Sunday, January 29, 2012

SIRI - Absolutely, Positively Wrong the First Time

"Siri, call my wife"
I'm talking to my new iPhone 4S with the much-discussed Apple™ SIRI, personal assistant.
SIRI: I don't know who that is.
Of course. I'm supposed to define who my wife is.
"Siri, my wife is Darling."
There's a long pause on that one, so I know SIRI was listening intently and ruminating over a response that will make me deliriously happy. That's what Steve Jobs promised me.
SIRI: I don't know who you are.
I'm crushed. I don't even listen to the detailed instructions on how to define relationships by hand.

The other night I was half-asleep and it occurred to me that I needed to send a text to my youngest son. I don't need my glasses. I can get Siri to help me.
Hold the button. Little chimes.
"Send memo."
"I have found four memos in your immediate area."
Wow. Are they running loose? Do the owners know they got away? Is there a store for buying memos?

"Siri, who are you?"
SIRI: I am your personal digital assistant.
"Siri, tell me a joke."
SIRI: I am not good at punch lines.
"Siri, I really like you."
SIRI: I have heard that before.
Oh my. Was Siri jilted by a previous owner?

Maybe that's why Siri doesn't know who I am. Maybe that's a good thing.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Religious, Religion, Church and Jesus

My brother sent me a link the other day to a YouTube video of a poem titled Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus.

In order to discuss this issue with any clarity, we need to set some definitions, create some boundary conditions, as we used to say in Math class. These are topics which often cause a lot of irrational, hostile and belligerent discussions.
At first glance at the topic of this video I was offended. First of all I don't want anyone attacking my church. Then I watched it. I watched it twice.
A lot of people won't even listen to this video because of the title. They are instantly offended and think it is anti-Christian.
So let's get some definitions out of the way. I'll start with the easy one: Jesus. Jesus, often given His title of Christ as a surname, refers to the Messiah Jesus Christ of the Bible's New Testament. According to Wikipedia (go donate now!) "Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, written around 93-94 AD, includes two references to Jesus in Books 18 and 20." So let's agree that Jesus, called the Christ, existed in the early AD years, and that's who we refer to.
In my case, Jesus is more than just a name, more than just an historical person, He is the incarnate God Almighty, YHWH come to earth. He died for my sins and offered me eternal life with Him, an offer I eagerly accepted as a teen and grew to understand more fully as an adult. But for our discussion, we don't even need to have that much understanding of who He is. I might put a comment in on that later.
Religion is defined ( as "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs." For our purposes, this will suffice, though it's a bit pedantic. It's all that stuff them folks get together to talk about on church day. How about that?
Religious is a seemingly innocuous word simply meaning the characteristics of a particular religion. Without a noun attached this word has little purpose. A religious cause, a religious war, a religious town, a religious person - now the subtle connotations evoke visceral feelings. More on this one in the discussion.
What is Church? That's a little tougher. I grew up as a Catholic, raised by a mother who was raised Baptist and became Catholic as an adult. After her divorce the Catholic CHURCH tossed her aside (so she felt) and she became a Lutheran. After my first divorce I became a Methodist, because it was an easy choice for me and they still love Jesus. After my second divorce I became a Baptist, not because of the denomination but because of the people in the specific church itself. Many of the individuals, through their kindness and tender care saved me by helping me get through a really bad time.
I later found out that my Mother was broken-hearted, but she felt much better after meeting so many of the fine people who were part of the Baptist church I belonged to.
But these are denominations. Is that what we mean by CHURCH? Do we mean denominations? Or do we mean, as I often use the term, the entire population of good-hearted, god-fearing, Jesus-loving Christian believers, regardless of denomination?
Perhaps it would be more appropriate to define these terms as used by the poet, Jefferson, in the link. So I'll do my best. Jesus is the same person to Jefferson as He is to me. When Jefferson refers to religion, he means it as the definition indicates, as a set of beliefs shared by a group of people, excluding him. The term religious is used negatively by Jefferson; I think of it that way also when I think of the Crusades as a religious war. When Jefferson refers to Church, I'm still a little baffled. He says he loves his Bible, love the church and loves Jesus, yet at other times indicates that the church religion is simply bad news. I think he mixes the use of the word. I'll try to clarify when I discuss the video.
That's a lot of text to jump in and say that Jefferson's video/poem doesn't offend me after listening to it. The title of the video will put people off and people will skip the video because of it. As my mother would say, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
It did make me think, but Jefferson didn't change my mind about religion or Jesus. Raised a Catholic, I've always had a problem with the authoritative stance of the Catholic hierarchy. I'm cautious of many religious leaders who proclaim they know the secret to entering heaven or, as many likely advertise today, the secret to health, wealth and happiness as a Christian on Earth. There is no secret, people! There's this little book you can get almost anywhere, in almost any language, which explains the Christ-centered point of view and it spells it all out.
People are sinners. You doubt it? Check your thoughts. Think about what you thought when that guy cut you off in traffic.
From a Christian perspective (which is my perspective):

