Sunday, May 31, 2009

Almost human

Saturday was the first day since late April that I didn't spend at least 18 hours in bed.

All my symptoms have faded except for the fatigue and occasional belly discomfort near my spleen. But that fatigue, and associated dizziness and the consequent lack of ability to focus for long, keeps me wiped out and useless. Loading the dishwasher and washing a few pots and pans has felt like an accomplishment - forget blogging or writing my now ludicrously overdue book. I rarely had the ability to concentrate even on TV.

Here's an example. Last Monday evening, my dad and some of our friends came over and while I was in bed they and the rest of my family had a game of Scattergories. I heard the commotion and went downstairs to try to be sociable (see, told you I haven't been myself). I got into the game a bit and played along as well as a non-player could but after 15 minutes I collapsed. I had to lie down on the dining-room hardwood with a few jackets as a pillow.

That's what it's been like. Thinking, stringing thoughts together, is like weight-lifting and like exercise has been tiring me physically. I typically could only read a quarter of the newspaper at a time.

Saturday, though, I awoke feeling magnificent and fortunately Elvi had chosen to be born on that day a number of years ago. I felt well enough to go pick up our girls from a sleepover and offer to take the family out for a birthday brunch.

We ate at Tiffany's to mixed reviews among us. I knew our girls needed dress shoes and even after the meal I was still feeling chipper so I agreed to accompany them all to the nearby Le Chateau outlet store.

I like shopping, but shoe shopping took a while even with my fashion skills helping us find perfect shoes for our daughters. I had to sit by the end, and go home immediately afterward.

the family spent time working in the garden while I spent three hours in bed, but toward supper time I had regained my energy and decided to take Elvi out on the town for some birthday fun. I paced myself and drank only water and lasted on the dance floor all night. It was a birthday miracle!

This morning, the dog woke me at 7:30 a.m. to let him out because apparently today is the one day in the year he can't just go pee in the hall. I couldn't get back to sleep and so I was a bit loogy all day, but I don't ascribe that to the mono. I may have recovered, and just in time, too - I start teaching my summer courses June 8.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Old tech made new

Quite often, students who are having problems concentrating tend to get up every ten minutes to watch TV, talk on the phone, take something out of the fridge, and a long list of other distractions. Were they to dedicate all this wasted time to studying, they would optimize their performance and have more free time available. Study Ball helps you study more and more efficiently.

I'm looking at you, Child Three.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Diagnosis: mono

I'm 43 and I have mononucleosis (a.k.a. glandular fever), the common variety caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). That virus is one of the most ubiquitous human infections on Earth; 95% of people are infected with EBV by the time they're 35 (I guess I rolled a 1 on my saving throw). The later you get it, the worse the disease is. Kids often suffer no symptoms or maybe appear to have a cold, but it is a classic teen disease - even though teens only exhibit mono about 50% of the time upon contracting the virus.

When the hematologist confirmed it yesterday, she looked at me and asked, "HOW old are you?!"

I've been knocked into bed for 18-20 hours a day. I no longer have the muscle pain and the headaches have gone for the most part, but I'm still exhausted most of the time. My throat finally got sore last Saturday, followed soon by earaches and bouts of random itchy patches all over my body - another known symptom.

The worst part is that is incredibly difficult to concentrate for more than 15 minutes at a time. I can't even watch TV; it's just too hard. I live on the laptop in bed, which I can always set aside and come back to.

It could take a month and a half until I feel well enough to get up and about, but I think I'm feeling a little better already. Except my nose, the right side of which still hurts from those goddamned tubes.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

I'm an episode of "House"

Thursday, during one of my frequent naps, the hospital called and left a message saying that a doctor would like to talk to me about the chest x-rays I had Tuesday.

When a radiologist sees something on a chest x-ray, it's usually either pneumonia or lung cancer. I had to call back five times before someone even answered the phone, but the man who did speak to me said the doctor was busy but would definitely call me back. I've never wished so hard that I had pneumonia - although, having never smoked a single cigarette, the chances of lung cancer were tiny.

The doctor called me back not long after and told me that the radiologist thought my spleen was prominent (meaning swollen). He and I chatted a bit about my illness and experience on Tuesday, and he was shocked that no one at the hospital either examined me or took blood samples for testing. No one even bothered to fill in my chart - but, finally, I'd spoken with a sensible physician. He told me to come in Friday morning for more tests and he requisitioned blood work and an abdominal ultrasound.

My work was done through the emergency room, and the doctor there was brief but also sensible. I arrived at 8:00 a.m. and had the blood taken about half an hour later. I waited until 11:30 for the ultrasound, but that gave time for the blood lab work to finish.

My emergency doc was just about to discharge me when he noticed that my lymphocytes were high, so he backtracked and called in hematology. As this drop-dead-gorgeous Vietnamese hematology resident interviewed me, Elvi walked in. The resident palpated various parts of me while Elvi watched. Hot!

