Sick Day

By Shamus Posted Friday May 14, 2021

Filed under: Personal 74 comments

So I’m home. Finally. I went into the hospital on noon Friday, and got out the following Friday. You would think this means I spent a week in the hospital. That’s what my calendar claims. (I just ran the numbers on WolframAlpha, and apparently that works out to over six days.) But in subjective time, I have to say that the visit seemed to last about three fiscal quarters.

It’s really weird being back. People are calling me Shamus again, which was my name way back in the day when I used to run this blog, before I became a full-time patient. These days everyone’s been calling me “13Window”. My FULL name is 0513w for Floor 05, Room 13, Bed by the Window, As opposed to the other bed, which is by the door. but we’re all friends around here so folks call me 13Window for short.

Now that I’m home again and I’ve had time to reflect, I have to say that my old name was way cooler. I might switch back to that.

I expected to find my home office buried in layers of dust, some tree roots growing out of the walls, and maybe a bird’s nest on my USB hub. Maybe there would even be another layer of rumors saying that the development of Half-Life 3 had been rebooted, delayed, and then canceled yet again. But no. Nothing. It’s like I wasn’t even gone.

This wasn’t a great hospital visit, to be honest. For the last few weeks my blood pressure has been reading 180/100. That’s bad. I was trying to get an appointment to see a doctor, but that’s hard for me for a bunch of boring bureaucratic reasons. I finally found a group that did telemedicine. Cool.

But then on the day of the appointment my BP jumped up to 200/120. When the doc heard this reading she refused to treat me. She told me to go to the emergency room instead.

I hated this, since an ER visit is at least 10x as expensive as a normal doctor visit, but I also knew I didn’t want to delay this anymore and also I knew she was probably right.

Let’s talk about…

Blood Pressure

BP is the measure of how much pressure your blood is putting on your circulatory system. Your heart pumps the blood, and this pumping puts pressure on the walls of the vessels, your organs, and the heart itself. Ask a hydraulic engineer what happens when a system of pipes suffers from too much overpressure, and they’ll tell you horror stories about pipes rupturing and destroying equipment. High blood pressure is the same deal, only having the pipes “burst” means internal hemorrhaging, blood clots, organ failure, and brain damage.

Proper industrial pipes have known, documented limits. But the human race came without an owner’s manual, and so we don’t know the exact specs. It actually varies unpredictably between individual units. If you’re young and fit then a little overpressure is a small risk for you. If you’re old and out of shape then your pipes are a lot more rigid and a lot less able to take excessive pressure.

Values above 180 are when they start trying to get you to the emergency room. Values of 200 are where it gets scary. Your brain is filled with many tiny veins, and having any one of them rupture can result in a brain bleed that will, under ideal circumstances, shave off a few IQ points and make you forget how to control bits of your body. A less-than-ideal bleed is just like that, only much worse. Or you might wind up dead, which might be worse or better, depending on how you feel about living in a wheelchair and wearing diapers.

On the hospital equipment, my blood pressure came up as 240/140. That’s basically a continuous game of Russain roulette, where every heartbeat is a pull of the trigger. Everyone would look at me wide-eyed as if to say, “How are you still standing?”

Ironically, I felt fine. I felt relaxed. It was a gorgeous day out. I joked that I was in the mood for a jog.

Two days later I was trapped in a hospital bed, contemplating the nature and purpose of human suffering. The hospital had absorbed me, and there was no longer a clear line between my body and the building that was working to keep my body alive. My arms were wrapped in plastic tubing that had become a sort of extension to my circulatory system, adding or removing fluids according to its own whims. Other tubes came out the bottom of my dressing gown, carrying the less popular fluids. My chest was wrapped in heart monitoring equipment, and my arm was cocooned in a pressure cuff that took my BP just often enough to be sudden and confusing whenever it began squeezing. I spent my time questioning the wisdom of expending so much effort to keep someone alive under these conditions. I was in a lot of pain and I just wanted the chaos to stop.

And then every couple of hours a nurse would come in, look at the numbers, and smile at me, “Oh wow. You’re doing so much better today!”

Hospitals are weird.

My main complaint was the mind-destroying headache that plagued the early stages of my visit. It wasn’t life-threatening or even dangerous, but it was painful enough to make me hope that the BP would finish me off. Meanwhile, my actual problems (possible organ damage and stroke risk as a result of elevated BP) are completely painless, silent, and invisible. (Until they kill you.)

Maybe you’ve heard people talk about what it was like in wartime, how the state-run news constantly reported the glorious victories of their army. But then those victories seemed to be happening closer and closer to home, gradually approaching the capital city. And then the populous slowly realizes they’re not just losing right now, they’ve been losing for a long time. That’s exactly how I felt all week as various doctors came in, told me the latest test results were “fine” , but that they needed to keep me for “one more day” for a round of ever-more invasive tests. At first I thought those early test results meant, “You are fine and you will never have any problems again. Go back to sitting around and eating potato chips like a 22 year old.” But then I realized that the tests didn’t mean I was fine, they meant that I was still sick and the doctors couldn’t figure out why.

