She wears two masks out in public.
Infectious control, don’t you know.
For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: lobster.
She wears two masks out in public.
Infectious control, don’t you know.
For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: lobster.
A friend calls me yesterday, complaining that the new Covid-19 vaccine doesn’t prevent infection nearly enough for him to want to get it. He is in his 70s and says darn it, he’d still have a 60% chance of getting infected.
I thought about it and wrote back this morning:
Re the new vaccine the POINT is NOT to prevent infection, though it lessens it in codgers like me and you.
The point is that the vaccinated younger people shed a s–tload less virus if they get it, because their immune system kills it fast. This reduces the amount of circulating virus so that the codgers stop dying like flies. Also the codgers get less sick if their immune system recognizes B4 and B5.
Got it? Get the vaccine.
I am waiting for the top ten causes of death for 2021 to come out. Over one million US people have died of Covid-19. In 2020, there were between 300-400,000 deaths from Covid. That means that we lost 600-700,000 in 2021. If we lost close to 700,000 people, then Covid-19 would beat out heart disease as the number one cause of death in the US. When did that last happen? During the 1918-1920 influenza, the “Spanish” flu that has been traced to a chicken farm in the US midwest.
Here is a provisional and not final list: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/health_policy/provisional-leading-causes-of-death-for-2021.pdf. Hmmm. The numbers are not adding up unless a lot of US people died of Covid-19 in early 2022. And cancer is higher than it’s ever been and creeping up on heart disease. But these are not the final numbers, sigh.
Here is a fascinating chart: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/lead1900_98.pdf. If you scroll to the end, the top two causes of death in 1900 were pneumonia first and tuberculosis. Heart was fourth. Heart rises to first in 1910 but then pneumonia is back at the top in 1918-1920. I think that the heart has been number one ever since, in the US. World top ten is not the same.
This is not the first pandemic and it won’t be the last. It is horrible. I think that everyone is doing the best they can, though some responses seem saner than others. Remember the old doctor joke about what to do in a code (when someone’s heart has stopped). First: check your own pulse. It’s a corollary that if the patient is dead, you can try to bring them back, but you can’t make them more dead. Also, my latest Advanced Cardiac Life Support class, on line, told me that sometimes I do not have to do cardiac life support. Their example was a decapitated patient. Really? Ouch, doctor humor. But truly, if you are freaking out or want to scream at someone or feel like the world is nuts and you have to do something, first check your own pulse. Slow it down. Breath in four and out four. I can drop my pulse from 101 to 71 in 20 seconds, just by slowing my breathing. You can learn to too.
My recommendation is that if you are due for the booster, get it. And thank you for protecting me and my friend and the other codgers.
No, it is not snowing here yet. But codger seems to be a word for an old GUY. Humph. Would a grumpy hummingbird be a grummer? What is a female codger? I am using codger for any gender, to heck with it.
Mets could be metastases, a terrible word in cancer. But this is exercise mets. I am half way through my pulmonary rehabilitation for pneumonia and getting stronger. So what is a met? “One MET is approximately 3.5 milliliters of oxygen consumed per kilogram (kg) of body weight per minute.” (from https://www.healthline.com/health/what-are-mets#definition).
Ok, that doesn’t seem very useful. I find this way more useful, a chart of how many mets are used for certain activities:
The treadmill I am using at pulmonary rehab tells me how many mets I am using. However, last time I turned it on and didn’t enter my weight. It uses 155 pounds, which is more than I weigh. I think that then the mets are wrong. It isn’t exact anyhow. The important thing is that I am improving and off oxygen! I am now up to 5.3 mets, going at 3.3 mph, on a 4% grade, for 40 minutes. Pulmonary rehab is twelve weeks, twice a week, with a respiratory therapist and a physical therapist.
My respiratory therapist asks my goals. To bicycle distance, hike across the Olympics, and to ski again, off oxygen. That means altitude. Once we are above 5500 feet, the body really starts noticing the thinner air. I am not there yet but I am so pleased to be improving.
On the chart, I am in the moderate exercise range. To bicycle, I would have to be able to sustain 8 mets. Not yet, not yet.
