Saturday, April 2, 2016

Why I Won't Survive an Apocalypse

It's been quite the Spring Break. Bryce caught the flu and got sick Sunday as we drove home from Vermont, and was in full blast flu mode Monday.

I felt fine Monday, and was supposed to have lunch with a friend who was nearing her due date and so texted her that if she wanted to opt out because the plague lived at my house, to feel free, I wouldn't feel bad. She took me up on it, and while I felt a little Typhoid Mary, it was a really good call.

I had to cancel another lunch on Tuesday (so sad, break is when I can have midweek lunch out like so many normal people), because I was starting to feel a little off myself. A little tickly in the lungs, a little run down, a little freezing even though it was a balmy 65.

Then Wednesday I had full on chills and a low grade fever and a lovely cough started in my lungs. I should have gone to the doctor Thursday when it didn't get better, but instead I slept until 1:30 and zombied around the house.

Friday I went to the doctor, and was diagnosed with flu even though my temperature never rose above 100. I thought for sure I had something else, because I didn't have the high fever, but apparently if your body aches like you ran a marathon (when I most certainly did NOT), you have a headache, you are coughing a gross juicy cough, and you are exhausted, a low grade fever counts. Great.

Unfortunately, I have asthma. And my asthma is like a kindly ghost, usually -- I know it's there, but because I take really great daily preventative inhalant medicine, it's completely well controlled. I have the ghost in mind when I do things like take crazy cold weather hikes or swim in heavily chlorinated pools, but most of the time it just kind of flits in the background, summarily tamed.

When I get sick, it's a different story. I become like the girl in The Exorcist, wheezing deeply to the point where it seems glass windows should be sucking in and out with my breath, my cough insanely wracking and full-body in nature. When I went to the doctor, apparently there was no color in my face and I was using "accessory muscles" to breathe. She immediately put me on a nebulizer, and I felt much better. She wanted to do a second treatment right away, but the thing about nebulizers is that they are powerful and it makes a body really, really jittery. My heart feels like hamster heart. My hands shake. I really wanted to be able to drive home. So, she sent me home with a modern nebulizer of my very own.

When I was in high school and newly diagnosed with asthma, I ended up in the emergency room due to poor inhaler carrying habits enough that I was prescribed a nebulizer. The thing was huge, the size of a portable turntable, and the liquid medicine that went into it came in these hazardous glass ampule things. They looked like the bubble things on levels, but with pointy, ball-tipped ends. Ends you were expected to snap off at scored points so the liquid could go into the machine. With your finger. I cut myself more than once.

A modern nebulizer is incredibly cute in comparison. It's this compact, about 7" by 7" thing that has a handle like a little radio thing, and the medicine now comes in twist-off plastic tube things. No risk of slitting a finger open anymore. It's really quite amazing how everything gets smaller as it gets more technologically advanced. Except for smartphones. For some reason those keep getting bigger.

Anyway, I am to nebulize up to 5 times per day (but I am finding 2-3 is okay), which is just spectacular. Today makes me think I need to do it more than 2-3, because I had two separate fits that left me feeling like I was being suffocated by my own organs and my body was actively trying to kill me. All because I dared to laugh.

It is really, REALLY hard not to laugh when you live with Bryce. He is just so funny. He has a beard right now, and a beard trimmer I got him for Christmas. It looked like he missed a spot and it was sticking out and making him look rather Confederate General. When I said that, he pushed it all forward and pointed his arm authoritatively towards the kitchen and yelled in a southern voice, "CHARGE! FIRE THE CANNONS!" I mean, how do you not bust a gut with this kind of hilarity?

I seriously thought I was going to die. I was head between my knees, nearly on the floor, crying with desperation because I COULD NOT GET ANY AIR IN MY LUNGS.

And then, when I wasn't suffocating anymore, I sat at the dinner table and cried. I am very cranky on all this nonsense (I'm on oral steroids, too, so I am full of the 'roid rage apparently). It doesn't mix well.

"Aren't you so glad you married someone whose body defies them at every turn? Whose body literally DOES NOT WORK AT ALL?"

"Yes," Bryce said. "Obviously, very glad."

"Yeah, well, it's just great. Breathing? Nope, can't do it. Reproducing? Nope, not here. Eating wheat/barley/rye? NOPE, I can't even EAT properly. Oh, and sucky joints. Don't forget the sucky joints."

He just rubbed my back. You can't really argue with me on that one, because it really does seem like there are so many things my body sucks at. Migraines, too. My head revolts against me regularly.

I know there are so many things my body does right. I mean, I have really good GOOD cholesterol, and my blood pressure (when I'm not starved for oxygen) is actually quite good. I am strong despite my craptastic joints. I don't suffer too terribly much for not being able to eat gluten, because we are amazing cooks (if I do say so myself) and we find great restaurants that take Celiac seriously. I have a great mind, capable of all sorts of fun and interesting things. I can still hike and play the violin and write and read and garden and all those activities. When I don't have the flu, that is. (A positive -- doing a nebulizer treatment is kind of like being hopped up on speed after -- so I am typing this REALLY fast.)

