The Dreaded Influenza A

Most of my family members faithfully get the flu vaccine each year. Chuck doesn’t. For some reason, he doesn’t seem to be as vulnerable to the annual flu virus. This year, flu season is different.

Flu season this year came later than usual. Here it is April – April! – not November, not January, and both Chuck and Amigo are down with diagnoses of Influenza A. Chuck ended up in the emergency room a few days ago, struggling to breathe. After a chest x-ray, a nebulizer breathing treatment, and a flu test, the official word was Influenza A. Flu. The upper respiratory virus from hell.

Amigo got his a few days later. We were a little bummed; he’d been ill with some sort of virus for about two weeks, and I thought maybe that was his flu. He gets the shot every year, and that might have mitigated the severity somewhat. No such luck; he is currently curled up on the couch with pillows and blankets and a humidifier on high. Well, the humidifier is on the floor nearby. He’s not curled up with it. Yet.

Chuck most likely came in contact with the virus Tuesday night. His symptoms started in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Tuesday night he was out late covering Ted Cruz’ primary election event in Milwaukee. Governor Walker was there, too. Can I blame Cruz and Walker for my dear hubby getting sick? Maybe not, but I do like to blame the governor for anything and everything possible.

Meanwhile, he brought home the bug and got quite sick, too. I’ve been taking care of him the best I can, treating the symptoms and cooking up comfort foods.

Amigo’s symptoms turned up overnight Friday. His diagnosis was confirmed over the phone with the nurse on call. Once again, we’re treating the symptoms. Chuck was too late for the famous Tamiflu. Amigo couldn’t get an appointment within the magic first 24 hours, and the nurse told me many doctors are hesitating to prescribe it these days. There is some doubt as to its true effectiveness.

Meanwhile, I’m still healthy and knocking on wood and washing my hands and trying not to breathe near either of my guys. If I make it past this week…well, let’s not chance anything.

Readers, I’m feeding the sick ones (and myself) chicken soup and other sources of fluid and nutrition. Advice is welcome – for treating their symptoms and keeping myself flu-free. Add your prescriptions for comfort in the comments.

Encore: Autumn Garden Chores

Was this really only two years ago? So much has happened since then. I was looking forward to spring, not knowing what awaited me. I still look forward to spring – as soon as I can get the tomatoes indoors for the fall harvest.

I’m looking forward to spring. I know, it’s not even winter yet, but autumn is the season when I pull apart the fading foliage of my garden and take steps to prepare for next spring. Chuck got into the thick of it this year. Take a look.

Straw bales and repurposed boards

Straw bales and repurposed boards

Another Angle

Another Angle

Rather Awesome, I'd say.

Rather Awesome, I’d say.

Yesterday and today I took to the task of harvesting all tomatoes that could ripen indoors. The herb pots are already inside. Next, I pulled all the tomato plants and tossed them on the brush pile at the back of our yard.

We’re adding leftover potting soils to the new patch as I deal with most of the containers. If weather permits, I will dig out compost from the base of the brush pile and from the base of the compost bin and fill in what I can of the new patch. It’s going to be a raised bed, built inside the repurposed lumber that Chuck assembled so nicely. Whatever I don’t fill this fall, we’ll build up next spring.

It’s another experiment: straw bale gardening. As long as we were expanding the once-triangular plot, we decided to try the bales. A year from now, when the growing season is done, the straw-based soil will become compost for the future. Planning ahead, we are.

But stay tuned, folks. There are still piles and piles of green tomatoes ripening indoors. I’m sure there will be stories.

So, readers, what kind of autumn tasks have fallen your way? Leaves? Lawns?


Awareness? I’ll show you Awareness.

Every year in October I see the NFL all decked out in pink accessories and it bugs me. Bugs me no end. I could post an encore, but instead I’ll show you awareness and take it up a notch and recognize the real heroes here, and they’re not the guys with pink Gatorade towels.

The real heroes are the women who faced breast cancer straight on and won.

Women like this

Women like this

Women who’ve beat breast cancer and women who have tried are the real heroes, the real role models, the real people to put on a pedestal. That pedestal doesn’t have to be pink, either.

Awareness? Bah, humbug. That’s just another excuse to throw pink around a football field. It’s time to put the money where it makes a real difference: let’s see the NFL donating directly to organizations that fund research, testing, and research.


And again, the pharmacy

Dear Pharmacy that Shall Not be Named;

Once again, it’s the system, not the people. The staff was as bothered by the mix-up as we were. The exact same mix-up had happened at least once in the past. It wasn’t new.

I overheard someone checking into the computer saying, “It looks like both were ordered, but only one printed out.” So you’re saying it was the call-in system that messed up? Okay, I’ll take that explanation. But now let’s look at a true fix: how to prevent this from happening a third time or even more.

