Before we get going here, I have to give a nod to a buddy of mine from BC, Matt Paré, for giving me the idea to write this one. Matt is a minor league ball player and has a blog at www.homelessminorleaguer.com. He just did a “Life Hacks for Minor League Baseball Players” post. Now, believe me when I tell you this, Matt is one of the most interesting and genuine people I have ever met. He is also one of the few people I unconditionally trust my life with – go read his blog, you will not be disappointed.
So, thanks Matt for giving me the idea for this blog post.
Just to clarify, we are going to be talking about CF here, not baseball, and a few different ways that I use to make life easier – in the Internet blog world, we call those techniques, life hacks – every day things that make life a little easier. I’ve got six to list in this post since my birthday is April 6, and I just remembered it’s coming up. See, there’s a reason for everything. A lot of these examples may seem like common sense, because, well, that’s exactly what a life hack is.
1. The Pillbox
The first life hack that immediately comes to mind is the “pillbox.” I’ll admit, this is a pretty common thing, but I was without it for a while. A friend of mine with CF introduced me to the pillbox when I was in high school. You can find them anywhere on the Internet. I would imagine a pharmacy has them too. I know some people love to use the “weekly” pillbox, which is designed to help people to remember when to take their meds throughout the whole week. Personally, I prefer the daily pillbox. I’ve built it into my daily routine to put all of my necessary meds in the box at the beginning of the day. The particular one that I use has a large compartment for enzymes, then smaller compartments for any antibiotics, antacids or vitamins that I may need on a given day. Plus there’s room for auxiliary pills. Let’s be honest, you’re someone with CF, you never know when you may need ibuprofen or something like that. The bottom line is that the pillbox makes all necessary meds available, and most importantly, the pillbox makes it very easy to remember to take those pills. If I ever want a candy bar, I’m in luck because I have my enzymes on me. I always make sure I have the box with me when I leave the house. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where my friends are shocked if I ever don’t have it with me.
2. Mobile Treatments
I have to credit my college roommates for coming up with the name for this one – Mobile treatments, or basically, treatments on the go. Extra time is something we all need, so when I have an early morning commitment or appointment, the morning treatments need to be done somehow. The answer to that problem is the travel nebulizer. If you don’t already have one, you should get one. I know it might be a bit of an insurance battle (believe me, we’ve all been there), but it is totally worth the potential headache. Utilize your clinic’s social worker, and make it happen. I cannot begin to explain how much time the travel neb saved me in high school, or has saved me just about any early morning. Rather than getting up way earlier than needed and doing all of my nebs at home, I am in the car, tunes on and, well, puffing the magic dragon (medicine) on the way to wherever I need to go. In college, for some reason, my friends thought it was the coolest thing ever when I did mobile treatments and drove at the same time. I’m still not totally sure why, but it became a thing. I guess it was a great conversation starter, who knows. The travel neb is also great for vacation, they are typically pretty small and a lot of people make the case that they are faster than normal ones. The travel neb – just a great invention all around.
3. Electronic Kettle
When it comes to washing the Neb-T’s (that’s what I call the things that you put the medicine in when you want go get the party started) there are a million different ways to do it. I’m not going to cover all of them now, but when I was in the grossness of college, the electronic kettle was a lifesaver. It’s also great for travel, because you can never be totally sure of the environment you are walking in to. If you, like 16-year-old Gunnar, are unfamiliar with a kettle, it basically serves one purpose, boiling water on the stove – it’s not rocket science. An electronic kettle boils water without the stove. Brilliant. During the Neb-T cleaning process, I use three or four boiling water rinses along with soap to make sure everything is sterile. When it came to boiling water, the electronic kettle was always a million times faster than the crappy stoves we had in college. Again, it was a time saver. It’s cheap and easy to use, especially for idiots like me who can’t figure out how to get around the kitchen.
4. The shower
Whatever you do when you’re in the shower is totally your own business. Go in, get clean, get out – great job. With that being said, let me make a little suggestion for your shower time. While you’re in the shower getting your personal hygiene on track, it’s not only a great time to work on your best Taylor Swift impression (oh my God, look at that face, you look like my next mistake), it’s also a great time to clear those lungs. If you can spend an extra 2-3 minutes in the shower “huff coughing,” I promise you will feel better after you get out. If you have a cold, do one of those sinus rinse-things in the shower, then cough – cough as much as your heart desires. Cough until you have nothing left to cough up, or I guess nothing substantial to cough up, because, you know as well as I do, deep down there’s always something more. Then, after the coughing is done, use soap and rinse, because we all know no one wants to be covered in the s*** that comes out of our lungs.
5. The public transportation bag/kit
This one is for cold and flu season, but it’s helpful all year round. Also, just for the record I am not a germaphobe, rather I am a responsible young adult J. Cold and flu season sucks. Public transportation usually sucks, but most of the time it’s the best way to get around, at least here in New York it is by far the best way to get around. I definitely consider myself a regular on the train, so I need to protect myself. It is no secret that the subway is a breeding ground for cold and flu hell. Even the people that work there know it’s a problem. The New York MTA has signs everywhere asking people to cover their mouths when they cough. You would think that task wouldn’t be a problem here in the city that never sleeps, but you could not be more wrong. People don’t know how to put a hand in front of their mouths when they cough, it’s quite a problem, an epidemic really. Anyways, I have a little drawstring bag prepared with hand sanitizer, surgical masks, headphones and disinfectant wipe-things (I don’t really know what those are for, my mom just insists that I have them). Instead of running around looking for everything before leaving the house, and potentially missing the train, I keep it stocked and ready to go. I may look like an idiot with the mask on (and trying to figure out what to use a disinfectant wipe on), but the joke is really on the guy riding the train who is deciding whether or not he should wipe his runny nose on his jacket sleeve.
Laugh a little. You don’t have to take everything so seriously – it goes a long way.
Check out the Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Foundation at www.cflf.org. Their mission is “to supplement traditional medical treatment of CF with ongoing recreational exercise…[with] individualized recreational grants…” Klyn Elsbury, a fellow CF patient, recently featured me in their new blog series “Ask the Athlete.”
Also, remember to keep sending in those questions to GunnarsBlog@esiason.org I have received so many great emails so far. It has been pretty cool to get the chance to answer a lot of them. I plan on posting my second and third “Ask Gunnar” blogs very soon.