So Much For Medical Cannabis… I’m Done With THC

I gave it a go for a little over 2 years.  I had to try it to know I’d done what I could to avoid staying on opiates, but I can’t take the increasing pain of the progressive sensory neuropathy, degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease, fibromyalgia, and now gout, with THC.  I’ll still take the CBD as a supplement, as it helped me to get off of one anticonvulsant completely (I’ve got a seizure disorder), and %40 of another- along with the meds to deal with the side effects.  This week, I went back to the pain management doc that I’ve seen on and off for over a decade, and got pain meds (patch), as well as an injection in my neck. I kind of feel like I failed right now, even though intellectually I know that’s not accurate.  I have to be practical, and safe.  My quality of life and ability to get anything done around the house isn’t possible with the pain. My legs shake, and I become unsteady.  There are no brownie points for needless suffering. I don’t use the word ‘suffer’ lightly, as it feels like another way to play the victim. But it’s been bad.

Something else that made trying THC something to consider is the emphasis on those who use opiates as inevitable future junkies. It’s actually far from inevitable. Studies have shown for decades that those who use prescription pain meds as ordered are very unlikely to become addicted to them. The terms tolerance and dependence aren’t explained, and everybody gets lumped together.  People who use medications AS PRESCRIBED will likely develop dependence and tolerance if they take them for a while (ever had a caffeine-withdrawl headache? Same concept.)  Those terms are not the same as addiction. Addiction is driven by emotional issues, and the individual trying to relieve emotional pain with medication for physical pain. No amount of the wrong medication for any problem will ever relieve the real issue. This explains that addiction is a combination of behaviors and substances (that can be drugs, alcohol, food, the ‘high’ from gambling, and other things that trigger positive responses in the pleasure center in the brain).

https://www.mentalhelp.net/addiction/

There are now so many restrictions on who can prescribe what meds in medical groups, that the writing was on the wall- pain medication was the new ‘evil’.  Never ask a doctor for something for pain, no matter how many documented diagnoses there are.  I felt I needed an option if the restrictions got worse. I’d like to see the statistics for the increase in heroin users after hydrocodone was made a Schedule II drug (in the class with morphine, hydromorphone, and other very strong opiates). The ‘rules’ are always made because of the behavior of rule breakers. That ‘logic’ escapes me… it’s not like the rule breakers will suddenly jump on the straight and narrow. They’ll find a new way to break rules.   The rules don’t take into account those who do what they’ve been instructed to do. Should there be good follow-up with those on prescription pain medications ?  Absolutely.  But there is no reason to make anybody “live” with pain that limits their life to the point of decreased mobility to avoid more pain even within their own home.   This article has some good explanations about the differences between tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

Distinguishing Between Pain-Related Dependence and Addiction

Some of the issues I’ve had with the THC include the following  (I realize some folks have had good results with THC- this is MY experience):

–  I can’t know if the same strain is in each bottle of the stuff I got, as  no strain of cannabis is listed on the tablets/capsules/edibles containers that I’ve used (I don’t smoke the stuff- the stench is not welcome in my house. Dry herb vaping- no solvents at all- just the dry cannabis that vaporizes, not combusts- was also not going to work because of the coughing). There are literally hundreds of strains of cannabis.  Third-party testing is on the container (required by law), but not the strain, aside from a general sativa, indica, or hybrid.   I don’t know if it’s strain-consistent from batch to batch– just the number of milligrams of ‘whatever’.  Different strains are good for different things. And some have more likelihood to cause specific side effects- can’t know what might be causing what if no strain is listed.

I live alone. Some of the effects of THC are not safe on a mobility level.  My balance goes wonky if a strain is stronger than what I’m used to, and I’m already one fall away from needing help with more than just the lawn, snow removal, and grocery delivery.  I can’t risk that. My joints are already trash. It wouldn’t take much to finish off  my shoulders, hips, or knees. Or end up with compression fractures in my spine. That means my independence is at risk, and that is something I won’t even consider. If I can’t be at home with my dog, it’s over.

–  the dryness of my eyes was horrible. I was either dripping with tears (that burned) as my body tried to protect my eyes, or using artificial tears to not feel like I’d had cotton shoved into my eyeballs. That also caused blurred vision to the point of not being able to read anything without a 10x – 30x lighted magnifying glass (some print is tiny on a good day anyway… I couldn’t see individual words. Watching TV was lousy, and the computer (my lifeline) was nearly useless. A blue light filter helped a little- but not enough.

the ‘thought stealing’ sensation was too weird.  I could be thinking about something, then it would just be gone, and it was going too fast to get back.  That is unsettling, especially because the awareness of it was acute. Even harder to carry on a conversation with another actual human being.

there isn’t a consistent time when it takes effect.  I used it mostly to help ease the pain so I could sleep. If I waited too long to turn the lights out and drift off, I got a literal body ‘buzzing’ sensation (hence the term buzzed), or floating, or like I couldn’t move.  There was a sensation in my head that something wasn’t right – not necessarily bad- but not OK.  There’s a term called ‘couch lock’- and that’s what it feels like- being locked to the furniture, almost being part of it.  There was nothing about those sensations that will ever be desirable to me.

