The fundamental interconnectedness of all things

It seems when my son is admitted to the hospital, my laptop reveals a new problem.

Now, my HP Pavilion tx1420us is failing to power on after any kind of software shutdown state. This includes: failing to resume from sleep, failing to power on after hibernate, and failing to power on after shutting down from the menu.

Fortunately, I'm able to get around this by shutting it down with the hardware switch. When I power up the computer and notice it's not starting (the audio and wireless lights both remain orange instead of turning blue, there is no disk activity, and the screen remains dark), I can press and hold the power switch in the "off" position for a few seconds until the system shuts off, and then power it back on. Sometimes, though, I have to do this twice.

Also fortunately, I'm using the Windows 7 RC, and Windows 7 includes a feature called "hybrid sleep". The short of this is, when the system goes to sleep, it also writes the hibernation file; so even though I can't wake it up and have to force the power off and wipe out the sleep state in memory, when I power it up it is able to resume from hibernation.

This could indicate that the wireless failure was not directly a fault between the system and the Wi-Fi card, but just a symptom of a general failure.

More so, though, I see this as a failure on my part for trusting HP to produce a laptop that would last beyond its warranty period.


Haven't we been here before?

I got a call while I was in a meeting today, from my wife. She's the only person I'll accept calls from when I'm in that situation, and I answer the phone in the same way, with a whispered, "Hi, I'm in a meeting, is everything ok?" Almost always, she'll say everything's fine, and just call her back when I get out.

Not today.

My son was having a really bad day today, having emotional outbursts and not fully processing what was going on or where he was. Since he's on a high-dose steroid, he's been fairly moody and irritable lately, but never to this extreme. Still, it didn't seem like anything more than just a really bad case of frustration and mood swings. My wife finally got him calmed down enough to take a nap, figuring that would do him some good (he has typically been taking a long nap in the afternoon anyway), but after maybe a half hour or so, she happened to look over at him and notice that he wasn't exactly napping — his eyes were open and twitching. She called the doctor, who then advised her to call 911. When he was on the ambulance en route to the local hospital's ER, she called me.

I excused myself from the meeting, grabbed my coat and backpack, and met her there. He was having a mild seizure. They gave him some medication to stop the seizure, and then they did a CAT scan to rule out the possibility of a stroke. The scan came up normal. Of course, I predicted as much — the entire 5-week stay in the hospital, every lab test they could think of came up negative; he just wasn't well, had ferritin levels higher than they'd ever seen, daily fevers over 104°F…

Anyway, with the seizure under control, they transferred him back up to Children's Hospital. I parked in the same parking lot and went to the front desk. I couldn't just flash my wristband and walk in this time, though; I actually had to stop and find where they brought him in. The desk clerk found that he was brought to the ER and offered to walk me there. I was about to object, since I knew the way there, but then I remembered that there is a card-access lock door from the main hospital leading to the ER, and I'd need someone to let me in anyway.

It's sad that I know this.

The primary doctor here in charge of his case was aware of this possibility. The medications he's on, the cyclosporine in combination with the steroid, can raise blood pressure, and the increase in blood pressure can trigger a seizure like this. In fact, he noted this at my son's visit last week. The day after he saw my son, my son had an appointment with the cardiologist, and the doctor said he saw today the blood pressure taken at that appointment and was very disappointed that the cardiologist didn't call him. Although the blood pressure taken wasn't extremely high, it was high enough that he could have prescribed some blood pressure medication to keep it down and prevent this seizure from being a possibility.

It's the doctor's initial opinion that, once we get his blood pressure back to normal and he recovers from the seizure, that he'll be good to go home again, just with some blood pressure meds as well this time. Unfortunately, he's also running a fever now (his first in over two weeks), so they're checking for infection (dollars to donuts they don't find one, again), and hopefully this fever is just a temporary thing that doesn't keep us from going back home tomorrow.

