Lots of Experience doesn’t make Asthma easy

As I listened to Kyle cough away last night – counting the time between coughs – I had to reflect on the fact that even with all the experience we have with dealing with Asthma emergencies with children, it’s never cut-and-dried.  The 9 years we lived through emergencies with Melyssa were nowhere near as critical and panic-inducing as the 7 years with Kyle (although there was definitely that ONE night where the 9-1-1 ambulances arrived at the nick of time) and taken together, there are a heck of a lot of stories there.

The truth, then, is that what I tried to summarize back in this story (http://cowbird.com/story/21903/The_Fear_Of_Coughing/) on Cowbird still holds true.  The moment Kyle starts coughing and it sounds different than a regular cough, our “antennae” goes up and our sense of hearing becomes more acute.

Every situation is either slightly different, requiring a minor approach tweak, or different enough to revisit all past situations to come up with the best solution.  Last night felt exactly like that.  Here he was, coughing away at a regular enough interval to be concerning, but not wheezing or rasping, or anything that we’re used to seeing when he’s in a “usual” crisis.

For example, there have been incidents where he’s letting out a cough every minute (when he’s gone to bed/ attempting to sleep), and after a few minutes it’ll start to stretch out. A cough every 5 minutes.  Then, 7… 10… 20… and eventually asleep.  For him to be consistent at every 4 minutes or so was peculiar.  He has been fighting a bit of a cold, which never helps, especially when you consider he’s prone to viral-induced asthma attacks.

At one point I had to look at my wife and basically ask what the hell was going on with my internal turmoil. We’ve been fighting asthma attacks for 16 years now (not counting my wife’s own personal issues when she was younger).  We’ve got so many varied experiences with asthma from allergy-induced, to various medications, to “homegrown” techniques to get out of crisis, etc. We’re Asthma Ambassadors for Asthma Canada and part of the National Asthma Patient Alliance (NAPA) supported by Asthma Canada. Heck, she’s on the Board of Directors as well!

And yet…

…And yet when that coughing begins it’s like a Primal instinct to want to do the right thing without overreacting and trying to come to the best solution (which doesn’t always involve spending 3 to 8 hours in the asthma ward hoping to not catch anything else especially during high flu season).

I guess, in a way, the battle will always continue.  After all, as it has been often stated, Asthma can only be controlled and cannot be cured (at least at the moment). You know, I just realized something else – something that does make us valuable NAPA members. This feeling of fear (or maybe controlled fear) that we still go through with when it comes to our children? It doesn’t go away. So when it comes to speaking with other families trying to handle the stress of asthma issues, we can definitely relate with them.  And the sharing of these events always helps everyone to remember that they’re not alone and that help does exist.

Every crisis is like a mini-badge (or scar!) that we have to wear and carry with us as we walk through our lives.

After Kyle finally fell asleep, my brain continued to go through scenarios, almost refusing to settle down enough for me to sleep. Eventually I did, and the first instinct I had when I awoke this morning was to strain my ears to ensure he wasn’t coughing. The silence was both deafening and frightening. After a couple of hours he woke up and came down for breakfast. He still has his cough, but it’s nothing like yesterday. Regular doses of his inhaler along with rest and keeping his nose “empty” have been very beneficial. His afternoon nap was also restful.

So, we continue with our treatment as per our Asthma Action Plan, and add some “cold fighting” elements to it as well (like ensuring he gets plenty of Vitamin C) and continue to keep an “ear” out on him.  Winters are tough, and with the temperature drop of 2 nights ago (going from 4 degrees Celsius to -15 degrees Celsius) we were already on guard.  But never “on guard” enough to take things fully in stride.

Here’s hoping it clears up completely by tonight/ tomorrow morning…


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Keep on Truckin’

When this year started, I noticed that the drive into work wasn’t as tough or congested as it had been in the previous month.  At first, I thought that perhaps folks were still on vacation but seeing as we’re in the 3rd week of January and everyone is back in school and/ or work, that wasn’t really flying any more.  Heck, at one point I was honestly starting to wonder if there had been a mass exodus of folks out of quebec because they had finally had enough of the political quagmire we so often find ourselves in.

