Lum: Took a licking and kept on … |

Lum: Took a licking and kept on …

Su Lum

Imagine falling down a long flight of stairs — two, maybe three stories — bumping around corners, head over heels, ending up in total darkness, twisted on a pile of rocks.

Something glows in the dark; you reach for it, see a button marked “READ,” press it, and the room explodes into magnesium light.

Welcome to Aspen Valley Hospital’s state-of-the-art lighting system, designed to send any patient clinging to the rim of life directly into the abyss of final darkness. If you have not lost your hearing aids during the fall, you might hear Lucifer chuckling.

Press the button again and they get brighter. Press three times — scream — and the lights go out.

Sorry — back to Earth. I’ve been listening to “The Martian” on Audible books, and between that and the beta blockers I’ve started taking, I don’t have both feet grounded but am dancing a few inches in the air. However, everything I said about the lights is true.

On Saturday I ended up in the hospital again, having fainted (again) and been off oxygen for a long time (again) and having contracted pneumonia (again). New this time was the suspicion of possible heart involvement.

The plan was to have a stress test Monday morning and then go home, but my troponin numbers were up when they should have been down, so the powers decided to postpone the stress test for a day to see how things shook out.

In addition to this meaning I had to write this column sitting on the edge of the beastly hospital bed using my friend Hilary’s computer, there was a strong fear factor. The room was black with computer oaths and no small amount of panic because there had been talk of Glenwood Springs for an angiogram and, depending on what they found, to Grand Junction for who knew what.

Sorry for missing and messed-up paragraphs in last week’s report — I had worked myself up into what my grandmothers used to call a “state.”

This stress test was not to be done the usual way on a treadmill but stimulated by drugs. I thought of it as drug-induced tachycardia, and soothing words fell upon literally deaf ears. In my mind, I was a goner.

Come morning, the blood was better, the stress test was uneventful and I was home that afternoon, jiggity jog, met by deliriously happy dachshunds. I have to wear a heart monitor that I have accidentally emergency butt-dialed four times already and can’t drive until they get to the bottom of this sudden fainting.

The beta blockers knock my blood pressure down to nothing and cause me to nod off during the day, which in turn causes me to stay wide awake at night, but I’m gradually slouching back to abnormal.

The place has been a hive of activity. Lucky for me, my friend Hilary is moving into my back shed for the winter and has been painting and packing while our friends Jack and Darren prepare a new plywood floor and my daughter Hillery and her husband Bruce are back and forth from Leadville doing dump runs and watching over me.

On Wednesday, my daughter Skye is driving me to Denver for a long-standing appointment with Dr. Schwartz at National Jewish — the end-all and be-all when it comes to lung problems. I’m going there for a consultation about having a trans-tracheal procedure.

With a trans-trach (check out “TTO2” on YouTube), oxygen is delivered directly into a patient’s lungs via a small hole cut in the neck. This method uses way less oxygen than the usual cannula delivery and may be a way to sidestep moving to a lower altitude.

It is not a tracheotomy, my voice will not squeak, patients speak highly of it, and now you know as much about it as I do — hence the consult. I read about it, I met a man who has one, and I’m very curious.

I’ll let you know how that goes!

Su Lum is a longtime local who is off to see the wizard! Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at