it’s useless for acute pain.  I broke my ankle a few months after getting my medical cannabis card.  I iced it, and had it wrapped (before getting an x-ray a week later- thought it might be a sprain similar to what I’d seen with adolescent patients who landed wrong while playing basketball).  I felt guilty using some Norco from 2014.  I used 3 full doses and 3 1/2 doses in 6 weeks.  And I hurt a lot more than was necessary.  I was diagnosed with gout a couple of weeks ago after a nasty flare that was a kind of pain I hadn’t felt before- tiny crystals in the joint felt like someone was sitting on a chair into the bone on top of my foot.  One urgent care a couple of months earlier, with milder but definitely ‘not right’ pain, thought it could be a blood clot (minus warmth, redness, swelling, or any other symptoms of a clot). The second urgent care a few weeks ago had a very astute nurse practitioner who knew to check my uric acid level, which came back very high.  I was on prednisone for 5 days, which jacked my blood sugars badly, but the prednisone did the trick to help that first flare. I’d already decided not to use the THC over a month ago, so was using my trusty ice packs, and the vintage Norco in 1/2 doses x 4 over a week.

Part of another disorder I have (dysautonomia) causes some similar symptoms to the side effects of THC, and I pay good money for the meds needed to help NOT to feel those symptoms. Why would I make it worse on purpose?   That is so bizarre and counter-intuitive. I don’t want to feel even a tiny bit stoned. I took microdoses after getting the CBD dose figured out (more on that in a minute), and still had side effects that are not acceptable to me.

I can see where it could be useful for severe PTSD, where escape is the only way to get any sort of relief from memories and flashbacks. I guess it could help with anxiety IF someone finds a strain that is consistent (those who smoke cannabis can get strains consistently, or those who want to make their own edibles and don’t care about consistent dosing). But for folks who are using that type of quantity, I’d hope they were housebound, and had access to someone to drive them anywhere they needed to go.  I never took a dose if I had to drive to an appointment.  I’d just have to hurt, and take a dose after getting home.  Once I did take a dose, there was never any desire to leave home.

There are people who have had positive experiences– and initially, my psoriasis was completely cleared up. Then came the hyperemesis cannabinoid syndrome, with months of nausea and eventual vomiting. I’m not a puker- that’s what put it together for me.  During 20 months of daily chemo for leukemia, I barfed once on day 8.   Because I didn’t have accurate info from a very well known CBD producer about the specific amount of CBD (not the total cannabinoid dose), I didn’t have the THC dose right- CBD helps counteract side-effects of THC. I also had a gallstone that was acting up, and that blended into the symptoms of the build up of THC because of using it daily, and I was SICK.  (The half-life of THC is very long, with some still showing up in drug tests more than 4 weeks after the last use, and with dietary changes that alter body fat percentages, more can be released months after the last dose- used to freak out the detox patients I took care of years ago).  I went through ultrasounds, CT scans, lab work, surgical consults, a bitch of a GI nurse practitioner, etc because it was thought that there was something going on besides the gallstone. I had THC continuing to build up, and  I didn’t know the accurate dose on that one brand’s product (if you use CBD, you want to see the exact amount of CBD per specific quantity of product- and third party testing). Everybody and their wombat is on the hemp bandwagon, and  saying how wonderful hemp oil  is, but non-CBD hemp oil (like on Amazon)  has no CBD, and is good for salad dressing- and you can get plain hemp oil for about $20 for a quart; the “therapeutic” hemp oil can be $50 an OUNCE- for essentially nothing). Hemp oil does have Omega 3 fatty acids, and hemp hearts (I like the ones without the little shells) taste a lot like pine nuts, but much smaller. Those are just flat out food- nothing specifically “magical” about it. Just another healthy fat source.

I’m a disabled RN; I’ve been an RN for 35 years, disabled for 15 years, where I’ve been my own full-time job.  Anything used to relieve symptoms MUST be consistent.  And I can’t get that with commercial medical cannabis products.  Some of the CBD companies out there are isolating other cannabinoids (CBG and CBN are two I’ve tried, and CBN has been good for sleep, though I only take it if I’ve been having trouble sleeping for a few days. Some brands of full-spectrum are out there- just don’t generally get the amount of each cannabinoid, so I’m not a fan of those). I don’t need a state-issued card for CBD. I get it online. Just like any herbal supplement.

And that’s what they are.  THC and CBD are not medication- which left me confused when talking to my pain doc during my visit. When I got home, I realized he hadn’t seen the way I’d printed out my list of medications and supplements, putting the CBD in the same area with vitamins and Co-Q 10, under a line of *****, separating the medications from the supplements.  The person who filled out their form with the list I’d typed up didn’t need to keep the typed one- so I agree with my doc, but I was scratching my head for a few minutes, as it seemed like he felt I considered THC and CBD to be actual medications. I agree with him on the characterizing THC and CBD as supplements. They are not medications. People use them like medications, but there are no studies proving efficacy, side effects, contraindcations, doses, longterm impact,  etc- and that’s what those of us who have used medical cannabis signed up for.  We knew it was an experiment, but desperation will lead people to anything that could be a source of hope.

