Thursday, October 29, 2015

Squeeze sequelae

On Saturday my brothers and sister and I, accompanied by an indeterminate number of nieces, nephews, and dogs, girded our loins and worked cattle.

On a slight tangent, those of the professional victim/SJW persuasion who accidentally stumble across this missive will instantly see the aggressionism in that sentence. I'm not supposed attack innocent special snowflakes by even thinking about them in terms of gender or species. What can I say? I'm a monster. And obviously a rapist, too, if I recognize the concept of "loins."

As to the girding of loins...
Git yer gird on

Working cattle is the essence of girding your loins with funny animals

Our cattle working task was to conduct the second stage of our three-stage weaning process. Weaning is a stressful time for both cows and calves. Abrupt weaning is very stressful and is generally associated with increased rates of "shipping fever" (pneumonia) in the calves. Staged weaning is a gradual process and keeps the cows and calves together while they each become accustomed to the cessation of lactation/nursing. This reduces stress and nearly eliminates disease. Specifically, we would:
  • Treat the cows for parasites with a doramectin pour and brand the spring-purchased cows.
  • Weigh and pour the calves, give them final weaning vaccinations, and apply AND tags.

Before the AND tag
Anti Nursing Device (AND tag)
The AND prevents nursing...
But allows grazing
And so it was done. The process took several hours and involved a good bit of physical activity, but the day was sunshiny and autumn-warm, perfect for weaning.

It was really a delightful experience, except for me. I was in the early hours of developing a viral URI (upper respiratory infection) and was therefore not enjoying myself overmuch. Headache, runny nose, sore throat, cough. fever, fatigue. I could also tell, from the pressure and pain in my frontal and maxillary sinuses, that I was going to develop bacterial sinusitis. Crystal ball? Nope. Experience.

A long, long time ago I made the mistake of flying with a very slight head cold.

The rule was (and probably still is) that if you have symptoms of illness, particularly of a head cold, you see the flight surgeon for clearance to fly. In general, any bit of sniffles or congestion will result in the flight surgeon issuing a down chit, which takes you off the flight schedule until you're all better.

There are good reasons for this. Aviation is fraught with hazards, not the least of which is the composition of the very air in which aviation takes place. Air is a mixture of gases, mostly nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor, and other trace elements. We spend most of our lives at the surface, where the atmosphere is at it's most dense.

Although we take it for granted and think of the atmosphere as insubstantial, air is made up of real physical matter. Gravity holds the air of the atmosphere in place, and because of the nature of gasses and the nature of gravity, the air becomes less dense the higher you go above sea level. Less density means less pressure, and according to Boyle's Law, where the volume of a gas is inversely proportional to the pressure exerted on it, gas volume expands going up and contracts going down.

So an incipient head cold, Boyle, and a two-cycle hop set the stage for sinus trouble. I should have fessed up, followed the rule and collected a down chit, bitched and moaned, and flown only when the cold was gone and the flight surgeon cleared me. But I didn't do it that way. I've got excuses, but no valid ones.

Physiologically, what happened was this. The air in my sinuses behaved according to Boyle's Law, expanding with increased altitude and contracting with the return to sea level. Unfortunately, the mucosa in my sinuses responded to the viral infection by swelling, and there was enough swelling in the starboard maxillary sinus to close off the air passages. The air trapped in that sinus remained at the lower pressure of altitude since the closed air passages prevented equalization with sea level air pressure. In that sense, there was a vacuum in the closed off sinus, and nature abhors a vacuum. This is the classic sinus squeeze, AKA barotrauma, AKA aerosinusitis.

The lower pressure in that sinus basically sucked a lot of fluid into the cavity, where it became the perfect medium for bacterial growth.
A good approximation. S

Loathe to fess up after the fact, I determined to suck it up and drive on through the sinusitis. How bad could it be?

Well, pretty bad as it turns out, requiring surgery to relieve the pressure and evacuate the pus, and a course of intravenous antibiotics to beat down the infection.

And when I say surgery, keep in mind that all of this took place on the carrier, in the middle of the briny. The "surgery" was effective, albeit rather field expedient.

At any rate, long story short, I eventually won back a medical up, having learned a valuable lesson along the way. And having gained a lifelong susceptibility to maxillary sinusitis as a result.

Thirty years after the fact, the lesson once again came home while I was trying to enjoy working cattle with my family.

Six days later, with lots of high-dollar antibiotics in my system, I'm beginning to feel human again.

The sun is shining and the cows and calves are contentedly grazing, unstressed, increasingly unconcerned about lactation and nursing.


  1. Ouch!

    Messed up sinuses are not something to sneeze at!

    (Yeah, I know. I went there and yes, I feel a little dirty now.)

    1. HA! Don't feel dirty! That's just the lift I needed!

  2. A buddy of mine (retired CTC) developed a bad sinus infection that he did not take care of, the infection spread to his brain area, he did not make it.
    Another bad part of the story is that he was newly re-married and had not changed his SBP or his will, the ex got nearly everything.
    Two lessons in one for the rest of us.

    1. Sinuses are right next to the brain. It's a not inconsiderable risk.

      Life lessons can be hard, cold and final. Your buddy might have benefited from having Tuna as a DIVO. On the other hand, he may have been as hard headed as me and it wouldn't have mattered.

  3. OUCH! I am glad sie ist als besser, so you can get back to posting.

    1. Thanks Scott. Thanks for the gentle reminder as well! :)