A Dispiriting Decline

When one hits the age where things begin happening to their parents in the decline of old age, it is dispiriting. I see my mother declining and I’m not sure she will last the year. I can’t tell her this. She actually believes she is going to live into her hundreds, as many of our older relatives have. The difference between those long-lived ancestors, though, is that they were very active. My mother is not. She is not active. She has arthritic knees. She sits a lot. She ignores advice that tells her movement is better for arthritis and general well-being. She also has sleep apnea but refuses to wear her sleep apnea machine. She has now had a stroke. They say it came from plaque in her arteries. They want to give her drugs (after scraping the arteries clean), but tell her exercise is best. She won’t exercise. The sleep apnea may also have contributed, but she won’t use the machine. What was the point of going to the sleep clinic and figuring out she has sleep apnea if she won’t use the machine to help the sleep apnea? They said she had some of the worst sleep apnea they had ever seen. Not treating it can cause heart attacks and strokes. Does she want another stroke? Is she trying to kill herself by doing nothing?

I stand aside and watch this decline. It is disheartening, and as I said before, dispiriting. One cannot control another or make them do what they won’t do. I want to scream: Just get up and walk down your driveway, already! (The driveway is a mile long.) Yet this would be futile.

Fue Tile. Futile. Dispiriting. Disheartening. All these magnificent little words. I love the words. I do not love how their meanings affect me.

After I wrote this, I asked my mom directly about not using her sleep apnea equipment. She said that her sleep apnea went away because she slept on her side. I asked my friend Debbie, who is somewhat of an expert on sleep apnea, and she said that if she didn’t have the central system sleep apnea, it is possible that it did go away. I hope this is true. I know my mom did not get told my a physician that it was gone, but perhaps it did. Perhaps it did not cause her stroke.

Bummer

I love eggs. I ate two eggs this morning for breakfast. My body does not love eggs. It actually despises them. It is mad at me for eating the eggs. It is giving me hell for eating the eggs. I should not have eaten the eggs. My body is winning in deciding whether or not I get to eat eggs. Even though I love them, it says I cannot have them or it will rebel and I believe it. So no eggs.

Bummer.

Dear Shaun T

Dear Shaun T,

I can’t say if I’m getting ripped. I look the same to me. (Body dysmorphia, much? Nah, I just can’t tell close up.) First I did your Insanity workout and I truly thought it was IN-sane. Now I’m in the Beta phase of T-25, and all I can say is that it kicks my ass to insanity and beyond. I thought 25 minute workouts would be a cakewalk after Insanity. Hell, most of the time those workouts near the end were a full hour. What I didn’t realize was that all those breaks in Insanity are a Godsend and the lack of breaks in T-25 is cruel and unusual punishment. My forearms are quivering as I write this and sweat is dripping down my ribs. My headband is soaked. I feel like I’ve been beat up a little.

I hope to hell I’m getting fit, that’s all I can say. Not because I want some ripped body everyone will envy, but because I want to be strong to live long for my daughters. Arghhh!

A Possible Cure for Insomnia

This piece was published on Huffington Post.

A Possible Cure for Insomnia

I have figured out one possible cure for insomnia.

I started having insomnia in the mid-1990s. Mine is the sort that wakes me up at night, my little brain buzzing like an electrical transmission tower, thoughts of work, thoughts of family, song worms, you name it.

To keep reading, click here.

My Statistically Improbable Pets

I have a little bullseye on my head, up on top where God can see it. It’s so God knows I am here and can send me pets with the rarest disorders so I can care for them. Maybe God knows I will treat them and care for them, and not put them to sleep or ignore their ailments. That has to be the reason. I think statistically I have got to be a the far end of the range, not only for the dogs I have had with rare disorders, but also for the fact that I have had more than one of them.

The first was Autumn. If you are interested, you can read her entire story beginning here. Or you can read an elegy of Autumn, as well as some of my other canine friends (living and dead) here. Autumn had something wrong with her adrenal gland. We didn’t really figure that out completely until years after her death when studies began to link the issues she had with that gland. I suspected it during her life, but we were never able to confirm Cushings, the most likely suspect. She lived with interstitial cystitis, an ailment so rare it wasn’t diagnosed until after I read an article about a human suffering the same condition in a woman’s magazine, mainly because no one even knew what it was. Then she got Diabetes Mellitus (sugar diabetes) and everything that goes along with that. It was just one thing after another.

