31 December, 2009

A New Decade, Unconditional Love

Approximately one decade ago, Westchester County (where I live) was debating the passage of legislation that would establish its own Human Rights Law/Commission. The proposed legislation was extremely controversial because it included "sexual orientation" as a protected class--something the New York State law did not do at the time.

As someone who has been politically involved since high school and active in the LGBTQ rights movement, I wrote a letter to the editors of our local newspaper in support of the passage of the county's proposed Human Rights Law. For whatever reason, somewhere around 90% of the letters to editors that I write actually get published, and this was no exception.

My letter appeared in the local paper, signed with my name and village of residence. My grandmother, very frail of health (at that time she'd had four major coronary infarctions and a series of minor strokes, along with the usual health problems associated with someone approaching their 80th birthday who had been smoking for 60+ years...), came into my room carrying the newspaper (while not bed-ridden, she didn't often get out of bed except to use the facilities and go to doctor's appointments).

She asked me how I could be so stupid as to have such a letter published with my name & location. I was very puzzled by her reaction, as she had tears in her eyes (I had already come out to her by this point, so it's not like she didn't know I was (am) gay). I asked her what the big deal was, and she told me that there are very crazy people in the world and having my name and location published, someone could be hiding in the bushes outside of our house and attack me for being gay, or come by the house & throw rocks at me, or while I'm out and about someone could try to kill me, etc. It was a cause of great consternation for her that I would be harmed by one of these crazy people.

I responded by telling my grandmother that it was she who instilled in me the values to stand up for what I believe in, to exercise my rights as guaranteed to me in the United States Constitution, and not to back down when I know I am fighting a just & worthy cause. My grandmother hugged me, told me that she loved me, and urged that I be cautious and safe. She said she would pray that I not ever fall into harm's way because of who I am, and advised that she would be worrying over me whenever I left the house (a promise she kept, as whenever I left she wouldn't go to sleep until I returned home safe & sound).

A few days later, a public hearing was being held on the proposed Human Rights Law. I was getting ready to leave the house, and my grandmother asked me where I was going. I told her that I was going to speak in support of the law at the public hearing (I had to explain a bit what was going on). She asked me if I could wait 5 minutes, and I said sure.

Less than five minutes later, my grandmother had her purse & winter coat on, and told me that she was coming with me (despite her frail health). There was nothing I could do to change her mind, so I brought her along to the public hearing.

We arrived a bit late, but not too late. We took seats near the front. When the legislators asked if anyone else wished to speak, I began to rise but my grandmother put her arm on me to keep me seated and instead rose herself and approached the podium.

At the podium, my grandmother relayed how she read my letter to the editor in the newspaper, and how scared she was for my safety. She told the legislators that she was a devout Catholic, but that I was her grandson and she loved me no matter who I was or what I did. She implored the legislators to pass the Human Rights Law, so that she could stop worrying about the safety of her grandson, and not have to worry that he would be fired from a job for being who he was, etc.

I had absolutely no idea that Grams was going to do this. Tears filled my eyes (just as they are now as I recount these events). It was then, right there in the public hearing, that I came to know the true meaning of Unconditional Love. I couldn't have been more proud, happy, or loved than I was at that point in time .... until now.

The past decade has been a roller coaster of events that have affected me in various ways. Let's view the events that have affected me over the past decade:

1999
  • Moved to Phoenix, AZ with a friend; experienced unrequited love.
  • Moved back to NY after disastrous fallout w/ aforementioned friend.
  • Came out to my grandparents.
  • Successfully advocated for passage of Westchester County's Human Rights Law.
2001
  • Missed being caught up in 9/11 by about two hours (I was working the night shift on 10 September 2001; left work @ 7:30am -- was asked to stay until 9am but was too tired -- got home, went to sleep, woke up shortly after 5pm & the world had changed).
2002
  • Was in a car accident that I should not have survived.
  • Was institutionalized for my chronic severe Depression for the first time in my life; tried numerous times to commit suicide but was obviously unsuccessful, mostly due to the fact that I was so doped on on narcotic painkillers (under the supervision of a pain management specialist) I didn't know what I was doing.
  • Suffered the loss of my grandmother, while in hospital. My father's brother, in his infinite wisdom, convinced the hospital unit's psychiatrist to discharge me rather than release me on a pass to attend her funeral; I attempted to wheel myself into the path of oncoming traffic in order to join my grandmother in the heavens of our universes. Had it not been for my younger brother's diligence, I would have been successful.
  • My father remarried, after some 30+ years, and told me months after the event.
  • A close friend whom I had made while institutionalized hung herself in hospital, and I was there when they discovered her, hanging from the ceiling of the bathroom--her body twitching as it limply hung. At the time, I was wheelchair-bound, and some of the staff attempted to blame me for their negligence by saying that I had helped her (had that been the case, I would have been hanging with her, not present in my chair when they opened the bathroom door and discovered her body).
  • My mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • My grandfather was diagnosed with melanoma, and suffered with pneumonia during the holidays.
  • Between the physical & mental hospitalizations, I spent almost all of 2002 in hospital.
2002 – 2007
  • I spent more than half of my time during these years institutionalized for my chronic, severe Depression. Either I was attempting to commit suicide, or in later years, I started feeling the desire to do so and put myself in hospital as a precautionary measure.

    Unfortunately during this time, mental health care changed to the point where feeling the need to be in hospital in order to remain safe was not really something that they did anymore. They just medicated you and kicked you out the door. What would happen is that for one reason or another (either I couldn't afford the medications, couldn't get into a treatment program, or couldn't physically travel to obtain treatment/medications), I would go off my anti-depressants and end up with the same ugly suicidal thoughts after a few months, and end up back in hospital.

    I am happy to report that since my last hospitalization in 2007, I have been able to remain on my medications and in therapy, have not had bad thoughts to the point where I have felt a need to be hospitalized, and have thus avoided hospitalization.
  • During this time frame, my mother underwent two or three lumpectomies, each a few years apart.
2004
  • My sister gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, who on her 2nd day of life, had a stroke.
2005
  • I learned that the friend I moved to Phoenix, AZ with in 1999 died in June 2002, the same month as my grandmother's death. The circumstances of his death were sketchy and learned he may have committed suicide. I had been thinking of him and actually wanted to apologize for the way I left things with him in Phoenix in 1999, so I Googled his name to see if I could find him and instead saw the death notice dated from 2002. I was floored, and it sent my Depression into a dovetail, as I was still in love with him but hadn't spoken with him since leaving him.
  • Coming into this knowledge brought bad thoughts into my head, and was arrested while attempting to purchase illicit narcotics to use in a home-brewed death cocktail.
2006
2007
  • My brother's then-girlfriend gave birth to his daughter, whom I was not allowed to meet because my brother's then-girlfriend is a homophobic nincompoop who believes all men are pedophiles who rape girls.
  • For the first time since it happened, I went back to the town/location where my accident occurred, and as a result I finally started living again after having been "stuck" in time since my accident in 2002.
2008
  • Finally got into a housing program, after being homeless (couch-hopping among friends) for nearly three years.
  • Had to move three times in a period of six months, due to issues w/ the housing program & new ownership/management of the building that I was initially placed into with a roommate.
  • My only sister was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy, and then underwent reconstructive surgery. In the one month it took them to perform the surgery after her biopsy, the cancer had progressed to a Grade III, Stage 4 cancer.
  • My grandfather died. I wasn't named in the will at all--thanks, again, to my father's brother. It's as if hadn't existed. I was there, thanks to my sister, when he passed away in his home, so I did at least get to say goodbye to him and let him know that I still loved him, despite everything that had happened.
2009

As this list indicates, there have been many more downs than ups in my life over the course of the past decade. If you've gotten this far, you may be wondering why all of this matters.

