Category Archives: Health Issues

The Post-Cyanotic Blues

As far as life-long, high-maintenance medical conditions are concerned, I suppose that asthma isn’t the worst possible one to have. Jennifer and I watched ER last night and we both felt very sorry for the young boy who had had two heart transplants already and was facing a third, and who had been taking so many drugs throughout his life to treat his condition that his body was permanently altered by the side effects. He was essentially trapped within his own body, and I personally didn’t blame him at all for not wanting yet another heart transplant.

When I was younger, I was told that I was growing to grow out of my asthma. Most kids do. Adult-onset asthma is relatively rare in and of itself, and the number of people who don’t grow out of their asthma is relatively small. Obviously, I did not grow out of my asthma; throughout high school and college and into real life, asthma has been part of my existence. I suppose that even until recently, I had harbored the hope that my asthma would eventually go away, that I’d be able to live without the daily medications or the monthly visits to my pulmonologist or the occasional hospital stay. I had figured that a decent diet, along with some exercise, would help put it behind me.

But this week in the hospital, I realized that it simply isn’t going to be the case.

Sure, over time, my asthma may get better. But I will never be free of the medication. I will probably be taking something for my asthma every single day for the rest of my life, and probably more than once per day. There will always be pills, inhalers, nebulizers. At one point during the week, the respiratory therapist who delivered my breathing treatments told me that they may decide to send me home with portable oxygen.

It was that last part that really scared me, and really drove it home for me. I have nightmares about becoming one of those really old men who has to carry an oxygen tank wherever he goes… and apparently there is a possibility that it might come true. Even though my blood O2 levels never fell below 95%, which is excellent, I suppose there is always the possibility that my lungs — already scarred and damaged by over thirty years of asthmatic behavior — will someday lose their efficiency as oxygen derivers, and I’ll be forced to that step.

Asthma is kind of a scary disease. When you’re very young, and you don’t really understand what’s happening, it’s easy to panic and get scared when all you know is that you can’t breathe. And when you’re 33, it’s still easy to get scared when you’re trying hard to breathe but just can’t get the air to move. A really bad attack can be like breathing through one of those tiny straws that you use to stir coffee; one of those tiny straws that’s been bent so there’s even less flow. The tiny airways in your lungs get clogged; mucous builds up, tiny muscles contract, tissue swells. When you breathe, if you can, you hear wheezing, rasping, possibly gurgling. If you’re having a really bad attack, you turn cyanotic — you get so little oxygen flowing through your blood that your extremities, like your lips and your fingernails, turn blue. That’s only happened to me once that I can recall, and I was very young at the time. But it’s one of the questions that I am regularly asked when I go to a doctor with an asthma attack: are you cyanotic, are you turning blue?

So the medicines which they give you to control asthma if you’re a severe asthmatic basically treat the three effects of an asthma attack: beta-antagonist adrenalin derivatives (such as Albuterol) to control the muscle spasms (this makes sense; with more adrenalin in your body, your smooth muscles, like the ones which line your lungs, relax, allowing you to get more air into your body so that you can run faster from that lion); corticosteroids such as Pulmi-Cort or Azma-Cort to control the tissue swelling (mostly inhaled, sometimes orally administered, such as Prednisone — sometimes injected, like Salumedrol); and a host of other medications to control the mucous. Atrovent, I think, is supposed to help with that. And then there are a whole bunch of drugs that work, without any real good reason: Theophylline, for some reason, is a very effective medication for long-term treatment of asthma. The last time I asked my doctor how it works, he said something about adeno-triphosphate and how Theophylline seems to improve its efficacy in respiratory processes. I knew more or less what he was talking about; on the other hand, I also got the sense that he didn’t know much more than I did.

