Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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It started fairly quietly in China and has now swept the globe. A pandemic that spreads like wildfire and is particularly dangerous for older patients with medical complications like COPD, cancer, or other immune-related conditions. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. There aren’t enough masks or ventilators or hospital beds for the people who need them, because of course OTHER patients also need them for non-virus problems like heart attacks. And it’s just beginning here.

Italy has been particularly hard-hit and has been in lockdown, something that’s spread to other cities in other countries. Streets are eerily empty in Rome, in Paris, in London. And now, of course, it’s come to the United States. Why would we be exempt? New York City is an epicenter, but states from California to Kansas to New York are now in shut down mode. Schools are closed. Businesses are closed, with people working from home, or just at home not sure what to do. And the hospitals are filling up, and people are making masks at home for the hospitals. Yes, it’s that bad.

People are dying, and a lot more will die before this is over. We didn’t take it seriously enough and made fun of other countries as they started to deal with the reality of this new flu-like disease that has no cure yet. Texans tend to think they are invincible and really haven’t paid attention to things we were supposed to be doing. Washing hands, yes. Not being in groups, no. People were going out to eat, out to play cards or shop. Groceries are one thing, but that’s not what was happening.

I was part of it, I admit. Last Saturday I whipped around to about 5 different stores looking for clothes. I was there early, saw almost no one, and used hand sanitizer. But I shouldn’t have been doing it at all.

What I did right was to start about a month ago, when other countries were reporting illnesses and death, to stock the house. Not actually stockpiling (I don’t think) but making sure I had everything and a little more of it. I bought cat food and litter, extra gallons of distilled water for the CPAP, and large packages of toilet paper, paper towels, and Puffs from Sam’s. I usually buy them there but not usually together. There wasn’t a run on them at the time; now you can’t find TP anywhere. It’s weird, because the virus doesn’t make you have diarrhea.

I also bought frozen fruit and veggies, ground beef and chicken, pork roasts and salmon, and oatmeal packets. All things I eat often. And canned tomatoes, corn, and beans to use to make things I eat a lot. Then I cooked. The freezer now is stocked with portion controlled containers of soup, meat sauce, chili, and chicken teriyaki. Unlike some of my neighbors, I didn’t stock up with chips and cookies and popcorn (yayyy Noom, for teaching me to eat better). I was concerned about having enough prescription medicines, but I have at least one month’s worth of the ones that matter the most.

Last Sunday I decided I didn’t want to go to church. The CDC had announced new guidelines the night before, advising us to limit gatherings to no more than 50 people. Church has a lot more than that and it felt wrong. The next day, the church board executive committee and pastor met and decided to cancel church services for an indefinite period of time, and to suspend all scheduled church activities. There will be no choir rehearsals, no Good Friday service. Maybe no Easter, unless we can figure out a way to do it in golf carts and still get the sound to project. But of course there IS Easter, even if we’re not in church with lots of lilies and big organ and wonderful music.

Now is limbo time. My colleague and I decided this morning that, at the rate things are changing, we may be under lock-down mode come Monday, with orders to stay home. We used our work time to do things that could only be done on-site such as updating paper files and processing payroll. And then we packed up work to bring home and set the computers so we can log in remotely. I can do much of my job from anywhere (as long as Ellie doesn’t sleep on the laptop while I’m working), so I will be fine.

It’s time we all pay attention to what is happening. We are going to know people who get sick, maybe even people who die. We might be those people ourselves. We need to take care of each other as best we can, maybe just with words online or in phone calls to neighbors to keep them from being isolated. I’m glad that Daddy is gone so there are no worries about how he would cope, and I’m not afraid for myself, though I’m generally anxious, irritable, and tired.

But I am afraid for my country, for how we will cope with the reality of what is coming. We haven’t seen anything like this, really, since the Spanish Flu in 1918. World Wars took place in other places, not on our own soil. We will have significant disruptions in our lives for a long time, that will require serious attitude, behavior, and cultural adjustments for years.

Take care of yourselves, my friends.


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2011: The Year in Review

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written here; interactive chat with friends has been more appealing than writing a blog post these days.  But I’m feeling delinquent and out of touch, especially with those of you I only see in blog-land.  Rather than try to catch up, here’s a sum up of 2011:

Year of Surgeries:

  • Surgery #1 on March 2:  elective plastic surgery to remove hanging belly skin and upper arm lifts.  I was out of work for 3 weeks and took another 4-5 before I was really feeling good.  The arms look amazing and I relished wearing sleeveless tops this summer.  However, I also had complications – abscesses along the lower suture line, and the discovery of a serious infection in my lapband port area.  The surgery wasn’t connected to the lapband at all, but the moved belly button was less than 2 inches from the port and, well, things happen.
  • Surgery # 2 on August 2:  removal of the infection, surrounding tissue, and the lapband port.  I had an open wound that is still not 100% healed up, tho it’s not a problem.  I ended up missing work time due to daily nurses for wound care.  Necessary but annoying.
  • Surgery #3 on Nov. 22:  Lapband port revision, aka putting in a new port to replace the one that was removed during the infection surgery.  Went extremely well and I’m now starting the process of getting fills to complete

