LEVI McPHERSON, a graduate student of analytical chemistry at the University of North Central Florida, is approached by agents of the Homeland Security’s Counter-terrorism Unit. The agency is recruiting Lee to study and expose the loopholes of screening instruments in airports. Struggling financially, he accepted the offer, making him a paid, benevolent hacker of the nation’s gateway. Yet Levi is horrified when an Airbus from Los Angeles disintegrated in mid-air.

At 40, when everybody’s career trajectory is going up, Levi’s still a poor graduate student, struggling financially. His research projects however, are worth million dollars. Researching the highly classified and heavily guarded secrets of detecting traces of explosives, what Lee know was a goldmine. The agency's offer is his financial break . So Levi tackles the problem like a scientist, detailing the loopholes of the aviation security and turning what he knew into a big time money machine.

JIM and JONATHAN of the counter-terrorism unit, where nowhere to be found after Charlotte International Airport, a hub of Delta Airlines closed abruptly because of instrument malfunctions in their security lines. And in a post-Osama Bin Laden’s era, the biggest blow to the United Stated after the 9/11 disaster comes unexpectedly when a passenger plane blew up in the skies of Washington D.C., in the heart of the nation.

Levi knew it was only the start of more troubles, so he recruits his fellow graduate students to counter the future attacks. They have to think like criminals—and scientists too. With the help of FBI counter-terrorism experts, Homeland Security and Transportation Security Agency, the team races to close and plug the loopholes Lee identified.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Emilio Version 2.0, The Upgrade Story

BY: Emilio version 1.0

Emilio version 2.0 was introduced to the world, late May of this year. It was an upgrade that was long overdue. Unlike the long awaited Windows 95, the upgrade for the outdated Windows 3.1, Emilio 2.0 came without a media hype. There were no rock bands gracing the event or Jay Leno hosting the fanfare. Instead, Shands Hospital Delivery room 3519 resembles that of a war zone -- blood where everywhere. When the smoke cleared, there were no casualties, just a newborn baby crying. It was already Thursday morning and rush hour outside was slowly building

Several hours before, our Wednesday afternoon was just like another day in paradise. I wasn't expecting the baby yet, since the doctor calculated a June birth date (now I have to believe doctors and nurses are not good in numbers). In addition, it was still an irregular contraction. I was watching the UEFA soccer championship, when my lady interrupted, it was time to pack and go to the hospital. It wasn't a drill. It was the real thing. Luckily, I can TiVo the soccer match and watch it later (or weeks after).

After signing some papers, we were ushered to our room. By 19:00 Hrs. (7 PM), she's dilated around 5 centimeters. The requirement is 10 cm for the baby to pass through. It was progressing to 10 cms slowly and contraction was becoming regular. It’s an understatement to say that the contraction without an anesthesia was very painful. Joy was in so much pain that she can grab a golf ball and smash it into pieces. Our nurse Kristen admitted that she would rather run 80 miles than give birth, a fair comparison.

Here's the subplot to the painful delivery:

The assigned anesthesiologist came around 21:00 Hrs (9 PM) to administer the injection of the epidural. Epidural injection is like that of dextrose but a little bit complicated. While dextrose’s needle is attached to your veins in your arms, in child birth, the anesthesia is attached to the lower back of the mother, a small, sweet spot in between the two discs of the lumbar spine. There is a very tiny room for error.

Another difference is that nurses control the flow of the dextrose, but in epidurals, it can be controlled manually by the patient, just in case you need more of the juice to alleviate the pain. In reality, it is pseudo-controlled by the mother.

I remember during the labor when Joy was asking for more epidural shots. Like a shaking addict asking for more of the booze, she was begging me to increase the flow of the chemical by pushing the control button more often. Unknown to her, the flow was preset per hour, so you can’t exceed the calculated volume. Many times during the 3-hour labor, the monitor said that I can’t pump more of the juice but I always told Joy I already pushed the button, hoping for a placebo effect.

It was a tense moment during the injection of the fine epidural needle since the anesthesiologist was having a hard time finding the right tiny area. Added to the burden was that Joy’s spine is a little bit crooked due to scoliosis. The older, more experienced resident anesthesiologist was called to the rescue. The pressure was on since damaging the spine can lead to devastating effects. The room calm down after the anesthesiologists successfully administered the anesthesia. End of the sub-plot.

Around 22:00 hrs (10 PM) the head commander of the operation, Dr. Ross, surveyed the battle field once again. She told us she is fielding her trusted lieutenants for the rest of the evening because she needed to sleep; she has a conference to attend to the following morning.

