Monday, March 30, 2020

I got tested for COVID-19

Remember way back in second grade, when you found that big book on Miss Hoppenleiger's classroom shelf.  You know, the one that was loaded with interesting facts and cool stuff and sometimes it was pretty gross.  Yeah, that book.  And you read how ancient Egyptians would make mummies by shoving a metal implement up corpse's nose to remove the brain through the nostrils.  Yeah well that's what happened to me about an hour ago.  Only it wasn't a metal hook.  It was something like those plastic coffee stirrers that you pull out of the utensils bin at a McDonald's.  And it was six inches long.  But it did go straight up my left nostril and if it didn't impinge on my brain then it came *$%#ing close.

But anyway...

Following my earlier report this morning about being instructed to self-isolate because of COVID-19-ish symptoms,  one of my co-workers texted me about coronavirus testing being done nearby.  Strictly for people like first responders and health care workers.  I headed straight out down the highway to get the test performed.

What happened when I got there?

Well, it's good to bear in mind that at no point did I leave the car.  It was all done absolutely within a closed-off track, going from one station to the next.  First up was a police cruiser manned by two of the town's finest (wearing face masks).  One of them marked a number on my driver-side window, then directed me to drive forward and stop at the sign that was flashing a phone number and some other info.  I called the number and it went to a statewide screening setup.  The nice lady asked me a series of questions about my symptoms and I answered as best I could (some of them seem a bit fuzzy at the moment).  She then asked for my name, birth date, address, phone number, all that kind of jazz.  After that she instructed me to "drive on further down the course to the next officer."

Now I was approaching the innards of a convention center.  Another cop, also wearing a mask.  He made me pause then waved me on through to inside the building.  Not far from the entrance there was what looked like a HAZMAT field lab, patrolled by four guys in full-body suits that looked like something out of a Resident Evil game.  They told me to stop the car and roll down the window.  I was hesitant at that but as the guy told me "don't worry I've got all this gear on."

He asked me if I knew what the test was going to be, and produced a long swab that was at least eight inches long.  I was expecting something like taking a sample from inside my cheek, or at most from the throat.  But that was not it at all.  "We're going to stick this up your nose and swab there."  Ehhhhhh...

I really, really don't want to have been hit with coronavirus.  But I don't care to have a glorified chopstick shoved into my nostrils either.  I had come this far for peace of mind and there really wasn't much of a choice.  Not if I wanted to be sure.  So I told him "let's do it" - like Gary Gilmore must have spoken before they shot him up in that prison cannery - and leaned forward in the driver's seat then tilted my head back.

"Gag-inducing" doesn't being to describe it.  Not when the reflex is for your nose to be the thing gagging and your brain feels like it's getting probed by some alien implement.  I couldn't tell you how far it went up into my nose, but it was quite a bit.  And he held it there for about three or four seconds before slowly retracting the swab.

And that was it.  Except that my left nostril has never felt so funky.  I was never the kid who shoved crayons up his nose but now, I feel like life ended up enlightening me about the sensation.

The lab results will be coming in tomorrow, or possibly the day after that.  Dear Lord, please be negative.  I'm going stark raving bonkers without the comfort of my office and all that "Weird Al" Yankovic music they let me get away with playing as I type up clinical notes.

Expect another report soon.

COVID-19? Nope, not kidding...

Well, this is an interesting turn of events.

Could mean nothing at all.  Then again, well...

The symptoms began yesterday.  Persistent coughing and a fever that may have been higher than I initially realized.  The coughing has diminished for the time being but it comes and goes.  No phlegm.  In the past few days I'd finally expelled the last of the mucous from a nasty sinus infection in January (my colleagues begged me to see a doctor but I had to "be a man" and all).

Now I've been evaluated by a screening and given instructions to self-isolate for what may be the next 72 hours.  So that's what's going to happen.  Fortunately the larder is stocked with plenty of food, lots of liquid in the refrigerator and there is an ample supply of toilet paper.  There is enough here to ride out a siege by an army of Cossacks if it comes to that.

Just have to wait and see what happens next.  And trying to keep from going full-tilt bonkers from wracking my brain about what might have been caught where and from whom.  Which, it could be any number of iterations.  My work is in the healthcare field.  In a realm of mental health specifically.  In a role that keeps me fairly out and about in the community.  There have been days when I've logged almost 200 miles while assisting clients.  To say nothing of all the people coming in and out of the office, staff and patients, on a daily basis.  Since last week our office has adopted special measures: screening everyone who comes in for care, and going to rotating shifts of in-office and working from home.

