Background & Housekeeping
Paid subs and why ARF started
Many of you may have noticed that I just published a paid-only article, and also that my past archive is now paid-only as well. This is a major change if you followed me from my older blog (many of those posts have been moved to this one), or if you’ve simply been reading prior to this month. I will continue to publish some free content in addition to paid content, and therefore if you do not wish to pay (or simply cannot afford to pay) for Abort, Retry, Fail there will still be something here for you. I do love and have always loved reading and writing, and there’s a part of me that will always wish to further that passion in others.
So, why did I enable paid subscriptions?
TL;DR - inflation and high medical costs, as a husband and as a father, I feel obligated to accept payment from them who can afford to pay.
Abort, Retry, Fail is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a ree or paid subscriber.
For me, retro computing and my interest in computing history began in late 2019. My wife was diagnosed with renal failure due to a genetic illness. Her decline after diagnosis was swift, and the woman I love was fading. A woman who is normally strong, energetic, quick witted, and present was quickly becoming weak, lethargic, confused, and absent. She was put on the transplant waiting list at a nearby transplant hospital, and we began to think about and to prepare for the worst. The survival rate for those on dialysis isn’t great, and the average wait for a kidney is over 5 years. Her diet became increasingly restricted, and the symptoms of kidney failure became increasingly prominent. Due to the risk of infection while on dialysis, we tried to delay starting dialysis for as long as possible.
At the start, friends and family offered themselves as donors. This selflessness was very moving, but one cannot receive an organ from just any other person. The organ must be compatible, and the donor must be healthy enough to survive without both of his/her kidneys. Every compassionate donor who stepped up was either incompatible or ineligible. A stranger (who is now a close friend) offered one of her kidneys. She wasn’t a match, but she did offer to enter the paired exchange program. In this arrangement, a group of donors and recipients is created and from donor to recipient organs are transferred until all in the group are matched. This woman was scheduled to go to the hospital for more laboratory testing on July 1st of 2021.
Wednesday June 30th of 2021 at 14:30 Eastern, my wife got a call from the transplant center. A kidney had come in for her. The typical wait time for a kidney transplant is 5 to 8 years, and we therefore were entirely unprepared. We were more focused on diet and trying to keep what little kidney function remained to her thereby to stall the need for dialysis.
We had two hours to get to the hospital. When the call came in, I was actively cleaning my desk. I hit a creative wall on a problem I was facing, and thought: “I think I should finally do something about my desk”. I had the top of the desk off, and was holding up one of the cabinets that held the top up, and running wires with my other arm. I hadn’t showered, and I was going to use my lunch break to get in some exercise. Instead, I dropped everything (like actually just dropped it all) and ran to the shower. Then it was a mad dash to get some stuff in a bag. I didn’t do well. While I remembered my iPad charger… I forgot the iPad. I missed a few other things as well, but at least I had my toothbrush and some clothing! My wife had come home and was packing, and we were off to the hospital. Our son had a friend over who is the son of my wife’s best friend, and the boys switched houses.
This was the single most harrowing drive of my life. The whole way I was mumbling prayers begging God to let me get my wife to the hospital safely. A sort of “please God don’t let me be the idiot who get’s his wife killed on the way to a life saving surgery” prayer. White knuckled, and struggling to stay clam, deep breaths, and constantly scanning in front, beside, and behind the vehicle, we made it safely with just a few minutes to spare.
The hospital room was ready and my wife was rushed in. A team of nurses were there, and as soon as she had changed into the hospital gown, testing started. Easily 20 vials of blood were taken, all were color coded, and each with a different reagent. Her vitals were taken as well, and urine. At first, this was a rather calm affair. The nurses were casually getting the blood and other tests done, and they were patiently explaining each test that was going to be run. Then, the surgeon came in. He described the surgery as well as risks and benefits. My wife signed the consent as we already knew the alternative, and it was a future so dark that there was little choice to be had. He left (the surgeon) and about 10 minutes later, a call came in to one of the nurses and another team of people showed up at the door.
Apparently, when organs are being transported for transplants, there are GPS tags on the containers. As soon as the organ gets close to the destination, the recipient has to be in the OR to be sure no time is wasted and that the organ is still alive. My wife hadn’t even had all of her testing completed by the time this happened. All of the languor that may have been immediately disappeared, and in its place came frantic and urgent chaos. The nurses were yelling back and forth, and the OR prep team outside the door were hollering other things, all very jargon laden; people were running hin and yon with equipment and needles and rushing to make certain that all of the information needed was gathered. My wife was then taken down to an OR prep room, and there the final checks were taken, and drugs administered.
The chaos had made my wife more fearful and more anxious than I’d ever seen her. My heart had nearly been ripped from my body by her fear. I was fighting tears and trying to reassure her, but there was nothing for me to do but be present for her. The anesthesiologist finally brought her relief before she was wheeled into the operating room. It was a fast change. From a bundle of nerves to completely and totally relaxed in about 30 seconds. I’d previously thought that such swift reactions to injections were purely the stuff of Hollywood, but I can now assure you… that’s real.
She made it to the OR prep room at around 19:45. She was in surgery by 20:00. The expectation that had been set initially was 3 hours, maybe a little more. I got a call at roughly 22:00 that the surgery went well and was nearly done. At about 22:30, I received another call, this time from the surgeon, and was told that everything went exactly as expected. There were no complications. The next call was from a nurse stating she was in recovery. Yet another call finally came, saying that she was in her room and I was allowed to come up. This was roughly 01:00 on the 1st.
My wife was very uncomfortable and hooked up to several machines, but she was awake and communicative. Her color was already much better than it had been. The rest of the night was rough. Every hour on the hour someone was in the room taking her vitals, or administering medications, or changing IVs, or emptying or cleaning her catheter. It was always something. This improved by the 2nd. She was able to sleep finally, though still not too much as hospitals are noisy places. The 3rd was better still, and she was able to walk a lot more, eat more, and sleep more. The fourth, we finally made it home. It was another white knuckled drive, and I was attempting to avoid every pothole and every bump in the road. We made it safely, and she made it up to the bedroom without incident. Her sister and mother helped her shower, while I ran to the pharmacy and several grocery stores. She needed her pain medication filled before her last dose wore off, and I needed to get the fruits and veggies on her short list of kidney friendly foods.
Following all of this, a few days after she arrived home, we found that my wife had actually had some complications from surgery. The primary and worst being severely painful nerve damage that affected the use of her right arm. The pain eventually subsided as the nerve died, and she is just recently seeing a tiny bit of electrical activity in the muscles that were affected. This means more doctors’ visits as she goes through this second recovery phase.
Through my wife’s decline and recovery, it was my interest in computing history that provided a distraction that kept me from ruminating over dark possibilities, kept me from going to dark and unproductive places.
We are people of humble means. With inflation, high medical costs, and a son… I feel obligated as a husband and as a father to accept payment for my time and effort with this publication. Any and all subscriptions are very much appreciated. Thank you.