By this time, Joy looked like a medical specimen, with 2 wires and the epidural tube. One of the two wires monitors her contraction and the other wire measures the baby's heart rate. So you can imagine the room resembles that of a hi tech war room where Generals track the inputs and reconnaissance pictures fed by spy satellites, but instead of the RADAR monitor beeping, you can hear the regular sound of the baby's heart beat and a regular spike of contractions.

24:00 Hrs (12 AM Thursday), Dr. Ross' trusted Lieutenant ordered to break her water bag. I was half asleep when I heard the water splashed. The two nurses, Kristen and Natalia, the two loyal sergeants, cleaned Joy's bed sheets.

Between 1:00 to 4:00 hrs, doctors came in probably twice, checking on the vital signs of the mother and the baby.

3:00 hrs, I heard screaming from the other room, with people encouraging to keep on pushing. There was a loud scream from the mom. I likened the mom’s screaming to that of a neophyte being smash by a paddle in a fraternity initiation. The neophyte just scream at the top of his lungs like there’s no tomorrow. Can Joy eclipse the scene? Who knows and we’ll see.

After the loud scream next door, then came a baby crying and people cheering. I imagined the scene with full of fanatics screaming loudly while the mom giving all her strength and scream. When child birth did become a spectator sports? Whatever the case, I said to myself we were next. I wish I never heard and imagined what was coming. Ignorance is bliss.

4:00 hrs, one of the generals ordered to prepare for missile launch. She's reached 10 cm.

I’ll pay more just to make child birth as accurate as a missile lift-off, a procedure that follows a countdown. Child birth is very primitive, the duration of the labor heavily depended on how strong the mom pushes the baby out. Besides, pushing a baby out is not second nature. Mothers don't push babies out everyday. Pushing is a learned response.

My spotter instinct came into play. Remember when you helped somebody in the gym to push a heavy bench press. The spotter ensures the safety of the lifter and the same time encouraging to push more. Encouraging my wife to push was like exercising. Lifting weights is partly psychological. I don't know if my encouragement helped.

6:00 hrs, the sun begun to rise and the two sergeants were encouraging Joy to push more because they wanted to see the baby before their shifts end. The pushing has been going on for almost 3 hours already. I don’t know if the nurses really want to see the baby or they just wanted to go home without rendering overtime (their shift ends 7 AM). Natalia jokingly branded the baby as “trouble maker”, since my little one was suppose to come out June, and insisted to get out early. And now he has the opportunity to come out, he’s bailing out.

6:30 hrs, Dr. Ross came in and asked for updates, just like how any good General operates. Sensing it was taking long and stressing the baby, she ordered the vacuum, to suck the baby out. At the same time, Natalia heated the little elevated bed for the baby (Koji’s profile picture of this blog was taken on that small bed). The baby is coming out no matter what.

Then the General ordered to remove the second half of the bed. She took a stool and sat down at the end of the bed as the baby's head come in an out. This time, the head is getting bigger, with the hair covered with blood.

The vacuum came in and the General assessed the situation again. She hesitated to use the vacuum and pondered on what to do next, a bewildered commander. The two sergeants were waiting for orders. Then Dr. Ross' decided to let Joy do the work since the baby's heart rate was around 150 beats per minute, an indication that the baby is still strong and capable to handle the stress. Joy doubled her exertion to push.

The most efficient way to push the baby out is with the aid of the contraction. Since the anesthesia numbed her lower body, she can’t feel the contraction. She asked me when the contraction is coming through the monitor. When one was coming, she was like the other mom on the other room, 4 hours ago. Her mighty shadow came out.

10 minutes before 7 Am, there was chaos. Emilio version 2.0 came out and Dr. Ross catched the healthy baby in her arms. Blood were everywhere, it was a blur.

Minutes later, I followed the baby to the nursery. Just like in the movies, you watched the newborn baby outside the room, behind the glass window. Back at the delivery room, a Filipina nurse was assisting Joy and cleaning the blood sputter in the floor. I called my parents and texted my friends.

10:00 hrs., I took the baby out of the nursery so Joy can breastfeed her. Suddenly, the alarm sounded and the door in front of us closed. The monitor attached to mini-Emilio triggered the commotion. It was the hospital’s precautionary measure to prevent babies from being stolen.

Well, this is my baby, I said to myself while pushing the baby cart back to the office. My blood runs in his veins. This is my Emilio version 2.0, an upgrade, with better and slicker design, more memory storage and processing power.

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