Tuesday, December 26, 2006

James Brown - Sex Machine

The Godfather of Soul has left the building. Check out this clip from sometime in the 1970s to savor the magic of James Brown live - four minutes of hard, tight funk, two breaks, at least three rhythm changes, and he just looks meaner than hell with that moustache. James Brown is tearing up the clubs in Heaven tonight.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Word of the Day: Croupy

He had had a runny nose for the last couple of days, so we weren't surprised when he started coughing Wednesday night. But his coughs sounded harsher and rougher than usual, and he was wheezing. He was gasping for air, and he made these horrible strangled sounds as he struggled to draw breaths.

"He's never sounded like that before," R said at some point during the night. Neither of us was sleeping well, listening to him cough and rasp and try to breathe.

We all got up in the middle of the night because he was wide awake, crying in misery, and besides, he had to have his diaper changed. (Toddlers hardly ever poo in their diapers overnight, but when they do, you don't want them sleeping in it.) He sounded ragged and raspy, and both of us were worried. I suggested giving him cough medicine, which he fought viciously. I called the overnight consulting nurse at our local clinic , and left a message, expecting a call back shortly. After all, breathing problems seemed like a fairly urgent priority. Then R went to lay down with Oliver in the bedroom while I slept on the couch, waiting for the call.

At some point, Oliver and R came back out, and he was sobbing, making pitiful weak mewling sounds. I held him for a minute, and he curled against my chest while I rocked him in my arms. He fell asleep for a few minutes, then woke up, miserable. R tried to get him back to sleep by nursing him, by rocking, any way she could, all to no avail.

By 6:30 the nurse still hadn't called back, so we decided to consult Dr. Google. I found a website that suggested several frightening causes for his breathing problems: pneumonia, RSV, croup, and others too terrifying to even recount. The barking cough sounded like the cough described for croup, but neither of us were certain at all. We just knew it was bad. We threw on a coat over Oliver's pajamas and put slippers on his bare feet, and headed to the emergency room.

Oliver started to perk up on the way to the ER, strangely enough. But as we were giving our insurance information to the registration staff, he barked out a couple of coughs and she nodded and said, "that sounds like croup." Croup is a swelling of the voice box (larynx) and trachea, and the barking cough and strangled cries are classic symptoms of croup. The term "croupy" entered our vocabulary at that moment, as did "stridor," which refers to the stranged wheezing breaths we heard for most of the night.

They checked his temperature. Then, with an odd little strap attached to his toe, they checked his oxygen saturation and were pleased with the result - he was still breathing well enough. We didn't have to wait long before we were sent back to exam room 9. There, we undressed Oliver down to his diaper and put him in a toddler-size hospital johnny with Sesame Street characters on it.

Mercifully, we saw a nurse and then a doctor in short order. They asked questions, listened to his chest, and disagreed about whether or not he was actually wheezing. After the doctor and nurse agreed on the diagnosis, they sent him to get a chest x-ray as a double-check.

Now, when adults get an x-ray, they know what happens. You lay down on a table, turn this way and that, and generally do what's required without much fuss. But a sick baby who's barely slept is not a good candidate for x-rays, especially with an x-ray tech who had obviously had little experience with children. I put on the heaviest apron in the world and stood next to Oliver while he sat on a stool, his back against a platform, while the tech gave preposterous instructions. "If he can just sit back a little bit ... maybe if he can turn his body straight ... okay, now I'm going to need you to hold both his hands up..." All this while tears and snot are streaming my little boy's face. We took two x-rays - I thought we were done - and then he decided we needed two more. He called in R for reinforcements, gave her a leaded apron of her own, and the two of us tried to gyrate our baby while he wept and wept and wailed and wailed. Finally, after 4 x-rays, the fiend dismissed us from the x-ray chamber of horrors.

