Friday, September 13, 2013

Smoke 'em if you've got 'em

I remember watching old black & white movies, noir stuff maybe, from the 40s.  Back then practically everybody smoked.  And still, when someone was about to light up, they'd say, "Mind if I smoke?"

Now, even though the tobacco companies have had to pay MILLIONS to people for hiding the ill effects of cigarette smoke (in some cases even seeming to promote smoking as a health aid) there are still lots and lots of smokers.  And in compliance with the rage of the age, they all feel entitled to smoke.  They have a right to smoke.  Ok.  I don't guess I a point.  Smokers have a right to smoke, right up to the point where it infringes on someone else's right to breathe.

Seem fair?  My mother never smoked a cigarette in her life, but guess what?  She has COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is what killed her mother.  My mother lived in houses with smokers her entire life.  I grew up with cigarette smoke everywhere I went.  It was Kentucky.  Tobacco, whiskey and horses are kind of their thing.

Somehow, I managed to not become addicted to smoking.  Thank God.

I've watched people try to quit.  It's hard as hell. 

I got a glimpse into how hard once when I had a patient who used to come to the ER all the time with shooter's abscesses or overdoses.  IV heroin user.  I didn't see her for a couple years, and because she had been a rather frequent flyer, I noticed.  We sort of assumed she'd probably OD'd.   Then, one day, a very well dressed, nice-looking woman came to the ER for a cut on her hand.  She'd been making breakfast and trying to slice something, sliced herself instead.  At one point while caring for her, she said, "You don't remember me, do you?"  Then I was the junkie.  But she wasn't anymore.  She had been college educated when she got hooked on IV drugs, now she was off drugs, had a great job and was making a life for herself.  A true success story.  But, she told me, even though she'd been able to get off heroin, she could not quit smoking.

So, I understand what a grip cigarettes can have on people.

...but, why do they seem to make some people into assholes?

Why is it, that when patronizing a facility, such as a restaurant, that has a no smoking policy, smokers will then gather in hordes immediately outside the door to said facilities so that everyone who wants to go in or out is forced to walk through a fog of cigarette smoke?  Do I get to sue these people?   I mean, no one forced  anyone to spend their money on cigarettes, people chose to do that, but they were able to hold cigarette companies liable for the outcomes of their own decisions.  Now that there is no doubt in anyone's minds and there have been warning labels on cigarettes for 50 flippin' years, who is responsible? 

NOW can we hold the individuals responsible who will spend money on cigarettes even when their houses foreclose for lack of money?

And then there are coworkers who will take break after break after break to go smoke -- and want/expect me to cover their patients.  A nurse whom I have always liked just became my idol, because she said out loud to another nurse, a smoker, what I've wanted to say for years and will now always say, "I will not cover your patients while you go smoke.  Put a nicotine patch on and get back to work."  There is nowhere on hospital property, no hospital in this country anymore, really, where smoking is allowed.  So, suck it up, buttercup. 

And who do I hold responsible when I can't catch my breath from coughing after having to walk past or through someone else's cigarette smoke?

And, if I dare try to politely ask someone to please, at least move away from the door so that I can try to avoid the poisonous fog they're spewing, I get responses like, "I can smoke if I want." Don't I get an opportunity to NOT smoke if I want????

Why be a jerk?  If you want to suffocate slowly over time, mazel tov, but I have the right to breathe.  That one is actually in the constitution.  I never saw the "right to smoke" amendment. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What difference does it make?

We all have our memories of that day.

Mine is that I had tickets, for weeks, to go to the wedding of my dear friends' daughter.  The wedding was to be the 15th.  I was to fly out on the 12th.

The morning of the 11th, I had to get to class (nursing school pre-reqs) and the Rickster was supposed to be at a 7a shift and was running late.  We were in NM. 

My friend, Joe, who was in Cincy, called me and said, "Turn on the TV"

"What channel?"

"It doesn't matter."

Those words made a chill run through me.   I turned on the Today show as she quickly told me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.  I pictured a small, private plane that had accidentally gone off course.  While we watched, I saw a large airliner run into one of the buildings.  I was confused, because I could still see smoke, but the only thing that made sense was, "...that's a replay, right?"


"No.  It's another plane."

Rick was in such a hurry that he didn't really process what had just happened and ran out the door.  My classes were cancelled and I just sat there, alone, watching the coverage nonstop all day.

At work, later, I discovered that my then charge nurse's sister-in-law was killed at the Pentagon.

All flights were cancelled.  Kids in your twenties, let that sink in -- ALL FLIGHTS WERE CANCELLED.  For days.

I was finally able to fly to Cincy on the 14th, and it was so odd.

Security was the same as always (all the ridiculous, pointless changes came later) and so it actually seemed like a normal flight.  At first.  The plane was virtually empty and the flight crew was so deferential.  Everybody got food, everybody got to watch the in-flight movie, they kept thanking us for flying.   My original flight, with a layover -- somewhere -- was now a direct flight.  For some reason, as the pilot announced we were approaching to land, I got a weird, frightened feeling.  Thinking about those people on the planes.  It still gives me nightmares.

As awful as it all was,  for a while after this country came together in a way that must have been reminiscent of the 1940s, during WWII. 

I miss that feeling that we were really and truly one country.

Where were you?

I also want to pay tribute  Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen A. Doherty and Tyrone S. Wood.   Our former Secretary of State, after being part of a ridiculous story about a video prompting the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, then had the temerity to ask, "What difference, at this point, does it make?"

