Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Heart Attack Pt. 1

I hadn't been feeling quite up to snuff for several days. Starting 10 days ago, roughly, I felt a bit off. My energy was lower. I wasn't sick, but I wasn't quite myself. I always felt like something was wrong, but I couldn't put my finger on it. It was like a constant, mild, indigestion, or heartburn, that never quite went away.

We went to a party for one of Stella's classmates Saturday, January 21st, and it was fun. But I was grumpy on the way there, a real crab, more than usual. Once there I hung back, and couldn't really play with Stella or the kids, didn't try to.

Sunday, the 22nd, was more of the same. We went to a playground, and I just didn't feel like doing anything. I didn't feel sick, again, just not good. Not even tired, just annoyed, like I was having my period, or what I imagine my period would feel like if I were to have it. Randi agreed. I was being kind of a pill.

Then Sunday night came, and I had a harder time than usual, I'm an insomniac, getting to sleep. By later Sunday evening I had a mild fever, and couldn't sleep in our bed at all. I had sweat through my pillow, and sheets.

I slept on the couch, and sweat through it as well. I had fitful bouts of brief sleep, maybe 40 minutes at a stretch all night, amidst some chills, and aches in my limbs and joints.

The next day Randi went to work, and I dropped off Stella at school. I came home, and my fever exploded past 102, then past 103. It finally peaked at 103.1. I had barely enough energy to make it down the hallway of our apartment.

I had a pretty disgusting, but thorough, bowel movement, which I thought would make me feel much better. It did not. Uh oh.

Randi came home, and we discussed that I should go to the ER. I didn't want to, but knew of nothing else to do. At 7:30 p.m. last Monday night, a week ago, I went to the ER at Baptist East hospital down the street from our apartment.

I signed in, and they took my vital signs. But then hours passed, as I shivered in all my clothes in the waiting room. Finally past midnight I saw a doctor, and he took cultures from my throat. Randi had said strep was going around her school, so I was convinced this was what I had. My throat hurt a lot, so this only made sense.

After a couple of hours more the diagnosis came back: strep, and a urinary tract infection. The latter of which men almost never get. Just my luck.

I was pumped full of IV fluids, and given prescriptions to fill for antibiotics, and made it home by 3:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, wiped out. I had a strange craving for hot chocolate, which I satisfied. I had just completed a three week "cleanse" with Randi, and having never felt worse, kind of was like, screw it!

I made it to bed by 3:30 a.m., and slept fitfully, only to awake early the next day to drive Stella to school again. I was wiped out, all the way. I dressed her with one eye open, and barely made it to her school.

Then I became worried that I might have something more than strep. I had a breakout on my legs and butt the prior week. It wasn't too big, but over the years I have learned to become concerned about staph infections. I've had them in the past, and even though they never really hurt me I was concerned that it could.

My mild breakout consisted of a few small boils, almost like a rash. I looked up "staph infection" on the Mayo clinic's website, and looked up what can go wrong. When staph goes bad it becomes something called "sepsis" which is blood poisoning. When it gets worse you go into septic shock. And from there, if untreated, you die.

Even by the time it gets to the septic shock stage, even if you do treat it, your odds are not great. Septic shock is no joke.

I looked up the symptoms. They were just like the symptoms for strep: fever, aches, fatigue. But also shivering, which was not a symptom for strep.

Worried, but on the trail, I thought, I called my dermatologist. I would see her Wednesday, the following day. I told the receptionist I was specifically worried about sepsis.

Randi came home with Stella last Tuesday, noting that I had not dressed her appropriately for the weather. It was cold outside and I had put her in some kind of nylon yoga pants that were wide open at the ankle like bell-bottoms. Stella had been cold, as it was in the 30s. Initially I was defensive about it but had to concede Randi had a point. What was I doing, sending Stella out into bad weather dressed for spring. I told Randi I had been worn out from the prior night's ER visit but this wasn't a satisfying reason, for her, or, really, for me. I must've been really out of it, I concluded.

I saw my nurse practitioner dermatologist, the following day, last Wednesday, and told her I was concerned about sepsis. She looked at my legs and determined I probably did have staph. I also told her about my ER visit, and my strep diagnosis.

She prescribed a topical antibiotic ointment, and told me to see her in a week. I asked again about sepsis, and she said that if I did have it there would be no question. I wouldn't really be able, even, to walk into her office. I would know I had it, and it would be very, very bad.