We went back to exam room 9. The nurse came in and announced they would be giving him a dose of Decadron, a steroid to bring down the swelling in his larynx and trachea. "This isn't flavored, and it tastes really bad," the nurse explained, and suggested getting some apple juice ready to chase down the awful medicine. She pulled out an eyedropper the size of my thumb and prepared a massive dose, and then somehow got it down Oliver's gullet, despite his furious head-shaking and thrashing. The nurse suggested that he might have to be admitted for a day or two to get his breathing under control.

Shortly thereafter, the doctor came back in. He started talking about what we would do once we went home with him. He didn't want to admit Oliver, and we were grateful for that. Just seeing the emergency room was bad enough - staying overnight in a hospital, four days before Christmas, was just unthinkable.

A respiratory tech came in soon and hooked up a cool mist for Oliver to breathe. He offered a clear child's breathing mask (complete with funny eyes and nose) and asked if he would wear it. We both thought it wasn't likely, so R just held the hose near Oliver's mouth so he could breathe in the mist.

We waited for the medicine to kick in, and for the mist to help his breathing. Oliver kept trying to nurse when the room was empty, and fell asleep once or twice while his mother nursed him. I fell asleep at some point while we waited, sitting upright in a chair.

Finally, we were given the all-clear by the doctor. He called the clinic that normally saw Oliver and explained the situation, and told us to see our doctor the next day. "Tell them you were in the ED, and that I told you to get a follow-up. That'll get you to the front of the line. You know how it is." The doctor had a child about a year older than Oliver. The nurse had a biracial son nearly Oliver's age. She showed us pictures. Everyone on the staff was kind as possible, and took a liking to our little boy.

We drove home at 10:30, delirious, tired, emotionally wrecked, and starving. We picked up bad fast food on the way home and scarfed it down. Oliver fell asleep in the back of the car and let me carry him up four flights of stairs without waking up. (Note: our elevator was still out of commission from the sudden blackout of the day before. See previous post.) I laid him on the bed, wearing his big winter coat, his slippers, and pajamas. He slept for hours with hardly a motion. We both slept, too, while he was down. We were all exhausted from the ordeal of his first ER visit, right on the heels of the power outage and everything else that had happened that week.

Lights On

We got our power back on Tuesday, and I'm sorry I forgot to mention it. However, I'm still fairly convinced that all five of my readers live in Woodinville and North Bend, so you probably just got your power back five minutes ago.

Actually, to be fair, we got our power back Tuesday afternoon, and then, just for kicks, we lost it again Wednesday afternoon for a couple of hours. We had decided that if the power didn't come back, we'd head to Oregon a day early. Then, suddenly, the lights came back on! And then, the next day, ka-phlooey! And I rushed home from work, prepared to pack like a madman and drive to Oregon that night.

And then, double ka-phlooey! (Note: my spell check does not recognize "ka-phlooey" as a word. Stupid spell check.) Power snapped back on, and instead, I came home to hang with our kid and my beautiful wife, both of whom were coming down with some sort of cold.

And then things got interesting. And by "interesting," I mean "scary and miserable and icky." I'll tell you why in the next post.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Still Dark

It's been 84 hours and counting. I'm sick of counting the hours, and sleeping in a hotel room that's too small for the three of us. (R and Oliver are sleeping in one queen-size bed, and I'm over in the other. I miss sleeping next to my wife.)

Were we prepared for this storm? Nope. We only owned one flashlight. We didn't have firewood (we have a fireplace that I haven't used in a year, because of the toddler roaming our house). But we've been out of power for three and half days - how do you prepare for that?! In a major city? I'm not in the wilderness or anything - there's three coffee shops within walking distance of our house, and a grocery store on the corner. We shouldn't be still out of power. Now I'm just getting irritated. The trees that fell early Friday morning are still on the ground. The power lines that fell in the street are still there.

