Stephenson Tales


I thought that cryptic title might intrigue you.

First the "scientific" then the "literary."

Did you know that if you took the aortic vavle from a pig and the aortic valve from a human and put them side by side, you could not tell which was which? This, at least, is what a nurse from the "Heart Group" told me.

When I was drafted into the army the doctor doing my physical exam said, "Do you know you have a heart murmer?"

"I do?!?" (Thoughts: "EEK! Hey, maybe I'm 4-F and can go home!")

"But don't worry, it's not enough to keep you out of the army."

(Thoughts: "Rats, Pots, Fooey! I guess there's no escape.") "Thank you, Doctor."

That was during the last week in August of 1943. I lvied with this condition until I had an aortic valve replacement on March 28, 2005.

At my age the "rejection" of the porcine replacement would be "very slow" - so I told Dr. Recchia (the head doctor of the team) that I would see him again in 20 years. Actually he has had the heart checked each year, and the pig is functioning well, much to our mutual relef.

Now the literary.

Mom always used to write verses on various occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions of all sorts. These poems had no special artistic or literary eminence or pretensions but were mostly humorous and just for fun. Dude does this now. He even wrote a narrative poem about the event when he and his wife, Cathy, visited her parents in Phoenix and had a baked beans suppper. His poem describes the after-effects of the meal in vivid and hilarious detail.

So I decided, to commemorate the valve's first anniversry, I wouold write a poem of thanks to the heart team who had, literally, given me a new lease on life. (By the way, that is an apt term, since we do not have a PERMANENT possession of "life" but are, rather, "renters" of that state for a relatively short time - so: "lease.") I had fun writing these. Before you read them, I will give you "footnotes" to clarify some of my esoteric terminology.

1. "Doggerol" is bad or trivial poetry.

2. "Corpus vecchia" Latin for "old body."

Doggerel for Doctors

Twas early spring of two-thousand-five—
Some eighty four years I'd been alive.

But all was not well with this body of mine;
A carotid artery had started to whine.

So they reamed it out with a small roto-rooter,
And the clogs were dislodged and the tube became neuter.

Then along came a doctor — One Sir Dino Recchia
Who took charge of this sick "corpus vecchia."

He inserted a probe leading up from the groin
To examine a heart valve the size of a coin.

His photographs, then, which he took from within
Showed a wee opening like the head of a pin.

On March twenty-eighth he got friends on the track—
So, with Stirling and Smith and Drake at his back

They took the patient to surgery — intrepid clan
They were Dino and Glade, Mack and ol' Dan.

1 have to skip over details and some facts
For I was unconscious and my memory lacks

Suffice it to say they installed the valve of a pig,
Which, as nature would have it, wasn't too small or too big

Eleven days later (after a week-long of blur)
1 was sent back to my house without a demur.

From that time to this I have gotten much better.
Mission accomplished, right down to the letter!

I wonder if that piggy had any vague notion
Of his heart's continuing rhythmic motion

Now all the pork, namely bacon, sausage and ham
Have conditioned the valve to feel calm as a clam

So pumping it goes, and pauses not ever
To keep my life nourished. Now, isn't that clever?

So here's to the team: Mack, Dan, Dino and Glade!
Let's drink to them all as they go unafraid;

And the tree of life's blooming: trunk, branches and twigs.
Let's hope that these doctors don't run out of pigs!


After that, the second year, I decided to aim higher.

A Shakesperean sonnet is a very structred form — fourteen iambic pentameter lines of three quatrains and a couplet, with rhyme scheme of ab, ab, cd, cd, ef, gg. Content-wise it consists of;
1) First quatrain — general approach, inclusive ideas, introduction.
2) Second quatrain — focus on one subject detailing an aspect of part one.
3) Third quatrain — focus on another, related aspect of the first quatrain, depdendent upon it but more detailed.
4) The couplet — pulls it all together in a kind of summary referring back to the whole.

Words that might need clarification:
1. plangent — deafeningly loud (often used to describe the voice of a Metropolitan opera tenor, e.g. Mario del Monaco)
2. dithyramb — a poem in praise — originally to honor the god Dionysias who taught the Greeks to make wine. (By the way, Dionysius was not only the god of wine but also of love — since those two things often go together!)
It was during the recitation of one of these odes that the author, Thespis, leaped upon a table and pretended to BE Dionysius — thus becoming the first to assume the identity of another — thus — Thespian = actor.)
3. Ankh — the pagan cross-shaped, Egyptian symbos of eternal life.
4. Caduceus — the staff of Hermes — wings at the top; 2 serpents entwined around a rod — the symbol of the medical profession.

A "Shakespearean" Sonnet
(from the operating table)

Let blare the plangent silver trumpet notes;
Sound forth the snares and boom of big bass drum;
Bring out Jack Daniel; take off your coats;
Swill down the burning silk Jamaica rum!

Let's chant dithyrambic odes unto the "hearty" team:
We celebrate their love of man (and surely woman, too).
They move skilled hands 'neath shadowless beam,
In scrubs and gloves and masks and muffled shoe.

The nurses are all helping, too, with tubes, IVs and knives,
Steel clamps and porcine valve all ready to install.
Their ankh and caduceus combine for saving lives.
(And here I lie as this skilled band does give their all.)

    Hail doctors Smith and Recchia, Stirling and Drake.
    As now for you this song of praise I make.

Jim Bob Stephenson
11 January 2008

So now the title of this "tale" makes sense, yes?

Composed 30 November 2008, transcribed by Robin.

© Jim Bob Stephenson 2008

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