Flying AA 5240. With Grace.

It’s a head cold that won’t release.  Thurs, last week, I wake with a scratchy throat, a cough, and a certainty that this, this thing is sliding, and sliding fast. And it does. And it did. And it’s still here.

I take inventory.

Air travel. Hands laid down on arm rests, where hundreds of others set down exactly in the same spot. American’s Clean-up crew, not enough of them, mop up major spills. Most arm rests sit untouched by the cleaning rags, or maybe they are touched, with the same rag passing from one arm rest to the other to the other. Petri dishes, waiting.

Airline club. I brush away crumbs of food on the seat and the arm rest. Coffee cups, soiled napkins, all sit stacked on the side table. One cup, 3/4s full, has a lipstick tattoo, and a fingerprint, a thin film from hand lotion leaving traces of her DNA. I shift in my seat, the freshly painted Quiet room can’t hide its fatigue from the thousands that pass through the day. It groans, Give me your Tired, Your Hungry, Your Rich, all sequestered in this Oasis a few minutes before boarding. Passing our crumbs, paying it forward.

Long term rehab facility. Walking down the hall. Avoiding a stare in each room. Ventilators pumping oxygen. 24×7. Pumping. Pumping. Why is she here? Why is he here? Does she ever get out of bed? How does she not get bed sores?  I turn the corner to my Brother’s room. A roll of the dice and he’s here. Here. Inside. I’m Outside. His roommate. A Veteran. (?) Amputee. It’s Veteran’s Day on Monday. Our eyes connect. Good morning I offer. He never responds. He has no bowel control. The Help pulls the thin curtain. It’s OK Sir. No problem. Just turn a little to the left. The smell of disinfectant fills the room, and burns its tracks.  On the flight home, someone has passed gas, the smell detonates in the cabin, the young lady in the seat next to me buries her head in her sweater and whispers: “Disgusting.” I’m brought back to Rehab. Just turn a little to the left Sir.

It starts in the head, the slow drip of fatigue slides like lava and builds, from sinuses down to the toes.  DayQuil every 4 hours. NyQuil before bed. Bed. Sleep. Work. Bed. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.

This morning. I flip open the smartphone. 26° F, feels like 22°.  And it arrives. Why now, I can’t explain.  Anne Lamott’s ‘mystery of Grace.’  Mucous secretions streaming. This air I breathe. This thick comforter, and the warmth that it offers. This miracle of being here, in this moment, in all of its fog.  I’m Grateful. For all of it.

And, I’m not moving, not from here. Not from this spot. Not today. Not until noon.


Photo: (via Endless Summer)

Feeling Trapped

spiritual-board

When William Campion was in the intensive-care unit (ICU) this month after a double lung transplant, he felt nervous and scared and could breathe only with the help of a machine.

Joel Nightingale Berning, a chaplain at Mr. Campion’s hospital stopped by. He saw that Mr. Campion had a tube in his neck and windpipe, which prevented him from speaking. The chaplain held up a communication board—not the kind used to check a patient’s physical pain and needs, but a “spiritual board” … The board also lets patients rate their level of spiritual pain on a scale of 0 through 10, from none to “extreme.” Mr. Campion, a 69-year-old Catholic, indicated his spiritual pain was acute: 8. Using the picture board, he signaled that he wanted to pray. The chaplain recited the Lord’s Prayer as Mr. Campion followed silently.

ICUs have evolved in recent years and even the critically ill are being sedated less than before. As doctors came to believe that heavy sedation—once the norm in such units—could be harmful, many patients are now breathing with the help of machines, and are conscious…more ICU patients (are) awake and alert.  The fact that these patients can’t communicate adds to their frustration…many patients on these machines feel “trapped.”…They have been intubated, meaning they have a tube in their throat, attached to a machine that is breathing for them….

