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Transplant Athlete
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
  Down Goes Long, Down Goes Long

Recently, at a Critical Mass ride in NYC, Officer Patrick Pogan tackled a cyclist (Christopher Long). The officer is using the Uncle Jimbo defense, but you can clearly see the cyclist steering around the officer...

The Officer is behind a desk until this gets cleared up. If he keeps his job, I hope he's required to do some sort of cycling related community service (teaching kids the rules of the road, riding captain for a blind stoker, etc).

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Sunday, July 27, 2008
  Critical Mass Ride In Seattle Turns Violent

I first got an inkling of this off of CNN's website, but they made it sound like the Critical Mass riders snapped, destroyed a Subaru and beat up the driver for no reason other than to assert their right to the road. This is a "Man bites Dog" story for me. Usually, I read the headlines and it says "Car plows into cyclists, 2 dead, 5 injured" In those cases, the driver is either: A) Drunk B) Stupid C) In Road Rage. In some cases, as long as it isn't DUI, the driver gets off easy, unless they do something stupid like joke about killing the cyclist.

As cyclists, we are naked out there against a ton or two of steel traveling well over the posted speed limit. If you are looking for a definition of helpless and weak, ride a bicycle along any road in America with traffic. Some drivers will give you space, some drivers will "buzz" you (get as close as they can at high speed), some drivers throw stuff at us (usually empty cans or bottles), and others scream at us to get off the road. I've never seen a cyclist riding down the road scream at all the cars going by (of course I've never ridden with Tourettes guy), I've never seen a cyclist throw something at a car, I've never seen a cyclist "buzz" a car. My point is that in my experience the majority of drivers are ok, but there are a noticeable few who make it very dangerous for bicyclists, and when I say dangerous, I mean deadly. On the other hand, never in my experience, have I heard of a cyclist who has killed an automobile driver. It physically can't happen, we can't intimidate them either, can you just image how that conversation goes, "give me room to ride my bike or I'll ride right into your door." The bike would be trashed and unrideable, whereas there might be a small dent in the car door.

This particular situation in Seattle is interesting, because CNN claims the cyclists started it and destroyed the car for no reason; an angle, the driver will surely try to reinforce. How likely is that? The full facts aren't in yet, but cyclists are in jail and the driver isn't. Yes, the car and driver are smashed up, but there are cyclists who've had their bicycles destroyed and have been run over by the car. My guess is that the car did much more monetary damage to the bikes than the cyclists did to the car. My guess is that the police will use this one incident to crack down on all cyclists, because that's easy for them. They won't try to determine who was at fault, they'll just blame the cyclists. How about protecting us cyclists? I should just stop dreaming.

Personally speaking, If one of my friends got run over and the driver took off, I'd chase 'em down and if I caught them, I'd get that driver out of the car if I had to break a window to do it, so be it. Catching the driver is the hard part, in my experience, they're usually flying by at 50+ mph. I was on a charity ride once, where I could hear lots of beeping behind me as I was riding, eventually, an old woman passed me at high speed giving me plenty of room, but the next rider wasn't so lucky. He was about a 100 feet in front of me, she clipped him and he went down. Because the woman had been beeping and was traveling pretty fast, I watched her as she passed me and I saw her hit the guy. She pulled over and she was irate. She said the cyclist reached out and hit her car. When she clipped his handlebar with the back of her station wagon, it threw both of his hands off the bar, and he sort of pinwheeled down to the ground with his hands out; to her looking in her rearview mirror after hearing the bump, it looked like he had slapped her car. His bike was damaged, but rideable and he wasn't severely injured, so he let it slide. The old woman however went straight to the police apparently saying we were all over the road (and I'm sure she added she was afraid for her life). By the time I reached the next support station, the police had left warnings that all riders not staying to the right and riding single file would be cited. Edie and Larry were people I've ridden with who weren't so lucky. They both got hit from behind by vehicles (in separate incidents) and died.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008
  Ethanol Blend

I just realized that the mileage I was quoting for the CAV was based on the days before ethanol was added and as the news is fond of telling us, mileage with ethanol is much less than straight gas. So, I'll have to do some research to see if 31 mpg with the current gas/ethanol blend is equivalent to 35 or 37 mpg on straight gas.
 