The hematology resident wanted her boss to look at me too, but they had a bone marrow biopsy to do first so I had some time to kill, fortunately with Elvi. We went across the street and had some pho.

Elvi had gone to get the kids before I met the hematologists so I had to face them alone. They felt me again (woohoo!) and told me both my spleen and liver were enlarged. We talked about what could be causing this, and the doctor pointed out that my lymphocytes were normal at my check-up in February, so whatever this is, it's likely acute and not chronic.

But what it is is still up in the air. The last battery of blood tests I had before leaving the hospital will test for hepatitis (and HIV, as a matter of standard procedure). We'll get the results of that Monday and I'm going in to see the hematologist again on Tuesday.

Her last words to me were to spend the weekend listening to my body, which isn't a problem since it's screaming so loudly. I spent ten hours at the hospital yesterday, but ironically it was the best I'd felt over the course of a day in a while. Today, I'm getting a bit of a sore throat and the enlarged organs are uncomfortable.

Bonus discussion of "ironic":

Smart-asses know that Alanis Morissette, in her song "Ironic", calls many situations ironic when they have nothing to do with irony. But what if the title and content of the song are what is meant to be ironic? A sort of meta-irony, I suppose. Then again, who really cares?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The angry little man in the plastic bubble

My GP is away so I went to the nearby CLSC (which is a medical clinic with nurses only). I considered walking but it's a bit farther than the garage and that walk tired me out yesterday, so I drove. I left around 3:30 p.m.

When I describe my symptoms to the woman at the front desk, she gives me a medical mask to wear and tells me to go into the first door down the hall that faces me. That door has a big "do not enter" sign on it so I return to ask if she'd meant that one. She confirms, explaining that it is the quarantine room.

The first nurse to see me asks me some questions, measures my blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature (a slight fever of 38.1 degrees C), and listens to my chest. A more senior nurse joins us to confer and ask me about my symptoms. Do I have a cough? Infrequent and dry, but yes. Are my aches in the joints or muscles? Muscles. Have I been doing any traveling? I was in Texas until April 19.

She calculates that my symptoms started seven days after my flight home and announces that with the fever I had fulfilled four criteria for suspicion of swine flu. I explain that I have had absolutely no congestion but she only shrugs. She says she will arrange an immediate appointment at the hospital.

The nurses leave the room. I was pretty sure I didn't have swine flu, but I thought the hospital would have a better chance of finding out what was really wrong with me.

The senior nurse returns and asks if I have my car. She tells me she made me an appointment in the emergency room at the Jewish General and that I would be seen right away. I would have to drive straight there. I'm not allowed to stop anywhere and I have to wear my mask. I call home and explain what's happening to Child Two.

I walk to my car masked and feeling very Japanese but take it off when I sit. I somehow found great parking and put my mask back on and walk into the Jewish. The triage nurse took one look at my form and leads me to a clear-plastic-curtained germ isolation booth. It isn't really a booth, more like a chair surrounded by short shower curtains and ventilated powerfully enough to keep anything on me from infecting the rest of the hospital. A doctor takes my temperature again and reconfirms my short history and hands me a much more robust mask.

An orderly escorts me to isolation room 27, which is a lot like the patient rooms you see in "House" with one glass wall - smaller, though. A different doctor comes to see me, looking like he’s about to face a case of the plague with a hard plastic face shield and sealed wrists and ankles on his contamination suit. He briefly confirms the info I gave the CLSC and listens to my chest. He explains that the test for swine flu takes about two hours to incubate. He will irrigate my nasal passages, take the liquid, and send it to the lab. If the test is positive, we'll know I have swine flu, but a negative may be false.

The doctor tells me the procedure might be uncomfortable. The kit is a syringe of liquid attached to a soft plastic tube. He snakes the tube up my right nostril. And up. And up. And up, in excruciating discomfort. I hope you have no idea how horrible that is. It is the second worst medical procedure of my life, after having my toenails ripped off with pliers. I'd easily rather re-experience removal of wisdom teeth, gum surgery, or anything else.

He injects the saline as I’m writhing and I feel it roll down the back of my throat, which means it didn’t go where he wanted it to go because he’s supposed to draw it back into the syringe. He pulls out, sees he missed, and says he’s going to have to try again.

During the second try, also in my right nostril, I have tears streaming down my face, and I am thrashing in the bed, and he doesn’t get enough sample. Failing to hide his frustration, the doctor leaves my room and I hear him ask the nurse to try. I’m in the bathroom feeling terrible. I wasn't congested before but I am now.

The nurse has me lie down flat instead of inclined upright the way the doctor had me. She tries my right nostril, too, and it feels like she is shoving the biggest gauge needle into my skull. She shoves and shoves against the congestion and finally I just can’t stand it and I rip the tube out of my nose. She is not pleased. I am even less pleased.

