Adverse Childhood Experiences 13: on gratitude

I saw a meme today about gratitude. It is saying that some people look at a garden and see thorns and weeds, but others see the roses. That we need to have gratitude. I think this is simplistic and papers over the trauma and grief that some people have. If they have endured a highly traumatic childhood, who am I to say they should focus on the roses? They may have a very good reason to see if there is something like a thorn that can hurt them before enjoying the roses.

I work with many patients with high Adverse Childhood Experience scores and mine is high too. I don’t tell my patients that they should have gratitude. I tell them “You survived your childhood. You have crisis wiring. Good for you. Some of your learned crisis survival wiring may not serve you as well now as it did when you were a child.” Then we discuss whether they want to work on any aspects and the many many different approaches. One example: a man who sleeps very lightly. He said that it was lifelong. When asked about his childhood he says, “We would have to leave in the night when there was shooting in my neighborhood. It was a very dangerous area.” I said, “I am not surprised you sleep lightly. You HAD to in childhood to survive. Is this something you want to try and change?” He thought about it and decided, no. Once it was framed as learned in childhood to survive, he stopped worrying about “normal”. He was satisfied that the way he slept was “normal” for him and he wanted to wake up if he heard shooting.

I think we have to ask why a person sees thorns and weeds in a garden before we judge them. My first thought with a new and angry or hostile patient is always, oh, they have been badly hurt in the past. What happened? I don’t worry that the anger is at me. I know it’s not at me, it’s at the system or a past physician or a past event. Under the anger there are other emotions, usually fear or humiliation or grief. I have brought up Adverse Childhood Experience scores on the first visit sometimes. One person replies, “I am a 10 out of 10.” The score only goes up to 8 but I agree. He was a 10. He stated once, “The military loved me because I could go from zero to 60 in one minute.” Very very defensive and very quick to respond. The response may seem extreme and inappropriate to other people: but it may feel like the only safe way to be to my patient.

I grew up hiding any grief or fear in my family, under anger, because grief or fear would be made into a story told for laughs. In college, a boyfriend told me I was an ogre when I was angry. I started working on it then and it was difficult to tame that. The person who took the longest was my sister: she could make me explode until I was in my residency. Medical training was excellent for learning emotional control, at least, on the surface. After my mother died, I had to do the next piece of emotional work: open the Pandora’s Box of stuffed emotions, mostly fear and grief, and let them out. It was such hard work that my day where I saw the counselor for an hour was harder than my ten hour clinic day. I did the work, for two long years. Blessings on the counselors who stood by me while I worked through it.

I do not think we are ever done with that sort of work. I think, what do I need to learn next? What is this friend teaching me? Why is this behavior frustrating me and I have to look in my inner mirror. Why, why, why?

Blessing on your healing path and may you not be judged.

Link about ACE scores: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/about.html

Sometimes I do feel like a fossil, now that I am middle aged. For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: fossil.

before the rain

I took this two days ago on an early beach walk starting at North Beach. The sky was amazing and beautiful. We had intermittent sun through the clouds and very little rain on that walk. It’s easier to see the clear agates when the sun lights them up.

I did not find any clear agates. B found one that met his criteria. There were many other beautiful rocks. This one was way too big to bring home. The rock itself is almost a rainbow.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: rainbow.

Robust healthful manhood

The photograph of “a healthy man” to go with my Ragtag Daily Prompt conflate post.

I LOVE the caption. “Robust healthful manhood is the source of mental and physical power.” How differently the author portrays health womanhood, as shown in the conflate post. The book is Macfadden’s Encyclopedia of Physical Culture, in three volumes, 1911. Volume I is 500 pages. It is easy to read but it’s a different style from now. Here:

As a rule, if you will simply retain the idea that food should be swallowed at all times without effort, that is, that never, by any means, wash it down with water, milk, tea or any other liquid, that you should masticate it until it seems to disappear without swallowing, you can rest assured that you are masticating sufficiently. p. 97, volume I.

I plan to read the entire set. I think I will find lots of wonderful words for the Ragtag Daily Prompt (hey, I don’t think we’ve used masticate yet!) and material to write about.

