MY DAY AT THE HOSPITAL – Marilyn Armstrong

After a day during which we got up early because I had a hospital appointment, the day after Bonnie quite literally barked all night, it made this into a very long day. Garry hadn’t driven in so long, we missed the turn into the hospital.

When we finally backtracked, they had the entire parking lot roped off and there are a lot of places you can’t go. Like the front door to the buildings. Since they won’t let the caretakers of people in, Garry had to wait in the car. It turned out he could have waited in the lobby, but when we asked, no one knew anything about anything.

One building was all COVID-19 cases — it used to be an extension of the daycare/heart unit and presumably will be again. I fell on my way in, really because those shoes have a ribbed sole that has a tendency to catch on cement. I scraped my knee, which was only a very small part of the problem. The rest of it was getting up from the ground. I can do it myself, but I need something to grab.

And suddenly, there were nurses and doctors and lawyers everywhere. “She fell on hospital grounds!” they said. I guess they assumed I was ready to call a lawyer.

I said, “If this is the most serious problem I have this week, it’ll be a great week.” They still had to check me out, realized when I said it was no big deal, I meant it really was no big deal. They cleaned it, didn’t bother to bandage it. Tomorrow everything will hurt, but in the meantime, they checked my battery (I sometimes sound like one of my electronic devices) and unlike the last time they checked it when I had maybe two years of battery left, this time I had 6-1/2 years left. I guess quarantine got me fully charged.

There wasn’t much traffic but there was more than I expected. A lot more.

The nurse explained that they aren’t worried about people who need help because basically, everything is closed. I pointed out that I didn’t hurry for this exam. They called me because it had been more than a year since I was checked. Which is a long time for someone following heart surgery, especially with so many implants.

She looked at my records and said, “Oh. yes. I can see.” She then pointed out that the mess they’d made at the hospital was way above her pay grade. And she reminded me that they have a building full of tests for Coronavirus, but they aren’t using the tests because they are saving them.

I didn’t even bother asking what they were saving them for because I already knew that was  WAY above her paygrade and maybe the head of the hospital’s paygrade.

Outbound road

They sent me the test results and I have to say I have no idea what they mean. None. The only thing I could say for sure is that there were no “flags” indicating a specific problem. So that battery works and there’s nothing terrible going on.

As we turned into the driveway, I asked Garry to stop so I could take pictures of the garden which has gone from a dead, muddy pile to something resembling a garden. Amazing what sunshine can do. I’m supposed to get a box soon, when our very backed up post office manages to hire a few more deliverers who can find their way around the Valley. It will — via Bluetooth — continuously interrogate my Pacemaker and send the information electronically. I may not have to go to the doctor more than once a year, but it is a bit creepy.

HOW COME THERE AREN’T ENOUGH TAKERS FOR TESTS? – Marilyn Armstrong

WHY DOESN’T EVERYONE GET TESTED?

Have any of you tried to get tested and been told you can’t get tested if you don’t have a heavy cough and a high fever … and because you are over 70, you know this information is not true? Apparently, you are more knowledgeable than the medical people to whom you are talking.

I had that kind of a day today.

From The Washington Post:

He was talking about this story on the front page of The Washington Post this week that found at least a dozen states have more tests than patients taking them. Health officials aren’t sure why — maybe people don’t realize there are more tests now after months of scarcity, or that you can get a test now in some states even if you only have mild symptoms. African Americans, who are being hit hard by the coronavirus, tend to be wary of medical professionals, one expert said.


If any of you have tried to be tested, you’ve run into the same barriers. If you don’t have a specific set of symptoms, you can’t get tested. Never mind that they have plenty of tests, they are hoarding them from the people who need to be tested. The point of getting all these tests was to track the disease. See who has it, had it, where are the hotspots, and are you living in one of them. Where is the virus going and are you wearing a target?

Or are you one of the people who have had it, but had different symptoms? If they are going to trace, they are supposed to be testing everyone, not just those people that happen to have the specific initial symptoms that were typical of the disease.

All the children hospitals are finding who have had heart attacks after having had the disease. Which isn’t supposed to kill children, but its after-effects are killing children. Of the people who instead of coughs and fevers get gastrointestinal problems. Diarrhea, vomiting. Or instead of coughing got severe aches and pains that go on for weeks.

