Thursday, May 7, 2015

Bed goes up, bed goes down: Adventures in hospital

I’m in the hospital. I’ve decided to use this time productively, which is code for: I’m going to put a hospital selfie on Facebook and soak up some attention for a few days. Thanks for the well wishes, guys, it made me feel so loved. So the story behind it? Well here goes.

I’d been feeling a bit short of breath since the start of the weekend and by Sunday afternoon I was exhausted to the point where I had to send MapGuy in my place to a five year old’s birthday party that I wanted to go to. No, really, it was one of our mother’s group kids, and now that they’re all at school, birthday parties are almost solely about our catch ups with the added bonus of cake.

Instead of going, I slept all afternoon. Then I coughed all night. I was sucking down Ventolin but it just wasn’t really doing anything. On Monday I headed out to do my Volvo Hot Laps (AMAZING!!! More on that later) and when I came home I fell asleep until school pick up while my parents looked after Bobbin. Then they and my sister, Aunty Penny, let me sleep and took care of the kids. They were fed and bathed and ready to go to bed when I woke up.

At night I consulted Dr Google, which is never the smartest thing to do. Dr Google said I had blot clot in my lung. Way to freak me out, Internet.

By Tuesday morning I was really short of breath and needed a day to rest. I cancelled a blog meeting and my parents took Bobbin again, then picked up Tricks. I stayed in bed and subscribed to Netflix. Because if I was being forced to sit on my butt all day, may as well be entertained, yes?

I complained to my dad that this didn’t feel like normal asthma, that my lungs felt pretty clear but the centre felt strange and I just couldn’t get in enough air, so in the afternoon I headed to my GP to see what he said. He listened to my lungs and said there was no wheeze, no limited air entry or whatever it is. He asked if I had calf pain.

Yes. Oh shit, he’s going the same way Dr Google went.

He made some calls, made some appointments and sent me around the road for an ultrasound with strict instructions to go straight to hospital if my breathing was getting worse. Way to freak me out, doc.

I went to the local ultrasound place as an urgent case and got the death stare from half the packed waiting room as I got called ahead in front of them. Sorry, guys! There was no sign of a clot in my leg that had been sore so I relaxed a little, but alas, relaxing did not improve my breathing.

I settled in to bed again when I got home and commenced binge watching old House episodes because they always make me feel better about hospitals and I was starting to think that that is exactly where I was heading. I was starting to worry that I had an embolism, would fall asleep, it would shift, and I'd never wake up. Because that’s how my brain works sometimes.

By mid evening Tuesday I was struggling so hard to breathe that Aunty Penny took me to the emergency department, meaning MG could stay at home with the kids. We waited for hours on hard, plastic chairs with my fellow patients. Master Dog Bite, Mrs Drunken Fall, Mr Hernia Repair, and the man who vomited everywhere over and over again, Mr Gastro. Bored as anything and desperate to get some help to breath, and yet I was still “take Mr Gastro first, please”.

Fast forward a few hours and I’ve got a bed in the ED and had a chest xray that shows ‘something’ but nothing special (which I refute, because, well, it is showing me) and the lovely doctor with the British accent (let’s call her Dr Brit) is saying that despite my symptoms, it’s still really unlikely I’d have a clot because of my age so instead of doing a CT, they’ll do a blood test that has “clot markers” and when that’s negative we can all relax. Maybe even go home and just keep sucking on Ventolin, hoping it gets better. She sticks a needle in my left arm, draws some blood, and off she goes, letting us know the results take two hours.

Aunty Penny has been making me giggle the whole time. Which is HORRIBLE because it makes me cough, yet I still keep responding and we fire off each other. When she notices the security guy’s shirt has “SECURTIY” on it, we crack up laughing while trying to take a photo. Because such spelling fails need to be Instagrammed.

Dr Brit walks back in my little fabric cubicle and says the blood results have come back positive for signs of a clot. Well, fuck. Way to freak me out, other doc.

It’s now four in the morning so I send Aunty Penny home to get some sleep, but not before saying fuck a lot. I’m hooked up to an ECG machine because my heart has been playing silly buggers since I got here. My little pattern lights up the screen and I can see just how erratic it’s being. Nothing too bad, though.

Dr Brit sticks a needle in my right arm with a cannula for the contrast dye for the CT and I head off to the big machines. It was daunting, and I had to give myself a little pep talk, especially when I heard that the dye makes your body flush hot and feel like you’ve peed your pants. “You’ve peed your pants before, Glow, you’ve got this.” Day-um, I give the best pep talks.

