Setbacks: The Wages of Ageing
What a difference a week makes. At the close of last week’s diatribe, we were optimistically hopeful that our personal lives would be isolated from the collective madness sweeping the world and that the physical issues would soon resolve so we could go on with our modified adventuring. And, it looked so: I was told by my doctor that no new tests were warranted, and the chiropractic session went well, I began to walk farther, with only one hand on the cane, and even tried sleeping in a bed, though the chair worked better, yet.
After a short venture from home on Wednesday, I was emboldened to accompany Judy on a longer walk on Thursday, a nearly 3 km loop, leaving me with more of a limp by the time we shuffled up the hill to our bungalow on the first bench up the hill known as Angleside, not for the steep grades, but for the developer, Grant Angle, founder of the Mason County Journal and the Angle Insurance Agency, in the 1890s.
We decided to get a bigger table for the porch, so we could enjoy outdoor visits with family in the summer. We found a sturdy office break room round table at Habitat Restore, which was perfect, and only $20. We wedged it into the truck on top of the bed and against the bicycle, and went home. Unpacking, maneuvering around the cars, and up the sidewalk went well, until the second step up to the porch…
Now, I’ve touched 120 volts 60 Hz AC, a strong reminder to not grab there; I’ve taken 450 volts DC, which blew me across the room and against the wall, and left a tiny burn on my finger. But, this was like stepping on a 440-volt 400 Hz AC main line: a twist and pull with weight on the right leg pinched my sciatic nerve hard, sending a jolt from hip to toes, and the pain didn’t stop. My “broken leg” sensations intensified.
Judy managed to get the table the rest of the way up the stair by rolling it end over end, and I ended up with a fitful and sleepless night in my chair. Exhausted by morning, I took one of the left-over opioids from the emergency room visit and slept for an hour or so in bed, waking with excruciating pain. After consulting with the call-in line at Kaiser, we headed for the Urgent Care in Olympia. Walking gave out 10 meters from the entrance, so Judy commandeered a wheelchair to get me into the building and down the hall. The pain subsided long enough to get processed in and interviewed, with minimal hands-on exam. The doctor prescribed a bit stronger anti-inflammatory, Aleve (naproxen sodium), the nurse gave an injection of Toradol, a strong anti-inflammatory only administered in medical facilities, and I went home, still in pain, wheeled out to the car.
By the time we got home, I couldn’t walk, even with the cane in both hands. Judy brought a chair down to the end of the sidewalk, and I bumped a few inches at a time, holding the chair, to the stair, then scooted up on my backside, then pulled myself into the house with the help of a chain of dining room chairs for support.
By 1:00 am on Saturday, I was writhing in pain on the floor. Kaiser 24-hour hot line advised returning to the Urgent Care, which we did, first thing in the morning: Judy pushed me to the end of the sidewalk in an office chair, and dropped me off at the clinic door, returning with a wheel chair. After announcing I was returning for pain management, I was quickly ushered in and finally given a fairly thorough examination, which more or less identified the locus of the impingement (not in my spine, thank goodness), assurance that most, if not all, the pain was referred and not due to any physical trauma, even if it had felt for three weeks like I had a broken leg. I was given an injection of a powerful painkiller, again, hospital use only, and a prescription for a cocktail of heavy-duty anti-inflammatories and non-narcotic and narcotic pain blockers, with a month-long schedule for building up and tapering down dosages of each, with narcotic use to be at a minimum, for as short a time as possible.
On the way home, we picked up a walker I had spotted at the thrift shop on our Thursday walk, for $30, a bargain for a $100 piece of durable medical equipment, and it was the perfect size and in fair condition (sticky brake cable). That walker has been my transportation in the week since, no doubt speeding recovery and contributing to comfort: bathroom trips no longer end in agony by the time I get back to my chair prison. But the carefully metered massive drug doses do, as the Huey Lewis song goes, “Make me feel nine feet tall, … make me crash my car.” As if I could actually make it to the car without collapsing. Ditching the opioids after four days led to two days of erratic sleeping, munchies, uncharacteristic thirst, and generally feeling like an indigent addict sleeping on the street. I did manage to help in the kitchen a little bit by Wednesday, thanks to the walker.
So, it looks like we’re in this for the long haul, taking care of each other through better or worse, and accepting that convalescence from the rigors of life may take more time and not come back 100%. I’ve managed to cob together, with Judy’s help to scrounge through my pack-rat collection of wood scraps, a makeshift lap desk to make computing from the recliner comfortable, and we’ve temporarily at least removed rugs and runners to make wheeled traffic easier. Our plan to stay in prime health and maintain fight or flight agility through regular exercise is, for the next few weeks, and maybe beyond, on hold, and our contact list grows with every mask-to-face and mask-to-mask encounter in medical facilities.
The Wider View
As the quarantine restrictions are lifted and others imposed–and opposed, by many of our fellow Mason County citizens–venturing out becomes a scary proposition., We wear our masks and continue to limit contact and shopping, but so many visits to medical facilities is problematic, as well as requiring some preliminary phone or on-line triage in the first place to get admitted. Our chiropractor relies on temperature checks to avoid exposure, but we still wear masks when treated, though many others in the waiting room, along with staff, do not.
There seems to be several different approaches to the pandemic, dividing the population into three incompatible groups:
1. Maintain mask protocols, cleaning, and social distancing rigorously to avoid contracting the virus until an effective antiviral or vaccine is readily available and effective.
2. Monitor temperatures, and isolate if possibly infected, notify contacts to check themselves also, to limit spread by only isolating known cases and their contacts. If you get sick, you will either get better or die. A vaccine or cure is too uncertain to stop the world and wait.
3. Fake News! Open the economy. If people get the virus and die, it’s better than if more people starve because there’s no work and no government relief, which they wouldn’t condone because that’s Socialism and they’d rather die than live in a Socialist country or pay taxes to help their less-fortunate neighbor get through a crisis, to keep the community together. If an elected official of the opposite political party directs an action, resist it, no matter what the consequences.
So it goes. The Second Civil War gathers momentum, but, instead of subtitled the War of Northern Aggression, this time it will be the War of Intolerable Liberalism. Racism is fighting back against the Black Lives Matter movement. Police racially-based violence is being augmented by lynchings and random attacks by white supremacists. This is finally their time, after all the shouting, gun collecting, and rallying that has been ignored by the government and even embraced by the current administration, which is no longer a democratic institution, but a textbook model of an organized crime family. As the country visibly crumbles, and isolation intensifies, former allies are shunning us, and our rivals, military and economic, consolidate power and undermine from without.
The only hope is that the environment will heal itself despite ignorance, if the inevitable significant population reduction lowers carbon emissions. Unfortunately, the ones with the guns are the ones who want to increase carbon release. But, they are also the ones without face masks, so nature holds the scales. As noted by Jared Diamond in his book of the same name, “Guns, Germs, and Steel” will determine, as subtitled, “The Fates of Human Societies.”