Quarantine Ponderings: Overloaded

I am one of those people whose mind is always going.

I can’t just sit still and do nothing.  I hardly watch TV.  My DVR is overrun with episodes of Blue Bloods, This is Us and Better Call Saul though I pretty much only have the brain capacity to binge watch old favorites.

I have lots of thoughts.  I haven’t been writing about it.  I have spent most of 2019 away from my blog because I needed space at that time.

I brought back my weekly gratitude posts for awhile.  I need to bring those back.  Gratitude is a good habit to have.

Then 2020 happened.

I think we have all had time to sit in our thoughts.  I don’t think that is a bad thing.  I think more people need to spend time thinking.  I have had many people in my life that tell me that I need to stop thinking so much and that I need to get out of my thoughts.

I disagree.

Perhaps people need to think more.

So here, in 2020, during a time of Quarantine, we are experiencing something new.  Some thing no one alive has ever experienced.  Well unless you are over 100 years old and even if you were alive during the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic, you probably don’t remember it.

With this new experience, we have probably been thinking about things we may have never thought about before.  And we are surrounded by other people who may be thinking about things they have never thought about before.

And then people may post on social media and the collective energy may feel like the outlet that Clark Griswold plugged his Christmas lights into.

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You may be feeling overloaded.

Clark Griswold’s electrical outlet is your brain on quarantine.

I am probably dating myself majorly here but I was an 80’s child and my overstimulated brain thought of this 80’s commercial.

 

This is your brain.  This is your brain during the 2020 Pandemic.  Any questions?

Anyone else shocked that a commercial towards kids lasted a whole 30 seconds in the 1980s?  15 second Insta-stories are the new 30 second commercial.

I am also amazed that the guy cracked the egg with one hand.  Of course, the video quality if poor and for all we know, there could be egg shells in that fried egg.  *insert shrug emoji*

Maybe the egg is another analogy of how our quarantine brain feels…with or without drugs.  (Not judging nor condoning.  Use responsibly.  And kids….your brains are still forming.  It’s your best asset.  Don’t eff it up.)

So I have these thoughts but I don’t take the time to write out blog posts about them.  My style of writing is usually spending 2-4 days drafting a post, usually handwritten in my blogging journal first.  Then I spent a couple hours transcribing it into blog form.

Yeah…between homeschooling my kid and working 40 hours a week, I don’t have time to write in my normal style.

But it became clear to me that I must write because I need to get these thoughts out and to clear my head.

So I am changing how I draft blog posts.  I am doing something new and out of my comfort zone.  You are going to get my ponderings in a more raw form.   And I am going to blog about that I need to say and maybe it will reasonate with you.  Feel free to share with me what you are thinking, even if it has nothing to do with what I wrote about.  I love hearing from people.

I hope you have a great week.

How quickly things can change

March 12.

That was a Thursday.  At that point there were no cases of COVID-19 in Maine.  We were the last state in New England standing.  If I remember correctly, there were cases in 30 states.  I was excited for Saturday as my town was having a Bean and Potluck Supper to celebrate Maine’s 200th birthday.  I had volunteered to make a cake and I was going to decorate with a blueberry theme as I had Maine blueberries in my freezer.  My daughter’s class was going to helping out at the supper.

I had been following the virus for the previous 6 weeks.  What can I say?  I’m a nerd who loves maps and I work in healthcare.

I had been slowly stocking up on food over the past couple weeks. No panic buying.  Just picking up a little extra on things my 5 year old would be pissed if we ran out of, so things like Dino-Nuggests and Cheez-Its with the Frozen characters on them.  The important things.  No TP Hoarding here.

I had an almost empty chest freezer that I was slowly filling.

I also did my Easter Bunny shopping early.  I figured there would be two outcomes.  If Easter products were hard to find, then the Easter Bunny would still come through.   If there was no shortage of Easter Products, I would still be happy to have that shopping done.  The latter was the outcome.