Garry and I that problem in January and no one knew what was wrong with us. We went to the doctor. We didn’t have anything anyone could figure out and we went home. Some weeks later, we were better. I wrote about it at the time, but officially, there was no Coronavirus in the U.S. The virus wasn’t supposed to be here but I’m sure it was. Now, researchers at hospitals are discovering people who had it in December.

So when did it arrive? November? December? Definitely by January. How long was it lurking in China and how many people traveled back and forth to China on business, vacation or to visit family?

The symptoms for people over 70 are not the same as symptoms for younger victims or older victims. This virus is not well understood. The high fevers and coughs are less common, especially high fevers. People our age rarely run high fevers for any reason. Since I passed 65, I don’t think — even when I had pneumonia and was recovering from heart surgery. By the time I hit 99, that’s a serious fever for me because my normal body temperature is around 96-point-something-or-other. By the time it hits 99, it is a fever.

The virus shows up in with a boatload of symptoms that may or may not be the officially listed symptoms. If they actually want to get everyone tested, get the vans ready. Go into neighborhoods — rich, poor, and otherwise — and TEST people. My son has been trying to get tested for months and has yet to be tested.

In Massachusetts, we only test people who are near death. We miss the rest.

In Australia, they sent vans around to give tests to everyone they could find. I was on the telephone with a woman at our hospital and she wasn’t sure how you got a test unless you had a heavy cough and a high fever and thought maybe you would die.

So why aren’t there more people who want testing? Everyone wants to get tested, but they refuse to give tests to people who don’t meet their very specific criteria. What a waste! They aren’t even trying to track the disease and I’m pretty sure they are guaranteed an autumnal jump in cases that will be worse than the first round. Because they aren’t doing what they promised to do.

Sometimes, if you want the answer to a question, ask regular, frustrated, pissed-off citizens who have been trying to get tested but no one will order the tests, even though our insurance (Medicare) covers those tests 100%.

MEDICAL APPOINTMENTS? DONE! – Marilyn Armstrong

Having written about it, I realized I had to actually DO something about getting all these medical things set up. I am convinced if I breathe “regular out-of-house air” I’m going to die. That’s not necessarily true, but that’s how I feel.

I still haven’t heard from the ear department for Garry, but this morning I got a call from the Heart Interrogation Unit. Heart interrogation you ask? They talk to my heart and it answers them?

Well, yes, basically that IS what they do. Pacemakers are not just there to remind your heart to beat. They also track everything going on in your heart and to date, nothing has happened except the battery is aging. I hope it’s still true.

Unless you have a Pacemaker, you’ve probably never heard of a Heart Interrogation. It sounds rather James Bond, but it’s more like repairing a computer than torture by Spectre. This is when they meter your heart to check it’s memory. It somehow — in a very tiny package — remembers everything that happened to your heart since the previous reading. Were there any mini attacks? Anything abnormal. After you’ve had this surgery, everything is abnormal, so we are looking at the best results of an abnormal heart.

Any periods of rapid heart beating? And how is the battery doing?

Pacemaker

When she asked me when was the last time I had the Pacemaker checked, I realized it was probably more than two years because while I had other important checkups last year, this hospital has a separate department for Pacemakers. They set you up with “a box” that hooks to your telephone so you don’t have to come into the hospital to get a reading on your Pacemaker. This will be a significant convenience in the winter when you don’t want to drive through snow. pounding rain, or howling winds. Now, if only I can get the dogs to stop barking!

There are a lot of good reasons to die these days, but letting your Pacemaker battery run out \seems a particularly stupid reason.

I’m getting close to needing a new battery in the Pacemaker. Last time it was checked — maybe 2017? 2018? Earlier? there were about 4 years left. Time has skedaddled, so now I’m close to the battery’s end-date. My heart will not beat without a Pacemaker and these last few months have been rather over the line.

Not only did she tell me to come I needed to come  ASAP, but she also moved the date forward to next Wednesday. I need to remember that if the battery dies, I die too. That would be a really stupid reason to die. Even I am embarrassed at how long I’ve let this go. I really didn’t remember how long it had been since the battery check was made and there has been a lot of stuff going on.

