Lit

That moment after the tree is taken down
not from greed but because the trunk has split
dangerous operation; all survive
Even the tree. A split 20 foot trunk may survive.
We won’t know until spring.
You are hunting in the sections that are down.
“Yes!” you say and hold them up.
“Invaders. They’re not native.
I shoot them when they steal the birdseed.
They crawl into the trunk to die.”
You hold a shriveled carcass up with each leather glove.
They too look like leather or shrunken heads.
Your smile lit up
at this evidence of your successful aim:
killing squirrels.

I think this is my first ekphrastic poem. Inspiring photograph, right? So that makes me laugh, it’s so gruesome. I was looking for a photograph for the Flower of the Day and came across this. Taken in January 2022.

sonnet 3

I have neither roots nor wings nor love.
I lie: friends gather round to talk each day.
The early dark slides over from above.
No one to warm my bed, for no one stays.
The dark creeps up a sickening horrid thief.
I have no heart to stay awake at night.
It’s barely five; why this flood of grief?
It’s only in the morning I’m alight
before the morning is even close to dawn.
Wide awake I clamber from my bed.
I stretch, the teapot sings and I just yawn
and wonder why the night brings on such dread.
I tell my friends that now I’ll date a tree.
He never leaves and he will stay with me.

__________________

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: roots.

Roots

Roots of the earth running through the rock. The more I learn about rocks, the more amazed I am. Rocks are formed by volcanic action, melting and hardening, or by sediment, layers over years, or by pressure on one of the other two.

And there are these roots on the beach as well:

An enormous tree will be there one day and gone the next. Or it will stay in position for years and then disappear.

Here are roots from the sea:

I thought it looks like a mermaid or merman, tossed ashore.

More gifts from the sea.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: roots.

Integrated behavioral health

The buzzwords now in Family Medicine. Integrated behavioral health in primary care. I am finding it a bit annoying.

Integrated does not mean race in this context. It just means the clinic should have a behavioral health person.

I suppose that is a good idea maybe, or might seem like one. But what do they think I have been doing for thirty years? Ignoring behavioral health?

Really, primary care is half or more behavioral health, if a primary care doctor gives people time and pays attention. People have an average of 8 colds a year. Why do they come in for cold number 4 if it is no worse than all the others? Because the cold in not really why they are coming in. The cold is the excuse. Notice that the person is there, that they are not that sick, that they do not care that you are not going to prescribe antibiotics.

I have my hand reaching for the door when an older patient says, “May I ask you something?” She came in for something that she didn’t seem to care about, so I am not surprised. I turn back. “Yes.”

“I have friends, in another state. They had a baby. The baby is very disabled.”

I sit down. This is more than 15 years ago, so I do not remember what the baby had. Hydrocephalus. Cerebral palsy. Something that requires multiple doctors and physical therapy and the parents are grieving.

“What bothers me most is that they have to struggle so much for services. There is very little support and very little money set aside. One of the parents has quit their job. It is a full time job taking care of this child and they are frightened about the future. Is this really what it’s like?”

And that is the real reason for the visit. “Yes,” I say. “It can be very difficult to access services, you have to track down the best people in your area, some physicians won’t pay much attention and others are wonderful. And the same with physical therapists and everyone else. Tell them to find some of the other parents of these children. Get them to recommend people. And the parents have to be sure to take care of themselves and each other.”

She frowns. “It’s a nightmare. Their life completely changed from what they thought. First baby. And it is overwhelming.”

“I am sorry. You are welcome to come back and ask me questions or just talk.”

“Thank you. I might.”

“Do you need a counselor?”

“No, I’m fine. I am just worried about them and feel helpless.”

“It sounds like staying in touch is the best thing you can do.”

“Ok.”

The true reason for the visit is often something entirely different from what the schedule says. Sometimes people are there without even knowing why they came in. “Can I ask a question?” That is key. Saying to see people for one thing is criminal and terrible medicine and makes behavioral health worse. There is so much we can do in primary care just by listening for these questions and making time for them.