I needed to try it. I wanted the hope of something different. And now I know.  For me, THC is unpleasant, and ineffective for what I needed it for.

Dealing with Isolation That Isn’t By Choice

For some folks, this is the first time they’ve had their lives altered by forces outside of their control.  For others, nobody has ever been kind enough to tell them ‘no’ before. While it’s not physically painful, and having to be in one’s own home is the biggest loss of mobility, it can be a source of anxiety and depression.  It seems like it will never end.  For some of us, this is our normal. Medical disability has had me housebound except for MD appointments  (and earlier monthly grocery store trips, and maybe lunch with my dad once or twice a year) since 2004. I’m an RN. I’d like nothing better to be working.  But my body broke.  That’s just backstory stuff.  Here’s my point- you can get through this.  The ambiguity of when “normal” returns is unsettling, but there are things you can do to cope.  I won’t say ‘adapt’, because most of you will go back to being able to freely come and go as you wish.  ‘Adapt’ implies permanent.  ‘Cope’ deals with a temporary situation, whether it’s for a few weeks, or months.

Here are some ideas. 

Read “The Diary of Anne Frank” (again, if you’ve already read it).  It offers perspective, and also has simple things to do to cope with having to “hide away”.  It’s also a testament to resilience- and that nobody now will go to the gas chamber. Just read it.

Do your own journaling. It doesn’t have to be fancy or structured. Just write- words, sentences, phrases, doodle, or cohesive entries. It’s all good. And it will be your own history of what is going on in YOUR life. Let the despair have a voice. Let the funny things be memorialized. There is no right or wrong way to do it- just do what works for you.

Make a Coronavirus dart board. If you don’t have darts, do the old “pin the tail on the donkey” thing with push pins, safety pins, tiny nails, or whatever.  Draw your weapon of choice, put the pin in it, and go after that ugly virus. Ideas for ‘waapons’- soap, hand sanitizer, mask, vaccine, testing, sense of humor (viruses are so serious), or whatever you want to use to kill the virus.

Plan your “exit party”.  Make a list of the folks you’ve missed seeing the most, and plan a lunch, snacks and a movie, or whatever you like to do.  Get detailed. Know your budget- and aim for things that won’t break an already stressed ‘bank’.

Research online (use good sources- nothing with the credit cards they accept at the bottom of the article, or researchers you can’t find if you Google them).  Learn about the immune system (the skin is the first line of defense). Learn about medical testing procedures. Learn about anything that will help you feel less vulnerable to the unknown.  There IS a lot we don’t know with COVID-19- but you can get info on other types of disorders/diseases. Keep your brain active.

Consider the big picture. There are approx 330 million people in the US.  For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to use 1,350,000 positive cases of COVID-19 in the US for today.  That’s an overall infection rate (that we know of) of %0.004.  That’s LOW.  It will rise, and each person who gets sick is not insignificant, but statistically speaking, the rate is miniscule.  Of those who get it, %0.05 die, Yes- EVERY death is a horrible loss. But you are SO much more likely to recover. 

LISTEN to the officials who are recommending specific measures to lessen the number of additional infections. If you are too special to wear a mask or follow the guidelines, then you could kill someone just by being stubborn and selfish. Don’t let that be what you’re known for.  Nobody is asking for a kidney, or the child you like the most. Wear a mask. Stay 6 feet between other people.  Don’t be stupid.  Everybody wants the country to go back to normal.  CLUE: that won’t happen overnight. The more people who get this virus, the longer there are restrictions on  restaurants, theaters, malls, salons, stores, sports games, etc.

You are not too young to get this.  Babies and very young kids have gotten the virus and died. Do you want to live, or try to convince people how you can’t get the virus?  At your funeral, they’ll just think you were a fool who wasted your life.

Be smart, and you’re going to get through this, and resume your life. Nobody knows exactly how long all of the ‘going back to normal’ could take- could be years for some businesses. But be thankful for what you have- not what you don’t.   Learn about how the US has come through nationwide crises in the past… we were fortunate.  And the folks who navigated WWII are considered “The Greatest Generation” for very good reason.
They bucked up and did what needed doing.

-This is from The History Channel
https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/us-home-front-during-world-war-ii

And, get help if you are feeling so overwhelmed that you’re often in a very dark place.
-The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET.
1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org

Free 24/7 support at your fingertips  US and Canada: text 741741.   UK: text 85258 | Ireland: text 086 1800 280

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline    1-800-273-8255

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“The human capacity for burden is like bamboo- far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance.”
― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

“It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.”
― Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“On the other side of a storm is the strength that comes from having navigated through it. Raise your sail and begin.”
― Gregory S. Williams

What You Do IS Enough- COVID-19 Has Tied Your Hands

To all of the essential workers- 

You can only do what  you can do.

You are making a huge difference .

You are helping keep things from getting worse.

You were not given any choice in how this virus works.

You can’t control how it impacts a specific person.

Even what feels like a small kindness might be the last kindness someone knows- and THAT is huge.  

