Sunday 21 February 2021

Hearts, Vaccines and Other Things

I was going to send out a cheerful Valentine's Day message a week ago to everyone who is alone like me because there are more dimensions to love than simply having someone special in your life to share the ups and downs with and who makes your heart happy. But like so many other things the past eleven months, I've been a day late and a dollar short when it comes to most everything. I used to send out a pile of greeting cards to family and close friends each time a special day rolled around: Valentines, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Mother and Father's day, birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. But when we were basically told to stay home, I did just that. And with no cards on hand like the ones I always purchased at the dollar stores, I resorted to texting like most everyone else. It was efficient and got my message across, but like a few of us who remember the days before cell phones, it made me feel bad. Opening something personal with a bright, cheerful message is a welcome change from all the junk mail and bills.

All seemed to be going well until five days before Halloween when I realized that I hadn't sent a card with something special inside to my grandson. I hurried to the store to get one, knowing that it would never reach him in time. I felt just awful but took it right to the post office and then sent a text to my daughter telling her it was on the way. (She seldom answers her phone which is incredibly annoying to me.) My granddaughter lives close enough that I'm always able to do things for her, even if it is at the last minute. But when the same thing happened at Thanksgiving, I realized I had a problem so I stared making lists again and managed to make it through Christmas without another relapse.

When the new year rolled around, I figured I had it under control since I got the cards and texts out on schedule, but not writing my planned post simply flew right over my head. However, I do have a semi-reasonable excuse for not writing anything like planned. I was fixated on getting my first Covid vaccine on the eleventh of February at a place I had never been where the heath department could administer numerous doses at the same time. Trying to decide if I really wanted to have something put into my body that hadn't been DEA approved or even fully tested was a struggle. I've never wanted to be part of trail study for anything, always figuring I had enough health issues to deal with.

But after a lot of prayer and thoughtful conversations with other people, I decided to take the plunge. I suppose being older, having congestive heart failure and diabetes helped convince me that taking the proverbial risk might not be such a bad idea, but I still hadn't made up my mind completely when I arrived at the indoor arena and was told to pull into a certain parking space. I was greeted pleasantly enough by a man and a woman who seemed to know what they were doing. But as they asked me certain questions, explained side effects and that I wouldn't be able to get my allergy shots until two weeks after the process was complete, I started to panic. My heart began to race and I felt like I was going to pass out. The young man with the needle in his hand told me I wasn't required to get it yet and if I had any serious reservations I could leave and come back at another time. But the fact that I might not be able to get on a plane so I could see family and friends within the next few months without having the documentation made me tell him okay. 

I sat outside in the parking lot for the allotted time waiting for my anxiety to lessen. But while I was trying to check out the news on my phone, several people from the National Guard came to my car to tell me that the paramedics in the ambulance wanted see me. They said it wasn't an emergency but  encouraged me to visit with them anyway. So I drove to where they were and got out of my car.  In reality, they hadn't ask to see me at all. Someone from inside the arena had radioed the outside monitors that I was scared so they wanted to make sure they wouldn't have to deal with some real, or imagined, medical emergency. I was mortified for feeling like such a baby. 

I can't say that the next one will be any better since I've heard that the side effects can be much worse. I ended up with a sore arm and one day with a headache and a very upset stomach. But I will try to act a little more mature when I get the second dose. I'm sorry to say that when my sister wanted to know how it had gone, I had to fight back the tears as I tried to explain how hard it is to always be alone when difficult decisions have to be made. Life would be so much easier if I knew there was someone around who cared and who would be there to help if I ever ran into trouble. My sweet sister tries to be understanding when I have one of my moments, but she's been married for 48 years and has never even had to work outside the home. That makes many of our life experiences very different.

On a slightly different note, two days before I had my none-to-desirable experience, I got a call from my older sister who had just been admitted to the hospital. She has spent the last 25 years with anorexia and occasional bouts of bulimia if she can't get thin enough. She's almost 74, exercises 70 or more minutes a day, eats barely enough to make it to the next meal, shakes all the time and insists that being 20 to 30 pounds under the lowest weight in her height category will keep her cancer from returning or ever getting really sick. She was totally shocked when the doctor told her she had congestive heart failure and the bottom half of her heart was seriously damaged. She claims he doesn't know what caused it and maintains that it's a side effect from having radiation treatments 17 years ago because her arteries are clear. 

While I have to indulge her fantasies because she's not going to change, it makes me sad. Life is hard enough when we have to face the outcomes from some of our choices and behaviors, but denial is never the best practice. I want her to take care of herself so she can live to be 90 plus like she desires, but she's already cutting out more calories so she won't gain any weight while she can't exercise as hard. 

I suppose the one positive from both of these experiences is deciding that I really need to take better care of myself while I can. None of us know what tomorrow might bring, and each moment we've been given to live is a blessing and a gift. That's why I'm going to see a cardiologist as soon as I can get an appointment. I thought I had everything covered with the family doctor I was seeing who also gives my allergy shots. But I found out when asking his nurse for a referral that he wasn't even aware that I had congestive heart failure. Apparently, the records that were sent from my previous doctor in Missouri went to the record's department rather than his office and sat there for five years. That certainly answered my questions as to why he never seemed overly concerned when I told him how I was feeling when I went in for my semi-annual visits. 

I guess the bottomline is that we can only count on ourselves when getting the kind of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual help we need. People who claim to have answers and even professionals in any given field can make mistakes, and if we're not careful we can end up a victim of something that could be avoided.

Since it's after 5:30, I guess it's time for me to eat some of my homemade vegetable, bean soup. It's really good, but I always have to have a little treat afterwards. I guess that comes from growing up on a farm where we were always so physically active there was no need to worry about calorie intake. My how times have changed!

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