Archive for Parenting

May is Asthma Awareness Month

May is asthma awareness month. My sister likes to celebrate her birthday for an entire month, so I’ve been trying to share all month about asthma on facebook, twitter, and instagram.

My month has been ok. My little dude ended up in the ER with bronchiolitis again. As time goes on, his breathing resembles mine more and more. Fortunately it’s very episodic for him and only flares up every few months. A few duonebs, some pulmicort, and prednisone fixed him up. It’s interesting to watch him expend as much energy as possible all the time. Even when he’s having trouble breathing, he’ll move and move and move until he ends up lying on the floor.

Speaking of “lying on the floor,” I had a “moment” myself a few days ago. I wasn’t feeling too great and was lying down while the kids watched a movie. The little dude was pretty active, like a spider monkey, as usual. He was kind of climbing on me, and before I knew it, he was jumping on my chest. That triggered some major coughing and wheezing which ended in me crawling towards my medicine, getting too worn out, and lying on the floor for a long time. I was eventually able to get to my meds and noticed my oxygen was 85%. In the moment, these sorts of incidents don’t seem like a huge deal. Afterward, they do seem a bit more serious. I know I’d be exponentially more concerned if I witnessed this happening to someone else.

A couple nebs, magnesium, allergy meds, five hours on CPAP, and some more albuterol had me mostly ok in 24hrs. I should have used an epipen or gotten help. That’s easy to now, but in the moment all i can think about is, “I don’t want to go to the hospital.”

At the moment I’m outside of Pittsburgh and will be visiting my other lung doctor at UPMC tomorrow. It’ll be interesting to see where my PFTs are at and things have changed or stayed the same. A year ago I found out I have idiopathic restrictive lung disease on top of everything else. It’d be really cool if things were better.

Am I the only one that has to pack three times as much medical stuff than clothes on trips? I feel a bit ridiculous sometimes, but I assure you it’s all necessary.

Children and Chronic Illness

I am chronically ill, and I have two children. I don’t like admitting I can’t always take care of them, mostly because it is true. Fortunately they are very understanding and are kind of used to it. It can become really difficult when I’m solo parenting though.

Last week, my special lady friend was in L.A. for a work conference. Kid #1 goes to school during the day and Kid #2 is with a babysitter during the day, but I’m on duty for nights, mornings, and weekends. I was doing alright until the weekend.

I wasn’t feeling well before Liz left. She was worried things wouldn’t be ok. The kids weren’t adjusting well to mom being gone, but I was doing ok. The week progressed, and I became slightly more and more tired each day. I’m often able to rest and recharge on weekends, but not this time.

I did get a break for a couple hours Friday night and Saturday afternoon, but I was already feeling bad enough that it wasn’t enough for me to feel better. Sunday morning I got the kids some food, turned on the TV, and laid back down. They woke me up at 11, 12, 1, and 2. They were hungry, they were tired, and they needed some attention. I was able to get a family member to come get them around 6, but by then I was in pretty bad shape. It’s now three days later, and I’m just now doing some normal things like: not sleeping all day, eating, and talking to people.

I’m fortunate that my oldest can watch over the youngest and mostly keep him out of trouble. I’m grateful to have family around who can help out at times. We’re all glad to have Liz back, and hopefully I can hack it next time. The kids are also fine, I just wonder if they think all dads are like me.

RSV

I have a couple kids, and the youngest has some mild breathing problems. Two or three weeks ago he became sick, was having a lot of trouble breathing, and was hard-core retracting. His doctor said it was RSV and started him on some steroids.

RSV is supposed to be dangerous for babies and old people. Supposedly if us adults get it, it’s just a cold and you cough a lot. I ended up hanging out with the little dude for a week while he coughed and sneezed in my face. Sometimes he’d let me give him a treatment, and other times he fought it. Things seemed to be going decently well until I started feeling under the weather.

Things went from bad to worse in about 6hrs. Lately whenever I get sick my oxygen saturation drops. That night I was reading 85-89%, feeling pretty lethargic, and looking like two nebs short of an ER run. Luckily I tend to have prednisone on hand and a very responsive pulmonologist in town. I took some magnesium and then sat in a hot bath with epsom salt, which also contains magnesium. I can’t count how many times this has saved me. Magnesium helps to relax smooth muscles and let your airways chill out.

I’m still having ups and downs trying to kick this thing, but this morning I was able to ride my bike so that’s a good sign. I wish I could skip cold and flu season each year.

 

Helping Grandpa

When I was a kid I spent a lot of time with my Mexican grandfather. The guy is a genius. He is both an electrical and mechanical engineer and worked for Amana Refrigeration for years. When hanging out with him, there were always projects involving wiring, plumbing, carpentry, combustion engines, drywalling, framing, painting, etc. The guy can take a car apart and put it back together without any extra bolts or washers lying around afterward.

Many times I remember helping him and accidentally messing something up. Once I stepped on a sheet of drywall and broke off the end. Several times I knocked over containers or tiny pieces and parts. I would volunteer to help and sometimes give up to do something more “fun” halfway through. I’ve broken tools and equipment on accident, and have become bored on many trips to find materials or needed parts.

