Recently I’ve pretty much disappeared from every field of endeavour I’m involved in. This post is to give (too much) detail for anyone who wonders what’s been going on with me recently. If you’re not interested in my personal tale of woe, move on! Life is too short. The TL;DR version is that I got a runny nose and felt bad.
For much of this year I’ve been suffering from headaches and a general feeling of pressure in my head. I wasn’t even aware how frequently I'd started taking painkillers until my buddy Marc Alexander pointed out that barely a week would go by that I wouldn’t say something about needing Solprin at some random time. The problem snuck up on me until I was taking painkillers every few days without realising how many I was going through.
A few weeks ago the head pain ramped up a notch and became quite severe, so I took a few intermittent days off work, trying to give myself a chance to recover from whatever was ailing me. It stayed about the same until until Tuesday week ago it got bad enough that I had to leave the office and go see my GP: I was down to a very low level of functionality, so it was time to do something about it.
The doc diagnosed it as sinusitis, so basically just an infection of the sinuses. He prescribed strong painkillers, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories, and I went home to rest and recover. That night the pain was incredible: I slept a total of maybe 45 minutes, in between periods of holding my head and moaning. Not good.
The next day I was a mess, so the doc made a housecall and ramped it up a notch: prescribed steroids as a general anti-inflammatory, doubled the antibiotic dose, and added a couple of other medications that might help.
The doc was definitely doing the right thing and we were on track with treating it, but we didn’t realise just how bad an infection we were dealing with. The next few days were hell: the slightest pressure change was like being hit in the head with a bat, and I had to sit upright for 5 days straight with almost no sleep. I didn’t get more than 2 hours sleep in any 24 hour period that entire week, mostly less.
So by Saturday morning it was obvious we weren’t making much progress and the situation wasn’t sustainable. I’d been in so much pain (and sleep deprived) for so long that I wasn’t particularly rational anymore. Ann drove me to the Knox Private Hospital ER to see what else could be done.
The physician sent me off for a CT scan, which produced a spectacular result. His comment was “In 30 years I’ve never seen anything like that before”.
Well, at least I knew the problem was real! That was a relief, of sorts.
Yes, the problem is sinusitis, my GP was right. The interesting bit is how it’s manifested itself.
Sinusitis is a general term for inflammations of the paranasal sinuses, but it covers a variety of sub-classifications. For example, it can be classified by location: there are four major sections of the sinus that can be affected, and they’re mirror images on the two sides of your head. The CT scan showed I’m suffering from not just one type, but all four types by location at the same time. But here’s the kicker: it’s only on the left side of my head!
The CT images are amazing. It’s like a composite image from a medical textbook that you would expect to find with a caption something like:
“The left half of the scan shows every possible inflammation type simultaneously (maxillary, frontal, ethmoid, and sphenoid) with 100% occlusion on each. The right half of the scan shows a perfectly healthy result for comparison.”
Sinusitis can also be sub-classified in other ways, such as by origin of inflammation (viral versus bacterial), and other characteristics. Basically, you name it, I’ve got it. But only on one side! Send my right half to work, the left can stay home and recover.
Back to the story. Once the doctor saw the scan I was immediately admitted to hospital, and next thing I knew I had an IV inserted and was being internally washed with a variety of antibiotics. The next 5 days was basically more of the same: trials of different painkillers to find something that would suppress the pain, different antibiotics, etc. Sleep didn’t improve, though, and I think the most sleep I ever had in any 24 hours while in hospital was about 3 hours, not much better than when I was at home.
By last Thursday I was at the end of a 9 day stint starting at home and ending in hospital where I averaged maybe 2 hours sleep per night, and I was mentally turning to mush. The hospital environment was driving me insane, the painkillers that were tried weren’t doing the job, and what I desperately needed more than anything was to get a chance to sleep. The most effective painkillers that were used could only be administered every 6 hours and had an effective duration of about 3 to 4 hours, so each time they were administered I had a short window in which I desperately wanted to get just a few hours sleep. But of course that’s exactly when it would be time to load up the IV with a new antibiotic, then when that was done it had to be flushed, then after being so pumped full of fluid I’d have to go to the toilet which was quite a complicated exercise with the IV, then they’d do obs, by which time the painkillers were wearing off and they’d “leave me in peace to sleep”. Great. So then the last couple of hours of the 6 hour cycle would be spent moaning and sweating again in pain, until the cycle started again.
