Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hump Day Nuggets: Happenings as of Late

hump day nuggets: bits of the season in photos and words*

*The hump day nuggets series is the brainchild of Nici Holt Cline who blogs over at dig this chick.  You should check out her blog or her etsy shop, to see the full extent of her talent and creativity.  Thanks Nici!

:: Brunching at our neighbors.  Great food, great company, and celebrated a friend's birthday.  

Me (in my favorite fall shirt), and Noell (in a shirt from her favorite bar). 

Otis and Simon

Molly and Chris

Otis and Joy

Birthday girl is on the right! Happy Birthday Cindi!

:: Attended my first ever book signing.  got to hear the wonderful Kelle Hampton read from her memoir,  and then meet her and have her sign my book!  Kelle writes a blog over at Enjoying the Small Things.  Her story is inspiring and I love looking at her photos. 

Kelle and Me!

:: I received a curious package in the mail the other day.  Too early for my birthday....WAY too early for Christmas, what could it be?  

So I opened it up and it was the sweetest request from my cousin Sarah...she stood up for me as my bridesmaid this past June and I am so excited to be able to do the same for her! Congratulations Sarah and Adam!

The "ring" was a ring pop candy that she had propped up to look like an engagement ring.

The happy couple! 

:: Happy Hump Day! 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

She's Crafty: Clothespin frames

I have been scouring Goodwill for high quality wooden frames to complete a photo project similar to this one that I found through Pinterest.  I found a few frames lately and have been saving them for a crafty-feeling day which happened to be yesterday after I completed a bunch of homework.  In total, this project cost less than $5 total and took me about an hour to complete!

Fast, cheap, and something I would hang on my walls = my kind of project.

Here is my completed version of the clothespin frames...

I recently found the frames below at Goodwill for $2.99 each, but lucky for me, it was 50% off day and so each frame was only $1.50.  

Ugly prints but good quality well made frames.

I peeled off the paper backing, took out the glass along with the little diamond-shaped daggers of metal that were holding it in all around the edges.  (During this process I was freaking out at the dogs because they were running around trying to play and I was afraid they would step on of the the daggers and cut their feet.)  After this was complete, I was left with empty frames.

Sturdy frames.

Next I measured out a guesstimate of how far apart I would want the twine to be to accommodate my 4 x 4 inch pictures.  I used mini-nails that I already had on hand and nailed them in most of the way but leaving enough room for the twine to be tied around the nails.  

Then I wrapped the twine around the nails and tied it securely. (I also already owned the twine.)  After the twine is tied, I hammered the nails down over the knots to secure the twine even more.

Without the pictures added it looks like this:

I had already ordered my prints from Walgreens because they let you select the 4 x 4 inch size which is what I wanted for my frames.  I ordered several extra prints so that I can change them out whenever the mood strikes :)

I ordered the mini-clothespins from amazon because I was ordering other things and it was easier to add them onto the order than go to a craft store for them.  I have been to Michael's though, and they do have mini-clothespins there.

I attached the prints with the clothespins and there you have it.  Clothespin frames.  It's that easy.

Clockwise from top-left: Noell and I, Christmas 2010; Nala wearing my glasses;
Kain after a long run; Benjamin my sweet nephew.

Notice professor Nala Bear in the upper-right :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fungal Meningitis: My Story

With all the news about the contaminated steroids that have been causing many deaths and fungal meningitis infections, I have been thinking often of my experience with fungal meningitis and realizing just how lucky I am to be here today.  This is an illness that kills quickly if it is not caught and treated and I have been feeling very grateful for my life lately.  This is my story...

Around Valentine's Day of 2009, I started to feel funny.  I would get dizzy, have bad headaches and just generally did not feel well.   Noell and I went out for drinks with some friends on Friday of Valentine's weekend and I had this really bad headache that wouldn't go away.  I tried everything over the counter I could think of, tried sleeping it off, tried cool compresses, and nothing helped.  

Saturday we were preparing Noell's house for her family's upcoming visit, I was cleaning the bathroom, and my headache was so bad I had to stop and lay down.  Noell took me to urgent care that afternoon.  The MD thought this could possibly be my first migraine or sinus headache pressure.  So they took an x-ray of my sinuses, which were clear, and the MD sent me home with Vicodin and instructions to go to the ER if it worsened or if I began to vomit.  

