31 August 2007

The Positive Side Of Hollywood

As I head out of Southern California and on to Mexico, it seems timely to touch on the good of Hollywood, movie stars and the like. Growing up in this part of the World I was constantly surrounded by and exposed to the glitz and glamour that is fame and celebrity. As long as I can remember, I've wondered why this "American Royalty" doesn't do more to create social change. After all, the entire planet is borderline OBSESSED with their every move, so why don't they make some of those moves to DO SOMETHING positive?

The Paris' and the Lindsay's may never change, but some definite celebrity leaders have emerged and are doing some incredible work to make the world a better place. I found a great blog to read about what they're up to; sort-of reinvigorates me after a flip through US Weekly.

It's called Celebs Gone Good. The blog is part of the Do Something website, and Do Something is WONDERFUL! Anyhoot, I thought you might like it too. This goes under the "what I'm reading" portion of the blog. The link::


Enjoy! More from Mexico!

30 August 2007

Answer the Call

I thought this was a great way to explain global warming. We all have the power to create change. This is a great place to start.

29 August 2007

The Night I Internally Combusted

It was day four when things really started to go downhill. My fever was still on the rise, even though big-time antibiotics were being pumped into my blood day in and day out AND I was popping two Tylenol every four hours.

About two in the afternoon the body aches (which had subsided thanks to some heavy duty pain killers) came back in a big way, and I began to feel my heart beating in every part of my body. My head was pulsating, my arms were pulsating, my thighs were pulsating…I began to sweat again, and I literally felt like I was on fire. At 4pm the armpit thermometer read 104.7 degrees and from then on, I don’t remember much.

I drifted to sleep just moments later, and never touched my dinner. Watching movies seemed too exhausting and since I was sweating so much, I didn’t really have a need for the bathroom. MY BODY ACHED SO BAD I COULD HARDLY BREATHE. I was melting through ice packs every half hour.

What I do remember is the nurses coming in every hour to check my pulse rate and body temperature, and every time they were more and more concerned until, around midnight (so they told me the next day) it hit 106.8 degrees and they kicked into “life maintenance” mode. Four nurses were with me at all times, changing the twelve ice packs that covered my head, body, arms and legs every ten minutes, because I was burning through them so fast.

The sweating only got worse, and they ended up putting me on a bed of towels, changing both the towels and my gown every half hour. I do know I was hallucinating something terrible, and remember feeling like the nurses were enormous, asking them not to “hurt me.” The hallucinations were strange and to be honest, I don’t remember exactly what I was seeing, though I can recollect images of my grandma who died three years ago, different types of food and nondescript faces. The nurses also told me I kept asking them to turn the TV off. It was, of course, off the entire time.

It continued this way until 6am, when my fever started to break. By 8am my body temperature had dropped to 99.1 degrees and the horrible body aches had subsided, though I did remain ungodly tired from “fighting the fever” all night long. “Totally normal,” the doctor said. Apparently, the signature “ordeal” with Dengue is a continually rising fever that, on the 6th or 7th day, peaks and breaks, followed by a return to normalcy in terms of body temperature.

I slept most of the next day, simply trying to regain my strength from the night before. The only interruption to the nothingness was a two-hour in-hospital magazine interview that included a cover photo shoot of me IN MY HOSPITAL BED. HOT.

Twenty four hours later I felt like a different person, shocked that I was actually “well” after such a long period of “yuck” when you all but forget what it felt like to be well in the first place. The doctor graciously had the hospital manage a medical flight change and all but forced me to leave the country, as a Dengue outbreak was spreading across all of South Asia and he did not think it was a good idea to spend any more time in that environment.

My flight – 16 hours nonstop from Bangkok to LA – was, per usual, delayed 6 hours, which left me wandering the airport aimlessly, forced into a Duty Free mall that had NO SEATS anywhere. Perfect for an ingrate like me!

I arrived back in the US upset to have missed the incredible site visits but relieved to be able to recover in the comfort of my own home. This sign greeted me:

And instantly, I remembered why I loved being abroad so much...Off again in just a few days! Mexico Saturday. WHOA.

Just for laughs, this is a self-portrait my Dad took while waiting for me at the airport. This is about how I felt most of the time I was in the hospital (he doesn't actually look like this in real life).

14 August 2007

Room With A View – Of HBO (& Star Movies)

So the next five days went something like this:

Wake up at 10am. Breakfast was delivered around 6:30am, so my soy milk is now warm. I readjust the bed angles and stumble to my feet, grabbing the IV pump and heart monitor with my right hand, as the left one has the actual IV in it. Originally, I was dragging it around with my left hand, but it jostled the needle and made blood go out the tube rather than IV fluid going in the tube. Not fun.

I almost always forget to unplug the monitor, so I reach a point where the cord is fully stretched out and tugs on the outlet. I meander back and pull it out of the plug. I put the soy milk in the freezer and make a quick trip to the bathroom before falling back into bed, which is usually followed by a loud groan, thanks in large part to the mind-blowing body aches that continue to pulsate through my body.

