Friday, March 30, 2012
Sleep...I get so little that when the chance comes around, I try to take it...
It started out as a bad day. Doug woke me up after I had only slept for two hours. I verbally assaulted him, although I don't remember half of what I said because I wasn't fully awake. My head was pounding, my body was throbbing, everything ached, and my eyes felt like they were burning in my sockets...I yelled, I screamed, I cried, and if I were awake enough, I might have thrown things. I'm not proud of myself, and I'm glad that Doug is very forgiving. I was exhausted, fatigued, and very stroppy.
We visited Doug's father at the hospital ICU, then had breakfast...I was so tired and upset that I had a nosebleed. I don't know if I was that upset, or if my blood pressure skyrocketed in my anger. Whatever the case, my body and my mind were just as mess!
Doug took me home. I changed into my pajamas, got into bed, but I was too tired to sleep. So I sent out a text asking for prayer for healing and rest. And I got what I asked for...
It was beautiful!
I turned the air conditioner on freeze out mode, turned up the fan, stretched out in bed, covered myself up in my snuggie, then topped that off with my sheet and comforter. I wrapped myself into a cocoon, even pulled the covers up over my face so that I saw nothing but dark...
The light pouring through the window didn't matter. The sound of the television started to fade, even the sound of the fan seemed farther away, somewhere in the distance where people were awake. Everything slowed and quieted for this moment. Peace enveloped me, as I slept safe in my cocoon, forming into a newer, stronger, happier me.
I had bits and pieces of dreams...nothing scary, because I was somewhere safe. I felt like the above picture, that I was laying in a hammock, the sun warming me, the sound of the water moving softly, suspended only by a tiny piece of mesh cloth, but I knew I wasn't going to fall.
Then, I felt like I was laying in the midst of a tree, surrounded by grass, dandelion fluff swirling around me in the wind. Again, there was a body of water beside me. Everything was green and beautiful. What a glorious place to be! I somehow knew it was a dream, but I didn't care.
As I woke up, I fully expected to be on a float in the body of water I kept seeing, not even caring how I got there. I wondered how I was going to get back to shore, but I decided that it didn't matter. I turned around...
...and woke up in my own bed. I looked at the clock on my mobile phone, my eyes no longer burning in their sockets, I made out a blurry, 4:00 p.m. underneath the date. It took me a while to become conscious. I slipped in and out again into the place by the water, too warm to remove the covers, suddenly feeling like someone had wrapped their arms around me, and was gently holding me in sleep.
Then, the fan became louder, and I heard the sound of people talking. I opened my eyes, and it was over.
I got sleep, and it was the best feeling in the world. Nothing can compare to it, the feeling of warmth and safety, and rejuvenation.
Medically speaking, your brain and body go through a period of repairing, restoring, and recharging. This is why after a neurological event such as a migraine or a seizure, or even a head injury, the body demands sleep. It powers itself down in order to recharge.
I feel like I've been running on empty for a while, fatigued, and exhausted.
I need to get more sleep...
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Yes, I'm already dreaming about Fall...
Before I begin, I must apologize to Dave Matthews for using a song title as my blog title, but it describes exactly how I feel.
Anyway, I feel horrible, physically, mentally, emotionally.
Physically, everything hurts. Everything. Especially my head. It hurts so bad that by the time I got in the car to leave the hospital, (I'll get to that in a moment), my entire body was shaking and I was nauseated. Migraine or sinus headache? Perhaps both. Whatever the case may be, I am sick from the pain.
Mentally, I haven't written today, which means in fact that I haven't breathed today. I know that may sound ridiculous, but I'm serious when I say I eat, sleep, and breathe writing. I do. It's the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last thing I think about when I go to bed. I sometimes even dream in words. I see them spell out before me. I feel what my characters are feeling, which should honestly be the other way around, but I get into this. I haven't breathed today, I haven't bled today. I write when I'm happy, sad, angry, ambivalent, when I feel bad about myself, when I feel good about myself, I write when I'm ugly, pretty, feeling fat, have eaten too much, have not eaten enough, when I'm sick, when I'm in pain, and when I'm hurting. Sometimes, I write about the things going on in my life. I put in 80+ hours per week writing! No joke.
Emotionally, I'm sad. I'm freaking sad and I'm not sure anyone sees it. I'm just freaking sad! "Shellye, are you sad?" "No. What gave you that idea?" But seriously, I AM SAD! There are lots of reasons why I'm sad, but the topic of the day is my father-in-law. I'm sad over what's going on with him, but not just him, the elderly in general.
