Kyle Maxwell

Just me.

Archive for the category “Personal”

Anaphylaxis

Last fall, on the advice of my doctor, I started immunotherapy for my allergies (primarily environmental, like grass). They were as severe as any the clinic had ever seen. The therapy basically involves my wife giving me a small injection in each arm every other day, with the dosages increasing every month or two. This also includes a clinic visit every time the dosage increases.

Up until this week, the therapy has gone really well. I went through the north Texas spring season without too much difficulty and the summer has been particularly clear. The only side effects were small localized reactions at the injection site on one of my arms that I could usually control with a very small dosage of Children’s Benadryl. Even if I didn’t take that medicine, I could still tolerate the reaction, which you could probably compare to a particularly uncomfortable mosquito bite.

Then this past Monday, I returned from a trip to Las Vegas for DEF CON. That night, my wife gave me my set of injections just before bed time, per our usual practice. As I went to lay down, I felt really warm, which didn’t strike me as unusual: it’s the start of August in Texas and I’m generally a bit hot-natured anyway. Turning on a bedside fan didn’t provide much relief, but when I went to get a drink of water from the bathroom, I noticed I looked a little flushed and had bloodshot eyes. But within a few moments of taking the Benadryl, my situation had deteriorated rapidly and I had significant trouble breathing.

They’d warned me about this. I’d literally trained for this.

I grabbed my epinephrine autoinjector (“EpiPen”) from the bathroom, sat down, and prepared for what I thought would be a painful injection (but still preferable to not breathing). I jabbed my right thigh and, other than the tiniest pinch ever and a small drop of blood trickling down my leg, didn’t actually feel too much. Immediately following, I dialed 911 and requested paramedics and an ambulance. By the time they arrived (probably <5 minutes, though I didn’t actually measure), my breathing had become far more labored and I couldn’t swallow at all.

They administered oxygen and checked my vitals, and though the first team (in the fire engine) didn’t understand what I was trying to explain about the immunotherapy injections, the second team (in the ambulance) definitely knew what was up. So an ambulance transported me to the emergency room, for the first (and hopefully last!) time in my life.

I felt a lot better in the ambulance, but that didn’t mean everything was okay. The shot is really designed to give temporary relief so you can survive long enough to get to a real treatment center. Once I arrived, they immediately gave me a breathing treatment (albuterol) plus a much stronger shot of Benadryl, a steroid, and Pepcid (which apparently has an antihistamine effect as well).

albuterol

Ignore the mohawk – that was just for a charity fundraiser and I hadn’t had a chance to get it removed yet

We’re fortunate enough to live near our extended families, so I had one sister-in-law watch my children (who slept through the entire event, yay!) and another follow the ambulance to bring us home later. My mom and sister also came up to the hospital for a while. They sent me home in the wee hours. The next day, the doctor explained that we’d have to temporarily reduce the dosage for a while and ramp up slowly, but also that I’ll have to have all my injections done in the office for about a month for observation. If I have another anaphylactic reaction, I won’t need to go to the ER because they have all the appropriate treatments on hand. But that would also mean the end of my immunotherapy, as after two adverse reactions it would be deemed unsafe for me.

I had lots of love and support from my friends online and locally as well, so many thanks to all of you who sent thoughts, prayers, well-wishes, and whatever assorted bits of good karma you could spare. It really did mean a lot to me.

With apologies to Leo McGarry

So this guy is walking down the street and he falls in a hole. It’s deep and he can’t get out.

A doctor walks past, hears him, and throws a prescription in the hole, then keeps going.

A priest walks past, hears him, and says a prayer, then keeps going.

His buddy walks past, hears him, and jumps in the hole.

The guy says, “what are you doing?! Now we’re both stuck”

But his buddy says, “yeah, but I’ve been here before and I know how to get out.”

came in handy for me today

Cutting down on the snark

On Friday, I made it through the entire day snark-free. That presented a lot of challenges, since I normally engage in a lot of good-natured ribbing with guys at work. Sometimes I feel like I over-escalate through the day, to the point where I feel like I become disrespectful and unkind. I wanted to make significant efforts to treat other people the way I teach my children to do.

Current events make this highly challenging. So many people have gotten misleading information on the Fukushima nuclear disaster and overreacting inappropriately, largely fueled by the media’s self-serving actions that work against anything resembling the public interest. And then we see the start of a new war in Libya, which will undoubtedly lead in the next few weeks to the sort of jingoism that sets my hair on fire.

Humanity frequently uses humor as a defense mechanism in the face of incredible tragedy or traumatic stress. But that shouldn’t mean taking it out on other people. Now to see how well I can handle matters this week…

Playing chess again

I’ll write more about this later (probably elsewhere), but I’ve decided to dive back into playing chess. Not that I ever had much skill, but I’d like to become a better player. You can find me on Chess.com as technoskald. I’ve started playing a bunch of games, plus spending time with their adaptive learning system and tactics trainer to see what might help.

If you play, throw me a challenge or such. Given my current ranking, you will likely win, but we’ll have fun and I might learn something.

Private pain

This morning, I received some sad news about a death of a man I knew just about my whole life, but from whom I’d grown distant over the last few years. No need to go into any detail publicly, except to say that I find the situation exceptionally complicated and tragic.

