To the doctor, again

Our current pediatrician practices out of an office that’s about seven miles away.  Due to timing, distance, and route options, we have never made the trip by bicycle.  Every time we take G to this doctor, we pass by a pediatric practice that is less than two miles from us, an easy and lovely bike ride.

I really like our pediatrician (and I’m hesitant to change horses midstream), but if someone had told me back in December that we would be making six visits in just over four months (including four visits in the last 5 weeks alone), I might have switched to  the closer practice!

Our mid-April visit (trip 3 of 6 in 2015) resulted in an allergy diagnosis.  Claritin seemed to clear up those symptoms, and we enjoyed a week or so of health, and then a cough popped up, followed by a fever and a pneumonia diagnosis (trip 4 of 6).  The antibiotic seemed to really do its job — the fever disappeared almost immediately (surprisingly quickly, according to the doctor) and the cough was knocked way back . . . for awhile.

Last Wednesday (10 days after the diagnosis), we went back for a standard follow-up (trip 5 of 6) to make sure that his lungs were clear.  They were, and there had been no recurrence of fever, but I had a nagging feeling even then that his cough was headed in the wrong direction.

He had a lot of nasal drainage and a clearly worsening cough over the weekend, and then on Sunday afternoon, he spiked a fever again.  So yesterday we headed to the doctor YET AGAIN (trip 6 of 6), concerned about antibiotic-resistant pneumonia.

The doctor took a really good listen to G’s lungs, and, despite the coughing, said his lungs still sounded clear.  The doctor’s best guess is that G now has a respiratory virus of some type.  This means no antibiotics, which is a good thing (in terms of antibiotic resistance and not having to deal with the side effects of another drug), but it also means no quick fix.

I’m hoping that this virus resolves quickly, with no secondary infections, so we can have a reprieve from the all-too-familiar drive to the doctor (and also a reprieve from sleepless nights — SO tired).

In the meantime, I’m torn, but I may investigate the closer pediatric practice.  We actually interviewed one doctor there before G was born.  We weren’t impressed with this individual (felt rushed and unimportant during the consultation), but there are other providers in the practice.  Trading a twenty-five minute car ride for a twelve-minute bike trip is tempting.

What would you do?

 

 

Allergies and busy bees

I feel like it was just Easter . . . and then I blinked and four weeks flew by!

Awful allergies
Seasonal allergies hit all three of us hard at the beginning of the month.  We took G to the doctor, thinking it was something infectious, but he said he’d been seeing kids like that all morning and it was allergies.  Our pediatrician prescribed a low dose of Claritin, which seemed to help.  (After feeling pretty funky ourselves, despite our regular Neti pot habit, Matthew and I jumped on the Claritin bandwagon, too.)

Busy bees
April was pretty crazy around these parts. The day after Easter, my MIL had a hip replacement.  Fortunately, it went well, though getting back to “normal” has taken a bit longer than she expected/hoped.  She is both Gabriel’s main caregiver (when he’s not at preschool), as well as Matthew’s main gardening partner-in-crime, so we really noticed her absence.

Matthew was really busy work-wise the first half of the month.  No sooner did things settle down for him than MY work kicked into high gear.  As a result, my meditation practice started to fall by the wayside (just when I needed it the most, of course).  But there’s light at the end of the tunnel!

And into May . . .
The first few days of May are giving April a run for their money.  On Friday, my eight-month-long bike hunt [kind-of] ended when I purchased a Kona Dew Deluxe.

NewBike

And, for better or worse, I got my first-ever smart phone.  (Good news — it’s looking like I may be smart enough to use said phone!)

Saturday was a catch-up day.  A bit of phone learning and bike tinkering, though not quite what I’d hoped, because the rear rack from my previous bike didn’t quite fit on the newbie.

We ventured out early Sunday morning for a bike-by of a property that had an open house later in the day.  We confirmed that we did, indeed, want to make it to the open house that afternoon.  The trip was extra productive because the route we took on our bikes led to the discovery of 4-5 more letter-worthy properties (that we wouldn’t have found by car).

In the afternoon, we went back for the open house, and decided we wanted to make an offer.  And then things got crazy.  We seem to attract seller’s agents who like using the “give us your highest and best offer by X date and time” technique.

Sunday night and Monday morning were spent scrambling to figure out and put together a reasonable offer, all with our realtor somewhat out of commission due to injury and illness, and us dealing with Gabriel being ill, as well.  (Plus some work deadlines I had — crazy days, I tell you!)

Matthew took the day off work to be with Gabriel (another diagnosis of pneumonia, I’m afraid), while I dealt with the house stuff.  Our offer is submitted (one of at least three offers they received),  so now it’s just a waiting game.  I’m enjoying finally having a bit of space to breathe, especially because it might be temporary.

March Mindfulness

I’m overdue on a mindfulness practice update, and March is shaping up to be a big month for mindfulness: goals met, an anniversary, and TWO retreats!

Achieving goals and next steps
In this post, I wrote about the short- and long-term goals I set during the final class of the MBSR program.  By the end of January, I had more or less achieved the first part of my long-term goal (engaging in formal mindfulness practice for 25 minutes/day, 5 days/week).  There were a few hiccups in the second half of January, what with taking care of a sick kiddo and being a bit under the weather myself.