I spend the next few hours hooked up to oxygen because my saturation levels are going down rapidly. Without the oxygen my levels are as low as 79 and respirations at 45 but with it, I’m up around 95 with respirations near 25. It hurts to inhale deeply, so I’m just breathing shallow as I listen to the woman in the next bed tell her doctor how Satan puts bad thoughts in her head. The ED is a horrible place, really. So sad.

Fast forward again and the results are back. No clot is visible. YAY. But that might mean it’s small and “hiding” BOO, so Dr Brit gives a tentative diagnosis of pneumatises. Which is not fun to say at 5:30am when you haven’t slept and can’t breathe. It is recommended that I am admitted and she will have to do a blood gas to complete the chart before sending it. That’s a blood test from your wrist. They hurt. A LOT. Know what hurts more? When they dig around in one wrist and fail, then have to do the digging in the second wrist. Faaaaark.

I’m passed over to the specialist who is trying to find me a bed in the assessment unit before I can go up to the ward. After hours of waiting, they get frustrated enough to come down and do the assessment in the ED.

It’s like being in House. The awesome specialist (let’s call her Dr Lung) and two students, doctors already, so whatever that word is. They take my history and at the end of it, maybe three minutes of talking, I am completely breathless and my stats have bottomed out again. It looks like I’d come to the ED at the right time, because I’ve been steadily getting worse the whole night.

She quizzes the students about tests and risk and lots of stuff, and I’ve watched so much House in the last day that I follow almost the whole conversation. I tell them this is like TV and they all laugh – I secretly think the students think it too, though. I’m told I’m an interesting case and can more students come in the morning please? Sure, bring ‘em all. Because then OMG IT WILL BE EVEN MORE LIKE TV.

I’m given a final diagnosis of pneumonia by Dr Lung. She hears things through the stethoscope that others couldn’t and points out the noises to her students. It’s quite fascinating and I’m so impressed by her, and not just because she reminds me of Edna from The Incredibles. Plus she thinks my jokes are funny (I make jokes whenever I’m nervous so I’ve been saying a shedload of inappropriate shit since I got here). She is not entirely convinced that there are no blood clots, so on top of the hard core antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, I’m to be given a prophylactic DVT treatment.

Now I’m up in the ward, in an isolation suite with a negative pressure door. Anyone coming in has to wear a mask, though the staff don’t seem too strict on that, half of them happy to just sneak in and grab something quickly. It’s a precaution because though you can’t actually catch pneumonia, you can catch the bug that caused it… but we don’t know if it was a nasty bug or just a run of the mill bug that everyone carries. Hopefully because there was no runny nose or fever, chills and the like, that it isn’t a nasty bugger. But for now, my visitors have masks that make them look like ducks. Quack.

Yeah... so the mask didn't really float with Bobbin. But we figured she'd been sharing a bed with me the whole weekend, so she'd have got anything off me by now.

I’ve been so overwhelmed with the love and support we’ve gotten from everyone, but especially our families who have all pitched in because it’s really hard for MG to take time off work right now. It is times like these that you see just how many have your back.

I'm allowed home pretty much when I can have a conversation without becoming breathless - fingers crossed it is tomorrow because I'll be so bummed to miss Tricky's mother's day concert at school! Whatever happens, I'll laze around here, in my Wonder Woman jimjams, binge watching Orange Is The New Black until I get out.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

DIY Succulent Bowl for Mother's Day

I was flipping through the three hundred catalogues that ended up in my letter box this week thanks to Mother's Day. I was mentally picking out what slippers I'd like until I realized I was now old enough to find slippers an appropriate gift and proceeded to slap myself silly.

I moved on to the homewares section, because being a fan of decor isn't quite as embarrassing as eyeing off the fluffy fox slippers, and saw a gorgeous bowl filled with succulents for a lot of money I don't have.

Because I'm a tight ass (let's say frugal, it sounds better), I thought I could totally make it myself for nowhere near that price, mostly using stuff I had at home.

I walked to the local swapmeet where about half the vendors are selling plants, and bought some little succulents that were seven for $5. I could have got more established plants for more, but this was all on a spare of the moment whim, so I didn't want to over commit!

Running total: $5

At home I grabbed a big, wide bowl that was holding a bunch of pinecones as a centrepiece on our outdoor table. The bowl was, like so much at my house, from the side of the road. Day-um I love me a road side bulk rubbish pickup!

Running total: still $5

Armed with my plants and my free bowl, I grabbed my shovel and dug up some dirt from the back of the garden. At this point I noticed a bigger succulent that had been sitting in a pot in my garden for a good six months or so, and figured it needed a new home, too. The price of the bigger one? Free. The lady, at the same markets I got the new lovelies from, had thrown it in when I bought some herbs.

