Sunday, April 13, 2008

Chicago; Our medical trip


This is my kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of town, Chicago is

My kind of people too
People who smile at you

Frank Sinatra crooned his tune, saluting Chicago with flair like no other. As the song goes then, "Chicago is my kind of town”, and for many it is because Chicago is a metropolitan city, the third largest city in the USA with a population base of over 9.7 million residing there. Chicago to all its their kind of town, known also as the windy city to most.

Last fall friends gave our children “The Chicago Mandate” specifying it was to be conducted each Wednesday following their departure from our home after spending time with us for a few days.

The “Chicago Mandate” assigned was for the children to (pester) inquire with their father when we were going to Chicago again, for the next round of medical tests. As their own home was currently on the market for sale and their goal was to proceed with a return move to Texas, the “Chicago Mandate” came alive with friendly visual reminders addressed to the children each week, postcard reminders showing items of interest from the Chicago area to entice us to come sooner than later.

A few from our Chicago postcard collection

After a long winter, the spring’s medical appointment cycle began revisiting the small squares on our family’s calendar, multiple commitments poured in for both in and out of town medical appointments, specialist visits and tests, therefore the “ Chicago Mandate” was here before we knew it. No more postcards were necessary for it was time to travel to see the medical staff and doctors once again overseeing my doctor’s rare medical case.

Our trip was a long trek from home, though worth the effort. Chicago is but one city with a team of doctors assisting in my husband’s case. Both Vancouver and Toronto in Canada are also in the medical loop. It would appear for all intensive purposes everyone is working for the good of the patient, gathering data on cd disks, and documenting details in cc. copies to one another, trying to assist in any way possible, but no one knows how exactly anymore. In time each medical community will have a specific part when things unfold more in the future. Our recent trip to Chicago this past week offered new information, improved drug prescriptions, more tests, fact finding and a complete overview of the case, and questions answered. During my husband’s next appointment, he will meet with the surgeon who may perform his operation, that of a double lung transplant in the future, answering all our questions and tending to our great anxiety-filled concerns.

Every time my husband attends such appointments; I am with him at his side taking notes. I find our heads are so full afterwards, and emotionally we are basket cases for the most part. Our visit to Chicago was made brighter by two people who implemented the “Chicago Mandate”, also implementing the postcard reminder system The purpose of the trip, though intense in nature was made more comfortable by the pleasant distraction from our friends Jim & Diane, two people who were intentional about keeping us cheery, positive and offering immense support .

A beautiful summer-like day for traveling

Always looking for the glass to be half full instead of half empty, there seems to be a little adventure in life everywhere we go, especially since moving to the east. The weather was perfect for the trip the first day with temperatures soaring up to 22 degrees Celsius, so much so that we were forced to turn on the air conditioning system in the vehicle for the first time this year. We began to peel off the layers we’d become accustomed to, coat and hoodie, strangely requiring short sleeves just to be comfortable with the duration of our trip about half way along the drive. It felt like summer, so what could be more perfect to life our spirits up.

Chicago colors, yet Diane preferred to wear
her "Chicago Cubs" jacket around town instead.

Our first destination was our friends' home, where as previously planned they awaited our arrival with a scrumptious hot dinner in the oven. After a great meal and plenty of conversation together, including plans for our next gathering, we were off again, on our way towards the city. Eventually all became settled into our hotel room for the night and we began finalizing our notes inside of the compiled medical file for the next day’s appointment with the specialists.

The Chicago Stock Exchange building

The Chicago Library

Thank goodness for family -friendly hotels where a hot buffet breakfast is included in the price. Everyone ate hearty, grabbed a snack for later, and then it was time for us to leave for the hospital. Once outdoors, it was a bit disappointing to see the well moistened exterior of the hotel building, obvious rains the night before evident with the puddles on the ground. But, as luck would have it, by the time we were to reunite with our friends later on that day, the sun cracked just enough from the billowy dark colored clouds present in the sky, just long enough to allow us to enjoy a fine tour of the area .