I explain that that was far beyond discomfort and ask half-jokingly if they have any IV Valium (which I had when I got my stomach scoped). She seriously tells me no.

It dawns on her that the right nostril is too congested by now and she'll try the left. I get a little break while she looks for another kit. I spend the respite in the bathroom, nauseated and with my previously mild headache now splitting.

We meet back at my bed and the nurse tries my left nostril. She's slower and more methodical than the doctor, and it just prolongs the process and gives me ample time to flail around, and she doesn’t retrieve enough. By this time I think she going to call in one or two of the burly orderlies to hold me down but I don't suggest it.

Without orderlies, she tries my left nostril again. She guides me with breathing exercises, and asks me to hold my breath while she was puts the saline in. I'm good this time - but when she injects the liquid it runs out of my nasal cavity and into my trachea. I cough a fountain of the stuff that flies into the air like a whale spout. The nurse gives me a very curt "You know what? Forget it." and leaves my room.

Apparently, between the five attempts, they get enough liquid to run the test, because they do send it off to the lab. My waterboarding ends around 5:30 pm. I asked the nurse for Advil for my headache but I get none. I alternate bouts of fitful sleep and listening to the iPod. A second nurse checked on me and also failed to produce Advil when I asked for it. I had neither food nor drink, not even water, and I'd eaten very little that day.

At 8:00 p.m., A nurse woke me to wheel me to radiology for chest x-rays. I asked her for Advil and she told me she'd get me some after the x-rays. On the way back, I ask if we can stop for food and drink and she says she’ll find me some. She says she’ll find out about the Advil, too.

She brings me what food she was able to find, which was two half-bowls of cold carrot soup (meant to be served hot, but fine anyway), two slices of bread, two slices of individually wrapped cheese food, a cup of either canned pears or peaches (couldn't tell which), and a small vanilla yogurt. She also was nice enough to take my money and bring me back a Diet Pepsi from the vending machine. The food doesn’t sound like much but I wolfed it down. She also brough t me a phone so I could call home again.

At 9:10, the doctor on duty tells me it’s probably not swine flu, but absolute determination can only be made in two days. He says I should go home and spend the next two days there wearing my mask at all times. I look at him and say "That's great, but when I went to the CLSC this afternoon, it wasn’t because I thought I had swine flu, it was because I feel crappy, my body aches, I’m tired all the time, can’t concentrate, and I have constant headaches. Is there something you can do about that?"

He says, "Oh, you probably have some kind of virus. The only thing to do is wait till you get better." I didn't bother asking him for Advil.

I trudge back to my car, drive home with a splitting headache and aching nasal passages (which still hurt as I write this), and finally, at home, take four Advil.

I felt so much worse by the end of this ordeal than I did at the beginning.

Monday, May 04, 2009

On the eighth day...

...Webs decided he should call the doctor on the ninth day.

I woke up feeling great, so great that I decided to walk the four blocks to the garage that repaired my van's axle and gave it a tune-up and surrender $1,469 with a smile on my face and a dog by my side.

When I got home, the effort hit me and I've been feeling as bad as I have with this whatever since I came down with it. I conked out around 5:00 p.m. and slept two hours but that didn't help.

I know I promised you faithful readers a torrid tale of chinchilla romance but that will have to wait because today was our first add/drop in our fantasy-baseball Irrational League. I picked tenth, because I finished April in first place. My stats:

.273 batting average (3rd)
38 HR (3rd)
156 RBI (3rd)
15 SB (9th)
3.90 ERA (2nd)
1.29 WHIP (2nd)
9 wins (tied 8th)
18 saves (1st)

That gives me 56.5 points and a lead of two points, down from nine mot too long ago. My only serious injury is Chris Carpenter and to replace him today I picked up Chad Gaudin (and dropped Josh Kinney). I had wanted Joel Pineiro, but he was snagged by the second-place team.

The lack of wins I expected but the lack of stolen bases is disappointing, and the only surplus I have is my three closers. It's time to talk trade.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A little out of it

I have nothing to report because I've spent the last week vegetating in bed.

I feel odd, sick but not sick, flu-y with a flu.

For the past seven days, I've lived with a mild tension headache, muscle aches and pains all over, severe fatigue, a bloated feeling, clammy skin, chills, and a slight cough. It feels like a bad cold or flu, but I have no congestion whatsoever. Physically I can get up and move about - it feels like the morning after a hockey game - but mentally I can't concentrate on anything.

Last night, we all went to Alex's to play a game and it's a good thing I played the zombies. I wasn't in the mood to think much.

We've initiated the process of obtaining a new chinchilla, starting from scratch. I'll write about that next time. My curly tail is limp from only this meagre effort.