All posts by Alan Beardsley

My Dad just got his own Month!

This is my Dad. Douglas E. Beardsley. Towards the end of 2016 he was on the top of his world. He was serving as Bishop over the local church congregation. He was the head of the County Health Department with increasing roles and influence in Health services State and Nation wide. He had a healthy, united and growing family extending several generations in either direction. When everything is so good, where does one go from there?

For my dad, he came 2 centimeters away from brain dead.

The Symptoms

November 6th, 2016 was the last time I had a conversation with my dad the way I’d always known him. My family tried to Skype with my parents every Sunday. Sometimes we miss a week or two, but I am so grateful we made it work that day. But even then at the time, dad was miserable with a headache, and couldn’t participate all that much. He thought it was just a sinus infection, perhaps.

The next day, the symptoms became much more serious. Dad didn’t feel well, but he still attempted to go to work. He ate a guacamole waffle for breakfast and packed himself a bottle of syrup for lunch. He didn’t get much done at the office, because he couldn’t figure out why none of the application windows would open on his computer; it wasn’t even on. These mix-ups are admittedly a little funny, but they did indicate that something was very wrong. Mom came in and convinced dad to take a car ride with her, and she took him to the Hospital.

The Diagnosis

The scans showed that dad had a potato shaped swelling in his right Temporal Lobe. The Temporal Lobe is used to connect meaning to objects, which explains why he had trouble figuring out which foods go with what. But that specific location and shape of swelling also pointed to Herpes Simplex Encephalitis (HSE). A rare (only 2 cases per million population per year) complication from the otherwise harmless cold sore virus. While cold sores are dormant, the viruses “hibernate” in nerve cells around the mouth area. But every once in a while, the virus might travel up the nerve and sneak its way into the brain.

I began to google HSE right away, and my findings made my heart drop. “Without treatment, HSE results in rapid death in approximately 70% of cases; survivors suffer severe neurological damage.[1] When treated, HSE is still fatal in one-third of cases, and causes serious long-term neurological damage in over half of survivors. Twenty percent of treated patients recover with minor damage. Only a small population of survivors (2.5%) regain completely normal brain function.” – Wikipedia entry.

Statistically, he’d have better odds if he’d been shot through the heart with a gun (24.5% mortality rate) or had brain cancer (30-50% 5 year survival rate). I’ve graduated college with a degree in Biology and watched all 8 seasons of House twice, yet somehow this devastating illness has escaped my attention*. And it’s not like the virus is rare; over 50% of all Americans carry Herpes Simplex Virus I, it’s just that many are asymptomatic. This crisis was as “Out of the Blue” unexpected as possible.

*There was a House Episode featuring HSE, Season 2 Episode 19, but it was from the Herpes Virus type II (Gential Herpes) which is sexually transmitted and thus more avoidable.

The Treatment

Dad was rushed to the Neurology wing for treatment. Brain infections are difficult for both the body and doctors to treat, primarily because the Blood-Brain barrier limits what chemicals and antibodies can come in contact with the grey matter. Plus, viruses are already difficult to kill. The only medicine that really had an effect was Acyclovir, which interferes with the Viral DNA replication and slows it down, giving the body a better chance at catching up. Unfortunately, the only way the body can stop a virus in the brain is to kill off infected brain cells before they can spread the virus further. And every cell lost is permanent damage.

My brothers and I all flew/drove to Iowa as soon as we could. I first got to see dad on the 11th, which also happens to be my Birthday. The couple of days prior to my arrival, my dad’s condition seemed to be on the mend. But when my mom took me in to see dad, he’d had something of a lapse and was breathing through a tube as a precaution against seizures (the monitors had detected seizure activity, even though outward symptoms were not readily apparent).

Dad seemed miserable. He had a fever and a headache and just seemed exhausted. He couldn’t talk, couldn’t eat and couldn’t get out of bed (though he really tried his best and gave the nurses grief as they tried to convince him to stay connected to the machines). He hadn’t shaved since he was admitted, so mom brought his electric razor and gave him a trim. The blades caught and pulled on a few of his whiskers and made dad wince. It might sound odd, but I was so relieved to see such a familiar expression on his face, even if it was pain. It showed that my dad was still in there.

He got the tube out the next day, but he was still steadily feeling worse. His voice was weak, and he had trouble recognizing things, but he did manage to give me a “Happy Birthday Alan,” which felt so good it almost made me cry. Mom was a hero, because she got a doctor friend to take dad’s case and re-evaluate his progress. New scans showed that swelling in my dad’s brain was nearing critical levels. If it got much worse, he would be at risk of a mid-line shift (where the brain moves too far off center) or damaging pressure on the brain stem. They decided to give dad a Craniotomy and removed an iphone sized section of his skull to give emergency relief to the pressure.

