My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Archive for May, 2017

At least I’m alive

I thought long and hard about doing this post, but since my blog is a record of my life in many ways, I decided to do it.

Due to health reasons, I’ve missed most of my favorite time of the year, spring, and even worse, I’ve had to cancel my vacation this year. I had to use my vacation days to cover the time that I missed at work because of my health issues.

I have psoriasis, which is just an annoyance to me most of the time. Psoriasis is a hereditary auto-immune disease that causes my immune system to attack my skin. I’ve had it to varying degrees my entire life, but towards the middle of April, I had what is called a flare-up of my psoriasis. It got to the point where it covered most of my body, and it only took a week or so for it to spread that much.

I had what I thought was just a bad cold just before the psoriasis flare-up began, and I thought that the cold had brought with it strep throat, which is a known trigger for psoriasis flare-ups. I went to an urgent care facility, and the doctor prescribed antibiotics in case it had been strep throat, or if I had a skin infection. The antibiotics didn’t help. I have some other thoughts as to what brought on the flare-up, which I’ll share later.

I managed to work another week, despite pain whenever I moved any part of my body, because the psoriasis had formed a thick, solid coating of almost dead skin over most of my body. Any movement on my part caused that thick layer of dead skin to tear the newer skin underneath apart, I liken it to being skinned alive.

Some of you may remember that I mentioned some health issues last year in my blog at about the same time of the year, and that it wasn’t until I went on my vacation last year that I began to feel good again. I had a minor psoriasis flare-up last year, which antibiotics helped clear up, or so I thought. There were also some other underlying health issues last year as well.

Remembering what I went through the previous year, I was already trying to find a primary care physician to help me with the underlying issues that I thought were causing the psoriasis flare-ups, but it isn’t easy to get a quick appointment with a good doctor. I’ve seen enough bad doctors in my life, I wasn’t going to settle for another of those.

Anyway, I did see a physicians assistant who works out of the same office as the primary care physician I had chosen, and she recommended immediate hospitalization because I was in such poor health overall.

At the hospital ER, the first doctor that examined me was overwhelmed by how bad my psoriasis flare-up was, and called another doctor in to also examine me. The second doctor was also overwhelmed, and I could overhear the two of them discussing various treatment options available to them to help me recover. I could tell that they were concerned for me and were good doctors trying to get to the bottom of something that they had little experience with.

I was admitted to the hospital, and spent four days there, under the care of a third doctor, also a very good one, who tried his very best to get to the bottom of what had caused this severe of a psoriasis flare-up.

Obviously, I survived, due to excellent care by both the doctors and nurses that cared for me during my hospital stay. By the end of the four days that I spent in the hospital, the psoriasis flare-up began to subside, and while some movements on my part were still painful, I was doing better. Still, no one could tel me what brought on the extreme flare-up, that will probably remain a mystery.

Since then, I have seen a dermatologist, whom I’m not impressed with. He’s the same dermatologist that made me overly sensitive to sunlight when I was seeing him back in the early 1990’s. However, he’s considered to be the area’s best expert on psoriasis, so I’ll continue to see him for the time being.

I was also able to see the primary care physician that I chose, and I was very impressed with him.

A sidenote, when I was checked into the hospital, I weighed 301 pounds and my blood pressure was sky-high. Two weeks later, when I saw my new primary care doctor, my weight had fallen 29 pounds to 272 pounds, and my blood pressure was towards the high-end of the range, but within what is considered to be safe. That 29 pounds that I lost was almost all fluids that had accumulated in my body and had caused me to swell up like a balloon. My blood pressure had been so high because my heart had to deal with all of the fluid accumulated in my body.

So, where do I go from here?

I feel bad because I haven’t had the time to comment on the blog posts that people have posted over the last two months. For one thing, trying to get my health back has taken a lot of my time. Also, it’s been painful for me to type due to cracked skin on my finger tips up until the last few days. I still have a few fingers with cracked skin on the ends, but they are improving a little each day.

I’ve only been out with my camera gear twice since all these health issues began, again, the dry, cracked skin on the ends of my fingers made it painful to operate the camera. Also, I’ve been more focused on my overall health than in shooting photos.

Short-billed dowitcher

Since my health issues began, I’ve had time to reflect on what has caused those issues, I think that the psoriasis flare-ups are a symptom of my letting my overall health slide a bit over the past two years. So, I’m not sure when I’ll begin blogging more consistently again, at least not now as I type this. I have to get back into shape because I don’t get enough exercise on the job that I have now. My old job was better in that respect, unloading and reloading the trailer twice a night helped me stay in shape. I didn’t have to think about getting enough exercise other than what I got at work.

I have an appointment with my primary care doctor next Monday, for a full, complete physical, the first that I’ve ever had. I’ll know more after that. One good thing about my hospital stay was that they did many lab tests on me, and by the end of my stay, the results looked pretty good. Still, a complete picture of my overall health will help me decide what course of action I’ll be taking from here on.

Walking slowly to sneak up on birds…

Male Brewer’s blackbird

 

Grey catbird

…isn’t going to give me the exercise that I need. Neither is sitting in the new portable hide that I purchased just before my health issues manifested themselves. I still haven’t tested it to see how well it works.

For the time being, my health is going to have to come first, and photography second.

