Saturday, November 7, 2020

Katie Ellen and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year

Let's face it, 2020 has been a shit show.

I have been putting off writing a blog post for a really long time, because I didn't want to just be like "everything sucks" all the time. But, this year has been a real cluster. I finally decided that maybe if I wrote about it, it would help me focus a little less on the negativity, and maybe let others know that yeah, I'm right there with you.

My family started the year by calling an ambulance in the wee hours of the morning on January 2nd to take my mom to the hospital. She was so dizzy she couldn't sit up, and we discovered that she had a saddle embolism in her lungs that was pushing on her heart, and that her entire right leg is one giant blood clot. She had to go back to work before she was really ready, but because everything shut down in March, she was able to take it kinda easy, but still work. (Ironically, the one positive thing for her this year.)

She has been having continuing health issues. The leg clot is going to take a loooong time to go away, and she has since developed a build up of uric acid causing kidney stones, one that got to 20mm. To put a cherry on top, they also discovered that she has an ultra rare condition called a replaced right hepatic artery with aneurism. Like, this is so rare that nothing comes up when you Google it.

Work has been stressful, because COVID. Then, the derecho hit my home state and home town. My dad and grandparents were without power for a week, and my grandparents lost their deck, gazebo and most of their trees. The next day, my cousin unexpectedly died. Then a few days later I got word from my host sister that my former fiancé in Belarus had died. This was a shock, but also not a shock. It did hit me pretty hard though.

My anxiety had been ramping up and for a month or more I had been feeling just drained. We upped my meds and that helped, but then I started having a hard time breathing.

I was having some occasional wheezing and was using an inhaler regularly, which I hadn't done for 20 or more years, but the wild fires were really bad this year and the air quality was awful. A few times when I was walking I got really winded, but thought it was a combination of the smoke and my being so sedentary during the pandemic. Then one day, I was at a mall to get some chai with my boyfriend and I just couldn't catch my breath, just walking.

At this point, I realized that something was wrong, but I still thought it was asthma.

Mid October, the boyfriend and I went to one of our favorite restaurants and ended up having to sit outside in the cold and smoky air. That afternoon I was super winded every time I got up. It continued to get worse over the next couple days. The next day, Monday, I went to the doctor for some routine blood work and my oxygen was at 88. They had me take some deep breaths and we got it up to 93. By Wednesday I was really struggling. I spent most of my time just sitting in my chair trying to chill out.

By Wednesday I knew something was really wrong and I needed help. I called the doctor and they got me a nebulizer to try. I did a treatment and thought it might have helped. My mom, brother, boyfriend and I were supposed to go the botanic garden for a halloween event that night and I wasn't really up to it, but I also really wanted to go. We decided to give it a go and leave if I needed to.

We got there, got inside and it became very clear that I was not going to make it. Fortunately, they allowed me to borrow a wheelchair, so we proceeded to enjoy our evening. That night, going upstairs it took me probably 20 minutes to halfway catch my breath. By this time I was scared. I started crying and my super boyfriend just laid there rubbing my back and soothing me.

I called in sick Thursday, tried one more nebulizer treatment, then called the doctor in the early afternoon. The nurse was worried about me because even just talking made me winded. Mom drove me to urgent care, and by the time I got in there I was gasping for air. My oxygen was at 82 and they were extremely concerned. They took me to. room, put me on oxygen, listened to my lungs, which were perfectly clear, and said "we are calling an ambulance."

The ambulance came and took me the two block to the hospital. They got me checked in, got me on oxygen and we proceeded to sit in the waiting room for about 4 hours.

Finally, they got me in a room and started checking bloodwork. They took a chest X-ray--again, clear--and later, when they did a CT Scan they discovered blood clots in my lungs. They were concerned about my heart because the right side was working really hard and they wanted to make sure there wasn't damage. It turned out it was just because blood flow was blocked by the clots.

