Friday, March 25, 2022

Looking back on some 2014 foolishness

 I wrote this in 2014, just eight years ago.

 My husband Art is six years older than me and for at least ten years he's been complaining about his aching bones. He's had a hip and a knee replaced, two rotator cuff surgeries and a hand surgery. Oh, and a pacemaker following a cardiac arrest last winter. He didn't use to seem that old to me. When we met we were in our 40s and he was trim and strong and nimble. Now he walks with a little hunch and groans a little when he gets out of his chair. Some days when he's cranky  all he wants to do is read the paper and work the puzzles and read in the living room, I ask if his arthritis is bothering him and he says yes.  

That is not going to happen to me. I know it isn't.

I've been healthy nearly all my life. When I was younger I broke my left arm and my left leg. Once in a while my back would go out, but it would be better within a few days. Usually it happened after I lifted something heavy. 

When I was 59 I ruptured my Achilles tendon working out at the gym. No big deal, the trainer said. I'd have surgery and P.T. and then I'd have a full recovery. So I had the surgery and did the P.T. and have, I'd say, about a 90 percent recovery. I don't have any pain but my right leg is smaller than my left. Something about the other leg compensating or whatever. Funny that didn't happen when I broke my leg at 23.

That same year I strained my SI joint. Maybe doing yoga, or maybe once when I slipped on an icy sidewalk and fell. My chiropractor took X-rays and pointed out that my lower spine is messed up and my pelvis is tilted. He said I was lucky I wasn't in any pain. But I was - for six months my SI joint hurt. We went to Paris for Christmas and I walked with a cane the whole week. Eventually I figured out I could go to the gym and work out on the elliptical trainer and get myself back into shape. I thought I'd recover completely, but the SI still bothers me seven years later when I'm on my feet too much in a day, or spending too much time in an airplane seat. I'm hoping it will get itself in order pretty soon. When I was younger my body always healed right up.

Three years ago I sat down in a chair that was two inches lower than I was expecting and I messed up my back. A light show of nerve sensations ripped down my leg from thigh to knee. Within half an hour my feet were tingling. I went to a chiropractor who said the sensations would pass within a few hours. They didn't. It's been three and a half years. The sensations are still there, though not as strong as they were at first. I hear it can take five years for these kinds of things to clear up and sometimes they never do get better. I think about my feet from time to time, especially when it's cold and they complain, but I don't worry. Everyone gets injured now and then, and I'm no exception. This doesn't have anything to do with getting older.

This summer I did so much watering of my garden that I strained muscles in my arms and legs. They're still bothering me. Really, it's annoying. This never used to happen to me.

I have other little odds and ends of physical issues. Nothing serious. I had one cataract removed a couple of years ago and will take care of the other one next summer. I try to get all my errands run before dark since I don't see so well at night. I'm a little stiff when I wake up in the morning.

But I'm never going to have aching bones like my husband. Not me. Nope.

Now it's 2022, and my story is different!

Now I have aching bones and I complain almost as much as Art. I had my right hip replaced last summer and, though it's healing, my low back and my left knee are complaining. Some days are better than others, of course. But some days aren't. And while we choose to live in Seattle from May to October, I already know that until the rain stops in late June, those aches will be quite bothersome.

I watch younger people in our Tucson retirement community - they're mostly in their 50s - playing tennis and jogging. And I remember how I felt at that age. They have no idea that the same thing will happen to them. Actually, they've been told it will happen, but they don't really believe it. Just like I didn't.

This afternoon I'll take an eight-mile ride on my electric bike. It will be so easy, with a little bit of pedal assist, that I'll be inclined to forget I'm one of those with aching bones. 

Until I get off the bike and climb the four stairs to our house.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Not an ordinary week!

This has been a week!

A week ago today I got a video from my Afghan friends Shakofe and Nasar. Shakofe had arrived with her family in Turin earlier in the week, and her brother Nasar had driven with his wife and four children from Germany to be reunited with his sister, whom he had not seen in six years. I played the video several times, tearing up at least once, and feeling so glad for the outcome of Shakofe's journey.

Early in the afternoon I had an hour-long Zoom call with my sister and brother-in-law. My husband Art joined that call, and we talked and laughed together.

Then the carpet cleaner came. While he worked, I sat on the deck and read in the sunshine. I didn't know what Art was up to.  When the carpet guy left I went to find Art. 

He was lying on the bed. He said he felt terrible after half a dozen occurrences of vomiting and diarrhea. I took his temperature and it was 100.4. I gave him a covid test and it was negative. Within half an hour his color had changed to a grayish blue. I took his temp again and it was 102.1. Art said he had never felt so bad. By this time his voice was husky and his breathing was rapid and shallow.

I called the consulting nurse for Kaiser Permanente, our health care provider. She asked me a few questions, then asked to speak to Art. His voice was faint. I took the phone back from him. The nurse said, "You need to call 9-1-1."

I said, "Art, she says I should call 9-1-1." He said, "No." I said "Yes."

Ten minutes after my call to 9-1-1, the EMTs arrived at our house. Art's oxygen saturation was 83. Within 15 minutes they had carried him on a gurney to the ambulance and left for Banner University Medical Center.

Before I went to the hospital myself, I contacted several close friends; I knew I'd need their support for whatever came up.

By the time I got to the emergency room, Art was wearing an oxygen mask and receiving antibiotics. The doctor told me it was likely Art had a bacterial infection that had gotten to his bloodstream. When he arrived at the hospital he had severe sepsis - septic shock. 

The medical team at Banner saved Art's life on Saturday night with oxygen and antibiotics and expertise. A lab culture grew e-coli within two days. He spent the next four days in the hospital's Progressive Care Unit as the staff monitored his progress and administered IV antibiotics and fluids. I talked to the doctors and the nurses. They were all committed to educating us as to what was happening and the plan for Art's treatment.

By Thursday Art's medications were being administered orally and his supplemental oxygen was discontinued. And yesterday, Friday afternoon, he was discharged from the hospital. He'll be resting and recovering at home for the next week or so. Today he spent the day in his pajamas, watching TV. I went for take-out Thai soup, and as he ate it, his face lit up at the flavor. It's been a week since that last happened.

I called the Kaiser consulting nurse service and thanked them for saving his life. The nurse I talked to got a message sent directly to her. I called the ambulance service and thanked them. I have the name and email address of the administrator of the Banner hospital team. I will thank the medical team, through her, on Monday. It often happens that these lifesavers don't know the outcome of what they do. I think it's important to let them know.

Grateful, grateful, grateful!