Are there still interesting medical ideas out there? Oh, yes. LOTS. Only now they use the internet. I have subscribed to some of the series of videos, telling people how bad and wrong minded allopathic doctors are. Sigh. We do our best. The scam is that they let folks watch one a day for a week, or let them watch one, and then want you to buy the series. “Only $349.99!” Nice scam that is proliferating rapidly. I have now gotten emails saying “Health coaches should make as much or more than physicians and we can teach you how to market and target people and make that money.” Ugh and ick. Really?

I have patients in clinic who present by saying, “I don’t usually go to MD doctors, I go to a naturopath, but I am here because I need an antibiotic.”

I learn to respond gently. “Oh. If you need an antibiotic, maybe you have signs of infection? What are your symptoms?” I have to get past their dislike of allopathic medicine and find out what the symptoms are. Usually if I can diffuse them by getting the story, we can work together. Once in a while it doesn’t work: I have people come in and give me orders. “Do these labs.”

“Uh. Where did this list come from?”

The answer could be a video (by a naturopath, a biochemist, a biologist, whatever. I have watched some of these series. They start by saying that doctors are wrong/stupid/stubborn/misguided/etc.) or a “cash only” doctor or a magazine.

“Why are you coming to me?”

“I want medicare/my insurance to pay for it. I have done my research.”

“Well, medicare does not work that way. I have to list a symptom or diagnosis code for every lab ordered.”

“WHAT?”

I try to be patient. “Every lab has to have an attached appropriate diagnosis code or medicare will not cover it. There is a place in town where you can order your own, but it does not take medicare. You pay for it.”

“Just order it!”

“No. I am a medicare/insurance provider, which means I have a contract with them. It would be fraud and illegal to make up codes. Does your cash only provider use diagnosis codes? Can your bring their clinic note to me?”

One person replies, “My provider doesn’t take notes.” Oh, how nice. That provider does a very expensive panel of labs three times a year that the person is paying for out of pocket. “My provider checks EVERYTHING.” Um, and makes a boatload of money off you too, I think. That patient is very angry that I won’t take her orders and switches clinics. Oddly enough, this does not break my heart.

Some days I hate Dr. Google. There are lots of websites and people on line swearing that they can improve your health. There are scientific looking papers that swear something has been tested, but read the fine print: if the sample is 8 people, how does that stack up against the Women’s Health Initiative, where one arm of the study had 27,000 people? The evidence is weighted. We get multiple articles in medical school and subsequently about how to read a paper, how to weigh the evidence, how to recognize fraud or a poorly designed study.

I do not object to people looking on the internet and I have had people who came in and said, “Is it possible that I have THIS?” and who are correct. However, I see more fraud, always.


rural doctoring

I read Grampa’s Solo Visits this am and it makes me laugh.

Since I have been a family doctor in my town of 9000 for 22 years, the grocery store and coffee shops can be interesting. When I moved here, my daughter was two and my son was seven. We have three grocery stores. I usually go to the one 7 blocks from my house. I would see patients. My diabetics would sometimes look guilty and scurry away when they saw me. Another patient comes to peer in my cart.

“I want to know if YOU are eating healthy food.” he says.

I laugh.

“I don’t see any vegetables.” he says.

“I am in a CSA,” I say. “I get a box from the farm once a week.”

He frowns. “Do you get to choose?”

“No,” I say. “But since I hate throwing vegetables out, we eat more vegetables. Also, we eat ones that are unfamiliar. The first time I got celery root, I had to look it up. I didn’t know what it was.”

He nods. “Hmmm. Ok. We want to be sure you practice what you preach.”

I laugh again. “I sneak in to get the ice cream at midnight, ok? And where is YOUR cart?”

“My wife has it,” he says. “You don’t get to see it.”

“Ok, then. Have a great day.”

When we were first in town, occasionally someone would come start talking about their health in a store.

“I can’t discuss your health in front of my children. HIPAA.”

“Oh,” they’d say, “Uh, yeah. I should call the clinic Monday?”

“Yes, please.”

We had a coffee shop that made the best pastries that I’ve had since I was an exchange student in Denmark. I wished they’d make tiny pastries, bite size, for the diabetic folks. Those folks would slide a newspaper over their plate when I walked in with my family. They looked terribly guilty. I might nod, but I wouldn’t say anything. Sometimes they would confess at the next visit.

There are lots of jobs in small towns where people are very much public figures. Not just doctors, but the people who work for the city and the county, the ones who redo the taxes for homes, the realtors, all sorts.

After I was divorced, another doc at the hospital asks, “Dating someone new?”

I frown, “How do you know?”

