Monthly Archives: March 2020

Garden Plants Started for Spring

We are now halfway through our third week of self isolating to keep my at risk husband free of COVID19. We started this when he got out of the hospital after his second stroke March 20. We have been blessed by rapid recovery for him and lovely weather. Today the sky clouded over and the weather people say we are in for three days in intermittent snowfall and freezing rain. Winter doesn’t give up easily at the 51st parallel.

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I have been keeping busy. Gardeners are insane optimists and I have started some bedding plants. The hot and sweet pepper plants are one month old. Tomatoes are two weeks along. I planted green and yellow zucchini today. With luck and some tender loving care, the plants can be put out in the garden around about June when it is safe from frost up here on the 51st parallel. (I hope!) If they can be set out just as they start blooming I should have a good crop.

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I have never had much of a crop of peppers. My neighbour takes a few of my excess plants and she gets fabulous results. She also dumps ash from her wood stove in her garden. Last year she let me take a lot of her ash. Perhaps this year will be better. Also the frost hits just as they begin producing so I am hopeful that by starting them March 1, they will be really big by the time they can go outside.

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In past years, the tomatoes plants have outgrown the indoor space I had. Much as I want to see green again, I forced myself to wait until March 15 to start the tomatoes plants. I grow four types. I plant bush beefsteak for large yummy tomatoes where a single slice can cover an entire hamburger. In spite of their size they don’t produce much because each plant only makes a few big fruit. I plant a “lemon boy” type that give lovely medium sized yellow fruit that are low acid and sweet. I plant a medium red “Early Girl” which, as the name suggests, gives us fresh tomatoes before any other varieties. Finally, I have a very special favourite which is called “Sun Cherry”. This variety grows to huge size and is absolutely laden all over with small cherry sized tomatoes that are a lovely golden orange. These are great not only to eat like candy, but if you freeze them loose on a cookie sheet and bag the frozen tomatoes loose, they make a wonderful addition to soups, sauces and stews without a need to peel or process. All are heritage type so I keep seeds from one year to the next and I always worry about them taking. I am gratified to see all of them took and I had to do a lot of thinning this year.

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I still have my winter greens garden. We live far from stores and getting and keep a supply of fresh lettuce can be problematic. I started some lettuce from seeds last fall and grew the plants under lights. They have done very well for us giving us lots of fresh lettuce for sandwiches and salads. I can harvest the leaves about every ten days to two weeks or so. Last month I took the bottoms of some commercial green onions and planted them in a pot just see what would happen. To my delight we’ve had fresh onion greens for our salads ever since.

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Beyond that, things have been quiet. We spend our days reading and writing. We lie in bed a lot and read together and enjoy each other’s company. The cat often joins us. Every day we go for one long walk with the dog and stop at the post office to pick up our mail. We follow the news about the epidemic and we wait. The news here in Manitoba gets increasingly bad as cases rise and the “wave” already threatens us even though we are far from the peak of the curve. Today we were told that school is out until further notice. All nonessential businesses are to be closed tomorrow and stay closed for two weeks.

I am safe. My fridge is full of good food. My house is warm. Winter is making a comeback but spring will eventually win the days. My husband is still with me and it looks like he might get to see those crocuses I planted in defiance last fall. We checked to see if any of them were evident on our walk today. Nothing yet. Apparently they knew of the coming snowfall.

Life Goes On, Quietly

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In Manitoba things remain positive. Community spread has been confirmed in many other parts of Canada but, so far, it seems Manitoba is still only finding cases directly related to travel. The authorities just expanded testing so it may well be we will soon see cases shoot up. I find myself wondering if they know more than I do. It doesn’t make any difference if they do. I can’t change anything.

