All posts by marlenedotterer

Science Fiction and Fantasy writer

Relaxis Report: Meh

I’m sad to say the Relaxis pad is probably not going to work for me. The few early successes I had never translated into dependable use. Most often, the RLS symptoms were not alleviated, and occasionally, they got worse. It worked SOMETIMES, but the not-working times were hard on me. I lost even more sleep trying to find a vibration setting that would do something, and often couldn’t fall back asleep at all. I don’t need ANOTHER thing keeping me awake at night. I can do that all on my own, thanks.

I decided not to use it at all over the Thanksgiving weekend. I hosted the Thursday meal with friends, then had a houseful of kids and adorable grandkids (happy about that!) Friday – Sunday. I needed to sleep! So I went back to the pills to get through the nights. Boo – hiss, yes. But it worked and in the end, that’s what matters.

I want to do one more experiment in the car. We have a round-trip to and from Sacramento in a couple of weeks. That will be the big test. I don’t have a lot of hope, but I’d hate to send the thing back and wonder forever if it might have helped with travel.

Throughout all this, the company rep has been in touch with me and he’s continued to offer suggestions. He has also stretched my trial period to the end of December, so I can do the car trip. It’s possible (he says) that the pad will help in the car or plane even if it doesn’t work at night in bed.

I don’t think he really has a lot of hope either, though.

Remember when I first got the pad and we did the high-vibration test to see if I was averse to vibration? The test I passed quite easily? Well… it was a fluke or something, because the more I used the pad, the more I grew to hate the vibration. Almost to the point of nausea, especially because I was afraid it would make the symptoms worse. The last time I tried to use the pad, I turned it off after just a few minutes and kicked it to the floor. Then I took a half-pill.

So it seems I’m stuck with the medication. I’ll keep doing everything I can to reduce symptoms: timing and quantity of meals and alcohol, yoga, leg stretches, etc. But if I need extra meds to get through a car or plane trip, I’m taking them.

Life is short and I have things to do.

 

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Net Neutrality or Just Slow. What are the Solutions?

We’ve had major internet problems for months. We’re in the middle of the San Francisco Bay Area, suburban, but surrounded on all sides by around 500,000 people. We’ve been Comcast customers for years.

Nearly everyday, we either lose internet completely – several times a day – or it’s so slow, our routine is to click on a web page and go do something else. Often, the page never comes up all the way. Or we get messages saying the website is unsafe, or doesn’t appear to be working, or nonsense like that. You’d think it was still 1998 or something.

Comcast helpfully sends out technicians who look at wires outside and pass the problem up the chain to different technicians. We are constantly assured that the problem will be fixed soon. We’ll have a few days of good connection, then ho-hum, back to slowville.

What to do? I’m not sure AT&T would be any better, and I don’t know of any other options around here. So this article got my eye.

At the moment, we supposedly have net neutrality, but you’d never know it if you lived in our house. We have few options and no voice in the service we get. And if net neutrality does go away, we lose big time. So a local co-op sounds like an interesting idea. But I don’t know how it would work, especially around here. Wouldn’t the co-op have to use Comcast’s or AT&T’s infrastructure? How independent would it really be?

Does anyone know about this? What other options are there for us?

Where Comes the National Anthem?

Brent Staples writes a perspective in the New York Times that offers information the average American probably doesn’t know about our national anthem. Maybe you knew already about “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and its history and reason for existence. I’ve never heard of it.

Most of us know at least a little about “The Star-Spangled Banner,” how Francis Scott Key wrote it after seeing the flag still waving over the fort after a bitter battle. Stirs the soul, yes.

Most of us know Key was a slave-owner. In general, I’m willing to allow historical figures their triumphs even if they held views we now consider vile. “Men of their time” and that kind of thing, but I add the caveat that there were a LOT of other men (and women) of “that time” who understood those views were wrong. So no one gets a complete pass in my book. But I only recently found out about the despicable third verse of Key’s song:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave…

This is probably a reference to the slaves who fought with the British in return for the promise of freedom, assuming the British won the war. I can practically see Key’s as an incarnation of Emperor Palpatine, licking his lips and rubbing his hands in gleeful disdain as he cackles over the cowering humans he owns. “You lost and you are doomed forever! Ha!”