It wasn’t helped by the constant background hospital noise: dinner carts, rolling beds, loud TVs, shouted conversations, vacuum cleaners. Imagine having the worst headache you could possibly imagine, like being punched in the head continuously, while lying on an uncomfortable plastic bed near the steps of Flinders Street station in rush hour with all the noise around you, and try to sleep. Good luck.
Thankyou so very much, hospital schedule. You suck.
Despite this the antibiotics seemed to be making good progress with the infection so the problem now was really my increasing sleep deprivation, which I’m pretty sure was a major cause of the continuing pain. I’d got to a point where I just couldn’t handle it mentally anymore. By last Wednesday night the only thing keeping me from screaming “SHUT THE HELL UP!” in frustration was that I repeated to myself as a mantra “I’m going to leave tomorrow. I’m going to leave tomorrow. I’m going to leave tomorrow.”
I had no intention of spending another night in that place. I’d rather suffer the pain at home, where at least I’d have a comfortable environment and could be proactive about when things happened instead of being a battery hen in a cage.
So on Thursday morning when the doctor did his rounds I asked him what it would take for me to go home that day. He didn’t like the idea at all, and took a bit of convincing, but in the end we agreed on a compromise: I’d remain as an in-patient at the hospital, but under the “Hospital in the Home” scheme (http://health.vic.gov.au/hith/) where I’d still be under their care but outside their facility. Instead of being in bed 13A in Miller ward, I’d be in bed 1 in Oxer ward. I’d need to continue IV antibiotics, but that could be handled by home visits by a nurse.
Yes, that means any medical staff who need to visit me have to drive all the way to my place to do it. And yes, it costs a bomb, but you’d be surprised: the daily cost of maintaining a fully equipped hospital bed is so high that even when you take into account the home-visit fees, it’s still only about 1/3rd the cost of staying in hospital! It’s awesome. I’m getting special personal free-range hen home service, for far less than the cost of staying in the battery hen cages.
Since getting home my situation has improved significantly. Within the first day I went from the prescribed painkillers being inadequate, to only needing half the prescribed dosage. I had more sleep in the first night than I had in the previous week combined, while taking less painkillers.
Physically I’m still exhausted: a trip to the kitchen and back leaves me feeling like I’ve been on a big run and need a good rest. My body is still fighting a battle, and I’m having daily visits by a nurse to administer IV antibiotics. I’m told the pain could continue for another week, and it may be many weeks before the root cause of the problem is actually dealt with decisively. It’s not likely that I’ll be seen at work in the next week, but after that we’ll just have to see.
But, as this over-long post hopefully attests, my mental acuity is beginning to return to normal. As long as I limit myself to short doses and rest well there’s a lot I can do with just a laptop, a comfortable chair, and some wireless internets.
Finally, a huge thankyou to Ann and the kids! I’d have been stuffed without them looking after me so patiently.
A little while ago I blogged about a friend who has contracted cancer and my decision to shave my head to raise funds for cancer research. Well, brace yourself. Last Friday afternoon at IVT we ended the regular Tech Talk with a shearing session out in the rec room. The result: A big thankyou to everyone who pitched in with pledges of donations to cancer research including Chris Burgess, Greg Black, Melissa Draper, Neil Evenden, Paul Schena, Paul Wayper, Peter Serwylo, and Stephen Davis, among others. I really appreciate it, and I hope it was worth it to see my ugly mug exposed to the world!