1. God loves us (anyway)

2. God became a man, Jesus, and He died to pay the price for our inevitable sins

3. Because of that payment God can offer the gift of eternal life to every man, woman and child on Earth, which is why He did it

4. Eternal life is a gift, but you need to accept it, and that's simple. 

A) Admit you're a sinner. It's not like God doesn't know and you're telling Him a big secret. He KNOWS. You want to know how MUCH He knows, then watch the amazing movie "The Passion of the Christ" and realize the torture was dialed back for the movie.

B) Believe Jesus died for your sins, rose from the dead and that He paid the price for all the sins of mankind, including that time you thought those bad thoughts about your brother.

C) Confess - admit, acknowledge - that Jesus, the Christ, is your Lord, God and Savior.

In his video poem Jefferson acknowledges that he loves Jesus, and I know the reason why he does. He loves Him for the same reason I do.
And we hate religion for the same reasons, because religion drives a wedge between Jesus and individuals. Religion was invented by man to enslave man. A relationship with Jesus gives freedom. One of the ministers in my past used to tell how people would come up to him and say "If I accept Jesus as my Savior, then all my sins are forgiven? Heck, I'll accept Him and sin all I want!" (Funny, that I've had the same thing said to me, isn't it?) His reply is classic. "If you really accept Jesus, you'll find yourself sinning more than you want."

He says religion is man-centered, but Jesus is God-centered. Again, I'd agree, except that Jesus is God. Jesus brought us what we need to heal our relationship with our Heavenly Father, God incarnate. He also brought us a lot of good information on how to heal relationships with the other people on our common planet. 

Jefferson says he loves the Bible. Well, I don't love my Bible, but I trust it and accept that it is a good historical document (with more authentication than any other ancient document) AND I accept that it is God's way to give me insight into who He truly is, or as much as I can understand of that. Funny thing is that the people who are most vociferous in condemning the Bible have never read it. Besides all that, it is full of good, strong stories with fascinating, multi-dimensional characters. No wonder why in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn the mother insists the children learn to read only two books - Shakespeare and the Bible.

Jefferson also says, in the same statement, that he loves his church. I'm guessing he means the group of people he worships with on a regular basis, not The Church, as in the hierarchical man-made structure. I'd agree with him on that one. Don't knock my Church, because it is world-wide and full of good-hearted, strong people who would die for each other. End time prophecy says we'll be doing that soon.
How about you?

It isn't the building in which you're sitting.
It isn't the song you're singing.
It IS who is your Eternal King?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA/PIPA - Tyranny of a new sort

I copied this directly from The Dreamland Chronicles, where Scott Sava sums it all up better than I've read anywhere. (By the way, his comic rocks.)

What Is SOPA?

