Saturday, November 20, 2010

regaining normalcy

It’s been a week now since my night in the hospital and I am finally feeling nearly back to normal. That virus the docs claimed caused my problem has pretty much run its course now. But even though the virus has been banished, that’s only a part of my returning to normal.

Anytime I get the flu or a cold or the current disease du jour, it takes a lot more out of me than you might otherwise expect. Not only do I have to battle the illness, but I have to somehow maintain the everyday level of fitness that keeps me functioning with PD. It is very difficult when you are feeling feverish to stretch tight muscles to stave off the rigidity that is part of Parkinson Disease. I’m quite conscientious about my everyday exercise routine. That daily routine I’m convinced is what keeps me capable of performing normal everyday tasks.

After a couple days of no exercise, I can feel my body slumping into weakness. I begin to move even slower. I begin to feel my legs weaken. I’ve been known to stumble more easily. I find myself slumping forward, my shoulders rounding. And the tremors that are generally controlled with medication become more prevalent and uncontrolled as I lose strength. And because my appetite suffers, I don’t usually get the necessary nutrition that helps me stay strong. Consequently I lose weight and thus the muscle mass I need to fight off the debilitating effects of PD.

So even though the virus that leveled me for most of the week is gone, the aftereffects will take a couple weeks or more to overcome. I lost ten pounds over the past week, weight I can hardly afford to lose. With all my usual exercise my body has little fat, so the weight loss is muscle mass. I’m not a big guy—the most I’ve ever weighed is 166 lbs—and right now I’m reduced to 152. So it will take me awhile to regain those pounds and the muscle that makes them. PD patients are more prone to weight loss to begin with because of the energy we expend through the tremors and involuntary movements that consume much of our energy. Thus it will take extra effort for me to regain the lost weight and strength that is the residual effect of the illness.

Tomorrow I will head downstairs into the gym to start on the recovery routine. And with my returning appetite I should be able to add a few new pounds to my diminished physique.

Monday, November 15, 2010

what I did on the weekend

As weekends go, that last one was memorable. And not in a particularly pleasant way.

It started out on Friday afternoon when I started feeling some upper chest pain. I figured it was just from the strain of working in the shop on some rather detailed pieces for a new sculpture. But when I was unable to stretch out the tightness and began feeling some jaw pain as well I started to get more concerned. Friday night was the worst night of my life. I felt like I had just gone ten rounds with Ali. I was tossing and turning all night and even got up several times to try to stretch my tightening muscles. I have never been so uncomfortable. I frequently have issues with stiffening muscles and rigidity due to Parkinsons but this was way beyond that.

Saturday morning Mary had had enough of my suffering (she is so empathetic that she was feeling every bit as bad as I was) and hauled me off to the urgent care center. The fact that I didn’t object too much was proof to her that I was in a bad way since I only see doctors reluctantly and usually with vehement protests. I didn’t have to wait long at the urgent care center because anytime you mention chest pain they immediately assume heart attack and rush into life saving mode. I didn’t think I was having a heart attack but I didn’t want to discourage their efforts on my behalf. They dosed me with nitro, started an IV of some sort and had an ambulance cart me away to the hospital. (as a side note—why is that ambulances have such terrible suspensions. They have incredibly rough rides—jarring in fact. You feel every crack in the road. I have had several rides in ambulances for a depressingly varied list of reasons and have always suffered more during the ride than seems acceptable.)

At the emergency room I was hooked up too all those space age monitors with the pretty colored lights and reassuring beeps that are so familiar to anyone who has ever watched television medical shows. And then we waited. And waited. And just for good measure we waited some more. Finally the doctor on duty (so young. Or am I just that much older?) told me that I would be staying the night and getting a stress test in the morning to check up on the quality of my heart. I received that news with ill humor. I am not overly fond of hospitals or the necessity of being in one, but they all ganged up on me and made me stay. It seems that the patient has the least say in what’s happening. Anyway, I was feeling too weak to put up much of a fight so after waiting somemore, I was taken to the room I would call home for the next 24 hours.
Properly drugged up with a variety of substances, I finally got the good night’s sleep that has eluded me for so long. I was so deep into my drug induced stupor that I never noticed them taking blood samples and blood pressure readings throughout the night. The nurse had to nearly smack me upside the head to get me to wake up in the morning. I had no appetite either so the gruel they claimed was oatmeal certainly didn’t temp me. Luckily my so-called breakfast was cut short by the call to the stress test.

The typical stress test involves the testee walking and then jogging on a treadmill to get the heart rate up to a predetermined high for the age of the person being tested. But in my case that procedure would never happen since with Parkinsons Disease my top speed on the treadmill is just above stationary. So I got what they called a chemical stress test. That involved my lying on my side while they injected me with a drug that caused my heart to beat faster and faster and harder and harder just as would if I was running. That was an incredibly weird feeling. My heart was pounding away while I lay there. It was actually kind of scary, but the nurse and the tech and the doctor who were in attendance assured me that they wouldn’t allow anything bad to happen. I came through the test with flying colors, all systems go, no apparent abnormalities. They assured me that I had the heart of 60 year old man. I’m 62 so I guess that’s good, right?

After the stress test (I really did feel like I had run 5 miles) all I needed to hear from the doctor was that I could leave and go home. My possible heart problem turned out to be no problem at all. Better to err on the side of caution, of course, and I am grateful for the concern and good care I received. The original upper chest pain that started the whole ordeal was explained as a virus of some sort that would run its course in a few days.

So now I am at home fighting off the virus that has me feeling fluish and achy and unable to eat much of anything. I did get a prescription for the wonder drug that gave me that great night’s sleep and I am abusing it to great advantage. Time for a recuperative nap.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

dark ages revisited

Woke up this morning to dark ominous clouds filling the sky. It was a cold and dreary morning, which fit my mood on this day after the election. Metaphorically speaking, those clouds represented my feelings of dread and despair. I can’t escape the feeling that we are entering a new dark age of rampant deregulation and mismanagement at the hands if the Republican winners.

After two months of the dirty campaigning of innuendos, misstatements, distortions, and outright lies (admittedly by both sides), we are now left with the dire consequences of the election. The Republicans would have us believe that the stalled economy, the desperate real estate market, the high jobless rate, the exodus of jobs to foreign lands, the banking and industrial bailouts, and the myriad of other problems are the result of the past two years of the Obama administration when the Democrats inherited those problems from the cesspool that was the last Bush administration. How quickly the electorate can forget that miasma of mismanagement that we so wanted to leave behind us two years ago.

So now the empty rhetoric of the campaign echoing in our ears has become the rallying cry of the new conservatism. Under the guise of fiscal responsibility, the new order will turn back the clock and reinstitute the big business tax breaks and the gaping tax loopholes that nourish the greed of the haves at the expense of the have-nots. The tax burden will again weigh down the already overburdened middle class while those who can afford to pay will slip past the tax collector. Affordable health care will once again become the oxymoron that it was before the recent attempts to lift us out of the reach of the insurance companies. And if you thought that the new Republican House majority is a breath of fresh air, don’t be surprised when the stink of the Republican jackels feeding on the carrion of the body politic becomes overwhelming.

Our only hope is that the Republicans will spend so much time and effort patting themselves on the back that they will fail to notice how they are once again screwing up the country. In two years we have the opportunity to return to sanity. I can hardly wait.