Staying Calm in This Storm

During this time of instability and change, a lesson that I learned many years ago keeps coming to mind over and over again. This lesson is all about staying calm when things heat up around us, and the power that remaining calm in stressful situations can bring.

I’m not going to lie, my natural instincts are very reactionary. I used to spend a lot of time in System 1 thinking mode, in other words, automatic and reactionary. I am not afraid to argue opinions with people or to speak out on issues, however I have learned that I tend to get much better results by taking a deep breath and moving to System 2 thinking.

This lesson really cemented itself in my head many years ago when I worked for the US Army. I was in a meeting that none of us wanted to be in and I had news nobody wanted to hear to deliver to some very senior people. The table is reserved for the big wigs. I sat in the ring of chairs lining the walls, not at the table and like the “red shirts” of Star Trek lore, I was waiting to be sacrificed to the lions at the table. When I was called upon, I shared the news with the group. As expected, it was like a bomb went off. People at the table were on their feet yelling and pointing at each other, I kept trying to clarify, but it was going south fast. I felt like a rabbit being eyed by a coyote. That when my colleague nudged me and whispered at me, “Stop talking”.

I did.

In a few seconds, people stopped looking at me, I stopped feeling terrified, and I was able to really listen to the arguments they were having between each other. From that I was able to figure out what they were really upset about and, after they quit throwing chairs at each other WWE style and calmed back down, I was able to address the issues that were at the core of the concerns. Not everyone was happy, but breaking the chain of system 1 thinking by simply following the advice to “stop talking” made all the difference in how things proceeded from there.

I have never forgotten that meeting or the impact that taking a breath and removing myself emotionally from the chaos had on the outcome. We find ourselves in chaos fairly often without even realizing it and if we aren’t careful, our thinking patterns default to instinctual actions. It’s far better if we train ourselves to recognize this shift, take a breath and apply some critical thinking to the issues facing us.

During this time of chaos, I let’s try to slow down a little and breathe. Most of us are feeling the stress of this new, if temporary life is causing us, but before you clean out your 401K or spend $150 on a pack of toilet paper, take that breath and see if it is really the right move or if it is just a reaction.

Finally, lets be kind. That person that is very upset at the supermarket, we don’t know what they are going through or have just gone through. Let’s try to remain calm and understanding as we all get through this together.

A Trip to the ER and Still Waiting for C-19 Results

OK, while I wait for my C-19 test results, Uncle Erich has some time to tell more of the story this morning. My brain is lifting from some of the fog, but I’m still feeling a bit ornery and sarcastic, so be ready for some of that. Honestly, there isn’t much funny in this update, but it might be interesting to see how things are going right now if you need medical help. TLDR: it’s a bit confused.

When I last left the story, I had been nasally assaulted with an insanely long swab that took some samples of what felt like brain tissue and that was sent away for C-19 testing. That happened Tuesday, I’m writing this on Friday and don’t have results yet. I know it takes time, but I’m currently self-isolated from the fam and pets until I hear back.

The “Incident”

So, anyway, let me tell you about Wednesday. I can summarize by saying this, “It sucked”. I’ll tell you why. 

I have sleep apnea and have for many years. That means I use a CPAP machine to keep me breathing at night. Well, Wednesday morning I woke up gasping for breath. I yanked my mask away from my face, was able to breathe, so I restarted the CPAP. My brain was a fuzzy mess, don’t judge what we do in that 1/2 awake time, MKAY?

Fast forward some amount of time, I have no idea how long, and I woke up again, this time tearing the mask off my face gasping, but I still couldn’t really get a breath. I couldn’t speak, but I if I slowed my breathing, I could get some air. I cranked the shower to “Burn your bum off” hot and let the steam relax my chest. It helped.

Having not died, I was happy-ish. It was about this time my wife, who had been sleeping in the living room (I am quarantined to our bedroom/bathroom right now) yelled in and asked me if I was OK. I was honest, and told her I wasn’t and that we should go to the hospital.

Now, I will tell you that the steam helped a lot, so we didn’t do the ambulance route and instead drove to the VA hospital (I’m a disabled vet). We arrived about 3am. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty shaken up. I’ve never felt unable to breathe like that, even through some anaphylactic episodes in the past. I couldn’t cough anything out, it wasn’t like there was just crap in my chest, I just couldn’t breathe. I would have to gues this is what asthma is like. it sucked.

Arriving at the VA hospital, I had my wife go in and let them know that I was awaiting COVID test results while I waited in the car. This was to give them a heads up and it worked out well. They directed us to the ambulance entrance and moved me in, avoiding the waiting room, and in to an isolation room. I was surprised, but they did let my amazing wife in the room with me. My breathing was still a bit rough, but I was doing much better. I will say that most of the rooms in the VA ER were empty, which surprised me.

From here, the med folks suited up in to positive airflow contraptions and proceeded to treat me. It was interesting here because it was fairly obvious that I was one of, if not the, first people with possible C-19 infection they were treating for something like this. It was made obvious as they were trying to figure out how to do things like take a chest X-Ray without infecting the X-Ray lab or the mobile equipment. In the end, they rolled a mobile machine in to the room, but then had to do a full disinfecting when they rolled it back out. 

There were a number of other little things too that they were having to deal with, such as making sure the door was closed completely each time they left and how to deal with the waste products from the needle sticks, etc. 