So now I’m on a whole new host of medications: more Prednisone than I’ve taken in nearly fifteen years, and heavy antibiotics — since an asthmatic’s lungs are prone to getting worse infections if one happens to settle in. What bothers me the most are, of course, the side effects: Prednisone has some well documented emotional side effects, and I’m finding myself irritable, cranky, and short-tempered. Combine that with the light-headedness that one of the antibiotics is causing, and you have yourself a Richard who’s pretty much useless right now (though I suppose some would argue that there really isn’t much of a difference). The only thing that’s good is that I know why it is I’m feeling cranky and irritable right now and so I can keep it in check.
And so here I am. With asthma. For the rest of my life. Asthma is on the rise, and the number of deaths due to asthma is increasing year by year (although I think that it ironically has to do with the increasing efficiency of the short-term medications that some asthmatics come to rely on instead of the long-term care that they really need). While my asthma isn’t nearly as bad as it was twenty years ago, it’s certainly not good. I would like it to be gone, of course. But it’s not going to. Like it or not, I’m stuck with it.

Showering with One Hand Wrapped in Plastic

My apologies to any of my readers who work in hospitals. Nothing personal, but I hate them. Hospitals, that is, not the people who work in them.

Around 8:00 last night, I wound up having to go to the emergency room again. I was still having trouble breathing… lots of trouble. It had been going on all day, but at 8:00 I finally admitted that I was pretty sick and should go back to the ER, and Jennifer said, "Good." After another 4 hour visit, the physician on call decided to admit me on the grounds that after 4 hours on the nebulizer I was still having labored breathing. And, so, here I am.

This newest asthma adventure of mine is apparently more than a mere flare up. This is some sort of lung infection caused by chlamydia or something like that. My peak flow — the measure of how much air you expel from your lungs, measured in liters per minute — is fine, and the doctors can detect very little wheezing or other odd lung sounds, but I’m still short of breath and I get winded easily — walking, say, from my hospital bed to the bathroom. I had hoped to leave this hospital today, but when the doctor listened to my lungs, the first thing he said was, "Yep, he’s going to be here for another day." I groaned inwardly; I have a lot of work to do that I can’t do from the hospital, and I miss being at home. At least, though, I could avoid going to Portland this week (my apologies to my regular readers from Portland; it’s a beautiful city, but I’ve spent enough time there).

One of the things that I dislike about hospital stays is the smell. When you sit in one bed for more than a day, you acquire… well… an odor. The last time I was here, I wanted to do something about it, but was told that showers were not an option unless I wanted a nurse’s assistance — and for some reason I allowed my modesty to overcome my desire for cleanliness. So this time, you can imagine how excited I get when the Nursing Assistant came in to my hospital room this morning and said, "Would you like to have a shower?" Naturally, I said yes. The downside, though, was that there is no shampoo available here so I had to wash my hair with hand soap; and the protect the shunt in my hand where they’ve been sticking IV medications (a clever practice, and a nice way to avoid getting repeated IV’s; they just stick a plastic catheter in and leave it there and inject new medications through that), my hand would have to be wrapped in cellophane and a latex glove. So I wound up there in the shower with one hand wrapped up completely in plastic and trying to wash myself down with the removable shower hose and trying to wash hair with hand soap and trying not to splash water all over the bathroom.

Hm. Perhaps the shortness of breath I had at the end of the shower wasn’t due so much to the asthma as to the mere gymnastics involved in taking a shower.

Jennifer and I had originally planned, last night, to go over the floor plans for the house and decide once and for all where the computer room is going to be. We had thought that we should put it in the south side of the house, on the argument that the room there is larger; but now we’re thinking that the front of the house might be better, since the room there is cooler during the day. Well, our plans for that were spoiled by my errant lungs, of course… but at least Jennifer is going to be able to come over to my hospital room tonight; she’ll be bringing the floor plans and we’ll be able to make a decision tonight, in the hospital. Naturally, my preference is for the two of us to go home and do this planning together there, but this is good enough, I suppose. While I may not get to spend the night at home yet, at least it’s the middle of the week and we’re both in the same state.

Until next time….

Club Albuterol Now Accepting New Members

Jennifer’s mother is a hospital chaplain, and she tells me that she has seen several people with minor cases of asthma who use their asthma to get attention; it’s sort of like those people, I suppose, who claim that every headache that they have is a migraine headache, when, in fact, all they have are simple vascular or tension headaches.