Navy Pier

Chicago offers plenty to tourists, but as a starting point we met our friends at the Navy Pier on Lake Michigan. It was here they thought our children would love a ride or two, and boy did they ever! The most eye-catching attraction seen even before our arrival at the pier is the 148 ft Ferris wheel.

Riding the Ferris Wheel

Just me and my sister

That's our older son below watching us.
He preferred to remain behind,
so did all the adults but myself.

The ride was modeled after the first Ferris wheel built for the 1893 World Columbian Exposition. There are other attractions as well, depending on the season and the weather. The morning rain resulted in the carousel, mini golf, lighthouse and a few others closed for the day, too bad.

Swing riders

We browsed the Family Pavilion and ate lunch at “Bee Bop Joe’s”, a fun jazz themed restaurant. The little ones enjoyed the “Wee Bop” menu, the rest of us ordered the “Blue Plate Special”...something I’d never heard of before and had to be educated on it.

"Bee Bop Joe's" for lunch

Diane told me small cafes used to offer a “blue plate special” on a blue plate. Our meal came on the standard restaurant plates, nothing blue about it, but even though our nerves rattled our hunger pains, admittedly the meal was marvelous and comforted our tummies.

"Bubba Gump Sprimp" is a popular restaurant here

The men planned an agenda differing from the rest of us, so they set out to retrieve the vehicle in the parkade with our older son tagging along. The rest of us parted from them, walking towards the area where the free shuttle would appear in no time to get us up to the “Magnificent Mile”.

Our goal wasn’t to shop necessarily, we didn’t have much time left before having to race for the train headed towards Diane’s home later on. The Magnificent Mile has unique shops equated to “Robson street” in downtown Vancouver, yet huge buildings such as the John Hancock Center (100 story building) , and other assorted skyscrapers filled the skyline above.

The oldest building along the Magnificent Mile is the Old Water Tower. The tower was built in 1869 and its castle-like architecture looks a bit out of place in this modern high-rise district. One of the lone survivors of the Chicago Great Fire in 1871.

The Old Water Tower

The Chicago Tribune newspaper tower ahead.
(I missed getting a photo of the Wrigley building (think gum!) drats!)

We walked at a brisk pace the five of us, working our way through the throngs of pedestrians on the sidewalks towards our youngest daughter’s sweet desire, the “American Girl” store.

As she and I roamed towards "The American Girls Place", the others shifted their path towards the “Hershey” and “Guidarelli” stores across the street to pick up some “brain food” for the long train ride home, another experience awaiting the children.

Bridge Pylon - Michigan bridge

The Chicago River runs through the city.

(Donald Trump is building another hotel towards the far right side of this photo, overseeing the water.)

LaSalle, Marquette and Joliette are popular around here, guess why?

They were the first to discover the Chicago area in 1673

After plenty of distraction, the train ride on the “Metra Rail Commuter Train” was very crowded with the evening commuters taking up every seat. We passed by the "Art Institute of Chicago" and "Soldier Field" . The train commute offered us all complete relaxation, feeling the lulling motion as the train cars swayed back and forth along the rails. Diane and I both realized our eyelids were heavy, closing them for a time until we reached our stop.

Diane's energy food for the train

(The younger children hadn't been on a train like this before, and just as we entered and sat in our seats, the rain began to pour. Good timing!)

The men were home awaiting us, but soon afterwards, we all hopped in the vehicles to have the great Chicago experience of "deep dish pizza", apparently a must have when in town.

The evening ended with a few fun giggles over the television show; “America’s funniest videos”, and slowly everyone began to succumb to their fatigue, knowing too we’d all be up early to greet the day preparing for the long drive home after breakfast.

Sharp shooters

Our time in Chicago flew by with obvious time commitments alleviating possibilities for more adventuring, but as another medical appointment lays in our future in that city, we will make time for the museums, and much more next time. The only problem may be our friends house will sell and we won’t have them there to smile with us, pray for us and get our minds off of the real purpose of the trip.

You can be assured though, I will do my homework and ensure we do visit the items of interest in general for our family, especially the museums to see the dinosaur, the two lions, the art (oh the art!), and so, so, so much more! Chicago might just be our kind of town

Thank you Jim & Diane for your gracious hospitality, and your amazing support! Hugs!!