Archive for May, 2016

who ya gonna call?

Another wondrous achievement. But between MIT and Cal-Tech they couldn’t find someone to write it up without using “incomprehensively” in the 3rd to last paragraph:

Right again Albert


Albert Einstein predicted, in 1916, that entities with enormous mass, speeding to combine with each other through gravitational forces, would send forth a “gravitational wave”, a wave which would momentarily warp time and space. 100 years later, scientists devised instruments which finally proved him right. After decades of struggle to obtain funding, the NIS finally brought two LIGO systems into play in the U.S., and almost immediately detected a gravitational wave:



The wave, begun when two black holes merged a billion years ago (and a billion light years away), warped the length of the laser measuring devices by the very small (predicted) amount –¬† 1/1000th the diameter of a proton, measured over the 4km length of the instruments. Not a negligible warp though. The tiny ripple in space/time fabric was initiated all those years ago by a release of energy fifty times greater than that of all the stars in the known universe. Einstein was puzzled, though, by what he called “spooky action”, now usually referred to as “action at a distance”. The now measured and proven ability of particles to instantaneously influence the state of other particles. And by instantaneous I mean faster than the speed of light, which in Albert’s stuffy little nicotine warped world was pretty much “top end”. I considered titling this piece “An Infinite Period of No Change?” to honor the steadfast philosophy of a fellow blogger, but decided, by a hair, that Albert should get the header.

All it took was guts?

“A 51-year-old male had a two year course of ulcerative colitis unresponsive to medical therapy. Despite steroids, metronidazole and 6-mercaptopurine, the patient suffered exacerbations with 14-16 bloody bowel movements¬†per day and progression from left sided to pancolitis. The patient was positioned for total colectomy and J-pouch.”

Positioned indeed. That is not me pictured. I was only forty four when I found myself in this situation in the Spring of 1999. The memories are a little vague, not from age but due to the stunted condition of my memory at the time they were formed. Extremely malnourished, I’d dropped from 186 lbs. to 143 lbs. in just a couple months. Not enough meat on my buttocks to keep me from sliding through the toilet ring. I do recall months of trials with various diets and drugs. I recall the Dr. who initially told me (early on) that “The worst case scenario is you’ll lose your colon”. But I only saw him once or twice. During the same interview he asked,

“Have you been tested for HIV? Is there any possibility that you have ever been exposed?”

“Well….no……and um….I suppose it’s not impossible.”

It was another doctor who told me the results. Dr. Holtzapple. Old Dr. Holtzapple. Shortly into my only appointment with him, my week of worry needed to end.

“What about the HIV test?”

“The HIV test was negative.”

I broke down, thanking God mostly that I had not ignorantly harmed anyone else, because by then I was sure that my own death was fairly imminent. Dr. Holtzapple then put his hand on my shoulder, and I drew in a deep breath. I’d never felt anything like it.

Within a week I was hospitalized, then in and out of hospitals for a few weeks, all the while failing, fed through veins, losing weight. Eventually spent a straight month in the hospital with no food passing my lips. All of the medications our dear pictured man had and more. Scans galore. Various gastroenterologists took turns making grim vs happy diagnoses/prognoses, the cheeriest of them being “Very disappointed” when endoscopy disproved what his belly kneading had told him. It was time to consider surgery, and a surgeon was shortly dispatched to my bedside. Dr. Simon seemed decidedly non arrogant. He was confident though.

“So Mike, do you want to keep your colon, or do you want me to take it?”

“Uh….I think I’d like to keep it.”

“Well, we really need to consider the facts. You’ve been here for five weeks on TPN and you’ve gained no ground. Maybe you’ve lost a little. I really think you should let me take it.”

“Okay. When?”

“Tuesday. I’ve got a Bar Mitzvah to go to this weekend.”

“Well…be careful…I need you.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t get drunk.”

With only the vaguest idea of what I’d consented to I questioned the nursing staff over the weekend.

“Where are they going to cut?”

“Oh, it will probably be a midline incision.”

Tuesday came and went, eight hours in the OR, (see the 50 photo sequence of our man above as he continues his journey…not for the squeamish) and eventually, over a continually horrifying two years (ostomy take-down, fistula surgeries), I got better. Had a chance to tell Dr. Holtzapple about his healing touch. Had a chance to thank Dr. Simon for saving my life. Had the chance to ponder my confession to Fr. Castronovo, and his visit with the relic of a saint whose name I can’t recall. Rode the bicycle hard over sixteen miles of hill country yesterday. Too tired tonight to do anything but blog.