'Art of Pain' by azarius

My first instinct, honed over the last 10 or 12 years, is to reach out via my online life. I want to express how I feel. I want to encourage others to make good decisions and always do ‘just so’. I want people to love each other and look out for each other’s interests rather than their own.

But then I remembered a piece I read a couple of years ago in the New York Times. Maureen Dowd interviewed the founders of Twitter, Biz Stone and Evan Williams. One bit stuck with me:

ME: I heard about a woman who tweeted her father’s funeral. Whatever happened to private pain?

EVAN: I have private pain every day.

I suppose we all do. Sometimes we keep it private out of shame. Other times we can’t handle the pressure. Still other times, like in this case, we do it out of respect for other people’s privacy.

Either way, I just need to watch out for the oversharing. But this is okay, it seems to me, because it’s a little more ‘meta’: it’s about the need to refrain from putting too much out there even when we want contact.

I’m going to go give someone a hug now.

We hardly knew ye

If you can watch this without getting a lump in your throat and a sting in your eye, then you’ve got something missing in your chest.

Geeks don’t all like the same stuff

 

We're not all alike. That's cool.

 

 

Geeks don’t all like the same stuff. Really.

What sets us apart isn’t necessarily a particular set of identical interests down to the last detail, because we don’t have that. Some of my friends look at me funny when I state that I’m not really big into superheroes. Sure, I liked Superman and Batman when I was a kid, but I didn’t delve into comic book culture. Others did, and that’s their bag, not mine.

On the flip side, I became a Unix guy many, many years ago. I adopted the credo of “small pieces, loosely joined” and joined the call of the Free Software Foundation with a full-throated voice. Other geeks are still Microsoft aficionados, though some at least have compromised with Macs. We don’t have to like the same things. (Though I do wish Richard Stallman would shower a little more frequently.)

So just because somebody proudly displays a label, you shouldn’t assume she’s just like everybody else who wears the label. Those labels are pretty broad, after all.

(Yes, this post is just a venting due to specific conversations I’ve had back here in meatspace.)

Hermitry

My wife occasionally accuses me of having turned into a hermit. I can only respond, “turn into?

But this week’s weather in Dallas just made things worse. I made a brief excursion after work on Monday — and then we didn’t leave the house again until Saturday. Normally, this wouldn’t quite get to me as much as it would to other people, per my wife’s observation. But the kids stayed at home, too, as local school districts cancelled nearly the entire week.

So today, the ice and snow have started to thaw. My mother and sister took the kids to see a movie, and here I am sipping my soy latte and blogging from a café-bookstore while pondering which e-reader to buy. Yeah, so maybe I would have envisioned a more exciting release to freedom.

But it’ll do.

Citizen Astronomy

So now 2011 has arrived and we’ve moved past the years that fascinated me as a young man. I’ve started to think again about working on stuff that matters. While my day job does matter in its own way, it lacks the sort of purpose I need. Some of that sense of purpose, of course, finds fulfillment in family and other inner pursuits. Those latter commitments mean that I haven’t returned to formal education (read, “his wife didn’t want him in class and not at home every evening…”). Instead, I’ve chosen to take Mark Twain’s counsel and find other ways to further my education.

But where should I start?

I have strong memories of my childhood telescope. As telescopes go, it wasn’t much. I think it cost something on the order of $100 at a toy store, but it did its job. As I recall, we bought it around the time of the approach of Halley’s Comet in 1986. In reality, I had lots of exposure to astronomy (and other “hard sciences”). My father and uncle took their own particular interest in this science, of course, with their own telescopes and binoculars and observations starting in their youth. To tell the truth, my family has several generations of history with what many now call “citizen science“.

During my undergraduate years, I took a basic course in Astronomy but didn’t apply myself. That had less to do with the particular course at the time and more with my overall approach to my studies, a particularly significant regret. Since then, I’ve always kept informed and interested about astronomy more than any other science, whether through eclipse observation or just APoD.

So I started looking around for areas somebody with my academic background (bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a strong computer science component) and skill set (UNIX, data analysis) could get involved. At the moment, I lean towards the Texas Astronomical Society. Conveniently, it meets at my alma mater which also sits along my work commute, and several of their upcoming events take place even closer to my home.

Whether not what I do matters, this definitely counts as working on stuff that matters.

Stress attack?

Monday afternoon, I had a bit of a stressful day. In fact, at one point, I got so agitated that I practically fell back into my chair and couldn’t breathe (hyperventilation? I dunno). My colleagues were a little worried about me. I caught my breath and went home.

Tuesday afternoon, I didn’t feel very well at work. I left around 5pm and, on the way home, started having chest pains and dizziness. In fact, I considered pulling over and calling 911, but decided that would be an overreaction and got home. But I pulled into the driveway, honked a few times until my wife came out of the front door, and asked her to help me inside, where I immediately lay down on the couch to rest.

After a bit, she and my sister-in-law (a nurse) decided to take me to the ER, where they ran an EKG, blood work, chest X-ray, etc., all of which came up clean.

Wednesday, I had a stress test, which didn’t show anything particularly worrying although I lasted nowhere nearly as long as they would have liked.

I think my core issue here is stress. My job puts a lot of pressure on me by its nature, and I need to deal with it better physically and mentally. That obviously needs to include exercise and for me to continue to improve my eating habits. Those have gotten significantly better but I wouldn’t yet call them good.

Not sure yet what this will mean.

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