Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sleeping In Our Own Bed

I brought Alberto home on from the hospital on Tuesday. Alberto is making his recovery. His poor body took a beating (he has some broken ribs from the very aggressive CPR that saved his life in the airport), though he is in pretty good shape and seems "normal" most of the time. We are just trying to rest, and control our panic attacks. The image of him laying dying on the airport floor Calgary is tough for me to shake. Fortunately Alberto has no memory of what happened to him. In time he will be able to do all the things we love: live, love, and dance tango. Thank you for your prayers and/or donation. You got us home for the care and treatment he needed, and where he needed it.

The bedroom Alberto came home to, thanks to all of you!

The hospital in Calgary was a dump. It was shocking by American standards. It is old and crowded, with very small spaces allotted for a patient on a recovery ward. Still our family infused it with love and life, and made it homey. Ripped curtains, shabby bedding, worn out floors, ugly walls, a crowded coed ward, out dated bathrooms, all receded as we only saw Alberto and him getting stronger.

The nurses, nurses aides, cleaning staff, and doctors gave him good care. They saved his life. The family (his two amazing and loving children Gina and Albie, and me) brought him back full throttle, with round-the-clock love and care. Alberto is so courageous and an amazing force and he improved daily as no one in the hospital expected him to. We called ourselves Team Alberto, and we never doubted that we would win.

The bedroom of Alberto Paz and The Visual Vamp
Dwell Studio just sent us this beautiful duvet,
for a photo shoot with Brian Patrick Flynn in New Orleans

Then they held us hostage. They only wanted one treatment for Alberto, and when our doctor in New Orleans disagreed and requested we be released to fly home commercially, they refused. They gave us two options: Open heart surgery or travel by Medivac which we had to pay $35,000 upfront for. They seemed incredulous that an American family couldn't raise this money instantly.

Visual Vamp dining room
Patricia (PVE) and her husband John Charles,

sent us the most amazing box of fruit and healthy goodies

Days went by with no solution, until his children found an organization called Flying Nurses International. The cost was $10,000. to have us fly home with a medical escort. At first the Canadian doctor who held all the cards, refused. The manager from Flying Nurses, a high level cardiac nurse finally got the doctor to listen to her, and a compromise was struck and the doctor released us. All of your donations made it possible to come home, and Alberto, me, and our family will be forever grateful.

After we booked with Flying Nurses the Canadian doctor had to nerve to tell us that Medivac "is a scam", that "Medicare is welfare medicine", and that our doctor was wrong. We were so happy to find Flying Nurses and we asked the social worker at the hospital to keep it on file for other families who might face our situation. She acted like she never heard of the Flying Nurses before.
The next day her assistant told us the hospital uses Flying Nurses "all the time, for far sicker patients tan Alberto".

I need to get back to work and I need some new calling cards
Anne Harewell (Annechovie) is making a gift of them to me and Alberto

Once we arrived in New Orleans, we were received at a beautiful sparkling hospital where "Medicare welfare" provided first class treatment. Alberto's doctor, Dr. Siddharta Bhansali did two stents the Canadian doctors refused to do. It took him 45 minutes, and Alberto's artery is wide open and gorgeous. Open heart bypass surgery is a very dangerous option for Alberto. Because of his artery disease there is 100% chance he would suffer a stroke if he survived it. Our doctor has been advising us to not do bypass for as long possible, which could be for 30 years.

Alberto Paz when we arrived at Ochsner Baptist Hospital in New Orleans

The Canadians are sending me a bill for our over extended stay in their hospital.
Somewhere around $200,000. Alberto's life is priceless, but...
Medicare kicks in $5000. to foreign hospitals. Travel insurance would have helped, except we were refused because Alberto has a pre-existing condition. He did have a check up just before we traveled, and he was given the okay to travel. The last six months have been amazing. Alberto had three stents done last May, and it was like we were given a new lease on life. He was in amazing shape, going to the gym, eating well, taking his meds, doing projects around the house, and we were dancing like we were 40 years old, just kicking ass and having so much fun, taking every opportunity to enjoy the second chance we were given, thanks to Dr. Bhansali.

