Sunday, April 05, 2020

Day 26 of "Stay at Home" Mandate in Houston

My last two posts were posted after my job mandated a "stay at home" suggestion for us but I had no idea this was going to last this long so I didn't even mention it.

I had my picc line removed from my arm on Tuesday, March 10 and on Wednesday, March 11, I found out that four of our reporters had attended a conference in NOLA with someone who was infected with COVID 19. My boss told me to stay at home until she found out what HR had to say about it, because she felt like I was high risk, especially just having the picc line removed. Later that day we were told by HR to stay home for 14 days, so until March 24. After that, all the other companies around Houston started to ask their employees to work from home if possible, until further notice. The whole city is on a "stay at home" order now. On a good note, none of the four reporters got sick.

One of my Work at Home desks


Seth and I about to go into Family Dollar.
When I posted my last post on March 23rd I did not expect to be writing this two weeks later. Seth went on Spring Break one day early, on the 13th, and he was told that the week after Spring Break they would resume all their classes online. He started online classes on March 24, a week earlier than the rest of HISD because his high school has to be an over-achiever like that.

Miranda came home for Spring Break from NY on March 7th and was scheduled to go back on the 14th, only to be told that all her classes would be online. We pushed her flight out one week, until the 21st, instead of the 14th, and she went back to LIU, to resume classes and working online. Once there, I knew she couldn't keep still. She's making masks with leftover material she had. She is staying pretty isolated in her room and only leaves to pick up food To Go from the dining hall.

Miranda at LIU making masks for those who need them.

Everything that is happening is so surreal. A friend posted a venn diagram on Facebook of all these dystopian society books and movies that are similar to the present situation. It was so funny because I saw The Handmaid's Tale on the diagram and I've been saying that all along. That this just reminds me of the book and the things that led to the government being overthrown.

I posted on Facebook as to why I think I've been able to cope mentally with this COVID 19 situation and that I haven't let it get me down. I know it's because I dealt with my toe issues for four months, and even now, I'm not out of the woods. I have a follow up appointment tomorrow because it started looking swollen on Thursday and even more on Friday.

In the middle of those four months that I dealt with my toe bone infection and the surgery I also had a serious allergic reaction to the antibiotic I was on and I could have died from Anaphylaxis, if I hadn't gone to the hospital when I did.

I'm not saying that my situation is in any way compared to the poor people who have become infected with COVID 19. I feel for these people, the first responders, like my step-daughter who is a paramedic, the nurses and doctors in the hospitals.

What I'm saying is that after the many weeks that I dealt with my toe, these three weeks do not feel like a lot. I am okay staying at home safe. On a funny note I saw an article about how Generation X can handle this pandemic better than any other generation. There is so much truth to this article. We got this!

I think that having this time in our homes to reflect is giving us the opportunity to focus on what is really important. I know that I personally am using this time to express gratitude for the good things I have in my life. I'm thinking of all the things we took for granted pre-pandemic. I think of the trips I said I was going to take and I haven't taken. When all this is said and done I'd love to travel to Northern California, via Los Angeles to stop in and meet my newest great nephew.

I want to use this time to focus on art and writing because those are some of my passions. I want to visit famous museums and galleries who are offering virtual tours. I want to work on an outline for a novel that has been brewing in my bones. Take advantage of this time at home if you can.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Enjoy the Price of Good Health

Eleven weeks ago, a few days before I started antibiotics for my bone infection, I decided to start a similar detox to one that I did almost six years ago. I think I lost 15 pounds that time. I stuck to it for nine weeks this round, the length of the antibiotic treatment, and I lost 20 pounds.

Arbonne Products I Use for My Detox
I know not everyone can use the Arbonne products I use, but they have really made it easier for me to follow a schedule. A couple of steps were different this time but I love this one the best. First thing when I get up in the morning I have a "Green Gut Shot." That's a combination of the Digestion Plus and the Greens Balance. I just feel like this starts my morning off right, before my coffee and breakfast, usually a protein shake. Every couple of days I make a quart of the Body Cleanse and I drink it throughout the day. I'm not as good at drinking the detox tea as I should be, but I was really doing better at the beginning. I drink a lot of water and I stay away from sugar and I keep the carbs low.

One of the main reasons I chose to do this detox was because I heard that the antibiotics I was taking  were really strong and could be bad for the kidneys and liver. They would pull my blood every week and a couple of weeks in, the infectious disease doctor commented that my kidneys were actually doing better than before I started the antibiotics. I told him about the detox diet but in the back of my mind I knew it probably had a lot to do with not drinking alcohol too.

