Is this a tree?

Is this a tree?

I would not call this a tree. I would call it a cone. It contains seeds. It is not a tree.

A pregnancy is called an embryo until 8 weeks after conception and then a fetus until birth. It is not a baby, any more than a seed is a tree. Here is a link to a picture of the embryo developing:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_embryonic_development#/media/File:HumanEmbryogenesis.svg

It’s a bit difficult to call the embryo a baby.

After 8 weeks (10 weeks from the last menstrual period) the developing pregnancy is called a fetus. It cannot survive outside the womb. A term pregnancy is 37 weeks, and the due date is at 40 weeks. The earliest survival, certainly not natural, is around 24 weeks. This takes heavy intervention and technology, a premature infant on a ventilator for months. There is risk of damage to the eyes from high oxygen and risk of spontaneous brain bleed and cerebral palsy, because the newborn can weigh half a pound. Once born, the fetus is termed a baby.

This is important from a medical standpoint and pounded into us as physicians. WHY? Because in a trauma situation, the life of the mother comes first. In Obstetrics and Family Medicine, the life of the mother comes first. In Oncology, the life of the mother comes first. My sister was diagnosed with stage IIIB ductal breast cancer at age 41. She was engaged and it turned out that she was pregnant. She wrote this essay on her blog, Butterfly Soup:

The hardest loss of breast cancer.

She had an abortion and chose chemotherapy, because it was her or the fetus. If she had chemotherapy pregnant, at that time she was told that it would probably kill the fetus or cause terrible birth defects. If she held off on chemotherapy for seven months, her oncologist thought she would die. She had a very very aggressive cancer and she already had a daughter who needed her.

She lived until age 49, with multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, gamma knife radiation, whole brain radiation. And she lived until her daughter was 13. Without the abortion, her physicians thought she would have died when her daughter was 7.

My ethics in medicine are that patients have autonomy. I would NOT have wanted my sister to choose to refuse chemo and try to bring a baby to term while dying of breast cancer. However, it was HER CHOICE, not mine. It was private and no one else’s business and how dare people make moral judgements about another person’s medical choices. I give my patients CHOICES. They can choose not to treat cancer and go into hospice. They can choose surgery or refuse it. They can choose to treat opioid addiction or refuse. They may die of a heroin overdose and I grieve. I try to convince them to go to treatment and I give them nalaxone to try to reverse overdoses. I refuse a medication or treatment that I think will harm my patients, but my patients have autonomy and choices. That extends to women and pregnancy as well.

It is NOT a baby in the womb, however emotionally attached people are to this image. It is an embryo first and then a fetus. And in a car wreck, the woman comes first and the fetus second.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: explain.

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.


stranded mermaid, cilia and tubulin

I took this photograph last summer at North Beach. I thought she looks like a stranded mermaid, thrown up on shore. I couldn’t move her, she was twice my length. The rock attachment had come too, up from our sea beds.

Happy solstice. Today marks the one year day from when I realized that I was having my fourth round of pneumonia, with hypoxia, agitation, fast twitch muscle dysfuntion and felt sick as could be. I am way better but not well. That is, I still need oxygen to play flute, to sing, to do heavy exercise and to carry anything heavy. Which is WAY better then having to wear oxygen all the time. Today I find a connection between the lungs and the brain, in quanta magazine. This video talks about a new found connection between cilia and the brain. We were taught that cilia and flagella are for locomotion, powered by tubulin. However, this shows that cilia behave like neurons and there is a connection. Since my peculiar illness seems to involve cilia dysfunction in my muscles and lungs, so that I get pneumonia, and the brain, because I am wired when it hits, this is a fascinating connection. If neurons developed from cilia, the dual illness makes a lot more sense. Hooray for quantum mechanics! We use it in medicine every single day.

Happy solstice! Here comes the sun!

first impressions

I am taking a writing class and our next book is on cultural appropriation.

This interests me. I tend to be a little gender blind and race blind when I meet people. I am using my super skill instead. My skill is developed from a really scary childhood: I read the stuffed emotions. The stuff people are hiding.

No way, you say. Oh, yes, I say.

My sister described coming home from high school and stopping when she walked into the house. She was trying to sense what was going on. Were our parents fighting? Was our father drunk? Yes, he was drunk, but which stage?

We talked about the stages and which we hated most.

Stage goofy/silly was annoying but not toxic. We said we had homework.

Stage asleep in a fetal ball in the upstairs hallway. My sister said she would step over him to get to her room.

