Archive for the 'health' Category

Battle Scars: Gravity is a Harsh Mistress

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Max has been walking, steadily, for over three months now.  But it hasn’t come without a toll.


It’s tempting to say that his greatest enemy is pavement, but really, it’s gravity.  Pavement might have been the cause of the abrasion you see in the photo above (occurring today circa 16:30), but he’s had worse spills.  A trip on the deck had him looking like the cover of an Andrew WK album.  Nose bleeds, puffy lips … even standing up while beneath a table can deliver a head-bonk that can ruin his day.

Recently, he stood up in the bathtub, and slipped, sliding all the way down on his back.  The no-slip adhesive pads in the tub scratched his back, and he had these cute red little abrasions down his back, exactly on the points made by his vertebrae.  While that’s pretty elaborate, he’s also be working on the basics:  just a week ago, he skinned his knee for the first time.


But he’s certainly getting better.  He walks, even runs, without thinking about it, and has ever-lofty goals:  climb the stairs on this own, upright.

Random Update

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

A lot has been going on lately, so I thought I would provide a quick update.

To whit:

That mystery tooth, it’s still a-growin.  It’s plainly visible now (although difficult to photograph, like Sasquatch), and man, he can really grind that sucker into your flesh when he wants to.  If I didn’t know any better, he seems to enjoy it.

Also, Max’s cold/flu/leprosy/whatever has receded.  It only lasted a few days, and while he (like his father) still coughs occasionally (okay … frequently), he’s in much better spirits, as if the entire episode has been forgotten.  That little dude has some heavy fortitude.  His goofiness is back, he’s wrestling once again, and the house’s morbid, sanitarium-like atmosphere has abated.

Max has even started sleeping through the night again, back to a 50/50 schedule.  Here’s to hoping that things improve!

Behold, Vomit!

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Just after visiting Amalia’s family for Xmas, I came down with a nasty cold.  Or maybe it was the flu, it’s hard to tell.  Either way, I was left with fierce congestion and a heavy fever that lasted for maybe 18 hours, and I was effectively bedridden for three days.

But I got better, and while a cough lingered, both Amalia and Max seemed to get through unscathed.  Max even started sleeping through the night — out of nowhere, as if the trip to Arizona flicked on a switch — for four consecutive nights.

But then:  Max threw up his lunch three times since Sunday morning, developed some fierce congestion, and a fever in the range of 101F.  He’s been pretty unhappy, but at the same time he’s been a serious trooper.  This is his first serious illness, and it’s just as much of a mystery for us as it is for him, and he seems pretty keen on just roughing it out.

He’s been sleeping a lot and drinking a lot, and his favorite sleeping position seems to be face-down on either my or Amalia’s chest.  Perhaps the angle improves his respiration.  Amalia spent much of Monday night with the sick little guy passed out on her chest.  Even so, his sleep is very punctuated, waking up a few times during the night.  Let’s hope for a quick recovery.

Behold, a Tooth!

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

One of Max’s favorite games is to grab something — anything, actually — stick it into his mouth, and chew on it.  He’s especially fond of human fingers.  The rules of this game may need to change pretty soon, because Li’l Max is finally sportin a chomper.

Amalia found it first, in the morning, and sure enough.  It’s more easily felt than seen, but it’s there, a hard little nubbin erupting from his gums.  It’s an upper incisor.  This is just the beginning, and his mouth will never look the same from here on out.

Of particular intrigue is the fact that this appears to be a mystery tooth.  Typically, the first teeth to appear with babies are the upper and lower medial (inner) incisors, but this is the right, upper lateral (outer) incisor.  Maybe it’s not a tooth after all, but … no, it’s best not to speculate.

Amalia blames those dominant Greek genes that led to her crooked teeth.  Either way, the end result is sure to be interesting.

Max’s quarter-birthday

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Not much to say except the usual banal good news. Max is three months old today and he’s doing great. He’s slept through the night a few times, which seems to be a growing trend, and he’s starting to giggle interactively.

So he’s one-fourth of a year old today, which doesn’t seem possible.

Panic! No, wait …

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

So, the three of us visited the pediatrician today for the two-month visit. Hilarity did not ensue.

Allow me to preface this with some backstory.

I have an inherent belief — stemming from my traumatic childhood — that all pediatricians are evil. This isn’t a delusion, or a grudge, but a revelation: the feeling that I have looked behind the curtain and gotten a glimpse into the true, dark, horrible state of the world. This stems from having been the plaything of The Evil Dr. Frostad in my youth. He revealed to me the miserable cabal of torture and pain that is known in this world as the pediatric profession.

