Friday, August 31, 2012

The Elephant in The Room

From boredom to not enough time to wind my watch IF my watch was not self winding! The past few days have zoomed by; I've been spinning from all the changes.

My lungs have decided to return to a some what more normal functioning. Maybe the steroids had something to do with it? I'm at a loss as to the how but I'm very appreciative that I can take a deep breath, that I can make it through a whole day without having to collapse on the sofa to catch my breath. I've been taking advantage of this improvement and I haven't slowed down.

I didn't plan on being busy but it seems one thing has led to the next and the evening hours close in before I've finished the tasks I had set for myself.

Carrie and I decided we would take the riding lawn mower on  a trip. While Carrie stood up between my legs or sat on one knee, we drove the lawn tractor to her mom's house (a mile away) to mow that lawn.
Driving the lawn tractor around my yard at the highest speed feels as though I'm flying along at supersonic speeds. My lawn is not that large hence the feeling of speeding. Driving that lawn tractor on paved roads through this subdivision at it's highest speed felt as though I could outrun it on foot. It took 12 minutes to drive that one mile to the daugher's house and it was a noisy one mile! Carrie and I memorized each bush and gravel along the way.

 Before mowing, a major yard cleanup was in order. The old pool was dragged to the curb along with old bikes, trikes and miscellaneous wood. The stack grew and grew and the yard became bare except for the shaggy grass that was a few weeks past due on a good clipping. From mowing, to weed eating and on to using a hedge trimmer to cut down bamboo that was threatening to overtake the back part of this lot, I was exhausted by this days end.  Most of two days were spent tiding up this lawn and then it was time to get ready for Hurricane Isaac.

Water was stacked, kerosene bought, hurricane lamps  were filled, propane tank filled and all the loose items outside stored away from the coming winds.

We were ready. This hurricane had a forward movement of 6 miles an hour. Landfall was made in New Orleans and the huge radius crept westward and we waited. Sleeping for me was scattered and scarce.

I wasn't particularly apprehensive. I didn't want to miss anything so I waited..and waited ...and waited.

The days passed with wind gusts that stripped dried dead branches from the big maple tree standing on the front lawn. Leaves littered the grass, my own and all the neighbors. Light rain and more wind and the deluge we waited for never appeared. Somehow the floods predicted never materialized. We dodged the bullet this time and for that we are grateful.

Today was spend cleaning the debris fallen  from the trees that covered the grass. The lawn tractor chewed the leaves and the cypress fronds to fine layer which sun dried later was picked up by the wind and redistributed around the neighborhood. Larger limbs were stacked by the road for the landfill pickup.

Did I mention I've been busy? The daughter had her vehicle and Ted's truck parked here in lieu of all the high waters expected which usually floods her lawn.  Her Jeep had overheated and we anticipated taking it to the shop today. We changed those plans and decided to see if we could fix it ourselves. Nothing ever goes to plan when working on a vehicle and today was no different. It's fixed. New radiator hose and a new thermostat, a radiator flush and the Jeep was back on the road; we were greasy and stained, sweaty and tired!

This has been my schedule for the past three days. I'm ready for some down time. Some boredom.

...and during all this, not one episode of being short of breath.

I'm grateful I can be this busy and get so much done. It's been almost 4 months of being way too lazy.

OH, I have forgotten about the elephant!  I'll mention it right now.

The sleep study showed I had moderate sleep apnea and my doctor is adamant about me having a CPap machine. I've found a machine that a friend has generously allowed me to purchase as she could never tolerate using it. While waiting on that machine to be mailed to me, another friend loaned me one and I have been giving it a try.

The Cpap machine I have borrowed does not have a full mask but a small nose mask which works well for me because I am not a "mouth breather". From the nose piece, a hose runs to the machine to deliver the air that keeps the airway open.  I clamp the thing on each evening and Carrie watches fascinated by this new attachment. She has been staying with me and sleeping in my bed while the husband has been out of town on a job.

The second night as I was drifting off to sleep, she nudges me and puts her hand over her nose while using the other hand and arm to pantomime an elephant trunk. Half asleep, I wondered what she was doing. She grinned and whispered, "Nana, don't forget your elephant." I nodded and smiled, rolled away from her and clamped the nose piece with the long hose leading to the machine to my face.

I don't usually make it the entire night with this thing clamped to my face. I'm hoping a burgular doesn't break into this house and go into cardiac arrest. It's such an attractive look ya know.

Many changes lately; much to get adapted to. I'm working on it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pull that Tab

Such an innocent action that lead to more then 15 hrs of labor.

After dinner last night and after the dishes were loaded into the dishwasher, as is my usual routine, I opened the door beneath the sink to remove the garbage container. I like to pull the garbage bag, tie it up and take it outside each night. I have an aversion to odors. This aversion only got worse after I gave up cigarettes.

