Gardening thoughts to brighten dismal days

Tonight the man that I love most started talking about gardening.  I suggested we walk out and do some planning.  This winter has given me a deep longing to grow vegetables and plant flowers.


We walked out to the sodden patch and talked about asparagus and tomatoes and cucumbers and carrots and butternut squash and red peppers and spinach and lettuce and radishes and onions and red potatoes and yellow squash and lima beans and rhubarb and peas.  We did not mention green beans. (  We looked at an empty spot at the end of the garden and he confessed wanting to plant a few blueberries and maybe a red raspberry or two and spoke wistfully of the mulberry bushes of his childhood that brought so many birds to the yard and such angst to his Mom on wash day.

This morning, when we woke up, it was first snowing, then sleeting, then raining.  The little drips of ice hung tremulously off the gate and tree branches.  It was miserable and there were so many accidents on his way to work that he wondered how anyone could be so foolish as to not call at least a two hour delay for the northern counties of our small state.

Sometime today the air changed.  The sun came out. It got warm enough that the chicken house alarm went off.  Certain Man was up in Smyrna.  Deborah was at an appointment then running errands for several hours.  I was sitting in Dr. Wilson’s office, miserable and grumpy.  Certain Man took an early lunch hour, came home to attend to his errant alarm and found that his chicken houses wanted to go into tunnel ventilation.  On the day it was snowing and sleeting and icy enough to cause accidents.  It feels like one of God’s smiles in the middle of what has been a long, dark winter.

Dr. Wilson’s office.  I only went because I am so tired of being sick.  Over a month ago, in the middle of treatment for a UTI, I came down with fever, aches, and vomiting.  No cough.  But I assumed that it had to be a virus because I was on antibiotics.  Wasn’t sure how the flu slipped by the immunization that I had in November, but it seemed like the flu.  (By the way.  If you will forgive me for getting a flu shot, I will forgive you for not.  In the business I am in, when people insist on going out sick, exposing my ladies — and me — in thoughtless ways to germs that I could possibly avoid by an immunization, I’m going to protect them and me in any way that I can. Emphasis my own!)

I’ve taken the flu shot for years and only remember one time that I thought I had the flu.  But a month ago, it sure seemed to me that it was what I had.  It passed, I came to believe that I would some day be whole and gradually got back into the swing of things, blaming my residual weariness and sometimes unwell feelings on the grief and stress and some heavy family issues that neither I, nor the ones involved could do anything about.

A few weeks ago, I realized that there was a pressure on the right side of my head that was persistent and troublesome.  I followed the line of tight muscles and touchy nerves to my shoulder and thought that maybe the problem was a neck issue that I had been ignoring for a while.  It had certainly been aggravated by numerous lengthy phone calls where I cradled my phone while trying to also accomplish household tasks.  So I called my trusty chiropractor and arranged a consult.  What I was feeling was the strangest sensation.  I tried to describe it, tried to chart it, but nothing really explained it.  I couldn’t really call it pain, but it was certainly pressure, sometimes throbbing, sometimes feeling like a “swimmy head,” sometimes almost driving me to distraction.  She ascertained that I had, in fact, a major maladjustment in there , and recommended some home remedies as well as a series of visits to her office.  We enjoy a good relationship, but as much as I like visiting her, my head was getting no better.

Monday a week ago, I sat in her office and said, “Dr. Keener, I’m really not getting any better.  Some days it feels like I am but then the next it is back with a vengeance!”

I didn’t tell her, but that morning I had prayed specifically that God would give me words to describe what I was feeling in ways that would clue someone, somewhere into what was actually wrong.  Most of the time, I was certain it wasn’t neurological.  Deborah had done an evaluation and I had passed everything with flying colors.  But this had to be SOMETHING.  I couldn’t think.  Couldn’t focus.  Didn’t feel like being nice.  I just wanted to wrap my misery around myself and go be somewhere where no one would see me, expect anything of me, or want me to be civil.  My family was more than a little concerned, but I really hate hovering and when I feel that way it is hard for me to know whose advice to take and when.  And so, I was bringing it up again in the office of the professional.