I have nothing against adding a behavioral health person to the clinic. They talked about “embedding” a behavioral health person in each group of soldiers back in 2010, when I worked at Madigan Army Hospital for three months. I always pictured digging a hole in my clinic floor, capturing a counselor, and then cementing them in the hole. I would have to feed them, though. I always thought that was sort of a barrier. One more mouth to feed. I found it more useful to contact counselors, ask what they wanted to work with, learn who knew addiction medicine, learn who was good with children or families or trauma. And ask patients to tell me who they liked and why. I integrated behavioral health in my community, not just in my clinic, because there is no one counselor who is right for everyone.

pulmonary rehabilitation

I am fractious and grumpy when I first go to pulmonary rehabilitation at my local hospital.

This is because I have local hospital PTSD because of past treatment. However, there is only one hospital in my county.

I am anxious and tachycardic when I first arrive. I have sent patients to cardiac rehabilitation and to pulmonary rehabilitation, but it’s the first time I’ve gone. My doctor did not refer me until I ask her. I thought it up while I was talking to my insurance company’s chronic care person. You know you are desperate when you call your insurance company for ideas. The insurance company is motivated to pay for pulmonary rehabilitation because I am expensive. I have had loads of tests this year and cost a bunch of money. They would like me well. Me too. So yes, I qualify for pulmonary rehab by virtue of four pneumonias in nineteen years and this time a year on oxygen continuously and still part time now.

I have two people to help me. One is a respiratory therapist and the other a physical therapist. I am an unusual referral. Many of their patients have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and/or emphysema, usually from cigaretes, but also from things like asbestos or alpha-1-antitrypsin disorder or progressive muscular disorders.

They explain. There are 24 visits, over 12 weeks. I come in twice a week. I am weighed, they ask about symptoms, and we go to the small gym. It has three treadmills, three stationary bikes and three of those semi-horizontal not really a bike things. I pick the treadmill. After I describe my lung weirdness, that a fast heart rate preceeds hypoxia, they put a wrist pulse oximeter on me. Unlike the little finger ones, it can pick up heart rate and oxygen rate even when I am walking on the treadmill. My blood pressure and pulse is checked and I start the treadmill. I go slowly the first time. My heartrate is over 100 to start with, but that’s partly the PTSD reaction. I can slow my heart rate just by slowing my breathing and not talking, into the 80s.

Here is how I looked the first time:

https://www.reddit.com/r/FunnyAnimals/comments/zadptv/this_is_whats_happened_in_gym/

Ok, not really. I start walking on the treadmill and go for 30 minutes. Blood pressure and heart rate are checked mid way through. The only time I drop my oxygen level is when I walk AND talk and then I drop it to 87. I stop talking.

After the treadmill, there is another 15-20 minutes of “patient education” about the lungs. This is usually a video, discussion and handouts. They can have up to 3 people simultaneously. At first there is another woman, but she finishes her 12 weeks. She is still on oxygen. I am doing the treadmill without oxygen. “What is your goal?” asks the respiratory therapist. “I want to ski this winter.” I say. She blinks.

The patient education alternates with lifting hand weights. The physical therapist does that with me. There is a stretching session each time too. The weights are slow twitch muscles so that is easier for me to push.

On the third day on the treadmill, I start pushing myself. My heart rate before starting was 81. I get to 120. “Um, don’t push it further than that.” says the therapist.

“Why not?” I say.

“Well, the guidelines are that we’re supposed to not have the person exercising at a heart rate of more than 30 over their baseline.”

“Oh,” I say. I am at 40 over. I slow down a little, aiming for a heart rate of 115. My blood pressure is between 90 and 115 systolic to start with, even anxious, and goes up to the 140s or 150s in the middle of exercising. If I talk too much while I am on the treadmill, my oxygen level starts to drop. It drops the third time down below 88 and the therapist says, “Shall I get oxygen?” “No,” I say. “I just need to shut up.” I do and my oxygen level recovers.

