Archive for 2009
Thursday, during one of my frequent naps, the hospital called and left a message saying that a doctor would like to talk to me about the chest x-rays I had Tuesday.
When a radiologist sees something on a chest x-ray, it’s usually either pneumonia or lung cancer. I had to call back five times before someone even answered the phone, but the man who did speak to me said the doctor was busy but would definitely call me back. I’ve never wished so hard that I had pneumonia – although, having never smoked a single cigarette, the chances of lung cancer were tiny.
The doctor called me back not long after and told me that the radiologist thought my spleen was prominent (meaning swollen). He and I chatted a bit about my illness and experience on Tuesday, and he was shocked that no one at the hospital either examined me or took blood samples for testing. No one even bothered to fill in my chart – but, finally, I’d spoken with a sensible physician. He told me to come in Friday morning for more tests and he requisitioned blood work and an abdominal ultrasound.
My work was done through the emergency room, and the doctor there was brief but also sensible. I arrived at 8:00 a.m. and had the blood taken about half an hour later. I waited until 11:30 for the ultrasound, but that gave time for the blood lab work to finish.
My emergency doc was just about to discharge me when he noticed that my lymphocytes were high, so he backtracked and called in hematology. As this drop-dead-gorgeous Vietnamese hematology resident interviewed me, Elvi walked in. The resident palpated various parts of me while Elvi watched. Hot!
The hematology resident wanted her boss to look at me too, but they had a bone marrow biopsy to do first so I had some time to kill, fortunately with Elvi. We went across the street and had some pho.
Elvi had gone to get the kids before I met the hematologists so I had to face them alone. They felt me again (woohoo!) and told me both my spleen and liver were enlarged. We talked about what could be causing this, and the doctor pointed out that my lymphocytes were normal at my check-up in February, so whatever this is, it’s likely acute and not chronic.
But what it is is still up in the air. The last battery of blood tests I had before leaving the hospital will test for hepatitis (and HIV, as a matter of standard procedure). We’ll get the results of that Monday and I’m going in to see the hematologist again on Tuesday.
Her last words to me were to spend the weekend listening to my body, which isn’t a problem since it’s screaming so loudly. I spent ten hours at the hospital yesterday, but ironically it was the best I’d felt over the course of a day in a while. Today, I’m getting a bit of a sore throat and the enlarged organs are uncomfortable.
Bonus discussion of “ironic”:
Smart-asses know that Alanis Morissette, in her song “Ironic“, calls many situations ironic when they have nothing to do with irony. But what if the title and content of the song are what is meant to be ironic? A sort of meta-irony, I suppose. Then again, who really cares?
My GP is away so I went to the nearby CLSC (which is a medical clinic with nurses only). I considered walking but it’s a bit farther than the garage and that walk tired me out yesterday, so I drove. I left around 3:30 p.m.
When I describe my symptoms to the woman at the front desk, she gives me a medical mask to wear and tells me to go into the first door down the hall that faces me. That door has a big “do not enter” sign on it so I return to ask if she’d meant that one. She confirms, explaining that it is the quarantine room.
The first nurse to see me asks me some questions, measures my blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature (a slight fever of 38.1 degrees C), and listens to my chest. A more senior nurse joins us to confer and ask me about my symptoms. Do I have a cough? Infrequent and dry, but yes. Are my aches in the joints or muscles? Muscles. Have I been doing any traveling? I was in Texas until April 19.
She calculates that my symptoms started seven days after my flight home and announces that with the fever I had fulfilled four criteria for suspicion of swine flu. I explain that I have had absolutely no congestion but she only shrugs. She says she will arrange an immediate appointment at the hospital.
The nurses leave the room. I was pretty sure I didn’t have swine flu, but I thought the hospital would have a better chance of finding out what was really wrong with me.
The senior nurse returns and asks if I have my car. She tells me she made me an appointment in the emergency room at the Jewish General and that I would be seen right away. I would have to drive straight there. I’m not allowed to stop anywhere and I have to wear my mask. I call home and explain what’s happening to Child Two.
I walk to my car masked and feeling very Japanese but take it off when I sit. I somehow found great parking and put my mask back on and walk into the Jewish. The triage nurse took one look at my form and leads me to a clear-plastic-curtained germ isolation booth. It isn’t really a booth, more like a chair surrounded by short shower curtains and ventilated powerfully enough to keep anything on me from infecting the rest of the hospital. A doctor takes my temperature again and reconfirms my short history and hands me a much more robust mask.