If you hadn’t heard of SOPA before, you probably have by now: Some of the internet’s most influential sites—Reddit and Wikipedia among them—are going dark to protest the much-maligned anti-piracy bill. But other than being a very bad thing, what is SOPA? And what will it mean for you if it passes?
SOPA is an anti-piracy bill working its way through Congress…
House Judiciary Committee Chair and Texas Republican Lamar Smith, along with 12 co-sponsors, introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act on October 26th of last year. Debate on H.R. 3261, as it’s formally known, has consisted of one hearing on November 16th and a “mark-up period” on December 15th, which was designed to make the bill more agreeable to both parties. Its counterpart in the Senate is the Protect IP Act (S. 968). Also known by it’s cuter-but-still-deadly name: PIPA. There will likely be a vote on PIPA next Wednesday; SOPA discussions had been placed on hold but will resume in February of this year.
…that would grant content creators extraordinary power over the internet…
The beating heart of SOPA is the ability of intellectual property owners (read: movie studios and record labels) to effectively pull the plug on foreign sites against whom they have a copyright claim. If Warner Bros., for example, says that a site in Italy is torrenting a copy of The Dark Knight, the studio could demand that Google remove that site from its search results, that PayPal no longer accept payments to or from that site, that ad services pull all ads and finances from it, and—most dangerously—that the site’s ISP prevent people from even going there.
…which would go almost comedically unchecked…
Perhaps the most galling thing about SOPA in its original construction is that it let IP owners take these actions without a single court appearance or judicial sign-off. All it required was a single letter claiming a “good faith belief” that the target site has infringed on its content. Once Google or PayPal or whoever received the quarantine notice, they would have five days to either abide or to challenge the claim in court. Rights holders still have the power to request that kind of blockade, but in the most recent version of the bill the five day window has softened, and companies now would need the court’s permission.
The language in SOPA implies that it’s aimed squarely at foreign offenders; that’s why it focuses on cutting off sources of funding and traffic (generally US-based) rather than directly attacking a targeted site (which is outside of US legal jurisdiction) directly. But that’s just part of it.
…to the point of potentially creating an “Internet Blacklist”…
Here’s the other thing: Payment processors or content providers like Visa or YouTube don’t even need a letter shut off a site’s resources. The bill’s “vigilante” provision gives broad immunity to any provider who proactively shutters sites it considers to be infringers. Which means the MPAA just needs to publicize one list of infringing sites to get those sites blacklisted from the internet.
Potential for abuse is rampant. As Public Knowledge points out, Google could easily take it upon itself to delist every viral video site on the internet with a “good faith belief” that they’re hosting copyrighted material. Leaving YouTube as the only major video portal. Comcast (an ISP) owns NBC (a content provider). Think they might have an interest in shuttering some rival domains? Under SOPA, they can do it without even asking for permission.
…while exacting a huge cost from nearly every site you use daily…
SOPA also includes an “anti-circumvention” clause, which holds that telling people how to work around SOPA is nearly as bad as violating its main provisions. In other words: if your status update links to The Pirate Bay, Facebook would be legally obligated to remove it. Ditto tweets, YouTube videos, Tumblr or WordPress posts, or sites indexed by Google. And if Google, Twitter, WordPress, Facebook, etc. let it stand? They face a government “enjoinment.” They could and would be shut down.
The resources it would take to self-police are monumental for established companies, and unattainable for start-ups. SOPA would censor every online social outlet you have, and prevent new ones from emerging.
…and potentially disappearing your entire digital life…
The party line on SOPA is that it only affects seedy off-shore torrent sites. That’s false. As the big legal brains at Bricoleur point out, the potential collateral damage is huge. And it’s you. Because while Facebook and Twitter have the financial wherewithal to stave off anti-circumvention shut down notices, the smaller sites you use to store your photos, your videos, and your thoughts may not. If the government decides any part of that site infringes on copyright and proves it in court? Poof. Your digital life is gone, and you can’t get it back.
…while still managing to be both unnecessary and ineffective…
What’s saddest about SOPA is that it’s pointless on two fronts. In the US, the MPAA, and RIAA already have the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to request that infringing material be taken down. We’ve all seen enough “video removed” messages to know that it works just fine.
As for the foreign operators, you might as well be throwing darts at a tse-tse fly. The poster child of overseas torrenting, Pirate Bay, has made it perfectly clear that they’re not frightened in the least. And why should they be? Its proprietors have successfully evaded any technological attempt to shut them down so far. Its advertising partners aren’t US-based, so they can’t be choked out. But more important than Pirate Bay itself is the idea of Pirate Bay, and the hundreds or thousands of sites like it, as populous and resilient as mushrooms in a marsh. Forget the question of should SOPA succeed. It’s incredibly unlikely that it could. At least at its stated goals.
…but stands a shockingly good chance of passing…
SOPA is, objectively, an unfeasible trainwreck of a bill, one that willfully misunderstands the nature of the internet and portends huge financial and cultural losses. The White House has come out strongly against it. As have hundreds of venture capitalists and dozens of the men and women who helped build the internet in the first place. In spite of all this, it remains popular in the House of Representatives.
That mark-up period on December 15th, the one that was supposed to transform the bill into something more manageable? Useless. Twenty sanity-fueled amendments were flat-out rejected. And while the bill’s most controversial provision—mandatory DNS filtering—was thankfully taken off the table recently, in practice internet providers would almost certainly still use DNS as a tool to shut an accused site down.
…unless we do something about it.
The momentum behind the anti-SOPA movement has been slow to build, but we’re finally at a saturation point. Wikipedia, BoingBoing, WordPress, TwitPic: they’ll all be dark on January 18th. An anti-SOPA rally has been planned for tomorrow afternoon in New York. The list of companies supporting SOPA is long but shrinking, thanks in no small part to the emails and phone calls they’ve received in the last few months.
So keep calling. Keep emailing. Most of all, keep making it known that the internet was built on the same principles of freedom that this country was. It should be afforded to the same rights.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy Birthday

