Small cat

The kittens were new in 2021 and are so much bigger now. Elwha is the biggest cat I’ve ever had. Tiger face and shoulders. They were a bit malnourished when I got them and Elwha grow out rather than up at first. He was also very worried about food and ate very fast. It took a while for him to trust that more food would come. So far so good and he is much more mellow now.

And they both love to go outside on harness and leash. I have to take them one at a time, because I can’t effectively carry both if one of them freaks out. Elwha is much more likely to freak out than Sol Duc. The recycling truck is particularly scary. Also people, dogs and SUVs.

Early on, when everything was new, Elwha jumped into the bathtub and howled, because he landed in water. He had previously found it empty. I had to rescue him and he was very upset. He spent a full thirty minutes cleaning himself.

Very happy New Year’s Eve. Be careful out there and I hope the New Year brings joys. I am hoping that this will be our last really bad Covid-19 winter, though we may need to do yearly vaccines.

Here is a tea-cat, Hot Kitty, in a teapot that Helen Burling Ottaway made. She was my mother and the poem on the teapot is mine. You can read it here. We drank a lot of tea growing up.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: new.

Vaccination talk

My cousin asks me once, why do doctors say, “This will only hurt a little?’ when they give a shot.

I thought about it. “It’s a matter of scale. Picture this: in room one, I have a woman who thinks her lung cancer is back and it is. In room two I have a mother and daughter crying because the daughter is pregnant and frightened. In room three, I have a well adult who needs a vaccination. Scale their levels of pain.”

Room one is very high, room two is very high, room three barely registers on my pain scale.

I would give out a health department vaccination information booklet by 24 weeks to my pregnant patients, especially the first pregnancy. I previously had given it later, but then I had a woman who refused the child’s vaccines at visit after visit after visit, saying that they were still doing research. The child still had no vaccinations at 9 months.

Remember the woman who refused vaccinations for her children? She had more than four children. They all got whooping cough, pertussis. They whooped for months and were on quarantine. They were not allowed out of the household, any of them, until they were no longer infectious. The mother said she now was for vaccines and got them vaccinated.

I have seen adults with pertussis. Adults do not whoop but they cough. They can cough until they throw up or until they break a rib. For months. It is not fun at all. The adult Tdap stands for tetnus, diptheria, and acellular pertussis. I have never seen a case of diptheria and I don’t want to. It sounds horrible and can kill.

Have I seen a complication of a vaccination? One in 30 years of practice. And I know a person who had a complication, but they were not my patient.

The illnesses cause way more damage and disability than the vaccine. In residency I care for a young man in a group home. He can’t talk and has an odd skull shape. His mother got measles during the pregnancy. Measles is one of the infections that can cause severe birth defects. Get vaccinated before getting pregnant, though half the pregnancies in the US are “unintended”. That usually means “unbirthcontrolled”. I do not really understand that, since the risk of pregnancy in a fertile woman is one in four every time. Twenty five percent seems a pretty high risk to me.

I’ve written about my response to my last Covid-19 vaccination. It’s not a complication. It is an antibody response and it means that my immune system is WORKING, though admittedly it is weird and annoying. I don’t like the muscle dysfunction, but I will get the vaccinations anyhow.

I have a very alternative young woman in for prenatal care once. I give her the vaccination booklet. “Oh, my child is getting every vaccine there is,” she says.

“May I ask why? I was not expecting you to say that.”

“I was in the Peace Corps in Africa. I have seen kids die from every single one of the diseases we vaccinate for. My kid will get ALL the vaccinations.”

I said, “Please would you talk to my other moms?”

She smiled at that. “Maybe.”

I hope she did and does.

growing

My son and daughter-in-law got married April 30th in Black Diamond, Washington. The young man in the photograph was the youngest in the house I rented. We had my two aunts: 81 and 86 years old, and my uncle, 85 years old. Me, my daughter, my two friends and their son. This young man and I took photographs. He taught me new things about my camera and on the last day ran a slide show from my laptop to the television. He helped all of us folks with technology and we really enjoyed having him there.

