2 posts tagged “bone”

A day in the life of Software Engineer Jonathan Slate

Posted April 25th, 2014 by

Our members share a lot about their unique health journeys and experiences here on the blog. Just recently, Kim spoke about her shock with MS, Betty talked about her frustration finding the right diagnosis, and Lori’s been sharing about life on the lung transplant list. And as part of our ongoing “A day in the life” series, PatientsLikeMe Software Engineer Jonathan Slate shared about his own recent journey after his son Nolan’s hand injury. He walked through the whole experience, from Nolan’s initial accident to how a simple CD with some x-rays on it sparked an ‘ah ha!’ moment for him.

 

You started working at PatientsLikeMe about 6 months ago – tell us a little bit about what you do.

I work as a Software Engineer, developing new site features, fixing issues and working with other engineers to come up with creative solutions to the technical challenges of building and maintaining the PatientsLikeMe site. I’ve also done some work on the PatientsLikeMe Open Research Exchange project.

You’ve said you experienced two “eureka” moments at PatientsLikeMe – what happened, exactly?

Well, the first was on the PatientsLikeMe forums, where I found out, first hand, just how comforting it can be to share a difficult story with patients like me who can truly empathize with my own personal struggles. But it is the second eureka moment that I want to tell you about.

When I started working at PatientsLikeMe six months ago, I thought I basically got it. As a software engineer, there were a lot of opportunities available to me, but I chose to work at PatientsLikeMe because I could see they were an innovative company with a positive mission, passionate leaders, and energetic, thoughtful, and enthusiastic employees.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, my 12 year-old son Nolan was playing “crab soccer” in gym class. Crab soccer is like soccer, but played on all fours, with belly buttons pointing towards the caged lights in the gymnasium ceiling. Kids scuttle around trying to kick a giant ball without losing their balance. At some point during the game, Nolan bent his left hand back too far and heard a popping sound (ouch!). He went to the school nurse, and there was some swelling, so she gave him some ice and sent him back to class. Then came the sage advice of his fellow fifth graders, “It will feel better in one hour,” and “If you can move it at all, it’s not broken.” Wrong on both counts, as it turns out.

By the next morning it didn’t feel any better, and Nolan’s hand had swollen considerably. So we took him to the pediatrician. The doctor thought it was probably just sprained, but she ordered an x-ray just in case. When we met up with the pediatrician again, she showed us the images, and even to my untrained eye, there was a clear break. So they wrapped him up in a splint and gave us the contact info for a hand specialist. We left the office carrying a CD with the x-rays to bring to the specialist. Of course, being an engineer, I couldn’t help but think this system was a bit antiquated. Hand delivering a CD, I mean, really!?

But when we got home, my first thought was to pop the CD into the computer and get another look at the x-rays. I thought my wife might like to see them, as well. But when I put the CD into our home computer, there were just a bunch of weird files, no images as far as I could tell. After an hour or so of jumping through a number of technical hoops, I managed to get an application installed that could read the files on the disk. What came up wasn’t just some image files, but a medical record of sorts, with the images and a bunch of metadata. I showed the clearest x-ray to my wife. “Wow, that’s a pretty good break,” she said. “Can you send me that so I can put it on Facebook?” So I emailed it to her and I also printed out a couple of copies for Nolan to take to school and show to his friends.

The eureka moment didn’t come until I was on my way into work the next morning. Nolan and I had left the pediatrician with a CD full of useful medical data related to his condition, but the only reason we had it was so that we could deliver it to the next doctor. There was no expectation that we would actually want to look at the x-rays ourselves, and in fact doing so required technical skills beyond that of the average person. And if it had not been for the “antiquated” system in which CDs are delivered by patients, by hand, we never would have had the data in our possession at all.

How has Nolan’s experience changed your perspective on the relationship between healthcare, technology and data donation?