That’s okay for now, I’ll still have the portable hide and all my photography gear once I get back into shape, and my health is back to normal. That goes for the new tripod and gimbal head that I also purchased this spring. I was in the process of getting them out and setting them up to shoot a better version of this image…

Short-billed dowitchers and reflections

…when a northern harrier flew over the flock of shorebirds…

Dunlin, short-billed dowitchers and other assorted shorebirds

…causing the entire flock to take flight.

Assorted shorebirds in flight

I missed the northern harrier, but I was able to grab the camera set-up for birds in flight for these photos.

Assorted shorebirds in flight

Since it’s been over a month since I was out with a camera, I was woefully out of practice.

Least sandpiper

 

Great blue heron before dawn

I’ve missed the early spring flowers, along with many of the migrating birds that others have seen this spring. Heck, some of the early nesting birds already have young ones to care for.

Killdeer chick

This is what that chick will grow up to look like.

Killdeer

While I have missed a lot this spring, just getting outside while I’ve been working on my health has been wonderful, even though I haven’t shot many photos. Just hearing the birds singing…

Male Baltimore oriole

 

Male yellow warbler

… brings me great joy!

I may have missed the early spring flowers, but I’ve been getting outside while walking in time to catch some of the most aromatic spring flowers…

Honeysuckle

…which has made walking for exercise that much more enjoyable.

Still, I miss being out with the camera, as you can tell from these photos.

Great blue heron

 

Semi-palmated plover

 

Grasshopper sparrow hiding

 

Female yellow warbler

I no longer have to shower twice a day to soften the dead skin covering my body so that the medicinal cream that the doctors prescribed for me can reach the healthier skin under the dead skin. I’m down to one shower a day now, and each day, my psoriasis retreats a little more. That’s giving me more time to get out and walk to help me get back in shape, and even bring a camera now and then.

While I don’t know when I’ll get back to posting on a regular basis, I do know that I never want to go through what I went through this spring ever again in my life. This is the second year in a row that I’ve let my health slip during the winter months, and I’ve paid the price for having done so. In fact, I’ll be paying the price for what happened to me this spring for a long time, as I’m looking at some huge medical bills that I’ll have to pay. I do have health insurance, but with very large deductibles that are my responsibility to pay. That means no more camera gear for the foreseeable future. That’s okay, because most of the items that I was looking at were things that would be nice to have, but I didn’t really need them. The camera gear that I have now is more than adequate for what I want to accomplish, once I am fully up to speed on getting the best out of what I have.

I’ve also come to understand that my past posts were too long most of the time, with too many photos in most of them. While this is going to end up being a very similar post to what I used to do, that’s only because it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything. I don’t quite know how I’ll fit the variety of birds…

Male blue-winged teal

 

White-crowned sparrow

 

Pectoral sandpiper

 

Eastern kingbird

 

Female red-winged blackbird

 

Eastern Phoebe

 

Mourning dove

…in my posts as I have in the past. The only reason I’m including so many species in this post is in honor of the birding big day, when birders world-wide try to spot as many species in one day as they can. These photos were all shot on the weekend of the birding big day.

I guess that all of this boils down to questions of balance, balancing the time I spend working on my health against how much time I spend trying for better images. Balancing the number of images I put into a post against how long each of my posts end up being. As I weigh each photo, it’s hard for me to decide what to include, and what to discard. Here’s an example.

Great egret

While that isn’t my best image of a great egret, it’s the only one that I’ve posted that shows one with its breeding plumage and showing the green lores (the area in front of a bird’s eye) that egrets get for a few days during the breeding season. While I’m sure that I’ll get a better image of a great egret during the breeding season someday, that’s my best so far. If I wait for the perfect image of every species, I’d never post another image. But, as I mark my progress forward, I end up with too many images in every post.

Well, it’s been a week since I last worked on this post. I’ve had my first complete physical ever, and the doctor says that other than my psoriasis, I’m in pretty good health for some one my age, and he can’t believe how much my psoriasis has improved in the two weeks since I had last seen him. I do have to work on my weight and blood pressure still, and we’re still waiting on the blood tests done, but I’m feeling like a new man right now.

I’m still having lots of second and third thoughts about publishing this post, because I’m not looking for sympathy in any comments that people may leave. I did this to myself by hibernating over the last two winters and letting my health slip away. While I would appreciate the well wishes of others, that’s not why I would post this if I do. I also feel guilty for not commenting on other people’s blogs since I have taken a break from posting. It’s not fair that I accept the comments of others to my blog if I’m not commenting on their blogs.

Anyway, things are settling down, and I’ve managed to increase the distance that I walk when I’m able from just under a mile to the full three miles around home here that I used to do. I’ve only taken the camera with me as I’ve done these around home walks once, and here are a few of the photos from that walk.

American crow

 

Goat’s beard

 

Antique car

 

Lily of the valley

 

High bush cranberry flowers

 

House wren

So, I guess that’s about it for now. I will say that I’m very pleased with the doctor that I’ve chosen as my primary care physician, as he takes the time to not only listen to the questions that I have about my health, but also to answer those questions to the extent that he is able. He’s not a dermatologist, so he can’t answer all the questions that I ask, but he knows enough to know how difficult it can be to find a psoriasis treatment that actually works for each individual. But, my opinion is that if I work with him to get back to where I’m in the best shape as far as my overall health, that my psoriasis will improve as well.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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