Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sunday Strke Survival: Living Post Stroke During a Pandemic

For the last several weeks, the world has been in utter chaos due to a microscopic organism. I've watched the news as the death toll rises (mainly in high population areas). It has filled the news cycles. Some of it is sensationalism, but the root cause is not without concern.

I was asked if living post stroke put me in a high risk category? Yes, and no. It depends on what was the cause of the stroke, or in my case strokes. If you have a history of cardiac problems like high blood pressure coupled with diabetes, or if your cardiac problems lead to breathing are in the high risk category. That pretty much covers all ischemic stroke survivors.

For me, I've got an autoimmune disorder having Fibromyalgia, and arthritis to compound my congenital low O2 capacity coupled with asthma (from being born prematurely), heart disease, stroke, and numerous other factors puts me firmly in the high risk category.  I know this so I plant my hinny at home during most of the winter and early spring months.

So having a tri-county lockdown is no real skin off my nose. I'm already in semi isolation mode. Even when I worked in the medical field, I used universal precautions before it was a thing that medical folks had to do. Frequent hand washing was a given. I didn't want to catch everyone else's cooties. If I did manage to catch a bug (viral or bacterial), I'd ultimately carry it home to my spouse and children making it triple whammy hard on me. I just said, "NO, I'm not going to do it." My spouse and children got their pneumovax and flu shots when due in December. The average length of active protection for the flu shot is 3-4 months only. In south GA and FL, we were in tank tops and shorts until almost Christmas each year. But for me, there was no protective shots. I'd have to take care of everyone else too. Yes, I had to sign a release wherever I worked in health care saying if there were an outbreak, I'd be sent home without pay until it was over.

I'm not mysophobic (fear of germs), but I am aware of germs and how easily they are transmitted.

So how do you cope when you are a stroke survivor?
  • Avoid contact with others. They may not know they are infected. They be showing no symptoms yet, but still be able to infect you. Maintain a six-foot distance. Use drive-thrus and pick up services. Many places allow you to call in an order for you to pick up when ready. 
  • Testing has shown that viruses can live on and be passed on inanimate objects if an infected coughs, sneezes, or transmits any bodily fluid on an catch it. Keep this in mind with you order anything for pick up. Wash all fruits and vegetables, bags and cartons brought int your house.  Somebody or many somebodies touched your groceries before you got it.
  • Remember, this includes all clothing worn in public. Make a habit of changing your clothing upon entering your house and putting them directly in the washing machine. Better yet, take a full shower. Line your hampers with a plastic trash bag. It saves you from washing/disinfecting the cloth liner or hamper every week. How many times have you been out in public and someone coughed or sneezed? 
  • As far as food goes, break out a cookbook or go online and find tasty recipes. I'm a huge fan of cook once eat many times. Find about 5-7 recipes that feed a crowd. Divide into meals and freeze or can the rest. I did this and have a month's worth of heat and eat meals. Remember, if you do get sick, having already prepared meals is a godsend. 
  • Have a contact person or persons you can call daily or every coupe of days. being alone isn't as bad if you can talk to someone. Quarantine or stay at home doesn't mean you can't go outside. Feel free to take a walk, but keep in mind the six-foot distance. It might be a good thing to carry disposable gloves with you. Remember, what I said about your clothes.
  • Wash your hands frequently and try not to touch your face. The most frequent virus and bacteria transmittal ports are from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. 
  • I say wash your hands, but I'm talking about any exposed skin from your hands up. If you are wearing long sleeves, washing your hands and wrists are fine, but if you are in short sleeves, it's up to your upper arms.
Most of your bill collectors are living with these precautions also. They don't want anybody's germs too. I received an email from car insurance company forgiving any late payments and not cancelling your insurance for nonpayment while all of this is going on. In fact, many companies have followed suit. Which in my humble opinion, is as it should be in human decency. More than likely, they'd be almost bankrupt if they cancelled everybody's services. Not to mention the bad press they'd receive. With so much of the country out of work until possibly Easter or longer, it only makes sense. But even so, this does not effect me, my checks are direct deposited and are government (State and Federal in nature) issued. I'm able to pay my bills (online) while so many do not have this luxury. I have the assurance that these checks will keep on coming. I won't lose anything like my job...I'm disabled retired.

In this time of panicked buying causing shortages, I had the foresight to buy "on sale" and with coupons to stock up on everything except for a few essentials. I brought in bulk what I could when I could. If that's not you, then you join the ranks of trying to get unavailable items or limited supply (rationing). I'm sorry for you. In a couple of weeks this time will be all over with. You can start fresh and prepare for next time and there will be an again, as my Momma used to say. For decades I prepared for hurricanes. I just got in the habit of stockpiling a month of more in advance just in case the SHTF scenarios. SHTF can be personal (only affecting you and yours) or global.

This is why I wrote, "Are You a Survivalist or a Prepper?" back in 2012. It is a how to prepare for short and long term SHTF scenarios like now. I even offered it for free to a number of individuals and groups. No, I'm not trying to sell you the book. I only use it as an example. For us, the SHTF back in May and my stores have carried us through since then. The garden failing last year, is the reason my cupboard is almost bare now. I'm semi concerned if this goes on or worsens over the next month. I'll continue to be concerned until the garden produces this year.

