Confessions of a Rocket Scientist
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
  Update: My Heart
Since my surgery I have had a few ups and downs, but mostly I am on the road to recovery. I really feel good, but it took a lot of work to get here. And I still have a long way to go. But with God's help and my dear wife's constant care, I think things will be all right.
I'm back at work. There's a bit of adjustment going on since my former boss quit. The new boss has a significantly different vision about software quality and where I can best contribute. I have some reservations about it, but I think I can work with him. We shall see.
I started cardiac rehab in April. This is a program of exercise performed while being monitored. It really wasn't so bad. Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed it. Well, I suppose I could have done without being so tired, but I really felt good when I worked out. I exercised on a treadmill, a stationary bike, a recumbent cross-trainer (called the Nu-Step) and a kind of an arm bike called the Sci-Fit. And I also did some resistance training on the weights. Not bad for somebody who avoided exercise like a tax audit.
Sometime in June I developed atrial fibrillation. My heart rate was high and I had some difficulty with exertion. The doctors had to play with my medication and for a while I was not allowed to exercise. They managed to get my heart rate down to something reasonable, but the fibrillation was still there. So they did a procedure called Electro Cardioversion. They shocked my heart.
It's kind of like where they use the paddles and yell "Clear!" on TV, but they used electrodes instead of paddles and I was asleep for it. It worked. My heart went back into a nice sinus rhythm, but now I had to get my medication re-adjusted. For a while I would get dizzy and came close to passing out, but soon I was feeling quite well.
I felt a big difference in my exercise sessions. I could push myself a little harder, especially on the treadmill. I wasn't exactly running a marathon, but I was moving at a fair clip and feeling quite good.
Unfortunately, during one of my sessions, I passed out.
I don't remember much about actually passing out. I was tooling along on the treadmill, having finished nine minutes of a ten-minute workout, when I was suddenly aware that people had caught me and placed me in a chair. I had no memory of losing consciousness. Fortunately, I was being monitored, and the monitor told the tale. My heartbeat had gone from about 110 to 60. It was like suddenly getting half of the oxygen you needed.
My doctor had an explanation. He called it a double block. Basically, my natural pacemaker was temporarily confused and thought my heart had already beat. This can be caused by an imbalance of the very drugs I was taking. So he took me off Digoxin and cut my Toprol dosage in half.
Since the incident I have not passed out again. I finished my cardiac rehab and am now wearing something called a Cardionet monitor. It's like the Holter monitor only it is worn for ten days and it uses cell phone technology. I have had it for a week, and the first unit they sent me broke down while I was wearing it.
I go on vacation in two weeks.
  Googling Myself
Try this some time. Put your name in Google and do a search. I tried it and I was directed to my own blog. Of course, that was the only actual reference to myself in the search. I was surprised to discover just how many William Sullivan's exist in cyberspace. And they appear to have done pretty well for themselves. Several are attorneys, and one or two have been elected to fairly high office. Lots of doctors, and plenty of business owners. So maybe there's hope for me!
Monday, April 09, 2007
  Recovering From Heart Surgery
It has been over a year since I posted anything to my blog. I have a bit of free time on my hands right now due to recent developments. The big news is that I have had open heart surgery. Fortunately I am on the road to recovery.

I suppose it started back in December. I was in NYC for training when I noticed I was having difficulty negotiating that stairs on the subway. It got to the point that I abandoned the subway and used taxis to get to my class every day. I resolved to exercise more and get back in shape. Unfortunately, all of my efforts were counter productive.

By February I was having trouble just walking. I could not walk more than 50 feet on level ground without stopping to rest. I was totally out of breath and my heart was pounding in my chest like I had run a marathon. I knew something was seriously wrong, so I called my doctor. After he examined me he suspected pneumonia and sent me to our local hospital, Grand View Hospital in Sellersville, PA.

Once in the hospital I was given an electro-cardiogram. I had more than pneumonia, I had severe atrial fibrillation with a resting heart rate if about 130. I was in heart failure. My heart was severely out of synch and not pumping efficiently. I was admitted immediately. I soon was hooked up to IV antibiotics as well as heparin and lasix.