I started drinking Arbonne shakes almost 13 years ago when I got the lap band. The doctor who performed my surgery recommended the brand and I really liked the taste. I've had these shakes off and on over the years.

Side note. When people ask me about the lap band I try to explain that it's a helping hand, but not a complete solution. I still have to do my part and I have to work out and eat right. It keeps me from weighing close to 250 pounds again. Yes, it helped me lose a lot of weight initially, but I've had to keep working on it. I've tried running but I'm not very good at sticking to it. It wasn't until I discovered the Peloton that my life changed. And then toegate happened. And just to be clear, I know that anything else can happen to me. There are illnesses that can't be avoided, like autoimmune diseases. I'm talking about diseases I CAN control and avoid, like Diabetes 2.

I feel like I've been talking about dieting and exercising my whole adult life and half of my teen life too and honestly I'm tired of it.  The truth is it's now or never. I am fifty years old and I have pretty much run out of time. This last health crisis was scary and I am so grateful that I didn't lose my toe, but I could have. I feel like it was a wake-up call and a reminder of how fragile our body can be, especially if you aren't healthy. I can only imagine what could have happened if I had't been exercising and trying to take care of myself.

Of course my health and life are the most important, but I also think about how health equals freedom. I think of older ladies I've seen backpacking in Europe and how I thought to myself, "I want to do that one day." If I want to go on adventures in this last third of my life and when I retire I am going to have to be healthy.

I took a week "off" and I ate and drank through it. I felt like I deserved it after being "good" for nine weeks. But then it hit me. I had an Aha moment. The truth of the matter is, I deserve to take care of myself and I deserve a healthy life. How is treating myself to unhealthy food and drinks a treat?  How is that a reward? How is eating well a chore or a price?

I thought of something I heard Zig Ziglar say in a motivational speech called "How to Get What You Want." He says, "You do not pay the price for good health. You thoroughly enjoy the price. You pay the price for failure."

I deserve to eat well. I'm not doing anything complicated. All I'm doing is making healthier choices, counting carbs, and making sure I balance my meals and snacks with proteins, vegetables and grains. Am I perfect? No. Do I slip up and eat bad stuff every so often? Yes. But I only want to feed by body with good foods more than I don't.

I honestly can't wait for my toe to be healed completely so I can get back on my Peloton. I can't wait to go running again. Now that I haven't been able to do those things for a long time I appreciate them more. This is my lifestyle now and I deserve to reap the rewards. I want to "enjoy the price of good health."

Friday, March 13, 2020

The Satin Cream House Coat - Celebrate the Big Things and the Small Ones Too

When my mother died twenty years ago and we were going through her things we came across her satin cream colored house coat, old and yellowed with age. It even had some stains close to the hem and it didn't look like the beautiful coat I had longingly looked at so many times as a little girl. It had a quilted padded pattern and it had gold thread woven into the material. As I was typing this description here, I searched for it and I can not believe I found one on eBay. It's called a "Vintage Doris Day Sonnet Hostess Robe." It was only $38 and I had to buy it.


I think my mother won the coat in the early 1970s, when I was a baby, when she was selling Tupperware. I may have only seen her try it on once, when she was in an unusually good mood.  I would see her pull the coat out sometimes over the years and I always asked her why she didn't wear it. She always replied the same way. She told me that she put the coat away when she won it and that she would wear it when she had the kind of house she had always wanted.

She never wore the coat.

The other night I was watching "This is Us" and older Rebecca, the mother, says something that reminded me of that cream coat. (Spoiler Alert if you haven't seen the March 10 episode or if you plan to watch This is Us in general one day.)

“My life has been full of next times: things I always assumed I would get to eventually,” Rebecca said. “But now I realize that I am running out of time to do them. ... I want to spend however many good years I have left with my family. I want to try new things like walking on red carpets. I want to make up for all of my next times.” 

This really stuck a chord with me.


I turned 50 on February 11. It was the day that I go out of the hospital and I was very angry and depressed. I told everyone that I didn't want to celebrate and that in fact I wanted to pretend that I hadn't turned 50 yet. I remember telling my sister that I was angry and that I would never get February 11, 2020 back again. 

I also posted something on Facebook about waiting until the picc line was removed, and I was better,  to celebrate. A friend of mine from high school commented that every day that we are alive is a gift or celebration, something to that effect. I don't remember the exact words but I know what she meant. She received a double lung transplant around eight years ago so she has a completely different outlook on life than many of us. She is so right. 