I guess I can see it. I admit that I’m not above using my asthma as a convenient excuse to play hooky from work every now and then (though I haven’t since I left the Labor Relations department at the University six months ago); and when I was in school, I even (and this will come as a shock to many readers, I know) used it as an excuse to play hooky then as well.

But apparently there are people who take it to an extreme of some sort. Some people feel lonely and use their asthma as an excuse to go to the hospital and get some extra attention. I personally have never done that; I hate going to the hospital and getting the breathing treatments and the shots and the new medications. The other night at the emergency room, I was given an injection of cortisone through a needle that I’m sure was designed by the Defense Department; nothing with a bore that large is meant to be inserted into the human body, not even into the hip (my apologies to every single woman out there who has undergone an amniocentesis examination; I know that the needle used for that exam has a bore wide enough to drive a truck through, and I know that men are wimps when it comes to pain compared to women who always have the "natural childbirth" ace to hold over us). And cortisone itself is not a pretty drug; sure it helps with the asthma but the side effects of long use — osteoporosis, liver and kidney damage, and so on — are just not pretty. In high school, I was on daily maintenance doses of Prednisone, and the acne that it gave me was bad enough to get me the nickname, "Oil Face". Even now, when I take Prednisone, I still get pretty bad acne.

I had my very first asthma attack when I was less than a year old, my mother tells me; all I know is that asthma has been a part of my life for as far back as I can remember. I spent a lot of time at the hospital when I was young, including six weeks at Stanford Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto; even though I was four or five years old at the time, I still have vivid memories of that stay.

The first doctor I remember seeing regularly for my asthma was a Japanese man who looked about thirty even though he was pushing fifty at the time (I think). He frequently encouraged me, when I was a kid, to take up yoga or meditation, his idea being that relaxation, discipline, and overall goood health were probably the best approaches to asthma control, much more so than medication. I wish now that I had taken him up on his advice and suggestions when I was much younger. I’m sure my asthma would be under much better control now than it is. When this doctor passed away a few years ago, I confess that I nearly cried.

When I was in college, dealing with asthma was easy; there were lots of doctors on the campus in the Student Health Center, and the student insurance covered everything. Right after I got out of college I wound up without a job and no way of paying for my medical expenses. For years I dealt with my asthma by using over-the-counter inhalers and no maintenance medications whatsoever. I’m pretty sure that I did my lungs a good deal of damage during that period of time. I was very fortunate to find a physician who was willing to treat me at greatly reduced rates and give me free samples of the medication I needed to treat my asthma. When I finally got a job which had medical insurance, I continued going to the same doctor, though I paid full rates of course.

Anyway, the point is this: I really hate having asthma.

Asthma — especially the degree of asthma that I have — is a pretty high-maintenance disease. Between my new antibiotics and steroids, in addition to my regular maintenance medications, I counted a total of eleven pills that I have to take twice a day.

That sucks.

My biggest worry right now is how I’m going to take care of my asthma while I’m on the road in Europe in May. I’ve posted my concerns to a couple of different on-line forums, and talked to my doctor’s head nurse. I think it will be okay, but so much for traveling light. With all of my pills and inhalers, my backpack is going to be full of lots of stuff.

With asthma, my lungs take every opportunity available to turn any illness into bronchitis. A cold turns into bronchitis. So does the flu. Or a mild respiratory infection of any sort. Stomach flu. Athlete’s foot. All of them turn into bronchitis, I swear.

So here I sit, working from home today, having convinced my boss that I don’t need to go to Portland this week, with bronchitis and feeling very whiney.

So. Are there really people in the world who use their asthma for attention, or who even fake it to get attention? Seems like there are. And I confess that I just don’t understand it. All in all, I much prefer people paying attention to me because I’m a fun, interesting, charming person (how could I possibly be otherwise?) than because I happen to be unable to breathe from time to time.

Ah, well. Breathing is overrated anyway.

