Steele Livin' Large 2/4
Date: Friday, May 26, 2000
Linda <>
Anne Rose <>
Steele Livin' Large Part II
If she lived to be a hundred, Laura didn't think she'd ever forget her anguish when she saw her husband, ashen and unresponsive, lifted onto the litter and carted to the ambulance. She watched the paramedics start the IV,
administer oxygen, attach the leads for the electrocardiogram, and raise Cedars-Sinai on the short-wave radio.

"Listen, we got a 47-year-old male, chest pain, ECG shows ST segment elevation in leads II and III. . . ."

If she lived to be a hundred, Laura didn't think she'd ever forget her terror as she climbed into the ambulance and gripped his hand. It was clammy, and his nail beds had a garish blue tinge.

"Should we start dopamine? . . . . Heart rate is 62 and thready. . . ."

The ride to the hospital, siren screeching, red lights flashing, was the longest ten minutes of her life.

* * *

In retrospect, the ride in the ambulance was the calm before the storm, because the emergency room was hopping, with enough activity to oddly resemble a Saturday-night social club just before the cock fights begin. The ambulance was their lucky charm, however, getting them past the surly
gatekeepers and into the organized chaos beyond the waiting room.

Laura's confidence was not bolstered by the appearance of a harried physician, young enough to be a Piper daughter, who was the first to assess Steele's condition. The only good news was that Harry appeared to be in much better shape. His color was returning, and while he was surely as frightened
as Laura, he was doing a much better job of disguising it.

"Must've been indigestion," he bluffed, but young Dr. Roberts, to her credit, was having none of it.

"Mr. Steele, indigestion does not distort your electrocardiogram. Like it or not, you've been given a wake-up call. We don't have all your test results yet, but right now I'm going to take a quick medical history and perform a physical exam, and then the cardiologist will have a look at you."

Steele submitted grudgingly to Dr. Roberts' clinical assessment. After much poking, probing, questioning, and listening, the medical resident excused herself to summon the cardiologist.

"Laura, I really think this is unnecessary. Why don't we just go on home, and I'll call Dr. Harris first thing tomorrow morning?" Steele began to fasten his cuffs, but Laura was having none of it.

"You're not going anywhere, Buster! You heard the doctor. She gives you a wake-up call and you're hitting the snooze button?!" She planted her feet, folded her arms across her chest, and gave her husband that 'don't even try' look. With a sigh, Harry scrambled down from his perch on the litter and began to pace the confines of their curtained cell.

"Mr. Steele?" A white-coated physician, obligatory stethoscope worn like a scarf around his neck, peeked in.

Laura and Steele looked up. "Mike?" Laura hesitated.

"Laura? Laura Holt! How long has it been?" Mike pushed past a wary Steele to kiss Laura's offered cheek and squeeze her in a bear hug.

"Too long, Mike. So you decided on cardiology?"

"Yeah, after all the student loans I had, I needed a specialty where I could crank out some dough. You look . . . wonderful." His appreciative stare traveled down and then up Laura's trim form.

"So do you," Laura laughed.

Steele turned his head from his wife to this handsome, disconcertingly fit stranger, and then back again. He found himself wishing for the return of the fresh-faced Dr. Roberts, who at least knew enough to pay attention to
the patient.

"You know my mother still talks about you." Steele raised an eyebrow. So the handsome stranger has a mother, he gathered wryly.

"How sweet!"

"Yep! She says, 'Mikey, why'd you let that one get away?'"

Laura smiled up at him. "Please say hello to her for me."

"Sure will. She loved that dinner you cooked for her. She thought you------"

Steele had had enough. Now he *knew* 'Mikey' was off his nut, and his mother too. He cleared his throat rather loudly. Mike and Laura both turned to him, Laura at least having the good manners to look abashed.

"Mike, this is my husband, Remington Steele. Darling, this is Mike Gleason. We were in school together at Stanford." With a glance at Laura that told her she hadn't heard the last of this, Steele shook Gleason's extended hand.

"Quite an item you two were, hmm?"