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Sunday, July 20, 2008
  How To Save On Gas


or

"Why I Need A Roof Rack For My Trailer"

Camping in the backyard was a dress rehearsal for the real thing. This past weekend, we loaded up our bike trailer and a trailer on loan to us from our friends Paul and Danielle and headed off.

I thought it was going to be a rough day, I woke up feeling a bit like I did the day I went to the hospital (out of breath), but I figured if I rode a bit, I'd be ok. I think I might have loaded ABL down a bit too much, she had the two older kids, some equipment and about 16 pounds of fluid (water, gatorade, milk, etc.). I had most of the equipment, and TGL in her car carrier. We rode through the construction site near our house to get to the trail system that goes through our development. My plan was to find the most level route to the campground at Lake Fairfax in Reston. We crossed Dranesville Road and went south along the Sugarland run trail system. We had to climb out of the valley to get up Lake Newport road. ABL nearly passed out a couple of times on the climb; luckily, dinner (catered by Boston Market) was at the top.

I swapped some stuff out of ABL's load into mine and she found the riding easier from then on. We got to the Campground just before 8pm and got a site near the bathrooms (I'm up every two hours at night, so I wanted a short commute). My little constructicons helped me build the Coleman tent and blow up the air mattresses (way cheap at WalMart). The bathrooms were ultra clean when we got there, quite a surprise from what I was expecting.

I was really beat, but I had to start a fire, those marshmallows won't roast themselves you know. Darkness was descending, so we broke out the glo-lights as well. Q was so fascinated, she wanted to call my parents and explain how they worked, "first you break it, then you shake it, and it lights up".

The campground had the usual noise, fires poppin', people laughing, babies crying (oh wait, that last one was us), but I can't fathom how many people drove their cars to the bathrooms at night. Big honkin' Escalades were crunching and spitting out gravel from between the tires as they pulled in. Seriously, the campground isn't that big, A little walking will do you good. And for god sakes, don't let the engine idle while you're in there!!! If you want to go to the bathroom in air conditioned comfort, get a hotel room.

The next morning, we broke camp and headed over to the Watermine, a family swimmin' hole. The Watermine was a lot of fun considering how cheap and how close it is, but I can imagine when it gets packed, the experience might suffer a bit. I think the only downside was that they didn't have a snack bar. When we left, I managed to put most of the equipment and the two older kids in my trailer. Man was it rough pedaling, but we managed to make it home faster by traveling south on Wiehle and taking the W & OD home (with a quick stop at DQ for Ice cream). I could have used a rack on top of the trailer to ease ABL's burden. As it was, I was seriously overloading the trailer. The weight limit is 100 pounds, but according to the manufacturers, that's just what they feel can safely be brought to a stop by a road bike. I didn't really notice any difference in the braking with it overloaded. ABL had someone tell her it wasn't safe to be riding on roads with kids and I had someone in a Prius tell me it was too hot for me to have my kids in a trailer. Yeah, thanks for your concern America, please keep it to yourself.

P.S. In case you didn't know, ABL does a have a bit of Captain in her.

Yes, she's wearing a black bathing suit under that Tshirt, and yes, that is one happy baby. Q took the picture, so it wasn't staged for the Captain Morgan pose off or anything.

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Friday, July 18, 2008
  CASHCRATE SUCKS

On the recommendation of another Blogger - Frugal Dad, I took a look at CashCrate. The idea is you sign up, fill out a couple surveys and CashCrate will pay you anywhere from 25 cents to $1.75. The first survey I tried was extremely long, probably 30 or 40 pages of questions. It opened up several windows in the background for other surveys I could do. At some point, presumably after they've gotten all the information they wanted, the continue button doesn't work, meaning the survey can't be completed and they don't have to pay.

I tried a couple more surveys and each eventually go to a point where they wanted me to enter a credit card for a "free trial", but it was after they asked for personal information (name, birthday, email address). The surveys were supposed to be 100% free offers, versus the ones where they tell you upfront they'll be asking you to sign up for something.

In all, I think I tried 5 of these free surveys and I was using an email address I set up for Cashcrate. In two days, I've gotten over 125 emails (this address is brand new and was only made available to the 5 surveys and Cashcrate). If I had filled out enough surveys to make the minimum $10 payment, the email onslaught would be exponential. Yeah, definitely not a legitimate service.

