Another Line of Defense?

Red Cross

I just got off the phone with my neurologist, who said that besides the fact we know this virus is susceptible to soap (thus the need for constant hand washing), there is also some indication it may be susceptible to heat that exceeds 130 degrees Fahrenheit. So place a towel around your heads, put your head above a bowl of steaming water and inhale through your nose. The theory is that the heat will kill anything that settled into your nasal tract before it can get to your lungs.

I don’t know what the CDC or WHO has to say about this, but it certainly could not hurt, makes sense, and is drug free. I know this will become a part of my daily routine.

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing For The Apocalypse

Virus

No, this isn’t another post about the 2020 elections….

I don’t typically watch or follow the news that much because of the hype and hysteria that accompany most things considered newsworthy, but I made an exception about the Coronavirus, following its spread throughout Asia and Europe before it landed on our shores. Now that is has permeated our borders, I’ve watched its track from west to east, all the while trying not to get upset about this Administration’s lack of preparedness, their spin that minimizes the risk and characterizes it as more fake news and, well, I’m not going to get into that.

In our state, whenever the forecast calls for snow, even if the projected totals are minor, people go nuts and raid the grocery stores, as if a blizzard is coming and we will all be stuck in our homes for an indefinite span. I typically roll my eyes at this kind of freak-out, and have often wondered what would happen if something really  monumental were to occur. Well, these last several days have confirmed what I thought all along. The apocalypse is upon us. How else would you explain that sales of Corona beer have tanked since the outbreak.

Not that I am minimizing the gravity of what is going on, but seriously. It’s not like a nuclear blast is imminent.

I refused to get caught up in the hysteria as I watched confirmed cases of the virus reported in Florida, Maryland, Washington DC and New York. It was a matter of time before something was reported in Connecticut, which finally happened on Friday. Still, I  didn’t take the bait. It wasn’t until yesterday morning when I read that the Governor of New York had declared as state of emergency that I relented.  Assuming that something similar would occur in our state sooner than later, we bit the bullet and decided to stock up as much as  possible in the event there was a run on the grocery stores, or a state of emergency was declared in this state that curtailed our activity.

I hit several drug stores to find that the shelves that typically contained disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers were empty. The same went for rubbing alcohol. Fortunately, I then traveled to our local grocer’s to see if I could at least find the alcohol, which I did, but also discovered a recent shipment of the disinfectant wipes, so I grabbed a half-dozen of those.

My next step was to go to a Stop and Shop the next town over to stock up on non-perishable foodstuffs and as many paper products I could find. Kleenex was plentiful, but toilet paper and paper towels were not. Bleach was missing, not to mention various cleaners and any Purell or Lysol/Clorox wipes. A lot of the shelves that are normally brimming with items like rice, pasta, beans, oatmeal, were picked over.

Then I went to the local meat market to stock up, and even though I got what I wanted, they didn’t have as much I typically see.

So even though I felt a little silly about buying two months worth of product, I think it will turn out to be a smart idea because the situation I described will only get worse as the numbers of reported cases grow.

Our new reality is very strange indeed. As a society, we are used to to seeing a doctor and getting a shot, but there is no vaccine to be had, and won’t be for months. Instant gratification is not an option, so we have to revert to the old fashion way of treating this: isolate and contain. This makes perfect sense, although I have to admit I would be super worried and pissed if I had a parent in a nursing home and was prohibited from seeing them, as is the case in some states.

It’s a brave new world for most of us, so of course the immediate reaction is to overreact. I read this morning that some manufacturers of sanitizers and wipes said no product will be available until May. I also read where the company that distills Tito’s Vodka implored people not to use it for hand-made hand sanitizers because it only has 40% alcohol.  People really are losing their minds over this. What’s next, wearing garlic necklaces?

Yes, this is a serious thing, but it isn’t a death sentence. Less than 2% of the people who contract it succumb from it, and many believe the percentage is much less than that because not everyone has been identified. Elderly folks (defined as over 60 – when did that happen) and anyone with a respiratory condition are the high risk groups, and need to be vigilant. This puts me in the high risk group, which I wasn’t thrilled to learn. My eighty four year old mother-in-law lives with us in the apartment we made downstairs, and she is more vulnerable than me because she has COPD. So we will be careful with and protect her as much as possible, while I try not to be reckless or stupid.