I steadily improve on the treadmill. I can enter my weight and it will measure “METS”. I start out at only a few mets. My goal is as high as I can go. By week 8 I am pleased to be alternating walking and running and I am averaging over 8 mets. Bicycling takes 7-9 mets, and more if you race. I want to return to bicycling.

Then I get my flu vaccine. I feel terrible the next day and cancel my rehab. I see my doctor for a routine visit the next Tuesday and she gives me the covid booster. That hammers me. I go back to being tachycardic much more easily and my fast twitch muscles are not working again. I contact my cardiologist and primary, do I put pulmonary rehabilitation on hold?

I decide to go and I do not drop my oxygen. However, I get tachycardic much more quickly, I can’t get up to over 8 mets, and it feels truly terrible. And my muscles give me hell and hurt horribly for the next two days. I put pulmonary rehab on hold and wait and do slow twitch exercises. The working theory is that there are antibodies to my fast twitch muscles, so the vaccines have activated my immune system. Not just antibodies to influenza and covid, but also the ones that make my muscles not work and hurt. A fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue flare. I start sleeping 12 hours a day again, as I did when I got sick over a year ago. I am really anxious at first but there are no signs of pneumonia, I am not hypoxic, and it’s mostly muscles and fatigue.

After three weeks I return and do my last four pulmonary rehab visits. It hurts way more than the first 8 weeks and it is way more exhausting. I don’t like sleeping 12 hours a night. It could be worse, though. Some people have chronic fatigue where they have to lie in bed most of the time. I don’t have that, so I consider myself lucky. Mine is fast twitch muscles only. Presumably theirs is fast and slow twitch muscles. I have an annoying but relatively mild version of chronic fatigue.

I graduate from pulmonary rehabilitation. Many thanks for the help with my muscles! I want a wrist pulse oximeter, but they cost $700 and I dont’ really need it. By now I can tell when I have a fast heart rate and I can tell when I am getting hypoxic. It makes me goofy and silly, though I normally have that anyhow.

Many thanks to Jefferson Healthcare’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Department. And if you have had pneumonia more than once or long Covid, consider asking your doctor to refer you. It makes me much more confident about exercising and pushing myself and what is safe. And eventually these stupid antibodies will fall off the receptors again. I hope.

________________

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: fractious.

PS: The Rehabilitation Department was closed then open then closed then open during the last two years. They did not have many people when I was there. Get in soon, because there are limited spaces!

Caramel

Warm and tan and sweet

but you don’t like sticky, heh.

I buy gummi bears and forget to bring them
over and over for months
forget to bring them to the beach.
When you teach me
how to find chalcedony nodules
clear agates that let the light through,
you say, “They look like gummi bears,”
and you are right.

In the early morning when the tide is low
and the sun is low too
angled and polarized light
the nodules, agates we call them
light up like stars, catching the sun.
Sometimes I see one just after you
and you are diving down to get it
and I am too late again

You find three to my one
The gummi bears are a bit hard
when I finally bring them along
I choose a red one, the small kind
tuck it between two fingers
when you aren’t looking
I’ve gotten my fingers a little wet first
so it will light up
the same way as the agates
I wait until we’re a yard apart
and you aren’t looking at me.
I jump forward and reach for the sand
“Look at this one! So red!”
You move towards me and I flash it.
“Almost bear shaped!” I say
and drop it in your hand.
Your face changes from envious
of the clear red to mildly horrified:
“Sticky!” you say, and shake it off your hand.
I laugh and pop a yellow gummi bear in my mouth
and you are laughing too
and shake your head.
“I don’t want one!”
“Got you!” I say.
“Yes,” you say, “You did.”

____________________

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: caramel.