Dr. Gleason was oblivious to the steam percolating from Steele's ears. "Well, now that you mention it. Laura, remember the time------"

Laura knew when her husband was ready to explode, and he looked as if he were dangerously close to the brink. She broke in, "Mike, we've really had a fright. What do you think about Mr. Steele's health?"

"Oh. Well, we don't have the full story yet." Gleason obligingly wielded his stethoscope on the righteously indignant patient. "Still waiting for more test results to---- "

Steele broke in, "Really? Is your hospital always so lax?"

Gleason laughed heartily. He handed Laura his card. "The good news is that you're just fine, Mr. Steele. At least for right now. Treat this as a wake-up call---" Steele rolled his eyes "---and call my office first thing tomorrow morning. By then, we'll have the full picture. Don't worry, we'll work through this. It'll be ok." His words reassured Laura, but now Harry was beginning to worry.

* * *

After a fitful night for the Steeles, they were squeezed into Dr. Gleason's roster of appointments for the day. In the car on the way to the medical complex, an oppressive silence settled in, Harry and Laura wrapped up in their own thoughts and fears.

"Laura. . . Laura!"

"Hmm?" She was startled from her reflections by the sound of his voice.

"We're here." They both climbed out of the BMW and walked through the underground garage side-by-side to the elevator. As he pressed the button, Laura reached for his hand and gripped it tightly.

* * *

"Good morning, Mr. Steele, Laura. Sorry to keep you waiting." Dr. Gleason seated himself behind his cluttered desk and opened the chart.

Laura and Harry smiled nervously at him.

"How did you sleep last night?"

Harry shrugged. "Not very well," he admitted.

Laura knew how badly, even if it had been only half has badly as she had. Her overactive imagination had run through every possible scenario and outcome last night as she stared at the ceiling. She tried to stay still so she wouldn't disturb Harry, but he tossed and turned often enough that she knew he hadn't rested at all.

"First of all, if it's all right with you, I like to be on a first-name basis with my patients. I find it helps me communicate with them better. So may I call you Remington?"

"Actually, I'd prefer you call me Harry."

Dr. Gleason's eyebrow shot up in a question as he glanced at Laura. "Nickname?"

"Yes," Laura responded. "Long story."

"OK. Well, what I'd like to do is take a more thorough medical history, and then we'll come up with a plan of action. So, first of all, have you ever experienced these chest pains before, Harry?"

"No, never."

"Do you have any other conditions you're being treated for? Have you ever been in the hospital for anything else?"

"I broke my legs once --- no, twice --- and I've been shot a couple of times --- but nothing that you'd call a long-term problem."

"Does your family have a history of heart disease?"

Harry glanced at Laura. "Uh, we don't really know," she jumped in. "We don't know much about Harry's parents."

Dr. Gleason studied him for a moment and then scribbled something in the chart. "I guess we'll leave it as 'unknown.'"

Harry shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

"Do you get any regular exercise, Harry, you know, that raises your heart rate enough to give you a cardiovascular workout?"

Harry gave Laura a quick sideways glance and smiled to himself, which was not lost on Dr. Gleason.

"I mean. . . other than in the evening," he responded with a chuckle.

"Outside of the occasional chasing of a bad guy, I have to admit I don't."

Dr. Gleason scribbled again. "And how would you describe your diet?"

It took everything Laura had not to speak up at this point. One of her sleepless revelations had been that their eating habits had become a steady pattern of skipped breakfasts, mid-morning sweets, fast-food lunches and gourmet dinners. Although she tried her best to eat right when given the choice, she had to admit there was room for improvement.

"I imagine it could be better," Harry admitted.

"Mr. Steele's always had an enviable metabolism," Laura chimed in.

"And that is the crux of the matter, Harry." Dr. Gleason leaned over the chart to make his point. "You can keep going the way you have been, and run a very good risk of a serious heart attack, or you can choose to make some changes that can turn your problems around. Your cholesterol is 280, Harry, well into the danger zone. Your blood pressure's a little elevated, but fortunately that's about it. You experienced what we call angina, and it's nothing to ignore."

Gleason paused, reading the look on Steele's face correctly. He turned down the medical lingo a notch, explaining, "Angina is caused by a lack of oxygen to the heart muscle, which leads to chest pain. It's *not* a heart attack."

