Wrists, Hearts, and Psychosocial Care in the ICU

Hello all!

I wanted to write a post last month but then I developed a very unfortunate case of tendonitis in my wrists. Did you know that tendonitis really hurts? I always thought of tendonitis and carpal tunnel as just annoyances that hurt when you used the affected area. Not true. My right wrist was throbbing even with lots of ibuprofen. Obviously not a terrible medical event, but it made typing and working at the daycare really difficult considering picking up infants 20.000 times a day is what gave me tendonitis in the first place. I also stopped doing a lot of yoga because of it which was sad. Now I’m working on rebuilding some wrist strength and getting back into my yoga practice.

 

Having my yoga is actually pretty important right now because it is a big part of my self care during my internship. I started this week in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and it is… intense. I expressed interest in high acuity environments during my interviews and I definitely got what I asked for. Did you know that in pediatrics the patient’s chest is left open after surgery to accommodate for swelling? They are sedated and medically paralyzed while their hearts beat under only a thin clear bandage. A lot of the patients on the unit are sedated and a lot are infants, so it is a very different environment than my very play-based experience last semester. I’ll be learning a lot about sibling support, validating and encouraging parents who are unable to hold their newborn, and bereavement support.I’m super excited for the opportunity and can’t wait to become more integrated into the unit.

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Oiselle #birdcamp

Not to be confused with actual birds.

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Oiselle is a women’s running and apparel company, owned by women, made for women, sponsoring elite female athletes. The name is a play on words of oiseau (French for bird) and elle (French female pronoun), so there’s a lot of bird-related jokes and branding.

So, Bird Camp, where all the lady runners come to play.

Continue reading Oiselle #birdcamp

Not back in the game yet

Last  month, I wore a holter monitor for 21 days.  I affectionately referred to it as my robot heart.  Whenever I felt a particular symptom, I pushed a button on the monitor and scrolled through the lists to log the symptom and what activity I was doing when it occurred.  It looked like an awkward pager with four electrodes, so I got really creative at outfits worn to hide it.  I wore one of my running vests as an extra layer at work, it has lots of pockets so I was able to hide the monitor in an inner pocket.  I wore thick scarves to cover the stickies on the top of my chest.  At the end of the three weeks, you just stick in its prepaid box and mail it back to the company.

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Freeeedoooooom

 

Last week I had a cardiologist appointment to follow up on the holter monitor and the latest echos.  Both good and bad news: -my ejection fraction (this is the amount of blood or oxygenated blood or something that your heart pushes through) was measuring between 55-60%, which is almost at the 60% she wants to see (that’s normal) and higher than the 50-53% it was in the hospital (that’s too low). -the damage and thin heart wall in the lower area of my heart caused by the myocarditis is getting better. -they also discovered a have a very slight type of heart murmur, a mitral valve prolapse, which is when one of the flaps in a chamber of the heart doesn’t quite close all the way, but it’s so slight that there’s nothing to be done for it, just something to watch.

So while that sounds good, and is finally signs of healing that we’ve been looking for, the fact is that it took almost five months for that to happen.  So when the doctor said she’ll see me in four months and I have to maintain the same level of rest, I was very disappointed (“disappointed” is an understatement but I’m trying to keep it together here).  She said “I know it’s hard, you’re pulling at my heartstrings” and emphasized that I have to give it time to heal now or I won’t be able to get over it when I’m older, and risk a lot more complications.

I can walk up to three miles as long as I feel ok, and I can bike very easy (like, easy bike commute to church and around the neighborhood) up to three miles.  No running.  No swimming.  No triathlons.  No summer races.

I am not trying to be a whineypants, but I’ve been sort of avoiding thinking about it for the last few months, and I think I need to let myself do a little bit of grieving for the goals and the activities I had planned.  Even if I am able to start doing more in four months, I won’t just be able to hop back into full-blown marathon training, so any hopes of chasing a BQ or age group points in triathlons are going to be on hold kind of indefinitely at this point.

This is getting long so I am going to wrap it up after a few more thoughts.  This is a post I am going to share with a lot of running/triathlete friends so they know where I’ve gone.  I’m making an effort to unfollow some groups and people on social media, temporarily, because it does sting to see my friends literally running into the sunset while I am stuck on the couch, and also because I need to make more of an effort to fill my time with other activities to help me heal instead of just pass the time until I can run again.  I am still inspired by other runners, especially Master’s runners, who have been able to look back and say “that was a season I was not able to run, and I’m ok with that”.  Hopefully I will be on the other side of this someday, too.

