Covid-19: caring for yourself

audio version, covid-19: Caring for yourself

A friend took his father to the ER in the next bigger town, sent there for admission to the hospital from the clinic. His father is in his 90s, has heart failure, and his legs were puffed up like balloons with weeping blisters.

They were in the ER for 13 hours, never given food though it was promised, the staff couldn’t even find time to bring a urinal and his father was not admitted. He was sent home. No beds. On divert.

Ok, so when should you go to the hospital right now? Only if you really really can’t breathe….

First, the emergencies. An ER nurse friend talks about “happy hypoxia” where people do not feel bad but have an oxygen saturation of 50%. I suspect that this is when their lungs really are swelling shut very fast. They will turn blue quickly. Call an ambulance. In the 1918-1919 influenza, soldiers “turned blue and fell over dead”. In Ralph Netter’s book on pulmonary diseases, he has a drawing of the lungs of a person who died from influenza pneumonia. The lungs are basically one big red purple bruise with no air spaces. So if a friend is goofy and their lips are turning blue: AMBULANCE.

The one in five hospitals that are 95% full or more in the US are now cancelling all of the elective surgeries: knee replacements, hip replacements, non emergent heart surgeries, all of it.

If you are not dying, do not go to the emergency room if you are in one of the totally swamped areas.

So how to care for yourself with covid-19? Like influenza, it is pretty clear that it either causes lung swelling or the lungs fill with fluid or both. With lung swelling you may be able to stay home. First take your pulse. If you have a pulse oximeter, great, but no worries if you don’t. .What is your resting heart rate? Count the number of heart beats in 60 seconds

If it’s 60-100, that is good. It’s normal. If it is 120 at rest, that is getting worrisome. If you are short of breath at rest and your pulse is over 100, call your doctor. If they can get you oxygen, you still may be able to stay home. If not, emergency room.

Now get up and walk. Do you get short of breath? Sit back down and again, count the number of heartbeats when you are sitting. If your resting pulse was 90 and you jump to 130 walking, you have lung swelling. Functionally you have half the normal air space and so your heart is making up the difference. How to cope? Well, walk slowly. Walk during the day, do get up because otherwise you may get a leg blood clot, but really minimize your activity. Now is not the time to rearrange the furniture. Also, you may not go to work until your walking or loaded pulse is under 100.

If your pulse does not jump up when you walk, next try walking loaded. That is, carry something. Two bags of groceries, a toddler, a pile of books. Go up the stairs. Sit down and take your pulse when you are short of breath or it feels like your heart has speeded up. I am in this category. My pulse is 70, oxygen at 99 sitting. Walking my pulse jumps to 99. Walking loaded my pulse goes to 125 and my oxygen level starts dropping, need oxygen once it gets to 87. I tried a beach walk without oxygen 3 weeks ago. I photographed the pulse ox when it was at 125 with O2 sat at 87. I still need oxygen.

The treatment for lung swelling is rest. This is my fourth time, so I am used to it. Some people will have so much swelling they will need oxygen at rest. If the lungs swell shut, they need to be intubated or they die. Suffocation is not fun. The other treatment is not to catch another virus or a bacteria on top of the present lung swelling. Wear mask, get vaccinated, put out the cigarrette, no vaping, pot is terrible for the lungs too and increases the risk of a heart attack.

With my four pneumonias, the first two made me tachycardic and it took two months for the lung swelling to subside. It sucked. Inhalers don’t work, because they work by bronchodilating. You can’t bronchodilate swollen lung tissue. The steroid inhalers might help a little but they didn’t help me. The third pneumonia took 6 months to get back to work and then I was half time for 6 months. This time I am five months out today and I still need oxygen. Darn. Don’t know if my lungs will fully recover. They may not.

So: rest. Good food. Avoid substance abuse. Mask all visitors and don’t go to parties/raves/concerts/anything. Oxygen if needed and if you can get it.

Take care.

The photograph is me wired up for a sleep study a week ago. The technician took it at my request. I won’t have results until next week.

covid 19 two

From November 20th, 2020:

My ex called Saturday. Early, which unusual. I thought he was calling to say his mother died.

Nope.