I have heard that many of you did blog posts about us. Please email me the links so I can show them to Alberto. He is like a happy child when I show him all the donations, emails, and Facebook messages. Your love and support is the best medicine!

So now God has given us yet another chance, and we plan to enjoy every minute of life we have been given, with all of our love and endless gratitude. Again we thank all of you from our very core, and you will be remembered in our answered prayers forever.

Our friends have been stopping by our house, bringing groceries and food, and cheering us up with their embrace and conversation. Anyone in New Orleans please feel free to come by the house. Your company is very healing.

Donations are still being made at Paypal, by typing in our email address:


Anonymous said...

Valerie, I have been checking in everyday for an update. Your story is breathtaking on several levels. I don't want to make this political, but I must warn you and others that the over reaching healthcare bill passed in congress this year will ultimately render our medical system into the same sorry state that you endured in Canada. This story should make all of us angry that the suffering should be treated this way. I am overjoyed to hear of Alberto's road to recovery. I know you and he both feel safer to be back home among your doctors, friends and family. Your story has touched our hearts. Take care of yourself as well, Valerie. This has been tough on you.

vicki archer said...

There is no place like home......SO happy you two are where you belong. xxv

La Maison Fou said...

So glad to hear things are better and you are home.
I hope you keep moving forward from here on!
God bless,

Amanda Swann said...

I just found your blog recently and have been following your story. I am appalled to hear about your treatment in Canada! It really bothers me how some doctors see each patient as just another case rather than a human being.
Also, I don't know the particulars of his issues, but there is a new drug that just came out called Pradaxa that is supposed to be revolutionary with stroke victims. Your doctor may not even know about it yet as it is brand new (my husband is a drug rep). Just something to check out to see if it could help.

So glad to hear you made it home safe.

The Cheeky Cafe

Kwana said...

I'm so happy to hear you are home but horrified over your ordeal. It sounds like a nightmare. But so glad it has passed and now to have time together in your own bed is precious.

Christine Paz said...

We are sooooo glad Alberto is home and doing so well. I believe a miracle happened. Dylan can't wait to visit with Grandpa and we can't wait to be together soon. You two are a great team and deserve many many more years of laughter, love, and of course Tango.

Dane said...

So glad you are home and Alberto in the car of his own doctor!

Please don't take your experience at the hospital in Calgary as typical!!!

I've been is some sorry excuses for hospitals in Canada and the US...unfortunately you had the misfortune to land in one. And like everywhere else...there are Dr. and administrators who are arrogant, rude, ignorant.

Such a shame you where treated so poorly.

For those who think this is what US health care is destined for you are sadly misinformed and not helping anyone with such claims. This is NOT typical for a hospital in Canada. Period.

Health Care is a right not a luxury.

NancyDaQ said...

What happens if you don't pay the Canadians? It might be helpful to look into the consequences.

Nita Stacy said...

So wonderful that Alberto is back home in his own bed. So frightening to hear how things were doing in Canada. I've heard horror stories from many people and many different hospitals. Its seems to me the family always has to take an active role to insure that the best happens for a patient. Alberto is so lucky that he had his family there looking out for his best interest.

I hope you both spend many more years dancing the Tango!

Shelia said...

Hi Valorie! So glad to know Alberto is home and back in his bed and there is little Cholo waiting for him.
What a terrible experience!! Hallelujah you were able to talk to his doctor in New Orleans and get his advice! I can't believe they would not let y'all go unless you paid all that money up front!
I made a table runner to add to the auction Laura held in Blogland! I hope my tiny little bit helped some. Here's my post:

Enjoy life and Praise God y'all are home!
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Ilene Marder said...