My general rule of thumb is, if I feel tired, but have to choose between mindfulness practice or a nap, I go with mindfulness.  Most times, a 25-minute meditation leaves me feeling as rested and re-energized as napping, if not more so!  The only exception is when I am really and truly sick — then, sometimes, the nap is better.

Despite the January hiccups, I’ve continued my practice, though I’ve gotten a bit more flexible.  Some days, I break my formal practice into two 10- or 15-minute chunks.  I like to make sure I’m getting a continuous 25-30 minutes a few times a week, but flexibility is good, especially for making this work long-term.

Retreats
I’m not sure whether I actually wrote it down or not, but my second long-term goal was to build on my half-day mindfulness retreat experience by attending a 2-day mindfulness retreat sometime in 2015.  I started checking out the retreat options available through Mid-America Dharma back in November, and I penciled in a local, non-residential, weekend-long retreat in March as a good option.

I’m especially excited to share this retreat experience with my mom, who got me into mindfulness practice in the first place.  I’m also a little nervous, but I think it will fine.  My check is in the mail, so no going back now!

In case one retreat is not enough, tomorrow I’ll be repeating my half-day mindfulness retreat experience with Masterpeace Studio.  All previous students in their MBSR program are invited to attend future half-day retreats at no cost, and I’ve had this on my [tentative] calendar since the fall.

Six-month mindfulness anniversary
On Monday, March 9, I will celebrate six months of my mindfulness practice.  It’s just a drop in the bucket, but I feel like I have a great foundation, and the results help me stay committed to continuing both a formal practice and to integrating mindfulness more and more into my daily life.

Three days ago, I received a letter addressed to me, in my handwriting. My first thought was that there was some mistake.  I’d forgotten that at our last MBSR class, we wrote letters to ourselves, to be mailed by our instructor at some time in the future, letters to encourage and inspire our growing practice.  The letter arrived just in time for the half-year anniversary and this month of retreats, which seems appropriate.  Happy Mindful March!

My vaccine journey

Despite her intense fear of needles (which I do not share), my mom made sure that my sisters and I were fully vaccinated.  As a child of the 80s, this meant I received vaccines for polio; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (DTP); and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR).  I was not vaccinated against chickenpox (varicella) or rotavirus.

My [two] younger sisters and I all had chickenpox (at the same time), when I was about seven or eight.  It wasn’t pleasant, but, fortunately, none of us had serious complications.  We were all out of school for the standard week.

As a toddler, my youngest sister had rotavirus.  My main memory of her illness is of watching Indiana Jones movies in our den.  However, her vomiting and diarrhea were severe enough and prolonged enough that she was hospitalized for dehydration.

Prior to starting college, I received the Hep B and meningococcal vaccines, and I took advantage of the free, on-campus flu shots throughout college.

Soon enough, I was faced with choices about vaccinating my own child, and as many intelligent, well-meaning parents do, I started asking questions.  I’m not sure exactly what fueled my inquiry, but the views of some in the local home-birth community may have been a factor.

I also had a friend who had followed an “alternate” or “delayed” vaccine schedule, and, after reading some of the Dr. Sears books, I rather liked that plan.  As someone who had never seen measles, polio, pertussis, etc. (except in those scary videos, which don’t really work, though the pertussis one is pretty gross), it didn’t seem like a big deal.  Matthew wanted to learn more before going that route, but I went about finding a supportive pediatrician.

At the time, I was working for a local county health department, and the epidemiologist, who was also a good friend, was aghast at hearing my plans to deviate from the standard vaccination schedule.  She was both vehemently opposed to my plan and shocked that I, who worked in public health, was even considering it.

Interestingly enough, her reaction did little-to-nothing to sway me.  I did not feel like discussing it further with her, and, if anything, it made me more entrenched in my position (because it’s natural to be defensive, right?).

For better or worse, I had easy access to one of the few medical doctors in our area who is considered “anti-vaccine” friendly.  While I was planning to vaccinate, working with this office seemed the easiest route to getting my alternate schedule.

And then we took G to see this doctor for his 2-week check-up.  And I don’t really remember how it came up, but sometime during the course of that office visit, the doctor recommended that, to avoid disease exposure, we not take G out in public for three months.  Granted, never leaving one’s house would be a way to avoid most disease exposures, but this suggestion struck me as completely absurd.

“Really?”  I thought.  “Not taking a baby out of the house for the first three months somehow makes delaying [or skipping] vaccination okay?  That’s absurd!”  First, with the standard immunization schedule, infants don’t receive vaccines (except for Hep B) until they’re two months old anyway.  Second, what happens after three months?  Everything is magically okay?

I left the office feeling more than a little uncertain.  After some discussion, Matthew and I decided we preferred having a dedicated pediatrician for G’s care, and we made G’s four-week appointment with a different practice.

I went into that visit still planning on using an alternate vaccine schedule.  I liked our pediatrician, who also has a Masters in Public Health, right away.  After I asked about an alternate vaccine schedule, he basically said, “I’m not going to make you vaccinate, but every time you come in for a well-child visit, we’ll talk about the vaccines that G should be getting.”

