Winnower

Sunday, January 22nd 2023 at 1:35 pm
by Jonah

That was the first time she saw Death.

At first all she glimpsed was a passing shadow, out of the corner of her eye; then she realized there was nothing to cast shade.  He was walking (gliding?) along the tiles down the 4th floor corridor toward the elevators.  What kind of security did this hospital have to let someone with a giant sickle just wander around the halls?

She saw him again a few times after that, usually coming from the Emergency Department, though once it looked like he was headed toward Maternity.  She understood pretty quickly that everyone around him couldn’t see him.

Everyone but her.

Then on Tuesday he entered her father’s room. She stood up from the bedside chair where she’d been reading out loud to the unconscious man in the bed. Death seemed to pause at the door.  She stepped between Death and her dad’s bed, defiantly standing between the two.

“No,” she said.  

The machines attached to her father continued their rhythmic beeping and whooshing sounds.

Death turned and seemed to peer behind himself.

“It isn’t his time,” she insisted, her hands gripped into fists.

Death turned back to her.  “Oh,” he spoke, his voice causing her spine to shiver involuntarily. “You can perceive me.  That happens sometimes.”

“You can’t take him,” her voice broke. “He just retired.”

Death propped his scythe against the door jamb and dragged back his hood.  She tried to suppress a gasp. And yet his eyes looked surprisingly soft, sorrowful.  

Death seemed to exhale, releasing an airless sigh. “Your father will be diagnosed with dementia next year. That is after he becomes lost on his way home from the hardware store and hits a child on a bicycle with his pickup… the old one he restored. You’ll move in to care for him, leaving the man who has loved you more than any other, except your own father. Your father’s mind will dissolve quickly, and the cheerful, kind, confident man you, and so many others, love will be replaced with someone perpetually confused, paranoid, and angry, though he will not know why. Every day will be a battle to bathe, clothe, and feed him. He will be miserable, as will you.  And yet his body will endure.

“This will go on for years.”

“It isn’t fair,” she managed to whisper.

“No,” said Death.  

“Death is never fair.”

Novavax trial end

Friday, January 20th 2023 at 9:55 pm
by Jonah

This week marked the end of my involvement in the Novavax vaccine trial. I had enrolled two years ago and had gone into the trial clinic every few months (and every time I came down with a cold) for them to collect my fluids, and five times for them to inject me with their fluids. Each time they loaded up a prepaid debit card with some money. And then I did finally catch Covid, a month before my two years was up.

I was supposed to take my temperature every day and input it in an app on my phone. I wasn’t so good about that, and I’d get a phone call if I’d gone a while without doing it. If I got sick, I had to answer a whole lot more questions. So I don’t have to do it anymore.

My contact at the trial asked if I’d be interested in participating in other trials. I said sure.

Here’s me after them taking my precious, precious blood one last time.

Inevitability

Tuesday, January 17th 2023 at 10:02 pm
by Jonah

Day 1

We drove the Tacoma down to San Carlos, Mexico for a week at the beach with the Serranos family, and spent most of our time kite flying / sand castle building or reading… definitely getting lots of vitamin D. It was nice to feel almost back to normal after both of us had battled a nasty case of RSV right after Thanksgiving.

San Carlos beach
Tetakawi
Posada Condos

Berck’s birthday was December 18, and we all packed into the Serranos’ Suburban to drive to the next town over for caramelos, Sonoran style flour tortillas topped with steak strips and melted cheese. We came back to the Serranos’ condo for a multiple leches cake. Pepe lit two candles in jars he had bought to try to mitigate the smell of the fish he had fried in the condo earlier in the week. Berck made a wish that he wouldn’t catch Covid on his birthday and then failed to blow both out in one breath.

Both of us had scratchy throats.