As I pulled out the garbage can, the electric cord to the dishwasher came out of the receptacle on the back wall of this cupboard. Drats! Now since I can't squat down on my haunches very well since my knee replacement, I plopped down on my butt on the rug and leaned in to grasp the cord to plug it back in.

An explosion of sparks and a snap, crackle, pop and I was scooting back away for the fireworks. The receptacle must have had some loose wires.

For the past 15 hrs the husband has been the one beneath the sink. Turning off the power and replacing that receptacle last night, he grabbed the cords to the dishwasher and the garbage disposal and plugged them back in again only to find the garbage disposal would not "turn off". It ran continously. I was in charge of the wall switch that controls the power to the disposal. I kept telling the husband.."it won't turn off". Of course he had to move me away and test it himself. That's when the next 15 hrs was spent trying to figure out the whys of problem.

This morning I got up and headed for Home Depot. After searching the internet last night, I read that you ahve to pull the tab on the new receptacle. I looked and looked for a tab. Giving up, I decided to ask the electrical folks at HD.

Two young men there and neither of them knew anything about a tab. My next stop was Steine's where this nice older gentlemen explained the tab thing. He said I should have 4 wires and a ground wire to this receptacle. The tabs are on either side of the receptacle and they need to be pried off so the "plug in's work independtly of each other. A white wire runs from this recepatcle up to the switch on the wall that releases the power to the disposal. If this tab is not pulled, the receptacles are getting contant power and that's why the disposal ran continously!

I raced home to tell the husband the news and he took the new receptacle that the nice man at Steins' has so kindly pulled the tabs from each side of it for me and installed it on the wall.

I hit the switch and not a darn thing happened. Now the disposal wasn't getting any power at all. By process of elimination and a little shrewd thinking, we surmised that since we did not have the correct number of wires and a ground that the nice man told me about...we might only have to pull off one tab on the side of the new receptacle. We scrounge around for another unused and UN tabbed receptacle, pulled the tab off ONE side, hooked the wires up and TA FRIGGIN DA!

Yep, this Sunday was spent with our heads beneath a sink.

Don't Touch That..It Might be HOT!

The thunder skips rocks across the sky and the ripples caused slip quietly to the ground. Silence recedes as the rain becomes more intense and the drops can be seen exploding against the concrete driveway. The trees are doing their hula dance, their skirts of leaves  reaching to the left and then billowing back to the right as the gusts of wind heave and fall back.

This weather has been forecast for most of this upcoming week. The temperatures have dropped into the 70's during the night. Is this really August in Southwest Louisiana?

My little corner of the sofa where I sit is shrouded in darkness, the edges of my solitude shows the light from the window approaching. Am I ready to give up to the daylight?

This household actually has a plan for today. It won't be our usual quiet Sunday. Last night as I was removing the garbage pail from beneath the sink, I snagged the power cord that leads to teh dishwasher and unplugged it. I've done this in the past and it was just a matter of plugging it back in to the receptacle.

The sparks arched and danced and the smell of melting plastic singed my nostrils. The husband tried replacing the receptacle last night and now the garbage disposal runs constantly. The switch on the wall beside the sink no longer cuts the power to the garbage disposal. We are not electricians but we should be able to conquer this. We are determined and we also have the telephone number for the Sear's Repair Man.

I'm off to shower and dress before I drift back in my shallow sleep state!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Strapped in, Ready for Launch

I've been advised by my physican to get a sleep study done and of course, procrasinator in all things medical, I told the doctor I would handle it and promptly moved on with my life. I didn't get to move fast or very far for within two days my doctor had left my number with a sleep study agency and they were on the phone wanting to know when I wanted to schedule the study. For 1900.00 per day times two days, you get to get hooked up to wires leading to monitors while humans sit in a room and watch you sleep on the monitors installed around the room. I've heard the rooms are as nice an Holiday Inn. I'm not buyin it. Literally. Instead of the nice room with all the bells and whistles, I've chosen to have an "at home" study.  
For 395.00 for two days of monitoring, I clip a small monitor to my thorax held in place by a band that encircles my body, plug in a few wires to it, wear a pulse ox and a nasal cannula and swallow an Ambien to count the times my oxygen drops to an unacceptable level. Are we havin fun yet?

The thought of being tied to a contraption  each night that gives me a shot of oxygen when needed gives me  a trapped feeling. 

It never once occurred to me a few years ago that the reason the aged stick close to home is getting too far from their doctors can leave one in fear of one's life being lost. I'm there. 
Medications, breathin treatments and a sleep machine to to travel with takes away from the romanticism of a backpack and a few bucks for some freedom travel. I have my doctor on speed dial which is a sure sign that the golden years are here.
It's all a matter of coping skills and a little patience. Gone are those days of unadulterated health. I should have ran around more, stayed out later and worked less. 