 
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  Verizon, Please Send My Wife Out Of Town For 10 Days

I wonder how much air our 4 month old will get...


 
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Monday, July 14, 2008
  Hypermiling In A Red Cavalier

I've been hearing a lot lately about hypermiling, so much so that about 400 miles ago, I decided to give it a try with my Cavalier. Now, when the Cav was broken in, but not broken, I could get mileage as high as 40 mpg on the highway. My memory says the EPA estimate was 32/34. MotorTrend says the EPA estimate was 25/37. Lately though, the mileage has been closer to 30mpg. The wheel bearings are shot (it's easier to push the ESCAPE than it is to push the CAV) along with the other issues a 13 year old car would have.

So far, the hypermiling has been working out ok. This is my first tank driving that way; so I don't have results yet, but as I get used to how the car handles, I can do more and more. Basically, I've learned that it's nearly downhill from the school to my house, so I can shut the engine off and coast into my driveway. The engine's off for about 30 seconds and I've coasted nearly a half mile. I've been able to figure out areas close to the house where I can coast like that to stop signs/lights with the engine off. For more techniques or for information on hypermiling in general, check out Cleanmpg.com.

This morning as I was leaving for an abdominal Ultrasound (as part of my testing to get back on the Transplant List), I coasted down a hill and when I went to turn the car back on, it wouldn't start. Danielle came to my rescue, but the car wouldn't start with jumper cables. So, I called AAA and they sent someone to jump the car. After cleaning the terminals, the car started right up and it's charging now. I missed the ultrasound, but I really didn't want to go anyway (I just want to sleep - but not in a lazy teenager way, in a my kidney is failing way)

I know, you're thinking, I'm a suave sophisticated blogger raking in 6 figures for typing everyday I should just go out and buy a new car, but that's not the case. In the four years I've been blogging, I've never received a check and my total take from the ads that you see along the side of this blog since the beginning would buy me about a third of a tank of gas. Pitiful isn't it, but then again I don't do it for the money. I'm not sure why I do this, but I know it ain't for the money.

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  Putting The "Stay" In...

Saturday night, we tried a "Staycation". I really hate the word - staycation, in fact, I hate a lot of new "made up" words. In this case it applies. I set up a tent in the backyard and was supposed to sleep in there with RJ and Q. ABL and TG would sleep in the house. Q bounced in and out of the tent a couple of times, then proclaimed she was sleeping inside (she's afraid of the dark). RJ tried sleeping in the tent, but after about a half hour, he decided he was going to sleep in the house also (I think he missed his sister). I slept out in the tent, so the kids would see that it was ok.

Sunday was a bad day for me. I wanted to ride, Hell, I wanted to do anything, but I was so tired, I spent most of the day on the couch. I was too tired to walk upstairs at bedtime; so once again, I slept on the couch.

 
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Sunday, July 13, 2008
  Gone Ridin'

I met up with CM on Saturday and his son G. I loaned him my trailer for G then we set out East on the W & OD. We stopped in Vienna for the train car, then again in Arlington for the train car there (near where 4 Mile Run Trail Splits off), then we stopped at a playground a mile or two down the road.

We went to the beginning (or end depending on your point of view) of the W & OD and then turned around. Around Falls Church, CM was a hurtin' puppy (low on salt/cramping), so we switched the trailer over to my bike for the mile or two ride in to Vienna, where we got bread at Great Harvest. CM's wife picked them up at Bikes At Vienna and I finished the ride alone. While at Bikes at Vienna, there was a couple there, discussing their new purchase of a tandem (I'm not even sure if they test rode it) which went something like this, "And when we're not riding it, the girls can ride it with their boyfriends..."
Yeah right, keep on dreaming lady.

On a side note, ABL would like you all to know that while I was out enjoying myself she was struggling to take our three kids to get their photos taken at JC Penny, and it was really hard. On the plus side she got to nail some kid in the head with a door. (Mommy and Aunt decided to take the kid into the bathroom to change clothes and they put the kid right up against the door. Nevermind there was plenty of room and about a dozen chairs in the bathroom, they wanted to change him right there at the door. Poor kid.)

