Doing Sick Solo

So… about that stupid joke at the end of my last post…  Well, I got bit all right.  Not by a bear, thank goodness.  By a tick.  I usually save the bodies, wrapping them in a little paper with a date on it.  Then I freeze them, just in case I have to get them tested one day.  The latest addition to my tick morgue is dated 6/1-6/3/17, one month before I came down with classic early Lyme Disease symptoms:  fever bouncing between 101 and 104, headache that painkillers wouldn’t touch, chills, extreme fatigue, rash, etc.  I got better after six days.  Six days after that, I was sick again.  Then better.  Then sick.

I thought this would be a good time to share some thoughts and tips for others who might find themselves in a similar situation:  sick, solo, and away from home.  As a full-time RV traveler, my actual home is always with me, so it might be more accurate to say away from family.  In any case, most of what I have to contribute would apply whether you are on the road or stationary.

You are your own best (and only?) advocate.  I am grateful that a friend reminded me of this early on.  It helped give me the spirit and strength to wrestle with the doctor who saw me at the local urgent care clinic during the first spell of sickness.  Yes, I wrestled with a doctor.  Read on.

You know your body best.  This was different from any flu virus I had ever had before.  I also recognized a rash on my chest as out of the ordinary, including a faint “bullseye” pattern that the literature associates strongly with Lyme’s.  I took a picture of it and showed it to the doctor.  He barely looked at it before quickly dismissing it as just red, ugly, splotchy, old lady skin.  Ok, so he didn’t really say the words “ugly” and “old lady,” but I heard them all the same.  The rash disappeared along with the first batch of flu-like illness.

Take notes, in writing!  Don’t rely on your memory.  There is no such thing as a reliable mental note after the age of 33.  During my doctor visit, they took blood to test for Lyme Disease.  I asked the doctor how I would know if I might have Lyme’s even if the test came back negative (false negatives are very common in the early stages).  He said I wouldn’t get better.  I wrote that down.  The test, indeed, came back negative.

Research, research, research.  And take more notes.  Since I spent so much of my adult life in Virginia, I already knew about the dangers of Lyme Disease, especially when not treated early.  When I felt up to it, I got on the computer and googled (I love you, Google!) for more on early symptoms, late symptoms, tests, and treatment. Consistently, the information warned against letting the disease get established in your system without treating it early, even without a positive blood test result.  It also confirmed my symptoms as highly consistent with early stage Lyme’s.

With all due respect, do not back down…  Wrestle if you must!  When I got sick again six days after the first bout, I called the doctor to ask for a prescription for the antibiotic used against Lyme Disease.  He refused.  He said it could be a hundred other things.  I responded that my symptoms tracked very much with early Lyme’s, including the point he made during my office visit that I would not get better from the initial virus-like symptoms.  He said I didn’t have the rash.  I responded that yes, I did… remember the ugly picture?  He said there was no proof I had been bitten by a tick.  I reminded him that almost one month prior to becoming ill, I had a tick latch on for at least 48 hours.  He said he would “mollify” me by prescribing one week’s worth of antibiotics.  I responded that one week would do no good since proper treatment required one month’s worth.  He finally relented.  Yay.

When you can, DO.  I felt better after throwing up, which usually happened in the morning.  So that is when I would get critical stuff done (rather than climbing back into bed, which is what I really wanted to do), like emptying the RV’s waste tanks, adding to the fresh water tank, shopping, and preparing batches of Dawny’s home-cooked meals ahead of time.  Luckily, my workamping job here is very simple and flexible and I was able to do the minimum to get by.

While you are well, prepare for when you are not.  A list of emergency contacts should be placed in several obvious locations (wallet, glove compartment, fanny-pack if you hike with one).  As a workamper, I give my emergency contacts to the office or head ranger when I arrive at each new job.  I also try to let someone there know how to access my RV in an emergency, which is especially important if you have a pet and/or are unconscious inside.  Make sure your emergency contacts know of each other and have each other’s contact information.  Let them know where your important info is (health insurance card, financial stuff, will, spare keys).

