Let’s Catch Up…

Just thought that I’d catch you up on the goings on in my world in case anyone is interested…

Here in my little 4-unit building we have some new neighbors. It’s only taken the landlords four months to gut and renovate the unit once lived in by controlling (and probably abusive) curmudgeon Sam. I have not met them yet, but I understand they are siblings, 3 of them, although I have only seen 2. I suspect they work a lot as they are young and it seems relatively quiet there so far. Even when they were moving in this past weekend they did so rather unobtrusively so I don’t suspect wild parties will be very common. In an ironic twist, one of them drives an old Jeep Wrangler that reminds me in noise level and looks of my Alison’s old car. Her’s was white, verging on dinged up, dingy gray and this one is black but it has the familiar engine sound, some odd wires or connectors hanging from underneath it and even duct tape helping to hold up one of the rear windows. Seems that aging Jeeps must fall apart in a universal manner.

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I spent a good two weeks with some sort of toxic germs living in my nose and bronchial passages. I really thought that I was going to escape relatively unscathed this season as I had managed to avoid most of the germs my two little angels seemed to be spreading non-stop since September. Somehow though, even obsessive hand washing and bathing in hand sanitizer didn’t help this time. Working was interesting. I screened quite often in semi-dark rooms so that the parents (hopefully) didn’t notice all the snot dripping into my pretty yellow (but not very absorbent) masks. I also feared leaving unsightly snot trails under my nose when the masks came off.

In other work news, I had an interesting weekend there a few days ago. We had a baby born with a number of congenital anomalies, one of which might have involved hearing issues so I was asked to screen the baby right away in the NICU. She passed easily so at least that’s one less issue to deal with although she may still have a rough road ahead.

I had screened my first baby of the day just prior to that NICU baby. Thirty minutes later, standing in the NICU talking with Alex we heard “Code Blue, 3rd Floor, Mother/Baby Unit, Room 340.”  Room 340 was the baby I had just left. Code Blue means respiratory issues… as in not breathing. By the time the nurses wheeled her in and the code team arrived she was pink and crying. Apparently she gagged on a substantial amount of fluid and then began to turn blue.

A few other, non-baby issues came and went and I set out to screen my last baby for the day. I really didn’t need to do that one, but I suspected Sunday was going to be busy so I thought I would try to get one more finished. Mom was exhausted and sleeping, dad was also exhausted but very much needing to be the overly helpful dad that I sometimes run into. I have found an interesting cultural phenomenon with dads from Ukraine and surrounding Eastern European countries. They want to be very hands on when I come to screen, as in having the full intent to actually place my sensors and ear hugs for me. This dad was no exception, but I’ve found that if I give them a very specific task, as in helping to keep baby calm, I can get them to let me do my job.

Anyway, this babies coloring was wide ranging. She would fuss and be nicely pink, then gradually her color would turn. I watched this occur a few times and was just on the verge of stopping my test when she passed. It was pretty clear to me, although dad was unaware, that she wasn’t getting oxygen at an adequate level. I quickly gave dad his paperwork, turned to look at baby who had just been fussy and pink, and saw that she was dusky. This is dusky:

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Needless to say I made a beeline for the nurses who moved quickly to check on her. The next thing I knew she was being wheeled into the NICU. Her oxygen level: 88. I found out on Sunday that she had been transferred to a higher level NICU. She was unable to stay adequately oxygenated even with a CPAP unit. Scary moments for sure and no one wanted to think what the outcome might have been.

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Finally, in totally unrelated news, I have come to the sad realization that (and I don’t really know who said this, or even where I might have heard it) but when you divorce and expect to be relatively free from issues with your ex-spouse it never really works out that way. They are always a presence. They will always (inadvertently or perhaps not) find ways to irritate, anger, annoy and just generally plague your existence.

This could be a long story and this post is already long enough so very short version: There was an issue that arose way back in late September, but that I chose not to write about at the time. It could have been rather devastating and I have been planning and adjusting for the past few months. Of course it involves a financial component. Long story short, after more extended angst and worry, after new sleepless nights, in a rather accidental and unintentional way, I just found out (NOT FROM THE EX-SPOUSE WHO SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE ONE TO TELL ME) that all is just fine, peachy-keen, no problem, no worries, over and done. Apparently the knowledge that the looming crisis was no longer a crisis came to the ex around Thanksgiving. That means that I have had the pleasure of added stress for over 3 months now and was not even afforded the courtesy to be told that the world was good, that I could still plan for uninterrupted income, and that I didn’t have to spend inordinate amounts of time doing silly things like trying to figure out how to stay warm while not using any heat in my apartment.

