Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pissed off in quarantine

So I pick up my MIL from the nursing home and take her to the hair salon. This is 10 days ago. Then a few days later she (without telling anybody) has diarrhea. Like many elderly people (and yes, I am qualified to say this!), she puts off doing anything about it and thinks it will just go away, she doesn't want to be a bother to anyone. A few days later she is in the hospital with dehydration. Then, a few days later, I'm hit by a repeat visit with my arch nemesis, norovirus.

Norovirus is most commonly known as the driving pestilence among cruise ships. What people don't seem to know is that it is also practically epidemic in nursing homes. What people also don't know is that for someone with a compromised immune system, it takes the body nearly two weeks to shed norovirus from their bowel. Whee. For everyone else, it's two to three days.

Now I have norovirus and I'm holed up in my home, missing at least 3 days of work (more than $1000, probably more, will be gone from my paycheck, just like that, as I work per diem) and I'm frickin' miserable.

Most people think of me as the positive attitude MSer, but when I get sick because of something like norovirus, I get exceedingly cranky. Why wouldn't I be? I am already taking DMDs which give me gastrointestinal distress to some degree. Now I have heaped on top of that a ridiculously spastic colon. Plus the cilia lining my intestine are burning up. Plus my digestive system from the top of my stomach to my rectum aches like a sumbitch (like one big tender bruise). Plus I have no appetite. Plus I have a sour metallic taste in my mouth. And you should hear the way liquids rush through my pipes, like a noisy water slide, ending with me burping up something that smells like rotten eggs. What this all means is that I will be spending the next couple of days chasing bouts of explosive diarrhea with Gatorade and decaffeinated tea.

Oh sure, I could be glib and say that was the easiest 5-10 pounds I ever lost overnight, but that doesn't make me feel any better about the realities.

How does norovirus happen in nursing homes? Elderly people have incontinence issues and they don't necessarily wash their hands. Food service workers in nursing homes come to work with viruses they may or may not even know they have, and they don't necessarily wash their hands. Healthcare workers come to work with viruses they may or may not even know they have, and they don't necessarily wash their hands.

Why don't all you people frickin' wash your hands???????? Ack. This is why I'm pissed off. Because if you all just washed your frickin' hands and stayed out of the public sphere while you were sick, I wouldn't be bedridden right now.

I must say, I am a compulsive handwasher. My job in the medical field requires it of me, as does having MS. I can't afford to contract diseases like norovirus. My wallet can't and my brain can't. As soon as I got home from my trip Sunday night, with a burgeoning case of norovirus already making its presence known by all the side trips made to roadside gas station johns, what did I do? I washed my hands and put on gloves. My whole family has already suffered through this misery once, I don't want to repeat that particular example of living hell.

Unfortunately, compulsive handwashing is not the reality for many healthcare workers, which is why it's a repetitive message posted in clinic and hospital washrooms, from November through April especially: WASH YOUR HANDS! But people forget to think, because they don't feel poorly. Or they imagine they aren't at risk for infecting anybody else.

Well, guess what?

You can carry norovirus and never have symptoms. Lurve-ly.

Now my parasthesias are back after months of being gone. Not good. That means my brain is having a problem fighting off attacks from viral proteins even as I write this. More work for my DMDs to do to get me back on what I thought was a forward movement toward some healing.

I could get into a whole thing about health literacy right now, how only 12% of our entire population (including ALMOST ALL OF you smart educated people) don't know sh&t about your own healthcare world, but I'll save that for when I have a more positive frame of mind.

I could also get into a discussion about the latest trend, in which some people gleefully point out that we don't need doctors, we just need water, exercise, fruits and vegetables and fresh air. Really? Really? So this MS I have, and now its concurrent noroviral companion, which is right now shredding the myelin sheathing off of my axons and eating holes into my gray and white matter... these are all my fault because I haven't just treated myself with water, exercise, fruits and vegetables and fresh air? Really?

No, I'm sick right now because a/Who Knows Why? MS has environmental and genetic components, but that is all they can really say about its cause, and b/I visited the nursing home of my MIL which, unbeknownst to me, is crawling with norovirus.


That's all I can write for now... I'm too pissed off.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A valentine to my MS peeps...

A valentine to my MS loved ones:  

Wishing for a cure for all of you... 
as well as peace for our loved ones
who must also endure daily
the silent, invisible war raging inside us.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Seahawks and Multiple Sclerosis -- yes, there is a connection! BLITZ!

Hey gang,

some MSers and I are brainstorming ways to help Blitz out and give the Seahawks a meaningful charity awareness focus to improve their nonprofit reputation. Helping out Blitz locally might become a "thing." The PacNW has more MSers per capita than any other region in the US, and we have some of the best researchers in the world as well. It just makes sense that the 'hawks help raise awareness as cures and improved treatments are so close to coming to fruition. Let me know if you'd like to contribute in some way, or if you have any ideas for how to more tightly fuse the Seahawks to the drive toward an MS cure. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

What's on my mind besides scar tissue... dealing with crowds on Super Bowl Sunday

Just posted this in a closed Facebook group, but wanted to share here. 


"Just sent my family a love note in email asking them to check out some links on brain fog, noise sensitivity and mental fatigue. They just don't seem to get it when I tell them in person.