Turns out, I have to thank the opening of the new Highway 30 extension for this reduced traffic on the 20 westbound!  What an absolutely pleasant surprise! No more wondering if it’ll take me 30 minutes or 90 minutes to get home or to work!  No more trying to figure out the ideal moment to leave the house and avoid the rushes.  I have left at different times both to/from work and I have consistently had a good 35 minute drive!

I feel like I’ve regained days back in my weeks.  It’s unbelievable.  I honestly have more energy in the mornings AND the evenings now – as opposed to coming home completely wiped from sitting in traffic.

I always knew this 30 extension was going to be a good and viable thing (for congestion, for business, for the area I live in) but I definitely didn’t expect to directly benefit from it the way I am now!  Here’s hoping it’ll last a long, long, time! 🙂


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Mapping the Year

I don’t remember the last time I “stood” at the beginning of a new year and looked “forward” through the calendar positively thinking about the high-level plans/ thoughts/ wishes/ hopes that the upcoming days/ weeks/ months will bring.

Although there were a couple of moments in past years, there was usually enough apprehension edging around the corners that all I could hope for was a good/ proper ‘next couple of weeks’.

The interesting thing is that it’s not just a matter of enjoying the moment and hoping that the future will be good (as used to be the case). It’s more of enjoying the moment and reveling in the knowledge that the future will be good. There is something “good” coming up on a both personal and professional basis throughout the year!  I look at my calendar and see all these little points of sunlight where an activity or a celebration will take place and it makes me smile.  So much to look forward to, so much to do, to share, to experience.  I can’t say if it’s more or less than last year, but I can definitely say that being home at least ensures that I get to definitely experience more with those I love.

I’m not trying to be cryptic by not talking about specifics.  It’s just that I’d rather live through them first and speak of them afterwards – or just before in some cases ;).  Like, the fact that we’re heading to DisneyWorld next week. It’s been years since our first visit and we’ve been hoping to go back for so long… until Chantale finally said, “we can do this now!” and we made all the arrangements.  I booked the flights, she booked the lodgings and experiences. It’s going to be awesome 🙂


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Start the New Year, with a note about the last

Before jumping into 2013, I realized that there was one thing from 2012 that although mentioned on Facebook, I never cross-posted or discussed here.

Those who’ve known me for a while know that I spent 9 months living in Emeryville, California (away from my family) while my team and I immersed ourselves in the RelayHealth product used in the US for clinical connectivity.  Our job was to understand the product and modify it so that it can be used in Canada.  One of the big things was that we came in at the same time as a process change was being introduced in how Agile was done.  Because of my experience and knowledge, I helped with the move from Scrum to Kanban and built a process centering around knowledge sharing through VersionOne. The new Kanban process was shared with the whole company and rolled out during 2011.

After 9 months, my team and I came back to Canada and launched RelayHealth.ca – suddenly, Canada had a solution for clinical connectivity! Although the best benefits will be found when physicians connect with you through the system, a patient can still benefit from managing their own data, right now, with a free and secure account.  I’ve posted the links before… but here’s the video overview again:


So, what’s all this to do with me wanting to take one last note here?  Simple.  I wanted to point out (or boast if you will, but boast out of being very proud more than anything), that all the hard work was very much appreciated and recognized!  A few months ago I was flown to Austin, Texas and presented with a very prestigious award from McKesson: the 2012 Chairman Award for Innovation and Collaboration!  This huge award (clocking at 25lbs!) finally came in and I took a photo of it along with another award from the Product Development team.  It is that photo I wanted to share 🙂  So, here it is:

2012 McKesson Chairman Award for Innovation and Collaboration

2012 McKesson Chairman Award for Innovation and Collaboration

It was the hardest decision I ever had to make, leaving my family behind.  But it was all done in order to bring to Canada something my family and I truly believed in.  And now, here it is.  You know what’s allso really great?  Agile made this 🙂


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Testing one, two…

So. Has the Christmas season felt like Xmas this year? Kind of hard to say, really. Sure, there were plenty of family visits and way too much food to eat and tons of presents… but it also felt like *something* was missing. Peace, perhaps? Tranquility? The ability to sit for more than 5 minutes without needing to rush to do this or that? Was it all about responsibility and very little joy?

