RA & Summer Activities: Spending Spoons Without Bending Them

Vanessa Collins Health Guide
  • It's summer time in America! We all have things to do. There are flowers and vegetables to tend, lawns to mow, bird baths to fill with fresh water, and weeds to trim. There are summer barbeques and pool parties and summer fairs. The list goes on and on. Unfortunately, we don't have enough spoons to do all we may want to do.


    Personally, I have more trouble managing my spoons in the summer than at any other time. There are so many activities available.


    My weakness every summer is my need to feel “useful”- to do my part in taking care of our home. RA forced me to retire last September. My husband is 63 and still works in a very mentally and physically demanding job. I want to help!

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    I must confess, I also have another weakness. I get tired of “managing” my RA and so I have a tendency to ignore my other physical needs.


    I have asthma, and asthma and summer don't always “mix” so well. With warm temperatures and cooling winds comes lots of pollen. Pollen is a trigger for my asthma.


    In my quest to do my part, I decided to mow the lawn to help take some of the burden off of my husband. We have a riding lawn mower that is fairly easy to operate and isn't too tough on the shoulders, I thought. I decided to take the lawn tractor for a spin. We mow five acres.


    Unfortunately, I forgot to take my allergy meds that day. It was really windy, and all kinds of grass, weeds, and seeds were blowing by my face as I mowed. Did I wear my face mask, you may be thinking? No, I did not.


    A few days after I enjoyed slaying the blades of grass w/our little lawn tractor, I wasn't feeling so well. My allergies were “acting up”. I felt as though I had a cold, and I was very tired. After a few more days of no improvement, I decided to see my PCP.


    My PCP has this routine that all of her patients go through before she sees them. First your are weighed, and then your blood pressure is taken, and the nurse asks you if any medications have changed since the last visit. While you are being weighed, the nurse places this little pulse oxygen clip on your index finger.


    On this visit, when the nurse looked at the reading on the pulse oxygen clip, she did a double take. I glanced at it before she moved it out of my sight. It was 86. I was thinking that wasn't so good.


    When the PCP came into my room, which she did quickly, by the way, she was in action. First she asked me what was going on. I told her about mowing and forgetting my allergy meds and not wearing a mask. I said I thought I had a cold or something.


    After that brief exchange, I found a nebulizer by my side, and a breathing mask on my face. A shot of steroid followed, and then a script for 60 mg of prednisone for 3 days, 40 mg for two days, and 20 mg for two days.


    My doc said my asthma was really bad. I had never talked to her about my asthma, and I had seen this NP for almost ten years. I knew I had asthma as a child, and I knew it flared once in a while, but I mostly ignored it. I never mentioned it to the PCP, and she never noticed it.


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    Evidently, when my RA flared, so did my asthma. I found out a pulse oxygen level of 86 was not good at all. My doc told me I was “almost a very sick woman.” She wrote a script for Advair, and a rescue inhaler. I was to call if I had any additional problems.


    The moral of this story is this: Do not get so busy managing your RA that you ignore other health problems. I did, and it almost landed me in the hospital.


    Summer is so full of wonderful opportunities to get out and about. It can be glorious. I hope you all have an enjoyable summer with friends and family. Just remember not to spend too many spoons in one day, and for goodness sakes, don't bend those spoons.

Published On: June 26, 2013