I keep getting reminders everywhere. I was cleaning my desk at home and I came across a fortune from a cookie that I had saved. It says, "If you don't have time to live your life now, when do you?"

So true! When do I? Am I going to wait to wear the cream colored house coat my whole life?  Am I going to get to a point in my life when I realize that I'm out of time to do the things I wanted to do because I have cancer, Alzheimer's, early dementia, MS, or some other life altering illness? I hope not.

I may be 50, but it isn't too late. If anything, that's what this recent toe bone infection taught me. It was a damn wake-up call. It sounded the alarm of my life and my health. 

I skipped my birthday on February 11 because I was bitter and angry, but I can't do that again. I know that's easier to say now that the picc line is out and the stitches have been removed from my toe. I am at that point that I wanted to be and I knew all along that I would get here.

So yes, I ordered the vintage robe and I'm going to put it on and I'm going to wear it around my Grey Gardens messy house in honor of my mother. I'm not going to wait to have the perfect house, apartment or life. I'm going to wear it now. 

I'm going to go ahead and I'm going to celebrate my 50th birthday all damn year! All year is going to be a celebration of my 50th year of life. Every day from now on I'm going to celebrate still being alive. I'm going to celebrate the big things and the small ones too. 

Then I'm going to make a new list of all the things I want to accomplish and all the places I want to travel to, instead of saying "next time." 

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Timeline of #ToeGate "It Could Have Been Worse!"

Rather than writing out a long synopsis of the whole ordeal, and if you don't feel like reading my two previous posts, here is a timeline of what happened: with my toe bone infection, my allergic reaction to vancomycin, the antibiotic I was on intravenously, and the amputation of the tip of the bone on my big toe. This whole saga started right before Thanksgiving and will hopefully end by St. Patrick's Day. Notice how everything happened around or on holidays and my birthday.

My arm with my allergic reaction to vancomycin.
November 22 (Right before Thanksgiving) - Saw the podiatrist for the first time. I thought I just had a fungus in my toe nail that wouldn't go away. He gave me an x-ray to make sure the infection had not gone down to my bone but said it hadn’t.  He did an ingrown toe nail surgery on me. I went to NY for Thanksgiving the next week.

December 27 (Right after Christmas) - Went back to podiatrist for a follow-up visit and he was worried that the toe still looked red and hurt me. He did another x-ray, didn’t see anything, so he did an MRI.

December 31 (New Year’s Eve) - Nurse called to tell me there was infection on the bone and that I had to go see an infectious disease doctor.

January 7- Saw the infectious disease doctor for the first time. He told me the treatments for a bone infection were intravenous antibiotics and that I had to go into the hospital to have a picc line put into my arm.

January 9- Went into the hospital and had a picc line put into my left arm. After they finished with me at the hospital they sent me straight to the infectious disease doctor’s nurse to instruct me on how I had to give myself the vancomycin antibiotic twice a day.

February 4- Three and a half weeks in and three days before my Vegas trip, I started having an allergic reaction to the vancomycin.

February 5- I woke up with the rash spreading from my chest to my face. I went to the emergency room and I was transferred to the hospital. The infectious disease doctor came to see me and thought that I should spend one night at the hospital and that I’d be better the next day.

February 6- I woke up worse and was transferred that evening from an observation room to a regular room. I stayed in the hospital until February 10. They changed my antibiotic from vancomycin to daptomycin.

February 11 (My 50th Birthday) - Went to see the infectious disease doctor the day I got out of the hospital. He mentioned that he would like to see another MRI to see how the toe was doing. He sent me back to the podiatrist for this.

February 14 (Valentine’s Day) - Had a second MRI.

February 18 – The podiatrist nurse called me to say that the infection was worse and they were going to have to cut on the bone. Initially I didn’t know how much and this made me burst into tears. The doctors both discussed my case and the infectious disease doctor called me himself the next day and explained that it was just a tiny bit and that I wouldn’t lose my toe. He said he would keep me on the antibiotics through my picc line to ensure that I healed.

February 21- Saw the podiatrist and he showed me the MRI and explained that the infection was at the very tip of my bone. He said he would just cut that tip off and would take out the infection.

February 27 (Beginning of Lent and I'm not even religious) - Had the surgery and it was successful. The doctor didn’t have to cut off any more or less. He went in from the top and left my toe and toenail intact. Thank goodness!

