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Barack Levin

Author: Barack Levin

Archive for November, 2010

Losing teeth

Posted by Barack Levin on 30th November 2010

My girl is in Pre-K and we were talking the other day about her and her friends. She told me that one of her friends is already losing her teeth. I have witnessed that before already with my son when he was at the same age. Some of his friends were losing their teeth a well in Pre-K.

I am not a dentist, but I have a strong feeling that dentists will agree with me. Losing your teeth at that age is way too early. I am suspecting that kids who do not eat right and probably have no physical activity cause their bodies to start the process earlier than it should. I am almost certain that if someone researched this phenomena he will reach the same conclusion: kids lose their teeth earlier than ever before.

If this is the case, than we now have a new and clear indication that we are causing damage to our kids by not providing them with proper nutrition because I am sure it is not only the teeth. The teeth are just a physical manifestation of their bodies developing in an abnormal way.

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Posted in Tips and Advice | 2 Comments »

At Lowe’s

Posted by Barack Levin on 28th November 2010

We went to Lowe’s today with the kids to get supply for some of our projects. As usual, the kids had a list of items we needed and we cruised through the aisles to search for them. One of the projects had to do with the bathroom and my wife and I had to research the area a little more than anticipated. In order to make good use of the time I decided to put my son (6.5) into action. He is building a self propelled model car made out of metal, plastic and screws. To be honest, it is even difficult for me to put it together, but he is much better than me with these things and enjoys it. During construction time he discovered that some of the plastic covers got lost and so I told him that next time we are at Lowe’s we will try to find replacements.

I called him over and told him he could take care of the replacement plastic covers while we examine the bathroom fixture. He took out a sample we brought with us and asked me what to do. I told him to go to the entrance of the store where such items can be found and approach any Lowe’s employee and simply ask for help. He said ok and left.

It took us about 5 more minutes to finalize our decision for the bathroom item we wanted to buy and we headed towards the cashiers while trying to locate my son. The next thing I saw was the following scene. A Lowe’s employee standing in front an aisle full with screws, nails, plastic covers and more, looking for something and next to him my son talking to him. As I was approaching them, the Lowe’s employee started discussing with my son the item he found for him trying to figure out, with my son’s help, if this is what he wanted to get. When I finally got to them I could only catch the end of the conversation where my son took the item given to him said thank you and was ready to head back.

I approached him and he told me about what he did, how he did it and what the conversation was all about. He proudly showed me the items he got and together we all drove home just to find out that they do not fit.

No worries. Next trip, we will go to another home improvement store and he will try his luck there. My point with this whole little exercise could not be missed – I want my kids to be independent. I want them to know how to approach adults and get what they need.

In an ironic twist, when we were coming out of Lowe’s I saw another parent dragging his yelling kid, who was about 5 or may be 6 and just thought how it easy it would be for him to engage the kid in his shopping instead of dragging him a long.

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Posted in Tips and Advice | 2 Comments »

Crying as an Emotional Blackmail

Posted by Barack Levin on 28th November 2010

Recently I have found myself faced with a new situation that I thought my girl has already overcome. For almost anything that she does not like and does not want to do – she starts crying. She does like the food – she cries; she does not want to wear the coat – she cries; she does not want to put the dishes in the dishwasher – she cries. At first I dismissed it but when I realized that this is her new strategy, I decided that enough is enough. I can not allow her to use this weapon against me.

My little girl is extremely sweet. She has these beautiful gorgeous blue eyes and has a baby face. It is extremely hard to be tough with her, but on the other side I also know that she is rebellious and very stubborn. She likes to do things her way. I help her by giving her projects where she is in charge of things and she loves it, but when it comes to the daily tasks, I am not willing that she will give the tone. We are a family and work as one family cell. If she does not clear the dishes it means that me or her mom need to do so.