Midterm Madness (featuring a leisurely spring break)

This past week was spring break, which I spent at home with my cats (duh). I did a fair amount of homework, etc, but didn’t have to go in to my internship at all. So instead of being at the hospital every day I…

 

Napped


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Hid under blankets


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Did Yoga

(done with 30 Days of Yoga and on to Adriene’s Yoga Camp videos!)


Sewed a shirt

(while watching an entire season of Alias)

 


 

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Wore this tank top way too many times

Put the deck furniture back out


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And broadened Hunson’s literary horizons


 

This has been an episode of Michelle’s life in pictures. Tune in next time for an exciting glimpse of Internship Applications (that’s right folks, fall internship slots are filling fast!), Birthday Shenanigans (will Michelle ever pick a restaurant for birthday dinner? But what if she wants birthday brunch? How will she ever decide??), and our fan favorite: What Non-Food Item are the Cats Trying to Eat Now? (will Hunson find a cardboard box to rip to shreds with his teeth? Will Freyja ever find a snack tastier than Michelle’s hair at 5am when she is trying to sleep? Just what decadent treats are the humans hiding in the bathroom trash can?)

A short blog visit to Michigan

I meant to do a real post about January, but that didn’t happen.  Maybe I’ll get to that this weekend.

Today is a short update on the ongoing myocarditis thing.  I had a couple of ER visits to treat some symptoms, and a cardiologist appointment today (my cardiologist injured her right arm so she was in a sling, so we were just both a mess this week, ha).  Next week I have an echo, and am getting a halter(?) heart monitor (edit: Google says it’s a holter monitor.  With real wires.  I thought it was going to be something fancy ant+ enabled like my watch.  This is going to be slightly more annoying than I anticipated, lol).  I guess it’s a device made of three little monitors that I have to stick to the same place on my chest for 21 days, and wear a little computer on my belt like a cell phone, and it will monitor all of my heart activity (and all you triathletes thought you were so cool with your heart rate monitors, ha).

Today she also discovered that I have a rotated rib on my right side.  It’s about two inches down from my collarbone, and is slightly rotated/warped/turned from it’s attachment point in my back all the way around to the front.  While I was definitely having real chest pain and palpitations, it’s good to know that some of it is not currently heart related, instead my skeleton just being weird.  So I am going to call the licensed massage therapist I went to a lot last year, and see if she thinks she can work it out.  I am hesitant to go to a chiropractor, but I would definitely like to be able to take a whole breath, so this may be the thing that pushes me to a chiro!

New Semester, New Goals

Today was my first day of internship! Today and tomorrow are mostly going over orientation materials, getting the lay of the land, and settling in. So far so good, it seems like the internship will have the right mix of structured time/tasks and independence for me to learn and grow. I’m anticipating a busy semester but I think it will be manageable.

I quit my job at the childcare center to make space for the internship, and though I intend to go back over the summer it was a little sad saying goodbye. I worked pretty  hard with a some of those students and am sad to no longer be their to work on their goals and watch them grow. I guess it’s time to work on my own goals and growth now!

Speaking of goals, I recently started a youtube yoga series! I’m doing the 3o Days of Yoga from Yoga with Adriene. I’m not doing it every day because I think I would lose steam on it and just don’t want to over commit. Realistic goals. So currently my plan is to do it four days a week, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday. Tuesday is my day off from internship so Thursday will be the only day that I will have to commit to coming home from the hospital and pulling out my mat. That said, it was kind of nice to come home from my first day at the hospital and take some time to myself, do my yoga and get my mind calm and organized before word vomiting about my day to Nathan.

Current/Semester Goals:

  • Yoga with Adriene 4x per week
  • Daily notes/journals about my internship
    • We have to turn in weekly journals, but I’m afraid that at the end of a busy week I wont remember enough details to write in depth. To help organize my thoughts I’m going to commit to writing at least a few notes every day. Today I did that on the train on my way home, which I think will be a nice routine.
  • Be honest with myself about my professional growth and actively seek opportunities to branch out and strengthen my weak spots.

Acceptance and waiting

“Accepting where you are is not the same as settling.” -Lauren Fleshman

I started writing this last weekend, after an appointment with my cardiologist here in Lansing.  I had a whole big thing of feeling sad about the irony that is my heart being damaged by something that is supposed to keep me healthy – but I’m gonna delete it all, and start over.

The short version is, the EKG and echo didn’t show any change from the previous appointment in December.  The result is another appointment in March, and continued orders of no exercise till then.  But I can walk.  So I went to the indoor track at the Y and walked in circles (ovals?) for 20 minutes, which seems to be my activity threshold for right now.