Day 2

We woke up in the morning and realized that on our last day at the beach we were sick. I tried to read but ended up falling asleep on the condo’s couch and slept most of the day. Berck also napped. We’re not naturally nappers. Berck took one of the rapid Covid tests I had brought with me. It was negative. Maybe we had the flu? Pepe brought us some caramelos he had picked up for us for dinner. Neither one of us had much of an appetite.

Day 3

We had a horrible night. Berck was coughing, and I was congested. We were both restless. We got up and packed up knowing we had to begin the two-day trip home. Berck suggested I take a Covid test this time. This time there was no question.

Question: Which line is the bad line again?

I had some KN95 masks from work, so I donned one to check out from the front desk and get our deposit back. I also made Berck stop at a pharmacy so I could buy some cough syrup. Berck drove all day including the perpetual traffic jam to cross the border into the US (took us an hour and a half). I took some Xyzal, Sudafed, and Aleve, because my back was killing me, and just sat in the passenger seat of the truck and felt lousy.

We went through the drive through at a Jack in the Box stateside and got some burgers and fries and a Dr Pepper for Berck and a milkshake for me. I didn’t have much of an appetite and ended up only drinking half of the milkshake.

I found us an old roadside motel in Deming, New Mexico that had been renovated inside with nice carpet, a big fridge, a very comfortable bed, and a good shower. Berck was amazed that it didn’t smell like a cheap motel. We probably shouldn’t have been amazed that we couldn’t smell any cheap motel smell. I made Berck take some Mexican cough syrup so he’d stop his constant coughing. I didn’t really have a cough, just a ton of congestion. I took more Sudafed and Aleve and a Benadryl and passed out around 7 pm. I didn’t wake up until 12 hours later.

Day 4

Wednesday we got up and decided we should probably get some coffee and maybe something to eat. Berck told me to leave the key in the room and not check out at the motel’s front desk. I searched for drive throughs with breakfast in Deming and decided our best bet was a Wendy’s. We each got a coffee and a bacon biscuit. As we sat in our parked truck in the parking lot, Berck asked if the coffee tasted like anything to me. I took a sip and said it tasted exactly like warm water. Slightly bitter warm water, Berck added. We could have saved money and just asked for warm water.

I was feeling more like a human being, and even though I had already requested and been granted the day off as a vacation day, I plugged in my laptop and tethered to my phone and started going through a week and a half of work e-mails. My boss had asked me to draft an application for hearing, so I did and e-mailed her my draft. She replied, uh, were you going to add any witnesses? My brain was apparently less willing to work than I was. I replied that she better second guess anything I did for the foreseeable future.

Berck and I both dutifully informed the Colorado Exposure App that we had tested positive. The App then informed each of us that we had been exposed to someone with Covid-19. Yes, we had been exposing each other sitting next to each other in the truck all day.

We got a call from the Novavax vaccine trial study clinic asking if we could come in so they could collect our fluids to see how well our bodies were handling being sick. We told them we couldn’t come in that day as we were next to the Mexican border, but we could come in the next day.

We got home just before the snow hit, the storm that took out the electrical grid in Tennessee as well as Southwest Airlines. Berck had me make us some ramen, which is the only thing we could think of that sounded good to eat.

pandemic dinner

Day 5

Thursday Berck managed to get us scripts for Paxlovid at the CVS pharmacy inside the Target at Academy and Union. I called them and asked if they really wanted me to come inside a busy store to get the drugs, and they said that was my only option as they didn’t have a drive through. Berck drove us on the snowy road down into town, and I tried to get a KN95 to make a tight seal on my face before going in. Then I had to wander around the Target to find the pharmacy, trying to steer clear of shoppers. The drugs were free; all I had to do was give the pharmacy our names.

As Berck drove next to the Novavax trial clinic, he demanded I tear open the Paxlovid and give him his first dose. I insisted on reading the directions first. The directions are to take three giant pills in the morning and three giant pills at night. He parked in the alley behind the clinic and then gulped down the pills with the water I brought while I called the clinic and told them we had arrived. We put on masks and then were ushered through a back door into an exam room, where they took our vitals, snot, and blood. Well, they tried to take my blood, but as I hadn’t felt like eating or drinking anything, my dehydrated body refused to give up any blood. The phlebotomist stuck me three times and tried to make small talk asking if we had any plans for Christmas. “Well, we don’t now!”

