Pet Cobra

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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Two things you need to know.

One - occupying a prominent place in our living room is a blue rug. It's designed for a kid's room, incorporating a maze design and various pictures of animals, toys, etc. It's hopelessly out of place, but since we have hardwood floors in the front room it's great for Lucas, who at nine months old is still grasping the nuances of crawling, and thus the rug gives him a nice area to sit and play. The nine month old mind works in mysterious ways, and to our horror Lucas has acquired quite a taste for his rug, lifting it up by the corners and chewing on it whenever he can. (Mick, our dog, also enjoys lying on the rug. Thus the added enjoyment of pulling dog hair out of Lucas' mouth after he's had a good gnaw on it). The same kid who loves the taste of spaghetti equares that with the taste of rubber and plastic fibers. Go figure.

Two -

It started on Thursday (and if my timeline is off it's only because I've been through Hell over the past couple of days), when it looked like Lucas was getting a cold. By Friday, he had a fever. Saturday morning we woke to find our little boy with a hacking cough, a higher fever, and - how do I describe this? His eyes were bright red, no whites, like something out of a Stephen King novel. His lips - cracked, puffy, and bleeding, like he'd been crawling in the desert for days. I felt a slow, creeping panic - we gave him his sippy cup with water, and called the hospital, who told us to bring him into the pediatrician later on that evening. When we got to the doc's, they told us they thought it was a virus, keep giving him fluids and Motrin, and see your pediatrician on Monday.

So it continued on Sunday, the fever, the cough, the red eyes, the crying (his and ours), lack of sleep (ditto). Monday we take Lucas to our pediatrician, who gives him an antibiotic - she still thinks a virus, and that the red eyes and the bloody lips are due to dehydration and fever - and drops the first hint that this may be something else, something called Kawasaki Disease, which sounds like a bad joke or a marketing slogan but is horribly serious, as we were to find out.

I get the phone call at my desk Tuesday morning - it's Beth, she's crying, I can can hear Lucas moaning (moaning - dear God, this is like nothing I've hear before, and I'm suddenly so terrified I want to scream), and I am dialing my boss' extension even before I'm off the phone with her. I'm as calm as I can be, letting my boss know that we need to take our kid to the ER, and then I'm out the door. I have this thing when my kid is in pain - I get ANGRY, and it's helpless anger, this rage directed at God or Fate or who or whatever has decided that it's somehow OK that my little guy suffers. Dads out there will know what I'm talking about. So as I'm driving as fast as my POS Ranger will go, I'm screaming at the fucking stoplights to change, at the slow assholes who are in my way, at my truck itself for being so fucking slow. I get it under control once we've loaded up the Xterra with Lucas and our stuff.

This is where it gets surreal, silver lining type-stuff. We arrive at Children's Hospital at about 9:30 a.m. The nurses check us in, and as they poke and prod Lucas, checking his vitals, there's that name again - Kawasaki, Kawasaki, Kawasaki. It's all I hear, even though Beth and I are being bombarded with questions by the staff. A young Asian doctor comes in at one point (I think around 11:00 - time has become one long agonizing moment); he tells us all about Kawasaki disease, and says that Lucas' symptoms are indicative. (If you didn't spend some time on the website, do it now, as I'm not going to go over the particulars) He knows this because he is on a research team that is working on KD and has developed a treatment. His boss, a Dr. Burns, is here at the hospital. She's one of the nation's leading experts on this bizarre, rare disease that 1 in 5000 kids comes down with and that it's pretty clear has infected ours.

