I have weeded for the last time


This may be a bit incoherent. I’ve had a rough week again.

As you grow older, there is an interesting concept of trying to identify when you do something for the last time, and whether that last doing is bittersweet. I have weeded possibly for the last time, because the personal cost was too high.

As someone who has so little functionality, these events have been coming at an accelerated rate.

I fight back. Try to continue doing things. Try to pick them up again when I haven’t been able to do them for a while.

During the spring, I weeded when my assistant was weeding, both to show her what was a weed (she’d never had a garden), and to do a bit of work that I used to love on my own garden. Several times I overdid it, and was stiff and sore for several days after.

Does weeding cause chest pain?

On Monday, with my brand new WORKING heart rate monitor, I did exercises up to the limits, which I hadn’t dared to do with an erratic old monitor.

On Tuesday, I spent maybe an hour outside, lying on a boogie board, pulling weeds, while husband and assistant pruned bushes. It was doable. I’m so proud of my ability to sit on the ground, and get up and down, that I overdo it. And it was nice to be out of the house. And not TOO warm, I thought.

On Wednesday afternoon of this week I asked myself:

Today’s contretemps was that I did exercise to a higher level (new HR monitor – this one actually works and displays continuously) on Monday, and weeding on Tuesday, and last night felt very odd, and have had the shakes, and a high BP, and a lot of (most probably muscular) pain, including in the chest area – because I was foolish enough to do my weeding while sitting/lying on a mat on the ground.

That may have been my last weeding, ever. Sigh. I love tending the garden, but I can’t afford the after effects.

Or it could be more of the other – and I’m fervently hoping it is not.

I may have to see someone and talk it all out – the hospital and stuff came back very vividly during this ‘episode’ – that’s what PTSD does.

I don’t mind the fuss IF there’s something wrong that needs caring for, but I really don’t want to go through it again unless strictly necessary, and I can’t tell. So the anxiety level is higher than I’d like, and I kept husband home from this morning’s bike ride with friends – and then spent the whole time asleep, because I didn’t get a good night’s sleep.

The perfect storm: adding small effects to get a scary one

Wednesday night, after a bunch of stuff, we went to the hospital.

Because the BP was increasing all evening. When it hits 200+/100+ I get nervous.

Because I felt unwell – shakes and chills (part of my normal temperature control problems, but were they at a higher level?).

Because I was out of it – not myself – not thinking clearly.

Because the stiffness across the front of the chest would not go away or yield to stretching. Not so much pain as incredible tightness.

Because, when I was weeding, it was much hotter out than it had been. I had a can of soda when I came in, but that’s all.

Because, apparently, I stopped drinking water, with the absurd idea that if they needed to do a test, not having water in my stomach would mean they could do it the same day instead of making me stay overnight (like last time).

You go to the hospital if you’re really worried it’s serious.

I should have known, when we went at 9PM, that something was wrong because I needed to use the bathroom as they were taking me to a room (after an ‘abnormal’ EKG) but nothing happened.

Of course, they don’t let you have water in the ER – and once you’re there, you do as they want you to do. So, as the time passed, I got more and more dehydrated.

I should have known when they said the veins on the back of my hands were standing out very well, and would be easy to draw blood from. But none of my veins, usually so cooperative, were easy Wednesday night.

When they gave me some water a bit later, I was able to produce a sample – but didn’t do a very good job of it.

I have learned this year to advocate for myself better

They came to tell me that they were admitting me. The older you get, the more risk factors you accumulate, and they want to be careful.

But they also told me both blood and urine showed that I had a massive infection, and they rolled in an IV bag of an antibiotic I’d never heard of.

I stopped them. I asked, since I had no UTI symptoms, whether it wouldn’t be better to wait until we were sure, and how long I would be okay postponing an antibiotic if I needed it, and they were willing to wait until after tests the next morning when I explained that I overreact to drugs and was worried about side effects. The nurse said the main one was diarrhea – but they could give me a probiotic for that. And seemed taken aback when I said that would be TWO new drugs for me, and I would rather wait until after the test. She said, “But it’s just a probiotic.” I explained they’ve made me sick before.

So I spent the predictable night in the hospital, disturbed every time I started getting some sleep, with a roommate who had a sister – they talked softly most of the night, but at least I was on a heart monitor, and someone was aware and available.

