We have what was a bat situation that has sinced turned into a bat problem. In fact, I'm literally typing this on my laptop in the living room where I can hear something scratching and clawing either in the piano or behind it to my left, and something knocking around somewhere in the dark office at the end of the living room. And there's something banging around in the pipes now under the floor beneath my feet.
Everyone we know here who grew up in the midwest is laughing at our reaction to what is a commonality in this part of the country, but is our first exposure to it. I should have known something was amiss when two days after we moved in, my cats had either killed or found and left me a bat on the living room floor.
A month or so after we moved in, Len was doing laundry in the basement. He ended up staying up late on night and around 3 am decided to change the last load. He stumbled downstairs bleary-eyed and without his glasses and didn't bother turning on the main cellar light. That's when he met Norman.
The bat flew at him and he was shocked awake, and with a "holy shit!" he ran up the stairs and slammed the door. Since we had to get our laundry we had to go into the basement at some point. Len decided to call the bat Norman -- his rationale was that you couldn't be afraid of anything named Norman.
The next time we saw Norman was after sunset one night when Len needed to repair the dryer. Norman had perched himself on top of one of the torchier light bulbs. He didn't seem interested in us. We kept an eye on him anyway. It was the first time I'd ever seen a bat at all.
Norman pretty much kept to himself and even when accidentally confronted never seemed to get cranky over it. One day Len needed to grab one of the torchier bulbs -- he pulled a lamp back and looked at the spiral bulb only to find Norman curled up inside it.
We took to announcing ourselves before going into the basement if it was close to sunset or sunrise. Norman turned out to be an okay bat -- he lived in his light bulb and seemed to understand that the complex tensions in bat and human relations weren't going to be worked out by either of us any time soon. He ate bugs, and we didn't bother him during his regular work hours. And we were all okay with that. At least, until he cousins showed up.
Two nights ago I got home at 12:30 am and promptly went to bed. Thirty minutes later I woke to the sounds of what I thought was one of the cats scratching at the screens in the spare room. After I heard it a second time, I got annoyed and got up. I didn't put my glasses on and I didn't turn on any lights. As I walked into the room I noticed the cats followed me in there. It took just long enough for my tired brain to realize what was going on and for the bat to fly in front of my face.
I yelped and ran into the bedroom, turned on the light, and slammed the door. Just before I shut the door I saw the bat fly past and, it seemed, take a turn to go down the stairwell. I put my glasses on and started nervously laughing at myself. Me, a rational person, afraid of a little brown bat.
I came out and turned on the hall light. Nothing. I stretched my arm as far as it would go and reached into the spare room to turn on the light. There he was, flying around in circles. The laundry basket was holding the door open so the wind wouldn't blow it shut, so with a swift front kick I booted it into the room, grabbed the door, and pulled it shut.
Then I realized that I could find my cat Pico but not my cat Sam.
I opened the door, saw her nonchalantly poke her face out, and I motioned for her like a marine trying not to leave his buddy behind to come out and go! go! go! You can make it!. Like most bugs, the bat apparently fascinated her not one bit. She sauntered out like nothing had happened.
At this point it was about 1:30 am. I ran around the house turning on every single light. If there was one bat actually inside the house, I figured, there could be more. I wondered if this was Norman or one of his friends.
I walked outside and looked up at the window to see if I could see him still flying around. There on the the screen was a dark lump. He'd curled up there, probably trying to figure out where the hell he was and how he could get out. I rummaged around in the pantry for a tupperware and its lid -- I was going to cup it over him, coax him into it with the lid, then take him outside and let him go.
I cupped it over him, but it was so close to the top edge where the wood is that I couldn't quite fit his feet in there. He started squeaking at me -- not that I could blame him, and I was worried I was hurting him so I tried desperately to adjust it. I slid the lid up and tried to get it between him and the screen, but his claws were hooked to it and he wasn't planning on going anywhere. The more I pushed, the more he moved his head up to look at me -- as much as bats can actually look at you -- and the more he squeaked and opened his mouth to show me his fangs. As if to say, "Bitch, I will BITE you if you do not cut this shit OUT." My bat was a little too rusty and I wasn't able to properly convey to him that trying to stuff him into a plastic container was actually for his own good. He was trying to spread his wings a bit and I was getting more and more creeped out, so finally I waited for him to settle down and in a fit of frustration I dropped the tupperware and grabbed the window, then slammed it shut. Fine, stay there. Jerk.
There's about four or five inches of clearance between these old glass windows and their screens, so I watched him for a bit. It was actually fascinating. I watched him lift his head slowly, then turn it just as slowly. Probably echolocating, trying to find an opening. I felt sorry for the little guy, but I was damned if I was going to let him fly around my bedrooms while I was trying to sleep. They can have the basement; they can have the attic. But this bat knew to stay off the west side. He might have gotten a little lost and I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but not before making him understand that the living quarters were not where he was meant to be.