She grins, “He lives on my street. I saw you.”

Dang it. The rumor mill is very very efficient and can often be fabulously wrong. That time it was correct, though I don’t think she passed it around. Other people live on the street.

A few days ago someone that looked familiar walks by me. “What are you doing with so-and-so?”

I laugh. “Rumors abound.” I say. “You would not believe the rumors!”

I took the photograph of the coyote yesterday, driving home. Stopped dead in my lane, no one else on the road. People will be stopped in the road here, talking to each other in two cars going opposite directions, or talking to a friend on foot.

city versus country

A friend comments that the country used to outnumber the city folk but now it’s the other way around, and that the split in our country is about values.

Hmmm. I am thinking about that. I am a city girl AND I am a country girl, both. We moved every 1-5 years and I was in cities and in the country. However, my family also had two anchor points. My mother’s family has shacks on a lake in Ontario, summer shacks. My father’s parents had a house on the beach in North Carolina on the outer banks. Wind and water in both places and we never watched tv in either place, because we were outside until we fell exhausted into a tent or into bed.

I don’t agree with my friend. I think we ALL share some values: that no one should go in a school and shoot kids, or a church and shoot people, or a store and shoot people. Right? We all agree on that if we are sane. That is a starting point. I read the mediation books when my (now ex-) husband was getting certified. The mediators start by trying to find the common ground.

I am pretty much equally comfortable in my small town, the woods, on the water and in cities. My friend warned me about Seattle being dangerous now. Well, it’s a matter of scale. I went to high school in Alexandria, Virginia and I lived at 3rd and Massachusetts in Washington, DC back in the 1980s. I was pretty careful just walking to the metro in that part of Washington at that time. I pay attention in Seattle, but in these cities I know what I am paying attention to. I ended up alone on a metro car once at night. A man got on at the next stop, looked around the car, grinned and came and sat next to me. I thought, oh, Sh-t, this is not good. I ignored him and continued staring at my book.

“Hi, what’s your name?” he says.

“I am reading.” I say coolly.

“Come on, honey,” he says.

I shut the book, stand up, and he lets me pass. I stand by the metro door until the next stop, get off that car and get on another car with more people. The car did have emergency alarms, so I could have hit one, but he let me by so I didn’t. I was kicking myself for being alone on the car, but honestly: what a stupid nasty male chauvinist threatening jerk. I shouldn’t have to worry about this crap. But after that, I didn’t get lost in a book on the metro because I had to pay attention to avoid being alone on a car. Annoying as can be.

My friend says he gets lost in cities. I don’t. I start building a map in my head when I arrive in a new city. It is completely automatic. If I am driving, it’s based on the highway. If it’s by airplane, it includes the airport, the hotel, the conference center. I have been to San Antonio once, but I stayed at a hotel along the River Walk and the conference center was towards the center and south. I could draw part of the city, still. I love maps!

I can’t say that I would be comfortable if dropped in a city in another country, necessarily. I was pretty happy on my trip in March, which was abroad. There are levels of familiar and what are the languages in common? Are there any?

What are these values that people might be split on? I read that people are polarized and can’t get along, but I don’t agree. I did Family Medicine in this town of 9000 for 21 years, and I had people from town, from the county and eventually from three other counties. I had nine people who had to take a ferry to see me. Talk about inconvenient for them. My people are all races, all genders, age zero to 104, all different stripes of politics. I don’t care what their politics are: I am there to see if I can maintain or improve their health. This could mean anything from encouraging exercise, doing a pap smear, diagnosing diabetes to discussing hospice and end of life issues or telling someone that I do not think they are safe to drive. This is not about “pleasing” people: recognizing opioid overuse in a person does not endear me to them. But it is about doing the best I can for people and with people. And isn’t that a value we all share too?

Now we have common ground, two areas to stand. Grow that space. Peace me, work for justice and kindness and peace to you.

Covid-19 and walking pneumonia

I wrote this essay in July 2017. Before Covid-19. It is clear that Covid-19 is also causing a walking pneumonia. People are exhausted when they get out of bed. No fever, they may not cough much, but if they get up, they can feel exhausted. The key to this is the heart rate, the pulse. If the pulse jumps 30 points faster or more, this implies lung swelling and reduced lung capacity. Right now, the only treatment we have is rest and time to heal. I should know, I’ve had really bad walking pneumonia four times: the first two times I was out for two months. The third time 6 months with 6 more months half days and chronic fatigue. The fourth time put me on oxygen.