One of two non-Presidents on our US money
Today is Benjamin Franklin's birthday. That's significant on a couple levels. Now that I'm in my fifties I'm thinking of wearing bifocals, and he invented them. Thanks for that, Ben. He invented the potbelly stove, which kept me warm on many a cold morning during different periods of my childhood. We had a potbelly stove on the enclosed back porch of our house in Rockford, and when people ask me about my favorite Christmas, that's the one I remember. My Mom and Dad, my brothers, our dog Smokey and that potbelly stove keeping us warm and toasty as we opened sweaters and socks and books. That was my last Christmas with my childhood family, and one of my fondest memories. Smokey died the next year, so it was his last Christmas, too.

Of COURSE Wikipedia has a picture!
Mostly I'd like to thank Ben Franklin for the Ben Franklin Five and Dime stores that cropped up all over the country when we were kids. I know he didn't have anything to do with them, but I'll give him some credit anyway. A few empty bottles from the side of the road and we could redeem them for cash, and use that instant wealth to buy candy for a nickel. I liked the little dots that came on the paper  and the candy necklaces.

But Ben Franklin's birthday is important to me because it's also my Mom's birthday.
Mom was pleased that her birth date was the same day as Ben Franklin’s, even though she knew he was a curmudgeon. She liked to focus on all his positive attributes instead.
I didn't appreciate Mom while she was alive, at least not as much as I should have. When I was young I felt like she was often too harsh and demanding. Do the dishes. Clean the house. Wash the clothes. Cut the grass. Rake the leaves. Help your brother. Help your other brother. The list went on and on. I don't recall a "well done" for good grades or even for doing the chores; there was always one more chore to do.
I did go through a period in Maryland, in eighth grade, when I got up before school, earlier than anyone, and made coffee for Mom and Dad, two poached eggs on toast for me and then read a book before I went off to school. I was part of the school patrol, so I headed to my bus stop a little early. Mom was a crossing guard, and she headed to a different bus stop for the same reason. I have no idea what my brothers did or where they went. Barry would have been in third grade, so we must have been in the same school, but for the life of me I don’t remember riding the bus with him. That was probably the nicest I ever was to Mom (and Dad).
As I grew older I thought of her often, but not often enough. When she and Dad visited me at college, it was Mom who squeezed a worn ten or twenty dollar bill into my hand when they left, tears in her eyes. I usually had some dust in my eyes as they pulled away too, so that memory is vague.
When I left Michigan and moved to Texas (for what I thought was only a few short years) I got so wrapped up in my own life that I didn’t call her as much as I should have. I would think of her, but then get busy, so by the time a phone was nearby, the impulse was gone. That was in the days before the cell phone that accompanies me almost everywhere.
I’d call her more now. I know that because I miss her more now than ever.
After Mom died I realized what a big part of my life she was. She had her own life, of course, and she lived it well. But the hole that appears in your heart when your Mom dies just never really goes away. I miss her all the time. 