March 3- Saw the infectious disease doctor and he said that he would most likely take me off the antibiotics on Tuesday, March 10. I may have to take antibiotics orally for a while. 

March 6 – Saw the podiatrist who did the surgery and said the toe was healing well and that my stitches will come out on Friday, March 13. 

As you can see, I'm exhausted.

The recurring theme in all of this has been that so many people went on their gut feeling. Nobody insisted that I go see the doctor. It was just suggested. I went on my gut feeling that something wasn't right. The podiatrist went on his gut feeling that the toe didn't look right after five weeks and he decided to do an MRI. The infectious disease doctor went on a gut feeling that he should do a second MRI after I was in the hospital for a week fighting off the allergic reaction.

If you can see a bone infection on an x-ray it's basically too late. It took an MRI to see the infection in my toe. Everything was caught early because of these gut feelings and instead of losing the whole toe, I only lost the tip of the bone. Horrible I know, but not as bad as it could have been. It definitely could have been worse.

I can now see the light at the end of this long tunnel and the light looks bright. I have so much hope for the future and how I'm going to change my lifestyle. More on that later. 

Sunday, March 01, 2020

My Severe Reaction to Vancomycin “It Could Have Been Worse” Part Two

I almost didn’t write this second part because so much more has happened between February 16 and today that I have even more to write about. But in interest of following the timeline and explaining what happened in between I have to write about my hospital visit. 


Smaller Ball of Daptomycin
I started having a reaction to the Vancomycin on Tuesday afternoon, February 5. I called the 24 hour nurse and she told me not to give myself my evening dosage of Vanco. It started with a light rash across my chest. By the next morning it was all over my face so I went to the emergency room. 

By that afternoon I was admitted into the hospital next to the professional building with my infectious disease doctor’s office. He requested that the emergency room doctor send me there and he went to see me. I was in an observation room from Wednesday afternoon until Thursday evening. The rash just kept spreading across my face and my body. They kept me to make sure it didn’t get worse and go into my throat. Since they still had to treat my toe infection the doctor asked the hospital to put me on Daptomycin, another antibiotic.

By Friday I was dying, not literally but from the itching and watching the rash spread. I had a terrible night and slept very little because the rash was all over my body. My back had itched terribly all night. I called my primary care physician to let her know where I was and what was happening. I unleashed all my frustration on the poor doctor who came to see me on Friday morning. 

I was so lucky because she was a God-send. Her name is Dr. Juhi Jain and she works at Memorial Hermann Memorial City. She listened to me, cared, and took an aggressive approach, increased my dosages of steroids and Benadryl and moved them closer together. She was with me for four days so she was able to watch my progress.

Dr. Jain also gave me the best explanation of what was happening to me because I was freaking out. She told me it was as if the train had left the station and it had to run its course all the way before it could come back. So the rash had to run its entire course. As depressing as that was, it helped me understand and accept it. I surrendered to the rash, knowing that it had to happen before it could get better. She got aggressive with the medication for two days then pulled back to watch my reaction for another two days.

On Monday evening, my 6th day in the hospital, Dr. Jain sent me home with oral steroids and over-the-counter Benadryl to take for a week.

Here is what I found out about Vancomycin. Yes it has the best track record for healing bone infections but it’s also the most common antibiotic given because it’s the one that the insurance approves. Daptomycin is actually better than Vancomycin and people have less of a reaction to it but the insurance doesn’t approve it unless you can’t take Vanco. Yes, they wait for you to have a reaction to Vancomycin before they approve Daptomycin.

This whole ordeal has been such an experience. I had never been in the hospital that long. Thank God for insurance. Talk about being grateful for the things that matter, like insurance and my employer. Good doctors like Dr. Jain. So many things.

When I got out of the hospital I went to see my infectious disease doctor the next day for new smaller buzzballs of Daptomycin and a dressing change on my picc line. He decided to send me for a follow up MRI. I can see why he did because the allergic reaction could have compromised my healing. They were pumping me with steroids while I was in the hospital. The steroids were making my blood pressure and my blood sugar sky rocket. My body was trying to fight all these other things while they continued to give me the new antibiotic to fight the infection in the toe. 

I went for the follow up MRI the Friday after I was released from the hospital and I knew I probably wouldn't have the results until the following week. I have played the waiting game so many times during these past three months. 

All I can say is thank God for gut feelings and for doctors who decide to check things just to make sure we are on the right track. It’s a good think Dr. Price sent me for that extra MRI or I don’t know what would have happened to my toe. To be continued…