My sister in law has asthma. She never slows down and works a full time job. Very seldom does she complain. She deals with it because she has to. Being the main bread winner in her family, she watches closely her body for the first signs of an asthma attack. She quicklly medicates herself and slows down to let her body cope with the lack of oxygen. She has learned to avoid the outdoors when pollen counts are high and when the neighbors mow their lawns. She takes all this in stride and thinks nothing of having to be this cautious. I totally admire her strength and her vigilance to stay as healthy as possible. I'm going to have to learn to read the signs I'm getting and monitor my surroundings. Did I meniiton, I have NO patience? Slowing down wasn't on my agenda and I don't know how to be ill. Ill makes me angry. 

Just recently I was being grateful that I didn't have arthiritis or back problems as so many of my friends. I listen to how painful it is for them when the weather changes and quietly I breath a few words of thanks that I have no pain. Degeneative diseases that come with aging bones can change a person's body at any time causing a painful conditon within days. For right now, I'm good. I might have to carry an inhaler and move a little slower when my lungs won't cooperate with my oxygen needs. It could be worse. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Grateful....yes I AM

An interesting day once again. The Prednisone is waning and I've noticed a definite decline in my ability to suck oxygen. It's not as bad as "pre Prenisoene" but it's not quite to normal either.

I refused the oxygen therapy the doctor wanted to have me on and I promptly got a call from him when he found out that I was not interested in the sleep apnea study either.  Apparently my 02 level dropped to 82 percent 314 times during the night I was monitored. This is not considered even a mild case of sleep apnea and he was concerned.

I'm doing an "at home sleep apnea" study tonight which then will lead me to a CPap machine that will become my new sleep companion. I'm not thrilled. This won't cure the inflammation I'm dealing with in my lungs but it will help save my brain, heart, kidney and other internal organs that have a decline in function related to oxygen starvation.

Ah the golden years are here aren't they? When do I start to shop for incontinent briefs? I can still sneeze and have dry panties so I'm counting myself fortunate for a few things. I still have my teeth (barely and costly to be able to say this) and my metal knee gets me where I want to go.

I'm going to spend today just being grateful. As time goes by I understand more and more the phrase "Youth is wasted on the young".  That's life!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Waiting on an Outcome

It has been a rough 4 months. My breathing deteriorated to a point where I could barely get out of bed in the morning. I've been trying to trace the path that got me to this point and I have a theory on this.

A year ago, my ears failed to equalize pressure and for that year it felt as though I had just deplaned from a long flight and my ears never "popped" leaving me with a feeling of "speaking in a barrel" which is very aggravating as you can't discern how loudly OR softly you are speaking. I hated to have to have a conversation. The drum sound in my head was so unpleasant.

One day my ears cleared up and I was ever so grateful that things were 'back to normal'. Apparently my gratitude was premature. Soon I was clearing my throat of a thick phlegm and sometimes was able to cough and expel it. Following closely to this new development, my breathing started to hit a downward slope. At first I ignored it thinking I was just tired. Soon I wasn't able to do even mild exertion without gasping for air. I began staying home more and more and spending long hours sleeping on the sofa and looking forward to bedtime.

The husband kept telling me I just was "out of shape"; getting no exercise...blah ..blah ..blah. I tried to believe this was all there was to my declining health.

Months pass and just a week ago I gave up and made a doctor's appointment. By this time my breathing had done nothing but get worse. It was time to seek help.

Predinsone in high doses was prescribed but only for one week. Steroids are wonderfully effective but have horrid side effects. I've had to weigh the benefits against the negatives and hopefully after this one week of Predinsone, the inflammation in my bronchus and lungs will abate and I'll be back to normal. Apparently I have an inherited autoimmune disease that leaves my lungs unable to cope with bacterial infections effectively. Some calcified lymph nodes were found but the doctor assures me this isn't the cause of my breathing difficulties right now. I have inflammation that is closing off my airway much like a case of bronchitis. Along with the breathing lab results denoted anemia. Another medicine added to my morning and afternoon dosing; iron.

I'm not accustomed to having many health problems. Most of my health related events are orthopedic; related to my skiing and motocycle accidents. Actual health problems are new to me. Giving up smoking three years ago caused a decrease in the occasional cold related lung involvements.

On the bright side, after years of smoking the doctor said I was very lucky to have no signs of any lung damage related to inhaling all those carcinogens all those years.

Another update: I can breathe. I'm hoping this continues after the Prednisone dosing is finished in a few days. I've spent the last two days in my car and in town going from store to store; something that I haven't been able to do for months and months. I've done a little shopping and a little walking around and each step taken has been gratifying. I'm very appreciative of a lung full of oxygen right now; something I've taken for granted for much to long!

