My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 5 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.Thanks for your help, Eric!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Just because the universe is out to get me, doesn’t mean I’m paranoid (Part 1)

I do have a tendency to wallow in negativity, but I’m hoping that discovering my own divine goodness will change all that. Meditation is supposed to be the vehicle to get me there, but it's stalled on the Lazy Highway at the junction of Excess and Sleeplessness at the moment.

I’m staring down the end of 2009 and wondering what 2010 has in store for me. An attitude adjustment would be a good move for me in 2010.

But before I go that route, I’m going to wallow in negativity one more time and then flush. (Actually, this is such a long post, that I may cut it into two or three posts).

If I had tunnel vision, I would be inclined to say that the last five years were a complete write-off. There were tough times and there were (paltry) good times. I should add a disclaimer of sorts saying: "I'm aware that I'm very fortunate to be born into the time and circumstances I'm in."

But since this is my last (multi-part) wallow, I’m going to highlight the low points for my reading audience. Right off the bat, I have to say that sometimes when things really suck they can be funny later. But some things just keep right on sucking.

Roof and heart: 2005/6

We returned home from our Christmas holidays to a terrible smell. I thought that perhaps we forgot to take the garbage out, but that wasn’t it.

When I walked into our living room, the ceiling was hanging down. The roofer took that old roof off, but didn’t get around to putting the new roof on and it rained while we were away.

This house was a three storey semi-detached home with a flat roof. I was home when they were removing the tar and gravel. I had assumed they were putting on the membrane to replace it, but they didn’t. Lacking a 50-foot ladder, I couldn’t confirm this. That was my mistake.

We spent the next seven weeks in a depressing little furnished apartment while the roofer’s insurance company and our insurance company funded the replacement of all of our ceilings and the floor refinishing and replacement. Thank heavens for insurance. We paid for the actual roof replacement when it was done and had our home inspector verify it.

The night we moved back in, my older daughter, who was four at the time, vomited all over her room from the overwhelming smell of varnish. My younger daughter, who was two (and who is the melded reincarnation of a goat and a science geek), wrote on some walls, broke into her sister’s piggy bank and dropped coins down the vents to give it that lived-in look. There. Perfect.

About six weeks later, my 37-year-old husband walked gingerly down the stairs from the office, where he had been entering his students’ marks.

He was clutching his chest.

“I have crushing chest pain. Can hardly breathe.”

Following the ambulance carrying my husband was surreal. This is something that happens to other people. All I kept thinking was: How could he have a heart attack? He’s a sub-three-hour marathoner, non-smoker and has the healthiest diet of anyone I know.

At the hospital, they ran tests and kept him overnight.

When I returned home where my neighbour and friend was minding my children, he told me that my older daughter’s asthma was acting up, so he gave her the “puffer”. A father himself to children with allergies, he was adept in assessing these things and administering her puffer.

I took her temperature and it was 104F. Not up to another trip to the emergency, but not feeling very tired, I gave her some ibuprophen, propped her up on me and administered salbutamol in intervals for what remained of the night.

I fetched Oli the next day. Tests revealed that he hadn’t had a heart attack. We were so relieved and regarded his followup tests with the internist as a precautionary measure.

Oli laughed and joked with the technicians as he sailed through the stress test. It was inconceivable that he’d fail the test. He returned home ebullient, but very tired. Hours later, the doctor called him up and said he wanted to see him first thing in his office.

That was our introduction the term peri-myocarditis. The doctor figured that it was brought on by a virus Oli had two or three weeks prior. Oli was over the bug, but just couldn’t shake the fatigue. But he didn’t let that stop him from riding his bike to work (in February), working out, coaching the basketball team and participating in exercise labs with his Grade 12 physiology students.

The pain he felt that night was from sudden swelling of the heart muscle (myocardium) and its membrane (pericardium).

Looking back now, I feel that this situation may have arisen from another factor in addition to the virus, and that’s chemical. We moved back into our home in winter time after the floors had been sanded and varnished and the walls re-painted. It’s not practical to keep the windows open for long periods of time when its -20C.

Lucky for us that we live in a place where we can access a heart-specialty hospital. Oli was put in the care of a cardiologist at the Ottawa Heart Institute.

And so went the rounds of tests and appointments. During this time, my daughter’s asthma was poorly controlled, and it seemed that when I wasn’t going to the heart institute or emergency with my husband, I was at the family doctor’s or the emergency department of the Children’s Hospital for Eastern Ontario with my daughter.

Oli was exhausted and grey and slept a lot. I worked, went to appointments and did as much as I could around the house. The girls went to daycare, as they had before. This tore at my husband, who felt that while he was home, he should at least be able to take care of his children. Not possible with his level of illness.

I remember Halloween that year. Oli was too weak to take the girls out, so he gave out candyseated on a chair on our porch because he was too weak to stand up.

Happy Valentine’s Day—welcome to heart failure

Valentine’s Day 2006 was another low point. My husband's cardiologist, during an earlier appointment said that he was referring my husband to a "colleague". That actual reason is hazy but it was something like "making sure all the bases are covered."

Our appointment was Valentine's Day and when we arrived to meet our new doctor we found out that he was a HEART FAILURE AND TRANSPLANT SPECIALIST and we were there because Oli's heart damage was looking permanent.

Those were more frightening times. Our doctor was very reassuring, but still, Oli was trying to adjust to the fact that he couldn't trust his heart.

His heart was something he took for granted before. Now it thumped ineffectively like a big water balloon in his chest. Irregular heart rhythms woke him in the night and he was plagued with constant chest pain. At least his function wasn't so bad that he was on the transplant list.

Eventually, Oli felt well enough to teach one class a day, and so he did. He walked when he felt well enough and rested a lot. He spent every waking moment cuddling his little girls, fearful that he wouldn't be around to see them grow up.

Watching him go through that made me feel powerless. What's the saying about wishes being fishes? I wished that if he couldn't magically be cured, that I could at least hand him my heart and say, "Why don't we share and alternate weeks?"

See also:

Part 2: Scabies seem appealing

Part 3: Betting our Hedge


  1. Hi patti , I like your writing; very few smelling mistakes. I set one up for our litter of puppies coming up.

    Love ya


  2. Hey Bill,

    Nice to hear from you. I'm going to check out your blog. Huge points for using a semi-colon properly.