I just feel so defeated by my body. I wish it did me right more often than it deals me poor hands all over the place. I'm probably tired and cranky and throwing myself a big fat pity party, but not being able to breathe pretty much makes you feel as helpless and awful as you can imagine it would.

It makes me realize...I am never going to survive an apocalypse. The food thing could get me...what if all that's left is Wonder Bread? I'd die of diarrhea. But it's the asthma that would get me first. No asthma medication, and I'll shut right down. Strangled by my lungs' failure to properly do their job. I guess that's better than eventually getting eaten by zombies, though, since I can't run fast enough if they are fast zombies due to my bum knees. Although we do love Vermont, and if there are zombies, apparently they never go to Vermont. Maybe they have stockpiles of albuterol inhalers there.

More reasons to love Vermont.

Well, the mouthpiece didn't get smaller. This looks like I'm putting a spray bottle in my mouth. Looks crazy, but it saves me for sure. Tells my lungs what's what, for at least an hour or so. 


  1. Oh I'm sorry! What a sucky end to Soring break! I hope you are feeling better and Bryce. At least you had someone to be miserable with together, right?! Will you till have to do the nebs when you go back to work?
    And even sick you are witty and funny and self-deprecating. Thanks for the early morning pre-work laugh!

    1. If I have to suffer, I may as well make it entertaining, no? Glad to give a laugh! I feel like Bryce is on an upswing, although his cough is nasty. He is lucky asthma. That apparently is the kicker. I think I do the nebs (love that nickname by the way) until I can survive without it. Right now I need it for sure. So probably I will have to do it before school if I go back Tuesday and then when I get home and at night, which isn't too terrible. As long as it lets me breathe, right? Thanks for your well wishes!

  2. I'm actually of the theory that those who are on top of their health will survive that apocalypse. Here's why. 1) you are constantly prepared and aware of what your body requires. 2) you know what alternatives you can eat (and it will likely be pet food that will be around, not wonder bread. Given all the grain-free options, you're good). And 3) you're great with overcoming difficult situations to get to the next stage. While most will be panicking because of the disorientation, you'll be getting your shit together to survive.

    I'm sorry you've been so ill. It sucks when everything is working to feel under the weather. May you be able to breathe again very soon.

    1. Ohhh, hadn't thought of that! I think I love you for suggesting that maybe I might be MORE likely to survive an apocalypse. The pet food made me feel like yarking a bit at first, but then I realized survival is worth getting over texture issues. :) Thank you for your thoughts, I'm hopeful I'll feel better soon. My abs are getting a killer workout from all the coughing, maybe...

  3. So sorry you were sick. Illness always brings awareness of one's frailties, both physical and mental. I hope as you get better you will remember what your strengths are too! As for an apocalypse, I'm not totally sure I'd want to survive. If it was a "conditional apocalypse" i.e. there was some hope of creating a decent life for myself and/or my descendants, then yes. But I would not want to be one of a few hundred survivors stuck in a bunker for the rest of my life knowing the Earth was a wasteland beyond redemption. That would be too depressing, and probably horrifying as the remainder of humanity most likely proceeded to massacre each other.

    1. Thank you -- it really does stink to be reminded of all the ways that my body is not doing what it's supposed to. I do see some strengths in there, but now it just feels like I should be able to handle the supposedly-automatic task of breathing, you know? Interesting thoughts on the apocalypse surviving! I love post-apocalyptic books, and there are some I just wouldn't want to survive, like you -- such as On The Beach by Nevil Shute, or The Road by Cormac McCarthy. But there are others where there is hope of a future out there (although as a non-reproducer I'd have limited value I guess, but could be like a premature Wise Woman role...). There's too many of those out there to list and some would be spoilers. But man, you got dark there real quick with the massacring! I hope that humanity, at least a majority of it, would show more promise than that. Although if you watch the news, it seems unlikely. :(

    2. Premature wise woman hahahaha I like that. You're right, I probably read / watch too much news. My mental picture of apocalypse is also informed by a tour of the Diefenbunker museum (designed to accommodate Canadian government and military leaders in case of a nuclear attack. It is interesting to tour but terrifying to contemplate life there: unless you fancy a claustrophobic 70s time capsule. But of course we would not even have a chance as women were not allowed in: which when you suppose widespread death in the upside world does beg some obvious questions.....anyway I'm glad you are recovering your optimism, whether in reality or fantasy scenarios! I try to imagine Mr Turtle, AJ and I living happily in the sewer.

  4. You could totally be a Post-Apocalyptic Bad-Ass. You're not alone with the "Are you SURE you want to deal with all of the broken/medical things?!?!?" message to your hubby. I did much the same thing with Romeyn, very recently. Hang in there...

  5. Sorry that you wound up with the flu - that stuff is no joke. I had it a few years ago and even without asthma, I felt like I couldn't breathe for a few weeks. With asthma must be so much worse...hope you're continuing to feel better and mend.

    I totally agree with Cristy, I think you have a pretty good shot at surviving the apocalypse - you know what you need, which definitely puts you ahead of a fair number of people!