She has two anniversaries now. One is the day she died and left us behind, for that glorious and much better place that we cannot even imagine. You can’t help missing someone on that day.
The other is today, on her birthday, the day I should have called her more often, more faithfully when I had the chance. I’m sorry I didn’t always call on your birthday Mom. I miss you.
Happy Birthday, Mom.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Where Fainting is Quite Probable

She started with four drain tubes, two for each side. During her second post-operative visit to the Reconstruction surgeon they pulled one from each side. Her oldest daughter was there with her.
Less than a week later, I’m coming home on the 23rd, ready for my time off for Christmas. As I walk in the door, Darling looks at me and says “I need your help.”
“What?” I say, a little confused. She rarely needs my help for anything.
“Come with me.” Darling heads for our bathroom.
“What?” I say, a bit concerned now.
“The nurse said if the fluid levels were low enough I could take my own tubes out.” Darling is very matter-of-fact about this.
“What?” my voice rises on the end of that, like the voice of a ten year old girl.
“You need to take the stitches out so I can remove the tubes.” Darling hands me a small pair of scissors and one of those surgical clamps to grab the stitches. I don’t even wonder where these came from; her stash of such items astounds mere mortals like me.
“Are you sure about this?” I’m turning the scissors over and over in my hands. I help Darling arrange bandages on the counter, along with little cotton cloths to wipe away blood and other fluids that aren’t supposed to leave your body.
She takes the scissors gently from my hands. “I’m not sure I can see them well enough, but I’ll do it if you want me to,” she says. Darling watches in the mirror as her left hand aligns the tips of the scissors with the stitches on the right side of her body.
“No, I can do it.” I take the scissors and snip the stitches, then use the clamp to tug them out as gently as I can. I'm feeling a bit woozy at this point, but persevere.
Darling holds the skin around the tube with her left hand and pulls the tube with her right. And pulls. She pulls about fourteen inches of clear tubing from her side and drops it in the waste basket. I put one of the bandages over it. One of us has turned pale. It isn't her.
We repeat the process for the left side of her body. As I’m putting the bandage on the wound she asks “How’s it look?”
I swallow. “It looks like a hole … in your body … where there shouldn’t be a hole.” My voice squeaks a little.
She puts her arms down and looks in the mirror smiling. “There,” she says, “that looks better.”
I carry the discarded tubes and other trash to the big trash can, and take that to the garage. I come back to the bathroom and grab a huge alcohol wipe and wipe every surface I can see.
“Are you okay?” She’s looking closely at me.
“I…I have to sit for a minute.” I sit down on the chair and bring my head closer to my knees. “You know,” I say, taking deep breaths, “you’re very lucky.”
I look at the puzzlement on her face.
I hold up my thumb and forefinger, a small space between them. “You were this close to having to pull out your own tubes AND pick your unconscious husband up off the floor.”

