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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Forever malwary


Yesterday, someone hacked my computer. Every time I tried to log into Blogger, I was instead prompted to sign into one of my Gmail accounts. It even happened when I clicked on the "B" from another person's blog. It doesn't appear that they got any sensitive information or caused any damage, but it did hijack my day and left me feeling violated.

But that's not what this blog is about.

It occurred to me that my illnesses have been a lot like that. Out of nowhere, I developed dermatomyositis. As the prednisone was arresting the DM muscle damage, the immunosuppression I developed from the prednisone caused me come to down with listeriosis and Legionnaires' disease. The Legionnaires' disease triggered a severe case of sepsis, which dropped my blood pressure drop so low that I experienced a series of strokes on both sides of my brain, and I fell into a six-week coma.

Okay, so that's a lot more convoluted, not to mention more serious, than what happened yesterday. After all, I'm still recovering from the strokes and coma; all I'm doing about the hacking incident today is running an extra anti-virus scan.

What they have in common is that something completely out of my control took over my life. Furthermore, cancer is a bit like malware. A malicious bit of code, genetic in this case, takes over your cells. As far as I know, I don't have cancer, but the increased risk of malignancy that comes with DM means I have to be ever-vigilant. Though the malware scan we ran yesterday seemed to have fixed my computer's infection, there's no guarantee that any cancer I might develop would be so amenable to cure.

The bottom line is that any time, something can come along and take control of your life. Of course, that hacker's aim wasn't to prevent me from writing this blog. The DM, Legionnaires' disease, strokes, and coma, weren't part of a plot to make my life miserable or kill me. When you're an atheist, you accept that bad things happen, and it has nothing to do with you. You just deal with it, run the scan or do the exercises, anything thing you can do move on with your life.

The plugged in know if they want to stay online, they have to accept the risk of hackers. All humans recognize that in life, they face constant dangers. Atheists believe that nothing can protect them from those hazards. Those that are all of the above do their best to be prepared.

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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.