And I am delighted to hear that he told his parent that he wished we had one more day, all of us. Eight people in a household from Thursday to Monday and it went very well. Weddings always have some interesting glitches, but after putting off the wedding for two years due to covid, the bride and groom did not seem rattled by anything! My daughter-in-law is truly a delight.

Here is to the next generation, surviving this pandemic, sweeping up the pieces and growing, and thriving anyhow.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: children.

B is for Busy and Burling

My mother, Helen Burling Ottaway, was a very busy and prolific artist.

Every New Year’s, she would resolve to paint a water color a day. By March she would complain that she had only painted 25 or 30. However, she would also be doing birthday presents for me and my sister and our father, all in March, and crafts and etchings and pastels and a life drawing class and the sketchbook that she constantly carried.

B is also for baby. The etching is of my sister, Christine Robbins Ottaway, as a baby. The title is Chris I and she did this in 1968.

I have described the process for etchings here: Four Seasons.

My mother was a very busy artist.

#ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 # art # Women artists # Helen Burling Ottaway

small child

You work at healing
For years

You dive in the swamp
Of your psyche
Turn over the mud
Tunnel through it
Breath it
See lilies arise
From the muck

The Beloved is a deer
Dainty hooves
In the swamp

At last you come
To bedrock

So you rest
Bedrock
You think

Until you notice
A chink in the rock
You look away
You avoid it

At last you look
It isn’t going away

The Beloved is a bittern
In the reeds

Fluid leaks
From the chink

Foul black bilious
Acidic
Burning holes in the slanted rock
Again you look away
But not for long

You step forward
Touch the rock

I am present you say
Who is there?

The stream of foul black
Increases
Pours from a widening crack

Beloved is a tiger
Paw against the rock

You see the acid burning
Her paw
But she does not run
She stands guard

Who are you?
You whisper

The rock crumbles

There is a child

Go away” says the child
Ancient

No you say
Beloved and I
Stay present

The black is swirling around you
It’s hard to keep your footing
Beloved, an orca
Steadies you, swimming

No one stays says the child

We stay present you say

I was born I loved I was abandoned When I was afraid

We are present now you say
Swimming by the Beloved
Hand on black fin

I was abandoned When I grieved

We are here now you say

I was abandoned In my despair

We are here you say

You say
You fought
Out of love
You argued
Out of love
You gave
Out of love
Please child
Let us cradle you

The child is silent

The tide is slowing
The rock has crumbled away
A trickle of clear water bubbles

You will stay? says the child

We stay you say

Beloved is a whale
Singing in space
Singing to the stars

Am I lovable? says the child

You and Beloved
Earth and sky
Wind and trees
Moon and stars
Answer yes

Am I loved?

Yes
Yes

8/27/2007

hollow

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is hollow. Hollow, halloween, hollow promises, and hallowed promises. Which is it?

My friend in Michigan was teaching his three children to use a fire extinguisher at Thanksgiving. What a wonderful use for the hollow rotting Halloween pumpkin! They each got a chance to use the fire extinguisher and put out the fire. Emergency preparedness on Thanksgiving Day! That is an example of wonderful parenting as far as I am concerned.

Adverse Childhood Experiences 12: welcome to the dark

Welcome to the dark, everyone.

When you think about it, all the children in the world are adding at least one Adverse Childhood Experience score and possibly more, because of Covid-19. Some will add more than one: domestic violence is up with stress, addiction is up, behavioral health problems are up, some parents get sick and die, and then some children are starving.

From the CDC Ace website:

“Overview:Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood. ACEs can include violence, abuse, and growing up in a family with mental health or substance use problems. Toxic stress from ACEs can change brain development and affect how the body responds to stress. ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood. However, ACEs can be prevented.”

Well, can they be prevented? Could Covid-19 be prevented? I question that one.

