Friday, November 8, 2013

The rampage and the quiet, with snippet

Today is the start of a 4 day weekend. These are very nice. I don't have much scheduled; a yoga foot on Sunday is it. Linda, however, Has Plans. Today she was up early. I was cowering in bed as she rampaged around the house. DOING THINGS. A couple of her buddies showed up to support her, and off they went to the Millarville craft sale. I pity the people that got in her way.

In the meantime, it was quiet and I was fully under the NaNo lash. Today was a pretty productive day. My characters made me cry at one point. Today had 4659 words, for a total of 23461. For tomorrow, I've got a moral struggle for one character.

Short easy spin today, 30 minutes only. Stretch and core after. For a while the cats were watching me, then settled in and started snoring. I tried to be quiet and photograph them, but they woke up.

Linda brought home some goodies for breakfast tomorrow. This and coffee should see me well past the half way point of NaNoWriMo.

I'm writing about how my characters react to changing medical technology. Some of it involves obedient stem cells, some of it technology advances. I'm just making it up as I go along, since that's what NaNoWriMo is all about. Edit later. Mostly I'm trying to concentrate on how my characters react to the choices offered them.

Here's a bit of today's writing. Raw and off the press. Ed has had a minor heart attack. These are his choices. You can see a bit of how he reacts. Ross and Kelly are their mid to late teens children.

“Come in, have a seat. Mr and Ms Hawk, Ross, and Kelly, hello. I’m Dr. Abernathy. Good to meet you.”

They all shook hands and sat down.

“Now, I’ve gone over your case thoroughly Mr Hawk. I was just getting caught up on the latest read outs from your monitor. You’ve been good, and that is excellent.” A big graph popped up on the monitor. “Here’s a summary line of the monitor data. You can see it gradually rising until this little peak day before yesterday, then it falls again abruptly and stays low. Can you tell me what happened?”

Ed looked sheepish. “I was going nuts from no activity, and kind of forgot my daughter is essentially a grownup now. I still remember her as my little girl, and I blew up over something stupid. She went out for a run with one of my buddies, and I had a good chat with Betsy. Then we cleared the air when she got back. After that I got dug into the material your office sent, and I got really interested. I hardly moved after that.”

“That’s all good. I’ve got 4 options, sort of a good, better, best set of options for you. We’ll talk about them, I’ll give you a pile of paperwork on each. You’ll have some time to think them over, consult with your family, do any further research you feel is necessary. I’ll give you my email, and if you have any specific questions you can send them in. We have an ethics office here if you feel the need to discuss some of this further. Are you all set?”

“Sure am!”

“First. Essentially do nothing and watch carefully, taking action only when required. This is the lowest risk option for right now, though they slowly rise. But I can’t honestly recommend this to you. This would require a much less active life than what you now have.”

“Not a fan of that option.”

“I didn’t think so. Second option. Surgery soonish to clean you out where you’re clogged, and replace what we can’t clean out. After a suitable recovery period, you would be able to essentially resume your life as it was recently. We would put you through followup assessments to help change, control, or mitigate the factors that led up to your heart attack. This would probably involve changes in diet, perhaps factors in your life that create stress, and while you could still do triathlons and workouts to maintain fitness, you need to be aware your risk goes up as your exertion levels go up. Maintain fitness yes, race all out no, so I don’t think this is the right course for you.”

“All right. I can see where that would work for some people. What else do you have?”

“Third option. We can install an artificial heart along with some sophisticated filtering technology. This corrects some minor structural defects in your heart. In combination with some drugs, the changes to your life I mentioned earlier, the guck coating your blood system will gradually go away. Then once the technology improves a tiny bit more, we grow you a new heart, and replace the prosthetic. After recovery, you are good to go in all senses of the word. The thing with the prosthetic heart is that if you were a pro athlete, you would be disqualified. It’s a machine, it can be tinkered with to perform much better than any human heart. The problem is that something else becomes the weak spot, and maybe that’s what blows. But for all practical purposes, after recovery, you carry on normally.”