I also had Poppy, a Jack Russell terrier who was allergic to just about everything, but particularly grass seed. I live in the Willamette Valley, the grass seed growing capital of the world, so life was rough for Poppy. She would develop fungal infections and scratch herself silly. I was constantly having to change the round of allergy shots to account for new allergens. It was frustrating and expensive.

Now I have Oliver. I love my little Oliver. It’s a good thing he’s such a funny, dear little angel, otherwise it would be difficult to tolerate the fact that he drinks about a gallon of water a day and subsequently pees as much. He leaves little puddles on top of the grass. He will pee for a full two minutes, which is a LONG time for someone to pee.

Did I mention Oliver weighs 8 pounds? Imagine it:  This tiny sprite of a dog drinks so much water that he can stand and pee for 2 minutes solid. I have no idea where in his body the water fits. His waist isn’t distended, but he’s got to have the stretchiest damn bladder on the planet.

Oliver came to live with us in late May. His previous owner lived on social security and could not find a place he could afford to live that would take pets. He mentioned that Oliver drank a lot. After several visits to the vet, I contacted this man and asked if he knew what was wrong with Oliver. I told him it didn’t matter what it was, I would never get rid of him, but trying to make the determination was killing me financially. He said nothing was wrong, Oliver just drank a lot. I hate to break it to you Guy, but dogs of 8 pounds do not drink a gallon a day and Oliver drinks a gallon a day. I know. I measured.

In any case, we started with all the usual tests, expecting Diabetes Mellitus (sugar diabetes) or some bladder ailment. Those tests went nowhere. Then Addision’s. Nowhere. Then Cushings. I KNEW he did not have Cushings. Autumn was cushinoid. Oliver was not cushinoid. For one thing, he’s the pickiest eater in the world. He eats like a teenage girl afraid of getting fat. He turns up his nose at raw turkey. He turns it up at cooked turkey. He turns it up at about 10 brands of the most expensive canned dog food in the world. I have finally gotten him to eat the Steve’s Real Food I feed Ava. It took two months to get him there. What he really wants is food I won’t let my children eat:  potato chips, french fries, junk. Anything junk food, Oliver is all over it. Good, healthy food? No, thanks. He also has beautiful, thick fur. Cushinoid dogs have thin, dry fur that looks awful. They also have sway backs. If anything, Oliver’s back is humped.

The point is that I was spending a fortune and finding nothing wrong with this little guy. We even did a test to see if it was psychosomatic, meaning he was drinking compulsively because of a behavior issue, but that failed as well. You can’t fake urine concentration, and Oliver’s urine would not concentrate.

Then one of the vets described Diabetes Insipidus (water diabetes) and it fit. I knew this was what Oliver had. The specialist I was seeing wanted me to spend a bunch more money that I didn’t have to rule out every other cause, but none of those other causes fit, not even close. And I could not afford it. There is a simple test that can be done for Diabetes Insipidus, but they wouldn’t do it without running through these other damn tests, so I called in the big guns. Ah, not really. I called a friend who is a vet, but doesn’t live near me. He has a vet friend who works near me. He said she would do the test and she did.

In a normal dog, the body has a complex system for balancing the volume and composition of body fluids. The kidneys remove extra body fluids from the bloodstream. These fluids are stored in the bladder as urine. If the fluid regulation system is working properly, the kidneys make less urine to conserve fluid when water intake is decreased or water is lost, for example, through sweating or diarrhea. The kidneys also make less urine at night when the body’s metabolic processes are slower.

To keep the volume and composition of body fluids balanced, the rate of fluid intake is governed by thirst, and the rate of excretion is governed by the production of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), also called vasopressin. This hormone is made in the hypothalamus, a small gland located in the brain. ADH is stored in the nearby pituitary gland and released into the bloodstream when necessary. When ADH reaches the kidneys, it directs them to concentrate the urine by reabsorbing some of the filtered water to the bloodstream and therefore making less urine. With Diabetes Insipidus, either the hormone isn’t produced (rare) or the kidneys don’t have the receptors to receive the signal from the hormone (really rare). There is a test that can be done where the dog is given reduced amounts of water over time at the same time it is given the hormone. If they have the type where the hormone isn’t produced, there will be improvement and the kidneys will concentrate the urine.