A little voice told me that morning to go to Wal-Mart and do another grocery trip.  Just one last trip.  So I went.  Got on extra box of Frozen Cheez Its and Two extra bags of Dino Nuggets.  And my intuition told me to buy an extra bag of flour.  I had no idea flour would become hard to find in the coming weeks.

I came home and put the Dino-Nuggets in the freezer.  Then I went to work.  (I work from home.)

That afternoon it was announced that Maine had it’s first case.

It was only a matter of time.

As expected, the first case was in Southern Maine which might as well still be in another state when you are from my part of Maine.  (I kid.  Well, I kid but there is some truth to that.)

Then a bunch of activities and events planned were postponed and cancelled, including the bean supper.

I picked my daughter up from school because there were T-ball sign ups.  Of course that season has been postponed.

I took my daughter to the beach that evening while everyone went to the supermarkets and bought all the hamburger and toilet paper.

 

We found a piece of sea glass.  This has become a new hobby.  Maybe I will write a post about our sea glass adventures.  (And it’s okay if you look at this piece of sea glass and think it looks like…something.  Or maybe I just have a dirty mind.)

You can also follow our adventures on Instagram at @kerryannmckim #shamelessplug

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The next morning I dropped my daughter off at school and things were different.  Instead of all the kids congregated together, the children went straight to their classrooms.  No panic.  It was sold to the kids “we’re doing something different today.”

It was announced that the teachers would be coming up with plans should school be cancelled.

Saturday morning my daughter sold cookies with her Girl Scout Troop.  People needed to get cookies before quarantine.

That weekend I went out for one of my best friends birthdays.  We were still cautious.  We had hand sanitizer.  Plus, alcohol kills germs…right?

Not going to lie.  Even with modern technology, I miss my friends.  I did drop off ice cream to them the following week but I miss seeing them.  One of my friends has a birthday in May and we were joking that we wouldn’t get to see each other until her birthday.

Now I don’t think that is going to happen.

That night we got notified that there would be no school for two weeks.  Which would later turn into 6 weeks and then turn into the rest of the school year.

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Sunday morning was my daughters dance class and then we stopped in at her troops last cookie booth so we could pick up and deliver some cookies we sold last minute.

And that was the last of life before the quarantine.

I’m trying not to complain.  While homeschooling my kid and denying my social nature is not easy…this still doesn’t compare to those 5 months that Bryon was hooked up to a ventilator.  But uncertainty is still never easy.  The only difference is that when Bryon was sick, it was only our world that was unstable….everything was going on as scheduled around us.  Right now, it is uncertain for everyone around us.

So while I can draw a lot of parallels between that crisis and this crisis, there are very big differences.

But remember….nothing ever lasts forever.

And everybody wants to rule the world.  But that is another whole issue.

 

 

Quarantine Brain

When I became pregnant with my daughter, I became flighty.  I blamed it on “Pregnancy Brain”.

When I was engaged and planning my wedding, I became forgetful.  I blamed it on “Wedding Brain”.

When I was going through Widow Fog (which is 100% real), I blamed it on “Widow Brain”.

And now I realize that I am afflicted again…with Quarantine Brain.

It makes sense.  I am working 40 hours a week from home (which I am grateful) and I am homeschooling my kindergarten daughter.

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To be truthful, I am envious of those who are having a restful quarantine because between work and home school…I am exhausted.

Add in all the news.  Lots of news.  Press conferences.  I have hit my limit.

And all the opinions.  Everyone is an expert.

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My brain is on overload.  I haven’t had time to read much or write and I have thought about writing many times.  But the thoughts are so jumbled right now.

I have done some cooking and some trips to the shore.  We are allowed to go to the beaches here, we just need to remain socially distant.

Quarantine got the best of my daughter.  She gave herself bangs.  (insert facepalm emoji)

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So I wanted to do a quick check in?  How are you feeling during this quarantine?  What are you thinking about?  Have you cooked?  Have you given yourself bangs?  How are you dealing?