Being off oxygen (except night, flute, sustained singing and heavy exercise) is GREAT! The intrinsic problem has not been fixed, thought. Fully twenty specialists since 2012 have not figured out why I get pneumonia easily and how to protect me, other than masking and not working in Family Medicine or anything people intensive. It’s annoying, my career has been blown up. I don’t have much hope of an overarching diagnosis at this point, but I’m willing to keep trying. We don’t know everything in medicine and really, I do not think we ever will. It’s endlessly complex and fascinating.
I think the mets chart should be shared with patients. I had one couple who insisted that the woman had PMS even though she was postmenopausal. I scratch my head and continue to watch her. After months something made me suspicious and I order an echocardiogram. She had congestive heart failure, seriously reduced heart output. I promptly called the cardiologist and said, “This is new, she is on NO MEDICINES.” He saw her within a week. Sometimes things do not present in a straight forward manner. She felt much better once we got her heart functioning better. If a person is losing their ability to perform moderate intensity mets, they should see their doctor. It could be spending too many hours in front of a screen (turn it off, get up, go outside, walk daily!) but it could also be something else. Heart is the number one killer still.
Stay healthy and keep those mets up!
Ha. I did use the word certain, didn’t I? And one of my favorite exercises is dancing. Listening to this right now:
“Whether immune-mediated secondary OCD could also develop as a consequence of COVID-19 poses a highly relevant research question to be elucidated in the near future [35, 36]. The first studies of their kind have demonstrated infection-triggered neuronal antibody production against various antigens in COVID-19 patients who were presenting with unexplained neurological symptoms .” from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-021-01700-4
Um, yes. It is looking highly likely that chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and Long Haul Covid-19 are all immune system responses. They are not simple at all. They can involve antibodies, cytokines and killer T cells and probably other things.
Antibodies: the difficulty here is that we all make different antibodies. It’s all very well to say that people with PANDAS and PANS make antibodies to Dopamine 1 and 2 receptors, tubulin receptors and lysoganglioside receptors, but people each make different antibodies. The antibodies can attach and block the receptor or can attach to the receptor and turn the key: act like dopamine, for example. Dopamine makes people tachycardic, a fast heart rate. If dopamine receptors are blocked, that could be a source for “brain fog” and feeling down.
Cytokines: I worked at the National Institutes of Health back in the 1980s before medical school. We were studying interleukin 2 and tumor necrosis factor for cancer treatment. Building 10 had mice on the north south axis and human patients on the east west. It was fascinating. Now I am reading a current book on the immune system. There has been a lot of research since 1988. Cytokines are released by cells and are immunodulating agents. They are a form of communication in the immune system.
Killer T cells: When antibodies coat a cell, there are immune system cells that kill and/or eat the coated cells. This is good if it is an infectious bacteria or a cell infected with virus, but it is bad if it is your own joint cells or your heart cells or, horrors, brain cells. In rheumatic fever, antibodies to strep A attack the patient’s own cells as well as the strep A cells. This is called “pseudo autoimmune” but I am starting to suspect that all the autoimmune disorders are responses to stress or infection or both.
So if you are still reading, you are saying wait, this is awful, what can we do about it?
Our understanding of the immune system is better than 1988 however… it still has a ways to go. I think that Covid-19 and Long Haul Covid are going to seriously accelerate the research in this area. Meanwhile there are some things people can do to “down regulate” or quiet down the immune system.
If antibodies are causing some of the problem, we need to quiet them down. With severe PANDAS in children, plasmapheresis filters the blood and filters out antibodies. However, the body keeps making them. Infection must be treated first, but then the initial antibody response lasts for 6-8 weeks. Then the body makes memory antibodies and cells to remember. With reinfection, the response lasts for 2-4 months and then subsides if the infection is gone.
Treat infection first. Then treat urgent symptoms, including urgent psychiatric symptoms. Then work can start on the sympathetic nervous system, quieting down to the parasympathetic state. This is not easy with Long Haul Covid-19 or chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia because people are afraid, confused, in pain, exhausted. I have written about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems here and here. Start with slow breathing, four seconds in and four seconds out. It takes practice.
I have been getting feedback at the pulmonary rehab. When I arrive, they take my pulse, 02 saturation and blood pressure. They put the pulse oximeter on and often I am up in the 90s. I slow my breathing and watch my pulse drop. One day I came in relaxed and my initial pulse was 71. When I was a little late, it started at 99 and came down. The therapist took it off when I got my pulse down to 90. We can check our own pulse, the number of heart beats in one minute, or a small pulse oximeter is about $30.