Wonderful news- I know how important it is to be home surrounded by those you love. I am hoping that YOU are keeping up your strength and health and resting as often as you can.
Please tell Alberto we are all here thinking of him, wishing you both many more years of wonderful happiness, and sending special Woodstock healing prayers & luminous vibes! Looking forward to seeing you both on la pista sometime soon!! xoxox Ilene

Carollynn @ said...

I am so happy to hear that you and Alberto are home, safe and sound. You two continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.

Unknown said...

Have been checking in daily (and I know that you have received the e-s), but this is great! Sometimes blessings come in whispers, and sometimes they come in thunderous acclaimations, and sometimes they come in disguises. Who knows why things happen in life? It's great to hear that the both of you are doing well, and are able to realize and cherish life together.

anita said...

Nothing like going to bed in your very own bed -- and having your little doggie to cuddle with.
The healing (for both of you) will continue to be a process.
All the best to you!!! xo

Unknown said...

Welcome home.

vignette design said...

I am new to your blog, Valerie. Reading this post brought tears to my eyes. It was like deja vu all over again, as my dad had the same situation as Albert. 2 open heart surgeries, etc. etc. I will put Albert in my prayers and send a donation as soon as I send this comment. Welcome home! ~Delores

h. m. settoon said...

i'm so glad to know that y'all are safely home and alberto is doing so much better.

Anonymous said...

Your story illuminates the flaws of socialized healthcare and why Canadians come to the US for major surgeries. I am certain that you could write more about your experience than you have. The average Canadian would not have received the attention that Alberto received and would have waited months in his condition to have been seen by a doctor. Just ask the locals if you want the truth about Canadian healthcare. I am so happy that you made it back to the states where so far our care has not deteriorated like the care in Canada. I know Canadians and what I write is not supposition, but fact. Don't be romanticized in believing that a single payer system provides cutting edge care.

AppleTree said...

So glad you are home and recovering. Be well.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes life can be so cruel and yet so kind. I hope out of this very traumatic time you both continue to heal.

Linda@ Lime in the Coconut said...


Tickled pink that you are home...and ready to kick up your heels!

Sally@DivineDistractions said...

So glad you've made it home. I know that it is aways easier to recuperate in comfortable surroundings with people who love and care for you. Remember to also take care of yourself while you are helping him.

Jen of MadeByGirl said...

Sorry to hear about your issues in Canada....but it's just as bad for people here in the US who lose their job & their healthcare ...when something happens they end up getting care but then end up owing thousands of which point, you go crazy trying to get medical debt collectors off your back...
Im glad he is home...I have donated to help out a bit...all the best -

pve design said...

Just think of us as your "cheering squad" doing back flips and somersaults that you are home. We are giving an "A" to both!
Celebrate life, every breath and take it easy!
Glad you are back in the comfort of your own bed on US soil. Enjoy the goodies of life, fresh fruits and sweet friends around you.

Mercedes said...

Bravo, to Team Alberto! Delighted to hear you are resting comfortably in your own home and healing. Cudos to Dr. Siddharta Bhansali. Thanks for the great photo of Alberto.

Beso y abrazos to the two of you.

Dumbwit Tellher said...

Valorie and Alberto my heart is so full knowing you two are back in your beautiful NOLA and in your sweet home. Alberto's U.S. Dr. is my newest hero and I am grateful that he did what he did to give Alberto and you many..many..many more years on the Tango floor.

Wish I could of done more for you. Will continue to pray for continued strength and healing for Alberto. And..for you too my dear Valorie.

Much love, xo Deb

Posts about our Visual Vamp & her beloved Alberto ~

Hill House Ramblings said...

Goodness, what a horrendous nightmare you both went through! I'm sure you're ecstatic to be home. Little Cholo must have missed you terribly! I'm so glad to hear Alberto is on the mend and that you're both safe and sound.


annechovie said...

It makes me so happy to know that Alberto is doing well and you are both home safely! God save us from socialized and inadequate medicine. Thanks for your kind mention, too. I wish I could do more, but I will be praying for you both continually. God bless! xx

Unknown said...