Surprisingly, getting a 3″-5″ hole in his head made dad feel a lot better. He still was feeling really ill, but this was the point at which he started making a comeback. He began eating and talking more. He started getting up and walking around with help. At this point, the infection had spread to about half of his brain, but it seemed to be slowing down. And not a moment too soon, because the front line was only about 2 centimeters away from his brain stem. If it got to there, then it could very likely stop his heart and other vital functions.

The Recovery

I should mention that throughout this whole process dad’s sense of humor was spot on. I think he’d have to be dead before he’d be unable to throw out a quick pun. I was no longer scared for his life, barring any relapse of the infection. But the question on everyone’s mind now was how far could he recover?

Most of the friends and family seemed super optimistic. Maybe overly optimistic. A lot of people in the world can eventually make full recoveries from brain injuries, but many of those were cases of swelling from a traumatic injury or an infection of the meniscus layer around the grey matter. Once the pressure goes away, the brain can keep on just like before. But in my dad’s case, his brain would need to reteach itself a lot of skills and rebuild a lot of connections using the remaining healthy cells. Nothing is going to be gifted to him automatically.

Dad had to go 2 months before he could get his skull put back together. They’d kept the removed plate in the freezer until he was ready for it. In that time he’d already begun physical and speech therapy to help him get moving and gain some independence again. He made news headlines for using ballroom dancing as part of his exercise, using a traveling harness for safety.

So a quick list of things that my dad has retained, despite his injury: Dancing, a Quick Wit, his French Language skills, his Cooking skills, and his Religious Testimony. Things like his short term memory, naming objects and things, and getting the right date and location have been the most difficult, but those are hardly the really important things in life. He’ll still do funny things every now and then, like try to put two contact lenses into one eye or use the wrong condiment on his food, but those too are brief and easy to get past.

Moving on

My father is a great man. He was before, and he still is now. The people who know him love him, and those who have worked beside him respect him. Proof of that came on March 7th, 2017 when Johnson County Iowa proclaimed March to be Brain Injury Awareness Month. Dad stood in front of a board of County Directors and gave a short speech about his experience. You can access a recording of the proceedings at this link:

http://johnsoncountyia.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=1962&Format=Agenda

Also, here is a link to some of the news coverage about the declaration:

http://www.kcrg.com/content/news/Johnson-County-Proclaims-March-as-Brain-Injury-Awareness-Month–415660403.html

I’m glad that my dad is still with us, both mortally and mentally. He’s going to be able to enjoy years of great experiences and be able to watch my children grow up. I hope that anyone reading this can have an appreciation for the miracle of modern medicines and medical care, and recognize the power of Faith.

Many of you may know friends or family with Brain Injuries, or perhaps you’ve experienced them yourself. Know that society does care about you and that awareness is spreading. So if your County or State wants to get on board with Brain Injury Awareness Month, share these links and these stories. Thank you.

If I were President…

In this wing of my Blog I will make posts about ideas I have about the problems of micro and macro society. I am primarily interested in finding, forming and fixing good ideas. This is not a place for venting or slandering, and I do not intend to promote particular Parties or Politicians. Hopefully my ideas can stand on their own.

If you have suggestions to improve upon and idea given, or if you have information that gives evidence contrary to my idea, please speak up! I in no way suppose myself to be the end-all expert in these matters. Rather, I hope to be a caretaker and moderator of an intelligent conversation. Thank you!

 

Those Fleeting Little Things

Youth is ephemeral, and catching every special moment is important. But more so than the moments, I find I am loving, and missing the adorable habits and ticks that continually pop up and then disappear a week later.

It’s exciting when your baby learns a new trick. It might be a new syllable of speech, or it might be clapping their hands for the first time; and I expected to see them and dote over them as my boys developed. What I didn’t expect was that so many of them would only be temporary 😦

Myles discovered one day that he could make a clicking sound by popping his tongue off the roof of his mouth. He LOVED this trick. loved his trick. I’d click at him, and he’d actually respond in kind! It was our first little bit of verbal communication, and it felt so special.

And then one day, less than two weeks later, he just stopped. He’d moved onto the next new thing; babbling “ma, ma, ma, ma…” I think (which itself only lasted about a week). I was so sad to have that special little thing with Milo go away.

Sure, I could teach him how to click again after he’s older and understands instructions, but I feel it won’t be the same. It would feel too forced. It would be my thing and not his anymore.

