The happiest day of his life

When I was a preteen, I got my first Spiderman comic book. I was enthralled. A hero who had powers, but had a grandmother, responsibilities, made mistakes, felt guilt and confusion. I wanted this, not the princess crap. I did not want a prince to ride in and carry me off. I did not and don’t trust princes. The wedding being the happiest day of a woman’s life: what the hell? Is it the happiest day of the man’s life? If not why not? It’s important to the woman to be married to her love but not the man?

And anyhow, the Disney movies were very consistent. There were no good Disney Queens. The good ones died in childbirth, or were absent, or their ship went down. The stepmothers were evil. The princess career ended with marriage. Pregnancy either kills you or turns you evil. Actually, sex turns you evil if you are a female. That was the very clear Disney message judging by the animated features. Virgin girls are pure princesses but there are no adult female role models for years and years and years. By my preteens I wanted to drive my own wagon: I was not going to be taken care of, controlled, or left poor and with small children through divorce. I would have a career and children.

What IS the happiest day of a man’s life? Do we have any map of that? When they are promoted? When they buy twitter? When they are elected President? When they get married? Why do we have a happiest day for women (and is it the marriage or the sex?) but not for men?

In the romance novels, the man is usually older, “experienced”, rich, and has a reputation for seducing women. The woman is often a virgin, or she has a child because there was an evil man who she thought loved her, or the older man got her pregnant and she never told him. She knows it is true love because she is pure and yet is overcome by lust, so it must be true love. Snort. I have always thought this is stupid and silly. So men in the novels are experienced, have sex with lots of women, and then are carried away by lust that turns out to be true love with this woman? What about all the others? Did they think it was true love too? Or were they “bad” women, who had lust without true love? Impure, not virgins, not a “good” girl. Seems pretty confusing to me. Often the virgin gets pregnant because, hey, she is carried away by uncontrollable love, so of course she would not think about birth control. What is the experienced man thinking? Hey, let’s get this one pregnant, I’d like to pay child support? Oh, he’s carried away by uncontrollable love, but really now, you’d think after all that experience that he would use birth control. Apparently the rich experienced older seducer males are all morons when struck in the heart by true love. These books should be burned, really.

Anyhow, I was suspicious of the princess story and I wanted my own horse and armor and sword and I’ll fight my own dragons, thank you! I was much more interested in the super hero story, even though the superheroines were still pretty lame and likely to get killed off. Oh, and girlfriends get killed off. Gwen dying from fear during a fall: give me a break. Yuk. Made me glad she was dead if she was that much of a weakling. At least she couldn’t reproduce. I liked Mary Jane a whole lot more: feisty.

I wanted to be a superhero and still human, not a princess.

So what is the happiest day of a man’s life?

_____

The cat is Boa, not Sol Duc. Boa died at age 17 right before Covid-19 started.

Hammock and filter

I am preparing the cats to travel a bit. I acquired this foldable framed container. The cats are getting used to it. Elwha has decided it makes a nice hammock platform from which to watch me in the kitchen.

We still have smoke from the fires. Seattle is worse than here. The cats are not out for their daily walks until this clears. I am getting lots of knitting and continuing medical education done.

Yesterday I built a Corsi-Rosenthal cube. I bought a box fan and four MERV-13 filters and duct tape. Tape it all into a cube with the filters facing in and the fan facing out and voila! An air filter for my house. Even though I’ve kept the house closed up, the air has been bad for a week. My house is from 1930 and not tight so there is seepage.

Here are the instructions for the cube: https://encycla.com/Corsi-Rosenthal_Cube.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: platform.

Long Covid and fatigue

Sometimes medical articles are SO IRRITATING! Like this:

Symptomatic Long COVID May Be Tied To Decreased Exercise Capacity On Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing Up To Three Months After Initial SARS-COV-2 Infection

Healio (10/18, Buzby) reports a 38-study systematic review and meta-analysis “suggested with low confidence that symptomatic long COVID was associated with decreased exercise capacity on cardiopulmonary exercise testing up to 3 months after initial SARS-COV-2 infection.” According to the findings published in JAMA Network Open, “underlying mechanisms may include but are not limited to deconditioning, peripheral mechanisms, hyperventilation, chronotropic incompetence, preload failure and autonomic and endothelial dysfunction.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if they believed the patients?