(I had to sign a contract stating that I would wear real pants if I did video conferencing with a client.)

It could be anything, acquired by a mathematically boggling number of possible routes.  But I guess, it is what it is and I'll have to sit tight and wait for a phone call.

But if it is coronavirus COVID-19, then I will do what I always do when an interesting situation comes about:

I'm going to blog the heck about it, with exuberant documentation.

More soon.

"One Shining Moment 2020"

"One Shining Moment" is the song that CBS uses in the final moments of their annual coverage of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, to recap the highlights of the road to the championship.  All well and good... except that there won't be an NCAA men's basketball tournament this year because of the coronavirus epidemic.

So I, foolish I, took it upon myself to address this curious situation...


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

An imperfect solution to the coronavirus situation

I emphasize "imperfect" because there is not an absolutely perfect solution and there never will be.  COVID-19 is now such a pervasive element that it's as every reputable engineer will note: there is going to be a trade-off.  We won't be able to help one matter without it negatively impacting others.

But from where I sit...

- fast-track production of and widespread treatment with hydroxychloroquine IMMEDIATELY.  Especially in conjunction with zinc supplement, azithromycin and other medications being found to aggressively confront the symptoms of COVID-19.  Especially in light of research that has come out of France in recent days about the hydrozychloroquine/AZT regimen.  This could be our generation's "polio vaccine moment", if we attack coronavirus with something that almost with each passing hour is looking like a silver bullet against the illness.

- no-frills bare-bones economic stimulus of $2000 per U.S. citizen.  Two weeks ago I would have recommended $1000 or even $500 but the damage wrought to the economy since then has become enormous.  A reasonable amount of one-time fiscal injection into the public economy, and that's it.  Meaning no ridiculous and irresponsible riders to the bill.

- pull back on restrictions against public gatherings.  Which seems to be going backward on addressing coronavirus.  But I'm weighing the disease itself against the harm being done against the economy and against society as a whole.  And there is the matter of the United States Constitution: the freedom to assemble in peace and also freedom of of worship are sacred ones.  A lot of states and municipalities right now are arguably overstepping boundaries that were never meant to be crossed.  Expect that to be rigorously confronted in the courts during the months after coronavirus begins to wane.

There are two virtues I've seen that are qualities in general of the domestic reaction to COVID-19: responses are fairly localized and official actions are being delegated.  These are good.  It means that the response to coronavirus in South Dakota won't be the same as the response is in Brooklyn.  And it also means that bureaucracy knows when to get out of the way when those who know best how to rapidly manufacture and distribute ventilators are free to do so.

As for how to get more toilet paper onto the shelves: brother, you're on your own...

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Coronavirus: Scenes from a supermarket

Pics that I took tonight at a nearby grocery store...

I made sure to get the entire toilet paper section in one shot:



No more ground beef.  Rest of the meat section was also depleted:



See those bagels?  That is literally ALL that is left on the bread aisle:



Not even Chef Boyardee pizza is in plentiful supply:



Flour, frozen food, milk, chewing gum... there were shortages across the store.  Strangely the alcoholic beverages seemed well stocked.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Coronavirus: Calling America to the Carpet

Some are almost rubbing their hands in glee at coronavirus: holding to the notion that this is an obvious sign of the Second Coming because Pestilence is loosed upon the land. Though adherent that I aspire to be, my eyes cannot but roll in disbelief. Pandemics are almost as reliable as Old Faithful and will remain so until the end of time. The average span between worldwide outbreaks is around a hundred years. And coronavirus is hot on the centennial of the Spanish Influenza.

No, it is not the time for overzealous fervor to grasp rational thought. But with respect to my fellow Christians, coronavirus is at last the “Come to Jesus” meeting that the United States is long overdue for.

Let’s consider what must certainly be the most serious issue about what coronavirus is now teaching us. We have a woeful, immoral and almost criminal over-reliance on China for our manufactured goods, and especially pharmaceuticals. The vast majority of medication consumed by Americans come from Chinese labs. Many of these facilities, incidentally, have been accused of utilizing manufacturing processes that defy safe and sanitary protocol. Even so, the drugs are being shipped into the U.S. and domestic drug companies care little. After all, it’s easier to charge nigh-unconscionable prices for vitally needed medication when it can be manufactured for pennies overseas. Even cheaply-manufactured medications such as acetaminophen and insulin are now supplied by China. Perhaps ninety percent of antibiotics like penicillin are sent to the U.S. from factories under the ultimate control of Beijing.