This will not last forever, but your work will. Every time you hold a hand, or wipe a tear, every time you give someone news – good or bad- the way you do that will be what someone remembers about such a horrific time.  You make the ultimate difference in the healing of a family who wasn’t able to be with their loved one.  For those who are working in non-medical areas, your work keeps those at home safe. You keep more people from getting sick.

That is one incredible legacy.    This one ratty, disabled RN would be proud to stand with you any day of the week. YOU are redefining the industry where you work.  And you are not forgotten.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Your Words Matter, Lady I Knew From My Childhood Church

Written after a stunning and disturbing conversation with someone I’ve known for over 45 years.  The person I talked to that day wasn’t anybody I recognized, and it jarred me to my core. I’ve cried so much over this.  But sometimes, it’s time to wish someone well, and exit the toxicity.  I wonder how much of any of our past interactions have been masked to hide the intensity of the divisiveness.  It’s so sad.  I wrote the letter not with an intent to mail it (no point in sending something to an elderly woman with a healing husband in a nursing home that has COVID-19 who sees nothing wrong with her views, and compares anyone with differing views as dirt on the bottom of her shoes that she wants to scrape off- there’s no reasoning with that).  Evidently I don’t have that same right to MY views as she has to hers.  I’m dirt on her shoes- not because I’m a Democrat (I’m not registered anything since mid-2016), but because I don’t tow the GOP line. She told me she doesn’t use the computer (which she’s said before), so this seemed the safest place to vent so I can sleep again.  And if she finds it, I hope it is something that gives her an idea of the weight of her words… not to be mean.

Dear W,

I hope you are well, and that H has been able to get the rehab services he needs- and has been safe.  I know this has all been so stressful. I can’t imagine the concern and sleepless nights.

Now, comes the painful part, but written in a tone of compassion and well wishes always. I’m not angry with you.  A bit stunned, and very hurt, but not angry. If I didn’t care, it wouldn’t be worth writing.

I will ALWAYS be SO very thankful for your friendship over the years.  You made a difference. I am truly grateful.  After one of our last conversations, along with one in early 2017, I am not sure I know you now. Maybe I never really did, as so much was formed on that when I was a kid.  When you said you considered Democrats to be the same as the dirt at the bottom of your shoes that you wanted to scrape off, and the 2017 reference to Mrs. Obama as the ’N’ word (I won’t use it- it’s vile and never justified in my view), I was stunned. I didn’t recognize you as someone I knew from the evangelical church I loved growing up. That was sad. It tore through my heart.  It made me question every conversation and interaction we’ve had.  How did I not know of such intense hate?

I may not like or respect Trump, but I don’t consider him to be “dirt on the bottom of my shoe”.  My specific prayer to God about Trump is “Lord, please help Trump be the president You want him to be.”.  Essentially, thy will be done.  I don’t consider him ‘dirt’, and hate takes too much energy; I have better things to do with my time. All I heard from you was what sounded like a hateful rant about something with no specifics other than a generalized view of  Democrats.  Nothing specific, just a tone of voice that was like a knife dripping with venom.  That’s not the person I grew up knowing.  And, I also thank you for that, because it’s made me more aware of my own views on a few things. And one thing is certain; I won’t initiate contact again. I won’t discuss this. It’s clear that it’s pointless.  You aren’t the only one whose blood pressure is a problem with stress. Mine can knock me unconscious. I won’t interact again with the comments I heard.  I don’t know where that came from, but it’s not from God.  I can see things I don’t respect without hate.  I don’t respect Trump, but I certainly don’t hate him.

I’m so thankful for the Bible, and the wisdom and guidance it so consistently provides.  I’m thankful that the Bible talks so much about love, and treating others with compassion and kindness. I love how it lets us know that God knows our hearts.  I love how it helps me when I feel like I’m completely alone.  I love how it is infinitely more important and stronger than humans in its influence in my life. I love how growing up at the old church shaped me;  those years were amazing, and have been the core of my being for as long as I can remember, as were my summers at camp on the staff.  

I’m not a teenager anymore, by a longshot. I have very specific reasons for my views, and base my decisions (as much as possible)  on compassion (and those who exemplify it), and mostly “as much as you’ve done to the least of my brethren, you’ve done it to Me.”.  I focus on “faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.”  I fail often in my goals of exemplifying the Fruit of the Spirit and the description of love in 1 Corinthians… but I am working on it daily. I have to focus on what God says. He’d never condone shunning people simply because of different views. HE gave us free will. Who are we to demand otherwise?  He uses all who are willing.  Face it, there were some sketchy folks He used for His purpose in the Bible. He sees our hearts.

I will always disagree about Trump’s “integrity” and I know you’ll never see any other view, so there’s no point in any discussion- and I wasn’t looking for one with a single comment that wasn’t an attack on your beliefs. And I won’t be a part of the hate towards any group of people. God created those people, too.  And what if they’re pushed away by Christians? How does that give glory to God?  I will always defend your right to your views. And I won’t be shut down with comments about your blood pressure; you’ve used that before.  If it’s that fragile, we shouldn’t speak. I don’t have any interest in  having to censor myself with someone who had been a close friend.  I guess I was expected to have your views.  When I made the very superficial, flip comment that led to that rant, I was caught off-guard with the intensity of your response- and yet it’s your view, so I have to accept that. I respect your right to it. I don’t have to agree with it. Or put myself in the position to be blind-sided again with the negativity of excluding anyone who thinks for themself.