I’m sitting here, on my bed, testing out my new bluetooth keyboard and pretty much digging it.  Size-wise, it all feels like my Netbook which is quite nice and compact, but it has the benefit of not being SO bloody slow. I know that whenever I spend a bit of time writing/ working on my netbook, I recall how much I enjoy it, but the time it takes to get it booted up and loaded just takes away so much from that feeling that I rarely take it out any more. Maybe the best thing to do with that little toy is to strip everything out of it, completely. But to do that, I need a replacement system for my ginormous iTunes library and photos.  Shrug. In the meantime, this new setup of keyboard and iPad is great.

Now, to get back on topic, what I was trying to say is that I’m sitting here typing away while outside a huge snowstorm is raging. It looks beautiful, as long as you don’t need to go out anywhere! In truth, this is the kind of weather I love to watch happen, snuggled at home with the Xmas lights on, the fireplace sending out heat, a nice vegetable soup bubbling away on the stove… maybe a movie on to keep the kiddies entertained interspersed with some time for reading or playing games.

I guess, to me, that’s what some peaceful time at home entails. The chance to spend time both alone and as a family throughout the day. I’ve got everyone at home today except for Melyssa. I was supposed to pick her up today but the weather is not going to make it possible.  I guess it will have to be tomorrow. In the meantime, lounging around the house is going to continue as I’m off from work for a few more days 🙂

The new year is shaping up to be interesting, but I’ll leave the details of that to another day….

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Say what? How long?

Okay, so it seems that it’s not just my personal schedule that changes every 3 months or so, but my posting habits as well! 🙂  I can hardly believe it’s been over 3 months since I last logged on here and posted (although I do still log on and read!) but there you go.  Can’t argue with the posting dates.

I think the hardest part of coming back to posting after such an absence is that it’s almost impossible to write an update that can properly cover all that has happened in the interim. 3 months might not sound like much, but it is, and a lot can and does happen.

I remember at one time writing about how when we moved to our new location at work that I would potentially have a few minutes in the mornings to post a little something before starting my day.  And yet the reality is that because of other schedule changes, that hasn’t been possible.  So much for that.  Now, with Xmas around the corner, I believe I may have found a way to do it!

See, when I leave for the day, I don’t really touch my computers much at home (except to perhaps watch a show or movie).  The one gadget I do carry around in the evenings is my iPad – usually to read comics but lately more to play games 🙂  What I always thought I could do was also use it to post or write more.  But, guess what?  I hate the keyboard interface and two-finger touch-typing on the device.  So, I asked Santa to get me a bluetooth keyboard that I can use with it!  Yay!  Real typing! 🙂

Will this make me post or write more?  Maybe.  But what it will definitely do is make it easier for me to do so!  That means the final edits on the re-release of The Anti-Bodies can be possible, along with more creative work!  That’s a good thing 🙂  Writing blog posts… I miss it.  I do.  As cute as it may sometimes be to tweet little zingers or update FB with family pics, I do miss being able to spill out my thoughts on these blogs and “leave a little something behind” for my kids to read in the future and know a bit more about me.

So, as we get to winding down the year, and surviving the silly panic of our so-called day-of-doom, I just wanted to pop in here and say hello.  If I don’t make it back before next week, then I send out well wishes and hopes for Happy Holidays to everyone!  May your heart always smile!


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New Puppy

It’s crazy how things can change from one day to the next.  Almost every single day for the last month now I’ve been wanting to write, share, type, get stuff off my chest and out of my mind… but just unable to do so.  Just.  So.  BUSY.

