December 16th, 2005

Medical Update

Yesterday was strange. I slept fitfully, as I had predicted, and suffered bouts of high fever. But I woke up feeling much better and drove to Skylar's school to see the "mall" she and her classmates had set up -- with Kim's help on Wednesday -- as the culmination of what Kim and I call their "capitalism" unit. When we arrived, though, we realized that Skylar had forgotten her library books and a note one of her classmates had leant her. So Kim told me to go home and get them.

I did, returning just in time to see the fruits of the children's labor and take pictures, some of which I will share in a subsequent entry. Then I decided to swing by the library to see if they had a copy of a book I was using that I'd left at work. I recently refound my library card from years ago and figured I should give it a shot, rather than buying the book from B&N and returning it later. They had the book, as well as some interesting CDs that I brought home to hear and, if I like them, burn.

Since I was already at Shannon and Ina, I decided I should stop in at Urgent Care to make sure I didn't need medication. It's impossible to get an appointment with my primary care physician unless I can wait several days and I've had better luck with Urgent Care anyway, as was the case with my tonsil abscess last winter. I checked in, read, did my triage, read some more and then, all of a sudden, felt just awful. I got up to go to the bathroom, figuring I should splash water on my face. But I felt so dizzy that I opted to sit back down in my chair. My fainting spells of June, 1997 at least taught me that much.

I came to sitting on the floor in front of the chair, with concerned Urgent Care personnel crowding around me. Yes, I'd passed out, pitching forward and falling from the chair. Very dramatic. They brought me a wheelchair and took me into the special room where they put the more serious cases. All I could think was that I'd managed to bypass ten people in line ahead of me. Oh, and also that my head hurt, but not from falling.

Piecing together the cause of my collapse, I realized that I'd had too many inhaler puffs relative to the amount of food I'd consumed in the past twelve hours. Indeed, as I recounted my experience passing out back in June, 1997 -- far more dramatic and bad -- I realized that excessive inhaler puffs probably were one of the causes for that episode as well.

Initially, I'd assumed that it was the ephedrine and Vicodin -- it was a smog-induced asthma and a backache day -- that were mostly to blame. Then, after the E.R. visit and subsequent follow-up visits -- Kim had thought I was having a seizure, which led to all manner of difficulty once the paperwork was processed -- I realized that low blood sugar was probably the biggest culprit of all.

Anyway, I told this story to the still-concerned people monitoring me and they agreed that too much albuterol on an empty stomach could lead to precisely this sort of crisis. The thing is, I hadn't eaten that much because I was coughing so much -- thank you, Mrs. or Mr. Smoker -- and didn't want to throw up accidentally. Still, it was stupid of me.

My joy at bypassing the line eventually faded when I realized that I would be there longer because I'd passed out. They gave me an EKG, a reflex test, and various other check-ups. And I passed with flying colors. My blood sugar was low, though, if not dangerously low, so they brought me graham crackers and juice, which immediately restored my spirit.

After a while, they gave me a nebulizer treatment with more albuterol, which always helps me more than the straight inhaler puffs. And they did a chest X-ray, which showed that the Valley Fever nodules had shrunken down but that my lungs were still pretty much of a mess. They weren't certain, though, whether it was just the flu -- flu is hitting Tucson hard and early this year, apparently, judging from their comments and the waiting room -- or pneumonia.

Although they thought it was probably the former, they gave me antibiotics to prevent the viral infection from paving the way for a bacterial one. Score. I hate leaving Urgent Care empty-handed. And I know that the likelihood of me getting a bacterial infection on top of the viral one is pretty high this time of year.

I also walked away with prescriptions for oral steroids, which I'm not sure I want to take, vials of liquid Albuterol to use in our home nebulizer, and Musinex -- also available over the counter -- which I'd never heard of but combines the active ingredients of most cough syrup -- dextromethorphan and guaifenesin -- in a pill form.

I hate the way cough syrup makes me feel. But these pills don't make me feel that way. What they do make me feel, however, is high. I remember a drug-obsessed friend once talking about how great it would be to be able to take dextromethrophan in pill form. Well, the medical industry has responded to his request. It looks like Mormons are going to have another option when it comes to getting blasted.

I only took a single pill, but it still gave me the sensation of a "widescreen" visual field with extended depth of field and intense color saturation. Go me! It also helped my cough a lot. I'm feeling much better today, despite the fact that I seem to have contracted a cold on top of the flu. Or maybe I'm just experiencing different flu symptoms.

At any rate, I'm on the mend. I'm no longer contagious. And I managed to wash the kitchen floor on hands-and-knees last night. This means that the party is still on! Hooray. I'd hate to cancel. Bean wouldn't let us cancel.

What's the moral of this story? Don't use the inhaler excessively unless you have to. But if you do have to use it a lot, as I most certainly did on Wednesday and Thursday, be sure to keep your blood sugar up.


