Prayers for people in Turkey and Syria

I took this photograph with my phone yesterday before I heard the news.

The ambulance has been out for a week or so, along with the doll tent. Two doll babies, the doll doctor, various pieces of equipment. I took the photograph because the cats keep “helping” and it keeps looking a bit like a disaster. Sigh. I wish they were just doll disasters with giant cats wandering through, not real earthquakes.

I wrote Flooded after the tsunami in Japan, about PTSD and about feeling helpless watching. I think we all have a little post-Pandemic PTSD and are more hair trigger and more ready for fight or flight.

Send prayers and money and huge blessings on on the first responders that are heading there or are already there.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: strange.

Catch and release

The chances of you changing are quite small.
I know from very early in our time.
Why God makes angels that will one day fall.
We could be sent to teach each other rhymes
or something else. I wonder at it daily.
My heart opens like a flower even so.
The candle just at dusk burns quite palely.
I wonder what excuse you’ll use to go.
It’s a comic denouement I see at last.
You denigrate my knowledge and my skill.
After exposure you refuse to wear a mask
or test. I rise in anger at ill will.
It’s comic that I’ve liked your busy mind.
Respect for mine is nil: you elk’s behind.

Conspiracy is easier than vulnerability and grief

“Our culture faces a flood of conspiracism” says the Atlantic Monthly.

My great Uncle forwards an article that says we are tracking along stages as we did to WWII.

I write back. No, I say, we are tracking towards WWI.

Because of Covid-19.

The problem with the pandemic is vulnerability and grief. It is difficult to be mature enough to accept vulnerability and grief. It is easier to find someone to blame and go after them. We can’t burn a virus, we can’t hang it in effigy, we can’t take it to court and give it the death penalty. Many people are terrified and do not want to feel vulnerable and do not want to grieve. So they fall into conspiracies: it is safer to believe that the pandemic is a lie, that alien lizards have taken over the US Government, that it is the fault of a country making it on purpose, or a race, or a religion. It is easier to believe that nanocomputers are being injected with the vaccine than to think about the number of dead. It is easier not to think about the number of dead, the terrifying randomness, to believe that this only affects people with preexisting conditions, or people who God wants to smite, or people the lizard aliens hate. Or that the whole thing is a lie.

We are mimicing the late 19 teens and early 1920s very well. A world pandemic. We have a war, that is not a world war. This time we have bombs capable of destroying current life on earth. We’d be left with tardigrades and those bacteria who live in the deep trenches in boiling water where the earth’s crust is thin. At least one of my friends thinks this might be a good thing.

We have just reached 8 billion people.

In London, the Black Death had a 50% kill rate in the 1400s. Half the people that got it died. It changed the world. Pandemics change the world. In this pandemic the death rate is about 1% or a little more. However, 10% to 30% of the people with Covid-19 have Long Covid. Today, Johns Hopkins says we are at 635 million people who have gotten Covid-19. 6.6 million or more are dead from it. Then we have between 65 million and 195 million people with Long Covid in the world.

We don’t know how long Long Covid lasts. We don’t know how to cure it. We do not know if we can cure it or if people will get better. We do not know, we do not know, we do not know.

Which is also terrifying. So the conspiracy and someone to hate or some group to hate or someone to fight is safer for many people.

Do not go there. We must grieve. We must help each other. We must face fear and not give in to it. We must not fall into the trap of the charismatic leader who will give us villains, who will lead us into a World War to distract us from our grief.

And from there into a world depression. Remember, the Roaring Twenties end with the worst depression the world has seen so far. Let us not repeat it, let us not beat it.

Peace you and blessings.

We want to believe

My cousin said to me once: “We want to believe what we want to believe.”

This was right before Mr. Trump was elected President.

After my cousin said that, I was unsurprised that Mr. Trump was elected. He was elected out of fear and anger and shame and grief. He was elected by people who are afraid that people rising out of discrimination will take things from them. Lower their standard of living. They are afraid that they will have to give things up.

A friend was working on my boat. He said that if I paid in cash, it would be less. Because, unspoken, he would not report the income. I thought about it. I said, “My medical practice is mostly medicare and state insurance. That is paid for out of our taxes: yours and mine. Therefore I am giving you a check and I don’t care if it costs more.”

There is a big culture here of not paying taxes. Cheat the government. Pay cash to each other, nod, nod, wink. It is tempting, takes a percentage off what I pay. But…. the people who I know are doing this are mostly conservative. They say drain the swamp. They say the government is cheating us. But THEY are cheating all of us.

I asked my cousin why he and my maternal family believed a story masterminded by my sister. That my father and my neice’s father and I were villains. One of the villainies was the our grandmother’s money had paid for MY graduate school but not my sister’s graduate school.

But that is not true. My grandmother paid four years of medical school tuition. 21K. I paid my own loans.

After my grandmother died, and then my mother died, my father used “my grandmother’s money” to pay off my sister’s graduate school loans. 36K. My parents also cosigned on a house, that my sister walked away from. They wrote 30K off thier taxes that year selling it. My father bailed her out of 7K on a work credit card. My father called me crying when she bullied him out of another 30K for another house. And that is when I said to her ENOUGH. I refused to visit for a year: until she went into hospice for her cancer. I visited three times while she was in hospice. We made peace. But she did not tell anyone else the truth.