Sometimes he became frustrated, but most of the time he acted like it was no big deal. Last weekend I was getting rid of some bank statements and other documents now that taxes are submitted. I got a new paper shredder and naturally Ruthie wanted to help. Who doesn’t love shredding papers?

I gave her a stack of things and before I knew it, the shredder was jammed up awesomely well. It took me 30 min with a long screwdriver to unclog the thing. At first I was frustrated and vocalized it, but then I remembered all the times I had screwed things up for my grandpa and realized it’s not that big of a deal. All I ever wanted to do was spend time with him and try to learn the amazing things he was capable of doing. I wouldn’t say using a paper shredder really compares to re-wiring a house, swapping out a water heater, or replacing the head gasket on a 1988 and 1/2 Ford Escort…but I try to put myself back in the shoes of a kid who wants to help. I’m happy to say I think I learned a lesson in there and Ruthie’s back on the paper shredding job.

A weekend with the kid

Last weekend Chuck, my daughter, and I had the whole house to ourselves as the other half of the family was out gallivanting at a conference and rubbing elbows with famous people.  We had an important agenda to accomplish:

Thursday

  • Go to art class
  • Eat at Arby’s
  • Watch a movie

Friday

  • Watch three movies
  • Eat grilled cheese
  • Clean kitchen

Saturday

  • Watch four movies
  • Take a walk outside
  • Shoot guns
  • Acquire Pizza Hut
  • Clean kitchen and living room
  • Eat more grilled cheese

Sunday

  • Watch three movies
  • Make popcorn
  • Clean guinea pig cage

February

A lot of things have been happening this past month

  • I had several asthma attacks due to over exerting myself in the snow outside in sub-zero temperatures
  • My prednisone in-take is finally back down to 5mg again
  • I’m finally starting to lose some water weight from the lower prednisone dose
  • I’m not feeling great, but also not feeling awful every day
  • We have a new kid in the house
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman died
  • I heard I might get off the prednisone in 6 to 12 months
  • Jimmy Fallon finally kicked Leno out
  • OLYMPICS

Prednisone:

While I’ve always had at least moderate asthma, there were always a few things that separated me from those with serious asthma problems.  Prednisone was something I had to take every so often, but never longer than a week, two at the most.  Last year I did a taper or two and then have basically been on it since late May.  While it drives me nuts and has some unpleasant side effects, I strongly believe it’s keeping helping me breathe better and I’d rather take these pills every day than end up in the ER on a regular basis like I was doing just a few months ago.  I know some people who have been on prednisone for years and can’t really relate to that.  There’s a good chance I’ll be on these steroids for a while, but at lest there’s a chance I can stop taking them before 2015.

Exercise and activity levels:

You never quite understand exactly what you have until you don’t have it anymore.  I’ve heard this statement so many times, but it’s never rang truer this past year.

  • I used to park half a mile away from my building at work and do the one mile round trip 1-3x a day.
  • I never had to consider just how far away something was on campus before deciding to walk, catch the shuttle, drive or not go.
  • I have to carry a man-purse with all my medical necessities everywhere I go.
  • At some point in time, every day, I feel kind of awful.
  • I try to make plans but often have to cancel them.

I’m trying to walk around as much as possible and not worry too much about doing anything heavy duty.  I think Liz enjoys yelling at me whenever I try to do anything outside.  Last week my local lung doc told me to stop breathing the cold air, so I guess I should probably listen.  Fortunately Spring is on its way so as long as allergies don’t kill me, I’ll be able to start walking outside more as well.

New Baby

Yes, we have a new baby in the house.  I recently listed off a list of possible nicknames for the little dude, but Liz is calling him Neville on the internets so it seems I should too.  Chuck has been great.  She’s very helpful in an appropriate way without bugging or pestering the little guy.  He’s pretty chill and Dude-like, which we appreciate.  He’s also not up every hour all night long so we have been getting some sleep.  While there is a certain amount of stress with taking care of a new baby, the worst is getting busy and forgetting to take my medicine, which doesn’t help at the end of the day when I sometimes crash out of nowhere.

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It’s hard to stay mad at him too long for forgetting to take my meds.  The kid already loves beards.  THE KID LOVES BEARDS.  He also likes taking it easy and folding his arms like he’s in a 90s boy band.

Brandt Died

It was a real shock for me to learn Philip Seymour Hoffman died.  The New York Times posted the story and I learned about it a mere three minutes later.  He was truly one of the few great actors of his generation.  We’ve tried to come up with other actors who are at the same level he was…it was hard to come up with a list of names.  I haven’t been affected this strongly from a celebrity dying since Heath Ledger died, only Hoffman passing is a much bigger deal.  It’s weird to think Jackie Treehorn and Brandt are no longer with us.  I can’t even imagine what kind of roles and performances could have come out of Hoffman in the next 20+ years.

Nesting and nesting?

This month we’ve been busy getting ready for kid #2 to enter the world.  At times I may mention “Chuck” in reference to my daughter.  That’s not her real name in case you were wondering.  Working on codename for kid number two.  Ideas include Hopscotch, Machete and Chalupa Batman.  Feel free to vote.  It may or may not affect the decision.