All I can do is enjoy them while they last, and record them for memory in places like my blog. So here’s my list:

  • Remington used to hold his own feet while doing a diaper change.
  • Myles used to log roll to get to his destination, before he learned how to crawl.
  • Remi currently will take an item in his mouth and carry it across the room like a dog.
  • Myles used to stick his finger so far down his mouth after nursing that he’d sometimes gag himself.
  • Remi used to have his tongue out ALL THE TIME. Almost 24/7, when he wasn’t sucking on his pacifier.
  • Both Remi and Milo would do that “Indian call” when you tapped your hand or fingers over their mouths. Now only Milo still does it.
  • Both will smile so big that their eyes go all squinty; however Remington makes this particular face more than Myles.
  • Remington has always liked to rough-house, but Myles was so sweet that he’d cry whenever I pretended that he was “beating dad up.” I think by now he knows it’s not real.
  • They still love to be tickled, they think it’s funny when they bite your finger and you say “ouch!”, they will sit in front of each other for 10 minutes straight stealing one another’s paci and popping it in their own mouth, and they will naturally prefer any phone, remote control or power-cord over whatever toy you may try to offer.
  • Myles likes to do what I call “singing,” where he takes a deep breath and then just holds one long note for, like, 20 seconds. It’s just a step under screaming, but you can tell he’s just enjoying hearing himself drone on like a bagpipe.
  • Remi has begun to practice throwing a ball. He just bounces it on the ground in front of him, but it’s a good start.
  • Remi will raise both hands up in the air. This has become his indicator for more food or just to get our attention.
  • Both of them are learning how to clap. Myles has been going through the motions for about a month now, but Remington is just now catching on. One time, when he was supposed to be taking his nap, Jessica and I caught Remi sitting awake and practicing his hand clapping in his crib.

Some of these thing may fade, other may stick around for the long haul, but I expect I’ll miss most of them when they’re gone. I can’t say I haven’t been warned; “You’re gonna miss these times,” “They grow up so fast!” But I generally dismissed these because the bulk of my excitement was either in the mere fact of having twin boys, or imagining playing with and teaching them when they were older. Somebody should have been more specific 😦

Primary Elections: The Back-up Choice

If I were President…

… I would suggest that when voting for a candidate during the Primaries, voters are allowed to select a 2nd choice.

The common phrase I heard among friends and across social media this election year (2016) that it was a “Choice between two Evils.” Few seemed to be 100% behind their own candidate, but regarded him or her to be vastly preferable to the other.

The post of President of the United States is far too important to be decided by a fear of not winning. We should be giving our support to those we feel are the wisest, most honorable, and most qualified. But in the system’s current state, it’s weighted a little too far in favor of Celebrity and media saturation. With only one vote, no one wants to waste it on someone they fear is too obscure to get votes from others, no matter how qualified.

But what if we could eliminate, or at least mitigate that fear; the fear of a wasted vote? What if when casting our ballots, we were allowed to have a back up choice?

Here’s how it would work: The ballot would allow you to pick two candidates; your first choice and then a back-up one. Should your first choice candidate drop out of the running, your vote would automatically go to your second pick. This would be a logistical nightmare back in the days of pen and paper, but technology is at the point now that the programming should be pretty easy.

Mind you, I believe the 2nd pick ballot should be used in the Primary Elections when parties are picking their candidates, but I don’t think it’s necessary for the final Presidential Elections.

Everytime! Why do I keep falling for this?

Shamefully I must admit, I am a weak man. Every time I go to Dairy Queen or Chik Fil’A or restaurant, I always buy too large a size shake.

I love ice cream. Ice cream cones, ice cream shakes, ice cream snacks… It’s a big weakness of mine. I try to be responsible and smart about my snacking, but it can be hard to resist 2nds. Or 3rds… or… you get the drift.

But even my body, with all of its ice cream eating Spartan training, has its limits. I can eat myself sick if I don’t watch myself. And to make things worse, some of my favorite flavors are the ultra thick and rich, stuff-you-up-to-the-neck ones like Brownie Fudge and Cookie Dough. They’re just SOOO good and I want as much of it as I can, but I can only get halfway through a Large cup before it’s not much fun anymore 😦

I KNOW this about myself. I don’t know why I keep trying the same thing and expecting that things will be different. But they make it REALLY hard to buy just a small. I see the small, and it’s like $3.25. I’m thinking, “Yeesh, that’s expensive. I could almost buy a regular pint at that. Oh look, for just 40¢ more I can get a Medium. And for just 50¢ more than that I can get a Large! It would almost be irresponsible for me NOT to get the most bang for my buck. I should get a Large.”

How does one compete with a tag team of addictively good taste and marketing-ploy inflated perception of value? HOW!?

Endangered Species

My first post to my Story Slush Pile! Reminder, these are story ideas that I have thought of that I really like, but realistically don’t believe I’ll ever get around to writing. So my writer friends who want to poach, Have at it!