Today is not any different, to be honest, but I’m forcing myself to take the 3 minutes I need to at least write these words here.

Casey’s been gone for a few months now and we’ve always known we were going to get another dog.  It’s just been very difficult because we were looking for a new companion but couldn’t really do so without thinking/ comparing it to our beloved pooch.  In fact, Casey’s loss and my last post here was also something that weighed heavily on my sharing stuff on the blog.  Everything else after that event just seemed… insignificant in some ways.  It was hard to go from that to a rant on traffic or thoughts on digital comics or anything, actually.

But now, to get the next chapter of our lives started, I’m very happy to announce that we did get ourselves a faithful new companion this weekend 🙂  What started as a momentary “check-in” at a not-so-local pet store on our way to picking up James for his early birthday gift (Star Wars Identities exhibition at the old port) turned into a “there she is!” moment when we laid eyes on this little pooch.

Before we knew it, papers were signed, monies exchanged, a promise to return early Sunday morning to pick her up was arranged.  This did indeed happen yesterday morning and the rest of the day was spent marveling at this little fluff ball and all the adventures that await us 🙂  Already, in just a short day, she managed to thoroughly impress us – having immediately understood the concept of asking for the door to go do her business in the back yard 🙂  So, we know there’s plenty more to come!

For now, though, my 3 minutes are up.  I’ve already posted a lot of photos on Facebook and figure I’ll send up another one here before I share it there 😉  Say hello to Cleo (short for Cleopatra) – the latest little Queen to join the family 🙂

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I Lost my Puppy

As a kid growing up, I had a lot of pets. I think I can remember something like 5 dogs, dozens of cats, and various birds, hamsters, fish. I would mourn when they “disappeared” but we were never without furry companionship for long. Outside of a few that were lost to accidents (traffic) or illnesses, many simply were not there from one day to the next. My mom would tell me that they were too nice a pet and some mean people had taken them away. So, you can imagine that I grew up not liking my neighborhood very much because I thought it was populated with pet “stealers”.

From the time I left home at 25 I wanted a pet but couldn’t for various reasons due to allergies of the people around me. I had pretty much given up until I was about 36 years old and my wife and I got our little Bichon Frise, Casey. I’m sure I wrote all about it back in 2003/4 as it led to a lot of … “fun” times in some cases. The point, though, was that we had our first new family member (after having gotten our first car and home together and gotten married). Cassiopeia, named after the constellation of course, was known only as Casey to everyone else. She fit in with us so wonderfully and grew to be an incredibly intelligent dog. Her patience with the children was beautiful and we never worried about her.

As she got older, she became more assertive in the sense that she demanded (such as it were 🙂 ) to be trusted to handle herself and soon enough she had free reign of the house even when we weren’t home. True enough, there were no “accidents”. In the last couple of years, she still pushed the boundaries on certain points (like trying to jump on the couch or sleep on our beds) but she also understood that it was a privilege for her to share those spaces with us 🙂  When she did, she was quite happy, of course.

One interesting thing about her was how she seemed to have been prone to issues throughout her life which always seemed just a little bit out of the norm and which were always resolved thanks to my wife’s diligent search for answers – from the skin rashes she had as a pup to the weird crystals in her urine to treating a herniated disk with acupuncture! You know, when you think about it carefully, she was almost helping us prove that we could handle anything that came our way and that we could beat it together – which is pretty much what you could say about Kyle’s extreme asthma (and allergies) and Charlize’s open-heart surgery.

But, as I wrote a few weeks back, things turned for the worse again and the medication given us had horrible side effects. What I didn’t write after that was how we had blood work done on her and it came back that she had extreme iron deficiency which could have been caused by one of three things, two of which were terminal (leukemia or a bone marrow disease), one of which was degenerative (AHIA). We put her on prednisone and changed her food and within a week all the weight she had lost was regained (no food was denied her and she ate like a queen!). She was still a little lethargic but in good spirits. We took another urine test and all was good. We had another blood test scheduled for this week. But we never made it.