In our small town the air feels like spring. We awoke to a skiff of fluffy snow that vanished by midday. The snowbanks are still there but water is beginning to run at the edges. The snow is getting heavy and rotten. The Canada geese have returned and I heard other bird calls that I haven’t heard for a while. Those pesky European sparrows began nesting in my wood swallow houses. I evicted them and covered the holes with duct tape until the tenants I want come back. The sun is warm and lovely. The sky is brilliant blue.

My husband and I go for a walk with the dog each day. He is getting stronger and stronger and today we walked four blocks in our small town. All our neighbours were out and about enjoying the sunshine. We shout at each other from at least six feet away, usually more. The troublesome resident we were all worried about has done something that required rearresting and no one is unhappy about that. All the people around us are thus far free of the virus. Many are elderly with troublesome health conditions so I hope it stays that way.

It has been two weeks now since we “locked down”. We pass our days following the news, writing, and working on our various projects. I am reading many more blogs as so many of us are stuck at home and have time to write. I enjoy the blogs where I get to find out how other people in the world are coping. My children contact us frequently. They are all frantically busy coping on the front lines. All I can do is assure them we are safe and well and then listen to them as they talk about what they are dealing with.

I called one of my neighbours and found out she was afraid to go outside because the virus is airborne. I assured her it was safe to sit on her back deck and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. In fact, the sunshine would kill any airborne virus (unlikely since she is 60 metres from any human being in a remote rural area.) Sunshine would also boost her vitamin D levels and that would make her immune system stronger. She was so relieved. It is a small thing to reassure someone that they can safely enjoy sunshine and fresh air but many small things add up to defeating this virus. I said I can’t change anything. I was wrong. I can. We all need to do what we can.

Cat Provides Physiotherapy

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This one is weird enough I just had to share. In the immediate aftermath of the latest ministroke, my husband has had an irresistible urge to put his foot on something sturdy and push hard. This meant for a while we had the bed with the foot against the wall. He also used a large elastic band style exercise device to satisfy this rather peculiar urge. My husband described it as being not unlike an itch that only pushing would satisfy. If he didn’t have something to push the foot on, his entire leg would twitch and jump.

Each day he improves and we moved the bed back but he was having trouble with waking up at night with the twitch. He was also twitching without waking, which woke me up. If I rested my foot on top to his, he would stop twitching and settle back into a deeper sleep. However, it was hard for me to remain awake enough to keep up the pressure. Then the second morning after we moved the bed back, I woke up refreshed and happy. I had a good night’s sleep! I looked down and there was our cat, Klinger, sleeping on my husband’s foot.

Klinger is our fourteen year old Siamese cross adopted from a local cat rescue as a kitten. The cat often sleeps with us but he generally keeps to my side at the end of the bed near my feet. I think he likes my husband but there is also a clear rivalry with the cat acting like he regards my husband as a nuisance he has to put up with for my sake. My husband is the one who takes away my time with the cat. The cat is not allowed on my husband’s side of the bed and if he dares to try sleeping there, he gets a quick shove. It’s a kind of a detente between them. And so it was really weird to find the cat sleeping on my husband’s troublesome foot, radiating cat heat, quietly purring.

The next night I again had a good night’s sleep and every time I half woke up, the cat was right there, sleeping on my husband’s twitchy foot, softly purring. My husband reported he would get up and use the bathroom and when he came back, the cat would immediately resume the position on his foot. The cat seemed to have picked up that the pressure on the foot was stopping the twitch and the cat was keeping it up. This happened two more nights with the cat staying right there, sleeping on my husband’s foot, quietly purring, all night long. I can’t say how grateful I am to Klinger because we both needed the three deep long nights sleep his peculiar behaviour allowed us.

Last night my husband was so much better that the foot was no longer twitching and he could sleep well without the cat. The cat was back in his usual place sleeping on my side. My husband had not shoved him away. The cat had simply decided his services as foot weight/warmer were no longer required.

