Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Whole World

I got home from work a little early on Friday and watched the end of "Millionaire". The last contestant went out on a $2000 simple question about which continents the Sinai Peninsula was between (or part of). The obvious two choices were "Africa and Europe" or "Africa and Asia". The contestant chose it wrong as I would have. It actually is in Asia though part of Egypt which is part of Africa. It just didn't seem right that it (and Israel) are considered part of Asia. They are part of the Middle East or South West Asia.

Anyway, I Googled and found a web site named "". I spent about an hour taking their quizzes on where the countries are and didn't do very well. Just think, I am nearly 60 years old with a PhD and still have so much to learn. You can never stop learning.

Last night, I fired up "Google Earth", a fantastic application. This is one program that sucks up bandwidth and taxes the dual processors of my new MacBook Pro. I can fly around the whole earth and zoom into any area composed of satellite images all stitched together. I spent a couple of hours visiting North Korea, Japan, Tonga and the UP of Michigan. I relived my honeymoon trip to Brockway Mountain Drive and Tahquamenon Falls.

As I was doing this, I thought of the song, "He's got the whole world in his hands". With Google Earth, you can start with the earth at about 3 inches in diameter and it first zooms in so that the diameter of the earth and North America fills your screen. You can give the world a spin with your mouse or zoom in at any point to see houses and cars. You have the whole world in your hand and in your control. Imagine how great a God we have that can do this with the universe and still zoom in to touch our lives.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Blood History

I thought I would do something different this week, otherwise it has been typical. I keep a medical history log in a spreadsheet. So far I have 192 entries starting six years ago. My records are sparse for the first four years with 17 entries up to October 19, 2004 when my orthopedist scheduled me for knee surgery (see my first blog entry). I actually started the log in early 2005 by reconstructing the history to that point. About six months ago when the doctor started experimenting with different medicines, I started a chart showing how my hemoglobin and platelet count varied with the changes in medication.

If you click on the graph shown here you can see a larger version. The date scale is not linear though pretty consistent with one entry per week over the last three months. Note that the top red line is my hemoglobin and the dark blue line is the platelet count (scale on left). The vertical bars are infusions with the red bars being my blood transfusions. The other lines are pills or shots. If anyone is actually interested in the details of the medications, just post a comment asking for more info.

So what does this show? In June 2005, I was hospitalized with a bad infection and high fever after getting a pneumonia vaccination. Before that my Hgb was steady around 10 and and my platelets were normal count around 400. Then my platelets started up and doctor prescribed Hydrea. But the side effects caused me to switch to the Anagrelide (yellow) that I have been on ever since. The brown line is my Coumadin level which is varied to keep my Factor 2 between 15 and 25. That controls my blood clotting which is also affected some by the platelets. All the other medicines are attempts to control my hemoglobin and red cell count.

It will be interesting to see if stopping the Procrit will have any effect on my Hgb and frequency of blood transfusions. Over the last month, my Hgb has been inching down based on my regularity of getting my blood tests on either Tuesday or Wednesday. With my Hgb of 9.4 on Tuesday this week, I will probably go in for my blood test on Monday next week. One of these weeks, I have to get an extra unit of blood to get me through the week of November 13 when I plan to be in Dallas. Maybe I can get blood earlier next week (Nov 1) and then again the following week (Nov 10) when I also have my next doctor appointment. That should put my Hgb over 10 for the trip.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Cycle Continues

I am still on my regular cycle of blood transfusions every two weeks, like clockwork. I had my 24th transfusion yesterday, total of 49 units of blood so far. My blood counts were hgb=8.5, wc=4.5, platelets=433 and Factor 2=23. I was surprised that my Factor 2 was up after being low last week. I don't remember eating anything much different. My stools seem to have been normal over the past week as well. It has been over a week since I had my last Procrit shot. Procrit is supposed to stimulate red blood cell production. It will be interesting to see if it has any effect on my frequency of transfusions.

I had a hard time going to work this morning, but went since I had a meeting. Both my wife and son were home from school so I took a 1/2 day vacation in the afternoon. I am getting a little depressed about working though I am fortunate to be able to do so. I feel trapped because I have to work to get the insurance and pay the bills. There has to be more to this life, even the unknown portion that I have left.

