Thursday, December 30, 2010

Surgery at Saint Marys

Mayo 7 West is where I reported for all vision tests, appointments and meetings with my surgeon.

Surgery was performed at Saint Marys Hospital, located a few miles down the street from the Mayo Clinic.
 I do not have any photographs of the hospital, and really wish I did.  One end of the lobby was filled with a towering Christmas tree comprised only of fresh red poinsettias.  A life size creche was at its base.
Saint Marys Hospital serves only Mayo patients and is staffed exclusively by Mayo Clinic physicians.  After Rochester suffered a devastating tornado in 1883, Mother Alfred Moes and the Sisters of Saint Francis wished to build a hospital for the sick and injured residents of Southern Minnesota.  Their one condition was that William Mayo and his sons provide the medical services.  An agreement was reached and the hospital opened with 27 beds in 1889.  It now has 1265 beds.

The morning of surgery would be one of the coldest of our visit.  With temperatures at -10, and wind chill factor closer to -20, we were a pair of icicles as we headed to our car.
When I first began speaking with representatives from the clinic and city hotels, they often referred to the parking "ramps".  It all sounded a little strange to me.  In Dallas, almost every professional building, hospital, shopping mall, convention center, hotel and even churches have parking "garages".  I was informed by a Minnesota friend that a garage is an enclosed structure, and a ramp is not.  Well, the public parking garages in Texas are not normally enclosed, but we also do not receive three feet of snow and experience sub-zero temperatures on a regular basis!
Much of the 2nd Street Parking Ramp, attached to our hotel, was inaccessible due to piles and drifts of snow, but I digress.
Through an icy parking ramp and streets, we crunched our way to Saint Marys.  The hour of our arrival and departure was outside the normal operating times of the hospital shuttle.

We were quickly met in the lobby by an escort and taken to my room.  I was given a hospital gown in a shade of blue that coordinated nicely with my frozen nose and lips. 

A nurse with a great sense of humor wheeled me toward the pre-op waiting room.  Christmas carols were softly playing, and I was issued one more item-- the ever fetching papery shower-cap-looking-thingy.  They really know how to make a girl feel lovely!  Dr. H, suddenly appeared at my side and inked his initials onto my forehead above each eye.  He promised that when it was all over, I would be left only with aligned eyes and not his monogram.
I believed him.

During surgery, the thickened and tight muscles preventing my eyes from focusing properly would be detached.  They would then be reattached farther back on the eye, allowing proper muscle coordination and focusing.  The incisions were made in the conjunctiva, the thin covering over the white of the eye.  
Dr. H determined measurements for relocation through earlier vision tests and examinations.  Surgery lasted three hours.  I woke in Recovery to the all-too-familiar question of rating pain on a scale of 1 to 10.
At that point, 10 might not have been high enough -- especially after I was informed that Dr. H preferred no additional pain medication.  The procedure used is called adjustable suture surgery.  I would need to be awake and coherent for the second part of the procedure which would take place a few hours later.

 I considered requesting being wheeled outside and allowed to bury my head in one of the many piles of snow to ease the pain.  However, I feared that might be frowned upon.
Instead, I asked one of the nurses to describe the appearance of my eyes.
Let's just say she lied.  She was very kind, but not at all truthful!

These are my lovely sci-fi horror movie eyes about two or three days after surgery.
They were so red they glowed.  Quite apppropriate for the season!
In the photograph, at the tip of each arrow, is a black blob.  Those are sutures at the site of the incisions.  There is one more incision, in each eye, beneath the lower lid.
About three hours after returning to my room, Dr. H arrived to evaluate eye alignment.
The suture threads were several inches long, trailing out of my eyes, and taped to my cheeks.  He could adjust the tension on the muscles through the temporary suture knots, if necessary.
He told me it would tickle. 
A word of caution:  if a doctor tells you it will tickle, do not believe him.

The surface of my eyes were anesthetized with drops.
The sutures were tied with permanent knots and still remain in my eyes today.  Those in the above photograph should dissolve in time.
The ones beneath the lower lids were made with permanent suture thread for added stability.  They will be removed during my follow-up visit in February.
My eyes are now slightly less red.  They usually feel gritty and dry.  After surgery, I was placed on a regimen of steroid, antibiotic and lubricant eye drops.  The antibiotics have now ceased, but steroid and lubricant eye drops continue.  I will most likely always require the use of artificial tears or lubricant eye drops.

