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

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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43 responses

  1. Jerry,
    You and your health are always the most important thing. Nature loves balance. I am happy to hear you are recovering. Take care of you. Best wishes.

    May 23, 2017 at 9:12 am

    • Thank you very much Maria! You’re right, nature loves balance, so I’ll have to find mine!

      May 23, 2017 at 10:22 pm

      • Yes, you will. We all need to find it. 😊

        May 24, 2017 at 5:11 am

  2. Welcome back Jerry. Don’t worry about posting or commenting on other blogs. Your health is more important!

    May 23, 2017 at 9:22 am

    • Thank you very much Hein! I’ll get back into the swing of things shortly.

      May 23, 2017 at 10:23 pm

  3. As always, great pix, Jerry.You are so right about taking the time to recover well. We get into thinking we are letting down our readers, I know, when we must take time off or go slowly, but please don’t worry. Just take care. And yes, by all means shorten each post because they are so full of beautiful shots,you could make two or three posts from each one and we’d still be happy with them. Best wishes to you and I’m glad you have a good physician.

    May 23, 2017 at 9:28 am

    • Thank you very much Cynthia! So many doctors seem to have chosen medicine because of the earning potential, and not to help their patients. I’m lucky to have found one that answers my questions honestly for a change.

      May 23, 2017 at 10:25 pm

  4. SunFreeStar

    Thank you very much for sharing such beautiful photos again, they are just outstanding for me. But your health is most important and don’t worry about the comments. It is good to know that you are getting better and soon you will be able to do what you love most which is photography. Thank you so much and get well soon!🌸😊

    May 23, 2017 at 9:29 am

    • Thank you very much for the kind words!

      May 23, 2017 at 10:26 pm

  5. Sorry to hear about your health issues. I understand how frustrating it can be. Slow and steady. Hope you’re back out with the camera soon!

    May 23, 2017 at 9:41 am

    • Thank you very much Ingrid! It may be a long time before I’m carrying a camera with me most of the time again, I’m going to have to settle for walking as exercise for the time being.

      May 23, 2017 at 10:27 pm

      • Due to my own heath issues, I shoot with a lightweight bridge camera (Lumix FZ200). Might be an option to consider until you’re up to carrying your regular gear.

        May 23, 2017 at 10:32 pm

      • it isn’t the weight that’s the problem, it’s how slow I walk with a camera with me. I have to keep moving to get the good from the exercise of walking.

        May 23, 2017 at 10:37 pm

  6. Jerry, I’m sorry to hear about your bad health, and I hope you will regain your health soon. Thank you for sharing your photos here, which I like a lot. Wishing you all the best,
    Michel 🙂

    May 23, 2017 at 10:03 am

    • Thank you very much Michel! I’ll be doing my part to get back into shape, but I don’t know how long that will take me.

      May 23, 2017 at 10:28 pm

  7. Sorry about your health issues, get well and get behind behind that camera, You still have late spring, summer and autumn before the snows find.

    May 23, 2017 at 10:43 am

    • Thank you very much John!

      May 23, 2017 at 10:29 pm

  8. Goodness me, what a terrible time you have had, I am so sorry. However it is good to read that your health and strength are improving and you are able to take your excellent photographs again. It is good to see them. Your health must be your number one concern at the moment so do take care of yourself, never mind blogging or reading those you follow. I did wonder what had happened to you.

    May 23, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! You’ve been finding many good places to visit for your blog recently, I hope that your wrist is all healed up now.

      May 23, 2017 at 10:30 pm

  9. Delighted to see your wonderful photos again but really sorry to read that you have been so unwell. Take care of yourself- rest, relax and recover fully and don’t worry about the blogging. Keep taking photos though! Best wishes.

    May 23, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! However, it was resting and relaxing that let my health slip, I have to give that up and get back to pushing myself again.

