There are many aspects of last week’s writing retreat in Maine that were wonderful: intense focus on my novel, no-one to answer to but myself, beautiful beaches to walk nearby, quiet. I made real progress and hit all my revision goals. There is still work to do, but in four-and-half concentrated days, I accomplished what would have probably taken me two months. By the time I left my little rented cottage on Friday morning, my brain was fried, but I was elated.
That is not to say, however, that the trip was free of interruptions. There was the SNAFU with non-functional WIFI for two days, which turned out to be mostly Spectrum’s fault. (Fortunately I had downloaded my manuscript from the cloud prior to leaving.) There was also the delivery of a new stove and refrigerator, which had been delayed by the pandemic. There was the owner’s angst over grease stains on the new kitchen rug, due to the aforementioned delivery. My experience writing in a news room decades ago came in handy, and I was able to ignore the commotion in the kitchen and still write while all that mishegas was going on.
Then there was the nosebleed. From time to time, because my nose is quite dry due to Sjogren’s Syndrome, which can often accompany scleroderma, I experience nasty nosebleeds. I’m careful with saline sprays and rinses to help keep my nasal passages moisturized. But it can get the better of me. The weekend before I left, I had a gusher on Sunday that took at least a half-hour to bring under control. Then, the Saturday before I left, I had another spontaneous nosebleed from the back of my nose, which took at least 45 minutes to stop.
Worried about the trip, I called my clinic to see if I should go to urgent care for an exam. The nurse took copious notes and checked with the covering physician, who said there was no point in being seen, since the bleeding had stopped, but to be sure to keep my nostrils moisturized. He said to beware of saline, which can also be drying (this I’ve also learned from experience), but added a tip: use a small amount of Vaseline inside each nostril. This sounded rather odd to me. I thought it might affect my breathing or sense of smell. But I decided to try it out.
To my amazement, the thin coating actually felt good. As I packed the next morning, I made sure to have my new little jar of Vaseline, plenty of cotton swabs and tissues, plus cotton balls and decongestant spray if I had another bad bleed. I was relieved to drive all the way to Maine, unpack, shop for food, and make supper without incident.
Just as I was doing my dishes, however, I suddenly felt the bleeding start again in the back of my right nostril. Though not quite as bad as the previous day, which involved both sides, it once again took at least 45 minutes to control. I was not happy. After calling Al to discuss options, and calling my clinic after hours, I was able to speak once again to a nurse who said if it happened overnight, I’d need to go to the nearest ER (15 minutes away in Portland). If I had another bleed in the day, I should go to urgent care. And when I got home, I should call my doc for an ENT referral.
I called Al back and told him I was going to power through this. “No way I’m going to let a f-ing nosebleed stop me from doing this after thinking about it for years and finally getting here!” I said. Thank goodness, the combination of Vaseline and sea air seemed to do the trick. Eight days later as I write, even in drier air back home, I haven’t had another episode.
And here’s the thing: I’ve had Sjogren’s for decades. I’ve seen ENTs before. I’ve dealt with many nosebleeds. No one ever told me about the Vaseline. If you have the same problem, I hope it helps.