Monday, September 17, 2007

Rambling Stream of Consciousness

This past Saturday dawned very beautiful in my neck of the woods. Having finally recovered from a minor but persistent ankle injury, I saddled up my bicycle for the first time in weeks and went for a serious ride.

The weather was perfect. There was no breeze. The temperature was perfect. The road conditions were perfect. Even the color of the sky was perfect. The mountains around me blazed with a smattering of red and orange where some of the leaves have taken on their autumn colors. As I rode, I considered the thought that people pay a lot of money to go on vacations to places like this, and somehow I am blessed enough to live here.

The only drawbacks were that there was a minor squeak on my bike that I have yet to diagnose and fix, and the battery on my speedometer finally failed, so I couldn’t tell how fast I was going. I had to guess based on my level of exertion. I suppose that’s OK. The speedometer just lets me measure my performance against past rides.

Oh, and I had to fix a flat before getting started. My son borrowed my bike the other day to do his newspaper route when his bike had a flat tire. That kid has flattened tires on four of our family’s bikes over the past few weeks. He’s a one-man tire-flattening crew. And he’s just doing street riding. What’s up with that?


Later on Saturday I was at a store that has bicycles and I found myself coveting a nicer model than the one I have. My bike is really just dandy for the type of riding that I do. It’s not an expensive thing, but it performs just fine for my use. I ended up standing by the bike display and found myself checking out a bike with nicer front forks and disc brakes. I shook my head at my silliness. I doubt the difference in performance would be more than minimal. My current bike will continue to serve me well for some time to come.


Summer is waning and autumn is in the air. Fall has always been my favorite time of year. A friend of mine dislikes autumn because it reminds him of the onset of winter. But I kind of like having four seasons. Early autumn as the summer wanes but the winter is not yet here just feels good to me for some reason. I love the crisp mornings, the ripe, warm afternoons, and the earlier sunsets.


Sunday morning we found out that a lady that lived around the corner from us had passed away from a heart attack a few hours earlier. We’ve lived in our neighborhood for 19 years and we’ve known this lady quite well. Linda was mother to a large family, all of them now grown and raising their own families. She taught at a local junior high school. I’m sure that her students are shocked at the news this morning. Linda was always serving others. She had a marvelously calm but rye sense of humor. She was an educated lady with a down-home demeanor.

Linda’s husband is currently our town’s mayor. Gary retired from a career as an architect a couple of years ago, but Linda needed to work a bit longer before she could retire. They had plans for post-retirement that Gary will now have to retool. Linda will be missed. I wish Gary and his family all the best as they go through the grieving process. They believe their family ties are eternal. Godspeed, Linda.


One of my sons has just surpassed me in height (by a quarter inch). He’s immensely proud of this fact, as if he had something to do with his physical height. I knew from the day he was born that he’d be taller than his older brother. For years, this son wore my older son’s hand-me-downs until the boys got to be the same size. Then in the past year, he just kept getting taller when his brother had pretty much stopped.

My growing boy has been having my wife measure the two of us every few weeks since he got close to my height last spring. But then he seemed to hit a plateau. The other day we were both standing on the kitchen tile and neither of us was wearing footwear. I looked at my son and said, “I think you might be taller than me.” My wife measured us, and sure enough, he is. He’s still growing, so I suspect he’ll eventually be several inches taller than me.


I have been teaching my 16-year-old son to drive. In Utah you can get a learner permit at age 15 by passing a written test. Then you can drive with a 21-year-old licensed driver sitting next to you. To get a diver license, you have to get 40 hours of driving under your belt, 10 of which must be nighttime driving. (You also have to complete classroom training, pass a written test and a pass a driving test.) The idea is to make sure newly licensed drivers are sufficiently experienced. This is a relatively new thing, so I’m not sure if there are any statistics on how it’s working out.

My son was not particularly motivated to get a learner permit until a couple of months before his 16th birthday. I got him out driving a few brief times last spring, mainly in large vacant parking lots, but then he went away to work at Boy Scout camp all summer. When he got home, he couldn’t remember which pedal was which. He was pretty nervous behind the wheel.

Over the past several weeks we have gotten my son out driving a number of times. He started driver education classes a couple of weeks ago. He is slowly improving and getting a little more comfortable. Oncoming traffic on narrower roads still freaks him out, but he’s overcoming his tendency to pull to the right. He’s still got some work to do on learning how to multi-task, such as managing the gas pedal while doing everything else he’s got to do to safely change lanes.