Laura squeezed Harry's hand reassuringly.

"Three major things for you to do right now. First, I've made an appointment with one of our dieticians, and she'll see you right after we finish. She's going to see what we can do to help you with your eating. It looks like your
*enviable metabolism* has finally caught up with you."

"Next, I'm going to put you on cholestyramine, just a little something to help your system get your cholesterol down. And last, you've got to get some regular exercise. I suggest walking for starters. It's easy, you just need a pair of shoes and some self-motivation. How does all of this sound to you, Harry?"

Harry was still rather subdued. "I certainly want to do whatever it takes to avoid a repeat of what happened yesterday."

"And how do you feel about your wife being the enforcer, or the 'diet police' as my nurse likes to call them?"

Harry smiled at Laura. "Oh, Laura's been keeping me in line for years. She rather relishes the role."

"Good. Because changing lifestyle is not easy, but it's basically the best thing you can do right now. Just start off easy, nothing drastic, a little bit at a time. Meanwhile, I'm going to get you on the schedule for an
exercise tolerance test and an echocardiogram, and then I'll see you again in about six weeks for a full workup. Oh, and that reminds me, Harry, have you ever had a DRE?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"A DRE, a digital rectal exam, to check your prostate."

Laura did not realize that she had been holding her breath for long intervals, because this last one exploded out of her with an unseemly guffaw. Harry, already turning red, looked daggers at her.

Dr. Gleason shot her a disapproving glance. "It's a good idea for men your age, Harry. It sounds terrible, but every man lives through it. We can talk about it next time. Another topic we'll approach at our next meeting is your
stress level and workload. It's been shown that stress puts a strain on your heart, and can set you up for some serious problems. Take this month to think about ways you can reduce your stress level. Now, are you ready to see the dietician?"

Harry nodded. Dr. Gleason got on the phone and dialed an extension. "Robin? Hi, Mike Gleason. Yeah, listen, the Steeles are ready to see you now. Is this a good time? Great. They'll be down shortly." He hung up.

"All right, Laura, Harry, if you'll take the elevator down to the second floor and follow the signs to Dietary Administration and ask for Robin Bernheim, she'll take it from there."

They both shook hands with Dr. Gleason. "Thanks again for everything, Mike. We'll get right on it," Laura said.

"Yes, Dr. . . . Mike, thank you."

* * *

When Laura and Harry got off the elevator, a young woman with an armload of papers was waiting for them.

"Mr. and Mrs. Steele?"

"Yes. Ms. Bernheim?" Harry shook her hand.

She offered her hand to Laura. "Hi. Robin Bernheim. Won't you come with me?"

The Steeles followed the dietician to a quiet visiting area. Laura and Harry chose a sofa and sat down side-by-side. Robin perched across from them, emptying her arms of the disconcertingly large amount of paper onto the coffee table between them. "I'm sorry we don't have a more private place to talk, but since I spend most of my day up on the floor, I don't have much need for an office."

Harry dismissed her apology with a conciliatory wave.

"Now, please don't be intimidated by this pile of literature. Some of it may not be what we need. But in the meantime, we have some work to do. Can I ask you a few questions to start with?"

"Fire away." After their meeting with Dr. Gleason, Harry had a pretty good idea which way this discussion was headed.

Robin opened a spanking-new chart with the words 'Steele, Remington' emblazoned across the front. "OK. What did you have for breakfast today?"

"A croissant and some coffee."

Robin set pen to paper and began recording the facts. "What time was that?"

"Oh, about 9."

"Did you have anything at home this morning?"

"No. I---we---didn't sleep very well last night. It was a bit of a rush getting to our appointment."

"Do you usually eat before you leave the house?"

"Usually no. I'm not much of a morning person." With chagrin, Steele noted that Robin's note-taking took on a furious pace.

"OK. What do you usually have for lunch?"

"Well, if it's a very busy day we generally have some kind of takeout, and sometimes we have time to go to lunch."

"Uh-huh. Which restaurants do you like?"

"Oh, Chez Rive, Black Forest, Musso & Frank, Michael's, Monty's, Valentino, L'Orangerie, DC-3----"

Opened-mouthed during this recitation, Robin sputtered and then interrupted Steele. "For lunch?! What do you do for dinner?"