I expected this would be a quick overnight thing and I’d be out before the weekend was over. But then they decided to keep me until Monday, which turned into Tuesday, which slipped to Wednesday, which was delayed until Thursday morning, which gradually turned into Thursday afternoon, which then became “early Friday”, which ended up being, “Home in time for dinner”.

And so here we are. After all of that, I didn’t even get a sense of closure. They ran tests all week and then booted me out without giving me an answer. It was like watching a week-long episode of House and then turning it off just before Hugh Laurie wobbles in and explains the mystery. The labs are running slow thanks to COVID, so I probably won’t see the results until next week.

Thanks For the Support

At one point the doctors were so stumped they sent me for an audience with the all-seeing TECHNO DONUT. The Techno Donut is very powerful, but even its wisdom could not explain my problems.
At one point the doctors were so stumped they sent me for an audience with the all-seeing TECHNO DONUT. The Techno Donut is very powerful, but even its wisdom could not explain my problems.

Several people took this opportunity to give to my PayPal. Many thanks for that. Hospital bills aside, a hospitalization is always hard on a family. It was really nice to be able to handle problems like this:

WIFE: Oh no! We suddenly need $thing!

SHAMUS: People donated. We can afford it. Just buy some $thing on the way here.


It might sound like a small thing, but that really did take off a lot of pressure. Thanks.

So that’s where we are. I’ve had a lousy week, but I’m alive and I have lots to do.



[1] As opposed to the other bed, which is by the door.

From The Archives:

74 thoughts on “Sick Day

  1. kunedog says:

    Hope you’re enjoying some rest at home (people often think you get good rest in the hospital since you’re constantly in bed (and often doped up with real dope) but you’re actually pretty “busy” i.e. interrupted all the time).

  2. Attercap says:

    About 10 years ago, my BP was 250/150. And I felt fine. Wouldn’t have even noticed if it weren’t for a routine check-up. They call it the silent killer and, yeah, I’ve been trying to watch it since then.

    Glad you’re back home and hopefully get some sort of meaningful test results soon.

  3. Thomas says:

    I’m glad you’re back home!

  4. Ashen says:

    Glad you’re back. Just in time for the Mass Effect remaster too.

    Just take it slow and don’t go beyond ME1. The ME2 opening might send you back to the hospital and I’m pretty sure the donut machine isn’t the same thing that brought Shepard back.

  5. djw says:

    The “Young Shamus” on the techno donut is a funny way to refer to a 50 (ish) year old with high blood pressure.

  6. Dragmire says:

    I’m in the hypertension 1 area in my early 30s so it’s something I need to keep an eye on. High blood pressure is a weird thing where worrying about it will increase it and ignoring it will let you slip into habits that increase it…

    Can’t do paypal but I’m a patron now so hopefully it’ll help a bit.

  7. Will says:

    THE DONUT OF TRUTH! Watch a video of one running with the cover off sometime, it’ll make you retroactively very unnerved about having been inside it.

    Hypertension is weird. Yeah, it can (and does) suddenly kill people, but also people run around for years with pressures that make it seem like they’re trying to convert their muscles to blood-powered hydraulics with no discernible ill effects; and for people with chronic hypertension, it’s actually dangerous to bring their pressure down too fast. Shamus, if they had you on antihypertensives, that actually could have been the cause of your headaches.

    Anyway, I’m glad you’re home, and hopefully none the worse for wear.

    1. Chris says:

      Is the Donut an MRI machine? The ones ive seen are like pods they shove you in. But I dont know what else it could be

      1. Will says:

        No, the Donut of Truth is a CT scanner. MRIs have a similar faceplate (big expanse of medical device plastic with a hole in the middle), but they’re much deeper. The quippy name for the MRI by clinicians annoyed that exam skills are being neglected in favor of excessive imaging is the “Magnet of Truth”.

        MRIs are somewhat unsettling as well (you can find plenty of pictures of them attempting to voraciously devour ferrous objects that were inadvisedly brought into the scanner room), but not in quite the same “large objects hurtling around inches from my face” way as a CT.

        1. Sven says:

          MRIs are also unsettling because of how incredibly loud they are. Think dial-up modem sounds, but at ear-piercing levels, for 30 minutes straight as you lay there unable to move.

        2. DrCapsaicin says:

          I’ve never tried this personally, so keep in mind this could be *kinda* garbage but:

          When I was in grad school for chemistry, we had a professor who was explaining instrumentation. We discovered that an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and an NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) are essentially the exact same technology, but tuned to different scales. While NMRs can be used to find peaks in a spectrum that hint at structural features of a molecule (using isotopic spins in nuclei), an MRI uses these same spins to look at an image of the body. This professor then claimed that you could take a standard NMR, place an earthworm in the tube, detune the #%^& out of the machine and actually image the earthworm (badly) in the NMR. He also told us that having done it himself, he knows it can permanently bork the sensitivity on the NMR and if he ever caught us doing it he would have us kicked out.

