Tag Archives: health

Express Delivery

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second part in the story about Lucas’s birth. Also, I really wanted to write “EDITOR’S NOTE.”

me holding LucasIt’s strange to me to spend time in a hospital these days. I logged so so many hospital hours when I was growing up—between my epilepsy, nighttime seizures, and a bout with the once-named pseudotumor cerebri, I knew the floor plans of at least three medical centers—that there are strange factoids about these places that persist in my knowledge. Rounds happen way too early. Vitals are taken every four hours. Every fifth blood pressure cuff sucks. And nurses come in a vast variety of specializations and competence.

When I spent a week at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, I learned I had two clear favorites, though at this point their names are lost to me. One was taller than a Redwood pine, the other a stout, short woman who cast fear into the hearts of doctors. The tall one always had a compliment. The short one always told me the truth. And when the line of residents came into my room to see how messed up my retinas were, all carrying their own blinding penlight, short nurse was there to steer them away after a couple of minutes.

I realized early on that hospitals are spaces of contradiction. They make people well, even as they’re the easiest place to catch a cold or communicable disease. They’re full of kindness in the light of progressive, inescapable illness, which is anything but kind. Their personnel have a wealth of knowledge about physiology, hematology, pharmacology, surgery, and so on, and often they don’t know anything at all related to an individual’s specific problem. Health care providers have been asked to absorb the latest and greatest in the scientific literature and retain their fundamental training. And because they work the middle of a normal distribution like flies to a cherry pie, an outlier’s power to confound is heightened. Read More…

Forget the Waiting Game

Humans love patterns. I don’t mean a Scottish plaid or a pink paisley (although those of course have their place in the world), I’m thinking more of the repetitions and unrandom occurrences that permeate our lives from which we derive meaning, seek comfort, glean knowledge, etc. Some play Sudoku, reveling in combinations of numbers, or look to discover new patterns in math, Fibonacci sequences being old hat and all. Others love fractals, genetic sequencing, a field of clovers, the lines that a purebreed dog is supposed to exhibit, whatever strikes their interest and fancy. There are patterns of things and histories and people out there to suit every interest. And beyond patterns there are trends, or pattern forecasting, if you will. Once we start talking statistics, it’s a whole new world of hit and miss—is this thing a pattern or isn’t it? can we count on this pattern to continue?—and though experts may collude that a given pattern is definitely, absolutely, perfectly true, well, I think we all know better.

Here I turn to pregnancy. Show me a woman with a 28-day cycle and I’ll show you thirty more who cycle in a different pattern, or via no pattern at all. (They live with an annoying label of “irregular.”) If Western medicine loves a broad pattern on which to base its practices, women’s reproductive systems are the proverbial fly in the ointment. All of science still fails to understand how the start of labor is even triggered. Is the uterus like, “I’m done?” Is it a sign from the fetus? A signal from the placenta? Somebody’s hippocampus? Ted Cruz? Despite all of the not knowing going on, we are presented again and again as hopeful parents to be with the same ill-fitting narrative: most women will experience X. If a given woman experiences X+2 or even Z, that’s on her.

We’ve  seen Susanne get some symptoms of pregnancy and not others, some for a longer or shorter duration than the Mayo Clinic’s book suggests will happen, and she’s had different experiences over both of these pregnancies. Why do these things change or vary?

Who the hell knows? Read More…

Whooping It Up

tree on our carMy flight down to Los Angeles at the end of July was nice, because I’d upgraded to first class, enjoying three or four drinks and a lovely nap in the oversized seat. I’d never flown first class before, but for $50, and after my fatphobic encounter the segment before (from Walla Walla to Seattle), I was content to pay a little more. I may have spoiled myself forever.

Flying back to the Pacific Northwest was not as luxurious. Sure, I had an aisle seat, so I could stretch out my wonky legs, but right behind me some white dude coughed the entire 2-hour flight. Every sixteen seconds, cough. Reading a book, consuming the seven tiny pretzels handed out mid-flight, nodding into a microsleep, these were all interrupted with coughing and hacking. I craned my head around but didn’t see so much as a phlegm-moistened tissue in his hand. Middle-aged cough machine there was just spewing his whatever all over the plane.

Turns out, on August 4, flying from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, I got coughed on by someone who had whooping cough. In all likelihood, anyway. Giving him the stink eye, as I and many of the passengers around me did, failed to silence him or motivate him to request a mask or barrier for his illness. By the next morning I had a tickle in my throat. Two days later I had a fever, and three days later, so did Susanne and Emile. We presumed we’d picked up a head cold or mild flu, and as we’d all been running around far from home, Susanne and I figured we were simply run down a bit. That first weekend back together we settled in and got as much respite as possible for a busy family of three. Read More…

Unexpected Fitness

nordic track treadmillIt’s time for a little come to Xena—I’m going back to the gym. I’m not suddenly becoming my own health troll, or giving up my individual-sized mantle against fat phobia, far from it. I don’t have a weight goal in mind or a plan to count calories, or a tape measure to chart how big I can make my biceps. And I still think that the plethora of posts I see on my Facebook and Twitter feeds about how many miles someone ran, and how shitty the weather was when they did it, and how long it took them are, in aggregate, kind of annoying. (But I’m proud of you, too, for being so uh, disciplined or something. Really. Mostly.)