Stage maudlin. We both agreed this was the worst. He would cry and say, “You can tell me anything.” Once he caught me in that stage and I was in tears by the time my mother got home. I left the room. The next morning mother said, “He said you two were discussing the cat’s disappearance.” I didn’t answer. We never said a word about the cat. I didn’t know if he was lying or was too drunk to remember it the next day, so made it up. Don’t care. Avoid.

He was never physically abusive. He and my mother would scream at each other at 1 or 2 am through most of high school. Reading her diaries, she writes that she drinks too much. I think they were both alcoholics, thought the family story is that he was the bad one. But I can’t imagine yelling with a drunk at 1 or 2 am for an hour. What is the point? They are drunk. So either she was drunk too or needed to fight.

Emotionally abusive, yes, both parents. My mother would take any show of fear or grief and tell it as a very very funny story to every person she ran into. Is it any surprise that I had to go into therapy after she died to learn to feel fear or grief? My sister would say, “She’s got her stone face on,” about me. Um, yeah, I am NOT going to let my family see my emotions…

Anyhow, that is what I read in people when I first meet them. It’s not the suit, the clothes, the make up, the race, the gender. I pretty much ignore those. I was fashion blind in junior high, a girl geek, could not read the code and did not care. I had given up on socializing with my fellow students. I was hopelessly bad at it. I did a lot better with the adults around my parents. I could have actual conversations with them.

I had one patient who was transgender where I couldn’t remember which direction. I didn’t care, either. That was a really angry person. Anger is always covering other emotions, so I avoided pronouns and tried to be as gentle as possible.

I complained to a counselor once that I can’t turn this “off”. And that it’s fine in clinic with patients, but it screws with my relationships with my peer doctors. They do not like it if I “read” them.

It took me years, but I finally realized that I have to use my clinic skills with everyone. I can’t turn off “reading” any more than you turn off your eyes when you meet a new person. But I can be as gentle with everyone as I am in clinic. I realized that as I started on a trip and the trip was amazing, everyone was so nice.

This reading is a product of a high ACE Score: Adverse Childhood Experiences. I score about a 5. One of my patients set off my ACE alarms on the first visit. I asked if he had had a rough childhood and gave a very short explanation of ACE scores. “Oh, I am a ten out of ten,” he said. He was, too. Ran away from home at age 6 or 8.

The ACE scores of all the children are rising from the last two years. The war will raise them even more, worse for the children there and the kids trying not to starve in Afganistan and Syria and world wide.

It will be interesting to read about cultural appropriation. But I don’t care much: I don’t “see” those things when I meet someone.

Hugs and blessings.

The photograph is me and my sister Chris in 1987, before my wedding. We were dancing before the wedding. She died in 2012 after 7 years of breast cancer.

Doctors and nurses and hospital staff are the last caregivers for the elderly alcoholics and addicts who are alone, whose families have finally cut them off. I think this song illustrates their pain. We try to take care of them.

Update on whatever it is I have

I had the heart echocardiogram bubble study. Normal. I really really did not like having the mix of blood, saline and AIR injected and I COULD FEEL IT. My logical brain knew it was going into a vein, but my emotional brain kept yelling “Air embolisms kill people!” Yes, but that is arterial. My emotional brain did not care. Anyhow, it was fine.

Saw the cardiologist who said he can understand why I feel PTSD going into my local hospital. He says I should not need oxygen at age 60 with no smoking. He says “Not your heart.” Yeah, duuuude, I know. He suggests I go to the Mayo Clinic. I agree.

Meanwhile, my primary sent a referral to rheumatology to have me seen at Swedish to confirm chronic fatigue. This is to keep the stupid disability off my back. Swedish rheum doesn’t call me. I ask my primary’s office. Swedish STILL doesn’t call me. I call them, as follows.

“Hi, I was referred to Swedish rheum and I have not been called.”

“Name, serial number, date of birth, length of little toe. Ah, we just received the referral yesterday.”

“Um, I don’t think so. I was referred over a month ago.”

“Uh, oh,” scrabble noises, “Oh, uh, we got a referral in December. We were not taking new patients in December.”

“When did you start taking new patients?”

“Oh, um.”

“When did you start taking new patients?”

“Oh, uh, January. But we only took the ones that called us, because after they call, we then review the notes.”

“So you ignored the referral until I call? How am I supposed to know that?”

“Oh, uh, we will expedite your referral. Maybe even today.”

So THEN I get a message from my primary that they have REFUSED the referral. Great.

