One Of Those Weekends


One Of Those Weekends

This weekend started out quite differently. It started out cozy, with me reclining on the couch, under a comforter, reading. (I'm thankful that the couch has stayed clear of my partner's encroaching clutter. The coffee table and surrounding floor space, not so much.)

My partner, half a room away, lay on her preferred floor mat with a paperback in her hands:

Earlier she had commented to me about the cover art -- that the bright spots around the woman's eyes could be the same as the "scars" my partner has from her "brain surgery." That this could have been the artist's intent, another hidden message. She added, "You saw the scars."

I reminded her that what she had shown me, I had seen as being ordinary wrinkles.

I was in my studio when she made her cover art connection. After a while she came back to tell me that she was trying to understand things, and that she wasn't literally interpreting the cover to be directly related to her "X-ray brain surgery."

I said, "Thank you for clarifying that."

She said, "I wasn't ruling it out, either."

I mentally shrugged.

I decided to spend the better part of Saturday away from my computer. I took my eReader, journal notebook and pen, thermos of coffee, and lap desk -- what I normally take outside with a folding chair for my "porch time" -- and camped out on the couch because it was cold outside. We were under a freeze warning. I ducked into the bedroom and brought out my comforter (really a 3-season unzipped sleeping bag).

Both of us had read Pamela Sargent's Women of Wonder anthologies when they came out decades ago. While my partner reacquainted herself with them, I curled up around The Journals of Lewis and Clark, 1804-1806, having finished reading Harriet Jacobs' harrowing autobiography Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

I wrote in my journal, "Here on the couch, I have riches. An astounding collection of books in my hand. Quietude. Leisure. Warmth. Slowly I fade, but that doesn't bother me; at times it feels like a comfort. I enjoy this state while it's here."

I hadn't had a leisure reading jag like this in far too long. My partner had slept her customary 4-hour stretch, from around 10 p.m. Saturday night to 2 a.m. Sunday morning. I broke for my evening workout, then read late into the night and finally went to bed around 4 a.m.

I was still semiconscious when my partner called me a half hour later, frantic. Her pulse was up (120-150 bpm). Her skin was flushed head to toe and itched all over. I felt her forehead, but she wasn't feverish. She was, however, very agitated and wanted to go to the ER.

"Have you hydrated?" I asked. She said yes. Lack of sufficient hydration has been the cause of various problems. The last time her heart raced and her face flushed, a cup of water had calmed things down. But only her face had been red, not her whole body.

She had also recently eaten, so it wasn't hunger. We went down the checklist.

I wondered if she were having an allergic reaction to Synthroid. I remembered the rash and itch I'd had when I learned I was allergic to penicillin.

We bundled up and were out the door by around 5 a.m. for the 15-mile drive to the hospital. A store display by the road told us the temperature was 37 degrees. My partner downed an energy bar in the car, which warmed her body up because she had started feeling cold.

By the time they took her vitals at check-in, her BP was normal and her pulse was 84. Pulse would drop into the 70s. She ate another energy bar in the waiting room.

The ER had been having a tough night. We had also arrived in time for a shift change, so the teams needed time to bring each other up to speed. We would be at the hospital for about four hours.

A staff member handed us the county paper. My partner read that as I followed Lewis and Clark, who were being bedeviled by rain and hail, mosquitos and ticks. William Clark was fighting a nasty cold. I felt bad for a present-day woman across from us in a wheelchair, who could produce only dry heaves. Behind us, Roseanne Barr and John Goodman were on the TV, making invisible people laugh.

Most of the waiting room was empty, with fewer than ten visitors.

I gently intervened as healthcare workers questioned my partner, who discoursed on how her pituitary gland must have been knocked about in an accident back in 2003 and that's probably why she needs Synthroid now. And then there were her toenail ablations...

"She was diagnosed with MS in December of 2011," I said, "but it's a type of MS that acts like traumatic brain injury."

By this time my partner's skin color had returned to normal. She was calm now and didn't feel ill.

The doctor who saw her told her that her elevated TSH means that her pituitary gland is working fine. He added that she had experienced a reaction to something, he just didn't know what. The Synthroid was an unlikely cause.

He said that if it happens again, she should take Benadryl. (Benadryl is not something we automatically consider, given that my partner had overdosed on diphenhydramine in October 2011.) I made a mental note and will post the instruction sheet.

By the time we reached home I had been up for almost 24 hours. I got undressed and took to bed, for maybe four hours of sleep when...

BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!! ... BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!! ... BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!! ... BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!! ...

I jumped out of bed, half-disoriented, and called out my partner's name. No answer. There was a slight electrical smell in the air.

BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!! ... BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!! ... BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!! ... BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!! ...

I turned off her blasted heating coil as the smoke detector continued to blare. Nothing seemed to be burning. I called out her name again. No answer.

BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!! ... BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!! ... BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!! ... BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!! ...

She wasn't in the living room or the kitchen. Not in her "office den." Not in the hallway bathroom. When I found her she was just finishing up in the bedroom bathroom. She was fine.

I told her I'd turned off the coil. She suggested I turn off the smoke detector.

The smoke detector turned itself off after I opened my studio door to grab my step stool. Opening the door must have helped dissipate the electrical smell enough.

I turned as my partner lifted a plastic trash can cover.

"Do it like this," she said, fanning it. She laughed when she realized she had started fanning our hallway light instead of the smoke detector further on.

While I slept, her old heating coil had stopped working. She had a newer one in reserve and had started it up. The newer one set off the smoke detector.

"It probably has to burn off the coating they put on it," she said. She added that she would set up a fan to blow on the heater, to drive the "burned coating" smell away from the smoke detector.

"No," I said. I told her that this is what the neurologist meant when he said she exhibited poor judgment.

She bristled. She related her good judgment from years past, which had nothing to do with our current situation.

I said, "You told me to tell you when you sounded psychotic to me."

"Well, now you told me how you feel."

This was going nowhere fast.

Our best guess now is that the smell had come from charred insulation in the extension cord my partner was using to power the heating coil. She now has the new heating coil hooked up to a heavy-duty extension cord.

This matter is not yet resolved.

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