An orderly escorts me to isolation room 27, which is a lot like the patient rooms you see in “House” with one glass wall – smaller, though. A different doctor comes to see me, looking like he’s about to face a case of the plague with a hard plastic face shield and sealed wrists and ankles on his contamination suit. He briefly confirms the info I gave the CLSC and listens to my chest. He explains that the test for swine flu takes about two hours to incubate. He will irrigate my nasal passages, take the liquid, and send it to the lab. If the test is positive, we’ll know I have swine flu, but a negative may be false.
The doctor tells me the procedure might be uncomfortable. The kit is a syringe of liquid attached to a soft plastic tube. He snakes the tube up my right nostril. And up. And up. And up, in excruciating discomfort. I hope you have no idea how horrible that is. It is the second worst medical procedure of my life, after having my toenails ripped off with pliers. I’d easily rather re-experience removal of wisdom teeth, gum surgery, or anything else.
He injects the saline as I’m writhing and I feel it roll down the back of my throat, which means it didn’t go where he wanted it to go because he’s supposed to draw it back into the syringe. He pulls out, sees he missed, and says he’s going to have to try again.
During the second try, also in my right nostril, I have tears streaming down my face, and I am thrashing in the bed, and he doesn’t get enough sample. Failing to hide his frustration, the doctor leaves my room and I hear him ask the nurse to try. I’m in the bathroom feeling terrible. I wasn’t congested before but I am now.
The nurse has me lie down flat instead of inclined upright the way the doctor had me. She tries my right nostril, too, and it feels like she is shoving the biggest gauge needle into my skull. She shoves and shoves against the congestion and finally I just can’t stand it and I rip the tube out of my nose. She is not pleased. I am even less pleased.
I explain that that was far beyond discomfort and ask half-jokingly if they have any IV Valium (which I had when I got my stomach scoped). She seriously tells me no.
It dawns on her that the right nostril is too congested by now and she’ll try the left. I get a little break while she looks for another kit. I spend the respite in the bathroom, nauseated and with my previously mild headache now splitting.
We meet back at my bed and the nurse tries my left nostril. She’s slower and more methodical than the doctor, and it just prolongs the process and gives me ample time to flail around, and she doesn’t retrieve enough. By this time I think she going to call in one or two of the burly orderlies to hold me down but I don’t suggest it.
Without orderlies, she tries my left nostril again. She guides me with breathing exercises, and asks me to hold my breath while she was puts the saline in. I’m good this time – but when she injects the liquid it runs out of my nasal cavity and into my trachea. I cough a fountain of the stuff that flies into the air like a whale spout. The nurse gives me a very curt “You know what? Forget it.” and leaves my room.
Apparently, between the five attempts, they get enough liquid to run the test, because they do send it off to the lab. My waterboarding ends around 5:30 pm. I asked the nurse for Advil for my headache but I get none. I alternate bouts of fitful sleep and listening to the iPod. A second nurse checked on me and also failed to produce Advil when I asked for it. I had neither food nor drink, not even water, and I’d eaten very little that day.
At 8:00 p.m., A nurse woke me to wheel me to radiology for chest x-rays. I asked her for Advil and she told me she’d get me some after the x-rays. On the way back, I ask if we can stop for food and drink and she says she’ll find me some. She says she’ll find out about the Advil, too.
She brings me what food she was able to find, which was two half-bowls of cold carrot soup (meant to be served hot, but fine anyway), two slices of bread, two slices of individually wrapped cheese food, a cup of either canned pears or peaches (couldn’t tell which), and a small vanilla yogurt. She also was nice enough to take my money and bring me back a Diet Pepsi from the vending machine. The food doesn’t sound like much but I wolfed it down. She also brough t me a phone so I could call home again.
At 9:10, the doctor on duty tells me it’s probably not swine flu, but absolute determination can only be made in two days. He says I should go home and spend the next two days there wearing my mask at all times. I look at him and say “That’s great, but when I went to the CLSC this afternoon, it wasn’t because I thought I had swine flu, it was because I feel crappy, my body aches, I’m tired all the time, can’t concentrate, and I have constant headaches. Is there something you can do about that?”
He says, “Oh, you probably have some kind of virus. The only thing to do is wait till you get better.” I didn’t bother asking him for Advil.