PS I have an 18 year old daughter who has no interest in driving. This is especially problematic for me given her work and activity schedule. I have had to put my foot down and tell her she needs to take that responsibility on herself, because I don't have the energy or time and it's something important for her to learn and would be a major way she could contribute to the family. 

Imagine all the quick errands she could run for us when she is around--"please pick up your sister from dance," "please go to the store and get some milk," "please drive yourself to nighttime polo practice so I can put my pajamas on and go to bed early." 

However, my husband spoils her and drives her everywhere... so when he's not around, and I shake my head and say "sorry, not gonna do it," I end up being the bad guy. 

This is perhaps one of the bigger problems I have with MS, convincing my family that it's real and that they can either help me or hinder me based on the choices they make as well. Very frustrating."


This is one of the harder things to manage when you get diagnosed with an illness which bedevils you with mostly unseen or invisible symptoms. People around you forget you have it, or they don't stop and think, hmmm, maybe she's acting like that because of her condition, or they just look at you like you're crazy. 

You can tell your family all kinds of things about MS. And sometimes they will listen and understand and be receptive, and sometimes they will put out a signal that says, "you know what? I don't want to know more, because it means that you are possibly getting sicker and I can't deal with that." 

Here are the topics of my email below with the links I passed along, which I'm posting in hopes they will help somebody else out by either illustrating the cognitive realities of MS or giving them the tools to explain or express their challenges in these areas. I'm open to hearing others share their stories about getting through this sensitive relationship issue related to MS, as well.

1. Brain fog describes a slowness in processing memory, language, external stimuli, new learning, even emotions.
• Basic explanation || What is brain fog or "cog fog"?

2. Noise sensitivity is just that: one low decibel sound is fine, but a buttload of sounds all at once? AWFUL. My brain can't make sense of any of anything when I hit a saturation point. I cease to be able to hear (or see) sounds in a way that registers comprehension. It's like the spinning hourglass on my computer is now spinning right before my eyes, but others around me don't get the benefit of a "please stand by" message. (In my case, I can also have visual sensitivity--too many bright lights, imagery, motion added to all the noise is pretty much going to mean I need to go hide somewhere for a while.)
• Some explanations re: noise intolerance || http://ms.about.com/b/2010/12/14/q-are-you-noise-intolerant.htm 
• MS Blogger Matt Cavalo's experience w/noise intolerance || http://www.mattsms.com/2013/02/noise-sensitivity-stress-frustration.html
• Forum answer on question about MS and overstimulation || http://www.msconnection.org/Discussions?forumid=25&threadid=34895

3. Mental fatigue happens when there is just too much to process... it is the outcome of sensory overstimulation as described above. When mental fatigue hits, it's because I've used up all the energy in my brain in the act of trying to process everything, and now ALL SYSTEMS are slower or even stopped. So if I've just been to the grocery store, and it was crowded, that's almost certainly going to lead to a nap, which is the only way the brain can restore its fuel. However, if I just went for a 5-mile walk out on a hiking trail, I'll be energized because I wasn't bombarded by frenetic noise and visuals, I wasn't trying to think so hard while walking. That's what makes it different from physical fatigue. And it's not about being sleepy. That's caused by a shortcoming in my wakefulness drive, not because of mental fatigue. I just tend to need to sleep to recharge my brain when it's been overloaded. (And ditto when I have a migraine and don't have access to my Fioricet.) 

4. Planning ahead when crowds, noise and overstimulation are likely is another way that both and MSer and his or her family can be proactive so that the MSer can better cope when necessary. I am anticipating a trip to Hawaii this spring and hope my family will see that my goal is to CHILL at every opportunity. And if they want to do the high-stimulation thing, they are welcome to, but they should not be angry or disappointed with me if I beg off and choose to lounge in the shade and read a book instead. Nothing personal!
• One MSer's encounter with Disneyland, or how to take the stress out of family vacations || http://www.healthcentral.com/multiple-sclerosis/c/73302/66804/mickey/ 

PS... I do plan to go to a very noisy Super Bowl event this afternoon, and I'm wearing comfortable clothes and have already located a place to take a quick nap or duck out of the mayhem if necessary! I'll also have my migraine meds with me and modafinil for wakefulness is already in my system working its charms. I'll also avoid obvious energy busters like high fat and high sugar and stick to iced tea and water with lemon to stay hydrated and slightly caffeinated. 

5. Occupational therapy can help to alleviate these problems. MSers and their families need to know there are some helps out there that are covered by insurance and can really offer some relief. Also, I'm wagering that if my family realizes there are entire medical professions set up to help me out with these symptoms, then they'll perhaps realize how much this isn't "all in my head," but real, and treatable, like any other illness or injury. 

Hey, I have to say, my family is better than most. I know they know I am sick and that these are part of the problem, they just tend to forget because my symptoms are not always obvious to them. I know families who think it truly is all in their loved one's head, that they are either weak or lazy or faking or just trying to get out of responsibilities. What a horrible way to treat someone with a chronic illness for which there is no cure! So I still give my family a big thumbs up for at least trying, and for the fact that I can send them an email with these links optimistically, knowing they will have their own powwow one night while I'm at work and reach some sort of accord.