“You should be in heaven right now. It’s a miracle that you’re alive.”

Those are the words that my sister heard this morning, as she sat up in the reclining chair that had replaced her hospital bed, listening to her doctor give his latest assessment. An hour or two before, the ventilator and feeding tube that she had depended on for the last nine days had been removed. Nine days ago, my sister’s oxygen saturation level had dipped as low as the high 30s. Her temperature was over 104. Her blood pressure was 78/44. Her heartrate hovered around 120. However, for the first time in over a week, my sister was able to speak today. Her vital signs were near normal. The two blood clots that had formed in her right arm (near former IV sites) had all but disappeared. Though quite tired, my sister enjoyed the afternoon reclining in her lounge chair, surrounded by family, watching the NASCAR race, one of her biggest passions.

Afterwards, she bid a fond farewell to the nursing staff in ICU. All these people knew her quite well. Unfortunately, the sedatives and paralitics she was on didn’t allow her the same luxury of vice-versa. She was moved out of Intensive Care and into a regular hospital room. A little more recovery and some observation. She may be out of the hospital by the end of the week.

She’s still a little short of breath. She’s quite weak. She doesn’t have much of an appetite. But my sister was presented with the challenge of “Legionnaire’s Pneumonia”. And my sister won.


Hospitals and Healing.

Over the past nine days I have spent a lot of time at the hospital. I’ve gotten to know everyone’s name. I think I’m known as “The Crazy Bald Guy With A Sister in ICU”. I talk with the ladies working in the cafeteria every time I’m down there. I wave a friendly wave to anyone with a stethescope around their neck. As a “Visitor’s Lounge Regular”, I show the old ladies where the bathrooms are and the young guys where the ONE Pepsi machine is located in the hospital (my uncle let me in on the secret a couple of days ago).

It’s amazing the routine one can develop when you’re visiting a loved one in the hospital for several days in a row. At precisely 10:10 a.m., a designated member of the family will go to the cafeteria to scope out the day’s menu. This includes a la carte items and what is available in the ‘Speedline’. (Barbara works the speedline, Kareema works the a la carte and Yvonne runs the register). We go to lunch in two shifts – I opt to eat alone on the second shift when Earl’s out of town.

After two days of elevator rides, I began running the stairs. I like to think that I’m staying a little more healthy by using the stairs, even though I fear my leg muscles are turning to mush from a lack of cycling. I fear I’m scaring the old ladies I’ve directed to the bathroom because I come into the lounge panting.

My sister is doing much, much better today. She’s been conscious since Friday a.m., after they took her off the sedation stuff Thursday morning. Whatever she was on was pretty nasty, as it caused her to have all sorts of horrific hallucinations. She was very relieved to see her family alive and well, despite what her drugged brain was telling her. Today she was strong enough to write notes and gesture as to what she wanted (or didn’t want), including a few flips of the bird. It’s nice to have her back. Tomorrow they plan on taking her off the ventilator and then seeing how she does for a couple of days breathing on her own before she gets shipped down the one of the “regular” hospital rooms.

I have to admit that as she got better, Earl and I have been noticing a little more of the eye candy around the hospital. Nothing too randy or seedy, but enough to be appreciable. There are a few cute male nurses and assistants on the floor.

Spending time in the waiting room with my cousins has struck up some interesting conversations. My cousin Theresa knows how Earl and I met and had our commitment ceremony and all that stuff now. I don’t think the topic ever came up before, and I don’t know that it would ever have. Plus Earl announced my affinity for bear type guys as when my female cousins were ga-ga over one of my Mom’s friends I didn’t even give him a second glance.

Tomorrow we’re back at the hospital for a visit and then on Monday it’s back to my normal routine – with hospital visits in the evening. I wonder if Kareema, Barbara or Yvonne will miss me at lunch time.

1 Comment

Service With A Smile.

With all that’s going on in my life these days, I think I’m getting a little cranky. Here’s two little gems of e-mails I’ve sent this evening.

This one is to ReplayTV, which has two customer support lines that tell you to call the other number.

How do I cancel my account? There are no choices on any of your multitude of phone numbers and quite frankly I don’t have time to mess around with your support and billing lines with the restrictive hours. I’ve sold my ReplayTV, I don’t have it any more but I, for the life of me, can not figure out how to cancel my account.