I had a little helper
Running total: yep, still $5

I popped them all in, not in any particular order as I figure they'll grow and smoosh together eventually. All I really wanted was for the big guy to not be in the centre.

I'm so happy with the result and particularly the price!

Final total: $5 WOOHOO!

Because this bowl doesn't have a drainage hole, and because I kinda couldn't be bothered drilling one in it, this has to be kept in an area where it won't get too wet from sprinklers or rain. Seeing as it's a table centrepiece, it's not an issue. A few drops of water for each plant once a week is usually all these dudes need. Just keep an eye on it and adjust accordingly. You could also cover the soil with rocks to make it look pretty if you wanted to.

So happy Mother's Day to me! 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

When your "health practitioner" is anti vax

Recently I made the decision to go and see a chiropractor. It wasn’t a decision I made lightly because I’ve read so many things about them being quacks. But in my readings I found that they could actually be good for back pain, which is what I was seeking to resolve. I didn’t want it to miraculously change my fertility, or cure my asthma, or any pseudoscience bullshit, I just wanted my back to not keep me awake at night.

I've had a few appointments now and I was really intrigued with how it was all done, and my back was actually feeling a tad better. I went to my appointment the other day and my usual guy wasn't there, so I saw the head honcho of the centre. His treatment room has three beds; he’ll tell you that’s because the treatment isn’t secretive and so that we can all learn from each other. It didn’t bother me at all. I’ve birthed two babes, it takes a lot for me to be embarrassed these days.

So I lay down on the centre bed as indicated, my head through the hole, and listened as the Chiropractor went to work on the lady to my left.

She tells him she’s achy all over because she’d had a flu vax yesterday, but other than that, just her usual pain.

"Well if you get the flu vax you're guaranteed to get the flu, if you don't get the flu vax, there is only a chance" he said.

My head was down, so no one saw me roll my eyes.

The lady went on to tell him she has diminished lung function and that therefore, the flu is really dangerous for her. She continued, saying she got the flu every year until she started getting the jab. She explained that the theory is you get a small dose so that your immune system is trained with how to deal with it, hopefully meaning you'll be able to fight it off better if you do get it.

Quick as a flash he replied "I'm glad you called it a theory, because that's all it is. There's no proof anywhere that it actually works". Those were his exact words.

I’m so glad I was laying down for that, because I might have fallen over.

I didn’t know what to do. Do I get up and storm out? Do I start a huge argument with him? Do I stand up for this woman with diminished lung function who is being told to not have a flu vax in the future?

I was angry but I decided to stay put to hear what he had to say for himself when it was my turn.

After saying his goodbyes to Lung Lady, he walked over to my bed and asked how I was. I said fine. He said he didn’t believe me. What can I say? I suck at lying and it was obvious from my voice that I was not happy.

“I’m just a little upset from the conversation I just heard” I said.

“Ah, yes, vaccination can be an emotive topic. Can I ask why you are upset?”

“Because science” I replied.

He went to work on my back, making strange breathing noises, rubbing my temples, placing glass vials on my throat, a finger in my mouth; a whole heap of weird stuff and dude, I just want my back to stop hurting, thanks. As he worked, he talked.

He told me how he’d never been vaccinated, that his lifelong chiropractic treatments had kept him safe from viruses and diseases. It was really hard to not scream out that actually herd immunity had kept him safe all this time, and now that the herd immunity is lowering we’re seeing an increase in vaccine preventable diseases and deaths.

But I just listened. In fact I stayed, for the most part anyway, completely silent. He took my silence to mean I was agreeing with him, so he kept talking. Digging a little hole for himself.

He told me that food allergies are caused by vaccines. He stopped just short of pulling out the autism link (you know, the one that has been debunked about three million times now), but mentioned that vaccine can cause delays, social problems and behavioural issues.

At this point I was so angry that I had tears in my eyes and he saw me wipe them away. Again, he took this as passionate agreement.

“Has one of your children had a vaccine reaction?” he queried, with genuine concern.

“No.” I spluttered.

I couldn’t say any more. I was dumbfounded. I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out.

I have met people who don’t vaccinate before, but they weren’t standing in an office, as a ‘medical professional’ proclaiming that there is no evidence behind immunisations. Interestingly, by the way, there is a heap of studies on how there is no scientific evidence behind chiropractic work helping with anything but back pain.

He talked at length about how the government is taking away the choices of parents by removing Centrelink payments from those who choose to take care of their kids; claimed that pharmaceutical companies only introduced vaccines to make money; and said his mother was brave to make the right decision not to vaccinate him. Spoken like a true conspiracy theorist.