No Pain is No Pain, but This Wasn't It

People ask how Darling is doing after the surgery to remove the breast cancer. Now, almost six weeks later, the pain is under control and she’s doing well. Those who know her also know more of the story.
The double mastectomy was November 30, 2011. Darling made the decision for a double mastectomy because she was afraid the cancer would attack her again. There wasn’t enough family medical history for her to make a genealogical decision. Turns out her older brother knew that their maternal grandmother died of breast cancer when Darling was very young, so at least that’s some information. Darling’s decision was probably a good one.
Before I go any further, let me say that MD Anderson is a fantastic hospital, with incredible professionals who really know about cancer. From October to the surgery in November, each department was thorough in examination, analysis and execution. We had, and have, utter confidence in their abilities.
The Story
It’s November 30, 2011. Thanksgiving is over. We are at MD Anderson hospital to eradicate the cancer that attacks Darling. The double mastectomy is done as outpatient. That’s a little surprising, isn’t it? I suppose it has something to do with insurance, and after seeing charges amounting to more than $100K, I’m not surprised that insurance might be trying to minimize the costs. Darling and I don’t know how people in this circumstance manage without insurance.
Since it was outpatient, we have twenty-three hours to leave the hospital once we are put into a recovery room, which is about nine o’clock in the evening of the thirtieth. They instruct me how to care for the four drain tubes installed beneath Darling’s ribs. So the next evening, even though Darling is in pain, we go home. We figure she can be in pain at home as easily as in the hospital. That is Thursday night. Things get a little blurry after that.
Darling has a SCOPOLAMINE patch behind her ear to control nausea, put there by the surgeon. The patches last up to three days. That’s important to the rest of the story.
We’re home on Thursday night and Darling is sick. She’s in a lot of pain, and we keep renewing the pain medications as often as possible. The nurses told us she could have Tylenol™ between the allowed times for Norco™. On Friday about noon she takes a Tylenol PM™ and sleeps fitfully for a few hours in the afternoon.
Darling has a lot of lovely, loving friends. One visits while she’s sleeping, bringing a smoothie drink. I taste it, of course. It’s delicious.
After she awakes, on Friday afternoon, JBR visits. JBR is one of our best friends, and her husband TR is a great guy. JBR is a published poet and a blessing to everyone who knows her. Like Darling. No wonder they are such good friends.
MD Anderson calls and asks how Darling is doing. She mentions that after a PM she had a few hours of good sleep. The Doctor tells her we need to go to MD Anderson Hospital, to the Emergency Center because of the PM medicine. She’s not allowed to take Tylenol™ with the pain killer they prescribed. It can cause her liver to shut down. I’m angry. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I am. I’m growling and saying we aren’t going to MD Anderson, certainly not to any EC (for some reason I’d rather use the term ER, but that seems to be reserved for television). If it really is an emergency, I should go down the street to the hospital five minutes away. So I’m growling, but I’m putting my travel clothes on. It’s cold outside, and I help Darling walk slowly to the car. JBR puts her own warm wrap around Darling’s shoulders and asks me to please take her to MD Anderson.
We’re driving toward downtown and Darling is on her cell phone with another doctor from MD Anderson. If it was just the one PM we don’t need to come in, he says. I turn around and go home. Darling is still in a lot of pain, and this doesn’t help any.
I’m calmer when T&D come over. They’ve been friends since Darling was very young, and they are worried about her. They bring a movie and some popcorn. About nine o’clock we’re measuring the output from the four drains when nausea hits her. D comes and helps, but Darling is throwing up. After a while she’s only trying to throw up. The pain is racking her body with each spasm.
Remember I mentioned that the Scopolamine patch only lasts three days? We’re at the tail end of the third day at this point.
We try everything to ease her pain and nausea. Cool, wet cloth on her forehead. Over the counter nausea medicine comes right back up. Crackers don’t stay down. Water doesn’t help.
I take her to Emergency at the hospital closest to us, only minutes away. Her youngest daughter AK goes with us, along with AK’s husband. Because Darling is throwing up and in so much pain it only takes about an hour to get her in a room. Even with an ultrasound to guide them the medical people can’t find a vein to use for an IV, so they aren’t able to get any medicines in her. “Intramuscular takes too long,” they say. It’s a phrase I become very familiar with. After trying both arms and both hands, they finally stick her in a vein in her neck. Her neck! They finally give her some pain medication and anti-nausea medicine.
I take the kids home about two. I come back and Darling and I are there until a little after three AM, after they rehydrate her through the IV in her neck. It’s a result of the anesthetics they gave her during surgery, they say, and send us home with a couple prescriptions for anti-nausea medicine. One prescription is for suppositories. One of the medical guys hands me a box of rubber gloves as I leave.
Saturday she’s exhausted. The pain mounts. I can’t get her to eat. She barely drinks. By Sunday night she’s in so much pain that she can’t even talk, just sit and rock back and forth, back and forth. She’s in pajamas but I bundle her up and go to the MD Anderson Emergency Center. At least I thought it was the right place. MD Anderson is a huge complex, covering city blocks in downtown Houston. The sign which points to their Emergency Center is about the size of a postage stamp slapped on something the size of a street sign. You don’t see it because half a block away a blinking neon sign the size of the Goodyear blimp flashes “Emergency Center.” Guess which one I went to?
