Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Piling On

The Girl woke up with really puffy eyelids yesterday morning. We were baffled. She looked like she'd just gone 12 rounds with Hagler. Otherwise she was fine so we had no clue what it could be about. As the day progressed her puffiness increased and then it dawned on us that she might be allergic to the sulfa based antibiotic she has been prescribed to prevent infection in her kidneys. A quick call to the doc and her prescription was changed. We also gave the Girl a dose of Zyrtec to smack down the allergic reaction.

But the puffiness didn't go away. This morning it was worse. So the possibility that it isn't an allergic reaction to the antibiotic is raised. What else causes puffy eyes? Ahhh, yes, how bout something else to frighten the hell out of parents who have so much to worry about as regards the Girl. How bout something like, say, Nephrotic Syndrome. Edema in the eyelids is a nice telltale sign of the condition, as protein leaches from the blood into the urine by way of a scarred kidney. Only one surefire way to know: test the urine for protein. So the Doc has ordered a urine test.

Doc still believes it's an allergy but best to make certain. We are hoping she's right. All we need right now is the recent infection to have so badly damaged the Girl's kidneys that they just don't work worth a damn. As it is the Girl is scheduled for tests in two weeks to determine the cause of her bout of pyelonephritis. Hell, the reason she is taking the antibiotic at all is not because she still has the infection; it's because she will continue to get them now and the kidneys get bitter about that - they make you pay for the abuse.

Maybe they weren't so patient.

The Girl ain't making our lives easy.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ahh, The Nearness Of Death

HelmetCam video of a skier caught in an avalanche. Being buried alive has never been more terrifyingly captured. He was dug back out after four literally heartpounding and gasping minutes Companions found him near where his lost glove had landed.

His moment of uncovering is worthy of Hollywood

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What Does An Apocalypse Look Like?

A dustorm in an Australian town in the course of one minute. Rather ominous.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

So Good It Hurts

The Girl returned to the Doc today for a follow-up re her kidney infection. She was promised no more needles but was nonetheless terrified upon entering the office. The pokes and proddings still fresh in her memory left her feeling less than trusting of her parents' promises. We were told that the flu shots were in and even though we already have an appointment scheduled for all of the kids to get their shots we were asked if we would like the Girl to get hers today. Out of deference to her we declined - "no pain," we promised.

One of the things all parents wish for their children is that they do not hurt. We do not want them to feel pain. It is awful - for them and for us. It is also ridiculous to hope they never suffer. But what if it wasn't a pipedream? What if your child would really never feel pain?

Consider the case of the Gingras family. Their daughter, Gabby Gingras, was born with a congenital disorder that makes it impossible for her to feel pain. Though she she can feel heat and cold, vibration and movement, all the things we feel, the sensations of pain never reach her brain. This is not a good thing. Says her mother, Tish Gingras, "Pain teaches. Pain protects. Pain can save you from a lot of bad things in life."

She was always a delightful baby - she never had a moment of discomfort or pain. As an infant her parents would sometimes wake her on chilly mornings and she would be freezing - sleeping soundly, but stone cold. She was a blissful child. Nothing bothered her - nothing at all. Not even chewing her own fingers off. Gabby had to have all her teeth pulled because she mutilated her hands when her teeth began coming in. She lost an eye because she kept poking herself and must now wear googles to keep from losing her remaining eye. She fell and broke her jaw, but no one knew it until an infection had set in. She has had to be taught to say ouch when she bumps into things, not because it hurts, but to let her parents know they must check her for an injury. In short, she is immensely happy, and a terrible menace to herself.

Pain is crucial to our awareness of the world. Without it we are adrift, unable to discern the potential dangers that await us around every corner, unable to develop a set of skills to keep us out of harm's way. As horrible as it is to parents, our children must suffer to survive.

I'm reminded of an old science fiction novel, Ringworld, that I read in my youth. It takes place many years in the future and in it the main character is putting together a team to explore a new and very strange world. He gathers many experts in various fields but decides the important component for success that he is missing is luck.

