Join me in the fight against cancer – Relay for Life 2018

If you know me, you know that beyond my faith and family, there are two causes close to my heart: amateur radio and cancer research and prevention. Now, it is time for the latter to once again move to the forefront of my efforts as fundraising for the 2018 Relay For Life of Baldwin County begins.

Read moreJoin me in the fight against cancer – Relay for Life 2018

Marrow Biopsy Results

Well, it’s been a week since I got my results, and I just realized that I never posted an update. So, here it is.

I got the results Tuesday (October 3rd). We had gone up to Atlanta the night before, as we typically do with morning appointments. The 2 1/2 hour drive up is bad enough without dealing with morning rush hour as well! Plus, it gives us a chance to eat dinner at Cowfish. My taste buds gave out on me part way through, but it was still a fun experience.

We got up the next morning, had a hotel breakfast, and headed on to the doctor’s office. Thankfully this time, we were not delayed by a flat tire the way we were on the day of the biopsy. But I will say… the parking deck of Tower at Northside Hospital was NOT designed for full size trucks. Or really anything above the size of a bicycle. But that’s beside the point…

Hanging out in the consult room waiting for the doctor.

Since it’s flu season, everyone in the office has to wear masks since most of the patients are immunocompromised. Nikki got another example of why I can’t stand the masks, but it did make for a smashing photo…

So, for the actual results. The cellularity, or how the volume of the cells compares to the other components, was at 10, down from 30 when I was diagnosed. For someone my age, it should be around 70. This means, not shockingly, that the marrow is not producing enough blood cells, and what cells they are producing are malformed. That much we knew. What we didn’t know was that while my CBC levels (which are checked twice a week) had been holding fairly steady, production was down overall. There are two possible reasons for this. It could just be a normal progression of the cancer, or it could be a reaction to the chemotherapy. If it is a reaction to the chemo, it is possible that the subtype of MDS I have could be treated effectively with a different protocol. If it is progression, that would signal to go ahead with a marrow transplant.

I got a unit of blood on Monday. They took it all back on Tuesday. This isn’t even all of the vials.

So to be sure, they have discontinued my chemotherapy for three to four months and then will perform another biopsy. If the cellularity improves, they will try the new protocol. Otherwise, we will move forward with the transplant. They did say I had several matches in the database, and that is just a matter of which one could come in for the donation first. They also drew [a LOT of] labs for more bloodwork. So things are progressing, even though for now we are waiting.

So for now, we will continue the twice a week bloodwork. I’ll still be getting a growth factor injection (Arenesp) every three weeks to boost red cell production. I’ll also be getting blood transfusions as needed as I have been, and was doing prior to starting treatment. So for now, we wait and see. And as always, pray for guidance and blessing.

Another test, or why my hip hurts

Nikki and I as I was about to be wheeled down to the procedure.

This week, as if dodging Hurricane Irma wasn’t exciting enough, I also had to travel to Atlanta for a new bone marrow biopsy. This was my third. First one indicated possible MDS in November 2015, but it was such a long shot they kept looking for a cause elsewhere. I had another one in January 2016 that led to my eventual diagnosis. This one was for a more exciting prospect. This bone marrow biopsy was one of the early steps in moving forward with a transplant. There is still a long way to go, but there is progress. And, progress is exciting.

Since I had to be at the hospital at 7 AM, we went up the evening before. Had dinner at The Cowfish, which despite the mind boggling fusion of sushi and burgers, was delicious. We got up, headed to the hospital the next morning, and had a flat tire.

A flat tire. Seriously? The good news is I drove around the hotel instead of pulling straight out into traffic. As annoying as it was, we were able to deal with it in the hotel parking lot instead of on the side of the road. And y’all, I have a superhero wife too. She was out there right with me working to get it changed, and doing it quickly enough that we were only 15 minutes late for my appointment.

The biopsy went well. I was sedated, so it was much better than the second one. The only complaint I have is they didn’t use my port, which means I had to get an IV, in the hand no less. But, that is just a personal annoyance.

We’ll get the results in a few weeks, and then we will know more about moving forward with the transplant. Until then, I’m still going with the chemo, Survive and Thrive “therapy”, biweekly blood tests, and blood transfusions when I need them.

The Facts About Hurricanes

Flooding following Hurricane Harvey.

I’ve been seeing many posts on social media lately saying Hurricane Irma will be the first Category 6 storm. They point to seemingly legitimate “news” articles to back the claim. So, to debunk them, here are some actual facts.

There is no need for a category 6 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

The scale, developed in 1971 by Robert Simpson and Herbert Saffir, categorizes storm strength as it relates to wind speed. There are five (and only five) categories. When asked why there were not more, and if any should be added, Dr. Simpson (no relation, by the way) responded, “…[W]hen you get up into winds in excess of 155 miles per hour you have enough… damages that are serious… So I think that it’s immaterial what will happen with winds stronger than 156 miles per hour. That’s the reason why we didn’t try to go any higher than that anyway.” (Mariners Weather Log, April 1999, pp. 10-12)

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

Category

Sustained Winds

Types of Damage Due to Hurricane Winds

1 74-95 mph
64-82 kt
119-153 km/h
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
2 96-110 mph
83-95 kt
154-177 km/h
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
3
(major)
111-129 mph
96-112 kt
178-208 km/h
Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
4
(major)
130-156 mph
113-136 kt
209-251 km/h
Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
5
(major)
157 mph or higher
137 kt or higher
252 km/h or higher
Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

 

The National Hurricane Center also has a graphic to demonstrate the anticipated damages from the different wind speeds.