      May 23, 2017 at 10:31 pm

  10. Sorry to hear that, Jerry. My best friend had psoriasis so I have a pretty good idea of what you went through. I can still smell that tar based shampoo he had to use! As everyone else has said, your health has to come first, so don’t worry about blogging. Getting old isn’t easy, especially when you live alone!
    I get tons of exercise at work but I also do a lot of trail hiking. Maybe you can find a trail or two near home and start hiking. It’s amazing what you can see, even on busy trails.
    At least your photos show that, in spite of it all you haven’t lost your knack.
    Take care and be well!

    May 23, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I used to use the coal tar based shampoos and the like, I decided that they were worse than the psoriasis. In the hospital, they gave me a large IV push of steroids to reduce the inflammation and swelling, then steroid pills for a few days after that.

      Where I walk at home is a combination walking and biking trail, I think that I’ll stick with it for now, since I know the distances of each leg.

      May 23, 2017 at 10:36 pm

  11. You may not be looking for sympathy but you are going to get a lot from me. Get well soon. I am sure you are right about keeping fit for general health and I am equally sure that your readers will not grudge you some time away from the camera while you get fit. Especially if your occasional posts have as many good pictures as this one did.

    May 23, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I’m sure that all the cycling and walking that you do keep you in good shape, I should follow your example!

      May 23, 2017 at 10:32 pm

      • I have the advantage of being retired!

        May 24, 2017 at 6:25 pm

  12. Wow. You’ve really got a full plate of health issues to deal with. I’ve missed your posts, but guessed that you were just working too many crazy hours at a job you don’t like. Ironic, isn’t it, that working would be preferable to what you’ve had to endure. What was the saddest to read was the fact that you have to give up your vacation. That’s painful.

    John has psoriasis also, but not to the extent that you do. It’s a tough condition to manage. I hope you find the right combination of therapies to help you keep it under control.

    As for your photos, that kildeer chick is a charmer! Those spindly little legs… Also really liked the wading birds and all their reflections.

    Maybe you can train your excellent camera on different subjects for the short term that will keep you moving. Take a camera walk and photograph only round things, or red things. Whatever you do, it will be entertaining. You’re a fine writer, with a keen style and broad vocabulary. You’ve always got a good story to tell.

    You’ll find your way through this. Best of luck.

    May 24, 2017 at 7:39 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! I was working long hours, right up to the point where I was admitted to the hospital. I was very sad to have given up my vacation, but things will work out in the long run. I’m only working about eight hours a day now, and it seems like Heaven, or it would if the weather were a bit nicer.

      I’m happy for John that he’s able to control his psoriasis, I used to be until Dr. Stawiski messed me up badly when I was seeing him. I’ve been doing some research though, and I may be able to spend more time in the sun than I thought. I’ll have to build up slowly and gradually so that I don’t blister, but I think that I can do it. That will help, along with getting back in shape.

      It doesn’t matter what one photographs, good photos take time and thought to produce, no matter what the subject is. It will be tough, but I think that I can get outside early, shoot wildlife photos, take a break, then go for an exercise type of walk during the middle of the day when the wildlife is taking their siesta.

      You weren’t a teacher were you? Most of my teachers in school told me I was a good writer and should work on it more, but I hated writing longhand. I do better with a keyboard, but I still think that my writing skills are only average at best. The computer helps a lot as my train of thought refuses to stay on the tracks, and it wonders all over the place on its own. The computer lets me cut and paste my thoughts into a more coherent order. Anyway, thanks again for the kind words.

      May 24, 2017 at 9:02 am

  13. I had wondered where you had gone off to, Jerry. Yes. finding a good doctor is hard. I know from personal experience. I am glad you finally found a good one, even if it was through the ER. No worries on not commenting on other blogs. That takes time and energy. You have a supportive community here.

    May 24, 2017 at 9:55 am

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! Yes, finding a good doctor can be difficult, I feel very fortunate to have been in the care of one this time.