  8. pseudonym says:

    I am happy for you that you are back home. So, Shamus, did they prescribe you any drugs? Hypertension is a very common health problem, and lots of prescription drugs are available. These might get you outside the immediate danger range blood pressure wise. Are you planning to discuss this with a doctor?
    My dad has had high blood pressure, and he got some drugs too, while at the same time working on the lifestyle part, as described here: He now doesn’t need the medicine anymore. The cause for his high blood pressure turned out to be work-related stress, which was resolved.

    I apologize for the unsollicited advice. I work in public health and I am unable to not give any advice, sorry!

  9. kikito says:

    I’m glad you are back, I hope the test results end up being benign.

    > that really did take off a lot of pressure


  10. RamblePak64 says:

    I’m glad you’re back home, but hopeful you’ll get something more clear from the tests. How’s your blood pressure now?

    I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed my time at the hospital, though it’s often been a sort of reverse-situation. Most of the time I would go in there in pain, and then they’d hook me on the machines and give me pain meds and asked me how I felt. “Like I wasted everyone’s time and should have stayed home.” I suppose I should count myself fortunate.

    At first I thought those early test results meant, “You are fine and you will never have any problems again. Go back to sitting around and eating potato chips like a 22 year old.

    Oddly enough, this sort of thing has been on my mind this week. My health problems don’t make for an interesting or engaging story (though in hindsight, it’s a bit awful to refer to someone’s week in a hospital as an interesting story, isn’t it?), but I had a visit to the doctor this week that stacked yet another problem on top of the others caused by my weight. I’ve got five problems or occurrences caused by my weight and/or over-eating that I’ve continually tried to keep fighting and yet consistently failed to. Knowing something is not right for you, but sticking to it anyway.

    It may sound obvious to state it, but the greatest problem of human foibles is being stuck in this present moment, with the past so far behind as to be a distant memory and the future some vague unknown we’ll shuck responsibility onto for today’s decisions. So yeah, I’ll hammer down a bunch of salty snacks, sugary sweets, or copious portions of pizzas and pastas despite knowing I shouldn’t, as if I’m still in my twenties and all the consequences hadn’t manifested yet.

    I dunno if that was your intent with that line, but it struck me in the feeling of being stuck in our most foolish present.

    As I said, glad to have you back, glad the donations helped cover (at least a good chunk of) the bill. I know my most expensive hospital stays were able to be chopped up into monthly payments, so if you still got plenty to cover then hopefully they can do the same for you.

    1. 13Window says:

      “How’s your blood pressure now?”

      Last time I checked: 108/76

      That’s with strong medications, of course. Unmedicated, I’d be right back where I started.

      “So yeah, I’ll hammer down a bunch of salty snacks, sugary sweets, or copious portions of pizzas and pastas despite knowing I shouldn’t, as if I’m still in my twenties and all the consequences hadn’t manifested yet.”

      Man, that’s how I spent my twenties, thirties, AND forties. The entire reward system of the brain is designed to work against us.

      “Let’s see, I can eat a handful of Doritos® right now and enjoy a blast of dopamine every time I bite down, or I can go for a jog, endure great discomfort, get NO dopamine, and then maybe decades from now I’ll NOT have a heart attack? Maybe?”

      Even when you know the risks and the consequences, it’s so hard to do the right thing because our brains want to reward us NOW for doing the easy thing.

      1. Lino says:

        Yeah, I mean what in the world were the devs thinking?!?! Did anyone actually test this?

        Anyway, really glad you’re back home! No matter how fancy they look, hospitals always suck.

      2. kikito says:

        On that note: I recommend reading Atomic Habits. It’s in several formats, the one which works for me is Audiobook.

        It explains those pernicious dopamine circuits and gives some interesting strategies about how to combat them.

        It also gives some hope: the same way habits can “screw you”, you can turn them to your advantage.

        1. Adrian Lopez says:

          YES! That book changed my life.

      3. Chris says:

        While I don’t have issues like you two do, I do notice that, if I buy candy/cookies, i eat them. Even if i tell myself “oh, ill just eat one cookie a day, that is fine” I end up eating 3 a day and clear a pack in 4 days. The solution was just not buying that crap. Just don’t go to the parts of the store where they have that stuff. Same with soda, I stopped buying it and when i was thirsty i would just drink water. It kinda sucks at first, but eventually you kick the habit and you’re happier for it. If your wife is doing the groceries, it’s even easier, just tell her to stop buying it, you won’t even be tempted since you aren’t in the shop.

        1. RamblePak64 says:

          It sounds simple, but there’s a whole other slew of issues that go into living with family. One of those is: just because one person has to avoid a food type doesn’t mean everyone does. In my case, as I’m not living with a wife and kids but other blood relatives, you get a whole other slew of dynamics going on.

