Thursday, September 23, 2010

Not a "lost" blogger...

...just a very sick one!

As mentioned in comments for my last post, I got pneumonia on vacation and it was very bad. I have not been that sick probably ever. It took me over three weeks, two courses of antibiotics, narcotic cough medicine, an inhaler, Mucinex and LOTS of rest to START to feel like myself again a little bit. I still (now almost 4 weeks later) have a cough with colorful phlegm. But I am much much better and am finally, this week, back to work for full days (could only work less than full days all last week -- would get very out-of-breath and tired before full day was over).

Thank God for Netflix instant...I watched a ton of movies and one full 8-hour-long miniseries. Movie recommendations: Doubt, The Men Who Stare At Goats (first half) and Zombieland (had to close my eyes on the real zombie parts, but otherwise was a hoot).

DB was an amazing caretaker...I am a lucky woman. So much of the last three weeks seems like a daze...I am sure it would have taken me longer to get better if he wasn't around to take care of me.

OK, so how was Burning Man, you ask? Worst ever. Only because I was so so sick the entire time. :-( There were a few shining moments, but mostly just a lot of sick, dazed yuck.

I started getting sick the Saturday night before we left on Sunday morning. By the time we got to Reno on Sunday night, I had a full-on fever and cough. DB was also feverish and feeling sick...luckily his only lasted that night and a little of the next day. My first mistake was not staying at the hotel in Reno until my fever went away. But I didn't want to send DB out there to Burning Man to set everything up all alone...and I didn't really have any idea how sick I was.

Monday, driving onto the "playa", it took us three hours in line (that is after 2 hours' drive from Reno). Needless to say, by the time we got to our camping spot, we were both pretty tired and I was getting sicker. It was an unseasonably cool day which was the only bonus. As we were setting up, a huge rainstorm came through (the worst I've ever experienced out there). As our shelter was not yet set up, the only thing we could do was huddle in the van until it stopped...then hurry to get at least our tent up before dark. There was an amazing technicolor double rainbow after the rain though...gorgeous.

Monday night I did NOT go out with the rest of my campmates (we were with 7 other people from Massachusetts, Virginia, Texas and Wyoming...the best camp we've ever had!) to explore. I stayed home in bed and had a slumber party with one of my campmates who was just too tired to go out.

That night when DB came home, he found me in bed feverish and shivering. No matter how much he held me, I couldn't get warm or stop shaking. I knew I was very very sick, but it was just too cold for me to consider getting on my bike and going a few blocks to the med tent. I was miserable, but finally slept some.

You may remember that I do tours of the alternative energy projects in our village every day during the event. My first one was at 11 am on Tuesday. I don't know how I got through it...I actually don't even remember doing that one, but I did with a smile on my face. I'm not sure anyone even knew I was sick...except for the hacking...which wasn't that bad yet.

After the tour that day (and every other day), I just mostly rested in camp. I think on Tuesday I tried to take a little ride with DB out to the "playa" to see art, but I didn't last long. That night I stayed home while all my campmates went out to have fun. :-(

Wednesday morning (like every morning there), DB whipped up breakfast burritos for everyone (he wants to make sure I have nutrition before I do my tours and the protein was very smart), then I did my tour. I felt like I had a little more energy after that so we went out to the Temple...I had a project to do...a memorial for my friend Sheila.

First of all, some background: it was very beautiful this year, best weather ever. The theme for the event was "Metropolis" so much of the art was very "urban" looking. The temple, as a counterbalance, was designed to look like canyons, formations of nature -- it was called The Temple of Flux. The idea was that the temple represented the first places humans gathered...for community, worship, etc. It is a tradition at Burning Man for people to attach things to the temple, things they want to release, things they want to remember.

On Wednesday, DB and I biked out to the temple. We took the shirt that I had gotten for Sheila for her birthday this year (she died before it happened -- the shirt said "re-create yourself"). In anticipation of this memorial,many of her friends had written notes on the shirt. We rigged the shirt up on a small part of the wall of the temple and it was free to blow in the breeze. The view from that point was very beautiful...the wild "playa", empty and full at the same time.

As we put up her shirt with all our messages, DB and I both cried a lot. We miss her so. We always wanted her to be there with us. And now she was...even if not in a way that we would have preferred or imagined.

(A side story: after we had finished putting up Sheila's shirt, a man came over to me. He was looking at me like he couldn't say what he needed to...like maybe he didn't even speak English. Finally he said "I brought a stapler, but it's not the right kind." I offered him our heavy-duty one to borrow and he took it to put up his own memorial. When he brought it back to me, he was crying. We hugged for a very long time and both cried. And then he sat by his memorial and cried some more. I think it was for his dad.)

