Monday, April 28, 2008

And I Don't Even Like Pink

It's hard to believe that only a month ago this bank was not much more than a bunch of dirt and some dried out pampas grass. Now it has sprung to life, especially with the help of the monsoon rains we've been having here. For the first time in two years -- maybe three -- we are at normal rainfall. It will be an incredible thing to wave farewell to the on-and-off drought. Of course, my garden's suffering (as well as my water bill's) is nothing compared to the local farmers.

One of the first plants to pop was this rhododendron. I bought it about five years ago, when it was a little and affordable sprout. I thought it would bloom in deep purple clusters. Whether it was the pique of hybridization or a case of plant miss-tagging, I have ended up with this pink variety.

And as the person who removed every single fuschia azalea from the front yard upon moving into this house, getting used to this pinkness in my most coveted back garden bed has been a bit of a stretch. Still, I have to respect this particular plant for its guts and tenacity. Rhododendrons, like roses, grow in this area with little to no enthusiasm. Like my husband, they would rather be in New Jersey.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

When you have become a cesspool of bacteria

Me and my mood these days....

Okay, so I have had yet ANOTHER drug resisant infection, and about the only people I know who seem the least bit interested in finding out WHY the nasty bugs keep popping up like chiggers in my person are certainly not doctors. Between ERs and hospital stays I have seen about 8 of those, and all they seem to want to do is tell me I don't have MRSA (even though I was never cultured for it) and then prescribe another antibiotic. This month's antibiotic tally is currently up to 6.

I pause here to point out that there is more than the greed of our insurance system that has led to the current crisis in American healthcare.

The latest interlude at my local ER came last Friday. Earlier in the evening I had the great, good fortune to see Chris Rock at DAR Hall. I laughed so hard that my face hurt for an hour. Chris Rock is so profane, so outrageous, so pissed-off. How could anybody not love him? He put on a two-hour monologue with no intermission. That man has energy! Anyway, the only problem with the evening was that I had to pee all the time, which wasn't easy, because I had to excuse my way down the concert hall aisle. One's row-mates weary of that normally, though it helped that this group was semi-liquored up. By the time I got home, I was peeing blood. Back to the ER I went -- thanks to my good friend C, who happens to be an EMT and called around to find out where the emptiest ER in the city was. In the ER, the resident informed me that I had a "raging" bladder infection. (No lie, he used those words). Anything over a 3 on the bacterial count rates as an infection, but my poor pee was showing a rate of 180. At 3 AM, I came home taking Cipro, yet ANOTHER antibiotic.

Two days later, I felt those charming bladder infection symptoms returning so, being the conscientious patient that I am, I went back to see the infectious disease doc I had seen previously. Well, he couldn't find my ER visit or labs in my computer records, gave me the hairy eyeball, found nothing in yet another sample of my wee wee, and sneered me out of his office. "Hypochondriac, attention-seeking woman!" pretty much sums up this guy's attitude. The next day, the ER called to say, darn, this bladder infection is resistant to Cipro, so go on and get crazy -- take Macrobid now, please. With low symptoms, I opted not too. As far as I could tell, one more antibiotic would, well, lead to one more antibiotic, and the history of that was not serving me well. Instead, I drank lots of water and cranberry juice and rested up. Now my pee is all better.

Despite my many questions to the docs over the last month, such as, "Why would I be getting all these infections, Doctor?" and "Should I be concerned that this might be another drug resistant infection?" and "Are these infections related?" -- no medical personal seemed to be able to tell me much or even interested in considering these prosaic questions. One doctor did say, "How interesting...", after I explained my history, though. I guess that is something.

As far as I can tell, these doctors must be learning at least two key things in school: 1) Treat women as though they are hysterical hypochondriacs until deathly lab results induce you to start listening to them; and 2) Keep the pharmaceutical business spry by handing out plenty of meds, rather than investigate root causes.

Okay, I am bitter.

At this point, a lightbulb went off over my drug-induced noggin, and I called the integrative medicine center where I had been treated in the past for thyroid disease and menopause. (Integrative medicine includes western, eastern, and alternative treatments with an emphasis on boosting the immune system.) The Amazing Barbara, the nurse practioner there, had me in her office instantly, interviewed me for an hour, and said, "We need to find the root cause of why your body is open to getting these infections." Proverbial music to my ears. Yes, yes, let's DO find out the cause and improve my immune system! What a wonderful idea! She put me on stuff to increase the "good" bacteria in my system, recommended a better batch of vitamins, and arranged for me to come back for a full workup in a week.

At last, a medical person who is NOT giving me another antibiotic. Could it be because she is a nurse practitioner? Familiar with alternative medicine? Just plain has common sense? I don't know, but I do know that I appreciate a medical, healing-type person treating me like a person -- and not a walking petri dish.

Did I say that I was bitter?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

And The Eyes Moved All By Themselves

This afternoon, my son asked me what comics I read as a kid. I hadn't thought about that for years, but realized that I remembered more than I thought: Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, Lil' Abner, Pogo. Ah, Pogo, introduction to political philosophy.

Then, I started wondering about all those other entertainments, long gone by, and ended up stumbling across HR PuffnStuff. Okay, so the producers had to have been juiced on something, but it was a imagination wonderland of a show. Compared to the slick special effects of even the schlokkiest today's Disney sitcom, HR looks like it was made with somebody's cellphone. Wow, I thought as a kid, and the eyes on that boat move all by themselves.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Me & My Nose

Every so often, the great swirling cosmos of it all whooshes into my life and lays me flat. And, there I am on the ground, the air knocked out of me, all ridiculous daily worries and petty jealousies and personal obsessions knocked out of me too, and I can see what is really important in my life. This is what happened to me last week. Right after I became as sick as a dog.

The long and short of it is that on Sunday I was admitted to the hospital for an infection in my nose that seemed to be drug-resistant. The emergency room doc wouldn't take a culture, so we can't know if it was MRSA or not. (No wonder this stuff is escaping all over the place!) What had been a sore, slightly puffy nose on a Friday, had swelled to an excruciating nose by Sunday. I had chills and felt like my shoes were made of lead. I spent the next three days on IV drips of very strong antibiotics. (I am going to be very, very kind to my kidneys forever and ever...) I won't go into the hairier details of my hospital stay, except to say that it was painful and frightening. On Thursday, they let me come home.

This week it is doctor visits and and mending my immune system for me. Letting the important things occupy me -- and not my cellphone -- has been my chief activity. Things like hugging my son and watching him play Guitar Hero and making him hotdogs for dinner. Cooking with my godson and listening to him talk about his latest date. Sitting outside in the sun and looking at the garden. And just plain listening.

So, for all of you who (like me), laughed at others who kept hand sanitizer in their purse or car: Laugh no more. There are some really nasty, bacterial thugs out there. I hope I never encounter one again -- especially that close to my brain.

Next up on the bench: Lisa's Front Door Transom lavenders, greens, and bevels.