Approximately 2.5 years ago, I discovered the true power of the Internet: I began connecting with other people who shared similar experiences. At first, it was done solely through my blog. Then I moved into the realm of the MMORPG (in particular, Daimonin MMORPG, a free, free-to-play, open-source MMORGP). Finally, I discovered social networking.

Through all of these various media, I have connected with people from all over the world. When I say "connected with" I'm talking about real, emotional and social connections. Although I have not met the vast majority of those with whom I communicate, I consider them friends, best friends, even family. They are my lifeline, my support system, my shoulder & ear, as well as my second opinion.

With the support of the network of individuals I have connected with over the past few years via my blog, MMORPGs, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, I have encountered individuals with whom I could not possibly have dreamed I would ever encounter in my lifetime, from all walks of life and corners of the world.

I have weathered the low recent points in my life better, because of the connections I have made. I cannot possibly begin to create a list of these individuals; however, if you're reading this, then chances are good that you are one such individual.

And for that, I owe you my life. Truly, without your support, assistance, advice, laughs, and love -- yes, love! -- I could not have gotten through these last few years without you.

And so we come back to unconditional love; it is mostly through Twitter (and Facebook to a lesser extent) that I have once again experienced unconditional love--that feeling first felt when I sat in my seat in the auditorium and listened to my grandmother admonish the legislators for even thinking of voting against the Human Rights Law because it covered sexual orientation, and implored them to protect her beloved grandson.

I feel this same connection, the same kindred spirits now, as I did then.

Through all of you, the love my grandmother has for me lives. And it is through you that I can honour her memory and return the gifts upon which she has so lovingly blessed me.

As such, I resolve to continue doing just what I've been doing in the coming year, decade, and for all eternity: to love all of you as I have been loved by you, to appreciate you as I have been appreciated, and to be there for you as you have been there for me.

25 December, 2009

Celebrating Christmas 2009

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
~John Calvin Coolidge, Jr.,
(4 July 1872 – 5 January 1933)
President of the United States of America

I spend today, Christmas 2009, with my father down in the State of Georgia. He lives near Atlanta. It's quite strange down here; almost nobody decorates (I'd be surprised if but one out of every 25 homes were decorated) and it doesn't feel at all like Christmas. A bit more so in my father's home as I practically forced him to get a Christmas tree. Of course, I had to decorate it. We split the cost for the ornaments & lights, though, and he did pay for the tree. I paid for the stand. It was a fair trade. :)

Anyway, I'm just doing a lot of thinking, which I'll reserve for another post.

In celebrating your holidays, whatever your tradition, religious persuasion and what not, I do ask that you please take some time today to remember our military personnel & those who are less fortunate, as well as those LGBTQ military personnel who are unable to be with their loved ones due to current military policy (Don't Ask, Don't Tell), those LGBTQ military personnel who serve(d) but were discharged under DADT, and those that died serving our country but were not recognized as having a family back home who suffers their loss. (Thank you, Bonnie, for reminding us of our LGBTQ military brethren!)