I decided that with her crying I will not try any incentives or any other tricks. I will use the one easy simple way. Next time we had a talk I told her:” I will not tolerate your crying for every little thing. Next time you plan on crying, you can already head to your room and do the crying over there. Close the door when you do so and come back only when you calm down”. She tested me (of course) and her mom but we just followed our strategy – we sent her straight to her room. We want her to find out on her own that crying will not solve anything. We will not give in to her wants when she cries. If she decides she wants to talk to us and explain what the problem is, we will be happy to listen to her.

It took her some time to understand, may be 2-3 days but now, we solved that problem as well. She stopped with her crying.

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Posted in Tips and Advice | No Comments »

Low Blood Red Cell Count

Posted by Barack Levin on 26th November 2010

One of the major problems that is a direct result of a kidney failure is low blood red cell count. The kidneys don’t only filter waste and fluids, they also have some other functions in the body; one of these functions is to produce a special hormone that controls the production of red cell in the body. The actual production of red blood cells is done in the bone marrow where the hormone is sent.

One of the functions of the red blood cells is to transport oxygen to the different body parts. When there is a low blood count it means that not enough oxygen reaches the different cells in the body and as a result weird things start to happen: constant fatigue, memory problems, inability to concentrate and more.

In my case, my blood count barely scrapes the minimum allowed which means less oxygen to the body and of course, all of the above mentioned side effects. But there is a solution. Actually, probably more than one. My doctor suggested a solution a long time ago. I can get hormone replacement weekly injections that will increase the blood count and with that the levels of oxygen. Back then it was not necessary but now I feel that it is an option I need to consider. I have also come up with another possible solution: oxygen tank. If I breathe pure oxygen, that might increase the levels as well. I have a meeting with my doctor next week and will definitely talk to him about these options, but last night I had another great idea.

I know that during Yoga and Meditation, there are some breathing exercises which help the body relax but at the same time work on inhaling and exhaling large amounts of air. May be I can use that to my benefit?

A short search on You Tube and I found some simple and basic breathing routines. I started working on them and today continued some more. I am happy to report that it seems to work. I no longer suffer from these side effects. I actually feel better today. I have not felt this way for weeks (probably months). I think that my new diet, the breathing exercise and the caffeinated drinks I am using help me maintain my sanity.

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Posted in State of the Kidney | No Comments »

What does it feel like?

Posted by Barack Levin on 23rd November 2010

I have been asked more than once, ok, so your kidney’s are at 20% but you look fine, you do not show any signs. You have no scars, no rashes, your hair is not falling,. There is nothing visible so how do you feel?

This is really a tough one because unless you are in my shoes you have no idea I am suffering from anything. One look at me only confirms it. I look pretty normal for a person my age. So I devised a little experiment for those of you out there who want to know how it feels to live with almost no kidneys, to find out what the effects on the body are.

Here it goes.

I am assuming you have two functioning lungs. If you do, let’s go through these steps. Take a big breath in. Take it in very slow. Make sure that every node in your lungs gets its share of oxygen. Do not take short cuts. Fill your lungs to their full capacity. Feel how your chest inflates with them. It is a great feeling isn’t it? Your lungs are at full capacity. Keep your breath in for 3 seconds. Enjoy the air in your body, feel how refreshed you are, how great of a feeling it is to fill your lungs. Now breathe out slowly but deliberately until you empty your lungs. Do it slowly and feel how the waste is living your body and how your lungs shrink. This whole cycle of breathing in, keeping your breath and blowing it out takes about 10 seconds.

Now, let’s try running the same cycle but in only 7 seconds. You will need to breathe in faster, hold your breath for barely 2 seconds and blow it out again. Your lungs will not be inflated to their full capacity. You do not have the same feeling as before. You have to rush things and your body does not like it. This cycle simulates your lungs at about 50% capacity. Let’s repeat the exercise but simulate the lungs at 20%.

