Heat Wave

Last week was the hottest day in Seattle, ever. And, the second and fourth hottest days, ever. Until this year, it had only been 100 degrees or higher three times; last week it was over 100 degrees three days in a row.

I was recently diagnosed with MS. I know that heat is a trigger for MS and I’ve experienced heat intolerance a few times. My vision has gotten blurry, I’ve had hand tremors, a heat rash, exhaustion, and shortness of breath. Going for a walk, running errands, or doing yard work on a warm, sunny day can really take its toll. So, when I heard we were looking a record-setting heat, I was worried.

It doesn’t get hot here. People don’t have air-conditioners. We are not accustomed to heat. The average high temperature in June is 66 degrees. But, in the middle of June, the forecast was predicting multiple 100+ days. Then, it was predicting 102. Then, 104. 106. 108. It was higher every time I looked. Heading into the weekend, the forecast was a high of 115. I was scared.

I knew I needed a plan. I had one window AC unit, but it didn’t cool the house down much. Did you know you have to clean those things and refill them with water?? My dad came over, explained the need for AC maintenance, took mine to clean it up, and left his. He covered most of my windows in poster board to block the sun. I knew I needed to be inside, stay cool, and not exert myself. No cooking, no errands, no walks, no sitting in the sun.

Over the weekend, I got up early and went out on my dad’s boat each morning. There is a cover to shade the sun and the cool breeze on the water was refreshing. I had a headache and was monitoring myself for other symptoms. I took ibuprofen and stayed hydrated. I used remote start so that my car would be nice and cool before I got in. I can’t remember the last time I had a Frappuccino, but I got one Saturday and Sunday. So cold. So good. Then, I stayed home for the rest of the day. Windows shut and covered with blinds and paper, AC and fans on. Cold showers, wet wash cloths, spray bottles, and ice packs. I ate popsicles, ice cream, and delivery. I didn’t feel great. But, it was bearable.

Ice pack around my neck.

Monday was supposed to be the worst. I debated going to my mom’s because she had AC, but it felt like a hassle. I’d have to pack, get all my vitamins and meds, and drive there. Plus, I’d have to actually wear clothes. We’d survived so far, so I decided to stay home and try to deal with the heat. My son’s summer camp was canceled due to the heat, but I was still going to work from home. The house was hot when we woke up. I immediately turned on the window AC and set up all the fans to circulate air. I’d read aluminum foil on the windows can help reflect heat out, so I taped aluminum foil over the windows. The house was immediately dark, like a cave. I worked up a sweat covering the windows, climbing on chairs to reach, so I took a cold shower. Every time I took a cold shower, I could feel the heat radiating out of my hair. Someone suggested to start with a hot shower and then slowly lower the temperature. I did that every time I took a shower, nudging the the handle colder and colder. When you gradually lower it, you can get the water really cold before it’s uncomfortable and it really cools you down. I brought my computer out to the couch, near the AC to work. The AC kept the house in the low 80’s most of the day. Hot, but not miserable. I took four cold showers that day, rotated ice packs and cold wash cloths, and ate lots of popsicles. We didn’t leave the house. Fortunately, the record-breaking high temperature only reached 106 where we live, not 115. But, the inside of the house was in the 90’s by the end of the day.

Tinfoil-covered windows.

We had a lot of trouble sleeping that night. Fans, spray bottles, wet wash clothes, and lots of tossing and turning. When I woke up at 4 am, too hot to sleep, I thought, I wonder what the temperature is now? I checked my phone and it was a glorious 64 degrees. So, I opened the windows for sweet relief. My house is only one story, and it’s just me and the kid, so I’m not comfortable sleeping with the windows open. That morning, I laid awake long enough to cool the room down, and then fell back asleep.

Tuesday morning was cool and breezy. Back to summer camp and work and life.

The record-breaking heat did not affect me as much I was thought it would. I had a headache for a couple days, was irritable, and generally didn’t feel great, but there were no other obvious symptoms. But, once it cooled down and we went back to normal life, my MS flared up. Yesterday, I met a friend for manicures and lunch. My house was warm in the morning. I forgot to use the remote start to cool down my car. So, I got in a hot car and had to wait for it to cool down. I felt a little nauseous while I was driving. I parked and walked a couple blocks in the sun. By the time I met her at the nail salon, I felt welt weak and shaky. My hands were trembling. We got manicures and chatted in the air-conditioned salon. By the time we left, I felt fine. I’ve also had pretty bad muscle spasms all week. Worse than normal. My legs are stiffy and achy; ‘m walking with a little bit of a limp. I have sharp stabbing pains in my ribs and my back aches. My feet have been swollen and felt like they’re on fire. My legs have been tingling and my toes have felt numb. At first I thought all the heat was finally getting to me, but now I think it’s because I’m more active.

The temperature has dropped 20-30 degrees. We have cool mornings and cool evenings, but highs in the 70s and 80s. The house still gets pretty warm and I haven’t been running the AC constantly. The normal shuffle of life has resumed, getting ready and out of the house, drop off at summer camp, going to work, running errands, cooking, doing some basic house hold chores, and going out to lunch. I was able to manage the heat okay when I did nothing but try to manage the heat. But, once I had to get back to living life, the heat has really gotten to me.

I’m going to have to figure out how to live with MS and all these fun new symptoms, like this stupid “hug.”

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