So maybe we should not have used that song as a national anthem. Can’t we be better than that?

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” is better – you can read the lyrics here – although it’s still  not perfect IMO. Personally, I don’t think we can have an anthem that does not acknowledge and honor the native people we slaughtered as we stole their land from them. But the history of this song is a clear tribute to real freedom because that freedom applies to all Americans.

Which is the whole darn point.

Matter, Mass, Reality. Hope You Like Onions

Here’s a link for you: http://nautil.us/issue/54/the-unspoken/physics-has-demoted-mass.

I can’t say that I actually understood it all, but it was fun to read. Matter matters, of course, but energy is the heart of the matter.

So to speak.

Read the comments, too. There are some good observations by people smarter than me.

 

American Women Die in Childbirth

As a natural childbirth teacher and doula, I know all this already. But this article in Quartz is a credible and accurate summation of the seriousness of America’s problem.

This post is not intended as a scare tactic for women. I simply want to point out that it’s a serious issue that has not been exposed enough.

I’m going give you one quote from the article, that says all the important points beautifully:

Jennie Joseph, a British-trained nurse midwife who has been practicing in the US for the past 26 years and runs Commonsense Childbirth, a birth center which offers midwifery prenatal care in Orlando, Florida, sums it all up effectively: “It’s racism, it’s classism, it’s sexism: All of these things are at play and […] the intersection with capitalism and power,” she told Quartz. “[Women] are dying of a system that’s broken.”  (I added the bold).

Americans – especially American politicians, along with the religious right – want a country where women have no access to birth control, no access to abortion, no access to adequate pre-natal care and even less access to post-partum care, no societal support in the form of visiting nurses, doulas, lactation consultants, no help in raising the children they give birth to, and NO RIGHT TO COMPLAIN ABOUT ANY OF IT.

Women are not heard in American medicine. This is a real and known problem. Reproduction is just one part of it, but it’s a huge part. Please read the article.

 

 

Update on Relaxis

I have a few more days (or nights) of data, some good, some bad. In general, I think the pad is working, but I’m still a long way from having it perfected.

One of the exceptional things the Relaxis company does is that a representative stays in touch for the trial period. Carl has called me twice since I got the pad (six days ago) and will call again today or tomorrow. These calls are useful. I can explain what’s been happening and he can offer suggestions for improvement or assurances that things are going as they should.

A drawback to this is that he may give advice based on not enough data. For instance, on our second call, after I’d tried the pad for two nights, I mentioned that the pad had reduced my symptoms but that I could still feel them a little. He suggested I try higher settings to see if that worked better, reminding me that I need to experiment with the settings to see what my response is.

That night’s slightly higher setting helped a little more and the next night (Saturday) I tried a little higher to see if it would help more. Umm… no.  Using the higher setting gave me my worst night in a long time. It made everything worse. It was so bad, I was moaning. The nerve sensations reminded me of labor contractions, which I know how to handle. I had five kids without drugs and taught natural childbirth to others. I thought if I handled the RL waves like contractions, maybe I could get through them. But these waves were wildly intense. They only lasted about 4 seconds, but the next one started about 3 seconds after the previous one ended. With labor, at least you know the contractions are doing an important job, and it will all end once the baby is born. But this… there was no point and no end in sight, so in desperation, I took another full dose of Sinemet, then stood up for 30 minutes before going back to bed. I did not use the pad at that point, and happily, the medicine did the trick. I fell asleep around 4:00 and slept until 7:30.

So last night, I put the setting back to a lower level. No pills, just one episode of RL, and the pad made it go away almost immediately. But I never fell back asleep. I’ve been awake since 2:00.