Everything else comes in fragments. My little son is subject to a series of tests - he's stuck with needles, has plastic swabs stuck up his nose causing it to bleed, thermometers and swabs are stuck up his butt. The whole time he's crying, but it's a weak, tired cry, a whimper, and somehow that makes it worse. At some point the doctor tells us about the treatment - he'll be on an IV drip of gammagobulin for 10 hours, and will get heavy doses of aspirin to combat the high platelet count and arterial dilation. We're told that we'll be at the hospital for at least three days. The treatment is usually (and I don't want to hear "usually", I want to hear "always") successful and we should (will?) see a near immediate change in his eyes and lips. He'll need an electrocardiogram to make sure that there is no damage to his heart (a comment that cause my own heart to momentarily freeze, for as Dr. Burns will put it to me some hours later, do you you those news stories you hear about the high school athletes who drop dead in the middle of a baskeball or football game? Chances are they had KD and weren't diagnosed or treated properly.), and for that he will need to be sedated (and again I have to force myself to keep control - sedating my 9 month old is not something I ever wanted to have to deal with). We're led up to our room. There are things going on around me that I have to consciously screen out. I see a little boy, maybe 4 years old, being pulled around by his dad in a little Radio Flyer wagon. He is hooked up to an IV and he is missing large patches of his hair. All of this is drawn out over a span of hours, and I still have no sense of time passing. At some point Beth goes home to get some extra clothes and bathroom stuff. Lucas gets his IV and they start with the standard saline mix to keep him hydrated. He struggles with it - the nurses have the needle taped and wrapped, his hand is in a split, and there's a cotton sock over it that he keeps trying to pull off. The nurses come and go, constantly checking his vitals. He is lying in his metal crib, a tube stuck in his arm. And he keeps looking at me with so many questions in his eyes, questions that I can't even begin to answer.

Beth and I don't get a lot of sleep; there's a chair that folds out into a "bed", it's made for one person, and we share it. Every hour the nurses come in to check his temperature and his blood pressure, as the gammaglobulin does its work. It's a long and quiet process. There's nothing for us to do but wait and worry. Morning rolls around. And this: his fever is gone, and his eyes are almost clear - that horrific red has receded. Even his lips look better, as if he'd gotten some of God's personal stash of Chapstick. So I make the decision to go back to work that afternoon; the doc tells us that the EKG will be an easy, straightforward procedure. I'm feeling a good amount of guilt over leaving, even if it's only for a short while, but the cold fact is that I started my new job a week ago, and that's business. And the doctors are pleased with the way the treatment went. It's an excellent sign that Lucas has beat this thing.

I'm at work for about a half hour, and am sitting in my boss' office discussing where we are with our job openings when the cell phone rings. It's Beth. She's sobbing. Lucas is screaming in the background.

I'm on the road. This time I'm in the Xterra. And it hauls ass. Beth has told me what happened: the sedative wore off about a half hour earlier than it was supposed to, and Lucas woke up shrieking and thrashing around uncontrollably. Beth describes him as acting like a heroin addict going through a bad withdrawal. The dayshift nurse was snippy with Beth, telling her that this was "normal". When I get to the room he is still crying and struggling in her arms. I take him to give her a break, and sit with him. He is, to put it mildly, not a happy camper. Eventually events catch up with him and he dozes off.

We catch a break. The doctor tells us that things look positive; the thing with KD is that like chicken pox, once caught it never comes back. The thing to be worried about are the lingering effects on the heart and circulatory system. We won't know more until we get the EKG results back later on in the evening, but I'm cautiously optimistic.

Evening. We have been on the phone constantly with friends and relatives. Beth's parents offer to come down, but Beth talks them out of it. I am selfishly glad. They are crazy about Lucas, but this is our nightmare to deal with, and our job is to be here for Lucas. My grandma came by earlier and spent some time with us. Our friend Carin stops by dinner - Greek chicken salads from Daphne's.

After dinner, we get a call from Dr. Burns. The EKG shows that Lucas' left ventricle, in his heart, is dilated. It's too early, she says, to draw any conclusions. We'll be following up with her over the next several weeks, doing another couple of EKG's (this time with a different sedative) and more testing. I tell myself that if this was serious, she'd have come up to tell us in person. But the good news is that the treatment seemed to work, and the virus is gone. We'll be taking Lucas home tomorrow morning. Beth and I agree that I need to go home and sleep - we left Mick home alone the previous night, and I am going to try to go in to work again tomorrow afternoon. I need to be somewhat less exhausted than Beth.