Please do so immediately and don’t tell me I have to speak with someone personally because that’s not going to happen.

This one is to Rhapsody Music Service, which Best Buy apparently felt I needed, because as a devoted iTunes user, I know I’ve never signed up for this service.

How the hell do I cancel my subscription to this account? I tried to do it through the web interface but I got stuck in an infinite loop that I couldn’t get out of. I tried calling customer support but apparently it’s only available on Tuesday between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. when the moon is full.

Please cancel my account effective immediately. I don’t know where it came from, I didn’t sign up for it and besides I love iTunes.

thank you and have a wonderful day.

These two fine examples of professional correspondence were zipped off after sitting on hold with DirecTV for 26 minutes, only to be told that the customer service center is now closed.

I need sleep.

1 Comment

Guilt Release.

As I’ve been dealing with my sister’s illness and hospital stay, I’ve been having some ridiculous pangs of guilt. Earl is always quick to remind me that guilt is a feeling that comes from within. You can not be made to feel guilty, you have to have the seeds of guilt within you that get stirred up by something (like a really good guilt trip, I suppose) and THEN you feel guilty.

I think my seeds of guilt have been overwatered or something.

I started out this morning with the routine I’ve been following all week… jump out of bed, feed Tom, check e-mail, let Tom out, shower, shave, brush my teeth, let Tom in and off to the hospital.

I felt guilty because my e-mail Inbox is rather full and I haven’t answered any of my messages in about a week. I also had two ebay auction items that needed to be boxed up and shipped out, but I hadn’t gotten around to those either.

Last night as I was driving home from the hospital, I vowed that I would package everything up and get it off to UPS. But then I started reading my daily dose of blogs, including BS and his cute boyfriend and I got sidetracked by the internet. It’s amazing how hyperlinks and a little dose of Google can follow my very odd train of thought. Dave’s cute boyfriend -> nice mustache -> sales on Mach III blades? -> sales at Price Chopper -> new Price Chopper store format -> new blog template. I feel guilty for being so scattered brained.

When I got home tonight, the garbage cans were rolling around in the street, Tom was very hungry and a week’s worth of unopened mail sat on the counter. And then today I called off the rest of the week from work so I could be with my sister in the hospital. I got a double dose of guilt on that one… feeling guilty for calling into my new place of employment and feeling guilty for feeling guilty about work when I should be with my sister. Ugh. At least I mustered up the energy to re-rinse the laundry (again) and get the UPS shipments ready.

Now I’ve just realized that I did not call Earl at 10:00 p.m. as planned this evening. I know he’ll be understanding, but I know I’ll feel guilty.

So tomorrow morning, I’ve decided that I’m not going to be guilty about anything anymore. After all, it’s a feeling from within, right? Whatever happens, happens.

Now if I could just stop feeling guilty about rambling in my blog tonight.

A Break in the Routine.

This week has been rather strange. It’s been very busy, but I haven’t been to work, except for five minutes early on Monday morning. I had to let them know that I would be taking some time off because of my sister being in the hospital. It was sort of strange, as Earl and I spent the entire weekend at the hospital with my sister, then, there I was at work asking for time off when I’ve only worked there for four weeks. And I think I’m going to need the rest of the week off, which is going to be very odd because, again, I’ve only been there four weeks.

My sister is coming along slowly but surely in her recovery. She is still in intensive care and her condition is still rated as “critical” but she is doing much better. They finally figured out what she has. She has pneumonia courtesy of a friendly little bacteria called Legionella. Legionella sounds rather creepy, doesn’t it? Almost like a disliked character on Bewitched or something equally supernatural. Uh oh, here comes Legionella.

Legionella usually brings on the infamous Legionnaire’s Disease. However, if she’s in a cranky mood (isn’t it funny that I’ve decided Legionella is a _she_), she’ll hang out in air conditioner condensation drip or other fun water sources and then jump into an unsuspecting person and give them a near-deadly form of pneumonia.

My sister’s vital signs are stablizing, and she’s getting weaned off of her ventilator but very, very slowly. Her blood pressure is somewhat normal without a med assist. That’s good news. She’s taking baby steps towards her recovery, but it’s going to be a long road. I’m glad that I can help in any way that I can.