I asked how to stop the bed from automatically changing its setting every time I got slightly comfortable. I was told the only way was to unplug it – and lose all capability of adjusting it at all. I unplugged it. Horrible lumpy thing either way.

Once I realized I was dehydrated, I poured glass after glass of ice water down my throat. Made for a busy night, but it scared me that I could let myself get so dry and not even have an idea it was happening.

Vitals and blood tests through the night gave them data. The morning BP was normal!

I got the nurse to order another urine test, and made darn sure it was a clean sample. When they finally sent the results back, the evidence of bacterial infection was minimal. In this light, the extra white blood cells in my blood – the same on sequential tests – was labeled ‘mild’ and, since it was not increasing, deemed not worrisome.

So I let them keep their antibiotic, after worrying all night about having delayed the START of the antibiotic if I actually needed it.

My new favorite cardiologist

At half past ten, the cardiologist (another new one from the same practice) came to talk to me. He said the EKG was abnormal – but the same abnormal as my EKGs have been since the stents, so nothing to worry about. He said the monitoring all night long didn’t show any problems. He said the sequential tests for cardiac enzymes in the blood was negative after two tests, and that should be enough, given no other symptoms.

We discussed indications for coming to the hospital – and I got reassured that while high BP is bad, it takes days before it can do any major damage unless it stays very high continuously, and mine wasn’t in that region.

We discussed all the factors that made me go in – and basically concluded it was a perfect storm. He told me I was right to have come in.

I got bold – that advocacy I’m talking about – and handed him a copy of the paper on my family of stents which concludes that a month or two is as good as 12-18 months of antiplatelet drugs. He shrugged and said guidelines take a long time to catch up to research! I told him it seemed to bother my own doctor to be queried on these details – he thought my doctor must have had an off day.

I asked him if he knew my history – and he recited it back to me, correctly!

And he released me!

Subject to the rest of protocol, of course.

Which took until 4 PM.

An unexpected test – and refusing meds

When someone came in to do an echocardiogram, I asked who had ordered it and why it had been ordered, since the cardiologist had said I was free, not ‘free subject to X.’ The tech took her machine with her, and went to check it out as I did not recognize any of the names on the paperwork.

She never came back, and my nurse said it was some kind of mistake when she came to tell me she would be doing the paperwork. My nurse seemed annoyed about it, too.

I refused all the medicines the hospital had prepared for me: my own meds, but supplied by the hospital pharmacy, would be charged at huge rates. I stopped the whole procedure by telling the nurse I had already swallowed the morning ones (I had – forestalls arguments), and that the others I would take at home at the regular time with my dinner.

This also prevented the whole foofarah which would have arisen because my pain specialist has authorized brand name Celebrex because I tried four generics a year ago when they came out – and only one worked. Pharmacies that operate on bulk go by the lowest bidder, and cannot guarantee a manufacturer for generics.

I sympathize with hospitals trying to make their money in the current climate, but it is no reason to cooperate with unnecessary – and potentially damaging – things to me.

I’m fine – what did I learn?

I spent Thursday evening vegged out, Friday as a very slow recovery from all the assaults on everything (I joke I made my quota of people for the month in the first two hours in the ER – it is SO hard for me to cope with new people, new situations, noises, and bright lights). And Saturday I seem relatively okay, if slow.

I haven’t done any exercise yet. Possibly will do a shortened version of the cardiac rehab tomorrow or Monday, and ease back in.

And I have some new benchmarks. I know more kinds of chest pain that are just muscular. One doctor told me that if I could find the exact place where the muscle hurt, it was probably muscular, whereas if it seemed behind rather than in the muscle, to worry. A bit vague, but helpful. I know it’s only sustained high BP which puts me at risk for stroke. I was told only to take my BP in the mornings if asymptomatic. Duh.

I made the right call. After all the prior stuff – and the addition of all the above into SOMETHING, I didn’t have the right to put my husband through the stress. I even sent him home from the ER when they told me I’d be staying.

I managed to pack most of what I would need, quickly, in a small bag. Ate something with protein (I hadn’t been hungry all day), grabbed some Atkins low carb bars. (One ended up being dinner.)