I was given a number of tests including a stress test and finally a cardiac catheterization. This test involves inserting probes into the femoral artery and injecting dye. The results told the story. I had about a 50% blockage of two arteries. This could normally be handled with a balloon angioplasty and stents. But I had another problem. My aortic valves were damaged and needed replacement. I would need surgery.

I have to confess that the very prospect of heart surgery frightened me like nothing else could. My father had died on the table getting a bypass. My mother died from heart disease. I really thought I was facing my death. But at this point, arguably the lowest point of my life, I felt a Presence. Some of you may scoff, but I truly believe that God came to me at that moment, to give me comfort, to hold me in His arms and assure me that I was His child and He would see me through this. I can't explain it rationally. I can only tell you just what I felt and how I felt. At that moment I knew that I would be all right.

My doctor tells me that God never closes a door without opening another. But waiting in the hallway can be Hell. I was transferred to Doylestown Hospital where open heart surgery is offered. It would be two more weeks before I had the surgery.

The surgeons who would perform my surgery were the very best around. They are associated with Temple University in Philadelphia. The surgeon who would operate on me was highly skilled. He performs transplants among other things. He explained that I needed two bypass grafts and possibly three sets of valves replaced. He expected the procedure to last up to eight hours. He also told me that there was a 20% chance I may not survive the surgery. I can do math. That meant there was an 80% chance I would make it. I could afford to gamble on those odds. Okay, lets do it.

Now I have to say, the surgeons are incredibly careful and meticulous to a fault. I was examined head to toe to disclose any condition that might be adverse to the surgery, particularly by causing an infection. X-rays disclosed an abscessed tooth, and a CAT scan revealed a kidney stone blocking my ureter. Both had to be taken care of before surgery. Once I was declared infection free, I was cleared for the main procedure.

The night before surgery I had to shower with a special surgical soap. This was repeated the morning of surgery. My family arrived that morning to wish me luck. My wife and my two sisters were in my room as I was wheeled down to the Operating Room.

I don't remember a lot about the operating room. I had spoken with God on my way down and was certain He was watching out for me. I remember moving onto the table, being strapped in, and having IV's hooked up. The doctors and nurses all were upbeat. I caught a glimpse of the surgical instruments over to the side, but by this time the IV drugs had me very calm. A mask went over my face. I caught a whiff of agent in the oxygen.

That was the last thing I remembered. I did not dream. My next conscious memory is of being in my room in ICU. My family was there and talking to me. The surgeon told me it was over and I had done well. I was awake and could hear everybody, but was unable to move or acknowledge them in any way.

Most remarkable, it was only 1 o'clock. The operation was not as complicated as expected.

It took a few hours to come completely out of anesthesia. I had a ventilator tube in my throat that was removed. And I was sitting up out of bed a few hours later.

I have to say that I am surprised at just how good I felt. I was up walking the day after surgery. I soon had the chest tubes removed and could walk around pushing my IV pole. Four days later my IV's were disconnected and I was allowed to go outside onto a balcony. I breathed open, fresh air for the first time in a month. And the next day I went home.

A nurse comes out to visit every few days, and soon will no longer be needed. I am walking up to 15 minutes at a time and can walk up steps. I do get tired quickly and need a few naps during the day, but I can feel myself grow stronger. I start cardiac rehab in two weeks.