Earl had to go to Ohio to tend to business, so it’s basically been me keeping down the fort and trotting back and forth to Syracuse to go to the hospital for the day. The hospital staff has been really, really nice, except for one respiratory specialist I call Creepella (maybe she’s related to Legionella somehow). She doesn’t have much of a bedside manner. I suspect it’s because no one is in bed with her and she’s just plain frigid, but we can’t hold that against her. Her primary concern, like everyone’s, is my sister’s well being and we will just have to save the little speech about being nice to the patient’s family (and more importantly, the patient) for another time. I’ve made it a point to speak with everyone that’s anyone and to call everyone by their first name. I don’t know why I’m doing that, but it’s making me feel better. Usually I just address someone without a name. Sometimes a rude “hey you”. I’ve even been striking up conversation with the cafeteria staff and know from first hand conversation that the lovely kitchen lady named Barbara with the really tight hairnet makes 75 salads every day and then wraps up 75 slices of cake with saran wrap. I think she thinks I’m weird, but that’s o.k., because I am.

So now I have this new routine that involves getting up as if I’m going to work and then heading to Syracuse. Thank God for Sirius satellite radio, especially Sirius Out Q 149 (all gay channel). I battle for a spot in the parking garage, then I hang out in the ICU lounge, where I pick lint off my shirt, read the newspaper five to seven times and visit with my sister frequently. Sometimes I eat pistachio nuts and relive old department store names with my cousin or Thruway road construction details with my uncle. I also ask a million and one questions of anyone that looks like they could be important medically. I remember vital signs to relay to other family members, question the purpose of medication and worry about things like bowel movements, fevers, Ensure and the purpose of latex gloves. I make many cell phone calls to keep others informed of the situation. I show other hospital visitors how to use the lounge computer. I check on the hospital master clock system to make sure everything is working correctly.

Sure, the routine is hectic. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. As long as I have a healthy sister when it’s all done.

Families, Friends and Hospitals

My sister is currently in intensive care with a really, really, really bad case of pneumonia. Where she got it or what exactly caused it is anyone’s guess. She’s currently on a ventilator with all sorts of tubes serving all sorts of functions. She’s in an induced coma.

I’ve seen more family and friends over the past 72 hours than you can shake a stick at. Jennifer was in very bad shape Friday and Saturday, but last night she showed marked improvement, and while she’s not out of the woods yet, by any means, she is looking out through the trees.

I am so encouraged by the love and prayers shown by all sides of our family and all her friends.

It has not been an easy path the past couple of days, and it will continue to be a struggle on the road ahead. But she’s a healthy young woman, and with help from the outstanding group of doctors and medical professionals, she will pull through this. It’s just going to take some time.


With election season in full swing, I suppose I should be getting my underwear in a knot about this whole presidential election. But honestly I can’t find any passion within me about the whole affair. I do know that Bush Lite is not the answer. I’ve always found him to be a self-rightious, insensitive, stuttering, stammering fool, full of hate and masking it with religious beliefs. I think he’s the type that’s had sand kicked in his face too many times by the bullies on the beach and now he’s off to the show the world that he’s not a weakling, and he’s to be respected because he’s all powerful. Whatever.

Then there’s John Kerry. As a Democrat, I believe in much of what John Kerry believes in. I think he’ll make a good, or even a great president, but I don’t think he’ll make an outstanding president. There’s something missing from the equation, but I can’t put my finger on it. I will give you that I think he’d do better than Bush Lite. Good gravy, anything is better than Bush Lite.

I find it humorous that Bush Lite is constantly bringing his religious beliefs into the picture. “Abortion is wrong.” “Marriage is between a man and a woman.” One thing I can not stand about Bible beaters is that they insist on beating you over the head with their beliefs. “I’m right, I’m right, I’m right, I’m right, you’re wrong, you must stop, you’re going to hell.” Well if I’m going to hell (which, by the way, I do not believe or even believe in), then why waste your time on me? Yes, I believe abortion is wrong. But I believe that every woman has the right to make the choice for herself. Quite frankly, it’s none of the government’s business. And no, I don’t believe marriage is exclusively for the love between a man and a woman. But then again, I believe that two people in love, regardless of race, gender, whatever, can have a union far stronger than anything the government deems a “marriage”. Our ancestors came to this country to escape religious tyranny. Isn’t it ironic that our government could now be accused of the same?