Once Dr. H and the nurses were confident that I was able to walk down the hall, eat, drink and use the restroom, I was discharged.  We spent about 12 hours at Saint Marys.  We crunched our way back through the icy streets to our hotel, where I would spend the next three days recuperating.

Bright and cheerful flowers from a dear friend would brighten our room.
Emails, texts and phone calls would lessen the pain, provide encouragement and remind us that we were constantly held in prayer.

At the end of the week, Dr. H informed us that I had surpassed even his expectations.  I informed him it was obviously the result of so many prayers on my and his behalf.  I honestly believe that.
Prior to surgery, distant vision was worse and near vision was better.  After surgery, it is the opposite.  It will take time for my eyes, muscles and brain to adjust to the changes and learn to work together again.
Ideally, my vision should continue to improve over the next 6-8 weeks as healing continues.
There is also a chance that it could begin to deteriorate.

I will always have Graves Disease.  I will always have thyroid eye disease.  There will probably always be slight double vision when I turn my head too quickly, or look in certain directions.  I may never again be able to wear my contact lens.  However, many prayers have been answered.  Many things once again bring great joy, instead of frustration and anger.  Life will return to normal, or a new normal.

As we bid Dr. H farewell, I had to inquire why he would leave his homeland of England and travel to one of the coldest regions of our country.  His first response was "romance". That made me smile!  Somewhere along the way, he met and married an American.
He went on to inform us that he would never have as many opportunities in England to research, teach and practice his chosen field of medicine.
No doubt, there is room for improvement in the way health care is managed in our country.  Yet, we are also fortunate to be a country where many are eager to come, learn, treat and teach others.
Throughout my time at Mayo, I was struck how many times staff members told me how much they love what they do, and it is obvious they are being sincere.
I am fortunate to have the resources and knowledge to seek the finest care.  I realize that is not always true for others.  It is my hope and prayer that someday it will be.
I am forever grateful for a doctor willing to take a chance on a difficult case such as mine.
I am also forever grateful for each of you, your prayers, your support and your encouragement.

I believe God's timing is perfect.
It is almost a new year.
It is time to begin stitching, creating and celebrating life again.
It is time to have fun again!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mayo in Minnesota Mini-Tour

Many of you have been so kind to inquire about my healing progress and prognosis.  I continue to be overwhelmed by your kindness and prayers.
Many have also inquired as to what exactly was done.  So, I will attempt to share a little about our recent trip, the Mayo Clinic, and my surgery.
The Mayo Clinic has long been a part of our family's history.
I just never expected to be a patient!
My mother-in-law, Dorothye, was raised in Janesville, Minnesota.  After graduating from University of Minnesota, she moved to Rochester and began working as a medical secretary at Mayo.  Through her experience there, she would begin a career with the American Urology Association.  My father-in-law trained in urology at the Mayo.  Years later, through their connections with the American Urology Assocation, they would meet and marry.  However, they both always retained strong ties professionally and personally with Mayo and members of its staff.

At one time, it was evidently quite the thing for medical doctors to gift each other with autographed portraits.  These photographs of the Mayo brothers, bearing inscriptions to my father-in-law, normally reside in our attic, along with boxes of similar photographs which once graced the walls of his Memphis medical office.  While in Rochester, we discovered the Mayo brothers also had an extensive collection of autographed photographs.  At least their families have the many Mayo campus buildings in which to display their collection, and the many clinic visitors with which to share!  Our attic does not normally receive many visitors.

This was the view from our hotel window during both of our recent visits.
Pardon the poor image caused by the window screen.
Buildings comprising the Mayo Clinic campus are those farthest away.
The tallest buildings are the Gonda and Mayo Buildings.  Directly in front of them, the tall beige building with the tower is Plummer Building.  The tower is ornately decorated with stone carvings of griffins, gargoyles, dragons and owls.  A pair of nurses adorns each corner of the tower.
The tower houses the Rochester Carillon comprised of 56 bells, making it one of the largest instruments of its kind in North America.  Carillon concerts, lasting 20-30 minutes, are performed three times weekly.  In order to hear the music, it is best to be outside.  Unfortunately, at the time of concerts, I was either in my hotel room, undergoing tests, or at appointments.  Hopefully, on our next trip, schedule and weather will allow more time to enjoy the carillon.