Next time I will take salt and potassium in my own baggies, because food services and nurses simply do not believe me when I tell them I need to take a lot of both to keep my blood volume up, and by the time I see a doctor, it isn’t high on my priority list, and it is actually dangerous for me NOT to have them. The food they offered me was disgusting; I choked it down for the protein.

It took several days of my life away from me, put me through another bunch of stuff, and has left me behinder.

I hope there isn’t a ‘next time.’

Don’t take stupid chances.

Have you had similar ‘learning experiences?’

Thanks to Stencil for the image and ability to add words.


26 thoughts on “I have weeded for the last time

  1. marianallen

    It sounds like you had TWO perfect storms: one of badness and one of goodness. The bad one sent you to the ER. The good one combined everything you know about yourself and your drug reactions, everything you learned from your horrible ER experience, nurses who listened to you, and a doctor who treated you with respect. I’m sorry you had another incident, but I’m giddily happy that the most nightmarish aspects of That Time were mitigated, staved (stove?) off, or absent this time.

    Life is like a restaurant without prices on the menu. You go in and say, “I’ll have this and this and this and this and this!” Then you get the bill. So next time, you alter your choices. Then you get the bill. So next time, you try choosing fewer things, because you’re getting a feel for the charges. And they’ve raised the prices. ~sigh~


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Positively LOVE your restaurant analogy. Brilliant.

      Learning about yourself is nice, but is the method necessary? Hitting someone over the head with a 2 x 4 will eventually do damage.

      I’m ignoring pains and sqeaks and random everythings, just like a young person. Hehe.

      There’s a hummingbird at my feeder: that’s what life’s about. I went to a fair amount of trouble to get fresh nectar out there for him, it’s nice to see someone come to the party. There are lots of flowers right now, so this isn’t required, but I love to see them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. marianallen

        Oh, yes, hummingbirds! One of what I call MomGoth’s Little Sparks o’ Joy. At times when I don’t have the psychic energy to engage with the world, I can still engage with a spark o’ joy like a hummingbird or a blue-tailed skink or a wash of Maxfield Parrish light on the trees. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. joey

    So very sorry you had another bad experience. Tsk.
    I used to let the doctors and nurses boss me about more, but I’ve gotten over it. In a life-threatening emergency, I’m certain they know what to do. When I’m conscious and coherent, they still don’t know me the way I do. Age seems to be double-sided, too. Tell a 50 year old female doc you’ve got a UTI cause you had a dirty weekend and she says “Good for you!” Tell a younger one and she starts talkin to you like you’re a teenager and you don’t know how this happened.
    I dislike any medical professional who immediately wants to medicate me. And at the ER? Am I made of money?!?
    I’m like, super into the cardiologist you had. Good on him! Can you see his practice instead?
    I think there comes a time when we’re simply done doing things. I mean, I’ve got a whole list of them — caves, epoxy, spicy food on an empty stomach, roller coasters, hair bleach, taxes, lighthouses, gin… Age, yes, health, yes, anxiety, yes — but it’s a form of wisdom. I used to hate having limits, and I’ve hated watching them expand (I KNOW YOU KNOW, apart from age) but I really think there is a wisdom in there. Life is full of all kinds of pleasures, and yours don’t need to include weeding.
    I, too, experience unpleasant sensations after weeding, and I don’t question your feelings one bit. The cardiac issues aside, even. You were right to go.
    Perhaps it’s best to sit on the porch with a nice beverage and watch others weed?


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      It’s amazingly hard to find people who will just do the simple weeding. They all want to hack and spray poisons.

      But yes – this will be the last summer weeding, even if I do a few more here and there, and there will be no long sessions of it.

      I was over rollercoasters a long time ago, and my hair went the color it is in my photo naturally, and caves have never been on the list…

      But this Feb., when it WAS an emergency, I cooperated all over – and see what that got me. They threw me on drugs that it took me months to get off, and lied to me a lot.

      Maybe one of these days I’ll get wise enough.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. joey

        Yes ma’am, I know where February’s cooperation got you. And I’ll tell you what, I’m certain your blog posts on these matters are helpful to others, because WIDSOM.
        :O I gasp at poisons! No! Maybe see if some local kids are willing? I don’t know what it’s like where you live.


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          No such luck as local kids wanting to exchange their labor for cash. They’re all at band camp. Or an internship. Or whitewater rafting. Or basketball camp…

          As for wisdom, all I can do is be a storyteller, and tell it like it happened to me (embellished a bit). The blog is non-fiction.