Yesterday, I received a beautiful get-well card from my niece and her family. Made my day! It had some drawings of a fox, an octopus, a tank, a volcano and a person drawn by the kids. The card said "I am the Lord who heals you" and "Praying His healing power will restore you to health soon".

My daughter, my Harvard theologian, has some deep spiritual thoughts on her Grace Freewill blog. Check it out if you haven't recently. It helps me grapple with what I am going through, expecially her recent studies on the books of Job and Kierkegaard. Maybe, I just need to be a "knight of faith" and should proceed with the BMT. Like Abraham, prepare for the worst outcome of a BMT with the faith that God will heal me through the process.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

More blood in stool

Since my last doctor appt, I took 3 stool samples in for testing on Wed. One the three showed blood confirming what it looked like to me. I assume the doctor still feels it is a bleeding hemorrhoid.

My other blood counts were typical: Hgb of 9.5, white cell count of 4.5, platelets a little lower to 439 and Factor 2 of 14. I reduced my Coumadin for one day to raise the Factor 2. I took my last Procrit shot on Monday. It supposedly took the Procrit some time to take effect so I expect I wouldn't see any big change this week. We suspect that it not helping anyway and my Hgb will not change from its current two week cycle.

I will probably need another transfusion on Thursday, but also need to break the two week cycle. I plan to attend a conference in Texas during Nov 13-16 which is 4 weeks away. I will try to get extra blood on Nov 2 or 9.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Blood in Stool

Well, this was a busy week with a few surprises. Last Sunday night after my last blog entry, I had stomach cramps and then a strange bout of diarrhea. It had some dark stool plus something that looked like a worm. I took a sample in for test on Tuesday and blood was found. The "worm" must have just been something undigested. On Wednesday, the doctor said it looked like it might have been from a hemorrhoid, but gave me some cards to collect more samples. I have not been constipated and my hemorrhoids have not been hurting or itchy lately. This morning, I had another loose stool with another bloody piece. It has been about 18 months since I had a colonoscopy, but maybe I will need another.

I also had a transfusion on Thursday starting at 7 am and was back to work by noon. Friday, I had an all day conference at the Mystic Lake Casino, almost an hours drive south of here. I left home at 6:30 am (again) and did not get home until 6 pm. Even with a blood test, dr appt and transfusion, I still worked 42 hours for the week. When I got home Friday night, I went straight to bed for a couple of hours.

On Wed, my Hgb was 8.8, white cells were 5.0, platelets were 638 and Factor 2 was 15. Because of increased platelets and itchiness that I have had recently, I have to increase my Anagrelide again. I am also taking Benedryl for the itching from the histamine produced by excess platelets. I also have more headaches and take Tylenol several times a day. Today, I had vision distortion coupled with the headache and took a two hour nap after lunch. Also since it doesn't appear that the Procrit is helping any, I will stop taking it for a month to see what happens with my Hgb. That will at least save the insurance company $2000 per month.

I did get outside today, shopped at Sam's Club, raked and blew some leaves around and fired up the old '76 Malibu. It started right up after I borrowed the battery from the van. It had not been started for close to a year and took a little cranking to get gas to the carburetor. One of the spark plugs is broken, so it misses a bit, but runs surprisingly well. I need to get rid of it since it is just rusting away next to the garage. It has not been on the road for three years.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Memorial Service

We had a memorial service this afternoon for my mother at my sister's church in Bloomington. It was a beautiful service with many Minneapolis area people attending. I showed my slide show tribute to my mother during the service. I reduced it to 145 slides and synced it with music from Fernando Ortega: I will sing of my Redeemer and Hear me calling, great Redeemer. I also had the strength to get up and talk about my mother and thought I would summarize it here:

I was a Mommie's boy (at which point my sisters seem to say, Amen!) I was born on Mother's Day in 1948 and every birthday I had since, my mother would say I was the best Mother's Day gift she had received.

I was with my mother many times during the last week of her life and I was there with my sister when she died. Though she could not communicate with us, I believed that she was praying for me and others while we were praying for her. During the last moments of her life, my sister and I were reciting the 23rd Psalm. As the gates of Heaven opened for her and she went on through, I could sense the power of God and the joy within her soul.

I thanked the many people at the service who have been praying for me. The 22 blood tranfusions that I have had over the past year have kept this earthly body of mine alive. But it was the big blood tranfusion that Jesus Christ gave me on the cross that will keep me alive for all eternity.