Nose Bleed

straight hairIt’s so dry in the house with this severe cold weather, I wake up every morning with such a scratchy throat I think I may be coming down with something. Once I’m up and moving around, though, I’m fine after all. The other day as my head was clearing I felt one big sneeze coming on, one of those really satisfying ones, you know, like wow that felt good.

Then my nose started its usual drip, drip, drip, the annoying constant runniness I experience through two out of four seasons of the year. Except this time, I looked down and saw red. I don’t get bloody noses, which is just what my husband said as I reached for a tissue. It stopped quickly enough, leaving me more concerned about the bloodstains on my freshly washed bathrobe as I wished my husband well and he went off to work.

A few minutes later, my nose started up again, this time in earnest. I mean it was a gusher, sending me running into the bathroom grabbing a handful of tissues to catch the bleeding. I’m not sure where I’m supposed to pinch, up high? Down low? I’m tilting my head back and feel blood running down the back of my throat. Yuck. It’s coming so fast I can’t keep up with the flow. I am not good with blood. I sit down at my desk and google bloody noses, thank God for the internet.

I quickly deduce from selectively reading that I must have a posterior, perhaps arterial, bleed because this is too much blood to be coming from the front of my nose and hello, it’s so profuse it’s coming out of both nostrils. The next sentence annoys me more than the blood: “[these nosebleeds] tend to occur more often in elderly people.” I told you 60 is not just a number.

It turns out you’re supposed to tilt your head forward, not back, and you’re not supposed to swallow blood. I further read, “These nosebleeds are more complicated and usually require admission to the hospital and management by an otolaryngologist” so it’s time to call my husband in the car on his way to work. My voice is garbled from wads of tissue stuffed up my nose and a gathering thickness at the back of my throat. I have to yell into the speaker so he can hear me.

“This is not a normal nosebleed!” I holler.

“Well, stop walking around and go lie down,” he says. (The internet says not to lie down!)

“The internet says this happens to f*&@ing elderly people,” I shriek.

I go upstairs to tell my son who is getting ready for work he may have to drive me to the doctor. “I’m having a problem,” I can barely speak, my nose and throat feel so clogged and swollen.

“I know,” he responds, “I heard you.”

Following sacred WebMd’s instructions, I sit up straight, head tilted forward, pinching my entire nose for a solid ten minutes (use a timer, they say). The bleeding slows although it takes more than an hour to become blood free during which time I feel a huge glob slide down the back of my throat “which may cause vomiting.” It’s a good thing I don’t have to work today.

I did have work the following day however, so I was more than usually anxious about sleeping that night, afraid my nose would erupt, ruining my pillows and bedding, and keeping me from work. When did it become so hard to feel good enough to go to work? Despite a fitful night’s sleep, my nose and I were fine the next morning and I got to work without incident, albeit with my pockets stuffed with tissues just in case.

On the drive in, I thought about the vaporizer I recently found while emptying out a closet. That would have come in handy, except I just got rid of it. It sat in that closet the entire fifteen years we’ve lived in this house and hasn’t been used since the kids were young. Day before yesterday, a long time ago.


Still Alice — Disappointing Adaptation and Missed Opportunity

julianne mooreI so enjoyed reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova that I couldn’t wait to see the movie. My father died of vascular dementia so I relate to Alice and her family, their story so well captured in the book. Julianne Moore deserves her Oscar for portraying Alice, although the movie could have shined a clearer light on dealing with dementia by including more of the book. The filmmakers skimmed over or skipped parts which provide salient lessons for those who might find themselves or someone they love in that situation.

I wanted to see more of Alice’s pre-Alzheimer’s life and all she had to lose, as well as the insidious changes that revealed the disease. A lot happens to Alice between feeling lost in her surroundings and losing her teaching position that shows how it feels when it happens to you and how people around you tend to react. When you’re faced with deviations from normal it’s too easy for annoyance to overshadow compassion, denial to delay needed assistance.

Like daughter Lydia, I was the sibling who lived away, so when I’d visit, changes I witnessed in my father’s behavior were more alarming than to those living around him. People closer expect life will continue as normal and may miss gradual slides; coming from a distance baselines are more clearly drawn. In the movie Alice looks up a holiday recipe on Google, but that’s not the same as Lydia coming home for Christmas and seeing that her mother has forgotten how to carry out a treasured annual ritual.

When Alice repeatedly asks what time is her daughter’s play, the family argues about how best to respond but the movie leaves out how one daughter insists Alice be forced to “try harder” to remember rather than use her phone as a crutch. Alice can’t try harder, that’s the reality of the disease; that response, a potential misstep of well-meaning but mal-informed friends and family.

I wish the movie included the scene where Alice, having given up teaching, tries to stay connected to her colleagues and attends a department lunch. She offers an articulate, insightful observation on the speaker’s presentation which is well received until she offers the same remark a second time. The ensuing awkward silence makes you wonder: Why do we find this disease so discomfiting as to effectively shun the affected?

Feeling abandoned, book Alice searches out new colleagues, forming a support group herself since none existed for her ailment. This is what brought her to the poignant, climactic speech in the movie which expresses what I wish the movie demonstrated instead. I’m glad this movie draws attention to Alzheimer’s at a time where, as Julianne Moore points out, the disease has no treatment or cure.  It just could have done more.

See the movie, but read the book, too.