Along similar lines, be a proud, practical squirrel.  RV’ers are supposed to travel as lightly as possible.  Nevertheless, it is important to load up on at least a week’s worth of “sick-supplies” to always have on hand (pain reliever/fever reducer, cough medicine/lozenges, other first-aid basics, ginger ale or whatever helps your nauseous tummy, tea/honey, bread/butter for toast).

Finally, yes, good squirrels save ticks.  Wrap the body of any tick that bites you–especially if it has had a chance to feed for 48 hours–in a dated piece of note paper and file it in a discreet corner of the freezer.  If, after my antibiotic course is finished, I continue to get sick, I now know what to do with that body from early June.  East Stroudsburg University’s Wildlife DNA Laboratory (link:  www.esu.edu/dna) will test that tick for Lyme’s for $50.  It will test for three possible pathogens, depending upon the tick, for $125.  For $175, it will test for all pathogens.  The tick can be from anywhere, not just from Pennsylvania, and even after several years the lab can still conduct the tests.

Thank you for reading.  Wishing all of you good health and tick-less happiness.

(Anyone who would like to contribute a tip on dealing with illness while alone and/or traveling, please feel free to use the comment section.  Keep in mind that each comment needs to be individually approved, so it won’t show up right away.)

Toodle-oo :)

Thank you cherished friends and readers for accompanying me and my sweet Dawny (sweet as long as you are not another DOG!) on our journey these past three years.  I do believe the time has come to wrap up the blog postings.  Although, who knows for how long?  All I know for sure is that my traveling companion needs loads of love and attention and care and that is where I wish to place my time and energy and love.

So, let’s not linger on the page, let’s not get tangled up in words, and let’s not pay undue attention as health fails.  It is a respect thing.  A privacy thing.  I would like nothing better than to drive off into the sunset with my girl in a colorful flash of uncommon grace, waving the Queen’s wave from a workamper’s work cart, Dawny smiling at my side…  Later, Alligator!

For Dawny’s friends, her good days still outnumber her bad days.  For this, we are grateful.  Were she to be fully informed on the ins-and-outs of the blogging world and the potential everlastingness of the written word, I believe this is where she would like to be remembered.  Healthy enough to enjoy long walks and still full of sass.  Excited and eager on road-trip days.  Happy to receive cookies and loving from friends, old and new.  Ready to bite some random dog’s head off.

Okay, okay, I hear you.  I am placing all sorts of human feelings and motives onto a dog.  Well, since she has responded with more feeling and exhibited more honest, raw motives than many bipedal beings I have encountered, we shall claim poetic license and craft things how we please.

It is, after all, our blog.  Our journey.  Every bit as much hers as it is mine.  So, yes, this is a fitting time to pause.  Paws.  Four happy paws and a sassy wag of the tail…  After a while, Crocodile!

At this point, my hope is to find a productive focus despite my own dwindling energy (sadness has an insidious way of sapping time and energy from the day, peace and rest from the night).  I would love to concentrate more on ebook stories.  It is such a cool way to create and communicate.  I will keep you posted on any (if any) future publications here, should you wish to continue following the blog.  If you stop following, though, I will certainly understand.  Life is so full of options.  Clutter.  Noise.  Options.  Sometimes it takes real effort to sort through and find the peace.

Meanwhile, Dawny and I shall quietly retreat to a more private space.  We will continue to roll down our beautiful together-path as long as Time allows.  What happens after that is anyone’s guess.

We wish all of you simplicity, honesty, and peace in your lives and loves.  Beauty and laughter lining your roads.  Thank you for sharing ours these past three years.

Toodle-oo, Mr. Magoo! —

Carol and Dawny Virgil Prewash Sassy Generous Evans (a.k.a. Midnight Unicorn…  a.k.a. Best Road Doggy in the World…  a.k.a. Best Doggy in the World)

I Love Google… & Dawny

Did you know that by the time blood work shows evidence of kidney disease in your dog, the kidneys have already lost about two-thirds of their function?  Google hit me with that little tidbit.

