that fake Dr. dude who wrote all those ludicrous childrens books.

Failure to dry completely before sanitizer.

Once the sanitizer is applied, your identity has been transformed.  You are now recognized as a welcomed member of the NICU and are free to pretty much wander and do what you want.  This is evidenced by my friend John who went everywhere and touched just about everything in the NICU yesterday when he came to visit Anne Marie.  I mean the dude was touching critical life saving equipment, putting his fingers through holes in Iso-boxes, looking in on other babies, you name it.  But, he went to the sink, he’s good, free to be himself.

Here is the golf tie in, aside from my golf buddy John.  The sink, once viewed as a three-minute burden that felt more like an hour, has become a safe haven.  Things can get crazy in the NICU and they have been getting more crazy over the last three weeks.  Babies we’ve come to know have passed away, others are clinging to life.  Anne Marie, on two separate occasions over the past two weeks, had such major setbacks we thought this might be the end of the line.  When things are, or appearing to, fall apart you need something to anchor to.  Something routine, something you know won’t be different as all other circumstances change at a blinding pace.

The sink has become my pre-shot routine.  It’s consistent.  I know what to do when I get there, doing it everyday for two months now.  It gives me three minutes to gather whatever mental clarity I may need to make decisions for Anne Marie when I get to her room, after having to walk past other rooms where other babies are fighting the fight.  When a call comes early in the morning and a doctor is on the line, you know it’s not good.  The normal crazy will be ramped up on your visit that day.

There may be a new nurse in your babies room, uneasiness starts to rise.  No matter that she is the best at what she does, highly trained, abundantly qualified in technical and personal skill and will probably save the life of a baby that very day; maybe your baby.  She’s new to you.

There are 10 doctors in the group of physicians that handle the NICU.  Today might be the day you meet a Doc you’ve never seen before, anxiety now.  Will she change the medication or feeding plan?  Who knows.  All these things occur on a daily basis, each one knocking you off your pins* just a little bit more than the last thing did.

But The Sink, The Sink has become invaluable.  The Sink never changes, the routine – never changes.  There is solid ground there.  It really is the only solid ground in the place.

My hands have never been cleaner.



* pins – noun; northeastern in origin, used mostly by indigenous populations in South Jersey; meaning legs or supports – not indicative or dependent on size or shape of legs