I could be totally superficial and just vote for the cute one. But, there really isn’t a cute one running for President. Bush Lite is one step shy of drool running down his chin, and Kerry’s eyebrows are a little too plucked for my tastes (did he get a face lift or something?). I do find John Edwards to be quite attractive, but then again, I didn’t find anything wrong with Dan Quayle’s looks either and look at that mess. So that theory is shot.

I kind of wish Bill Clinton was back running for President. The world seemed to be a happier place when he was in the White House. Granted, it was before September 11th, the war or terrorism and all that, but people’s spirits were higher. Now everyone is running around scared, people are dying in Iraq, the economy is going down the crapper and the public in general just seems depressed. Like there’s a big cloud of gloom. I have an uneasy feeling about the months ahead. I hope I’m wrong.

I just can’t wait for this election to be over with. Even with the worse outcome, at least it marks being half way through Bush Lite’s term as President.

I Fought The Law, And The Law Won.

Earl and I decided to kick off the Labor Day weekend with a trip to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Having received my new Apple PowerMac G4 533 on Friday (much to my surprise), I wanted to visit the Apple store for some accessories, plus we thought we’d hit the newish casino on the American side of the falls.

After a costly visit to the Apple store, we headed up Interstate 190 to Niagara Falls. About two miles from the Canadian border, traffic came to a screeching halt. Even though we were staying on the American side of the falls, we needed to go to the very last exit on I-190 to get on Route 104 and head into downtown Niagara Falls. Anyways, after sitting in a traffic about 10 minutes, I watched an SUV behind me do a quick U-turn by crossing over the grassy median between the two roadways of the interstate. Since we were in the Jeep, I thought that would be a GREAT way to get out of the traffic jam and to find an alternate route.

The cop down the road from me didn’t agree.

Ms. SUV sped up and made a quick turn, leaving me with Mr. Friendly State Police. Strike 1. Long story short, I got a ticket for making an unlawful U-turn.

Later, after some gambling and a typical casino buffet, Earl and I hit the road home. As we were crossing over the first Grand Island bridge, I noticed that we were very low on gas. Not a problem, I’d simply get off at the next exit that indicated there were gas stations nearby. We exited at the next exit, which said there was gas, but simply dumped us in the middle of nowhere. I decided to follow my instincts and turned right onto a main drag looking side road, since turning left would have dumped us into the Niagara River. I cruised along at 45 (the posted speed) and headed towards a retail looking area. I noted the cop following me since we exited I-190 and made sure I maintained a speed of 45 MPH. As we got to the retail plazas, I started to turn into the first gas station, which I then noticed was boarded up (even though the street lights were on). So then I proceeded through an intersection and, not being familiar with the area, began to make a quick right into the next gas station. Without using my turn signal to change lanes.

Mr. Friendly Cop #2 flipped on his lights instead. He was suspicious that I had exited I-190 in the middle of nowhere with an out of town vehicle. He was always not pleased with me crossing the white line without using my turn signals. And, apparently when I was horsing around with Earl right after we exited 190 (I was grabbing for his chest if you must know), I did a little swerve that apparently frightened a pedestrian. I didn’t even see a pedestrian. But Mr. Cop told me that it would have been a big mess if I had hit the pedestrian. Apparently Earl had seen her and later told me that she was quite large, but I wasn’t really that close to her.

He asked if I had been drinking and why I was driving around the island. I showed him my gas gauge (being near empty) and told him that I had followed the gas signs from I-190 and they led to nowhere. He ran our plates and my license and then sent me on my way, telling me to be careful.

The moral of the story? Go to the Apple store in Albany. And go to a casino far away from the Canadian border. And don’t hit the fat lady.

The Inevitable.

Five years ago, I would have never guessed that I would switch over to their side. At the mall they were displaying themselves in the window of their new hideout. I scoffed at them. I called them freaks. Easy. Eye Candy. Nothing but a toy for a fool’s pleasure.

Naturally, I was talking about a Mac.