Let’s break this down. What does it all mean? Ok, the “low confidence” irritates me because it implies that the physicians can’t believe the patients who say “hey, I am short of breath and have a fast heart rate and get really fatigued if I try to do anything!”

I have had my fourth bout of pneumonia with shortness of breath and tachycardia. This time, since I am older, I had hypoxia bad enough to need oxygen. This is the FIRST TIME that some physicians have actually believed me. They believed the pulse oximeter dropping down to 87% and below, with a heart rate in the 140s, but they did not believe me and some accused me of malingering, for the last 19 years. Can you tell that I am a little tiny bit annoyed? If my eyes shot lasers, there would be some dead local physicians. And I AM a local physician, disbelieved by my supposed peers.

Let us simplify this gobbdygook: “underlying mechanisms may include but are not limited to deconditioning, peripheral mechanisms, hyperventilation, chronotropic incompetence, preload failure and autonomic and endothelial dysfunction.” The way I think of it is that sometimes a pneumonia will cause lung tissue swelling. Ok, think of the air space in your lungs as a large balloon. Now the wall of the balloon swells inwards and suddenly there is half as much air space. Guess how your body takes up the slack? The heart goes faster and you have tachycardia. This is a very simple way to think about it. I have tested patients who complain of bad fatigue after an upper respiratory infection with a very simple walk test. 1. I test them at rest, heart rate and oxygen saturation. 2. I walk them up and down a short hallway three times. 3. I sit them back down, and watch the heart rate and oxygen saturation. I watch until they are back to their seated baseline.

A friend tested recently and his resting heart rate was 62. After walking, his heart rate is in the 90s. H does not have a pulse oximeter, but his oxygen level is probably fine. However, that is a big jump. He has had “a terrible cold” for 8 days. I would bet money that his heart rate normally doesn’t jump that much. He still needs recovery time and rest.

In clinic, I had people who were ok at rest but needed oxygen when they walked. We would get them oxygen. More often, they did not need oxygen, but they were tachycardic. When they walked, their heart rate would jump, over 100. Normal is 60-100 beats per minute. If they jumped 30 beats or jumped over 100, I would forbid them to return to work until their heart rate would stay under 100 when they walked. If they went back to work they would be exhausted, it would slow healing, and they might catch a second bacteria or virus and then they could die.

Patients did not need a pulse oximeter. I would teach them to take their own pulse. The heart rate is the number of beats in 60 seconds. I have trouble feeling my own wrist, so I take mine at my neck. It’s a bit trickier if someone has atrial fibrillation but the pulse oximeters aren’t very good with afib either.

When I have pneumonia, my resting heart rate went to 100 the first time and my walking heart rate was in the 140s. I had influenza and felt terrible. My physician and I were mystified. It was a full two months before my heart rate came down to normal. I was out of shape by then and had to build back up. If I tried to walk around with my heart at 140, I was exhausted very quickly and it also felt terrible. The body does NOT like a continuous fast heart rate and says “LIE DOWN” in a VERY FIRM LOUD VOICE. So, I lay down. Until I recovered. For a while I was not sure if I would recover, but I did. This time it was a year before I could go to part time oxygen.

The fatigue follows the heart rate. Tachycardia is not good for you long term. If the heart is making up for reduced air space in the lungs, it doesn’t make sense to slow the heart rate with drugs. You NEED the heart to make up for the lungs. You need to rest, too!

Blessings and peace you.

The photograph is Elwha, helping me knit socks. With the bad air from the fires and my still recovering lungs, I am staying indoors and knitting socks .

betrayed by my own brain

I took a very long nap after pulmonary rehab yesterday, pushed myself on the treadmill. I was tired. So then at midnight I can’t sleep, feel sad and sappy, get up, write Sorrow.

Then my own brain starts making fun of me.

It plays a soundtrack:

Yeah, ok, so my OWN BRAIN is making fun of me feeling heartbroken. Ok, ok, I am over it for this night. Let’s move on, I think I will manifest this instead. Yeah. I need a skintight dress and some heavy makeup, so there.

The header photograph is from Centrum’s Blues Fest on Saturday. Fabulous and fun!

from blue to breathe

I attended a medical conference on line yesterday and today and it made me very blue. At first it just frustrated me, because it is about increasing behavioral health access. Isn’t that a good thing? Yes, but they completely missed the biggest barrier for primary care: TIME.