Meanwhile I read the cardiologist’s note, which pisses me off. “We will refer you to Mayo Clinic since you have unexplained hypoxia and you think you have PANS.”

I send my primary a very pissed off note saying, could we please phrase this as “a psychiatrist suggested PANS in 2012 and while no one likes this diagnosis, no one else has suggested an overarching diagnosis since that time in spite of her seeing four pulmonologists, neurology, cardiology, infectious disease, four psychiatrists, allergy/asthma, and immunology”. Saying “the patient thinks she has PANS” automatically labels me as crazy and obsessed.

So, it seems I should write a book, about how the medical communities treat patients, including a fellow physician, horribly. Of those doctors, three have treated me with respect and were grown up enough to say, “We don’t know.” The neurologist, the infectious disease doc and the present pulmonologist. All the rest are dismissive and disrespectful. Oh, and the one psychiatrist, but the next one says, “I don’t believe in PANDAS.” I stare at him in disbelief, thinking “they are animals related to raccoons that live in China, you moron”. I did not even know it was controversial until that moment. Holy PANDAS, Batman.

My primary has suggested I write to the Mayo Clinic myself, and I am going to. Because the present people aren’t listening, except my pulmonologist and she is short staffed and looks like death warmed over post call every time I see her.

So it’s all annoying as hell. The cardiologist seemed pretty nice, but damn, he put the same damn rumor down about me self diagnosing. Most of the doctors apparently think I might be a tolerable person if they could just drug me with psych drugs. And from what I have seen, there are many patients who are in this situation.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: WAR.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30724577/

hope for good coming out of isolation

This video is from 2011. I was invited to be a speaker and had ten minutes to present the Mad as Hell Doctor program, talking about single payer healthcare, medicare for all.

If there is a good thing to get from Covid-19, for me it is single payer healthcare. Because doctors and nurses and staff are worn out, sick, quitting, dying. We need people to take out sick appendixes. We need people to work in nursing homes. We need to support our medical people and I am NOT talking about insurance corporations. They are making more profit than ever. Twenty percent of every dollar paid to them or more.

People say, but it’s socialized medicine, to have medicare for all. Well, no. The only socialized medicine in the US currently is the Veterans Administration. No one that I talk to wants to take away Veterans benefits. Or any of the other government programs: medicare, medicaid, active duty military. The oldest, the poorest and disabled and the people defending our country.

But physicians can do a better job if they are not worrying about prior authorization from 500 + companies, each with multiple different insurance contracts, and who can change what they cover at any time. I get emails all the time: we have changed what we cover. Great. Like I have time to read and learn 500+ insurance contracts. I memorize medicare rules and they change too. Medicare for all, one set of rules and then if you ask if something is covered, we will know.

I am not the only physician who wants single payer: Physicians for a National Healthcare Program.

I find this on line: https://www.quora.com/Could-Medicare-or-Medicaid-be-expanded-to-the-general-population-to-create-single-payer-healthcare-Would-it-be-more-efficient-than-an-entirely-new-program?share=1

The answer is yes, yes, yes. And there would be a continuous ongoing battle about what is covered and what isn’t but that already happens. For two reasons: medicine changes continuously as the science changes and there is a vocal strong fringe, which is occasionally correct. I don’t trust the fringe, but then I don’t trust insurance companies, herbal medicine makers or politicians either.

_____________________________

I can’t credit the videographer because I did not know that the video was being taken or that it was posted. I found out when a new patient said she was seeing me because of my video. I had to look it up.

Covid-19: Good and Bad News

I am writing this on Christmas morning.

The good news is this: National Guard Empties Bedpans and Clips Toenails at Nursing Homes. “In Minnesota, an ambitious initiative is training hundreds of Guard members to become certified nursing assistants and relieve burned-out nursing home workers.” (1) Well, hooray, the National Guard is called out to help, because the nursing homes are out of staff and we aren’t supposed to abuse our elderly. I think this is AMAZING. And the National Guard may learn some things about work and the elderly too. Hoorah and Hooray!