I just wanted to take a moment and wish all of my friends, relatives, acquaintances, strangers, and enemies the very happiest of Christmases and merriest of holidays! It is my sincerest wish that you all find the peace, harmony, and happiness that each of you seek in your lives.

~~~♥♥♥ Merry Christmas! ¡Feliz Navidad! Joyeaux Noel!
聖誕快樂! Buon Natale! สุขสันต์ วัน คริสต์มาส! ♥♥♥~~~


03 December, 2009

New York State makes historic statement AGAINST equality

Yesterday, the New York State legislature made an historic statement against providing equality to its citizens: the New York State Senate voted 38 against, 24 in favor of a bill that would equalize the playing field and legalize same-sex marriages in the state.

Guess what folks? There are only 30 Republican Senators in the New York State Senate (all of whom, unfortunately, voted against the bill). That means that eight (8) Democratic New York State Senators voted against the bill.

What surprised many (but not this jaded) LGBTQ activists was the wide margin by which the marriage equality bill was defeated.

According to the Albany Times-Union blog, this is the official roll call for the vote:

YES: 24
NO: 38

FULL ROLL CALL

Since New York State legislators, almost all of whom are married (and certainly all of whom voted against this measure are married) find it unconscionable to confer marriage equality to all adult couples regardless of gender, (those opposed do so mostly based on their religious beliefs), I find it unconscionable that politicians are allowing religion to dictate a denial of equality under the law to all individuals.

I'm not going to get into the whole legal argument here as I've done that before, more than once.

As such, I propose the following:

Just as these Senators and politicians have been saying all along, the state has no business granting same-sex couples marriages; I would take that a step further:

The state has no business granting marriage licenses, period. If marriage is a religious institution, then the state should not be involved in or use words similar in effect to what is commonly held by the populace to be a religious institution.

The state has no business nor should it have any business conferring benefits or instilling requirements to the millions of couples who wish to coexist together.

The United States federal governmnet, at least count in 2004, has a sum total of one thousand one hundred and thirty eight laws (1138 laws) under the United States Code alone that deal with marital status or wherein martial status is a factor for such law.

That's really a lot of code that's been written solely about a religious institution — something that the state has absolutely no business poking its nose into as the state should not be interfering with religious organizations and the institutions that they instill into our society.

As such, I call upon all of my legislators to introduce legislation into their respective bodies of government putting an end to this state-sponsored religious practice of marrying couples.

If a couple wants to get married, let them do it in their churches, temples, and synagogues, where marriage rightly belongs. If couples want benefits from the state, then the state needs to first figure out, first, if it should even be in the business of conferring benefits on people who choose to coexist together and then—and only then—should it then seek to determine via what non-religious method such benefits, requirements, responsibilities, etc. should be conferred upon such couples.

I hope you will all join with me in calling upon your respective legislatures and requesting that they enact similar legislation.

It is my sincere hope that in the very near future, this will no longer be an issue for anyone in this nation.

And if you think I'm crazy or far-out with this idea, just look at how well it's worked in the United Kingdom. People get married in churches over there, and the state confers certain benefits and responsibilities upon couples via a civil ceremony that is in no way shape or form referred to as a marriage.

So let's get the government out of the business of being a religion, and end the practice of state-sanctioned marriage. If you listen to Senator Diane J. Savino's speech in favor of passage of the marriage equality legislation that the New York State Senate failed to ratify yesterday, perhaps you'll understand why:

05 October, 2009

What's wrong with the Blackberry a/k/a crackberry

OK, so I'm the horrified new owner of a Blackberry Curve 8350i PDA, that I got for the new car service (taxi & airport runs) business that I'm going to be operating/owning out of Yonkers (but that's another story). Yes yes yes, I know that I promised myself a long time ago that I wouldn't allow my computer/technology/Internet addiction grow to the crackberry but, alas, the Universe directed me in this regard and I was left with little other choice, given the circumstances and needs of the business and what I needed from a phone.

There are a lot of great reviews, like this one from Engadget. The service we have is through Sprint Nextel. After using the device for a few days, though, I have a few complaints and, quite honestly, I don't understand why more people don't complain about these things. I would imagine that my complaints are valid regardless of which particular crackberry model you're using.

So here are my complaints about the Blackberry (crackberry):

The keyboard is horrendous for a touch-typist to use. I mean, seriously. Is there a bluetooth or some other kind of keyboard that I can use to enter data into this device? I'm absolutely horrified at having to use this thing, and for a few reasons:

As a touch-typist (a darned fast one at that, too -- I average 100 words per minute these days, although I used to be much, much faster when I was working on a fairly regular basis, before the collapse of our economy), I'm used to keys being in a certain location and symbols being on certain keys. Blackberry basically said to hell with this arrangement, and came up with their own layout (especially for the symbols).

You can't lock the alt key, which is used for creating many of the symbols required for daily writing, as well as for entering in the numbers of the overlayed telephone keypad. Thus, in order to enter in phone numbers and the like into a regular message, one must press ALT+number, ALT+number, ALT+number, over and over and over again. This is very, very annoying for entering in long sequences of numbers. There should be a way/mechanism to make the ALT, as well as SHIFT keys, lockable (I've tried holding them down but this doesn't work).

In the "Contacts" application, certain fields that one would expect to be numeric are, by default, alphanumeric. Thus, (especially for ZIP codes), one must do the ALT+number, ALT+number, ALT+number, ALT+number, ALT+number sequence over and over and over again in order to enter the numbers in. I don't know why these fields don't default to numeric input (wherein then one could use the ALT key to get alpha characters to show up).

This leads me to my next complaint. In numeric entry mode, one can't insert alpha characters. Since ALT is used in alphanumeric mode to enter numbers, I don't see why ALT couldn't be used to access the characters of the alphabet in numeric mode. It just makes sense, doesn't it?

Well, those are the major complaints that I have for now. Well, that, and the slow speed of the network over which everything works. I have a WiFi connection enabled in my home, where I've been using my crackberry. I don't think this has sped anything up at all. In fact, I can't tell how or when the device is working over the WiFi connection as opposed to the mobile network. Additionally, when a signal from the mobile network isn't available (which happens quite frequently where I live), it would be nice for the device to work (for all functions, including phone via VOIP) over the WiFi connection, which is fairly consistent....

Since today is #techtuesday, I wanted to point out that Internet petition campaigns can make a difference: on 10 September 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an official, posthumous apology on behalf of the UK Government to artificial intelligence pioneer and World War II hero Alan Turing for Britain's horrific treatment of Mr. Turing after World War II due to his homosexuality.


"We're sorry.
You deserved so much better."


~Honorable Gordon Brown, British Prime Minister
in a posthumous apology to Alan Turing for the way he was treated after his heroic World War II accomplishments, because he was found out to have been gay.

22 September, 2009

Hewlett Package Tech Support = EPIC FAIL

If you want a great lesson on how to alienate your customers and destroy brand loyalty that has taken years to build up, take a close look here...

Y'know this is really a very sad story. Hewlett Packard makes some really great products--that's not the sad part. What's sad is that if you ever are unfortunate enough to find yourself in a position of having to deal with their tech support, consider just junking the equipment and buying something else.

Unless, of course, you're dealing with re-installing or upgrading your printer drivers.

I don't know what's going on at HP these days but after the last ten or so contacts I've had with their tech support department, I can unfortunately no longer recommend that people purchase their products. And it's a damned shame, too, because they make some of the best printers out there.

Case in point: I own an OfficeJet Pro L7580 and an OfficeJet Pro L7680. When I went to upgrade the printer driver for the OJP7580, it wound up not working. So I was then left with a printer driver that no longer worked. I went from a fully-functional four-in-one printing device to a 50-pound brick sitting on my desk.

After three calls to HP Tech Support, I just gave up. There went over 25 hours of my life that I will never, ever be able to get back. And for naught! The issue remained unresolved. I lent the printer away to a non-profit organization for them to use as a copy machine (sad that a 4-in-1 would be restricted to the sole function of copying documents). I mean, let's get real here. Why do I have to wipe out and re-install my entire OS just to upgrade or reinstall the printer driver? Why does uninstalling their software/printer driver not function correctly and really muck up your system?