“I wish I could explain this feeling,” I said to her as she looked thoughtful.  “It starts back here and it kinda wraps around my upper cheek across my ear, radiating to the top of my head.”

It was like a light went on.  “Mrs. Yutzy, I think you need to get in touch with your family doctor.  I am almost sure that you have a sinus infection.”

“A sinus infection?  How?  I have no blocked nasal passages, no post nasal drip.  Nothing!”

“It depends on which sinus cavity it is in,” she explained.  “If it is in one of the back ones, you will have exactly the sensation that you are describing.  I believe that the mess in your neck was intensifying it, but to be honest, you haven’t responded nearly as quickly as you normally do, and I believe there is something else going on.  I want you to call your family doctor.  You can tell him what I said, and maybe he will call in a prescription for you.’

So I called Dr. Wilson and we discussed it thoroughly and he agreed with her.  Arrangements were made for a good antibiotic and I was greatly encouraged.  Took my first pill last Monday night and woke the next morning feeling vastly improved. “Could it have worked that fast?” I wondered, but was so happy to feel better.  That lasted about a day, but on Wednesday morning the miserable feeling was back and with it, the (un)favorite side effects of Augmentin.   So now my tummy hurt, I had to keep close calculations on how far I was from the bathroom, nothing tasted good and my head was still a mess.  I decided to go for the long haul.  After all, that was only 36 hours after the first dose, and I was pretty much ready to endure anything if it would clear my head.

Anything???  Little did I know.

Thursday evening, Certain Man was sick, and I went alone to supper at my Sweet Mama’s house to be with my brother, Nelson, and his wife, Rose, my sister, Alma and her husband, Jerrel, and my brother, Mark, Jr. and his wife Polly.  We had a great time together, but when I got home, I felt like I was coming down with something.  Friday I muckst about all day, trying to bring Discover Bank and Quicken Home and Business into a relationship that they both refused to agree to and blamed on the other.  I was extraordinarily cross and impatient.  May have even slammed a thing or two.  Certain Man was amused at how passionately I responded, but I wanted to get things on the way to our accountant and this was altogether unnecessary.  Besides, Certain Man and I had tickets to Wilmington Railroad’s Valentine’s dinner special the next night, and I thought how much more fun it would be if I had a major accomplishment from this somewhat unprofitable week and could attend unto some romance without distraction.  (Oh, why couldn’t these stupid programs co-operate with each other???  And when would these miracle meds kick in and make this pressure go away???  I sat at my desk and held my head and wept.)

Saturday morning I got up and tried to plan my day.  I was clearly not in very good shape for a two hour train ride.  But I wanted to go so badly.  So I took a shower, washed my hair and decided that I would rest as much of the day as I could.  I did just that, running to and fro to the bathroom, feeling so nauseous and even sicker when I thought of the “delicious, intimate meal” I was to enjoy aboard a romantic, two hour train ride.  (Oh, help.  Think of that swaying train!!!)

When I realized that time was truly running out I finally thought, “I wonder if I have a fever?  I’ve been blaming all this on the medication, and on the sinus infection, but maybe I have something more going on.  Maybe I had better check.”  102.1°  I realized that this gal was not going anywhere that evening.  Tickets or no tickets.  Strange.  Certain Man wouldn’t go without me.  Beloved Son in Law and Eldest Daughter took the tickets and didn’t even ask us to watch Love Bug.  I really don’t remember much of the evening (except receiving updates from the two who were enjoying a rather expensive, unexpected Valentine’s gift).

I didn’t sleep well at all on Saturday night.  I wasn’t thinking much about my head at this point, to tell you the truth.  It was just a matter of survival.  Go to the bathroom, get some ginger ale or ice water.  Take something for fever, take antibiotic, get back on chair only to repeat the process all over again.  How in the world did I get the flu again?

Sunday was a repeat of the same.  Middle Daughter was an incredible help during all of this.  She gave showers, dressed and combed Cecilia, answered Nettie’s questions and kept the house in decent order.  Certain Man did whatever he could to help, too, and hovered about anxiously nearby, often choosing the recliner opposite my chair in the family room, sometimes reading to me and always offering to get me a drink or a blanket or a pillow.