I trudge back to my car, drive home with a splitting headache and aching nasal passages (which still hurt as I write this), and finally, at home, take four Advil.
I felt so much worse by the end of this ordeal than I did at the beginning.
…Webs decided he should call the doctor on the ninth day.
I woke up feeling great, so great that I decided to walk the four blocks to the garage that repaired my van’s axle and gave it a tune-up and surrender $1,469 with a smile on my face and a dog by my side.
When I got home, the effort hit me and I’ve been feeling as bad as I have with this whatever since I came down with it. I conked out around 5:00 p.m. and slept two hours but that didn’t help.
I know I promised you faithful readers a torrid tale of chinchilla romance but that will have to wait because today was our first add/drop in our fantasy-baseball Irrational League. I picked tenth, because I finished April in first place. My stats:
.273 batting average (3rd)
38 HR (3rd)
156 RBI (3rd)
15 SB (9th)
3.90 ERA (2nd)
1.29 WHIP (2nd)
9 wins (tied 8th)
18 saves (1st)
That gives me 56.5 points and a lead of two points, down from nine mot too long ago. My only serious injury is Chris Carpenter and to replace him today I picked up Chad Gaudin (and dropped Josh Kinney). I had wanted Joel Pineiro, but he was snagged by the second-place team.
The lack of wins I expected but the lack of stolen bases is disappointing, and the only surplus I have is my three closers. It’s time to talk trade.
I have nothing to report because I’ve spent the last week vegetating in bed.
I feel odd, sick but not sick, flu-y with a flu.
For the past seven days, I’ve lived with a mild tension headache, muscle aches and pains all over, severe fatigue, a bloated feeling, clammy skin, chills, and a slight cough. It feels like a bad cold or flu, but I have no congestion whatsoever. Physically I can get up and move about – it feels like the morning after a hockey game – but mentally I can’t concentrate on anything.
Last night, we all went to Alex’s to play a game and it’s a good thing I played the zombies. I wasn’t in the mood to think much.
We’ve initiated the process of obtaining a new chinchilla, starting from scratch. I’ll write about that next time. My curly tail is limp from only this meagre effort.
Yesterday, we discovered April, our youngest chinchilla, dead of unknown causes. Her left thigh was plucked bare of fur but had no wounds. The only sign of distress on her was fur matted with what looked like snot or chinchilla vomit below her nose and mouth.
I think the fur may have been pulled out by April’s cage-mate and mother, January, in some sort of attempt to get her attention.
We buried her in the pet graveyard under our crabapple.
In case you’re wondering, bare chinchilla skin looks surprisingly human but feels thicker and supple, like a cheek with pores. The skin is whiter than than mine, just about Bjorkish in hue.
Saturday morning saw Houston and much of the US threatened by thunderstorms, as was our flight home. We had a departure scheduled at 12:50 p.m. for a 4:20 p.m. arrival in Cleveland and a flight home to Montreal an hour and a half later.
I checked flight statuses up until we climbed into the car for the trip to the airport. Our intended aircraft was delayed in Phoenix for 37 minutes, Continental’s Web site told me, but should leave Houston on time.
After our hour-long drive through rain, we arrived at our terminal, where the fancy board on the wall told us our flight was delayed two hours. Good thing I’d checked the Web site.
As usual, I had to fail to use the express check-in terminals before waiting 20 minutes to see an agent. Since we nearly always fly between Canada and the US, express check-in terminals almost always opt to ignore us.
Of course, we were going to miss our connection in Cleveland. Laura, the besieged check-in attendant who dealt with me, at first told us we’d only be able to fly home Tuesday, possibly Monday. I politely (I swear) informed her that was not acceptable. She looked and looked for alternatives and came up with two. We could fly to New York and stay overnight Saturday, then fly out Sunday. We could also fly Sunday morning directly to Toronto and on to Montreal at 6:00 p.m.
She pled our case to a Star Chamber on the other end of the phone, but told us the bad news that Continental would not spring for a hotel room in New York. That left us with Toronto, which meant that I’d have to schlep two kids and three pieces of checked luggage through Canadian customs and on to Air Canada for a second check-in. Still, I had little choice. Luckily, upon reserving our seats for the next day, the 4:00 flight from Toronto to Montreal popped up, so we grabbed that instead.