Oops.

I can barely remember when my body functioned without a slew of testing.  There were surgeries for tumors (benign) in my right leg (15), the loss of an ovary (19), a spinal fusion (18) plus so much other stuff I can’t remember it. It’s a miracle I made it this far and it’s good someone reminds me that I’ ve got a lot of implants and replacements top to bottom. I don’t remember all of them when, for some reason, I’m trying to figure out which scars are from which events. Doctors should sign the incision with a date and the name of the hospital. Since age has made my short term memory about 15 seconds long, it gets increasingly difficult to remember.

She did assure me that there were VERY few people in the hospital and I would be unlikely to bump into anyone. Garry can’t come in with me which will make maneuvering difficult. There a lot of walking in a big hospital and I don’t move well.

On a more positive note, I will physically leave this house! Imagine that!

SHARING MY WORLD? HEY, WAIT, ISN’T IT MY BIRTHDAY? Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World 3-11-2020

And so another birthday rolls around. I am 73 today. In April, Garry will be 78. For both of us, this Coronavirus is potentially lethal. It is NOT the flu. Really. It isn’t.

It targets the elderly, children, and anyone who has any other kind of medical issue. America is completely unprepared to deal with the problem and guess who got us to this bizarre place? You bet. Finally, Trump has a problem he can’t make go away by attacking Obama, but he sure has tried. What a stupid, stupid man.

Hell, even the regular flu could kill me, but I get flu shots! There IS no vaccine for this and damned little that can be done. It’s a virus. They don’t respond to antibiotics and a lot of the people who have died were doctors and nurses.

Don’t think this is a scare tactic. The problem isn’t alarmists pretending there is a problem. The problem are governments who think it’s no big deal and are not preparing for what is going to happen. You don’t need to buy out your grocery store, but don’t think that pretending nothing is happening will make it unhappen.

Be careful, keep safe, and stay healthy. Personally, I’d like to make it to 74.


Are you a sweet, sour, tangy or another type of person?  Take that as you will! 😉

The only thing I know is I’m not sweet. The rest? It depends on the day you ask me.

Does the whole coronavirus phenomenon worry you?  Or are you more a “meh – it’s just another severe flu scare” type of person?

Of course, it scares me. I’ve had major heart surgery with two implanted valves, and a Pacemaker that keeps my heart beating. I’m also asthmatic. If I were a healthy 25-year-old I would probably not be as upset. At this age, I’d be an idiot if I weren’t worried.

If you think this is phony, you aren’t thinking. There have been thousands of deaths and it hasn’t yet taken over in the Americas, Australia, or New Zealand. Fear not. It’ll get there. Everyone travels and every place has a high likelihood of infection. If you are young and very healthy, you are lucky. But if you are young, very healthy — and you have family and friends who are not young and healthy and you get sick, you can kill them with your “meh.”

When was the last time you were snooping and found something you wish you hadn’t?

Other than something a dog left behind? That’s why I’m afraid to move the refrigerator. There might be something there. Ew.

What’s the most pleasant sounding accent in your personal opinion?   Everyone has a pleasing accent to someone! 

Absolutely Caribbean! There’s nothing sexier than an accent from Barbados or Jamaica or the Bahamas. Or any of the islands in the region.

AND AFTER ALL THE TESTS … Marilyn Armstrong

After Garry and I left our car with the valet at UMass Memorial, I looked at Garry and commented: “I should have just gone to an eye doctor.”

Considering all the testing and checkups, you’d think I’d have a diagnosis. Nope. I know just what I knew when this round of medical visits began. This was one of the times when two things happened at the same time. I wrongly assumed the two events were connected.

Back again

It’s a natural reaction. I had my little seizure, or what seemed like one and my vision went all funky at the same time. One plus one is expected to equal two, except when it remains one and one and they don’t add up.

Seizures? Not exactly.

I have narcolepsy. It’s one of the many reasons I don’t want to drive. One time, a few years ago I fell asleep while driving. The next thing I knew, I had an incident with a tree. I don’t know how far I drove (asleep) before I hit the oak. I also knocked off my rearview mirror somewhere en route to the big tree and no one ever found it.

