Archive for November 5, 2012

IN A SAFE HARBOR

A year and a half ago, when I launched my blog on its maiden voyage I wrote, shamelessly stretching a metaphor: “Life’s rough seas have often forced me to change course, navigate toward a bright horizon, and drop anchor in a safe harbor.” I followed this course literally when Honey and I recently relaxed for two days at the Brampton Inn located one mile from historic Chestertown, Maryland — a legendary harbor port on the Chester River in Colonial times. I needed some pampering and a change of scenery after being ill for almost two months — another misdiagnosis — the third in the year I’ve lived in Maryland. Oh, how I miss my kind, caring Dr. Magun back on Long Island.

Wrote the above two weeks ago, and kept delaying finishing. But Honey and I are home today waiting for what havoc Hurricane Sandy delivers to our part of the mid-Atlantic coast. We’ve got gallons of water, batteries, plenty of food, chew bones ane toys for Honey, and books for me to read by candlelight. I’m not much worried in my snug ground floor condominium built on a hill. My son called to ask if I wanted to come down to Baltimore to be with them — no problems there. But I told him we’re fine and I didn’t want to drive in heavy wind and rain. So before we lose power, I’ll try to finish this.

My last post in August,”Oh Boy Baby,” announced the joyous news of my grandson’s birth in June. Not exactly timely, but life keeps interrupting. I had what I thought was an ordinary chest cold and called my new doctor — on vacation for a week. His office advised me to go to the Upper Chesapeake Medical Center emergency room — no way, after previously reported horrendous experience last year. Or to Patient First, a walk-in facility, which I did. After tests, including blood and chest X-ray, I was surprised by a diagnosis of walking pneumonia reported by a Physician’s Assistant. Never did see a doctor, but I obediently began to take an antibiotic prescribed by one behind the scenes.

Several days later I was miserable. My head felt strange — heavy and confused, hard to concentrate. My eyes were tired, blinking often to focus. I was exhausted, and alarmed to begin seeing patterns in my solid color carpeting. Most frightening, I was very depressed — which felt worse than the physical symptoms.

Hurricane Sandy shut down my computer and everything else wired — except me — after I wrote the previous two paragraphs on October 29th. We were without electricity for 28 hours here in Bel Air, but I can’t complain after seeing power out and homes demolished along the Atlantic coast, especially in New Jersey, Staten Island, Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn and parts of New York City, where antiquitated subways flooded and shut down. It was upsetting to see the wreakage in the Rockaways, and particularly in Breezy Point where I spent so many happy childhood summers. Life is more unfair to some than others. And consider the people of Haiti still living in tents since the devastating hurricane in 2010 — then afflicted by cholera.

I’d prepared for power failure and had lined up a flashlight, extra batteries, candles and gallons of water. Tried to continue writing with pen and paper, but gave up soon. My faithful Honey and I went to bed by 9PM, bundled in a quilt, and I read by flashlight till sleepy. Tuesday we drove to find a newspaper — hopefully, the Washington edition of The New York Times — for update on the storm and my daily politics fix. I’m addicted to the NYT crossword puzzle, doing well till Wednesday, and getting better on Sunday’s tricky ones. No traffic lights, but drivers courteously taking turns at crossroads. No stores open nearby. No news. Not good news.

Back to my medical misadventure. After taking 400 mg of Avolex for eight of ten days, feeling sicker every day, but brought up to take my medicine, I called my doctor when he returned. He examined me, said there was still some congestion, but not pneumonia, and he wouldn’t have ordered chest X-rays or prescribed Avolex, a powerful antibiotic. In some cases, it was like using a shotgun to kill a fly. I had a B-12 injection, and these continued for a month before I began to feel better. Another scare in the middle of this — had mammography of my left breast and got a notice to come back for a second one. First I cried, then weakly reasoned I’d led a full life, made it to age 80, lived to see a grandchild. And if I needed another mastectomy, I’d be a 34B again (prosthetically) rather than the matronly 36C I’d been since childbirth. False alarm, thank God.

I learned long ago to stay as active as I’m able, especially when feeling down. It’s deadly to sit still feeling sorry for myself. Walking, stretching, even dancing around alone — moving my body helps my mind. If I’m not up to anything else, I do a Yoga pose: “Homage to the Sun,” recommended by my good friend since college, Therese. She also sent me a Rilke quotation: “No feeling lasts” — which helps me wait out the downs, and reminds me to savor the ups.

I try to sing “You Are My Sunshine” or “When the Saints Come Marching In” even though I’m more in the mood for “Old Man River” –almost laughing when I attempt the low notes. I pray a lot, too, and let the tears flow when necessary. I cancelled a Yoga class, and dropped out of a photography exhibit at the Bel Air Arts Festival. Didn’t want my customary wine with dinner, but enjoyed an occasional Friendly’s coffee ice cream soda. Best of all, my son, daughter-in-law and darling baby helped me hang on.

Honey was, as always, my faithful companion. She and I did easy errands, ate regular meals, took our usual walks around the duck pond in Bynum Run Park, and I exerted my befuddled brain with reading and crosswords. We took rambling car rides exploring the countryside. One sunny fall day, after a scenic drive past farms to the “Harford Waste Disposal Center” — pre-ecologically known as a dump — a young woman took some post-move jumk out of my car, smiled and called me “Hon.” My spirits lifted on the way home and I began a post: Down in the Dumps,” but trashed that, too.

Speaking of The New York Times, an article in the Science section by Jane E. Brody, “A Cure That Can Be Worse Than the Illness,” appeared, ironically, on September 11th, and warned of debilitating side effects of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones –one of which is Avolex. Some of these are injury to “the central nervous system (causing ‘brain fog,’ depression, hallucinations and psychotic reactions), the heart, liver, skin…, the gastrointentinal system, hearing and blood sugar metabolism.” Visual problems, including detached retina, have also been reported, along with many other adverse results. So, in the scheme of things, I got off easy.

Honey and I enjoyed our stay at the luxurious Brampton Bed and Breakfast Inn, a 19th century country estate and National Register Plantation House. We had our own pet-friendly cottage with a fenced garden, near the main house where I was served afternoon tea with savories, delicious cakes, and good company. I also relished the delicious, bountiful breakfasts –some of which I shared later with my roommate. We walked around the beautiful property where we met a honeymoon couple from Texas, Corinne and Gary, who stopped to pet and admire my friend. I enjoyed talking to a couple from Jamaica Estates, New York, Jon and Jill, at breakfast. Honey and I toured Chestertown, including Washington College, founded in 1782; the charming shops on High Street; and the harbor area — after which we had a leisurely lunch on a deck overlooking the marina at the Fish Whistle Restaurant — which cooked Honey’s hamburger just the way she likes it. So “All’s well that ends well.” For now.

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