Which brings us to today. I got up early, showered, fed Mick (who spent a blissful night asleep next to me on our big bed - doggie heaven) and drove down to the hospital. We packed up - and waited. It took a few hours for them to process us out. During that time, the staff that had worked on Lucas all came in and marvelled at him. As did Beth and I - the kid was climbing, crawling, babbling, all the things that he was doing prior to the past ghastly few days. (It's not trite at all to look at those doctors and nurses in awe - medical skills aside, that they are able to work day after day, night after night, with all those ill and injured kids is inspiring. There's no other way to put it.)

So we scooped up our resurgent little boy and left. A last thought on Children's Hospital, one that will stay with me for a long time. By the lobby, there's a glass case, with a large book on display inside. It's called the Book of Remembrance, and it's pages contain the names of the kids who didn't get to go home with their parents. It's a thick book.

Earlier this evening, Beth ran out to the store to get some groceries and to the salon to get her brows done (this is yet another reason why I will never fully understand the female mind; you've spent the past few days watching your baby son battle The Mystery Asian Virus, and the way you unwind is by having your eyebrows ripped out). Lucas spent his time crawling around our place, playing with his toys, and chasing after Mick. But he seemed happiest just sitting on his rug, and chewing on the corners. And that was just fine by me.


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At 1:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Интернет, электронная почта, налог на электронную почту, интернет, налоги и налогообложение

Одной из самых давних мистификаций в интернете является гуляющее по сети письмо, в котором говорится, что правительство разрабатывает налог на электронную почту. Но если Конгресс США не продлит истекающий на этой неделе мораторий на налогообложение интернета, налог на электронную почту, возможно, скоро перестанет быть сплетней, пишет The Wall Street Journal.

Нынешний мораторий - закон об освобождении интернета от налогов - запрещает налогообложение доступа в интернет, двойное налогообложение покупок, сделанных через сеть, и дискриминационное налогообложение, при котором к сетевым приобретениям относятся иначе, чем к обычным.

Результаты этих запретов, действующих с 1998 года, оказались именно такими, на какие рассчитывали авторы закона, конгрессмен-республиканец Крис Кокс и сенатор-демократ Рон Уайден: количество пользователей интернета стремительно увеличивается, электронная коммерция расширяется, а имущественные границы размываются. По данным министерства торговли, самым быстрорастущим сегментом пользователей интернета являются семьи с доходом менее 25 тыс. долларов в год.

Но все это окажется под угрозой, если в пятницу налоговые запреты утратят силу. Законопроект, делающий эти положения постоянными, был принят палатой представителей в сентябре, но застрял в сенате, где республиканец из Вирджинии Джордж Аллен столкнулся с сопротивлением нескольких республиканцев, решивших нарядиться на Хэллоуин демократами.

Под давлением Национальной ассоциации губернаторов и других структур, считающих цифровые сделки в киберпространстве дойной коровой, Джордж Войнович из Огайо и Ламар Александр из Теннеси примкнули к демократам и остановили прохождение закона. Если они преуспеют, и действия запретов закончится, то налог на интернет станет реальностью.

"Стоимость доступа в добрый старый интернет может вырасти вдвое", - предсказал на прошлой неделе сенатор Уайден. И это только начало. В отсутствии закона, способного их остановить, чиновники на уровне штатов и отдельных населенных пунктов начнут облагать налогами все - от антиспамовых фильтров до поиска в Google.

Налоги только на электронную почту - это уже золотая жила для политиков по всей стране. На майских слушаниях о спаме в сенате демократ Марк Дейтон предложил "подумать об очень маленькой плате за каждое отправленное сообщение".

Он не одинок. Штатам и городам идея понравилась не только из-за возможности обложить налогами электронную почту. Губернаторы, мэры и окружные чиновники мыслят локально. Сообщение, которое вы отправили своему соседу, вполне может пройти через сервера, находящиеся в местах, подпадающих под юрисдикцию 7,6 тыс. различных налоговых управлений страны.

"Мы неоднократно слышали в конгрессе, что представители штатов хотят воспользоваться этим как налогооблагаемой базой, - говорит конгрессмен Кокс. - Интернет по своей природе уязвим для такого вида множественного налогообложения. Именно из-за множественного налогообложения мы ввели в действие запреты".

Интернет, электронная почта, налог на электронную почту, интернет, налоги и налогообложение
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