By Monday morning, I decided that I was going to try to see the doctor as soon as possible.  It was early, so I went out and wrote everything out to my doctor and put it into the fax machine in a blurry state and hit send.  I went out of my cold study, into the comfort of the fire and waited for the office to call.  About four hours later, I went back into the study, thinking it was strange that I hadn’t heard anything.  My fax sat on the machine, unsent.  A fax report said that there had been no answer.  I sent it again, and still no answer.  I pondered a while if this meant that I wasn’t supposed to call, and decided to do some research on my own.  I decided that I should first of all determine which of my symptoms were the flu and which might be side effects of the medicine and which the sinus infection.

The feeling that there was a sandwich bag filled with pudding lodging somewhere in the right side of my head around and behind my ear — that had to be the sinus infection.  Didn’t seem to be responding much to meds, but it at least provided me with a plausible explanation.

The flu took the fever and aching part.  But then I read that it is accompanied by cough and cold symptoms.  I had none what so ever.  Not even with what the doctors felt certain was a sinus infection.   H-m-m-m-m-m.  Maybe I had better check the side effects of the meds.

Well, hands down, that was the nausea, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort.  But what was this?  Severe adverse reactions:  Fever, body aches, headache, dizziness, — What?   Was that what happened the last time I was on the antibiotics?  What I thought was the flu had actually been an adverse reaction to the medication?  I decided to call my pharmacist.  I asked him if there were any common components between the first med and the second med.  No.  None.

I explained to him what had transpired and he said, “It is quite possible that what you are experiencing is an adverse reaction to the medication.  I strongly advise that you call your primary care physician and discuss this with him.”

Of course, by then it five minutes past twelve noon, and they were out to lunch.  When they finally returned at 1:30 something and I got through to them by 1:45, there were no afternoon appointments.  I had to wait until this morning at 11.  I thought maybe! I was feeling a slight bit better, so I rustled about in my kitchen last night, put my ladies to bed, rejoiced that I didn’t need to take the meds until I saw the doctor, spent over an hour “talking” to a faraway friend and then went to bed.

Through the night, I awoke to the realization that it was snowing and snowing and snowing.  I also realized that the pressure in my head was back to some of the earlier levels and that I was really feeling achy.  But the morning brought the need to get up and moving.  Deborah had worked over night, dealt with a death in the middle of the night, and Daniel had to go to work.  I like to cook his breakfast and be with him in those minutes before he goes.  I am usually doing stuff with my ladies and I was pretty certain I could manage the usual morning household routine.  So when Deborah offered, I said, “No. I’ve got this.”

I got through the routine with some muddling about, and by the time that Nettie was on the bus, I was just about shot!  I got on my chair, opened the curtains wide and sat in the sun.  I was miserable, aching from head to toe, and thinking very dismal thoughts.

“I’ll bet this is really a brain tumor,” I thought.  “This pressure in my head is getting worse because it is steadily growing.  And my tummy hurts so badly, and it really is bloated.  I’ll bet I have ovarian cancer just running wild in there.  And there is that place in my throat where things get caught sometimes.  Maybe I have esophageal cancer like Mama and I know where that goes!  And sometimes this pain from my ear goes down my arm.  My heart has been doing such strange flip flops.  Maybe it is heart trouble or something like that.”  And on and on and on!  Before too many minutes passed I was certain that I had one foot on a banana peel and another in the grave.  I was certain that Dr. Wilson would take one look at me and send me straight to the hospital for admission and serious testing.  Maybe by ambulance.

Of course this sort of thinking doesn’t help anyone, and I did give myself a stiff talking to that involved such things as “This kind of thinking doesn’t lead to any good thing.  For crying out loud (and I was crying again, but not out loud!) have you no confidence in the fact that God has this all under His watchful eye?  And there is adventure here, no matter what the outcome of this is and He will be with you.  Your not helping yourself or anyone else by this, so buck up and STOP IT!”