Throughout my ordeal, my Dear Wife has been my rock. She has been strong for me and has vowed to whip me back into shape. Without her I know I would never have made it. I am truly blessed to have a true life mate. She has helped me organize my medication, accompanies me on my daily walks, and gives me a good kick in the ass when I need it. Thank you, Betty, for 35 years of marriage and a lifetime of happiness. I love you more than I could ever express with words, and could not repay your devotion had I a hundred lifetimes to do so.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
  Radical Middle-of-the-Road Arise!
I am really tired of the national agenda and the national debate being seized by the lunatic fringe.
I live in a “blue” state. This means that I am a communist-leaning unreconstructed hippie liberal who wants to destroy all trace of God in our nation while rounding up all of the pregnant women and tearing the unborn children from their wombs (presumably with a partial-birth abortion.) I want to dismantle the armed forces, forcibly remove and destroy all privately owned firearms, and freely distribute narcotics, pornography, and condoms to all preschool children.
I am a Christian. This means that I am a registered Republican (just like God.) I want our legislature to outlaw abortion, birth control, homosexuality, and evolution. Intelligent design will be taught in our schools, and all godless content will be expunged. Schoolchildren will be required to pray daily and marksmanship will be a required course. This is what Jesus would want.
I am a scientist. This means that I am a secular humanist, an atheist, and want to destroy all reference to God and faith in society. All churches will be compelled to teach Darwin from the pulpits, and heterosexual marriage will be banned.
At least, that’s what people keep telling me.
It occurs to me that most of us, the normal people in America, are not that radical. We want pretty much the same thing. We want a nice home, a decent job, and a bit of protection from our government. There are a lot of things we disagree on, but generally we get along. This is because we have learned how to compromise.
Compromise: according to the lunatic radicals, that means failure. The uncompromising man of principle is to be admired, and the weakling who compromised our precious ideals is to be detested. What a load of crap! Compromise is the American way! It means that you don’t get every little thing you want, but neither does the other guy. You get something, and he gets something. It’s a peaceful and honorable way for reasonable people to solve disagreements.
An “uncompromising” individual should be labeled just what he really is: stubborn. He is like a petulant child throwing a temper tantrum because he wanted daddy to bring him a glass of water from the kitchen, not from the bathroom. He should have been soundly spanked when young and taught that such behavior is quite unacceptable in polite society.
Unfortunately, our society has become far too tolerant of petulant children throwing temper tantrums, regardless of their chronological age. We reward the bleating talk-show host who pisses and moans about how the world sucks because it does not conform to his own personal vision. We give unending coverage to nuts that set up picket lines protesting the War in Iraq and Roe vs. Wade every time a new McDonald’s opens.
It is long past time we said enough is enough! It is time to make clear to these nuts that we will no longer tolerate their childish antics. It’s a damn shame that you can’t handle snakes or chant in tongues in the public school! Tough shit! It’s a damn shame you can’t fire up a doobie in the park or burn the flag whenever you like. Boo, hoo, you’re breaking my heart! Suck it up and take it like a man! You will NOT get everything you want handed to you on a silver platter. Your rights end where my nose begins! Grow up and do something useful like the rest of us!
Monday, February 20, 2006
  The Shot Heard Round The World

By now (unless you have been living in a fallout shelter on a deserted island) you have heard the news about Dick Cheney’s hunting accident.  Basically he shot Harry Whittington, an associate and hunting buddy, in the face.  Just about everybody figures it was a tragic accident.  The controversy is in the fact that he didn’t release the news for about 36 hours.

The press is salivating.  What’s he got to hide?

Personally, I think this is all a cover-up for the real secret, the one-pellet theory!  I mean, who knew Cheney bought his ammo from Arlen Specter?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005
  Deck Us All With Boston Charlie
One of my fondest Christmas Traditions was the annual recitation of "Deck Us All With Boston Charlie" in the comic strip Pogo. I knew that Christmas was really here when Walt Kelly's cast of characters (Howland Al, Albert the Alligator, and of course, Pogo Possum) trotted out their mangled lyrics and proceeded to argue over just what the real lyrics were. (Grundoon, of course, knew all 168 verses, but only on the drum!)

For those who share my fondness for a certain southern marsupial and his friends and neighbors in the Okeefenokee Swamp, I offer this. Merry Crispness!

Words by Walt Kelly
Music by Traditional (whoever he is)

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel
Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker 'n' too-da-loo!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloupe, 'lope with you!

Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin' on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarm bung-a-loo!