I said to my cousin that I could send the bank statements showing that my father paid for my sister’s graduate school. That is when he said, “No. We want to believe what we want to believe.”

I thought really? So you want to believe my sister because she is dead. We will not speak ill of the dead, so you are ok with me and my father and my niece’s father being villainized and you will not even look at the lies.

VOTE and VOTE against FEAR, SHAME, DISCRIMINATION, ANGER AND GRIEF. We have to stand up. I loved my sister even when she was dishonest and bounced 1000$ worth of checks in my small town with people I knew. My father got threatening phone calls and he paid. That was the last straw for me.

So guess which politician stirs up fear and hate and discrimination and anger and grief? Well, honestly, both sides are guilty of that, but I stand against discrimination. We all shall rise up.

Love and Blessings and Peace you.

The photograph is on one of the last three visits to my sister. She died in March 2012.

only when I’m hungry (1)

sometimes
I still miss you
then I have to check
if I am hungry

I’m doing well, you see
I only miss you when I’m hungry

I’m moving on
but sometimes I still get hungry

hunger is tied up with fear
in childhood
and grief and abandonment

When you fed me
that was huge

You don’t feed me any more

Sometimes I still miss you
but only when I’m hungry

I think you’ve joined the dead
the angry dead
who didn’t feed me
and didn’t love me

or loved me during anger
and wouldn’t feed me

Sometimes I still miss you
but only when I’m hungry

________________

Photo taken by my friend JB.

Parasympathy

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.

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/23266-parasympathetic-nervous-system-psns

https://healthnews.com/family-health/healthy-living/how-to-activate-the-parasympathetic-nervous-system/

August 19, 2022

hunger

It is hard to write about hunger

I am always hungry
I am always afraid
I always long for love

How can I always be hungry?
The hunger is partly for food
and partly for love

They are tied together
“You have food insecurity,”
A friend says

I want to argue and do
but I also know that he is right
I am always worried about food

My daughter has it too
she admits that even as she finishes a meal
she wants to know that there is food for the next meal

A friend tell me about running out of food
hiking in Alaska. He is ok with it.
My daughter and I agree we will never camp with him.

My mother says that pregnant
she is hungry the entire time
fantasizes about a banana split and chocolate syrup

After the baby is born
“I did not want the banana split!”
she says and laughs

Maybe it is the baby who is hungry
inside the womb, the fetus that is hungry
“The doctor yells if I gain any weight.” laughs my mother.

Hunger and love intertwined.
I don’t see my mother for nine months after birth
because she is ill.

I curl around my daughter ferociously
I want to protect her from any harm
I eat when I am hungry and feed her food and love

____________________

The photograph is me and my mother. She is getting over tuberculosis and is still very thin. I think that my grandparents took the photograph. I took the photograph of the photograph.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: hunger.

city versus country

A friend comments that the country used to outnumber the city folk but now it’s the other way around, and that the split in our country is about values.

Hmmm. I am thinking about that. I am a city girl AND I am a country girl, both. We moved every 1-5 years and I was in cities and in the country. However, my family also had two anchor points. My mother’s family has shacks on a lake in Ontario, summer shacks. My father’s parents had a house on the beach in North Carolina on the outer banks. Wind and water in both places and we never watched tv in either place, because we were outside until we fell exhausted into a tent or into bed.

I don’t agree with my friend. I think we ALL share some values: that no one should go in a school and shoot kids, or a church and shoot people, or a store and shoot people. Right? We all agree on that if we are sane. That is a starting point. I read the mediation books when my (now ex-) husband was getting certified. The mediators start by trying to find the common ground.

I am pretty much equally comfortable in my small town, the woods, on the water and in cities. My friend warned me about Seattle being dangerous now. Well, it’s a matter of scale. I went to high school in Alexandria, Virginia and I lived at 3rd and Massachusetts in Washington, DC back in the 1980s. I was pretty careful just walking to the metro in that part of Washington at that time. I pay attention in Seattle, but in these cities I know what I am paying attention to. I ended up alone on a metro car once at night. A man got on at the next stop, looked around the car, grinned and came and sat next to me. I thought, oh, Sh-t, this is not good. I ignored him and continued staring at my book.

“Hi, what’s your name?” he says.

“I am reading.” I say coolly.

“Come on, honey,” he says.

I shut the book, stand up, and he lets me pass. I stand by the metro door until the next stop, get off that car and get on another car with more people. The car did have emergency alarms, so I could have hit one, but he let me by so I didn’t. I was kicking myself for being alone on the car, but honestly: what a stupid nasty male chauvinist threatening jerk. I shouldn’t have to worry about this crap. But after that, I didn’t get lost in a book on the metro because I had to pay attention to avoid being alone on a car. Annoying as can be.