Exercise:

This did not go well in 2011.  All the surgeries didn’t help, as my ability to exercise was limited for long chunks of time.  My personal trainer moved to a different gym 45 minutes away, which is just not convenient for me.  Rather than switch to a new trainer, I’ve decided to let it go for a year, save the money, and work on my own.  I know it’s not the best solution but for now, it’s my choice.  And $110/month adds up nicely.  I still have my gym membership, mind you – just gave up the training.

Weight:

I’ve been eating off-plan since the March surgery.  Major abdominal surgery will do that to you, especially with the fear of having to throw up under those conditions, but I continued to maintain the loss until my surgery in August, which removed all lapband restrictions.  They’re still not back and I can really see the difference.   I can and will improve my eating choices but this has really shown me how much it helps to have the band in place.  I have weight to lose again, and it WILL happen.

Family:

I visited my parents and brother and sister-in-law in October.  Everyone is doing well and staying busy.  My niece/goddaughter got engaged this year and is getting married next summer.  In Houston, in July.  Can we say hot?  Her brother, Football Nephew, is now a member of the Washington Redskins, and was promoted to the active 53-man roster from the practice squad two weeks ago.  We’re so very proud and happy for him.

Tessie and I celebrated our four-year anniversary last month, and I love her more every day.  She was a wonderful therapy cat when I was home recovering, and sticks close unless I’m vacuuming.

Home:

I’m moving!  Not far, just to a different building in my same complex.  I love where I am but will be happy to move to the 55+ building (most residents are retired so I will be the young one) where rent is almost $200 cheaper and I’ll have a walk-in shower, which my knee will love.  It’s the same layout as what I have now, but flipped and a tiny bit smaller – but still over 1100 square feet, so what’s not to like?  I’ll be on the second floor in the SW corner in an elevator building.  Yayyyy!

I move on Jan. 27th so am applying a Peter Walsh approach to looking at my stuff before packing.  Stuff is going to Goodwill or the trash so I can just pack up everything that’s left.

Work:

I’ve completed a full year in my current position, and love what I’m doing, aside from the concern of how to be sure there’s work for my staff on a consistent basis.  Preferably that doesn’t involve too much of my time to dream it up, document, train, produce “work from” lists, and then do clean up.

In July, I celebrated a wonderful annual meeting educational program for my national professional association, after months of work, worries, and details as chair of the program committee.  I also turned down the chance to run as vice-chair/chair-elect of one of our special interest sections.  I’m ready for the next generation to move up and am happy NOT to be in charge of anything.

Have a happy and healthy 2012.  Do the necessary things, but also do what brings you joy.


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While I Was Away: The Good, the Bad, the Awful

Quilt Made of the Conference Logo by My Friend Phyllis

I haven’t posted here in quite a while – deliberately, for the most part.   It was actually very relaxing to not have to worry about coming up with words when I didn’t feel them.  But that doesn’t mean that things stopped.   Here are the highlights.

The Good
I spent the last 18 months working as chair of my national association’s annual meeting & conference.  It was lots of fun but at the same time, an enormous amount of work at a time when I was moving into and learning my new position at my paying job.  Everything came to fruition at the annual conference in Philadelphia in July.

It was wonderful!  Simply wonderful.  Everything I had worked and hoped for came together in what I’ve heard some people call the best educational programming in years.   Our meeting had no theme, just the best programs we could put together, and I think that not having a theme actually worked in our favor.   Poster sessions were a part of the meeting for the first time, a suggestion made by one of my committee.

And our keynote speaker, Dahlia Lithwick, was a breath of fresh air.  Instead of starting in by telling us how much she likes libraries and librarians, she launched into an animated, insightful, and humorous address about the Supreme Court and freedom of speech, both within the Court itself, between the Court and the press, and on recent decisions.  We’re law librarians – talk to us about the law!  She did and it was great.

The Bad
A month ago, after three months of mild to growing concern and discussions with the plastic surgeon’s office, I finally learned that those funny lumpy hard places on my left incision line were actually abscesses from popped stitches.

How did I learn this, you ask?  By ignoring the “you’re still getting used to your ‘new normal’ post-op body” messages from the plastics’ office and going to the university’s Acute Care center when I noticed blisters were forming.  I left with strong antibiotics, instructions to apply warm moist compresses, and to return in 2 days.  By then the abscesses had started draining.  They actually still are, a little bit.

I did go back to see the surgeon’s office with a sort of “screw you” message:  I told people for months something was wrong, and no one listened to me – and look, there was a problem.