In response to a friend’s recent post on pediatric offices mandating vaccines, I wrote,

While I can totally understand pediatric practices refusing to see patients who don’t vaccinate (especially now, in light of the recent measles outbreaks), I, too, considered a delayed / alternate schedule for G, and may have gone that route if it weren’t for my pediatrician’s gentler approach.  At that point, if he had issued an ultimatum, we may have ended up at a different practice that was VERY lax re. vaccination. Instead, we went with that pediatrician, and ended up following the standard vaccination schedule.

At the time, there were multiple reasons.  The idea of extra trips to the doctor’s office for an alternate vaccine schedule (on top of the every 3-month well-baby visits, plus any sick visits) was not appealing.  And I knew that once we hit kindergarten, if not earlier, he’d have to be caught up anyway (he did need them earlier, for First Steps services), as I had no intention of home-schooling and I was not comfortable with the idea of lying on an exemption form.

I am now pretty firmly in the vaccinate, and vaccinate as-recommended and on-time camp (though I still have some reservations/questions about vaccinating young children against STDs).  Vaccinating is not only for your child, but it’s also a public good, helping prevent outbreaks that would affect the most vulnerable — babies too young to be vaccinated, pediatric cancer patients, etc., but my journey here makes me cautious in how I express my position. 

My reaction to the conversation with my friend/colleague, along with recent research on the ineffectiveness of delivering pro-vaccine information to parents who have reservations about vaccinating (articles here, here, and here — this is quite the conundrum, and certainly a challenge for health communication research, a field in which I used to work), has certainly influenced the way that I approach others.

I’ll conclude by saying that, despite the recent measles outbreaks, and the revelations that some communities have very low vaccination rates, overall, in the U.S., we have very high vaccination rates.  The vast majority of parents ARE vaccinating their children.  Those who are choosing to not vaccinate their children (without a medical reason) would be wise to not encourage others to follow their lead, as they are relying on almost everyone else being vaccinated to keep their children safe.

In addition to the links above on why current vaccine messaging isn’t effective (at changing the minds of those few who choose not to vaccinate), here are some other good vaccine-related reads:

 

 

 

Family stomach weirding

On several occasions, I’ve thought about writing a blog post on our eating habits and how they contribute to good gastrointestinal health (I haven’t done a study, but I feel like we contract GI bugs at a lower than average rate, and I imagine that our high-fiber, high-prebiotic, low processed food diet has a good bit to do with that).  Anyhow, I’m not superstitious, per se, but writing such a post seemed like tempting fate a bit too much — you know, write post, get slammed with stomach bug from hell — so I never wrote it.

Of course, generally good health or no, we all get sick once in awhile.  Many stomach bugs hit fast and hard, but then they’re over.  Or not . . . .

Our timeline:

  • January 28: G has some kind of 24-hour-ish stomach bug.  It hits fast and hard, with three hours of vomiting starting in the early morning hours.  By the next morning, he’s almost back to normal (but we kept him home from school).
  • January 28-29: Matthew and I both felt a bit off; Matthew enough so that he stayed home from work on the day G was sick, thinking that he might decline quickly, but that never happened.  In general, we had mild nausea, lack of appetite, fatigue, and feelings of being overfull when we did eat.
  • January 30-31: We think we’re out of the woods.
  • February 3: Matthew wakes up feeling not so great.  Stays home from work, continues feeling bad, and finally vomits late in the afternoon, after which point he feels much better.
  • February 3-4: I have similar, low-level GI symptoms as in the previous week.  I’m not sure if I actually have a mild case of something, or if it’s simply the power of suggestion.
  • Several days of feeling pretty normal.
  • February 11: I start feeling pretty yucky after lunch; after a few hours on the couch, I feel better.

Since then, we’ve all had intermittent “weirdness.”  I had a 36-hour period where I was burping almost constantly, and I felt overfull anytime I ate anything.  My burping subsided, but it seems to have infected Gabriel (it’s clearly not something he’s doing on purpose or to be funny, but something he can’t control — he calls it “hiccuping,” but it’s not).

G has also had several instances of low appetite, enough episodes clustered close enough together to be odd, and not just normal preschooler appetite fluctuations.  Matthew and I both continue to have intermittent instances of low appetite, feeling overfull, very mild nausea, and/or mild stomach cramping.

We’re not sick exactly, but it also seems that we’re not 100% well.  I think our GI flora (i.e., the normal population of “friendly” gut bacteria) got thrown out of whack back in late January and never got back on track.  The high-fiber foods that are good for GI health in healthy guts are currently not our friends.  We’ve been intentionally upping our yogurt intake, trying to reintroduce some good bacteria, but I’ve been at it for two weeks with little effect.

I found this study talking about cases of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) that start after a gastrointestinal infection, and that kind-of sounds like what we’re dealing with.  I’m also looking at information on small intestine bacterial overgrowth.

I’m ready to go ahead and try a probiotic supplement (pill form, instead of just the yogurt) to get things back on track, because I’m really ready [for all three of us] to get off this grumpy stomach roller coaster.