          Problem is, if I point my assistant at it, other jobs (dejunking and downsizing) don’t happen as well. She’s supposed to come three times a week for three hours each time, and she missed Mon. and Tues., and I hope she make it tomorrow – because the spouse did a lot of pruning yesterday, and he has gotten very spoiled by letting MY assistant pick up after HIS pruning (which I can’t do, pruning OR picking up, so I’m complicit). And the garage cleaning is set back another week – and then it will be much hotter… The loss of almost a half a year of my time is hitting us hard, plus it sucked up a bunch of hubby’s energy to deal with it.

          But I want out of here in 2017 – because otherwise we and the house have to survive another summer, and another winter, and then there will be pruning and weeding for 2018…

          Liked by 1 person

        2. joey

          That IS unfortunate about your assistant. I hope you get out of there this year, too. I know your heart is elsewhere, never mind the maintenance.

          I must say, picking up sticks is a way of life here on the wooded lot. Worst this time of year and winter storms. No one wants to be out there collecting brush…

          On the kid note, I read an article the other day, written by a woman who made a big lifestyle change. She moved into suburbia thinking her daughter would have more playmates, and the neighboring kids are all gone. scheduled full up for the summer. :/ Ours are busy some, but play is important. Our neighboring kids, the same. Lots of soccer, basketball, and wheeled goings on in the street. Perhaps economics for some, perhaps choice for others.


        3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Can’t you pretend to throw a stick – and see what the dog brings back? Do you think he would get wise after a while?

          I told husband: 2017. We’ll see. I’ve devoured two books and endless websites for Continuing Care Retirement Communities – I’m on a serious warpath to get out of here, and settled in an easier place, before anything else happens!

          Liked by 1 person

        4. joey

          Honest to goodness, my dog is completely uninterested in sticks. It’s like even our dog couldn’t be neurotypical. lol Only dog I’ve ever had that didn’t like a stick.

          I hope you find the right place and the sale is fab. Less stress and all that.


        5. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Hmmm. How do we teach your dog to ‘fetch a stick, get a treat’? Dogs are very trainable – IF you’re willing to put the work in, and then be consistent, which many people won’t follow through on. Or so they tell me – not a dog person at all. Unless dog is old and reaching the point where they want to rest in the sun.

          I am spending so much writing time on other things these couple of days… But it has to be done, and the spouse has other tasks to do. Almost done with one of the outlaw tasks, Amazon ads. Another is the CCRC selection, and last of the biggies is my dad’s final tax return.

          All I want is to write – but I don’t have enough brain power to do two things that require thinking in the same day, and you don’t want to see my fiction written without a brain, so there you have it.


  3. Janna G. Noelle

    I’m sorry you’re still not doing well. Gardening is hard work, even for someone with no medical issues. I hope you’re able to continue with your rehab and will find your way back, if slowly.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Priorities: rehab first, weeding a far third, after downsiing – and picking a place to go to, which I got started on recently. You can’t just move somewhere for the rest of your life without checking them out and thinking it through!

      And my writing! I fired up my beta reader and promised her more after I got the Amazon ads started. They’re started.

      Weeding is very peaceful by comparison.


  4. Margaret Ball

    Damn, Alicia, this is no way to live! I hope that over time you get a little more energy so that you can do more of this “weeding” which you seem, incomprehensibly to me, to enjoy – but that hope is tempered by the knowledge that at our age, time is not necessarily our friend. Anyway, I’m glad writing is what makes you happier, because the prospect of a second book makes ME happy.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks, Margaret – writing is on the top of my priority list. My beta reader says I still sound like myself, something I was worried about after all my travails.

      I took some time to set out a few Amazon ads, which I had to learn how to do, but I’m finished – and going back to writing post haste. I enjoy writing – I don’t enjoy marketing (though it must be done).

      Weeding is time well spent outside when you can’t go for a walk because you really can’t walk.

      I’ll try some bike rides again, but the cardiac rehab has to come first.

      I have so little energy, and everything needs some…


  5. Sandra Manning

    Damn, Alicia, it never ends, does it? Sorry you had a bad couple days, glad it turned out okay, glad you’re a good advocate for yourself. But don’t give up totally on weeding. Do it on cool days – for a short time while drinking a lot of water. Or not. If it takes you too close to the edge, maybe just go out ten minutes and enjoy the sunshine.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I know, right?