That’s not unusual, although I’m never happy when it happens. That’s typical insomnia – adrenaline and hyper thoughts making me wide awake and ready to fight. But here I have a suspicion: that last night’s episode was caused by – or made worse by – the vibrations. I think this because in addition to the usual adrenaline, my whole body felt vaguely… tingly. Like the nerves were reacting to an electrical field or something. Or maybe that they were still vibrating slightly as an after-effect of the session with the pad.

I will discuss this with Carl when he calls, either today or tomorrow. I hope it’s tomorrow because I’d like to see if it happens again tonight. I’m kind of afraid that this reaction is a game-ender – the kind of side effect that means I can’t use the pad. I hope not, because as I said, I think the pad is working.

We still haven’t tried it for travel and I really want to see if it helps with that. We’re going to my daughter’s in San Jose on Saturday, and that will be our big experiment. Even if the pad helps only with car trips, it’s worth the price. Even better if it helps with plane trips. We won’t be flying for the rest of year, so I won’t have a chance to try that yet.

The experiment continues….

RL Hope… Maybe

So sorry to keep you all in suspense for two days! I’ve used the new pad for two nights now. That’s not enough time yet to know if it’s going to work or not, but here’s how it’s gone so far.

Night 1: I used the pad once at about 12:30, on almost the lowest setting. The pad will vibrate for 35 minutes, then turn itself off. I turned it off after about 20 minutes, as my legs seemed to have calmed down and the vibration was… well, not a problem really. I just wasn’t used to it and it was keeping me from falling deeply asleep. I was sleeping lightly, and really, that’s better than what I’d be doing without the pad. But once I turned it off, my legs stayed calm and I went back to sleep until about 4:00. At that point, I felt wide awake. No restless legs, but I wasn’t able to go back to sleep. I got up at 5:00.

This is pretty typical for me.

But the interesting thing was that I didn’t take any extra medication during the night. I usually take one full Sinemet before bed and have one more pill, cut in half, ready to take as needed during the night. I didn’t take either half pill. THAT was an amazing thing.

Last night was not as good. I had one episode at 12:30 (that seems to be normal – I guess the bedtime medicine wears off about then). I took one of the half pills, then used the pad for the full 35 minutes. I’m getting used to the vibration and managed to go to sleep before it turned off. I woke again around 3:30 with restless legs and tried the pad again without taking the other pill. I think the pad helped, but I could feel light sensations in my leg the whole 35 minutes. But when the pad went it off, my leg was calmer and I could lay still. I couldn’t get back to sleep though, and got up about 4:45.

Maybe if I’d taken the second half pill, the pad would have worked better and I could have gone back to sleep. Or maybe not. There are lots of times when I’ll take a Sinemet around that time and while it might calm my legs down, I still don’t get back to sleep.

So the jury is still hearing evidence. I was told that it will take time for the pad to reach its full potential with my body. Two nights is not enough time for real results, so I’ll be patient.

I think I should continue to take medicine as needed. That’s what Carl, the company representative, said I should do for a few weeks. Perhaps the pad will make the medicine work faster, and maybe help the effects last longer. That’s something to work toward. My tendency is to always want to stop taking medication as soon as possible, so I have to keep the goal in mind. Keep taking the meds if I have a problem at night, use the pad, give my body time to adjust. Maybe eventually, I can reduce the meds. But don’t rush it…

I guess this means I have to be patient. Darn!

 

 

Cautious Hope

Wow, am I excited. It’s here! See?

20171031_122936.jpgAnd what, you ask, is that? And are you excited or cautiously hopeful? Make up your mind.

You sound a bit put out. Hush now, I’ll explain.

This… thing… is a Relaxis Pad. FedEx delivered it today, after a day or two of delivery snafus or delays. I was beside myself wondering when it would get here.

Hold on, I’m telling you.

Relaxis is supposed to alleviate restless legs. Now, I absolutely know that there are no guarantees. It might not do a thing for me. But we had a trial run and I’m… cautiously hopeful.

 

 

20171031_123207.jpg

 

 

 

 

Please work. Please, please, please, please….