All of this in the space of ten minutes while he manipulated my spine and made me move my legs, open my jaw and put my hands here and there; a game of Twister on myself.

I collected my belongings, paid my fee and walked out the door. I promptly wrote down everything that had happened, not wanting my emotions to cloud my memory, and when I was done, I burst in to tears.

They were angry tears. Embarrassed tears. It took so long for me to come to chiropractic, to embrace a little bit more of the alternative side of life. I ignored all the evidence, all the science, and had treatment anyway, based on anecdotes. In my head I was thinking “what does it say about me if I choose this method?” and at the time my answer was that I was, quite obviously, a dickhead. But I’ve changed my mind since then.

I’m just a person looking for answers. A person with an insanely sore, previously broken back, that just wants to be pain free. I’m desperate, to be honest, and willing to give anything a go, even “alternative medicine”.

Because anything Tim Minchin says is true. Especially if it's on the internet
I had been liking the treatments. My back was actually feeling better, but now I’m just so conflicted. The next day I rang up and cancelled all my future appointments. Then I rang my health fund and told them he should not be on their preferred provider list.

I cannot support a business or practitioner who can advocate to a woman with diminished lung function to not get a flu vaccine, in odds with all medical advice.

I cannot support a business that tells me vaccines are only about making money, particularly when he wasn’t cracking my back for free.

I cannot support a business that says vaccines are not proven; that it is just a “theory”.

I haven't decided yet if I'm going to search for a new Chiropractor that only tries to fix backs and doesn't claim he or she can cure addictions and diseases. Once bitten, twice shy, fool me once, and all that shebang.

As I sit here, contemplating what to do next, I'm staring at an Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency complaint form that my health fund has provided for me to fill out. Because if you use your position as a "health practitioner" to spout bullshit about vaccines being unproven, when there is a plethora of scientific evidence that they do work, and recommend people don't get them when there are people who can't get the jab and babies too young to be immunized DYING, you can bet your arse I'm going to make an official complaint about you.

Friday, April 24, 2015

5 Lazy Lunchbox Tips (say organised, it sounds better)

This is a S1 post for Healthy Active Kids
For full details please see my disclosure policy

I have a confession to make: I love packing school lunches.

There. I said it.

I know, I know. I'm a freak. 

I'm a tad obsessed with providing healthy food for my kids, not just because of the nutrition value and fuel for their growing bodies, but because I have such a wacky relationship with food. If it was a Facebook relationship, we'd be "it's complicated". So I strive to create a life where they won't have this; where they won't be screwed up like me. Which is what all my parenting is about, really. Not screwing them up too much. Just enough to be funny.

Naturally, packing a lunchbox lets my little inner, obsessive compulsive health nut come out to play. She's my shoulder angel and tells me to "use more quinoa" and "chia seeds would make an excellent addition to this dish!".

On the opposite side, we have my shoulder devil. The one who says "dude, canteen is open today, have a sleep in and he can order a sausage roll... don't forget the sauce". It is an eternal battle because, well, I'm bone lazy

So how is it someone like me can enjoy packing lunches and actually manage to pack a healthy lunchbox every day? By nurturing my lazy side and getting organized. Because I value my sleep ins. 

1. Pack it the night before
After the dishes are done, I immediately dirty some more by making the next day's lunches and popping them in the fridge. Mornings are for rushing around, bleary eyed and telling children to put their shoes on for the FIFTIETH TIME. We use those fancy pants reusable wrappers and have no problem with wraps or bread going stale over night. 
Added bonus: The lunchbox contents stay colder longer because the whole thing has been cold over night.

2. Sandwiches are FABULOUS
I love a good themed lunch, I truly do. And the creations I see all over Instagram? CUUUUTE! I've even been known to attempt a few myself on special occasions. But for school? Every. Single. Day? Nup. Ain't nobody got time fo' that. OK, so some people do have time for that, but if you don't, don't panic! The humble sandwich is the bomb diggety, yo. Or bring out the big guns and put the filling in a wrap. 

3. Fruit is your friend
Bung in a banana or add an apple. If you've got a liquid proof lunchbox and wanna get a bit more fancy, cut up a fruit salad, squeeze some lemon juice over it, and it will keep in the fridge for a few days or anywhere up to a week. Ladle it out in to your containers the night before and off you go. Kid not got a sweet tooth? Cubes of cheese, cherry tomatoes and chunks of cucumber go great with a couple crackers. Takes two minutes and it's colourful, delicious and healthy. 