He is an RN at a nursing home. “We’ve gone from one Covid 19 patient to 55 in the nursing home in one week. And they installed a new computer program on Tuesday that makes everything take twice as long. I quit.”

Actually he gave two weeks notice.

He called our kids yesterday. He has Covid 19. However, they are so short of staff that he is working. On the Covid 19 ward of the nursing home.

____________________

In my clinic, we are struggling with watching people travel for Thanksgiving. We have decided. If someone travels or has Thanksgiving with other households, we will offer a zoom visit or a reschedule in two weeks. We do not want them to expose others in clinic. And if we get it or are exposed, we are closed for a minimum of two weeks.

____________________

He called me. Today 60 out of the 70 nursing home patients have it. All of the staff have it. The staff are working anyhow because there is no one else.

On covid-19

I am going to post a series of short essays I wrote on another site at the end of 2020. Because we have to work together and these are relevant. I will post one every day or two.

From Tuesday November 24, 2020:

I have just had a call asking for a Covid-19 test.

Not for symptoms.

Nope. Traveled from Washington to California with a buddy and “My sister thinks I should be tested.”

Me: “Oh, does your sister want you tested before you come to Thanksgiving?”

Patient: “Uh, I think so.”

Me: “First of all, the priority is for people who have symptoms or have been exposed. Secondly I am not ordering a test for someone who has no symptoms, chose to travel and then thinks it’s ok to go to a Thanksgiving dinner in another household if they get a negative. It’s not ok. You can test negative one day and be shedding virus the next. The quarantine after exposure is 14 days. The medical advice from the CDC, from the surgeon general and from me is STAY HOME.”

Others are asking for antibody tests. We don’t know if the antibodies mean you aren’t infectious. We don’t know how long they last. Typically with other covid viruses they don’t last long. In contrast, chicken pox virus gives lifelong immunity. We don’t know if a person can get Covid-19 again, though there have already been some cases. No, I won’t do an antibody test because the person “Just wants to know.”

STAY HOME STAY HOME STAY HOME.

be careful who lasers your hoohoo

be sure whatever you do do
you’re careful who lasers your hoohoo
vaginal rejuvenation
should not be self done by the patient
the person who fires the laser
should having training and not just in tasers
hoohoo lasers are selling like hotcakes
making money for yahoos who clambake
no yahoo should do do your hoohoo
else you and your honey will boohoo

written in 2018.

I don’t make this shit up: http://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/vaginal-rejuvenation-1.4782406
hoohoo: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hoohoo

Free fall

I feel safest with the fallen

Everyone falls
No one is good

I am afraid
Of the people who
pretend to be good

the fallen
don’t pretend

We fell down down down
like an eternity
like it would never end

We were bad
depressed drunk addicted
liars cowards thieves

We held our arms out
There was nothing to stop us
Free fall

All we could do
was pray

We prayed
As best we could
With all our hearts
If we had no words

Falling angels
Caught us

Helped us
Claw our way back

Some people fall
Are still falling
Fall forever

Are they crazy
Or do they choose
To stay with the angels?

The people who say
They are good

We look at them

We know they haven’t fallen

They are lying to us
They are lying to themselves
They are lying to the Beloved
They want to be good
They want what they say to be true

But it isn’t

I meet the eyes of another fallen
Knowledge

I can see the memory
Of infinite free fall
In their eyes.

Yard Art

There is a fabulous garden in Portland, Oregon decorated with bowling balls.

i have decided to decorate with oxygen tanks.

if anyone has any oxygen paraphernalia, I want it, please.

This art installation is titled “Tethered”. Or possibly “Chained.”

Thoughts on Ramadan

I have been thinking about Ramadan.

Those religions. Judaism, where you don’t eat pork or shellfish. We do know the reasons: trichanosis and food poisoning. And possibly that paralytic shellfish disease: that would be bad, right? People die fast. So pork and shellfish are forbidden.