Those Scranton Memories

While everyone is entertaining themselves by watching The Tiger King, I felt called to watch The Office on Netflix.

I admit, I was also inspired by my friend Liz as she is awesome and she is an office fan.

And I have zero interest in Tiger King.  Or whatever it is called.  I don’t care how many people on my Facebook Newsfeed watch it.

Speaking of newsfeeds -not going to lie- people have been annoying me.

Quarantine has been getting to me.

A month ago, most people couldn’t care less about the coronavirus and now they are epidemiological experts and they are mad at government for not taking it serious enough and not doing “stay at home” measures sooner.

As if they would have listened if those measures had been enacted sooner.

I have made good use of my “snooze for 30 days function” because I realize that I am probably just irritable.

We are all irritable.  Don’t let it ruin your otherwise good friendships unless you barely tolerated that person anyway.

Then go ahead and delete and block.

And if someone deletes and /or blocks you, be happy they did.  They did you a favor.

Keep space for those who want to be in your life.

So anyway, I wanted to watch something light-hearted on Netflix.  In the recent months I have watched Cheers and Parks and Rec.  I can’t watch Friends or How I Met Your Mother because they are not on Netflix anymore.

Witty conversations with my friend Liz inspired me to watch The Office.

As I began watching (I am currently on Season 5) it dawned on me that I hadn’t watch it since Bryon died.

It made sense why I hadn’t watched it.  I tend to avoid the shows we watched together.

When I went to begin watching the series, I realized that it was in Season 8.  I rarely watched Netflix when Bryon was alive unless I watched it with him and even then, we usually watched certain Netflix series like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

It was a spooky feeling to see where Bryon last watched the office over four years ago.

(Fun fact: Our Netflix account is older than our marriage.  My brother pointed that out to me over Thanksgiving when I logged into Netflix with an older email that consisted of my maiden name.)

I’ve been enjoying watching The Office again.   It is bringing back a lot of memories. It was Bryon who had gotten me into the show.

It all reminded me of a road trip we took to Scranton in 2012.

Not to be confused with the time we drove to Scranton in 2015 when he decided to buy a nativity scene for our lawn for our Fun and Old Fashioned McKim Family Christmas.

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Scranton, 2015

Our first trip to Scranton was in June of 2012.  According to Facebook, it was 98 days before we got married.

We were dealing with the stress of wedding planning.

Somehow we got talking about Waffle House.  Bryon was a waffle house enthusiast and I had never been.  Through the power of the internet, he learned that the closest waffle house was ten minutes north of Scranton.

We decided to take a break from the stress of wedding planning and take an adventure.

So down I-88 we went, past Binghamton and into Pennsylvania.

(Fun Fact- Bryon despised I-88 and told me how much he hated I-88 every time we were on it)

I do not have any photographic evidence from that trip to Waffle House but Bryon said it was the cleanest Waffle House he had even been to.  We returned that same Waffle House in 2015.  The only other comparison I have is the Waffle House we went to in Louisiana, which I don’t remember being dirty but it wasn’t as clean as the Scranton Waffle House.

Going to Waffle House was the beginning of our journey.

We went to the Steamtown Historic Site.

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Scranton, 2012

Then we went to the Steamtown Marketplace.

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Scranton, 2012

Bryon had figured out where the building in the open credits of The Office was located.

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Scranton, 2012

We had lunch at Cooper’s Seafood.

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Scranton, 2012

Then we went to the Bowling Alley to go to Poor Richard’s Pub.

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Scranton, 2012

After that we went to a casino in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

And Bryon took me to spot where New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey meet.

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I hadn’t thought about that day in years.

And as my head is being filled with memories of those hard days in the ICU, it is good to also reflect on the happier memories.

I always enjoyed my adventures with Bryon.  I promised him as he was dying that I would continue to take my daughter on adventures.

I love adventures.

But the adventures I had with Bryon will always be the adventures we shared.

Those memories can never be taken away from me.

Defining moments

I can remember many dates.

