Friday, January 4, 2008

Like a Fish Outta Water

In my last post I talked about this business with the house as something like managing three jigsaw puzzles at the same time. Recent developments added a new dimension and that struck a note with me: multi-dimensional problem solving! Remember three dimensional chess from Star Trek?

The new dimension is a down turn in my health. I was pretty sick the last couple days. I’m not a fun person to be around when I’m not well. For some reason illness makes me angry, cranky at best, and sympathy is just gas on the fire. I know sympathy always comes with the best of intentions but I always take it wrong, just another reminder that something has gone wrong.
Mrs. C has the ‘stray cat gene; she always wants to help no matter the circumstances or source of need. Her unconditional, totally giving manner is in stark contrast to my ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality. I may be approaching a deathbed conversion as I am reminded more frequently of late that I am no longer in the category of ‘fittest’. So of course she's constantly trying to make me more comfortable; Another pillow? a blanket? a Tylenol?

I was exhibiting “flu-like symptoms”. Don’t you just love these euphemisms? It’s actually great medical short hand, used correctly you are saving a lot of words. So achy, Feverish, stuffed up, and terrible sinus headaches round out the picture. Thursday morning I noticed I had a rash on my legs. It wasn’t real bad, didn’t itch or burn but did cause me to say "Hmmm?" I felt so bad and was in that uncontrollable shivering state that comes with a very high fever that after I got through with my morning business I just went back to bed … and stayed there. When Mrs. C came home from work she checked me out and deemed that my condition had deteriorated, “maybe we should go to the Doctor?” I didn’t want to go, I have the typical aversion to the health care clinic. Going is admitting you are sick, that you think you need help. And typically given this set of circumstances you come away with a little bottle of bubble gum tasting kids antibiotic and an admonition to drink plenty of fluids. What’s the point? It is probably a viral infection (I’ve had my flu shot) and other than the inconvenience (for them and for me) not much constructive will result.

As she was doing her evaluation I mentioned the rash on my legs. She asked if I had it anywhere else. Thinking not, I pulled up my shirt and even I was surprised to find that my torso, back, and arms were covered in red welts. She got on the phone to the advice nurse and after a phone consult the nurse asked to speak with Mrs C. directing her to get me to urgent care.

After normal hours it's the emergency room and you know this place is nothing like the ER of prime time TV. There are no dashing young doctors and ravishing young nurses racing across the floor yelling STAT! This is the place where people who cannot afford regular or preventive health care come for their health care. I really need to be in tip top shape to face that setting, so it's probably one of my last choices when I'm sick; You know, the fluorescent lights, the somewhat tired looking care givers, and of course the motley collection of us sick people; the ones who don’t have health care or those of us too thick headed to use it during normal hours. More a scene out of a Raymond Carver novel than a prime time TV drama.

The whole experience was drenched in irony. I had a raging fever the night before. How high a fever? Well who knows; when you evacuate your flooded home no one says "don't forget the thermometer!” and so when you're in the ER and they say "how high was the fever?" you are stuck in that trailer park moment: Are they too backward to have a thermometer? Or do you spill the beans, about being a flood victim: 'Our house was flooded and we didn't get the thermometer', and then you are a candidate for 'Queen for a day.' Neither is a choice I want to be forced into. Sympathy is such an odd concept. Who wants to be the recipient of sympathy? Right now I would give anything to blend into the crowd: just another middle class, overweight, white guy on the other side of middle age. But if you have symapthy in mind, send it along to Mrs C. She not only has to mange the cares of the house situtation but must also put up with me.

So after much poking and prodding, two albuterol breathing treatments, 'blood work" and a series of lung x rays it turns out I have pneumonia. Not at all what I wanted to hear. In a period of just over two years, I have become my 88 year old mom whom I cared for in her last years. Caring for your aging parents is a very good life lesson. At the time you think you are leaning how to be compassionate, developing new dimensions of relationships, doing your best to keep a loved one as comfortable as possible. Only later do you figure out that this is a peek at how one might deal with the dilemma of transitioning from long life to long death.

But somehow pneumonia as a diagnosis is oddly gratifying. So often the results are inconclusive, you’re prescribed bed rest and a follow up visit in a couple weeks. But hey, pneumonia has a certain ring to it! Now we’re gettin’ somewhere! This is the real deal! I can sort of put a positive spin on it now, but believe me I was laid very low when the doc came in and gave me the diagnosis.

No namby pamby run of the mill antibiotics for me! Now I am back on steroids and that butt kicker antibiotic. I had both these drug regimes earlier this year when the doc was trying to clear up my lung/sinus problems getting me healthy as possible for Paris Brest Paris. The steroids are powerful drugs, it is easy to see why some professional athletes choose to abuse them, but they have troublesome side effects. And the antibiotic really is indiscriminate in the biota it kills so it just destroys your GI 'flora'. I'll be staying close to the toilet and Sheila will be over at the house digging through the stuff to find the pro-biotic capsules.

Positive thought for the day:

If you are an animal person and want a chance to do a good turn for your less fortunate, non-human fellow earth dwellers consider a donation to Friends of Lewis County Animal Shelter, FOLCAS for short. They have gotten high marks for their outstanding efforts in helping deal with the problems the flood caused for animals. Tell them Chairman Meow commanded you pay alms.

And one last thing: if you’re interested in seeing aerial photos of the flood, check out the Thurston County home page. In the lower left corner there is a yellow tab labeled “images of the flood”. Pretty dramatic stuff.

Here is a picture of Oakville from that series. I tried to draw a circle around our house and the "Garage MaHall" but I'm not smart enough to do that (greatful for suggestions!) Suffice to say ours is one of the houses floating around toward the bottom of the picture.

This may sound pathetic but I have to go lay down now (DOCTORS ORDERS!) All this typing and thinking has pretty much sapped my energy for the day.

Thanks for reading, more later.

1 comment:

  1. Get well fast, buddy! And definitely let Ms. C give you some much deserved TLC!