Jus’ Sayin’: I’d like to have an argument, please. In front of the kids.

Well, if this blog is going to be anything other than a list of treatments, I’m going to have to talk about other things. It is about life with Lyme, after all.  Hence, I’d like to offer thoughts every now and again on various topics (not politics) that I hope you might enjoy.

And remember, I’m “jus’ sayin’.” 😉

sad-man-in-bedI’ve heard it said–very truly–that you should “never let your kids see you fight with your spouse.” Taken literally, that is very good advice. Unfortunately, many people I know don’t take it literally and what results does far more harm than good.  Let me explain…

You shouldn’t “fight” with your spouse in front of your kids. But “in front of your kids” really has nothing to do with it. Of course, doing it in front of kids makes it a worse sin, but that isn’t the fundamental issue.  You shouldn’t fight with your spouse at all, anywhere, any time!  “Fighting” implies a level of not just anger, but unthinking, unloving hatred that has no place in our lives or in our marriages.

(As fallible, fallen human beings, most of us will cross this line in our marriages at some point or other. When we do, it obliges us to practice another set of virtues: forgiveness and repentance. But that is really another post.)

Note that I did not use the word “disagree.” Disagreements are natural for human beings, even (especially) human beings who love each other deeply. Disagreements will inevitably lead to “arguments”–by which I mean each side holds his/her ground at least long enough to find out which one is right. But, it is very, very important to note that while fights can start from arguments, no argument ever has to become a fight.

All too often, in our oversensitive world, we conflate “argument” with “fight”. My father was that way. No one could disagree with a word anyone else said in his presence without it being a “fight”. I loved my dad, but this is unrealistic nonsense. Disagreements are inevitable in life, and when they happen, working through them (arguing–or discussing, or whatever euphemism you prefer) is the only way to move forward.  After all, if you pretend that there’s no disagreement, you help no one. The disagreement is still there–niggling away at your heart and mind, building itself up for a real explosion that will result in a real fight. Worse, sometimes disagreements really matter, meaning the person who is wrong may actually be heading for real danger. Working through the issue and seeing all the evidence may be the only way to save themselves.

And this is why I say, “Yes! You should argue in front of your kids.” Where else are they going to learn how to do it in a loving, truthful way? From the internet and social media?  I’m sure we all want our kids dealing with disagreement like the average internet troll. School? Being told to sit down and be quiet isn’t at all helpful. The movies and TV? (Sounds of machine guns firing and bones breaking.) Not really. Apparently, we think so, since our mantra as parents is to avoid any and all conflict in front of our kids at all costs.

Is it therefore that surprising that we have skyrocketing divorce rates for several generations?

No, home the best place for them to learn how to deal with conflict, especially conflict in marriage.  Our kids should see us working through our problems and differences–especially the tough ones. They should see my wife and I butting heads. Through it all, they should see the deeper love and respect we have for each other that allows us to go through it and come out on the other end together. They will (hopefully) know what healthy disagreement looks like, how to disagree healthily, and (perhaps most importantly) how to identify and avoid people incapable of it. That’s part (but by no means not all) of what will set them up for a successful marriage when the time comes.

Note that I don’t think we should drag our kids through our darkest places. There are things that are, frankly, none of their business and others that they may not be ready for. Further, this places another burden on our generation–many of whom have never known what healthy disagreement looks like either. We have to become something worthy of respect in order to model it for our kids. And that ain’t easy!

In a very real way, the principle here is the same as the logic behind this blog: When people watch us suffering through a hard thing, be it disagreement or Lyme, has the potential to build others up or to tear them down. I’m hopeful for the former.

So, don’t fight in front of your kids. Disagree in front of them and work it out–if you love them.




2013: “These things just sometimes happen, you see?”

Sign for the Augusta National Golf Club
Does anything say “Augusta” more clearly than the Masters?

If you recall, oh intrepid reader, when we last left off, it was  mid-March of 2013.  After nearly passing out at work, I was in an ambulance, heading to University Medical Center in downtown Augusta, my heart apparently going wild. And not in a good way.

While I was in the ambulance, I felt a little odd, but fine overall.  Apparently my level of calm was somewhat unnerving to the EMTs.  They weren’t used to my level of not-freaking-out.  I talked with them quietly and told a few jokes (dumb ones, like as not). It helped that I still had experienced no pain, just fatigue and that weird fluttering sensation in my chest, and so it was hard to “envision” a medical crisis.