This photograph, which I shared in a previous post, shows the main entrance of the clinic into the Gonda Building.

Immediately inside is Admissions and Business Services, where most patients first report.
I must say that we hardly ever stood in line, or waited more than a few minutes for appointments or scheduled meetings.  Regardless of where we went, we were greeted quickly and warmly.  Even when we arrived early for appointments, they were often prepared for us.  Truly amazing, compared to the time we have spent waiting in other doctor offices and hospitals the past two years.

Across the lobby from Admissions is the Slaggie Family Cancer Education Center.
Just outside its doors is a very large installation by Dale Chihuly.  Thirteen "chandeliers" of blown glass weighing 6,000 pounds comprise this incredible creation.  Chihuly decided not to title this piece.  He wanted to create something that makes people feel good, and did not want them influenced by any title or other association.
 It especially seemed fitting for our visit -- its many shimmering glass spheres and tendrils resembled Christmas tree ornaments and tinsel.
The piece was a gift from Serena Fleischhaker in honor of her husband and grandparents.
The Mayo is actually home to many beautiful pieces of art by well known artists.

These are the towering windows on the front of the Gonda Building, and immediately left of the main entrance doors.  When I took the photograph, I was standing in front of Admissions.
Looking outside the windows, you may spy one of the snow laden tables which appeared in this post.

Wide marble steps lead down from the Gonda lobby to the Nathan Landow Atrium.
The large windows from the previous photograph flood this area with light.
In the center of the photograph, is a grand piano.  You can click on the photograph to enlarge, and will see patients gathered round the piano in their wheelchairs.
Throughout the day, someone would be playing.  Sometimes it was a volunteer, filling the space with holiday music or other tunes.  Other times, it might be a patient sharing their talent and temporarily forgetting their pain or problems.  Anyone is welcome to play.
It was always the intent of the Mayo brothers to serve all needs of a patient's body and soul. 

On the wall is Man and Freedom, a cast bronze (1954) by Ivan Mestrovic.  It once hung on the exterior of Mayo, but has been relocated to this spot.  It is described as a powerful depiction of the human desire for independence and self-realization.

The entrance to the subway, linking our hotel to the clinic, is directly to the left and bottom of the statue.  To reach the elevators to my surgeon's office, we always exited the subway and walked beneath the feet of this great statue. 

This photograph also holds special meaning to me.  As I snapped it, I just happened to catch the young medical student who took a great interest in my case.  Since my condition was different from many, there were often medical students and other observers gathered in my surgeon's office during appointments and examinations.  This time, I did not mind being a source of interest.  If this young man is able to go forth and help others with this condition, it is a blessing.

The subways are a series of corridors linking many hotels, restaurants, retail shops and other businesses with the Mayo.  It is strictly pedestrian traffic -- no vehicles of any type.  There are many wheelchairs, but that is the only other means of transportation seen within the subways and skywalks.
In one portion of the subway, we would also pass this display.  Throughout the buildings, there are displays of  items linked to the Mayo family or medical practice.
This is a display of  Mayo family china.  One day, prior to surgery, I especially had some time to study it.  In the crowds and unfamiliar territory, I became separated from my husband.  With my helter-skelter vision, I could only wait patiently for him to retrace his steps and find me.

The linen lace-trimmed napkin especially caught my attention.
 Its folds are held with a silver napkin clip, engraved with Charles Mayo's initials.  I collect antique silver napkin rings, but was not familiar with antique silver napkin clips.
The Mayo is a learning place for more than just medical information!
Within this same display, but not photographed, are also pieces of  presidential china sets.  Many US presidents and vice-presidents have been treated at the Mayo over the years.  Some of them have also shared pieces of china and other items with the Mayo.

When I saw the vintage marble water fountain and decorative elevator doors, I was immediately taken back in time to the downtown office building of my childhood doctor. 
Mostly, I realized how rare it is to see drinking water fountains! 
Unfortunately, this fountain has met modern times.  The bubbling mouthpiece no longer offers its cool refreshment.  A spigot has been added above for the filling of water bottles or cups.
This fountain and these elevators are located in the Plummer Building.