      May 24, 2017 at 10:46 pm

  14. Oh Jerry! What a terrible time you have had! I had been wondering where you had got to and had hoped you’d gone on vacation. I am pleased you are on the mend and have found a good doctor. I have found with my and my daughters’ health problems that it is best to do research into ones health problem as well as try out different specialists. Most experts seem to have their own preferred methods and don’t adapt them to each patient so it is up to us to find the right specialist to suit us. Not an easy thing to do. Do you think that lack of sunlight in the winter makes you depressed and tired and not wanting to go out? Perhaps you need light therapy from a light box. It has worked really well for a cousin of mine. Don’t worry about commenting on my blog – I am just so pleased to see you posting more of your beautiful photographs again.

    May 24, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! You’re so right right about the specialists, finding a good one is very difficult. The dermatologist I’m seeing isn’t very good in my opinion, but the primary care physician I’m seeing is excellent!

      Sunlight would be great for me, it helps to alleviate my psoriasis symptoms. However, the dermatologist that I spoke of earlier made me overly sensitive to sunlight, so if I went for light therapy, I’d blister and/or break out in hives.

      May 24, 2017 at 10:49 pm

      • What a shame! I inject myself with a drug each week to lower my immune system and that also makes me very sensitive to sunlight.

        May 27, 2017 at 6:55 pm

      • I’m very sorry to hear that Clare. it must be a bummer to inject yourself weekly, then to have to avoid the sun as well.

        May 27, 2017 at 9:58 pm

      • Thank-you Jerry. Fortunately, the injections have helped such a lot that my rheumatoid arthritis has been in remission for over a year. I do miss being able to go out in the sun without covering up with sunscreen and wearing hats and long sleeves etc but the alternative is very unpleasant so I’m resigning myself to it slowly! 😉 Take care of yourself, Jerry and get better real soon.

        May 29, 2017 at 1:32 pm

      • I was going to ask if you were being treated for rheumatoid arthritis, that’s another auto-immune disease very much like psoriasis is. Good luck to you, I’m doing much better with every passing day.

        May 29, 2017 at 6:10 pm

      • I am so pleased to know that! Yes, I have had RA for many years but I think so much research is being done into the immune system now that some kind of cure for people like us is sure to be found quite soon. Maybe not quite soon enough for us, but you never know…..!

        May 29, 2017 at 6:48 pm

  15. Jerry, glad to here things are improving as it sounds like you’ve had a seriously rough go of it! Trusting that you will be able to resolve life balance issues as all your blog followers are looking forward to many more excellent photos!

    May 29, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    • Thank you very much Bob! I’m working on finding the correct balance, it may take me a while to do so.

      May 29, 2017 at 6:12 pm

  16. So glad you’re getting better. I too write long blogs….but it makes me happy so I continue to do it and hope no one minds too much. At any rate, love your blog and photos. You know I’ve heard that bathing in the Dead Sea is very good for psoriasis….I wonder if that’s also true with the Great Salt Lake, which is closer. And, I’m betting there are some really great birds in either of those places.

    June 1, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    • Thank you very much Joanie! I’ve heard the same thing about swimming in the Dead Sea, but never about the Great Salt Lake. I don’t think that it’s the salt in the water, it’s the other minerals that are missing in the Great Salt Lake. I know that swimming in Lake Michigan helps me more than swimming in the smaller inland lakes, but that has as much to do with sunlight as the water.

      June 1, 2017 at 9:47 pm

      • Salt water in general seems to help I think. We have warm springs down here in Maryland at Berkeley Springs……..you can do a Roman bath (full immersion). I really enjoyed how soothing the warm mineral water was to my skin so can imagine it might be something you’d also enjoy. Soothing is good, I think. God be with you….and help you to heal.

        June 2, 2017 at 10:41 am

      • Thank you very much Joanie! What’s soothing to most people can be quite the opposite to some one with psoriasis, it’s a weird disease in almost every aspect. For example, most moisturizers actually dry my skin more.

        June 2, 2017 at 10:40 pm