Had it not been 2 am and had I been thinking more, I'd have opened one of the other window screens, left it open, opened his window and then shut the room's door so that he could fly away. But I had no idea how long it would take him to go, and I didn't want anything else making its way in there while I waited.
Len came home to see the hallway and spare bedroom lights on and me curled up on the bed asleep. He woke me and I told him the whole story. The next morning his course of action was to slice the screen for the bat and shoo him out of there, and then just replace that screen since he was replacing a whole bunch of them anyway.
I thought that maybe the bat had come into the spare room from somewhere in there given that we'd always heard bat-ish noises from inside the wall behind the TV in the living room, which ran up and formed the outside wall to the spare room. So I shut the door and blocked the bottom with towels the next night when I went to bed.
At 3:30 in the morning when Len got home from work, I was fast asleep in a dark upstairs. (It had taken me at least 45 minutes to finally fall asleep despite how exhausted I was.) I woke to the sound of Len yelling from the bottom of the stairs to wake up, there's another bat and to shut the bedroom door. All I heard was wake up, bat, and bedroom. My heart raced and I grabbed my glasses and then tried to find the cat I saw come into the bedroom. Len, meanwhile, was wondering what the hell I was doing as I walked right past the bat that was by my head in the hallway. He had wanted me to shut the bedroom door so the bat wouldn't come in. I ran back and did that.
An epic battle ensued outside the door as Len tried to catch the bat with towels. He told me later that he'd found it when he came upstairs and Pico was batting at the thing on the floor at the top of the stairs. Eventually he opened the door, towels bunched in one hand, panting, and announced he was going to go show the thing the front door. Then he said that from now on he's not showing any more mercy -- if they want to venture into the living quarters, he'll be happy to reduce their numbers so that they don't have a chance to do it again.
I'm okay with the vague notion that bats might be living in my attic. Having Norman in the basement living in his light bulb was okay, at least until he started inviting all his friends over. And like drunken college students they're starting to crash my house.
And now tonight with the scratching and the sounds of something in the vents. Maybe it's more nefarious than that. I can hear them down there, hunched over their battle maps planning their next move. I need to go armor the cats.
I'm not usually one to go to a doctor for...well, anything I can possibly avoid. I often feel guilty going to a doctor because I figure there has to be someone in more need of this doctor's time than me. Unless my life is being significantly impaired -- i.e., my leg has fallen off and needs reattaching -- I don't need a doctor.
That said, there are some strange things occuring these days that have prompted me to talk to my endocrinologist.
Why am I seeing an endocrinologist? Glad you asked.
It started a few years ago back in California. When Len and I decided to put the fate of our status as parents in the hands of Mother Nature, we really kind of expected it to actually happen at some point. When it didn't, I saw my doctor. She found out that I had elevated levels of prolactin in my body that was keeping me from getting pregnant. She sent me to an endocrinologist to follow up.
He found that I have a prolactinoma, a small growth on my pituitary gland that causes the extra hormone secretion. He said he also found that I have an enlarged thyroid on the right side, and something called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, an auto-immune disorder that causes my body to think of my thyroid as something to be targetted for destruction, so it creates antibodies to work against it. The level of antibodies has to be monitored regularly because at some point they may become great enough to actually begin destroying my thyroid, at which point I'll need to go on sythetic thyroid medication.
I had never heard of Hashimoto's before, so I looked it up. Now, both the beauty and the curse of the Internet is that it can arm you with more knowledge about something than you're prepared to handle. But I know that, and so I really did try to filter for only truly informative, legitimate links.
What I learned was that Hashimoto's is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. I then looked up hypothyroidism and found out that it's a situation where your thyroid is underfunctioning, which can lead to a bunch of things including weight gain, dry and brittle skin and hair, inability to concentrate, and fatigue. The strangest of these symptoms was that the outer eyebrows can either be really dry or lose their hair.
Suddenly the light went on for me. For years Len had made fun of my "rogue eyebrow"; the outer part of my right eyebrow was in a continuous state of flaking and hair loss. The weight gain suddenly clicked as well -- while trying to lose weight to get into the National Guard years before, I'd been unable to get down to what should have been a normal weight for me without working out two hours every morning and nearly starving myself to death. My skin and hair, since I was in my late teens, had been unusually dry -- despite moisturizer my shins literally looked like someone put talcum powder on them (it wasn't -- it was just a gross display of my dry skin), and my hair was constantly brittle and breaking despite good hair products. Maybe the Hashimoto's I'd just been diagnosed with had always been the cause of these things.
On the next doctor's visit I told him how I was actually relieved to have heard this because it explained so much about my physiology that had been unexplainable up to then. The doctor looked at me, smiled and said, "no, you couldn't have had those symptoms. You would have been in a very advanced state if you did." I explained that I did indeed experience those symptoms. "No, you couldn't have." He simply smiled and insisted I did not experience any of those.