I will be back soon with more photographs and details!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Simple Joys of Christmas - Leftovers!

What is it about holiday leftovers that seem to make them almost better than the initial serving?
Maybe it is because we are so busy preparing, we don't take time to really enjoy.
Maybe it is because we are still sleep deprived from a late night of candlelight church services.
Maybe it is just because we are so glad we don't have to cook for a few more days!

Whatever the reason, I do believe our annual Christmas breakfast casserole always tastes better a day or two later.
Hope all of you are still basking in the glow of this blessed holiday, visiting with family and friends, playing with new toys and gifts, enjoying leftovers or other simple joys of the season!
Sounds like many of you may also be enjoying more than a little snow!

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Christmas is more than the end of the year
More than a time for presents and cheer
More than a time for happy meetings
More than a time for exchanging greetings
More than the tinsel that hangs on the tree
More than the baubles and glitter we see
More than time for mere happiness
More than small words can ever express.

Christmas is one day we find it is good
To live the way that we always should
A day when man tries to be generous and kind
A day when he sees with his ear, not his mind.

And that is the way we should live all the year
Not only a few days when Christmas is here
For that is the way God wants us to live
Sharing the joy that comes when we give.

For then and then only will restlessness cease
And all of the world will be finally at peace
For the tidings of Christmas can only come true
When Christmas is lived every day the year through.
~Helen Steiner Rice ~

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Child is Born

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
~Luke 2:7~

This was my husband's childhood nativity set.
It, and our stockings, are always the first decorations brought out each year.
There are a few other nativity scenes in our collection of holiday decorations, but this is the one that always holds the most prominent spot -- both in our home and in our hearts.
It is very simple, very much worn with age, and nothing fancy nor expensive.

Through four different homes and upon various pieces of furniture, it has always been placed nearest the front door, so that all who enter may remember the true reason for Christmas.

Growing up, our son would carefully unwrap each piece and be in charge of putting them in place.  That meant they were not always restricted to the top of a single piece of furniture.  The entry and adjoining rooms were likely to become Bethlehem and surrounding countryside.

Shepherds would be found tending their flocks in the dining room.
Wise Men traveled through the living room, stopping to rest on various coffee and side tables, sofas and chairs, and sometimes even the floor.

Baby Jesus would disappear, only to magically reappear on Christmas Day.

It is easy to understand why some of the pieces show much love.
Each crack, every chip and all the globs of glue hold memories dear.

And isn't that one of the most simple and best joys of Christmas?
The memories . . .

We search and shop for the perfect gift to wrap and place under the tree.
Toys break and are thrown away.
Technology advances and the old is replaced with the new.
Clothes are outgrown and discarded.
New holiday songs are written, but familiar Christmas carols are never forgotten.
Stockings are added and filled each year, while others are still hung and remain empty.
Chairs are rearranged around the dining table, but voids are still deeply felt.

After the crumpled paper and ribbons are thrown away, the table cleared and dishes washed, and the decorations all placed back in the attic, the memories still remain;
forever etched in our hearts and minds.
Some years, in difficult and sad times, we may only have those memories to sustain us,
and that is blessing enough.

This year has sped by for me, and it is difficult to believe that it is actually Christmas.
Yet, I have received the gifts of Christmas throughout the year, and many of them have been sent by you.
The gifts of hope, faith and love have sometimes come wrapped in paper and ribbon, arriving other times in the form of prayers and heartfelt hugs.
I can never thank you enough, and only hope that you have sometimes left with a gift, too.

May the many gifts of this season be yours --
the gifts that all began when a Child was born.

Merry Christmas, with much love!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Simple Joys of Christmas - Child's Artwork

Christmas through the eyes of a child is magical.
Each year, I incorporate a few of our son's early masterpieces into the holiday decorations.
Now that he is long past the age of Santa and so many other holiday traditions, it helps this mother to still remember those days and that joy.  It also puts Christmas into perspective in ways that so many other things cannot.
As long as the tree has a gold star on top (always a demand from our son growing up), it does not matter if the other decorations are equally distributed through the branches.
Snowmen can frown, because the longevity of snow in our area is just like the holidays -- gone before you get a chance to really enjoy.
There is a folder full of holiday artwork created by his chubby little fingers, and it is all still magical.