As someone with MS, I’m not overly concerned about my health because the nature of the illness is an overactive auto-immune system that cannibalizes the body. Given the fact that I rarely get a sniffle anymore, I figured that would provide an extra level of protection should I mistakenly come into contact with the virus. But, I am scheduled for an Ocrevus infusion on Friday, and since that is designed to suppress the immune system, I’m wondering if it might be wise to defer it for a bit, and am waiting for a reply from my neurologist. My guess is that he will say to get the infusion, but work from home for a while afterwards just to be safe. I’m good with that.

So here we are, hunkering down with a house full of supplies as if it were the dark of winter with several feet of snow outside, instead of early March with today’s temps sniffing 70. I admit that I’m wondering how wise it is to attend events with large groups of people. I’m supposed to go to a couple of Red Sox games in April, and wonder how much risk I would incurr by travelling on the T (Boston’s subway system) or attending the game.

I think the decision not to go will be made for me because I would not be shocked if health officials ban the public from attending such events. After all, soccer matches in Italy will go on without any fans in the stands for a month. There have already been a handful of college sporting events here in the northeast that went on as scheduled but the public was prohibited from attending. It makes you wonder what will happen to March Madness, or the Tokyo summer olympics.

It also makes you wonder how political candidates really feel about going to campaign events and shaking all those hands. I cetainly wouldn’t be digging it.

It is going to be a wild ride. I just hope that we don’t get to the point where one can’t go anywhere, stores, schools, and restaraunts get shut down, and people’s ability to get everyday products are compromised. I also hope we don’t see price gouging, or, if things were to get really bad, looting.

Guess we’ll find out. Meanwhile, I really need to stop looking what is happening to the stock markets, my investments and 401K. That will make me sick faster than anything else.

 

 

 

The Day Death Was Near

Wave

This is a story about allowing your mind to write checks your body can’t cash.

I don’t think I’ve even shared this with K, primarily because I know what she would say, and I’ve done enough self-flagellation. The long and short of it is that when you have any kind of disability, there are things you know you probably can’t do anymore, and it’s never smart to test that theory. I wasn’t smart one summer afternoon almost four years ago, and my consequence could easily have been tragic.

We were vacationing at Martha’s Vineyard, and Shodan and I were at Lucy Vincent beach while K and her girlfriend were out and about. The surf was rough, as it had been during our entire stay. There is a color coded display as you walk on the beach that describes the water conditions and what they represent in terms of surf, undertow and things of that nature. If the color of the day is red, the beach is closed. If it happens to turn red during the day, lifeguards do their best to get everyone out of the water.

On this particular day, about half-way into our trip, the color on display was one or two levels below the “do not go in” threshold. In fact, it had been that color for our entire stay. I don’t remember the exact color, but you get the point. Any fool could see that the waves were impressive, and the sound they made crashing into the beach was loud. The conditions were perfect for anyone who was into body surfing or had a boogie board. If I remember correctly, there had been a handful of people on surfboards during the previous days.

Shodan had been living in the water and was having a blast. He’d periodically call out to me to join him, but Smart Steve had resisted the call. He had ventured into ankle-deep water on a handful of occasions, and needed the cane to stay upright because the undertow was strong and the waves would occasionally crash on his legs. Smart Steve knew that if he was having a hard time in ankle deep water, going out any further would be a fools errand, particularly when he considered the fact that the tide was high and a handful of very large rocks scattered about the ocean floor, easily visible during low tide, were currently underwater.

But Foolish Steve wanted in. He hadn’t frolicked with his son all week, and knew that once he got out to about chest level, and beyond the crashing waves, the buoyancy of the water would mitigate his symptoms. Once in, he could maneuver around easily in the zero-gravity like environment, bob like a cork on the water, and enjoy the experience. The more he thought about it, the more sense it made, so Foolish Steve plotted his strategy.

Limping back to his blanket, and almost stumbling as his foot caught in the fine sand, he ditched his cane, trudged out to the surf, and waded in. Spying a large oncoming wave, he half-dove half-fell directly into it, and swam out to sea. Feeling his body rise and fall with the incoming surf, he stopped shortly thereafter, when it became obvious he had cleared the worst of the waves. Standing up in neck deep water, he surveyed the scene, saw he was well beyond the danger zone, moved closer to the shore until the water was chest deep, and stood upright.

So there I was, basking in the bright sunlight, enjoying the feel of the cool water on a warm summer day, watching the gulls fly overhead, and the mist of the surf that had crashed upon the beach drift into the cliffs. I could move freely and not feel clumsy, which allowed me to rough-house with Shodan for an extended period of time.