I was admitted, taken to a room at midnight, and started on blood thinners. They wouldn't let me eat or drink because of the possibility of some tests that they might have to run, so I didn't get to eat until lunch the next day. (Try getting blood out of someone who doesn't have good veins when they are dehydrated...)

The next day they moved me to a progressive care unit where they could monitor me a little more closely. All the doctors kept asking about my legs and were amazed I hadn't had any swelling or any signs of clots.

I'm still confounded...what are the odds of BOTH mom and I getting blood clots in the same year with no previous history, or family history???

I started feeling better pretty quickly and was allowed to wander around my room as a liked. They did an ultrasound and found a clot behind my right knee as well.

My coworkers sent me flowers and an adorable stuffed sloth, who got a lot of attention from the nurses. I truly felt cherished by friends, family and coworkers.

When I was discharged they said, back to life as normal as you feel up to it. I have felt twenty times better than I have for months. I have energy and the desire to do things again. I do have to go in for blood checks to make sure the blood thinner is at on okay level, but hey, I'm breathing and feeling good!

I did have to cancel my trip to the cabin (one that I rented a year ago) but, I guess I'll take being healthy over a cabin.

I'm really hoping that the rest of the year is not a bigger dumpster fire than it has already been.

If you are reading this and you are having a rough time, hang in there. Eventually, everything will be alright. Also, don't be afraid to reach out if you need help or feel like you're drowning.

As Red, from the show Red Green always says, "Remember, I'm pulling for ya. We're all in this together."

Shlomo the Sloth keeping my company.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

The Coronapacolypse Continues...

I've been home for 40 days now. Technically 42 days because I was off the two days before work closed.

This has been such a strange time.

At first, I was one of those people that didn't understand what the fuss was about--surely if people were cautious and washed their hands everything would be ok, right? Then I started actually reading up on it and realized that it was more serious than I first thought.

For a week or so, I was being extra vigilant to wash my hands, clean my desk and electronics, and kind of avoid people as much as possible. Then I was off for two days because of a crown, and we got the word that work was closing. Friday we got an email at like 2:30 that one of our branches was closing at 3:30 and the others would be closed as of Saturday.

At first, it was very confusing and no one really knew what was going on. We hadn't been home that many days before the county had issued a stay at home order, then the state. Basically, everything except essential businesses closed down. Restaurants are open for carry-out or delivery only, stores have marking on the floor 6 ft apart for people to stand on. Some stores like Walmart started limiting the number of people who could be inside the building at one time.

Many food joints have had free delivery in order to get people to spend money and support them. We have done our fair share of ordering in food. I have personally tried to support local businesses as much as I can. And with my stimulus money, I am trying hard to support local/US businesses.

Gas prices are down. Here it is around $1.49 a gallon, but in Iowa I've heard it is as low as $0.99. I read an article that oil is at an all time low of $0.001 a barrel. It is still somewhat hard to find some food items and cleaning/sanitizing supplies, but it is getting better. Many people are wearing and making homemade masks. I've signed up to help make back straps for face shields through Make4Covid. Some of my coworkers have been 3D printing parts for the shields. I'm happy to be able to do something. It makes me feel worthwhile.

Work consists of Zoom meetings, email, and running a chat service, mostly.

When this all started, I was excited and I thought to myself that I was going to be sooo productive. I was going to clean and organize my room and everything was going to be great. It wasn't too far in that the emotional rollercoaster started. I've read some articles that talk about how it's grief that people are feeling, and it is very true. I've also read about how traumatic this has been for people, and I agree with that, too. My anxiety has come in waves, I've had times of serious brain fog where I just couldn't function very well, I've had a few days where I was angry, of course I have worried a lot, and I really have grieved for life pre-CoVid.

After getting angry at myself for basically doing nothing, I made a list of small productive things to do as well as a list of fun things to do. So far I've been making small progress, but progress nonetheless. One thing I have learned over the years, is to start small. I get overwhelmed when I look at the whole picture, but when I complete one small task at a time, not only do I not get overwhelmed, but it feels like I have accomplished a lot!!