I have met so many types of people as a nurse, and I am so thankful for that.  People are not simply labels or categories. They each have their own views that are not stereotypes- there are shades of gray, not just black and white. Many are surprising. Regardless, it’s not my right to judge them.  The plank in my eye is big enough to keep me busy; I don’t have time for the splinter in someone else’s. 

I’ve met Christians among the LGBTQ community. I’ve had good friends of many races. I’ve met “WASPs” who are some of the  most cold, superficial and negative people I’ve heard (often on TV).  I’ve known people who agonized over deciding to have an abortion, and felt such compassion for the magnitude of that decision. I’ve met people who I have nothing in common with who were kind and inclusive. I have family (biological & adoptive on both sides) who are mixed race, gay, and non-believers- and they have been incredible to know. I thank God for them, and the chance to be kind, and not the Christian they expect to find.  God meets people where they are… and I try to do the same, as best I can. He uses defective humans for His Divine plans… and I can only hope I am who He wants me to be, especially with my sponsor kids. 

I’ve met Christians who see love above all, and some who are basically in it for profit. I’ve met non-believers who have shown me great compassion.  I’ve known people (directly or ‘second hand’) who were pure evil.  And I’ve met one in particular who altered my life permanently when I was 23.  I’ve forgiven him. It doesn’t condone or excuse what he did, but it’s not my fight to punish him. Forgiveness is also an act of obedience. It’s the least I can do in gratitude to God for letting me survive that day. I focus on protecting others from Numbnuts every 3 years with parole protest letters- and I pray that the prison chaplain gets through to him.

I’ve met many people who were turned away from Christ by Christians.  My goal with my sponsor kids is that they see that they are loved (including the Muslim twins in Bangladesh). I am working hard to give them sound Christian support, and have gotten child and teen (boy’s and girl’s) study Bibles to use with little lessons in each letter I write to them. With that, I ask for the help of the Holy Spirit.  Kindness is free, even when the specifics aren’t clear. It costs us nothing but the desire to share it.  IF not, then the parable of the Good Samaritan was just a story, and not a lesson.

You said I only want to see “the bad”.  With the things I’ve been through, I’ve always tried to see the good, and apply Romans 8:28, because I do believe that God can make good out of anything, if we let Him.  I think that comment hurt the worst.  My greatest earthly happiness comes from people doing well, and doing kind things for others. I cry tears of joy when someone does well (I’m a mess during the Olympics, no matter who wins- their story and hard work led them to their dreams).  It’s amazing I don’t see only bad. The murders, rape, leukemia, disability and not being able to work as a nurse, and many other things would give me reason to do so.  But that’s not who I am. I wasn’t brought up to look for the bad.  But you think that of me? After 45+ years?  Then you don’t know me at all. I question everything about our friendship with that comment. 

When one of my sponsor kids makes the drama team, my heart explodes with joy for him. When the twins start to feel comfortable asking me questions, I am so happy they feel safe to do so.  When another asks me to pray that his goats keep “reproducing well”, I’m overjoyed that he has a little ranch going (he’s 8).  When my sensitive one needs reassurance from me that I’m proud of her, my heart aches with gratitude that she is doing well.  I don’t see their ‘conditions’.  I see that God created these 8 kids with amazing potential.

I don’t see conservatives or liberals. I see a country failing to see the big picture. We’re here together. Everybody has to make choices about what is worth destroying the country over. I don’t see anything worth that.  And prophetically, the US will fall. We’re on that path. And God will deal with things as He sees fit for His ultimate plans. In the meantime, I just want to be the best I can be with His help. His opinion is my beacon.

I was hoping that hydroxychloroquine would be a ‘game-changer’, and it was no matter that the idea was pushed by Trump. What mattered was that it would be help to those suffering.  Like everyone, I’m so much more than my views on politics- and they vary by the issue-not the party.  Yet my non-GOP views have made me dirt on your shoes.  I can’t stick around for that. I have to let you go. I’m glad for the clarity. You said what you feel. Let the chips fall where they may.  I can respect your right to your views, even if my difference of opinion is in your crosshairs. But I won’t engage with venom. 

I will always wish you, H, and D all of the best in life. I will be glad to see you in THE place of no more crying or pain when we meet again.  It’s where so much of my hope lies. It’s where the people who gave me a life of church values are waiting.  It’s where the baby I lost is- in a place where its conception by rape won’t matter. It’s where a lot of people I’d expect to see will be, and very likely some I didn’t expect to see, and some I expected to see, but won’t… because I can’t see their hearts. But God can. He knows why I believe what I do, and why I think how I think, before I even think or believe anything. His omniscience and omnipotence blow me away, as does His undeserved Gift of grace, mercy, compassion, and great hope of everlasting life through  Jesus. Take care of yourself, and know that you will always be in my prayers for peace, health, and safety.  I absolutely did not intend for one flip comment to trigger such damage.  For that I deeply apologize. 

