At the risk of sounding like a wimp when compared to those who endure record-breaking heat
in the Southwest, the 95° heat that set a record in the Seattle area this past weekend extended into what turned out to be a bad Sunday night for me. I watched an outside sporting event on Sunday afternoon, avoiding direct sunlight, since I wanted to avoid overheating. Our summers are just too short to stay inside when the weather is nice. The long-term exposure to heat, even in the shade, had a subtle effect on me and I was still too warm when bedtime arrived. However, I've read my own columns about how to deal with the heat, have given trainings regarding the FEMA
advice about heat emergencies, and figured that I was ready to deal with the impact of too much heat.
There is good reason for my vigilance, as I've had heat stroke
before. Those of us with paralysis have lost varying degrees of our ability to regulate our bodily temperatures. With my spinal cord injury, I dislike the extreme cold and have to be vigilant to avoid overheating during the summer months. Hydration becomes extremely important during the summer, so I force myself to drink more water even if I'm not thirsty. Sometimes even more is needed.
The gallon of ice water that I had to last through Sunday night only made it until 1:00 AM. At that point I couldn't sleep anymore because my mouth was dry and the wet washcloth that had been spread across my chest had long since lost its evaporative cooling abilities. The fan blowing in the bedroom did not reach my chest or face, so didn't have much impact. I was hot, and trying to sleep was pointless. Waiting for morning was not an option; it was time to call in the cavalry.
My current attendant lives too far away to walk to my house, and the bus would be unable to get him there until 7:00 AM anyway. Fortunately I have a backup plan, and it is a family affair; both of my daughters live within a few miles of my house.
I called my youngest daughter, Barbie, as things were not getting any better. She arrived before 3:30, refilled my water jug with ice water, soaked a larger towel with water to spread across my nearly naked body, placed an ice pack (wrapped in a dish towel) on my neck, turned the fan so the breeze was actually hitting me, and opened the door to the back deck so I could enjoy the cool night time temperature. After she left I slept like a baby until 7:00 AM when my attendant arrived. Thankfully no rodents or raccoons were able to find their way into the bedroom through the open door.
The first call I received on that Monday morning was from my other daughter, Leslie, informing me that she would be over before 10:00 AM with an option for keeping me cool. She had called Home Depot at 8:00 AM and been lucky enough to reserve one of a handful of portable air conditioners that was just being unloaded from the truck at the warehouse. By the time she arrived to pick it up, they were already paging her and threatening to give it to the next of many people standing in line.
It took awhile to install since I don't have a convenient window in my bedroom, but thanks to her exceptional mechanical skills she got it done. Rodents or burglars can still find their way in with a little effort, but this machine will head to the garage when summer is over. I will also explore other more permanent installations, like a wall-mounted heat pump for the bedroom, a supplementary air conditioner for my heating system, or replacing my gas furnace with a heat pump that handles both heating and cooling for the entire house.
Monday night, with the air conditioner and fan both running in my bedroom, provided me with the best sleep I have had in months. I woke up refreshed, but there is still more adjusting needed. Tuesday night ended with me being cold, even after the air conditioner timer had shut it off, so I still need to work on variable options depending on outside temperature.
Thankfully I have an exceptional backup plan, and I hope that there is something similar that you can take advantage of when things go wrong. Not everyone can have the world's best daughters.
© 2013 Michael Collins