But Ramadan. I have thought about it for a long time. I think I will do it next year, the diet part. Because I think I have been doing it: in 2012 and 2014 and now. I change my diet to help kill whatever bacteria I have. I go ketotic and the bacteria that require sugar or glucose or fructose can’t grow. It kills them. Quite effectively, since I was sent home after 24 hours of hospital observation when I had strep A pneumonia and sepsis in 2012, after drinking only 4 liters of fluid and putting out ten liters of urine. This is not a good thing. If it goes on, my circulation would collapse, which happens to be the defining symptom of sepsis. Since I did not want my circulation to collapse, I drank 6 liters of water when I got home. With electrolytes and MgS04 because I had a very low potassium and magnesium when I hit the ER. The hosptialist just said that I was bananas in her discharge summary, but she failed to explain the potassium and magnesium and she didn’t even LOOK at the nurses record of the oral intake and urine output. This is not my standard of care. I think one should ALWAYS look at the test results. The usual urine output is up to 2 liters. Ten liters should have stopped her dead in her tracks. Unfortunately I think she had me labeled. Bananas or not, a crazy person can ALSO get pneumonia and sepsis. Really.

She did give me a penicillin shot. Unfortunately it was the dose for strep throat. Not very much penicillin. After I failed to improve from the antibiotics for a couple of days, I thought OH. THERE ARE TONS MORE BACTERIA WHEN IT IS A SYSTEMIC INFECTION. INADEQUATE ANTIBIOTICS. I pulled my sanford guide. For strep A sepsis you are supposed to treat with:

penicillin G 5 million units iv every 6 hours

and clindamycin 3 million units iv every 6 hours. At least, that was the treatment in 2012.

Damn, I thought. Bit hard to do that at home on my own, isn’t it? Now what?

So I called a local pharmacy. I ordered penicillin V 500mg one four times a day and clindamycin 300mg four times a day and then I hunkered down and ate NO CARBOHYDRATES for two weeks.

Penicillin tablets are horse pills and bitter. Yet the first one I put in my mouth, it tasted delicious. Super weird. But my body must have been saying THANK YOU THANK PENICILLIN and released a crazy high dose of dopamine in my brain.

After two weeks I hoped the damn strep would be dead. I took myself out to dinner, feeling like shit, and ordered food. It tasted like heaven, but…..sepsis symptoms once my blood sugar went up. Third spacing fluid. It feels like sand running out of an hourglass as the fluid leaves your arteries and veins. It also causes an instant and terrifying panic attack as your body tries to tell you YOU ARE ABOUT TO DIE GET FLUID HELP HELP HELP.

Which is why sepsis can get misdiagnosed as a panic attack or mania or what the fungk ever. It is by miles one of the most terrifying things I have ever been through.

Survived it. At home. While my fellow docs in my small town whispered about how I was bipolar. A physician’s assistant told me that the internist told her at a party that I am bipolar. Ok, I cried again. He sucks. How the hell does he know? He’s not my doctor.

Another woman doctor said, “I heard about you in a meeting. After all we aren’t really friends.” I didn’t say much. Afterwards I stared at the phone. I thought we were friends. Guess not. And ok, speaking of HIPAA, what the fungk did they say about me in a hospital meeting? Fungk them. Over and over and over, please. Spank them with a HIPAA paddle.

Next I read about strep A sepsis. Gosh, once you get it you are more likely to get it again. Damn. Power of suggestion. I got it again one year to the day from when I found my father dead in his house. Stress, you see. He’d left an out of date will, my sister was dead of cancer, it was written when I was nineteen. I knew what my father wanted. He’d said that I was the only person he know who could handle my sister, so I was the person he wanted to watch over her daughter. But the damn will didn’t SAY that.

So I did what any sensible human would do. I took the stupid will to an attorney and did what he said. So then the interfering family sued the executor (me) on my niece’s behalf. Stupid interfering mean and actually not very bright family. After three rounds, I said give it to her.

Half the estate? said my attorney.

Yes.

But… how do you feel about that?

It’s good for me. I will be done with her and that part of the family. It’s not what my father wanted but my niece clearly doesn’t want me to watch over her. Ok, fine. Give her the money. Never mind that her mother extracted at least 1/3 of the estate before my father died and made him cry. I was pretty pissed at my sister for making our father cry. That is when my father and I started comparing notes on what my sister was doing. It was grim. Anyhow, let the dead lie. Sometimes they do when they are alive, too.