Some are easy for me to remember because they relate to events that happened in my life.

I can remember the date I moved to Maine as a teenager.

I can remember the date of my first date with Bryon.

I can remember the date I got married.

I can remember the date my daughter was born.

I can remember the date when Bryon died.

But there are many events in my life where I can’t remember the date.

One of those events happened four years ago today.

I had been anticipating this anniversary, but I needed help from Facebook memories to know exactly what day it was.  Because all I can tell you is that this happened on a Tuesday, two days after Easter.

Truth be told, I don’t look at Facebook Memories very often.  There is a lot of pain in my past.  Even the happy memories bring me pain. Eventually you reach a point where you decide you have had enough of pain and you just have to start staying in the present and move forward.

Kind of like that scene in Love Actually when Mark pretends to be carol singers and holds the cards up to Kiera Knightly, professing his love to her because you have to be honest at Christmas and then she kisses him and he walks off saying “Enough”.

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It kind of like that.

But sometimes you can’t escape thinking about those memories because they are defining moments in our lives.

On this day four years ago, Bryon was in septic shock and his body was beginning to shut down.

He was rushed off to a surgery that the doctors said he may not survive.

He had been in the ICU for 5 days at that point and I had been quiet on social media about his illness.  He was a proud man and I wanted to respect his privacy.  I have questioned that decision.

But in that moment, I only had hope and faith.  So I posted a prayer request on Facebook.

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My life changed that day.

It was the day when I realized that in a matter of moments, everything you had can be taken away from you.

Even if Bryon had survived, I know I never would have been the same.

I think it’s safe to make the assumption that Bryon would not have been the same.  We just don’t know to what extent.

Miraculously, Bryon survived the surgery.  I was hopeful that we were beginning the long road to recovery.

But that moment was really the beginning of the end.  It was the beginning of Bryon’s final chapter. A chapter where he would be hooked up to machines in an ICU.  A chapter where he couldn’t speak and would be too weak to even press the buttons on his TV remote.

Eventually Bryon was moved to another ICU at another hospital in New York City.  I bet he never would have imagined that he’d exit this world in New York City.  Though he was never one to ponder death, aside from showing his concern as to how I would manage if he were to die.  He was always the one to think about long term logistics.  I was the one who made sure milk was in the fridge and that there were enough clean clothes to get us through the following day.

Spoiler alert: I survived and I managed and I am okay.

He was not comfortable with death.  Part of that was the culture of his family of origin.  But sometimes I wonder if he knew on some deep soul level that he wasn’t going to be on Earth for a long time and he didn’t want to think about it.

I was the morbid one in our relationship.  I had no problem talking about death.  Pluto is in my first house.  The darkest planet in the most personal house.

I also come from a Boston Irish family. All of the grandparents came from large Catholic families and I attended many wakes and funerals growing up.  I joke that I grew up at the local funeral home.  Death was never shielded from me.

Four years ago today Bryon started his final chapter, a very painful chapter.  Though we will never know how painful it was to him.

I just know he fought to live.  He fought harder than most people.  I would have given up a lot sooner than he did.  He wanted to live.

He was hooked up to a ventilator and he couldn’t speak.  We never got to discuss what was going on, the what-ifs.  We never got to talk about the possibility of his eventual exit from this world.

If he had any words of wisdom he wanted to share with me and my daughter for our following chapters, he didn’t get to share them.

It’s a piece of closure that I never got and I really needed.  I still need that that closure.  I still struggle to move forward because I never got that closure.

While Bryon entered his final chapter, I also began a chapter that interwined with his chapter.

Our chapters had a lot of the same elements.  The same two main characters, the same minor characters, the same setting, the same medical staff and parade of visitors.  Both chapters had a lot of beeping from machines in the background.

I have no idea how the passage of time felt for Bryon.  I am sure when he was lucid, it went painfully slow.  But there were many days he was out of it due to many episodes of sepsis.