So…nesting.  If you have been pregnant or have lived with a pregnant lady, been around one, etc – you probably know what I’m talking about.  Before Chuck was born I’d come home from work to find Liz had re-arranged another room in the house.  I’m not talking about scooting a few items around.  I’m talking about moving book cases and steel shelves along with everything that was on them from one end of the apartment to the other.  I’ve been told there’s an extremely strong, compelling feeling it just has to be done.  While Liz has been doing her cleaning and prepping in the house, it seems as though I’ve been doing similar, silly things outside in this ridiculously cold weather, which isn’t good for my lungs.

In the past few weeks I’ve shoveled snow, moved fallen branches and have attempted to push cars stuck in the driveway three times with only one failed attempt.  All of this in sub-zero temperatures and not wearing a scarf or any kind of facemask.  Last Friday was the last of these silly feats of strength where I was shoveling snow and pushing my two-ton car while Liz was in the driver’s seat.  It took about 30 minutes, but we got the car into the garage so it wouldn’t turn into a major snow drift.  I thought I might not be able to walk back into the house, but I did and fortunately avoided an ER trip.

The thing is, this stuff has to be done and there’s not really anyone else to do it.  Maybe this is what nesting is all about?  The good news is I have tons of prednisone at home so I can always alter my dose/taper and get myself back on track without having to seek help or go see a doctor.  I’m also much better than I was 4-5 months ago so doing a treatment or using an inhaler seems to result in me feeling at least somewhat better.  Back when I was nebbing 8-10x a day I was just always feeling awful.

So any day now we’ll be the parents of two kids instead of one.  I have no idea what that’ll be like, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out.  We figured out how to handle one kid.

Shoveling Snow

…is probably the most stupid thing I’ve done so far this year.  Many of you experienced the snowpocalypse that encompassed a major portion of the country last week.  We had -20F to -40F windchills and on the slightly warmer day I felt compelled to do a little shoveling since our country driveway was knee-deep and pregnant Liz isn’t supposed to be exerting herself.  We finally found someone who could come out and plow a path who also knew how to not scrape all the gravel off into the grass.  While this was occurring I, for some reason, felt the need to clear some fallen branches, direct the plow dude where to go and clear off the sidewalk.

Like most stupid decisions, it didn’t seem too bad until I was about 15 minutes into it and then decided I needed to be done.  The next two days were spent wheezing, coughing, and Liz reminding me what a stupid decision that was.  Fortunately I’m on the mend now.  I’m tapering down on the never-ending prednisone and we’re eagerly awaiting kid #2 who’s due any day now.1506742_741427213553_964906717_n

Conversations with Santa

Santa: What kind of music do you like?

Chuck: Lady Gaga

Santa: OH MY!

Liz: But what do you like to dance to?

Chuck: IRON MAIDEN!!!

Santa: Your dad must be some kind of rocker.

My kid loves Alton Brown

As a parent it can be hard at times figuring out what’s no longer appropriate for “family time” as you transition from being that cool adult to someone with a little kid.  When Chuck was a baby she would often be fussy and fidgety for Liz, but would lie completely still for hours with me watching whatever I happened to be interested in on TV.  Since my asthma has been bad for much longer than Chuck has been alive, that means many, many hours of her early life were spent watching TV and movies with me.

At first I’d just watch whatever knowing she wasn’t paying attention, couldn’t exactly see what all was going on, and didn’t really understand anything.  I think it was around 6 months or so that we quit letting her sit in on R-rated stuff and definitely avoided all violence and anything sexual.  Eventually we started watching “kid stuff” with her but are fortunate she never got into some of the more annoying bits of children’s programming.

These days her favorite things on TV include:

  • Doctor Who
  • Star Wars (the original trilogy)
  • Power Rangers Samurai
  • Lord of the Rings
  • And anything with Alton Brown

AltonBrown_bowling

Yes, that’s correct – my kid loves Alton Brown.  We lucked out being he’s one of the coolest food personalities on TV, is a great educator, and does an amazing job with Good Eats and Iron Chef America.  Last night when it was getting close to bedtime Chuck asked…

Could I sit in the living room for a while and watch cooking shows?  Alton Brown, let’s watch Alton Brown.  Oh, and I’m hungry.  I need a snack.  I didn’t brush my teeth yet because I wanted to drink some juice.  Do we have any juice left?

So I fired up an episode of Good Eats from season 14 and got her some cheese and crackers from the kitchen with juice.  I’ve always enjoyed cooking and have tried to include Chuck whenever I’m preparing something.  It’s kind of cool that she’s so interested in food.  She loves olives, extremely sharp cheddar and asparagus, yet still refuses to eat eggs and mashed potatoes.  Every time Alton makes something Chuck wants to know whats going on, loves answering his rhetorical questions and always asks me, “Can we make that some day?  I want to try that.  It looks good.”  Occasionally the questions can become fast and furious and after a long day of questioning it’s a little tiring.  I just keep reminding myself – hey, at least she’s not obsessed with the latest Disney kid personality or Miley Cyrus.