It’s not good for the niece. Handing her that stack of money is thoroughly dangerous. And she’s over 18, so, well. It is on my cousins’ heads, whatever happens.

Long silence. My attorney says: you are a really nice person.

Well? I said. Have you known any cases like this.

Yes, he said reluctantly. A 19 year old. He got half a million dollars. He was dead in five years.

Mmmm hmmm. I said. Well, I wish her the best.

Anyhow, second round of strep A sepsis/pneumonia. And third round of pneumonia. With the hospital physicians for the most part still insisting that I was a liar. I mostly handled it at home though I confess that when I started bleeding from my gums, I got scared and went in. The kale water, vitamin K source, kicked in and it stopped by the time I got there. The ER doctor said that he wouldn’t believe me unless the disseminated intravascular coagulopathy labs were high. They were only a little high, but he broke his word, told me I was nuts and sent me home. He also told me I was dehydrated, which was comic because I’d asked the nurses for a “hat” and urinated 4 liters while I was in the emergency room. I was keeping track. I WOULD have been dehydrated except that I was drinking fluid when he was not looking. My daughter brought in a water bottle and quietly went to fill it. I didn’t trust that moron ER doctor to take care of me if my blood pressure tanked. Stupid man.

Home again home again.

This time they don’t believe me again. This time I think it’s funny. Also I caught it early enough so that I don’t have sepsis, praise to (your deity of choice)! I have been here for 21 years, doing medicine in this town. I was one of the two doctors who took the lead in the opioid overuse crisis. The hospital didn’t break down and train its doctors until 8 years after I started. You’d think they might say, wait, she has weird ideas….. but you know, sometimes they are really GOOD weird ideas.

Back to Ramadan. I think spending a month being ketotic and only drinking water during the day has a purpose. I think that it kills bacteria that require sugar, and also yeast and fungi, and possibly some viruses, too. What is the mechanism for the virus killing? Well, the cells slow their metabolism in ketosis, because the lizard brain thinks that the person is starving. Some systems get shut down, like chronic pain. Acute pain is still on line because WE HAVE TO FIND FOOD. In ketosis, the body burns fat and protein to make just enough glucose to keep the brain alive, and the side product is ketones. If it is the body’s store of fat and protein, well, that is starving, right? The lizard brain can’t tell if it’s an outside source. FIND FOOD so vision is sharper, hearing is more acute. Fast twitch muscles burn too many calories, so they are decreased. The slow twitch are ON so that we can go for miles and miles if need, cross continents… and where did I learn all this? Not from medical school or residency. There was a brilliant article in the Atlantic Monthly, about fasting for over a month to lose weight. He wrote about the history of fasting and fear of it and about… ketosis. Thank you, Atlantic Monthly, your article helped save my life when my doctors would not listen and sent me home to die.

Maybe viruses can’t get into the cell as easily when the cells slow their metabolism. Or, better hypothesis, the cells are slower so they don’t make viruses very well. They are slow. They ought to ride the short bus.

Ramadan 2022 starts April 1, 2022 and ends May 1, 2022.

I think I will start three days early, on March 29. Because I want to end early. Because… something big is happening at the end of that April in 2022.

Blessings.

alternative medicine

Ok, I got this picture off Facebutt. I CONFESS. But I really want a doctor kit like this: so I can practice alternative medicine. I am disabled from Family Practice and I have to apply for disability payments (miles of paperwork) and I hear that even as a contractee I can apply for unemployment (miles more paperwork) and I see my hospital bill on line for the ER visit where I had chest pain and shortness of breath and the ER doc didn’t even give me an aspirin, so I want to know why I should pay them $900 and I am going to apply for reduced payments because last year I made 42 K, less then the nurses at Jefferson Healthcare (EVEN MORE PAPERWORK FOR THE REDUCED PAYMENTS) and really, it all sounds rather exhausting and I’d rather let the paranoia rise and hide under the bed. Where the OCD and ADHD will make me arrange the dust bunnies and dust elephants by size.