It's really depressing to be back here. On Sunday, we actually started to get close to normal. The whole family was finally able to attend church together. He slept through our sacrament meeting, but he attended his Sunday School classes and was smiling and laughing with his friends. He's even started to get himself up and down the stairs at home. And now… here we are again.


Why didn't you do what we wouldn't let you?

So while I was in the hospital watching over my son, I signed on to CitiCards.com to pay my Master Card bill. Imagine my surprise when I see a message, saying my account information has been compromised, and for my security web access to my account has been disabled, and a new card is being sent to me.

In the meantime, fortunately, my card still worked for purchases (even online), so I wasn't completely without access to my credit. I just couldn't sign on to my account online.

Now, this did concern me a bit. After all, the reason I was signing on was because I needed to pay my bill. And this was how I paid my bill. Since I signed up for "paperless billing" — a service they provide and encourage — it was also the only way I had to pay my bill. And here they were, disabling access to my account and the means for paying my bill. But surely they wouldn't hold me responsible for not being able to do something they were keeping me from doing, right?

I finally got my replacement card. I lost count, but it was a few weeks later. So I was finally able to register my new card for online access, check my account… and see that finance charges and a late fee had already been assessed to it.

I guess CitiBank got tired of waiting for their bailout and decided to take it out on their customers.


It's good to be home

After five weeks and a day, we finally took my son home from the hospital yesterday. The doctors with all their tests were able to rule out enough of the major diseases to decide it was safe for him to be at home, and all the medications and treatment he was on could be safely given at home.

Now, granted, he's still not 100% well. He's on a few different medications, and his immune system is still recovering from being sick (and some of the treatments he was on). And he still has a PICC line in his arm, since we'll be making repeated trips back to the hospital for blood tests and checkups. But just the fact that we're all home is a huge relief to all of us.

He is definitely getting better, though. As it so happens, for about the last week, he was no longer getting his daily fever spikes, and without the fevers to drag him down, his appetite and strength has been coming back. If I had to make a guess, I'd say there was an infection (secondary to the Kawasaki disease they did manage to diagnose) they couldn't find, but when they happened to give him a final dose of antibiotics as a precautionary measure while they switched medications that affected his immune system, it probably finally wiped it out and let everything else fall into place.

We did get our first taste of the medical bills, though, when we had to pick up the prescriptions. We're hoping that insurance just didn't get billed properly, but three prescriptions ended up costing us close to $500 (and we had to make a trip back to the pharmacy in the hospital, as the drugs aren't carried at any branch close to home). The cashier actually apologized as she rang it up.

One thing at a time, though. At least we're home, all under one roof, sleeping in our own beds.


Name them one by one

So with all the crap hitting the fan over the past 4½ weeks, maybe it's time to stop and count my blessings.

  • My son is alive, and is getting his symptoms cared for (even if they can't cure the disease).
  • We live in the suburbs of the city that has one of the best children's hospitals available. (We've met people from as far away as Hawaii, who are staying in the Ronald McDonald house while their child gets treatment here. While we may not be spending much time at home, we can at least go home every day to get clothes, supplies, check on the pets, …)
  • I am employed full-time (not on hourly contract), at a small technology company that has been more than accommodating to my very unpredictable schedule, including my rather reduced hours (although I intend on working some this weekend to catch up on some work, they've accepted my 6- and 7-hour days without complaint). (I'm sure it helps that I'm still meeting deadlines and getting work done.)
  • My job is only a few blocks from where my kids go to school, and so it is very easy for me to pick my older son up and bring him here, where he can do his homework and play his Nintendo DSi until it's time to go. Additionally:
    • my workplace is ok with this arrangement
    • I have an office, so I have space for him to be in
  • My church has been there to provide meals for us, and to take our toddler off the hands of my wife for the day, so he's not confined to the hospital room every single day.
  • GeezerGamers.com — I've been a part of this community for a little over four years now, and the outpouring of support and prayers from these people have given me a huge morale boost I didn't realize I needed. And on top of that, they've also sent me and my son some Amazon gift cards and a care package that included a new Xbox memory card (to replace the one that "mysteriously" disappeared from the hospital room this past weekend). They've been an awesome group of friends, more than I ever expected or ever thought (or hoped, at least in this way) I'd need.