Easier said than done, of course, but I did make an effort to not think about the possibilities and eventually got myself dressed and into the doctor’s office.  I commiserated with an old friend that was also waiting in his waiting room, and grew more and more uncomfortable as time passed.  The room was full, and I began to realize that I was to be the last patient of the morning.  About an hour after my scheduled appointment they called me back and took vitals and history and the “why was I here today?” business.  As the nurse was preparing to leave the office, I noticed that she hadn’t taken my temp and so I reiterated that I had been running a temp of up to 102.5° over the last three days.  I secretly didn’t think I would have one that morning, thanks to 800 mg of  Ibuprofen some hours earlier, but I really thought they should take the temp of someone who was there that was claiming to be sick.  So she fetched one of those horrible sharp plastic paper thin things and put it under my tongue.

“99.8°,” she announced cheerfully, as she dumped in the trash.  “Dr. Wilson will be in soon,” she said and left me alone.  So I waited again.

And finally he came in.  Dr. Wilson is kind to me.  He respects my judgement and loves Jesus and often hums praise and worship songs under his breath when he is writing prescriptions.  “What’s going on, girl?” he asks me.

I say, “Dr. Wilson, something is just terribly wrong.  I feel so bad!  I just can’t figure out what is going on.”  And I tell him the whole sordid tale and history and he listens thoughtfully.  And then he does his examination.  Looks in my ears, looks up my nose, examines my throat, checks out the lymph nodes in my neck and (ouch!) palpitates the area behind my right ear) listens to my lungs and listens to that heart that is probably on its last leg and then he starts to thump around on my skull.

“Does this hurt?  Does this hurt?  How about this?  Does it hurt as much when I do this as it does when I do this?”  I just can’t figure it out.  He always thumps harder on the areas that hurt the most, so of course, those areas are going to hurt more.

“Yes,” I finally tell him after a series of serious plunks across my skull, “That HURTS, but your wouldn’t have to thump quite so hard!”

He looks amused and then pulls up his chair.  “You are feeling so bad because you are SICK!” he informs me.  “The fever is not an adverse reaction to the medication, you have a fever because you are SICK!  You have an infection in your mastoid sinus behind your ear.  Years ago, there was nothing we could do for it.  Sometimes we would drill holes in people’s skulls to relieve the pressure.”

I know that sounds radical, but to be honest, at that point it seemed like a viable option.  It felt like that would be a relief!  I wisely kept that observation to myself and he went on.

“You are not responding to the meds because they aren’t the right ones for this kind of infection.  It is serious, but thankfully we have medication that does well with it because drilling holes in people’s heads often led to spinal meningitis and people died from that.”  (Cheerful and encouraging man, this Dr. Wilson, today!)  “We’ll get you fixed up and you are going to start feeling better!”

We talked a little longer about dosages and meds and pain management and he wrote my new prescriptions and then we walked down the hall together.  He asked about my family and how everyone was doing.  He especially keeps tabs on our boys because he was their doctor between pediatrician and marriage, and so there is always news to catch him up on.

And then I came home, and decided that since I wasn’t admitted to the hospital, didn’t seem in any imminent danger, I might just as well work at planning the garden, think thoughts of Spring and maybe even hum some praise and worship songs while I got some supper made.  When Certain Man got home, there was those happy moments together that I talked about at the beginning of this blog.  Sweet times of hope and home and happy thoughts of spring coming again to our small farm.

And that is the news from Shady Acres where Certain Man’s Wife is resting and trying to get better.  And the whole family has cheered her on in her endeavors.


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2 responses to “Gardening thoughts to brighten dismal days

  1. Patricia Brubaker

    Thankful the Dr. found your problem and hope happy, healthy days are with you.

  2. I am so sorry you have been so sick!! Years ago, I had sinus surgery, and while it definitely wasn’t a bad surgery, and it definitely took care of my problem, I pray these meds will take care of your infection.
    My last year’s garden fiasco was enough to make me a little “gun-shy,” but I am at least THINKING about a garden. My brother already has his started, but this is the first week we’ve not had at least one day of freezing temps in months! And this is south-central Texas!! Definitely ready for Spring around here!

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