In the story lotteries have been going on for many years so he begins to look for lottery winners who had offspring that were lottery winners who had offspring that were lottery winners and so on and so on in an effort to recruit someone who has a genetic predisposition for "luck". When he settles on a woman from a long line of lottery winners he is certain the expedition will be a success. But everything goes wrong. They crash. People get hurt. Nothing goes as planned. He just can't imagine that she could bring them such bad luck.

Until it dawns on him that she is lucky after all, but luck has determined that she must suffer a little to be better. Her good luck is the pain and loss we all experience - not enough to kill her, but just enough to save her from herself.

What we wish for our kids seems, in the abstract, to have their best interests at heart. In reality, however, the things we would keep them from are the very things they need to be complete, well-rounded, and happy human beings. I don't want the Girl to suffer needlessly. I don't want that for any of my children. But I would never wish them the life of Gabby Gingras either. Good luck sometimes hurts.

A new documentary about Gabby, A Life Without Pain, is set for release.

The Water Theater

Revolutions in technology that literally change the world are rare commodities. If one is fortunate one might see a stunning breakthrough in one's lifetime, but they are not common. Welcome to ours.

Welcome to the Teatro del Agua.

British designer, Charlie Patton, has created a water desalination plant that produces fresh water from thin air. The water needs no treatment to be potable, is produced continuously, requires no fossil fuels to power it, and is not a pipedream.

The first will be built by the Spanish government in the Canary islands. Others are scheduled for the coasts of desert countries like Oman.

The plant consists of tall vertical pipes through which cold seawater is pumped and recirculated. Seabreezes loaded with moisture blow across the pipes and moisture condenses out of the air, dripping down the pipes into a trough where it flows away to storage. The pumps are powered by either solar or waves and currents in the sea. In the event that the humidity drops, seawater is misted on the front grid of the theater where it is evaporated by the breeze and then condensed (minus its salt) on the pipes behind.

It can provide enough fresh water for medium sized cities.

Traditional desalination plants consume fossil fuels at astounding rates in order to produce steam that is then distilled. The water must also be treated. And they are butt-ugly.

This building serves a practical purpose but also stands tall as a public structure, functioning as a naturally cooled ampitheater. It will provide one of the most precious vital resources needed in an era of droughts and climate change. It can be built virtually anywhere there is a coast and an onshore flow. It is a beautiful piece of architecture and not an eyesore. And it is dual-purposed as a public gathering space with the ambient sound of dripping water as a background.

This is our generation's revolution.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bonnet Rippers

The hottest selling sub-genre in fiction today? Amish romance novels.


The New Wave In Employment Security And Sacrifice

The Italian Postal Service is the largest employer in Italy. Italy has an unemployment rate of nearly 10%. The Postal Service spends a lot on recruiting new employees. All this adds up to an interest in the benefits of nepotism.

They have proposed offering older workers the option of voluntary retirement and in exchange allowing the workers to cede their jobs (and permanent employment contracts) to their children. Said child must be 30 years of age and have a high school diploma. The postal workers union first introduced the idea in 1997 and it looks to be put in place by October.

Hmm, a permanent familial class of postal workers - this seems to require some more thought. Offhand it sounds just a little serf-like, albeit with benefits.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Welcome Surprise

A big welcome to the little surprise that popped out last night. Got a little text message this morning from Padre.

The Padre and his Mrs. got themselves another little girl at 8:04 pm last night. 6lbs, 3oz, 18" of a secret named Miriam. Mom and newborn are well.

The Padre gave me the news this morning, because he hadn't bothered to let me know from the start. I was kept in the dark regarding the pregnancy. Best friends for 25 years and he thought it would be funny to keep me out of the loop - "wanted to get your goat."

Consider my goat gotten.

The baby gift could be a little late.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Scooby Diver

The Boy and I stopped by a sporting goods store last Saturday to pick up some shin guards for his first year of soccer. While waiting in the checkout line he noticed a manequin dressed in a wet suit, googles, flippers and an air tank.