We can’t really “fix” the immune system with drugs. Steroids can quiet inflammation but they make us more susceptible to infection and raise blood sugar and cause multiple problems when used chronically, like osteoporosis. Plasmapheresis is expensive and requires specially trained nurses. Doesn’t a breathing exercise sound a lot more DIY and cheaper too? You got this. Practice, practice, practice.
My cardiologist told me to go to the Mayo Clinic six months ago.
I saw him last week and he wanted an update.
I said, “I filled out a request for a visit and my primary care referred me, but Mayo Clinic never called.”
He replies: “I will refer you.”
A week later I get a call from Mayo Clinic. But I do not have an appointment yet because
At the moment this seems insurmountable, but I will keep chipping away at all the insane barriers and paperwork. What a stupid medical system the US has, right?
We still need single payer and medicare for all. There would be one set of patient assistance papers, not five.
The article is a proposal for diagnostic criteria for autoimmune obsessive compulsive disorder, a relatively rare version of OCD. Important because the treatment has to include searching for infection that triggers the antibody response, which in turn attacks the brain. Antibiotics to treat a “psychiatric” disorder. Mind and body connection, right?
The ironic thing about this new proposed diagnosis is that I do not have obivious OCD in any way, shape or form. It is masked by packrat. Also, my OCD is focused. When I was working, it was focused on patients. My clinic charts were thorough, 100% of the time. I was brutally thorough and wouldn’t skip anything. The result was that I got a reputation for being an amazing diagnostician. Usually it was because I wanted ALL the puzzle pieces and the ones that don’t fit are the ones that interested me. They have to all fit. Either the patient is lying or the diagnosis is not as simple as it appears. Occam’s Razor be damned, people can have more than one illness.
In fact, an article 20 years ago looked at average patient panels and said that the average primary care patient has 4-5 chronic illnesses. Hypertension, diabetes, emphysema, tobacco overuse disorder, alcohol overuse disorder, well, yeah. And then the complex ones had 9 or more complex illnesses. You can’t see the person for one thing, because if the diabetic has a toe infection, you’d better look at their kidney function because the antibiotic dose can kill their kidneys if you don’t adjust it. So do not tell me to see the patient for one thing. Malpractice on the hoof. Completely crazy and evil that administrators tell doctors to do that.
No one looking at my house would ever think I have any OCD. I am not a hoarder (ok, books) but the packrat force is strong in me. My daughter did not inherit that gene. She is a minimalist. However, she has come to appreciate the packrat a little.
This summer she said that her purse is wearing out. As a minimalist she has one purse. I ask, “Would you like to see if I have one that you like?” It so happens that as I was trying to recover from pneumonia, a local garage sale had 20+ year old designer purses for $3 each, because the house was going on the market. Got to get rid of the stuff.
“Yes, please.” says my daughter.
I start with the weird ones that I know she will not want. I get eye rolls. But I am progressing towards the purses that are close to the one she has. At last I produce a small leather purse, the right size, in good shape, and she sits up. “Let me see that one.” Like Eeyore with his popped balloon, putting it in a jar and taking it out, she tries putting her phone and wallet in the purse and taking it out. “Yes, I like this!” She calls it “Shopping mom’s closet.” I think it is delightfully comic. The benefits of a packrat mother.
Back to the Nature article and OCD. The diagnostic criteria are gaining steam. Having watched a conference this summer about Pandas and Pans, mine is mild. Some young people have a version where killer T cells invade the brain and kill neurons. I had a moment of panic when the conference was discussing a case, but then I thought, if I had the neuron killing kind I would be dead or demented by now.
Instead, I’m just a little neurologically unusual.
There is an article about US doctors, that primary care would have to work around the clock to apply all of the guidelines, here: https://news.uchicago.edu/story/primary-care-doctors-would-need-more-24-hours-day-provide-recommended-care.
Yes, but this is not new news. There was a trio of articles twenty years ago that said the same thing. And the guidelines have only expanded. Primary care is doing the same thing it has always done: what it can. Meanwhile we go to “Continuing Medical Education” and the other specialists ALL say we are not doing enough, we need to do more. Makes a woman cynical, don’t it?