Five years almost to the day when I blew out my left ACL and meniscus, and 4.5 years since I crunched something in my right knee while I waited for surgery to fix the first joint problem, I am still not one hundred percent. My child now weighs 30 pounds, a good 50th percentile status for his age—go little boy!—so holding him in the crook of my arm and climbing one, two flights of stairs is something more of a challenge for me. I’m sick of it. Read More…

Requiem for Breathing

really dirty sinkCollege students, future generations of professional leaders that they are, do not have a reputation for stellar hygiene. Rather, they are known for being something of a dirty population–prone to sudden expectoration after an evening of imbibing beverages, rolling out of bed unwashed in order to make it to class on time, and giving their undergarments a second act of wearing before laundering. They are, after all, college students. They are known to be broke.

Because they have this sordid reputation, and because my wife and I both have been ourselves college students, we have something of a defense system in place to protect our offspring from the side effects of contact with dirty folks, namely, communicable disease. She accepts electronic papers from her students. I refrain from getting within two feet of any student volunteer at my agency, especially during flu season. As Emile is not yet capable of blowing his nose, our goal is to avoid upper respiratory infections whenever possible. I’m a fan of hand washing, although the skin on my hands is not. Read More…

Toe vs. Mat

kitchen mat with decorative surfaceThe consequences of moderate-term sleep deprivation are many: frontal lobe activity is surpressed, leading one to blurt out inappropriate statements at inopportune times; memory fails, rote calculations become just out of arms’ reach, which can be amusing when trying to tip a waiter; and manual dexterity decreases alarmingly. For those Dungeons & Dragons geeks out there, consider this loss on a scale of -5 or so, something along the lines of a major cursed item. For the rest of us, I have an illustrative story.

Last January, shortly after moving back to Walla Walla from Seattle—not the more popular of the population shifts between the two cities, to be sure—I embarked on a sundries and staples trip to Costco. The big box store is an hour away, but I deeply appreciate only buying toilet paper twice an annum, so being in a mood to stock up for a while, I ventured the crowds. Read More…

Due Date Physics

I admit that I’ve been reading up on string theory and theoretical physics, in research mode for my next novel, hence the title of this post. We were all set to go for induction this last Thursday, but then, well, nothing ever goes as planned, right?

DEFCON signage, on level 1Taking a few steps back to the last Monday in August, we were informed that our appointment would be moved earlier by an hour because our regular doctor had called in sick. So we met with another doctor in the practice. Instead of Sarah Palin’s doppelganger, who I’ve come to really like, we got a woman who looked like a soccer mom of 8 children. All I knew about her before this appointment was that she’s the doctor who does the circumcisions in the practice, and she’s kind of klutzy. Those are two tastes that I’m sure don’t taste great together, but on this day, I could be unconcerned with her gracefulness and focus on Susanne’s internal exam. Had our own doctor Palin been doing the examination, we’d have a clear idea of when to try to induce; as it was, we were going to have to wait for the fill-in to contact Susanne’s doctor, who would then call us, probably on Tuesday.

In the meantime, however, Dr. Spaz made an induction appointment for us for that Thursday.

Three. Days. Away. Read More…

The Neck Mutiny, or I Have a Really Big Head

two diceIt started making its presence known in the wee hours of the morning, a little before the sun would rise, otherwise known as the time when even roosters are silent. I hate waking up when there’s only an hour or so until dawn, because I know, even in my groggy mind, that the next bit of sleep I can scrounge together is going to be wholly lacking in actual rest. It’s a piss-poor way to end the night shift.

But worse than simply rousing at the wrong hour was the awful, horrible, je ne sais quoi pain that accompanied my burst into consciousness. At the back of my neck, about three inches from the base of my skull and just to the left of my spine, a knot of pain drilled away at me. Read More…

A History of Scars

parts of a knifeI had a battle with a newly sharpened knife last night, and the knife won. I know better than to cut toward me, force a cut through meat, and all the other rules about handling knives, but it was late, I was tired, and I rushed through deboning a chicken I’d roasted so I could put it away. In less than one second the stainless steel sliced my left index finger just under my cuticle, and I shrieked over to the sink to get cold water on the cut and help numb the sensation. Susanne, firmly in her waddling phase of pregnancy, managed to skeedaddle into the kitchen and assess the damage, so we opted for some gauze and tight tape to staunch the bleeding. I realized, during this morning’s shower, that I am a professional when it comes to keeping recent wounds dry. And this is because I have stabbed and slashed myself accidentally so many times I can barely count the instances anymore.

But let’s try, shall we? Read More…

A Guy Walks into a Doctor’s Office…

top surgery stitchesI admit it: I was a touch fearful about talking to the doctor on Monday. I’ve got a short list of items about which most physicians get lectury, after all. But for the reasons I expressed in my last post, I needed to have a local doctor, so I was willing to lay it out there. Susanne declared it was a “test” of his cultural competency. I liked that as an approach enough.

For some reason, the appointments at this family practice (it’s the same practice as the one for Susanne’s baby doctor) are significantly late to start. I know we all complain about start times at our doctors’ offices, but I can’t for the life of me understand why they set up 11:30AM appointments when all of the nursing staff, en masse, goes to lunch for 90 minutes, especially as they’re 45 minutes behind schedule by the time noon rolls around. Read More…

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