I know that a broken hand is small potatoes compared to what many PatientsLikeMe users have to deal with every day. But I still think there’s something to learn from this experience. Dealing with a broken hand is a pain. Nolan’s saxophone and drums are on hold. He can’t participate in all the outdoor activities he would like. But having those x-rays helps to make the experience a bit more tolerable. Having these images puts my wife, Nolan and I more in control. We have a better understanding of what is happening, and we can choose to share the information we have – how we see fit. And that is what PatientsLikeMe is all about: putting patients in control of their own health and data.

Finally, how is Nolan doing? Is he back playing drums and soccer yet?

Nolan is doing pretty well. His hand is in a splint, not a cast, which does make some things easier. And he got his friends to sign the velcro straps, so he didn’t miss out on the “fun” part of breaking a bone. But he can’t wait to get it off. Today I had to tell him he couldn’t go out and play baseball with his friends. But he can play soccer, as long as he doesn’t try to do any throw-ins. Drums and sax are still out, but he will be playing xylophone, one handed, in an upcoming school concert!

We’ll be continuing with more “Day in the life” portraits featuring PatientsLikeMe employees from different departments, so stay tuned for more! You can also check out some of our previous entries by clicking here.


Interested in joining our engineering team and making a difference in patients’ lives? Check out our Careers page to see our current job openings.


Living with hope – An interview on AKU with Alycia and Nate

Posted January 27th, 2014 by

We’ve had the pleasure of talking with and featuring many PatientsLikeMe members on the blog over the years, but Nate is the youngest by far. He’s just 5 years old and is living with Alkaptonuria (AKU), a rare metabolic disease, sometimes called Black Bone Disease. Recently, we had the chance to chat with his mom, Alycia, who spoke with us about Nate’s experiences with AKU and her role and philosophy as his caregiver.

To get started, what would you like everyone to know about your son?

My son is an extremely happy and energetic 5 year old. He has recently started school and loves playing sport. His favourite sports are cricket and Australian Rules Football. He has a younger brother who he loves getting into mischief with. He also has a rare Metabolic disease called Alkaptonuria. However, we have chosen not to tell him about his disease at this stage.

Do you remember what the first sign or symptom was? And can you talk a little about the diagnosis process?

The only symptoms he had were black urine and dark ear wax. We never really thought much about his dark urine because we only noticed it when he had accidents during toilet training and as he is our first child we didn’t know any better. When Nate was 3 he was hospitalised with post infectious glomerulonephritis. About 6 months later his kidneys had recovered but his test results were still not normal. With further investigations he was diagnosed with Alkaptonuria. Now the unusual urine stains make sense.

Can you tell us a little about your day-to-day experiences as a caregiver?

Due to the slow progression of Alkaptonuria, caring for Nate on a day to day basis really isn’t much different than for any other mum. The only things I do are to ensure that his ears don’t have any visible ear wax, as we’re very conscious of him being picked on. I also have to take him to a few extra medical appointments as he is under the care of the Metabolic team.

How has connecting to other caregivers, or others living with AKU, on PatientsLikeMe impacted you?

I was devastated when Nate was diagnosed with AKU and even more so when I found out how rare it was. I wanted to gather as much information as possible to help me understand and to help ease the way I felt. It wasn’t until I found the AKU Society in the UK and then PatientsLikeMe that it helped to alleviate some of those feelings. It’s been great to have a group of people who truly understand the disease and who you know will never judge you for any question you ask.

As a carer it’s my job to research as much as I can about AKU so when the time is right to tell Nate I can provide him with this information and he can connect with everyone on PatientsLikeMe himself. PatientsLikeMe has really had a positive impact on my life, at times it’s been comforting to know what potentially could happen to Nate and the quality of life he may have, but the benefits of having access to this site help outweigh some of these feelings.

If there was one thing you could tell everyone who is caring for someone living with AKU, what would that be?

Use all the resources out there like PatientsLikeMe and the AKU Society, which are amazing tools for reaching others who understand AKU better than anyone, fellow patients and carers, to research as much as you can about the disease. I believe that there is a potentially bright future for AKU patients if Nitisinone becomes available.

I also greatly believe if you’re a caregiver to a child with AKU, to let them be a child and let them have the childhood every child deserves and don’t weigh them down with their disease until you absolutely have to. Unfortunately the AKU will always be there.