Welcome home. I'm pleased to hear things are finally starting to work out after this difficult ordeal. I wish you a speedy recovery!

Best wishes,
Bill Johnson
Human Kinetics

jlonit said...

My goodness, we had no idea that you had all of this to worry about on top of Alberto's illness. What a tough time you've had. I'm still gobsmacked at the numbers - every human being gets sick and it's awful that people can exploit them financially like this.

Still shocked. Glad you're home - Alberto looks great.

French said...

Wow what a story, and what is better than coming back to your own bed, your dog, and your own MD who knows you and your history. So warming to hear...
My Mom did her nursing training at the "old" Calgary General, this is considered the "new" hospital. Yikes. Definitely time to get the H out of Dodge. Welcome home...

red ticking said...

Valorie and Alberto ...
i have been checking on you and soooooo delighted you are HOME.... no place better in the world ...
loads of prayers coming your way... xoxo

Scribbler said...

I am so glad you are home safe and sound. I have been following your story. Decor to Adore did the auction, and I participated in that -- wish I could have done more. The Canadian medical situation you have described is appalling. It really makes me reconsider the idea of socialized medicine, which I used to to think was not a bad idea. Keep us up to date.

Anonymous said...

So, so beautiful:) We love you both. (Man... Alberto is tough... he always seemed like a gentle teddy bear... unreal) What an amazing story! Dina (I forgot my google password)

Alberto Jr. said...

Makes my eyes well up reading it. Dad, I am glad that you are home and recovering. Valorie you are an amazing woman. Go Team Alberto! xoxoxoxo

AlexTangoFuego said...

This good news made my day. My best wishes go out to Team Alberto! Get strong man!

Anonymous said...

Hello Valorie,

You don't know me but I've been reading your blog for several months, and I was so distressed to read about your Alberto and your problems in Canada. I had heard stories about the Canadian health system but found them difficult to believe (I am in Sydney, Australia) but your reports certainly seem similar to what my aunt and uncle have been telling me over the years.

I was so glad to read your post today, that you and Alberto are back at home and that Alberto is recovering well. You are both in my thoughts and prayers and I hope you and all of the family will continue to gain strength and recover from this ordeal.

Love and blessings

Anonymous said...

You have done such a brilliant job protecting the one you love against all the evils of the truly reactionary part of the medical world—their misinformation, and the outrageous, unjust, costs which we are caught in---and now there is the massive move to destroy social security and along with this, Medicare, which scares the hello out of many of us. Congratulations and may you win.

Alberto looks marvelous in the photo!


Anonymous said...

from the look on cholo's face, there's some debate about whose bed it actually is, but i'm sure he was willing to share!

so strange. my experience traveling in canada and with relatives has always been wonderful, but when i worked for canadians they made my business life difficult. maybe their big inferiority complex leads them to lord it over americans the minute they are in control. makes me very angry that this happened to alberto and you, and that the consulate did not run interference for you.

alberto and you must relax as much as you can and come back to yourselves, but perhaps in a few weeks i will write a kind of form letter which you might send to your mailing list of friends with the suggestion that they forward to their congressional delegations and to the state department--and maybe to ottawa--about regu-larizing the situation so that it doesn't happen again.
let me think a bit about all this. gotta be a way.

once alberto and you want to travel again, and see the canadian friends who were kind with you, perhaps you can arrange a seminar in a border city like buffalo or detroit so you don't have to take a risk in canada, but it would be convenient for those good people to spend time with you.

or, perhaps, you can plan a tango event for a long weekend in nola when you both feel wonderful again.

yet another crazy story: you probably know the life of paul robeson, the american basso. at a certain point the state department and fbi removed his passport just before he was to give a fully booked concert in canada.
robeson, brilliantly educated and no fool, knew he could not go out of the country, but he arranged to do the show in a lakeside park in detroit with a mike hookup to a park on the windsor side. my 'leftist' cousins from toronto were in that audience on the canadian side.

j.edgar probably shat himself!

your problem is a kind of inverse (obverse?), but it can be managed to your advantage!

i don't quite believe my grandfather's saying, 'your hard luck is your good luck', but there are ways to turn stuff around if we all think a bit.

love you both (three), and woof,



Loretta Fontaine (EcoHappy Blog) said...