4. Batch & Freeze
Cook up a storm on the weekend of muffins, healthy brownies, muesli bars, whatever takes your fancy and then freeze them. Just before you walk out the door, grab one of the frozen morning tea treats and chuck it in - it will defrost by 10am on most days, unless you live in Tassie. I pack two lunches a day, so one batch of muffins gets me almost two weeks worth of healthy, homemade recess noms. If you're super lazy/organised, you can pre-make a week's worth of sandwiches (depending on the filling) and freeze them.
Added bonus: Frozen food doubles as a cold pack! Woot! 

5. Wash lunchboxes the minute you get home
On walking through the door, Tricky knows his first job is to take his lunchbox and drink bottle out of his bag and place them on the bench, then hang his bag up on his hook. Look at that, half the job mentioned and I haven't lifted a finger yet. BOOYAH! Empty out any crumbs, rinse it under the tap and wipe down any reusable wrappers. Don't even get a teatowel out, let that sucker drip dry on the dish drainer. 

It's all well and good to be super organized *coughlazycough*, but if your kids won't eat what you have provided you're in a bit of a pickle. Wait, do your kids eat pickles?

The Healthy Active Kids resource, established in 1999 (though it sounds cooler if I say last century) is designed, as the name suggests, to encourage kids to eat healthy and be active. It's a resource for families, with games and recipes, plus lesson plans and worksheets for teachers. In an effort to promote a fit lifestyle, the site has indoor and outdoor game suggestions, as well as ideas for family activities that aren't just sport. Which, phew, because I don't do sport. 

My favourite part is the video section, with segments on how to read a nutrition panel, why we eat what we eat, interviews with athletes from the Australian Institute of Sport, and many more. 

And it's all completely free. Hurrah. 

I'd love to see the site expanded to include a few more recipes (there are only nine), particularly in terms of healthy snacks (for 3:45pm when Tricky swears he is about to starve to death) and, of course, more lunchbox options. Maybe even some colouring in pages and matching activities for the littler kids. As it stands though, it's been incredibly successful with schools reporting 90% of students changed their eating habits for the better after participating. So kudos to them. 

I've got some Healthy Active Kids prize packs to give away, consisting of portion plates, lunchbox stickers and aprons. To win a pack, tell me what you do to encourage your children to be Healthy Active Kids.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The 2015 #GlowHoliday has been decided

MapGuy is itching to go on holiday.

Every day he checks out the discount websites, the deals, travel blogs and more. He has racked up long service leave, so there are all these luscious paid weeks of holidays hanging tantalizingly over his head saying "Go on a little trip. You've worked hard. Go on, mate, you've earned it".

I'm a little less eager, purely because I'm a bit anxious about flying right now. I know statistically it's safer than driving my car, but with all the stuff in the news lately; hijackings, missing planes, crashes, homicidal co-pilots and what not, I'm a bit nervous. I'm not usually afraid to fly, so this is a bit of a foreign feeling for me. I keep telling myself that if we die, well, we all cark it together. Strangely, there is comfort in that for me.

Despite the anxiety (hello, Valium), It's a great time for us to go on a trip, because we don't have to pay for Bobbin's flights or accommodation. Score. We did the same thing when Tricks was just about to turn two. Related: um, my baby is almost two. Whut?

We considered going two weeks in the snow, because MG's never seen snow before, but that idea was quickly quashed thanks to fabulous advice (along the lines of COLD, WET, WHINGEY CHILDREN AND HOLIDAYS NO NOT MIX), and very helpful tips on the WMG Facebook page. Thanks, people!

I wasn't fussed on the destination, because wherever we go will be fun, so I left him to book it and surprise me. He almost booked a trip to Bali. Then he almost booked a trip to Canberra with a day trip to the snow (because I could handle the cold/wet/whingey trifecta for a few hours). Then he almost booked a fly drive holiday up the East coast.

But after much to and fro, a decision was made and MapGuy woke me at midnight to tell me the news. There are only a few instances where waking me is acceptable: If the house is on fire, if someone is dying, if we're being robbed, or if it's to tell me we're going on an INTERNATIONAL HOLIDAY in July.

Destination: Malaysia!

We are going to Kuala Lumpur for ten days, hitting up all the tourist things and then making the journey here:

OMFG LEGOLAND! I don't know who is more excited. Me, Tricky or Map Guy. Bobbin has no clue but keeps clapping and shouting hooray whenever Tricks does. Only one day of the trip will be spent there (because it's a four hour bus ride away), but already I'm pegging it as the highlight of the trip. Because LEGO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you have any suggestions of things we should see or do in KL in July, hit me up! Now, to get a passport for the little one and reread those flying safety statistics.


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