It’s possible I drove for a mile or two (there was no traffic) before I drifted to the side of the road and conjoined with nature.

It turns out that narcolepsy can produce those weird sort of seizures I had and one of the ways you can tell it was not a real seizure is that it leaves nothing behind. You aren’t groggy or muddle-brained. It’s literally as if nothing happened. I remember once in the middle of a home barbecue, I collapsed in the hallway. On further checking, I had fallen asleep and just fell in a heap on the stairwell. Everyone thought it was funny. I didn’t think it was all that funny, but I didn’t know I had narcolepsy.

It can be a difficult problem to diagnose. My shrink finally nailed it.

Ever since I hit that tree, I’ve been wary of driving. It’s why I always have a stash of amphetamines with me. It’s no big deal if I fall asleep at home — as long as I don’t hit my head or face on something on my way down. Which I have also done. In that case, I was walking, said I felt funny, but apparently kept walking (but not awake) into a door frame. That time I also woke up screaming but with good reason. I split my face open. It required some interesting stitching of nose and lips … and a missed interview for a job I wanted.

I also was a serious sleepwalker for many years. I don’t think I still sleepwalk because it’s too hard to get out of bed … but when things go really missing and I eventually find them in some strange place, I suspect I did it while asleep. My granddaughter also sleepwalks. Is it genetic?

It never crossed my mind that all of these events were part of the things narcolepsy does, but that’s what they’re telling me.

The narcolepsy is not new. I have spent many hours sleeping in my car by the side of the road because I knew I was going under, only to be woken up by the cops telling me it’s illegal to sleep by the side of the road.

I would point out that this is exactly what they tell you to do if you feel you cannot continue to drive. It’s in all the books on safe driving. Nonetheless, they immediately tell me I have to move along. Have they missed the part where I say I was too tired to keep driving and had to stop or I was going to have an accident?

Stupid is as stupid does.

So that’s the story of the seizures. They aren’t seizures. They are my narcolepsy acting up, usually on a day when I not taken amphetamines. They don’t make the problem go away, but for at least four or five hours, they keep me reasonably alert.

Finally, the strangest part of narcolepsy is that you may have symptoms of its approach (intense sleepiness), or you may be hit by waves of dizziness. Or a sudden upset stomach. Or you are fine and fall over. Asleep.

It’s not a disease, though it is a condition and while the amphetamines help for short periods when I absolutely must be awake, it doesn’t cure anything.

Nothing cures it probably because they aren’t entirely sure what causes it. They have theories, most of which seem to involve sleep apnea except I don’t have sleep apnea. I do have exactly the right kind of insomnia, though. The kind where I fall asleep directly into a dream, then wake up every two hours until finally, a nightmare makes me decide sleeping isn’t a good idea and anyway, the dogs are barking.

What about my eyes?

It’s probably (drumroll) … cataracts. My right eye is relatively clear, but my left eye is cloudy.

I’m 72. Garry was treated for cataracts when he was barely 60 and my father had cataracts years before me. Actually, everyone gets cataracts sooner or later. Dogs, cats, and horses, too. I’m just a bit late, but by age 75, everyone either has cataracts or has had the surgery. It is THE most widely performed surgery in the world. They expect to perform around 30 million cataract surgeries next year. That’s a lot of surgeries.

You get old? You get cataracts. You can also get cataracts without getting old. Some babies are born with them.

There are no eyedrops of any other form of correction for cataracts other than surgery. You get them repaired or you don’t. If you don’t, eventually you can’t see.

So my next doctor is the ophthalmologist. It would appear that I may not need new glasses. I may need new eyes. Which sounds like a good idea. Garry and Tom both have had the surgery and they LOVE their new eyes. Finally — NO glasses.

Wrapping Up: Coincidence is not a sign from the Universe

Just because two things happen at the same time doesn’t mean they have anything to do with each other. We all read too many mystery novels where everything is a clue. This is particularly important when you are dealing with physical symptoms. Simultaneous doesn’t mean causative.

And this is also what’s wrong with having so many specialists who only look at your wrists or fingers or hips, but not your spine, brain, or eyes. I think most of us need someone who will look at all the stuff going on who can then tweeze the pieces apart and figure out what is really wrong.