I've been staying "on the move" full of fear that it won't last after stopping the medication. I will update my posting on this subject in a couple of weeks but my theory is when the ears became "unplugged" from the sinus problems, the drainage continued on into my lungs causing this mess since I've had no colds or any sickness causing this problem.

My autoimmune disease also causes gingivitis and now I finally have a reason for having that problem. I've had to fight it all my life and the cost of saving my teeth has been expensive. Even with all the flossing and brushing, dental visits are mandatory to keep it under control and to keep my teeth! The dental visits also left me feeling like I was neglecting normal daily care of my teeth; now I know. I will surely inform my dentist of this new development and shed the guilt I'm always left with after a dental visit!

Enough already? I'm getting dressed this morning and I'm on the move. It feels great to be able to move and I don't want to waste a moment being idle. I've idled long enough on the sofa and in the bed!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Waiting Game

Tired. Six hours after closing my eyes, I awaken, swing my legs over the side of the bed, plant my feet firmly and stand. I make my way to the kitchen where the coffee pot waits for my attention. Coffee in hand, I ambulate to the living room and sink into a corner of the sofa, drawing my feet up on the cushion and cover myself with the soft brown plaid lap blanket.

My usual hyper self has vanished. Instead of that usual burst of activity I enjoyed at one time, I find myself wanting to recline and drift back into sleep. Any activity, slight as it may be leaves me gasping for oxygen. I ignored this for months now until I finally gave up and made a doctors appointment. Friday I went for a complete blood workup and a chest xray. I'm now waiting on the results. I'm nervous and a bit frightened.

I'm a Registered Nurse and sometimes knowing too much is a bad thing. I can't enjoy blissful ignorance so I'll wait for confirmation on my suspicions.

I can only hope that I'm overly pessimistic.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

It All sounds Great....but

Ah..the beach! A vacation in the sun with the added benefit of the surf. The best thing about a beach vacation is the thought. Much like spending an afternoon at the zoo which sounds like a good time and which I have come to realize I hate, the beach is another of those things that sounds so much better when talking about it.

Sand, heat and the ocean just sounds like a good time but in reality, sand in my swimsuit, the heat and the idea of wading into an ocean full of wiggling, crawling swimming critters frightens me into a screaming mass of nerves. A seaweed brushes against my leg and I'm high stepping it toward the beach screeching at the top of my lungs. To make matters worse is to be at a beach where the water is murky and muddy looking. Being unable to see what is in the water isn't something I want to spend time in.

Poor Carrie..she was so excited to go to the beach. We had to drive right down to the waters edge as soon as we got into Biloxi. She waded into the water; I gingerly followed. I allowed her a few minutes in the water and then coaxed her with promises of pool time as soon as we checked into the hotel. There I found other adults with their children that felt the same way about the beach. We never went back.

We spend the next three days in and out of that beautiful pool. The water was clear and temperate. I let her play for hours in the water..anything as long as we didn't have to go back to the beach.

We shopped at a little beach mall and much to my surprise, Carrie purchased some hermit crabs complete with their own condo. Initially I talked her out of buying them but her Poppy took her back later and returned with two of the spider like critters.

I'm terrified of anything that looks like a spider and now I'm sharing my room with two of these creatures in a hot pink metal cage. Immediately I made up some firm rules. The critters were to be kept  in their cage with the top firmly in place.

Early the next morning as I was packing, Carrie and her Poppy took the critters onto the balcony from our room and decided to let them out to play. One disappears! I am frantic and frightened. The search was on. I peeked across to the balcony to the right and then to the one on the left. Not finding it, I caught the elevator to the ground floor and rushed outside to look on the ground beneath the balcony. The critter has disappeared and Carrie is heartbroken. Her Poppy promises to go back to the store and get another after he returns from gassing up his truck. I resume packing our belongings as we are leaving as soon as he returns.

The patio door from the balcony has been left open a few inches and suddenly I hear Carrie screaming "He's back ..he's back Nana!" Turning to see where she was pointing, the critter was crawling back into the room across the threshold. As I start backing away, I'm screaming at Carrie to get it and get it back into it's cage. This vacation may be the cause of my nervous breakdown.

Carrie called her Poppy on the phone to tell him the good news and soon we were all on our way to New Orleans with her critters safely ensconced in their bright pink "condo".

We are now home and Carrie has her critters in an aquarium now. Soft yellow sand covers the floor of that aquarium, a plastic pool holds water to keep the sponge wet and their food rests atop the grains of yellow sand. I encouraged Carrie to keep them at her house and she was happy to take them home with her.

Next year at this time a beach vacation will again sound like a good idea. Maybe we'll just go to a motel here in town and entertain ourselves in their pool. Think of the time saved on the road getting to a pool that is 4 hrs away. I don't really need a beach do I?