 

 

Here’s the long story: I’ve had RL for twenty years. The lost sleep cannot even be calculated. The agony, as it has worsened over the last few years, has driven me nearly insane. I hate taking medication, but  I’m never without my Sinemet, no matter where I go. I take that stuff like it’s my True Promise of Everlasting Life.

So recently I was taking a Sleep Improvement Class. I have other sleep issues besides RL, but the RL dictates everything about my behavior and success, or lack of it. And last week, at the last class, the instructor mentioned she’d found out about this thing that might help.

It’s the only non-drug treatment for RL that’s approved by the FDA. It’s only available by prescription. And it costs a fortune, but there’s a 30-day return guarantee if it doesn’t work for you.

Call me skeptical, yes. But I’m not going to pass up a chance. So I asked my doctor about it and she asked the neurologist, who said he’d heard of it but didn’t have much knowledge, but he didn’t think it would hurt to try. So I picked up a paper prescription, took a picture of it, and emailed it, along with an order form, to the company making the things.

http://myrelaxis.com/

Then waited at the extreme edge of impatience for the thing to get here.

Which it DID, today.

The deal is, once it arrives, the patient unpacks it and gets on the phone with a company representative. “Carl” was professional and helpful. He had me sit on the pad and turn it on, then talked me through the controls. It’s not difficult or confusing, but he had some tips, then had me increase the vibrations until it was pretty high. While I sat with the thing grandly shaking, he talked about hard-of-hearing patients liking the high setting because then they could hear it. Then he had me turn it down.

This was a test.

He explained that some people can’t handle vibrations and this time at the high speed nearly always brings that into the open. These people almost never succeed with the Relaxis and they have to return it.

But I passed.

Which means I get to try it out for the next few weeks, experimenting with settings and circumstances to see if will stop the symptoms. I’m not sure what it’s actually doing that a normal vibrating pad doesn’t do – I’ll ask that on Friday when I talk to Carl again. But the idea (I think) is that the frequencies used actually trick the brain into thinking the legs are moving. It therefore stops sending insane signals to the nerves.

The best, best, best part? We got the portable version with a battery. It travels. I was seriously this close to never going to visit my kids again because car rides and plane trips have become pure torture. There is only so much Sinemet one person can take, after all. So my cautious hope is underlain with a solid thread of please work excitement. Please, let me have my life back.

I will report, probably more than you want to hear. Tonight is the First Night.

Let’s do it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Service?

This article in the NYT was interesting. Mind you, I have nothing but derision for Kelly’s attitude toward the American people he’s supposed to be serving, but he’s got the right idea with a national service.

I agree. I think we should have a national service in which all Americans, except for the most seriously disabled, should be required to participate. Not just – or even primarily – military service. We should not live our lives or run our country in devotion to war. There are a thousand other things people could do during their service: build homes, schools, or other public areas, teach, feed, care for elderly or children, serve on juries, pick up litter, serve as emergency responders… we could consistently build and maintain a highly functional society whose people understand they depend on each other.

Timing and length of service is debatable. Immediately after high school? Or after college? Or perhaps there could be alternatives people could choose. Some tasks will require skills or education, so people who go into one of those areas might wait until after college or other training. Some tasks just need a few weeks of OJT, so they might be for new high school graduates.

Like the military, people should be paid for this time in service. Health care is a given, as are a regulated work week, time off, etc. It’s a job, but the work is devoted to something the country needs to have done. There should be a basic training period like the military has, although it may not need to be so physically rigorous. That will depend on the unit’s assigned task (MOS in military terms). But the point of it is to build community among the cohort, and this is something that is sorely needed among Americans today. We are too fragmented and too disposed to ignore each other. Basic training and a couple of years in community service will at least be a time in our lives when we knew what it was to work with others toward a common goal.