Dr. House, come back! I need you!

FACTORING IN THE TEST RESULTS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Factor

So my test results came back. After I did a full translation of virtually every word in the report — I’m pretty good with medicalese, but this was way above my pay grade — I discovered that considering my age and stage of life, I’ve got functional, but not perfect arteries. If you want to factor in all the tests that were run initially during my first visit to the neurologist — and then this new set of tests — we know that I’m getting on in years.

Which is exactly what we knew before. We do not know if what the tests found to have anything to do with the visual symptoms. They could be connected, but they could also be entirely separate with no connecting thread. And worse, there’s actually no clear way to address the matter. It’s not like there’s a book which gives answers because what’s bothering me aren’t the symptoms for any known disease or condition or illness.

Thus I know what I knew when I started this process. I was afraid this would be the result and why I didn’t want to begin the process. It’s “non-result.”

A lot of information has been collected,  but are any of these results related to the symptoms? I’m not even sure why I started this process in the first place except that I felt I had some kind of obligation to find out if it meant something — or not.

“Or not,” seems to be the answer.

I’m just as worried (but more confused) than I was at the start. I’m overloaded with information that doesn’t mean anything to me. I suppose — or at least I hope — that this will make more sense after I see the doctor next week.

With all the advances we’ve made in medicine, in the end, a lot of it is more like art than science. Maybe someday it’ll be just like “Bones” on the Enterprise. Just use that little tricorder and poof! Diagnosis, cure, and life renewed.

I’m waiting. Aren’t we all?

TOO BUSY AND NOT PARTICULARLY DISINGENUOUS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Disingenuous

I am not (mostly) disingenuous. I certainly lack false modesty. Okay, that’s not true either. I’m really terrible at taking compliments, especially when I am not sure I deserve them — but I really improve if I think I’ve earned it.

So, while I am not 100% honest, who is? If you count the fake excuses we make for places we don’t want to go — and little white lies about the dent in the hood of the car — we are all a little bit politely dishonest. We don’t lie about important stuff, though. The fact that I blog probably eliminates “disingenuous” from my resume.

I figure I’m honest enough, especially these days when I’m not even sure what honest is supposed to mean.  Are we all equally confused or is it just me?

Today, it’s off to the hospital to get tested for something that has been lingering with me since I was in my early thirties and for which I have been tested — repeatedly — both here and in Israel. Lots of guesses, all of them wrong. So now they are checking to see if I perhaps have had minor strokes without knowing it.

Tests and followup appointments for the next two weeks will keep me ridiculously busy. I don’t know how this can be, but I swear my life seems three times busier than it felt last year.

I used to have plenty of time to blog, write stories, take pictures and all that and still have time to read other people’s posts and comment. Now I swear by the time I am halfway through my first cup of coffee, I’m already late for something.

Today I am having a Carotid Duplex Scan, which is some kind of intriguing CATscan of my throat and arteries to determine if I have had one or more minor strokes with no after effects. After which, there will be an appointment with the specialist to sort through the half dozen tests I’ve already done. And the bills. Sigh.

This will not even close to the first test for this problem, here or in Israel. They have more advanced testing now than the last time (about 18 years ago) I was tested. It will be interesting to see if they find out something. So far, this has been a lot of running around without anything to show for it. I didn’t want to do this because each time, the result is “idiopathic” — which is to say, medically clueless.

It could be anything or nothing.

This “small seizure” thing has been popping up intermittently for 40 years. It’s scary (especially to those who are around when it occurs), but it never seems to do any harm. Five minutes later, I’m fine and it feels like nothing happened. It may not occur again for years.

As we get older, though, it becomes more of an issue to determine what is happening. So we endure all the tests. So far, we know what isn’t wrong.

I’m betting I’m going through this entire testing and doctoring thing — and will know nothing more when I’m done than when I started.

Also under exploration is my spine. That’s of more concern. I’m hoping — seven years after being told there was nothing anyone could do — that maybe medicine has advanced and there’s something.

Not a cure it because it isn’t curable, but at least something that might make it feel better. Even a little better.

I’m off to the hospital. This time, I get to go to the big shiny building on the campus! Are we having fun yet?