Valorie- Here's a post on my blog APPLESandRUBIES to share with Alberto:

So happy to hear you are home!


24 Corners said...

This has been the best happy you both are home and I'm sure dear Cholo is happy too. Continued prayers, blessings and love...

Anonymous said...

your blog is very interesting, I liked you read !
And your photos are all beautiful, a very good work here !
I'm a follower with pleasure !

Bye Mahon

Anonymous said...

Truly warmed and relieved to know Alberto is back home. A time for understanding what "home" really means and the blessing it is.

LaurenFaythe said...

I'm so glad Alberto is doing better, and back at home. Best wishes for a healthy recovery! Stay strong Valorie!

My Notting Hill said...

So very happy to read that Alberto has returned home. Wishing him a steady and full recovery and all the very best to you both during this challenging time. Thinking of you.

Unknown said...

There is no place like home!!!
I am so glad to read he is getting better! And I hope you too get over the shock of everything!
Much love to you both!


Lauren said...

We are so happy you're home. Our prayers are with you.

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Valorie, so happy that you are both home & he is recovering. What an ordeal to go thru & so unnecessary. Prayers lifted on your behalf.

FairfieldHouse said...

Valorie and Alberto,

So happy our prayers were answered and you are home, where you belong, getting the treatment you need.


Rebecca said...

One more to share with Alberto—

Continuing to keep you and your family in my thoughts.

Viva Team Alberto!


sarahfburns said...

I've read your blog regularly for a while now (although I just recently had a chance to catch up on your ordeal!). Although I don't know you and Alberto personally, my heart of course goes out to you both. Best wishes for his recovery.

The White City Project said...

I just found your blog and wanted to let you know that I am happy to hear that you are all home safe and that Alberto received the care he required. It must have been a frustrating and scary experience.

Our Canadian health care system is far from perfect, but it is designed to allow all citizens to have FREE access to care, including drug coverage for lifesaving drugs. I want to assure you that, regardless of what those in US believe, your experience is *not* typical of our hospitals and our doctors. My mother is a heart patient at a local hospital here and has received the most amazing care, by caring and compassionate professionals. I am sorry that you had such a negative experience.

Unknown said...

I don't know if we should turn this thread into a trashing of American health care reform. What should have happened was that the good care that Alberto gets under Medicare gets extended to all. Instead, we have the for-profit system to which we're resigned. But much like health care is spotty depending on where you are in the States, I suspect it is so in Canada as well. And always, the quality of care is dependent upon the quality of the doctor. A famous actress died in an American ski resort of an injury that would have been treated more aggressively in a major city hospital.

I'm glad Alberto is recovering.

What happens if you refuse to pay the Canadian bill?

Candi said...


I have been mia from the blogosphere for a while and thought to check up on you since I hadn't seen you on twitter, I am so sorry to hear that Alberto was ill but I'm happy to see he is recovering and doing better. You're all in my thoughts and prayers!

Susan (Between Naps On The said...

Valorie...I am sooo glad you guys are back home. Tell Alberto, he is really an inspiration to all of us to never give up and to fight the good fight! Will keep you guys in my to you both,

Carla said...

HI Valorie, I am sorry I haven't checked in for some time.. I am in tears reading your story, I am so thrilled that Alberto is ok and you guys are home.. What an ordeal..Much love Carla

katiedid said...

I have been a bit out of the loop due to my own little dramas (VERY little by comparison!) and feel horrible not to have known about Alberto until just this moment. I am so glad to hear Alberto is on the mend and that you are home safely. A better Christmas present I cannot imagine. I am sending my best thoughts and prayers your way, and wishes for a healthy and happy Holiday Season and New Year. We dancing a jig in your honor!
Warm wishes,