Y'all have a blessed and safe day!
Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday Stroke Survival: Thankful We Are Homesteaders!

This is a repost of the 3/15/20 (with current changes)Cockeyed Homestead Blog
With the viruses going around, we are thankful that we are homesteaders! We live a semi, self imposed, isolationist lifestyle. Our outside contact is limited.
  • We grow most of our own food.
  • We have food staples and other essentials stored (some for a year's worth), 
  • I know how to make things from scratch, 
  • We know how to do without and make do. 

These are major pluses in today's climate. We've had two reported cases of the COVID-19, Corona virus, in Atlanta.
Now, we're 62 miles, 1 1/2 hours, from Atlanta, but there are commuter that live here and work in Atlanta so possibility of  exposure is greater for us than say other normal, rural communities.That in itself is a plus and minus of living here. Which explains the first two of five cases here. That's 2% of our population base which isn't that bad considering other places, but bad enough. The runs n the grocery stores (2) have been pretty bad with a lot of empty shelves due to panic buying and hoarding as with other places. Even Walmart has "out of stock" or "limit 2" on many grocery items.

COVID-19 has already proved deadly to the elderly and immune-compromised folks. Put simply it's a very bad cold with a heavy respiratory factor. This virus is pneumonia based illness versus a flu that is not one of the 30 viruses covered by the pneumovax shot out of the 300 plus viruses that can cause pneumonia. This is putting aside all the media and political gain hype. Keep in mind that more people are currently dying from the flu, but this virsus is highly contagious.

When I think our today's "normal" society, it's just plain scary. Youngens today (by youngens, I mean most people under 50), just have no idea  how to do any of this. The idea of being quarantined for two weeks, a month, or the even three months it'll take for this virus to burn itself out terrifies them, but not us. They are too used to an instant lifestyle. If they are hungry, it's a quick trip to Mickey D's, or some other restaurant, or a grocery store. If they are sick, a quick trip to the doctor or hospital, and the pharmacy makes them better. I could go on and on. They just haven't taken the time to learn alternatives or thought preppers were nuts. They felt like they didn't need to have the knowledge or prepare for shortages. "This is the USA, for god-sake, not some third world country. This is the land of plenty."These folks are thinking differently now.

Me, I spent the time with my elders and learned my whole life from their experiences. Part as a sign of respect and part as a thirst for knowledge of self preservation. I learned and took time to practice the skills they taught me long before I was a homesteader. Why? I dunno. I'm just wired that way. I'm the Queen of Abby Normal. I was prepped for disaster preparedness by living in countries where shortages were the norm and family members told stories of shortages (The Great Depression, and WWII Japan and Germany). I passed that knowledge on to loved ones and those that want to learn too. I'm thankful I listened every single day especially now.

Prevention for ALL illnesses
Prevention for most communicable illnesses are common sense and homesteading at  it's best.
  • Frequent hand washing is the key. As a homesteader, when aren't you washing your hands? We are constantly touching animals, getting into messes of one sort or other, and cooking/preserving. We are constantly washing our hands even without outside contact. 
  • For females, the most common reason we touch our face (eyes, nose and mouth) is our hair or fooling with makeup. We, as homesteaders, either pull our hair back with into a pony tail or with a head band, scarf, or a hat, or cut short.  Nothing is as aggravating as trying to do something and having your hair in your face. Am I right? Chickens don't care what we look like so long as we feed 'em. Gertie Hen isn't saying to Blackie Hen, "Did you see her today? What a mess!" If they did, would you care what the chickens thought?
  • Avoid contact with others who are possibly infected. Our nearest neighbor is 1/4 mile away. Even sneezes don't travel that far.
  • Any snot rags that aren't disposable are laundered. Germs don't like  hot water, soap, and bright sunshine.The disposables are tossed into to wood stove to be burned. For us, it's mostly allergies. Everything is coming into bloom right now and pollinating. But, we still have precautions in place. It's common sense, right?
  • When we go out, we wash our hands and change our clothes when we get home. Who wants to wear their "good" clothes out to tend their gardens, cooking, or livestock? Or, bring outside illnesses in to our livestock? Not us.
As homesteaders, we know how to do without and how to ration what we have. We know how to make almost everything from scratch or will substitute aterbatives, and with a few basic ingredients, make whatever we need. We don't have to run to the market or store. Even old sheets,especially flannel ones, is an alternative to toilet paper and tissues.  Just last Wednesday, I was talking more about recycling, repurposing, and reselling trash items.

So the items we make for resale may not be sold at the local farmer's market this year to limit exposure because of this or that "epidemic," it's recycled trash. It will keep until the following year, or for selling on an etsy or ebay shop via the internet. That's the thing about trash, there will be more easily generated.Once cleaned and made, it can be stored.

