Paper Love

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What is a piece of paper?

Paper. Parchment. Carta. Papyrus. These are among the many different ways to say paper, an invention that has arguably (depending on who you ask) made the world a better place. Thanks to the ancient Egyptians weaving strips of the papyrus reed together, even the lowliest amongst us can record their words for posterity.

It is true that without paper much of history would be lost – after all, knowledge became extinct when Alexandria first burned. It has taken us years to rediscover what was lost on those precious scrolls. But, what does it truly mean to those of us that live day to day in a modern and ever more complicated world?

As an author it is my means of creation and communication. Painters use it to paint and readers to read. Some people roll it up and smoke it while others use it to wrap dishes on moving day. It makes great paper-mache for pinatas. Kids use it to make paper airplanes. The Japanese even use it to make delicate works of art called origami. All in all paper is a wonderfully useful tool invented by the ancient Egyptians.

As someone living in this world it also means so much more and less. Why do I need a piece of paper to tell me I am married to the man I love, my best friend? He and I both feel that it isn’t necessary to prove our love by obtaining a piece of paper made by man – a near decade together should be enough to prove that. Common law marriages have been around since time immemorial and were often used when a priest couldn’t be found. Yet others around us seem to think that we are temporary or nothing without it.

I know of couples that couldn’t stay together with a piece of paper and vows. I also know of couples that never should have gotten married in the first place. For one reason or another they went after a piece of paper that they didn’t respect and all the legalities in the world couldn’t keep them together.

While true that couples do grow apart, if a couple decides they don’t want to be together, that piece of paper will not keep them together. Just like a child can’t keep a couple together, neither can a sheet of paper.

What keeps people together is people and their love are respect for each other, not paper. People and what they want and believe are what counts. Just because you believe in something, doesn’t mean everyone else does though.

Reading this, you might think that I am against legal marriage. I’m not. I’m all for it when the time and person is right for those involved. My situation is perfect for me, don’t tell me it is wrong just because you don’t believe in it. If a common law marriage was good enough for Benjamin Franklin (yes the founding father – don’t believe me, Google it), then it is more than good enough for me.

If we want to take a historical look at marriage, lets use the Puritans as an example. They believed that a marriage was a contract between two people to care for and help one another that was separate from religion. I, personally, don’t need a sheet of paper to do that. I know where my heart lies and a piece of paper won’t change that. It can’t.

Traditionally marriages were used to make alliances between families or countries. More than one war was averted by an arranged marriage. People even married to keep crowns out of other peoples hands. They married to make sure children were taken care of and to lessen a burden at home. They married to share chores on a homestead. Very rarely were they about love. Something I am glad about for the modern age – I love that my marriage (be it on paper or not) is about love. Because love is what matters and nothing else.

I realize that for many people, religion states that marriage in a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple is the only way to signify that you are married before God – I won’t even get into the fact that in the time of Jesus a marriage was consummated in a church (ewwww). While I do not personally believe this to be true, I do respect your point of view. Note that I did not say that I don’t believe in God, I wholeheartedly do – those are another set of beliefs that I keep to myself.

What keeps my husband and I (as well as many other common law couples) together is choice. We choose to be a couple. We choose to communicate. Above all, we choose to love. A piece of paper cannot guarantee any of those choices being made. As human beings we can.

It is our choices that define whether paper is even necessary to a given situation. So why do so many people define a situation by something that isn’t necessarily relevant to those involved?

That is an answer that I don’t have. I wish I did.

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What is SEPSIS

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Sepsis

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is your body’s overreaction to an infection.

What types of infection can become septic?

Any. By any, I mean viral or bacterial infection on the planet. The flu? Yep. A hangnail? Sure. Pneumonia, major surgery, even food poisoning can go septic.

There are three stages to sepsis.
1. Sepsis
2. Severe Sepsis
3. Septic Shock

It is my opinion the Stage One, sepsis, is the most dangerous. You might wonder why. It is because sepsis masquerades as the flu. Yes, the flu. Fever, aches, chills, nausea, and vomiting. Temperatures on the fever can reach over 108 degrees.

The flu is the one thing that doctors tell us to stay at home and wait it out. In the case of sepsis that is a deadly mistake. Almost sixty percent of people who make it to Stage two die. By Stage three that number doubles to ninety percent.

By Stave two you get to loss of motor control, difficulty breathing, and confusion. Loss of muscular skeletal systems also occurs. By now a patient risks brain damage from the infection and the fever.

Once a person hits septic shock they are intubated and put into a medical coma. Once a person enters the coma very rarely do they come out of it. When and if they do they could have memory loss, PTSD, limb loss, and above all post sepsis syndrome.

That last term is likely to be a new term to all of you. So allow me to explain the joys of post sepsis syndrome. Feel free to read as much sarcasm in that last statement as you wish.

Post sepsis syndrome is something that every survivor has to live with for the rest of their live (most live to be octogenarians). Some of the signs of post sepsis syndrome include lethargy, weakened immune system, and an exacerbation of any preexisting conditions that you might have had. Those are only some of the know long-term effects.