We expect dogs to be tuned into and help their humans in need. However I have rarely heard of a cat acting in such a deliberate manner to comfort a human in distress. What aspect of cat behaviour was triggering this gentle response? Cats do comfort twitchy kittens by lying nearby and sharing warmth. I have seen male cats doing it with the older kittens of females they share a pride with. Perhaps Klinger interpreted the twitchy foot as a need for that kind of comfort. Maybe the twitchy foot was disturbing Klinger’s sleep and lying on it made it stop. My daughter says the cat loves my husband and wanted to help him. Since Klinger isn’t talking, we’ll never know.

Passing the Time in Isolation

In my little corner of the world where we all know our neighbours, life is not much changed. The only real thing I see is when we go to the post office to pick up our mail no one shakes hands. We stand six feet/two metres away from each and smile a lot instead. The proprietor of our local little grocery/convenience store now wears a carpenter’s mask and latex gloves. He lived in China through SARS and he saw this one coming. He stocked up on every painter’s N95 mask he could find back in early February when they were plentiful. They are suddenly like gold and scarce as 10K diamonds. He just handed his excess supply off to two Rural Municipalities worth of our local volunteer fire fighters. Our fire fighters suddenly found they have none because every last one has gone to the local hospitals. Our firefighters need them too, with grass fire season just around the corner and being first responders to car accidents and house fires.

We are under a state of emergency. Only essential services are allowed to operate. No congregations of more than ten people. Bars, gyms, rec centres, pools everything closed. They even closed our town’s curling rink a month early! To close the curling rink before they had to just gives you a measure of the depth of the emergency. Signs on the Post Office and the Store say if you have symptoms you don’t come in. The local Rural Municipality office (equivalent of the county in the USA) has locked the door and you don’t get in without a real need that can’t be handled over the telephone and only by appointment. The school is now closed for at least three weeks. The only ones commuting to work are the nurses. The local dogs are very happy. Since we are allowed to go outside as long as we keep our distance the dogs are getting many more walks than they are accustomed to. I hear the cats are happy too.

A form of rationing has been put in place that really scares me. We are only permitted to buy one month supply of our prescription drugs at a time. The government does not want us hoarding. I worry about the rumors of China cutting off our drug supply. What idiot decided all our drugs should only be made in China anyway? The stores are still reasonably well stocked though you have to get to the store early because the shelves are empty shortly after opening. Some stores are faring better than others. Walmart is having trouble keeping up. Safeway/Sobeys/IGA seems to be better off. One of my daughter-in-laws works for Safeway and she describes it as internal pandemonium with sales up 300% and their distribution network groaning under the demand but thus far keeping up. Our local store run by the man who has seen all this before has lots of toilet paper and people are driving in from the city to talk to their elderly parents and grandparents through the screen door and then go buy his toilet paper.

The town’s ne’er-do-well got out of prison early due to the virus. This person’s latest crimes consist only of nonviolent property crimes. We hear this person has no money for food because of the need to wander about town begging for money. Of course food donations are refused. Only cash is required. We are all assuming that means this person actually has food and the real problem is our social safety net refuses to feed addictions. Folks are sending this person away with nothing but their own clean conscience. My dog doesn’t like this person no one has come by my door. Good dog! Why some idiot in authority decided we would be better off with that one loose in town again I’m sure I don’t know. We have enough to cope with. Fortunately, the command to social distance gives us all a great excuse to keep away.

My husband and I are fine. We walked the dog together yesterday. He could only go about 1/8 the distance we usually go and one of our neighbour’s said he looks like he had one too many beer but considering he couldn’t even roll over twelve days ago, we’re not complaining.

Our doctor is still in isolation. He was supposed to check on us by telephone Friday but there was some glitch in his computer so we are now supposed to sit by the telephone and talk to him tomorrow. He’s apparently frantically busy even if he can’t leave his home. It’s starting to get tough on the medical people. Our plan is to do everything we can to just get out of the way of the health care system for a while.