Run through the same cycle one more time, but this time, instead of 7 seconds, make sure you complete the cycle in only 5. Have you noticed the difference? Do you feel how your body is not happy about this cycle?

Now try to live just 10 minutes this way and see how you function. Your basic functions immediately get interrupted: you can hardly speak, your body works harder, you waste energy just on keeping enough oxygen in your body, very shortly you will also hyperventilate. Basically this takes a toll on your body. There is no way you can function this way the whole day.

And now you know exactly how I feel like every minute of every day.

Posted in State of the Kidney | No Comments »

When you trust your kids they can do anything

Posted by Barack Levin on 23rd November 2010

My previous post was about our motion detector light in the drive way. We were not able to finish it over the weekend but we are working towards it and took the next step. We have all the supplies we need and now it is time to set things up. I am not a handy man but I know a little about home improvement. I wish I knew more so that I could teach them more but that’s life.

We had to connect the lamp that we bought to the wires and then to the wall. I showed the kids how to strip the wire, connect it with the screwdriver, change the light bulb and even plug the electricity in. They handled the utility knife (box cutter), light bulbs, glass, electricity and more. I showed them once what to do and they did it. No one got cut, no one got injured. On the contrary, they had plenty of joy when the light worked after they plugged it in.

Later on we also installed some door stoppers and they were able to use the drill for the first time and drill into the wall. I love it when I can show my kids how to handle dangerous things and they pay attention and know exactly what to do, how to be careful, not hurt themselves and accomplish the project together safely.

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Posted in Tips and Advice | No Comments »

Is it really cold out there

Posted by Barack Levin on 23rd November 2010

I am happy to report on another side effect that I am experiencing due to my failing kidneys. Now I am frozen all the time. It is unbearable. I am wearing long pants, sweaters, undershirts and I am still cold. At night, I am under several blankets and I am shivering. I try not to leave the house and stay next to my heater or fire place.

My wife, who saw me suffering so much, bought me an electric blanket. I can not even begin to describe how well it feels to sleep in bed and feel the warmth covering your body.

Posted in State of the Kidney | No Comments »

Chili and meds do not mix up

Posted by Barack Levin on 23rd November 2010

My wife prepared spicy chili yesterday. One of my favorite dishes. She knows how to cook and she knows I like her cooking. I woke up this late morning after my usual 11 hour night sleep, these days anything less than that and I can not go throughout the day. It was already close to lunch time so I decided to skip breakfast and go directly to lunch. Warmed up the chili and ate it feeling all happy and warm on the inside. I do not take my meds on empty stomach any more for the fear of vomiting and thought that the chili would be a great buffer. Apparently not. Within minutes of taking my meds I started to feel that creepy crawling all over my body, sweat started forming on my forehead and my stomach was giving the signs that I am about to taste the chili one more time today in reverse order. I rushed to the kitchen to take my anti nausea pill and even managed to hold it in for about 10 minutes. But I guess, that did not do the trick and I ran outside to see chil comes to light once again.

Posted in State of the Kidney | No Comments »

Restless Legs

Posted by Barack Levin on 21st November 2010

Last night was a terrible night. During the day I could already feel in coming. My blood pressure was high which meant a splitting headache. I usually do not take pain killers but last night the constant pounding did not leave me with any choice.

I got to bed at 9 PM. Instead of falling asleep instantly, my legs started to jitter uncontrollably. I simply could not stop them and obviously could not fall asleep. For 2 hours I tried to sleep in bed, on the sofa and in the guest room, But nothing. My legs did not give up and fought me. I was on the verge of crying.

Eventually after these 2 hours I have discovered that if I go to sleep sitting, my legs won’t bother me. And os I did and managed to sleep for 15 hours straight.