By the time we were organized for Sunday, the airport’s underpasses had flooded. We spent a while trying to get out of the airport without risk of drowning the car. We found a flattish road that would take us out but even on that we had to cross three bodies of foot-deep-plus water flowing so quickly they had whitecaps. My friend Ron Jackson took this photo of his backyard that Saturday afternoon. While the winds weren’t as strong, Houstonians have told me the volume of water was of hurricane proportions.
We got to spend an extra evening in Houston, the first part of which we spent at a backyard barbecue birthday party for my mom’s neighbour. He was turning 43 – my age. About a dozen couples attended, but even the folks around my age seemed so… – well, old to me. I felt completely out of place. I don’t among other friends in my cohort, it was just these people. the wife of the birthday man was a bubbly, giggly 28-year-old, who certainly helped highlight the difference.
I spent an hour at the party, had some great food, then retreated to my mom’s house to make other plans.
Our flight home was as good as can be expected. Air Canada had system trouble with our bags and baggage tags, but the agent eventually resolved the problem by deleting all records of our bags (which took a while to learn how to do) and issuing new tags.
We got home warm and dry.
We went out to a lovely Mexican restaurant called Tampico, a Mexican seafood place we visit every trip.
The snapper, shrimp, and crab legs were excellent as always, but the entertainment put a few exclamation points on our night out.
My brother sat next to me, his wife across from him. Their rambunctious, loud, but cute 18-month-old only child flitted through several seats over the course of the meal.
The kid is a handful at restaurants, if my three experiences with him are a valid sample. He doesn’t appreciate the value of quiet conversation or a place to relax, and why should he at 18 months old?
Let me set the scene for the highlight. My brother’s wife is talking to my mother, who sits to my right. On my left, my brother holds his kid on his lap, facing the table, and bends over as he tries to feed him.
Unfortunately, no one noticed the danger, not even your superdad author. My brother had unwrapped the cutlery from the napkin to get the fork he was using to feed his kid. As the kid squirmed, his hand found the pointy steak knife within reach. He grasped it and, as kids do, he threw his hands up in the air.
His little fist flew up and connected with my brother’s nose, then stabbed him in the face with the knife. My brother reached up and grabbed his nose and eyes, shouting, “Take the baby! Take the baby!”
The baby was took, and we surveyed the damage. My brother had a bloody nose from the blow and luckily the tip of the knife had missed his eye by millimeters.
Whether his father or laptop keyboards, the kid has only succeeded to temporarily incapacitate his victims. He’s got a way to go.
The traditional Haggadah with the red and yellow cover is chock full of rabbinical and Talmudic commentary that’s so boring and, frankly, pointless. Several years ago, Elvi took it upon herself to edit a Haggadah for our family, and it’s a great hit. It covers all the salient points of the holiday, keeps all prayers and parts of the seder, adds songs, but disperses with the tedious debates.
It’s a big hit, and is spreading. Maybe we should publish it….
All that is preamble, really, to Passover 2.0, “Moses is Departing Egypt: A Facebook Haggadah“. It’s a hoot.
Our own departure was ridden with minor plagues, but I weathered them well. We got in the Continental line at Trudeau/Dorval airport and an airline rep for Northwest asked us if we were on the 6:00 a.m. flight to Detroit. I knew we were on a 6:00 flight, but I didn’t know our intermediate destination. He asked us to follow him to the Northwest line. I thought it was odd, since I knew we were flying Continental, but it was 5:00 a.m. and I hadn’t slept at all that night. So we followed him.
Of course, the Northwest system couldn’t find our flight, and neither could the extremely fetching counter lady at the Northwest desk. The original Northwest guy figured out that I’m an idiot and redirected us to the Continental desk, but told us to use the first-class line to avoid the queue.
At the Continental desk, the same fetching lady took care of us, She explained she works for both airlines. It was, however, her first week, possibly day, on the job and it took a while and the help of two other agents to get us checked in. I didn’t mind.
US Customs provided the next delay. A couple two spots ahead of us in the line for our official proved a little too suspicious and the agent (officer?) took a while interviewing them before personally guiding them to the interrogation and strip-search chamber. When it was our turn, he sent us right through without asking to see the pointless permission slip I need to carry to “prove” Elvi allows me to take the kids across the border.
We switched planes in Cleveland, as it turned out, and only had to wait about 37 seconds to board our next flight. THe timing was unusually perfect, but we had one more delay to wait out. About 15 minutes out of Houston, a passenger on our plane fell ill two rows ahead of us. There was a doctor on board, and a nurse, and fortunately the emergency wasn’t too serious. From what I overheard, I suspect the patient was a diabetic with low blood sugar. Upon docking at the gate in Houston, we had to wait for the paramedics to remove the patient before we could debark.