At this point, I pull the landline phone onto the bed from the nightstand and dial zero, which gives me Lucy, the operator. She’s the queen of international calling and by day two, she and I were old friends. “Hello, operator,” she says. “Hi, I need to dial an international number, please,” I reply. “Good morning Kyle. How you sleep? Not bad? Ok, you want to dial the usual?” she asks excitedly. “Yep, first Ben then the Fam,” Ben had offered to help me pass the time by chatting with me daily, and my worried parents (who didn’t really sleep for five days) always wanted a decent update. “Oh, ‘the Fam.’ That’s so cute and clever. Fam!” She finds my incessant shortening of words to be totally hilarious.

By the time I finished on the phone it was usually 11am, and I was completely exhausted. Sitting can take a lot out of a person. Nurse Pah or nurse Ding would arrive at this time to take my pulse and check my temperature, which continued to rise non-stop the first four days in the hospital. “Oh, you have very high temperature. Not good, ”Pah would say, followed by a sort-of “how sad for you” laugh. Ding, on the other hand, was a little more militant. She would just look at the thermometer and shake her head, then order me to take a cold shower.

Showering was an ordeal in and of itself. I would need to call the nurse using my bedside buzzer, who would then come with her Hello Kitty toolkit and a needle of “booster fluid.” The nurse would detach my IV and monitors then shoot a big needle full of fluid into my IV, which usually led me to scream out in pain. “Totally normal to be painful,” the nurse would say. NOT FUN.

11:20am and lunch arrives. I once again start feeling like I’m 95 years old. Who eats lunch before noon? I still haven’t eaten my cereal and gross soy milk. Fortunately, they bring jello with EVERY meal, so I’ve been stocking up. I nod at the food lady and sludge into the bathroom to take my morning shower and change my jumpsuit.

By the time I am finished my soy milk is now cold and I can pseudo-enjoy my breakfast, which is almost immediately followed by enjoying my lunch. The cleaning ladies usually appear while I’m eating. Their visit becomes the largest stimulus of my day. “Hello,” I yell, while waving. “Thank you, have a great day,” I eagerly offer, hoping one of them will want to be my friend.

I wait until after I’ve eaten to buzz Pah or Ding again. It’s nice to eat not strapped to a machine. They reemerge, give me another painful booster and reattach the whole contraption. It’s back to bed for the remainder of the day.

Around noon the Doctor enters energetically, giving me a status update of any test results, usually letting me know the antibiotic didn’t work and that we’d be changing them, and that he was unsure of when I could leave. In all, I saw three specialists – all US educated – who even visited on weekends, with a smile on their face! Other than this short-term stimulation, there wasn’t much to do. After all, my soft foods diet didn’t allow me to order room service from Starbucks or Au Bon Pain (no, seriously).

Thankfully, the hotel – I mean hospital – offered both HBO and Star Movies. In the five days that I was there I watched: Freaky Friday, Gladiator (twice), Harry Potter, The Right Stuff, The Aviator, Back to the Future, The Pacifier (twice), The Pink Panther, Meet The Fockers, The Patriot, The Great Outdoors, Kicking and Screaming, Derailed, Independence Day, Feds, Speed 2 (twice), National Security, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Hi-Lo Club, An Episode of Malcolm In The Middle, An Episode of Still Standing, Two Episodes of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Two Episode of Martha. Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling up to doing much…

This would continue through dinner (which usually arrived at 4:30pm, further building on my “Senior Citizen” mentality) until 6pm, when I would buzz the nurse to take my evening shower. The same routine of unplugging, shooting a “booster” into my IV and watching me wince in pain played out, I would shower, then they’d reattach me for the rest of the evening, which was only interrupted by pulse rate and temperature checks every two hours (it kept going up). It was all routine, that is, until my fever peaked at 107 degrees…

09 August 2007

I Love Being Poked By Needles

And now Pah my nurse rolled me down the corridor to the elevator, where we wheeled on board and headed up to the 4th floor to see an intestine specialist (they didn’t know I had Dengue at this point, working just with the outrageous body aches and stomach issues). The bell “dinged” as we approached and the door opened. We wheeled out and made a sharp right, RUNNING DIRECTLY INTO A SEVEN YEAR OLD! He landed smack in my lap after belting both of my shins with his absurdly pointy shoes. It felt not-so-good, to say the least. Fortunately, Erika, the American in Thailand working with Ashoka, got the whole ordeal on tape!

The specialist quickly agreed that I had some sort of infection and would need to stay in the hospital for “at least one night,” which became five nights real quick, once they noticed the antibiotics weren’t “killing” anything and my fever kept rising. This meant it was time to select my room. They handed me what appeared to be a menu and I went down each section - Appetizers: “Full-time nurse or part time nurse.” Entrees: “Deluxe, Super Deluxe, Special, Elite, Vice Presidential & Presidential Suite.” Deserts: “Jello” (apparently Jello is internationally known as the official food of hospitals). I decided to eat light and go with the “Deluxe,” which was air-conditioned (could you imagine me asking ANY other question about the room?).