Until the next time I have a chance to play with the new "save entry as draft" feature of the on-line journal maintenance program I’ve written, I remain…

Addendum, three hours later: I have added the ability to add "widgets" to each of these journal entries. The "Jabberwock Inn" image and the car images to the right are examples of widgets, snippets of HTML code which are associated with this journal entry in the same database which tracks all of the entries. The next step is a web-based interface for creating widgets and associating them with journal entries.

Grinchin'

The thing I hate the most about being sick — and today I’ve been hit with a double whammy of a mild cold plus a mild stomach flu; nothing exciting in and of themselves, but the combination is exhausting — is that I have a tendency to feel really lonely. Lying in bed, looking forward to the next time I can use one of my inhalers or take another aspirin, is not something guaranteed to make me feel happy or real good about the world around me. It’s better, of course, now that Jennifer’s around, but when she has to go to work, it’s still easy for me to get lonely during the day, even when there are four or five overly affectionate cats to keep me company.

It was easy to cope when I was a kid or even when I was a teenager or even in college: I’d just flip on the television and watch whatever weird shows were on during the day. I’d avoid the talk shows, of course, but daytime TV used to at least offer alternatives to the junk — reruns of old comedies or old movies during the day. But now there aren’t old TV shows during the day, and old movies are exclusively on cable or videotapes. And with the VCR and TV in the other room, I haven’t even been watching movies anymore.

Watching television wasn’t the only way I’d amuse myself when I was sick as a kid. I spent a lot of time reading, too. Now that I’m older, and television just doesn’t hold the appeal that it once did, I find myself reading more when I’m sick than I did when I was a kid. And the loneliness that afflicts me when I get sick becomes mixed up with a strange feeling of nostalgia.

Today I was sick, and lonely, and nostalgic; so I pulled up some books that I’d enjoyed over the summer and that I was planning on re-reading anyway: the Harry Potter books. I think it’s probably because the Harry Potter books remind me so much of the books I read when I was a kid, or of the stories I used to make up for myself (and sometimes still do); or maybe it’s just because these books are so good. Whatever the reason, I found that curling up with these books today felt like hanging out with old friends. And re-reading them, I found levels in the stories that I hadn’t noticed before; subtleties of foreshadowing that I appreciated, politics among the other mages, and so on. J. K. Rowling really is a good writer.

I’ve written about the Harry Potter books before, so I won’t repeat what I’ve already written here.

But bear with me, I’m going somewhere with all of this anyway.

Two weeks or so ago, Jennifer and I went and saw The Grinch at a local movie theater (Jennifer’s recounting of that particular evening is much more eloquent than I could ever be). It was a fun movie; Jim Carrey is, in my opinion, underrated as an actor (I think he ought to be doing more serious parts like The Truman Show); and Anthony Hopkins is a suitable replacement for Boris Karloff as the narrator for the story. Naturally, the writers expanded the story; it’s hard to turn a short Dr. Seuss book into a 90-minute movie. Most of the expanded story fit into the spirit of the tale, some of it kind of grated, but on the whole it was good. And, I thought, it had a good message about the over-commercialization of Christmas in general.

Said message, of course, being rendered more than ironic by the insane amount of merchandising which has surrounded that movie. Honestly, I think that Theodore Giesel, Dr. Seuss himself, must be spinning in his grave. I don’t remember him licensing much more than educational products when he was alive. Still, I suppose his estate needs to get their money somewhere.

Of course, it’s not just the Grinch who’s been the focus of so much marketing and merchandising this year. Just two weeks ago, we went to do some Christmas shopping and stopped in Barnes and Nobles; and I found myself practically drowning in the sheer volume of Harry Potter merchandising that had seemingly exploded out of nowhere in the space of a few short weeks. When I stood in line until midnight in early July with Jennifer to buy Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as a birthday present for my niece, I didn’t see the Harry Potter mugs, calendars, T-shirts, keychains, clocks, and bathrobes that are available now. Of course, with the movie just about a year away, this sort of marketing and merchandising can only be expected, I suppose. Still, it’s a bit distressing.