And we’ll get things done that need doing. We’ll finally be able to maintain our infrastructure and we’ll have access to bright minds and nimble ideas to improve on the old and build the new. And with the training and skills people get during this time, they’ll be able to go out and find or create jobs that will support them and continue to contribute to society as productive citizens. Who knows, maybe we’ll reduce homelessness, too.

And just maybe, we won’t hate each other so much.

 

ACOG Makes New Recommendations

Holy cow. Is it April 1st? No really, tell me if it is, because this is almost TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE: Approaches to Limit Intervention During Labor and Birth.

Just to have the new recommendations safely in more than one place, here they are, straight from the document:

  • For a woman who is at term in spontaneous labor with a fetus in vertex presentation, labor management may be individualized (depending on maternal and fetal condition and risks) to include techniques such as intermittent auscultation and nonpharmacologic methods of pain relief.
  • Admission to labor and delivery may be delayed for women in the latent phase of labor when their status and their fetuses’ status are reassuring. The women can be offered frequent contact and support, as well as nonpharmacologic pain management measures.
  • When women are observed or admitted for pain or fatigue in latent labor, techniques such as education and support, oral hydration, positions of comfort, and nonpharmacologic pain management techniques such as massage or water immersion may be beneficial.
  • Obstetrician–gynecologists and other obstetric care providers should inform pregnant women with term premature rupture of membrane (PROM [also known as prelabor rupture of membranes]) who are considering a period of expectant care of the potential risks associated with expectant management and the limitations of available data. For informed women, if concordant with their individual preferences and if there are no other maternal or fetal reasons to expedite delivery, the choice of expectant management for a period of time may be appropriately offered and supported. For women who are group B streptococci (GBS) positive, however, administration of antibiotics for GBS prophylaxis should not be delayed while awaiting labor. In such cases, many patients and obstetrician–gynecologists or other obstetric care providers may prefer immediate induction.
  • Evidence suggests that, in addition to regular nursing care, continuous one-to-one emotional support is associated with improved outcomes for women in labor.
  • For women with normally progressing labor and no evidence of fetal compromise, routine amniotomy need not be undertaken unless required to facilitate monitoring.
  • To facilitate the option of intermittent auscultation, obstetrician–gynecologists and other obstetric care providers and facilities should consider adopting protocols and training staff to use a hand-held Doppler device for low-risk women who desire such monitoring during labor.
  • Use of the coping scale in conjunction with different nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic pain management techniques can help obstetrician–gynecologists and other obstetric care providers tailor interventions to best meet the needs of each woman.
  • Frequent position changes during labor to enhance maternal comfort and promote optimal fetal positioning can be supported as long as adopted positions allow appropriate maternal and fetal monitoring and treatments and are not contraindicated by maternal medical or obstetric complications.
  • When not coached to breathe in a specific way, women push with an open glottis. In consideration of the limited data regarding outcomes of spontaneous versus Valsalva pushing, each woman should be encouraged to use the technique that she prefers and is most effective for her.
  • In the absence of an indication for expeditious delivery, women (particularly those who are nulliparous with epidural analgesia) may be offered a period of rest of 1–2 hours (unless the woman has an urge to bear down sooner) at the onset of the second stage of labor.

Do you have any idea how amazing this is? Women have been fighting for DECADES in this country, to have these very things be standard medical practice for the average woman with an average pregnancy. I spent years training expectant parents how to navigate the American medical system in order to BE LEFT ALONE DURING LABOR, unless something is actually wrong. I taught them how to negotiate with their doctor so the laboring woman could stay out of bed, move as much as she wanted, in whatever position helped her, and to deliver in whatever position helped her. To not be put on an arbitrary time table with the threat of C-section hanging like a club over her head.

And now, out of the blue… it’s here. Have we won the war? Will this actually happen? Will doctors take it to heart and incorporate it into their practice? Will medical schools begin to teach students how natural, intervention-free labor can be? Will they let their students see intervention-free labors during training? Will newly-trained obstetricians actually UNDERSTAND that birth is a natural process?

I’m almost hyperventilating, I’m so excited.

As long as it’s not April 1st.