I fully acknowledge the possibility that The Evil Dr. Frostad may have done his field a disservice. While The Evil Dr. Frostad himself had clearly been trained by Dr. Mengele and his unholy minions somewhere beneath the seventh level of Hell, it is conceivable that others have not, and that somewhere out there, perhaps scattered across the far-flung corners of the Earth, there is an elite cadre of pediatricians who aim to subvert their demonic profession; perhaps they vow to inflict no unnecessary harm, and even strive to bring a generation of healthy children into this world, in spite of the ruinous motives demanded by the rest of their execrable colleagues.

Alas, I have yet to encounter any of these “good pediatricians”, if any even exist. I keep hoping that they’re out there.

So trips to the pediatrician are always a good time. We travel together, for safety. I always make sure to bring the crucifix, the wolvesbane, and the 9mm Glock loaded with silver hollow-points.

The previous visit was uneventful, perhaps even promising. This particular visit, however, lived up to my expectations.

First, the pediatrician’s stooped henchwoman took some all-new morphometrics:

Length: 24.5 inches
Weight: 11 pounds, 13 ounces (a reality check from our last displacement measurement)
Cranial circumference: 40.5 cm

Then the pediatrician gave us the bad news.

With an ominous gravitas, she said that Max had seriously degenerated since our last visit. His weight was now in the bottom fifth percentile — almost off the bottom end of the chart. His cranial circumference and length were similarly, precipitously meager, like he was withering away. “He looks thin to me.” Sure, he was eating, but maybe we were mistaken about the actual quantities that he was taking? This meant he was not developing properly. “I need to see him more often.” Emergency visits, to make sure he wasn’t getting worse, because maybe something serious was going on, like a gastrointestinal disorder, or tapeworms, or …

“Oh wait a moment … he was accidentally plotted at the four-month level. And wouldn’t you know … when you plot him against the two-month level, he’s at the 50th percentile. And hey, his length is even at the 75th percentile. He’s doing fine!” She licked her lips wetly, like a starving dog. “Why, he’s a nice, plump, tasty-looking –”

That was when I ran her through the heart, using my holy sacrificial knife of polished silver, its blade engraved with 12th century protective runes. With a flash of dark energy and a withering cry, her body crumpled, decomposing before us until it collapsed into a smoldering heap of ashes and writhing worms.

Soon enough, she’ll rise again from the dead. Pediatricians always do.

As we tried to make our escape, the stooped henchwoman burst through the door, clutching a brace of needles and other apparatus. Before I could intervene, she impaled Max three times in his legs, forced a hideous pink goo into his mouth, and cackled triumphantly with a hissing laugh, almost spasmodically, “Vak-shi-NAY-shuns!” I pulled out a photo of Dr. Benjamin Spock and held it up defensively. She clutched at her eyes, as if blinded by the sun, and emitted a feral cry of anguish. I shoved her aside, and we battled our way through the hellish horde in the lobby, and beyond, to the safety of the elevator.

But not without a reservation for a four-month appointment.


Thursday, June 12th, 2008

I’ll be mercifully brief on this: Max got circumcised today. He seems to be blissfully unaware
of any change, although some blood was involved.

There will be no photos with this post. You can thank me later.

As an amusing aside, while the three of us waited in the examination room, I discovered that one could use the phone as a terminal for the clinic-wide PA system.

This is a large Ob/Gyn practice, with eight-plus doctors, maybe two dozen offices, and multiple nursing stations. We were bored, and when I heard a doctor being paged, I became intrigued. Without being exactly sure how the PA system worked, I studied the phone for a few minutes and gave it a try: I picked up the receiver, held down the PAGE button, and said into the mouthpiece, as clinically as possible (quoting the movie “Repo Man”):

“Mr Lee … Mr Lee … Please return the scalpel.”

In our own examination room, we didn’t actually hear anything happen, and since the phone was making a weird beeping sound while I did it, we were led to believe it hadn’t worked. Imagine my surprise when, a few minutes later, the doctor returned to take Max away for the procedure and asked me, “Were you the one that said that thing about the scalpel?”

(My voice gave me away, as apparently very few men work in the practice, and the message rang through the entire office space, throughout all the examination rooms, and the nurses and medical technicians were on a “witch hunt” to determine who had said it. The doctor didn’t seem amused, although not annoyed either, just pragmatically satisfied that she had solved the mystery. That said, I’m happy to serve as a harbinger of random chaos, and for reasons I can’t explain, I think it’s even more amusing that I got busted.)