Profits are good. Profits drive innovation and research. But the drive for profit in defiance of ethical responsibility has inflicted a grievous wound upon the nation’s self-sufficiency and general integrity. It is a wound that politicians – on both sides of the aisle – have not looked past so much as pour harsh acid upon.

And now comes word that China is threatening to deny America access to drugs that could stem the coronavirus outbreak in our country. It is not an empty threat. Particularly not in the present environment of trade hostility that has already awoken the bear market. Right now the ChiComs are feeling pokey about the U.S.’ international response to the coronavirus pandemic. What happens in the event of a full-blown economic war between east and west? Should China choose to do so, it could cut the spigot off for all distribution of medications to the United States.

Pause and consider what this would mean to diabetics dependent upon their neighborhood drug stores being stocked with insulin, or medications commonly prescribed to address influenza: an illness that far more people each year perish from than will on account of coronavirus. People are now going full- blown paranoid about a shortage of toilet paper. But that can be rationed. With medication, not so much. I myself am now weighing the likelihood of medications running out that I use to manage having manic-depression. The number of Americans who have mental health conditions is enormous. Might a dire deficit of mood stabilizers lead to mass ideations of suicide or harm to others?

It is now clear that America has an over-reliance upon Chinese manufacturing of pharmaceuticals for too long. But our lack of autarky is betrayed again by a spectacle beheld by even the healthiest of citizens: the vast shelves of cheaply-produced goods at Walmart stores dotting across the fruited plain. And also readily available from online retailers. For decades American companies have parceled their industrial capacity to Chinese workers who are underpaid and overworked. We have enjoyed cheap clothing and kitchenware and collectible action figures and Blu-ray players. We have also compromised our economic independence. And though the policies set in motion during President Trump’s administration have yielded enormous rebirth of long-shuttered factories, America is still hurting from decades of job losses. Once the textiles industry in America was one of the mightiest of employers. It allowed families to grow and thrive and allowed countless young people to better their lives with college education. Today textile production in the United States has almost completely evaporated, particularly in the Southeast where it was once towered over all other industry.

If China can cut off medication for one key sector, it can cut off every medication. As well as every other product that comes from there to American ports. And what is America going to deny China in turn? Blockbuster action movies whose studio executives kowtow to mainland Chinese “sensibilities”? Clothing and medication are vital assets. Extravaganza entertainment is not.

The coronavirus outbreak, depending on who one chooses to listen to, is either the dread harbinger of the end times or a momentary blip upon medical history. Six to eight months from now we will likely be laughing about the coronavirus “plague” just as we did about Y2K. But the vulnerabilities it has exposed should be – as some activist leaders have coined the term – a teachable moment for America.

It is time to rediscover anew the virtue that American protectionism is a virtue and not a vice. We are obligated to look after the interests of our own people, and that is absolutely not to be taken to mean that we are a selfish or uncharitable nation. American greatness however has from its colonial beginnings meant looking to ourselves for production of food, goods, and medicine. We have been abundantly blessed with these and many more fruits of our labors. And when the fruits have been so bountiful, we have gladly allowed the people of other nations to enjoy much of our surplus. It is conceivable that World War III was staved off because the Soviet Union came to be dependent so greatly upon American grain production. Had domestic farming capacity during the Cold War been at depleted levels, the possibility would exist that Moscow would have been much more desperate and belligerent toward its western rival. The Politburo was wise enough to recognize its own weaknesses. Why then should the United States be any different?

America has been betrayed by politicians and lobbyists acting in the interest of foreign powers if not being outright paid for services rendered. We have been living on borrowed time and now the coronavirus threat has pulled back the curtain on our would-be industrial masters. Were our international situation a private business, the ones responsible would have long been chewed-out by the company honchoes. And most likely given a cardboard box and fifteen minutes to clean out their desks. Their incompetence would not be lauded and certainly not rewarded.

The attitude toward this land by too many entrenched politicians, corporate opportunists, and foreign sympathizers has gone far beyond incompetence and into the territory of treason. Perhaps the coronavirus will cast long-awaited light upon such treacheries. And perhaps the American people will have eyes opened at last to demand an end to over-reliance on international industry.

