Several years ago, my friend Elizabeth Burke and I rowed twice a week through the Seattle winter. We ventured out without fail as dawn was breaking - rowing two single shells or a double. We'd row from the Fremont Bridge to the Chittenden Locks and back, or maybe across Lake Union and on to Lake Washington. Sometimes we'd come back to our home at the Lake Washington Rowing Club and wipe the ice off our boats. But we always came back with an irrefutable sense of moral superiority! We'd done it again!

Rowing - particularly Rowing Through the Winter - provides a richness of metaphors...instructive in my life as a Family Physician and the Home Dialysis CarePartner for my profoundly ill husband, Steve Williams. Now that Steve is gone, rowing reminds me of consistency and focus - so critical during grieving. Rowing requires balance, as does my life.

Row with me this winter. Linda Gromko, MD

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Homage to Dolly and the Hunchback!

There's no doubt about it: the weather is  beginning to define the winter rowers! Tuesday was rainy, rainy, rainy - not the polite Seattle rain that you can ignore. We had torrents of unrelenting, plump-raindrop rain. Elizabeth, Sue, and I weathered the showers but slinked back to our respective cars like drowned water rats. Morally superior? You bet. I did run up to REI later in the day to buy a heavier set of clothing, though. We got pretty chilly.

But this kind of weather reminds us that something disastrous could happen on the water. Hypothermia sets in in a minute, and your arms and legs lose their utility fast. It was time to buy a floatation vest.

I purchased a Stormy Seas vest at Seattle Marine and Fishing Supply on Commodore Way, on the Magnolia side of the Fisherman's Terminal. It cost about $100 - a bargain if ever really needed. The lightweight vest is cut high - at the level of the lower part of the ribcage. It has a special Velcro'd pocket that you can rip away in an emergency - reminiscent of the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction. The opened pocket reveals a mouthpiece for a blow-up tube - but also a carbon dioxide cartridge attached by a string to a detonating pin.

What I didn't know this morning as I was modeling my new red Stormy Seas vest for Elizabeth, Sue, and Catherine was that as I was screwing the CO2 cartridge in, the pin was already in the discharge position!

POOF! Suddenly, my little vest blossomed forth - like an immediate set of Dolly Parton implants and a hunchback of Notre Dame spine in one fell swoop! Elizabeth thought I was going to propel skyward!

It was funny, really. I looked a bit like the Michelin man from the ribs up. And I was startled. But, man, that thing really works!

Once the CO2 cartridge is discharged, that's it. You need to install a new one. And fortunately, the Stormy Seas vest comes with two(!) cartridges, and you can easily order more at a low cost.

Additionally, you can inflate the vest using the mouthpiece, though I don't think you'd want to be blowing up your implants in the midst of an emergency.

So, winter rowing begins.
Take care,
Linda Gromko, MD

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