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Holding onto sanity with both hands, hard

October 5, 2009 3 comments

So I just listened to a story on NPR that I knew I shouldn’t listen to. A young girl’s fight with the Swine Flu. It’s awful, don’t listen to it. It’s important, you should listen to it.

Every once in a while I hear stories like this and I get a glimpse into what life must have been like 100 years ago, when a virus or plague could sweep through a town in days and kill wantonly. The idea that my daughter — my healthy, sturdy, big, strong daughter — might die because of the flu…. it’s terrifying. I can’t imagine living with it all the time, every time someone sneezes, every time someone coughs.

I’m pro vaccine and going to get the Swine Flu shot as soon as I can, going to have my daughter get it. (I’d like my husband to get it, but we’ll have to see when shots become available for people without any risk factors. I’ve got asthma, so I’m in the earlier bunch.)

I know, objectively, that the swine flu is pretty mild in most cases. I know that she’s strong and healthy. But I also know that 60 kids have died and while more than half of them have had underlying causes, about a third were perfectly healthy. (If I start thinking about herd immunity, I get all kindsa pissed off, so I won’t even start.)

Anyway, I’m just trying to stay calm and remember that the odds are in my favor. And using lots of Purell.

I found a tick on the kid Friday

July 14, 2009 Leave a comment

So Friday night, after bath, I was doing a tick check. We’d been out in the woods that morning and Thursday and I try to always do tick checks. I’d skipped it Thursday b/c she fell asleep and was doing a super-thorough (but silly, goofy, make-it-a-game) job of it.

And I found a tick.

For about a second I freaked, then got the “tick ID card” out of my wallet, checked, yes, it was a Deer Tick, a nymph, here’s how you remove it, put it in an old lip-balm container. Then, because it was supper time, I did a very cursory scan of my usual tomes on these things, couldn’t find a S.O.P. in the face of ticks, and did something a little lazy.

I shot a note to the mom’s list I’m on.

Now, I could have called the doctor (at 5 on a Friday) and I could have called my sister-in-law or even just done a really extensive online search. But I did the lazy thing.

I think I was expecting a couple of “This is the standard thing to do in the situation,” coupled with at least one or two Lyme Disease Hysterics emails. (We’ve got a woman on the list who is very very into the Lyme Disease Divide. More on that later.) But mostly I figured there would be a consensus… I can’t be the only parent in the world who has found a tick on her kid!

The responses came flooding in. Mostly “call your doctor”, which made sense but like I said, it was 5 o’clock on Friday. A couple of “insist insist demand antibiotics.”

And one woman wrote a TOME. She wrote to me privately to talk about the epic journey she’d had when her son was bitten by a tick. She gave me the breakdown of the Lyme Disease Divide — basically the mainstream doctors versus the “Lyme Literate” doctors. What she told me was pretty scary — the tests are wrong as often as they are right, but getting a “good” test is expensive and the medical establishment tends to refuse to do them. She wrote about how she sobbed and wept and spent hours doing research and how she was called crazy and unreasonable by her doctor and family.

I’d heard about some of this before — I try hard to avoid the whole Lyme disease thing because when I let it, it freaks me the hell out. I’ve been down the “crazy mom” road, though I was postpartum and had the excellent excuse of being postpartum. So I have sympathy though I wonder what she was doing since her son didn’t have any symptoms.

But what I find really interesting is that there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on what to do if your kid IS bitten by a tick. It’s like the medical establishment knows it’s failed at dealing with this disease. They don’t believe the “fringe” doctors but can’t come up with a decent alternative.

But every time I look at the so-called “Lyme Literate” doctors, I feel like I’ve entered into the world of what I call the “specious skeptics.” The folks who sound semi-reasonable when they point out that the doctors are wrong but still sound crazy when they try to say what they think is right. The vaccine-autism-link folks. The HIV-doesn’t-cause-AIDS folks. The antibiotics-cure-ulcers folks….

Oh. Wait. That’s right. Antibiotics DO cure ulcers. And there was a “crazy fringe” movement that insisted upon this fact for FORTY YEARS while the mainstream folks insisted they were nuts and hundreds of thousands of people died from bled-out ulcers. It’s only int he past twenty years that we have accepted what used to nutso theory as true fact.

And that’s what scares me about this Lyme thing.

Running the numbers

February 17, 2009 5 comments

I’m a crunchy mama. My kid eats organic local food, I breast fed until she was two and a half, she co-slept until almost that time. I was a big baby wearer (until all that healthy living made her so damned big I couldn’t carry her anymore).

But, with all that, I’m pro vaccine.