From David Goldstein at Horse's Ass:

No doubt I was woefully unprepared for a prolonged power outage, but then again, I live in the middle of a fucking city, so I wasn’t expecting one barring a major disaster. Sure, we’ve got some rugged country around here, and we expect blackouts from downed trees and such. But not in-city. If this is what happens after a windstorm, imagine what it’s going to be like after a major earthquake?
Yes, yes, and yes to everything he said. I want my damn power back on, people.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Let It Blow, Let It Blow, Let It Blow

I'm not going to write much now, for fear the clacking keys will wake up Oliver. We're alive. We're all okay, but our power's been out since 1 am Friday morning. We've decamped to a Best Western in downtown Seattle, so we have heat and running water and all the amenities thereof. (Bonus: free wi-fi!) We were one of the lucky ones - most of the hotels that still have power are full up right now and are turning people away.

Over a million people lost power in our area Thursday and Friday. Some won't have the lights back on for days. Maybe as long as a week.

There are downed trees all around our neighborhood, including one gigantic tree that crashed down on someone's front yard and exploded, apparently, and took down at least one utility pole with it. We're not far from the section of Fauntleroy Way that's been closed for the last two days.

The windstorm on Thursday night was one of the most frightening things I have ever seen in my life. I've never been so afraid of the weather before. I've seen wind, I've seen rain, I've seen lightning. I've never seen anything like that.

We're hopeful to have power back tomorrow, so we can go home to our nice warm beds. But we're grateful to have warmth and a roof over our heads. It could have been much worse.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?

Our Christmas tree went up last weekend, and Oliver had a key role in decorating it. Look at all the work this kid was doing.

First, he strung all the lights...

Then he had to find the perfect place for each and every ornament...

"Hmm. Not quite right."

And finally, he's done. Behold the masterpiece.

Who you calling a platypus?

I was searching for something on the hilarious Defective Yeti blog, or so I thought. I hit the "go" button after entering my search term, and I was transported into a quiz on what kind of venomous egg-laying mammal I might be.

As it happens, I'm a platypus.

Are there other venomous egg-laying mammals out there? and who knew platypi were venomous? I have a newfound respect for them (although mostly, that's fear).

Seriously, go try it yourself. Maybe I hallucinated the whole thing.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

James Kim

I never met James Kim, but I've been following his family's plight for days, since I first logged into CNET (to look for laptop recommendations) and noticed the news item in the corner. I was crushed this afternoon when I read that his body had been recovered, eleven days after his family first left Portland.

How many parents can see themselves in the eyes of James and Kati Kim? How many of us shuddered as we read about Kati nursing the children once the food ran out in order to keep them alive? About them burning the tires of their car for heat? About the items of clothing James left so he could be found? He sounded so strong and so resilient, and we all hoped and prayed that he would be found alive, waving at a helicopter with a grin on his face.

One of his daughters shares the name of our niece in Oregon. It was a small tidbit that made the story hit harder.

He was near my age, a man in his mid-thirties with young children. I saw myself in him. I could imagine all too clearly falling into the dire circumstances that befell them. It was a simple series of mistakes.

Kati Kim told officers they were traveling south from Portland on Interstate 5 and missed the turnoff to a state highway, Oregon 42, that leads through the Coast Range to Gold Beach, where they planned to stay at a resort.

After leaving Portland on Interstate 5, search leaders said, the couple missed a turnoff that leads to the coast and took a wrong turn on a twisty mountain road they chose as an alternative.
I can imagine doing this. A wrong turn, a poor choice of a road that goes from bad to impassable. Sure. I can see this. And suddenly there we are, trapped in the car, scrambling to find food, huddling together for warmth.

When I was a kid, I read one of those stories in Reader's Digest about families ending up in unthinkable situations and making their way back to civilization. This one was about a family whose car broke down in the desert. They sucked cactus leaves for the moisture, I remember. They rubbed aloe on their bodies to cool their sunburns. But they made it home safely, to live and write about their experience.

We're driving to Oregon this Christmas. I'm repacking our emergency kit with food, warmer blankets, a flashlight. I don't ever want to be trapped like the Kim family. I know that I would do everything to save my wife and my child, but I'm just not confident I could be as ingenuous or as creative as James and Kati were. I don't ever want to find out.