For fun I've been sewing, knitting, doing puzzles, drawing, cross stitch, coloring, and I even tried D&D for the first time. I've been doing a lot of free virtual tours, watched some concerts, listened to audiobooks, read graphic novels, watched musicals, etc.

As much as I have been disheartened by people being stupid or rude, I have also been uplifted by wonderful acts of kindness.

Here are some things to bring a smile to your self-isolation.

John Krasinski's Some Good News

Some things to try:

Also, be sure to check out what digital resources your library has!

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Coronapocolypse

Sorry y'all--this whole virus thing might be my fault. After mom's whole emergency medical fiasco I thought to myself, well, things can only go up from here... Oops.

What a surreal time we are living in. I know this is not the first pandemic, but this pandemic is unique. I'm pretty sure that this is the first pandemic during the digital age, with a constant barrage of news and social media posts. On the one hand it's great because we new it was coming, many people can work from home, we can still socialize through Skype or Facetime, etc., and we have updates within minutes.

On the other hand, it can be too much information, incorrect information, and panic can spread like wildfires.

There have been so many things that have made me cringe and filled me with disgust. People have panicked and bought out all the toilet paper, there are food shortages because people are hoarding food, and then there have been people trying to sell hand sanitizer and toilet paper for 10 times the normal price. It absolutely infuriates me that people can be such huge douche canoes and I hope that karma will get them. But then there have been such wonderful things happening--perfume companies switching to making hand sanitizer to fill the gap, companies paying their employees even if they can't come to work, people 3D printing ventilator parts, people sewing masks for healthcare workers, people offering food and toilet paper to those in need...the list goes on.

Some people have not taken things seriously, which is infuriating, but many people have been taking things seriously.

So what is life like at the moment? Staying at home, reading emails, Zoom meetings for work, reading, knitting, cleaning, watching movies, playing games with my family, and once in awhile venturing out to a store. It is really nice that there is so little traffic, yet that is also disconcerting.

Another cool thing is that so many companies have been making digital resources free, especially for kids while they can't be in school. I've been trying to share everything on Facebook so that people with kids have ideas and resources.

Everyone stay safe. Wash your hands. Stay home.

Sunday, March 8, 2020


Cheese whiz!

How is it already March 2020? Laugh it up all you young whippersnappers! All to soon you will realize that us old people know a thing or two and that we are not lying when we say that at forty you still feel like you've only been out of school a couple years and that the days go faster and faster.


Well, it probably doesn't help that this year has been kinda bat shit crazy. We started the year off by calling the ambulance for my mom at 2:30 in the morning on January 2nd. It was very fortunate that she was feeling so sick, because they discovered two very large blood clots.

It was something that we all had to wrap our heads around--the fact that at any moment she could have been gone is really a hard thing to grasp. I guess mom felt that she needed to have a near death experience since dad had one several years ago. I told them that they could both knock it off now.

Otherwise, things are going pretty well.

Just before Thanksgiving I was fed up with dating and decided to go on and delete both my apps. I really hated Plenty of Fish and had so many bad experiences, so I had hidden my profile for several months. When I went on one day to figure out how to delete my profile, this guy messaged me and I thought a lot about whether or not to respond. I went back and forth. But, he looked kinda cute and he actually wrote me a message instead of just "hey" like most guys.

So, I decided to message him back the next day. We started messaging everyday and two weeks later we had our first date. We met at a coffee shop and had boba and when I looked at my watch we had been talking for two and a half hours.

We have talked to each other every day since, and had a date at least once a week. He is so sweet, a true gentleman, and even my mom loves him. I just never believed I could find someone like him. It's so amazing to feel loved and cherished, and to be looked at like I am a precious gem.

So, yeah, this year has been a little crazy, but it's been good too.


I've been excitedly awaiting my gastric sleeve surgery and this weekend was a three day weekend. I was planning to get so much done. Boy...