So this looks like a great doctor kit. If the patient sees me and doesn’t do a darn thing that I say, I shoot them with the gun in the forehead. If they do a little but not really very much, I set up the bowling pins and shoot them with the gun while I talk about how irritating it is to have patients use MY TAX DOLLARS though MEDICARE MEDICAID ACTIVE MILITARY DUTY AND THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION NOT TO MENTION SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY to get advice and not follow it.

If they are merely disrespectful and tell me what Dr. Google says, I say “Duck.” and throw one at them. If they say, “I don’t take any farmasuiticals.” and bring a bag with the 12 supplement and vitamin pills they take daily, I give them the plastic pills to replace all their stupid supplements. “Here, take this. If it doesn’t work, I have suppositories, but they are four times this size so some people complain that they are uncomfortable.”

I am not sure WHAT the thing in the lower right corner is. A hair dryer? A fentenyl lollipop? Part of an old fashioned telephone?

Anyhow, someone find me one of these kits and send it to me. Pretty please. I am not allowed to do Family Medicine any more and really want to get started on Alternative Medicine.

chronic fatigue

I am realizing that I have had chronic fatigue since 2014. Or possibly 2012.

We know that chronic fatigue can be kicked off by infection. One in ten people with a severe infection is diagnosed with chronic fatigue. Severe stress can also kick it into gear or a combination of stress or grief or attack or assault and infection can kick it in to gear.

We don’t really understand it, though I am finding experience to be a very great teacher.

As far back as medical school and residency, I was curious about it. I love the edges of things: it is the things that we don’t understand that I study. I pick up bits of information like a crow or magpie. I add it to the pile of things related to it in my brain. Sometimes I will add just one more small piece and the entire pile of puzzle pieces with suddenly, in just a blink, rearrange itself into a picture.

The pieces won’t arrange themselves until I have a complete picture. Or, well, until something in my brain is satisfied that it is complete enough. Since nothing is every complete or completely understood, is it? Nothing fixed and we make up all the words.

Anyhow, chronic fatigue would explain why running my own clinic, I did not see more than ten patients a day. Also I do have some OCD, hidden under a messy packrat gene. You would NOT look at my house two months ago and think that I have some OCD. Messy and chaotic. But I am a precision demon about patient charts and I am always thorough. In 2009 our local hospital let me know that my reputation was of a brilliant diagnostician. Ironically, this was right before they fired me for arguing about the patient quota of 18 per day. I ran late because I could not stop being thorough. I cut my work from 4 days a week to 3.5 but that was still two hours of dictating and paperwork for every day of clinic. So clinic was 28 hours plus the dictating and paperwork and calling specialists and calling insurance and a one hour meeting at lunch with the administration EVERY DAY FOR MONTHS, so really clinic was 8 hours of patient contact plus the one hour lunch meeting. Redo the math: 28 hours plus 4 one hour lunch meetings plus 7 hours of the generated deal with stuff AND do not forget about call nights. 39 hours plus call. At least one call night a week, 6 pm to 8 am, so that is 51 hours or more. I felt that I was working flat out as fast as I could every single day in clinic and I still was not keeping up.

I also really really resented the one hour lunch meetings because I was only allowed 20 minutes for a patient and was to see them “for one thing”. Seeing people “for one thing” is unethical and dangerous because for example: a diabetic with a toe infection. That is already two things. But you’d better calculate the third: kidney function, because you have to dose the antibiotic for the toe based on the kidney function, and diabetes is the number one cause of adult kidney failure in the US. Oh, and you’d better check on the diabetes too, because if their blood sugar is whomping out of control, the toe won’t heal and that’s how they got infected in the first place. So I might have ranted a bit about seeing people “for one thing” because I think it is an UNETHICAL DANGEROUS LOAD OF CRAP. DO NOT PUT UP WITH IT, DOCTORS AND PATIENTS OF THE UNITED STATES. It is corporate trying to maximize profit and they can frankly go to hell and stay there. Single payer. ‘Nuf said.