So I bought the OfficeJet Pro L7680, and this time I kind of learned my lesson. At first I tried installing the printer driver onto my system, but that totally didn't work as there were remnants of the printer driver for the L7580. I ended up having to get a new hard drive as my original one was starting to fail, so I did a clean install of the OS and this time, I installed the updated printer drivers the first time around.

But then I ran into another issue, and spent a few more phone calls, and another 25 hours on the phone with, HP Tech Support. The last call I placed to them, where I gave them access of my computer for remote troubleshooting, ended up with me having to use Windows Restore to get my computer to a functioning point again. And I really, REALLY hate having to use Windows Restore. Oh, wanna know what the issue was? I can't print freaking envelopes!

The envelopes are loaded into the printer, everything is set correctly in the software and driver side, but the printer continues to say that no envelope is loaded into the device -- even though it's there plain as day! I mean, I totally love love love my OfficeJet Pro 7680. But now, I'm going to have to wipe out my hard drive, reinstall the operating system, and then install the latest drivers in order to get it working again. As it now stands, the tech left me with a printer that can print (after running Windows Restore) but I can't scan or fax from the computer to the device -- just print! :(

Unfortunately, this technical UNsupport isn't limited just to HP's printers. It affects their computers, and other devices, too.

I had to contact HP Tech Support on behalf of a client who owns an HP Notebook computer. Six hours of my life that I'll never get back later, the issue went unresolved. He ended up selling the notebook and buying a Gateway.

My sister has an HP Desktop computer. Something happened and the system just stopped working. Five hours on the phone with HP Tech Support (where I told them what steps I'd taken, and they had me RE-DO them ... even though I'm an IT Consultant and have done help desk before so I know what the hell I'm doing), we end up sending the system back to HP for repair under warranty. The system comes back, with the same exact problem still being there! I ended up getting an Acer desktop for her to replace the HP system. I'll tinker with the HP System and see if I can get it to work w/ a new hard drive running under Linux but I'm not hopeful....

And these are just SOME of the issues I've had to deal with over the past 18 months; there are other stories I could tell but they get even more complicated and sordid than this.

Even tweeting with people high up on the chain of command at HP has been of little to no use.

Therefore, as much as it pains me to do so (because IMHO HP makes the best printers on the market), I am no longer going to be purchasing HP products or recommending them to any of my friends/clients. And that, my friends, is what's so sad.

10 September, 2009

QOTD -- Suicide

“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
~Phil Donahue (1935-)
Emmy Award winning American media personality and writer

“Suicide sometimes proceeds from cowardice, but not always; for cowardice sometimes prevents it; since as many live because they are afraid to die, as die because they are afraid to live”
~Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832)
English sportsman and writer

“The real reason for not committing suicide is because you always know how swell life gets again after the hell is over”
~Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
Pulitzer & Nobel Prize winning author

“No one ever lacks a good reason for suicide.”
~Cesare Pavese (1908-1950)
Italian Poet, Critic, Novelist and Translator

“To run away from trouble is a form of cowardice and, while it is true that the suicide braves death, he does it not for some noble object but to escape some ill.”
~Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)
Ancient Greek Philosopher, Scientist and Physician

Today (10 September 2009) is World Suicide Prevention Day. Please read my post about WSPD here. If you're having thoughts of hurting yourself, please reach out to someone -- anyone -- and seek help. Contrary to what you may be feeling, all hope is NOT lost!

World Suicide Prevention Day


Today, 10 September 2009, is World Suicide Prevention Day.

I am a suicide survivor. My first attempt was made when I was a teenager, because I couldn't come to terms with being gay and being Catholic. I just responded to someone on Facebook who inquired about this. Here's what I wrote:
I was raised in a very conservative, very religious Catholic Democratic household, by my very religious, very conservative Democratic Grandparents. I didn't know that there were gay people growing up. Then I started going on-line, and I met my first gay person, my Unca Uni. He got me to realize that all the fantasies/what not I'd been having were b/c I was gay.

I couldn't reconcile being Catholic with being gay. One night, whilst on the phone w/ a fellow young Republican from Yonkers, I came out to him. I was also taking sleeping pills. But having led an extremely sheltered life, I didn't know that you're supposed to take the whole bottle all at once, not one at a time (which is what I was doing). My family was away on holiday. I fell asleep before taking too many of the pills. Woke up the next day & realized that if I'm gonna survive as a gay boy, the religion thing was gonna have to go.

And so it went. And here I am....
The grandparents never found out about it. Over the years I came to tell my parents, who didn't raise me. I came out to my grandmother in January 1999, before moving to Phoenix, Arizona to live with my best friend at the time, with whom I was also in unrequited love. By the way, don't ever move cross-country to be with someone you're in love with but who loves you only as a good friend; the results are disastrous.

Anyway, ever since that first suicide attempt, I've been confirmed in my identity as a gay man who abhors all of these so-called Christians touting their Bibles and telling me I'm going to hell (in a handbasket). There are Christians (some Catholics included amongst them) who are supportive and don't have an issue with us LGBTQ folk; unfortunately, I fear that they're in the minority.

Religion no longer plays any aspect in my life. I consider myself spiritual, and I'm fine with that. I'm comfortable with my spirituality, which I've discovered after my automobile accident in January 2002.

In the months and years that followed my accident, I've had quite a few suicide attempts, and often think about ending my life. All of the attempts, however, were made while I was under the influence of narcotic pain killers. As such, my plans were a bit off-kilter and--fortunately--weren't successful.

When I came off the narcotic pain killers (it took me about six months for my mental faculties to return in full strength), I realized how stupid I was being. However, the feelings of wanting to end my life remained.

These feelings of hopelessness and suicidal ideation arise mainly from two factors: suffering from chronic pain, and suffering from chronic Depression. These two stressors work hand-in-hand with each other, each feeding off the other in a vicious cycle. The pain makes my Depression worse, which in turn causes the pain levels to elevate. The elevated pain levels worsen the Depression, and around and around we go.

I've previously written about my last suicide attempt that was in either September or October 2005, which resulted in my being arrested for possession of a controlled substance. This goody two shoes boy from Westchester just didn't know how to conduct an illegal transaction. Although the Town of Harrison police were the most ignorant bunch of assholes on this planet that I've ever personally encountered, they did--unwittingly--save my life by arresting and prosecuting me.

Nowadays, instead of acting out on my suicidal thoughts, I seek help. If my thoughts get to a point where I start developing actual plans, I put myself in hospital until they pass -- in order to keep myself safe.

I've gotten pretty good at dealing with them lately. However, I realize that not everyone is as fortunate and self-aware as I am.

When I was 16/17 (back in 1990), there was no such organisation as The Trevor Project (@TrevorProject on Twitter). There were no support groups for gay youth where I lived. Hell, it was still illegal to be gay in more than half of the states in the USA, and it was still technically illegal to be gay in New York (I hadn't learned, at the time, that the New York State Court of Appeals had ruled New York's anti-gay penal statutes unconstitutional some time in the 1980s, if memory serves).

But now, there are many such organisations, and there is hope. There is always hope.

So if you're having thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself, end your life, or otherwise do something that you don't need to do, please reach out and seek help. There are many, many places to go nowadays that just didn't exist when I was a teen.

For suicide resources in the USA go here and for worldwide referrals go here.

(Thanks to Dr. Deborah Serani for the links to resources.)

25 August, 2009

QOTD - John D. Rockefeller

“Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it.”

“If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.”

“Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”

~ John D. Rockefeller, 1839-1937
(American Industrialist and Philanthropist,
founder of the Standard Oil Company)

(QOTD=Quote Of The Day)

10 August, 2009

QOTD -- Friends vs Enemies

I can't believe no one has said this before, so I'll say it now:

"Friends agree to disagree. Enemies just disagree."

~Peter C. Frank (197x-present)
Disabled New York LGBT Political Activist

#TechTuesday on Twitter

OK, I've been trying to do this for the past few weeks but things just haven't been in my favour. I'm hoping that today, they are. Actually, I started this tag a number of weeks ago in my #followfriday and #samesexsunday recommendation posts but I just never had the chance to explain it until now.