I have a slightly different viewpoint. I have an ACE Score of 5 and am not dead and don’t have heart disease. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about ACE scores and that it’s framed as kids’ brains are damaged.

I would argue that this is survival wiring. When I have a patient where I suspect a high ACE score, I bring it up, show them the CDC web site and say that I think of it as “crisis wiring” not “damaged”. I say, “You survived your childhood. Good job! The low ACE score people do not understand us and I may be able to help you let go of some of the automatic survival reactions and fit in with the people who had a nice childhood more easily.”

It doesn’t seem useful to me to say “We have to prevent ACE scores.” Um. Tsunamis, hurricanes, Covid-19, wars… it seems to me that the ACE score wiring is adaptive. If your country is at war and you are a kid and your family sets out to sea to escape, well, you need to survive. If that means you are guarded, untrusting, suspicious and wary of everyone, yeah, ok. You need to survive. One of my high ACE Score veterans said that the military loved him because he could go from zero to 60 in one minute. Yeah, me too. I’ve worked on my temper since I was a child. Now it appears that my initial ACE insult was my mother having tuberculosis, so in the womb. Attacked by antibodies, while the tuberculosis bacillus cannot cross the placenta, luckily for me. And luckily for me she coughed blood at 8 months pregnant and then thought she had lung cancer and was going to die at age 22. Hmmm, think of what those hormones did to my wiring.

So if we can’t prevent all ACE Scores, what do we do? We change the focus. We need to understand crisis wiring, support it and help people to let go of the hair trigger that got them through whatever horrid things they grew up with. 16% of Americans have a score of 4 or more BEFORE Covid-19. We now have a 20 or 25 year cohort that will have higher scores. Let’s not label them doomed or damaged. Let’s talk about it and help people to understand.

I read a definition of misery memoirs today. I don’t scorn them. I don’t like the fake ones. I don’t read them, though I did read Angela’s Ashes. What I thought was amazing about Angela’s Ashes is that for me he captures the child attitude of accepting what is happening: when his sibling is dying and they see a dog get killed and he associates the two. And when he writes about moving and how their father would not carry anything, because it was shameful for a man to do that. He takes it all for granted when he is little because that is what he knows. One book that I know of that makes a really difficult childhood quite amazing is Precious Bane, by Mary Webb. Here is a visible disability that marks her negatively and yet she thrives.

A friend met at a conference is working with traumatic brain injury folks. They were starting a study to measure ACE scores and watch them heal, because they were noticing the high ACE score people seem to recover faster. I can see that: I would just say, another miserable thing and how am I going to work through it. Meanwhile a friend tells me on the phone that it’s “not fair” that her son’s senior year of college is spoiled by Covid-19. I think to myself, uh, yes but he’s not in a war zone nor starving nor hit by a tsunami and everyone is affected by this and he’s been vaccinated. I think he is very lucky. What percentage of the world has gotten vaccinated? He isn’t on a ventilator. Right now, that falls under doing well and also lucky in my book. And maybe that is what the high ACE score people have to teach the low ACE score people: really, things could be a lot worse. No, I don’t trust easily and I am no longer feeling sorry about it. I have had a successful career in spite of my ACE score, I ran a clinic in the way that felt ethical to me, I have friends who stick with me even through PANDAS and my children are doing well. And I am not addicted to anything except I’d get a caffeine headache for a day if I had none.

For the people with the good childhood, the traumatic brain injury could be their first terrible experience. They go through the stages of grief. The high ACE score people do too, but we’ve done it before, we are familiar with it, it’s old territory, yeah ok jungle again, get the machete out and move on. As the world gets through Covid-19, with me still thinking that this winter looks pretty dark, maybe we can all learn about ACE scores and support each other and try to be kind, even to the scary looking veteran.

Take care.