          This also assumes the issues only manifest while in the house. In my case, many of them manifest while out of the house seeking some sort of mental escape and peace. There’s a whole lot of psychological stuff going on beyond just making sure the family stops buying certain things. But, that’s stuff I’ll be discussing with my doctor(s). Just note that the “not buying” is easy for a while, but sometimes, when you’re frustrated, upset, and have had a rough week, you see that stuff you ought to avoid being advertised right outside the aisles, on sale, in great quantity, and just… don’t even think. You just grab, because it’s one thing you know will be pleasant amidst all the struggle you currently have going on.

          Even if you also know it’s precisely what you need to avoid.

          The best solution is often the simplest, but just as our brains have a tendency to reward bad behavior, so too do our brains often complicate that which ought to be simple.

  11. Kronopath says:

    At the risk of either prying too much into personal issues or edging into politics, is it true that you don’t have health insurance? I know the Affordable Care Act set up some health insurance marketplaces, including, I think, some subsidized plans. Are those still too expensive?

    Genuine question, by the way. I’m relatively new to the US and have always had health insurance provided by employers or school, so figuring out health insurance while self-employed is not something I have experience with.

    1. Syal says:

      Found a list. An extra $450 a month is nothing to sneeze at, and this page doesn’t say what that would actually cover.

  12. ivan says:

    In your more lucid moments, you should have requested a room change to floor 4, room 51. On another note, the fact the MRI? screenshot has young Shamus on it is adorably goofy.

    Hope you get/stay well Shamus! From anecdotes over the past few years about your walk regimen and stuff, it sounds to me like you’ve already been doing things at least partly right, so hopefully you came home with a bunch more lifestyle advice that’s not too egregious to put into practice, and hopefully will work well as well.

  13. Philadelphus says:

    I had a moment of consternation about who this “13Window” guy was listed as the post author, so thanks for clearing that up.

    On the hospital equipment, my blood pressure came up as 240/140. That’s basically a continuous game of Russain roulette, where every heartbeat is a pull of the trigger. Everyone would look at me wide-eyed as if to say, “How are you still standing?”

    Two days before the rest of my family was due to fly out to Hawaii for my college graduation, my younger brother was diagnosed with Type I diabetes (which runs in the family, an uncle and a cousin both have it). Apparently when they got to the ER his blood sugar was so high* people were in shock that he was still conscious, let alone walking around and lucid. A scary situation. Thankfully he’s fine. Glad to hear you’re back and doing better(?) Shamus, and could afford the $things you needed!

    *This was almost a decade ago so I don’t remember the exact numbers, but I think it was in the hundreds of mg/dL, where the normal human range is 100 ± 30.

  14. Steve C says:

    I have low blood pressure. Want to share? Then we could both be whole boys.

    Glad you are doing better! All my well wishes that you continue to improve!

  15. man_with_gua_pi_mao says:

    Get well soon. I couldn’t imagine going through something like that – as someone who’s incredibly squeamish I think I would need to dissociate to go through something like that

  16. Aaron+B+Wayman says:

    Doctors are supposed to know things, and be able to figure out the things they don’t know, but sometimes what they don’t know, they don’t know, you know? Seven years ago my wife ended up in the emergency room with 240/180 BP (or so), and it was a thyroid issue. Hyperthyroidism, actually. If they didn’t check that, ask about it, because they often don’t consider that due to the relative rarity of the condition.

    This episode of unasked and likely unwarranted medical advice is brought to you by the letter B, the letter K, and the letter O, with an additional sponsor of concern for you.

    1. Beep+Beep,+I'm+a+Jeep says:

      I imagine being a doctor is something akin to being in ops support attempting to diagnose a system with poor (or almost nonexistent) logging, no user manual (as Shamus mentioned), and dozens upon dozens of variables compounding each other that could be causing any given issue.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        And where “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?” doesn’t solve the majority of problems.

    2. ryanlb says:

      I was diagnosed with hyperthyroid 10 years ago.
      In my case, it was a quick diagnosis, but only because my younger brother had already gone through getting tested for all sorts of things before they finally settled on hyperthyroid. (And then his magically went away after a few months.)

      So shortly after when I started experiencing similar symptoms, we talked to the doctor and short-cut right over all the other usual tests they would have run first, and went straight to the thyroid tests, and sure enough.

      Anyway, glad you’re doing better, Shamus. Hope you and your family continue to do well.

  17. Corvair says:

    More than glad to see you’re alive and well. Blood pressure is an underestimated risk – my mom seemed fine, too – until the moment she collapsed in the street, was helicoptered into an ICU, spent a week in coma while us kids got to hear the “best” case (wheelchair-bound stroke victim unable live alone – it had been a massive brain bleed by their account) gradually slip into “well, she is technically dead, but we cannot pronounce her until certain criteria are met”, until they/we could legally disable her life support system.

