Monday, March 14, 2016

Return Engagement

This is my fourth attempt to write a blog today. I hate to skip a week, because I don’t want to disappoint the one or two people who may be looking at this. I could skim by and post an excerpt from one of my WIPs, except I have The Reading Room page for that. I want those one or two readers to get their money’s worth. Wait, this thing is free. Yeah well.

So I’ll just type aimlessly and see what happens. Maybe something good will occur to me.

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I know! I’ll talk about my medical problems. Just what people want to hear. Lucky, lucky you.

Twelve years back I had surgery to fix a stomach hernia. Looks like the sucker may be back for a repeat performance. The incident that finally sent me to the doctor was burning chest pains. Y’see, the symptoms for acid reflux and a heart attack are surprisingly similar. The last time I had acid reflux (a side effect of the hernia) I had pains on the left side of my chest and shooting pains down my left arm. The tests revealed my heart was fine; it was my gut acting up. Once I had the surgery, everything cleared up.

Since I wasn’t having any other symptoms (no sweats, nausea, pressure in the chest), I was 90% sure it was acid reflux again. However, that ten percent uncertainty made me call the doctor. He put me on antacids and within a day I was fine. I’m currently going through X-rays and blood tests to see whether the hernia’s back. At this point, all signs point to yes.

Sidebar: here’s even more fun attached to heart disease. Those classic heart attack symptoms—chest pains, shortness of breath, shooting pains down the arm—are based on a man’s reactions. Women’s symptoms are different. They may mimic muscle strain, or the flu. We may not even have symptoms. One second you’re fine, the next you get dizzy and keel over. Not something a woman my age with heart disease in the family background wants to contemplate. Thanks a heap, medical science.

So I’m going through the tests. That’s two X-rays and two rounds of blood work. The X-rays had to be scheduled at the hospital; the blood work’s walk-in, done at a local lab. Both sets require fasting for 10-12 hours beforehand. Here’s a tip for that: get the tests done early in the morning. You can burn off 7-9 of those fasting hours overnight while you’re asleep. Have yourself a nice heavy meal—I recommend pasta—around 6 or 7 at night and you’re good to go.

One thing I didn’t know: if you’re giving a blood sample, it’s okay to fill up on water. Recommended, in fact. It plumps up the vein so the tech doesn’t have to root around for it. Wish somebody’d told me that beforehand.

As for the X-rays … here’s where things get interesting. One of my lead-lined glamour shots involved a barium swallow. They need to coat your gut so they can see your innards better. You lie on a table and gulp down this heavy, crappy-tasting stuff while the nurse clicks intestinal selfies. Why does it have to taste like chalk? Why can’t they make it fruit- or candy-flavored? They can do that now for children’s prescriptions. Who decided medicine has to taste crappy just because you’re an adult?

Afterwards they recommend you go heavy on the fluids and maybe take a laxative to get the barium out of your system. I definitely should have paid more attention to that part.

I had the X-rays Thursday morning. Got home, was fine. Was fine the rest of Thursday and most of the day on Friday. It wasn’t until Friday night that the barium came back to bite me. It’s called constipation, in this case in all caps, underlined, with three exclamation points. Trying to dump that junk was like trying to pass Mount Rushmore through the eye of a needle. You get the idea.

Fortunately, I live in a neighborhood with a lot of retired people. I was able to bum some laxative off my next-door neighbors. Remember when folks used to ask to borrow a cup of sugar? I don’t recommend going door-to-door and asking, “Hey, got any ExLax?” But I did, and they did, and it worked. Things loosened up the next morning. I’m drinking more water now, and upping my intake of green leafy vegetables.

Just had the blood tests this morning. I didn’t faint this time, hooray! Last time I had blood taken I made it through collection, only to pass out after they took the needle out. Good thing I never got hooked on heroin. I’d definitely suck as a junkie.

That’s it for the tests. In two weeks I go back to the doctor and find out if there’s surgery in my future again. And how do you plan on spending your summer vacation?

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Let’s inject some good news here. Supernatural has been renewed for a twelfth season. My last couple of books, and the two I’m working on now, were inspired by that series. If it ever goes off the air, I’ll have to give up writing. Maybe that’s a good thing. Stress is never good for the body, and writing is stressful. There are days when trying to poop out words is harder than trying to poop out the barium. And on that lovely metaphor, I’d better call it quits. Stay healthy, folks.

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