 
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  Transplant List

I spent Monday getting evaluated by the Inova Fairfax Transplant Clinic to be placed on the waiting list. As expected they took copious amounts of blood from me. I've been on pins and needles this week, hoping that blood loss wasn't the straw that would break the camel's back. I made it through the week and got two more shots of Procrit, so hopefully my hematocrit will improve. I'm not letting anybody get near my veins though for at least another week.

 
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Sunday, July 06, 2008
  Riding Is The Best Medicine

I've obviously been retaining water, that's what landed me in the hospital this week. My legs are still showing signs of edema; so this morning, I hopped on my bike for a 4 hour ride out to Purcellville and back on the W & OD trail. I was looking to get myself a bit dehydrated, enough to pull some of that excess fluid out, so I restricted my fluid to one water bottle per hour on the way out. I know that's my normal recommendation for fluid, but I was planning on reducing my fluid on the way back.

I stopped at Subway in Purcellville. I know, not the best meal out there, but it was probably the best choice in the area. I had their 6" turkey no cheese, no mayo, so it should be pretty close to the published nutritional data. Right now, I don't really care about the calories, fat, protein, etc. The only thing I care about in the nutritional data is the sodium levels. I took in approximately 1.250 grams of sodium at Subway, which is probably my recommended daily amount. I probably sweated out 2-4 grams while riding. I limited my fluid intake on the way back, but I don't think it was enough. My feet have definitely lost some of the fluid weighing them down, but my ankles still have some extra fluid.

I've definitely lost fluid and sodium, just not as much as I wanted. My guess is that I covered 45 miles; so, not to shabby for a guy who was just in the hospital for congestive heart failure and renal failure. If I can keep riding, I should be able to manage my health issues (blood pressure, extra fluid, sodium levels, etc).

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Thursday, July 03, 2008
  Time To Get Ill

P.S. My official diagnosis was Renal Failure and Congestive Heart Failure, but I'm better now.


I'm not the type of person who likes to waste my time
And when I'm on the mic I just say my rhymes
Because I'm out on bail the check is in the mail
They can sentence me to life but I won't go to jail
I'm cool calm collected from class I was ejected
Just me, Mike D., and M.C.A. we're rarely disrespected
I got all the time that I need to kill
What's the time? it's time to get ill

-Beastie Boys

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  Echoes Of Wolf Creek Pass

I woke up yesterday morning (around 5:30am) and had a bit of difficulty breathing. It felt a little like climbing a high Colorado Pass or that time I had pneumonia. When my surgery was canceled last week, the nurse at my nephrologist's office told me that if anything changed to get myself to the Emergency room. Well, difficulty breathing was new and also accompanied by some tightness in my chest, so I panicked and hopped in my car and went to the ER at Reston Hospital. I drove about 6 blocks and felt like I was going to pass out. I dialed 911 (but didn't hit send) on my phone just in case and started thinking about where an ambulance could meet me.

I took a moment and said to myself, "I'm going to make it to the hospital." I took some deep belly breaths and calmed down as much as was possible. I made it to Dranesville Rd and knew that I wasn't far from 7100, which would take me right to the Hospital. I considered flagging down a police officer that blew by, but traffic wasn't really conducive to it. I ignored the no right on red sign and breezed on to 7100. I was pretty desperate at this point; since I didn't know what was wrong, I was afraid I'd pass out at any moment. I made it to the hospital, parked, and walked to the ER. I flagged someone down in the lobby and told him I was having trouble breathing and he called a nurse. She took me right back, drew blood, blood pressure, pulse ox and immediately put me on oxygen, then a nebulizer treatment. I'd been peeing every two hours all night long and was still peeing every two hours at the hospital. By the time they figured out that I had too much fluid on board, I had already gotten rid of a lot of it and was breathing better.

Dr. Chen was very concerned about my lab results and was thinking that I should start dialysis immediately. There was fluid in my lungs making it hard to breath and fluid around my heart. The fluid around my heart had strained it a bit, so a BNP test suggested that there had been some excessive stretching of the muscles.

Because of the issues with the Heart they moved me to the Progressive Care Unit (PCU). They slapped a wireless portable EKG on me to monitor my heart while I was there. It was really a plot to keep me on the floor. The wireless monitor had a limited range, so once I left the floor, my monitor would flatline; I was lojacked.