I want to offer hope to the people with Long Covid-19. Having been through four bad pneumonias, with increasingly long recovery times, and now disabled for doing Family Medicine, I have experience to share. I will write more about that in the next essay.

From 2017: Walking pneumonia is changing.

The classic bugs are four “atypical bacteria”:

mycoplasma pneumonia
chlamydia pneumonia (this is not the STD chlamydia. Different one.)
legionella
pertussis (whooping cough)

However, streptococcus pneumonia can also be a walking pneumonia OR a lobar pneumonia. In a lobar pneumonia the person usually is short of breath, running a fever of 102-104, and they point to where it is: hurts in the right upper chest. On chest x-ray there will be consolidation: whited out from fluid or swelling instead of nice ribs and dark air. They are often tachycardic and hypoxic.

In walking pneumonia the person often has no or minimal fever, they just feel tired or short of breath when they do things, and the chest xray can be “clear”. It isn’t really “normal”, it’s just that the bacteria or virus affects the entire lungs and causes some swelling throughout and doesn’t white it out.

“Double” pneumonia is when the chest film is whiting out on both sides. We also see the lungs whiting out with ARDS — acute respiratory distress syndrome. So after trauma in a car wreck and lots of broken ribs, the lungs can be bruised too and white out. Ow. Influenza virus can cause lung swelling and in the 1917-1918 flu infected military recruits lungs were swelling shut. They would turn blue and die.

“My” strep that I’ve had pneumonia with twice is streptococcus A, not strep pneumonia. It causes strep throat mostly though it can invade and cause sepsis or pneumonia or cellulitis. There are currently 4000+ known strains of strep A, and some are resistant to antibiotics or can cause kidney damage or do all sorts of nasty things. I think that “my” strep is resistant to azithromycin.

The current guidelines say to treat walking pneumonia with azithromycin. However, a paper came out this year saying that resistance to azithromycin is rising among streptococcus pneumonia and that nearly 50% of strains tested were resistant. Uh-oh. That means that azithomycin doesn’t work and the person can get sicker and may die. I talked to a pulmonologist in Seattle when I needed help with someone. He said that he would have said there weren’t any resistant strep pneumo strains here in Washington except that he had one intubated and in the ICU right then. “I’m convinced now, ” he said.

A lobar pneumonia is easier to diagnose. Abnormal chest x-ray, reasonably healthy people run a high white blood cell count (so my frail folks, immunosupressed folks and 90 year olds don’t raise their white blood cell count), and a fever (ditto) and look sick. The walking pneumonia people come in saying they have been coughing for 3 weeks or 4 weeks or two months. I am doing more lab testing because of the resistance.

This winter I have seen 6 different causes of walking pneumonia here: influenza A, respiratory syncytial virus (In more than one person over 60. That is NOT who the books say it should affect. It’s supposed to mostly cause bronchiolitis in babies and preemies), pertussis, strep pneumococcus, strep A and none of the above. All looking pretty much the same, but with different treatment.

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/15/8/08-1187_article
https://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/atypical/mycoplasma/index.html
http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/820736
https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/threat-report-2013/pdf/ar-threats-2013-508.pdf#page=79
RSV: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/rsv.html
Mycoplasma resistance to azithromycin has been reported too: http://erj.ersjournals.com/content/36/4/969

Caduceus Hair

A physician says to me, “You might have had more friends and been more successful in your career if you had been put on medication a long time ago.”

I think, “You f—ing bitch.” Nothing shows on my face. The doctor face is pleasant on the surface and the stone face that guards my feelings is deeper. I could show you the snakes and you would turn to stone but I would go to jail.

Your words don’t go away. They fester, a deep deep wound. I ask my other doctor, “If my only symptom of pneumonia is my mood, no white count, no fever, how would I know if I had pneumonia if I were medicated?”

I think back. Age twenty five with belly pain, emergency room, CT scan and then a sigmoidoscopy. I couldn’t eat, it hurt so bad. The emergency room offers me valium. “No,” I say, “my father is an alcoholic. I won’t take that.” I am sent to counseling. The counselor, smug, blonde, polished, wants to send me to her husband, a psychiatrist, for drugs. “No,” I say, “my father is an alcoholic. I want talk therapy not drugs.” I am very very afraid.