The SSHWS applies to any cyclone with 74 MPH or greater winds

Category 5 has no upper limit. Since the scale was developed to describe anticipated damages from different wind speeds, Category 5 means near total destruction. Beyond that point, it doesn’t matter if it’s 155 MPH or 190 MPH as was the case with Hurricane Allen in 1980.

Wind isn’t the only damaging force

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image of Hurricane Sandy off the southeastern United States.

Remember Hurricane Sandy? It was only a Category 3. Yet it still caused $75 billion in damages. Tropical Storm Allison (2001) did $9 billion in damage, and was never a hurricane. Conversely, Category 5 Hurricane Emily (2005) did slightly over $1 billion in damage. While Hurricane Katrina, the modern standard by which cyclones are measured, cost 1,836 lives as a Category 5, the Category 2 Hurricane Fifi-Orlene in 1974 cost 8,000 lives.

Typically, more damage is caused by flooding, both by direct rain and storm surge. That was the case with Harvey. That was the case with Katrina.

There are scientific reports, journalism reports, and click bait reports

It is very easy now to make a webpage look like it came from a legitimate news site. Sadly, there are people who use fear tactics to drive internet traffic and get more views for the ads on their page. There are many legitimate news organizations that portray the facts as more precarious than they are to increase viewership. There are also plenty of organizations, especially in my local market, which do an AMAZING job of presenting the facts. But, like with most things, if you want the best information, go directly to the source.

The National Hurricane Center has remarkable resources anytime there are active storms. They also post regular updates to their Facebook Page. For live observation reports, the Hurricane Watch Net provides great resources as well as streaming audio when the net is active.

Be alert, but don’t panic

Pay attention to the directions of emergency management officials. They may paint a grim picture, but their number one job is to keep everyone alive. Things can be replaced. People cannot. If you are ordered to evacuate, evacuate. If the evacuation doesn’t apply to your area, be prepared to shelter in place for a while. Have a Ready Kit. Have a Family Emergency Plan. Be prepared and stay alive.

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Daniel R. Simpson is an amateur radio operator in central Georgia. He is the Emergency Coordinator for Baldwin County ARES as well as a Public Information Officer and Local Government Liaison for the ARRL Field Organization. He has completed numerous trainings from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Weather Service, and American Radio Relay League. 

Thoughts on Charlottesville

It has taken me a while to write this. My heart hurts with what has happened, and it is difficult for me to find words. However, I know I cannot be silent.

I am a Christian. I am male. I am southern. I am descended from ancestors who were primarily Anglican and Celtic. I am proud to be each of these, and I should be. They are who I am. They are what made me.

But, I am also angry. No, I am outraged. How DARE these perversions of everything I hold dear openly proclaim the direct antithesis of these values while claiming to operate under their banner?

My faith tells me God created all things, and all of humankind is in his likeness. We are all descended from one man and one woman. Scripture never mentions race. It talks about tribes and nations, but those are political and cultural differences.

More than being a man, I strive to be a gentleman. This means I treat everyone with civility and respect regardless of background, social standing, and or potential benefit to me. Even more than that, I am a southern gentleman. I say y’all, sir, and ma’am. I can brew the best sweet tea you have ever tasted and put away fried chicken with the best of them.

As I research my ancestors, I find men who fought with honor. Unfortunately, through the lens of history we see that their causes all had blemishes. Slavery during the Civil War is at the forefront, but the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, treatment of the Native-Americans during the westward expansion, and the allowance of slavery in the first place are all dark blemishes on our collective past. But, as painful as reminders of these can be, it is important to keep them at the forefront of our memory.

The memory of this nation is short. We need the reminders. We need to be shocked. We need to experience the pain of what we have done. Only through that will be always be on our guard to never let it happen again.

We cannot rewrite history. We must celebrate the accomplishments of the past while recognizing the failures of the same men we herald. There is no historical figure who was perfect, and neither are we. It is up to us to do the very best we can to strive towards the ideal of liberty and equality espoused in our founding documents. We will never be perfect, but we can be better. We must be better. We will be better.

That being said, there is no place in the political conversation for those who wish to eliminate or segregate all those who disagree with them. The foundation of our political system is discourse, not violence. Until we return to civility with each other, the nature of our republic itself is in jeopardy.

Violence has no place in the discussion, from either side. If you feel the need to resort to violence, you should re-evaluate your argument. White supremacists who defend your arguments with scripture, try reading it for yourself for a change. Don’t call yourself Christian until you start behaving like a follower of Christ. Don’t claim your racism represents southern heritage until you embrace how many aspects of southern culture came from Africa.

We are one nation. This nation was built on the idea that ALL men (and women) are created equal. They share the same rights, responsibilities, and struggles. We are all in it together. Let’s act like it.