The Harry Potter books are good, and I firmly believe that in spite of the Muggles of the world who try to sue the author (over the use of the word "Muggle"), or the nutty teachers who try to ban the books, these books are actually good for kids. Kids learn to use their imagination, they read, they learn the importance of friendship, and so on. But what do they learn from the merchandising and the marketing? That it’s good to spend close to $70.00 for a "special edition" of Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone? That you need to have the Harry Potter’s Collectibles Guide to make sure you have the latest parephrenalia in order to be as cool as the other kids?

I know that J. K. Rowling certainly licensed all of these things. And I imagine that she’s more than a bit overwhelmed by her sudden wealth. And I certainly don’t begrudge her success. But I have a sneaky feeling that Harry Potter himself might not approve, and that all of this money-making is something that his mean-spirited uncle, Vernon, might have nodded approvingly at.

Still, though…

That midnight-blue bathrobe with the House Gryffindor seal on it is really appealing, and I compare it to my own tattered bathrobe and think how much of a Muggle I am.

Breathing Lessons

I’ve been plagued with asthma since I’ve been two years old. It’s a nasty condition: when you have a full-blown asthma attack, trying to breathe is like breathing through one of those tiny coffee-stirring straws. Air actually can go in to your lungs just fine (unless you’re having a really bad attack), but breathing out is the difficult part. Your lungs spasm; the smooth muscles that line the bronchial tubes contract, narrowing the airways; in addition, the lung tissues can also swell, and excess mucous can be produced, further blocking the airways. Your chest feels tight, like a weight is sitting on you. I’ve even heard it said that an asthma attack can feel like a heart attack. And I know of at least one doctor who believed he was having an asthma attack when he was, in actually, having a heart attack (two hours later, he was under the knife, undergoing a quadruple bypass operation).

Last Sunday, Jennifer and I were cleaning the house. I’d been short of breath for the entire day and the day before, but had shrugged it off, figuring it was the side effect of the new hypertension medication that my physician had given me. But on Sunday night it got so bad that I had I to have Jennifer take me to the emergency room. I guess more than sick, I was annoyed that this was the second time in two weeks that I’ve had to go to the emergency room, after being away from hospitals for over a year (the time prior to that, I was in for a week for pneumonia). Some day I hope to go for an entire year without having to go in for one problem or another. While I was in the emergency room on Sunday night, Jennifer stayed with me the whole time, making me laugh and smile, and generally keeping me cheered up. She made some observations about the sounds in the ER resembling a routine by Stomp, and that made me laugh through the facemask that the respiratory therapist had hooked me up to.

One thing that’s been pounded into me since I was a child with asthma has been the importance of relaxing when you’re in the midst of an asthma attack. Becoming tense or nervous will actually make the asthma attack worse. So while sitting in a doctor’s office or in an emergency room, the doctor will always tell me, "Just keep yourself calm. Stressing about it will only make it worse."

Easy for them to say, I’ve always though in response to that. They’re not the ones who can’t breathe at all! It’s awfully easy to panic when your air is cut short, when you can’t draw a breath (a really bad asthma attack will prevent you from inhaling as well as exhaling), when you’re light-headed from lack of oxygen, and the only thing you can think of is where your next inhalation is going to come from. Still, it’s true; if you can relax, then you will start to feel better, and it actually does become easier to breathe.

Generally, deep breathing is a good way to relax, calm down, and get a grip on things. When you’re in the middle of an asthma attack, of course, it’s impossible to take some deep breaths and calm down that way. But at other times…

Breathe in deeply…

Exhale.

Patience is also key when you’re suffering an asthma attack. Asthma is a temporary condition and when you have an attack, it will go away, assuming proper treatment. But when you’re desperate for air, it’s hard to be patient.

So you’d think that after struggling with asthma for nearly thirty years, I’d be a pro at being patient, right?

Yeah, right.

I wrote in an earlier journal entry that I could learn about patience and determination from the adult literacy students that I was working with. I did learn some of those lessons; but I seem to have forgotten some of them.