      I love weeding, but I find it hurts for days afterward. Don’t know if it’s related to my attempts to do the cardiac rehab, which is more important than weeding, but it seems I’m spending an awful lot of my life in pain much greater than before. Still not the CFS pain. This is muscular. But it goes on and on, and I’m trying to minimize the NSAIDs – and even they don’t cut it all the time. Stretching, etc., helps a bit every morning, but I’m getting reluctant to set it off!

      It’s very hard to think when in pain.

      I need to get out, get back on the bike, especially on the days it’s not too hot. Working on it – all the time – trying to find a balance. When we move, I’m looking forward to a pool and hot tub. Might help a bit.


  6. Jennifer

    I am thinking of you, Alicia, and hoping that this episode will pass quickly. Having no margin of safety makes everything so much worse. You may not be able to weed the garden, but I hope you can still enjoy being in it. (((hugs)))


  7. Widdershins

    ‘…I suspect if I had done it for a shorter period of time, or it hadn’t been so hot, the payback would have been less…’ my thoughts too … but it’s hard to pull back from doing what we love,eh?


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      It is – and I haven’t been weeding nearly as much as a couple of years ago when it was one of the things I could still do for the family.

      I’m down to very little – and I’m selfishly keeping what I can to myself for writing. I tell myself and my family that keeping me mentally healthy IS a contribution – they don’t have to worry about me having such a reduced, tiny life if I’m happy doing something in it.

      And it takes me so f*ing long to do the little bit of writing I do, or marketing, or publishing – I have to deliberately ignore the life passing me by.

      I have to straighten them out, and tell them that no, I’m not getting better. And if they remind me how much they do and I don’t, it really hurts. I live based on denial because I have no alternatives. Many people like me aren’t able to do even the bit I do, and I worry I will slip down that path (you’ve seen that fear in some of my posts from when the meds took what little I had left).

      I don’t want pity or sympathy, just a little understanding – and people not to rub my nose in their wonderful lives.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Catana

    Oh gee, learning experiences are one thing, a perfect storm of them is a bit much. I’m getting them in dribs and drabs, which is vastly annoying, but better than none at all. Sorry not to have answered your email yet, but will do so today. Including a suggestion for weeding. I suspect doing it lying down is unnecessarily stressful.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I suspect if I had done it for a shorter period of time, or it hadn’t been so hot, the payback would have been less. I don’t feel too stressed lying down, or kneeling, or sitting.

      But there’s a pattern of me weeding (usually a little too long), happy that I’m flexible, and feeling comfortable doing it – and the pain taking two days to build to a really nasty amount. I think it may be trying to tell me I’m overdoing it for the muscles and joints.

      I have a garden cart I can sit on – but then I’m bending over the whole time, another problem. I’ll try that again if it’s cool out, but sitting in a white plastic lawn chair was definitely too high – and too much bending. It annoys me that I can DO it, but the pain makes it a bad use of my time. With my tiny bit of daily energy, it’s not a good way to invest. I really used to enjoy it. I’m trying to get back to that place.

      I also suspect that if I were willing to take lots of ibuprofen at the first sign of pain, and continuing after that, I might cut the legs off the pain. But it freaks the cardiologist out!

      I just don’t like losing any MORE pieces of me – I don’t feel that old, but I’m certainly ragged.

      And the hospital visits are NOT how I want to spend my life.


  9. juliabarrett

    It’s mostly that hospitals must follow certain protocols or risk being found liable. I’m so sorry you continue to feel unwell. My thoughts are with you.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks, Julia.

      I just wish this whole episode would be over. I don’t like learning lessons like this one the hard way. I really have NO margin of safety: use up my tiny bit of energy, and I’m wiped, and incoherent, and nonfunctional – it’s not a good way to use what I have left. I’m supposed to be in BETTER shape after stents.

      I thought I was making progress with the rehab exercise – which I have to do in my basement to be able to do them at all, but that was working when hospital rehab was physically impossible. So I do things – and end up paying horrendous prices for a bit of weeding on a nice afternoon. Straws and camel’s backs come to mind. I’m too close to the edge.

      Liked by 1 person


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