The 32-year-old chaplain, who is nondenominational, persuaded a fellow chaplain—Seigan Ed Glassing, a Zen Buddhist monk who had studied art—to help illustrate the board. The two included a range of faiths and belief systems, including Christian, Jewish and Hindu, as well as New Age, Pagan and agnostic. Colorful icons offer patients the option of a prayer or confession, or simply to have someone hold their hand. Chaplain Glassing said he loved figuring out “what would a blessing look like,” or how to draw “make [me] an altar.” A favorite: depicting someone asking to be read a poem.

The study, with results published last August in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, looked at 50 ICU patients who were offered spiritual care through the board. Researchers measured patients’ anxiety before and after the chaplain came, concluding that “anxiety after the first visit decreased 31%.”

Among patients who survived, 81% “felt more at peace,” while 71% felt “more connected with what is sacred.”

~ Lucette Lagnado, excerpts from A ‘Spiritual Board’ Brings Comfort to the Critically Ill


Post inspired and triggered by two of my favorite movies: The Bell and The Butterfly and The Sea Inside.

Walking Cross-Town. Teetering on myself.

head-cold-mist-jpg

Day 0: Friday morning, not yesterday, a week ago. Flying down I-95, light traffic. I’m lip syncing America’s Ventura Highway: “Chewing on a piece of grass…Walking down the road…Cause the free wind is blowin’ through your hair.” I flick through the day’s calendar as I pull into the parking garage. Light. Nice ramp into the weekend. What Bliss is This?

By day’s end, Bliss is way amiss. Whether from a hand shake, or splashed in the air from a cough or a sneeze, or from an infected keyboard at a guest office, the virus is planted in the eye, it spreads to the tear duct and then to the nose – and we jackknife from Bliss to → Far-From-Bliss-Miserable-Son-of-A-Bitch.

Patience, a short string on sunny days, is a gator snapping. Sick man, with head cold, brooding.

The nasal secretion flows uninterrupted.  I roll the smooth, orange-crush colored LiquiCaps in the palm of my hand. Marbles! Days are measured by DayQuil feedings, ingested at 4 hour intervals and then relieved at bedtime by NyQuil. The Vick’s team is on the field 24 x 7.

I’m squinting at the DayQuil packaging. Multi-Symptom Relief. I flip it over, and the font shrinks to something less than 5 point. What a**hole at Vick’s thinks I can read this sh*t? A commercial conspiracy I’m sure, to disguise dosage levels to keep juicing. [Read more…]

Zeke. The Countdown.

zeke-dog-pet-cute

I walk Zeke outside.

He sniffs at the grass, at the plants, at the trace of bunny in the air.

I watch him circle the yard: It’s gone.

The vigorous flourish of the tail. The accelerated gait, his canter. All gone. In its place, the all-consuming lethargy.

The panting is incessant. His barrel chest rising and falling, a steam engine chugging, The Little Red Engine That Could: I think I can, I think I can, I think I still can.

He’s parched, always. His long tongue stretches to lap up gulps of water.

And Dad, “I’m hungry. I’m always hungry. I can’t help myself. It’s those damn white pills you wrap in the lunch meat.”

The steroid dosage has been lowered, his normal surefootedness slipping.  Another stumble up the stairs this morning, his head lunging into the hardwood –and then, a soft, helpless yelp.

Water from a tap drips.

No one is ready for this. No one wants this.

This shot clock is running out.


Related Posts: Zeke

Extraordinary person. Ordinary People and their Extraordinary Stories.

goose-chronicles

I’m rushing to catch the elevator. I’m late for my next meeting, and busy replaying the outcome of the last. I step into the building lobby and run into a colleague.

JQ: Hey, Dave. Do you have a minute?

DK: Running late, but of course.

JQ: I wanted to share an idea and get your thoughts.  I know that you’ve been blogging for some time. I’ve been thinking of doing the same. I visit assisted care living facilities (ACLF) on weekends and write stories.

DK: Write stories?

JQ: Yes. Many of the people I meet are ill, lonely and rarely visited by family. They look forward to speaking to me. I meet them all in person. Some interviews take 5 hours. Some 30 minutes. I take their picture. All with their consent or consent of a family member.

