Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Winds Down

I have been up for a few hours with baby Laura this morning, and my thoughts are turning to the New Year and all that has happened this year. We had a lovely Christmas, with Emmy getting almost everything she wanted, and baby Laura surprising us with the speed she is moving and developing.  Jeremy and I were happy not to be traveling over Christmas with two children (though we also missed the family we would have seen if we had braved holiday travel).
In a few days, we will go up to Anchorage to see my sister La Rita get married to Tru.  I am so happy to get to share this day with her even though she and Tru are planning a big wedding after he gets back from his deployment to Kuwait.  We did not think we would be able to make it, but I scraped those airline miles together, found a cheap rental car, and made it happen. We are even staying a night in a hotel with a pool, which will overjoy Emmy (and Jeremy)!

So much in life is changing, which is scary, but also exciting.  I will be starting a new job next month designing a program in Alutiiq language and culture at the college, and while I will still be at my current job at the Museum a little bit each week, as well as during the summer, it is a strange feeling to be swept along in this enormous change in my life.  I keep describing it as being "swept along" but really I should give myself more credit - none of this would be happening if I did not think it the absolute best move for my family and myself as well as for the survival of the Alutiiq language.  It is an incredible opportunity that I hope will meet with great success.

This time last year I was 4 or 5 months pregnant with baby Laura.  She is now a bouncing, BIG, baby girl.  Babbling, crawling so fast and trying to pull up on things.  Big sister Emmy has impressed us with how much she has learned this past year, particularly with her participation in preschool.  She is always using her new vocabulary on us and asking what words mean that she doesn't know.  Her favorite subject in school is "arts and crafts."  Yesterday she brought home a bag of paper cuttings from when she visited her grandma's school, and insisted it was her important "paperwork."

By this time next year Emmy will have been in Kindergarten for a semester, and Baby Laura will be Toddler Laura.  I am so excited to hear Laura talk for real, since she has such a loveable and loud personality. I will have been teaching Alutiiq Language for a semester, so I hope that will have gone well.  And Jeremy and I will be 6 months past our 10 year anniversary, which is happening next June.  Which I think will be a good time for a big party.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Patch Testing

This week I embarked on an interesting test to find out what chemicals, metals, and other surgery related substances I am allergic to.  The reason I felt the test was needed goes back to the last time I had stitches.  The sutures were supposed to dissolve in a week or two, and heal up in about the same time frame, but it took over 8 weeks for them to dissolve.  My allergist believed I was allergic to a material in the sutures, but just in case it was something else related to the procedure or daily life, he tested me for a full 56 substances (a near-record for the allergy clinic). The substances were chosen based on an incredibly thorough series of questions about things or situations that have irritated my skin in the past.

Patch testing is somewhat miserable. Especially if you are being tested for so many things.  It requires you to literally have patches taped on to your skin to see if your skin reacts to contact with the substances in the patches.  Each patch has a number so they can check back on the list to see what you are reacting to.  You have to wear them for two days (my whole upper back was covered with patches locked down with adhesive tape), then have them removed and read on the 3rd day, and have a second reading on the 4th day.  And you cannot exercise or get the patches wet during that time. I was so glad to have the patches removed, and then even more overjoyed to have the second reading so I could go home and shower!
My patches, before being covered by tape.
 The joy at the test being over, however, was tempered by the results - that I am chemically sensitive to 6 substances or categories: Nickel, diphenylguanadine, quinoline mix, carba mix, potassium dichromate, and amidoamine.  Six doesn't sound so bad, right?  Well, these six substances can go by dozens of names, and also are mixed in with other materials.  Nickel, for example, is found in stainless steel, jewelry, medical screws, dyes, snaps, scissors, batteries, zippers, and even doorknobs.  The potassium dichromate (chrome), is found in dissolvable sutures, detergents, tattoos, bleach, makeup, construction materials, ink, copy paper, vitamin supplements, and even pool table felt among many others.  The other substances I am sensitive to are fond in rubber/foams/plastic/leather manufacturing, and in personal care products like shampoo, soap, ointment, and lotion.

So the problem I had with healing from the sutures a number of months ago? It was described by the Dr. like a perfect storm: An allergy to the stainless steel needle used, the sutures themselves, the antibacterial agents, and adhesives used in pads/bandages. Then I followed up by keeping it clean daily using soap I was likely allergic to. No wonder I had a problem healing!

I now have a whole packet of information I need to compile into a master chemical/metal names list, so I can check products at the store before buying them.  I am sad that some of the products I have used in the past I will have to discard, but I had already self-selected for some products that were less irritating, and so hopefully I will be able to keep some of them.  And the sensitivity I have is not so severe that I will have to wear gloves to touch a doorknob or a fork. I would only experience discomfort if in prolonged contact with the things I am sensitive to.  Now, armed with this knowledge, I face a much less itchy future.  If I need any surgical procedures done, I can share this information with my physician and help ensure a successful healing.  This test is an investment that I am glad I made.

Monday, December 5, 2011