This is the toughest kind of problem to solve: the problem that doesn’t start with a human. Since it seems to be a systems error, there will have to be a solution that changes the system. In this case, someone at the top will need to call someone in IT and say, “Can you modify this code?”

Yeah, you’re right. I doubt it, too. And the Pharmacy That Shall Not be Named was doing so well. I haven’t written a Pharmacy post in ages. Their customer service has improved greatly. Now, the challenge rests with the folks who run the system. Pharmacy That Shall Not Be Named, can you fix the system? We’ll wait in suspense for the answer.

Serious Depressive Episode

“Co-pilot concealed mental illness.”

“Co-pilot suffered a ‘serious depressive episode.'”

When will the stigma end?

When will people suffering from depression feel they can seek treatment without secrecy?

When will treatment for mental illness become as readily available as treatment for physical illness?

That’s all for now, but this bothers me. It bothers me on so many levels. Readers, expect to hear more.

Thinking Spring

Last year i posted Spring Fever related material more than ever. Our cold weather seemed to last forever. I started seeds, but they were ready to go outside long before the outside temperatures were ready for planting. I ended up in the hospital in late April, an experience that left me in pain and easily fatigued.

This year:

  • the seeds are started
  • the garage is emptied in preparation for its demolition and replacement
  • compost (some) is spread
  • so far, I’m healthy

It’s a short list, but it’s a good list. Come the end of April, I will have made it a full year without a hospital stay or surgery. That might just be reason for celebration, no matter what the weather.



I searched my archives for measles or immunizations, and the only related topic I found was flu. I get a flu shot every year. Amigo gets one every year. La Petite, now that she has medical coverage (Thanks, Mr. President!), gets her vaccine, too.

It’s not influenza that’s on people’s minds today. It’s an illness that was thought to be eradicated in the United States: measles.

I remember getting a mumps shot when my friend Julie had mumps. The vaccine was a new one; it wasn’t routine yet. It must have worked; no mumps for me. I remember getting a rubella vaccine when I was at the hospital after giving birth to La Petite. Routine blood tests showed I wasn’t immune, and I got the shot before going home. But measles? No memory of the illness or the shot.

People born before 1957 are considered immune because they were most likely exposed when they were young. I’m a 1960 baby boomer. Where does that leave me?

I did what a lot of baby boomers do: I emailed my mother.

According to Petunia, I may have had a mild case of measles when I was very young. She followed up by saying she remembered getting me a measles vaccine, but doesn’t have a written record.

So around and ’round and ’round I go. Do I need the shot? Nobody knows. While I dilly dally about getting a lab test to find out yea or nay, the city health department is setting up a vaccine clinic early one morning next week. I might just give in, get up, and go. It can’t hurt. Well, it could hurt… never mind.


Dear Clinic; Communication. What a concept.

First came the voice mail on the home phone suggesting I call and make an appointment.

Next, I attempted to make an appointment through the messaging system. I hear you laughing already. Here goes:

Me: I received an automated voice mail suggesting that I make an appointment. Is this necessary?

Clinic Messenger: Yes you are due for a annual Physical in July and medication review and renewal then also.

July? It’s now January. Okay, I’ll try to plan ahead. I’ll  fill out the form and ask for a morning in July.

Scheduler: What is the reason for the appointment? Please list any symptoms you are having so we can give the providers some notes to better prepare them for your appointment.

Me: I received a voice mail saying I was due for an appointment and I should call. It turns out the only appointment I’m due for is a physical in July. Perhaps this was an error in the system? No one seems to be expecting my request.

Scheduler: I looked in your chart, and in our auto-matted phone system and it looks like they were calling about your Hyper-tension-HTN, if you are on medication and are going to need new scripts, you may be due for a Medication Check. That is what they were calling for, not the Physical. If you would like to schedule a appointment for the Hyper-tension please let us know a date and time that will work for you and if you fast for your medication checks. Thanks.

Me: ????? 

Dear Clinic That Shall Not Be Named: Your right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. That’s all.

With all due respect,


What a difference – a new year begins

I usually start the blog year with links to the first post of each month along with a brief summary of the post itself. I decided to try something different for a summary of the year 2014.

2014 threw me more than a few curves. At one point, I posted this:

Strong Enough Now

I entered 2014 with my left eye healing from a detached retina that had been reattached surgically. As January began, I had enough vision and depth perception to see and drive, but it wasn’t fully healed. Wrapping presents while possessing no depth perception was a challenge – no, it was a major hassle.

At the end of January, I had major surgery in the form of hysterectomy. The surgery went well, and all parts healed on schedule. I spent most of February resting and healing and watching the Winter Olympics in Sochi. I learned a lot about ice dancing and learned that Vladimir Putin is really a piece of work.

