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Archive for the ‘illness’ Category

I have a cold. My throat is really sore and goopy and I am wiped and achy. The sore throat started Monday evening. I only arrived home Friday evening. I swear, the moment I saw my chidren they must have infected me.

Both Maya and Asher were home Monday for supposed illness, but they got awfully perky and annoying and I regretted letting them stay home. The next day, Maya was fine and Asher was much worse. He stayed home again and acted as a sick child should, lying around like a blob and sleeping a lot. The two of us crawled into my bed an snoozed away a good part of the day. Now he’s back to his old self and I still feel like crap.

Part of the crappy feeling might be that I am officially painkiller-free. I’d like to say I am drug-free, but they have me on a great pile of other things, so I can’t. Anyway, I kept forgetting to take the painkiller on time the last few days and didn’t notice much of a difference, so my last dose wore off at around 1 am and I haven’t taken any since. It might not sound like a lot of time to you, but to me it is huge. I haven’t gone this long without taking those stupid narcotics since the doctor put me on them, several years ago.

My goal in getting off the heavy stuff was to avoid withdrawal as much as possible. I have experienced it several times (when I would forget to take my pills on time for some reason and a couple times in the hospital when they messed up my dosing) and it sucks in a very big way. I had a big argument in the hospital with J over this, as he wanted me to go cold turkey and get it over with. I kept saying, “I’m not going through withdrawal. I’m weaning slowly,” like a broken record, or possibly a stubborn child. The pharmacist came up to talk about it and said both our arguments had merit and I told her, “But I’m the patient and he isn’t and I’m not going through withdrawal.” I already have enough shit to deal with.

I think he secretly thought I would drag my feet at the end, that the closer I got, the slower I’d go. He underestimated my will to be free of this stuff.

So I am happy to report no withdrawal symptoms so far, just crappy FMS ones. I love spring (who doesn’t?) but it is hell on my body. I think I’ll take a nice little nap.  

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This post is easy as I am writing it from home. I am not home permanently. I am allowed out for a few hours at a time. I got to be home for Friday night dinner, which was great. The only difficult part is going back.

I realized that there has been no clear explanation of what happened to me. Well, let’s just say narcotics are bad, bad things. I was taking narcotic painkillers for the fibromyalgia. I figured out several months ago that the stupid things don’t work and it was time to wean myself off them. It’s not a quick process, but I had made significant process. What I didn’t know was that my colon was becoming impacted. (I don’t want to go into too much detail, given the nature of the topic, but turns out you can get a great big clog while still pooping, sometimes even regularly.)

So, I ended up with a little hole in my colon. This is bad. The evening it happened, I developed a really, really bad pain in my abdomen. I have regular bouts of excruciating pain caused by my irritable bowel which I deal with by getting a really hot bath until it passes. Thinking this was what I was facing, I got in the bath. The pain kept getting worse and worse. I’ve had two kids without any medications and that pain doesn’t hold a candle to how this felt. I finally asked J to phone 911.

The ambulance people were awful, but maybe I’ll complain more about that later. At least I got to the hospital. I was in the ER for about 12 hours while they figured out what was up and sent me to surgery. They missed the hole at first and by the time I went into surgery, they were facing fixing a 12 cm tear. Needless to say, those 12 hours were among the worst of my entire life. The pain was extreme and (correctly) they wouldn’t let me have anything to drink. I believe at the end I was literally begging them to just make the pain go away.

The surgeon came and explained I had a hole in my colon and needed surgery. He also told me that he didn’t know if he could pull me through in front of my mother. Ah, that famous surgeon lack of bedside manners. I was in so much pain I literally didn’t care. I was just waiting for unconsciousness. But my poor mother just got to deal with the extra fear that added during my surgery.

It didn’t go well. Actually, that depends on your perspective, since afterward, the surgeon apparently told my family he was surprised I survived it. So in that regards it went well: I lived. But I went into septic shock and my organs began to fail. I ended up in the ICU on every kind of life support imaginable.

I was in a coma for the next 18 days. It was touch and go for a while. It is bizarre for me to contemplate because by the time I knew about it, I was on the mend. All my friends and family were clearly traumatized by the experience and even though I was at the center of it, I emerged emotionally unscathed. The body is pretty scathed though (how come that is never used at the opposite of ‘unscathed’?). But I’m trucking right along in physio and can even walk, very slowly, up the stairs. My tentative release date is April 9th, months earlier than initially estimated.

I’m a lucky woman.

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I have a cold. This is Asher’s fault. He is fine now. Boo has it too, which she was clearly hoping for. From the moment Asher got sick and therefore started getting preferential sick-person treatment, she would cough weakly now and then and say, “I think I’m sick. Do I have a fever?”

Boo is obsessed with fevers and wants to take her temperature at the slightest sniffle or stomach ache. I told her that normally colds don’t come with fevers and she was shocked. “You mean, you can be sick without having a fever?” This opens up a whole new world.

