AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story details the beginnings of my aspiration pneumonia, which is written about HERE when I was diagnosed with it. I didn't know what pneumonia was prior to the hospital. I've had bronchitis before, and I felt this was just chest crud turned into bad bronchitis. WRONG! When in doubt, see a doctor ASAP!
See also THIS and THIS for more of my return to the hospital for hypoxia (after aspiration pneumonia) and more about aspiration pneumonia.
Eleven days ago, my wife and I left the world of Pennsylvania behind and headed for New Orleans, where it is possible to pray to the God of Candles and Michael J. Fox at the same time for salvation.
I couldn’t make this up (hence the photo).
Despite the fact that the life waiting for us, primarily my search for a second job, was in front of us, it was an amazing trip. I ranked it number one of our trips, though my wife put Mexico and Jamaica in front of it because she’s a water person, and let’s be honest, despite seeing gators, nutria rats, blue herons, egrets, and Virginia rails in the Cyprus swamps and taking a steamboat on the Mississippi, it’s just not the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean.
In fact, there are 3 rules in NOLA and one of them concerns all things aquatic. 1) Consider everyone drunk. 2) That’s not water in the puddle. 3) Consider everyone drunk.
All the same, NOLA is amazing.
When it comes to my decision, I put my time in NOLA out front of the islands for feeling perfectly isolated from all of my negativity, which is in itself amazing, and the enjoyment we felt in the French Quarter, the Plantations, the Garden District, the graveyards, and the city proper. Simply put, from Mardis Gras costumes and float builders’ crafts to creole food and music on every corner, it was a great time. I will say parking is “hella” expensive (as the kids would say), but if you prepare, you can mortgage your house in advance or sell a kidney to travel cheaply. BTW, Parkies, if you’re going to travel, consider this advice from "he of the candle."
I won’t elaborate on the trip just yet, because that’s a post for later, but I will say that in hindsight my favorite moment was sitting in a Willie’s Chicken shack, eating Southern style fried chicken, and M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” came on the stereo. As 2 40-something people, we were there, in Simpatico, singing the lyrics and making the noises (cash register and gun sounds - MIA isn't singing "I Got You Babe") in unison. It was that feeling of being in synch with one another, enjoying everything in spite of the difficulty waiting for us when we came home. It’s like when my wife sings Christmas songs with my amended lyrics (“Walking in a winter wonderland with Pookie!”) and doesn’t think about it. Becoming one in a relationship doesn’t just happen. It takes time.
As the weather and travel gods were shining on us before we got home, almost everything was a breeze. Sure, our hotel wasn’t perty, and it got completely cold at 2:30AM after being a sauna at midnight, but at least that didn’t seem to be ghost induced (I did look up murders when I got back – just in case – after all, they say ghosts make a room cold and this was happening every night). This small comfort was just “odd,” unlike not giving towels that wrap around a body or offering extra pillows.
Thinking about it now, perhaps, I inherited a spirit or inhuman entity at St. Louis Cemetery #1, Lafayette Cemetery, or Metairie Cemetery. Fortunately, there are no scratches on me since leaving town (and I know that one is my fault – future blog post this week). Nevertheless, despite that problem, we got free upgrades in our seats (row 2! Wide seats and quick exit) and we breezed through car return and luggage to head out to a hot lobby in the airport for a couple hours. Life was relatively good save the start-up business hipsters talking Forbes lingo, but we can’t have everything, can we?
So there we were, set to return home as we stood up at our seats, and all of a sudden THWACK!
I had just been whacked by some dude who looked like Snoop Dogg swinging an expensive purse roundhouse style as he rushed the exit and proceeded to whack other people. This too is real, my friends. Baltimore Airport is apparently where it’s at.
When we got home on Friday, I sat on the sofa, lounging out comfortably, and then, a few hours later, I got chills and fever, not Tom Jones Style either. I got hot and cold, not Katy Perry style for that matter. Instead, I got a visit from Mr. Heat Miser and Mr. Snow Miser, who have been alternating running ragged in my body since that night. Some moments, I shiver. Other moments, I am shirtless and sweating.
So yeah... Parkinson’s people get hot flashes. Apparently, they alternate with cold flashes during sickness like this. I guess I lost the health lottery again because the hot flashes create hyperhidrosis (see my old post on that) and then I wake up in a lake of sweat. I drank over 100 ounces today (not done yet), because I’m currently sweating and I plan to tonight as well (not by choice). I'm definitely going to need a reserve. Mind you, the house is in the high 60s°! It’s not like I’m in the United Arab Emirates or Death Valley! I'm in Amish Paradise, Pennsylvania, where we have buggy parking at our Wal-marts!