Posted in State of the Kidney | 6 Comments »

Church and Basketball

Posted by Barack Levin on 20th November 2010

My son started his practice at the same place he had his soccer. On the way there, we had a little chat. I told him that when the team gathers around the coach to talk about devotion, he should come and sit with me. He asked me why and I answered because we signed you for basketball and not schooling. It is just like when you go to the bathroom to take a shower, you do not take your food there as well. When it is shower time and it is not eating time. Same with basketball. When it is play time, it is not pep talk time.

We got to the courts and practice began. Half way through, I am sitting on the court side and my son comes to me. I was ready for that and asked what was the problem and he said, no problem, they are having their devotion time. I was very pleased to see that he understands and takes the action when it is needed.

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Posted in Tips and Advice | 2 Comments »

My little girl’s birthday

Posted by Barack Levin on 18th November 2010

The most frustrating decision I have had to make recently was to not attend my little girl’s birthday. I love her dearly and wish all the best for her, however, on her birthday at least 10 of her friends are coming to our house. It is December and I fear for my life. I am afraid that one of the other kids might have a virus or worth, the flu that could simply kill me.

I decided not to take any chances and go out to a movie with a friend instead.

Posted in State of the Kidney | 2 Comments »

Engaging kids with your home improvement projects

Posted by Barack Levin on 15th November 2010

Our driveway is long and dark. I have decided to start a new project and hang a motion detector light in that area. Fortunately for me there is a near by electricity source and I do not have to reinvent the wheel for that. What I do need to do is dig a shallow trench to hide the electric wire and from there snake it on the tree where the light will be hanged. The trench is about 6 foot long and I decided that this would be a great opportunity to engage the little ones in the project.

I called them over and explained what I am about to do. We went back to the house and got their digging tools. They could not have been more excited to dig in the dirt. The first task was to dig and expose the electric wire. They put their backs into it and started digging while I went back home to enjoy some cookies and milk. They came back all excited when they reach the not so deep source of electricity. It was amazing to see how happy they were of their achievement. From there I showed them how to dig the trench and how deep it needs to be and went back to finish my char with the wife. 20 minutes later they came all covered in dirt grinning. They wanted me to come and see the trench. It was perfect. It was getting late so we could not finish the project, but the next steps will be to lay down the new wires and have them cover up the trench and help me hang up the light.

A simple project, but still, I always find an engaging aspect to have the kids involved in what we do. The result is that we spend quality time together and they learn what is electricity, why it is dangerous, how to hang a light, wiring and more. It is a fun project for all.

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Frustration

Posted by Barack Levin on 13th November 2010

One of the most frustration things I face right now is my inability to join my kids in their class activities. I am so afraid that one of the little boogers in their class might carry of virus which will invade my system and kill my kidneys. And so I have decided to make a conscious decision and cut almost all interaction I have with kids which means that I can not join my kids for their holiday celebrations and other activities.

Posted in State of the Kidney | No Comments »

You can not help the ones who do not want to be helped

Posted by Barack Levin on 12th November 2010

 

Friends of ours have some problems with their kids. The regular stuff: disobedience, disrespect, eating habits, sleeping habits and more. The mom had a night off and went with my wife to dinner. Just the 2 of them. During dinner they were talking and the other mom told my wife about her problems with her kids. She mentioned that her kids won’t eat what she was cooking for them but only want pizza and pop-corn. My wife did not want to tell her what to do, but she said that when our kids came to us with the same demands we simply told them “this is what you have for dinner today. You can eat or go to bed hungry. Your choice”.  The other mom listened very carefully and replied: “Well, this is not going to work with my kids”. The conversation went along and again the other mom raised another issue she had with her kids and my wife, one more time, suggested a solution that we used on our kids and again the other mom said that this solution would never worked with her kids.

They went through several such cycles until my wife realized that the other mom is not looking for a solution. She is sure that this is the way her kids should act. She was only trying to unburden herself. She of course managed to do so but never listened or tried to implement any solution that was given her. She dismissed all of them without trying.

I have found out that the most difficult task when coming to re-educate parents is to have them admit that what they are doing can not continue and that they have to seek another way.