We didn't go back to the temple until the night of the Temple Burn (the last night of the event -- Sunday, September 5)...

Wednesday night I actually felt good enough to shower and go out after dinner with DB to see the city at night. I lasted, oh, maybe two hours. I was so tired and sick. We went home and just chilled at a "cuddle puddle" that some of our neighbors had. That was a nice night for me because I got to be with DB and some of our campmates and DB got to play his hang drum (google if you are interested in what that is...very lovely sound). :-)

Thursday was super sick day. On my tour, I realized that the reason I wasn't able to talk as much as I usually do was that I was losing my breath...I had very little lung capacity. That afternoon, a friend of mine who is a nurse and works for medical out there came by and told me she suspected I had pneumonia -- she told me to go to the hospital (yes, they have one) and get some antibiotic. That night I was SO SO sick. I was also SO SO sad because all my friends were having so much fun and I was having NONE. I went to sleep on a cot under the stars after they all went out for another fun night. Crawled into our yurt later to sleep...

Friday (after my best tour of the whole week) was time to go to the hospital. So, that afternoon, after running to see a friend whose son I had offered to babysit pre-Burn to tell her that NO WAY should I watch her kid, I was off to the hospital. DB went with me but as soon as they took me out of the first waiting room I told him to go home...I had no idea how long the wait would be and it was clear it would be boring. So he went. I waited about 2 hours to see a doctor. In the meantime, all the nurses were saying they thought I had a lung infection. When the doctor finally saw me, he gave me this rave about how "if it's a virus, an antibiotic won't help it". Um, right, but I've had a fever every night for 6 nights and am coughing up a lung and have no lung capacity...you've got to do SOMEthing!! I asked him if I had pneumonia and he said he couldn't hear it because it was "too noisy". Grrrrrrrr. He agreed to get me an antibiotic from Reno (said they didn't have anything for lungs on-playa) and that it would be in the next night!! I tried to get him to give me something there and then, but no luck. :-( I can't believe they didn't have Z-paks out there but, oh well...

Got home Friday night and DB had arranged for some of our village-mates to drive me out to the playa on their art car to see one of the art pieces burn. This was so sweet because I had NO energy to bike and no vehicles are allowed to drive except art cars.

So we headed out to the burn on Friday night...me with lots of water and Mucinex...par-tay! ;-) The burn was really beautiful...the fire artists outdid themselves with cascading colorful firefalls and other special effects. I was thrilled that I didn't miss it. But, when it was over about 10 pm, a dust storm came up. This was the first one of the whole week (which is pretty amazing since it's usually dust storms ALL the time), but it was a bad one...you couldn't see 5 feet in front of you so you couldn't walk or drive since you had no idea where you were going. We were very lucky that the art car we were on had shelter in the back so I didn't get the dust in my lungs too much.

It took us 2 hours to get home that night...during which we sat still waiting for the dust to clear, welcomed a scared little girl (22) from NYC into our car to protect her as she was so frightened (we got her "home" safe and sound), drove a little, stopped a lot (our battery was also dying), and just tried to have a good attitude about it because there was nothing we could do.

We finally got within sight of the city and finally FINALLY limped into camp about midnight. Whew.

Saturday was the big Burn Day and everyone in the city is excited. Except me. I am sicker and sicker and have to go pick up my antibiotic at the hospital at 8 pm...when everyone else will be heading out to the Burn. :-( I did my last tour and one of my work colleagues showed up to visit (his first Burn). At this point, I was so feverish that I was just sitting around with ice water scarves all over my head and neck -- my body wasn't able both fight the germs and regulate my body temp. I sat around chatting all afternoon...and one of our village-mates asked me and DB if we would like to sit on his scaffold for the Burn later (which was really nice for me...I wouldn't have to stand and would be able to see well).

That afternoon, a friend gave me some tea tree oil for my nose and it helped some. Then, later, another friend came by and asked me if I would like him to do Reiki on me -- why not?! So he did a short treatment and OMG I got a wave of energy! I felt better than I had all week! It was a miracle. I don't know how it works (and it didn't heal me, just made me have enough energy to enjoy my evening), but it did. Amazing. I need to learn more about this...

So, that evening, DB went off pushing the scaffold with our friends as I biked over to the hospital for my antibiotic. When I got there: no antibiotic. The car was not back from Reno. They told me to come back at 11 pm. :-(

I biked over to meet everyone at the scaffold and it was the best view I've ever had of the Man Burn. Very fun for me.

Afterwards, I went back to the hospital...still no antibiotic. So they gave me a Keflex (which, turns out, was really the WRONG thing for them to do) and told me to come back in 12 hours for another one. Seriously? What was I going to do? Sell antibiotics?! Oy...