The clinic’s doctor took us one at a time into the next exam room and gave us each a quick physical. He dangerously had us remove our masks so he could examine our throats and ran out the door when Berck couldn’t suppress a cough. He listened to our lungs and then said to us, “Your lungs sound fine. Take the Paxlovid, and you’ll both be fine.” I took my three horse pills once we got back to the car and Berck drove us home. We decided that was our morning dose and took our evening dose that night after I made us some more ramen. I cracked an egg to add to the water, but it seemed more viscous than usual. I tried to smell it and then realized I couldn’t.

Three in the morning and three at night

Later that evening I poured myself a bowl of cereal. I had forced myself to eat since Monday, and for the first time I felt hungry.

Day 6

Friday I was desperately trying to catch up on work. Berck was having a meltdown because he had started experiencing Paxlovid mouth. He described it as metallic grapefruit flavored hot garbage water. He realized that having the taste of anything in his mouth, anything else, made the maddening taste go away. He had nearly finished some gum we had lying around and begged me to go to the store and buy him some hard candy. I put together a pick up order at City Market, doing a search for hard candy and selecting one of each. I added some ramen and green onions to the order and scheduled it for the first available time of 2pm.

The loss of taste from Covid is actually a loss of smell. Your tongue can still perceive sweet, bitter, salt, sour, and umami. It can also taste spicy. Thus ramen with some sriracha tasted like…something at least. Berck determined that cinnamon candy worked pretty well, as well as sour candy. But keeping something in your mouth at times is kinda tricky. He got tired of eating candy really quickly. The only way he could sleep was by tucking some Extra gum into his lip like chewing tobacco and hope he didn’t choke to death in his sleep. I told him I knew he wasn’t dying because I could hear him coughing from the downstairs bedroom from my bed upstairs.

Day 7,

Here’s what I wrote on Christmas Eve:

I’ve lost 4 pounds in 2 days.

Finding anything to eat that seems appetizing is hard when everything tastes like nothing, and also I don’t feel hungry. I’m sure I’m also dehydrated because I get tired of just drinking water or anything else that simply tastes like water.

I woke up today with a tremendous headache. I thought I’d make myself a big cup of coffee and take some Excedrin, and of course the Paxlovid regimen. You have to take three enormous pills each morning and three more each night.

I took a small sip of the fancy coffee Berck roasts himself, remembered that coffee just tastes like slightly bitter hot water, and then immediately vomited. Except there was nothing in my stomach, because I only ate half of my ramen last night, and it had long since digested.

Later today I thought I’d make soup with the chicken I got at grocery pick up yesterday. I clocked out of work and did a grocery run because Berck is losing his freaking mind with Paxlovid mouth. To me, it’s like someone coated the inside of my mouth with anti-seize. To Berck it’s literally maddening. He calls the perpetual taste in his mouth “hot garbage water”. He begged me to buy him some hard candy.

We say we lose our sense of taste with Covid, but really we just lose our sense of smell. The tongue can still taste sweet, bitter, salt, sour, and umami. Ice cream tastes like sweet mucus, but noodles with a MSG flavor packet taste alright. We can also still sense spicy, so jalapeno potato chips are pretty good. Mint and cinnamon seem to also work on the spicy principle. Sour candy also tastes, because the tongue can still taste the sour and sweet in it.

So I went to the City Market website and selected one of each of everything under “hard candy”. I thought some protein with the night’s ramen might be nice, thus the rotisserie chicken. Today I put the carcass in a pot with water and turned the burner to high, then went downstairs.