So yes, we're thankful for being homesteaders! It might be more difficult living post stroke being a homesteader, but right now I'm very thankful.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sunday Stroke Survival: A Week Later

I'm finding the week following my procedure is getting better. The one thing I didn't mention last week was cervical spinal block. As soon as he injected the medicine, I knew something was off. My whole arm went numb and I lost my grip. Keep in mind this is my only functioning arm. Fears that I might have suffered a stroke entered my mind. I kept asking if this was normal. I was reassured that it was possible that he may have nicked the brachial branch when he administered the drugs. Only partially relieved they continued on with the surgery. The anesthesiologist kept checking the reflexes in my left hand. Even though he responded good, I knew it wasn't. I could barely move my fingers.

The nerve block catheter was removed and I slowly got use of my fingers back. Whew!The blockages of 90 or greater were reduced to 20%. So surgically, it was deemed a success. After coming home, I had great difficulty lying flat on my bed. For only three internal stitches, they pulled unmercifully. I ended up sleeping in front of my computer.

The next day, I pulled the bandage away from my neck to discover a huge bruise where they gave me the nerve block at the base of the skull below the ear. The pain wasn't coming from the sutures at all. It helped to have the bandage off, but what helped even more was the cold soda can I placed on it directly. The super glued incision gave me no worries. I found without the bandage, I could lay flat on my bed with no pain.

Monday, I removed the pressure dressing from my thigh/groin. What surprised me was that my affected leg/groin area hurt worse than the venipuncture site. I've never looked so forward to a shower in my whole life. It was wonderful to have hot water course over my sore muscles. I sat on my shower chair and let it knead my neck and shoulder muscles. When all the water turned cold, I waited for the water heater to do its job and took a second shower. I may have looked like a drown rat, but I felt wonderful!

I'm still horribly bruised from all the attempted IV starts. My poor left hand, wrist, forearm, and bicep is one massive bruise from the six attempts. From my left ear to mid collar bone is bruised and from my belly button down my left leg to the knee is also bruised. It's not like I'm on blood thinners and was shot up with multiple heparin flushes or anything like that (yeah, right. All of the above). But it's a small price to pay considering the alternative.
Remember all those clots and plaque that the filter caught?

In another week or so, the bruises will be gone and this will be another incident when I side stepped death. I'm still here so my job's not finished yet. It ain't over til the fat lady sings. I gave up singing for Lent.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Sunday Stroke Survival: Gone Under the Knife Again

On Friday, I was scheduled for my TCAR procedure. SIGH! So much for staying out of the hospital in 2020. It just couldn't be scheduled any sooner. At least it was only an overnight hospital stay. Seeing how they catheterized two major (carotid and femoral) arteries, they wanted to be sure the bleeding was stopped before releasing me. I really couldn't begrudge them for being cautious. I would be dead in under an hour if one of the internal closing sutures gave way.

With as much heparin (heavy duty blood thinner) that was given during the procedure, my clotting factor was similar to a hemophiliac, or nonexistent. I tolerated the weight on my right thigh/groin well. It was no different than one of my numerous heart caths in the past. What bothered me was the weight they placed on my left clavicle. Having torn that ligament and had torn my rotator cuff in the past... 2012 and 2013 respectively. Both tears had been immobilized and allowed to heal naturally so no surgically intervention took place to repair these tendons. Just how poorly they healed, was directly proportional to the added weight and pain level increases I felt.

Silk Road Medical
Never heard of a TCAR? Neither had I. It was first performed in 2018 so it's relatively new. But it reduces the risk of stroke and other complications to almost nil versus the old cut down, open endarterectomy and the healing time is much quicker.  Currently, TCAR is only offered to patients who have increased risk factors against an endarterectomy, such as me whose heart stops under general anesthetic, history of strokes, and other heart issues. In this case, being the queen of Abby Normal worked for me rather than against me.

In my pre-op discussion with my vascular surgeon, I asked if I could be shown
Filter contents blood clots and plaque
what the filter caught. I was shocked when I saw the strokes that had been circumvented by doing the TCAR. Each one of red dots showing in the left picture was a possible stroke stopped by the filter attachment. Talk about relief! Since I could not move to see it, my surgeon took a picture of it with his phone or actually a tech did it for him to show me. My surgeon had seemed shocked that I'd asked him, but complied. I was only given relaxation drugs for the procedure so I was awake during it. It's not a choice normal people would ask to see, but as I've already said, "I ain't normal!" I have an innate curiosity about the human body especially when my body is trying to kill me.

I'm still moving a bit stiffly. I'm bruised from my belly button to my knee on the right side. Which is my normal reaction to heart characterizations and from left ear to mid chest line on the left side. Which I'm assuming is normal for this type of procedure or so I've read. No fever and no other side effects that they told me to expect. So I guess I came through with flying colors. I do know that some of my brain's fogginess has cleared. I actually have more energy than before the procedure. The vertigo and headaches I had have lessened. I'm gathering that they mostly been caused by the blockages. Now, I just have to heal my bruises and the stitches to achieve a new normalcy. It couldn't come at a more opportune time. Spring planting is just around the corner.

Nothing is impossible.