I also felt very confident that, whatever happened, even if I died, it would not be outside God’s control or His plan. I knew this was a fact and that I would either conform my opinions to it or I would not. Just like 2+2 would always equal 4, God’s sovereignty would be true, whether I wanted to admit it or not. Don’t think this reflected some kind of credit to me; for some reason it thankfully came easily at that moment. I would have to wrestle with really understanding it for months afterward, with varying degrees of success.  As most people, I really still am.

My wife, Kami, and our daughter met me coming off the ambulance. It was good to see them, though I hoped they weren’t too worried.  Soon, my daughter was bundled off to her cousins’ house and Kami and I were ensconced in the emergency room.

It appeared that I was suffering from something called “atrial fibrillation” (afib), an electrical disorder of the heart where the top chambers get confused signals and start to quiver. The larger, lower chambers race to try to keep up.  At points, I saw my heart rate shooting over 180 beats per minute!  That isn’t sustainable, and, if allowed to continue, can eventually lead to heart failure.

Well, as stereotypical as it sounds, they said that an electric shock could knock me out of it and they could send me home that night.  We tried it. Twice.  They knocked me out, brought in the paddles, and…nothing. (I later learned that this particular operation could have killed me. In afib, clots can form in the heart and a shock like the one they gave me can dislodge them, causing, in effect, a do-it-yourself stroke. Thankfully, I hadn’t been in afib long enough to form any clots.)

I was given a chest x-ray and a doctor came in to tell me that my heart was swollen for reasons unknown.  He was admitting me to the cardiac intensive care unit to try to bring things under control. They put me on medication to bring my heart rate down, and waited for me to come out of afib while performing various tests.

It may well be a testimony to the amount of stress I had been under that these few days in the hospital were really more like a vacation. With the exception of waking me up at midnight and 4 am each night to take my vitals and “make sure you’re sleeping well” (!?!?) I was actually able to relax and rest. I still felt exhausted, but under the circumstances I can’t say that was surprising.  The food was decent, and the most annoying thing about it was that no one would let me get up and walk around on my own.

And here’s where it started getting really strange.

Usually, when things like this happen, there is a reason for it, and that reason is often quite plain. The doctors who examined me would cluck their tongues as they asked questions and you could see the conclusions forming in their minds.  And then the test results began to come rolling in.

The first was an echo cardiogram, which images the heart live using ultrasound. I was nervous, joking with the tech that “Oh!  That doesn’t sound good!” when she listened to my heart. She laughed and quickly pointed out that I had no idea what I was talking about. She was right.  The doctor came in and said that the test had shown no abnormalities whatsoever.

This was followed up the next day with a heart catheterization, where they shoved a probe directly into my heart via an artery. Again the doctor expected to find something.  Again, he found nothing.  He told my wife and my mother that what he saw on the screen was something he didn’t often get to see:  “a young, healthy heart” with clear arteries displaying plenty of branching.

Later that day, my heart kicked itself back into sinus rhythm.  I actually felt it happen. Suddenly something changed and I could think and see more clearly. I asked the nurse in the room and she confirmed it. My EKG continued to show a “suppressed Q wave” that I later learned was indicative of a “right bundle branch block.”  In short, there was a problem with the electrical conduction system taking signals from my brain to my heart, but apparently it wasn’t serious. (Of course, I’m just parroting smart things other people are saying. I really don’t understand it that well. Dammit Jim! I’m a doctor, not a physician!)

One thing that occurred to no one was the possibility of a recurrence of Lyme Disease.  It turns out, however, that the situation I had been experiencing had all the hallmarks of a classic case of “Lyme Carditis.” The Lyme bacteria and co-infections can inflame the pericardium, the protective sac around the heart, and sometimes even the heart muscle itself. It can interrupt the heart’s electrical system in a very serious way, leading to permanent damage. One doctor, Oncologist Neil Spector, suffered from untreated Lyme watched his heart degenerate to the point where he required a heart transplant! As the Lyme doctor currently treating me noted in our first interview, his story sounded exactly like mine. (With the happy exception that I’m now receiving treatment, apparently/hopefully before irreparable damage has been done.)

I was able to go home the next day. The experience had cost me (or at least the insurance company) better than $20,000, and I had discovered…nothing.  In fact, the doctor’s quote to me, as he was informing me of my discharge was, “Well, these things just sometimes happen, you see?”

They say that ignorance is bliss; I can attest to the fact that it isn’t. Not only is it a form of slow mental torture, it can also be simply dangerous. But more on that in my next post.