As most of you know, I use Twitter, that wonderful micro-blogging service that where you send status updates in 140 characters (or less) in response to a very basic question: What are you doing?

One of the greatest things about Twitter, and what I find most valuable about it, is the ability to connect with people around the world who you may otherwise never come into contact with. I hold daily conversations with folks from the Netherlands, Australia, Europe, Asia, and the Americas (North and South) that I've met -- solely through Twitter. I've formed great friendships, and met some truly wonderful folk.

The way to interact with people on Twitter is by following them, or by having them follow you. When you follow someone on Twitter, you see all of their status updates in your "tweet stream."

So some time ago, a few folks got the idea that it would be kind of cool to let the folks who are following them know know about some of the really great folks with whom they interact. Most notably, Mashable started the trend of #FollowFriday.

Since then, a number of other "following" trends have been created. In addition to #FollowFriday, there's #SameSexSunday, #Women2Follow, and #MondayMensch, among others. Other days of the week have been taken up with other Twitter trends, such as #MusicMonday and #ThankfulThursday. Here's a blog post that, although a bit outdated, tells us a few of the Twitter Weekday Trends.

So today is Tuesday, and one of the things I've found about Twitter is that there are a great number of geeks, or technology enthusiasts if you will. This got me to thinking, why isn't there a #followfriday type of event for these tech folk?

And here you have it, the beginning of #TechTuesday on Twitter.

#TechTuesday is a #FollowFriday of sorts where users will recommend great Twitter folk to follow who tweet about technology in some fashion. They may be employed in the technology or IT field, may be an advocate of technology, a user who tweets about their experiences, an enthusiast, or just a plain old geek. But in any event, #TechTuesday is all about the Twitter users who are in to Tech.

With that said, here are my #TechTuesday recommendations:

Additions for the #techtuesday of 8 September 2009 (and previous weeks as well):

@rockingjude -- this awesome inspiring @women2follow @mondaymensch @followfriday gay will rock your socks off with how she researches and delves into the truth about things. She loves using technology as a tool for research and will tweet about great ways in which to do so. Be warned, though; she is definitely no-holds-barred in her opinions (she keeps it cordial, mature, and safe for work, though, so no worries about that). And like her Twitter name implies, she totally rocks!
@eCOST -- another Tweep to follow if you're in the market for some great tech bargains.
@DownloadSquad -- need help picking out the best offerings from the myriad shareware & freeware programs that are floating about the Interwebs? Have no fear, DownloadSquad is here to help you with insightful tweets about great programs available for download as either shareware or freeware.

Additions for the #techtuesday of 22 September 2009 (and previous weeks as well):

@BBUENVIAJE -- is just geeky that way. Loves to read about new trends and always wants the latest gadget. Isn't that what being a geek/tech lover is all about?
@ThinkGeek -- tweets about new & cool products for lovers of tech. Responsive. Helpful. Offers insight, tips, tricks, etc.
@gadgetfreaks -- For the love of everything gadget, this is the tweeter to follow. This is mostly a news feed of articles, though, so don't expect any interaction with them. :(
@TheNextWeb -- news feed via Twitter of thenextweb.com -- great tech site but again, no interaction with other Tweeters :(
@engadget -- Another twitter feed account with no interaction of other Tweeters, if you want to keep up with the latest articles/posts to the engadget web site, follow them!
@Techmeme -- if you like to stay abreast of the latest in tech news, this is the twitter feed to follow. But like other twitter feeds (as opposed to twitter accounts/tweeple), don't expect any interaction from them. :(
@Tylertorment -- a true geek who tweets about his geek life. Not sure if you get interaction with him via @ replies but his bio says to DM him and he'll retweet your tech links for you.
@cyberthoughts -- an educator (not sure of what level, though) who loves tech, loves educating people about tech, and how tech is integrated into daily living, exposing just how things in our daily life are affected by technology. True geek, and you will get interaction from this tweeter.
@tomgerace -- Founder & CEO of http://gather.com/ this #samesexsunday bloke tweets about his life, so it's a great way to get a peek into the life of a true Web 2.0 entrepreneur.
@NeweggHotDeals -- For the latest & greatest deals from a great source of tech products in the USA -- http://newegg.com/
@Newegg -- the official Twitter account of http://newegg.com/ providing tips, advice, and customer service for users of their web site, as well as tweets about products that it sells and how to best use them.
@PianoGeek -- a classical-music loving #samesexsunday geek, follow him for great tweets about music, life, love, and technology.
@YouTube -- the official twitter account of YouTube, providing tweets on YouTube news, trends, and -- of course -- videos.
@googlereader -- for news, tips, and tricks for users of Google Reader -- a great web-based RSS feed reader
@stevenjayl -- a senior writer/journalist for Wired magazine, look for tweets about his personal life mixed into tweets about technology, tech news, trivia, tidbits, and other items for the professional geek.
@markoff -- a journalist/writer for the New York Times assigned to cover science, look for items and tidbits that don't make the paper or his column, as well as his editorial/personal opinion about the science news that he tracks
@elatable -- for information regarding current and future Google products, look to this Tweeter's twitstream.
@Pogue -- the official Twitter account of the infamous David Pogue, tech writer for the New York Times and CNBC correspondent on all things tech. Tips, tricks, news, reviews, and more!
@rustybrick -- everybody needs an expert search/SEO geek in their life, and he's certainly top drawer in this area!
@sreenet -- Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, this self-professed technology evangelist provides insightful commentary into how technology fuses into our life, as well as useful content for tech newbies!
@arstechnica -- the fusion of art and technology. Or in layman's terms, which tech gadgets look the coolest!
@Wired -- Wired magazine's interactive Twitter feed. How cool is that?
@lhawthorn -- a FLOSS (Free Libre Open Source Software) advocate, this Tweeter pushes the FOSS agenda and connects others in the FOSS movement.
@pcworld -- the official Twitter account of the magazine of the same name, look for everything that PC World is online and off, in 140 characters or less.
@slashdot -- news feed for slashdot, or /. -- you know, the news site for geeks!
@GoogleWebmaster -- if you're involved in any way with the creation, maintenance, design, coding, or development of web sites, then you should be following this Twitter account.
@googletalks -- this is pretty cool, from their bio: GoogleTalks hosts innovators, world leaders, authors and more from around the world and broadcasts their talks on our YouTube channel.
@googlemaps -- if you use Google's Maps service, this is a great account to follow. If you're a Google Maps API developer, then you should definitely be following them!
@googleresearch -- to follow the latest projects that Google is working on company-wide
@newscientist -- combining science and technology on a weekly basis.
@NYT_JenPreston -- This interactive #women2follow is the
Social-Media Editor of The New York Times, a mother-of-twins, Adjunct for Columbia University New Media, and Author tweets about all of the above and how it weaves into her (and others') life.
@creativesandbox -- another great account for the artist in us, this Google account tweets about all things created digitally (or is that digitally creative?)
@TechPolicy -- pushing the envelope in innovative technology and advocating for the expanded use of technology in all areas of life.
@google -- the official Google Twitter account. Do I really need to say any more?

Finally, this isn't a Twitter account but rather a petition regarding a great tech legend, Alan Turing. You probably are familiar with this name, the test named after him, or the award named in his honour. What you probably don't know about him is that Alan Turing was gay (he'd be a #samesexsunday bloke today) and that the UK government basically shunned him after using his genius during World War II. There is a petition requesting the UK government and HRH Queen Elizabeth II to issue a posthumous apology and award/delcaration to this great man of technology.

Please sign this petition now to give this British World War II Hero the recognition he so rightfully deserves.

Additions for the #techtuesday of 10 August 2009:

@FaithfulChosen -- Everybody needs one of those nerds who refuses to go with the flow in their life. This particular #samesexsunday #followfriday nerd is one who not only refuses to go with the flow but in doing so creates a flow of her own.
@CyberEddieGr -- This Greecian (is that what you call folks from Greece?) provides awesome links on spectacular deals, tidbits of tech news, and just interesting info all around. A great #followfriday individual.
@AreYouAdam -- Every geek/tech enthusiast needs to have a great gadget freak on their speed-dial, and this #samesexsunday bloke from down under fits the bill quite nicely. Just don't give him one of those laser-pointer thingies, please?
@Geekix -- probably a bot yes, I know, but this one retweets all that is chic in geekdom.
@USbargains -- Tired and frustrated of searching for the best deals on- and off-line? Then start following this tweeter, and spend more time on things that truly matter, like starting a flamewar on which Star Trek series is best!
@Rufuscoolkitty -- I don't think a geek is complete without a pet, and this kitty is just plain-out cool. OK but seriously, a Mac expert, politico, IT manager, #samesexsunday originator of awesome tweets to fill your heart with glee (and other types of fairy-dust goodness), this tweeter is more tech than geek.
