Friday, April 26, 2013

2013 Reading, Books 40-42 (and medical adventures)

I woke up yesterday with a racing heart (120 beats/minute) and elevated blood pressure (150/90). I have a strong family history of hypertension, which first reared its head in my own life when I was pregnant with Miss Fraser and ended up on bed rest for the last two months. Even though my non-pregnant blood pressure was at worst borderline high, I've been on a low-dose blood pressure med for years now in hopes of staving off my strong family history of stroke and heart disease. My doctor hopes  my current weight loss and exercise program will ultimately end my need for such meds, but given that my oldest brother runs marathons and takes the same medication that I do, I have my doubts. Sometimes your worst genes trump your best behavior.

Anyway, my meds do such a good job of keeping my bp stable and normal that 150/90 was enough to freak me out a little, especially when coupled with the racing heart and an off-and-on dizzy, wobbly sensation. When I didn't feel any better after eating breakfast and when my blood pressure at a podiatrist appointment was something like 155/100, I freaked out seriously and went to my regular doctor. She did a quick EKG and reassured me that my heart sounded healthy and normal, just excessively fast, but she couldn't figure out what was going on and ultimately advised that I go to the ER for my own peace of mind, because otherwise I was just going to keep making myself feel even worse worrying.

So, I ended up spending about 2 1/2 hours in the ER, most of which was curled up in my room by myself with a book. Which made me feel better all by itself, since clearly they weren't too worried about me. Indeed, the doctor said that there are people who walk around with bp like mine was yesterday for decades. Which amazed me, because I feel like my everyday, medicated 125/80 or so isn't anywhere near good enough, and I can't count myself truly healthy unless I get it down to 120/70 or even lower. But they did agree that a suddenly elevated pulse and bp with no obvious cause was worth investigating and did the usual assortment of tests, ultimately diagnosing me with a UTI and sending me home with an antibiotic prescription. (Which I can forgive my regular doctor for missing, since I didn't have the obvious symptom of burning when I pee, and the symptoms I did have were subtle enough that I interpreted them as other things.)

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying that between the afternoon at the ER and staying home from the day job today to rest and recuperate, I had more reading time than usual this week.

40) Escape from Camp 14, by Blaine Harden.

The true story of a young man who was born and raised inside a brutal labor camp in North Korea and escaped at age 23--at least, it's true insofar as you choose to trust Shin Dong-Hyuk's possibly unreliable narration (and it's clear Harden, a journalist, has his doubts in spots). It's harrowing and horrifying, to put it mildly. Shin was raised in circumstances designed to break down all the natural social and familial bonds, so he never learned trust, compassion, sympathy, and the like as a child. It's clear he's trying as an adult living in America and South Korea, but I finished the book by no means certain he'd ever figure it out.

41) The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction, by William Doyle.

A quick, high-level overview of the French Revolution, but it's not at all simple--it's not the kind of thing I'd recommend to someone with no familiarity with the period, but it was a good refresher.

42) A Plague of Zombies, by Diana Gabaldon.

The newest novella featuring Lord John Grey set in the Outlander world. While it's not the strongest of the novellas, Lord John has become my favorite character in the entire series, so I enjoyed his latest adventure quite a bit. As you'd expect from the title, it does indeed have zombies (in 1761 in Jamaica), in a revenge plot that Lord John is ultimately able to untangle before it becomes an outright bloodbath.

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