As he describes his “hobby,” I take an inventory of recent posts: Snoopy. A cat video. Hyperrealistic painting of lady in bath tub eating cake. OMG.  [Read more…]

To hell with old school. Here’s to fist bumps.

germs, bacteria,

A strong handshake is almost twice as effective as a weak one in transferring bacteria such as E. coli from one person to another, according to a study conducted in the UK and reported in The New York Times. A moderately strong handshake, in turn, transfers about twice as many bacteria as a high-five. A fist bump is even more hygienic than a high-five.

~ A Firm Handshake, a Lot of Bacteria from The Daily Stat via NY Times: The Upside of a Wimpy Handshake


Image: Frenchfalpal.

Related Post: Running with Howie

 

Here comes the sun

Winter-sun-forest-trees

Day 1: Tickle in back of throat. Sudden bout of sneezing.
Day 2: 2 am. Difficulty swallowing. Throat burning.
Day 3: Fatigue. Fog. Tough guy regrets not taking a flu shot. (again)
Day 4: Man Down. Working from home. DayQuil to NyQuil to DayQuil loop. Delirious.
Day 5: Winded walking up the stairs. Read same page 3 times. Heavy eyelids.
Day 6: Thick nasal discharge. Can’t taste or smell food. Chocolate still Ok though.
Day 7: Patient care provider: When will you take a shower and get out of the house?
Day 8: Is that a break? Have the clouds moved? Has the sun muscled through and ignited the hills?


“You’ll be driving along depressed when suddenly a cloud will move and the sun will muscle through and ignite the hills. It may not last. Probably won’t last. But for a moment the whole world comes to. Wakes up. Proves it lives. It lives—red, yellow, orange, brown, russet, ocher, vermillion, gold. Flame and rust. Flame and rust, the permutations of burning. You’re on fire. Your eyes are on fire. It won’t last, you don’t want it to last. You can’t stand any more. But you don’t want it to stop. It’s what you’ve come for. It’s what you’ll come back for. It won’t stay with you. but you’ll remember that it felt like nothing else you’ve felt or something you’ve felt that also didn’t last.”

— Lloyd Schwartz


Credits: Image Source: Winter Sun by Onodriim. Poem Source: apoetreflects

Leaving the doctor…

Canada, lake, British Columbia, Canada,forest,landscape, photography

Leaving the doctor,
The whole world looks different
This autumn morning.

—Richard Wright, from Haiku: This Other World


Credits: Haiku: APoetReflects.  Photograph: Chilliwack Lake, British Columbia Canada by Zach Copland via Sundoginthesky.

Wiggle your toes. Can you feel it? (Bliss)

toes in grass-bliss


Source: Themetapicture.com

Man Down

head cold

It was born on Thursday morning. Source, unknown.  Lousy night’s sleep.  Scratchy throat.  Teasing cough. Oh, oh.

By lunch, phlegm was sliding down the nasal passages.

By mid-afternoon, slow ripples…no waves, waves of low level, throbbing migraines.

I skip over major projects.  Start pushing off meetings that can be deferred.  Manage to creep through the afternoon aimlessly picking at project-lites.

Leave at 5:30.  Head home.  To rest.

“Starve a cold. Feed a fever.” (Why then, am I sitting at the table eating like a wolf?)

Vicks NyQuil Cold & Flu.  I roll the shimmering green gel tablets in my palm – calm settles, I pause, and I swallow.  (The Nightime, Sniffling, Sneezing, Coughing, Aching, Stuffyhead, Fever, So-You-Can-Rest Medicine.  Yes, as advertised.  This sh*t works.)  Magic. 30 minutes later, I’m gone.  Dream land.

Friday morning.  Eyes open.  Wary.  But feeling rested.  Hey, I feel better.

I approach the decision tree.  Stay home – contain contamination. Or, Soldier on.  Decision? Off to work it is.  Real men, work.

Steady downward spiral.  Hour by hour deterioration.  Popping Sudafed tablets.  Phlegm no longer phlegm.  Mucous. Vicious type.  Sn*t.   No longer a gentle slide.  Running. [Read more…]

%d bloggers like this: