I’m making a play on some of William Shakespeare’s words in my title. The play Richard III starts with the future king speaking the words – “Now is the winter of our discontent”. In the Bard’s crafty opening line, Richard is telling the audience that now was a time of good fortune and happiness.
Happiness was in short supply during my January. Instead, calamity seemed to rue the days. I’m not one to rant or vent, but writing about my January provides some cathartic relief.
Here’s a synopsis of my calamities;
The Bugs that Kept on Biting
Noseeums (also called sand flies or midges) are plentiful in south Florida. Winter and spring seem to be their favorite seasons. These critters don’t bother some people, but I’m not one of those people. The noseeums go after me like a pit bull after a pork chop. I must look like a giant all-you-can-eat blood buffet to them.
I started getting bit in Siesta Key. It wasn’t too bad – just a few dozen or so on my arms and legs. The itching wasn’t too bad. My right knee swelled up from a cluster of bites but overall it was bearable.
When I got to Fort Myers Beach, the biting continued in force. Mostly on exposed areas. Here’s a look at my forearm. My other arm and both legs looked similar.
The problem with these bites it that they leave a wicked itching sensation. And the more you itch, the worse the itch sensation gets. It becomes borderline maddening.
I tried some new bug juice that seemed to work pretty good – Avon Skin So-Soft Bug Guard Plus. A moisturizer, sun screen, and bug repellent all in one. It sounded like the perfect remedy. It kept the bugs off me and I thought I’d found my salvation until I read the ingredients. Right there in big bold words, before the collection of big chemical names, were the words “PRECAUTIONARY STATEMENT – HAZARDS TO HUMANS”. Great. Who is supposed to use this stuff? Dogs? So, I ditched the Skin So-Soft (I figured living is more important than itching) and let the bugs munch away.
The somewhat good news is that the itching and welts are an allergic reaction that will go away. The little blood suckers leave some of their saliva in your skin when they bite and many people are allergic to it. The good news is that a person can build up an immunity to it but it takes a few week. After you’re immune, the bugs still bite but you just don’t know about it. By the end of January, my immunity was starting to build up and I didn’t see as many bites.
Kissed by a Spider
I think this was a first for me. I didn’t see this critter but I sure felt it. A quick bee like sting on the outside arch of my right foot. I wish I had a better story to go with this calamity. Something like – I was hiking in the desert and gave a wide berth to a diamond back rattler when the brown recluse crawled into my hiking boot and attacked me.
This calamity hit me while I was about to get into the shower at the RV park bath house. I thought it was a bad mosquito bite because it welted up like one. But later in the evening, it became tender and it blistered. Not a regular blister – a big red blood blister. And the skin around it turned red like a bad bruise. Looking at it my wife said – “That doesn’t look like a mosquito bite. Maybe it’s a spider bite.”
I Googled “spider bites” and found more info than I wanted to know. Most spiders are harmless, but there’s a couple that are deadly. Most of the bad ones live in the desert, but Florida does have brown recluse spiders. These critters have the most powerful poison venom of all critters. The brown recluse puts out necrotic venom. It kills living tissue. Since spiders live on other small insects they don’t put out a lot of it to kill their prey. But when they bite a human, it can kill tissue around the bite area.
Given that I’m very partial to keeping the tissue on my right foot, I decided to have it checked out at a local urgent care clinic. The PA and nurse both looked at it and said that it could very well be a spider bite but without seeing the perp critter it was tough to make a definite call. The good news is that they saw no necrosis, so it probably wasn’t a brown recluse.
Now here’s where this calamity could have easily gone from bad to disaster. The PA said my biggest risk was infection so she gave me prescriptions for oral and topical antibiotics. I thought this was a good move since I’m on a biologic drug for my colitis that makes it tougher for me to fight off infections.
Within a few hours of taking my first antibiotic pill, diarrhea set in. I looked at the label for the drug (cephalexin) and sure enough, a major side effect is diarrhea especially for people with colitis. In fact it has a warning for people with colitis that taking this drug may induce c-diff, which is way worse than my colitis. C-diff causes lots of watery diarrhea and can take months to eliminate. I told the PA I had colitis. Why would she give me something that would make it worse? Perhaps because she’s a young PA and not a seasoned MD.
I called me regular GI doctor back in New England and talked to him to see if there was a better antibiotic. He said all systemic antibiotics can disrupt my gut flora and cause problems. So, I decided to avoid the oral antibiotic and just just use the topical.
I kept the bite wound clean and covered and within 10 days, my spider “kiss” was healed with no scar.
Playing Pickleball like Ivan Lendl
On my bucket list for this winter was a goal to learn how to play pickleball. This low impact sport is highly popular with retired geezers. It’s a tennis like game that’s played on a small court with a wiffle ball and paddles.
I joined the local recreation center at Fort Myers Beach where they have pickleball sessions 4 days a week. There’s no beginner lessons, so I had to do some watching, reading, and inquiring to learn how to play. And then, announcing my newbie status, I jumped right into some games.
In my 20’s and 30’s, I was a pretty good tennis player. After handling a few volleys, I found pickleball was easy-peasy. I was able to keep up with the more seasoned players, who were all geezers. Playing the game is lots of fun and I got to meet many new folks. In the course of an hour, I was able to get into 4 games.
Most folks are just playing to get some exercise or social interaction and don’t about care winning or loosing. Miss a shot or blow an easy volley – no big deal. Many of the players are woman and they’re really good at the game. Being one the few guys, I wanted to play well and not embarrass myself, so I focused on getting to the ball and making good shots.
I noticed that I was moving around more than most. Most play the game standing pretty stationary, but I was stretching for the cross court shots. I was also winding up and instinctively swinging my paddle like Ivan Lendl would swing a tennis racket.
By my second day of play, I was making some pretty good shots and getting compliments on my play. On my third day of play, I was playing a game with Leanor, Sandy, and Wendy who all are really good players. As I stretched and bent over for a low shot that Leanor smashed over the net, I felt a small sharp pain in my right glute muscle. Ok, I’ve pulled that one before in my biking days. Time to back-off and stop reaching for the low shots.
A few games later, when I wound up for a baseline shot and hit a winner past Leanor, I felt a pain in my right elbow. This pain got progressively worse every time I hit the ball. I was able to get through rest of the game playing most shots backhanded. The girls wanted to keep playing but I called it quits for the day. I hobbled out of the rec center with two strained muscles.
I pedaled my bike back to the RV park, with my pulled glute muscle screaming on each downstroke. When I got back to the RV, the sprained tendon in my elbow (one of the extensors) was swollen and tender. It took a few days of using ice packs and time off my feet to let things calm down.
I stayed off the pickleball courts and my bike for over a week so I could heal up properly. And I learned a good lesson – it’s geezer pickleball not Wimbledon!
The final calamity hit while I was resting my sprained muscles. It started with a scratchy throat and running nose. I rarely get sick and haven’t had a cold in several years. But when I do get a cold, it’s hits me very hard. I could tell that this was the type of cold I would get when I was working and got myself over-extended during the flu season.
My symptoms quickly went from bad to worse. A totally plugged up nose, watery eyes, bad sinus headaches, slight fever, no energy, and a dry cough. Sleeping was difficult because of all the drainage from my nose and nasal drip in my throat.
It took seven days of rest and little movement before I started to feel better. Being sick in a small RV is a challenge because staying put in a small space. The RV felt like a prison cell after a few days. But after a week I was able to venture out and slowly started to return to normal activity.
My wife did a great job being my nurse and running errands to get me drugs and comfort food. She was rewarded for her efforts by coming down with the exact same bad cold.
Some Bright Spots
There was a few good things that happened in January. The January weather here in south-west Florida was perfect. I did some biking, reconnected with my fellow snowbird friends, played in three corn hole tournaments, went dancing a few times, and joined my fellow moose brothers at the local Moose Lodge.
And the Patriots are going to the Superbowl!!!
So, I’m hoping that February will be the winter of my discontent, made glorious summer by good health and Florida sunshine.