This position is apparently deeply controversial among my fellow crunchy mamas, though the science backs me up. (Incidentally, I’ve made all my crunchy mama decisions because the science backs me up.) I know that there is some really interesting anecdotal evidence to link vaccines and autism. I’ve heard a lot of stories that make me believe that there may have been at least a slight link, though whether it was causal or not I can’t say. (I will point out that there’s some very interesting preliminary evidence that television has a very causal link.)

But, even with all that, when I sat down and ran the numbers on vaccines, I came down hard on the side of vaccines.

Why? Because even if the most outstandingly pessimistic views on autism are correct (and they are very grim — 1 in 25 kids), they are still better odds than risking the gamut of childhood diseases. Mumps can kill you. Measles can kill you. Rubella can kill you. Whooping cough can kill you. And that which does not kill you can leave you blind, crippled, sterile, stunted, mentally damaged. Chicken pox may be largely harmless as a child, but it can kill an adult. And shingles can be brutally painful.

And the flu can kill you.

One of the moms on my local list serve just shot out an email about a child who died last night of the flu. Healthy on Wednesday, dead on Sunday. She admits that she doesn’t know if the child had the flu vaccines, but even if he did, I’m willing to bet he hadn’t every single year. Each yearly shot may be only 30-percent effective, but the cumulative effect is much more potent.

One of the other moms wrote in a slightly breathless manner to ask “how that happened?!” I wanted to refer her to the book Flu . Influenza is often deadly, especially for the old and the young — there’s a reason the CDC tracks it so closely. Tens of thousands of people die in this country each year because of the flu. I’ve seen estimates that range from 36K to 60K. That’s about as many as die in car accidents. And a flu shot isn’t much harder than putting on your seat belt.

Then some other mom shoots back, quite snarkily, that she doens’t understand what this boy’s death has to do with vaccinating?!

I wanted to shout and bang heads together when I heard that. Herd immunity is the surest way to prevent deaths from these things. But we’ve become a victim of our own success — we’ve eradicated viruses so well that people are shocked when a child dies of the flu, even though that used to be very common. But autism has such a high profile that we’re more scared of that.

Listen, if you don’t want to immunize, I respect that. I disagree violently, but I can’t quite bring myself to say that the government should make a law that says you must vaccinate. But don’t pretend that your decision doesn’t affect the rest of us.

(I will add that I know that this is an emotional subject for some folks. I hope I didn’t offend you. I also know I’m opening myself up for a massive flame war. To head that off, I’ll tell you that I’ll post only thoughtful responses, not rants, flames, etc. I know that I just wrote a rant, but hey, it’s my blog. I can rant if I want to.)

Life: One damned thing after another

July 14, 2008 Leave a comment

So a few months ago, The Husband had to pee a lot. And it hurt a little. So I sent him to the doctor (against his wishes, really) because a UTI can get nasty if left untreated. They gave him antibiotics, had him pee in a cup, and sent him home. It stopped hurting within 24 hours of the first pill.

Week later we got a call: the culture showed no infection. Probably nothing but he should see a urologist.

A month later, the urologist says it’s probably nothing but he should get a sonogram.

Three weeks later (glad this wasn’t urgent, you know?) he has a sonogram and guess what? He’s got an 8 mm kidney stone!

Now, it’s currently just sitting there, causing no harm, no pain, nothing. But he’s got a giant fucking kidney stone. (8 mm is a little bigger than a quarter of an inch. Imagine peeing out a jaggedy pebble as big around as your pinky finger.)

Sigh. I’d like the world to stop now for a few weeks so we can relax, please?

Oh. And my folks are coming tomorrow. Joy.

Categories: family, health

Well, that was a mistake

March 25, 2008 3 comments

I got distracted and annoyed today and said something I really didn’t mean to.

My mom called and acknowledged that, oh, hey, I wasn’t lying when I said that I had asthma attacks at her house. Then she harassed me about coming down to see her more often. (It wasn’t so straightforward, I’m slanting to story because I feel guilty about it.)

I was straightening up and cranky from lack of sleep and a sore back and I’m still trying to make excuses. Anyway, she told me that she’d bought an antique children’s coat rack for The Child and was going to have my dad sand it down and paint it.

“Mom, he shouldn’t sand it if there’s lead.”

“He can wear a mask.”

“Still, that dust can get everywhere. It’s dangerous.”

“Amanda, you and your brother knocked down walls covered in lead paint when you were kids! It didn’t do you any harm.”

Now, here, I say something that I swore I’d never tell her. See, I had a miscarriage and all my research indicates that there’s a better than average chance that my unusually high lead burden contributed to that miscarriage.  That lead burden came from living in NJ in the 1970s and from living in a Victorian house where there was plaster dust, paint thinner, and sawdust on every surface for most of my young life.

“It might have,” I responded. “I had the miscarriage.”

“Amanda! People have been having miscarriages for thousands of years,” she snapped.  “And lead had nothing to do with them.