If so, in the greater scheme of things the coronavirus may prove to be less a blight and more a blessing.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

First draft of my first book is finished

Some of this blog's longtime readers may recall how I was writing a book about having bipolar disorder.  That was a project I'd been working on for some time, and then Dad passed.  It sort of took the wind out of my sails, but I vowed to finish it someday.

Guess what?  It's still nowhere near finished.  The last time I committed a word to that endeavor was in winter of 2015.  And so much has transpired since then.  It will make more sense to write a new book drawing from the experiences of the past four years especially.

Someday I'll start to work on that.  In the meantime, I do get to rightfully proclaim that I have finished the manuscript of my first book.

The idea for it surfaced about ten years or so ago, and it's been percolating in my gray matter all this time.  Perhaps I needed to achieve some deeper understanding of the message I wanted to convey.  And then came the past two weeks and events on this side of the Intertubes.  And then I knew: it was time.

It's a children's book.  I visited the local Barnes & Noble's and studied products in the kiddie section to make sure I would have the page count right.  The average seems to be thirty pages for a picture book the primary audience of which is ages 5 to 9 or so.  And this manuscript packs in plenty with that amount of space to work with.

It's the book that I wish had been around when I was six years old.  Maybe I can contribute a little something to children who are likewise going through a hard time.  I like to think so.

So, the first draft is complete.  And there'll be some tinkering and having friends critique it and then perhaps sooner than later it'll get shopped around and hopefully an agent will like what he or she sees.  I will admit from the start however: I am NOT an artist.  So I'm praying that someone specializing in children's art is out there somewhere who can help bring this vision fully to life.  I think there is.  Whoever he or she is, I'll be looking forward to working with them.

Just as I look forward to posting about this again.

Friday, March 06, 2020

EMDR

This blog has been operational for sixteen(!) years now, and it's covered a lot of territory.  Everything from pop culture to weird news to chronicling my run for political office and anything in between.  It's shown readers the inside of a nuclear power plant, to the ancient sanctity of Orthodox Christianity.

But it hasn't depicted everything about my life.  Though there have been times that I've shared glimpses of personal frustration and tragedy, most of what happens on this side of the screen has been shrouded from my audience.  It's been a common lament of mine: how it seems that everyone I know gets to display their blessings and joy over Facebook while I've come up empty in those regards.  And then I'm reminded that people only show the good things on social media, not the bad.  So if that's a crime, then I suppose I'm just as guilty.

However, there are exceptions.  The Being Bipolar series is no doubt the biggest of them.  Hard to believe it'll be ten years later next winter that I began that series, and there is still much more to write about it.  I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder (or manic depression) early in 2004.  By 2009 it had destroyed much of my personal life, including a marriage.  Being Bipolar began as an attempt to take it back.  On that note, it failed.  But I still ended up satisfied that it's documented my thoughts and experiences with a mental illness.

But it's not my only mental illness.

Early in 2018 came another diagnosis.  I now understand that I have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  The result of numerous horrible experiences across the span of my life, and especially things that happened during my childhood.  That's never really been written about on this blog.  My best friends and circle of close associates though have seen it only too often.  The times when I regress, and have flashbacks and am immobilized by the weight of memories that cannot and will not leave.  My therapists have helped me find a few strategies for dealing with episodes of PTSD: helping me get back into the moment instead of staying thrust toward the past.  And in vast part they do work.

But that's only addressing the symptoms, not the condition itself.

Yesterday I began what we are hoping may be an endeavor to stem the PTSD itself once and for all.  I had the initial appointment of what will be a series of sessions involving a fairly new therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing... or EMDR for short.  It came about during the Nineties as a result of investigations by psychologist Francine Shapiro.  It essentially means that via visual manipulation and use of other stimuli (including the use of a gimmick that I've dubbed "the Walkman") my brain is going to rewire itself to route around the parts of it that the PTSD chiefly operates in.  Or something like that.

Not really EMDR since Alex
can't move his eyeballs around
Yesterday's session was an orientation/familiarization with the technique.  And I'm already very much looking forward to beginning it proper.  EMDR has enjoyed great success in helping others address their own PTSD and we think it holds a lot of promise for my own case.

This was already an exceptional week in regard to my recovery.  I cannot discuss much of what transpired, however.  Maybe someday that will be possible.  Maybe, not ever.  The EMDR though, I can and will be talking about that as the treatment progresses.  So, stay tuned!