My father-in-law has Lewy Body Dementia, and I've discussed this in great detail. And he had to go through another surgery, which I will get to later. I've seen him being shuffled around from room to room. I've seen him taken care of, but not really cared for. The fact of the matter is that he's a GOMER (Get Out of My Emergency Room). And the first thing ER doctors want to do is get rid of GOMERS. In their defense, 90% of the time, there is nothing they can do for the elderly. They treat their symptoms and send them back to their nursing homes, skilled rehabilitation facilities, assisted living facilities, or home with their son or daughter who is their sole caregiver. Once they return to these facilities, they are put back in their rooms. Nurse's Aids have, oh let's say about 50 patients, and one hour in which to check on each patient, and they've got to be quick about it. Lifting assistance is not taken into account. General assistance (washing, bathing, helping them comb their hair, feeding them, helping them dress) is not taken into account. Having to turn bed fast patients over is not taken into account. ONE Nurse's Aid has less than four minutes per patient, one. Read it. And do you know what happens as a result of this? The patients get a lesser quality of care. My mom described a nurse's aid feeding a patient as, "squirting pureed food into an old person's mouth," which is due to their high patient load and low amount of time the nurse's aid is able to spend with the patient. Does that sound enjoyable to you? Is this what America does with its elderly? My heart is broken. I AM SAD, just freaking flat out depressed over the thought of this. What the heck happened to compassion? What happened to nurse's aids having the time to sit and spoon feed a patient and interact with them? The nurse's aids at my maternal grandmother's facility were great! I saw them going into rooms, interacting with the patient and his or her family, feeding them, talking to them, even if they couldn't talk back! Now I hear horror stories of nurse's aids and nurses being openly prejudice to their elderly patients who lived a homosexual lifestyle, or being negligent because they either don't care or have no time. Listen, there is no room in medicine for prejudice. Medicine is not black, white, gay, straight, young, or old. When you go into the medical field, you take an oath to do no harm. It doesn't matter if the bully who picked on you in high school walks in that door with a gunshot wound, MEDICINE KNOWS NO PREJUDICE! Healing is not just for a select group. When Jesus healed the sick, he didn't say, "Sorry, can't heal you because you're a homosexual," he said, "BE MADE WHOLE!" (This was usually followed by, "Go and sin no more," but that's not the point I'm trying to make right now, but I wanted it to be said.) Back to medicine, there is an oath involved to do no harm. DO NO HARM. That means DO NOT HARM!!! I think negligence or lack of quality in care is just as harmful as blatant abuse of a patient. It's the same thing. You can't tell me there's a difference. I want to be a doctor with all of my heart, and even if I don't make it, I'm going to be able to say I tried. Even if my OCD stops me, I will do everything I can from a non medical standpoint. I will speak out against this. I will do something to change it. This is where my heart is. Someone needs to stand up and fight for those who can't fight for themselves, like my father-in-law.
My father-in-law had surgery today. He had another bowel blockage, which may have caused kidney failure, (they say "near kidney failure" because his kidney function is dangerously low). Let me back up a bit. Last week, my father-in-law was taken to the hospital via ambulance due to abdominal pain. They admitted him for observation. He started regurgitating without explanation. They put in an NG tube, said his bowels and kidneys weren't working, and waited several days before deciding to do surgery. His belly bloated. The IV fluids weren't helping because they were all going to his stomach, but not exiting the body. My father-in-law somehow keeps getting his NG tube messed up, coiled, or out because he hates it. I know he does. I swear that the man is pulling it out on his own! And now that his hands are restrained, he is using his stomach muscles and his throat muscles to move the thing around and will it out of his body! They've had to replace it three or four times! The good news is that they do keep checking it to see what he's done with it this time. *lol* I feel bad for him, but it's funny how he's been able to get it out while his hands have been restrained! We were told they would probably have to place another one. Poor guy. He hates those things.
My father-in-law is in the ICU on a ventilator with his hands restrained so he doesn't pull it out. He was calm. He opened his eyes. He kept trying to talk to us. Doug and my mother-in-law (mnl) warned me about going back there. Fortunately, I was able to remain vertical instead of ending up horizontal. They let all three of us back there, which the sign said two only. So my mnl came back a few minutes later. I was fine until I saw this chart that the patient points to in order to communicate. My father-in-law has Lewy Body Dementia. He barely knows us. His speech was unintelligible the last time we visited. I don't understand how he's going to be able to speak for himself. When he looks at that chart, he could see anything but what's on that chart. He may tell them the chart is written in a foreign language he can't understand. How's he going to speak for himself? How is he going to tell them what he needs? How? Because I don't get it! And as I looked at that chart, I started crying. I made some excuse for Doug and I to leave the room because I didn't want to cry in front of my mnl. She often mirrors my mood, and I'm supposed to be strong for her. If she saw me fall apart, she may have fallen apart. So Doug and I went out into the lobby and I cried. I just couldn't help myself. This whole situation just sucks! It totally freaking sucks!!! And my hands are tied. I can't do a thing to help him. None of us can even stay in the room the whole time because of the odd hours at the ICU. It's a half hour to visit your loved one every three hours. I'm worried that he is going to freak out once the vent and the restraints are taken away, and none of us can stay there with him.
Why am I under the table and dreaming?