    So, seriously: Glad to have you back among the living. I’ve lost enough of my favourite folk over the last few years, we can take a break from that for a bit. Please do take your fucking meds.

  18. CloverMan-88 says:

    I lost a lot of faith in medicine, when a couple years ago I almost died, because blood vessels in my lungs became all clogged up. I was under 30 at tej time, so it deffinately SHOULDN’T happen on its own. I spent 3 weeks in a hospital, after which the doctors told me that they have no idea what caused it. So they let me go and prescribed taking blood-thining medicine for two months, saying that it must have been some freak coincidence. Then, after a year, it happened again – this time I reacted to symptoms earlier, so I didn’t need the ambulance. 3 weeks later all they could do was prescribe me the same blood thining medicine – this time for the rest of my life.

    I used to think that medicine has progressed so far, that finding answers is just a matter of time and cost. But I’ ve spared none in my pursuit of answers over the years, and all the doctors came with nothing. So yeah, Doctor House seems less believable to me nowadays.

    1. pseudonym says:

      I am sorry to hear you have a life threatening affliction with an unknown cause. It is unfortunate the doctors could not figure it out.

      The human body (or any vertebrate body) is quite complex. There are hundreds off cell types, working together in several tissues, which form several organs. There is a central nervous system, a circulatory system, a respiratory system a lymphe system, a digestary tract and some other systems. The cells itself that your body consists off each have their own complex machinery. This can all be influenced by various factors such as hormones and nerves. A body is not a car with parts clearly separated in function. Very few parts in the human body function in isolation. The networks regulate blood coagulation are not very simple either:

      Treatment is very difficult when dealing with such a complex system. We have already come a long way since when doctors drank pee, but the amount of things unknown is still quite great.

      1. CloverMan-88 says:

        Oh, I probably came out as more negative than I intended to. I’m not saying that modern medicine isn’t amazing – it quite obviously is. The fact that I can take a single small pill once a day and CONTINUE LIVING with something that would kill me twice if it was 1900′ is quite amazing already. What I’m saying is that there are still limits to what we can do when it comes to diagnostics, so having doctors unable to diagnose you is not out of ordinary and shouldn’t really be a cause for concern.

  19. tomato says:

    Please take care of your health. I don’t want to visit this site one day and read another update from Paul Spooner about your next visit to the ER, or worse.

  20. bobbert says:

    Yeah, hospital visits are just the worst. I really hate how doctors will never be square with you.

  21. Mr. Wolf says:

    It’s really weird being back. People are calling me Shamus again, which was my name way back in the day when I used to run this blog, before I became a full-time patient.

    At last Aragorn stirred. ‘Shamus!’ he said. ‘Beyond all hope you return to us in our need! What veil was over my sight? Shamus!’ Gimli said nothing, but sank to his knees, shading his eyes.
    ‘Shamus’ the old man repeated, as if recalling from memory a long disused word. ‘Yes, that was my name. I was Shamus.’

    1. DaveMc says:

      Just for the record: I greatly enjoyed this comment! :)

  22. Mr. Wolf says:

    Is that the sort of TECHNO DONUT that causes inexplicable terror? I once entered a TECHNO DONUT and the most cleanly defined fight-or-flight response I’ve ever experienced was the result.

  23. Bubble181 says:

    Welcome back among the living!
    I’ve had BP spikes go over 24/18 (I’m a European so we move the decimal one point over for BP because….reasons? At least we’re both using the same measurements here), mostly due to stress. I was feeling perfectly fine up to about 18/12 or 20/12, but once the diastolic started going up too I started to feel…constantly jacked up? Constantly hyper-alert? Like I just had a few too many coffees?
    Anyway, been monitoring it ever since, I still habitually have a high BP (usually somewhere around 15/10) for my age but it’s well out of the real danger zone, even if my doctor would prefer it lower.

    Take good care of yourself!

    1. pseudonym says:

      Where in Europe are you? Here in the Netherlands we use mmHg for blood pressures. The same as the US measures in this post.

      1. Lino says:

        Same here in Bulgaria – we measure it like the Americans.

      2. Bubble181 says:

        Belgium. We say 12.7, not 127.

        1. pseudonym says:

          That is curious. I have family in Belgium. So I checked on (bloeddruk=blood pressure for the English readers).
          There it uses the mmHg values. I also checked the French speaking part of Belgium: . Also mmHg.

          There must be some difference between what you say (cmHg) and what you write down (mmHg) then? It does make sense as 1 mmHg difference is hardly significant from a medical perspective, though it is a bit confusing.

          1. Addie says:

            Speaking with my engineer hat on, cmHg is an even worse ‘metric’ unit than mmHg is – all units should be to a power divisible by three. Kilopascals is probably the most workably-close ‘actually metric’ unit of measurement, and gives units in the same order as Bubble181:

            120/80 mmHg => 16.0/10.7 kPa

            … but like all things medical, using the familiar units is very very important; you wouldn’t want to cross the borders between provinces in Belgium between a cmHg area and kPa area, where they might misread it and decide some very dangerous condition is actually safe, or vice-versa. Besides which, you’re not going to be eg. determining what the mass of your shoes should be to provide an effective thrust restraint against the blood changing direction at the ball of your foot, so I don’t see that using the units most convenient for engineering provides a worthwhile benefit here.