After my new prescription was filled out I applied the antibiotic cream to my legs, hoping it would do the trick. But I knew it would take a few days for any improvement.

Overall, though, I felt better than I had since before going into the ER. The antibiotics must be doing their thing, I thought. I spoke to my mom that night, and told her I was on the mend, though I had been worried about staph. I told her about the ER visit, and she sounded appalled. Why didn't I go to my doctor? If your doctor can't see you in an emergency you have to get another doctor, she concluded.

I didn't love getting second guessed like this, as I am almost 40, but it must've made an impression, as I soon headed her advice.

The following morning, last Thursday, I awoke, feeling alright, not too bad. As I got myself into the car to drive Stella into school my side, where I had a boil, hit the side of the car, and it exploded into pain. I dropped Stella off, and went home, feeling a bit short of breath.

Once inside the apartment the shortness of breath continued. Now it was joined by a feeling of slight pressure on my chest, like someone had placed their palm on my sternum, and pressed down lightly.

I called my doctor, as per Mom's advice. They couldn't see me at all, no space, and told me to go to the ER. I was resentful of them, and didn't go.

Then the pain continued, and, feeling a bit foolish, a bit like Chicken Little, I made my way back to Baptist East. I expected the same four hour wait as last time.

I signed in, and wrote my symptoms were shortness of breath. That's it, I didn't even mention the chest pressure.

This time I was immediately put into a wheelchair, before, it seemed, I could even turn around, it was that fast. They didn't take my vitals, my insurance, nothing, I was quickly wheeled inside, urgently.

From here things moved very fast.

I was put into a room, and my blood pressure and temperature was taken, and they asked me how much pain I was having from 1 to 10. I said 2, but told them about my chest pressure.

Immediately an EKG machine was wheeled in. I thought this was absurd, but they took the reading anyway.

Within five minutes a doctor came back. "Your EKG reading was unusual," he said.

Soon a team of nurses swarmed me, alongside the doctor, whose name I can't remember.

Needles were urgently put into either arm, I was given three baby aspirin to chew, I was given two more big pills, not to chew, that I chewed anyway by mistake, and the room had about 12 people in it, all focused on me.

The needle wouldn't enter my left arm, because it had just been needled so much from my prior ER visit. With no time to waste they put the needle into the back of my left hand.

"Wow, this is how Layne Staley must have felt," I joked. No one laughed.

Within another few moments a second doctor, with a surgical mask entered.

He got on my level and looked me in the eye.

"You are having a heart attack," he said. "We have to operate on you now."

The nurses were still trying to put various things into my arm or take things from my arm, but this new doctor, Dr. Dillon I was to learn later, closed the door on all that.

"No, we have to do this NOW. Let's go."

In other words, he kicked ass.

Srep, a UTI, and now a heart attack? "This really hasn't been my week," I joked to the closest nurse. Again, no laughter. I guess it really isn't the best medicine after all.

As I was wheeled down the hall I was able to call Randi. She had already been called by me when I entered the ER, and was on her way, so I got her voice mail.

I sounded amazingly like myself, I thought.

"Hi babe, it's me. On my way to have them check out my heart. They tell me I am having a heart attack ..."

Here three nurses corrected, in a way that is not so different from when Stella corrects me.

"No, you ARE having a heart attack," they said in unison.

"Okay, I am having a heart attack. I am being well taken care of, and I am sure they will do everything they can. See you soon."

I hung up the phone and realized that, just maybe, my life could very soon be over.

What about all the things I never got to do, I immediately thought. The book I have been working on forever, it will never be finished. Too much time wasted.

But then I thought of all the people in my life. And how I had loved them, and let them know I loved them, and how if I loved you, or cared about you, you knew. I let you know. My life was one of love, and openness, and treating the people that I loved as well as I could as much as I could. And I felt better. In fact, it made me feel not bad at all. It made me feel good, if you can believe it. I love my family, I love my friends, and it's been a good life. I could live with that.

I was asked what the pain was again as I was wheeled into what I suppose is the surgery room. I repeated, about 2. "I thought a heart attack would feel a little different, I guess."

I was told a catheter camera would be inserted to examine my heart.

Oh great, I thought, right up the penis.

I hope they use numbing solution.

In truth the catheter was placed in my wrist, and the observation was over before I knew it had begun. It's a miracle, isn't it.

Quickly they determined that I was NOT, in fact, having a heart attack. The second this was said the tension exited the room, as did most of the people. I was rolled down the hallway. And put into a waiting area.

