My Missing Online History

A blogger since the ’90’s, I have not been been diligent with preserving my online presence even though one of my early “mission statements” was “a record of my journey into senility”.

05/01/14; 12:24:16 PM
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Pneumonia

Older people spend a lot of time trading healthcare stories, because we spend a lot of time navigating health issues. I have been blessed with exceptional health except for a run of prostate cancer in the early 2000’s. If health tales are not for you, read no further.

On March 10, I felt out of sorts and expected a bout with bronchitis or maybe flu. After a couple of days of low fever, I went to my GP on March 12, who couldn’t be certain but prescribed Tamiflu, antihistimines, and (just in case) 7 days supply of azithromycin.

The fever continued and we could not control it with Tylenol, spiking to 103 F a couple of times, with bone-rattling chills. At 10:30 PM March 13, we trekked to the ER where the doc stopped all meds, started a 4-day “Z-pack” of azithromycin, also IV saline and magnesium and added Ibuprofen alternating with Tylenol for the fever. This regimen broke the fever in the wee hours. Since my general health and oxygen uptake was good, I was dismissed home to finish the Z-pack and resume the previous antibiotic after the Z-pack.

A midnight X-ray had shown bacterial pneumonia in my lower left lung. Pneumonia is contracted directly from inhaling the bacteria; external exposure to wet or cold or fatigue cannot cause pneumonia.

We understood the at-home fever treatment to be 1000MG of Tylenol every 4 hours PLUS 400MG of ibuprofen every 8 hours, and it did reduce the fever to a spike every night broken with sweats. After 2 days I was “stupid” from the fever meds and convinced I was overdosing Tylenol. Telephoned the ER nurse who agreed on the overdose and recommended reducing both meds to the strict label dosage. I stopped Tylenol at midnight March 19 and controlled low fever nightly with 400MG ibuprofen alone. Last ibuprofen at midnight Saturday, March 22.

My follow-up at the GP was Wednesday, March 19, over a week into this illness, by which time I had lost all digestive bacteria to the antibiotic and was able to eat only boiled pasta or rice, plus 50/50 gatorade water and a bit of probiotic kefir. The GP said it would be a gradual recovery, and issued an Rx for a broader-spectrum antibiotic, to be filled only if the fever returned in force.

I improved day by day but still had digestive symptoms, expected until the antibiotics were finished on March 24. On Saturday, March 22, a new complication: oral thrush, a yeast infection of the mouth and throat caused by the loss of friendly bacteria.

Not wanting to burden the ER with this minor condition, we went to a walk-in clinic, got examined after an hour of new paperwork, and received an Rx for ny-statin antifungal oral rinse, because diflucan tablets might interact with Azithromycin. The rinse slowed the thrush, but improvement was not expected until the antibiotic was finished on March 23.

Today is Tuesday, March 25, I have been fever-free for a few days, the oral condition is improving slowly, and we have another GP visit tomorrow. Reports from young and old indicate a slow recovery of tone and energy for several weeks.

Pneumonia is insidious and can be life-threatening if not treated or if the patient has underlying debilitating conditions. I hope this will be my only encounter with it, and I look forward to a better year after a nasty March, 2014.

03/25/14; 02:04:43 PM

We Lived in a Remarkable Century (Part 2) General Pete’s War

A good friend of mine died recently, Lt. Gen. Carl Peterson, USAF (Ret.). “General Pete” started his career as a 20-year-old B-17 pilot in World War 2. He got to England in October 1944, after the most deadly phase of the bombing campaign, so he was required to fly 35 missions to earn redeployment. (Earlier in the war, crews only had to fly 25 missions per deployment – with a 5% attrition rate, a crew was on borrowed time after 20 missions.)

General Pete lost two airplanes and 18 engines, but thankfully no crewmen on his 35 missions. At first he said very little about the missions, but as our friendship grew he talked about the risks and a few specific incidents.

Most impressive was the vast scale of the raids, hundreds or even thousands of bombers launched over strategic targets in Germany. Because of the marginal weather in England, it was common to lose several B-17′s to mid-air collisions during blind “forming up” and climbing to cruise altitude.

Approaching the target, the Norden bombsight acted as an autopilot, flying straight and level at constant speed. The German anti-aircraft defenders had years to dial in these automated flight paths, which could only vary slightly in altitude and track. General Pete and his fellow pilots were just spectators during these bomb runs, and survival was greatly determined by luck and position in the formation (the defenders often aimed for flight leaders or, if known, high ranking pilots). During the bomb runs, planes would be fine one second and gone or heavily damaged in another.

Once the bombs were away, undamaged bombers escorted stricken planes if possible, and counted parachutes if the crews of damaged planes had to bail out. General Pete managed to land his two mortally damaged planes in Belgium, which was in friendly hands by late 1944.

He watched helplessly as other planes ditched in the English Channel, unable to fly all the way back to England after bypassing airfields on the Continent. Most B-17 crews survived ditching, but the high-winged B-24 was notorious for disintegrating with heavy casualties.

The weather often was again a factor in returning to England, and many bombers groped their way to any airfield that became visible, to be rejoined with their squadrons another day.

The 8th Air Force bombing campaign was just one of many vast efforts in World War 2. Between 1940 and 1945, U.S. industry produced 32,000 B-17′s and B-24′s, a rate of 20 per day. The entire world-wide war, from Pearl Harbor to the unconditional German and Japanese surrenders, was over for the U.S. in 45 months!

General Pete returned to civilian life for a few years, but rejoined the Air Force during the Korean War. He became an attack pilot (Skyraiders in Viet Nam) and later an all-weather fighter pilot for the Air Defense Command (F-94, F-89, F-101, F-102, F-106). He commanded the Air Defense Weapons Center at Tyndall AFB, FL and retired from a field-grade liason deployment with NATO in Norway.

07/28/13; 07:38:59 PM

We Lived in a Remarkable Century (Part 1): Going to the Moon

As a retiree advancing in age, I sometimes remember things that didn’t happen (just wait til you get here!) or don’t remember important details.

I just watched four episodes of NASA documentaries on the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo manned flights, and the tempo of those missions, many I didn’t recall, was breathtaking. They launched a big mission every three months or so, one time launched two within 14 days including a repair of the launch pad after a post-ignition abort.

Introduced major new tasks and equipment (space walks, moon landings, moon rover cars, Saturn 5 rockets, etc.) with minimal rehearsal. Flew eight Moon missions between 1969 and 1972 and cancelled three final Moon missions after acquiring the hardware and training the crews!

They did lose three astronauts to a training fire, but recovered three unharmed from behind the Moon on Apollo 13, after an inflight explosion and some heroic improvisation (The movie Apollo 13 is almost a documentary.).

Available on Netflix, “When We Left the Earth”, NASA.

Asiana Flight 214

Lots of speculation about the cause of the crash landing at SFO. Consensus seems to build among Boeing pilots on the net that 777, configured for landing, quickly goes from “high and fast” to “low and slow” unless close attention is given to throttles to maintain speed. The Asiana pilots, for reasons not yet known, did not take over throttles manually when auto-throttles were inactivated. Apparently, heavy airplane pilots get very little “stick and rudder” hand-flying training or experience in the modern airline environment.