More on this vacation later, perhaps. There’s not much to write about – and that’s a good thing.
Yesterday was the annual six-hour crankfest known as the Irrational League draft. This year’s was a standard draft and I think I did well. My batters are all starters except for the catchers, both of whom are backups, but with a bit of oomph in their swings. I have no Jack Wilsons this year, but Cristian Guzman comes close. Guzman was the only batter pick that made me cringe.
I left Jamie Moyer on the table slightly too long and he was drafted a few spots before I would have grabbed him to complete my pitching staff. Instead I had to go with either Mike Hampton (ugh), Zach Duke (double ugh), or Joel Pineiro (more double ugh). I went with Hampton under the assumption that he has the most chance of being good, even though I think they will all disappoint.
My keepers were Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman, Matt Kemp, and Ryan Ludwick. I wasn’t happy keeping Ludwick, but he was the best option. Now, my team, with my projections….
C: Ramon Castro: .265, 11 HR, 30 RBI
C: Yorvit Torrealba: .260, 5 HR, 35 RBI
1B: Lance Berkman: .300, 30 HR, 90 RBI, 10 SB
2B: Luis Castillo: .275, 40 RBI, 20 SB
SS: JJ Hardy: .275, 25 HR, 90 RBI, 5 SB
3B: Ryan Zimmerman: .295, 25 HR, 100 RBI, 5 SB
CI: Nick Johnson: .295, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 5 SB
MI: Edgar Renteria: .285, 10 HR, 65 RBI, 10 SB
OF: Carlos Beltran: .275, 30 HR, 95 RBI, 20 SB
OF: Ryan Ludwick: .265, 30 HR, 85 RBI, 5 SB
OF: Matt Kemp: .276, 15 HR, 70 RBI, 30 SB
OF: Randy Winn: .285, 10 HR, 60 RBI, 15 SB
OF: Cody Ross: .255, 25 HR, 80 RBI, 5 SB
UT: Cristian Guzman: .290, 10 HR, 65 RBI, 5 SB
UT: Skip Schumaker: .275, 10 HR, 55 RBI, 10 SB
I think the team will reach a .280 average and 255 HRs – probably good for second or third place. I expect to finish near first in RBIs with about 1035. Steals should top 140, which will also rank fairly high, say third or fourth. Figure 33 points in hitting. I have three shortstops for trade bait, although I did last year, too, and no one wanted them.
My pitching is both better and worse than last year. It’s better in that I have three bona fide closers whereas last year I had one, plus a wannabe. My closer choked and lost his job (Manny Corpas) and my wanna be came through. I had better starting pitching last year. This year’s starters are all injury risks, but should be good enough to help we win the rate categories. Wins will donate the fewest points to my score.
SP: Rich Harden: 12 W, 3.25 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
SP: Chris Carpenter: 10 W, 3.55 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
SP: Randy Johnson: 12 W, 3.70 ERA; 1.20 WHIP
SP: Dave Bush: 13 W, 4.15 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
P: Braden Looper: 13 W, 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
P: Mike Hampton: 10 W, 4.50 ERA, 1.40 WHIP
RP: Kevin Gregg: 33 Sv, 3 W, 3.40 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
RP: Heath Bell: 25 Sv, 3 W, 3.00 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
RP: Chad Qualls: 25 Sv, 3 W, 3.80 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
RP: Josh Kinney: 4 Sv, 2 W, 3.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
I figure I’ll end up 85 saves (top three finish), 81 wins (sixth, maybe fifth place), 3.80 ERA (top two), and a WHIP of 1.24 (top two). Split a few hairs and that grosses me another 33 points or so, to give my team an expected 66 points overall – and that total is money in the bank. Of course, the starters’ health has to hold up.
My reserves are OF Matt Holliday (yes!), 1B/2B Jeff Baker, SP/RP Cha Seung Baek, and RP Will Ohman. Impending free agent Holliday is a gamble on next year (I think the A’s will be in the race long enough to keep him the whole year), and the others are all useful plug-ins. Between Schumaker and Baker, the only position at which I’m without a back-up is 3B, and I expect big things from Zimmerman.
I’m more confident this year than I was last year.