My friend says he gets lost in cities. I don’t. I start building a map in my head when I arrive in a new city. It is completely automatic. If I am driving, it’s based on the highway. If it’s by airplane, it includes the airport, the hotel, the conference center. I have been to San Antonio once, but I stayed at a hotel along the River Walk and the conference center was towards the center and south. I could draw part of the city, still. I love maps!

I can’t say that I would be comfortable if dropped in a city in another country, necessarily. I was pretty happy on my trip in March, which was abroad. There are levels of familiar and what are the languages in common? Are there any?

What are these values that people might be split on? I read that people are polarized and can’t get along, but I don’t agree. I did Family Medicine in this town of 9000 for 21 years, and I had people from town, from the county and eventually from three other counties. I had nine people who had to take a ferry to see me. Talk about inconvenient for them. My people are all races, all genders, age zero to 104, all different stripes of politics. I don’t care what their politics are: I am there to see if I can maintain or improve their health. This could mean anything from encouraging exercise, doing a pap smear, diagnosing diabetes to discussing hospice and end of life issues or telling someone that I do not think they are safe to drive. This is not about “pleasing” people: recognizing opioid overuse in a person does not endear me to them. But it is about doing the best I can for people and with people. And isn’t that a value we all share too?

Now we have common ground, two areas to stand. Grow that space. Peace me, work for justice and kindness and peace to you.

Covid-19 and walking pneumonia

I wrote this essay in July 2017. Before Covid-19. It is clear that Covid-19 is also causing a walking pneumonia. People are exhausted when they get out of bed. No fever, they may not cough much, but if they get up, they can feel exhausted. The key to this is the heart rate, the pulse. If the pulse jumps 30 points faster or more, this implies lung swelling and reduced lung capacity. Right now, the only treatment we have is rest and time to heal. I should know, I’ve had really bad walking pneumonia four times: the first two times I was out for two months. The third time 6 months with 6 more months half days and chronic fatigue. The fourth time put me on oxygen.

I want to offer hope to the people with Long Covid-19. Having been through four bad pneumonias, with increasingly long recovery times, and now disabled for doing Family Medicine, I have experience to share. I will write more about that in the next essay.

From 2017: Walking pneumonia is changing.

The classic bugs are four “atypical bacteria”:

mycoplasma pneumonia
chlamydia pneumonia (this is not the STD chlamydia. Different one.)
legionella
pertussis (whooping cough)

However, streptococcus pneumonia can also be a walking pneumonia OR a lobar pneumonia. In a lobar pneumonia the person usually is short of breath, running a fever of 102-104, and they point to where it is: hurts in the right upper chest. On chest x-ray there will be consolidation: whited out from fluid or swelling instead of nice ribs and dark air. They are often tachycardic and hypoxic.

In walking pneumonia the person often has no or minimal fever, they just feel tired or short of breath when they do things, and the chest xray can be “clear”. It isn’t really “normal”, it’s just that the bacteria or virus affects the entire lungs and causes some swelling throughout and doesn’t white it out.

“Double” pneumonia is when the chest film is whiting out on both sides. We also see the lungs whiting out with ARDS — acute respiratory distress syndrome. So after trauma in a car wreck and lots of broken ribs, the lungs can be bruised too and white out. Ow. Influenza virus can cause lung swelling and in the 1917-1918 flu infected military recruits lungs were swelling shut. They would turn blue and die.

“My” strep that I’ve had pneumonia with twice is streptococcus A, not strep pneumonia. It causes strep throat mostly though it can invade and cause sepsis or pneumonia or cellulitis. There are currently 4000+ known strains of strep A, and some are resistant to antibiotics or can cause kidney damage or do all sorts of nasty things. I think that “my” strep is resistant to azithromycin.

The current guidelines say to treat walking pneumonia with azithromycin. However, a paper came out this year saying that resistance to azithromycin is rising among streptococcus pneumonia and that nearly 50% of strains tested were resistant. Uh-oh. That means that azithomycin doesn’t work and the person can get sicker and may die. I talked to a pulmonologist in Seattle when I needed help with someone. He said that he would have said there weren’t any resistant strep pneumo strains here in Washington except that he had one intubated and in the ICU right then. “I’m convinced now, ” he said.

A lobar pneumonia is easier to diagnose. Abnormal chest x-ray, reasonably healthy people run a high white blood cell count (so my frail folks, immunosupressed folks and 90 year olds don’t raise their white blood cell count), and a fever (ditto) and look sick. The walking pneumonia people come in saying they have been coughing for 3 weeks or 4 weeks or two months. I am doing more lab testing because of the resistance.

This winter I have seen 6 different causes of walking pneumonia here: influenza A, respiratory syncytial virus (In more than one person over 60. That is NOT who the books say it should affect. It’s supposed to mostly cause bronchiolitis in babies and preemies), pertussis, strep pneumococcus, strep A and none of the above. All looking pretty much the same, but with different treatment.

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/15/8/08-1187_article
https://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/atypical/mycoplasma/index.html
http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/820736
https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/threat-report-2013/pdf/ar-threats-2013-508.pdf#page=79
RSV: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/rsv.html
Mycoplasma resistance to azithromycin has been reported too: http://erj.ersjournals.com/content/36/4/969