Here things get a little strange. I can't really remember the next hour or so.

Randi soon saw me, and was terrified. I looked grey, she said. I am sure we hugged, and I told her I loved her. Because I do, and did.

They still didn't know quite what was wrong with me, but we knew, if nothing else, that it wasn't a heart attack. And that was something, you know?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sh*t Jews Say To Other Jews

(My low-tech, all text version of the current meme. All things I've either heard, or said.)

1. Ugh, so hungry! (Only said once a year.)
2. Me? I always tip 20%.
3. But his brother’s a doctor.
4. Hitler? Part Jew. I know!
5. Wait, what's a Methodist?
6. Jesus? Jew.
7. If he existed.
8. Goys.
9. It’s like they think we’re all Woody Allen.
10. His new movie? Pretty good!
11. We marched with them, but now they hate us?
12. I’m disappointed with Obama over Israel. (Substitute any president here.)
13. Israel? Best army in the world!
14. I mean, yeah, I’ll date them, but ...
15. Wait, when’s Chanukah again?
16. Do you spell it with Ch or H?
17. The year? 5770 something?
18. Me not so much, but I have Orthodox family.
19. I’m thinking about being kosher.
20. A glass of milk with meat? Gross.
21. I’ll have the cheeseburger.
22. We used the paper plates.
23. I thought about the Israeli army. In high school.
24. We weren’t rich. Upper-middle class.
25. How about the matinee?
26. Don’t make a scene.
27. Where I grew up was pretty diverse, Jewish and Italian.
28. It’s like if you’re not a doctor, lawyer or Wall Street guy they don’t even look at you. (For the Jewish guys out there.)
29. (While eating a bagel.) You just can't find a good bagel anymore.
30. She was hotter before the nose job.

Why Rick Santorum Can't Win: He's Catholic

Look, I'm sure Rick Santorum, within the sanctuary of his friends and family, is a perfectly lovely guy. In fact, I have nothing against him as a person. It's just that, you know, he's unelectable. I mean, after all, he's Catholic!

I know he probably thinks he was born that way, and there's nothing he can do to change it. Heck, maybe he doesn't even want to change that. But the truth is, being Catholic is a choice, it's a lifestyle. And one rejected by the majority of other God-fearing Americans. Maybe he can be re-educated. After all, has he ever really tried being not Catholic?

After all, I wouldn't want Santorum to face the kind of prejudice that is so rife in this world if you are an aggrieved, long-abused minority, still fighting for equal rights and treatment. It just wouldn't be fair to him.

To prove this point I have culled a long list of horrible, bigoted, anti-Catholic remarks from the Internet. These are actual things people have said in public denouncing Catholicism. I guess we could call these folks Papal-phobes.

I fear the day Santorum should be confronted in public by people spewing hateful statements like these:

1. “Is anyone saying Catholic couples can’t love each other? I love my children. I love my friends, my brother. Heck, I even love my mother-in-law. Should we call these relationships marriage, too?”

2. On Catholic adoption: “A Catholic woman came up to me and said, ‘why are you denying me my right?’ I said, ‘well, because it’s not a right.’ It’s a privilege that society recognizes because society sees intrinsic value to that relationship over any other relationship.”

3. “I certainly would not approve of [a bill moving through the California legislature compels the state to add Catholic history to the state education curriculum], but there’s a logical consequence to the courts injecting themselves in creating rights and people attaching their legislative ideas to those rights that in some respects could logically flow from that. So I’m not surprised.”

4. “I have no problem with Catholicism. I have a problem with Catholic acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional Christian relationships. And that includes a variety of different acts, not just Catholic. I have nothing, absolutely nothing against anyone who’s Catholic. If that’s their orientation, then I accept that. And I have no problem with someone who has other orientations. The question is, do you act upon those orientations? So it’s not the person, it’s the person’s actions. And you have to separate the person from their actions.”

6. “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [Catholic] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything… In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included Catholics. That’s not to pick on Catholicism. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing.”

7. Discussing Catholic marriage: “This is an issue just like 9-11… We didn’t decide we wanted to fight the war on terrorism because we wanted to. It was brought to us. And if not now, when?"

8. “[Catholic marriage] threatens my marriage. It threatens all marriages. It threatens the traditional values of this country.”