Mask refusal in the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic

This is from an article about the history of medicine, about people refusing to wear masks in the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic:

“Adherence is based on three concepts: individualism versus collectivism; trust versus fear; and willingness to obey social distance rules. Jay Van Bavel opines that some countries tend to be more individualistic,16 and therefore more likely to reject rules and ignore attempts by public health authorities to “nudge” behavior change with risk messages or appeals for altruism. In collectivist cultures, people are more likely to do what is deemed best for society. Trust and fear are also significant influences on human behavior.17 In countries with political division, people are less likely to trust advice from one side or the other and are more likely to form pro- and anti- camps. This may also undermine advice issued by public health professionals. The last and most difficult to attain is social distancing. Human beings are social animals with bodies and brains designed and wired for connection. A pandemic, in many ways, goes against our instinct to connect. Behavioral psychologist Michael Sanders argues that if everybody breaks the rules a little bit, the results are not dissimilar to many people not following the rules at all.18

From another article:

“It was the worst pandemic in modern history.

The 1918 influenza virus swept the globe, killing at least 50 million people worldwide.

In the US, the disease devastated cities, forcing law enforcement to ban public meetings, shut down schools, churches, and theaters, and even stop funerals.

In total, 675,000 Americans died from the Spanish flu, named after the disease’s early presence in Spain.”

I read a book on the 1918-1919 influenza. It started in the U.S. The photograph that haunts me is the bodies stacked five deep in the hallways of San Francisco Hospitals.

And in a third article:

“The scenes in Philadelphia appeared to be straight out of the plague-infested Middle Ages. Throughout the day and night, horse-drawn wagons kept a constant parade through the streets of Philadelphia as priests joined the police in collecting corpses draped in sackcloths and blood-stained sheets that were left on porches and sidewalks. The bodies were piled on top of each other in the wagons with limbs protruding from underneath the sheets. The parents of one small boy who succumbed to the flu begged the authorities to allow him the dignity of being buried in a wooden box that had been used to ship macaroni instead of wrapping him a sheet and having him taken away in a patrol wagon.”

A CDC article about the history of the 1918-1919 influenza says this:

“The fully reconstructed 1918 virus was striking in terms of its ability to quickly replicate, i.e., make copies of itself and spread infection in the lungs of infected mice. For example, four days after infection, the amount of 1918 virus found in the lung tissue of infected mice was 39,000 times higher than that produced by one of the comparison recombinant flu viruses.14

Furthermore, the 1918 virus was highly lethal in the mice. Some mice died within three days of infection with the 1918 virus, and the mice lost up to 13% of their body weight within two days of infection with the 1918 virus. The 1918 virus was at least 100 times more lethal than one of the other recombinant viruses tested.14 Experiments indicated that 1918 virus’ HA gene played a large role in its severity. When the HA gene of the 1918 virus was swapped with that of a contemporary human seasonal influenza A (H1N1) flu virus known as “A/Texas/36/91” or Tx/91 for short, and combined with the remaining seven genes of the 1918 virus, the resulting recombinant virus notably did not kill infected mice and did not result in significant weight loss.14

The 1918-1919 influenza virus was sequenced and studied in 2005. We did not have the tools before that. Frozen bodies were exhumed with the permission of Inuit tribes to find the virus.

Later, that same article talks about future pandemics:

“When considering the potential for a modern era high severity pandemic, it is important; however, to reflect on the considerable medical, scientific and societal advancements that have occurred since 1918, while recognizing that there are a number of ways that global preparations for the next pandemic still warrant improvement.”

Let us now travel back to a worse epidemic: the plague in the Middle Ages:

“Did you know? Between 1347 and 1350, a mysterious disease known as the “Black Death” (the bubonic plague) killed some 20 million people in Europe—30 percent of the continent’s population. It was especially deadly in cities, where it was impossible to prevent the transmission of the disease from one person to another.”

I am hoping that people will awaken, get their vaccines, wear their masks and stop Covid-19 in its’ tracks, so that our death rate resembles the 1918-1919 Influenza. Not the Middle Ages plague.