So here I am, five months later, in my new job, far away from the administrative assistant position I used to hold at the University, and still frustrated by the direction my career is taking. It’s not, of course, what I want; but is it realistic to really expect to have reached my ultimate career goal at this point?

So, here goes. Inhale deeply. Exhale.

My first non-administrative job started on July 10. My new job started about a month after that. In four months, I’ve gone from an administrative assistant position in the Human Resources division of a large University to being part of an enterprise-level web development team. I used to work with the front end of an ancient FoxPro application; now I’m answering questions about PL/SQL and Oracle8i, as well as Unix development and some basic functions in Perl.

Still, it’s not what I ultimately want, which is to take leadership roles in the development of large enterprise-scale web-based database applications and in their deployment. I consider myself an expert HTML/JavaScript developer at this point (even though I’ve pushed my HTML skills as far as I want to, and no longer feel challenged by HTML development), and a decent SQL programmer, and a beginner at Oracle. So is it even likely that I’d get my dream career at this point, with only four months of experience?

Then again, there is also a part of me which worries that I’ve moved too slowly. I got a late start in this career, after all; I’m 32 years old now, and most of the people I’m working with are younger than I am, and more advanced in their own fields than I. Our Senior Oracle Programmer is just a bit older than I am, but has been programming for years. I suspect that as long as I’m in this field, I’m going to be playing a hectic game of catch up.

As you can probably tell, I’m dithering over my job again. When the new job you’re in isn’t where you’d hoped to be, it’s easy to forget that between where you start and where you want to end up, there is a road that you must travel; just as there is a period of less-than-perfect breathing between a severe asthma attack and a pair of well-functioning lungs.

Your lungs will clear. You will get that dream job.

I’ve only been with this company for four months, and I’ve started poking around to see what else might be out there for other jobs. A couple of weeks ago, when it became clear that I wasn’t going to be receiving training in Oracle or programming and that I might be stuck doing nothing but HTML in this job, it seemed like a good idea. But now that I’m able to converse intelligently with the corporate programmers about the Oracle database and even help out our local Unix guru with some Perl and Korn shell scripting, I’m starting to feel a bit better about where I’m going with this job. I’ve told my boss that I’m no longer interested in doing straight design and UI, and that I’d like to work on more back-end projects, including reporting and database development. We are working now on hiring a webmaster/developer who can focus on the UI and graphic design; but I personally had no idea how hard it would be to find qualified applicants for that sort of position.

I’m still not sure whether taking this job was the best move for my career, but perhaps it’s simply that slightly congested part of breathing that comes between a severe asthma attack and clear breathing… between a dead end job in administration and the job that I’m really looking for.

Still in Puddle City: This is Your Brain

But I digress.

I was called in to a meeting this afternoon with the DBA and the PL/SQL report programmer to discuss the new registration process. It turns out that our database supports one set of business rules which call for a certain set of specs, while our application software supports an entirely different set of business rules which call for an entirely different set of specs. Somewhere along the development process for our newest release, someone forgot that the two groups of people — database development and application development — should be talking with each other, just to be sure that everyone is using the same set of business rules.

If it were to come to pass, then it would be a revelation as impressive as the revelation that Development and Product Management ought to talk to each other once in awhile. We reached that point about a month ago.

I was pulled in to this meeting because the DBA knows that of all the developers in the Sacramento office, I’m really the only one with any interest in the database development process. Unfortunately, as a front-end web developer, my role in developing the application to meet the new set of business rules is very limited.

It was right after the meeting, though, that things got really interesting.

It started as a little bright spot in the lower right portion of my field of vision; sort of like an after image that you see after looking at a bright light. But it seemed to grow, with "spikes" around its edges; and as it grew, my vision started to fade in and out. The edges wavered, and it was like my peripheral vision had become obscured through running water.