I took the Vicodin and was able to sleep for a few hours but then I awoke and the pain was much worse and the vomiting began.  For some reason I was against going to the ER; I think I was feeling so terrible that the thought of getting in a car and riding when I felt so sick and nauseous and then waiting in an uncomfortable waiting room for hours was too much for me to handle.  Noell was really worried and she called my aunt Lisa (who is a nurse practitioner) who said I needed to IMMEDIATELY go to the ER because she suspected I had meningitis.  (See, that's why I'm becoming an NP, they are awesome, diagnosing meningitis over the phone!)  My aunt said if no spinal tap was offered to me, I needed to ask for one. 

Well I think "spinal tap" was all Noell needed to hear and I was in the car heading to the ER.  Waited a little while but not as long as I expected.  I got an IV for fluids and meds (pain, nausea, and antibiotics), blood work, a CT scan, and a spinal tap.  I stayed in the ER over night getting fluids and meds and they sent me home in the morning with more medicine (anti-nausea and pain).  At that point I was feeling pretty good after being hydrated, and having my headache and nausea under control.  Thought I was on the mend.  Little did I know this was just the beginning...

I was back to the ER that evening, I couldn't keep anything down, including the anti-nausea and pain meds, I was back to the same (if not worse) pain than the night before.  That second night in the ER was not quite so speedy.  I believe we waited 3 hours to be seen.  I spent the entire time hanging over the toilet in the bathroom of the waiting room, all by myself because Noell had to sit out in the waiting room to listen for my name.  People would come and go into the bathroom and hear me crying and hurling and ask if I was OK.  Noell tells me that people kept coming out of the bathroom to tell the triage nurse that "someone is really, really sick in the bathroom".  

I was in so much pain that night, the heaving motion from constantly being nauseated made my head hurt so much worse, so when they finally called my name and I was being assessed, I asked  begged to be admitted for pain and nausea control.  So they admitted me, and the following morning, my admitting doctor and an infectious disease MD came and told me that the culture had grown fungus, not bacteria.  I was diagnosed with cryptococcal meningitis

Before the nicer room and the pain control doctor.  

At that point my aunt Lisa was with Noell and I and she asked if wanted my mom to come and I said YES!  My mom was on a plane and was in my hospital room that afternoon.  They explained that I would need to be in the hospital for weeks receiving a strong anti-fungal medicine.  After that, I would need to be on oral anti-fungals for several months.  My headache pain was off the charts so they sent in a pain control doctor to try to help get my pain under control.  I had a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) placed, to ease the administration of the anti-fungal and pain meds.  I also had an MRI to look at my brain to get a baseline of the lesion's size and location to compare to later.  

My PICC line

I was moved to a more comfortable room (i.e. not in the outpatient wing where they first put me), and we set up camp for the next three weeks.  My mom stayed with me basically 24/7 and Noell was at the hospital everyday as much as she could be while taking care of both of our houses (we didn't live together then), our pets, all while working full time.  I have no idea how she did it.  My mom slept on the uncomfortable pull out chair/bed for the entire stay and assisted me all day every day with everything.  

From Left behind me: Carol and Mary (Noell's mom and aunt), Sue and Lisa (my mom and aunt)
Front: Noell and I 

The medicine I was on was amphotericin B, and I received it everyday at noon.  It was a bright neon yellow color in an IV bag.   It was the.most.awful.thing.ever.  I was in enough pain with the headaches from the meningitis  but the ampho caused SEVERE nausea and vomiting; I'm talking I threw up 4-5 times a day for a month.  All the heaving and movement and pressure from vomiting just increased my head pain.  It was really miserable.  I was on several other meds throughout the day to combat the nausea and other side effects of the amphotericin.  It was quite a cocktail of drugs to try to achieve and maintain some sort of tolerable routine.  I was on a lot of morphine and consequently had lots of hallucinations that I do not remember but my mom, Noell, and aunt Lisa are more than happy to tell me about now :)  Apparently I was quite entertaining on morphine. 

Eating....I was hungry, just couldn't keep anything down.

Noell brought Kain up to visit me a few times.  I rode in a wheelchair to a bench
right outside the door to the hospital.
He wanted to sit on my lap. I love that dog.  

Looking back the hospital time seems like two sides of the same coin.  What I mean is this:  I feel that it was all mashed together as one long day because the same things happened every day and it is hard for me to distinguish one day from another; and at the same time, it seems like I was in the hospital for so long, months instead of weeks.  It's hard to explain.  

