The call of my gall: or, why I am so happy about the new imaging equipment at Mission Laguna Beach


Except for a recurring case of tennis elbow (despite never playing the game) I was, a few years back at 59, a healthy individual. 

But one early morning, caught in the intertidal zone between sleep and wakefulness, I dreamed that I had swallowed a large conch shell. Then I woke up and the conch shell was still lodged in my upper abdominal area.

I don’t like to fuss. But I knew something was wrong. I’d had quite a few episodes of similar pain, though not as bad. I was driven to the ER at Mission Hospital Laguna.

During sweaty moments of agony while being admitted – which fortunately didn’t take long – I caught sight of myself in the mirror. My eyes had turned a delicate shade of lemon.  

“Gallstones, most likely,” the doctor said.

During the course of my life, I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about my various organs, being by nature somewhat of a hypochondriac. 

For one thing, my father died of cardiac arrest when he was only 39 years old, so I have long been attuned to every skip and beat, every twitch and hopscotch of my heart. 

Most organs, some moles and a few muscle aches have had their fifteen minutes during my decades-long scrutiny. 

But my gallbladder? No. Oh, I knew I had one. Where it resided, I had no idea. I had never, ever, ever worried about my gallbladder. 

No one talks about gallbladders. No one makes movies starring pale heroines abed, suffering biliary colic, gazing into the eyes of her beloved as she fades away. Bile is not romantic. Bile is vile.

Now I know that the gallbladder, a pear-shaped organ, is approximately three inches by two and is tucked into a space beneath the liver. It stores bile, which is used to break down fatty foods. 

Like an automated pet feeder, it sends out bile as needed.

Sometimes the bile duct becomes blocked with migrating gallstones.

Turns out the bile duct is extremely anti-immigration—think Minute Men, think Donald Trump—and in my case was reacting accordingly, creating a wall, sending boatloads of bile back, which had subsequently invaded my liver, inflaming the organ to a riotous red, and making a solid attempt to poison my pancreas.

I was admitted to the hospital. My nurses had Midsummer-Nights-Dream kinds of names, Blossom and Aricela. They fluttered around me.

She is a very sick woman, I heard someone say, and I felt a perverse pride. I am not a hypochondriac, not today, I thought. Today I am very sick.

Because of the uncertain diaspora of my migrant stones, I needed an MRI.

So I was loaded onto a gurney and driven in an ambulance to the main Mission Hospital. Pain meds helped, but there was discomfort, let’s say, en route. I’d rather have been happily abed with my new IV.

To say I enjoyed the MRI would be dishonest, but I liked that it was finding out what was causing me such pain.

Back on the gurney, back in the ambulance. The novelty of actually being in an ambulance wears off fast. Too much history has taken place in those vehicles to make them a pleasant ride. Better than a hearse – but, you know.

Fortunately the MRI had been able to pinpoint the exact location of the migrating gallstones, which made the subsequent surgery to flush the stones out much easier. 

My gallbladder was removed several weeks later. I haven’t missed it one bit since.

Polyp and pimple, bump and bend, stone and bone, we (me, myself and I) are all in this together, that I understand now. I cannot worry about the multitudes I contain.

But that level of comfort is only possible because of imaging machines, without which my life might not now be, well, my life (there’s more to tell, but I’ve bored you enough, and all is good now). 

And now I am now within mere miles of an MRI at the amazing Mission Hospital Laguna Beach, which enhances my comfort level even more. 

Hooray for Sue and Bill Gross for their compassion and foresight. And hooray for all the nurses and doctors who took care of me, too.

More than 60 events take place during Trophy Invite Track Meet: here are great photos and some history

Photos by Scott Brashier

Back in the mid 1930’s Orange County consisted of 12 high schools, 10 of which were lumped into the Orange League regardless of size. Red Guyer recognized this inequity and the lack of any high school competitions for the county’s smaller schools. 

Due to this inequity, Laguna Beach hosted the first “minor” division track meet in 1937, and thus began the annual Trophy meet held almost every year until 1983.  

During the 70’s, Laguna’s State Champion Eric Hulst attracted elite runners for special one, two, and three-mile races featuring Southern California’s top long distance runners. 

By the late 70’s the two-day meet annually attracted athletes from more than 60 schools.

The Trophy Invitational was resurrected in 2010 for schools of all sizes, and the LBHS track was named the Eric Hulst Track. 

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A great capture of the moment this long jumper hits the sand

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These girls are on track for success

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The results are still in the air at this moment in time

Feathered friends enjoy the sunset

Photo by Stu News Laguna reader Greg Mays

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This stunning sunset image was taken looking out from Heisler Park

Brain health is the topic at the Laguna Beach Library on March 22 & 29, presented by Alzheimer’s OC 

The Laguna Library will host the final two events in its informative series presented by the Alzheimer’s Orange County Association. The second event will be held on Wed, March 22, from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.  Speaker Ben Allen’s topic will be Brain Health. 

The third event will be held on the following Wed, March 29, from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., and the topic will be Programs and Services.