Imagine a world where computers and androids have long surpassed the intelligence and capabilities of humans. The great robot war to take over the world happened several hundred years ago, and mankind is reduced to a few pockets in hiding and a growing collection of captive humans kept as companion “pets.”

Instead of this being a story about a human resistance fighting to reclaim the planet, this story is told from the perspective of an android who is considering joining a growing movement trying to protect humans as an endangered species. Basically robot Tree-huggers and Hippies. These robots believe that man deserves to be respected for their role in creating them.

Naturally there are many machines that consider humans to be a lingering threat/a waste of precious resources, and consider such sentimental programming to be a flawed remnant of said human influence.

The fun of writing this book is trying to imagine what issues would be important to a cybernetic community: Should all robots be required to update to the most recent, most advance A.I. systems, or is there still value in the diversity the old and flawed models use? How serious of a crime is hacking, and how would it be punished? What regulations are there in regards to “reproduction,” and do the “offspring” go through an infant stage or do they jump out of the bow factory ready? Does one’s offspring have to match a certain number of its parent’s features, or can they be built as whatever one wants?

Energy consumption and storage space would be big issues. Androids lead something of a duel life; one where they are in a mobile, physical body, and one when they are just data on a drive. With A.I. programs so advanced, even high capacity storage drives can only handle a dozen or so “individuals” at a time, and with limited power supplies there were even fewer fully functioning bodies that could be up and running at any given time. Many less important programs already have had to resign to long term dormancy in storage devices, or settle for only partial uploads and functionality in lower tech machines.

I feel the conflict, climax and conclusion of the story could go many ways, but here’s the one that I through together because my brain would explode if it left the story hanging.

At a critical juncture in the robot world where the path of their future is hanging between strictly enforced efficiency and one of diversity and conservation, our protagonist android finds himself on the front line fighting for the preservation of the human race. He and his human pet are given a chance to prove their worth by a contest. The contest forms teams of three (Android, Computer, Android for example… or in the case of our protagonist it’s Android, Android, Human) and they have a set amount of time to present a solution to the world’s energy crisis. It is assumed that the slow, simple mind of a human would be an anchor holding back a team’s efficiency, but it would turn out that the blending of thought processes leads to greater creativity and scientific breakthroughs.

I got a lot of my inspiration for this idea from an interview I heard on the radio with Kevin Kelly, the author of a book, What Technology Wants. He talked about how technology evolves and disperses much like the living branches of the Animal Kingdom. He specifically touched on his theory of what will happen when tech surpasses the humans who made it, that instead of there being conflict that there would be a realization that the Universe can better be comprehended with a blending of minds; organic, computer, and whatever else there might be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blessing of Balance with Twins

I’m not just talking about how it’s actually more comfortable to carry two car seats over moderate distances than just one, even though it is true, and is a great workout for the arms. But having two children of nearly equal standing I find gives the Universe unforeseen opportunities to teach you the value of the little things.

For starters; a short while ago Myles made us ecstatic by saying his first word. “Ma ma.” Okay, that’s somewhat a stretch. He was basically just playing with sounds in his mouth and happened to pop off in the middle of nursing, looked up into Jessica’s eyes and mumbled, “ma ma, ma ma ma ma ma…” I thought it was too unwieldy to be considered an actual word, but Jessica’s competitive and won the argument with a defiant, “It counts, dang it!”

Well, turnabout is fair play, and just a little over a week after that, Remington was chewing on his pacifier when he started to go, “da da, da da da da da…” While my logical mind knows that this 9 month old had no real idea what he was trying to do, hearing the sounds “Da da” reflexively plucked my heartstrings and made me feel so proud. This was when the idea was first brought up that we were blessed to have the opportunity to keep things balanced between the two twins.

When we go out shopping, we each get to take a baby in a separate cart, allowing us both to witness and enjoy the interactions of our boys and friendly strangers. When taking pictures we each get to hold a bouncing bundle of joy on our lap. But those are obvious benefits. Let me list a few that I feel are more unique to Milo and Remi.

  1. When feeding them baby food, Remington started off as a hearty and eager eater, more willing to try things like cereal, mango or avocado. But he also has a habit of putting his finger in his mouth right after taking a bite, which makes a mess. I hate food messes, btw. Myles can be a bit trickier to keep interested in eating his food, but at least he’s clean.
  2. Milo learned to crawl first, but in turn kinda skipped learning how to sit up on his own; a skill which Remi excels at.
  3. Remington love to rough-house, but Myles prefers silly faces and singing.

There are more, I’m sure, but I’ve gotta wrap things up sometime. If any of you have ever had twins, I’m sure you’ve felt a little of the same thing. Which is all part of God’s plan to reward parents who are willing to put up with double trouble.