"Look at that, daddy."

"Oh, yeah," I said, "That's a scuba diver."

"A scooby diver?"

"No, a scuba diver. They swim in the ocean and look at fish."

There was a pause and then he said with certainty, "They're mean."

"Huh?" I queried.

"Scuba divers. They're mean," he elaborated.

I was befuddled. Other than the black wetsuit and googles I couldn't imagine what prompted that. "No, scuba divers aren't mean."

"Yes they are," he said before looking at me out of the corner of his eye and adding, with a withering scepticism, "I saw Finding Nemo."

I had no response for that.

Friday, September 11, 2009


The Girl is doing much better today. The doses of Rocephin have knocked the infection back and the amoxicillin will take over that duty now. The fever has receded, though not abated. We were told to expect it to continue to spike for the next couple of days before the infection really starts disappearing. She's not eating much, but is once again fighting with her brother (sickness had its advantages). We're keeping an eye on her and keeping her fluid intake high.

The whole episode had an otherworldly quality to it and I don't think I have quite absorbed it. When the Boy was born, and we were told not to expect him to live through the night, there was a similar feeling, but he was an unknown quantity to me. She has been here a while now, and even though I have often threatened to Ebay her, I am, upon occasion, quite fond of her.

I just see more trouble coming from this for her. Two weeks ago she went through a battery of tests ordered by her neurologist to try and determine the root cause of her speech and gross motor delays beyond the annoyingly vague "hypotonia". Those tests included the drawing of 7 vials of blood from her small body. There may be an MRI in her future as well to see if my fear of absence seizures has any substance. And of course there will be all the tests regarding the kidneys from this episode. The kid is taking a beating.

In the meantime we watch and hope and remain thankful that she is much better off than so many others.

Oh, and the Boy? Yeah, he's beyond hope :)


Spelunkers explore the Cave of Crystals in Naica, Mexico. Some of the crystals are 11 meters long and weigh as much as 55 tons.

Search Terms Of The Day

Somebody hit my blog today by googling these search terms:

"childbirth imaages fuckings'"

Who are these freaks?

Biblical Plagues

Absent I have been.

Two weeks ago my inlaws came a calling from halfway cross the country and indulged their grandchildren for a week or so. It kept us all busy. It was a good thing, though there was an undercurrent of dread because once they returned home my mother-in-law was set to undergo a procedure to see why she kept having blood in her urine as well as abnormal cells. Kidney stones could account for part of it, but you never know.

During their visit my father-in-law took a small fall in his hotel room. His hand felt numb for the rest of the week as a result. I assumed he had injured his wrist much as I had last year.

Once they got back, his hand began to hurt and a visit to his doc got to the root of it - he had suffered a stroke. The fall was not just a stumble and the hand was a consequence of dead brain cells. He has lost peripheral vision as well, but the pain in the hand indicates that feeling will return to it.

Meanwhile, the procedure on mom-in-law revealed no masses, but biopsies were taken to make certain that the big "C" is not present.

The final night of their visit with us I prepared a major grilling feast, but halfway through the cooking I was overwhelmed by pain in my back and flank. Long story short - I spent the following week enduring a kidney stone myself. Been there, done that, hoped I wouldn't ever again, but that's life.

Towards the end of my stony adventure last week, my wife, the Girl, and the Baby all developed a mild cold that seemed to be gender-specific as neither I nor the Boy were nailed by it. It wasn't a bad bug, but the Girl developed a decent fever on Sunday night. On Monday the fever seemed to be getting higher and by Tuesday she was spiking around 103 or above. It was unusual because neither my wife nor the Baby were showing any fever. Tuesday night my wife returned from work around 10pm and we heard the Girl crying in her room. When we got her up she was hot - really hot. Thermometer said 105.4. Back to the hospital goes my wife with the ember-like Girl in tow. Two hours later my wife texts me from the ER that they have done a rapid strep test and a test for influenza A and B - all of them negative. The ER doc says its just a bug, nothing to worry about, let it run its course, don't sweat the fevers, and sends her home. I say, "HUH?!"