Things get better.  I tell the counselor thank you. “You can’t stop now,” she says, “You must continue the counseling. Or you will have problems later on.” I go once more. She says I must keep coming. I speak to a family friend, a PhD psychologist, who encourages me to say no. I cancel. No regrets.

I am not an alcoholic. I don’t smoke. I don’t use pot nor CBD. I never tried cocaine or meth or opioids or crack. I can tell an addict by their charm: the sick people are not charming nor the people in for maintenance. The moment a person tries to charm me I wonder what they want.

The physician is wrong and cruel besides. Valium is addictive and is still overused. I could have taken the path of psychiatric medicine but I chose not to.

I will find another doctor who is less stupid and cruel. They do exist. I know, because I am one.

____________________________

failure of the medical non-system

One thing that makes me gloomy, as a Family Practice Physician: the only person who has read my medical notes from the multiple specialists is ME.

Since March 2021, I have seen Family Practice, Cardiology, Pulmonology, Infectious Disease, Immunology and Psychiatry. I am in a rural area, so this involves three different hospital systems. They all use the EPIC electronic medical record, but they won’t release information to each other. I have gotten two of them hooked together under ONE of my names and passwords but guess what: my primary care physicain can’t see the notes from the other sites. Only I can. “Proprietary infromation.” Hey, you stupid medical non-systems, this is MY healthcare, MY notes, and YOU SUCK.

My primary care physician COULD request the notes from my pulmonologist but she hasn’t. I find this incomprehensible. I have been on oxygen for over a year. I guess my doctor frankly doesn’t care. Has she farmed my lungs out to pulmonology and doesn’t have to pay attention any more? My goal in practice was to have all of the specialists’ notes. If that was five different specialists, I requested them. Ok, it is next to impossible to get psychiatry notes. I keep wondering if psychiatrists really write notes. The patients never seem to know what diagnosis the psychiatrist is using. One hundred percent of the people that I have seen put on an (addictive) benzodiazepine say that it is for sleep. Meanwhile, at the conferences, the psychiatrists say that primary care should not give the patients benzodiazepines for sleep. I raise my hand: “Even when you psychiatrists have started them? The patients all say it’s for sleep. We don’t know WHAT you have them on it for.” When I try to stop the benzo, the patient has a fit and says that psychiatry said they have to have it. And the psychiatrist has retired or left or changed the phone number and there are no notes ever.

Anyhow, I am counting up specialists. I had really bad strep A pneumonia in 2012 and 2014. Since 2012 I have seen 20 specialists. That is counting the three Family Practitioners, because Family Practice is a specialty too. I thought it was about taking care of the whole person, which to me means reading all the specialists notes, but not one of the ones I have been to has done that.

So the medical system is an abject failure. I blame the US citizens. We choose the system with our votes. We need medicare for all, single payer healthcare, and one electronic medical record for all of the United States. Right now, there is a push to privatize medicare and turn it over to For Profit. We need to fight this and we need to demand better healthcare. Hospital organizations should not be refusing to send my clinic note to my primary care doctor. It is stupid and bad care.

https://pnhp.org/ Physicians for a National Healthcare Program for more information.


Love whole

I loved my liar sister
I love her still

That’s what makes them angry
that I love my liar sister
even though she lied
even though she hurt me
even though she lied to them

That’s what makes them angry
that I love my liar sister
they want to love her lies
they don’t want to know the truth
they want to hide from lies

That’s what makes them angry
they are hella jealous
they want to be loved like that
they want to be loved whole
they want to be loved entire
they want to be loved even when they lie

That’s what makes them angry
they are so afraid to be themselves
they are so afraid to tell the truth
they are so afraid to be honest with each other
they are so tired of hiding

That’s what makes them angry
one says she will be friends
if we only talk about the positive
about my mother, father, sister
I counter: let’s not mention them at all
nor your husband. Not a word.
She doesn’t answer. Silence.

That’s what makes them sad
they don’t want to feel the anger
they deny the heartache
they avoid the longing
they bargain with their souls
they refuse to feel the grief

let us feel the anger
let us feel the heartache
let us feel the longing
let us feel our grief
let us feel our souls

Beloved, we long for you so

Please, Beloved, love us whole

_____________________

My sister sent me a t-shirt from Wicked. She died of cancer in 2012. The deaths from Covid-19 and every death brings her back to me. And this song sums up our relationship.