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.

Trayvax Axis Review

I tend to use a wallet until it is falling apart. I like to get my money’s worth out of them. Around Christmas I knew the time was quickly coming to find a new wallet, and started looking into thin wallets.

I’ve never quite had the same problem George had, but I’ve tried to keep wallets out of my back pants pockets for years. I don’t even really carry cash with me anymore, just a lot of plastic. I was also thinking if my wallet held less stuff, I’d be forced to carry less.

Trayvax-Axis

I don’t exactly remember how I came across Trayvax, but the more I looked into what they do and make, the cooler they were for me.

  • American company
  • Products made in the USA
  • Wallets are RFID resistant
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Partner with and support veterans

This wallet is made out of solid, tough materials I dig. The design is minimal and slim to carry my plastic cards and a few bills with ease. It’s smaller than my cell phone so it’s not like it crowds my front pockets. The wallet is also modular, allowing you to loosen or tighten the strap to securely fit what you’re carrying. If you’re concerned about the wallet opening up, you can secure it with a carabiner or other similar item.

I think what has struck me most, is all the positive comments I have received from cashiers when I go to pay.

“Is that a wallet?”

“Where’d you get that?”

“That’s so cool!”

I’m not sure why, but cashiers seem to love wallets, beards, and Trejo’s Tacos t-shirts. I’ve also used the Trayvax Axis as a tool of sorts to pry or smash things. So far it’s held up quite well.

If the Axis isn’t your style, Trayvax does offer three other models with color variations and accessories. Be sure to check out what they offer. Did I mention they have a Youtube channel?

Twitterpated Trees

After receiving my Xolair injections this morning, I popped on over to the office to talk with my boss about projects and said hi to a few co-workers. One was asking me what I do to handle the tree allergies going on right now. “Wellllll,” I said, “I use…”

  • Allegra and Zyrtec
  • Maintenance nasal spray (Fluticasone Propionate)
  • Emergency nasal spray (Azelastine)
  • Eye drops (Pataday)
  • Singulair
  • Sinus rinses
  • And occasionally Benadryl

I also have epi-pens I carry around, but have never had to use them. I actually hadn’t noticed the allergies much until a few days ago. I think it was because I had been inside some much and our in-home babysitter had the doors open. By the end of the day my nose was constantly running, and my eyes were itching. Not too bad in the grand scheme of things.

Sinus Rinsing

Rinsing my sinuses has been a major game-changer for me, but I know it doesn’t work for everyone. I prefer the Neti squeeze bottles over the traditional Neti Pot as I can control the water pressure going through my sinuses. It’s important to use filtered or distilled water. There have been reported cases of people getting nasty stuff in their sinuses from using tainted water. Just be safe.

I’ve also heard stories of people getting or prolonging sinus infections from rinsing their sinuses. This hasn’t been a problem for me, but definitely talk to your doctor if you have questions. I always put my head down in the sink and blow my nose on both sides a few times, tipping my head side to side, to get all the water out. When I first started doing this about 5 years ago, I would have water randomly come out of my sinuses. This method of getting the water out has eliminated the problem.

I buy my sinus rinse supplies in “bulk” off Amazon. I get two bottles and 250 packets at a time.

sinus_rinse

It ends up being much cheaper than running to a pharmacy, especially since most places seem to only carry the bottles pre-filled with saline and a few extra packets. It’s a waste of money if you ask me.

The one other thing I’ve found very valuable is a drying stand, if you’re rinsing your sinuses regularly. This’ll help everything to dry out in between uses.

If you’re looking for OTC eye drops, my friend says Alaway is the brand to try. It can also help to check Pollen.com, or get one of the many apps for your smartphone, so you know what to expect. It’s kind of like checking the weather in a hopefully non-compulsive way. Sometimes just knowing how bad it might be can cause a little anxiety.

Face Masks

Lastly, I sometimes wear a mask outside. I wanted to get one of those skull masks like you see special forces guys wearing in action films, but those things don’t really work with beards.313b4525fbe42e9301e3a4c284ee8f10

I ended up getting a boring, washable, plain black one. It’s thicker than the paper ones you get at the doctor’s office if you have a cough and fever. It can also be a little harder to breathe through, but it stays on my face well and makes a noticeable difference. It’s good for wearing on planes as well.