Today is the first day I’ve been mostly headache free (though not for all of it), but I’m rundown, weak, and flu-ish, which leaves me to be a big baby for my wife and parents to take care of (IT IS GENUINELY APPRECIATED THOUGH). Other than to take care of an extra Christmas present for the wife, I’ve been inside since coming back. I’m not leaving today or tomorrow. I’m in recovery mode, big time. I don’t even see myself leaving for chocolate iced donuts with Bavarian Creme (don’t feel sorry for me; I have chocolate chip muffins).
So yeah, it has become necessary to give you the Parkinson’s Foundations medication warnings (red words are theirs) so that I can let modern medicine and not candles or pyramids improve my health, even though I'm sure MJF would be happy to send me a good vibe via the scented candle votive.
If memory or thinking problems are present, take caution with drugs that may be sedating (such as Sudafed) or that contain an anticholingergic (for example, Trihexyphenydyl, Benadryl, Cognetin, Parsitan). Because of memory and thinking issues, anticholinergics are only rarely used to address cough and cold symptoms.
Cough syrups with pain medication (such as codeine) could lead to memory issues, thinking problems or sedation. If you take one of these medications your memory and thinking should be monitored as confusion could lead to falls and other negative consequences.
Pain medication (such as meperidine) can interact with other medications and can result in sedation.
It may be useful to temporarily stop momoamine oxidase (MA0-B) drugs (such as Selegiline, Rasagiline, Azilect, Zydis selegiline, Xadago) to avoid drug-drug interactions with Cyclobenzaprine, Dextromethorphan (often found in cough medicine), Meperidine (also sold as Demerol), Methadone, St. John's wort or the pain medicine Tramadol. Talk to your doctor before making changes to your medications.
Psuedoephedrine, Phenyephrine and Phenylpropanolamine can be found in any cold or flu medication and could increase blood pressure and possibly increase the risk of stroke, especially in those with high blood pressure.
Aspirin, acetaminophen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are usually safe, but can have side effects (particularly gastrointestinal).
Antihistamines can sometimes cause drowsiness, but many people with PD can tolerate them for short courses.
Looking through online advice, I found a generic form of Mucinex, which was OK-ed, but to be sure, I’ve been off the PD stuff since I started Saturday. No point taking chances. I’m good tremoring away if need be.
Basically, right now, my body feels like it’s been kicked down a flight of stairs, drug back up said stairs, and kicked down the steps again. I’m generally avoiding cold air and motion, so I cancelled family get-togethers for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and have felt pretty sick since then, which led to feeling really low on Christmas Eve. In fact, while watching It’s a Wonderful Life, not necessarily the happiest holiday movie, but one of the best, I had a catharsis of sorts (like George Bailey), and all of my emotions drained out through every pore in my body all at once for the better part of the movie. Something about not being able to watch people open Christmas presents and be with family, you know? I was glad to have my wife there to comfort me because it was heavy, but necessary.
Not to detract from the tons of other stuff causing my present way, I should say I’m a big fan of Christmas and to lose out like that felt like the Year without a Santa Claus or something. Just the feeling of so many cards unsent, last minute presents bought, and only setting up 1 tree and some decorations just felt so “un-festive,” though we did little gifts for one another. Let's just say heated shiatsu neck massage... oh yeah!
I realize with PD, medication issues, job issues, and lack of time, something has to give, and that night it just gave. Yeah, there were lonely Christmases in the military. For instance, the dorm in 1993 never felt like a holiday other than the fact it was supposed to be a holiday. I’ve also been sick for Christmas before (2006 – we all were), but this year, it seemed like an opportunity missed because of so much traffic congestion from so many angles. Call it the feeling you get of being late for an interview that should have been a gimme or something.
Normally, I’ll give Gary Paulsen his due in situations of survival and life and death, but for moments of emotional burden, sometimes, we have to just let it loose in the best way necessary (there is a place for faith of Eastern and Western origin, stoicism, existentialism, and emotions). It’s like when we release, we can be us again. Thus, this year I cleaned out my brain so I can get to making a plan again.
That said, right now, there’s nothing to do but get healthy and make some good plans for the weekend.