“Drugs. When I hear drugs, the first thing I think is side effects.”

“And rightly so. If you choose this option we will need to do some tests to specifically tune the drugs to your genetic code, and determine exactly what side effects to expect. At the moment all I can say is they run the gamut from almost nothing, up to requiring hospitalization to survive. That last is an extreme of course, but the ethics board requires I mention it.”

“All right. Something to think about. What’s the last option?”

Dr Abernathy leaned forward. “This is the one I’m recommending you give very serious attention to, although it’s the most complex, and yet the simplest. The high level view is that you get a shot, just the same as any other needle you’ve had. There might be periodic other shots. That’s the most invasive part, at least in one way of looking at it. After the shots, you would go home and resume your current life. You’d return every week or so for non invasive scanning and tests, similar to an x-ray or an MRI scan, and getting blood work done. Maybe a urine and feces sample monthly. Your activity levels would be carefully monitored, and you’d be gradually cleared for more activity. If you’re smart you’ll go through those same assessment for the risk factors and make the appropriate changes in your life. In probably no less than 4 months, and probably no more than a year, you would be totally cleared to resume whatever activities you like, at whatever exertion levels you like, with essentially the risk factors you had as a young man.”

“Duh. Why don’t you have that needle on your desk? Pick an arm, any arm.”

“Actually Ed, it’s a big needle, and goes into the big veins in your legs. Here’s the kicker. We do a full genetic scan of you. What we inject is essentially a living creature, tuned to eat anything that isn’t you. Think of it as a superman of white cells, or a molecular death star zapping anything that doesn’t belong. Now think for a few minutes about how that could go wrong. If you are interested in this, we will go into the risks in considerable detail.”

“So what happens if it all works as it should?”

“It eats all the guck, and continues to eat any that comes. It essentially eats almost anything that isn’t you. Whatever you were eating that contributed to the problem, you could keep eating. Like any other living thing it will reproduce to match the food supply, and die off as the food supply decreases. You are unlikely to be able to not produce any of it at all. You are left with a heart with slight structural defects that need not impact even a very active life. Maybe if you wanted compete as a pro, or an Olympian.”

“Ooh, I’m liking the sound of that. Big picture, what about the downsides?”

“I will be blunt here, Ed. You could die. Perhaps quite painfully. I don’t think that will happen. I wouldn’t even offer you the option if I thought it was even remotely possible, but this is still new technology. It was only recently released for clinical trials, and it is being watched very, very carefully. If you want to move forward with this, it will take several months to go through the various preparatory procedures. Basically two completely separate teams have to do completely independent assessments of you, in addition to what we’ve already done. Thorough, with a capital T doesn’t even begin to describe it. In between periodic assessment appointments, well, you wait. More of the last few days. No work. No workouts. Even a last minute change in your condition could derail the whole thing.”

“Holy crap.” He looked at Betsy. “My first thought is to go with door number 4, but this is something we have to talk about. All of us.”

“No shit, honey.” Betsy turned to Abernathy. Lots of paperwork, you said.”


  1. So glad you posted a snippet, Keith - WOW! A good medical thriller - with a very 'sci fi' feel to it. It reads very well, no worries about it being a first draft. I look forward to more tidbits from this!!

    And half way through? Holy crap, man!! Well done - keep up the great work and have a great long weekend :)

    1. Thanks! I'm really pleased at how its going so far. Let's see what else has shown up the next time I don't have much for my blog.

  2. Ohh, I like it. Kept me interested the whole time. He, of course has to go for the living creature injection, right? Because I want to know what happens with that.

    1. Thank you! He DOES get the injections. But that's the least of it. Barely the beginning. Turns out there's a related treatment where you never have to floss or brush your teeth again. I'm learning the most amazing things from my characters.


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