Until the time when the earth is long in the past, where a thousand years will seem to be but a minute, I say goodbye.  The pain of that conversation isn’t fixable. And I, again, wish you and your family everything good.

After The Pandemic, Get Ready for Emergencies

So many folks were caught in situations where they didn’t have a supply of emergency food, medications, baby items, first aid supplies, etc.   Now, it’s very hard to get some items.   I’m not a homesteading, off-the-grid prepper, but I do have back-up supplies on hand.  These items are basic for storm prep, and general having back-up if the unexpected happens (illness, unemployment, etc).   Here are some basics for how to start to stock up without breaking the bank.

Make a list of common household products you use- cleaners, paper goods, laundry items, dishwashing soap, and a bin to store them in.   Try to spend %5-20 of your grocery/supply budget on stocking up (for all goods, including food). Prioritize water (including purifying), food, cleaning supplies, toiletries, medications and first aid items.

Make a list of shelf-stable foods that you like. There’s no point in getting some chalky protein bar if eating it is like chewing on a coconut mat.  Canned fruits, veggies, tuna, soups, boxed milk, rice, pasta, beans, grains, baking goods, sauces, condiments, etc.  Keep the dates visible, and use the ones that have less than 3 months left on them- purchasing replacements ASAP.

WATER:  For folks with wells, or in the event of a flood that contaminates drinking water, you will need to stock up on water.  One to two gallons per person per day, and 1/2 gallon for dogs/cats/pets.  There are many water storage products out there, as well as purification products for water collected from outside sources, or water that has been stored for a while. There are also bathtub liners for water storage, but those should be filled at the last possible minute (being told to stay at home might be a good time).  If the water reclamation plant near you is compromised, your tap water won’t be good.  If you have a well, and the electricity goes out, you won’t have a working well pump.

Toiletries- baby wipes, dry shampoo, no-rinse products, towels, washcloths.  Also, if your toilet needs electricity to flush (well/septic system), you might consider a commode chair used by folks with limited mobility.  Get trash bags that fit the bucket, and put cat litter in the bag.  Use the bag for a few times, adding more cat litter.  You are just trying to mask the smell- so no need to dump a whole bag of litter in the bag- the bag will break.

For kids- make sure you have age/size appropriate items, being sure to rotate formula, and update diaper sizes.  Nothing will go to waste if you rotate and use products before they either don’t fit anymore, or are no longer used.

For longterm storage food, I like the freeze dried products- and Emergency Essentials is as good as any.  They have decent prices for survival food- and the food is tasty.  The fruits and veggies, and even some of the meats are tasty out of the can (conserve water).  They have a huge assortment of products.

https://beprepared.com

Also, a crank or solar power radio could be your only communication.  There are a lot of potential threats, but it’s easy to have a basic set up for an extended period of time without completely breaking the bank.  Get what you like, and store it properly (dry, cool, and not in garages or attics.

Be sure to have medications and first aid supplies, including things to stop bleeding (there are dressings that do that), strong bandages, a splint or two, antibiotic ointment, soap, and water for wound care.

Entertainment.  Be sure to have playing cards, board games, puzzle books, toys for kids, hobby supplies, BOOKS (including on survival),  etc.  You need distraction.  You might even keep a journal of how you experience drastic disruptions to normal life.

Don’t announce what you have. In a situation where civil unrest becomes an issue, your stash could jeopardize your life.  I also keep small bottles of booze to use for barter, and a modest amount of cash on hand.

Be ready, not left wondering where you will get food and supplies.

Message to Young Nurses Working With COVID-19 Patients

I saw the news of young nurses (those who graduated well after 2000)  impacted by the storm of COVID-19 patients. They never knew what it was like not to have Universal Precautions as part of daily ‘norms’ at work.  They’re scared and angry, and that is so very understandable.  In normal times, all of this would be absolutely unthinkable.  But these are not normal times.  This is a global situation that was not fully appreciated until it hit US. Many warnings had been issued over the last several decades.   Mistakes were made.   In the US, we tend to think that we’re immune to things that happen in other parts of the world.  While 9/11 erased a bit of that, it has never hit us in a medical battle like this, for the vast majority of people alive now.  Viruses don’t care about what country they’re in.  Every country on the planet is trying to get equipment, from PPE (gloves, gowns, masks, face shields, etc) to ventilators.  EVERY. COUNTRY.  There is little in the way of  inventory to purchase.  Add that the US government is outbidding states’ governors, and it’s a total cluster.  I’ve been an RN for 35 years, though have been disabled for many years now. I have the ‘luxury’ of watching this, but wish so much that I could be there helping. It goes against everything in me to not be of use during this time. So, I write. It’s all I have to offer.  My mom’s grandma died in the Spanish Flu of 1918. Pandemics influenced my family in how my mom’s mom did NOT cope with the death of her mom. Her father died a year later.  She stayed broken.  She raised kids as a broken mom. None of this is “just” the current situation… there will be collateral damage.  But we have to protect the caretakers AS BEST WE CAN with what PPE is available. Now. 