Last week, things began to degenerate again. By Friday, she was having trouble going up stairs and not eating. On Saturday, it got worse. She was no longer going up stairs, she shuffled a lot more, she looked miserable, and her weight had dropped even lower than before. She hadn’t eaten in two days and then… her stool went liquid and bloody. Her body was breaking down and there was nothing left we could do that wouldn’t require lots of invasive procedures and thousands of dollars.

It was an excruciating day to get through but as the evening started rolling in and she started whimpering in pain, we knew it was it. We had made a promise that we would not let her suffer and she was now at that state. This was the one “issue” we could not come back from. All the research we did about showed that she literally should have died 3 weeks ago when the symptoms first showed themselves. We gained those extra weeks by our efforts but now it was the end.

I can’t quite put it into words, although it’s a simple enough task. Maybe I don’t want to put it into words because it’s so painful to write about. Just thinking about that weekend I can see everything unraveling before me like a movie and I can’t sit back like a viewer because the size of the emotional hurt is something I never expected in my life. We were saying good-bye to a member of the family, handing her over to the doctors and knowing they couldn’t “fix” her. Walking into a clinic with arms full and leaving with an empty blanket. Watching her slowly “fade” away while always looking straight into our eyes… the pain of the truth that she was more than just a “dog” and that she was truly part of the family… it was unbearable.

We had been mourning her for a long time already – if not specifically these last 3 weeks. Every day we saw her, thinking that this could be “it” was painful. Sharing the news with Kyle and Charlize was very hard, especially Charlize.  Her casually asking a few days later if Casey would still be there for her when she was bigger was just as hard. Trying to plan and execute a pre-birthday party for Kyle all the while seeing this little pooch just lying nearby, knowing we couldn’t ease her pain was too much. Finally saying good-bye… was heart-wrenching.

Going back  home and confirming with the kids that she was gone was not easy. Going through Kyle’s birthday was not easy – especially as this was the first birthday she missed. And that’s where I really started feeling her absence.  James and Melyssa couldn’t be here for Kyle’s birthday, so although we missed them, since they’re not always here you don’t get a sense of a “piece” missing. Casey… well Casey was supposed to be here!  Casey has always been there to greet in the morning and trip over in the evening. This time she wasn’t. And bit by bit, it was like more little stab wounds hit us as the lack of her presence was felt. The door chime is usually followed by a bark… not any more. Walking through the door always meant a white fluffy face looking up at you or jumping on your legs… not any more. Getting dressed in the morning always meant a yawning stretching dog rubbing its nose on the carpet… not any more.

And then, yesterday, when James and Melyssa finally got home from their trip, I went to see them after work to (a) tell them the news, and (b) take them to the movies.  Breaking the news to them was just as hard as 2 weeks ago telling them how sick she was. All I could think of was my telling them at that time that “it doesn’t mean she’ll be gone while you’re on your trip” and that being the trigger for them to break down… and now the reality that that’s exactly what had happened was being revealed.

We honestly thought she was going to pull through from this. At worst, we expected that we were going to have to be giving her a pill every day for the rest of her life – almost like a lot of people have to do! Maybe we were trying not to think of the alternative, maybe we were conning ourselves… but I think it’s more to the point that she had regained her weight that first week and had shown some sparks of who she was…. Now that everyone in the family knows, perhaps we could heal.  I’m sitting here typing this and all I can think of is how she should be at my feet right now keeping me company… but she’s not… and my feet are cold… and I’m out of tissue.

I can (and will one day) replace the family pet, but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever stop missing my Puppy.  🙁

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And then there’s soccer…

The kids’ soccer season has been a little bizarre this year.  Where Kyle (being in U7) only plays once a week, Charlize (in U5) plays twice a week.  Actually, now that I write it out like this, I realize that it’s almost the same but that Charlize has more practice time.  See, Kyle’s games are 1 hour long and we usually meet 30 minutes prior to get some warm-up and training done.  Charlize usually has about 45 minutes of training and a 15 minute game Mondays and Wednesday. Considering the age groups, this makes sense.  Teach the younger ones the basics and throw in some game play.  Expand the older ones’ knowledge and give them game time.