He grows!

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Today was Max’s first pediatric physical. All looks good. He now comes with all-new morphometrics, for those who enjoy this sort of thing:

Weight: 8 pounds, 4 ounces (50th percentile)

Length: 21.5 inches (95th percentile)

(His cranial circumference was in the 75th percentile, although I didn’t catch the actual measurement.)

Max close-up, albeit blurry.

So he’s still skinny for his size, which means it’s a good thing he’s a champion eater.

The Gory Details

Monday, May 26th, 2008

It started with an innocuous trip to the Ob/Gyn.

This was the weekly checkup, and all previous checkups had been uneventful. This checkup, as well, was predicted to be uneventful. However, Amalia was also a few days overdue, so a routine ultrasound was in order. This was approximately 11am, on Thursday, 22 May.

The ultrasound revealed that the volume of amniotic fluid in Amalia’s uterus was abnormally low. I don’t mean “slightly below average”, but running on fumes. Typically, the fluid volume should be between eight and twenty units (whatever the units are; I never caught this). Amalia’s volume measured roughly between one and two units.

Amniotic fluid is good, because it provides cushion to the fetus. Like air in a tire. When the fluid is low, the fetus can compress the umbilical cord and cut off its own oxygen supply, and this is more likely to happen during labor, when the contractions are in high gear. Compression of the umbilical cord can lead to fetal distress. Fetal distress is bad. Stillborns happen because of this.

The low fluid volume was confirmed with a second ultrasound. This meant that the induction of labor was nigh.

I got the standby signal about 12:45 p.m., and then the go signal at about 2:30 p.m. I took a taxi to the hospital and arrived around 3 p.m. (I had run to work that morning, and Amalia had taken the car to the appointment. Stupid logistics.)

Induction started upon my arrival. This was accomplished by the topical application of a cervical ripening agent. I don’t remember the name of this, but it was regarded as a preliminary step before the employment of Petocin. (Petocin, another labor-inducing pharmaceutical, can cause problems that lead to fetal distress, and thence increase the likelihood of a c-section. It was our preference to avoid a c-section.)

I thence took the car back to the house, picked up the hospital bag and other sundries, stopped by QFC en route to acquire some food and cash, then arrived at the hospital. We ate, and switched rooms, and passed the time, and all during this time labor was quietly kicking in.

Waiting for cervical dilation

Labor began in earnest a few hours later. Active labor, with Amalia managing the painful contractions, lasted for probably a total of twelve hours. She worked this pretty well, although during this time it turned into back labor, and the pain got intense enough that she felt that an epidural seemed like a good idea. The epidural didn’t kick in as soon as hoped, but eventually it did, and her contractions were either painless or manageable. Dilation went up to three, and then to four. This was good progress, but not as fast as hoped.

All during this time the nurse was monitoring the fetus’s pulse. If things were good, it was in the neighborhood of 140. If things were bad, it was much lower, in the area of 70 or thereabouts. Initially, the sensors for this monitoring were external sensors strapped to Amalia’s abdomen, but when the fetus’s pulse dipped low, they needed to make sure that it wasn’t just a bad connection and opted to have the sensor applied directly to the critter’s scalp. Yep, they had to reach up there through the dilating cervix and manually attach it.

By this time it was approximately 6 a.m. Everyone was tired. With Amalia on the epidural, it was hoped that she could get some sleep. (Hypothetically, a laboring woman on an epidural won’t feel any pain from the contractions and can even sleep through the process.)

I fell asleep on the bed-like platform reserved for supporting partners. When I woke up, the room was astir, there was talk about surgery, and as soon as I was able to stand up I was being handed a set of scrubs.

Amalia hadn’t received much more warning either. Apparently the critter wasn’t taking to the contractions very well; the pulse was dropping and it was feared that he was undergoing fetal distress. The morning-shift Ob/Gyn explained that they needed to perform a c-section. They said what they were going to do without why they were going to do it, and they weren’t asking for acceptance. It wasn’t emergent, they said, but it was urgent.

From here everything got hopelessly dramatic.

(From XKCD:

Like a SWAT team, the doctors and nurses had both of us rushed into the operating room. We weren’t told a lot about what was going on. There was remarkably little preparation — apparently it was easier to perform since she already had the epidural, which made administration of the anesthesia trivial — and I was cordoned behind a hanging sterility barrier which was erected roughly across Amalia’s ribcage. I crouched near Amalia’s head, holding her hand, with the anesthesiologist nearby, who was saying absurd things like, “Okay, you’re going to feel a little pressure”, and “Okay, now you’re going to feel some tugging”, which made the imagination run wild. It seemed like this transpired for only a minute or two until the anesthesiologist said, to me, “If you want, you can watch them pull the head out.”