I will close this post by saying that I added that image of the dusky blue color not only to illustrate that sweet baby girls issues on Saturday, but also to highlight, after learning all the information above, what I pictured the color of my ex-spouses face to be as I throttled the life out of him.

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What Do You Think?

I preface this short post with a confession. I enjoy, as a relaxing and mindless hobby, coloring in those “adult” coloring books that have become popular. I worked my way through most of my collection and recently found a good deal on Amazon that combined three books for a reasonable price. They are all Mandala designs, some very simple, others incredibly intricate.

I knew at least one was being delivered today. Two others were supposed to arrive, but an early morning tracking update told me that there was a delay with those books. Even if all three were arriving today I pictured a simply shrink-wrapped shipping bag, or at the most a small box. I mean, these things truly are coloring book size.

For a point of reference:

My regular adult sized chair, placed by the window, where I tend to sit to color.

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I’m sure you can’t miss the open box that takes up the entire seat of the chair. You can’t see it, but the shipping label says “Amazon.”

The inside of the box when I opened it.

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Hmmm… looks like someone sent me a nicely arranged piece of brown shipping paper.

Oh, but wait…

Look here! A Mandala coloring book!

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That’s one of my books delivered from Amazon in a box big enough to hold 50, 75, maybe even 100. I kid you not. The box is huge and in it one 8×10 book that is roughly 1/2 inch thick.

I don’t know about you all, but I think Amazon deserves the “Smart Packaging Award” for this major faux pas and waste of resources, and I think I will tell them that when I review the product.

Blame It On the Dog

Cece Mae turned two in October. That’s her there sitting on Santa’s lap with big sister Gisella.

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Cece has a strong personality. Cece has perfected the word NO! and the phrase I DON’T WANT TO! Cece clearly understands what we say to her. We know this because she can, when she chooses to, actually converse in long sentences and sometimes even paragraphs. We love Cece, but Cece will look directly at you and do exactly what you just told her not to do.

Cece has started down the long and arduous road of potty training. Her parents are having no more luck than I do, although I think they are resorting to bribery to get her to practice. She loves to read the potty book, but is she impressed enough with the baby in the book tossing aside his diaper, grinning from ear to ear as his proud parents applaud his obvious tinkle, tinkle, toot into the potty? Nope. Is she encouraged by wearing “big girl panties” rather than diapers? Nope.

Today grandma decided that we would be a bit more diligent about the practice. Pants came off, big girl panties came off, and Cece got to run around with a naked bottom to make things that much easier for getting onto the potty. Success? Nope.

Cece and I went downstairs for lunch. She gobbled up her taco salad and it became evident (to grandma anyway) the the squirmy bottom on the chair was feeling a certain urge. Climbing down off of her chair Cece ran off to the other room while grandma tossed dishes into the sink. My intention was to head Miss Cecelia into the potty. It was awfully quiet out in the front room and just as I turned I was sure that I noticed a tiny little naked bottom squatting down near the front window. In my head I uttered “oh crap” and out loud, using my grandma voice I had just started to say, “Cece…what are you…”

“Grandma, dog poop on the floor!”

“Cece Mae! Coco is outside. Did you poop on the floor?”

Entering the other room (which thankfully is not carpeted, I was greeted by both a spreading puddle of pee and also Cece’s “dog poop” gift.

After cleaning up I truly regretted not having taken a picture to send to mom and dad at work although I have no doubt that Cece will give me more opportunities for pictures before she finally accepts that the toilet is the place that big girls go potty.

And that it’s not very polite to blame the dog…

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Perhaps I should subtitle this post Label Me A Nitwit…

You may, or you may not remember a post I wrote about my panic and terror as winter was approaching and I had the displeasure of trying to figure out how to use my baseboard heating system. Even if you don’t remember I’ve decided not to link the post. At this point it’s old news, and with a very recent discovery, I imagine should be completely irrelevant.