Upon getting released from the hospital I was still pretty sick for the first few weeks at home but I was SO happy to be home.  I had lost 20 pounds in the hospital and still continued to lose weight for a week or so at home.  I was put on Diflucan and today, 3 years later, I am still taking Diflucan and a pretty high dose.  I get my labs done every 3-6 months and will continue to do that until my blood shows no detectable signs of cryptcococcus.  

At that point I will be able to stop the Diflucan and space my blood work to every 6 months to a year.  I will have to be follow this throughout my life though, as fungus is not like bacteria that can be eliminated form your body.  Now that I have been infected, the fungus just lays in wait and can decide to try to grow again at any time (typically in times of severe immune compromise).  I was so very lucky that the MD in the ER was checking for fungus, or else I could have been mis-diagnosed and this could have been fatal.  I went back toward the end of my hospital stay to thank him for his care.  

I have had some lasting effects from my experience which include trouble with my balance, memory problems, and headaches.  Once I had gotten my strength back I began to go running for short distances and I would trip and fall or run into things really often.  I became so used to it that I had perfected my fall to be a "fall and roll and get back up" without missing a beat.  Also, my memory is really spotty.  I recently connected with another blogger, (Katie) who had meningitis about the same time I did (although she had bacterial), and she described our memory problems perfectly.  She said " I feel like all this stuff is locked in cabinets that I don't have the keys to anymore, so it's there, just not available".  

So that is my story.  Whew.  My thoughts are with all the families that are travelling through this right now.  

Onto the most asked questions I receive when people hear about this:

Everyone's first question: "How did you get it?"   
  • Your guess is as good as mine.  Cryptococcus is found in soil everywhere, people are exposed to it all time.  Typically, fungal meningitis affects people with compromised immune systems (HIV, cancer, etc).  There is no explanation why my body didn't fight it off and no rhyme or reason to why it affected me versus any other health person.  

Next question everyone asks: " Is it (or was it) contagious?" or "Can you pass it to a baby?"
  •  Nope and nope.  Fungal meningitis is not contagious and cannot be passed down from mother to child. 

*These pictures are all taken of printed pictures, hence the terrible quality; all that I have are prints from what my mom took, no digital copies.  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Introducing Elka June!

We had planned to add another young German Shepard to our brood of animals which consisted of 2 dogs (Nala and Kain) and 2 cats (Punky and Deedle Deet) for a while.  We were casually browsing rescue sites and looking for a German Shepard that would catch our eye and fit into our family.  We saw a few here and there that looked interesting, but none of them really stood out.  Noell (the wife), received a text from a friend of ours about a police officer she knows whose dog had an accidental litter of puppies before getting spayed, and did we want to adopt a puppy or adopt the mama-pup?  We agreed to meet the German family with the intent of adopting the mama (who was only one year old).

The owner brought Mama German and her 4 puppies that were available, over to meet our animals.  Mama German didn't really jive with Nala Bear (our female german), plus she also chased our cats. :/  No deal on Mama German.

Of course the puppies were very sweet and Noell liked one in particular who followed Nala around like a teeny shadow.  After some discussion, we decided adopt one of the puppies.  Honestly, I couldn't tell them apart that day, but Noell knew exactly which one was ours.  We found out that the puppies had been born on 6/2/12, which was a super awesome to find out because that is the day that Noell and I were married!

We adopted Elka June on 7/26/12.  Elka was a name that we had seen on one of the rescue sites and remembered, plus as a bonus it sounds like a german name.  Her middle name is June in honor of her birthday month and extra meaning of her birthday being our wedding day.

Meet Elka, this was her first day with us.

About to get a bath!

She has grown like a weed ever since that day.  She was house trained really quickly...I'm talking 3-4 days!  This girl is smart!

Ears are still floppy. Let's play!
Ears are up! 8/26/12

She fits in really well with our family.  Kain took a little time to warm up, but he has come around.  Nala and Kain are happy to have a new play mate.  They both are really helpful in occupying her when we are trying to get things done!

We are buddies.

Waiting for me to give the "go ahead" to eat their dinner which is on the floor in front of them.

Elka is growing so fast, she was 33 pounds on 10/3/12 and today, 10/6/12, she went back for a rabies shot and she was 35 pounds...that's 2 pounds in 3 days folks!

We love our new girl so much!