From the calm, narcotic serenity on my side of the sterility barrier, I stood up and looked over at the doctors and nurses performing the operation, and on the other side of that barrier was The Discovery Channel. Everything I saw was absorbed only in fragments. The Ob/Gyn had her hands inside Amalia’s abdomen, which was now undulating like a half-filled balloon, and blood was gushing, literally a cataract of fluid coming out, and with some groping — to my massive surprise — they yanked (I mean literally, yanked) out not a head, but a leg. This long leg was just pulled out, and these doctors weren’t being gentle or delicate, they were pulling that critter out of there like they were carving a turkey. I caught a glimpse of the umbilical cord, more blood, and the other leg, and the rest of the body came out with a gurgling sound, just in time for Max to vent both poop and pee all over the operating staff, who only laughed lightly at this.

And the hair. That full head of dark hair.

Somehow I ended over at the table with the warming lamp, and there was Max naked and screaming, and his skin was lavender. The nurses made him breathe with an infant-sized mask that essentially performed CPR with a button-activated bump, cooing to him gently, like they were trying to convince him to eat, while they primed his lungs and got him breathing for the first time. Within moments, he had pinked up.

Per tradition, they also let me cut off the remaining excess umbilical cord. During extraction, the operating staff cut his cord to get him free and clear, but there was still perhaps four inches that dangled from his abdomen. The nurses had applied a clamp to the stub right at the belly (see photo above), and yay, it was my privilege to cut off the remaining few inches. It seemed a little ridiculous, just trimming back a few inches of umbilical cord, but I did it anyway — I’ll take part in any way I can — it seemed a bit empty of meaning, not really much different than cutting his hair or trimming his nails. All things being equal, I would’ve rather pushed the button on the CPR mask when they were trying to make him breathe.

They weighed him, they measured him, and meanwhile the operating staff was zipping up Amalia, and Max was brought over to her and placed on her chest, where she could see him clearly for the first time.

So the drama ended there. That was 9:34 a.m. Breast feeding started as soon as we got back to the room, only moments after surgery. Max was placed on Amalia’s chest, entirely ministered by the nurses, while Amalia, still drugged and tired, managed somehow to stay awake while Max received his first nourishment.

Max was routinely breast-fed for the hospital stay, some of which went well, some of which was frustrating. These frustrations led to a couple of bottle-feedings, but largely everything went well. Max was given a hepatitis B vaccine and a hearing test, and was tended to very often. In the evenings I slept at home, coming back in the morning. During this time, Amalia was getting maybe five hours of sleep each night, punctuated every few hours by feedings. Other than the sleep deprivation, the two of them got along famously.

Like mother, like son.

(Trivia: after delivery, a Martha Stewart-esque Lo-Jack device is placed around the baby’s ankle, so that if anyone tries to run off with him, an alarm will go off and the doors will lock down. I had to be similarly tagged with an identity bracelet that identified me as Max’s father. I don’t know how much this is actually a problem, but there’s clearly enough hysteria for the hospital to take countermeasures.)

We stayed in the hospital for three days following the operation, leaving late Monday morning.

More trivia: the nurses won’t let you leave unless you have a car seat.

(Don’t get me started about the absurd, out-of-control situation with child car-seat laws, obviously written word-for-word by the car-seat industry. If the laws get any more draconian, the next logical step would be to require any child riding in a car to be encased in roughly 15 cubic feet of styrofoam — and not just any block of styrofoam, but a safety-certified block of styrofoam that costs a hundred bucks, can only work in one car, and needs to be replaced after only ten uses.)

And that’s it. We arrived home safely. Thanks, obviously, to the car seat. Without the car seat, everyone would’ve died horribly.

The rest is yet to come.

Max likes car seats a lot more than I do.

Hello world!

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

In summary:

Maximilian Leist Magaret was born on 23 May 2008, at 9:34 a.m.

Weight: 7 pounds, 9 oz.

Length: 20 inches

He was delivered via cesarean section after approximately 18 hours of labor. Both mother and child emerged healthy, albeit confused.
The world can be a strange place when you\'ve just been forcibly removed from your mother\'s uterus.

I’m not sure where the shock of black hair came from. I’m starting to regard the UPS man with suspicion.

The name “Leist” is a family name: the maiden name of my paternal great grandmother, and Max is carrying on the tradition of my great uncle, John Leist Magaret.