When it became time to return to my blanket, I had to plot an exit strategy. The smartest thing to do would have simply been to have Shodan guide me to the shore, and once it was shallow enough, walk toward the sandy beach with him leading the way, my hands on his shoulders. But, I was feeling my oats, let my bravado overtake common sense, and decided to body surf my way into shore.

This strategy worked temporarily. The first wave didn’t get me very far, so I emerged and tried to stand upright to prepare myself for the next one. I only managed to get one foot planted, and hadn’t yet taken a full breath, when the next wave slammed me from behind, and plunged me into the cauldron.

Since I was off balance to begin with when the wave hit, my feet were nowhere near the ocean floor as I was being rolled around like I was in a washer’s spin cycle. I thrashed around, trying to get my body upright, but not having the use of two good legs was a detriment. I became disoriented, but the bottom of my foot luckily scraped against the ocean floor, and I was able to dig one heel into the sand. To say my adrenaline was pumping is an understatement. That temporarily brought the spin cycle to a stop.

I tried to get both feet planted and lift my torso out of the water so I could take a breath, but another wave crashed and spun me around some more. Somehow, I remain calmed and held my breath. I think subconsciously knew I was close to shore, and that if I could hang in there, something would touch the ocean floor again. I’d be even closer to shore, which might allow me to get on my hands and knees, and at get my head out of the water.

If I had I panicked, I would have inhaled water and, with the boiling ocean tossing me around like a rag doll, drowned less than twenty feet from shore. The problem was that this particular spin cycle lasted longer than the previous one. My lungs were burning, and I realized that if I did not get air soon I’d be in serious trouble.

Fortunately, my back and butt scraped the ocean floor. I instinctively managed to get on my hands and knees, knelt upright, and poked my head out of the water. My eyes, which had been closed tight throughout the ordeal, popped open as I gratefully took a deep breath. I was still a little disoriented, but once things came into focus I could see I was facing out torwards the open sea and was immediately greeted by another wave, which hit me in the face and threw me backwards a few feet. Fortunately, my mouth was closed, and it was shallow enough by that point where I could extend my arms and push myself back onto my knees.

Shodan was in deeper water looking around to see where I was. I wasn’t sure if he had noticed what happened or recognized the trouble I was in, but his eyes locked onto mine and he smiled. I called to him and he free-styled over. When he arrived I placed him in front of me, stood up, placed my hands on his shoulders and had him lead me towards the safety of the beach. As we approached the shore, my legs, which were trembling slightly, could feel the strength of the incoming waves and the force of the undertow. I also noticed that the large rocks I had mentioned earlier were a short distance from where I finally emerged from the angry sea. If I had crashed upon those as I was being tossed around, it would have been game, set, match.

Arriving at our blanket, I sunk into the beach chair and grabbed a towel while Shodan ran back into the water. The gravity of what had just occurred hadn’t fully registered, but I knew that I was very fortunate to be breathing.

Looking back at this, I don’t remember how long I was submerged and helpless. I think it was somewhere between half a minute and a minute, but it felt much longer. The experience was harrowing, to say the least. Had I been able to fill my lungs with air before the first wave hit, the situation might not as felt as desperate, but I didn’t have that luxury. I couldn’t see anything, felt like a tumbleweed in a tornado, and was trying to stay focused so I wouldn’t do something to compound my stupidity, like inhale. Fortunately, I didn’t run out of time.

It’s funny what you think about when confronted with something like that. I remember being embarrassed that I might die on vacation in less than six feet of water, and the scene that would cause. I worried terribly about K, Shodan, my parents, and what this would do to them. I also remember thinking K would want to strangle me if she knew what was going on.

The surf did not subside during the remainder of our stay. Needless to say, other than walking along the beach, I did not step foot in the Atlantic again.

That day taught me are there are certain lines you don’t cross. I already knew that, but did not think of myself as a disabled person. I thought my symptoms might have progressed, because walking was a little harder, my limp was more pronounced, and my balance seemed more tenuous. But my progression was so incrementally slow, I wasn’t sure if this was real or my imagination. But walking in the fluffy sand was much more difficult compared to our visit the previous year. That should have been all the confirmation I needed to understand the progression was real, yet I still ventured out into that tempest. Maybe I though I was bullet-proof. Whatever the reason, it was a foolish, arrogant and reckless act.

I was lucky to survive it.