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Archive for January 2011

I hate Bell: the sequel

After class Tuesday, I headed back to the Place Alexis Nihon Bell store to exchange the Turbo Stick that wouldn’t work on the iBook for a model that would. Thing is, the staff told me, the Novatel U998 was the only Turbo Stick that would work on a Mac.

Ha ha ha.

I cancelled the contract, returned the hardware, and went down the escalator to the Rogers kiosk. I could have chosen to add the Bell’s version of the Novatel Wireless MiFi 2372 for the same lack of cost, but I was so fed up, I couldn’t think straight – and even if I could think straight, Bell didn’t deserve our business.

Rogers has essentially the exact same plan with their Novatel Wireless MiFi 2372, which is a wireless router that connects to cell phone service. The kiosk in the mall didn’t have any in stock, but the salesman directed me to the Rogers store on St. Catherine, near Peel. As I was signing up for the service, our friend Stuart e-mailed me with links to iBook USB problems. The iBook’s USB permissions tend to go awry with time. A relatively simple software cleanup can fix the issue. By that time, though, I was committed to Rogers.

Now, pardon me while I adjust my knee brace so that it doesn’t cut off feeling to my foot.

Ow ow ow

It’s 4:00 a.m. and my knee is in serious pain.

My knee has been a bit out of sorts over the last year. It was a bit sore at times and would briefly lock up at other times. My mom the orthopedics office manager said I probably had a small tear in the cartilage.

I told my doctor about it last fall and he sent me for X-rays, which showed nothing. Yeah, I would have ordered an MRI, too, but I lived with it.

Yesterday, I lifted my dad from his bed to his wheelchair and later back again. I didn’t feel anything unusual in my knee, but it was the only physical effort of my day. My knee became more painful and a bit stiffer through the evening.

By midnight, my knee was in pain. I remember telling Elvi that it was the first time I would describe the knee as being painful rather than just sore.

I just woke up. I have close to migraine-level pain in my knee now, even at rest. If I move my knee away from the most comfortable 140-degree angle, it hurts more. I can barely walk. I hobbled to the bathroom for ibuprofen and it was excruciating.

I’m supposed to help get my dad to the hospital in a few hours but I’ll be lucky to make it out of the house unaided.

I really don’t need this now.

I hate Bell

Marion and my dad arrived in Montreal Thursday afternoon. I spent most of Thursday arranging things for their arrival and slept over there to help get my dad to his hospital appointments Friday at dawn. I got home Friday around 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, I took Marion to flesh out her necessities. Prepaid cell phone service was going to get expensive, so we got her a Public Mobile phone. Her apartment building is supposed to come with free wireless but the only adequate thing about that is the free part. The signal is so weak, it’s unusable. The building management kindly recognizes that and will take $30 off the rent for renters who get alternate Internet connectivity.

Given the uncertainty of the length of visit and living arrangements, it makes sense for Marion and her old iBook G4 laptop to get mobile Internet rather than wired broadband. And that’s where our story begins….

We went to the Bell store in Place Alexis Nihon (when did it stop being a plaza?). We bought a Turbo Stick (model U998) and a three-year contract (which can be cancelled at any time without penalty thanks to the provincial government). She took the mobile-Internet stick and tried to use the building’s Wi-Fi to download Bell’s Mobile Connect software. Eventually, she succeeded – but she couldn’t get Mobile Connect to detect the Turbo Stick. She spent some time on the phone with tech support, who couldn’t help her to get it to work either.

I went over Monday to check it out and had no more success than she had, so I picked up the laptop and the stick and returned to the Bell store.

Nobody there had any idea what to do so they gave me a phone and dialed Bell tech support. An hour and a half later, tech support was able to figure out what they thought was wrong. We had installed the latest version of Mobile Connect and were trying to use it with an older version of the Turbo Stick. We needed to upgrade the firmware on the stick – but the firmware updater only worked in Windows.

Tech support asked the store employees if they could do it for me, but the employees were locked out from installing software on their computers. Tech support told me I could get it done or get a newer version of the stick at a Bell Product Assistance Centre, the closest one of which was in Plaza Cote-des-Neiges. Off I went, fighting rush-hour traffic to get there before it closed at 6:00 p.m.

I made it by 5:15 p.m. and Ivan the tech heard me explain what I’d been told was wrong. He took the laptop and the Turbo Stick into his back room.

He emerged 20 minutes later, telling me he couldn’t get it to work. I asked if if he had upgraded the firmware. This time, he heard AND listened, because he said he couldn’t do that. I asked if he could exchange the Turbo Stick for a newer version and he said he could sell me a new one, but that I would have to return the old one to the original store.

I admit, I lost it.