@StanNYC -- he's a software developer. Developer of what, he doesn't say. But his tweets are interesting (especially those of his pets). Another #samesexsunday fellow and just great all-around guy.
@Krewell -- a self-professed "long-time geek", Krewell works for NVIDIA (you know, the maker of that awesome graphics chip who provides so-so drivers for Linux), his tweets are 90% geek (OK, I've got to stop rhyming!) and 10% panache. If you have a question about wine and don't want to bother @GaryVee, then try this tweet with a few hundred thousand less followers. ;)

Additions for the #techtuesday of 4 August 2009:

@Twithug -- what a great way for we geeks to spread a little love on-line. A total #MonayMensch and #FollowFriday account, just send @Twithug an @reply with the name (or names) or twitterers that you'd like to send some lovin' to and just watch what happens!
@KeithDriscoll -- this local (to me at least) Twerson will answer just about any tech questions thrown his way, even if the answer is "I don't know the answer to that, but I'll do my best to find out and get back to you!" I mean, how refreshing is that, to have someone in IT--instead of pretending to know the answer to something they don't and mess things up for you even more--provide honest, workable answers? A total #followfriday #mondaymensch.
@InfoWorld -- what can I say other than they're one of the better IT publications out there for true IT folks. If you're in the world of IT, then you probably already know about them but perhaps not their Twitter account!
@SuzeOrmanShow -- what IT person couldn't do with a bit of no-nonsense financial advice from one who truly knows what she's talking about? Reign in that "I've gotta spend my entire paycheck on the new gizmodo gadget that's coming out tomorrow instead of waiting a few weeks for it to go on sale and save myself a few thousand bucks..." attitude with help from this #samesexsunday financial guru and get your finances in order!
@MentalFloss -- as their bio line says, it's "Where knowledge junkies get their fix." What geek would be complete without their daily dose of inane trivia?
@Twitter -- I can't believe that I missed this account in my initial posting but here it is now. If you want to know what's going on with Twitter, follow them!
@Consumerist, @CReporter, @ConsumerReports -- not all tech not all the time but this trio of consumer-centric tweeple write about tech from the non-geek, consumer point of view (POV).
@Krutal -- he's just a fountain of knowledge; a true geek. Provides links to some great geek/IT resources.
@eBayDailyDeal -- Four items per day, eBay tweets about their latest "Daily Deals" -- four items that are priced at super-low, bargain-basement prices. Usually at least one tech item per day, what true geek doesn't love a great deal?
@DunkinDonuts -- Follow them for announcements from the creators of the fuel that geeks and IT staff run on.
@0penSource -- for all tweets that are all about FOSS (Free, Open-Source Software), this is the place to be.
@chrispirillo -- a true über-Geek who's been making things happen online since 1992, Chris is one of those friendly tech experts that CNN calls upon when they need things explained to them.
@FLOSStoday -- this #mondaymensch helps promote FOSS open-source in schools and the workplace. He tweets about great FOSS alternatives to proprietary software and also gives great URLs, links, and other resources on using FOSS alternatives to replace expensive, proprietary software.
@SoftwareIsFree -- updated daily, they give away a different piece of software every day.
@GiveAwayotDay -- this great web site gives away software. Sometimes it's free software, sometimes it's shareware, and sometimes it's expensiveware. But whatever the software, the website--which is updated on a daily basis, lets visitors download and install their Giveaway of the Day (provided you install it before their 12am Pacific Time deadline). How cool is that?
@Singa and @Truskowski -- these two tweeple tweet about IT from a gay perspective, such as how to match your iPhone cover with your socks. But seriously, these great #samesexsunday tweeple are true nerds/geeks whose love of tech rivals their other loves...
@Naehutch -- if you want your tech from a more feminine point of view, then follow this great geek and fellow bookworm from down under!

Here's the list I started with, on 21 July 2009:

@LanceUlanoff -- the Editor-in-Chief of PC Magazine is a great tech enthusiast who's into robots. If you tweet him, he'll usually respond to you, despite being swamped with the responsibilities of his job.
@PhoneScooper -- this is your go-to source for anything and everything having to do with phones and mobile products.
@MarcThom -- this great #samesexsunday bloke from down under tweets about his experiences, both the good and the bad, with all of his wonderful tech gadgets.
@MathieuB -- this #mondaymensch tweets about building computers, finding great deals on components, and reviews all the different parts that make up a computer to find the best ones, for the best value, out there. Give him a @tweet and he'll @reply back to ya!
@MattSkal -- this #samesexsunday wonder seems to know just about everything there is to know about social networking and working the social networking to market one's self or one's products without being intrusive about it, and in a manner that does NOT turn people off.
@cligs -- every Tweeter needs a URL Shortening Service and this is my pick, and the one I use most often. Providing great analytics, http://cli.gs/ tells you where in the world people are when they're clicking on your short URL links.
@BBCClick -- Click is a top-rated news programme from the British Broadcasting Corporation that focuses on technology.
@tedoe -- This #women2follow is an awesome web designer who creates eye-popping, visually-appealing, completely usable web sites.
@TweetOpenSource -- One of my favourite sources for all that is FOSS (Free, open-source software) and open-source tweets in general. Both the good, the bad, and the ugly.
@TigerDirectcom -- one of my two favourite sources for purchasing tech products, TigerDirect.com tweets about special deals and savings. My other favourite, Newegg.com, unfortunately, doesn't use Twitter or see the value of social networking. :(
@SayItWithEcards -- I've known about this #mondaymensch #women2follow for quite some time. She's an older gal who's tackling technology at an alarming pace, and succeeding in doing so, showing that the older generation CAN "get" technology and use it to better their lives.
@MMOhub -- what technology enthusiast isn't a fan of, or player of, MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games)?
@Mashable -- How could I have forgotten the ultimate expert on all that is social networking? Follow @Mashable to become more fluent, knowledgeable, up2date on all the latest, and just in general a better social networker.
@RyanBrack -- this #samesexsunday #mondaymensch tech enthusiast is using social media and networking to better enable our educational system (in particular, that of New York City's public schools) to deal with modern-day living.
@GeekJames -- this #samesexsunday IT pro opened a bakery and uses social media to market its delicious specials. If you have an IT question, he's a good bloke to ask in hopes of receiving an answer that's useful. :)
@MariSmith -- This #women2follow explains social media sites like Twitter and Facebook in easy-to-understand language for those of you who aren't quite that tech-savvy. A total #followfriday #women2follow with a great heart who just loves life, technology, and all that is great and wonderful in the world.
@Scobleizer -- he started out as a blogger but has come into being a full enthusiast of all things tech. Isn't it great how the Internet can make a geek out of you? ;-)

I'll be adding to this list as I remember and discover other great #techtuesday tweeters. And I'll update this list just about every Tuesday with more recommendations of great new Tweeters to follow for your tech needs. Until then, check out my #followfriday and #samesexsunday recommendations, too!

07 August, 2009

Update 6 on Jennal

This is the 6th update to my blog about my niece, Jennal, and what she's been going through. Here's a link back to the 5th update on her condition. If you haven't been following this story, please read the original blog post.

What a whirlwind these last few days have been. Jennal's fever really began to spike so I spent quite a bit of time down at hospital. She's doing better now, insofar as the fever is concerned. It still can run up to 101.something quite easily, however. I wish her body were adjusting to this procedure better but I guess it's just a matter of time. It is cause for concern, however, so that's something that will have to be monitored constantly.

Jennal really is not doing well in the setting of a hospital. She totally does not want to be bothered about anything, by anyone. She won't let doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff approach her or do anything to her. Right now, the only people who are able to do anything for her are her family.

As such, Jennal's parents are trying to arrange to bring her home for her recovery, instead of completing it in hospital. The expense will be considerably more but we all believe that it is in Jennal's best interest, both medically and psychologically.

At home, Jennal will have (if the insurance expenditure is approved) her former physical therapist, with whom she has a good rapport, her home nurse, her family, familiar surroundings, and fewer interruptions by people whom she doesn't know, doesn't trust, and believes will cause her more pain.

Physically, Jennal isn't ready to come home. We've been putting her in a wheelchair to get her sitting up, trying to strengthen her for the 45-to-60 minute drive home (depending on traffic) from hospital. If she can't tolerate in a chair, sitting up, for at least sixty minutes, then her parents will not be able to bring her home.

It's extremely painful for me to watch (and sometimes participate) in this -- pushing Jennal beyond what she wants (or, perhaps, is ready) to do. Moving her, especially lifting her and placing her into the chair, causes her such pain that she almost shrieks. It's something that must be done; however, I wish there were ways to further reduce her pain levels when this occurs. Even just wheeling her around the pediatric unit, as I've done a few times, is most difficult.