In the end, we did some flu tests (more huge swabs in my noggin) and strep, both came back negative. They pumped me up with some steroids (pun intended) and about 7am they let me go home with a note that if I started coughing up green crap, to let them or my PCP know and get some antibiotics started.

On a side note, they had me exit via the ambulance bay as I had come in and had my wife go to the pharmacy to pick up the meds they sent home with me. Well, she got me to the car, then when we went to enter the building, the security folks almost wouldn’t let her in to get my meds because she had been near someone that was undergoing testing. They finally relented when she explained that she had just come from the ER. This was another catch-22 that would have to be worked out. Hard to tell someone they had to pick up meds from the pharmacy, then not let them in to get them.

Now things are getting fun

So, fast forward to Thursday morning when I started coughing up green crap now. I woke with my head stuffy and chest congested (but I could breathe at least) and again the wonders of steam in the shower helped. 

It is now Friday and I am still no closer to getting antibiotics and my chest/head stuff is getting worse. I called my PCP, left a message, got a call back and told the receptionist what was going on. She relayed the message to the Nurse Practitioner and called me back saying the NP wouldn’t give me an antibiotic since she had not seen me but offered to have me come on Monday (in 4 days) if I wanted to see them. That whole process of calling, getting called back, relaying messages and calling back again, took about 3.6 hours with no result.

Try number 2 was recontacting the VA. I called the number for the hospital and surprisingly got through to a nurse in less than 30 minutes or so. I recalled the story, told her what the doc had said about green stuff and the next steps. She took the information, said she would relay it and get back to me.

That was yesterday afternoon. Nothing from them yet, although this morning the chest and sinus crap is worse than ever. My chest is really starting to get very sore and I am still no closer to antibiotics.

I have now tried Teladoc again and I am about 1 hour and 15 minutes in to being on hold in the “waiting room”. Here’s to hoping I can get somewhere with the antibiotics soon. 

I’ll keep you updated.

WFH and COVID-19 Testing. What a week so far

So a couple of nights ago, I was feeling pretty crappy, upper respiratory stuff moving from my head to my chest like the shot in the famous “Irish car bomb” drink. I tried to call the Teladoc service, but waited on hold for about an hour and a half before I gave up and just went to bed.  

Why did I decide to call? Well if you know me, you know I travel. I travel a lot. My 2nd car is a 737. In the last few weeks I’ve been to conferences in Washington DC, San Diego, Austin, TX, and other places as well, but the big kicker was RSA in San Fran where 2 people in the booth across from us tested positive. Fan-freaking-tastic, right!

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My 2nd car…
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The fact that I had upper respiratory garbage going on, along with all of the travel, has made me a little touchy about my symptoms. Now, I’ll be honest, I had pretty much all of the symptoms, except the fever. I want to be clear, I didn’t really think I have the C-19 virus running around in me, but the travel has me on edge.

So, back to the story, I woke up Tuesday morning feeling worse, symptoms were one heck of a headache, a head that felt like it was stuffed with about 10lbs too much stuff, and a tight chest with congestion (but still no fever to be seen). What great way to start the morning.

I went ahead and put a call into my primary doc and after an hour or so I
got a call back. I explained the symptoms to the nurse and she said she would check with the doctor. Another hour later the doctor called back said it’s time to get tested.

I called the local Emergency care place, gave them my symptoms and the fact I have had possible contact with someone. They said pack it up and bring it in. I was told that testing was being done in front of the urgent care in a tent as I understand it. Oh joy. At least they aren’t talking rectal temperatures out there in the parking lot (well, that was the hope for sure).

Even though I honestly don’t think I have it, at this point, my anxiety level peaked just with the thought of getting tested for it. This started throwing a whole bunch of what ifs in my head.

Like, what if we really don’t have enough toilet paper? What if Taco Bell is the only option for fast food in the near future (shout out to you Demolition Man), and I still don’t have extra toilet paper? This could be catastrophic. Fear is starting to cloud my vision, along with a strong desire for a Mexican pizza (with extra napkins). It’s at this time that I am really wishing Demolition Man had explained the 3 seashells. I mean it honestly makes sense if all future restaurants are Taco Bell, there would be no trees left, but I digress.

So, I eventually packed my butt in the car (now known as the disease-mobile) and headed to the testing center. When I got there, the tent was being packed away, but there was a table set up outside with some nurses. They had me fill out a questionnaire asking about key reasons for testing, reviewed it and brought me inside to the testing area (Some call it the main waiting room).

It was at this time, a very kind nurse pulled out a swab roughly the size of a toilet brush and proceeded to stuff it up nose until it pretty much hit my brain. At least she apologized during the non-op frontal lobotomy, but hey…

I was told that testing would take 3-5 days as they still had to ship the samples to California, given a lovely paper on how I was not allowed around anyone, not even my pets. Great I thought, that sample goes right back to the state that likely got me in to this mess. Oh well. I headed back to the disease-mobile and proceeded to drive my self home once my eyes uncrossed from the swabbing.

I have now self-isolated and taken over our bedroom and bathroom. My wife and pets have moved out of the room and left me do lanquish with only my 32″ TV, steaming services, computers, phone and hand-delivered meals to keep me company. First world problems, right? As in intorvert though, I have trained for this my whole life, so I think I will be OK.

I will continue with future updates very soon.