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.

trap (version II)

why are you so afraid of being trapped?

and it’s attached to women
not to men

that is weird

but we are all weird

I have an explanation
That I won’t share here
Doesn’t matter
doesn’t matter if it is right or wrong

what matters is the pattern
and whether you can break it
and whether you can heal it
and whether you want to heal it
or just repeat it

over and over again

I do not know what you will do
whether you will see the pattern
whether you want to break it
whether you want to heal it

but the pattern is why you chose me
that is clear as glass, as ice, as air
on a very clear cold day

my pattern is that I don’t give up
as you said, I look at things from all sides
I am tolerant to a fault, you say

what matters is my pattern
whether I see the pattern
whether I can break the pattern
whether I want to heal the pattern

and yes I do

I see the pattern thanks to you
what matters is the pattern
I will break the pattern
I will heal the pattern

thank you, love

sometimes we must cut the abscess open
and drain the pus
or rebreak the bone that has healed wrong
or amputate the gangrenous fingers
to save the rest

I see the pattern
I change it
I heal

_______________

May 27, 2022

wrong word

you are angry you say
I don’t think those are the right words, I say
not angry? you say
bored, I say

BORED you say

Yeah, I say
Well, you say you don’t love me
You say you won’t change
You say you changed once, in the past
You say you won’t go in a church
You say you did that
You say you won’t go in a casino
You did that

I’m BORED

My first thought about the church
My first thought about the casino
Is that is clearly where I can go
If I want to avoid you

My second thought about the church
My second thought about the casino
is ICK. Why am I hanging around
someone who doesn’t love me
someone who doesn’t plan to change?

My sister and I talk
about the people who don’t change
about the people who remain the same
about the stubborn who bury their heads

We notice them shrinking
as the world changes around them
the things they are willing to do
the people they are willing to talk to
the places they are willing to go
get smaller and smaller and smaller

You dream of a small cabin in the wilderness
your brother shows up and an attacking bear
in another dream I am well and busy and happy

May all your dreams come true
my love
if you really want them to

I am well and busy and happy

are you?

__________

April 18, 2022

Maybe

Maybe
You could be a cat
Independent
A bit snotty
Refusing to share your thoughts
Keeping your secrets
Enjoying refusing to answer questions
Macavity the mystery cat
when something happens
He’s never there

You could be an elk
Guarding the herd
While the elder ladies
Lead it through the woods
At certain times of year
You bugle
And want them
And they/we/I mew
And you find me
And we both enjoy it
Very much

I am a cat too
independent
I will travel alone
If you won’t travel with me
I will find other music
If you won’t play with me
I enjoy it when you come round
Very much
I keep my claws sharp
Just in case I need them
If I long for cuddles and purring
That is my problem

I am a lady elk
Confident in the woods
I let you do the guarding and bugling
While I lead the herd
Up and over the ridges
The spine of the mountain
The spines of the dragons
Elwha and Sol Duc
I know them well
I hear you bugle
And think about whether this time
I will mew
Or not
I have found new forage
And the loggers are changing the forest
You bugle anyhow
Even if I am distracted
I like to work
But I like to mew too

Maybe we will come together
Now and then
Cats
or elks
or humans
Maybe.

___________________________________________________________________

My father read me T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats when I was little. He loved Macavity the mystery cat, called the Hidden Paw. And my goodness, the cat outfits in this show are quite something!

Covid-19: Approach to Long Haul

Covid-19: Approach to Long Haul

This is written primarily for physicians, but is for anyone to read. This is a working theory.

I am very interested in Long Haul because I was diagnosed with PANS by an older psychiatrist who worked exclusively with physicians in 2012. That was during my third flare. The evidence is mounting that Long Haul is an autoimmune disorder like PANS. I am sharing my approach to Long Haul based on both my clinic and personal experience.

Step 1. Validate the patient. Patients are terrified, understandably, to have something “like” chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, or are worrying that they are “crazy”. Evidence is appearing that Long Haul, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia are all complex autoimmune disorders with multiple antibodies. We do not yet have vast antibody tests. So the first step is to say that we believe patients and also that we can help. This is a very new and evolving field. I tell patients that it will change fast over the next few years. What I tell them today may change within a year as we get new information. If this makes them anxious, remind them of the Women’s Health Initiative and how that changed hormone therapy, and that cancer treatments keep improving.

Step 2. Lower stress and antibody levels. When we are high stress, cortisol and adrenaline go up and impair the immune system. The immune system is fired up and looking for something to do. Bacteria like strep A have evolved with us and have surface proteins that “look like us”. Our bodies make antibodies to the Strep A or Covid-19 and sometimes those antibodies attack us too, because our own proteins look the same. One way of lowering the antibody level is sweating. Hot bath or shower, sauna, hot tub, exercise. Support these and explain. A second way to lower the antibody level is to quiet the sympathetic nervous system and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic is the quiet, relaxed and laughing one. Where does the patient feel safe, relaxed, quiet? After my father died, leaving a complicated and messy estate with an out of date will, I did a Sudoku daily for a year. I realized that the Sudoku relaxed me because I could not solve the estate quickly, but I could nearly always solve the Sudoku. Stupid cat videos, rocking chairs, knitting, gentle walk in the neighborhood if it feels safe, a walk in a mall (without one’s purse if overspending is an issue) — how does this particular person relax? Teach the slow breathing: in for a slow count of five and out for a slow count of five. Or square breathing: in for five, hold five, out five, in five. Twenty minutes of slow breathing supposedly moves almost everyone from sympathetic to parasympathetic. It may take practice and feel unfamiliar: I have had a veteran say that it felt very very weird to relax and he was not used to it. He kept at it.