First, she doesn't want to leave the room and the comfort of her parents. Second, once they persuade her to leave with me, when we approach the doors of the unit she gets extremely upset, repeating over and over "I want to go back, I want to go back to my room NOW" and "No I don't want to go there again."

To see my niece in such a condition truly is heartbreaking for me. I'm so used to seeing her in such a better state. I can only imagine what her parents are going through; however, I know that they're doing everything in their power to help her heal -- both physically and emotionally -- from this experience. And it seems to be working.

As can be seen from this photograph of Jennal's head (click on the photo to see a larger image of it, in full-scale), they really weren't kidding when they spoke of removing 1/2 of her brain (an entire hemisphere).

Other positive signs are that she is starting to eat a bit more (the IV lines have all been removed and feeding via IV has stopped), and she's drinking more as well. It's nearly impossible for her to chew at the moment so most of the food she can consume is very soft -- pasta, mac & cheese, rice and other soups (an Asian dish), etc.

This is what my sister posted to her Facebook account. I haven't heard from her w/in the past 24 hours so I don't know whether or not Jennal has, in fact, been brought home or if she's still in hospital. I'll have to find out today, to determine where my journeys will bring me:

Aiming to bring my baby girl home today, shes not ready physically, not even sitting up yet on her own, but shes too terrified there. She wont recover, wont let a Dr, nurse or PT near her. I pray these fevers subside soon and she improves physically and emotionally with all of our love, care and support. You all played a role in helping her get this far with your prayers, thank you and may your kindness be returned. 22 hours ago

I, too, hope that Jennal will be home soon, where--hopefully--she can recover much quicker than she has been doing in hospital. While NYU Hospital, Langone Medical Center, might have some of the best surgeons in the world, especially for this type of procedure, the nursing and other staff leave much to be desired, especially as compared with the local hospitals in Westchester County, New York and Greenwich, Connecticut (specifically, Westchester Medical Center and Greenwich Hospital).

Out of the past 24 hours, I've spent at least 18 of those sleeping -- catching up on much-needed rest. This entire ordeal has been exhaustive for me, and I can only imagine what my sister and her fiancé have been going through and how tired they must be. Instead of them both being there 24/7, they've taken to taking turns at Jennal's bedside. If Jennal is returned to her loving, nurturing home, then both of Jennal's parents (and other family) can be by her side to aide in her recovery.

[UPDATED: 7 August 2009 12:00pm] Jennal has returned home very late last night (Thursday night). Her fever still remains but she is in much better spirits. She has laughed and is eating much better. Hopefully her road to recovery will now be much quicker and less painful on my wonderful, loving niece!

03 August, 2009

Update 5 on Jennal

This is the 5th update to my blog about my niece, Jennal, and what she's been going through. Here's a link back to the 4th update on her condition. If you haven't been following this story, please read the original blog post.

So Jennal was moved from ICU to a regular pediatrics hospital bed. The staff there is not nearly as responsive as the staff in ICU but they have a much heavier caseload. As such, while it's not an excuse for the nurse to call on the Intercom ten minutes after pressing the call button, it is understandable as the nursing staff has an entire ward to tend to, instead of just one room (in ICU, it's one nurse per room/four patients maximum; it's probably about quadruple the patient load in the regular rooms).

They started -- or should I say attempted to start -- physical therapy (PT) with my niece over the weekend but Jennal just was not having it. Putting her in a wheelchair was just about all they could coax her into doing and even that took every trick in the bag to accomplish. Jennal still is very drowsy/groggy but she no longer is on narcotic painkillers so she's more alert and, unfortunately, much more in pain. "Don't even think about touching me," is the aura/look she gives off when you approach her now.

Even in the above photograph, which was taken over the weekend while she was in a deep sleep, you could tell that she was not in a good mood. She's talking but I think she's confused about what she's saying or she doesn't quite know what she's saying. For instance, when I came to her bedside and said hello she told me to go away but then she reached out and grabbed my hand. I told her I was leaving and she gripped my hand and wouldn't let go, even though I asked her if she wanted me to stay and she said, "no." So at this point I'm taking her actions as speaking louder than her words, as I'm pretty certain that her refusing to let go of my hand was an indication of her true wishes.

In any event, today, they did manage to get her into the wheelchair a bit easier and Jennal sat up in bed by herself. So she is showing signs of continued improvement. Her attitude hasn't changed, however, and she remains impossible to deal with and basically xenophobic. If you were to cut out half of my brain, however, I'm not so certain that I'd feel much differently than she now feels.

In other news, the neurosurgeon came in to visit and spoke with us for a bit. He stated that Jennal is way ahead of the curve in terms of recovery; most of his patients didn't even begin to speak/babble until 4-7 days after the surgery, whereas Jennal spoke as soon as they removed the tracheal intubator. She's also showing motor skill movement, even if it's not as controlled as it used to be, and that hasn't occurred in his other patients until after speech has returned in them. So we're all taking this as a good sign and we're all hoping that Jennal will be able to return home soon, which will be less traumatic for her, under the care of a visiting nurse or something like that.

On a personal note, I returned to my apartment for the third day in a row without hot water and I don't think I can go out tomorrow or later tonight to return to hospital without showing for a fourth day. I called my landlord, Alan Suridis, and left him an unpleasant e-mail--basically letting him know that I have a family crisis and don't have time/energy/strength to have to fight him for hot water that should be continuously supplied and not interrupted once per week for a few days as it's been over the course of the last month.

I'll update again soon, when I have more information and photos.

31 July, 2009

Update 4 on Jennal

This is the 4th update to my blog about my niece, Jennal, and what she's been going through. Here's a link back to the 3rd update on her condition. If you haven't been following this story, please read the original blog post.

As I mentioned in my 3rd update on her condition, the second procedure that was performed on Jennal, which was the full hemispherectomy, was performed without incident. When I returned Thursday evening, my sister had left for her OB/GYN appointment. Thankfully, the twins are doing OK; they're moving around and everything her doctor told her seemed to be good, so far.

So getting back to Jennal, her father was with her. She woke up when she heard me speaking with him. She was extremely grouchy and yelled at us for waking her up, so we had to whisper but even then, she could tell that we were talking about her.

Jennal was in and out throughout most of the night. She did manage to fall into a deep sleep a few times (we could tell when from her vitals -- how frequently and how deep her breaths were, and her heartrate, etc). I was sitting by her bed side and, throughout most of the night, she was holding onto my hand. She did not want me standing beside the bed -- she didn't want anyone standing next to the bed, in fact.

Whenever the nurse would come to change an IV bag or do something, she would wake up and say, "Excuse me I don't want that." It didn't matter what that "that" was -- Jennal was done having things done to her. It was both adorable and heartbreaking all at the same time.

Jennal told me that she wanted me to take her home. I asked if she wanted to come to my house and she said no. She wanted to go to her house, but she wanted me to take her there and go with her.

As for her vitals, they're almost normal for a child of her age. The only thing that really is worrisome is the temperature. At one point during the night it came back down to normal but then in the morning it was up again, over 101. Additionally, after viewing the monitor for such an extended period of time, I came to see that Jennal's heart is not beating regularly. She has an irregular heart beat, which the doctors knew about. It's like she'll have three regular beats and then it'll skip for one or two beats, then she has three short but quick beats, then it'll go back to regular for a few beats, and then the cycle repeats. I'm very concerned over this, as I'd never had the time to study it on the monitor before.

There were times last night that I tried to leave Jennal's side but she just gripped my hand when I tried to pull away -- she didn't say anything but her intent was clear; she didn't want me going anywhere. When I finally had to leave this morning to get some rest, after the doctors had done some poking and prodding, I heard her say, "Don't leave Uncle Peter." Although it broke my heart, I did have to leave; otherwise, I would be of no use to her and my sister tonight. My sister will be here tonight alone, with me, just as last night it was Jennal's father who was there alone, with me. My being there enabled him to get some rest, just as my being there tonight will enable my sister to get some rest. And that's why I've been there this entire time, to enable both of them to get some rest.