I was too taken aback to know what to say next. He prescribed Dostinex for the prolactinoma on my pituitary and explained that the Hashimoto's was simply a marker and that I couldn't experience any symptoms of hypothyroid on it. His explanation of why went over my head since I'm not exactly an expert on endocrinology.
I moved here to Wisconsin and continued to take the Dostinex. When my prescription was going to run out, I figured I'd make an appointment with a new endocrinologist and follow up with him or her.
A few months after moving out here, things began to change, the biggest of which was my fatigue levels. I had started working out two months after moving in addition to the daily yoga I'd already been doing for a year prior to that. I had also started eating really well before that when I began doing yoga. So my diet and exercise routine was pretty envious of most people. Yet I was so tired all the time (and still am). By 9 pm each night I was falling asleep wherever I was sitting, despite getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, which gradually increased to 9-10 hours as I became more tired and had to go to bed early.
And despite all the exercise, yoga, and good diet I was -- and continue to be -- sitting at 195 pounds. Despite my tall and large frame, 195 is still not a healthy weight for me, especially given that it isn't a lean and muscular 195 but a pudgy and flabby 195. Depsite exercise and yoga. My exercise routine included cardio and weight workouts, and yet my body shape wasn't changing, I wasn't decreasing in inches in any areas at all, and I wasn't gaining any muscle strength; the amount of weights and reps I could do several months before remained the same despite a religious 5-day workout schedule.
I tried all kinds of things -- decreasing my caloric intake (maybe I'm eating too much); increasing my caloric intake (maybe I'm not eating enough and my body is going into starvation mode); eating more protein (maybe that's why I'm so tired all the time); eating more carbs (maybe I just don't have enough fuel). Every change would give me about a 4-5 pound weight loss that would last about two weeks. Then the weight came back to 195 pounds. The protein helped my fatigue levels for about two weeks. Then my body adjusted and despite the daily protein shake, I was back to falling asleep at a whim.
Other things have happened that I probably shouldn't detail in a public blog, but if you can't talk about things clinically in a post about medical stuff...well, you should stop reading now. The additional problem I have is that in the last six months or so, my periods have become excruciatingly painful for one day out of the cycle, and now I'm vomiting through the pain. While I'd always had some pain and just needed to take Advil to get rid of it, the Advil isn't helping as much anymore and the vomiting is new.
And last month I noticed that my left eyebrow is going bald on the outside.
All of this worried Len and he pestered me to talk to the doctor about it all. After asking my general practitioner about it and explaining the diagnoses of the prolactinoma and the Hashimoto's, he sent me to an endocrinologist.
Now, let me state that I'm well aware that I'm not a doctor. But I'm a reasonable adult concerned now about my medical health, so I tried to put the pieces together. Increased fatigue, increased inability to lose weight, and loss of hair on my eyebrows, coupled with the fact that I have Hashimoto's. Okay, I thought, it sounds like my thyroid is in some kind of new stage. I'd better get this checked out.
The doctor's resident -- at least, I think that's who she was -- sat down and talked to me and listened to everything I said above. She spent about twenty minutes with me, complete with follow up questions.
After she walked out, the doctor I was told I was seeing walked in. He was an older man with a thick accent that sounded Eastern European. He palpated my thyroid so roughly that I was choking. He explained that he was putting me on bromocriptine for the prolactinoma to help with the infertility, and that I should see a fertility clinic because I'm running out of time to make babies. I asked him about the things I'd come in to see him for, the fatigue, the weight problem.
He actually waved his hands dismissively and said, "We can check your bloodwork but we won't find anything." I asked him what could be causing those things. He shrugged and said, "I don't know." He wrote out my bloodwork sheet to take to the lab and said I was done there. He'd spent five minutes with me, most of which he spent staring at my chest, and completely dismissed everything I'd come to him for.
So I left. I went down and got my bloodwork, and that was that. He's the doctor, right? I mean, if nothing's wrong with me, he would know. Wouldn't he?
As I put more thought into it, I got more and more angry. This wasn't in my head -- these things I'm experiencing are real. I received the report about my bloodwork and saw that my TSH levels -- which determine your thyroid fuction -- are "within normal range." So therefore, nothing was wrong with me.
Then about two weeks ago a a friend of mine was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It seemed fairly out of the blue; she's a young, healthy woman who suddenly began getting very tired all the time and had some unexplained weight gain. And it turned out to be thyroid cancer.
Now, I don't think I have cancer. But you can imagine how much this has really spurred me into thinking that something really is wrong with me.
I don't understand how I could be experiencing very obvious hypothyroid symptoms when I have Hashimoto's and hear two doctors tell me that I'm perfectly normal and must be imagining things.
These days I'm not working out (and I haven't gained or lost any weight from this change either). Because when I do work out, ten to fifteen minutes into my workout I feel like I'm about to pass out, so I have to sit down on the couch, whereupon I have a hard time staying awake. If I do any yardwork or housework I have to take frequent breaks or I feel like my legs will give out from underneath me.
But apparently I'm perfectly fine. Really.