  24. methermeneus says:

    Hospital stays are so horrible; glad you’re good enough to leave, at least, and that the meds are doing something. Hopefully the lab results will help with a long-term solution. And, as annoying as the blood pressure cuff sounds, at least you got to spend time hooked up to the machine with the best name: the automatic sphygmomanometer.

  25. RCN says:

    I’ve had blood pressure problems since my early 20s because of bad genetics from the mother’s side.

    Now I have to take like 4 different blood pressure pills just to keep my blood under 140/100.

    To make things worse, I’ve been avoiding going to my heart doctor during the pandemic to avoid covid.

    Turns out it wasn’t such a good idea (or maybe it was and I dodged a covid-shaped bullet). The doctor said my heart got a little bit worse and if it kept like that I’d have a heart attack by my 50s. I thought I was fine, didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary and when the blood pressure apparel said my blood pressure was over 140 I’d just pop one extra of my weakest pills and lie down.

    Hope you get better. And hope your medicine won’t be too expensive. In my country most of the blood pressure medication is covered by the government even if it is not available every month for free, and even when I have to pay for it it is subsidized and doesn’t cost more than 5-10 R$ (1-2 US$) for the monthly package.

  26. Azzmo says:

    Corporate medicine likes you sick so that you’re as profitable to them as you were last week. I’ve come to feel that the system is generally rigged to facilitate us slowly destroying our bodies with bad diets, habits, and lack of beneficial behaviors. Look no further than how little the topic of diet plays into the acquisition of a medical degree.

    1.) You win the diet battle at the grocery store. Trying to test your willpower vs. a plethora of treats always available in a nearby cabinet is folly.

    2.) Basically nobody gets enough Vitamin D, I think largely due to the lies on this topic. The public was told that 200-400 IUs was sufficient intake. The public is told that sunlight is an extreme danger, which I imagine would be a surprise for our ancestors who had no issue with it.
    -Get 10-45 minutes of sun every sunny day. No sunscreen. Bring a book outside, or even a tablet.
    -Supplement 4000 IUs or more Vitamin D daily if it’s been a few days since your last long span under the sun.
    -Shade your face for vanity purposes.

    3.) Find a simple exercise that you don’t hate. I’ve had luck with Elliptical Machines and Kettlebell swings. If you aren’t getting your heartbeat up with exercise daily you’re going to fall apart.

    I regret the unsolicited advice bomb but that picture made me a bit emotional. Have appreciate your work for a decade now and I feel that the system that is supposed to help us preserve our health has misled you/us, via both overt and omissive lies.

    1. CJK says:

      > The public is told that sunlight is an extreme danger, which I imagine would be a surprise for our ancestors who had no issue with it.
      > -Get 10-45 minutes of sun every sunny day. No sunscreen.

      *giggles uncontrollably in Australian*

      Seriously, in an Australian summer this advice is TERRIBLE. Ozone depletion is very real, and 45 minutes of unprotected sun will easily burn even the well tanned. At the height of summer I’ll personally burn in less than 15 minutes.

      And pretty much everyone over age 50 here can show you or tell you about their skin cancers. Modern sunscreen is a damn near a miracle.

      Get some sun, yes. Vitamin D is important, yes. Maybe don’t take the word of some random guy from another part of the world about how much, though.

      1. Liam says:

        I agree, Australian summers will kill ya! I’ve had many skin cancers burned off, and I was well under 40 when I had my first.

        I remember as a kid, prior to the widespread uptake of sunscreen, getting burned to blistering quite frequently. I’m making very sure my kids never get exposed like that.

        1. Philadelphus says:

          As an American who moved to Australia a few years ago, the depletion of ozone in the southern hemisphere relative to the northern has been vividly thrust upon me. I’m quite fair skinned and burn easily anyway, but it’s noticeably faster/worse here. It’s important to remember that our ancestors getting lots of sun didn’t have anthropogenic ozone depletion to deal with. Your body also stops making Vitamin D when you have enough, so staying out longer than you need each day gives you literally no benefit, just an increase to your skin cancer risk.

          Edit: Not to say that Vitamin D deficiency isn’t bad too; apparently some ridiculous percentage of kids in modern developed countries have rickets from its lack. Like in everything, balance is critical.

      2. Azzmo says:

        10 minutes of sun when it’s available is terrible advice? It seems to me that we too often treat sunlight as a leaking nuclear reactor, akin to how folks near me overreact to cold weather. Hide! Cover up! Never be exposed to anything! Though it was certainly a generalized statement, inconsiderate of the effect of ozone depletion. The added context is appreciated! You’re in a tougher spot than we are here in the USA.