Since 1982, Alzheimer’s Orange County has been the center for Alzheimer’s resources and is dedicated to providing quality care and support services to thousands of residents of Orange County who are affected by Alzheimer’s Disease and other related dementia. They also partner with local researchers to populate clinical trials to help find a cure.

These events are free. The library is located at 363 Glenneyre St., 949-497-1733.

Barbara’s Column

Laguna’s Chamber of Commerce owes its origins to wintering Canadians…




Business, cultural and social leaders shared their accomplishments in 2016 and goals for 2017 on Tuesday at the annual Leadership Luncheon, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. 

The luncheon was initiated in 1993 by Realtor Bobbi Cox and the late Hotel Laguna owner Claes Andersen, under the auspices of the Chamber.

“Our idea was to encourage Canadians to come to Laguna in the winter,” said Cox. “In those days the town was dead between Thanksgiving and Spring Break.” 

It turned out that many of the locals who attended that initial luncheon mingled for the first time with other groups and discovered some common goals. 

“We said okaaay---let’s do it again,” said Cox.

Newly elected chamber President Ken Fischbeck welcomed the 100 participants in the 24th annual luncheon.  

“We did a few things you might have come into contact with,” said Asst City Manager Christa Johnson. “We fixed your sewers, repaired your streets and we tell you what you can and cannot do with your property.”

The Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach rescued more than 300 animals in 2016, according to Director Keith Matassa.

Laguna Beach Woman’s Club President Barbara Crane said 2016 accomplishments included luncheons for the outgoing mayor and the woman of the year and an event with Police Chief Laura Farinella.

Local FM radio station KX 93.5 received a matching $43,000 matching grant from the city, announced station founder Russell Tyler.

Kavita Reddy, owner with her sister of By Hand, said their biggest accomplishment was to stay in business.

Laguna Art Museum Director Malcom Warner cited the enrichment of Laguna’s artistic heritage as a noteworthy accomplishment. 

“We invested $2.5 million in more than 2,000 youth,” said Boys and Girls Club executive director Pam Estes.   

Laguna Beach Live! founder Cindy Prewitt said her accomplishment and goals are the same: a repeat of the successful event at Montage Resort.

Some other goals for 2017

Chamber Secretary Chris Tebbutt said his goal is to forge stronger partnership between Laguna Art Museum and the Laguna Beach Unified School District.

Friendship Shelter Director Kristin Points is recruiting hosts for the fundraising Dinners Across Laguna to help meet the terms of an anonymous $100,000 matching grant.

Optometrist Michael Cook, who was celebrating his birthday on Tuesday said his goal is to get people to take better care of their eyes. 

Sande St John urged folks to attend the Exchange Club’s Police Awards on April 12 at [seven-degrees]. 

The Rev Brian Delvaux, who returned to his hometown 3½ years ago as bishop of St Francis by the Sea, has seen an increase from five people at Sunday services to 40. 

Marilyn Wilson started a resident cottage food industry, baking and delivering baguettes. 

Insurance broker John Campbell’s goal is to do what he can to stay healthy.

Chris Costley will be helping LBHS grads to transition to college or jobs. 

Veronica Nice asked for donations to the Grapes for Grads event, which funds scholarships to Laguna Beach High School and Laguna College of Art & Design. 

Joe Hanauer thought he was supposed to represent the HIP District at the luncheon, but his badge read Laguna Beach Books, so he touted the best ---and only book store in town---owned by his wife, Jane.

“If Life Long Laguna helps one senior age in place, we have done our job,” said John Fay, program specialist at the Susi Q.

Fischbeck plans to keep involved in the Chamber, ably assisted by Executive Director Laura Henkels, Event and Marketing Manager Nia Evans and Member Services Specialist Dani Spihl.  

But wait – there’s more. You will find advance notice of all the fun and interesting stuff for visitors or residents to do in Laguna by reading

Nuvision Credit Union hires Laguna’s ZWO as PR firm

Nuvision Credit Union, with 87,000 clients in three states, has selected Laguna’ ZWO as its PR agency of record. 

Cynthia Jenkins, ZWO president and principal at its West Coast office in Laguna Beach, noted,“For Nuvision, we will build on its legacy within the community by focusing on its outreach efforts such as the Think Tank Challenge, designed to build financial literacy.”

In addition to offering financial services, Nuvision sponsors a Think Tank Challenge Essay contest, a scholarship program that gives local high school students an opportunity to learn about financial responsibility. 

ZWO’s clients include Beltone, a hearing care company, Salt Life, a lifestyle apparel brand, ACTS Retirement-Life Communities, and MD Complete Skincare.

For more information on ZWO visit or contact them at 864.509.1057.


Shaena Stabler and Stu Saffer are the co-owners. Shaena is the Publisher and Stu is the Editor-in-Chief.

Lynette Brasfield is our Managing Editor.

The Webmaster is Michael Sterling.

Katie Ford is our in-house ad designer.

Allison Rael, Barbara Diamond, Diane Armitage, Dianne Russell, Laura Buckle, Maggi Henrikson, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers.

Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle and Suzie Harrison are columnists.

Mary Hurlbut, Scott Brashier, and Aga Stuchlik are the staff photographers.

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