Because my dreams are big, and somewhat intimidating.
Because I need to escape from reality every once in a while.
Because my life really sucks right now and I can't deal with it.
Because all of the above...
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Sunday, March 4, 2012
When it comes to this complex, mysterious, fascinating organ, what do—and don’t—we know?
By Laura Helmuth
1. We use only 10 percent of our brains.
This one sounds so compelling—a precise number, repeated in pop culture for a century, implying that we have huge reserves of untapped mental powers. But the supposedly unused 90 percent of the brain is not some vestigial appendix. Brains are expensive—it takes a lot of energy to build brains during fetal and childhood development and maintain them in adults. Evolutionarily, it would make no sense to carry around surplus brain tissue. Experiments using PET or fMRI scans show that much of the brain is engaged even during simple tasks, and injury to even a small bit of brain can have profound consequences for language, sensory perception, movement or emotion.
2. “Flashbulb memories” are precise, detailed and persistent.
We all have memories that feel as vivid and accurate as a snapshot, usually of some shocking, dramatic event—the assassination of President Kennedy, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, the attacks of September 11, 2001. People remember exactly where they were, what they were doing, who they were with, what they saw or heard. But several clever experiments have tested people’s memory immediately after a tragedy and again several months or years later.
3. It’s all downhill after 40 (or 50 or 60 or 70).
It’s true, some cognitive skills do decline as you get older. Children are better at learning new languages than adults—and never play a game of concentration against a 10-year-old unless you’re prepared to be humiliated. Young adults are faster than older adults to judge whether two objects are the same or different; they can more easily memorize a list of random words, and they are faster to count backward by sevens.
But plenty of mental skills improve with age. Vocabulary, for instance—older people know more words and understand subtle linguistic distinctions. Given a biographical sketch of a stranger, they’re better judges of character. They score higher on tests of social wisdom, such as how to settle a conflict. And people get better and better over time at regulating their own emotions and finding meaning in their lives.
4. We have five senses.
Sure, sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch are the big ones. But we have many other ways of sensing the world and our place in it. Proprioception is a sense of how our bodies are positioned. Nociception is a sense of pain. We also have a sense of balance—the inner ear is to this sense as the eye is to vision—as well as a sense of body temperature, acceleration and the passage of time.
5. Brains are like computers.
We speak of the brain’s processing speed, its storage capacity, its parallel circuits, inputs and outputs. The metaphor fails at pretty much every level: the brain doesn’t have a set memory capacity that is waiting to be filled up; it doesn’t perform computations in the way a computer does; and even basic visual perception isn’t a passive receiving of inputs because we actively interpret, anticipate and pay attention to different elements of the visual world.
6. The brain is hard-wired.
This is one of the most enduring legacies of the old “brains are electrical circuits” metaphor.
But one of the biggest discoveries in neuroscience in the past few decades is that the brain is remarkably plastic. In blind people, parts of the brain that normally process sight are instead devoted to hearing. Someone practicing a new skill, like learning to play the violin, “rewires” parts of the brain that are responsible for fine motor control. People with brain injuries can recruit other parts of the brain to compensate for the lost tissue.
7. A conk on the head can cause amnesia.
Next to babies switched at birth, this is a favorite trope of soap operas: Someone is in a tragic accident and wakes up in the hospital unable to recognize loved ones or remember his or her own name or history. (The only cure for this form of amnesia, of course, is another conk on the head.)
8. We know what will make us happy.
In some cases we haven’t a clue. We routinely overestimate how happy something will make us, whether it’s a birthday, free pizza, a new car, a victory for our favorite sports team or political candidate, winning the lottery or raising children. Money does make people happier, but only to a point—poor people are less happy than the middle class, but the middle class are just as happy as the rich. We overestimate the pleasures of solitude and leisure and underestimate how much happiness we get from social relationships.
9. We see the world as it is.
We are not passive recipients of external information that enters our brain through our sensory organs. Instead, we actively search for patterns (like a Dalmatian dog that suddenly appears in a field of black and white dots), turn ambiguous scenes into ones that fit our expectations (it’s a vase; it’s a face) and completely miss details we aren’t expecting. In one famous psychology experiment, about half of all viewers told to count the number of times a group of people pass a basketball do not notice that a guy in a gorilla suit is hulking around among the ball-throwers.
10. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.
Some of the sloppiest, shoddiest, most biased, least reproducible, worst designed and most overinterpreted research in the history of sciencepurports to provide biological explanations for differences between men and women. Eminent neuroscientists once claimed that head size, spinal ganglia or brain stem structures were responsible for women’s inability to think creatively, vote logically or practice medicine. Today the theories are a bit more sophisticated: men supposedly have more specialized brain hemispheres, women more elaborate emotion circuits. Though there are some differences (minor and uncorrelated with any particular ability) between male and female brains, the main problem with looking for correlations with behavior is that sex differences in cognition are massively exaggerated.