I yelled “What fucking bullshit!” and slammed te laptop shut. That wasn’t smart, but I did no damage. I went home, exchanged the computer for Child Three, and headed off to Monday night goalie clinic.

I got back to laptop at 9:30 p.m. I used Elvi’s Windows 7 laptop to update the stick’s firmware. Guess what? That’s right. It still didn’t work in the iBook.

I got back on the phone with tech support. The stick worked in Elvi’s laptop and it worked in my bitchin’ modern iMac, so we could conclude that the problem lies in the iBook. Tech support guessed that its USB ports don’t supply enough current to the Turbo Stick.

Next step in the plan, this afternoon, is to try a different model mobile-Internet device.

ETA 2:00 p.m.

I spoke with the doctor at the MNI on Monday. He had the neuroradiologist analyze the latest CT scan of my dad’s head.

There appear to be lesions on dad’s thalamus (right in the middle of the brain) that may be a lymphoma (cancer). If it’s cancer, it’s brain cancer and not a metastasis from elsewhere in the body. Brain cancers don’t show up in tumour-marker blood tests.

However, there is also a noticeable reduction of edema (swelling) from the November to the January scans. Lymphomas, being tumours, tend to grow and increase swelling. The doctor sais it’s rare that there would be a reduction in swelling with cancer. This reduced swelling is why Dad is doing so much better.

What the Freeport radiologist interpreted as calcification, the MNI doc said, may be deep vein thrombosis in the brain – vein blockages, which can induce stroke-like symptoms.

In sum, the doctor hasn’t reached a firm diagnosis, seemed doubtful that it was cancer, and is dying to get Dad into an MRI.

Dad is arriving via air ambulance tomorrow afternoon. I’ve rented a hospital bed and wheelchair, which will be moved into the rented furnished apartment tomorrow. Dad’s first appointment at the MNO is 7:50 a.m. Friday morning. I’ll be sleeping in the apartment so that I can help in the morning.

All Dad, all the time

I’m kind of a one-trick pony on this blog lately, but my dad’s case is objectively fascinating.

The plan was to get my dad a new CT scan while he was sedated, so he wouldn’t move around so much. We were waiting for a bed to open at the Freeport hospital, because with the sedation, he’d need a bed. The Montreal neurosurgeon recommended we give him lorazepam (Ativan), which is safe and short-acting enough to not require that my dad be an in-patient.

While we waited, my dad continued to improve. He’s eating regular food, cut into small pieces. He is speaking better and more clearly every day and he’s gaining strength. His doctor is pleased with his progress. He asked Dad to do several different things with his hands and fingers, and my dad understood everything he was asked to do. After a few minutes, my dad started to cry. When his wife asked him if he were sad, he held up his index finger and thumb, meaning “a bit”. The doctor asked my dad if he were crying out of happiness and my dad answered yes. He is realizing that he is getting better.

He finally got the CT scans done around 8:00 p.m. last night. He entered the hospital at 2:00 p.m., but the lorazepam didn’t work; he wound up getting a dose of the heavier stuff.

The radiologist there said he didn’t see any lymphoma. He compared the November scans with last night’s and said that the darker areas have gotten lighter and smaller. I’m not sure what that means. In any event, now we wait for the neuroradiologist in Montreal to take a crack at them.

Here’s all the imagery. Feel free to send to whomever, or take a look yourself.

JFK Medical Center, West Palm Beach, July 4, 2010

Rand Memorial Hospital, Freeport, Bahamas, November 15, 2010

Rand Memorial Hospital, Freeport, Bahamas, January 10, 2010

We have a diagnosis, maybe

A consultation with a neurosurgeon at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) led to a neurological radiologist having a look at the the summer’s CT and MRI scans, along with the more recent CT scan. He detected a brain tumour!

That sounds bad, but as far as tumours go, there are plenty worse ones to have. The blood-brain barrier limits the damage it can do.

However, no other radiologist interprets the image to be of a tumour. They see a more prosaic periventricular demyelination, although the MNI radiologist presumably has more skill in this area.

The MNI will accept my dad as a patient – the surgeon calls him a “hot case” – so that is the short-term plan. First, however, we need a better image of my dad’s head. In Freeport, that’s limited to a CT scan, but this time the hospital will sedate him so he doesn’t wiggle. In order to sedate him, he needs to be admitted and we’re waiting for a bed.

We’re looking to buy or rent an electric hospital bed in Montreal so we have it ready when my dad arrives. Does anyone have any leads?

Bonus sarcastic site of the month:

If anyone asks you a question that can be easily answered at Google, reply with a link in the form of this URL: where xxxx is replaced with the question. For example, if someone asks you what time it is in Newfoundland, send them this link:

Unfortunately, doesn’t turn up much.

Every click…
...contributes to world domination.