I love Google.  It puts a world of information at your fingertips.  I know there are other search engines out there, but I have been using Google for ages.  I like how the word “Google” rolls around in the mouth.

Having Google in your pocket is like having a best friend on beck and call any hour of day or night.  “Hey!  Google!  Wake up!  What should I do about…”  this or that bothersome little issue or full-grown crisis?  And Google calmly returns with answers.  Answers that can put your situation into perspective.  You have to sift carefully through search results because there is a lot of chaff mixed in with the wheat.  But if you look at enough of the hits (avoiding the ones that are advertisements for something they are trying to sell), you can start to separate the more reliable information from the junk.

So, last week after Dawny’s vet appointment, I returned to my computer and asked Frau Google:  “What should I feed a dog who has kidney disease?”

A low (but high quality) protein and low phosphorus diet was the common denominator from the Googlian hits to my question.  Also, she should be getting 35-50% more calcium than phosphorus.  I found a wealth of information from experts and common folk alike, including recipes for homemade food to help my four-legged loved one live as long and as well as possible.

Dawny’s new diet will be a work in progress and adjusted as I see how she does, but this is what I have determined so far:

Ground beef.  Beef has less phosphorus than chicken or turkey.  Also, fatty beef is better than lean since it has less protein.  Apparently dogs don’t have the same issues we humans do when it comes to cholesterol and heart disease from fatty meat.

Rice.  While brown rice has much more nutritional value (vitamins, minerals, and fiber), white rice has less protein and less phosphorus.  Because the outer hull is discarded from white rice, arsenic and other harmful minerals that are often absorbed by rice when it is being grown becomes less of a problem.  Given Dawny’s need for as clean a diet as possible, I am going to try white rice.

The need for a clean diet is also why it is important to provide high quality water.  Distilled water is great.  Nice to know, since that is what I have been giving her ever since she came to live with us.

Egg whites are a source of very high quality protein, but egg yolks are high in phosphorus.  So, more yellow for me on egg day!

Moringa Leaf powder–given to us by some good friends who love Dawny dearly–is loaded with nutrients that she might be missing out on by eating less commercial dog food.  Better yet, its protein content is high quality and it contains way more calcium than phosphorus.  Perfect for the kidneys.  I mix about a teaspoonful in with the dollop of plain yogurt she gets at lunch time and she loves it.  Yogurt is also a good source of calcium and is a high quality protein food, not to mention all the good it does replenishing intestinal flora.

Sweet potatoes and green beans nicely mashed together will give her great fiber content and more vitamins and minerals.  We had a dog once (yay, Buster!) who made it to 18 years old back when I used to always cook for our dogs.  His diet was primarily ground meat, rice, and green beans.

I will still feed my girl some commercial dry food, at least for awhile.  She simply eats too much (four to five times a day/night when she is feeling well) for me to keep up with her in the kitchen.  That will also help meet her need for certain nutrients that dog food manufacturers add to their formulations.

The dry dog food I’ve been using with good success for about a year, when Dawny’s digestive problems started in ernest, is Rachel Ray’s Zero Grain Salmon and Sweet Potato.  It is lower in protein and higher in fiber than most other dry food and fairly easy to find at many Walmarts and most grocery stores.  As I shop around, I will look closely at the nutritional info panel on other options and may switch if I find a lower protein and phosphorus mix.

If Dawny loses her appetite down the road, I will probably phase the commercial food completely out.  We shall cross that bridge when we get there.  Meanwhile, I am looking forward to spoiling her with home-cooked supplemental meals.  She has always been a food hound, so I know it will be greatly appreciated, and she will feel like the Queen that she is.

Thanks, Google!

I love you, Dawny.

(The photo at the top of this post is of Dawny in her camouflage-patterned winter coat, bought and modeled when we were in Texas.  She likes it waaaaay better than her stupid sweater.  All she needs is a gun rack!  Oh, and a final note:  Exercise, exercise, exercise!  Whenever your pup is feeling up to it, get them out for a lovely stroll, especially after a meal.  It helps with their digestive process and, most importantly, their frame of mind… and yours.)