This morning, I jumped over to the Mac side. Now those who have followed my blog for a while will know that I’ve dreamed about getting a Mac. A brand new, shinny, spiffin’ latest incarnation of a PowerMac.

I lied.

Today I purchased a refurbished PowerMac G4 533mhz system with 256MB of RAM. It’s already on the truck and on its way. It’ll be here in a week. I am so excited about the newest baby joining the family. He’s already been dubbed Macwarrior. He’ll get a little boost with more RAM when he arrives. And I’m sure I can find a few toys to dress him up a bit, especially after we browse the Apple store.

Yes, I did want the latest and greatest, especially since the really cool looking G5s were announced by Apple yesterday. But do I really NEED the latest and greatest? Of course I don’t. Why spend thousands upon thousands of dollars when I’m would end up using maybe a quarter of the system’s capabilities? I’ll grow into that someday, but for now, Macwarrior will do just fine for me.

Five years ago, I wasn’t a big Mac fan. I thought my capabilities were lightyears beyond anything a Mac could provide me. I was wrong. There was no challenge in using a Mac. The blasted thing even smiled at you! Hackers don’t get smiled at? They get blinked at by a stark cursor at a command prompt. They type in commands like ‘ps aux | grep fetchass’. Well now I can have my cake and eat it too. I’m ready to play in Mac OS X land. I’ve had my Linux box wearing a Mac OS X costume for quite a while. And I haven’t booted into Windows XP in weeks.

I never thought I would see the day that our house would become a Mac only zone. That day arrives next Wednesday.

Anyone want to buy a souped up HP?

How To Succeed In Business With Mom and Dad’s Help.

As I was returning to work today after a wonderful lunch with Earl, I daydreamed for a moment about work and how I’m doing. I consider myself to be pretty successful career-wise, and as I embark on this new challenge of my job it makes me re-evaluate my skills and basic business know how. I owe a good chunk of my basic skills to my folks.

For one thing, I’m a really, really, really good typist. Not to sound wildly cocky, but I’ve come across maybe a handful of people that can type faster and more accurately than myself. That’s my Mom’s fault. When I was six or seven, the little geek in me became very intrigued by her Royal manual typewriter. I would type away, banging on the keys with my fingers and hope for the best. My Mom said that if I’m going to play with her typewriter, I was going to do it the right way, and pretty much taught me to use the correct fingers while I was typing. The first time I used an electric typewriter in fifth grade, I flew along and astounded those around me. Teachers trusted me, in my elementary school years no less, to type their ditto masters, because I could do it quickly and without errors, because if you made a mistake on the ditto master, you had to scrap it and start over. To this day I can type along while chatting with Earl and not miss a beat. I owe that ability to my Mom.

Another business skill I think I’m pretty good at is my telephone etiquette. Again, that’s my Mom’s fault. My Mom was a telphone operator for good ol’ Ma Bell in the mid 1960s and to this day has a telephone voice and manner that rivals few. She taught my sister and me to speak politely to the operator when she asked for our phone number when we dialed long distance (Yes, we had a party line where you had to give your phone number so they knew who to bill). She taught us to speak directly into the phone and to listen carefully and respond kindly, in a pleasant voice, because the person on the other end of the line couldn’t see you. While I’ve waivered from time to time while in a heated discussion (especially in my previous job), I like to think that I maintain that manner to this day.

My Dad had his hand in my business upbringing as well. My father’s side of the family owns a hardware/lumber store and contracting business. I worked there in my teen years, and before I was an official employee, I often tagged along in the summer to hang out with everyone. My Dad taught me that when you’re part of a company, it’s never “I”, it’s always “we”. “What can WE do for you today.” “PVC pipe? WE have four different sizes to choose from.” “OUR contractors are the best in the business.” When you’re dealing with the public, you are a representative of the whole “we”. The customer is not dealing with me, he’s dealing with US. A team, while they may disagree amongst themselves, are united when dealing with a potential customer. I firmly believe that those that succeed in business think in the “we”, not the “me”.

Since high school, I’ve accumulated many skills that has put me where I am today. I still continue to learn on a daily basis, from those I work with and those I love. But I like to think that Mom and Dad laid a pretty good foundation.