This is the only Christmas artwork I have from my childhood.  Mother kept a lot of things, but artwork by my sister and I did not seem to make the cut.
It was a Christmas card to our paternal grandfather, Elmer.  I would have been 8, and my sister was 10 years old that year.  I have no doubt that she masterminded most of the project, and was giving me strict orders during the entire process.  She most likely cut out the letters and numbers, and I provided the rather haphazard dusting of glitter.

It appears that we borrowed the lines from a Christmas carol and added our own little twist!
Karen must have also been trying out her newly acquired skills of cursive writing.  The use of my full name was also probably payback for not applying that glitter in a more orderly fashion!
She and Granddaddy are celebrating Christmas in Heaven, where everything is golden and glowing even without glitter and glue.

This just might be my most favorite piece of child's artwork:
my husband's drawing, as a 7 year old, of the Three Wisemen.  It had been transferred to a ceramic dish.  I discovered it in my mother-in-law's attic, much to his dismay.  Had he found it first, it might never have made the trip to our home.  I don't even mind the small chip on one side.
If you know my husband, it just makes this so much more endearing and comical.

The magic of Christmas through the eyes of children is a special and simple gift.
May it be a gift you discover and experience this year and always.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Simple Joys of Christmas - Oranges

Oranges may bring to mind sunny summer days for many.  For me, they always conjure up the smells, tastes and memories of Christmas.

My grandmother often set my sister and I to work making orange pomaders right after the Thanksgiving turkey was cleared from the table!
She usually did them correctly, inserting the cloves into the oranges, dusting them with other spices, and letting them dry.  They would then be out in holiday arrangements, before being tied up in netting and placed in closets as air freshners.
I tend to use them only as decorations during the Christmas holidays.  These were made several days ago as entertainment, since my vision was still limiting activities.  They are now nestled in a bowl of greenery and pinecones on the breakfast room table.

On Christmas morning, there is fresh orange juice served in holiday glasses that once belonged to my mother-in-law.  Cold juice is the perfect compliment to the egg casserole I always bake, and the glasses are the perfect compliment to our Spode Christmas Tree dishes.

Santa always left an orange in the toe of our stockings!
This was my childhood stocking.  Mother made it from felt, and embellished it with embroidery, sequins, beads and jingle bells.  My stocking is still a part of our holiday decorations.

To reach the orange and other goodies, I had to lift up Santa's beard.

Mother would also indulge my sister and me with oranges and peppermint "straws".
The oranges were rolled over and over on the kitchen cabinet to break up the membranes and release the juices -- and probably a little of our extra holiday-induced excitement!
A tiny cut with the point of a sharp knife, and the straw was inserted.  Then we slurped our way into a major sugar overload!  I guess it was also one way to make sure we received a little vitamin C in the midst of winter, and amongst all the Christmas candy and treats.

The peppermint sticks need to be the "old fashioned" type that are more porous than some peppermint sticks more readily available.  This year, I found Candy Sippers at Harry & David.  They do not suggest using them with oranges, as much as hot cocoa and other holiday beverages.  I also find that you sometimes need to let the peppermint sit in the orange for awhile to open up the end and let the juice really be drawn through it.  The oranges also still need to be squeezed a little while sipping -- a reason to make sure the knife slit is kept small and the peppermint fits snugly in the opening to prevent leaking. 
This may also be one of those things, kind of like the playground slide, that is always better in our memories than in reality.  It also makes me realize just what a saint Mother was to create cherished memories for us, while probably creating a mess for her!