Family Practice is a specialty, did you know that? We do a three year residency. Internal medicine is also three years, but many then “sub specialize” — further training in cardiology or rheumatology or nephrology, and etc. Sometimes we get a primary care doctor who doesn’t do the extra years but gets interested in something and they learn to subspecialize. We had a pulmonologist on the peninsula here, best I’ve worked with, who had not done the fellowship but learned it on the job. She was excellent and is now retired.
So you as a patient need to be aware of the top ten causes of death and do some thinking. Heart is still number one, in spite of Covid-19. All the cancer deaths are number two, but that’s only a fraction of the cancers. You want cancer screening, to pick it up before it is lethal. Pap smears, colon cancer screening, get your skin checked. Covid-19 is number three in 2020. Let’s look at the list.
US top ten causes of death, 2020.
The list changes. What has fallen out of the top ten, since Covid-19 was not on the list back in 2019? “Intentional self-harm” aka suicide, was number ten in 2019.
Let’s go through the list one at a time and give you some basic tools and ideas about prevention, since your physician doesn’t have enough time to deal with all of it.
Since your doctor does not have time to think about all of this every time you stop by, it’s partly up to you. I don’t trust Dr. Google at all, but the sites I go to are the CDC, the Mayo Clinic, NIH, AAFP (American Academy of Family Practice). I look at lots of quack sites too, to see what is being sold, but I am not advertising them!
Be careful out there.
The photograph is Elwha watching the four point buck and wondering if it will eat him or not. From last week.
In 2013, Catherine Hodes, director of the Safe Homes Project (a domestic-violence program), started a workshop called “Is it Conflict or Abuse?” An abusive dynamic, she argues, requires one person to have power over the other, whereas conflict involves two people struggling for power. The distinction can be confusing, and in some cases “both people feel like they’re being abused, because they’re not getting their needs met or they’re not getting their way.”
From the Atlantic Monthly article: That’s it, you’re dead to me. September 2022 p. 14.
I think this is a fascinating idea, in the article that questions the internet wisdom of getting rid of “toxic people” in one’s life. When we cut off someone we consider “toxic”, we aren’t peaceing them, are we? Peace me, peace you, how do we actively peace people instead of being afraid, on guard, at war. I think everyone is more afraid after the two years of Covid 19 pandemic and all of the deaths and the Long Haul Covid and war. Everyone has a shorter fuse, everyone is stressed.
Remember that stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight system. The body makes less thyroid and less sex hormones and makes more adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid and great for short term, but bad for long term. If we are continually stressed, cortisol messes up the immune system and we get auto-immune disorders, the body attacking its’ own cells. The adrenaline raises our heart rate and blood pressure, neither of which are good for the heart long term. When the thyroid hormone is on the low side, we feel tired. The adrenaline makes us feel wired and we have trouble sleeping. The cortisol makes us more likely to get sick and raises blood sugar too. The low sex hormones, well, women can stop menses and men start asking for viagra.
So we as a world, need to learn to downregulate the sympathetic nervous system and go back to parasympathetic. The relaxed one. The one where we have less adrenaline and less high cortisol and more thyroid and our gut works and sex works again. How do we get there?
Breathing is one way. Slow breathing: 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out. Work up to 20 minutes. One of my veterans said he was not used to feeling relaxed, it felt weird. Ok, it may feel weird, but maybe we need to practice it. He did. There is circular breathing too, 5 seconds in, 5 hold, 5 out, 5 hold. Zen meditation, facing a wall for 40 minutes, works too. We try not to follow the thoughts. The thoughts pop up anyhow, but not following them down the rabbit hole is interesting and challenging. Mindful mediation and Jon Kabat Zinn’s books and tapes work as well. It takes practice. Practice peace, practice relaxing. Doesn’t that sound like a lovely practice?
Stupid cat videos work for me too. Laughter works. What makes you laugh? I like the silly animal videos, the moose playing with the wind chimes, three baby bears rescued (with care) from a dumpster, with the truck driving off to avoid momma bear. Rocking, knitting, sewing, fishing, walking the beach, cuddling a baby, dancing, listening to music, playing music. Which works for you? Silly movies. I don’t like horror movies, and I love cartoons and animation. Engage the child at heart for the parasympathetic nervous system.