Before I reveal my amazing news I just want to assure every one of you that I really, really have tried to make this home as insulated as I could. I invested in my own weatherstripping and put new and thicker material all around my front door. I hung thermal curtains over the existing blinds. I got thick draft blockers for my doors and even my horrid single pane window frames. The non-carpeted floors seem to reflect the chilly outside temperatures. I’ve invested in various rugs and tried to place them strategically.  I have judiciously used my heaters, trying not to turn them on unless necessary. My two front windows get full sun on the days that it makes an appearance. If given the chance, that sun does a nice job of providing warmth during the day.

However, November around here was damp, dark and getting progressively colder. I layered socks. I layered clothing or used sweaters. I ran the heaters only as needed and not at all at night, even in my bedroom. My electric bill, while not extreme, did rise quite a bit between mid October and mid November. Since Thanksgiving it has been getting even colder. I have been feeling a sense of dread looming as the temps at night have been sitting below freezing and I can’t seem to keep these rooms heated.

A few days ago, as the temps dipped lower and my anxiety started growing I even resorted to attempts to keep the heat from the baseboard heaters from traveling right up under the curtains and out through those front windows.

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Yes, that is blue painters tape holding the thermal curtains securely to the wall so that the heat cannot escape. Please don’t judge me. I felt as if I was running out of options.

Then today, as I was crawling around by the front door/dining room doing some crevice cleaning I was being blasted over and over by a persistent draft. Now I’ve stood near my front door since I placed the new weatherstripping. That made a huge difference. The landlord had already placed one of those rubber strips on the bottom of the door, both inside and outside, which also helped to block drafts from under the door. I really thought that the door situation was okay, until today when I crawled up to the door and placed my hand above the rubber strip, and above the metal plate that holds the rubber strip on. A gale force wind was blowing in and it felt like ice.

The rubber on the outside is not as tight as the rubber on the inside, which actually scrapes the floor as the door moves. Cold air was coming under the outside rubber and shooting it’s way up behind the attachment plate and directly into my house negating any heat the baseboards were putting out. Everything suddenly made sense, like why, when I sit on my couch, I always feel a cold draft on my neck. My neck is directly in line with the blasts of frigid air coming under the door.

Lacking the financial, or legal means to 1) place better weatherstripping on this old door, or 2) actually get a new, better door, I used what I had on hand and the results were instantaneous.

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Notice dear readers that you can see the metal sill. You can see the gray rubber tucked nice and tight to the sill. You cannot see the metal band that holds the rubber onto the door. Why? It has now been sealed over with duct tape. Yes, it is tacky to look at but the gap that existed is now covered and that is more important to me than looks at this moment.

How do I know this is the answer? At this moment it is 32 degrees outside. I have one, and only one, baseboard heater turned on to a fairly low setting. My floors are warm. My feet aren’t cold. There is no draft swirling around my neck. My hands are warm. I am WARM with only one damn heater on!

A 4 foot by 1/4 inch gap has been the bane of my existence for the past month and all I needed was a little duct tape and Voila! Eureka! Holy Cow! Life is GOOD!

I will gladly live with some duct tape on my door.

My Patients

I haven’t shared too much about my job here on the blog, but this is a story about my patients.

I can tell you that very often my patients are grumpy, or down right angry. They even cry uncontrollably and unexpected. Most of the time they sleep, right through my prodding them and talking to them. They don’t seem to find it especially important to thank me when I call them beautiful or compliment their long, dark hair and chubby cheeks. They do make interesting faces and most of them have the ability to go from a grimace to an angelic and peaceful repose within seconds.

I know that they wouldn’t want me to share that they burp quite often, or even have a tendency to gag and spit readily. Some just can’t help themselves and fart or poop while I’m with them. Sometimes stuff like that just happens, especially when you aren’t really adjusted to so many changes and hospital rules.

Even though they don’t have much to say I can always tell who is going to be totally bored with my visit, or just as easily the ones who are already wide-eyed and following my every move. I always think that those are the ones I have to watch out for, that those patients will be the ones to purposefully and obstinately refuse to listen. Then they surprise me and I find myself wishing I could spend more time with them as they dismiss me and settle in for sleep.

Some of them try to be helpful. They want so badly to help me detach sensors or ear hugs and it often takes a lot of explaining to them that no, I really do have to tuck their hands back inside their swaddle blankets, but I so very much appreciate all their efforts.

