Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Back. Sort of. Bleah. Breathe deeply, now.

That's right, almost a whole month since a post. And I'm still drained from the holidays. For Christmas, I got a book on Picasso and a pasta machine attachment for the behemoth KitchenAid professional stand mixer. So I rang in the new, but not without simultaneously ringing OUT the old--my back.

At first it didn't seem so bad. And I could not imagine what I had done. All the decorations had been up for weeks; there had been no reaching, twisting, or other untoward positioning. I'd slept funny? I'd spent too much continuous time non-ergonomically computing? (That's almost certainly it. But for some reason the coffee table--not any one of the other three tables in the immediate vicinity--is the only place from which my wireless laptop connection is happy. So I keep doing the wrong thing, and pay.)

I hate when my back goes out. It didn't even ask permission, just abruptly and rudely left, and stayed gone for 15 whole days before I was able to get around without limping and wincing and moaning. During those days, I lived like an ugly, spreading fungus on the sofa during the day, propped up by a hot water bottle or a lame heating pad. Nights, which I did manage to spend in the comfy futon bed, were all right provided that I did not move at all. I accomplished nearly nothing in the house. The kids, home for the holidays, trashed the house all around me to a new championship level every day, but I did not bend over to pick up anything. The dishes accumulated, and I just had to look at it all and sigh ruefully.

Last Thursday I woke up and felt almost human. I could get out of bed without the aid of a crane and without standing tentatively with my hands on the walls to guide me to the bathroom. And, miraculously, I could clean myself up without agony. And then the unthinkable, unfair, but certainly not unprecedented happened: I launched into bronchitis and a major asthma attack. NNNNOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Just when my back was beginning to cooperate!

Back to my buddy, the nebulizer. But the medication wasn't working as it usually did. I was in a full-blown episode. So by 10:00 Friday morning I knew it was time to go to the doctor. But I had overshot it a bit. My car played a convenient little trick on me when I was leaving (late, since I couldn't move quickly) for the appointment. It didn't want to start! I tried it about 10 times, and true to form it finally started. Whew; close one.

I was barely able to drive and had to take rests every few feet of walking. They now had a nebulizer in the office (which they never used to, so I had actually brought my own), but the girl had never run one and I had to waste my precious breath showing her how to administer it! Not only that, but they kept wanting to make me take stupid, exhausting peak flow readings.

Imagine that this is your last breath in the world (and it truly does feel as if it might well be, and indeed it really might well be), and some dumb insensitive nurse says, "Here, just blow into this reallllllllly hard!" And you blow in and nearly faint, and then she says, "Oh, sorry, I forgot to set it, you'll have to do it again. Two more times!" She made me blow THREE times! And then she told the girl that after the nebulizer I should do the peak flow again right away. But then I just had to refuse; I couldn't even talk at all anymore, I just wouldn't comply for another 20 minutes. The nebulizer did almost nothing: took me from the pathetic low of 225 to the pathetic high of 250. And the nurse misread it as 275, a complete lie, which is still dangerous. But for some reason they all thought they had done an adequate job. (Hellooooo!! Grade F!) And they made me leave without another treatment!

Then I had to wait in the Bloomfield CVS pharmacy for about a year and a half. It turned out that insurance refused the antibiotic the doctor had prescribed, and the pharmacist had to call her for authorization of a reasonable substitution, but she wasn't available, and we had to wait for her to call back. As I sat there, I couldn't decide what to do. On the one hand, I was sitting, and in a safe place, and able to rest. That was good. On the other hand, if I could get my prescriptions faster, I could take them right there right away (I had bought a bottle of water for that purpose). Finally my watch said it was almost 4:00, the hour when I knew the kids, all the way back in our little town, would be coming home, without keys, and to no one. I had used up my entire window of mom-freedom opportunity. For the first time, I was thankful for Friday rehearsals keeping one of them late. But I told the pharmacist I had to to leave right then with whatever was ready and would send someone else back to get the missing item later.

Walking out of the store and back to the car, even though it was parked immediately outside the door, was no day at the fun park. When I got in the car, I just slumped against the wheel. I gobbled the drugs and noticed people waiting in adjacent cars, wondering what they thought was my problem, but I really didn't care. Go ahead, old lady, think I'm a deranged addict.

Of course when I got home, the car didn't want to go up the hill driveway. And, as always in the winter, the garage door wouldn't open. I would have to stop directly outside the garage door, then get out and try to lift it. All it needs is a tiny shove to get going; it doesn't require a complete lift. But you don't understand how extreme such a tiny exertion can be for someone in an acute asthma attack. For the first time ever, the door went up only a foot, and then stuck. I couldn't budge it. I went back and collapsed into the car seat, nearly fainting. There was no way to get into the garage, and without going through the garage, there was no way to get into the house. I was certainly utterly unable to climb up the outer stairway.

Then I noticed something unusual about the other garage door. A while ago, G was swinging a broom handle inside the garage when he broke one of the glass panes in the door. I got a replacement pane, but when Honey put it in, Honey cracked part of the replacement, too. But he had left it that way and didn't fix the replacement. There was no mistaking that the broken pane was now suddenly broken in a different way. I saw shattered glass on the driveway. This could mean only one of two things: 1) A burglar had broken the window to reach through and operate the garage door opener. Oh, great. That would be just great! Headline: Near-dead woman comes back home to die, only to find burglar in house; or 2) G had not stayed for rehearsal, but had had to break into the garage in order to eventually weasel his way into the house.

Well, I wasn't happy about the window, but realized it meant someone might be home who could help me! Thank God for car horns. G came out and took my things into the house. But it turned out I just couldn't get out of the car after I brought it into the garage. So I honked again (the horn! It's the greatest invention! I love you, horn inventor!) and had G bring my nebulizer back out. I instructed him to take the huge, long heavy-duty extension cord that we use for tools, plug it in to the outlet by the washer, plug the nebulizer into it, and drag the cord and nebulizer out where I could reach. I still had a spare nebule of medicine in my pocket. So I sat there in the garage and gave myself another treatment.

Typically, the kids completely forgot about their mother dying in the garage. Who cares? They had TV, earphones, a piano, and cereal and milk. Who needs a Mom?

Twenty minutes later, I maneuvered from the car to the house door. I sat on the bottom step. Two flights to go, but I certainly wasn't going to walk up them. How, then? I bumped myself butt-first up the steps one at a time, resting in between each exertion. Getting to the top of the stairs into the family room took me a full 15 minutes, but finally I was there. Next, it was the five or six paces from the stairs to the sofa. Then I'd be home free. If I could just sit immobile for the next twelve hours or so, the meds might kick in.

That was Friday, this is Tuesday, and the meds have kicked in. Slowly. And yesterday a mountain of dishes, laundry, and other cleaning got done. But that's why I haven't been here. For my two fiascos, I had hell to pay and am still paying (most of the holiday decorations are still up! My God, it's January 17th and the decorations are still up! The frigging tree is still up! My mother would kill me; propriety dictates that it all starts coming down January 2 or you're trailer trash.)

No Mom's legitimate illness ever goes unpunished.