We are passing the time writing. I started bedding plants for my garden. I am doing double just in case this rationing thing gets serious. If it’s all over I can always give away stuff to my kids and the neighbours. I am spending an inordinate amount of time in Second Life where I do both volunteer and paid counselling work. People are anxious and a lot of them don’t understand why they have to social distance and can’t go out. If I help them understand, they calm down. I talk to my kids a lot. They are on the front lines in essential services. Years ago when we dealt with great flood of ’97 and after the September 11 terrorist attacks my husband and I were crazy busy the way my children are now. I recall while slinging sand bags how an elderly lady made brownies for us to eat and she gave us encouragement and praised us. It was all she could do. It was really nice of her and I so much appreciated it at the time. Now I sit at home and cheer the youngsters on. It feels strange, but rather nice, to be one of the old-timers and let the young people handle this one. Hang in there world. This too shall pass.

Sheltering In Place

We are doing well.  As if often the case with pontine strokes, the kind my husband had this round, function is returning rapidly. His balance is not good enough to walk freely and he still needs the seat in the shower but just about everything else is back to normal. Hubby dearest is working on the books he edits again. He is getting caught up on his email. Life is good.

We are considered high risk for this Wuhan Flu. We are isolating as much as possible and as recommended by our federal and provincial governments. I am still taking the dog for a walk and picking up the mail. There is a big sign on the post office door saying if we have symptoms we can’t come in. The local RM office has made it policy they will only do their job by telephone or by a select few prearranged entries. The local store owner is in masks and gloved. Right now there is no sign of community spread. However, the virus has hit close to home. Our family doctor had to go into isolation. We have an appointment tomorrow and we still don’t know if he will be there.

I have been calling my elderly friends who are at home sheltering in place. We chat on the telephone, exchange stories, updates on our health situations, and tips. One conversation I had was very interesting and uplifting. During the great flood of ’97 and the horror of of the 911 terrorist attack, we old folks were the ones on the front lines. Today we old folks need to step back, stay out of the way, avoid becoming a burden to an already overburdened health system, and leave it to the young people. It’s their turn now. This is their war.

Protect Nana and Papa from COVID19!

Canada now has confirmed community spread in three provinces. Being trained in epidemiology, I have not felt very confident about our government here. However I listened to the entire Sunday update from our provincial officials and I feel much better. I wish we were doing more testing but otherwise I’m happy with the reaction. Nonetheless, my husband and I are going into self isolation because of the potential risk. During this recovery period for my husband (after his second relatively minor stroke) he is especially at risk.

Also there is new and growing evidence that anti-inflammatory drugs may inhibit the immune system activity against the virus. This includes steroids like prednisone and non steroid anti inflammatories like ibuprophen and aspirin. My husband has to be on these drugs because of his medical condition. Therefore, he could well be at even more risk and it is even more important that he not be exposed. (Do Not just grab and use over the counter drugs for your fever if you suspect COVID19 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not stop your own prescribed regular meds because you need them to stay healthy! Talk to your doctor!)

My husband and I have no intention of sitting inside being scared. My husband’s condition improves each day. I have some nice outings planned for us once the weather warms up. We have lots of favourite picnic spots in the area where we can be outdoors but away from people. We can do a little bird watching and maybe some fishing. We have the internet and the telephone. I like to play in Second Life and COVID19 can’t get my avatar in there. My kids contact us daily to make sure we are fine and my neighbours do the same. We are both workaholic antisocial types anyway so we’ll be fine psychologically.

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My Second Life Avatar with one of my Pet Kitties. Avatars are immune to COVID19

I urge everyone to do their part in “flattening the curve”. This means even if you are a child at low risk for complications of COVID19 you should do everything you can to help slow the spread of pandemic. Remember, if you are young and healthy you are not protecting yourself, you are protecting your Nana and Papa and someone else’s Grandma and Grandpa.