In high school my daughter said that most fights were stupid. “One person says something without thinking. The other person goes off and gets upset. She stops talking to person one, who has no idea what is going on, and they often talk to their friends. So there is this big fight over some dumb comment.”
I don’t think it ends with high school, sadly enough. And before we label someone “toxic”, maybe we need to wander off and breathe, or watch a silly cat video. Whatever works for you that doesn’t hurt others.
We need more parasympathy in the world. Yep, I just made that word up. Relax and if you can’t or won’t, consider practicing.
Peace you and please peace me.
August 19, 2022
Ok, this is a beautiful and romantic song, and yeah, George Strait is pretty.
And then there’s the Offspring. Singing Self Esteem. Guess which I like better.
The Offspring: defiance and singing about all sorts of things that we don’t talk about: “The more we suffer the more we really care!” Some of my patients needed to listen to this song. Often the mom, with a spouse and three children, who was taking care of all of them but not herself. “Who takes care of YOU?” I would ask. “No one,” some moms would say. “Look. There are FIVE people in your family. You are one of them. You deserve the same level of care that the rest of them are getting. I want you to include yourself in the people you take care of.” “BUT” “NO BUTS. If you don’t, then you are setting expectations for your children: the boys that a wife will take care of them and the girls to be walked on. Is that what you want?” “NO.” “Change it.” They often would, slowly but surely.
And The Offspring are further my heroes because of this song: Opioid Diaries. Ok, a punk band telling opioid overuse people to get help. MY HEROES! Thank you Offspring!!! It’s not easy to watch but wait until the ending and what if offers. I treated opioid overuse for the last 12 years in my small family practice clinic along with everything else: diabetes, hypertension, whatever. I never felt threatened or frightened, but some of that is because I grew up in an alcohol family. I recognize addiction. Reminding my of my parents is not a good sign. And I had to learn boundaries at home first. This is an uncomfortable video to watch but to me it is beautiful, because it offers hope.
I had cobra from my job in 2009 and the insurance company refused my bills. Not one bill. Not once. EVERY BILL EVERY TIME: 1. my healthcare 2. my son’s healthcare 3. my daughter’s healthcare 4. my daughter’s orthodontia 5. my dentist 6. my son’s dentist. I had to call EVERY TIME to get them to pay. Calling an insurance company takes 25 or 30 minutes, right? Eventually I asked for customer service who first said it was my fault because “you probably paid the bill late”. I said, “No, I was on time every month.” Then customer service wouldn’t call me back. I finally called their COUNSELING HOTLINE, since it said I would be “paid” $30 to get counseled, and said, “MY LITTLE SISTER IS DYING OF BREAST CANCER AND THE THING THAT IS MOST STRESSING ME OUT IS YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY WON’T PAY THE COBRA BILLS AND I HAVE CALLED CUSTOMER SERVICE OVER AND OVER AND THEY WON’T CALL ME BACK. HOW ABOUT YOU COUNSEL ME HOW TO DEAL WITH THAT!” And I cried. I got a call back from the head of customer service saying “Oh, it’s a computer glitch and we had you misfiled. We have fixed it.” They “misfile” people all the time, or drop patients if they get sick, or say the person didn’t pay on time. I HATE INSURANCE COMPANIES. Anyhow, be warned that insurance companies are there to earn money and will try to avoid paying you in all sorts of ways, including ways that are illegal.
We need single payer healthcare, medicare for all. If we all have healthcare, think of how many small businesses would start up. And why don’t we have single payer healthcare? I think the big corporations don’t want it.
Physicians for a National Healthcare Program: https://pnhp.org/
Medicare for all: https://medicare4all.org/
And my dear friends not on the road any more: http://madashelldoctors.com/
Who is the man in the photograph? I don’t know. This is an old tintype. They came from my Great Aunt, Esther White Parr, married to Russel Parr. Perhaps they are Parrs, because my Uncle Rob did not know any of the people in the four tintypes I have. My sister and I used them for portraits in our china doll houses. I hope he is not the CEO of an insurance corporation, but then, all the white collar white men tried to dress that way then.
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