In Oliver, he had improvement, but his urine didn’t concentrate. This baffled me. I’m not a vet, but I understand biologically what is going on. How could he drink and pee less, but his urine still not concentrate? Apparently, there is a combination version that is even rarer than the other two, and it appears from all observation that this is the version Oliver has.  Why, oh why? Oh right. It’s that damn bullseye on my head. So now Oliver has to take medicine, but he also has to keep wearing diapers and we have to be more sure than the average doggy that he has lots of fresh water around him all the time. He can’t go all day like other dogs. He has to have a special waterer in his kennel during the day when we’re gone. He gets up at night to drink and pees in his diaper. Good times.

Ava has an issue too. Hers isn’t rare though, but I had not heard of it. It’s actually quite common in girly dogs. Considering all of the dogs I have ever had except for two have been females, I’m lucky I haven’t gotten it. I get dogs with problems I’m statistically not supposed to encounter and don’t get the problems I statistically should have encountered. Go figure.

Ava’s is kind of funny. It isn’t funny for her, but it is still a funny disorder. Her little vulva gets sore because her chubby legs rub together and cause it to become ouchy. She then licks it which makes it more sore and inflamed. Because it is sore and inflamed., the chubby legs cause more discomfort, which leads to more licking, and on and on. Poor little thing. Her chubby butt causes vulvar inflammation. Who woulda thought?

 

How to Stop Coughing

For those of you who know I am a fan of Vicks™ on the feet, and think that this post is going to reiterate that, think again. I have something better that works like a charm. It seems magic, it works so well. It works for adults as well as children.

A couple of years ago during a particularly bad cold where I could not stop coughing no matter what, I wanted to determine what a cough was exactly so that perhaps I could then figure out how to stop it. I had been coughing for days, couldn’t sleep, and was sick to death of the constant tickling in my throat and ache in my head from coughing and coughing and coughing.

I figured out that a lot of cough is a reflex designed to prevent pulmonary aspiration, promote the movement of cilia in the lungs, and to clear airway debris. The reflex is partially triggered by blood in the throat. The purpose behind plasters (covering the chest or feet with different ingredients) to stop coughs is to pull blood away from the vessels into the throat. The point then, of putting Vicks™ or its equivalent on the chest or feet is to draw blood away from the throat, thereby relieving the cough.

I became a major fan of the Vicks™ approach because it worked so well on my baby daughter, who was age one at the time. I figured this out and was suffering mightily from a cold as well. I had given her the children’s version of cough medicine and it wasn’t working any better than the adult version was working for me. My research also brought up medical study after medical study showing how ineffective cough medicine really is. When I put Vicks on my baby’s feet, her coughs would stop within a minute. It was miraculous. She would be sleeping peacefully within minutes.

Yet the Vicks™ approach did not always work so well for me during a particularly bad cold this fall. I have a friend who complained it did not work for her at all. Lying awake coughing one night, I pondered this. Why would it work so well for small children and not adults? The answer it seemed to me was that the soles of the feet of adults are thicker than those of small children. One part of the Vicks™ on the feet approach that I did not like was that I had to spread it on really thick and cover my feet with socks, otherwise the sheets would get covered in petroleum jelly, the ingredient in Vicks™ that holds it together. I scanned my body, considering all the places where blood vessels would be near the surface that would take blood away from the neck. I realized that the wrists are just about perfect. The veins are right there near the surface of the skin, and wrists are far away from the neck.

I started putting Vicks™ on my wrists. It worked much better than feet. However, there was still the issue of petroleum jelly getting all over everything and leaving an oily residue, even after washing. The ingredients in Vicks are camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus. (Incidentally, I never actually used the Vicks™ brand because it is stupidly expensive and the generic version is exactly the same thing.)