(Funny side story: after the Burn, you can imagine how busy the hospital was. Lots of people who had indulged too much. One guy sitting in the waiting room was clearly way out of it. The nurse said to him "how old are you?". "Uhhhhhh....ssss...ssss...thhhhhh...thirty." "Do you know your name?". "Uhhhhhh....Ssssssss...sssss...sssss...ebastian." "Do you know your birthday?" "Uhhhhh...sssss...sssss....ssssss........eptember 7." "Do you know where you are?"
[eyes open, light up and instant answer:] "BURNING MAN!")

When we got "home" to our camp, all our campmates were home too and we had a really nice time all just sitting around camp and chatting. This was one of my favorite nights (I missed them all so much when they went out...having fun I couldn't have!).

Sunday morning...slept in for the first time all week...yay! After coffee, I headed to the hospital for my next Keflex. I asked them if I could just please have the prescription for the RIGHT antibiotic (doxycycline) and that I would get it in Reno the next morning. Happily, they gave it to me so I didn't have to go back there again.

DB and campmates forbid me from helping them much in taking down camp on Sunday and packing up. So I sat around like a lump and felt both sick and bad that I wasn't helping. But I took it easy...and everything but our yurt got taken down and packed before 6 pm.

We showered and got ready for the Temple Burn. I was very very sick at that point ...I dressed in a salwar kameez (Indian outfit) that I thought Sheila would like. We took incense and champagne with us and biked out to the temple with several of our campmates. We got a great spot to watch right by the wall where Sheila's shirt was.

Unlike the burn of the Man the night before, the temple burn is a solemn occasion and the crowd, though huge, was very quiet. We lit our incense, toasted Sheila (and the grandparents of one of our friends who also died last year), then the fire started...and burned. We all were crying...it was very beautiful...

As the temple burns, parts of it fall...this year, the part that stayed standing the longest was the little wall where Sheila's shirt was. That seemed very right to me.

And then we biked home and went to bed so we could get up at 4 am, take down the yurt and hit the road asap (getting out can take HOURS and this is the best time to leave to minimize the wait in line).

I think I was totally delirious when I got up on Monday. I hadn't taken my clothes off the night before so still was in the salwar kameez. We took the yurt down (it's very quick) and threw all our remaining things in our trailer to head out. We left camp about 4:30 and got to the pavement by 5:30 (then it's at least another 2 hours to Reno). That was actually very good time so we were happy.

Got to the pharmacy in Reno about 8:30 and got the good antibiotic and other supplies. Then we went to have some breakfast and headed to our friend's ranch where we planned to spend that day and night...I had texted him that morning to make sure it was ok that we came since I was SO sick and he, very sweetly, said of course.

His ranch is right south of Reno in the mountains and it's beautiful. Very near Lake Tahoe. He was hoping we could go out on his boat on the lake and play on his ATV, etc. No such luck. After showering, we hit the bed to sleep...I slept for three hours! Basically spent the whole time there sleeping, lying on his couch and chatting. It was a nice oasis, but I was ready to be home in my own bed...

We left about 9 am the next day to start the LONG drive home...got home by 8 pm and crashed.

I tried to go to work the next day, but had to leave to go to my doctor and get an Xray (when the pneumonia diagnosis was confirmed). After that I was in bed for five days before trying to go back to work (last week's partial days).

So that brings you up-to-date. We haven't uploaded our photos yet...I'm just not that excited about it since it was such a horrible time for me this year. But I will post when we do.

The good news is that I came back having lost a few pounds...and continued to while I was sick despite eating soup for pretty much literally every meal. I know I'm getting better because this week I had to stop those noodle-carbs since the lbs started adding back up again! I'm now back on plan and on my way down the scale...again.

3 comments:

Vickie said...

it sounds like you were actually REALLY lucky! like it could have been a non-breathing emergency at many points in there due to complications with the weather conditions, heat, chills, etc.

After this experience - IMO - DB can not take his difficult brother to burning man next year. you need to have it be your (two of you) thing. Tell him to find an all boys activity that can be their thing.

sharla said...

Geez Helen, you were a sick pup! Hope tou start to feel better.
I remember the one time I had pneumonia, they told me to go slow for weeks as setbacks frequently happen

Thora said...

The attitude of the doctor in Reno confuses and annoys me. The difficulty in getting an antibiotic, the correct one, nonetheless, amazes me. Note to self: Do not get sick in Reno. Note to you: Please don't do that to yourself again <3

(And I am totally making it to Burning Man one of these years. Seriously.)