I stopped myself from giving a little lecture on the relevant historical theories to the contrary and instead said, “Well, the placenta pumps all lead from the mother’s body into the fetus because it thinks its calcium.”

Then my brain kinda kicked in and I realized what I was saying.

“You can’t ever mention that to Dad.”

“Why not!?” my mother shrilled. “So he doens’t feel the same guilt I do?”

“Mom, you weren’t responsible. You didn’t know.”

“Well, your father certainly didn’t.”

And here I had a pair of little revelations.

First of all, I really didn’t blame my mother. I didn’t even think she would feel guilty. She certainly has never evinced any guilt over smoking around me my whole life — despite the fact that she did know it was bad. And frankly, in many aspects of my childhood — anything not involved with the emotional stuff — I basically discount my mother as an irrational actor. Wow. That’s kinda terrifying.

Second, I do kinda blame my dad. I forgive him, I think (proving I have more sympathy for him than for my mother), but I really can’t believe that he didn’t know it was a bad idea for kids to breathe in paint dust. It’s possible that he really didn’t know, but knowing my dad, it’s more likely that he figured he and we could just tough through it. Dad likes to wing it a lot where safety is concerned — he chainsawed his own leg three years ago. There are some interesting sub revelations here that I can see but won’t bother writing down.

Instead of saying anything else damning, I made conciliatory noises about how no one knew anything back then, we’re much more aware of lead these days, etc.

Examining my emotions at the time, I honestly don’t think that I did it out of malice. I didn’t get that stomach-twisting surge of adrenaline and anger that I get when I’m saying something hurtful with intent to wound.  I think I said it mostly because I’ve always had a policy of not lying — especially to my folks. Mom asked me a question, essentially, and I answered her. Honestly. I know that I should have evaded instead of confronting — the BFF says I need to do that more often — but telling the truth is my first response in most situations. Even when it’s not kind, tactful, or constructive.

I feel bad. I feel like there’s a chance I damaged my relationship with my mother (and, if she can’t keep her mouth shut, my dad) quite a bit. There’s also a good chance that my mom will just do that thing she does when she gets information she doesn’t like and simply ignore that the conversation ever happened.

Which is what I’m hoping.

Categories: health, my dad, my mom, philosophy

Drive-by rant

February 25, 2008 3 comments

Why, for the love of little green apples, is it impossible to see a doctor in less than four months? I just called Children’s Hospital (Boston) and was told that they were taking appointments for MAY! MAY! It’s FEBRUARY! Two and a half months. That’s fucking insane.

And we’ve got good insurance. Well, insurance.
What if she has something that will get worse with time? The brain does eventually stop recognizing signals from optic nerves — what if treatment this week would help and treatment in May will be too late? I had a lump in my breast and was told that the soonest mammogram appointment was several months away. WTF?

It wasn’t until I asked if there was anyway, at all, that I could find an earlier appointment, that the guy said “Well, if you’ve got a car, we can give you an appointment tomorrow morning in Waltham. Other than that, the earliest I’ve got is late March in (somewhere really far away that I can’t remember).”

There are so many things wrong with this country. Healthcare is so broken, top to bottom, inside and out, front to back. The insurance, the cost, the insane wait for doctors, the drug companies, everything. I want to gnash my teeth and weep.

Though that might just be PMS.

Categories: health

Bruised, but not broken

February 22, 2008 1 comment

My toe is very likely (based on mobility and pain location) not broken. An X-Ray would be, according to the doc, redundant.

Which is what I expected her to say, but it’s still nice to hear.

Now, however, I’m involved in navigating the Children’s Hospital phone system. See, The Child has developed a lazy eye and we need a pediatric ophthalmologist (and a dictionary to spell ophthalmologist). We noticed it in early Jan., mentioned it to our Pedi, she said wait two months and then, if it hasnt’ cleared up, go to a doc. Well, I managed to wait six weeks but the guilt is eating at me.

Why guilt? Because I’m convinced that it’s my fault.  In November and December I was so exhausted that I just didn’t bother wrestling with The Child to put her hair up. It hung down, in her right eye, mostly on the right side. Which is where her eye is now lazy — it only drifts to the right. Several kind people have pointed out that it’s very unlikely to have been the cause but I think they are being king. If a muscle doesn’t get any use, it atrophies. So if she couldn’t see out of that side, of course the muscle stopped working. Or the brain stopped registering the information from that side.

God, the thought has my stomach in knots.

Also, there’s guilt because it kills me that she has this … ugliness.  She’s so beautiful and so perfect and a lazy eye is so off-putting that I really hate the idea that she’s going to have to live with this deformity and that it might affect the way people look at her. Or have to wear glasses at the age of two. And then I feel guilty for being so shallow.

God I hope they can do something simple to fix this.

Categories: health, motherhood