Laura suppressed a laugh. Steele pointedly ignored her, and instead straightened up in his chair, warming to one of his favorite subjects.

"I love to cook. It's very relaxing for me. I usually make something every evening."

"What do you like to prepare?"

"Fettuccini alfredo, canard au vin rouge, beef stroganoff, veal piccata, tournedos Rossini, crepes suzette, crawfish etouffee, crab au gratin, and the like. And of course coquille St. Jacques, lobster thermidor-----"

Awed by this gustatory litany, Robin held up her hand to stop Steele in mid-sentence. "I got the picture." She drew a deep breath. "Alright. What's your favorite vegetable?"

"Potatoes au gratin, perhaps, or dauphinois. Then again, is there anything more satisfying than a perfectly baked potato, its jacket crisp, its center piping hot, adorned with a healthy dollop of sour cream, crowned with fresh
chives. . . ." Steele smiled at the memory of many successful culinary creations.

Robin was unimpressed with Steele's fond reminiscences of baked potatoes past. "What was the last green vegetable you ate?"

"I had a green salad with blue cheese dressing yesterday."

The dietician finished taking notes and sat back. She smiled a moment at Laura with one of those expressions that only women recognize, and Laura knew she had her work cut out for her.

Robin picked up her pile of papers and held it on her lap. "Mr. Steele, if we're going to get your cholesterol down to a safer level, you are definitely going to have to make some changes. Now, I don't expect you to subsist on tofu and broccoli. But we are going to have to cut a lot of the
fat from your diet. To start, I want you to use this food diary. You don't have to weigh and measure every morsel, just make a note of what you eat. I think it'll make you more aware of your diet. This booklet has some suggestions for substitutions you can make to reduce fat. For example, using evaporated skim milk in place of cream."

Harry took in the two items without comment.

"Ideally you should start each day with a good breakfast, with plenty of fiber. That will help you stay filled up longer, and get you through to lunch. Which, by the way, is the downfall of many people. I would avoid the carryout as much as possible. Try going with soups, except cream soups, and salads. Perhaps you and your wife could share an entr_e occasionally." She paused for a moment and studied Harry. "You look pretty unhappy, Mr. Steele," she commented.

"Ms. Bernheim, after my wife and our work, eating is one of the principal pleasures in my life."

Robin nodded sympathetically. "I understand entirely, Mr. Steele. A lifestyle change is one of the most difficult changes to make. But think of the long-term
benefits. . . you don't want to leave this earth any sooner than necessary, do you?"

Harry smiled. "No."

"I think that's probably enough information for right now. If you need anything else, just leave me a message in Dietary Administration, or you can e-mail me." She handed them her card.

Laura dug in her purse and handed her their card. "And here's where you can reach us."

Robin stood, signaling the end of their chat. She extended her hand to Harry. "I hope this will help you get started, Mr. Steele. Remember, you never heard me say you can't eat fettucini alfredo again. Just moderation in all things. Make those frequent high-calorie items an occasional treat."

Harry shook her hand. "Thanks for all your help. Laura, shall I go get the car?"

"Sure. Just take it easy, please?"

"I'll just meet you out front, eh?"

"OK." She gave him a quick peck on the cheek.

As they watched him go, Robin said, "Not a happy camper, Mrs. Steele."

Laura turned to her. "Please call me Laura. No, not at all."

"You're going to have to be very patient with him, but persistent. Start off slowly, nothing drastic that will make him dig in his heels. Unfortunately, men tend to be notoriously non-compliant."

"Oh, believe me, he can be non-compliant with the best of them."

Robin laughed. "First chance you have, you'll need to get all the temptations out of the kitchen. Then restock it with some better options."

"I think I can manage that."

"You look like you're in pretty good shape, Laura. Do your best to bring your husband over to your way of thinking."

In Laura's mind those two infamous words 'impossible challenges' reverberated. "I'll try," she sighed.

"And remember rewards are a great incentive. They appeal to a man's competitive nature. I'm sure you'll think of something!"

"We'll be in touch." Laura shook her hand and headed for the elevators.

End Part II
To Part III