Hopefully the hospital stay is coming to an end. Although the doctors still haven't figured out The Problem for which they can prescribe The Cure, they have at least eliminated enough major issues that they're considering sending us home. He'll still be on medication (they've started switching his IV-based medicines to pill form), and as long as he shows he can eat and drink enough to sustain himself without IV supplements, if his white blood cell count recovers from one of the medicines he was on, and if nothing else major comes up, we may be taking him home next week (a "mere" 5 weeks after he was admitted).

Sure, we'd still need to bring him in for some tests rather regularly (and they may leave his PICC line in while he is coming back for tests), but even if we had to spend, say, 4 hours a day every day going back and forth to the hospital for tests, that's still 20 more hours a day he'd have at home than he has now. And that's another blessing worth counting.


April in Review

April sucked.

  • Middle son ends up in the hospital for an extended stay. (Resolution: none yet, still there.)
  • Friend and client busted by SEC for running a Ponzi scheme. (Resolution: none. Have had little time to process this myself, let alone follow the case; see above.)
  • Youngest son splits head open at hospital. (Resolution: glued shut, healed fine.)
  • Snow storm kept us at home away from hospital. (Resolution: worked out; my mother had flown in for the weekend and was already there with my son.)
  • Master bathroom toilet seat split. (Resolution: none, haven't been home long enough to fix.)
  • My wife was rear-ended on the way to the hospital one morning. (Resolution: n/a, occurred at such a low speed the only "damage" done was dust in the shape of the offender's license plate that wiped away clean.)
  • My laptop's wireless card died, due to an extremely common problem with this model of HP laptop. HP wants $100 just to look at it before they'll decide what to charge me to fix it, even though they repaired the identical problem on the identical laptop (my wife's) a few months ago. (Resolution: bought a $30 USB Wi-Fi adapter.)

Yes, I know, everything worked out, and some of these are really minor things. It just seemed like everything came crashing down all at once, and especially when you're dealing with something major like having a kid in the hospital and are spending better than 12 hours a day there, it all seems like a lot.

Even when this is all over, it won't be; I have a feeling we'll be paying for this for months, if not years to come. My hospital stay for my appendix cost thousands, and that was only for a couple days.

But that's something to worry about later. Right now, the most important thing I want resolved on the list is still there. My son is still in the hospital, still not getting better to the point where he can come home. My wife and I have spent the night in the same bed precisely three nights in the past 24 (when my mother showed up for the one weekend and sent us home). And what sleep I do get during the week is definitely not quality, considering the inch and a half of foam on a sheet of flat plywood that qualifies as a fold-out bed here.

I know, things could be worse. I just want to know when they're going to get better.

Bandwidth for April

You can see the spike on the first weekend where, again, I watched the streaming video of my church's general conference broadcasts. There are two 2-hour sessions, with two hours between them, during which church news is broadcast. Although we didn't watch for six hours straight, I did let it keep streaming the video, partially because I didn't want to have to restart the stream (I put my laptop up on a high shelf when I connected it to the TV for output and didn't want to climb back up to get it), and partially to see what would happen to my bandwidth numbers. (Sunday, I actually did stop and restart the stream when I found my bluetooth mouse worked as a suitable remote control.)

Although I haven't been home to do a lot of Xbox gaming this month (spending most nights in the hospital with my son), I still use my home network connection quite a bit as my own personal proxy server. I've used this from work for over a year now, mainly to prevent any misunderstandings that might occur if I were to happen to hit the wrong website at the wrong time. I'm also using it from the hospital, since they have an unsecured wireless connection that is also a tad overzealous in filtering out websites that "might" be "unsafe".

Anyway, the total numbers: 27.06GB down, 5.32GB up, 32.38GB total. This month is the second highest, ranking behind the last general conference month (October).