Overall, I have been very pleased with how people are now reacting. I feel much like I did back in the flood of ’97 or post 911. People are over the shock and are coming together to fight this pandemic. We will win eventually because pandemics are part of the natural cycle of life. Our only real concern is to fight this battle in a way that minimizes casualties. My favourite person for sane clear truth in this war is Dr. John Campbell.

Proactive not Reactive

Stay Home if You’re Sick

Practice Social Distancing (Six feet/two meters between me and thee)

Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases

Catch It, Cover It, Bin It (That’s British for cough into a tissue, close it up, throw it away and then wash your hands. Elbow cover is better than nothing if you don’t have a tissue.)

Elbow Bumps are Cool, Hand Shakes are Not

Flatten the Curve

Wash Your Hands

 

Alistor “Mad Eye” Moody has Left the Stage.

I love the Harry Potter stories and I have read each one several time. Alistor “Mad Eye” Moody is one of my favourite characters in the series. In the ER my husband looked just like Mad Eye complete with the tongue thing. Once they said they were admitting him, I headed home to arrange for the house to be watched and the neighbour (Bless Her!) to care for the cat, and to find a hotel room where Misty could stay with me. When I came back about five hours later, his tongue was back where it should be but the eye was still off doing its own thing. I had to bite my own tongue to stop myself from laughing out loud.  Even though it was very funny to look at, I figured laughing out loud at his state would be unkind. I was also concerned about how the grandchildren might react to seeing Grandpa doing this weird thing with his face.

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The other problem with the Mad Eye look is my poor husband was seeing double and being made nauseous and dizzy by that. The doctor ordered an eye patch. My husband refused to wear one with adhesive. They had none of the pirate type in the hospital.

I held up my finger and asked him to think hard about focusing. To my relief, the eye settled and took the proper place for two seconds before heading up to check out the ceiling again.

“You’ll get that back,” I told him. “Just work on focusing.” Over the rest of the day I kept trying not to laugh every time the eye wandered off on its own. It was hard for me to fight the giggles. The next morning I stopped in at three pharmacies in town but no one had a pirate style eye patch.

By the second day after the stroke the wild rolling had stopped though he was still seeing double. He also reported something I found strange. Looking at a blue grey chair he said he saw two chairs, one blue grey and one bright red. Since he’s partially color blind and can’t see red anyway, I kind of wondered about that description. How do you see a red chair when you can’t see red? I pointed out how much better the eye was looking and that pleased him.

The following morning he told me the chair was still double but it was now the same color, blue grey like I saw it, on both chairs. The eye was doing an occasional twitch to one side but was otherwise mostly focusing. The staff still wanted an eye patch saying it would help get rid of his double vision and improve his balance. I suspect the real reason was that not everyone finds a Mad Eye as amusing as I do and maybe the patch would also make other people more comfortable.

Yesterday, he looked normal again. He told me he was still seeing double but the images were very close together and almost normal. Our visitors assured him it was not really noticeable. This morning, he sat in his chair having his morning tea. He was looking all around the room, near and far away. He announced in a voice of great satisfaction,

“I’m not longer seeing double. The eyes are working together again.”

Of all the things that could go wrong after a stroke, the whole Mad Eye Moody look is one I could live with. I must say, though, we’re both relieved it is gone.

Years ago when I was into training as a geneticist, I was expected to attend many of the same resident lectures and rounds doctors in training had to go to. Biochemistry rounds conflicted with neurology rounds. I recall one of my supervisors shrugging and saying,

“You’ll get more out of biochemistry than neurology. Neurology is black box medicine and they really have no idea what’s going on in there. Treatment consists of whacking it with a drug or an electric shock to see what happens and hoping for the best.”

When I asked the doctor about the arrival of Mad Eye and his apparent imminent exiting from the stage, all I got was some incoherent muttering about the third trigeminal nerve and a shrug. The doctor then rolled his own eyes (together) to indicate he had no idea. I guess neurology is still a black box.