While the Deluxe was being prepared I was wheeled to a “prep room” where Pah and Ding (my nurses nicknames) decided it would be fun to bludgeon me with an IV needle for fifteen minutes looking for a good vein. After each stab they would look at me apologetically and say, “oh, so sorry. Very bad veins. Very bad.” Six stabs later they finally got what they needed, and the fluid started flowing. I could feel it running up my left arm (even though I’m left handed it had to be that way, as my right hand failed in the decent vein department). The cold felt wonderful amid the roasting sensation that was now pulsating through my body.

It took them a good hour to cover my hands in holes and subsequently, band-aids, which meant by the time they were done, my room was ready. I was wheeled off once again, only this time I was too dizzy and disoriented to get myself from the bed to the wheelchair, which meant Pah and Ding had to physically lift me up and plop me down. I can’t even tell you how ridiculous and pathetic I felt. Fortunately, once again, Erika was rolling, which means it was all caught on camera! Sweet!

The door to my “Deluxe” room opened and I could see the fantastic view of downtown out my window. The bathroom door was open, chrome showerhead glistening in the light. The couch-bed had been prepared for Erika, who they thought was sleeping over. The leather reading chair and ottoman were nestled nicely in the corner. Delivery menus for Starbuck’s and Au Bon Pain were knowingly placed next to the HBO movie guide. My first thought: “Is this a hospital or a 4-star hotel?” Sadly, I was too out of it to really enjoy my surroundings. I slipped into my official “hospital uniform” and fell into my powered bed, which I had already adjusted to the only position that didn’t make me want to have my entire back surgically removed. Erika headed out and I dozed off for what would be the first of many nights in my new home – Samatijev Hospital, Bangkok, Thailand. Changing the World would have to be put on hold for a while – or so I thought.

06 August 2007

Mosquitoes Ruin World Tours

Let me start by apologizing for the big delay in posting this past week. While I would have loved to write, my 107 degree fever combined with excessive body aches and bacterial intestinal infection kept me in the hospital and away from my computer. Lets back up a bit.

On my last day in New Delhi a group of us in the office decided to go to a street market so I could get some bangles for my Mom, grandma and sister. At said market I was coerced into drinking a lemon ice frozen thing (There wasn’t all that much force put into it. I opted in, definitely, but it sounds better to think someone forced me to drink the thing). What I did not know is that this lovely little drink had a water born bacteria in it that would – 12 hours later – give me an intestinal infection that can only be described as the most horrible thing that has ever happened to me.

While at this market I was also bitten by a lovely little mosquito whom I have named Wayde. Wayde the World Tour Ruiner. Wayde decided to give me Dengue Fever (also known as “break bone” fever). Needless to say, I was flat on my back in India for two days, suffering with extreme dehydration, weight loss and overall “not so good” ness. Annika the Great was lovely enough to escort me to the hospital where, after numerous trips to the cashier, I was able to get some antibiotics prescribed to me. Mind you, at this point I was unaware of the fact that Wayde had infected me with Dengue, and I just thought I was dealing with food poisoning.

A day passed and I woke up feeling as good as new, which made me decide to continue on to Thailand. One awful red-eye later, I arrived unscathed and really tired. After a seven-hour nap I felt good as new and had a lovely first day getting to know Bangkok, even seeing Harry Potter in the most incredible movie theater I have EVER seen (cost? $3). I went to bed dreaming of the eleven-hour bus ride to come that would take me to a campsite to visit one of our partner program teams.

I woke up unable to move because my body was so sore. After a nice hot shower I felt better, but not so “hot.” Erika (also amazing) and I shuffled my bags to our Bangkok office to prep for the bus departure. The walk there nearly killed me, so I logged on to WebMD to check my symptoms.

Now, while WebMD is a wonderful tool, no matter what you enter into the “symptoms” box, it always seems to tell you you’re going to die within the next 20 minutes. Symptom: Sore throat. Diagnosis: Devastating lung disease. Outcome: Death. Needless to say, based on my symptoms, I was supposed to “rush to the nearest medical center or hospital,” so I did.

After a fifteen-minute ride on the back of a motorcycle taxi (bad idea) Erika and I arrived at the hotel – I mean hospital – at the mall level, where we found a Starbucks, 7-Eleven, Gucci store and Fendi store. Umm….WHAT? We went up an escalator and through the luxurious lobby to the admin desk, where I had to fill out only one sheet of paper before being seen.

At this point, my back was KILLING me sitting, standing, leaning and breathing. With a fever of 104 and weight loss of 14 pounds in 7 days, the doctors all but forced me to check in, and I happily obliged. They also made me ride in a wheelchair, which made sense, since I couldn’t walk. Then it was time to put my IV in…more on that soon. Don’t want to frighten you to death all on the same day…