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Posted in Tips and Advice | 2 Comments »

Kids’ Help

Posted by Barack Levin on 8th November 2010

It is a well known ritual in our house that every time we need to repair, buy or work on something for the house, we ask the kids’ help. They already know it and love it because we do not just tell them what to do, we teach them about it. They get to spend time with us and learn new things. For example, changing a light bulb. I have done it dozens of times and it takes me about 30 seconds to complete this task, but I want my kids to know about electricity and light so I ask them to help me and they are eager to experience something new. I go to the tool room with them, we choose the right tools, they choose the right light bulb and we all walk back up. They bring the step stool and climb on it to change the bulb. They are especially proud when they can see the results of their work – the light is on again. It gets to a point where they ask us to help in the house which is something I think every kid should be encouraged to do.

The other day we started a fire in the fire place. My little girl so that the fire place was dirty and volunteered to clean it. The next morning, when the fire died, my girl and me cleaned the fire place together. It is not her first time but since she loves to organize and put things in order she also loved to help me. In the meantime we were able to talk about recycling (yes, we recycle the ashes), how fire is dangerous and why matches are not toy things. These were wonderful 30 minutes of quality time, one-on-one, with her.

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At the MRI

Posted by Barack Levin on 5th November 2010

Today was the final step for my evaluation. This time it was MRI and reviewing the results from the while process to determine where I stand and if my body can withstand the transplant. As usual, before I could do anything they stick an IV up my arm. As always, when they inject me with the contrast I get a wet sensation in my hand and a bitter taste in my mouth. They take me to the MRI room, lay me on the table and insert me into a tight tube. I am not claustrophobic but trust me, after getting in there, I became one. Heart is racing and sweat beads all over the place. I took some deep breaths and calmed myself down. Since the MRI machine is so loud, they put headphones on me and streamed some easy listening music. I kid you not, but one of the songs was about:” I do not want to die, I want to live”. I thought it was an hilarious coincidence.

From there a quick stop at the CT scan for a short heart scan and I am on my way to meet the doctor for the results. So far so good and he says results are very promising. Almost everything is within normal range. But the really good news are the anti-bodies – 0 which makes the transplant easy and feasible unless something is very wrong with my donor’s blood.

The exception to the good results are some calcification in my lung but those are probably from an old lung infection or something and a lung doctor should clear this up easily. This should be the last hurdle on my way to transplant.

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Posted in State of the Kidney | No Comments »

Caffeinated Drinks

Posted by Barack Levin on 4th November 2010

I am tired all the time. My nephrologist told me it is perfectly normal for a kidney in my situation. When I asked if I could try any energy drinks he disallowed it stating that they contain lots of potassium that is harmful to me. With that I had to drag myself through life, until I got an idea a few days ago.

I decided to drink soda. If you know me, you already know that I am very much against it. I stopped drinking this stuff before my son was born and me and my wife never buy or bring it in, however, I did remember that soda has caffeine in it and since I do not like coffee, I decided to give it a try.

So 2 days ago I drank my first bottle. I was up until 3 AM. I have not felt better for weeks. I was energetic. The next day I decided to try it one more time, and the same results. Did not sleep the whole night. The third and fourth day I decided not to drink it all and immediately felt how my body begs for sleep all day long.

I think that from now until transplant day I will drink a glass of soda a day early in the morning to get some caffeine in me so that I can function.

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Posted in State of the Kidney | No Comments »

This is how it starts

Posted by Barack Levin on 2nd November 2010

I went with my kids to the music class and while my son was going in the class, I stayed behind with my girl playing some board games with her. In the meantime I was noticing other parents and their kids and especially one mom and her 2 year old son.

He had a small plastic box where he stores his pencils and crayons. He was sitting at the table playing with it when all of a sudden he opened it and dropped the contents on the floor. The mom was sitting with her girl in another table and saw what was happening. I was poised to see what will happen next and how would she handle the situation. Will she pick them up will he?