I met with a Nephrologist, Dr. Shumburu, and I agreed with everything he had to say. There was no reason to go on dialysis, there was still plenty of life left in the kidney. The extra fluid could be purged with diuretics. The alternative was to get a permacatheter surgically implanted in my chest and several hours of dialysis every day for three days straight. They'd release me from the hospital on Friday. No way was I going to go through that.

They ran tests all day, X-Rays, and echocardiograms, and blood work, oh boy did they draw blood. They drew so much blood, my hematocrit dropped from 19.6 to 15.6. After seeing that, Dr. Chen and another nephrologist were lobbying hard for me to get a transfusion, but the problem with a transfusion is it could make it hard to get a transplant later. The body builds up antibodies to this foreign blood and it makes it harder to match the mix of antibodies for the next transplant.

I made the mistake of calling my parents and letting them know I was in the hospital and they drove down from NJ. My wife came down from Frederick, MD with Baby TG.

I spent the night at the hospital because I had a renal ultrasound scheduled in the morning. I was supposed to be NPO ( Nil per os) nothing by mouth after midnight. I found out this morning my test was scheduled for 11am, that's kind of a long time for me to go without food, so I was getting a bit cranky. My nurse kept pushing me to have a transfusion, and I wasn't happy about it. No means No, dude. I think I may have even resorted to the old parent standby 'because I said so,' when he kept pestering me. I could feel the Prednisone pushing me hard to the Dark Side. When Justin showed up with a gurney to wheel me down to Radiology, I told them I was walking. There was no way I was getting on that stretcher. They started quoting rules, and Justin told me he'd get in trouble, but I didn't care. When I got down to Radiology, the head of the department came in to reiterate that the rules were there for their protection and I should take a wheelchair back to my room. I told him I'd consider it, which I did, the whole time I was on the table. I came to the conclusion that the health benefits of me walking outweighed the legal risk to the hospital. When I got back to my room, my nurse, Alex, was updating my parents on my condition. I wasn't happy with him for pushing the transfusion and I was afraid, he'd start in on my parents about the transfusion, so I asked him if he had written permission to disclose my medical records to my parents. He looked at me with that "but they're your parents" look and I looked back at him like a pissed off 36 year old who makes his own medical decisions.

He obviously didn't have written permission to disclose my records, so he shut up. I figure if he was so concerned about me following the Hospital's rules about walking off the floor, he'd be concerned about the Federal Government's rules about privacy. I just checked the Hospital's privacy statement and if he believed they were involved in my care, then he can disclose the information to them, but if I ask him to stop sharing the information and he agrees to comply, then he must stop. By this time, it was apparent to me what the medical issue was, excess fluid, and it had been solved. The hospital staff however were concerned about solving my kidney problem and all of the associated side effects, which I didn't need, and they wouldn't be able to do anyway. I've been living with this disease for a long time now, I had a treatment plan worked out with my doctors, I didn't want to change that plan after meeting with an Internal Medicine specialist or a hospital nephrologist who knew nothing about me and my long term care for all of 5 minutes.

Another issue, was that they were giving me drugs willynilly to combat the problems as they saw them. Like all the blood draws that dropped my hematocrit to dangerous levels, these drugs have side effects and the side effects could make my bloodwork look abnormal, necessitating more drugs to combat side effects...you get the picture.

I was getting antsy to leave, I knew I was healthy enough to leave, I was worried they'd draw more blood and drop my hematocrit further (requiring me to get a transfusion), and I didn't think they could do any more for me at that point. They were sniffing around my white blood cell count, which had increased, indicating I may have an infection (tell me something I don't know) and I was afraid, they were going to run more tests to track the infection down.

When they finally let me go, I blew out of there pretty fast.

 
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I've gone through kidney failure twice. The first time in 2000, my mother donated a kidney; and again in 2008, I'm on dialysis waiting for a breakthrough in immuno-suppression medicines before seeking a new kidney.

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Warning Signs for Kidney Disease:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Burning or Difficulty when Urinating
  • Frequent Urination at Night
  • Blood in your urine
  • Cola or tea colored urine
  • Swellig of the eyes, ankles, or feet
  • Lower back pain unrelated to physical activity


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