Then one afternoon my teenage daughter pointed out that the ingredients in pain relieving cream (aka BenGay™, Icy Hot™, Mentholatum Deep Heat™, and the lot) are virtually identical, except without the petroleum jelly. We had a couple of tubes of generic pain relieving cream. The next time Milla had a cold, she used this on her wrists and claimed it worked better than anything we had used to date. The ingredients are camphor, menthol, and methyl salicylate, which is essentially wintergreen oil. The best part about this stuff is that it is extremely cheap (I paid $2.39 for a 4 ounce tube), and because the veins in the wrist are so close to the surface of the skin, you do not need much to get a result. The cream is not greasy and doesn’t leave any residue on the clothes. Plus the wintergreen smells good. I was also able to purchase a menthol stick designed for sore muscles, which is the best approach of all. Menthol has become our new coughing charm.

My 5-year-old has had a cold for about a week. She sleeps with me and started coughing several nights ago. I keep a stick of menthol rub on the bedside table. She coughs, I rub a small amount on her wrists, the coughing stops in under 20 seconds and she stays asleep for several hours. It’s miraculous. One night, I felt a tickle in my throat that kept on long enough I thought it would erupt in a huge cough. I rubbed on a small amount of menthol. The tickle disappeared. We are both getting sleep, and sleep is the best remedy to cure the cold that causes the cough in the first place.

One small caution: menthol is painful if you get it in your eyes. Be sure to wear long sleeves and cover your wrists after applying so that if your arm is up near your face, you don’t get it in your eyes. I’ve applied it to the inside of the elbow with the same success as the wrists, but with less risk of getting the menthol into the membranes of the eyes.

This works. I can’t recommend it enough. Want to stop a cough? Put menthol on your wrists or anywhere else you see veins near the surface of your skin. It works.

Interestingly, over the summer, we spent a weekend at the coast. I’d had a bit of a niggling cough off and on. Nothing major, but irritating periodically. I did not bring any sort of menthol to the beach with us. Lying there awake with the niggling cough, I considered what else might work. I had read that toothpaste has menthol in it, and it certainly has peppermint oil, which is the original ingredient in menthol. Worn out I figured, why not? I got up, got the travel toothpaste, and smeared some on my wrists. The cough ceased. Both nights we were there it worked. I slept and the cough was never able to really take hold.

One thing to note, if your cough is caused by inflamed lungs, smoking, or something more chronic, this won’t work. This is for the cough that is caused by blood in the blood vessels of the throat. If the cough is caused by something other than blood in the blood vessels in the throat, this is not the remedy.

If you try this, let me know how it worked for you in the comments section. I’m sure others would love to hear of your experience as well.

Beets Turn Urine Pink

I don’t love beets. I love most vegetables, including many that others don’t generally like, but not beets. It is because of this that I have not eaten many beets in my life and I did not know that eating beets could turn one’s urine pink or red. I had no clue. Last Friday, when my 3 year old went potty and her poop and pee was red, I assumed she had blood in her stool, freaked, and called her doctor. The advice nurse asked a bunch of questions, but not whether she had eaten beets, and then said I should take her to urgent care the next morning (this was because it was after hours on Friday).

Four hours later, my daughter went potty again. This time she only peed and it was red. Further freaking, as this meant the redness came from pee and not poop, and could thus be related to kidneys and whatnot. Again a call. This time, advice nurse advised we go to urgent care that night. As it was 9:30, the only urgent care in our network was a half hour drive away. Yowza.

We all bundled into the car (we all being me, Milla, and Isabel) and headed out to the middle of nowhere to sit in a waiting room. We were finally escorted back and Isabel was urged to pee. She could not. They gave her apple juice. She peed. They tested it. No more pink and no issues. They could not find anything. Finally, someone asked if she had eaten beets. Well, I did not know. She had been to preschool earlier in the day. Although they were not normally on the Friday, perhaps she had eaten beets. The doctor sent us home with 2 prescriptions for bottom cream and a directive to go to our primary doctor as soon as possible during the regular week.

The next morning I called her preschool and left a message asking if she had eaten beets. We were not able to get into the doctor until Wednesday. In the meantime, no more pink pee and preschool did not return my call (she told me later while apologizing for not calling back that she rarely checks her home line messages–oops!). On Wednesday, while waiting for our dear doctor, I decided to call preschool again, this time the owner’s mobile phone. Lo and behold, it turned out that my darling daughter had indeed eaten beets.

In case you didn’t know it, eating beets turns one’s pee and poop pink or red. This is my public service announcement for the day (or maybe it is a pubic service announcement, but that is a really bad pun).