The funny thing about her thermometer fetish (which Asher shares) is that J and I are firm non-believers in thermometers. We have two – a digital one and an old-fashioned mercury one which we’ve had for many years. When Maya was born, we took her in to our doctor for her 2-week checkup and asked if being good parents required buying one of those fancy ear-thermometers that had just hit the market.

Her response was an unqualified no. She told us that her opinion, as a mom of three, was that thermometers are largely useless. “Taking the baby’s temperature is just something to do to give you a few moments to try to figure out what to do when you already know something is wrong,” she told us.

We quickly figured out she was right. If a kid was hot, but cheerfully running around dripping snot on everything, we didn’t worry. If the same fever came with lethargy and no appetite, we were off to the doctor.

The only time I ever really need a thermometer is when I am sick, so I can prove it to J, who never believes me.

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Despite feeling like my head is wrapped in thick cotton, I am off to Jasper’s last class of intermediate doggy training. I’ll remember to bring a camera this time, to get a photo of him with his little hat on. They go nuts with the whole ‘graduation’ notion.

He now knows how to heel, but doesn’t much like it, and to stand, wait, go lie on his blanket on command (that one still needs a lot of work) and touch a ball and a rope on command. He can discern between the two, which is a good parlor trick. Even better is that no matter what I pick up, if I hold it in my hand and tell Jasper to touch it -“Jasper, touch hairbrush” – he will reach out and touch whatever I am holding, which makes him look brilliant like he knows all these words.

It reminds me of when Maya was about 14 months old and learned the colour yellow. We’d hold stuff up and say, “Maya, what colour is this?” and she’d yelled delightedly, “Lellow!” This looked brilliant unless you help up something blue, because she’d still yell “Lellow!”

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Asher is indulging in something I wouldn’t call his favourite holiday tradition, but it certainly is his most common: getting sick.

He likes to mix it up and generally stays away from common, boring illnesses. At 10 months, he developed a raging fever and a red, blotchy rash over most of his body that had every doctor in the office in to stare at him, but was never diagnosed. A year later, he pulled out the big guns and developed pneumonia. He let us off easy with pink eye one year, and didn’t even pass it on to anyone. And he did go with that old stand-by – the flu – to miss his Hanukkah concert when he was in kindergarten.

This year, he is back to keeping mystery in our lives, and I am not amused. I declared our own personal snow day yesterday (37 cms of snow! A foot and 2 inches for the non-metrically-inclined). Asher complained that his final house league soccer game was at lunch time and they needed his skills in defense, then lay down on the couch and pretty much didn’t move for the rest of the day. He had deep, dark circles under his eyes and I figured a couple late nights on the weekend were catching up to him, and that explained the headache he complained of, and the achy limbs.

So, of course, he’s no better today. He’s completely pale except for the dark circles, has no energy and the same headache. No fever. Mystery. And a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning.

If I celebrated Christmas, I’d be freaking out about now, being stuck in the house with a sick boy.

At least he’s doing this now and will hopefully be better for our far more fun Christmas tradition. For years now, we have been going up to the cottage and on Christmas day, we go tubing at a nearby ski hill. At first, we just went with my brother and sister-in-law and their three kids. Since then, it has expanded to include several other families and this year, our group has so far reached 11 children and 8 adults planning to go.

Tubing is always fun, but the particular enjoyment of doing it on Christmas day is that there are no line-ups anywhere, as it is just us and a few Hasidic Jews from the area.

Okay, obligatory apres-big-snowstorm photos:

Jasper discovered he can dig real holes in this stuff!

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The plow made such a big snow bank that Boo can slide down the middle of the lawn to the end and hit the bank instead of the street.

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Snow, snow and more snow!

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Our side door. My compost bin and extra garbage bins are under there too.

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Master of all he surveys.

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I’ve been getting some strange search strings lately, or just some plain dumb ones. I wish I could answer them in retrospect. Like to the person who googled, “pain in tooth that was just filled.” Honey, it is going to hurt for a little while. It just got drilled. It needs a chance to settle down. Don’t worry about it. Take Advil. That stuff is great for dental pain.

Someone else googled ‘smartest dog ever.’ Fortunately, this time coming to my site gave them the answer they are looking for right away: my dog.

Some wants ‘real life people who converted religions.’ I don’t quite get this. Real life people? As opposed to fictional? Because, frankly, it is way easier to come up with actual human beings than fictional ones. Maybe they meant us average joes rather than famous people like, uh, Sammy Davis Jr.

Some guy (I’ll assume it was a guy) wants ‘mom’s breasts.’ I can only guess he wants his own mom’s breasts, although how the internet is supposed to know who his mom is, I am not sure. But if he wanted someone else’s mom’s breasts, why didn’t he just search for ‘breasts’ alone?