        I’m extremely fair skinned with mostly northern Euro ancestry and get 30-50 days per year of 35ish minutes of sun. Have never been healthier physically or emotionally since beginning that regimen in 2018. I’m not at all profitable for the medical industry and intend not to become so.

        1. CJK says:

          To be fair, I’ve never lived anywhere where I needed to take sun “When it’s available” – it nearly always is.

          I’m not quite sure what counts as a “sunny” day as opposed to not, but where I live sees around 2500 hours of sunshine per year, with about 90 days a year where the skies are completely clear, and only about 100 days a year where it’s mostly overcast.

          So perhaps you, too, are in a tough spot – it’s certainly not unknown for people here (especially office workers) to develop vitamin D deficiency, but anyone with a job or hobby that takes them outside gets plenty.

        2. Mr. Wolf says:

          But the sun is a leaking nuclear reactor. That’s literally how it works.

    2. Dragmire says:

      Yeah, not great advice for me. I’m in Canada so my summers aren’t as great of a threat as the Australians but my skin just doesn’t agree with the sun. I’ve gotten sunburns through tinted windows on 30 minute bus rides. Always fun when half your face burns like your a phantom of the opera cosplayer…

      Anyway, I do take Vitamin D tablets daily but since Vitamin D deficiency isn’t something that’s easily felt, it’s hard to tell if it’s doing anything for me.

  27. Dreadjaws says:

    Man, I’m sorry for all you’ve been through, and I hope the results are good. I’m fortunately not in the same boat (yet at least). I’m pushing 40 and every time I have to take a medical exam I feel like it’s gonna come up with sixty different diseases, yet all of the results are normal. And not “it’s OK for now, but you need to take care of yourself” normal, just… normal. As if I had no issues. No diabetes, cholesterol or blood pressure problems despite the fact I eat almost exclusively junk food. I think it might be due to the fact that while I eat all that stuff I really don’t eat much, so my body has the time to keep up. But that’s pure speculation from my part, of course. I’m no doctor.

    I’m not without issues, though. I’m certainly starting to feel back problems. And if I bend myself the wrong way for a few seconds I get a debilitating pain that will last for a while. The other thing is a constant, annoying rash I’ve had for over a year. Treatment with medication holds it at bay but doctors are perplexed that it won’t go away. If I don’t use medication I will literally scratch myself until I bleed and my skin filled with coagulation scabs will make me look like a freaking reptile. So, of course, I’ve been using medication for over a year to keep my skin from drying up and to reduce the itch, but it’s unfortunately still there. It’s an annoyance, but certainly not life-threatening. Granted, the pandemic hasn’t made things any easier, so if it wasn’t for it I might have already found a cure. Who knows.

    Get well soon, Shamus.

  28. DeadlyDark says:

    I’m really glad to know that you’re better now!

    Hopefully, there’s nothing serious, waiting for you in the future

  29. Liam says:

    Out of curiosity, not asking for specifics, but what would a hospital stay like that cost in the US? (ballpark figure)

    My wife has just been released after a week in hospital, went to her ophthalmologist to get results of a recent test to try to find why her peripheral vision has been disappearing, he noticed that her ‘good’ eye was now worse than her ‘bad’ eye had been at the last test and sent her straight to emergency. She was in the stroke ward for a week, MRI, 20 vials of blood and a lumbar puncture later, they released her because they couldn’t find any cause. On the plus side, the whole experience didn’t cost us anything.

    She now has [i]very[/i] low blood pressure and can’t stand up for more than a free minutes, apparently a uncommon, but not unheard of, side effect of the spinal tap, so she may be going back to the hospital if that doesn’t improve in the next day or so.

    1. Shamus says:

      I haven’t seen the bill yet so I don’t know what they’ll ask me to pay, but according to Google a hospital stay in the US runs about $2k per day.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        But is $2k/day the real price?

        Talking about what anything medical costs in the US is a pit of deliberate obfuscation and frustration. There’s the “list price” for the service, then the “negotiated price” the insurance company gets (which “coincidentally” matches the price people get with the “uninsured discount” because the list price is actually bullshit designed to make insurance companies’ price negotiations look valuable) then insurance varies how much it will cover depending on the type of service, whether you’ve paid your deductible, whether you’ve reached your out-of-pocket maximum, whether the hospital has a business deal with the insurance company to be considered an approved vendor, and whether the insurance agrees you got the right treatment for your condition at the right price. This is even before the needless complexity in what services are actually billed during an ER stay where nurse services, room and board, and miscellaneous supplies are all billed separately even though they’re all based on your length of stay and the same doctors will have separate bills based on what room they talk to you in and what advice they give.

        In the end, the answer to “how much does it cost?” is “who the fuck knows until the bill is here and I’m done advocating for myself against the insurance company?”