Step 3. Symptom picture. At present I am basing this on my own experience with PANS. This is my working theory. Antibodies can block receptors or “turn the key” and activate receptors. Buprenorphine does BOTH (though it is not an antibody): at lower levels it turns the key and at higher levels it blocks. I would ask specifically about five fields. You many well be able to come up with more.

a. Brain function. In my PANS, I have antibodies to dopamine that turn dopamine on very high. Other physicians assume that I am manic. I am not quite manic, but it certainly feels awful. I feel like I have been shot out of a cannon when I wake up, with the morning cortisol rise. For me, the caffeine in coffee calms me, and my assumption is that it displaces the anti-dopamine antibodies. Tea does not work. I quit coffee for seven years until the latest flare. Albuterol doesn’t work. Terbutaline does work. I don’t know about theophylline or adderall, I have not tried them. If someone has “brain fog”, I assume that they have blocker antibodies OR be sure to ask if they were different in the first 4-6 months of the illness. For me, the antibodies rise for about 2-3 months and then take 2-3 months to drop. I have a lot of fatigue when they finally leave and this time I could tell the day that the last antibodies “fell off” or dropped to my “normal” level.
For blocked people, does caffeine help? How about albuterol? Adderall, theophylline, SSRIs. Every person will have different antibodies. Treatment needs to be tailored.

b. Muscle function. My anti-tubulin antibody (I have PANS, remember?) shuts down my “fast twitch” but not my “slow twitch” muscles. Tubulin is what makes the lung cilia function, so presumably mine are paralyzed during a flare and that is why I get pneumonia. I am tachycardic, resting heart rate 100 and walking slowly or talking heart rate 135, so I get very short of breath. Both the lung dysfunction and antibodies that upregulate my dopamine receptors make me tachycardic. I think that the people who can barely get out of bed with chronic fatigue have both fast and slow twitch muscles blocked. They need validation and lower stress. With support, perhaps the antibody level can be lowered enough that they can function again. I also found that my muscles hurt when my blood sugar was up and that if I keep it low, I have minimal muscle pain. I do not know if this is true for other people.

c. Gut function. In PANS, there appears to be an antibody to lysoganglioside. I don’t understand it but when I am sick, I cut carbohydrates way back or I am horribly ill. I tolerate lactose but not fructose, sucrose or gluten. One year after getting my last flare, I can eat everything except gluten. With this round I figured out that rising blood sugar when I am sick makes me acidic. This in turn worsens lung function more, as my body automatically slows my breathing to balance the acidity. I found that taking bicarb before a meal helped tremendously. In the worst/highest antibody part of the flare, I eat fats, because anything else makes me ill. SO: what can the patient eat or not eat and support them. Food intolerances are on the rise. Ask if there are foods that they cannot eat and support them not eating them. They can go to a very restricted diet that works for them and wait three weeks. After three weeks, food antibody levels are supposed to drop. They can start adding foods back in, one every three days. I do not know if this will work in a bad flare, the antibodies may be too high.

d. Lungs: do a resting heart rate and oxygen saturation. Do a walking heart rate and sat. Then do a LOADED heart rate and sat, with the person carrying the equivalent of two bags of groceries or their toddler. If they are young, they may hold their sats, but if their heart rate jumps to 135, that is like running a continuous marathon. Try oxygen and see if the heart rate comes down. Sleep apnea testing is also highly recommended. If they are tachycardic with daily activities, of course they have fatigue! Rest. Patients can learn to check a pulse or have a pulse ox, but fingers and second hand are cheap.

d. Other. I am reading that the main complaints in Long Haul are fatigue, brain issues, tachycardia and shortness of breath. What else really bothers the person? Sound sensitivity, loss of the sense of smell. The first step in helping with this is to listen and validate.

Ode to defiance

Is oppositional defiance running YOUR life?

I am oppositional defiant. I have been for as long as I can remember. I ALWAYS want to argue when someone tells me to do something or gives me advice. BUT, I have learned to work with it.

I work with it by arguing with myself.

Give me a topic. Or advice. I will promptly argue the opposite, internally or externally. Then I will argue the original side. Then my demon fights my angel until they are both tired and decide to go have a beer. Somewhere along the way I will make a decision and also I will laugh, because it’s funny.

B has figured this out. “You argue with EVERYTHING.” he says.

“Yes, and if there is no one around, I argue with myself. All the time.”

However, he is also oppositional defiant. He is smart too, and doing some self examination.

“I am thinking about my life. I think ALL of my important decisions were oppositional defiant ones.”

“Someone told you you couldn’t do that?

“Yes.”

He’s chewing on that. Heh. He accuses ME of overthinking. I replied that I am making up for his underthinking, heh. He suggests that I STOP overthinking and I say, “You want to DESTROY the SOURCE of my poetry?” Double heh.

The point is, some of us are oppositional defiant, but really, we don’t want that to run our lives EITHER. We don’t want ANYTHING or ANYONE to tell us what to do.

B says, “I think that everyone refusing the vaccine is oppositional defiant.” He has a lot of friends, both liberal and conservative.

“That is interesting.” I say. And I wonder if it is worth dying for, to be oppositional defiant. Not if it’s running your life, right? I don’t want ANYTHING to run my life except ME.

So then I spend a bunch of time arguing with myself about the causes of refusing the vaccine. And I have not reached a conclusion. Yet.

I took the photograph at the Bellevue Mall on Monday. A three story waterfall. Really? Isn’t there enough rain in Seattle? We should have a three story sun instead.