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Even weirder than people who google their way to me is the stuff I manage to follow out, like the link to one FMS web page that talked about ‘colonix.’ Curious as to what this is, I googled it myself. Well! Apparently there really is no shame in the land of the internet.

I’ll save you the links, for the faint of heart. For those less faint, it shouldn’t be hard to find. Turns out that a lot of people are very worried about being constipated and so some guy (now lots of them) came up with a ‘cleansing system’ that requires lots of fiber, laxatives and herbal teas. You can juice and fast too, if you’d like. Of course, people have been doing this for centuries, but the twist one guy came up with is the idea that, thanks to our sluggish systems, bogged down by our unhealthy Western diet, our colons are becoming lined with a thick layer of something one of them coined ‘mucoid plaque’ – basically shit that just sticks around forever, releasing harmful toxins into our systems and making us sick.

That concept has a certain appeal. If you feel crappy, take this stuff and shit out all your illness. I might have even considered it had I not had that lovely barium enema last year to try to figure out what was up with me. Already chronically constipated, I had to drink this hideous, horrible laxative which basically has one on the can until you are shitting water. I was a bit concerned I wasn’t empty enough, as my body was more resistant to the laxative than it was supposed to be, so the techie kindly took some pictures to check and pronounce my guts pink and squeaky clean.

Here’s the thing about the colonix people – after they give themselves the runs for a while, they start to shit out weird stuff, ropey gross stuff. They are convinced this is the ‘mucoid plaque.’ But if anyone was likely to have such a thing in them it’d be me, and nothing of the sort showed up when I scrubbed my insides clean. Of course, I wasn’t using those expensive colonix things, which contain lots of fiber and clay and stuff that might possibly bond together in one’s guts and come out in a big lumpy pile and convince the gullible and vulnerable that they are ridding themselves of long-held toxic poop.

Here’s the weirdest part: there are many, many people out there – a whole sub-culture – who decided to ‘cleanse’ themselves and then blog about it. Every single day, they write down how many times they pooped, when and what the poop was like. And, best of all, they take pictures! Some of them have entire picture galleries devoted to the products of their butts! I have come across a lot of weird stuff on the internet, but this really ranks right up at the top.

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Two evenings ago, Boo told me at bedtime that her left eye hurt. I took a look and could not see anything, so told her she’d feel better in the morning – standard parent line. Also wrong – by the morning, her eye was practically swollen shut. It wasn’t red and there was no apparent bite, not that there’s anything around to bite her right now.

Our doctor wasn’t in, so we saw a colleague. After ruling out the same stuff I ruled out, she sat and stared at Boo for several moments, then said, “Well, I don’t think you’ll need to go to the children’s hospital for IV antibiotics, but I just want to ask my colleague for a second opinion.” That was a bit of a shock. The second doctor agreed that oral antibiotics were the way to go, but they warned me that if Boo got worse or developed a fever, it was straight to the hospital for her. Of course. Because J is out of town.

Sure enough, after dinner I noticed she was looking kind of run down and her eye had become very red. She had a fever. I’m very lucky my parents live in the same city. My mother came over and off we went.

I have to say, it was the least awful ER trip I think I’ve had. We came armed with multiple amusements, we actually got put in an examining room after being called from the waiting room, rather than being stuck with chairs in a hall like the last two times I was there, and Boo was in a great mood. Unless someone touched her eye, it didn’t particularly hurt. Once we got to the examining room, we read, snacked and she talked incessantly as I got sleepier and sleepier. They even had the wherewithal to send a nurse in to apply a topical numbing creme to her hand in case they needed to put an IV in once we were finally seen.

When the doctor, who appeared to be about 12 years old, came to take a look, she proclaimed it still only periorbital cellulitis, instead of the more dangerous orbital cellulitis. Basically, it means the infection was still only around the eye, instead of  in it. Nevertheless, she agreed it wasn’t pretty and it was not good that the eye was still worsening on the antibiotics, and decided to give her a single dose of IV antibiotics. Yay for the numbing creme!

Boo immediately became my favourite child this morning for actually compensating for going to bed at 12:30 by sleeping in until almost 10:30 am. The other two like to keep to their mornings schedule, no matter how little sleep they’ve had – frequently a cause of great parental suffering. Anyway, the eye looked way better this morning, but hasn’t improved much since then, making me even more grateful for the heavy-duty drugs.

Ironically, I missed seeing the video I had rented, Michael Moore’s Sicko. I watched it today, though, as Boo and I lounged around. I’d read beforehand about the various methods Moore uses to manipulate situations, etc, but even given that, the movie is shocking. I knew Americans paid a lot for health care, but I had no idea how awful the situation clearly is.