Kim is on her way to get Skylar from school. The Bean has a fever that came on suddenly. And she was coughing when Kim dropped her off. Given my own experience at Urgent Care yesterday, it's a good bet that she has the flu. Kim may have already had it and gotten over it rapidly, so fingers crossed and all that. But I fear that Skylar inherited too much of my respiratory disfunction to mimic her mom's response to this sort of bug.

The Capitalism Unit

Because I had to drive home to pick up two things Skylar needed for school yesterday, I returned right as the kids were beginning their first day of shopping at the "mall." For five weeks they have been learning about business. They went to Krispy Kreme, which was great fun, Bank of America, which was boring as hell, and the Zoo which was totally awesome. They have also been learning about concepts like profit, expenses, and interest. While I wasn't so pleased with the phase of Skylar's engagement that led to her obsessing on collecting money, often from my dresser, I have to admit that the unit has taught her plenty of useful things. And it's only first and second-grade after all.

Anyway, yesterday was the first of two days in which all the children's efforts paid off. They had been making products, planning a business strategy, writing advertisements -- you name it. But the items they were selling -- for the made-up currency of their community, which they'd earned by doing homework and other tasks -- were so adorable that my normal antipathy to the mall experience was rapidly overrun with joy.

Here's a picture of the booth that Skylar helped to plan and run. They're selling rainsticks. That's Skylar's best friend in the black shirt, extracting the requisite "suns" -- their community is called "Sundown City" -- from her pouch full of earnings:

Skylar was slated to be a seller today. Yesterday she got to be a buyer. The girl loves to shop. Here she is checking out the "pillow pet" booth in the adjoining classroom -- the two classes do some things together -- which was one of her favorites. She went there early in her flâneurie.

There were also raffles and contests at the "mall." Skylar played the game where you're supposed to catch a fish with a hook for a magnet. She got one.

By the end of her whirlwind shopping trip --yes, Mr. Dimmesdale, I know that "whirlwind" is a cliché -- the Bean had a bag full of lovingly hand-crafted items. You can tell how much fun she was having:

I'd rather go to an alternative mall where people sell what they made themselves than wander through the perfume-laden piles of pointless imported merchandise at the conventional sort. Not having to use dollars is pretty sweet too. I guess I'll have to give the capitalism unit a grudging thumbs-up after all.
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Do You See What I See?

I decided to pick up Paul Feyerabend's Against Method today. I bought it used nearly fifteen years ago, when I was first beginning to be interested in "Theory." At that time, because I didn't know where to look or even what I was looking for, I picked up all sorts of things that would later have been expunged from my shopping cart for being too far afield. As I recall, though, I did have a reason for wanting Against Method that still makes sense in light of my present theory-consciousness, namely the fact that Michel Foucault was said to have been enamored of the book.

Typing that I wonder where I heard it or even if it's true. Nevertheless, reading in Against Method today makes it clear to me that Foucault should have been a big fan. There's a great section where Feyerabend is discussing early uses of the telescope -- the book is preoccupied with the history of science -- and the fact that there was much disagreement about its accuracy. He turns then to the problem of Galileo's drawings of the moon. "It needs only a brief look at Galileo's drawings, and at photographs of similar phases to convince the reader that 'none of the features recorded... can be safely identified with any known markings of the lunar landscape.'" Feyerabend acknowledges the possibility that Galileo simply did a bad job translating what he saw to paper, but notes, "I rather doubt it in view of the quite extraordinary observational skill which Galileo exhibits on other occasions."

Seeking a better explanation, Feyerabend goes on to entertain two possibilities. The first, that Galileo was merely recording the imperfections of the early telescopes, their distortion, is only mildly interesting. The second, however, is a real mind-opener:
Hypothesis II, just like Hypothesis I, approaches telescopic reports from the point of view of the theory of perception; but it adds that the practice of telescopic observation and acquaintance with the new telescopic reports changes not only what was seen through the telescope, but also what was seen with the naked eye. It is obviously of importance for our evaluation of the contemporary attitude towards Galileo's reports.

That the appearance of the stars, and of the moon, may at some time have been more indefinite than it is today was originally suggested to me by the existence of various theories about the moon which are incompatible with what everyone can plainly see with his own eyes. Anaximander's theory of partial stoppage (which aimed to explain the phases of the mooon), Xenophanes' belief in the existence of different suns and different moons for different zones of the earth. Heraclitus' assumption that eclipses and phases are caused by the turning of the basins, which for him represented the sun and the moon -- all these views run counter to the existence of a stable and plainly visible surface, a "face" such as we "know" the moon to possess.
The effect of this second hypothesis, which is clearly the one that Feyerabend favors for polemical reasons, is to recast the theory of perception as the history of perception or, to be more precise, to demonstrate how theory is always already historical and that to think otherwise is an example of severe ideological closure. Personally, I love the idea that what we can all plainly see is a function of our place in history.