I really can’t tell, even anonymously, any funny or whimsical stories that I hear from my patients. Most of them are just trying to comprehend how their world has turned upside down and why they can’t go back where they came from just hours ago. They’ll have stories for sure, but I won’t be privileged to hear them. I would like to assume that they will be happy and bright and optimistic stories.

Those are the patients that I visit in a quiet room with their loved ones close by.

Some of my patients are alone. I meet them in a large, sometimes noisy, space. Their freedom is tested because they are attached to machines. Many of these patients rarely notice when I stop at their bedside. Of course they hear me remark on their beauty and strength just like all the others. Some will show their displeasure for me with the occasional frown or soft high-pitched cry, but I move forward with my work.

These patients are almost always asleep. If they aren’t they twitch, and appear jittery. I move them about, touch them only as much as is absolutely necessary and watch them startle over and over again. There are some that I come to visit and I have to stop. They tell me that it is too much, too soon and they begin to scream in pain. These are the patients that are telling me their stories over and over and I see at least one every day that I am at work. These are the patients that don’t get to go home wrapped in loving arms at 24 or 36 hours.

These are NAS patients. Rather in severe withdrawal, or on a monitoring hold, these patients were born to mothers who used opiates during pregnancy. Those in withdrawal are given morphine. I work in a small facility. Our NICU can house six patients routinely with overflow for 1-2 more. Very sick babies are transferred to a Level IV facility. Most NAS babies stay with us until they are well enough to go into foster care. Since I began work on September 1st, there has only been one of my shifts without an NAS patient.

The work that I do with most babies is rather routine, and predictable in many ways. However, it will never be routine for me to stand in the doorway of the NICU and see a baby, only hours old, being given another dose of morphine. I could never predict how much an infant can tremble, and twitch and startle, never seeming to find peace and quiet.

I can only wonder what these babies stories will be, what their future will hold. I will not be privileged to hear them. I would like to assume that they will be happy and bright and optimistic stories, because to assume otherwise is too painful.

A Divorce Aftermath Story

It’s coming up on 4 months post divorce. I can honestly say that I have no regrets about my decision to end my marriage. My life continues to be consistent in many ways, with a sprinkling of new challenges tossed in here and there. Some aspects sorted themselves out almost without thought. Others have taken a little bit of time and more energy to accomplish. Not ironically, they all focus to some degree on finances, because in this divorce, that was going to be the major change I had to face.

I remember trying to imagine, during one of many sleepless nights pre-divorce, just how I was going to pay for healthcare coverage. I’d done my homework. I knew, at that time, what coverage costs might be and the range in price was overwhelming. A light began to appear at the end of that dark tunnel when I was told that I could likely get healthcare coverage through the military system thanks to my ex-spouse’s service. I was almost giddy knowing that coverage would only cost me about $25 per month.

On August 3, I applied. This process means that I had to acquire my own individual ID card within the military system prior to even beginning coverage. I waited. Two weeks, then 1 month, then 6 weeks. I reapplied. I waited some more. I had a very compassionate customer service person call me, wondering if I had been given an answer somewhere around the 10 week mark. I believe he went to bat for me once more, sending the information a 3rd time.

This morning, my email, just short of 13 weeks after my initial application, I found out that I don’t qualify for continued coverage. The military has a specific system for determining how and if an ex-spouse might still have benefits. I came up 2 years short of the required number of years.

I wasn’t too surprised really. I had assumed at about 2 months in that a process taking this long couldn’t end in a positive way. In fact, just a few days ago, I actually sat down and begin researching plans and costs for healthcare coverage, being 90% sure that I was going to become one of the masses entering into the health insurance circus.

I found a plan, affordable enough with the tax credit that I will receive, although it is definitely well above the anticipated cost of military coverage. The deductible is high, but most of them are unless you can pay $800 per month for coverage. I am fortunate now. I don’t see a physician often. Routine checkups are the norm and then I go about my life. I will pay the $122 premium each month for preventative care because I want to have a clear picture of where my health is and monitor any issues. The key now is keeping myself healthy.

I will also readily admit that in many ways I had a laissez faire attitude when it came to paying attention to healthcare issues. It was easier… much easier, to assume that those problems wouldn’t be my problems. Sometimes we need a good whack to the side of our head to make us aware that those problems are everyone’s problems – regardless.