I emailed my tri coaches and withdrew from the tri team training at the Y. 😥  I am signed up for the Bayshore Half Marathon on May 28 and Ludington Triathlon on August 21, but I am going to have to accept that there’s no way to know when I’ll be able to train again, so I am not signing up for anything else until I know for sure I am back at normal capacity.

So here’s what I’m doing to fill my time:

Goals:

Keep up on my grad reading, not just skimming or skipping chapters

Read more books for fun, and keep a list of 2016

Cook – I actually really like cooking when I am not pressed for time…baking is a different story.  I melted some cookies today.

Get back into art – there’s a studio nearby with open nights on the wheel, I have a friend with a wheel and a kiln, I’ve still got all of my drawing and painting supplies

Still no updates.

I had a follow up appointment with an echocardiogram yesterday.

I had three questions for this appointment:

  1. Can I run again?
  2. Do I still have to take this medication? (it ran out last week with no refills, so I had to call and the after hours nurse refilled it for me, even though she said it’s not documented how many refills they want me to have)
  3. What’s next for follow up – is it over, or can I least go to a cardiologist in Lansing?

Continue reading Still no updates.

Welcome Aboard!

It has been a jam-packed month and I am finally finding time to take a breather, read all your posts, and do some last minute Christmas shopping. Part of the reason this past month has been so crazy is because my cohort and I have been applying and interviewing for our super competitive Child Life internships. After many sleepless nights filled with stress dreams, at least one panic attack over an email typo, and occasional random outbursts of tears, I am pleased to announce that I will be interning at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center! Do you know why it is called Floating Hospital? No? Allow me to enlighten you. IT USED TO BE A BOAT. About 100 years ago someone decided to take the “fresh ocean air is good for your health” idea to a whole new level. They made essentially a doctor’s office on a boat, and offered free boat rides around the harbor to impoverished children and their mothers, getting that lovely ocean air into their lungs and providing medical care and maternal education. Talk about Family Centered Care! Sadly the boat was lost in a fire, after which Floating Hospital became an actual building downtown Boston. My internship will be throughout next semester, so I start mid-January. I’m very excited and a bit nervous to finally be in the field. I’ve spent a lot of hours in multiple hospitals as a volunteer, but now I actually get to learn how to create care plans and provide procedural support.

I hope everyone is having a great December!

❤ Michelle

Do something nice for your heart

Let me first start off by saying it feels so weird to be writing about an issue with my heart. We’re young and active, that’s the whole point of writing this blog, right? I struggled with deciding how much detail to put here, and decided to keep it shorter rather than longer, so I can talk more in person if needed.

Last Saturday I experienced a panic attack and chest pain/heart palpitations while driving. The short story: I pulled over on the side of the highway, a state trooper miraculously driving behind me pulled over as well, said state trooper called an ambulance at my request (and his strong encouragement), and ambulance took me to the ER, doctors ran some tests and decided to transfer me to another hospital…

Where I stayed for four days.  Ugh.  Diagnosis: acute myocarditis, likely brought on by a flu virus I had at some point this year.

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Pale as a ghost after the Lake Lansing Team Marathon
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Running the Autumn Classic 8k after being sick with the flu – maybe the virus that is to blame?

I was easily the youngest person in the cardiac unit by a few decades, and several nurses and the chaplain were confused when they entered my room, to find me not in my bed/walking the halls/Eben napping in my bed instead of me.  Eben drove back and forth from Lansing to Ann Arbor on his birthday weekend to be with me in the ER and inpatient.

So what now?  Well, my blogging about running will not be happening, because I can’t run!  Or walk, or do any strenuous activity, probably for another month. I have medicine that basically slows my heart down, and the doctors anticipate that with a time of decreased activity, my heart will be able to heal itself, and I won’t need meds anymore.  Once the heart tissue shows in some tests that it is back to normal, then I hope I will be good to go.  Which is good, because tri team season is coming up!  I had an official DNS for the Mid-Land half marathon, but I don’t think I would have been able to run anyway because of taking time off for my foot.

Remember those Jump Rope for Heart challenges in elementary school?  I hated those, but I am grateful for what my heart can do, and am sad that my heart and I will be sidelined for a while.  In the meantime, I am scaling back on some things like caffeine (true story, I haven’t had coffee in nine days), doing some research aka Googling different ideas for food to help my heart heal, and using this downtime to read and do homework and snuggle with my cats.