        1. pseudonym says:

          The real costs of a hospital visit (in the Netherlands) are estimated here:

          A day in the hospital costs between 500-900 euros. A CT scan costs about 200-600 euros. In the hospital where I work 70% of those costs are personnel. I think that is fairly representative, as medical professionals are expensive.
          So that would put Shamus’ visit in the 3700-6900 euro range given the costs of laying in a hospital bed and the CT scan. There may be some other factors that get added such as medicine, food, the need for profit (to invest in new medical equipment etc.)

          The 2000$/day estimate probably includes people who have surgery or are in intensive care, both of which are wildly more expensive than lying in bed in observation. So 14000$ sounds unreasonable to me, but I don’t know how unreasonable US hospitals are.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            A little over a year ago I had an overnight stay for observation after having some severe hypoglycemia paired with severe nausea. This is about as least intensive as care gets–after getting some glucose in my arm, I slept in a bed with no tubes, monitors or catheters, only an occasional visit by a nurse in the night to prick my finger and confirm that yep, my glucose is still over 250.

            I spent right at 12 hours total under observation (they bill per hour). According to my very specifically itemized bill, insurance paid $974.80 for this amount of time.

            1. pseudonym says:

              That is a lot indeed. I wonder why it would cost so much. Maybe US hospitals have more expensive (because latest and greatest) equipment, combined with expensive doctors (who need to pay their expensive study loans)?

      2. Nils says:

        Glad to know youre better!

        The american health system is designed to turn out a profit, not to helping the sick. There are a bunch of essays and documentations about it and i just cant get my head around that. The helping part seems to be just a byproduct.

        As a german i cursed our health system while i was a student. That was really expensive for me and took about a third of my monthly income. But when I was in the hospital for two nights a few years ago… that whole ordeal cost me exactly 50 euros (60 Dollar) including surgery. I can go to any doctor anytime, without having to pay anything at all. All in all i like our social security system. Why anyone would scream “socialism” as soon, as something benefits “the” people is beyond me.

  30. Abnaxis says:

    Everyone would look at me wide-eyed as if to say, “How are you still standing?”

    This gave me some serious flashbacks to my last visit to the ER, when the nurse *redid the test* because she couldn’t believe I was still coherently talking to her with a blood glucose of 11 mg/dl (nominally it should be 100, it’s considered hypoglycemia below 70). You know the numbers are bad when the person doing the test is like “no way that’s right you should be in a coma.”

    Incidentally, norovirus really blows (see what I did there?) when you’re diabetic.

    At the same time, being diabetic also means they watch my blood pressure like hawks, so at least I shouldn’t get to ER-level severity before I get it treated if my pressure does go high. I hope your needs make everything better, with a few side effects as possible!

    1. SAD1 says:

      Glad to hear from you again Shamus!

      1. Abnaxis says:

        Yeah on second read that post looks SUPER self centered.

        The thesis was supposed to be a commiserative “yeah it really sticks with you when the professionals look at you like you should be in a sideshow but hopefully your new treatment regimen will keep you out of there from now on!” but it kinda got away from me after I started typing.

  31. Erik says:

    One of the tips I read on reddit, and I have no idea if this is actually true, is that you should always ask for an itemized bill, because some hospitals list a bunch of stuff you didnt even use, just to get extra money from your insurance.

  32. Ninety-Three says:

    Good to have you back 13Window, love the new name.

  33. Mersadeon says:

    I am in awe of the fact that you were able to turn your seriously scary hospital visit in to a funny text I could enjoy. Thanks, 13Window.

  34. MelTorefas says:

    Cripes! I am really glad you’re okay! I hope you stay that way!

    I have also done the “ER into extended hospital stay” thing, and you have all my sympathies. This particular instance was for intense abdominal pain and uncontrolable muscle spasms… a year later they figured out I have Hashimoto’s, autoimmune thyroid disorder. I actually had a blood vessel burst once, an artery in my sinuses about a month after sinus surgery. In that case I was actually in and out in about a day. Still rates as my scariest personal experience though… I will never forget trying to dial 911 on a smartphone with blood pouring out of me in a torrent. (My blood pressure at the ER was something like 60/30, and they ended up transfusing 2 units.)

    ..So, yeah, glad you’re back home! Best wishes on your recovery and ongoing health! Waiting for results on things can be incredibly frustrating, so again, all my sympathies.

  35. Adrian Lopez says:

    Well Shamus, I’m grateful you’re home and able to share this update with us. Please stay with us so I can continue to read your thoughts about games I’ll never play. Oh, and I still want to produce Mess Effect into an audiobook for you!

  36. Melfina+the+Blue says:

    Glad to see you’re back, just remember blood pressure is like golf… You want a low score, but not so low they realize you’re cheating :) And the headaches could have been due to BP changes, I always get more migraines right after I have an iron infusion (I’m severely anemic and my BP goes up once my body actually has the resources to make blood).

  37. chukg says:

    I liked the line about “less popular fluids”. (might make a good band name too)

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