Just remember to take it off before entering a gas station/convenience store or a bank. They get kind of weird about dudes in masks.

Purple Mattress Update

So we’ve had our Purple mattress a little over a month and are still loving it. At this point, I think it’s fair to say we’re keeping it. Here’s a quick rundown of our adjustment to the new mattress.

Mattress protector – I have horrendous allergies so it’s a really good idea to have my mattress and pillows encased to cut down on dust, dust mites, pollen, and whatever else. Originally I purchased this Sleep Tite model, but I didn’t pay attention to it being for thick mattresses up to 22″ deep. I didn’t think it would be a big deal, but after we zipped the mattress up and put sheets on the bed, we could feel the bagginess of the extra material beneath the fitted sheet. It was driving us a little nuts.

I then did some more careful searching on Amazon to find another mattress protector that is made for those 9″ to 12″. The Purple Mattress happens to be 9.5″ thick, so this was a much better fit. I also picked up a fitted-sheet-style protector as a second layer on the mattress. The reasoning is we can easily slip this one off and wash it periodically without having to unzip the encasement and take the bed apart.

Pillow protectors – Since I was purchasing a new mattress protector, I went ahead and got new ones for our pillows too. I went with the Sleep Tite brand and they’re working great.

Bed height – As I mentioned before, the Purple Mattress is about 10″ shorter/less thick than our previous mattress. This hasn’t bothered me, but Liz would prefer the bed to be a bit higher off the ground. To fix this, I picked up some bed risers. They are modular, plastic blocks of sort allowing me to raise the bed height by 3″, 5″, or 8″.

The bed has been great. It’s comfortable sleeping on our backs or sides. Even sitting on the bed for extended periods of time working on laptops doesn’t seem to put any stress on our backs. I really love that I can by lying near the edge of the mattress and I don’t feel like I’m going to slide off the bed. If there was one regret, it might be that we stuck with the queen size and didn’t upgrade to a king.

I’ve also had the flu/bronchitis for the past three weeks and have spent 90% of that time in bed. This hasn’t seem to have affected the mattress at all.

Sick and functioning

Chronic illness is difficult at times. While trying to do normal things like work, family, paying bills, and cleaning the bathroom; sometimes all I can do is sit and breathe. Hours and days can go by like this, sometimes even weeks. For example, I found out I had the flu a couple weeks ago, had a little pneumonia scare, started getting a little better, and then got worse again. The antibiotics seem to be helping, and I’m back on the dreaded prednisone, but it’s a necessary evil to keep my oxygen levels normal.

In my mind, I’ve had a minor set back. I’ve been sick a couple of weeks, but the bright side is I don’t have pneumonia and I stayed out of the hospital. In my time-losing, hypoxic haze my wife, children, friends, family, and co-workers see a different story. Before this two weeks, I was having allergy problems. Before that, I picked up RSV from my 2 year old, before that I had some viral thing from my daughter, etc., etc., etc. Yesterday I sat on our front porch for half an hour. It felt like a scene from a movie where hospital patients are wheeled outside for “fresh air time” dressed in pajamas and wrapped in robes, covered with blankets. Last night changing the sheets on the bed left me panting for 30 minutes until my wife reminded me to take some meds.

Here are some things I try to do to stay functioning.

Buy stuff online – leaving the house, driving a car, and walking up and down aisles can sound impossible at times. If I notice we’re low on supplies, I’ll hop onto Amazon and see if I can find a decent deal. This past week I bought 24 rolls of paper towels, a case of toilet paper, a giant box of trash bags, and a few other necessities.Prime shipping gets it to the house quickly, and Paribus helps me save money if prices drop.

Clean up at least one thing a day – cleaning the house can sound exhausting, but doing at least one thing a day helps you stay on top of things. Pick up some toys, do a load of laundry and put it away, clean the toilet, load the dishwasher, etc. Seven small tasks during the week can be much more manageable than one big task on a bad day.