Have you ever sent yourself an e-mail, say from your work account to your personal account, or just to save something or give yourself a reminder, and then your phone buzzes, and you immediately check it to see who’s e-mailing you something and realize it was yourself literally seconds ago? Yeah, I do that every single time. Well, I went back upstairs later and thought, what’s that smell? Oh, yeah. I’m boiling a chicken and that’s why I smell something.

Wait. I SMELL SOMETHING!

Berck’s fever finally went away yesterday. I only had a fever one day, and I’m definitely feeling better each day (except for today’s migraine).

Day 8, Christmas Day

My migraine continued for a second day. We binged watched the new season of Letterkenny. I made matzo ball soup, and it was nice to eat something that wasn’t ramen. At some point in the afternoon I asked Berck if he had enough energy to go open presents. In the evening, I had enough energy to light the Hanukkah candles for the last night of Hanukkah. Berck mentioned euthanasia less.

Day 9

We both had the Monday off for the Christmas holiday. I made myself some Scottish breakfast tea and cheese eggs and I could taste them! It was the last day of Paxlovid. We were both ready for the diarrhea and nausea to be over.

Day 10

Tuesday. December 27. I made myself some popcorn. Berck hates the smell of popcorn, so I try to only make it in the summer when the windows are open. But he was downstairs working for the first time in weeks and didn’t notice.

Day 11.

Wednesday, December 28. We were both feeling better. For weeks, we’d been planning to fly on New Year’s weekend to Gulf Shores, Alabama for Berck’s mom’s 70th birthday bash. I contacted friends in Mississippi on Facebook to ask if we could stay with them on New Year’s Eve. As I’d been sharing our Covid progress also on Facebook, I probably should have opened with the fact that we were recovering.

Day 12

Thursday, December 29. I made popcorn. Berck NOTICED because he smelled it and complained. He asked how long I’d been making popcorn that week. We both tested negative on rapid tests.

Day 13

Friday, December 30. A multi pound bag of cinnamon candy was delivered by Amazon; Berck almost threw it in the garbage. Berck felt OK enough to drive down to the Meadow Lake Airport and get night current. He had to shovel snow to get the airplane out to the taxiway. We each took rapid tests again and still tested negative.

Day 14, New Year’s Eve

We flew to Mississippi and joined our friends for a little New Year’s Eve party. Our hosts served us some delicious looking food. I could kinda taste the stuffed jalapenos.

Day 15, New Year’s Day

We flew the rest of the way to Gulf Shores, making sure to take Sudafed so our ears didn’t explode with our continuing congestion. We went to the store and got lots of beer. I picked out some Southern Pecan, which I try to get every time I’m in the south. But when I cracked open a bottle, it tasted like Rolling Rock.

Day 17

My brother took me out to a brewery, which had a Schwarzbier on tap, which I was excited to try. Disappointingly, it tasted like Rolling Rock. I bought a can of it anyway to take home.

Day 21

I opened the can of Schwarzbier I’d bought at the brewery to drink while taking a long walk on the beach. And… it tasted fantastic!

The End

Gulf Shores New Year 2023

Monday, January 16th 2023 at 8:17 pm
by Jonah

Photos from Cynthia’s 70th birthday Nash Bash

Surveillance Report

Monday, December 26th 2022 at 10:52 am
by Jonah

Subject is 10 year old orange striped feline with white chest and feet, colloquially known as a One Orange Brain Cell. Name: Professor Linus Erwin von Neumann. Objective: document if subject actually drinks from the electric water fountain gifted to him by his temporary caregiver.

Subject has been gifted numerous items by his temporary caregiver over time: toys, controlled substances (i.e. catnip), a bowl shaped bed.

Numerous attempts were made to find evidence subject was using said water fountain. Water in fountain was replenished, though it is unknown if it were being drunk or simply evaporating.

On 2022/12/26 10:29 MST subject was observed lapping at water fountain.

Positive confirmation of identity of subject was determined.

At 10:30 MST subject walked away from fountain. Contact was discontinued.

2022/12/26 SCI