During the celebration of this year's Christmas,  I hope you are also fondly remembering joy of holidays past.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Simple Joys of Christmas - Bubbling Santa Claus

This jolly bubbling Santa used to always appear in Grandmother Bessie's living room window.  It, and a wreath on the door, were the only decorations visible from outside her home.  There were always more decorations inside, but this Santa was always my favorite.  She made sure that I received it when he could no longer appear in her window.
It was made by the Royal Electric Company of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
The price on the original box, although very torn and tattered, is $1.75!
It is still one of my favorite decorations.
Maybe because of all the memories it holds.
Maybe because it always makes me smile.
Maybe because it is simple - nothing fancy or expensive. 
Just plug it in and it starts bubbling over with joy!
During the other eleven months of the year, this little Santa lives in a cabinet easily reached.  I was so happy he was not up in the attic, and was able to take his usual position on the breakfast room hutch again this year.
For several years, it was very difficult to find the bubbling bulbs.  I stocked up when I finally found some.  Now, this is my last one.  Hopefully, it will keep burning brightly for many more holidays to come.

The days are dwindling and I hope your To Do lists are, too!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Simple Joys of Christmas - Jewels and Hankies

Long before every possible item of clothing was embellished with holiday motifs, there were simple things such as costume jewelry and delicate hankies.
I can still clearly recall the Christmas tree pin on the left gracing the lapel of Grandmother Bessie's heavy wool winter coat.
The pin on the right belonged to my mother.  It was more likely to adorn a suit or dress worn to church during Advent, or to a holiday party or gathering.
The hankie was given to me by Mother.  She always found the perfect hankie for every holiday and occasion!  This larger embroidering of holly leaves and berries appears in one corner, with smaller motifs of leaves and berries on each of the remaining three corners.  The edges are finished with a pin-stitched or point de paris maderia hem.

Another Christmas hankie received as a gift from Mother.  It was one of the last hankies she gave me.  It would be so sweet incorporated into a collar on a little girl's holiday dress, if only I was brave enough to take a pair of scissors to it!

I discovered this unique poinsettia hankie in a local antique store, and immediately fell in love!
The leaves, which seem to resemble holly leaves more than poinsettia leaves, are cut from green organza and appliqued onto the hankie.
The poinsettia is also organza, tightly satin stitched around the edges, and embellished with additional padded satin stitch and granitos.
It all appears to be done by hand.

There is a tiny button sewn to the wrong side of the bloom, allowing it to be buttoned through one of the three elongated eyelets.
The remaining three corners of the hankie have smaller appliqued holly leaves and granito berries.
It is lovely with, or without, the poinsettia attached.

These are three holiday themed pins that have long been in my jewelry drawer.
The poodle in the stocking was received as a young girl.  Our family dog was a chocolate poodle, and I loved all things poodle!
The poinsettia pin shows the most signs of wear.  In my former career as a legal assistant at large downtown Houston and Dallas firms, my wardrobe was restricted to very conservative suits or sweater sets and skirts.  This small pin was my way of acknowledging the holidays and spreading a little joy and cheer. 
The rhinestone pave Christmas tree is the one I now mostly wear.  It is just one very simple thing that makes me happy this, and every, holiday season!

I hope you are finding time to enjoy simple pleasures during these busy last days before Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Simple Joys of Christmas - Stockings

I will share more of my experience at Mayo next week. 
It is finally time to enjoy and celebrate Christmas!

   Due to our schedule and my inability to drive prior to or following surgery, there was little time or chance for much shopping, decorating or preparing.
That is fine.
Great joy is found in simple things.
Many are items that have long been a part of our family's holidays.

It is never Christmas for me until the stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

This stocking was knitted, for his first Christmas, by our son's godmother.
In this house, it always hangs by the family room fireplace.

Mother made these stockings for herself and my father.  They are red velvet with white satin lining and cuffs, decorated with felt cut-outs, and embellished with sequins and beads.
The one on the left was Daddy's, complete with a tiny train on the toe!
These also hang on the family room fireplace.

As our family grew with son-in-laws and grandchildren, my mother gifted us with beautiful needlepointed stockings.  A dear friend drew most of the designs, and Mother spent many hours stitching.  They are stitched primarily with wool, and accented with metallic threads.

Each stocking is fully lined with satin, backed and piped in velvet - completely and lovingly handmade.
Every year, as I unwrap these three stockings, it is a little bittersweet.  They will always be one of my favorite holiday decorations, but they make me miss my mother more than ever.  She adored the holidays, and kept Christmas in her heart all year long.
Our three stockings hang together on our living room fireplace.

So, are your stockings hung?
I hope Santa leaves you lots of goodies and no lumps of coal!

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