Even more ironically is that two years after they fired me for vocally disagreeing with the quota (I would add that I was not diplomatic and I was vociferous), the hospital dropped the quota down. To what I had asked for, 16 patients a day. I actually had kept track through my career and knew that I averaged 16 patients a day. One partner usually saw 20 or 21, but the problem was that he kept the chart in his head. When I would get one of his patients, I’d have to say, “Um, you have some heart disease, right? You’ve had a heart attack or a bypass? What year was the bypass? How many vessels?” I’d be guessing from the medicines and clues… but the past history was not entered into the chart. So, yeah, I only saw 16 patients a day but my charts were solid and thorough and the charts on his patients were a lot more comprehensible every time I saw one of his patients and did the chart for him. He owes me. Pay up.

Anyhow, I have worked really hard for the last seven years, in spite of some chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Which I rather refused to admit to myself. I thought I was “well”. I felt bad that I didn’t clean up my chaotic house.

Now I forgive myself for the house. Because the truth is I couldn’t clean up the house. Not after 7-10 patients and running my own clinic, CEO, chief cook and bottle washer, dealing with the covid changes, trying to figure out medicare’s arcane language, fielding malpractice insurance, business insurance, insurance insurance and phone company scam calls.

I have been sick at home for 6 weeks. I have been on oxygen for 4 days? 5 days? I would have felt a lot better and been able to think better if I had been on oxygen the whole time. Meanwhile, turns out I CAN clean up and organize in spite of being hypoxic. My house is now a very different place and the garden has changed enormously very quickly.

I am sending more money to India, via https://www.pratham.org/ . I can hardly bear to think about the people who cannot get oxygen. It feels terrible and terrifying to not be able to breathe. My chest hurt and lungs and heart when I even sat up, much less walked. If I walked slowly enough, it was bearable, just barely. I walked anyhow. Those edges, I am always there.

It is very weird being on oxygen. I have told people in the past when I had pneumonia. I’ve almost died from it four times. Heart rate of 135 holding oxygen level, but it doesn’t feel good. I am confident that I do not have coronary artery disease, because if I did, I would have had a heart attack the first week. A heart rate of 135 is running a marathon. It is exhausting. Right now on oxygen, my heart rate is 86 and oxygen at 98%. My normal heart rate is more like low 70s. Normal is 60-100, you knew that, right?

It is very weird being on oxygen. Because now I have a visible signal that I have been/am sick. Somehow this is making people more kind, more concerned. I keep thinking, but I told you I was ill before. Why does being on oxygen make people kinder?

I think that is the difference between having an illness where there is not much comprehension and one that we think we understand. So chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia are dismissed, disrespected and discriminated against, while cancer and sepsis and covid-19 and massive trauma in the military are supported. People send gifts.

In the past, tuberculosis was thought to be an illness of sensitive poets. Then the tuberculosis bacillius was discovered and it morphed into a disease of the poor dirty overcrowded low scum of humanity. My mother had tuberculosis, but luckily it was when we’d moved on to sanitoriums, because it is airborne, so stop the spread and take care of people. There was also medicine. My mother had to take 36 pills a day. At one point in the hospital, someone brought her a medicine.

“What is it?” asked my mother.

“Don’t worry about it.” said the nurse.

“No,” said my mother. “I want to know what it is.”

The nurse got the doctor. He came in and said, “Take the pill.”

“What is it?” said my mother. She was 22, 8 months pregnant, very poor, and a student at the University of Tennessee.

“Don’t worry about it.” said the doctor.

My mother threw it at his head. Because not only was she 22, 8 months pregnant, very poor and a student at the University of Tennessee, but she was also the daughter of F. Temple Burling MD, a psychiatrist, physician and professor at Cornell University.

And he had told her, don’t take anything unless you know what it is…..


________________________________________________________________

The picture is of my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway, in 1945. Helen Temple Burling II at the time of the picture.

________________________________________________________________

I think the final straw that made the hospital fire me was me singing “The 18 Patient Blues” which I’d made up, to the tune of 16 Tons, into the Chief Financial Officer’s voicemail and at the open mike at the Upstage, here in town. I admit, it was not diplomatic.

stealthie in the grass

Stealthie in my yard, two days ago. I like the current crop of grass and weeds.

Music: Simon Lynge Hallelujah: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIHpeaHJJ9s

His website is here: https://simonlyngemusic.com/. Hey Simon, when do we get another local concert? Concert in the grass? Hugs, ya’ll.