I'm a nocturnal creature; my sister knows this. So the secondary or tertiary reason for my being here (primary being to be there for my niece, secondary to be there for my sister) is to give my sister and her fiancé a break so that they can get some rest, as they know I'll watch over Jennal with at least as much--or more--vigilance than they would.

The first two years of her life, Jennal and I lived together. As such, we formed a special bond. Jennal first will turn to my sister--her mother. If she's unavailable and it's a choice between her father and me, for some reason Jennal turns to me. I don't know how she knows it but I think she knows that I'm closer to her mother by relation than her father. Maybe it's that Jennal and I look so much alike -- you would not be able to tell our baby pictures apart.

We're waiting on the results of the sedated MRI that Jennal had to undergo this morning. I guess those will come in tomorrow or on Monday. So now I'm going to grab something to eat and head back to hospital to watch over a very cranky Jennal.

Oh, one thing I wanted to mention is that Jennal doesn't want anyone going near her or standing over her--it's as if she's scared that they're going to do something to her, perform another procedure, or move her (which causes her pain), or something. She also picks up on any medical words and if you mention anything medical around her, she'll say, "Excuse me but I don't want [that]." (and actually if she has trouble pronouncing "that" then she'll actually just say, "that."

It's really quite adorable, humorous, and at the same time it's so heartbreaking because I can feel my niece's pain, frustration, and anxiety. She wants to go home and have people stop doing things to her, but things must be done to her (medically) in order to ensure that she recovers properly and in the best possible way.

They're talking about stepping her down from ICU to a high-level care bed in order to start physical therapy with her, as she's literally just been lying in bed since Monday without moving. She is not going to like that at all -- people trying to get her to move around and what not. As it stands now, if you ask her to do something she'll tell you that she doesn't want to do it, no matter what it is (unless it's go home). Eat, drink, sit up, move her arm, move her leg, take her temperature, open her eyes, close her eyes, wiggle her toes, laugh, watch TV, play with Barney (one of her favourite television characters) -- she doesn't want to do any of those things.

I can only imagine the level of pain that she's in now. When she's feeling a bit better, I'm going to have to let her feel the ridge on my head, from where my head was cracked open when I had my automobile accident. I'll show her this and let her feel it, and tell her that I have a head boo-boo, too, and I got all better. Maybe if she sees that I got better from my head boo-boo, it will make her feel less anxious and more hopeful that things will be OK for her. We can only hope, right?

Finally, I just wanted to say that I would not have been able to do this, to be here for my niece and my sister/brother-in-law, without all of the wonderful support that I have received from all of you on Twitter and Facebook. Every time I'm about to give in to my Depression, somebody sends me a tweet, or comments on my Facebook status, and that short message gives me the strength and energy to continue plodding along. I can tell you that my sister and brother-in-law feel the same way from the messages that are left on their Facebook profiles.

So please continue directing your healing thoughts, good energies, and prayers for Jennal. And thank you all so much for your tweets of support. I can't get through this without you! I'll try to get some new pictures of Jennal for you all to see as soon as my sister can sneak them...

30 July, 2009

Update 3 on Jennal

This is the 3rd update to my blog about my niece, Jennal, and what she's been going through. Here's a link back to the 2nd update on her condition. If you haven't been following this story, please read the original blog post.

My sister, her fiancé (Jennal's father), and I were there all morning right up to the point where she was taken into surgery. She was sleeping on and off. Jennal wanted her mother right next to her and me by her side. Her father came over but she actually pushed him away. She was extremely grouchy and cranky, as she knew what was coming. She kept begging us to take her home, and not let her go back. She kept saying that she didn't want another trip. Whenever the nurses would come over and and say something medical, she would use that word -- no matter what it was -- and say that she didn't want it, repeating it over and over.

For example, one of the nurses said that they needed to take an oxygen tank with the bed when they transported her, so Jennal started crying, "I don't want the oxygen tank" over and over and over. It truly was heartbreaking to be there with her. Her mother and I continued to comfort her, telling her that everything was going to be OK but at time the nurses' continued conversation about things in front of Jennal made it difficult. One of the nurses didn't think that Jennal knew what was going on but--trust me--she was fully aware that she was going in for another surgery, and Jennal was experiencing a great deal of anxiety over that, as she feared much more pain, etc.

Jennal wanted my sister in the bed with her, and my sister did her best to comply. Jennal didn't want me to touch her but she did want me by her side; she didn't want to see her father, and that really surprised me. She was extremely cranky and feared what was coming. She really did not want to be taken anywhere except home, which is what she kept repeating. When they took her away to go down to surgery, they took her in her bed, with her mother by her side. I stayed in the room, watching her leave, crying that she didn't want to go on the trip.

I truly wish there was a way to control Jennal's seizure without resorting to this horrific procedure. The surgeon came up before hand to speak with Jennal's parents, and asked if we had any questions. My sister had already done the drilling, long before they started these procedures this week, back when they had talked about the possibility of doing it. (They had discussed the possibility of this procedure back in the spring, but actually only decided to perform it last week.) I asked approximately how long it would take and if they foresaw any complications, and was advised that it was an approximately four-hour-long procedure and that they foresaw no complications.

Around 3:00pm EDT, the surgeon came out and informed us that the procedure was complete and that there were no complications. He said that everything went smoothly and according to plan. Shortly thereafter, Jennal was wheeled in her bed back to the pediatric ICU room, which now had three other patients in it. She was still under the effects of the anesthesia, but she was mumbling something about turning off the light and not being able to open her eyes. She looked extremely swollen--much more so than from the previous surgery. I guess having two brain surgeries in the span of four days will do that to you.

At that point, because I hadn't slept since -- Wednesday morning some time (my usual sleeping pattern is to be up at night and awake during the daytime, so I fall asleep around 6-8am or so), I returned to the hotel room that the hospital was providing (my sister was paying for a small portion of the hotel room fee, and the hotel is located just a few blocks from the hospital) and went to sleep. I knew that Jennal would mostly be sleeping for quite some time, and she didn't acknowledge either my presence or her mother's presence, so I felt it was OK to leave her for a while and get some much-needed rest.

My sister had an OB/GYN appointment this evening, which she had to keep, as close monitoring of her pregnancy (she recently found out that she's in her 2nd trimester and pregnant with twins of all things). I've been in contact with her father via SMS and he said that she's still out of it, under the effects of the anesthesia. When my sister returns from her OB/GYN appointment, I'll return to the hospital with her and stay with her, as her father has a prior engagement that he is obliged to keep and cannot get out of. Since Jennal was pushing her father away (which was heartbreaking for me to see--as I'm sure it was for my sister and him as well), I think she'll be OK with just my sister and me there.

As for Jennal's vitals, her heart rate was still a bit elevated but not nearly as much as it was when she came out of surgery the first time; we'll see how it is later this evening, when the anesthesia wears off a bit more. The blood pressure monitor via the IV was high, but the blood pressure monitor via the cuff was normal. The doctors said that they trusted what the cuff blood pressure was more so than the IV monitor, as that tended to be unreliable.

So all in all, Jennal seemed OK, except for that fact that she was very pissed off at the fact of having to undergo a second procedure. At least now, for the time being, she won't have to undergo any more procedures like this, or any surgeries in the near future. I do know that she will have to undergo surgery for her legs to correct the bone growth (because of her stroke, her muscles aren't pulling on the bones in her legs with enough strength so the bones in her right leg aren't growing properly). But that's something for the future, and not nearly as life-threatening as what she's going through now.

I'll keep everyone updated via the blog and my Tweets on Twitter. If you're not already doing so, I do tweet about Jennal's status and what's going on via my Twitter account. You can read about that at http://twitter.com/NiteStar

Jennal, her parents, and I (along with the rest of our family) have received so much support via friends who are commenting on-line, and we would just like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your previous, present, and continued prayers, thoughts, and healing energies. I don't think we could have gotten through this without all of the support that has been given, and the comments and tweets made via Facebook and Twitter. Please keep up the healing thoughts & energies, and your prayers. THANK YOU SO MUCH!