The Sickest I’ve ever been…

c. 2007, 1 year before Lyme hit

Well, if I’m going to take you along for the ride, I suppose you’ll need a bit of background.


My battle with Lyme began in the mountains of Virginia, where I lived with my wife and young daughter. In the summer of 2008 I was teaching an intensive and noticed that my knees were getting sore and my back was hurting. Within another day or two I was as sick as I had ever been. A high fever racked my body. The only way to stop the chills was by sitting in a shower of scalding water. By the time I made it to the doctor’s office, my fever was 104. Thankfully, the doctor at the little walk-in clinic knew his stuff.  He took one look at my blood work and said, in effect, “Well, this says you’re as healthy as a horse, but you’re obviously as sick as a dog, so this must be tick-bourne.”

It also helped that while I was sitting in his office, the Bell’s Palsy kicked in.  We found the bulls-eye rash later. I spent the next few weeks looking like a zombie from one angle and normal from another. Thankfully, I retained enough control over my eyelid that I could close it. The most annoying thing was trying to go to sleep. The minute I relaxed, POP! that stupid eye would open and I’d have to start all over again. I eventually figured out a way to wedge my eye into the pillow long enough to drift off. For some reason, once I was asleep, the eye stayed closed.

That and biting my freaking lip when I would eat were probably the two most annoying things.

I remember when the fever finally broke. I was sitting in a chair on our cabin with a cool rag on my forehead. Suddenly, I could relax again. No shivering!  I finally got some real sleep.

Well, a round of anti-biotics and anti-virals later, I was feeling much better and we thought we were done with it. Close call, that! Move on with life!

(Fellow Lyme Sufferers can allow themselves a snigger at this point!  They know what’s coming!)

Continue reading “The Sickest I’ve ever been…”

DON’T…DO…DON’T…DO Read the Fine Print!

People tell you to “take control” of your health.  That sounds like a capital idea…until you actually start doing it.  I’m not convinced that the years you may add to your life aren’t immediately taken away via stress at understanding what’s really involved.

Take my current Lyme treatment, which is just now getting underway.  I’ve been given two oral anti-biotics:  Clarithromycin and Minocycline. Let me begin by saying that I’m hopeful this will be the first step in finally knocking this out of me. So, being the intelligent, responsible adult, I decided to look up what the side effects might be.  Here’s what I found:

  • hearing loss
  • muscle weakness
  • drooping eyelids
  • blurred vision
  • diarrhea
  • bloody poo
  • dizziness
  • irregular heartbeat
  • ringing in the ears
  • joint stiffness
  • blue gray skin/tongue/lips/gums
  • tooth discoloration
  • intracranial hypertension

  • abnormal growth of toenails to the size of small cars
  • exploding head syndrome
  • an irresistible urge to listen to “Africa” by Toto on repeat
  • Miley Cyrus
  • (Okay, I may have added a few…)

And for the love of all!  Don’t read the drug reviews unless you’ve really steeled yourself!  Consider this one:

I had a close family member take this drug for acne. After taking for 2 months she developed a rash, shortly after that shortness of breath a skin biopsy was done which indicated DRESS a severe systemic allergic reaction. She was placed on oral prednisone. As she was tapering off the prednisone she developed severe chest pain and extreme fatigue. She was taken to the hospital where she cardiac arrested and was placed on life support. She experienced multiple organ failure myocarditis. She remained on life support for several weeks. She has been slowly recovering but 5 months later she is still suffering from heart failure. Previous to taking the drug she was a healthy 21 yr old. A athletic college student who was scheduled to graduate from college with honors.

Right.  It is sobering.  For some people, the cure may indeed be worse than the disease! Of course, thousands of people take these medicines every day and have no ill-effects. It’s the few who have issues who care enough to write reviews, generally. After all, the goal of taking the blasted things in the first place is so you can get back to a place where you aren’t obsessing about your health problems!

I appreciate science, but moments like this really remind us what science is: fallible, limited human beings monkeying with a system far more complex than the short span of their existence in this sphere will allow even the best of them to comprehend. “There is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.” I think that’s one reason why our culture tries to worship science and why we place so much blind faith in it–people facing inevitable death want hope. Moreover, they want it on their terms.

But the truth is science is limited because we are limited. That means that our medicines can be no better than we are. I’m very grateful that we’ve achieved some amazing things, but it does no one any good to pretend otherwise.

That makes informing ourselves about our medicines essential. No doctor can know everything that can possibly go wrong. I may need this medicine, and it’s good to trust my doctor, but I also need to know what I’m getting into and what warning signs I must be on the lookout for.