grounded

This is a poem that I wrote in 2015 or before. It was previously posted here and on everything2.com. I just read a blog where two hockey dads are dead of covid-19. The author is writing about grief. I wrote this when I was struggling with grief and how to really let it in.

grounded

grief is an ox
that stands in the room with me
and overshadows
everything

no
grief
is a plow
pulled by an ox
I try to guide it
in the furrows

no
grief is the heavy ground
the plow turns it
the ox pulls
I guide it
in the furrows

no
I am grieving
I let it be close
I don’t push it
in to an ox
in to a plow
in to the earth
I let it in
I grieve

plane view

I took this last month when I flew to Michigan for an almost brother’s birthday. He turned 50. The rising sun was just amazing and I could see the mountains beautifully. Yesterday’s photograph was also from the plane. I flew from Seattle to Chicago. In Chicago I took a taxi to the train station. There I waited for a train for four hours and then rode up into Michigan. It was my first real journey with the oxygen concentrator. My carry on had the concentrator, three back up batteries, my camera, a laptop and phone and charging cords for all of them. A heavy bag and I had to pull out laptop, batteries and camera at security. Fun, eh? But I had enough oxygen for a 12 hour journey and could plug in on the train. I could have plugged in on the plane too, but the cord was in the overhead compartment. Anyhow, it worked. Oxygen tubing, N95 mask and second mask over the N95… whew.

I also learned that I need to let the airline know 48 hours in advance that I am traveling on oxygen. They tend to seat you by a window so no one trips over your tubing. Though I was in an aisle seat on the way back. Anyhow…. made it, hoorah!

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.

Ride forth

I wrote this poem more then ten years ago, but since I want to reference it in an essay, I am putting it up here now.

Ride Forth


My grandmother
Packed all her troubles in her saddlebags
And rode forth singing

My mother
Packed all her troubles in her saddlebags
And rode forth singing

My father
Was the only one
Who ever saw the contents
He tried to drown them

My mother was loved
For her charm

I ride forth
Sometimes I sing
Sometimes I weep

My saddlebags are empty

Prayer flags flutter
Slowly shred
In the wind

I write my troubles
And my joys
On cloth
And thank the Beloved
For each

My horse is white
When I sing
Black
When I cry
A rainbow of colors
In between
The whole spectrum
That the Beloved allows

After I emptied
My saddlebags
I tried to leave them
But the people I meet
Most, most, most
Are frightened

A naked woman
On a naked horse

I had to leave my village
When I learned to ride her
Made friends with her
Beloved
My village does not allow tears
When she turns black
Their saddlebags squirm and fight
The people try to throw them on my horse

In other places
The horses are all black
The white aspect of the Beloved
Frightens them
And they attack

I carry saddlebags
And Beloved is a gentle dapple gray
And the illusion of clothes surrounds me
When we meet new people
Until we know
It is safe to shine
Bright
And dark

I hope that others ride with the Beloved
In full rainbow

I ride forth
Sometimes I sing
Sometimes I weep

Even the color lonely
Is a part of the Beloved

Welcome home

Two friends texted welcome home and a third picked me up. I was in the east, visiting a friend who has known me since birth. I had a good trip. She is twenty years older than me.

It was very much an adventure traveling on oxygen, but it worked. It’s like having a cell phone that weighs ten pounds, plugs into your nose, the batteries are the size of my hand, my carry on weighs 50 pounds (batteries, oxygen concentrator, camera, flute, laptop and phone) (also a book, I’m retro) AND you still have your phone AND you can’t breathe if you leave part of it at home….. So why can’t I have ONE wire to charge all of these stupid electronics instead of a cord for the phone and a cord for the oxygen concentrators and a car charger and a cord for the laptop and a cord and charger for the camera. Hello Electronic Hell.

Anyhow, made it there and back, double masked on the plane and taxi and ferry and…. the number of people who were ignoring the “you must wear a mask” on the ferry was impressive. About half. Well, fifty percent of people are dumber than the other 49%, right? Right now I can pick them out in a crowd really easily. Hey, I am on oxygen, I really do not want covid-19 or strep A or flu or whatever else you are coughing into the air.

beach walk

My daughter is home and we went on a beach walk yesterday! The stupid oxygen keeps me from going fast. She went for a bike ride afterwards. Hooray!

Yesterday evening she brought up social distancing and how careful she should be. She has about 5 friends who are home that she is going to walk with. I am still wearing a mask over my oxygen tubing most places. She will unmask if they are vaccinated and they don’t have a cold or anything else. Even a cold would make me worse at this point. It makes me grumpy to be vulnerable, but I appreciate the discussion.

Sometimes, you have to say to yourself: It just doesn’t matter.

Sometimes…

…I wonder….

is it really your business anyway?

____

who are you to be watching?

what are you doing with your life?

spending it as a voyeur?

____

if you spend all your time watching

thinking you know who is good

and who is evil

____

what are you contributing to humanity?

____

who elected you judge and jury?

____

whatever

go ahead

sit in your castles

poke your telescope through the shades

and watch

____

seems boring to me

____

I’d rather fight for healthcare for all

I’d rather fight for local housing

I’d rather take in an elderly cat or a foster baby

or an elder whose apartment has been sold out from under them

____

what about you?

isn’t there ANYTHING

you’d rather do?

______

thanks to everything2.com for the title