Ask the families of these men. 

It makes a difference.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The kindness of strangers...

Some days, I see things on my job that make me feel that the human race is damned.  Doomed to a miserable hell by man's inhumanity to man.

Then, sometimes, I get to see things that remind me that kindness exists in the world.  And it restores my hope for humanity.

I got a patient one day, brought in by private vehicle.  She was nearly 80, and so skinny as to be skeletal.  She had a giant bruise on her forehead and dried blood all over her face.  Her next door neighbor, maybe 30, who has no relationship to her other than proximity, checks on her every day.  She has no family.  No one. The neighbor, who had to get up to the bathroom in the middle of the night, noticed my patient's light on.  He then went over to check and found the patient on the floor, picked her up and brought her to ER.

He stayed with her for hours, though she was confused and couldn't even tell me her own name.  I cleaned her up, started an IV, drew blood and did all the other things we do to check on little old folks who fall under circumstances when no one saw them fall and we have to figure out why they fell, what kinds of injuries were caused from the fall, etc. 

As she was hydrated with IV fluids and started to become more lucid, she awoke,  looked across at her neighbor and smiled and said, "Hey, buddy.  How ya doin'?"  The neighbor smiled with such relief.

I wanted to hug both of them.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What a concept

It's amazing how much easier it is to run when I follow the rule of not letting more than 3 days go by without running.  I'm going to start holding myself to my old every other day schedule again. 

I'd started slipping on that by first starting to take it easier on myself on pace on my short runs then convincing myself, "Well, I don't have time to  get in my full 3 miles before work because I'm too slow" then just skipping those runs altogether.

Decided this morning that instead of setting a 3 mile goal on work days, I'd set a 30 minute limit and just get in as much distance as possible, but know that I only need half an hour.  A light bulb went off when I realized this is a lot smarter in more than one way  --  duh.  If I set a limit of half an hour, and don't skip runs, I may actually get to the point where I can get in my full 3 miles in said 30 minutes.  That's been my goal.  I want to be a real runner who can run a 10 minute mile, consistently.

So, that's the deal now.  On work days, 30 minutes.  On off days, 4 miles and then my long run.  That will be my half marathon training schedule, which will be my schedule for about 4 or 5 months as I have a half marathon per month coming up.

And, after doing my half hour this morning, I feel great.  I'm remembering that I actually do love to run.  I feel like I've cheated myself for the last few months by convincing myself that running is a chore to be avoided.  It's actually a favor I do for myself.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day

I grew up loving Jerry Lewis and getting to stay up for his nationally televised telethon was a big thrill when I was a kid.  How many times did we try to spot Pop on the local cutaways, hoping he was answering phones rather than stuffing envelopes?  Then, after age 13 or 14, I was allowed to volunteer as well. They were always great experiences and there was a real sense of triumph when the previous years' total was exceeded. 

(btw, if you didn't know, MDA is still a great organization that has very low overhead so that nearly all of the money raised goes directly to research and treatment and helping people and families of people who have any of over 40 neuromuscular diseases. Learn more and give here)

That and the WEBN fireworks.  That was always Labor Day.

For us, on the "Kentucky side" of the Ohio River, back in the day, that meant sitting on either our roof (we lived only a few blocks from the river) or on a grassy flood wall, being eaten alive by chiggers to watch the amazing fireworks display.

Some of the friends I made volunteering for the MDA Telethon and then for MDA camp remain some of my closest friends.  But, I haven't lived in Cincy for years and have only gotten back once...10 years ago? see the fireworks.
(photo by David Schwier)

But, I've sort of created a new tradition.  And, I promise that this will be the last sad "Pop" post...well, for a while at least...

Labor Day 2010 was the day of Pop's funeral.  I remember thinking how entirely appropriate that was. 

When making the funeral arrangement, I did realize that I had already signed up, weeks before, for a local 5k race.  I briefly considered skipping it, but then what?  I'd have sat home alone going crazy.

Running it that day was sort of healing.  Got me in a much more healthy frame of mind to face the funeral later in the day.

I'll be running that same race this morning.

It's probably going to be slow.  I've refound a few pounds since then.  That was my lowest weight since high school.  But, I'm still running, such as it is.  I'll be thinking of Pop, of course, while I do this race, but it will be different than the mind-numbing grief of that morning. I intend to focus on the joy and the feeling of strength and accomplishment.  It's a beautiful cross country course that twists and turns through a lot of lush greenery.  I'm really looking forward to it. 


Short race report: LABOR day is appropriate, because it was laborious.  I started fairly strong but halfway through felt my half-assed training.  Slow finish, one of my slowest 5ks ever.  But, I did ride my bike there and back so it's been an active morning.  Still, this was a wake-up call.  I need to get serious about training.  I have a half marathon to run at 5000 feet elevation in about 7 weeks. 

So, it was hot, I was sweaty and fat and slow.  But, I finished, and I actually did push myself (until the last mile when I had *nothing* left) and I will feel good about that and take that fat, sweaty, slow feeling with me to make me keep up with training and eating right.

On the bike ride there, I was awed by the beautiful, billowing clouds with the pink cast from the sunrise highlighting them.  On the ride home, those same clouds had turned into ominous, gray storm clouds.  I didn't quite beat the storm home.  But, at least there was no lightning or thunder.

So, all in all, it was still a great start to my day.