This is Part 1 of 3 about my current favorite quilt that I’ve made, “Fusion,” pictured below. I made it in 2017, after letting it percolate for about 18 months.
2015 was a rough year for my dad, who was slowing down but wouldn’t really address why he didn’t feel well. Doctors are the worst patients, after all.
He just progressively got grumpier and less able to keep up with Mom on their travels, until finally on a cross-country RV caravan some of their friends said something to Mom about his decline. She made an appointment with a doctor to have Dad checked out, and essentially dragged him kicking and screaming to the appointment.
The doc sent dad to a cardiologist, who did a heart cath and saw that Dad was dealing with severe aortic stenosis and porcelainization of all of the vessels around his heart. They inserted a stint to buy time, and sent him to a cardiac surgeon. The cardiac surgeon recommended a TAVR procedure, but said with the level of porcelainization he wasn’t comfortable doing it here in town. While he had done around 20 TAVRs in his career, he felt that Dad would be better served in a facility that did 20 of them in a given day, because they were better equipped to deal with all of the issues that might arise.
That was in August, so after research of the best facilities and surgeons, referrals, appointments back and forth, the surgery date of December 7 was chosen. My brothers leaned on me to prevent Dad from doing our usual out-in-the-woods camping trip for Thanksgiving, since he was a ticking time bomb; if Huntsville wasn’t equipped to handle his heart issues, rural Virginia very definitely wouldn’t be. Dad was mad as hell at me for insisting, but once he knew that Pete and Tom were on my side, he caved and we stayed local for Thanksgiving.
Dad’s surgery was at the Cleveland Clinic, and our nuclear family was all there. Mom and I stayed in a little apartment hotel around the corner from the main hospital, set up for the families of patients in critical care. Pete and Tom were at a hotel about a mile away. This picture was taken the morning of the surgery, just before we checked him in.
Dad was so pale, even for a white-haired Scandinavian guy!
Mom brought “Houston,” the cat puppet that Dad used to calm his own patients at the hospital, and gave Dad a cat scan before they wheeled him back. He laughed nervously and they took him back.
Mom wore his wedding band on her thumb and we all waited anxiously in the waiting rooms, praying that all of the codes we could hear being called weren’t for us.
There’s lots to do at the Cleveland Clinic, which does not feel like a hospital at all. There are people from all nationalities wandering around, shops and restaurants scattered around, and art installations and musical performances constantly.
We met therapy dogs and listened to music and waited.
We only waited a few hours but it felt a lot longer than that.
When we were finally called upstairs to the post-op waiting area, we met with the head surgeon and his lieutenant, who said that everything had gone very well and we could see him soon.
The image above is of the artificial valve, before and after it was opened up.
Then we were sent to a surgical ICU waiting area, and we could go back two at a time to see him. We spent a lot of time in that waiting room playing cribbage.
Dad had a dedicated nurse at the foot of his bed that night, and we were a little concerned that she would get pushed around by him because he was so hangry by then. Apparently this wasn’t her first rodeo so she was just fine. When he demanded her stethoscope so he could listen to his heart, she raised an eyebrow and barked back at him, “I believe that you forgot how to ask properly. Try again.” Mom and I almost choked on our tongues when he sweetly asked for her stethoscope.
LOOK HOW PINK HE WAS! This was less than 18 hours after his surgery. It was weird to see him so pink after he had been so pale for so long.
I sketched a quilt idea in my bullet journal inspired by watching dad “pink up” after his surgery, as well as a few quotations that I had seen around the Clinic. I wanted to capture the idea of blood flow getting halted through a blocked valve, but ultimately decided I’d rather just celebrate the unblocked flow and ignore what had preceded it.
I wasn’t ready to make the piece yet, because I didn’t feel like I had developed the necessary skills to do it justice. So I hunted around the web and found works that spoke to me. Ursula Kern‘s works have the motion that I wanted to convey, such as the one pictured below:
Here’s another of Kern’s pieces that was a big inspiration to me:
I like how the improvisational piecing in Kern’s work is broken by the strong lines of how the blocks or sections are pieced together. I love improvisational work, but I like the structure that strong block lines can provide to keep things from looking too erratic, and I wanted to include that in my design.
I also love the work of Ann Brauer, for many of the same reasons. I liked the fluidity of her color progressions and wanted to capture that effect as much as possible too.
So… I let the idea sit in the back of my mind for over a year, while I improved my improvisational skills and continued to learn new techniques. And Dad was doing well, back to his usual pink self. We even had a very cold Thanksgiving the next year in rural Virginia. Here’s Dad with a Bailey’s-filled marshmallow shot.
It was good to have him back and spunky again.