I’d love to know where the Canadians who claimed to have never waited more than an hour for hospital treatment live, because I’ve never had one shorter than 2 hours. Last night, I showed up at the ER at 8:30 pm and left at 12 midnight. I didn’t resent the wait at all, though, especially seeing some of the really sick children coming through. Three and a half hours doesn’t seem outrageous for emergency care. A lot of people do end up waiting a lot longer, mostly because they are waiting to be seen for non-emergency problems. If you are going to show up at the ER for a sore throat, even a really sore throat, you are going to wait. Unfortunately, in this city, it is pretty much impossible to find a GP who will take on new clients, which leaves people going to the ER when they shouldn’t (rather than a walk-in clinic).

I shudder to think of being in a situation where I would have had to take into consideration the cost of taking Boo to the ER, or  how I would have felt if the IV antibiotics were really expensive and I had to decide whether to pay or take a chance. I’m willing to wait an awfully long time for the right to get the care she needed regardless of our financial situation.

I know I’m rambling on here, but just one more thing. There is a lot of discussion and concern in Canada about wait times. Sometimes, people wait ages to see specialists or get services like CAT scans and that does suck. It is a weakness of the system. But after Boo was born, I developed a severe uterine infection and started to hemorrhage by the time we got to the ER. I was whisked right in and started on an IV, then taken up to a room within a couple of hours. The next day, we got a private room. When the doctors feared I had a blood clot, I got an ultrasound, and MRI and some fancy lung function test that required inhaling something radioactive the day they became concerned. Thankfully, those fears were unfounded.

Then, once I was stabilized after a week, rather than keep me in the hospital for the next week just because I required constant IV antibiotics, I was given a picc line (a tube threaded into your chest for long-term delivery of drugs). A tube lead out of my arm and into a fanny pack filled with my medicine, with a small attached computer delivering the right dosage, and sent home. Every day, a nurse came to visit, change the meds, and check me out. When the computer spazzed out, I phoned a number and got help instantly.

The monetary cost to us for all this care: parking fees. They even paid for prescriptions we picked up at the pharmacy during the week I was at home with the picc line, which we normally pay for ourselves, under the logic that I was still under hospital care and was only home to save them money (my sanity was just a bonus). I spent that entire second week feeling pure, unadulterated gratitude – for being alive, for being allowed to be home, for a healthy baby, for good friends and family, and for being Canadian.

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I swam. I yogaed. I walked the dog at a furious pace for at least an hour. Every day was something. Friday, I crashed. It rained, so I even got out of walking the dog.

Shauna asked if it would be better. Yeah, it’ll get better. Only it’ll take 6 months or so of having it feel worse. The entire time I was doing yoga, I had a running commentary in my brain (that I tried to squash it, since it seemed very un-yoga-like) that went like this: fuckthishurts, fuckthishurts, fuckthishurts.

The nice yoga lady, who knows I have Fibromyalgia Syndrome, told me to take it at my own pace and if it hurts, my body is telling me I’ve gone to far. Unfortunately, when you have FMS, your body frequently tells you that getting up in the morning is going too far, or braiding your hair, or walking up the stairs. You can’t listen to it. It lies. I didn’t tell her that. I just smiled and assured her I would listen to my lying body.

When you have FMS, you have to view exercise like physiotherapy. After J tore his calf muscle in the spring, his physiotherapist would massage the scar tissue, digging her way into it to break it up and telling him that the way he knew she was doing it right was by how much it hurt. That’s how it is. Exercise hurts. All of it. It hurts to do it and it hurts worse after you are done. People tell me about how invigorated they feel after they finish a workout. I just feel a sense of accomplishment from ignoring the pain for long enough to get the job done.

That sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s an accurate description. (If you can’t whine on your own blog, where can you whine?) As shitty as I’ve been feeling for a long time, I feel shittier now. The only saving grace is that I knew what I was getting into, and I know it can work.

When I was 21, unemployed and living with mommy and daddy, I began to exercise. I biked, which I loved for the speed and freedom, making it easier to ignore the pain (this time, I’m too far gone to get on a bike, but it’s almost winter anyway, so who cares). I biked for longer and longer, until I was gone for an hour or two every day. I also used their rowing machine in front of the TV, and did weight training with some small hand weights of my father’s.

What it added up to, at it’s peak, was about 2 hours of exercise a day. And, at some point, I realized that the pain wasn’t much there, and I slept through the night and I had energy. I’d kicked the FMS into remission. But it took being an unemployed bum at my parents’ house to give me the time and freedom to do it.

I went back to school for my Masters in Journalism and even though I did try to get to the gym, the school schedule was grueling and I was reveling in the revival of my social life. The exercise fell away and the beast returned. Now I’m 20 years older, fatter and in worse shape, so I think it’ll take longer to get there this time, but every study ever done on FMS had demonstrated that the only thing that reliably leads to improvement is exercise, and I have the personal precedent to back that up.

But, fuck, this hurts.

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