The Awful
Not only did I have abscesses, it seems I also had been harboring an infection in my lapband port area for almost three months.  I’d reported a swollen belly several times to the plastics people but heard back that “it’s your new normal” thing that I was starting to hate.

When I lay down in bed and ran a hand over my tummy, there was a visible and tangible lump where the lapband port was.  But stupid me assumed that post-op my port was just closer to the surface and therefore more noticeable.  However, when I got to Philly and saw myself in passing in one of those hotel mirrors, it looked as though I had a second belly button:  the area around the port had swollen up around it.

Something was clearly wrong, and at the urging of a friend, I called the lapband doctor from Philly.  They wanted me to come in the next day which was impossible since, uh, I was in Philly.  But I was in the office the following Monday morning.  The surgeon took one look at it, and at me, and said, you are having surgery tomorrow.

However we sliced it, the lapband port had to be removed.  The entire band & tubes might have needed removal as well, if an endoscopy showed them to be eroded.  I was lucky and it was just the area around the port that was infected – and it was badly infected.  The doctor told me they removed about 1/2 cup of drainage along with the port.

I now have an open wound in my belly about 1.5 inches wide and 1.5 inches deep.  It has to heal from the inside out so I have home nursing care to do wound care & change the dressing every day until the wound doesn’t need to be packed anymore.   It’s sore and tender and I was out of work for another week post-op.  Not in the plans  but necessary, I know.

Lesson Learned: 
I am responsible for the whole me, who knows when something is or feels off.   Just talking to a doctor or doctor’s staff doesn’t mean they are looking at orfor the same things that concern me.  If I feel ignored or simply want another opinion, find another doctor and ask – even if it’s back to the primary care doctor who sent me to these people in the first place.


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Feeling More Normal

Last week at this time I was feeling pretty crummy.   Today is a vast improvement.  The lab results came back normal, so there are no nutritional deficiencies I need to fix.  Best, though, was the visit to my lapband surgeon on Monday morning. He and the nice nurse (as opposed to the one I talked with last week) were very clear that I am more than a lapband to them, and that I should have contacted them weeks before – not for the dizzyness so much as the fact that I was throwing up multiple times a week.

It seems that what I thought was an adjustment period to more band restriction actually was a big red flag that there was too much fluid in my band.  And there wasn’t that much in the first place.  But as the doctor said, this isn’t a contest.  Some people need a lot of fluid for their proper restriction and others just need a little. It’s a matter of figuring out where each of us are on the spectrum.  I now have clear instructions on when to call the office for an adjustment.

As for the “OJ or no OJ” part of the whole upset last week, the nurse just laughed kindly and said that a glass of OJ wouldn’t kill me if I needed one, even though juices do have a ton of sugar.  Maybe a small glass would do it, or eating an orange instead of drinking, although that may be a problem due to the membranes around the sections.  Skins and things are still problematic.

I’m also apparently getting way more protein than I actually need (that’s me, always striving to win the top prize) and I can cut back a little on that and incorporate more fruits and veggies.  Such as grapes with cheese, or peeled apple slices dipping into peanut butter, or chopped apple slices added to chicken salad.  I’d been afraid to do this because I didn’t was afraid of throwing up food.  Well, duh, I was throwing up a lot so no wonder.

Since my visit on Monday morning, I’ve noticed that I’m actually hungry but able to stay within my 1000-1200 calorie range with low-ish carbs and fats.  I haven’t had tummy problems at all this week, and have been pushing fluids, since all the doctors agreed that my dizziness, fatigue, and lack of energy were probably the result of dehydration.  How you can be dehydrated on 64 oz/day, but maybe all that throwing up messed things up.  In any case, I’ve been drinking 80+ oz and feeling better.

Moral of the story:  don’t disregard persistent physical symptoms.  See a doctor/healer and have things checked out.


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Taking Stock

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the knee and WLS decisions, about my body and the stresses that I’ve put it through, and the emotional stress of trying to live up to some physical ideal that I will never meet. And I’m discovering that my priorities have changed.

I want to look prettier, to be able to wear clothes that are flattering and not just the things that will cover me. But mostly I want to be healthier and to reduce the strain on my knees. The only way to do this is to lose weight. It’s not about vanity, it’s about health.

The only way for me to do this is to get back into Weight Watchers, where I’m held accountable for showing up and weighing in every week. Nothing else has worked well for me. I know how to work the program and know that when I actually do it, I lose weight and feel better.

So I’ve stocked the fridge with healthy things, blocked out food choices for the week, and am going to a new WW meeting tomorrow. And it’s a relief to know that I’m starting fresh again there, too, paying the initiation fee and starting over at Week 1 with a new tracking book. Instead of being constantly aware that I’ve gained from my lowest WW weight, I will be starting clean and aiming again for the goal of 10% of my weight.

Thanks for being my support.