By lethargy I mean that they will most likely have to rotate the days they do work on; such as work two days, sleep two days. By the end of the day they are mumbling and possibly incoherent. There will be days they cannot get out of bed or off the couch. This is not their fault but that of the disease that struck them low in the first place.

A weakened immune system means they will likely catch any bug that is going around. Expect the need for antibiotics on a regular basis. Vitamins and probiotics may be needed by some. Especially B12.

Anxiety and panic are never far away. It sometimes seems that they can’t go a day without it. The feeling of uselessness because they can’t do what they once could is devastating to them. With the help of a good doctor and support from family and friends these things can be overcome. I promise.

Prior conditions is the worst one. If they had bronchitis before hand it is likely to turn into full blown asthma. If there was a kidney problem before hand, expect to need dialysis afterward. Blood pressure problems are known to get worse and so is arthritis.

Between twenty eight and fifty percent of people die each year from sepsis in the United States alone. This is more than the total of prostate cancer, breast cancer and AIDS combined. This is the primary reason we need to question something even as simple as the flu. Sepsis is survivable – the earlier it is detected the better your chances of survival. Thankfully the CDC has declared Sepsis its own disease and not a condition of a prior infection. This gives me hope that awareness of it will spread.

If the long-term frightens you the short-term will hurt you. Hair and appetite loss occur. The person also changes from the one you have known. Some of them get more wary of their surroundings and all are terrified of getting ill again. Many find a new purpose in life while others may lose their way.

A New Normal

After all this doom an gloom, I’ll move on to something a little brighter. That topic is, A New Normal. By that, many of you may be wondering what I mean. Unfortunately, there is no mystery to that fact. The words are self explanatory. Survivors of sepsis literally have to find what is now acceptable to them and their bodies. What they can tolerate now will be different than what they could before.

They may not be able to work as hard or as long as they once could before needing a break. They might not even be able to do the same job as before – more than one person has had to change careers. Many survivors end up on disability due to the amount of damage done to their bodies. Energy seems to be a recycled concept now. They have good days where they were almost what they once were (those are what I like to refer to as a shining moment in the sun); then they have the bad days.

Those are the days they can’t get out of bed and staying awake seems impossible.

Any medical problems they had before sepsis magnifies after. For instance, bronchitis can turn into full blown asthma.

Fibromyalgia is known to develop. Arthritis flares dramatically. Because of the high fevers hair loss occurs. That one at least grows back. Exhaustion becomes a familiar friend and memory loss is a regular occurrence. Some have an increase in appetite and others a decrease. Anxiety tends to go through the roof. You worry about ever getting that ill again. You don’t want to go through it again.

Something Personal

Life isn’t all doom and gloom though. The survivor finds a new appreciation for what was almost taken from them. They challenge themselves more and often find new purpose.

I know I have. I ended up with septic shock due to salmonella – that’ll teach me from eating out at a certain restaurant. How I survived, I don’t know. But I am grateful for it. At almost two years out I am still recovering and trying to find my New Normal.

I barely remember the beginning of my illness. I don’t remember my husband having to put me into the shower – clothes and all – to break my fever. I don’t remember not being able to hold any food down for a week. I don’t remember doing the can-can while trying to walk. I don’t remember arguing about not going to the hospital.

In that time I have gained so many memories. I’ve regrown my hair (which grew back curly instead of stick straight, the color also slightly changed) and learned to watch for the signs of exhaustion – weak knees and difficulty getting out of bed. I’ve gained an inhaler and have learned to watch my footing.

My favorite memory is the look on my husband’s face as I stood for the first time in two weeks. The combination of shock, awe, pride, and love on his face is one I will take with me to the grave. I remember that day well.

He walked into my hospital room and I was sitting in a chair with the table in front of me doing a crossword puzzle. A nurse was changing my bedding. When he walked in I pushed the table away and used the arms of the chair to push myself up. When I felt his arms around me for the first time in weeks I almost cried. I think he did too.

I’ve gained new skills during my recovery as well. I can help build a house and use the tools necessary. I can now make hand made jewelry, and in my personal opinion my writing has reached a new level. I’ve even learned to cook in a better way than I could before. That is something I am profoundly happy with.

I’ve learned my share of lessons as well. One is to be patient with myself. When I compare how I am now to how I was I am amazed at my own progress. It hasn’t been an easy road to travel, but I have overcome it. I somehow managed to turn insurmountable boulders into pebbles when I taught myself how to walk again. I’ve learned to accept that parts of my body will never recover. Thank you lungs and bladder – a ventilator and catheter for that length of time will do that to you I suppose (or so my doctor says).

I’ve also learned that coconut oil is great for your hair (I use a spray on) and that dissolvable B12 doesn’t leave an aftertaste in your mouth like the pill form does if you don’t swallow it fast enough. I’ve learned peace is hard to come by, but it does eventually find you. Patience is a friend that you become familiar with.

Of all these lessons though, the important one for me is to cherish what I have now. Because I almost wasn’t here to enjoy it.