With the current US medical corporate money extracting insurance non-caring system, primary care is increasingly forced into 20 or 15 or 10 minute visits. I fought my hospital district when they said “See patients for one thing only.” I replied “That is unethical and dangerous: if it is a diabetic with an infected toe, I HAVE to check their kidney function, because antibiotic dose must be adjusted if their kidney function is reduced.” And there are at least two and maybe three problems there: infection, and if the diabetes is out of control that worsens the infection, and then kidney function. And actually I have to be sure anyone going on antibiotics has good kidney function or adjust my dose. I am very very good at this, but it takes time. I can work with complex patients, with veterans, with opiate overuse, with depression: but none of this is a simple template slam dunk. A study more than a decade ago says that the “average” primary care patient had 5 chronic illnesses. My patients don’t want to come in for each one separately and anyhow, if they have kidney problems I have to pay attention when I pick medicines for their high blood pressure. None of it can be separated out. That is why medicine is complicated.

Someone asked why can’t I just post the price of a “simple” visit for a sore throat. But a sore throat can be viral, can be strep A, can be a paralyzed vocal cord, can be a throat abscess, can be vocal cord cancer. I can’t tell ahead of time. I can’t. Early on during covid, a patient called and wanted a Zoom visit for abdominal pain that he said was constipation. I said “No, I can’t do abdominal pain over Zoom safely.” I can’t ASSUME it is constipation. It was appendicitis and he had his appendix out that evening. He called from his hospital bed the next day to thank me for making him come in.

The conference made me blue because they ignored my questions about why they were not advocating for primary care to have more time with patients. They claim to be all about change, but changing the US medical system? Nope. Do not want to talk about that. But I do want to talk about it. You can help by letting Congress know: single payer or medicare for all. That insurance company gets 20 cents of every dollar to profit and wastes tons of money forcing doctors’ offices to call for prior authorization. And if we have single payer, think of all the small businesses that will start because the terror about health insurance will disappear! I think it would reduce everyone’s stress, except the insurance CEOs. And they have earned more than enough, goodbye greed.

I am also tired of specialists telling me that primary care needs to do MORE. When I get told that I am not doing enough about hypertension, bladder leakage, depression and stopping smoking, and then 20 other specialists lecture me. Ok, so one minute per topic to fulfill what all of them think I should do? I want a primary care conference where primary care doctors are celebrated: cases are presented where the specialist says what a brilliant job the primary care doctor did.

I received a consult letter from a cancer doctor a few years ago. He wrote that I had diagnosed the earliest case of chronic leukemia that he had ever seen and that he was impressed and the patient would do fine. That’s the conference that I want to go to: where primary care and specialists talk about that and we inspire more doctors to do primary care.

You can learn more and how to talk to your congressperson here: HealthCare Now: https://www.healthcare-now.org/

or at Physicians for a National Healthcare Program: https://pnhp.org

And put your vote and your money towards healthcare, not health insurance.

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!

do no harm

First do no harm.

That is part of the Hippocratic Oath and yes we did it at the end of medical school. “I will prescribe regimen for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgement and never do harm to anyone.”

This is a pandemic. People are dying. A lot of people. I am not ok with people saying personal freedom, we don’t want to wear masks, we don’t want the vaccine. I take the oath to first do no harm: what about those people? They are putting their personal freedom first and do not care if they harm me. I don’t like them. Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill my son or daughter or future daughter in law.

You can have your personal freedom not to wear a mask or get a vaccine: in your house. I don’t think you should be allowed off your property if you won’t put doing no harm to others first during a pandemic. Stay in your house. Don’t come out. It is selfish to put yourself and your personal freedom in front of multiple peoples’ lives. You can order from Amazon and order groceries and ok, you can associate with other selfish unimmunized unmasked people, but not the rest of us. Your personal freedom has a high chance of killing me. I am immunized but my immune system doesn’t work and I am already on oxygen. I don’t want to be around you. Stay away from me.

I think it is time for my community to give back to me and all the other first responders: medical, police, fire, grocery store, hospital, all the essential workers. Give back: either get immunized and masked or stay in your house.

Thank you.