I hop out of the car and leave the keys in it. I don’t care. I grab a wheelchair from inside the door and get Darling and wheel her in. They have no record of Darling in the database. I coax her patient number from her twice as she sits in the wheelchair, rocking, rocking. I say there must be some mistake. The young woman at the computer terminal says “We have no record of her here at St. Luke’s.”
I explain I need MD Anderson. A very nice young man says it’s right next door, just follow him, which I do, at a trot, through the cold, pushing Darling in the wheelchair. We get there and I check every box in the admittance form. Chest pain? Yes. Head pain? Yes. Leg pain? Yes. I don’t care. There’s plenty of pain. Every box. Check. Check. Check. The young man brings my car to me. I quickly drop it off at the valet at MD Anderson, then hustle back to the EC. I’m not sure if Darling even notices I’m gone. She’s just rocking, rocking, tears now coursing down her face.
They call us and take her into a small room to get her vital signs. “Hey,” says one lady. “We’ve been here a long time. He’s in pain too.” She points to an older man sitting in a wheelchair next to her. He looks in pain. The room is crowded with people, and everyone looks in pain, even the people who brought them in, like me.
“You’re right.” I look right at her and try to acknowledge the unfairness of the situation. “I think we’re all in pain. We should all get morphine!” The sweep of my arm encompasses the entire room, then I’m right behind Darling as the nurse takes her pulse from her ankle. She can barely move her arms, and I tell the nurses to watch out for the tubes sticking from her sides.
Darling is rocking, rocking, and tears are falling.
“What’s your pain level, from one to ten, with one being no pain and ten being the most?” The nurse is looking at her.
“She can’t answer you,” I growl. “She’s in pain. Put down ten.”
They get her vitals and we wheel back into the waiting area. So we’re just part of the incoming crowd now.
We’re there for a long time. About ten o’clock they announce that they are closing the EC and everyone is moving upstairs.
“Please can I get something for her pain?” I’m begging now, and I don’t really care.
“We can’t do that until we get her in a room and get an IV into her. That way it works fast.” That’s the standard response. I don’t care about fast at this point. I just want something. It’s been hours of rocking and crying. Darling is tough, but this is more than even she can stand.
“Please. Something? Anything?” I get the same response.
We’re in a new waiting room and I just sit facing Darling, trying my best to comfort her. I’m not sure she can even hear me. She’s just rocking, rocking, with tears running down her cheeks.
I don’t know how long it is before they call her name, but it is after they call the lady who objected earlier. They wheel Darling into a room, get her in the bed and just leave us there. “Someone will be with you shortly.” I dim the lights and now Darling is just lying in the bed, her foot moving rapidly, crying. Now she can’t even rock.
I go to the nurse’s station, to a guy wearing one of those surgeon shirts, the kind all the cool doctors wear on television. He also has on a white coat, but I don’t think that means anything here. “Look,” I begin, “I know y’all are really busy, and I don’t mean to be telling you your jobs, but my wife is in a lot of pain, has been for hours. She can’t even talk she’s hurting so much. Can’t someone, anyone, please give her something for pain.”
“We need to get an IV in her,” he begins.
“No, I know. I’ve heard that. But even intramuscular would do something for her pain, and since we’ve been here for hours, it would have already started working.” I look in his eyes. “Please,” I beg. “She needs something now.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” and he turns and walks away.
I go back to the room and sit in the chair. I don’t know if I was just blown off or not.
A few minutes later a nurse comes in and turns the light on, then checks Darling’s arms. A few minutes more and she puts an IV in the back of Darling’s right hand, taped firmly in place. They put a shot of morphine in the IV and I can see Darling relax, her foot slowly stops moving. The tears finally stop. Her breathing slows.
I don’t know what time that was. I don’t remember the rest of the night. At some point I transform the chair into a bed and lay down. A nurse brings me a blanket and pillow. I’m half asleep until early morning, when a pain doctor comes in.
“You went home too early,” he says, looking at her chart. “About five to ten percent of women who get mastectomies suffer from more than just physical pain, they suffer from nerve pain too. That seems to be the case here.” He’s a pain doctor, he explains.
Whatever it takes, we need to get the pain under control. He assigns us to a real room and we stay a few days while he and the other pain doctors figure out what Darling needs to take to mitigate the pain.
I’m willing to find a nurse to come and stay with Darling. I don’t want to go back to work. I want to be there. I just don’t want to fail any more at keeping her pain-free, at helping her to optimize her healing. I failed enough.
Present Time
So we’re six weeks or so after the surgery and the pain medication regimen works well. We had a few rough spots trying to get Scopolamine patches for her; for some reason they don’t like to prescribe those, and even with a prescription they are hard to find. Bless the people at the pharmacy. For a few weeks there I conversed with them more than I talked to anyone but Darling.
Friends brought food. Then more food. Darling wasn’t always eating but the food disappeared anyway. I don’t know why my clothes are all tight on me.