Time speeds up as you get older, so this may sound like ages ago, but it’s really not.  In the mid-80s, AIDS was still relatively new, not well understood, and another cause of fear and much discrimination. It was different, as there were higher risk groups. COVID-19 just needs a breathing body.  We didn’t have Universal Precautions until 1987. There was typically one box of gloves at the nurses’ station, and those were only for “Code Browns” (a poop situation beyond the ability of one person to deal with) or massive bleeding- and that was at the discretion of the nurse.  This is when I started nursing.  It’s just how things were.  We did have isolation carts for AIDS patients, with gowns and gloves.  Masks were only used for suctioning, and face shields weren’t even imagined. I don’t remember ever having protective eyewear.   We gave IM and IV meds with syringes that had needles. Not everybody had an IV pump… and Dial-a-Flows were rationed.   We were expected to be careful.  We also had up to 14 patients on an acute neurological/neurosurgical floor on the night shift PER NURSE.   It wasn’t until 1996 that Universal Precautions became “standard precautions”, and were considered part of basic care.  I taught infection control at a nursing home in the mid-90s.  Back then menstrual blood wasn’t considered a risk, and the guidelines were “if it has not saturated the pad to the point of dripping, it can be disposed of in regular trash cans”, which stunned me back then. Now, I can’t imagine putting any sort of blood in the regular trash.  Things change.

Governors are doing all they can to get enough PPE, but when it will arrive isn’t set in stone, especially with the “eBay” manner in which they are having to purchase supplies.  The feds aren’t  looking out for anybody on the frontlines. So it’s time for ingenuity and remembering that these are not normal situations.  Normal rules are out the window in a crisis.  This is more like M*A*S*H than 2020 hospitals.  Mentality has to adjust. Some conservation now may mean even more critical availability later.

It troubles me a lot that so many people who are dealing with this crisis are going to develop (if they haven’t already)  PTSD.  The repeated stress and life-altering/life-threatening situations does something to a person.  Please reach out to someone when (not if) you are overwhelmed.  Remember that this will not last forever.  The overall percentage  of people in the US who have this now is still statistically insignificant (a bit over 331,000 positive cases right now… with a population of 330M in the US, that is %0.001).  The folks who have this are not in any way insignificant, nor is their suffering or the loss felt by the family, friends, and coworkers of those who die from COVID-19… but from a pure numbers standpoint many, many more people are OK.  With that same 331,000, 9441 have died- that’s %0.03 of those who are positive. That’s 33 times less than %1.  Just of those who are positive.  The death rate is %0.0000000003 of the total population. I know you’re still swamped and getting slammed. But feeling like ‘everybody’ is sick can be another stressor.  For those in hotspots right now, I realize that how it feels is what is hard, because it seems so non-stop.  It will get better. Not today and not this week, or maybe not even this month… but it will get better.  We will know a time when this isn’t all over the news anymore.  And hopefully, we’re better for it.  This can’t happen in vain.

So, nurses who haven’t known a time without standard precautions, hang in there.  Bring your ideas to your managers about how to conserve PPE.  When all of the patients are positive for COVID-19, how many times do you need to change gowns?  I know reusing some things sounds absolutely counter-intuitive. I’ve seen some creative things on the news from the nurses in the thick of things.  You can change how this goes with your ideas.  Hoping for more PPE is fine- just don’t expect it on a timetable that is “normal”.  Nothing about this is normal.  Including what you have to do as a nurse or other caretaker.

Would I want to work with less PPE?  Absolutely not. But there IS no bounty of  PPE now- it’s all rationed, when it’s available.  And it’s because every corner of the country is going to see this virus hit close to home.  The hotspots need things now.  Until it gets there, what else can you use? How can you change the policies for a catastrophic influx of patients?  How do you stay safe?

#30MoreDays…. Buck Up and Be Creative

Trending on Twitter today is a reaction to the continued restrictions designed to keep people alive during a historic pandemic where a conservative estimate is that 100,000 Americans will die.  Some folks are seeing the big picture. Many are getting creative with their activities (dong on a Roomba for some mobile ring toss, anyone?). And then there is the group who acts like this is some sort of primitive torture.  Complaining about a month longer (which would be a miracle if it’s only another month), as if they’d been told that someone is going to come along and remove their lip filler and Botox with a toothpick.  Really?  This is the roughest thing you’ve ever dealt with? If so, you have led a charmed friggin’ life.  If you are seriously struggling with your mental health because of this, please call/text a crisis hotline.  You can get through this.  For some, this will be very difficult to get through. But it’s not impossible. It’s not life-threatening (going out is life-threatening).