We’ve been having my son drive three different vehicles. His grandparents have offered to take him out driving in their two vehicles as well. But none of these cars have manual transmissions. I learned to drive a little red Volkswagen bug, as well as an old 4-door Chevy Impala and a new Buick Regal sedan. The bug was loads of fun. I’d like my kids to learn how to drive a stick-shift, but I don’t currently have such a vehicle.

I’m sure we’ll make it through the whole learning to drive thing. Then comes paying a heavy bounty for insuring a teenager on the auto insurance. My boy’s going to have to cough up the money to do that from his own earnings.

While my 16-year-old has warmed only gradually to driving, his 14-year-old brother anticipates getting a learner permit the moment he turns 15. He plans to get as much driving under his belt as possible between then and the day he can get his official driver license.


My 14-year-old son has been ill for a month. He ran a low-grade fever, had aches and pains, occasional chills, and a cough. He generally felt lousy. But he was mostly able to carry on with life. After about 10 days of this, we figured it was abnormal enough to take him to the doctor. They ran a variety of tests, but nothing jumped out. One test showed a somewhat higher rate of inflammation. So they did more tests, looking for less common things. Nothing.

After three weeks of this routine, even the inflammation test came back normal. That evening, my son’s low-grade fever climbed to 101.5°. Then to 102.5°. And then to 104°. We hauled him to the nearby urgent care center. They took a chest X-Ray and took more tests. They said there was a slight spot in one lung, but that it was nothing to worry about. This time, however, my son’s white blood cell count was high enough that they had us haul him to the emergency room.

In the emergency room, they did a CAT scan of his head and neck and ran more tests. Like every other medical practitioner that had seen my son, the doctor and nurses said that his lungs seemed clear. But they knew he had some kind of infection, so they gave him antibiotics and painkillers intravenously. They said to take him home to rest, and then to bring him back for another dose when he woke up.

The next day, the ER doctor that checked out my son pulled together all of the data they had on him. After carefully reviewing it, he came in and asked a number of very specific questions. He then added those answers to his data and looked at it some more. He said that this all pointed to a diagnosis of walking pneumonia, or more specifically, Mycoplasma pneumoniae. In fact, the doctor said it seemed like a classic case of the disease.

The doctor was shocked that nobody had taken a chest X-Ray until the night before. He said that the spot on the X-Ray would be nothing to worry about if you were only looking for typical pneumonia, but that it was definitely something to worry about if you’re looking for walking pneumonia. To be sure (and to get more money), they ran more tests, which included a CAT scan of my boy’s lungs. This allowed the doctor to confirm his diagnosis.

Unfortunately, the IV antibiotics my son had been getting are ineffective for the illness he had. So he was prescribed a 10-day course of two different antibiotics. Within a couple of days, the fever abated. But my son continued to feel lousy. He had stomach pain, occasional nausea, lack of energy, and a nasty headache that got worse when he got upright. Unfortunately, the strong antibiotics my son has been taking can cause some of these problems.

After more than a week away from school (which kills my son because he’s an academician), he went to school for half a day today, but then he felt too lousy to make it through the rest of the day. It looks like full activity will return only gradually.

Bacterial walking pneumonia occurs most often in children ages 5-15 and in the elderly. It is often contracted at summer camps, in dormitories, and in places where people have sustained close contact. The symptoms my son experienced are classical. It can take two to five weeks to develop symptoms after exposure. The victim will then have two to three weeks of feeling run down, having low-grade fevers, body aches, sniffles, cough, congestion, etc. And if the condition isn’t remedied in that amount of time, it will often rapidly blossom into a full-blown case, such as my son’s.

At least one of the boys at the summer camp where my son worked had walking pneumonia. My nephew roomed in the same tent as my two sons. After camp he started with the same symptoms. After my son’s diagnosis, he was taken to the doctor and was immediately prescribed antibiotics to take care of the problem before it got worse.

I realize that medical practitioners are faced with dealing with many different types of conditions and that it’s difficult to be well versed on everything. But I have to wonder why it took a week and a half to diagnose my son’s condition when he had a classical case of this illness. I guess the lesson is to be as well informed as possible and to be persistent.

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