He looked at her and than back at the floor and said: “Oh-oh. I made a mess. Mom clean it” and looked at his mom. When she did not reply he started chanting this phrase. This meant to me that this is not the first time he is doing something like this and he is used for his mom to clean after me. Now, if it was me, he would have picked the pencils and put them in place, but by his mom his mom’s reaction, I already knew this was not going to happen. The mom told him: “You pick it up” but he looked at her if she did not even utter these words. It was really pathetic and the mom knew it so well. You could hear it in her voice. She knew that even though she just said it, nothing will happen and this is the real sad part. If she stood behind her words and meant what she said, he would have learned a long time ago to respect that and follow her, but he knew she did not mean it, and he just continued chanting.

From here, I knew exactly how things will turn out and that’s exactly what happened. When the mom saw that he is not moving, she told him:” I will help you” which is understandable. I would have done the same thing to kick start things, but not the way she did it. She sat on the floor, while sat in his chair and started collecting the pencils while begging him:” Help me”. He of course did not move. So she put the box on the floor, handed him a pencil and told him to put it in the box. He took the pencil and threw it to the box. She seemed to be happy but this is of course not the way to do it.

Eventually he continued to sit at his chair and she was on the floor organizing the pencils in the box.

This is exactly how you prompt kids to understand how to control their parents. No good can come out of it and without knowing that lady I can already tell that she has other problems with her kid that she can not and will not be able to fix.

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Posted in Tips and Advice | 5 Comments »

5 second memory

Posted by Barack Levin on 1st November 2010

I have realized that recently I can not keep a thought for more than a few seconds, something that I have never experienced in the past. For example, my wife can tell me: “Can you change the light bulb in the bedroom?” I say yes, and as I get myself ready to do the task, turning off the TV and putting on my shoes, I no longer remember what she asked me to do. I need to actually concentrate on our conversation to remember.

The same goes if I am remembered to answer a client’s email while I take a shower. I make a mental note to myself but as soon as I finish showering, I have completely forgotten about the whole ordeal. I have no doubt it is all due to my failing kidneys. I think that the load on the body and mind is so great that memory simply slips away.

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Posted in State of the Kidney | No Comments »

We are dumbing our girls

Posted by Barack Levin on 1st November 2010

I went to the toy store over the weekend to buy some new toys for the kids. As winter approaches, and we will spend more time at home and since they do not watch TV or play computer games, I want to keep them on their toes and their brains working and challenged. My solution is to buy them some challenging toys, always 1 or 2 levels above their abilities (because frankly I think they toy makers think that our kids are stupid and the age levels on these toys do not reflect the true ability of our kids.

My son is really into legos right now and he is very good with his hands, so I went ahead and bought him a toy car kit that he needs to build on his own using screws, screwdriver and complicated metal and plastic parts. It is definitely a challenge for me so I am sure he will like it.

As for my girl, I was trying to get her something that will also develop her motoric skills and hand-eye coordination. I searched the shelves but all I could find were kits upon kits for doing your nails, doing your hair, decorating a purse, accessorizing dolls and the likes. Nothing, simply nothing, that is not focused on how my girl looks or should dress up like. If the boys toys are mostly about building, fixing and constructing the girl toys are exactly the opposite. Only toys about beauty, fashion and junk. Nothing to challenge the brain. I ended buying her a Disney puzzle (which I would never have done it if I had a better option, but that’s all they got).

I understand that girls like dolls, puppies and fluffy things. No problem there, but go ahead and make toys that help them develop and not prepare them for a life of chasing beauty and fashion. Prepare them to life like you do with boys.

It is just amazing to me how we all talk about equal rights and that women are no different than men but at the same time, from an early childhood we stir our kids towards their traditional roles – the men create and the girls beautify themselves to attract the men.

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Posted in Tips and Advice | 2 Comments »

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