9. “I would argue that the Catholic community has not made the argument. They may have made the argument as to why they want it, but they have not made any arguments as to why this is beneficial for society. They have not made any argument – convincing or otherwise, that I’m aware of – as to what the impact would be on normal, Christian marriages and what the impact would be on children …We’re into, in many respects, an unknown territory.”

10. “Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture, ... When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural Catholicism in America, lies at the center of the storm.”

11. "Would the potential attraction to Catholicism by simply having a Catholic in the White House threaten traditional Christianity by leading more Americans to a church that some Christians believe misleadingly calls itself Christian, is an active missionary church, and a dangerous cult?"

12. "I don't want to make Catholic people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money."

Of course the truth is Santorum made all these statements above, only I switched the word "gay" for "Catholic."

It's amazing a guy who is from a minority that was discriminated against so heavily for so long could be so dismissive of equal rights for other minorities. After all, it just a little over 50 years ago that people thought John F. Kennedy wasn't fit to be president because he would be a vassal of the Pope in Rome.

And even today in some of the more isolated, evangelical, parts of this nation they still think that Catholics aren't actually Christians.

Note: Not all the statements above were originally about gays. Number 10 was a slam on secular Boston, where I replaced the word "liberalism" with "Catholicism." Which fit pretty well.

Number 11, was a slam on Mormons, and specifically his opponent Mitt Romney. Sounds a lot like the things people used to say about JFK, right?

And number 12, of course, was originally a blast against black people, and "welfare." Or whatever Santorum imagines welfare to be.

In other news, happy Martin Luther King day Rick!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Steve Jobs, great entrepreneur, failed person

Hi All,
I do realize that Steve Jobs, as a subject, has been beaten into the ground, but I just can't let go of one thing.

I just finished reading the amazing Walter Isaacson biography. It was as good a job as I could have hoped for from any book about such a recently departed icon. And throughout Jobs is a completely captivating figure.

One thing that really stuck out was his complete ability to focus. If he wanted to do something nothing was going to get in his way. He could literally bend heaven and earth. And time and again in the book there are examples of how he was able to move mountains to get his way. To do the impossible, to bend the will of people, institutions, whatever it took. It was one of his defining characteristics.

His feuds were legendary, his successes epic. And it seems that each one of them was accounted for, in some detail, in the book.

Yet there was one area that was deemed so trivial by either Isaacson or Jobs that it wasn't even discussed in the book at all, which shocked me. And that is Apples' long black history as a perpetrator of inhumane working conditions in its Chinese factories.

Not even one mention of this, not even one paragraph.

And yet it is one of the things that defines Apple as a company, and Jobs as a human.

This is amazing, this lack of concern for other people. Jobs was so obsessed with every aspect of production that he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, and wasted hundreds of man hours, making sure the factories where his NeXT machines were built were painted the exact right color.

This he had time for. But there was no time, or concern shown, for the thousands of Apple laborers in China who make those amazing machines that we all love.

Either this was an epic failing of Jobs as a person, Isaacson as a writer, or both.

Look, I know I am not treading on any original ground here. The monologuist Mike Daisy has done more to publicize this issue than I ever could. Yet I still can't go over it.

Jobs was such an obsessed, involved perfectionist that he argued about the placement of a period on a business card for days. He chose the exact shade of blue, from the exactly right stones, for the floors in his Apple stores, and would accept nothing else. He sought to control every aspect of design, and the user's' experience, for his projects. Every single one.

Yet when it came to the working conditions of his factories he just didn't give any sort of good god damn at all. How vexing this is. How inexplicable. How impossible to understand in any way.

Did he not know? Why was he content to cede control of his production in this one area? Why did he not even seem to care even when these things were pointed out to him? Why was Apple so behind the curve time and again, when it was revealed that the working conditions in their factories were so hellish? How could Jobs allow the reputation of his beloved company to be so besmirched, when he, if anyone, could have changed things?

And he if took a stand for things to change for the better he would have gotten his way, because he almost always got his way. Nothing could stop him, except his total lack of a heart for the abused workers, some children, that made his iPods, and iPads.

How could a man who seemed so enlightened fail so hard in this one area that is so important?

Apple workers committed suicide, the conditions were so bad. Why didn't Jobs care? Why didn't Isaacson? Why was Jobs not confronted about these obvious atrocities?

Jobs cared about the user experience with his devices in an intimate way. Why didn't he care about the people who made these devices in any kind of way at all?

And why didn't Isaacson call him on it?