I happened to be Instant Messaging with my mother at the moment, and I explained what was happening, and she suggested that I head on over to the hospital. One of the doctors who works in our company happened to be passing by, and he asked what was up; I told him and he repeated my mother’s suggestion. So I asked the company controller if there was a hospital nearby that would accept our insurance plan, and she not only gave me the name of one, but drove me there herself.

By the time we reached the hospital, my vision had cleared up completely, but I was starting to get a bad headache. The doctor examining me had me take a vision test, and my vision turned out to be as clear as ever. Then I got to go for a CT scan.

Ever undergone a CT scan? It’s not that bad at all. It lasts very little time at all and isn’t at all painful. All you do is lie on a bed with your head restrained. The bed is raised and moved back until your head is inside a torus which is basically the camera. A drum inside the torus rotates very fast, scanning your brain.

Not long after, the doctor came to the waiting room where I was and told me that the CT scan was negative. We talked for awhile, and it turned out that what was going on in my head was a migraine.

I immediately called Jennifer, whom I had contacted when I learned I was going to the hospital. "My brain is normal!" I told her. She was relieved to hear I was healthy, but dubious that I had a normal brain. As were my parents. And the friend who had introduced Jennifer to me in the first place.

Sheesh.

So by the time I got out of the hospital, it was too late for me to take the evening flight back to Sacramento. So, one last time, I’m spending the night here in Portland, and I’ll be taking the first flight back to Sacramento tomorrow morning. I’m disappointed; I had hoped to fly back tonight so I could have a night with Jennifer, but life and my mostly normal brain seem to have intervened.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will get to take my normal brain home to Sacramento. And stay there. For a few days, at least, until after Atlanta, and then… Then my brain and I will be home. Home for good.

This is your brain. And this is your brain on stress.

Any questions?

Out of Orbit

The sad thing is that this morning I’m actually feeling better.

I’m not really all that certain as to what, exactly, is causing this set of symptoms that I’m currently enjoying. Certainly the heat has something to do with it; Davis has been hitting 100+ temperatures consistently for the past few days, reminding me of that old Twilight Zone episode called "The Midnight Sun", where the earth had somehow gotten knocked out of its orbit and was moving closer and closer to the sun, causing everything to heat up. My body has never really responded all that well to extreme heat; I’m okay up to around 95, but anything above that causes my body to rebel and get sick.

The shoulder impingement also has something to do with it, I’m sure. Back in December 1999 — yes, eight months ago — I must have injured my shoulder somehow, and simply not let it heal. In June it finally started hurting so bad that I took myself to the doctor who pronounced, "Impingement". Basically, my shoulder bones — which are already oddly shaped, apparently — are coming too close together, irritating all of the surrounding tissues and causing a constant pain which feels something like having a vise grip on to the joint itself and squeezing. Hard. Constantly. I started physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in the area and reduce the inflammation, but it didn’t seem to help. The doctor injected cortisone into the joint, and that provided some relief, even though there is still some pain.

The pseudo-migraine isn’t helping either. It’s not really a migraine, I’m told; the pain in my shoulder is causing all of my muscles in my upper back and neck to tighten and this is causing migraine-like symptoms, from sensitivity to bright lights to nausea. Very little of the food that I eat actually has managed to stay in my body lately.

And the insomnia. For some reason I’ve been unable to get more than three or four hours of sleep per night, maximum, for a couple of weeks — normally, even less. Last night I think I slept for an hour. Here I am at work now, not finalizing the report codes that I should be finalizing, wishing for coffee, worried that if I get some it won’t stay down and knowing that coffee tastes really nasty coming up and wondering if I could get an intravenous caffeine hookup.

A planet spinning in space must be a dizzy thing; maintaining constant acceleration to remain at a steady distance from the sun which maintains a steady gravitational pull to keep the planet in place. All the while, the planet rotates on its own axis, at thousands of miles an hour, and if its own gravity did not hold it together, it would fly apart into a million pieces of interstellar dust and tiny rocks.

These feelings of mine right now are a funny thing. I’m barely in touch with the earth. One wrong push and I’ll go flying off into space, losing orbit, falling into the sun…