Text CONNECT to 741741‎

Think about the folks who have fought in wars… THAT is sacrifice.  Think about the folks who are struggling with the basics (rent, food).  Watching TV or playing video games isn’t a hardship. Think about the families of those who are dying- and those folks who must die alone because family can’t go in to see them, for their own safety.   This is a huge, crazy period of time- and we’re fortunate here in the States to not have been through this type of hardship… I think of the Blitz (London, WWII)… every night for  11 weeks they were bombed.  Many bodies were never found. That is terrifying.  For those who have lost jobs because of this, hang in there. This isn’t forever, and a huge part of the country is going through the same thing. You are not alone.  And you have friends.  People care.

Yeah, it’s hard to have your life upended.  Sure- it’s hard not to see people when you want to. It’s VERY hard to not know when you’ll get a paycheck again… Of course it’s a bummer that so much has been cancelled.  Funerals are even less convenient- and  you can’t watch your own.   The vast majority of the country is going to be OK, but nobody knows who will get sick. There is no group of people who are immune to this. There was a  baby under a year old who died of COVID-19 this last week, in the Chicago area.  Other teens and young adults have died from COVID-19… because they were exposed. You can only get exposed if you are around someone who has it (who may not have symptoms), or don’t wash your hands after touching contaminated surfaces or handling packages/ deliveries you get at home- and those are uncommon, but the virus lives on surfaces for hours to days.  NOT staying home is the reason that we blew past China’s numbers of infected in a couple of weeks.  WE DID THIS TO OURSELVES by being selfish and short-sighted. We blew past Italy- and we SAW what was happening there. The apathy from the head of the US government doesn’t help.  But we can be as mad as we want later- right now we have to get through this.

People want to “do something” to be entertained.  Entertain your own self.   Get creative. That dong on the Roomba is hilarious.  Do a gratitude journal- it really does give perspective on things. Organize your cabinets. Weed through your clothes for a bag to donate to a thrift store or shelter.  Find the lids to your food storage containers.  Make dog toys out of socks that got divorced in the clothes dryer.  Post videos or photos of your ideas- and cheer someone else up.  It’s still safe to walk outside and get a bit of fresh air in many areas- just avoid crowds, and stay at least 6 feet apart from other people. We aren’t in jail.  We’re in protective custody… with privileges. And better food. And the shower is safe.

Consider the folks in countries without TV, internet, access to cell phones, etc.  Are the people in the Spoiled States of America really suffering that much? Try being sick on a woven grass mat in a hut with no real help around. Being in your climate controlled home is hardly suffering.

Come up with some fun ways to pass time. Call your grandma. Put up encouraging signs in your window.  Make a dartboard out of a photo (or drawing, if so inclined) of the virus cell.  Keep a journal about what it’s like, and how you feel about all of this.  DONATE BLOOD- the blood drives have been cancelled, so accident and emergency surgery patients are going to be dying from no available blood transfusions.  If you know someone who died, let the rest of us know how amazing they were.  Remember the REAL victims.

And consider this. There are millions of people in the US alone who are housebound because of disability- only leaving home (if they’re lucky enough to still get in a car) to see a doctor.  I’ve been disabled (an RN) since 2004, and the last 3 1/2 years I have been stuck inside except to take out the trash or get the mail. If I am in temperatures over 63 degrees, I run the risk of losing consciousness.  And I’m fortunate– I can still live alone. It’s hard, and it hurts (no pain free days since the mid-90s), but I see my home as my bubble, and make it my own.  My dog keeps me company.  My phone doesn’t ring very often. I see delivery folks briefly.  There are a few folks who stop by when they can, but it can be months between times I see people I have known for any length of time. Otherwise, I’ve been on lockdown since 2016, and from 2004-2016 could only leave at night (cooler) and/or with an ice vest, for brief periods of time a couple of times a month. For all of us who find these ‘restrictions’ just another month, this is our normal.  We get through it. We find ways to stay engaged in life even without seeing anybody for weeks.  It was hard initially, but there are a LOT of worse scenarios. I was complaining about being physically limited, and then got acute promyelocytic leukemia…. home sounded really good after that. I nearly died. Had about a week left, tops.  Fifty doses of arsenic trioxide, and other chemo, and I’m considered cured- not just in remission.  Don’t take things for granted.  Bottom line- if I can do this for years, you can do it for as long as YOU need to.  I want to be working so much during this- it’s a nurse thing. People are suffering. They need the rest of us to keep the infected numbers down, so they can get the care they need.

How about planning a “Turned Loose” party when this is over?  Think of the things and people you’ve missed having lunch or dinner with, and figure out how to celebrate when this is over.  Think about the good times ahead- alive!  Make some short term goals, and some long term goals.  Figure out how to achieve them.  Write a book?  Read a book? Take up a new hobby (even drawing can be relaxing).  You can find a lot of stuff online to have shipped.  If you’re concerned about exposure from delivered items, let them sit in the garage or in another larger empty box for a few days, and you can use zip bags for protecting your hands while opening the box.  Wash your hands consistently and often.

If you really want to do something, save the lives of first responders (fire, police, EMTs, paramedics, ambulance drivers), doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, hospital housekeepers, and the rest of the folks who are literally in the faces of the folks who will die, putting their lives on the line every single day.

Stay home for them. Stay home for your family. For your friend who had cancer. For your healthy friends. For your kids. For your neighbors. For yourself…