The bad news is a snippet from New York State: Omicron is milder, BUT the exception may be children. (2) Child cases of Covid-19 are going up really fast and hospital admissions of children. ICU work is hard hard hard, but child and infant ICU is even harder. Blessings on the nurses who do this and the physicians too. When I did my pediatrics rotation way back in Richmond, VA, in a tertiary care hospital, I had children who were dying: one with a brain tumor, one with liver cancer, one with Wilm’s disease. Hard work. I chose Family Practice. I have still had pediatric patients die, including an 18 month old where I had taken care of mother through the pregnancy, but not terribly many. Even less in the last ten years since my average patient was about age 70. All of my kids in the last ten years were complicated: one with Down’s, another a leukemia survivor, others. Children can be very medically complicated. I had two adults who had survived infant heart surgery as well. They were set up with UW’s Adults who had Childhood Heart Surgery Clinic, though that is not the correct name. I am pretty happy to have that sort of back up only two hours away. They both had pretty awesome heart murmurs and that midline chest zipper scar. Ouch.

So, why post this on Christmas? If the cases are rising in children, maybe that will inspire some folks to get vaccinated or at least not yell at family who refuse to bring small children to an unvaccinated Christmas gathering. Judging by the posts on the doctor mom facebook group, there is quite a bit of family yelling going on. Stand down, folks, and respect other peoples’ boundaries.

The problem is, if enough children are sick, we run out of beds. And staff. “As of Thursday, there were 1,987 confirmed or suspected pediatric covid-19 patients hospitalized nationally, a 31 percent jump in 10 days, according to a Washington Post analysis.” (3)

Blessings.

1. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/22/health/covid-national-guard-nursing-homes.html?action=click&campaign_id=154&emc=edit_cb_20211223&instance_id=48593&module=RelatedLinks&nl=coronavirus-briefing&pgtype=Article®i_id=165651500&segment_id=77808&te=1&user_id=c97a1a8547f511fe3bd45b0806ed713c

2. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/23/us/covid-cases-children.html

3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/12/24/omicron-children-hospitalizations-us/

Covid-19: omicron

So far, it looks like the Omicron variant is more infectious and less virulent.

“This is good, right? you say, “We can all just get it, then we are immune, move on with our lives.”

There are three, no, four major problems that I can think of right off the bat.

1. Long Haul Covid. We do not know if Omicron will cause Long Haul Covid. This is a big deal. The numbers right now are suggesting that one third of the people who get Covid-19, even a mild case, still have problems at six months out and twelve months out. Are you willing to take a one in three chance? Not me! We do not know how to fix Long Haul Covid-19, we don’t know what it is (even though I have suspicions) and some people can’t even get out of bed. This is bad.

2. Omicron will be happily playing with Delta and trading genes and making NEW babies. As one math joker says, “hey, don’t screw up Pi for us.” We could get a version with the infectious capacity of Omicron and the virulence of Delta. This is also bad.

3. We don’t know what it will do to small children and babies and the very old and the immunosurpressed and Covid-19 turns out to infect fat cells which is theoretically why overweight and obese people in their thirties are dying with it. The doc group I am in on Facebutt is reporting a 5% survival with long term ECMO (heart lung bypass machine) and that people may need to be on the machine for months. Like, eight months. This requires two nurses at all times, not to mention a specialist. A few places report 30% survival, but they also say that they say NO a lot and refuse people they think will not survive. Might as well pick the ones that might survive, right?

4. We don’t know if the drugs we have right now work against it. Some may, some may not. Starting over.

So, I still say get immunized if you haven’t and get boosted if you have. Get your influenza shot too. The masks are helping with influenza this year too, but if flu really got a hold, flu in post-covid would be a very very effective killer. And if you are 65* you should get your prevnar vaccine, for pneumococcal pneumonia. It used to be called “the old man’s friend” because it’s such an effective killer of people 65 and up. The new shingles vaccine, yeah, get that too. Do you feel like a pincushion yet?

No word yet from my immunologist. If I am not making antibodies to Covid-19, do I cancel my Christmas trip? Dunno. Will wait to hear.

Happy whatever you celebrate.


1. https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/02/world/south-africa-omicron-origins-covid-cmd-intl/index.html?utm_source=fbCNN&utm_medium=social&utm_content=2021-12-02T13%3A31%3A02&utm_term=link&fbclid=IwAR0NySrFr-I_ieYmVMQawstw6-oEGlxf32MgcbKyLz8RvpdHHGfzZ678XTY

2. https://robinschoenthaler.medium.com/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-omicron-that-we-dont-know-yet-d85bdd64d76e

3. https://longbeach.gov/press-releases/omicron-variant-of-covid-19-virus-found-in-long-beach/. Yep, in my state.

4. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/omicron-variant.html

* Or are younger and have heart disease, lung disease or anything really complicated, like cancer, lupus, autoimmune stuff, etc, etc.

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.