Cleaning up tonight I came across some crusty old documents hiding in a drawer, including a few expired driving licences and this relic: So I cut them up and chucked them in the bin, then a few seconds later fished the security licence back out. It represents such a weird (and formative) piece of my life that I thought it was worth taking a photo. Not many people who know me from the software world are aware that I spent some time around '94 and '95 working as a bouncer. I worked for New Breed Security for a while and got to meet the who's who of the entertainment world at the time, as well as a bunch of famous sportsmen and women. It was a bizarre lifestyle of getting up at lunchtime, having a few hours of free time and heading off to work in the late afternoon or mid evening, then working all through the night at a job that was 95% pure boredom, 4% pure entertainment, and 1% pure terror. A couple of my old school mates ended up working with me for a while and a couple of weeks ago when I was in Sydney for Brad's wedding I was reminiscing with him and Phil about some of the crazy stuff that happened, like the night Phil and I were working at the Conti in Sorrento with just one other security guy and expecting a quiet night with some of the locals when a football team from up the peninsula came in to spend a night boozing up after losing a big game. It didn't take long before the locals and the players clashed, and it ended up in an all-in brawl involving dozens of people and just the three of us security guys helplessly trying to restore order. I have a lasting memory of seeing Phil's back as he headed toward the exit with one footy player in a head lock on each side - which would have been fine except that his feet weren't touching the floor! Things got rough for a while and a minor amount of blood was spilled, but with the assistance of some of the locals and other random staff it all got sorted out and the players headed off to their hotel rooms to sleep off their drinks. Hotel rooms that, unluckily for them, happened to be in the Conti itself! The police attended and spent a while taking statements from us, then went with the hotel manager to drag the players back out of bed. Bad luck for them, they should have left while they had the chance. A couple of hours later I was heading for home when I was pulled over by a police car. I got out and walked back to the cop car with my wallet out and was in the process of removing my licence when I realised that the policewoman who had pulled me over was the same one that had taken my statement earlier in the evening about the brawl. As soon as she saw it was me she just said "Oh, it's you, never mind" and waved me back to my car. Strange, strange times. In a way it's what directed me to where I am now though, because it was through doing event registrations and security that I ended up starting Mission Internet, which is what became IVT. In 1994 I created an online registration system for the Bicycle Industry Trade Show, using a FileMaker Pro database and some really schlonky Applescript and either the WebStar or Quid Pro Quo webserver (I can't recall which I was using at the time). The system generated registration passes with barcodes, and I also wrote some logging software to run on an Apple Newton so trade show delegates could be scanned on entry and the entry time logged. It seems commonplace now, but doing online event registrations in 1994 was pretty much living in Jetsonville. And now, 15 years later, I'm still doing pretty much the same thing. And you know what one of our development projects is right now at IVT? Another event registration / management system. Luckily this time I don't have to write a single line of code though!
Overnight one of my staff lost two of his family members in the fires at Kinglake. Marysville now only exists on maps. A friend of my step-father-in-law is in hospital with serious burns, and lost her house. At least another 20+ people are dead and the number is climbing.
By the time we wrapped at the final location in Tasmania on the weekend there was barely time for me to get to the airport to make my flight home, so I went straight there and didn't go via the hotel to grab my suitcase.
The end result was that I arrived home without suit pants, black shoes, razor, and various other things I needed for Monday morning so I turned up at work looking rather casual. Luckily one of the Directors happens to be a Melbourne boy and was coming back the next day, so my clothes and I are now in the same state again.
For the first time in a long time my house is offline, and it's weird. I'd almost prefer to have the water disconnected, or the gas. Having webtone available 24x7 has become so natural to me it's like breathing, and having it taken away is totally disconcerting. A couple of weeks ago I was in Sydney working with Beyond Productions putting together a new TV show, and I had a similar experience: they gave me a bunch of Mac laptops to configure for the show, and I took them back to my hotel room one evening to set up but I kept coming across things that needed net access, like software packages that I didn't have locally, and the hotel I was at didn't have net access for guests - at all, for any price! Unbelievable. I'm so used to thinking of the internet as being part of my local storage that I often don't even bother having files on machines I work on. When every file I need anywhere in the world is a click or two away, why bother having it on your local disk?
Anyway, the actual reason for the discon-net-ion is that we're switching from a combination of Telstra for phone and iiNet for ADSL2+ to just a naked ADSL2+ connection with VoIP and Annex-M to improve upload speeds, and to make that happen we have to lose all services for about 2 weeks.
End result is a backlog of things I should have blogged about, but haven't been able to from home.
I just got back from a quick visit to the doctor to figure out what's going on with a swollen lymph node in my neck, and during the visit he took my blood pressure. Which meant the machine measured my heart rate. Which was 52bpm. Which is pretty damn good for someone who hasn't done any serious exercise in years.
Typical resting heart rate for an adult male is about 70bpm, with lower rates indicating a higher level of "efficiency" (for want of a better term). A high level of aerobic fitness generally results in a lower resting rate because the heart can work less to achieve sufficient blood flow.
Way back when I was riding and running every day, going to the gym several times per week and swimming fairly regularly my resting rate was down around 38bpm. I'm old and decrepit now but at least I still seem to be enjoying the residual benefits of previous exercise!
One of my last official actions at Linux Australia was to write a letter of support for the team bidding to bring the Free & Open Source Software for GeoSpatial (FOSS4G) conference to Sydney, and a few minutes ago I got an email letting me know that their bid had been successful. So in November 2009 we're going to have one of the best geospatial conferences in the world right on our doorstep: wiki.osgeo.org/index.php/FOSS4G_2009_Press_Release_1 Cool!