For me time went really slow.  Day by day, sometimes hour by hour.  Just sitting in my own thoughts, unable to focus on much.  I read a few fluffy novels and I did organize all my pinterest boards. I organized all those recipes that I never got to cook for Bryon.

I have tried to explain to people what those 5 months were like.

It’s impossible.

I made the mistake of assuming that friends who visited a lot understand.  Most didn’t. Very few people from that period actually understood the true impact of Bryon’s final chapter.  Those people who do understand will always be held close to my heart.

I should have realized early one that my chapter is just that.  My chapter.  Pain meant to be shouldered by myself.

When you think about it, most people were just there for many key, pivotal moments.  But they weren’t there for the day by day.  That was me.

I try not to think about that chapter.  Yes, I was there for him through sickness and in health, but I’d rather remember him as healthy Bryon.

No one really asks about those days and can we blame them.  If they did ask me, they’d probably quickly regret it.  It’s probably for the best because I usually cry and that’s awkward.

And here we are now.

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And we are in the middle of a pandemic.

I feel like I am living in some sort of parallel surrealistic universe to the life I lived in 2016.

There is a medical crisis.

A Presidential Election Season is going on, albeit in the background.

There is a lot of talk about ventilators.

We are desperately seeking a cure or at least a solution.

Hand sanitizer and hand-washing are very important.  In 2016, I didn’t want to spread ICU germs to my toddler and I did not want to spread daycare germs to my critically ill husband in the ICU so everything was sanitized.  In 2020, I am careful to wipe down everything I bring into the house from Wal-Mart with a Clorox wipe.

In 2016, it was a treat to grab a coffee at the on-site Dunkin or Starbucks.  In 2020, it is a treat to grab Dunkin from the drive-thru, (paid via app, no cash or card touched by hands and my cup is immediately wiped with a Clorox wipe.  I keep a canister in my car.)

In some ways, 2020 feels just like 2016.  I am living day by day.

But this time I am not alone.

We are all living day by day, sometimes hour by hour.  The whole world.

This event is going to change us all.  Whether we want to admit or not.  We will never be the same.

2020 is a bizarre chapter with the plot twist you never saw coming.

I want to tell everyone that everyone is going to be okay.  But that is a lie.

So many people are going to become critically ill.  But their families won’t be with them because they will likely be quarantined.  That is painful for me to think about.

As I type this, 33,966 people have exited this world and this pandemic is still in the early stages.  The number will be higher by the time you read this.

I can’t help but think of the magnitude of Bryon’s death and then multiply that magnitude by 33,966.

33,966 families and social circles are grieving.

If you are reading this and have lost someone to COVID-19, please accept my heartfelt condolences.

And even if no one close to you dies, it is still okay to grieve.  The world you knew is gone.  It is okay to be scared.  A disease that we don’t have a cure yet is a scary thing.

But my message isn’t all doom and gloom.

For those of us that survive, I can tell you that we will be okay.  Everything has changed and everything seems so different.  You will adapt.

We are all so much stronger than we think we are.

Don’t be afraid of the growth you are going to experience.  We are humans,  we are meant to grown and evolve.

Bryon’s death forced me to grow and evolve.  I am still growing and evolving.  And now we get an opportunity to grow and evolve as a community.

In some ways, it like a gift.  A painful gift, but still a gift.

This is our defining moment.

Coronavirus, Vaccines, PTSD and Sepsis…Oh My!

Almost four years ago, my husband had a simple weight loss surgery and it lead to complications. Those complications led to sepsis which lead to septic shock. The septic shock was so bad that it lead to multi-organ system failure.