Dunk us all in bowls of barley,
Hinky dinky dink an' polly voo!
Chilly Filly's name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly's jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, woof, woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, goof, goof!
Friday, December 02, 2005
  George Bush Joins the "War on Christmas!"
Jerry Falwell and his Religious Wrong buddies have been bitching for weeks now about government agencies and store clerks saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." But it looks like Jerry forgot to tell President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, and the Republican National Committee didn’t get the memo about the preferred religiously correct greeting.
The White House's 2005 holiday card is just out, and it doesn't mention the word "Christmas" once. This card, mailed under the auspices of the Republican National Committee and signed by the president and his wife, reads, "With best wishes for a holiday season of hope and happiness 2005." It also includes a passage from the Old Testament Book of Psalms.The front cover is an artist's rendition of the White House and grounds covered with snow while the presidential pets, two dogs and a cat, frolic on the lawn. It contains no religious symbolism. Did the President just sorta forget about Baby Jesus?
Two weeks before Halloween, Falwell attorneys called a press conference and threatened to sue public schools and government agencies that fail to acknowledge Christmas to Falwell's liking. They have also been complaining about department stores and malls using "Happy Holidays" signs and greetings. Most recently, Falwell went apeshit when the city of Boston issued a press release announcing the arrival of its "holiday tree." Fox News Channel commentator Bill O'Reilly jumped right on the bandwagon, carping nearly every night about the alleged "war on Christmas." But neither Falwell nor O'Reilly has yet to say one word about the president and first lady's secular holiday greetings.
Hey, guys, fair is fair. It you’re going to take Wal-Mart and Target to task for secularizing Christmas I would expect you to attack such a gaffe from our country’s leader with equal vigor. We should be especially critical of such a lapse from a self-proclaimed born-again Christian who had no qualms about wearing his faith on his sleeve to get votes. Where is the moral outrage from the fanatic fundies? Or could it be that Falwell realizes he can’t get any contributions from his cerebrally challenged legions by attacking Dubbya?
Thursday, December 01, 2005
  My Men's Room Test

So far this new job has been all right.  I have been in a sort of limbo while the QA staff plugs away at the latest release.  They want to finish it in time for the last deployment which will occur this weekend.  This will be the last big release of the year and they want to get it finished in time for the holidays.  I don’t blame them.  The effect on me is that they can’t take the time to personally guide me through the ins and outs of their test process.  They have made a few attempts, but they have mostly had to concentrate on the task at hand and let me fend for myself.  I’m taking advantage of the situation to poke around and get familiar with the setup and to improve my own knowledge of xml.  Hopefully this situation will improve by next week.

In the process of interviewing for this gig I had to visit a lot of places, from Center City Philadelphia to the far-flung reaches of Boyertown.  Bethlehem is not too terribly far a commute compared to some of the places I interviewed.  And at every place I interviewed I applied my men’s room test.

Here’s how the men’s room test works.  At some point during the interview I ask if I can be excused to use the men’s room.  I like to do this just before the interview if possible.  I try to use the actual men’s room I would be using if I worked there.  You can tell a lot about a place by the way they maintain their men’s room.  If the place is well kept, well lit, and well stocked, one can assume that the company truly values its employees and pays attention to minor details.  On the other hand, a dirty, dark, and poorly maintained men’s room betrays either a company’s condescending attitude toward its staff or a disregard for details.  A bad men’s room indicates a bad work experience.

I have no direct experience with ladies’ rooms, but I assume the test is equally valid.

I ignored my men’s room test only once, and regretted my decision to accept a position at that particular place.  Fortunately my association with this outfit was mercifully brief.

Right now I work in a 3-story building.  The men’s room is common for all occupants of the second floor.  The building management firm does an admirable job of keeping it clean, well lit, and well stocked.  I have no complaints for the most part.  Occasionally I will find some paper towels on the floor or water splashed on the countertops, but the custodial staff takes care of this pretty regularly.  The bathrooms on the first floor are locked, and certain people are given a key.  I am one of the privileged.  The first floor men’s room seems to be cleaner and better maintained.

To take this analogy a little further, I have noticed that the deterioration of conditions in a company’s men’s room often coincides with the deterioration of that company.  The last two places I worked (both of which suffered from that new sort of economic debacle which corporate America euphemistically calls “restructure”) were prime examples: as corporate fortunes declined, so did the men’s room.

So keep an eye on where you crap.  It is very likely an indicator of your company’s future.

The continuing story of a man, his hobby, and the search for a really good cup of coffee.

"The first cup of coffee in the morning recapitulates Phylogeny." -J. Pournelle

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Location: Quakertown, Pennsylvania, United States

Two time cancer survivor, happily married, LaSalle Alumnus

July 2004 / August 2004 / November 2004 / December 2004 / January 2005 / April 2005 / August 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / February 2006 / April 2007 / August 2007 /

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