The next day the Girl hits 104.8 and I yell bullshit. I call our pediatrician and get her in that afternoon. They take blood. They take a chest x-ray (pneumonia in infants and toddlers will often present with no signs at all except fever). They catheterize her (that's a delight) and take urine. They swab her throat for a standard strep test. While we wait in the exam room for results she starts to spike another fever and begins panting in my arms. Doc returns and says it appears to be a urinary tract infection - there's blood, white cells and bacteria in her urine. A massive injection of Rocephin is given as well as ibuprofen to knock the fever down. An appointment is scheduled for the next day to get the results of the culture. The Girl spends the night riding a roller coaster of fever.

I return the next day, feverish Girl in my arms, and am told that the tests have confirmed it all, but it's actually worse. She has a kidney infection - Pyelonephritis. It is massive, active and aggressive. This is bad. It is only because she is hydrating that she is not being admitted to the hospital. She is given another painful injection of Rocephin (the shot hurts so much they add lidocaine to it to ease the suffering). I am to call today to get the bacterial sensitivity results and the appropriate antibiotic to kill it. After the infection clears up tests are scheduled to look for a congenital defect - possibly vesicoureteral reflux - that may have caused this. She will undergo more catheterization, dyes, radioactive liquids and general misery. If the tests prove positive for a defect she will either go through daily antibiotics until it resolves itself - potentially years - or if it's severe she will require surgery.

In the discussion with our pediatrician yesterday I asked why this slipped through the ER. Our doc is about the calmest person I have ever met - like a still pond - and that's why we like her. But she was angry. If we had followed the ER advice and been average parents we might not have called about it til today or even next Monday. Doc put it simply: if we had waited another day to call, our daughter would be in the hospital; two days, she could have lost her kidney; called on Friday or Monday, well, you can't dial the phone with a dead child in your arms.

A UTI should have been looked for in the ER. A urine test should have been performed. It was discounted because Dr. Emergency tapped on her abdomen and the Girl didn't say "Ow." I might point out that she didn't say "ow" in the pediatrician's office either but that didn't stop our doctor from doing her job.

Our Doc wants us to make a stink. She says this isn't the first time she has seen callous negligence in that ER and it won't be long before somebody dies.

Kids get high fevers - very high, the highest they will likely have in their lives - but the textbook says if it hits 105, there is something dangerously wrong and a cause MUST be pinpointed and treated. No ifs, ands, or buts. Some idiot damn near killed my daughter. She still may have suffered permanent kidney damage because of his incompetence. My fury at this moment is exceeded only by my concern for the Girl's recovery.

Our recent Biblical plague is about to be replaced by some good old-fashioned Biblical wrath.

Related medical provider incompetence addendum:

I had a follow-up appointment scheduled today with my doc regarding my kidney stones. Last week he had said he wanted a spiral CT scan to check for damage in me. He would get it approved and scheduled, let me know, and the appointment today would review the results. I never got a call telling me when the scan was scheduled. Appointments can take some time, and the Girl's issues kept me occupied anyway. Last night my wife got an automated call reminding me of my appointment today. I called this morning to remind them I still hadn't had the scan. I was transferred to the office referral guy. After I explained he said he would get back to me. He called again while I was out and asked my wife how to spell my name. Uh oh. I called him back and after twenty minutes on hold (seriously) I spoke to him. He told me he was working on the scan appointment. I asked him if the doc had failed to let him know. He chuckled with embarassement and said, "No, I had it. I'm just backed up on my paperwork, but I'm trying to get the scan for you today."

I said, "Um, I can't do it today."

"But I thought you had an appointment with the doctor today?"

"I did - an hour ago," says I.

"Well I thought this scan was important," he counters judgementally.

"It is important. Just like it was important a week ago when you got the paperwork," I retort less than graciously. "Just schedule it next week sometime," I tell him.

Healthcare reform is about more than just paying for care.