Find some hobbies – I love watching movies. It’s my favorite art form, and it helps me be social. It gives me something to talk about with friends. I also enjoy growing my beard, making things from paracord, and cooking. Find something that works for you. Read some books, take an online course, keep your mind limber.

Stay in touch – don’t cut yourself off from the world. Find people to talk to either in person or online. You’re not alone. There are others like you out there. Others can learn and benefit from your knowledge and experience.

Get up and move – don’t stay in bed all day. Get up and take a shower, walk to the kitchen, go get the mail. Don’t overdo it and know your limits, just make sure you’re physically active in some way.

This is by no means everything, and I fall off the rails more often than I’d like to admit. You just have to keep trying. There are also going to be people in your life that bring you down intentionally and unintentionally. Try not to be discouraged. Most people mean well, they’re just ignorant.

Flu update

I was feeling something awful last week and then I tested positive for influenza. The first three days post-diagnosis were definitely the worst. After a week, it feels like a couple days have gone by. I still can’t make it all day without a nap, and anything resembling cardio induces hacking and coughing.

It was encouraging to hear my x-rays were clear. Pneumonia scares the crap out of me. Influenza is also scary, but slightly less frightening. Another encouraging fact is that I didn’t end up in the ER or hospital. I think it means I’m getting better overall. I’d like to make some strides this year towards being more healthy.

Beard scissor maintenance

Like many of you, I use scissors to trim my beard. Electric trimmers or clippers tend to snag hairs and give you split ends. It’s also really easy to make big mistakes, where with scissors you might have a misplaced snip or two that is more easily corrected.

dovo_scissors

I have a pair of Dovo 43456 scissors from Solingen, Germany. They were purchased for me as a gift at The Beard Baron’s web site. They’ve been great, but over the past year have become more and more loose. It’s one of those things that happened gradually, and then all of a sudden they barely worked. Fortunately there was an easy solution – tightening up the screw.

At first, I grabbed a random screwdriver from the garage but soon realized I was going to bugger it up if I weren’t careful. I have a nice set of hollow-ground, Grace screwdrivers that worked much, much better. When I first received the scissors, there was slight friction when opening and shutting them. They weren’t floppy like they had become. As luck would have it, I found a good video on YouTube to illustrate what I’m talking about.

The video also demonstrates oiling your scissors, which is a good idea for anything metal. From now on I’m going to pay more attention to when my trimming scissors need a little love and care.

Paribus Review

I came across Paribus last week, and while it seemed like a good deal, I was still a bit skeptical. This is a service that will track price changes for items you have bought from Amazon, Walmart, Target, Newegg, Best Buy, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Gap, Old Navy, J. Crew, Staples, Sephora, Bonobos, Zappos, Athleta, Banana Republic, Macy’s, and Piperlime. If the price goes down, and you’re eligible for a refund according to the vendor’s policies and guidelines, Paribus will get you your refund.

Now you’re thinking that sounds too good to be true. There must be a catch. Here’s the catch – Paribus keeps a percentage of your refund. It’s starts out at 25%, and it’s relatively easy to reduce that number to 10% or even 0%.

The way it works is you give it access to an email account containing email receipts from the aforementioned vendors. So if you don’t want them having access to your normal email, start a new gmail account. If you’re already receiving receipts at another address, you can forward them to your new one.

Like I’ve said before, I’ve been trying it out for a week and have been liking it so far. I have a few purchases that’ll be earning me refunds soon. The only thing I’ve been disappointed with so far, is it doesn’t recognize any digital purchases from Amazon, specifically renting or purchasing streaming videos.

If you want to try it out, here’s my referrer link – https://paribus.co/i/0GNNIu

Influenza

I have the flu.

I haven’t felt this bad since I had pneumonia back in 2006. At first it was just feeling like crap, a high fever, and copious coughing. But now that the shortness of breath and low O2 sats have joined the party, I’m really looking forward to the end.

FYI – Tamiflu seems to be keeping me awake when I’d love to be sleeping. So keep that in mind if you’re ever on it. I told my doc getting up to get water makes my O2 drop to 90% so I went in for a chest x-ray and blood tests. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about pneumonia.

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.