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To say my world crashed down around me would be an understatement. I felt like the ground was being taken out from under my feet.
After several weeks in a medically induced coma and a month on dialysis, his kidneys started functioning again.
Then he caught C. Difficile.
(Though you don’t really catch C Diff. C-Diff is a harmful bacteria that resides in us all the time but is kept in check by the good bacteria within our bodies. However, antibiotics can kill off the good bacteria and C Diff takes advantage of the situation and grows and then turns into an infection)
He was treated with Flagyl and Vancomycin so it shouldn’t be too surprising that he developed VRE (Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci).
And he was pretty much a constant state of pneumonia.
He couldn’t eat. All his nutrition came from an IV. It was called Total Parenteral Nutrition, or TPN. However, his body was having trouble absorbing the TPN. He always had a thick head of hair and most of it fell out.
He couldn’t talk because he had a tracheotomy. He was the one person who always would reassure me that everything would be okay and he couldn’t. Though it would have been a lie because everything clearly wasn’t okay.
He was always a man of great strength and I watch him become so weak he could barely lift his thumb.
And then came staph. And he went into septic shock again. His kidneys failed again. He had to go back on dialysis.
At this point I completely lost my faith in God because, as a Cradle Catholic, I was taught God was a loving God and there is no way a loving God could have done that to Bryon and to my daughter. Please don’t take this as a plea that I need to be saved. I’m okay and doing just fine.
In a period of 5 months I watched him cling to his life. I watched his body become resistant to antibiotics. I watched him move up the antibiotic chain until he got to the end of the line.
Yes…there actually are specific antibiotics called “End of the line antibiotics.”
For 5 months I lived off adrenaline. I don’t think I can express how helpless and desperate I felt.
Sadly this story didn’t end the way I wanted it to.
I can tell you that there is some residual PTSD. Trust me…when my daughter gets a cut, Mom puts neosporin on it right away. Also any fever over 100.4 puts me in a panic and will always include a trip to peds urgent care.
Currently the United States is on the eve of a severe new disease that we don’t know much about.
Also, on Tuesday Maine has an important vaccine vote.

I won’t get into that though my Facebook friends definitely know how I feel about the vote.
From what we know (if the numbers are correct- I’m looking at you CCP/China), 5% of the people who get the Novel Coronavirus COVID 19 will become critically ill…like, ICU ill. Of those 5%, half of them will likely die.
Now is not the time to take our healthcare system for granted. It is definitely not perfect. It will get overwhelmed. The healthcare system isn’t limitless.
Our healthcare providers are going to be busy.
Be wise with your healthcare choices. And you are your best advocate. Do whatever you can to prevent getting sick- eat right, sleep, was your hands, don’t touch your face or pick your nose. Stay home if you are sick.
As my late husband would say “Don’t be a Dick”.
Keep yourself and others from getting sick. (Yes I made the rhyme on purpose).
Sepsis, in short, is an inflammatory response where your body goes into overdrive when it’s fighting off an infection and starts to attack itself.
The reality is any infection or virus can potentially cause sepsis. A tooth infection…the flu…measles…an infected cut…step throat…pneumonia…the new Coronavirus…and many more can all potentially lead to sepsis.

I have seen people get hysterical about the Coronavirus. I have seen people mocking those who appear to be hysterical. I worry that there very few people are where they are supposed to be…vigilant and concerned.

I also worry about the people who spread lies about vaccines and that no one holds them accountable. There are many parents who are researching and trying to do what is best and anti-vaxxers prey on these people.

Make your own decisions but make sure you research the places you get your information.

You can ignore Science. You can run from Science. But Science will catch up with you eventually.
The worst case scenario can happen to you. It happened to my husband and my family. Don’t dismiss “worst case scenario” stories as scare tactics. My story actually happened and it was a nightmare. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
I don’t usually share that part of my story. Personally, it is painful and I wish I could forget it. But I can’t.

And now that story is apart of me.
But with these two important issues going on…the only thing I ask you is to educate yourself on sepsis and the symptoms of sepsis and seek medical care if you or a loved one exhibits these symptoms.
At the very least, please look at the FAQ section from the Sepsis Alliance website but also look around the website. There is a lot of valuable information.

Sepsis Alliance FAQ

Days 58 & 59: Putting Boundaries Around Other People’s Anxieties

This is from my blog friend Suzanne’s blog. Totally worth the read. A good reminder to stay in your lane.

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