Anyhow, that’s not where I was going with this entry 🙂  What I was trying to get at was that Kyle’s first 4 games were all held on Saturdays at 7am. The reason for this was that school was still in session so this was how it was planned out.  During those 4 games, Chantale and I watched the games by the sidelines, a little… perturbed at some of the things being taught and confused as to how the goalie was always completely ignored.  After 2 games, we moved forward to offer help and coaching (considering how much time Chantale played in days gone by).  This offer was quickly accepted and Chantale was happy to be able to train and guide the kids while the other guy managed them.

But then, school ended and the games started falling on Mondays. The coach could no longer make it and we slowly ended up taking on more of the coaching/ managing of the team.  Actually, Chantale took over and I became more an ‘assistant’ who warmed up the team and coached the goalies.  The problem with all this was that all WE had was the duffle bag with the spare balls!  We had no coaching tools like the game sheets, or the practice cones, or the goalie gloves or the goalie shirt! Heck, apparently there was a huge rule book in there as well that was not passed along!

This went on for quite a number of games and then yesterday, when Chantale could not make the 6pm practice, I went there and started warming them up and she showed up before the match started.  Of course, this time the Ref wanted all the things no other Ref asked for before! The Game Sheet, the Goalie wearing a different shirt, etc.  We explained our situation and we managed to get another coach to loan us the sheets and, luckily, the commission office was close by so we got in touch with them.

During the game, the commissioners came out and told us that the game rules had changed and we could not play with 7 players on the field but 5 (this was also told to the other 2 games going on so it seemed like news to everyone – although why these kind of rule changes came in mid-season is beyond me). But the best part of it was that they heard our dilemma and got us set up with all the stuff we needed (except for the rule book). At least we felt better as a team! And we felt better as coaches, too, as a number of players’ parents have been telling us how much their kids enjoy playing now.  Heck, I love that there is so much participation in that our team always had at least 3 players in reserve for every game, and this during the games we played 7-on with! 🙂

With less than a month worth of games left, it’ll be a good, fun, ride to the end of the season now 🙂  As for next season… well, who knows.  But, I wouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves doing the same thing again, but this time doing it right from the get-go. Time will tell for sure.

But considering how I’ve even started getting involved in Charlize’s games in order to keep the girls there more focused (the coach is busy on the field so he has no time for the bench or the goalie), I see continued participation in our futures… 😉


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Beginning a new Routine

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but it seems like any routine (or schedule) we get into only really lasts for a couple of months before things change and we have to update it 🙂  For example, I got home from Emeryville at the end of February.  We got into a specific routine for a few months (as I adjusted to working locally) and then tweaked it when school let out.

Today, however, with Chantale starting her new job, we’re back to facing questions that we haven’t had to in almost 2 years! Lol!  Back then, I was heavily restricted by hours of children pickup/ drop off because of the different places each child went to AND the insane commute I was putting myself through.  Now, and for the next couple of years starting in September, really, both kids will be going to the same school. That means one place and time for both! And, with Chantale and I basically working 1km from each other, it also means either one of us can do the picking up or dropping off and on the rare occasions that either one of us have to be out of town, we’re both capable of doing both without impacting our work schedules! That’s quite the relief 🙂

(and I can’t even describe how wonderful it feels that Chantale will be close enough that we can head out to lunch every now and again! I love having my best friend within walking distance! Another huge benefit (or long-term gain) being derived from the short-term pain of me working in the US for 9 months)

So, with all the proper harmonizing of our family schedules, all that’s missing is for me to carve out some time that I can devote to writing so I can finally bring some of those projects to fruition a little faster than the current timetable! 🙂


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