March came along with a return visit to the neurologist, confirmation of a stroke in 2012, and a referral to another level of specialist: an intervention radiologist. This doctor scheduled a procedure with the possibility of opening a blocked artery by using a balloon catheter and maybe the placement of a stent. This turned out to be the lowest point of the year for me personally. The right carotid artery was 99% blocked. The doctor and his team threaded the needle through the tiny open space, opened it, and placed a stent in the artery to keep it open.

Scary? Yes. Life is precious. And silly posts like these? This one made me laugh out loud – and then stop because laughing was painful.

'Nuff said.

‘Nuff said.

With the help of family, the garden got prepped and planted.

digging dandelions for bunny

digging dandelions for bunny

Summer was full of farmers’ markets, weeding and watering the garden, and slowly gaining my strength back. I met a major goal in September: I walked the mile from home to my workplace. I have yet to do that on a regular basis, but I can handle two large flights of stairs without huffing and puffing. I’m taking that as a sign of progress.

November brought a disappointing and disturbing election on the state level. Legislation and outcomes are yet to be seen, and that’s the disturbing part.

Meanwhile, I reached another six month check-up with positive news: the stent is looking good, blood is flowing, and the cerebral aneurysm on the other side isn’t getting any bigger. My left eye can see again, and I haven’t missed the hysterics that were removed last January, either.

The world had a lot of big events and lost some amazing people (Maya Angelou and Robin Williams, to name just two). On a personal level, I stick to the knowledge that life is precious. I look forward to more healing and growing in 2015.


The O.K. Chorale Runs Errands

I had a few alternate titles, and none of them really worked. The O.K. Chorale Holds Up a Pharmacy didn’t sound quite right. The O.K. Chorale goes out for Drugs didn’t really make it, either. The O.K. Chorale Stops the Pharmacist in his Tracks is a bit of an exaggeration. Not much, but a bit.

You’ve already guessed, my friends, that we had trouble once again with the Pharmacy That Shall Not Be Named. This time it wasn’t the people – not totally, anyway. For the most part, it’s the system. Or should I say systems, plural? Maybe so.

We rolled up to the hitching post, settled our horse (a Subaru) in a stall, and split up to make better time. Chuck went one direction to get a quart of milk. I followed Amigo to pick out a package of lip balms. We converged together at the pharmacy window. We’d just approach one by one, and we’d be done in a flash. Right? Wrong.

One register wasn’t working. Its card reader was out of service, so that window could only take cash. Works for me, I though, and Amigo, too. No problem. But (wait for it) — there’s more.

All in good time, one of the assistants called us up to the window. She’d already pulled out meds for all three of us. Sad, I guess, that we’re such regular customers that she knows our names, but I’ll give her points for customer service.

But as luck would have it, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Amigo’s prescription comes in two bottles, and they’d only filled one. I’d called in the numbers for both bottles, so there was confusion. Amigo was a strong self advocate and reminded them that he doesn’t like the childproof caps and that the higher dose capsule goes in the bigger bottle and the lower dose in the short one. They know this. It’s all on his record. But somehow, half the prescription got lost in the shuffle, and the sizes and caps on the bottles was the least of their worries.

So instead of Amigo going first, I stepped up to the second window and received my one prescription. One? I thought it was two? When I called to check, the staff member on the phone told me there was another medication coming due. As the line got longer behind us, I said never mind, don’t worry about it, I’ll get it at a later date. It’s not urgent. Let’s check out now before the milk Chuck bought starts to curdle.

While all this was happening at my window, Chuck handled his order, the fastest of the three. Amigo was still waiting for the pharmacist to rush through filling what should have been done already. I thought I had sorted through my own one lamp or two dilemma when the pharmacist came over for the required Consultation. He looked at my papers and said “One? Isn’t there a second?” Apparently, the paperwork was such that it indicated a second medicine. One if by land, two if by sea, and meanwhile, the line was getting longer and longer behind us.

Finally – and I do mean finally! – Amigo and I checked out and left. Amigo got his chap sticks, and I got away without yet another stupid small single use plastic bag. I only had to say “I don’t need a bag” three times.

With a deep breath, we mounted the patient horse (Subaru) and headed home. And I thought to myself, “Self, wasn’t there a mixed up text message regarding a medication earlier this week?” I’d gotten a phone call from the doctor’s office saying that I’d requested a refill on a powerful medicine I’d just begun taking, and they were worried. Was I okay? Um, yes, I was fine, and I hadn’t requested a refill. When I called in later, pharmacy people chalked it up to a mix up in the “Get your Refills by Text Message” program.

At long last, we made it home. I put excess paper (most of it ads for the text message refill program) through the shredder, placed my meds and Amigo’s in their correct spots in the medicine cabinet, and left Chuck to his own devices.

Dear Pharmacy That Shall Not Be Named; I hope the O.K. Chorale can stay far away from your window for a long, long time. Don’t bother to text. It’s not you, it’s me. No, I have to admit, it’s you.